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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 18, Number 5 May 2019 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

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

Cowper's Bookshelf

Childless Living
Lisette Schuitemaker
Findhorn Press
c/o Inner Traditions International, Ltd.
One Park Street, Rochester, VT 05767
9781620558386, $16.99, PB, 240pp,

Synopsis: Not having children is on the rise in many countries across the globe. August 1st has been named International Childfree Day, with a Childfree Woman and Man of the Year Award. Yet being childless is a subject not much talked about--the focus tends to be on having families and raising children, in rural, town, or city life. Let's talk about not having children, about what people like us do with our time, about how we spend our money, and--most of all--how we find purpose and fulfilment in our lives.

Never attracted to family life herself, Lisette Schuitemaker began openly discussing why people didn't have children and how that was for them, resulting in intimate conversations with childless women and men and surprising insights. Inspired to delve further, she interviewed non-parenting people aged 19 to 91 across the globe. She found that no story was like the other and that many had been waiting to be listened to with sensitivity. She heard stories across the spectrum, from exhilarating to painful, from people still on the fence to the childfree who have always known starting a family was not for them. Complementing her interview findings with a worldwide survey and recent research, the author paints a rich picture of the individual lives of childless and childfree women and men.

"Childless Living: The Joys and Challenges of Life without Children" is for everyone who has not gone the way of parenthood, who has close family or friends who lead self-directed lives without offspring, and for all those who are still contemplating this essential life choice. The stories in this book also testify that not having children of your own in no way means the joys (and trials) of children pass you by altogether. "Childless Living" shows that it is ok to celebrate not only the parenting way of life and the children who come to those who love them, but also those who are brave enough to follow the lesser known path of non-parenting.

Critique: A unique and groundbreaking contribution to a critically important and fully contemporary social issue, "Childless Living: The Joys and Challenges of Life without Children" is an impressively articulate and exceptionally well presented study. While also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99), "Childless Living" is unreservedly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as community and academic library collections.

Sue Patton Thoele
Red Wheel/Weiser/Conari
65 Parker Street, Suite 7, Newburyport, MA 01950
9781573247399 $15.95 pbk / $10.42 Kindle

Synopsis: Strength is a wise and profound book that helps women deal with both the large and small bumps in the road of life. Here are over 125 meditations, stories, and musings on becoming stronger, happier, healthier, and more bodacious. The goals are to accept, honor, and activate sacred personal strength and to embrace a wisdom that facilitates change within and encourages (or demands, if need be) the world to become a better place.

Strength can be read cover to cover or more casually by choosing topics from the table of contents. Topics include: facing fear, embracing your inner Brunehilde, mirroring Jesus and Rosa Parks, sharing wisely, and knowing you're good enough is no longer enough.

Critique: Strength: Meditations for Wisdom, Balance & Power offers a wealth of inspirational vignettes that encourage reader, particularly women, to cultivate inner fortitude. Profound, thoughtful, and encouraging the reader to apply their inner strength to help make the world a better place, Strength is potentially life-changing and highly recommended. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Strength is also available in a Kindle edition ($10.42).

The Pocket Guru
Dr. Siri Sat Nam
Chronicle Books
680 Second Street, San Francisco, CA 94107
9781452174150 $16.95 hc / $10.69 Kindle

Synopsis: From Dr. Siri Sat Nam, a licensed therapist who stars on Viceland's The Therapist, The Pocket Guru offers emotional centeredness and mental peace. Using Dr. Siri's calming style, the book presents readers with 108 topics to focus on - including commitment, forgiveness, intimacy, and love - and mantras to help them find personal growth and fulfillment. Packed with wisdom on discovering spiritual harmony, meditative practices targeting 11 different aspects of self, and a simple format that invites readers to dip in and out or read the book from start to finish, this is a rich source for deepening self-awareness.

Critique: Each page of The Pocket Guru offers invaluable, practical advice as well as life-affirming "power statements" for bringing balance and wisdom into one's everyday life. The Pocket Guru is a treasure trove of inspiration, and makes an excellent gift! Highly recommended. It should also be noted for personal reading lists that The Pocket Guru is also available in a Kindle edition ($10.69). "Life without play is boring. As we get older we think play is just for children. But, just as we instruct children that they can't play all the time and also must do chores or work, so it is with adults that we must find balance and remind ourselves that we can't work all the time. We must also play."

I Love Myself
Georgia Batsidis, author
Margret E. Ruddy, author
Divine White Light Publishing
c/o Dog Ear Publishing
4011 Vincennes Road, Indianapolis, IN 46268
9781457553967, $23.95, HC, 76pp,

Synopsis: "I Love Myself" takes you on the exciting journey of three children to a faraway land. During their adventure, they experience many different challenges and emotions. They come to learn that anger and bad feelings bring on sad happenings. When they change these feelings to love and joy, good things begin to happen. As they begin to feel happiness, they feel good about

They come to realize that everything is love; everyone, animals, fish, insects, trees, plants, lakes and oceans, and the planet Earth itself.

The authors of "Love Me, Love Me Not: Your Free Will Choice of Unconditional Love" have brought the message of unconditional love to children in their new book, "I Love Myself". These two books enable happiness and acceptance of self and others.

Editorial Note: Georgia Batsidis, a highly successful entrepreneur, has been blessed, from an early age, with the gift of understanding unconditional love. She is a national and international certified hypnotist, spiritual counselor, lecturer, and published author. Margaret E. Ruddy, a retired attorney, is also a motivational speaker, published author, poet, artist, and sculptress. She has lectured with Georgia spreading the understanding of unconditional love.

Critique: Exceptionally well adapted to a youthful readership, "I Love Myself" with its positive and uplifting message is also an engagingly entertaining an deftly crafted read that is both inspired and inspiring. While very highly recommended for family and community library collections for young readers, it should also be noted that "I Love Myself" is also available in a paperback edition (9781457552212, $12.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $6.99).

Public History: A Practical Guide, second edition
Faye Sayer
Bloomsbury Academic
c/o Bloomsbury Press
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 315, New York, NY 10010
9781350051300, $114.00 HC / $33.71 Kindle, 400pp,

Synopsis: Presenting an essential overview to what history means beyond the classroom, in this newly revised and updated second edition of 'Public History: A Practical Guide" Faye Sayer (who is a Senior Lecturer in Public History and Community Archaeology at Manchester Metropolitan University, UK) provides a fresh examination of history as practiced in its various worldly guises and contexts. Professor Sayer deftly analyses the many skills that historians require in the practice of public history and looks at how a range of actors, including museums, archives, government agencies, community history societies and the media/digital media, make history accessible to a wider audience in a variety of ways. This new exciting new edition includes:

* Brand new chapters on 'Restoration and Preservation' and history and the working world
* Substantial additions covering the growing fields of digital history and history in politics
* More images, figures and international case studies from the US, Australia, the UK, Europe and Asia
* 'Personal Reflection' sections from a range of industry experts from around the world
* Historiographical updates and significant revisions throughout the text
* Expanded online 'Public History Toolkit' resource, with a range of new features

Public History: A Practical Guide delivers a comprehensive outline of this increasingly prevalent area of the discipline, offering a distinctly global approach that is both accessible and engaging in equal measure. Finally, it explores future methodological possibilities and can be used as a reference point for professional development planning in the sectors discussed.

This is the essential overview for any student wanting to know what history means beyond the classroom.

Critique: Public History: A Practical Guide is a superb educational tool for high school teachers and college lecturers alike, now in an updated second edition with new chapters and expanded online resources. Focusing on useful skills and methodologies for effective classroom instruction, Public History: A Practical Guide is a welcome contribution to public and college library Education shelves. Highly recommended! It should be noted for personal reading lists that Public History: A Practical Guide is also available in a Kindle edition ($33.71).

Loving through Your Differences
James L. Creighton
New World Library
14 Pamaron Way, Novato, CA 94949
9781608685660, $15.95, PB, 200pp,

Synopsis: Dr. James Creighton has worked with couples for decades, facilitating communication and conflict resolution and teaching them the tools to build healthy, happy relationships. He has found that many couples start out believing they like the same things, see people the same way, and share a united take on the world. But inevitably differences crop up, and it can be profoundly discouraging to find that one's partner sees a person, situation, or decision completely differently.

Although many relationships flounder at this point, in "Loving through Your Differences: Building Strong Relationships from Separate Realities" Creighton shows that this can actually be an opportunity to forge stronger ties. Creighton deftly draws from the latest research in cognitive science and developmental psychology to show how we invent our realities with our perceptual minds. He then provides clear, concrete tools for shifting our perceptions and reframing our responses.

The result moves couples out of the fear and alienation of "your way or my way" and into a deep understanding of the other that allows for an "our way." As Creighton shows, this way of being together, based on the reality of individuality rather than the illusion of sameness, sets the stage for long-term excitement, discovery, and fulfillment.

Critique: Impressively written and based upon meticulous research combined with years of professional experience and expertise, "Loving through Your Differences: Building Strong Relationships from Separate Realities" by James L. Creighton is unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Self-Help/Self-Improvement and Couples Counseling 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 "Loving through Your Differences" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Relational Reset
Dr. Laurel Shaler
Moody Publishers
820 N. LaSalle Blvd., Chicago, IL 60610
9780802418722, $14.99, PB, 176pp,

Synopsis: Do rough patches ever catch you by surprise, causing you to think Why is it so hard right now? Why is there tension? Was it something I did? Despite our best intentions, we all have blind spots -- bad relational habits that are keeping us from enjoying our relationships fully. And since relationships stand at the center of all we do, if we can learn to do relationships even fractionally better, every aspect of our lives improves.

Whether you struggle to overcome past wounds, insecurity, blame, or envy, it's time to reflect on your relational habits and reset.

An experienced counselor, Dr. Laurel Shaler is passionate about helping women thrive in all of their relationships. "Relational Reset: Unlearning the Habits that Hold You Back" will reveal unhealthy patterns that may be holding you back, give you practical steps for improving your relationships, and help you find your ultimate security and identity in Jesus Christ.

When you reset your relationships, you honor God, yourself, and the ones you love.

Critique: Written from a Christian perspective, "Relational Reset: Unlearning the Habits that Hold You Back" is as insightful and thought-provoking as it is inspired and inspiring. Highly and especially recommended reading for all members of the Christian community who are having to deal with dysfunctional personal relationships, it should be noted that "Relational Reset" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.34) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Oasis Audio, 9781640911468, $24.99, CD).

Thirst: 2600 Miles to Home
Heather 'Anish' Anderson
Mountaineers Books
1001 SW Klickitat Way, Suite 201, Seattle, WA 98134-1161
9781680512366, $17.95, PB, 208pp,

Synopsis: By age 25, Heather Anderson had hiked what is known as the "Triple Crown" of backpacking: the Appalachian Trail (AT), Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), and Continental Divide Trail (CDT)?a combined distance of 7,900 miles with a vertical gain of more than one million feet. A few years later, she left her job, her marriage, and a dissatisfied life and walked back into those mountains.

In her new memoir, "Thirst: 2600 Miles to Home", Heather, whose trail name is "Anish," conveys not only her athleticism and wilderness adventures, but also shares her distinct message of courage -- her willingness to turn away from the predictability of a more traditional life in an effort to seek out what most fulfills her. Amid the rigors of the trail (pain, fear, loneliness, and dangers) she discovers the greater rewards of community and of self, conquering her doubts and building confidence. Ultimately, she realizes that records are merely a catalyst, giving her purpose, focus, and a goal to strive toward.

Editorial Note: Heather Anderson is the second woman to complete the "Double Triple Crown of Backpacking," completing the Appalachian, Pacific Crest, and Continental Divide National Scenic Trails twice each. She holds overall self-supported Fastest Known Times (FKTs) on the Pacific Crest Trail (2013) -- hiking it in 60 days, 17 hours, 12 minutes, breaking the previous men's record by four days and becoming the first women to hold the overall record?and the Arizona Trail (2016), which she completed in 19 days, 17 hours, 9 minutes. She also holds the women's self-supported FKT on the Appalachian Trail (2015) with a time of 54 days, 7 hours, 48 minutes. Heather has hiked more than twenty thousand miles since 2003, including ten thru-hikes. An ultramarathon runner, she has completed six 100-mile races since August 2011 as well as dozens of 50 km and 50-mile events. She has attempted the infamous Barkley Marathons four times, starting a third loop once. Heather is also an avid mountaineer working on several ascent lists in the US and abroad.

Critique: An inherently fascinating read from cover to cover, "Thirst: 2600 Miles To Home" will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to both community and academic library Contemporary American Biography collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Thirst: 2600 Miles To Home" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Conjuring Harriet "Mama Moses" Tubman and the Spirits of the Underground Railroad
Witchdoctor Utu
Weiser Publishers
c/o Red Wheel/Weiser/Conari
65 Parker Street, Suite 7, Newburyport, MA 01950
9781578636440, $18.95, PB, 288pp,

Synopsis: The historical role that magic and soothsaying played in the Underground Railroad has long been ignored out of fear it might diminish the legacy of Harriet Tubman and other heroes of that time.

However, Harriet Tubman was a Conjure woman who relied on her dreams and visionary experiences to lead her followers to freedom. Revered as "Mama Moses," she, along with John Brown, Mary Ellen Pleasant, and others have been venerated since their deaths. They now have emerged in the 21st century as the pantheon of a new and increasingly popular African-Diaspora tradition.

Written by Witchdoctor Utu, founder of the Niagara Voodoo Shrine, "Conjuring Harriet "Mama Moses" Tubman and the Spirits of the Underground Railroad" is the first book devoted to the spiritual and magical tradition of the Underground Railroad. In it, the author conjures the spirits of the Underground Railroad, their continued connection to each other, and their "tracks" still leading to freedom from obstacles, bondage, and trouble and tribulations of all kinds.

It is a spiritual tradition that is broadly accessible and inclusive, much like the historical Underground Railroad itself, whose participants were black, white, and Native American, male and female, Christians, Jews, Quakers, animists, secret devotees of forbidden African religions, and free thinkers of all kinds.

This revelatory book teaches readers how to invoke the blessings of Mama Moses and her followers, access their healing inspiration and magic powers, and seek their own path to freedom.

Editorial Note: Witchdoctor Utu is best known as the founder of the world-renowned Pagan drum troupe, the Dragon Ritual Drummers. He is also the founder of the Niagara Pagan Men's Circle and the Niagara Voodoo Shrine, which is dedicated to Harriet "Mama Moses" Tubman and the spirits of the Underground Railroad. For over 20 years, Utu has been active in both the American and Canadian Pagan communities and is a highly sought-after presenter. He resides in St. Catharines, Ontario, the place where Harriet Tubman brought her particular track of the Underground Railroad to its end, and where she planned and executed her many journeys to freedom. Witchdoctor Utu can be sited online at

Critique: An inherently fascinating read that will have an extraordinary interest for students of the Metaphysical Sciences, "Conjuring Harriet "Mama Moses" Tubman and the Spirits of the Underground Railroad" is 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 "Conjuring Harriet "Mama Moses" Tubman and the Spirits of the Underground Railroad" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Mary Cowper

Donovan's Bookshelf

Two 'Til Midnight
Bernard L. Dillard
BerNerd Publishing
9780578453484, $17.99

Two 'Til Midnight opens with a series of disparate images and personalities as chapters cover the shocking observations of Tario about 'Dr. G' (Garnet) and give subsequent descriptions of her world.

Garnet is focused on "living the Word" of belief. She is also committed to little acts of kindness that "let her light shine amid a callous and everything-goes world." Motivated as she is, belief appears in all facets of her life, right down to culinary efforts.

Two 'Til Midnight isn't just a novel about one woman's faith and approach to life, however: it also reviews the perspectives and actions of demon entities as committed to havoc and destruction as Garnet is to injecting belief and love into the world. Thus, the actions and perspectives of Mictian, Belial, and others who affect the world from the dark side are injected into a story that turns out to be about a struggle on more than one level.

As Dr. Gibbs, Tario, and various characters interact on the world stage, they confront some life-affirming truths that lead them (and the reader) to a deeper perspective.

Christian readers, in particular, will find the discoveries, confrontations, and revelations in Two 'Til Midnight make for thought-provoking reading that couches its spiritual and philosophical insights into life's meaning with a plot that drives home lessons for all involved: Nick, Giselle, Garnet, Tario and others.

Crimes, punishment, trials of a legal and spiritual nature, and a war between demons and angels all play out in the human realm, which may make Two 'Til Midnight challenging reading, in the beginning. Readers who stick with the myriad of characters, special interests, and blend of supernatural influences, daily life challenges, and confrontations between Christian and secular worlds will find Two 'Til Midnight an engrossing, multifaceted story. It discusses everything from spiritual interests to issues of diversity, patriotism, and socially and psychologically dangerous situations.

The Wedding Crasher
Nikki Stern
Ruthenia Press
9780999548738, $14.49 Paper, $2.49 ebook



The Wedding Crasher introduces Sam Tate, a county sheriff dealing with a murdered fiancee, the return of a dangerous killer, and her attempts solve a long-standing serial murder case that defies pat answers or easy resolution.

The Wedding Crasher killer may have returned to her jurisdiction, but Sam is ready for the fight. The killer is an expert in both anatomy and the fastest, most certain method of death; but Sam is an expert at ferreting out the truth and containing disaster.

Nikki Stern doesn't provide a singular approach to crime and problem-solving. Sam interacts well with a host of investigative entities as she pursues clues that lead to not just a deadly killer, but a dangerous truth. Sam has lots of pieces to the puzzle: she just needs to put them together.

Readers who walk this road of intrigue can expect a cat-and-mouse mystery that offers satisfying twists and turns as Sam nears her goal, only to face new frustrations and barriers to understanding.

Equally powerful are subplots that delve into supporting characters' lives and jobs in their relationships to Sam, which provide outside viewpoints about her strengths: "Sheriff Tate was even and measured, a fair boss. She'd served time in the military and with two police departments. She'd seen death up close and worked with squads made up primarily of men. She took flak from no one. Tara aspired to her superior's brand of confidence and cool."

As Sam directs others to help her probe, readers receive an exceptionally well-done story of integrated crime-fighting forces working together for the greater good. This gives The Wedding Crasher more depth than most mysteries, which often feature a protagonist who operates without the cooperative handshaking involved in real investigative processes.

Readers who love strong procedurals that integrate the lives and personas of the protagonist with others in their world will appreciate the detailed observations concerning the many facets of a murder investigation. The Wedding Crasher satisfies because it manages to be both nuanced and suspenseful. It lingers on the palate like a fine, full-bodied wine, long after the story reaches its startling conclusion.

Bruce Hartman
Swallow Tail Press
9780999756430, $13.95

Parole opens with a shooting spree against two men paroled that morning from San Quentin prison, then delves into their lives as they move from the prison system into society convinced that they soon will return to what has become the familiar norm.

Kenny Ruffin and Cat McGrath are only beginning to figure things out about building new lives on the 'outside', but old habits die hard and they struggle not only with threats to their new lives, but the knowledge that their old relationships and status have dissolved while they were away.

But if nobody cares about them, then who is trying to kill them?

As Parole winds through changing lives and newfound threats to life and freedom, it crafts a markedly mercurial story line that moves from the two parolees' struggles to pistol-packing nuns, homeless encampments, McGrath's crazy schemes, and Ruffin's inadvertent role in them. At each step, Parole marks their progress and charts the hits and misses that change their lives.

A comic undertone to some of their experiences is notable and offers a satisfyingly fun juxtaposition to the confrontations, big ideas, and life-threatening choices they navigate: "Maybe us older guys need to set an example." "Set an example? An example of what?" "Not being an asshole." McGrath slammed on his brakes and screamed at a white-haired old lady in a Mercedes: "Learn to drive, bitch!" Then he turned his head around to look at Ruffin. "What are you talking about?" "You know," Ruffin said. "Showing them the right way to act."

With money-driven schemes, assassination plots, and unlikely friendships and encounters driving a story which illustrates that getting out of jail is not without its costs, Parole creates a winning romp through crime, redemption, and life. It incorporates a zany tinge of humor and many dramatic moments to both entertain and enlighten leisure readers.

Those interested in crime stories will find Parole's premise and its characters more than a cut above the ordinary. This creates a memorable read, indeed, which will appeal to and hold many surprises for readers anticipating the ordinary course of a parolee's life, only to discover a focus that goes beyond predictable dilemmas. These elements create a tale that is hard to put down and satisfyingly original: a standout in its genre.

Johan Fundin
Asioni Press
9781999981709, $15.99, Paper
9781999981716, $2.99, eBook

Psychological suspense and thriller readers are in for a treat with Johan Fundin's Disorder, the story of a top fashion model with a rare disease who is being stalked by killers.

As if Catriona ("Cat") Milton's brain disorder doesn't make life challenging enough, she also is haunted by paparazzi reporters who follow her every move. But these trials are nothing compared to her revised life when her efforts to confront a stalking situation land her in the crosshairs of a corporate plot involving a biotechnology institute.

Further complicating matters is a twin sister who is opposite of nearly everything that is Cat. She's ugly where Cat is beautiful, and works as a part-time pub waitress in comparison to Cat, who is commanding top dollar as a model. Jan hates Cat's beauty, but she hates herself even more. She views herself as a "horror creature".

As Fundin deftly contrasts the very different lives of the two sisters, he also adds elements of horror, sci-fi, and medical thriller tension ala Robin Cook into the story. The plot moves deftly between family dysfunction to a blossoming romance between Cat and Roger and a changing relationship between two very different sisters as it embraces medical experimentation, terrorism and conspiracy, a loving father's legacy, and a secret mission.

What sets Disorder apart from other thrillers is a multifaceted approach that keeps readers guessing and on edge, poised between insights on evolving relationships, subterfuge, hidden agendas, science, and human nature. Is Janice the twisted sister that Cat wants to love; or is it exactly the opposite?

Janice's reflection ("If I had Cat's appearance and if I were as radiant as she is, I would have looked at society from a different point of view") is just one of the themes distinguishing a thriller that is outstanding in its many connections, action tempered with psychological insights, and genre-busting approach.

Thriller, sci-fi, and psychological suspense fans will all find Disorder a gripping story packed with twists and turns that make it unpredictable and hard to put down.

The Butcher
Alan S. Kessler
Black Rose Writing
9781684332205, $18.95, Paper, $6.99, Kindle

The Butcher is a post-apocalyptic novel about the remnants of society lead by one who encourages the ritual slaughter of pigs and people alike. Issues of murder, racial superiority, and survival's costs are embedded the story of those who remain and follow The Butcher, a survivor convinced that his purpose is to lead and encourage a master race.

He's instigated Butcher Bargain Day, a day of ritual slaughter supporting Party principles and causes. He lives only for his people and his fiery cause in this strange new world; but teen Mikkel, raised as a member of the racially pure Scouts, may be the one force that will bring down his ambitions and relentless drives.

Of necessity, a certain amount of gruesome descriptions of various killings are part of the story. Readers who like their post-apocalyptic stories cleaner might look for less graphic reads (although it should be noted that the genre as a whole often pairs violence with survival).

Issues of leadership, duty and loyalty, connections between despised pigs and the Burner people who are similarly condemned by the elite, and the dehumanization process of victims ("Burners and pigs bleed the same blood.") are emphasized during Mikkel's growing realizations as he comes of age to realize that his favored position in this desperate social order may not be one he believes in maintaining.

Will Mikkel quit the Scouts and be deemed a coward? And if he does, will his newfound powerlessness lead to redemption, or his demise? His process of willingly giving up power when the truth about his heritage is revealed makes for engrossing reading as faith, prophecy, and possible salvation influence Mikkel's growth and choices.

Many a reader will reflect on similarities between these sub sects of society, who are neither true believers nor opposition, and the events of Nazi Germany and its struggles for a racially pure society. The racially pure group in charge is tall, blond, and blue-eyed while the Burners are physically far from this ideal. These connections are brought to light in the end, in an epilogue that reinforces this story's underlying historical roots.

From ideals of eugenics and political and social loyalty against moral and ethical beliefs to Mikkel's evolutionary process and his uncertain position as both a racially pure boy and one prone to visions, who holds an uncomfortable physical resemblance to Burner peoples, The Butcher provides a story that is philosophically a cut above a simple post-apocalyptic survival piece. It is especially recommended for those who enjoy thought-provoking insights on moral and political processes.

V.P. Evans
Independently Published
B07NS3G5V9, $0.99

Woman is a short story collection that will appeal to feminists who enjoy short works with an international flavor and social commentary. It excels in cultivating different atmospheres and exploring women's cultures, from Asia and Africa to Western nations.

The idea is simple: to tell the stories of survivors of social, physical, psychological and cultural abuse, documenting not just their struggles, but their ability to rise above social repression to realize their own strengths.

Curiously, the chapter headings are letters of the alphabet and no more, giving readers no clue as to the subject or ethnicity of each story's protagonist. Thus, readers can approach each individual unit freshly, without prejudice, and learn from them with no prior assumptions in place.

Take 'O', for example, which documents the process of becoming a woman. Young Jasmine is on the run from both her mother and social restrictions placed upon her as she comes of age, and recounts her flight and capture with first-person immediacy and detail.

The description of the pagne she wears gives the first clue of the West African setting of this story. It's the tale of a girl who faces her 'fate' due to being born female and provides riveting insights into not just her struggles, but the certainty of women around her who are supporting damaging rituals and the idea that physical mutilation will somehow give her freedom from shame, men's violence, and slavery.

By now, it should be evident that these are not light reads or casual social commentary, but vivid impressions capturing the hearts, minds, and social constraints of women from around the world.

'N' depicts quite a different world in which Thai woman Kanya accepts her role as a prostitute for rich tourists, but dreams of a different life for her little sister Manee, who is destined to follow in her footsteps.

Shame, dishonor, betrayal, and punishment dog her footsteps and life as this story traverses her choices and a possible alternative option posed by a foreigner and magazine photographer sent to visually capture their world.

Each story is a hard-hitting testimony to women's resilience, bids for freedom, dreams of escaping or overcoming oppression, and desires to be more than what their cultures have dictated as their role in life.

Feminist literary readers and collections catering to them will find Woman's astute blend of psychological and social inspection to be thoroughly engrossing and educational.

White Oaks
Jill Hand
Black Rose Writing
9781684332830, $18.95

White Oaks is a gothic murder story steeped in both Southern tradition and humor, presenting an unusually multifaceted tale that holds the ability to prompt laughter from thriller-style tension. The premise is unique: siblings competing for their father's fortune face added pressure from being the designated saviors of Planet Earth.

Jill Hand has a unique talent for description. This comes across even in as ordinary a circumstance as a blend of cultural prejudice and car envy: "Haskins stood open-mouthed, staring at the yellow roadster. It looked like something from a future century, at once sleek and angular. "Hot damn," he whispered, spying the orange and black New York license plate. A Yankee! Driving recklessly! Perhaps the Yankee speed demon was under the influence of drugs. From what Haskins understood, a large percentage of the Yankee population customarily went around hopped up to the eyeballs. If such was the case, he would soon be a very sorry Yankee indeed."

From a father's party, where funny tricks exist alongside mayhem, to secret societies and mysterious objects, a son who witnesses his mother murder someone, and a walk in the swamp that leads to more death, White Oaks constantly flavors its mystery and intrigue with a sense of irony and tongue-in-cheek humor. These forces pop up at unexpected moments, as when the executor of their father's estate is drowned. In what other saga, for just one example, does a child shoot down a helicopter containing thermonuclear weapon?

The flavor and nature of the characters' interactions create a fun story flow that makes it both a solid tale of intrigue and an engrossingly hilarious series of encounters: "Benjamin blew up our lawyer. Is that gonna make a difference in us gettin' our inheritance money?" Trainor asked after Blanton's funeral. The guests had gone home, and he and Aimee and Marsh were in the gentlemen's parlor, eating leftover canapes."

Special interests, murder, threats to humanity: what else could go awry? Jill Hand crafts a tale which is provocative, thought-provoking, and filled with so many clever twists and turns that readers will find that it defies both pat categorization and easy predictability: the hallmarks of a special, superior read, indeed.

Lethal Alliances
Jeannette de Beauvoir
Homeport Press
9780999245163, $24.95
9780999245170, $9.95, Ebook

Jeannette de Beauvoir's background as a French student of medieval history lends nicely to Lethal Alliances, a story that takes place during the reign of King Phillipe le Bel in the 1300s.

Intrigue, murder, political passion, and social and political drama are the hallmarks of a read that requires no prior familiarity with the politics and history of the times in order to be satisfyingly accessible and dramatically absorbing.

Handsome princes and aristocracy hated because of unfair taxation, damsels who dream of romance at high levels but who confront palace intrigue instead, and blossoming romances between princesses and lords contribute to an evolving story of relationships both personal and political.

The three girls betrothed to Phillipe's sons aren't expecting these sub layers of palace politics to change their lives; but their worlds and romance are vastly changed by them. As Princess Isabelle faces the death of a royal family member and the subterfuge that threatens her own life and its tenants, readers are treated to a fine layering of historical fact and description and intrigue designed to keep them engaged and guessing.

The richness of detail and authenticity of the times may be attributed to de Beauvoir's background, but it truly takes a literary hand to capture these historical nuances in such a manner that the fictional side of the story remains completely engrossing even to those with no prior knowledge of or interest in French history.

Lethal Alliances crafts an engaging account that is as much about French politics of the times as it is about romance and intrigue. Winding these into the historical facts surrounding the political forces that clash with one another creates a moving, absorbing account which is educational, riveting, and hard to put down.

The Bedwetter
Lee Allen Howard
Three First Names
9781733700900, $14.99, Trade paperback, $2.99, Ebook


Most bed wetters grow out of (or are trained out of) the habit before adulthood, but Russell Pisarek is almost thirty, and still wets his bed. Between a mother's brutal punishments and a spiteful high school classmate's exposure of his problem, Russell has developed a cruel streak himself, which only intensifies in brutality as he ages.

Readers of fictional stories of the creation of a psychopath will find that The Bedwetter falls neatly into this category, exploring the evolutionary process behind Russell's progressive fascination for skinning things (first cats; now people).

There's also an unexpected light touch of humor that accompanies the story as Lee Allen Howard describes a 'Piss Fairy' that increasingly dictates Russell's darker choices in life.

The first thing to note about this story is the candid first-person voice in The Bedwetter which sometimes brutally, but adeptly, captures the protagonist's feelings about his condition, his place in the world because of it, and life itself: "Even when I lived at home, I could go for months without wetting. Then I'd piss two or three nights in a row, skip a night, and piss again. Like, "Hey, it's just my week to piss the bed." I mean, girls get their period once a month like clockwork, and some of them rag on the sheets even if they're wearing a tampon, right? But I'm the bad guy, the loser. Always the loser."

It's a confessional piece that is stark and often frightening despite the dose of humor provided by the Piss Fairy. Readers looking for a light psychological inspection should realize that the tone and first-person insights here place viewers directly in the mind of a budding psychopath. This is no comfortable spot to be in, even for an observer/reader.

The journey presented here is ugly, strange, revealing, and most of all, frightening. As Russell pursues relationships and his darkest dreams, admits his admiration for fellow serial killers, and cultivates a strange method for making friends, readers receive a harshly honest set of descriptions and insights which reveal what it takes for this man to feel like he's a winner in life, and the extremes he'll pursue to make that feeling happen.

The Bedwetter is recommended for readers of novels about serial killers, psychopaths, and deep inspections of their evolving thought processes and actions. It's a deeply disturbing read; but, on the other hand, is highly educational for anyone who would more than lightly enter the mindset of a potential killer.

Diondray's Roundabout
Marion Hill
Red Mango Publishing
9780998761244, $14.99, Paper, $4.99 Kindle

Diondray's Roundabout is the third book in the Kammbia fantasy series, continuing the story begun in previous books about what happens when Diondray Azur discovers the sacred Book of Kammbi, which leads him to a renewed sense of purpose in his life and a spiritual quest to find his place in a wider world than he was raised to believe in.

Here Diondray struggles against seemingly everyone who doesn't believe in his newfound sacred calling and the prophecy which indicates he will be the one to bring peace to a divided land.

After being rejected by the North, he journeys to the South, where he has hopes of recognition, accompanied by two of the companions from his previous encounters. But the South is truly an alien land to him, with its different culture, belief systems and values, and even more closed minds about Diondray's possibilities. These prove even more challenging than the North's rejection of him, because the South doesn't even believe in the sacred Book of Kammbi; let alone his prophesied role.

As self-doubt enters into the picture, Diondray finds himself on not only an outward but an inward journey towards acceptance, which is key to fulfilling his destiny. But how can he fulfill his destiny if he doubts his own intentions?

Because Diondray's Roundabout continues to expand upon prior events and enhances the characters in Diondray's life, it's especially recommended for previous readers of the series, who will find this addition a powerfully expansive read. Diondray's coming of age process, his questions about his culture, spirituality, and place in the world, and the friendships which evolve in support of his quest create a vivid saga.

As he becomes more politically and socially savvy, Diondray faces further conundrums in how to get the sacred book and its message into hands that are in a position to further its cause: "Diakono Copperwith opened the Book of Kammbi and continued with his teaching. I had no idea how to make Reuel come to me. But I knew I had better find out, or Diakono Copperwith would not be able to share the teachings of the Book of Kammbi with anyone in this city."

His growing awareness of these influences on his goals offers many insights into his growth: "Disciple Gregory's chapters read more formally, and with a more matter-of-act tone, than the chapters from the other disciples. He reiterated that being a believer and follower in Kammbi was a black or white proposition. I had to come to believe that Diakono Copperwith identified most with Disciple Gregory."

The task of understanding the kinds of connections that will lead Diondray to further his objectives makes for a riveting story that pairs a world-changing mission with a spiritual and psychological coming-of-age fantasy that is hard to put down.

Drawer #7
Jeff Wade
Wade Publishing
9781732472105, $14.99, Paper, $3.99, Kindle

Drawer #7 chronicles the journey Freddie embarks on when he meets an amnesiac woman in a strip club who has no memories, no name, and no ability to escape the strip club stage she abhors.

The story begins not with Freddie's fascination with her, but with this nameless woman's awakening to a life where she knows little but her disgust for strip clubs and the certainty that the face she wears is not actually her own.

'Star' thinks she may be dreaming. But now she's involved Freddie in her flight for freedom and the mystery of her lost memories. Once connected, the two enter worlds replete with weapons-carrying zombies and Army adventures, heroes and haunted men, ex-wives and danger, and the overriding mystery of memories which reveal even more mystery as they unlock. Action swirls around them as changing events keep challenging their objectives.

Jeff Wade's attention to detail and fast-paced intrigue keep Drawer #7 moving along nicely. Freddie faces pain, torture, capture, and danger without quite knowing where he's heading or why. When murder enters into the picture, he finds himself on his own peculiar journey, moving onto paths he has no experience navigating.

One doesn't expect his trek to lead to miracles, power plays, and scientific and spiritual revelation, but one of the strongest attributes of Drawer #7 is its unpredictability. Even seasoned readers of psychological thrillers or sci-fi romance stories will find its mercurial direction delightfully unexpected. Injections of alliteration and poetry support the story line's growing investigation of a conspiracy plot gone awry.

Drawer #7 is a compelling tale that's nearly impossible to anticipate, logical in its interpersonal connections, surprising in its conundrums, and the perfect read for seasoned thriller audiences who want to be surprised by a story's progression and outcome.

A Death at Tippitt Pond
Susan Van Kirk
Encircle Publications, LLC
9781948338646, $15.99, Paperback
9781948338660, $2.99, Kindle
9781948338653, Ebook

A Death at Tippitt Pond is a cozy mystery set in Sweet Iron, Illinois, where the wealthy Tippett family has had roots in the town's founding. Genealogist and historical researcher Beth Russell has a distant connection to this family and to Sweet Iron. When she journeys from her New York home to uncover more facts about a family mystery, she becomes involved in a dilemma from the past that threatens to spill into present-day lives.

The first thing to note about A Death at Tippitt Pond is that it poses, right from the start, the protagonist's mixed feelings about becoming involved in probing skeletons from the past: "In this small Midwestern town, she was pulled in opposite directions. Should she fly back to her New York home, leaving this mystery behind, or should she wait and appease her curiosity despite her uneasiness?"

The atmosphere created by a massive Tudor home that is the legacy of this family creates a fitting backdrop for a series of secrets that threatens not only Beth's investigation, but her life as she confronts her mother's death and her deeply held beliefs and hidden agendas. Beth's drive to "...just find some things out before I decide to leave town again." becomes a complex mission she had never wanted.

A Death at Tippitt Pond is rich in Midwestern small-town atmosphere and place. Research deals in facts and information, but what evolves is also laced with an emotional currency that Beth finds difficult to value, much less understand.

As she faces the consequences of her decision to stay and bemoans her choices ("I should go back to New York. Leave this all behind. Go back to Gabby and my little apartment and go on with the life I've always known. It was life enough."), her motivation for pursuing not just a difficult truth, but a deadly one, falls under scrutiny.

The best cozy mystery genre reads are steeped in small-town atmosphere and interpersonal connections. A Death at Tippitt Pond cultivates these facets to create an absorbing mystery fueled by history, emotional attachments, and physical danger. It's highly recommended for genre fans who look for unlikely heroes in small-time operators, from librarians to researchers, to figure in a series of unfortunate, riveting events.

Zip's First Dog Show (The Pom Tales Series)
C.M. Harrison
C2 Books
9781950028016, $19.99, Hardcover
9781950028009, $12.99, Paperback
9781950028023, $9.99, Ebook

Zip's First Dog Show excels in colorful Pomeranian dog drawings by Cathy Kosterman & Nadya Ilchuk as it blends an entertaining leisure read with messages for young critical thinkers.

The educational features of this picture book include an introductory section of Words to Know that introduces new words and their meanings for better comprehension, Essential Questions presented at the beginning of the story to encourage critical thinking skills, and Comprehension Questions at the end to reinforce reading comprehension. Fun, realistic dog drawings and charts illustrate dog breeds and parts of the dog, as well.

As for the tale itself, puppy Zip is excited, but tries to obey his training to be still as he participates in his first dog show, which requires dogs and humans to work together as a team.

The realistic drawings of dog show events are both stunningly colorful and solid embellishments that enhance the descriptions of that absorb Zip and those around him.

Good reading skills will enhance young reader understanding of each page, which holds several sentences of detail, but adult assistance will both make this story accessible to younger canine fans and will help reinforce its educational lessons.

The result is a picture book that is very highly recommended over most other 'dog stories'. It holds exceptional drawings and realistic connections to real-world experiences and life lessons as it follows Zip's new experiences and his award-winning attitude.

Thank Goodness for Police Officers! Theo Gets Lost (The Pom Tales Series)
C.H. Harrison
C2 Books
9781950028047, $16.49, Hardcover, $9.99, Kindle

Thank Goodness for Police Officers! Theo Gets Lost adds to the picture book series The Pom Tales and gives a bow not only to dogs, but to the police officers who help and work with them.

Cathy Kosterman & Nadya Ilchuk provide gorgeous Pomeranian drawings for a story that teaches kids not only about dogs, but about the community service efforts of police officers. To reinforce this exploration and its ideals, the authors and illustrators are donating some of the book's proceeds to worthy organizations supporting both: "For every book sold, 10% of the proceeds is being donated to the American Pomeranian Club to support its shelter and health research and 10% of the proceeds is being donated to the American Kennel Club Reunite Program, Canine Support and Relief Fund, to aid and support canine search and rescue teams. We will provide a donation to the Officer Down Memorial as well."

The introduction presents a banner of vocabulary words and talking points before moving to the heart of the story: a little Pomeranian's birthday and the accident that places him at risk when curiosity blends with an uncommon opportunity to explore the wider world.

C.H. Harrison's ability to move beyond the usual story line to review the logic behind the dog's choices and actions lends a credibility and insight to this tale which helps kids understand why canines behave the way they do.

Why would Theo run away from his beloved home? The answer is more complex than might be anticipated in a picture book story; yet it's simply described so that young minds may easily grasp the explanation of Theo's behavior.

Harrison also gives information about different dog breeds in the course of presenting Theo's story, reinforcing the young reader's knowledge about dogs.

The lovely, realistic, colorful paintings of dogs and people provide exquisite embellishment to a warm, positive story that revolves around a little dog's dilemma and the help provided by community and canine police officers alike.

Parents seeking an engaging picture book story with a dog hero at its center will appreciate the different perspectives and astute observations of Thank Goodness for Police Officers! Theo Gets Lost, which should be in the hands of any young dog enthusiast and parents who want to reinforce additional messages about police officer benevolence.

Highly recommended as an uplifting story of understanding on more than one level.

Keeper of Slaves
Dickie Erman
Amazon Digital Services
9781981051458, $3.99, Kindle

Keeper of Slaves is the second book in a series about the antebellum South, and follows the lives of not just slaves, but plantation owners and the changes they face from political and social strife.

It's important to note that, unlike most of the other books about the South during this era, Keeper of Slaves maintains a multifaceted perspective that focuses on the observations, feelings, and developments of different peoples affected by these changes. This makes for a more balanced, informational read than most: one that takes into account the motivations and emotions of all kinds of people who find themselves involved in an unexpected battle for more than just freedom.

From nervous breakdowns to revenge, illicit affairs, the threatened uprising of nearly a hundred plantation slaves, and near-tragic events that result in unexpected new connections, Keeper of Slaves more closely considers the relationship between slave and owner than competing novels.

It also provides an atmospheric read about healing on many levels, considering political entanglements and snafus, breached trust, the back-and-forth movements of businessmen and politicians vying for control and power in an increasingly unstable world, and more.

With all these historical facets entwined into the story, readers might expect that the plot will be convoluted and confusing: not so. Dickie Erman's attention to detail and exploring each character's connections makes it easy to follow hearts and minds to understand choices and consequences as new situations develop.

The result is an excellent book that doesn't require prior familiarity with the setting and circumstances of its predecessor; but which offers readers a fine opportunity to understanding changing relationships and even the romance which blossoms in these mercurial times.

Readers of historical novels about the period won't be disappointed with this blend of romance and history, and will find the characters captivating right down to the finish line.

The Gondoliers: The Secret Journals of Fanticulous Glim
Paolo Mazzucato
9781733640619, $18.95

The Gondoliers: The Secret Journals of Fanticulous Glim is set in turn-of-the-century Venice, Italy and follows a young treasure hunter who stumbles on a secret that is far greater than riches and wealth.

Paolo Mazzucato does an outstanding job of capturing the atmosphere of a bygone era and Venice's canal community: "Whether it's the way the late afternoon sun is glistening on the water, or the faint hint of an old Italian melody drifting in the air, or perhaps just simply the way the gondolier's outstretched hand is welcoming you into his world, a place afloat between the past and present where reality seems that it might melt away and make anything possible, you nod and step off the stone walkway and into the gently bobbing embrace of Venice." These evocative descriptions bring the time and setting to life, which is one of the captivating facets of a story that revolves around intrigue, discovery, and a young girl's adventure.

The prologue places readers on a gondola ride, with all its sights and smells, creating a backdrop of Venice that holds the power to captivate both those who have never visited and readers who may have traveled to the city. The gondolier opens the story with an ethereal description that captures the mystery underlying Venice's present-day appeal: "There is something...charming, you know - something that swirls unseen through the day and night and protects the city from harm. A kind of enchantment that, if you believe...well…" He sweeps his oar back and forth a few times as he angles the gondola into the flow of boat traffic. Then he begins. "Let me tell you a story of a time long ago - a memory of a fanciful world now forgotten, when Venice, this city we have all come to know and love...was almost destroyed."

His focus is on a teenage protagonist who, in 1902, is a new arrival in town and a stranger to the gondolier community. Young traveler Fantina already stands out from the norm, but truths that her father has woven into his stories and memories of the city fuel her ambitions and create legends that Fantina follows with an eye to exploring the extraordinary facets of this world.

The sense of adventure is nicely augmented by an attention to detail, creating an atmosphere that is engrossingly realistic: "Finally, high above the rooftops of Venice, Fantina and Enzo looked out from the towering campanile in piazza San Marco as the afternoon sun began to sink toward the western horizon. Venice was stunning, Fantina thought. Her first day had been extraordinary, and more than ever before, she wanted to stay and just be surprised by what might happen tomorrow."

The inspiration for "The Gondoliers" sprang from Paolo Mazzucato's many trips with his family to Venice, Italy over the years. His familiarity with the town and its culture is a powerful asset to a story that is packed with surprises and revelations. The black and white photos that introduce each chapter also enhance the story line by providing visual emphasis.

Although this tale is directed to middle-grade readers, a wider age range will relish this story. The story neatly crosses over from middle-grade through young adults and up to some adult readers, as well. Those familiar with Venetian gondoliers and history will find Paolo Mazzucato's language and description simply enchanting, and will appreciate the mystery, drama, and tension that are nicely woven into a vivid story of courage, adventure, and secrets uncovered.

Cut Reality
Zack Hacker
Anywhere Press
9781733504911, $2.99, E-book
9781733504904, $16.95, Trade paperback
9781733504928, $29.95, Hardcover

Barnes and Noble:

Jason Debord didn't expect to become part of a murder investigation when he participated in a television reality show; but when a costar mysteriously falls off a cliff, he finds himself cast in quite a different role in Cut Reality.

He never wanted to be an investigator, and that's just one of the facets that separates Cut Reality from typical stories of ordinary individuals who become amateur sleuths. He thought the cast and crew would want to help him, but as he encounters resistance to his probes, Jason comes to believe that there's a conspiracy at work, and that a network of individuals are involved in the death.

To complicate matters further, a blossoming romance with a psychologist who faces her own mental challenges enters the picture to keep Jason psychologically at odds with his own evolving life and its values.

On the surface, Cut Reality is a murder mystery; but actually it is much more. Jason's dilemmas are steeped not in a whodunit environment alone, but in personal growth and hard questions that belay simple answers. From the start, he must re-examine his own perceptions and motivations for rejecting simple answers about the death: "Look, you're getting frustrated with the other cast members not believing you, but have you considered that maybe they're right all along? It's been weeks, and you're no closer to discovering anything. Don't you think you might be struggling to process what happened?"

Furthermore, Jason's relationship with Blake and the combined challenges of his career and pursuit test them both in different ways: "Blake was quiet. Jason studied her for a moment. She was never one to experience the anxiety he picked up in public spaces. Then again, a fan convention and charity event where they were the center of attention was next-level."

As he is challenged by writer Will, who is famous for his schemes, and Blake to put together the pieces of a mystery that at times appears to be fed to him purposely, Jason discovers a series of truths that pinpoint motivations, a reality show's intentional capitalization on the fact of Billy's death, and dangerous turns of truths. It turns out that Blake is spot on about wild conclusions and circumstantial events; but Jason doesn't believe her until it's almost too late.

Grippingly realistic in its portrayal of reality TV show approaches to life, Cut Reality will keep readers thinking long after its final, startling conclusion, and is highly recommended for those who like their intrigue steeped in psychological insights and dilemmas.

Tarot of Hate, Volume 2
Antonio Simon, Jr.
Darkwater Syndicate, Inc.
9781946378224, $9.99, Paperback, $2.99, Ebook

Tarot of Hate, Volume 2 continues the approach created in the first volume, gathering an additional eight stories of horror and linking their circumstances to tarot cards. Accordingly, each chapter opens with a full-sized color image of a card from the 1910 Rider-Waite tarot.

The stories feature in macabre twists that excel in not just portraits of gore, but psychological suspense. A superior horror piece is as much about building psychological tension as it is about events that take dark routes of revelation. Each tale in the collection stands out in this approach, which places the entire anthology more than a cut above others which equate horror with bloodletting alone.

Take 'Where Did You Go, Craig Sheehan?', for example. Here a practiced antiques thief decides to go for the big time by locating and plundering the Ark of the Covenant, but vanishes during the process. The mystery of his disappearance assumes a cautionary lesson in the perils of ambition and the pitfalls of too much knowledge and too little prudence.

This story is recounted from changing viewpoints as observers absorb the pieces to a bigger puzzle about not only where Craig Sheehan (a man of many names) wound up, but the religious significance of the Ark to various religious communities and the impact of its discovery.

Various religious figures view the Ark's importance in very different ways ("...the biggest danger the Ark represents comes in the risk of losing it forever to history. It is a universal treasure that belongs to all mankind. It must be preserved."), but only Craig has made the leap from its religious significance as an ethereal ideal to its physical presence in the world; and he pays dearly for this knowledge.

Readers might anticipate a murder mystery; but the atmosphere is more reminiscent of an evolving Raiders of the Lost Ark atmosphere of horror as the truth emerges.

A very different atmosphere is cultivated in 'The Confession of Pompeius Postumus', set in 1st century AD Rome and revolving around the confession of a man who decides to do something about his housemate's dangerous habits, with devastating results.

Pompeius has long observed something brutally sinister growing in Caninius, but the man's increasing power, influence, and wealth belays his darker passions. Pompeius can only helplessly watch the evolution of evil until he decides to do something about it - something that requires just as dark a response.

Each tale of hate holds a lesson and a message, but their diversity approaches keeps each fresh and unexpected even as they are linked by a sense of dark psychological horror that emerges differently under each author's hand.

The result is a gripping study in pathological development and horror that will especially please readers who look for solid psychological inspection in horror scenarios.

Call Numbers
Syntell Smith
Syntell Smith Publishing
9780578465005, $2.99, Ebook
9780578440521, $15.95, Paperback

Barnes & Noble:
Author Link:

Call Numbers is set in 1994 in New York City and revolves around eighteen-year-old library clerk Robin Walker, who finds his career and identity in crisis when he is moved to a bigger branch with more opportunity for career and possibly personal growth.

One doesn't expect that the social and political interactions of a library system will prove engrossing, but Syntell Smith does an excellent job of synthesizing the individual personalities and broader interactions of a community of interconnected workers. This leads to an engrossing story of a young adult on the cusp of adulthood who explores not just career opportunities, but romance and new possibilities.

Call Numbers is steeped in both the brisk, gruff atmosphere of New York City and the conundrums faced by a young man who is uncertain of his place in the world. Robin has a reputation for getting into trouble and fighting - qualities one doesn't anticipate in a library employee - and the juxtaposition of his interactions within the library system with his urban encounters is very nicely done.

As readers absorb Robin's world and growth process, they receive a fine multifaceted story that moves through mysteries and investigations, the possibilities of love and career, and a series of hardships and adversarial encounters.

It should be noted that the story's conclusion involves a cliffhanger that paves the way for Book 2. By that point, readers will be more than intrigued by Robin's tumultuous journey, and will have plenty of reasons for pursuing his ongoing challenges in the follow-up Call Numbers: Loss, Pain and Revelations.

#LookUp: A Parenting Guide to Screen Use
Judy Stoffel
Wise Ink
9781634892018, $14.95,

#LookUp: A Parenting Guide to Screen Use should be required reading for any parent concerned about their child's online habits and access. However, its subject isn't as anticipated (a discussion of how to monitor or limit activities). This book broadens the subject by considering how media actually changes family interactions and relationships and perhaps physically harms childrens' developing brains. It also discusses this physical and mental erosion process with an eye to enlightening parents about all the dangers of screen use.

As Judy Stoffel surveys the risks, she also addresses how families can work together to both understand them and create a cooperative game plan for limiting screen time.

Parents are encouraged to "be nosy" and understand where their children are attracted to, in the digital world. Chapters include Judy Stoffel's personal reflections on these dangers and the challenges of managing them: "...we micromanage where they are physically all day long, but are hands-off when it comes to the powerful computer in their hands that can cause damage in almost limitless ways. They are never more than a few keystrokes away from all the filth you could possibly imagine. Am I the only one that finds this troubling?"

From managing physical dangers without actually banning cell phone usage ("Your best option is turn the phone off when you don't need it. Don't bring it with you every single time you leave the house. The next-best option is to keep it on airplane mode most of the time. As long as your phone is turned on, "it emits radiation intermittingly, even when you're not actually making a call.") to addressing habits that affect interpersonal relationships and creating solutions all ages can use ("Have your heard of a phone stack? Some teens are starting to put their phones in the middle of the table at restaurants so they're not distracted and can enjoy each other's company. First one to give in and touch their phone pays the bill. I don't know many teens who could afford to pay for all, but I love that they recognize the distraction and have found a clever solution. Great idea - an even better enhancement would be to put the phones out of sight so they're not screaming your name. You can still have the rule that whoever touches their phone pays - just don't leave them visible."), #LookUp does more than identify physical and mental threats.

It provides the tools needed to understand, address, and change these threats for all ages, from families to friends, and is a key acquisition that's very highly recommended for consumer health, computer, parenting, and sociology collections alike.

The Waiting Child
Mel Takahara
Garden Oak Press
9781732375345, $15.95,

The structure of the Japanese tanka form is rigidly defined, much like the more diminutive haiku. It consists of five lines, the first and third of which have five syllables and the others, seven, making 31 syllables in all, used to capture a complete picture of an event or mood. The Waiting Child wields this strict form with aplomb, using it to deftly capture such broad themes as patience and waiting, new relationships and "promiscuous hearts", and expressions of the effort to cultivate a "waterfall spirit" of giving.

Although readers with an affinity for free verse and perhaps little familiarity with the tanka form may think that this structure might translate to a strained effort to marry art with form, Mel Takahara's talent lies in crafting a flowing marriage between poetry and reflection that imparts a seamless feel to what must have been hours of diligent creative musing.

Newcomers to the form will find it summarized in an opening poetic sidebar of description that eschews technical definition in favor of poetic example: "Tanka are remnants/Ikebana of discourse/multifaceted/fruit of the gem-cutter's craft/blossoms reflected in stone/"

These tanka capture a range of scenarios, but a notable aspect to nearly all of them is that inner emotion is tied to the greater universe in an absorbing, ethereal manner: "Cast from the garden/they could not hear the father weeping/his heart bereft of the beloved/this new emptiness reminiscent of/the void before creation/but it hurts/the weeping becomes groaning/that fills the universe" and blends with the sidebar forms that further expand the subject: "sleeping cat hops off the morning bed my feet slide/into warmth he left/when I hop out of this life/will I"

Perhaps Mel Takahara's own explanation for how he came to write such visual pieces lends some insights into his approach: "The tankas were the result of a conscious effort to use poetry writing as a self-healing exercise for my damaged brain. The brain activities required to compose poems are precisely appropriate to help the brain repair itself."

The overall theme of the collection is about the "waiting child" within us all. In this case, the "waiting child" is a series of ethereal works presented in a chronological arrangement, from present-day to past poems produced by the author during the course of his recovery, and captures the essence of not just waiting, but blossoming.

Avid tanka readers, as well as newcomers to the form, can expect to be enchanted not just by the language and style, but by the overall impact of this collection.

Intellectual Suicide
Crystophver R
Garden Oak Press
9781732375338, $14.95,

Intellectual Suicide's subtitle is 'Poetry to Die For', and with this choice Crystophver R promises a radically different approach to the form that most poets don't approach. For one thing, the originality of topics and their hard-hitting impact is unexpectedly delightful.

Take the poem title, for a second example. One doesn't expect such descriptors as 'Hunni-Do Fixes the World!', 'No Twix, Santa's Tweet ' or 'This Party Sucks!'. And if the jovial presentation offends the serious-minded poetry reader, it's time for them to look elsewhere. This isn't a collection of mundane reflections or staid reflections on the meaning of life, but a blend of 'shuck and jive' lingo and sassy observational style that also promise unique inspections and creative use of the free verse poetic form. Again: this is a special, winning collection for poetry readers who do not confine themselves to iambic pentameter and academic reflection.

The upbeat tempo and streetwise observational style of Intellectual Suicide is as demanding a read as it is a satisfying, fun, reflective work: "We be glammin' the Apple,/cruizin' the land o' darkness,/checkin? the main kicks at the Apollo/to mitt poundin? resound,/jivin' with the jitterbugs and jazzy jeffs,/and kickin' it killer-diller,/'til I lamped a chick in a lead sheet,/latched onto her licks,/I?m dreamin' my main queen."

In particular, this is inspiring reading for any young person who might have previously viewed poetry as dry, staid, overly intellectual, and inaccessible.

Crystophver R's style and approach to life is rollicking, startling, candid, and fun. He rocks and rolls through experience, bringing the streetwise free verse reader with him on a journey that proves just how alive and accessible poetry can be under the right hand.

High school teachers encouraging reluctant young urban poetry readers should especially consider Intellectual Suicide for its surprising form and contents, even if its observations foray into the mature side of description and events.

Mob Rules
Marc Rainer
Gatekeeper Press
9781642375824, $14.95, paperback / $4.99 Kindle

Mob Rules is the first Jeff Trask book in the 'Kansas City Files' series, and follows Federal Prosecutor Jeff Trask to Kansas City, where his team of detectives and FBI agents battle mob rule and drug trafficking.

In order to address and possibly defeat this Kansas City Mob, Trask must first learn a set of approaches and rules that are foreign to him. To further complicate his learning process, his personal life is also fast approaching chaos, with its own set of changing rules.

As Trask struggles to survive on several fronts, readers are treated to a story that moves quickly in both directions. Life in the new subdivision isn't what he'd expected. Trouble comes from many different angles and sometimes stems from lack of experience with the neighborhood in more than one area of Kansas City.

Readers delve into these areas of misunderstanding and angst through Trask's efforts to adapt and change, and this adds a satisfying tension to the story line that keeps readers not just involved, but on their toes.

Marc Rainer's background in the military and federal prosecution arenas lends an authenticity to the story that comes from not just outlining proceedings, but placing them in logical order.

There's also a solid degree of management savvy involved, as Trask is tasked with building and directing a team navigating new ground as they face the special challenges of the Mob.

Add a fine attention to regional culture ("I know one thing," Trask said. "I've been all over this country, and I've never heard anybody else, anywhere else, call a road, '71 Highway.' It seems to be something limited to this area. Why isn't it 'Highway 71' like everywhere else in America?" "You're in Missouri, not America," Land quipped.") for a flavor that is engrossing and educational, all at once.

Mystery, thriller, and intrigue readers will be delighted with Trask's many challenges, which operate on more than one level.

High On God - There's No High Like The Most High
Matt Spinks
The Fire House Projects Ministries & Publications
9780578457703, $15.99, paperback
9781684541539, $9.99, ebook

High On God - There's No High Like The Most High is, unabashedly, a celebratory promotion piece for attaining a 'God high' through Biblical readings and spiritual reflection. It advocates building lifestyle based on joyful spiritual living and will especially appeal to those who are already religious, but who want to feel and reflect it in a different manner.

As chapters explore the foundations of this reflective process, readers receive a combination of strategies, testimonials and case histories, and "beyond the Christian box" thinking that will enable them to consider alternative methods of expressing and living their beliefs.

Perhaps most tangible of all is the focus on reflecting the Holy Spirit in physical interactions and mental approaches to life. If the magnitude of enthusiasm expressed here sounds akin to a drug 'high', be advised that High On God does advocate being part of a community that lives in a 'continuous altered state' of spiritual ecstasy.

Not only does Matt Spinks examine the elements of bliss, but, more importantly, he discusses how to translate these elements to daily giving, caring, and serving one another, with love as the foundation of all actions. Enlightenment of this order may sound idealistic, unattainable, or simply unsustainable; but High On God's purpose isn't just to express or explore this form of 'high'. It shows how such a state of mind can be attainable, sustainable, and realistic when applied to daily life challenges.

Spinks pairs his exuberant descriptions and discussions with a down-to-earth attitude about the practical applications of joy. This makes for an enlightening and encouraging book that is grounded in beliefs about God and Jesus, but which takes this belief a step further, into community interactions conducted with a sense of ministry and purpose.

Christians who want to live revised lives will find this exploration of the intersection of faith and community to be joyful, thought-provoking, and challenging reading, all in one (challenging because it encourages a different perspective and approach to living and reflecting one's beliefs).

No Christian library should be without this celebratory tool.

Mother Love, Willow Lane, Book Two
Ann McCauley
CB Publishing
9781797891354, $14.95, Paper
9750999341520, $3.99, Kindle

Book Two of the Willow Lane series provides a warm saga that requires no prior familiarity in order to prove accessible and charming. The introductory chapter reviews Barbara Malone's marriage to Bill, her transition from a naive bride to a stoic wife determined to avoid confrontations with her husband, and the forces that brought them together, then tore them apart.

At age 52, Barbara Malone is widowed and alone. It starts on quiet Willow Lane in a small town in Pennsylvania as she embarks on a new career with the Peace Corps, which changes everything. One door has closed, but another is opening on her life, expanding it to include her interactions with the poor peoples of another country.

From Peace Corps training to experiencing another country, Barbara finds her world opening up even as her children and family back home in Pennsylvania cultivate new ways of relating to one another without her.

Chapter headings move between characters and make it easy to move between their lives, as well, lending a simple structure to what could have otherwise proved a complex series of examinations of entwined lives, choices, and consequences. Through her eyes, readers are swept into a cavalcade of emotional connections and growth experiences that lend Mother Love a quietly evocative atmosphere.

Readers of fiction that centers on evolving family ties, changes, new connections, and new opportunities for all ages will relish the lovely evolution of Mother Love, which explores circumstances of connection and healing across cultures, and the aftermath of one woman's commitment to a difficult marriage.

Under another hand, this would have been the entire story - and the end of matters - but widow Barbara is more than a wife and mother, and her life continues to blossom and expand.

Banished From Memory
Mary Sheeran
Aquafire Sulis
9780982632147, $32.95, Hardcover
9780982632130, $21.95, paperback
9780982632154, $9.99, ebook

Banished From Memory is an example of 20th century historical fiction at its strongest, and revolves around the relationships and politics of 1960 Hollywood's entertainment industry during an era when blacklisting ran rampant.

Child star Dianna has grown up in the industry and is more than familiar with its atmosphere: "As a child, Dianna had believed that everyone got up in the morning and went to studios to pretend they were someone else. She'd been astonished to find that most people went to theaters to watch others do that. She came to believe her talent was for serving those other people and helping them escape, and improve, their lives trapped in reality. And because the Fletchers were famous, and possessed the power that went with fame, the kids were protected, breezing in and out of sets as if they owned them."

As she confronts a sudden dry spell in her acting skills and challenges to the movie industry as television begins to take hold, Dianna comes to discover that there's more involved than her personal obstacles to success.

Mary Sheeran captures the broader picture of the times within the microcosm of a young, already-accomplished girl's experiences. She uses Dianna's character to not only explore Hollywood's evolution, but creates a coming-of-age story subplot that is narrated from a different place than most, with an adult awareness of realities that have long negated childhood ideals and dreams: "She had better be good in what she had left to do if she wanted to stay in this shrinking business in a shrinking screen."

As the movie industry and politics grow increasingly entwined, Dianna's education continues in quite a different direction than she'd envisioned, moving away from talent and achievement and into darker realms of political and social influences. Her choice to sing for the Democrats leads her into precarious waters of division as she rebels against the notion that the Democrats are a dangerous force in the country, and that her choices hold dire implications for the nation.

Readers with a special interest in 1960s Hollywood blacklisting processes will find Banished From Memory does an outstanding job of bringing these times to life. By observing them through the eyes of a young actress who is struggling to redefine achievement and prior perceptions, it provides a more immediate, personal, involving story about the times than most.

Banished From Memory is highly recommended for those who would absorb not just political undercurrents, but their impact on personal and professional choices alike.

The Pyongyang Option
A.C. Frieden
Down & Out Books/Avendia Publishing
9780974793481, $17.95, Paperback, $9.99, Trade Paperback, $6.99, Kindle

Like so many who survived the ravages of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, attorney Jonathan Brooks is desperate to rebuild his business and resume a normal life. The lack of local clients forces him to take on an unusual business deal in Ukraine, but when his client's executive vanishes, he finds himself in over his head, struggling with intrigue and death threats in The Pyongyang Option.

As if this weren't enough action, Jonathan's ex-wife, journalist Linda, is pursuing a dangerous international story that revolves around historic nuclear disarmament talks in North Korea. After she interviews local officials, she's thrown into a web of hackers, spies, and assassins. Her discoveries draw Jonathan to Pyongyang as her investigation runs on parallel, dangerous lines.

The Pyongyang Option is the third book in the Jonathan Brooks series, but no prior familiarity with the others is required in order to become immediately engrossed by this stand-alone thriller.

It solidifies a sense of place by opening with street maps of Pripyat, Ukraine, and its proximity to the Chernobyl reactors; and Pyongyang, North Korea. The chapters that move between locales and characters are clearly marked, so readers will find it easy to follow changing scenarios and countries as the action heats up.

As Jonathan faces murky assailants in muddy waters, international surveillance operations ramp up on all sides as exclusion zones are breeched and CIA operations exposed. One quandary among many is Jonathan's role in an increasingly dangerous cat-and-mouse game of subterfuge.

By drawing together the events and secret operations of two very different nations, A.C. Frieden dares go where other thrillers would be hard-pressed to follow. In effect, Frieden creates two scenarios which juxtapose nicely on the thriller front, two main characters who each confront their pasts and futures (both separately and together), and two crises that move from simmer to boil with a blend of swift action and confrontational scenarios.

Thriller fans will be especially pleased with the detailed sense of place that Frieden crafts, which solidify the different special interests and their uniform threats to the world.

Fast-paced, engrossing, and steeped in the worlds of both Ukraine and North Korea, The Pyongyang Option excels in juxtaposing the personal and the political and holds a surprise conclusion that many readers won't see coming. All these facets make it a winning standout in the genre of espionage and thriller writings.

The Ascent
Carmela Cattuti
HenschelHAUS Publishing
9781595987174, $16.95

The Ascent is a sequel to Carmela Cattuti's first novel Between the Cracks and follows the story of Sicilian immigrant Angela Lanza as she builds a new life in America during the first half of the 20th century.

Many books about early immigrant experiences wind up sounding similar in their documentation of journeys to America and assimilation challenges and experiences in the nation's cities and small towns, but it's important to note that The Ascent differs from most in several key ways.

For one, Angela is just as concerned about preserving and cultivating her spiritual and artistic psyche as she is about adapting to her new country. Her journey isn't just about assimilation: it's about contribution and building a new sense of self.

The second thing to note is that Angela's life (based on the author's great-aunt's experiences) is one of constant turmoil and spiritual re-examination. She hopes to rid herself of some of this turmoil with a fresh beginning in a new land; but instead, it follows her. This contributes to a rich sense of immediacy and drama as she makes her way through this new world, continually confronting dilemmas.

Angela doesn't just face a new home; she confronts changing relationships and realities, as well: "Angela cried. It was hard for her to let go of her sadness around this relationship. She could see what would eventually happen and it created a deep sadness that she could not transcend."

Even her attempts to influence and change those around her, whom she loves, are fraught with controversy and the specter of failure: "Angela continued to sob and blame everyone for Speranza's and Alicia's decisions. She needed someone to blame, but she felt her influence was never noticed. "I worked so hard with Speranza and Alicia so that they would grow up and make good choices. It doesn't seem to have mattered. No one supported me in what I was trying to do."

From political changes and Angela's uncertain position as war looms and patriotism rises to unseen friends who promise her a different destiny, The Ascent's special blend of spiritual and social evolution and Angela's confrontations not only with her new home but her own self makes for an engaging, thought-provoking story. It's especially recommended for readers who look for more personal and social insights than the usual immigrant story offers.

Journey to Healing: The Art and Science of Applied Kinesiology
Eugene Charles, D.C.
Renaissance Publishers
9780964421769, $24.95

Dr. Eugene Charles has been teaching Applied Kinesiology for over 30 years, and is the perfect expert to explore Applied Kinesiology's vast potential as a growing member of the integrative medicine pantheon in Journey to Healing: The Art and Science of Applied Kinesiology.

Most medical approaches consider health challenges and illness as individual symptoms needing to be analyzed and cured. Applied Kinesiology (AK) focuses on the whole body, whether healthy or in disrepair, as a unit. It considers not just the condition, but the person as a whole, and the unique environmental, physical, and psychological factors which cause system imbalances and ill health.

That's the basic premise of Applied Kinesiology, but what Dr. Charles does in Journey to Healing is to meld the ideals of this whole-person analysis into an overall therapeutic approach that considers where AK's concepts fit into the traditional healthcare system and individual choice.

There are several keys to understanding the differences between AK analysis of ill health and traditional diagnostic and treatment procedures. One is its emphasis on non-invasive diagnostic and treatment protocols. Another is its focus on movement and muscles as key indicators of conditions.

As Journey to Healing progresses, readers receive not just an overview of Applied Kinesiology's history and a contrast between its methods with those of traditional medicine, but a series of case histories that illustrate its successful applications for anything from low back pain to heart palpitations and asthma.

Each condition receives an overview, a survey of traditional approaches, a consideration of how AK would view the issue differently, and an in-depth case history example that follows a patient from struggle to successful recovery. It should be noted that these case histories also differ from the usual medical exploration in that they involve many paragraphs of description of not just of attempts to solve the problem in the past, but exactly how Applied Kinesiology was used.

The result is a thorough survey of the promises of Applied Kinesiology that is an integral, successful exploration highly recommended for physicians and patients alike. Its detail and accessibility makes it a top recommendation for any consumer health library.

Johanna Kristin Ellerup
Barnes & Noble Press/Amazon
9781987041132, $11.40 print, $2.99 ebook

Barnes & Noble:


Transcendence is set in a fictional American town, blends occult drama with a psychological thriller piece, and adds a touch of murder mystery via an unexpected protagonist: the murder victim's spirit, which faces a question of purpose in its reincarnated life.

The fact that the pharmacist has been murdered in the process of investigating an international drug ring is only the beginning of a complex tale. Themes move through her revision of her goals in the afterlife, her venture into the lives of unrelated people (think Kate Atkinson's Life After Life, but with more of a philosophical hand), and her growing realizations about unconditional love and its purpose in the world.

This lends Transcendence a much more ethereal and spiritual tone than other stories of reincarnation. What do dogs and business interests have to do with this bigger picture? Johanna Kristin Ellerup weaves a tale that incorporates many unusual facets throughout. Readers should cultivate flexibility as they pursue a mercurial story that delves into these different lives and realizations.

Any such effort will be well rewarded with a story that is poignant, revealing, and filled with evocative descriptions of not just the familiar world, but other dimensions: "I was somehow lost, and that feeling alone confused me. I spent my entire known existence within a human body yet spending a few years as some form of singular energy had such a profound effect that returning to a human body left me discomfited. As energy, I envied humans the ability to feel themselves, to feel their existence and yet now it only feels like a dead weight. A huge, confining barrier to all other forms of existence and intellect. I marveled at the energy expenditure required to do the simplest of tasks, like lifting my arm, or finger."

Those seeking a blend of mystery, reincarnation saga, and spiritual reflective piece will find Transcendence just the ticket with its occult story of psychological suspense and spiritual and philosophical growth.

Turn Your Happiness On
Norma Nikutowski
Spring Rain Publishing
9781732609006, $15.99, paperback
9781732609013, $3.99, ebook

Turn Your Happiness On: How to Light up your Days and Fill your Life with Joy is a celebration of life that does more than extol its virtues, but focuses on how to get to a place where happiness is an automatic response to daily events.

It's meant not just for those already on the path to joy, but especially for readers who feel overwhelmed, exhausted, and frustrated, providing a roadmap of scientifically proven strategies for attaining the ultimate goal of happiness.

One hears the admonishment to 'cultivate positive attitude' all the time; but seldom are tips given on how to achieve this goal. The specifics presented in Turn Your Happiness On go beyond most books on positive thinking to show how to build a progressive 'happiness ladder' to re-fire endorphins and help distinguish between "... what makes us happy, what we think should make us happy, and what others tell us will make us happy. As we grow older, it becomes more confusing because we barely remember what used to make us happy."

Action steps and admonitions to think about the roots of happiness require an engaged reader who is willing to think about these things and commit to the steps necessary to achieve true happiness: "How do you feel about your life right now? Are you on the right path to happiness and success? Are you feeling good and happy throughout the day? If you are, congratulate yourself; that's wonderful. If you are not, write down when - during which activ-ities and at what times - you do not feel happy. This is an indi-cation that you need to make some changes during these times. Think if there is anything you can do to change those situations."

The author backs up these exercises and reflections with examples from her own life and approaches to it. The Chapter Summaries and Action Steps are one key to success.

Turn Your Happiness On is highly recommended both for self-education and as a gift to those who would take charge of their own happiness rather than letting world events influence either happiness or sadness. It's a proactive road map that, supported by science, clearly points the way for those who may have lost their ability to experience joy in daily living.

Our Magnificent Afterlife Beyond Our Fondest Dreams
C. David Lundberg
HeavenLight Press
9780979630811, $17.95, Paper (ebook also available)

Our Magnificent Afterlife: Beyond Our Fondest Dreams compiles information and excerpts from dozens of afterlife sources. It examines the promise of the Heaven World, how souls spend their time, the incredible beauty, soul bodies, mind power, judgment, purgatory, halls of learning, government, and numerous other afterlife aspects in its 55 chapters.

It's a celebratory, passionate examination of everything from motive to soul groups, considering both questions about and common misconceptions of that afterlife.
Many of these questions might feel unexpected to readers anticipating a usual discussion of afterlife spirituality. Such questions include whether individuality is maintained after death, whether or not the afterlife is shadowy or boring, and how self-image and divine purpose enter into afterlife experiences and concepts, making for thought-provoking reading.

C. David Lundberg examines different facets of the afterlife based not on casual research, but a lifelong passion of spiritual research. Over 170 quotations in the book come from souls who have lived a relatively pure life and telepathically sent their afterlife reports to associates on Earth, as well as from select near-death experiences.

Lundberg's mission statement is in his introduction ("My mission became to discover and share the best and most reliable descriptions about the afterlife and the best explanations for how it all works."). It synthesizes, under one cover, a treasure trove of knowledge based on dozens of different sources reporting about the many beautiful, loving, logical and just aspects found in the Heaven World.

It isn't uncommon to have a book compile many such instances; but what sets Our Magnificent Afterlife: Beyond Our Fondest Dreams apart from others on the subject is Lundberg's inclusion of telepathic reports from souls who actually live in the afterlife in addition to select near-death experiences. It is also his attention to detail and bringing all these experiences together in a uniform manner to answer basic questions about the organization and purposes of the afterlife itself.

No reader who believes in the afterlife should be without this thorough overview that describes the afterlife's organization, promises, and overall significance. This work offers hope, comfort and essential afterlife information for all who have concerns about what follows their lives on Earth.

A Dream of Rescue
Elaine Bernstein Partnow
Publisher: TBA
ISBN: TBA, Price: TBA, Website/Ordering Link: TBA

A Dream of Rescue is a literary novel of psychological suspense that focuses on Emilia, whose achievement of her childhood dream to pilot an airplane initially finds success with her own charter company but ends when the landing gear on her new plane jams on its first flight, causing the death of her parents. Only she survives: a fact that continues to haunt her a year later.

Emilia is still wondering if she was at fault in the accident, while looking for a new career direction to move her life forward and away from the anguish with which she struggles daily.
As she becomes involved with Louisiana photographer Garland, who is realizing his own professional dreams and who has a grant that will take him away from her, Emilia is invited to step away from her world for a change - and it's the best thing that could have happened to her.

The culture and environment of New Orleans and Cajun country come to life in a story that is moving and absorbing. As soon as she arrives, Emilia encounters a series of mishaps; from almost being run over by a car and nearly falling from a pickup to someone shooting at her. And it's all connected, somehow, to her association with Garland.

As the pace picks up, past angst and present-day challenges collide in a tale filled with intrigue and atmosphere, which eventually comes full circle to lead Emilia to confront that childhood passion that nearly destroyed her life.

A Dream of Rescue is women's literary fiction at its best, and should be chosen both for its strong leisure read qualities and for its atmospheric survey of a young woman's revised world as everything changes not just once, but many times during the course of her decisions and choices.

Tigers Love Bubble Baths & Obsession Perfume (Who Knew!)
Mary K. Savarese
Koehler Books
9781633937086, $27.95, Hardcover, $17.95, Paper, $7.19, Kindle

If the title of this book doesn't attract interest right off the bat, its subject (a woman who forges a new life for herself as a nursing home recreation director, only to face charges of negligence and murder as residents begin to die under mysterious circumstances) will.

Tigers Love Bubble Baths & Obsession Perfume is billed as a cozy mystery, but under that headline lies a wealth of unique attributes of which the book's title is only the first indication that this is not your typical cozy mystery read.

For one thing, forty-eighty-year-old Angie Pantera, a self-proclaimed good-looker facing the ultimate betrayal by the love of her life, is reinventing her world under not just one cloud, but a new threat.

This leads her on a mission to clear her name, rebuild her life, and become an amateur sleuth in order to do so, bringing readers into the heart of a mystery that edges into questions of miracles as well as murder.

Readers thus receive a more multifaceted story than most cozy mysteries offer, with more twists and turns than the typical production.

From Church politics and involvements in the home they manage to the aftermath of divorce, the influence of serendipity and new obstacles to Angie's ultimate success, Mary K. Savarese writes with a warm, revealing hand. She deftly develops characters while painting a swirl of crisis situations that keeps readers not just involved, but emotionally connected to events. The ethical reflections are just as intriguing as the mystery itself: "Our residents asked for a final wish. God granted that wish. Why else would they die with smiles on their faces?"

Tigers Love Bubble Baths provides an engrossing saga of love, betrayal, murder, and underlying wishes and dreams about life's progression and end. These facets weave nicely into a story that will keep mystery readers engaged and thinking long after Angie's own dilemmas are resolved.

Mindful Dementia Care - Lost and Found in the Alzheimer's Forest
Ruth Dennis with Velma Arellano and Luke Nachtrab
Golden Word Books
9781948749145, $17.95, Paper, $9.99, Kindle

Mindful Dementia Care - Lost and Found in the Alzheimer's Forest is a book of stories about caregiving and the process of not just dementia's progression, but the equally relentless pressures placed upon caregivers to respond in different ways.

Many books have been written about dementia and caregiving, but Mindful Dementia Care transcends the usual focus on case histories and patient experience to incorporate mindful philosophy and techniques that caregivers can apply to dementia's particular progressive challenges.

The ideas from this book didn't stem from a personal belief system so much as Ruth Dennis's participation in the International Eden Alternative Conference On the Arts and Healing in dementia care. Connecting with Eden (which occurred 6-7 years before the author spoke at the conference), fostered connections with people who shared the same concerns and goals. This motivated the Vista family as they ventured into unfamiliar territory.

Readers who think their lives are currently exempt from concern about this subject should pay close attention to the statistics Dennis presents in her introduction: "The National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP released a joint study in 2015 that found 43.5 million people in the United States were caregivers; of those, 33 million were caring for other adults, and 6.8 million were caring for both children and adults. According to the Alzheimer's Association, 5.7 million people face Alzheimer's disease, and 16.1 million people provide unpaid care for them, which is valued at more than, $232 billion per year. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 70 percent of all adults in the United States over the age of 65 will need hands-on care in their lifetimes, and the World Health Organization predicts that the number of people needing daily hands-on care will triple by 2050."

These facts only serve to emphasize that the mindful approach of this book will prove key to an increasing number of caregiver audiences.

She provides tips and examples from professionals and participants in all walks of life, specific and filled with insights based not on philosophy but upon statistics and experience: "A burned out caregiver is a danger to themselves and to the person in their care. I encourage people to look before they are desperate, to visit places and ask questions. In a wonderful Alzheimer's caregiver guide, Dr. Ruth Westheimer makes the point over and over to "gather information before you are at wit's end." This is good, sensible advice. Desperation allows for guilt, fear, and frustration to be the decision-makers instead of weighing pros and cons in a loving, positive way."

It cannot be emphasized enough that Mindful Dementia Care pinpoints both common struggles and how to evolve solutions; it doesn't just list solutions themselves. More so than most books on the subject, this approach gives readers not just listings of resources, but the actual mindful tools for assessing situations and arriving at their own conclusions based on their own research.

Facts about dementia's progression are woven into reactions to this information, which also prove useful for self-analysis: "Highly structured - even secure - environments with round-the-clock nurses and doctors in the building are not always restrictive, as someone without dementia may perceive. Sometimes the structure is freeing for the person with FTD, allowing them to be grounded in ways that they simply could not be in a looser setting. FTD tends to progress in drops and plateaus. An elder may seem stable, functioning at a certain level for months, and then go into what feels like a freefall, only to plateau again. This is hard. There is grieving at each drop, and anxiety at each plateau. Caregivers need support at these times."

Dennis points out that "...caregivers do get miracles, but mostly small ones." Moving outside this discussion of celebrating the small everyday moments of lucidity or wonder, the publication of this book is one such a miracle, allowing readers to better understand not only the dementia environment, but their loving role in it.

Mindful Dementia Care should be given to any newly diagnosed patient and their family members. It's that specific and important, and is all about maintaining and supporting love during what is, effectively, a mental war.

Tropical Doubts
David Myles Robinson
Terra Nova Books
9781948749268, $19.95, Paper, $8.69, Kindle

Pancho McMartin was once renowned as the best criminal lawyer in Hawaii. But in Tropical Doubts, he's lost his mojo and has faced three major guilty verdicts in a row. The last thing Pancho has in mind is to tackle a medical malpractice case involving one of his oldest friends; but he reluctantly steps out of his comfort zone due to this connection, only to find himself pulled into a murder charge against his friend's husband, who claims innocence.

As Pancho enters the murky world of medical treatments, malpractice accusations, and a situation that isn't as cut-and-dried as one might think, readers are introduced to a story packed with satisfyingly unpredictable twists and turns as Pancho navigates unfamiliar territory in a relentless pursuit of the truth.

Pancho McMartin's legal exploits have set the stage in previous books, but no prior familiarity with his persona or experiences is required in order for newcomers to delve right into this legal thriller.

Action is fast-paced, but not artificially supercharged, which lends the story a satisfying realistic touch as Pancho faces courtroom proceedings that center around the medical rights of patients and doctors alike: "Grimes hit hard on the need for confidentiality on the part of the hospital and the right to privacy on the part of the physicians..."

Tropical Doubts also incorporates regional, specific insights into court processes in Hawaii which furthers reader knowledge about medical malpractice approaches there and in different states: "Hawaii has joint and several liability. If Dr. Campbell is found to be liable for even a small percentage of fault, she will be jointly liable with the other defendants for the full amount of the judgment. Therefore, she has a very strong interest in protecting the integrity of the discovery process."

Firmly rooted in a sense of place and a struggling criminal defense attorney's involvement in a case that hits too close to home for comfort, Tropical Doubts cultivates the kind of atmosphere that most legal thrillers strive for, but don't quite achieve. The juxtaposition of strong characterization, motives on the parts of not just the prosecutor but the defendant, and the threat of a murderer who may not be brought to justice in the courts makes for a compelling saga that moves between legal process and a whodunit with a deft precision that makes it nearly impossible to put down, or predict.

Tropical Doubts is highly recommended for murder mystery fans who usually don't delve into legal thriller territory, and visa versa.

The Chocolate Shop
J.J. Spring
River Point Press
9780985340827, Price: TBA, Website/Ordering Link: TBA

The Chocolate Shop opens with a wife's dream of killing her husband ("Laura wanted Mickey to die.Tonight.Now."), but it's not what a reader will expect, because this isn't a murder mystery or medical conundrum, but a novel that explores the boundaries of love and connection.

Laura Beckman is a wife who follows the rules. These rules don't involve murder. They do involve a reexamination of her relationship not only with her husband, but with her mother, an affair that has held many obstacles in the past: "Could her father's death bring mother and daughter closer together? No. Too much time had passed, too many doors now locked from both sides for Laura to re-kindle a relationship with her daughter. Well, re-kindle was the wrong word; it assumed the relationship had been kindled in the first place."

Laura has not been a rule-breaker. So why does she careen towards disaster with Aunt Gracie, contemplating a sexual fling at The Stallion Corral? Why embark on a journey that makes her a participant in a passive suicide, assuming a role that could send her to prison? And why should she become involved in the healing promise and dangers of a venture called The Chocolate Shop?

The Chocolate Shop is about more than suffering. It's about rendering love and assistance, facing the legal consequences of moral and ethical choices, and new relationships that cause characters to reconsider their psyches and efforts in life: "Laura Beckman was physically attractive, but he knew that didn't explain it. Maybe that was the point. He felt a connection to her that was deep, visceral. Something he hadn't experienced since his early days with Lorraine. Laura didn't want to change him, but she made him want to change himself to please her."

At this point, it should be evident that The Chocolate Shop is no casual leisure read. As it winds through Laura's present and past, considers her future choices, and presents many dilemmas based on moral and ethical decisions, it offers readers the opportunity to understand mother/daughter relationships challenged by more than one kind of pain.

Hypnotically compelling, evocative, and thought-provoking, The Chocolate Shop follows Laura down some dangerous paths and is a powerful consideration of life, death, revised relationships, and everything in between.

It's highly recommended reading for those who look for a focus on changing family relationships and new perspectives on the levels and management of medical assistance, life and death, and healing.

Enchanted: Things We Lost in the Night
Larry J. Dunlap
Claremont Village Press
9780990627937, $17.99, Paperback
9780990627944, $7.99, Kindle

Kindle eBook Link:

Trade Paper Link:

Enchanted, Book 2 of Larry J. Dunlap's romantic memoir series Things We Lost in the Night, follows the first book, Night People, in documenting his band's continuing climb toward national recording success on the West Coast in the 1960s. To get a sense of the flavor of the story, think Kerouac's On the Road, then add the best elements of rock star memoirs to the mix. The final three years of Dunlap's band's successes and disappointments are charted with an attention to detail that gives you the feeling "you are there." Woven into the band's journey is Dunlap's personal love story beginning with an intense romantic encounter in Hawaii through marriage and fatherhood to the drama of the final chapters.

As their popularity grows, the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas builds a venue designed for them, the Sky Room, where international stars and celebrities turn up nightly. ("We'd begun leaning into 'Five O'clock World,' as the set opener, when Elvis Presley, Tom Jones, and Big Jim Sullivan arrived trailing followers like a mass of droning bees swarming their queen. The maître ds efficiently interceded and escorted them to a cordoned-off table about halfway back near ringside. Las Vegas royalty had deigned to visit the Sky Room.")

Readers anticipating a story of hobnobbing with musical celebrities should understand that Dunlap's personal life is as much in the spotlight, here, as his professional evolution. As he faces the challenges involved in balancing both parts of his life during the band's meteoric rise, readers receive solid insights into the costs and impact of fame and aspiration. They will appreciate the blended focus on public and private life which crafts a music memory more multifaceted than most.

Dunlap juggles family demands with career choices that range from personality clashes to the challenge of crafting an original sound in a sea of competing music groups. Musicians will well recognize many of the obstacles to success that face this group, as well as the author's determination to pursue new creative paths to take more control over their national recording goals. As the danger of losing his family looms, and the band threatens to implode, the author relates a trail of growth experiences, revelations, personal insights, and souvenirs of his life in a memoir that is especially recommended reading for anyone who wants a true-life story of a musician's growth both on stage and off.

'Til Health Do Us Part
Julie Rooney
Gatekeeper Press
9781642373721, $32.95, Hardcover
9781642373738, $15.64, Paperback
9781642373745, $7.99, E-Book

'Til Health Do Us Part: One Woman's Extraordinary Story of Healing addresses the problems of over-medication and drug interactions and follows author Julie Rooney's downward spiral from a series of debilitating diseases, charting the even more debilitating side effects caused by the many medications she was prescribed.

Given modern concerns about drug interactions and impacts, the timing of this story could not be better. An increasing number of patients are finding that the side effects of supposedly-benign treatments cause major problems. The question then becomes one of what to do, and Rooney maintains that patients can actually be empowered to take back their lives (albeit, not haphazardly).

Her process of investigation, information, and recovery will serve as a blueprint for others facing similar issues, even if their diagnoses are different. Hers is not a generalized discussion, however. Chapters pinpoint specific drugs prescribed for specific problems even as she notes that "...long before my list of medications lengthened, the drugs I was taking had begun to cause problems of their own. But that's the great thing about Western medicine. There's always something else to take for that."

From her step back from steroids even in the face of a medical emergency to the confusion resulting from trying to decide what to do ("My body's telling me one thing, while each of the many voices in my head is telling me another. And they're all squawking like mynah birds trying to make themselves heard. So which voice am I supposed to listen to? Which voice am I supposed to believe?"), readers receive specific details that juxtapose Rooney's life, choices, and struggles with information about popular medical treatments and lesser-known alternatives.

Anyone who has dealt with the medical community may be already familiar with this progression of events; but the element of informed discovery is what keeps Rooney's story from being just a singular experience, in effect creating a game plan for anyone facing similar circumstances.

As Rooney charts the progression of her changes and their emotional and physical impact ("The afternoon passes very slowly. It's amazing how much time frees up when you don't have to spend almost every waking moment treating your illnesses. I know I need to do something. Not just sit around and think."), readers receive keys to how to take charge of their own medical care and choices.

Patients would do well to read this title and follow the example of this ordinary individual, whose increasing medical challenges required a different approach not just to single drugs, but to healthcare as a whole.

'Til Health Do Us Part is very highly recommended for its astute observations and blend of personal and medical revelations.

The Chalk Canoe
Heidi Arneson
Stick Pony Press
9780997477818, $14.99

The Chalk Canoe captures the life of 13-year-old daydreamer Cat McCloud. Although young, Cat is already an outsider in her small town, shunned for her emotional connections to people and nature, her odd perception of danger and reality, and her exceptionally talented (but equally strange) obsession with carving tiny canoes from sticks of chalk: an endeavor that too often winds up in broken failure.

New girl in town Dee-dee is perhaps the only peer who can shake Cat from her latest fixation, but in many ways Dee-dee isn't anything like Cat. Where Cat seeks perfection and control in her life, Dee-dee is unkempt and unrestrained. The passion they share for a good mystery creates and strengthens a connection between their otherwise-disparate personalities. But when a shared obsession with magical possibilities leads them from hope to tragedy, Cat must summon all of her powers to find a way back from the brink of despair.

The Chalk Canoe is a young adult novel of time-travel, intrigue, and magical realism. The latter genre represents a blend of real-world settings and scenarios with just a touch of magic added into the mix, setting it apart from fantasy's heavier hand.

Genre definitions aside, The Chalk Canoe is steeped in atmospheric descriptions which are one of the powerful strengths that set Heidi Arneson's story apart from any other: "I'd laugh, if laughing didn't quicken my death. I'm buried waistdeep in muck under all the waters of Little Rose Lake, with ten thousand crayfish nibbling at my buried parts, and a huge snapping turtle about to bite off my face. The more I struggle, the deeper I go, and even if they could find me, none of the neighbor kids could pull me from this muck-hole.

You know that feeling like you're dying when you're really only just waking up? That pain in your pumper like your insides are about to turn inside out, and the dams of your arteries are about to give way, and all that you've been holding in is about to explode into the unknown? Death has a taste. It bubbles up from the inside, black and green, thick and sour, a grainy mush."

Cat's voice is uniquely compelling, lending a fire and spice to her story that makes it virtually impossible to put down. From her introductory fascination with the possibilities of different kinds of death in the world and in her short life experience to plots with her new friend to make time-travel potions, family breakups, and portents of danger which are surprisingly ignored by one so attuned to possible disaster ("We should have listened to what those hollowed eyes were telling us. We should have listened to those hard faces. But we didn't listen, and we had no idea what we were getting into as we lay down at the lake covered in Coppertone with our stacks of history books, no idea what we were stirring up with our peeks into the past, and no idea what else was brewing that summer with the Poison Pen."), the story line virtually bristles with a snappy, evocative and unique observational style that keeps it grippingly fresh.

At times, Arneson's story has a few long paragraphs of flashback descriptions. Breaking up these longer paragraphs would be easier on the eye and mind (as in the inches-long paragraph that begins with "At the head of the stairs I felt for the light switch.").

This note aside, The Chalk Canoe excels in an original first-person observational style, the unique and quirky personality of a young dreamer's confrontation with adversity and magic, and a descriptive focus that keeps plot and environment interconnected and thrilling.

While young adults will be the most likely audience of The Chalk Canoe, this evocative story is a powerful, reflective piece that includes themes that may be considered more appropriate for mature readers (Cat's blossoming sexuality is tempered with a wry sense of humor, while the hidden prejudices of her neighbors is ever-present).

The Chalk Canoe is highly recommended reading for all ages seeking a young pioneer's confrontation with both the impossible and her own choices and powers, and is a compelling saga that stands head and shoulders above most other coming of age or magical realism accounts.

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

Dunford's Bookshelf

Armed in America
Patrick J. Charles
Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2197
9781633885646 $18.00 pbk. / $12.99 Kindle

Synopsis: This illuminating study traces the transformation of the right to arms from its inception in English and colonial American law to today's impassioned gun-control debate. As historian and legal scholar Patrick J. Charles shows, what the right to arms means to Americans, as well as what it legally protects, has changed drastically since its first appearance in the 1689 Declaration of Rights.

Armed in America explores how and why the right to arms transformed at different points in history. The right was initially meant to serve as a parliamentary right of resistance, yet by the ratification of the Second Amendment in 1791 the right had become indispensably intertwined with civic republicanism. As the United States progressed into the 19th century the right continued to change--this time away from civic republicanism and towards the individual-right understanding that is known today, albeit with the important caveat that the right could be severely restricted by the government's police power.

Throughout the 20th century this understanding of the right remained the predominant view. But working behind the scenes was the beginnings of the gun-rights movement--a movement that was started in the early 20th century through the collective efforts of sporting magazine editors and was eventually commandeered by the National Rifle Association to become the gun-rights movement known today.

Now with a new preface that brings the fraught gun-rights controversy up to date, this book is an invaluable resource for readers looking to sort through the shrill rhetoric surrounding the current gun debate and arrive at an informed understanding of the legal and historical development of the right to arms.

Critique: Armed in America: A History of Gun Rights from Colonial Militias to Concealed Carry is an in-depth history and analysis of the legal right to arms in America, from 1689 to the modern day. Particular scrutiny is paid to the gun-rights movement, started in the early 20th century and later all but controlled by the National Rifle Association. Exhaustive notes and an index rounds out this scholarly resource, highly recommended for both public and college library American History collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Armed in America is also available in a Kindle edition ($12.99).

Iron, Fire and Ice
Ed West
Brilliance Corporation
PO Box 887, Grand Haven, MI 49417
9781543680515, $21.99, CD,

Synopsis: A young pretender raises an army to take the throne. Learning of his father's death, the adolescent, dashing and charismatic and descended from the old kings of the North, vows to avenge him. He is supported in this war by his mother, who has spirited away her two younger sons to safety. Against them is the queen, passionate, proud, and strong-willed and with more of the masculine virtues of the time than most men. She too is battling for the inheritance of her young son, not yet fully grown but already a sadist who takes delight in watching executions.

Sound familiar? It may read like the plot of Game of Thrones. Yet that was also the story of the bloodiest battle in British history, fought at the culmination of the War of the Roses. George RR Martin's bestselling novels are rife with allusions, inspirations, and flat-out copies of real-life people, events, and places of medieval and Tudor England and Europe. The Red Wedding? Based on actual events in Scottish history. The poisoning of Joffrey Baratheon? Eerily similar to the death of William the Conqueror's grandson. The Dothraki? Also known as Huns, Magyars, Turks, and Mongols.

Listeners will join Ed West, (author of Skyhorse's A Very, Very Short History of England series), as he deftly explores all of Martin's influences, from religion to war to powerful women. Instead of despairing while waiting for Season 8 of Game of Thrones, discover the real history behind the phenomenon and see for yourself that truth is stranger than fiction.

Critique: An absolute "must" for the legions of dedicated 'Game of Thrones' fans, and deftly narrated by Rory Barnett, this impressively informative, complete and unabridged audio book edition of "Iron, Fire and Ice" will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to both community and academic library audio book collections. (16 CDs, 20 Hours, 18 Minutes).

Seven Practices of a Mindful Leader
Marc Lesser
New World Library
14 Pamaron Way, Novato, CA 94949
9781608685196, $16.95, PB, 224pp,

Synopsis: Today's leaders are grappling with the ever increasing pace and complexity of change, the challenge of supporting healthy collaboration and alignment among teams, and the resulting stress and burnout. The practice of mindful leadership may be one of the most important competencies in business today if leaders are to move beyond fear, anxiety, nagging self-doubt, and the feeling of constant overwhelm.

Marc Lesser has taught his proven seven-step method to leaders at Google, Genentech, SAP, Facebook, and dozens of other Fortune 500 companies for over twenty years and has distilled a lifetime of mindfulness and business experience into these chapters. This incredibly practical yet accessible book draws on Marc's experience as a CEO of three companies, as cofounder of the world-renowned Search Inside Yourself (SIY) program within Google, and as a longtime Zen practitioner.

The principles in "Seven Practices of a Mindful Leader: Lessons from Google and a Zen Monastery Kitchen" can be applied to leadership at any level, providing readers with the tools they need to shift awareness, enhance communication, build trust, eliminate fear and self-doubt, and minimize unnecessary workplace drama.

Embracing any one of the seven practices alone can be life-changing. When used together, they support a path of well-being, productivity, and positive influence.

Practicing mindful leadership will allow you to achieve results -- with more energy, clarity, meaning, and connection. Your intentions and actions will be more aligned. You will accomplish more with less wasted effort.

After reading this deftly crafted and thoroughly 'user friendly' instructional guide, you'll understand why some of the world's most successful companies routinely incorporate the "Seven Practices of a Mindful Leader" including integrating mindfulness, emotional intelligence, and business savvy to create great corporate cultures, and even a better world.

Critique: The next best thing to sitting in on one of Marc Lesser's leadership workshops is sitting down and giving a careful read to his new instructional guide and manual, "Seven Practices of a Mindful Leader: Lessons from Google and a Zen Monastery Kitchen". Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Seven Practices of a Mindful Leader" is unreservedly recommended for corporate, community, and academic library Business Management collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists of business students and corporate executives that "Seven Practices of a Mindful Leader" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Justice Under the Rubble
Andrew Stern & George Anastasia
Camino Books, Inc.
9781680980271, $19.95, PB, 176pp,

Synopsis: On the morning of June 5, 2013, early-bird shoppers and employees at a Philadelphia Salvation Army thrift store were buried alive.

For weeks before the collapse, contractors had worked on a demolition project next door to the thrift store. Corners were cut, warnings of potential dangers ignored, and safety precautions passed by, but no one inside the store knew that, until a wall of the demolished building crumbled ahead of schedule and came crashing down on its neighbor.

The roof of the Salvation Army store buckled with no warning. Those who were lucky escaped. The other thirteen found themselves buried under the rubble. In the aftermath, rescuers flooded the scene, concerned parties searched for their loved ones, and a single question rose from the ruins: Why did this happen? Were the contractors at fault?

Evidence of drug use and overall incompetence suggests the contractors had a lot to answer for, but there were bigger players as well. Someone paid for the demolition project, hired less-than-ideal laborers, and neglected to pay close attention to the execution.

And what about the city? Philadelphia's construction regulations were clearly insufficient to prevent this disaster.

Shortly after this catastrophe, blame focused on the contractor and heavy equipment operator. But didn't the Salvation Army also have an obligation to close its store to protect its employees and customers in light of the warnings of potential danger?

The disaster led to criminal prosecutions and a lawsuit that resulted in one of the longest trials in Pennsylvania history, involving hundreds of millions of dollars. Throughout the process, city officials, lawyers, and the public at large continued to argue about who was most to blame.

In "Justice Under the Rubble: The Salvation Army Building Collapse, Andrew Stern (one of Philadelphia's most accomplished trail lawyers) and George Anastasia (a former report with The Philadelphia Inquirer) effectively collaborate tell the moving and sometimes chilling story of the pursuit of justice.

Critique: An absorbing, detailed, documented, and exceptionally well organized account of a woman who survived a man-made catastrophe and her attorney's fight for justice in her behalf, "Justice Under the Rubble: The Salvation Army Building Collapse" is an extraordinary and highly recommended addition to both community and academic library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Justice Under the Rubble" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Michael Dunford

Gorden's Bookshelf

Still Waters (Sandhamn Murders Book 1)
Viveca Sten
Amazon Digital Services LLC
B00TUOH582, $4.99, ebook, 448 pages
9781503945708, paper

Still Waters is a Swedish police procedural murder mystery. Its narration is slow and steady. The feel of the story is closer to a cozy mystery that is about a hundred pages longer than typical cozies. Its saving attribute is that the story is solid and with the feel of reality.

A body washes up on Sandhamn Island off the coast of Sweden. Police inspector Thomas Andreasson is assigned the case. He grew up on a nearby island and has livelong friends on Sandhamm. The body has been in the water for weeks and there are few clues what happened. After Andreasson starts his investigation, another body turns up. Who is killing and why?

Still Waters is a very good long cozy police procedural. The story is an easy recommendation to anyone who likes detailed mysteries. The only warning is that you will need plenty of time to read the languid story.

Weakest Lynx (The Lynx Series: An Iniquus Romantic Suspense Mystery Thriller Book 1)
Fiona Quinn
Amazon Digital Services LLC
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
B07CNVCJJ9, $3.99, ebook, 406 pages
9781508998952, paper

Weakest Lynx is a paranormal suspense thriller with characters of the graphic novel style. The characters border on the superhuman level. They are so quirky and fun you just want to find out what will happen next.

Lexi is a young newly married girl whose apartment building just burnt down. She is looking for a new place to live when she senses evil. A serial killer teases his victims before he kills by misquoting classic literature and leaving his notes for his prey to find. Lexi receives a note and goes to a family friend who is also a detective. She builds up her defenses as the killer continues with his notes but will the defenses be enough for a killer who has escaped detection for years by the best resources in the nation while still leaving a string of bodies along the East coast of the US? What the serial killer doesn't know is that the young Lexi is also a trained covert operative.

Weakest Lynx is a fun thriller that is more focused on the extreme characters than the plot line but the story works. It is pure fun with a great heroine, Lexi. It is the type of story you might find yourself talking out loud to. You won't read anything profound in the story but you will probably immediately search for the next book in the series.

S.A. Gorden, Senior Reviewer

Greenspan's Bookshelf

Tom Petty and Philosophy: We Need To Know
Randall E. Auxier & Megan Volpert, editors
Open Court Publishing Company
70 East Lake Street, Suite 800, Chicago, IL 60601
9780812694659, $19.95, PB, 256pp,

Synopsis: For the first time, serious thinkers explore the work of this towering genius of rock music. For fans of Tom Petty, this volume is an eye-opener, with fourteen music-savvy philosophers looking at different facets of Petty's artistic contribution. They examine not only Tom Petty's thoughts but also the thoughts we have while we listen. The authors, all Petty fans, come from every philosophical viewpoint: classical, analytic, postmodernist, phenomenological, and Nietzschean.

Tom Petty's body of work exists on a continuum between Folk and Rock, between New Wave and Americana, between Southern simplicity and West Coast chic. There is the legacy left to his main backing band, the Heartbreakers, but also bookended by Mudcrutch and his collaborations with his elders, such as Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Roy Orbison, and Johnny Cash.

Tom Petty's songs hook and they captivate, but they are often profound in their understatement, their stark minimalism. His insight into the human condition conveys a powerful philosophical anthropology with a metaphysics of tragedy, gravity, and levity.

Tom Petty's ethics focuses on dilemmas of the outcast, downtrodden, and heartbroken with a view to the fallen and the sinful as our redeemable antiheroes of the everyday.

His political thinking is that of the artist, enlivened by Southern hostilities and Californian futilities, culminating in a personal ethic that puts duty to the fans first. Petty's theory of knowledge is psychological and interpersonal, both deeply meditative and delightfully skeptical. The dialectic of love and hate, abuse and recovery, poverty and power, triumph and loss provide the genuine objects of knowledge.

Above all, Petty's songs are the confessions of a poetic mind interpreting a wounded soul. Petty lived his life the way he wrote and the way he played. It was grit, drive, and just enough finesse, to make things nice, where they need to be nice. On stage, he put the schau in Anschauung.

Petty stood up to corporate assholes in a number of precedent-setting legal maneuvers and album concepts, risking his career and fortune, but never backing down. He was the center of a musical community that endured over four decades. His ability to cultivate new generations of listeners while connecting himself backward to the heroes of his own youth have made him universally respected by the widest range of music fans.

Critique: An inherently interesting, thoughtful and thought-provoking work of impeccable scholarship by a series of articulate contributors under the deft editorship of Randall Auxier and Megan Volpert, "Tom Petty and Philosophy: We Need To Know" is an extraordinary, 'must read' by all Tom Petter fans and will prove to be an enduringly popular and unreservedly recommended addition to both community and academic library contemporary popular culture and philosophy collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Tom Petty and Philosophy: We Need To Know" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.76).

Every Second Counts
William A. Haseltine
Brookings Institution Press
1775 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20036-2188
9780815737070, $20.99, PB, 184pp,

Synopsis: Emergency medical response systems are a critical component of any nation's healthcare system. Minutes or even seconds can mean the difference between life or death. Every Second Counts tells the inspiring story of how the Indian government and a non-profit foundation, the Emergency Management and Research Institute (EMRI), partnered to create a world-class emergency response system that serves more than 700 million people and has saved more than 2 million lives.

What the government of India achieved in partnership with EMRI is nothing short of groundbreaking. In Every Second Counts, William A. Haseltine describes the key factors behind the success of EMRI: the application of cutting-edge technologies, an outstanding medical education system, and a close working partnership between a well-intentioned government and a capable non-profit partner.

"Every Second Counts" is a critically important book specifically written for the benefit of policymakers, business leaders, and healthcare leaders who care about providing high-quality care at affordable costs to all those in need.

Critique: An exceptionally well written, organized, and presented study, "Every Second Counts: Saving Lives with India's Emergency Response System" is especially recommended for governmental and academic library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Every Second Counts" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Maria Wickert: Studies in John Gower
Robert J. Meindle, translator
Arizona State University
PO Box 874402, Tempe, AZ 85287-4402
9780866985413, $49.00, HC, 196pp,

Synopsis: John Gower (c. 1330 - October 1408) was an English poet, a contemporary of William Langland and the Pearl Poet, and a personal friend of Geoffrey Chaucer. He is remembered primarily for three major works, the Mirour de l'Omme, Vox Clamantis, and Confessio Amantis, three long poems written in French, Latin, and English respectively, which are united by common moral and political themes. (Wikipedia)

Robert J. Meindl is emeritus professor of English at California State University, Sacramento. His Tulane University dissertation (1965), directed by Robert M. Lumiansky, was a study of narrative technique in John Gower's Confessio Amantis. In addition to translating Wickert and occasionally writing poetry, he has published essays on Old and Middle English literature, translated Latin verses by Hugo Grotius and John Barclay, and written a series of articles explicating the Vox Clamantis' sixth book, a verse translation of which he has also contributed to the Gower Project Wiki Translation.

"Studies in John Gower" is a translation by Professor Meindl of Maria Wickert's 'Studien zu John Gower', the book that began the modern study of the Vox Clamantis. It is a monograph in six chapters, the first five on various aspects of the Vox (textual development, the vision of the Peasants' Revolt, influence of the medieval sermon, the open letter to Richard II, world view) and the sixth a penetrating study of Gower's narrative technique in the Confessio Amantis.

Critique: This new second edition of "Maria Wickert: Studies in John Gower" continues to be an extraordinary work of impeccable scholarship in translation and a critically important addition to all college and university library Medieval Literature collections in general, and John Gower supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

Able Greenspan

Helen's Bookshelf

Handbook for a Post-Roe America
Robin Marty
Seven Stories Press
140 Watts Street, New York, NY 10013
9781609809492, $14.95, PB, 320pp,

Synopsis: "Handbook for a Post-Roe America" is a comprehensive and user-friendly manual for understanding and preparing for the looming changes to reproductive rights law, and getting the healthcare you need -- by any means necessary.

Robin Marty (a writer and reporter who covers abortion access and the pro-choice and pro-life movement) deftly guides readers through various worst-case scenarios of a post-Roe America, and offers ways to fight back, including: how to acquire financial support, how to use existing networks and create new ones, and how to, when required, work outside existing legal systems.

She also details how to plan for your own emergencies, how to start organizing now, what to know about self-managed abortion care with pills and/or herbs, and how to avoid surveillance.

The only guidebook of its kind, "Handbook for a Post-Roe America" includes an extensive, detailed resource guide for all pregnant people (whether cis, trans, or non-binary) of clinics, action groups, abortion funds, and practical support groups in each state, so wherever you live, you can get involved.

With a newly right-wing dominated Supreme Court and a Republican controlled Senate, Roe is under threat.

As Robin Marty observes: "When we say abortion will be illegal in half the states in the nation, we are no longer talking about some hypothetical future -- we are talking about just years down the road. We have to act now to secure what access remains, shore up the networks supporting those who need care, and decide what risks we are willing to take to ensure that any person who wants a termination can still end that pregnancy -- with or without the government's permission

Critique: With Roe on the verge of being overturned by a conservative dominated federal judiciary under the current Trump administration, "Handbook for a Post-Roe America" is critically important reading for a whole generation of women who have had no experience with back-alley abortions thanks to Roe vs. Wade. A much needed and highly valued contribution to our on-going national dialogue regarding women's reproductive rights and responsibilities, "Handbook for a Post-Roe America" should be a part of every community, college, and university library Contemporary Social Issues collection. It should also be noted for personal reading lists that "Handbook for a Post-Roe America" is available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

What You Must Know About Hashimoto's Disease
Brittany Henderson, MD & Allison Futterman
Square One Publishers
115 Herricks Road, Garden City Park, NY 11040
9780757004759, $16.95, PB, 272pp,

Synopsis: Thought to be due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors, Hashimoto's disease, is an autoimmune disease in which the thyroid gland is gradually destroyed. Early on there may be no symptoms. Over time the thyroid may enlarge, forming a painless goiter. Some people eventually develop hypothyroidism with accompanying weight gain, feeling tired, constipation, depression, and general pains. After many years the thyroid typically shrinks in size. Potential complications include thyroid lymphoma. (Wikipedia)

In the United States, it is estimated that over 20 million people have thyroid problems. Those suffering from this disease can suffer with life-changing symptoms for years without being diagnosed. And even after diagnosis, many Hashimoto's patients continue to experience debilitating effects from this disease.

Realizing that far too many patients are not getting the information and care they need, the "What You Must Know About Hashimoto's Disease: Restoring Thyroid Health Through Traditional and Complementary Medicine" will help those who are suffering from this all-too-common form of hypothyroidism.

Written in understandable language and providing an insider's view of what you need to know about Hashimoto's, the book is divided into three parts. Part 1, Getting to Know Your Thyroid, explains how your thyroid functions, how Hashimoto's affects your health, and what signs to look for. Part 2, Testing and Diagnosis, looks at the most reliable tests used to detect Hashimoto's, how they work, and what to expect from testing. Part 3, Treatment and Management, discusses the most effective conventional medications as well as those complementary treatments that have proven to be effective.

As a serious autoimmune disorder, Hashimoto's is multifaceted and complex. "What You Must Know About Hashimoto's Disease" provides patients with an invaluable resource that they can rely on at every stage of their journey to greater health.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "What You Must Know About Hashimoto's Disease: Restoring Thyroid Health Through Traditional and Complementary Medicine" should be considered mandatory reading for anyone diagnosed with this serious medical condition. While also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.69), "What You Must Know About Hashimoto's Disease" should be a part of every community, college, and university library Health & Medicine collection in general, and Thyroid System Treatment supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

Shortcut to a Miracle
Michael C. Rann & Elizabeth Rann Arrott
DeVorss Publications
9780875169002, $17.95, PB, 320pp,

Synopsis: Within the context of "Shortcut to a Miracle: How to Change Your Consciousness and Transform Your Life" by the husband and wife team of Michael C. Rann and Elizabeth Rann Arrott, a miracle is a wonderful, often extraordinary event or occurrence, happening through natural and normal, but frequently unexpected and unlikely circumstances.

Their premise is that the possibility of a miracle is within everyone. The principles of evoking or creating are universal, but their application is individual. "Shortcut to a Miracle" is an instructive guide that gives step-by-step guidelines that will lead us to our own personal shortcut, taking us from wherever we are now to a life that is richer, fuller, more rewarding, filled with wondrous events that we, too, call miracles.

Critique: Exceptionally well written and organized, "Shortcut to a Miracle: How to Change Your Consciousness and Transform Your Life" is an extraordinary, articulate read and thoroughly 'user friendly' in presentation. Inspired and inspiring, "Shortcut to a Miracle" is unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Shortcut to a Miracle" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

James: Discovering God's Delight in a Life-Out Faith
Sue Edwards
Kregel Publications
2450 Oak Industrial Drive, NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49505
9780825444388, $14.99, PB, 112pp,

Synopsis: Sue Edwards is an associate professor of educational ministry and leadership at Dallas Theological Seminary. She has more than twenty-five years of experience teaching, pastoring, and directing women's ministries. In addition, Sue speaks at retreats, conferences, and seminars across the country, and is author of the Discover Together Bible Study Series.

In "James: Discovering God's Delight in a Life-Out Faith" she returns leads women through the first-century letter of James while highlighting the boldness of James's demand to allow our faith to impact every area of our lives. James focuses on how Christians should walk with God and how living out faith creates joy -- both for themselves and for God.

This Bible study encourages women to experience closer intimacy with God, overcome bad habits and sinful patterns that drag them down, and understand how to truly become that "good and faithful servant" of God they strive to be. Sue includes opportunities to put each lesson into practice with a "Get Up and Go" activity.

James challenges readers to use what they learn during the study in their relationships, homes, churches, workplaces, and communities. And if they do, they will find that living out one's faith leads to a life that delights God.

Critique: As impressively informative and deftly thought-provoking as it is inspired and inspiring, "James: Discovering God's Delight in a Life-Out Faith" is an ideal for individual studies or as a group study textbook, making it an unreservedly recommended for New Testament studies collections.

Cat Chase the Moon
Shirley Rousseau Murphy
William Morrow & Company
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
195 Broadway New York, New York 10007
9780062838049, $24.99, HC, 288pp,

Synopsis: Joe Grey and his partner, Dulcie, are frantic when Courtney, their pretty teen-kitten goes missing. Aided by their two- and four-legged friends, they hit the streets of Molina Point in search of their calico girl. Has Joe Grey and Dulcie's only daughter been lured away by someone and stolen? Is she lying somewhere hurt, or worse?

Courtney has no idea that everyone is desperately looking for her. Locked in an upstairs apartment above the local antiques shop, she's enjoying her first solo adventure. When she first met Ulrich Seaver, the shop's owner, Courtney was frightened. But the human has coddled and pampered her, winning her trust. Sheltered by her parents, her brothers, and her kind human companions, the innocent Courtney is unaware of how deceptive strangers can be. She doesn't know that Ulrich is hiding a dangerous secret that could threaten her and everyone in this charming California coastal village.

With his focus on finding Courtney, Joe Grey has neglected his detective work with the Molina Point Police Department. Before his daughter disappeared, Joe found a viciously beaten woman lying near the beach. Now the police investigation has stalled, and the clever feline worries his human colleagues may have missed a vital clue. Joe is also concerned about a family of newcomers whose domestic battles are disturbing the town's tranquility. Loud and abrasive, the Luthers' angry arguing, shouting, and swearing in the early hours of the night have neighbors on edge and the cops on alert. One of the couple's late-night shouting matches masked the sounds of a burglary, and now a criminal is on the loose.

Though the crimes are as crisscrossed as the strands of a ball of yarn, Joe Grey's cat senses tell him they may somehow be linked. It's up to the fleet-footed feline and his crime-solving coterie to untangle the mysteries before it's too late.

Critique: The latest addition to author Shirley Rousseau Murphy's acclaimed Joe Grey Mystery series, "Cat Chase the Moon" is another riveting read by a skilled storyteller and master of the genre. While unreservedly recommended for community library Mystery/Suspense collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of dedicated mystery buffs and Shirley Murphy fans that "Cat Chase the Moon" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99). Librarians should be aware that "Chat Chase the Moon" is also available in a large print paperback edition (HarperLux Large Print, 978-0062845740, $24.99).

A Hero for Miss Hatherleigh
Carolyn Miller
Kregel Publications
2450 Oak Industrial Drive, NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49505
9780825445897, $15.99, PB, 336pp,

Synopsis: As the daughter of Viscount Aynsley, Caroline Hatherleigh knows every rule of society--and she's always followed them precisely. But when she visits south Devonshire and encounters a fossil-hunting scientist and his sister, her assumptions about what is right are shaken. Questions she has never considered about the importance of friendship and faith suddenly confront her--and her comfortable understanding about how the world works is thrown off balance. What if God wants to be the center of her life, rather than merely a social obligation?

Gideon Kirby loves science, and hunting down proof of past lives is a joy he won't willingly give up. But his scientific leanings are being challenged both by his personal beliefs and by local smugglers in the Devonshire countryside. And every day his sister's illness becomes more desperate, her care growing more demanding. Adding a viscount's daughter to the mix is a complication Gideon never expected--especially since he must stay far away from this young woman he's falling for in order to protect his beloved sister's secret.

When a mysterious stranger visits the village, that secret will be exposed, no matter how Gideon fights. Then tragedy strikes in a smugglers' cave. And the threat of scandal may lead to broken hearts and passionless propriety. Will the shaky bond these two have nurtured be strong enough to overcome their differences--or will the trust they've withheld from each other tear three lives apart?

Editorial Note: Carolyn Miller lives in the beautiful Southern Highlands of New South Wales, Australia. A longtime lover of Regency romance, Carolyn's novels have won a number of Romance Writers of American (RWA) and American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) contests as well as the Australian Omega Christian Writers Award. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Australasian Christian Writers. Her favorite authors are classics like Jane Austen (of course!), Georgette Heyer, and Agatha Christie, but she also enjoys contemporary authors like Susan May Warren and Becky Wade. Her stories are fun and witty, yet also deal with real issues, such as dealing with forgiveness, the nature of really loving versus 'true love', and other challenges we all face at different times.

Critique: A wonderfully entertaining and deftly written read from cover to cover, "A Hero for Miss Hatherleigh" by Carolyn Miller is unreservedly and enthusiastically recommended to the attention of all historical romance fiction fans. While especially recommended as an immediate and enduringly popular addition to community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "A Hero for Miss Hatherleigh" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Helen Dumont

Lorraine's Bookshelf

Please Explain Tonsillectomy and Adenoidectomy to Me
Laurie Zelinger, PhD. & Perry Zelinger, M.D. authors
Loving Healing Press
5245 Pontiac Trail, Ann Arbor, MI 48105
9781615994199, $27.95, HC, 42pp
9781615994182, $17.95 PB, $5.95, Kindle,

"Please Explain Tonsillectomy and Adenoidectomy To Me: A Complete Guide to Preparing Your Child for Surgery" is an excellent guide to prepare parents (who help prepare their children) for tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy.

This third edition of the title provides information to caregivers about the following: Simply explained facts about tonsils and adenoids, anxiety reducing information about surgery and recovery, ways to support your child through both medical and emotional pitfalls due to the procedure, suggested use of scripts to guide conversations with a child regarding the procedure, demystifying the sequence of events leading up to surgery and recovery, plus how best to prepare for this, discover needed supplies for home care while the child recovers, explaining possible unforeseen complications, and gaining confidence that you as a caretaker/parent have done your best to prepare for your child's comforts and adjustment to the time before and after surgery.

"Please Explain Tonsillectomy and Adenoidectomy to Me" is organized on a timeline: First is making the decision to have surgery, and underlying causes, second is introducing the topic to the child before surgery, divided into 3-4 weeks before and 2-3 weeks before surgery, phase three is a countdown to the day of surgery, and phase 4 deals with the day of surgery, before, during and after, including at home after surgery.

Following are two handy sections detailing an ultimate preparation list (for the caregiver and child), and a caregiver's organizer.

Appendices A and B deal with a timeline review and information about complications, including bleeding, infection, anesthesia reactions, and dehydration. There are numerous references and suggestions for further reading, books and videos for children as well.

A special section is also included on Page 20-21 called Explaining it all to your 3-7 year old. "Please Explain tonsillectomy and Adenoidectomy to Me" is an excellent resource for parents and caregivers of children who are candidates for these surgeries. It is created by a team of parents who experienced the surgical procedure with their own child, and used their experience to create a helpful guidebook for other parents and caregivers.

Although the manual is directed towards adults, its calming effects and information have direct impact upon the well being of the child undergoing surgery. Calming color illustrations provide background information in a neutral and nonthreatening fashion, and an overall positive, cheery tone helps both adults and children believe in the immediacy of recovery.

Alex Asks About Auntie's Airplane Day: An Adoption Day Story
Carolyn Wilhelm, author
Pieter Els, illustrator
Wise Owl Factory
9780999776612 $9.75 31 pages

"Alex Asks About Auntie's Airplane Day" is an Easy Reader story about an Anglo American family's celebration of the Adoption Day or Airplane Day of a boy's adopted aunt who was born in Korea. Alex is excited and curious about the celebration of Airplane Day on his ride to the party. The problem of a flat tire is cheerfully solved by his parents with the aid and assistance of his grandfather who comes when called. Alex asks many questions about the Airplane Day celebration. finally they arrive at his Aunt Betsy's home to see a sign announcing Happy Airplane Day!

Alex notices that his Aunt Betsy does not look like the rest of his Anglo family. Her skin color is different, and her eyes are slanted. When he asks, his grandpa explains: "Today is Auntie's airplane day as it is her adoption day. This was the date years ago when she arrived from South Korea on an airplane. So we have an airplane theme party each year to celebrate the day. (p.21)" There is more information about how Auntie Betsy was born at home in South Korea, then put in a box and left at the police station. After that she stayed with 10 different foster mothers before she was adopted and brought to her new family in Minnesota on an airplane. Alex is curious about Airplane Day and his Auntie Betsy, and he is happy to understand why the family celebrates Airplane Day with her.

"Alex Asks About Auntie's Airplane Day" is based on a true adoption story about the author and her adopted daughter. A picture of Carolyn with her new Korean daughter is included at the end of the book. Easy to read, "Alex Asks About Airplane Day" is a wise, gentle story to explain to curious children how some families become multi -racial through adoption. cheery, bright colored illustrations complement the simple narrative to make this Adoption Day Story accessible and appealing to young readers.

Grayson's Garage
Harold William Thorpe, author
Aaron Boyd, illustrator
Little Creek Press
c/o Kristin Mitchell Design, LLC
9780989978453 $14.95 sc 76 pages

Grayson's Garage" is part of a juvenile mystery series that features young sleuths who are aided by a historic team of British military animals such as mice and gophers to solve or uncover historic mysteries in Wisconsin communities. Each title features a historic mystery, a current dilemma, and a moral quandary that faces the young hero or heroine.

"Grayson's Garage" is set in the Fox River Valley, near Butte des Morts. Grayson is a friendly boy who loves to play games, both indoor and outdoor, with his friend, Alex. Both boys try hard to excel at indoor Skylander Giant and outdoor baseball Alex is unable to run fast because he has a twisted foot, so this hampers his baseball performance. Grayson discovers that the community Lions are trying to fundraise $1,000 to help fund Alex's corrective operation for his foot. Grayson is excited about the possibility of building a heated garage on his Grandfather's land so he can play lots of indoor games with Alex.

Both boys meet some British military gopher volunteers who help them dig up the garage site, finding both old bottles and mysterious bones. Grayson hopes to sell the old bottles to help raise money for his Skylander Giants game. But when his friend Alex is hospitalized after an accident caused by his twisted foot, Grayson changes his mind about what to do with the money his old bottles are worth. He chooses to donate the money to the operation fund and Alex finally gets his operation. Even better, he is able to play base ball afterwards and gives his best to the baseball team's championship game. But best of all, Grayson discovers with the help of his gopher diggers that his mystery bones are not human, and his heated garage can be built.

"Grayson's Garage" is a touching juvenile chapter story that features debating important values, the virtues of helping a friend, and the ideal of giving your best effort even when the chips are down. Hand drawn charcoal illustrations give added detail and drama to the underlying historic mystery of the Butte des Mort area.

A helpful Glossary of Sergeant Digby's British slang is included on pages 74-75. "Grayson's Garage" is a page-turner that will keep young readers riveted with good reason, filled with hidden nuggets of moral treasures.

Also highly recommended are the following titles from this creative juvenile series: by the same author/illustrator team: "Aubrey's Attic (9780989978019, $16.95)," "Bellamy's Ball (9781942586050, featuring color illustrations, $14.95)," and "Wyatt's Woods (9780989643139).

Stuff Every Cannabisseur Should Know
Marc Luber, author
Quirk Books
215 Church St., Philadelphia, PA 19106
9781683691341, $9.95 HC, $5.99 Kindle, 144pages,

A compact, handy guide to the practice of life enrichment through use of cannabis, dedicated to the legalization of marijuana, and just in time for 4/20/19, "Stuff Every Cannabisseur Should Know" has arrived!

This study small hardcover book introduces the reader to the definition of a cannabisseur: "1. cannabis expert, especially one who understands and admires all things related to cannabis and the culture surrounding its popularity and use. 2. an expert who understands the many benefits of marijuana and can navigate the vast landscape that has been created from one incredible plant."

The definition page also includes a minimal history of the criminalization of cannabis, an advice about pitfalls or dangers of use of cannabis, and advice to discuss cannabis use with one's medical doctor to determine if other drugs taken may interact adversely with it.

Following the introduction is a chapter titled Cannabis Basics, which includes a variety of information including term definitions, a brief history of cannabis, how cannabis is grown and knowing different strains, recreational and medical use of cannabis, smoking, edibles, concentrates, and legalization of cannabis.

The next chapter, Getting High, covers a crash course in cannabis etiquette, cannabis equipment, how to roll a joint, how to grow cannabis indoors, how to navigate a dispensary, cooking with cannabis and more.

"Living Your Best Cannabisseur Life" also includes suggestions for how to throw a weed party, including fun games to play with friends (i.e. Cards Against Humanity), satisfying the munchies, and how ti deal with a bad high (mostly, breathe slowly in and out, and keep hydrating yourself, staying calm).

Saving the best for last, the final chapter, The Culture of Cannabis, begins with the holiday of 4/20 and progresses to thumbnail bio sketches of famous stoners, plus TV shows and movies Cannabisseurs love and also 14 albums every cannabisseur should know, including works by Snoop Dogg, Bob Marley, Led Zepplin, Pink Floyd, Pharcyde, and more. In addition, a list of related books for further reading are added, including "Cannabis Pharmacy: The Practical Guide to Medical Marijuana," by Michael Backes, and more.

"Stuff Every Cannabisseur Should Know" is destined to become a closet classic, opening up the field of cannabis usage to further study and experimentation hopefully after legalization. It has appeal for both practiced and the uninitiated cannabis appreciator.

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Micah's Bookshelf

The Legacy of Boethius in Medieval England
A. Joseph McMullen & Erica Weaver, editors
Arizona State University
PO Box 874402, Tempe, AZ 85287-4402
9780866985819, $68.00, HC, 218pp,

Synopsis: Saint Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius, commonly called Boethius (c. 477 - 524 AD), was a Roman senator, consul, magister officiorum, and philosopher of the early 6th century. He was born about a year after Odoacer deposed the last Roman Emperor and declared himself King of Italy. Boethius entered public service under Ostrogothic King Theodoric the Great, who later imprisoned and executed him in 524 on charges of conspiracy to overthrow him.

While jailed, Boethius composed his Consolation of Philosophy, a philosophical treatise on fortune, death, and other issues, which became one of the most popular and influential works of the Middle Ages. As the author of numerous handbooks and translator of Aristotle, he became the main intermediary between Classical antiquity and following centuries. (Wikipedia)

The study of Boethius's medieval reception has enjoyed a resurgence of interest in recent years, with the publication of new editions, translations, databases, and research reshaping our understanding of his profound influence.

Collaboratively compiled and co-edited by A. Joseph McMullen (Assistant Professor of English at Centenary University) and Erica Weaver (Assistant Professor of English, University of California - Los Angeles), "The Legacy of Boethius in Medieval England" is a collection of erudite studies that collectively offers the first holistic survey of the re-workings of the Consolation in medieval England, surveying the Old English Boethius together with Chaucer's Boece and a host of understudied interlocutors for the first time in a volume of this kind.

Arranged into sections on "earlier" and "later" periods, The Legacy of Boethius argues for a reassessment of the medieval English Boethian tradition as a 600-year continuum in vernacular reading and readership.

Critique: An impressive body of original scholarship, "The Legacy of Boethius in Medieval England" is a collection of thirteen extraordinarily informed and informative studies, twelve of which are deftly organized into two major sections: Earlier Medieval England; Later medieval England. Of special note is the first of the contributions, 'Reading Boethius in Medieval England: The Consolation of Philosophy from Alfred to Ashby' by the editors which serves as an excellent introduction to the volume. "The Legacy of Boethius in Medieval England" is unreservedly recommended for college and university library Medieval English collections and supplemental studies lists.

The Vicksburg Assaults, May 19-22, 1863
Steven E. Woodworth & Charles D. Grear, editors
Southern Illinois University Press
1915 University Press Drive, SIUC Mail Code 6806, Carbondale, IL 62901
9780809337194, $29.50, HC, 136pp,

Synopsis: After a series of victories through Mississippi early in the spring of 1863, General Ulysses S. Grant's Army of the Tennessee had reached the critical point in its campaign to capture Vicksburg. Taking the city on the hill would allow the Union to control the Mississippi River and would divide the Confederacy in half. Confederate morale was low, and a Union victory in the war appeared close before the start of Grant's assault against General John C. Pemberton's Army of Mississippi.

But due to difficult terrain, strong defenses, and uncoordinated movements, the quick triumph Grant desired was unattainable. On the afternoon of May 19, with little rest, preparation, or reconnaissance, Union forces charged the Confederate lines only to be repulsed. A respite between the assaults allowed both sides to reinforce their positions. Early on May 22 the Union artillery sought to soften the stronghold's defenses before the general attack, but despite the Union forces' preparation, the fighting proved even more disorganized and vicious. Again Grant failed to move Pemberton. Not wanting to risk more soldiers in a third attack, Grant conceded to the necessity of laying siege. Confederate morale climbed as the Southerners realized they had held their ground against an overwhelming force.

In "The Vicksburg Assaults, May 19-22, 1863", editors Steven E. Woodworth and Charles D. Grear have assembled five captivating essays that examine Grant's unsuccessful assaults against Confederate defensive lines around Vicksburg. Ranging from military to social history, the essays further historical debates on prominent topics, such as the reactions of Midwesterners to the first failures of Grant's Vicksburg campaign. Two essays from opposing sides analyze the controversial decisions surrounding the Railroad Redoubt, the site of the bloodiest fighting on May 22. Another investigates how the tenacity of Texan reinforcements forced Union soldiers to abandon their gains.

Peppered with first-hand observations and bolstered by an impressive depth of research, this anthology is an invitingly written account and comprehensive assessment. By zeroing in on the two assaults, the contributors offer essential clarity and understanding of these important events within the larger scope of the Civil War's Vicksburg Campaign.

Critique: A meticulous body of skillfully presented scholarship that is unreservedly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as community and academic library collections, "The Vicksburg Assaults, May 19-22, 1863" will prove to be an immediate and enduringly valued contribution to the growing library of American Civil War history and analysis.

Academic and Professional Writing in an Age of Accountability
Shirley Wilson Logan & Wayne H. Slater, editors
Southern Illinois University Press
1915 University Press Drive, SIUC Mail Code 6806, Carbondale, IL 62901
9780809336913, $45.00, PB, 338pp,

Synopsis: What current theoretical frameworks inform academic and professional writing? What does research tell us about the effectiveness of academic and professional writing programs? What do we know about existing best practices? What are the current guidelines and procedures in evaluating a program's effectiveness? What are the possibilities in regard to future research and changes to best practices in these programs in an age of accountability?

In "Academic and Professional Writing in an Age of Accountability", editors Shirley Wilson Logan (Professor Emerita of English at the University of Maryland) and Wayne H. Slater (Associate Professor in the College of Education at the University of Maryland) effectively collaborate in bringing together leading scholars in rhetoric and composition to consider the history, trends, and future of academic and professional writing in higher education through the lens of these five central questions.

The first two essays in "Academic and Professional Writing in an Age of Accountability" provide a history of the academic and professional writing program at the University of Maryland. Subsequent essays explore successes and challenges in the establishment and development of writing programs at four other major institutions, identify the features of language that facilitate academic and professional communication, look at the ways digital practices in academic and professional writing have shaped how writers compose and respond to texts, and examine the role of assessment in curriculum and pedagogy.

An afterword by distinguished rhetoric and composition scholars Jessica Enoch and Scott Wible offers perspectives on the future of academic and professional writing.

This collection takes stock of the historical, rhetorical, linguistic, digital, and evaluative aspects of the teaching of writing in higher education. Among the critical issues addressed are how university writing programs were first established and what early challenges they faced, where writing programs were housed and who administered them, how the language backgrounds of composition students inform the way writing is taught, the ways in which current writing technologies create new digital environments, and how student learning and programmatic outcomes should be assessed.

Critique: An original and seminal work of meticulous scholarship, "Academic and Professional Writing in an Age of Accountability" is a unique and highly recommended addition to community, college, and university library Writing/Publishing collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, writers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Academic and Professional Writing in an Age of Accountability" is also available in a digital book format (eTextbook, $35.99).

Micah Andrew

Richard's Bookshelf

Thoughts are Things
Prentice Mulford
With modern commentary by Shawn Doyle, CSP
Sound Wisdom
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9781640950054, $15.95, 236 pages

A MAP for Success

Prentice Mulford is considered by many to be the grandfather of motivation thinking as we know it today. He was 100 years ahead of this time. His influence has impacted the motivational thinkers of today in areas of:

* The Law of Attraction

* Positive Thinking

* Mind - Body - Connection

* The Power of Self Talk

Chapter by chapter Shawn Doyle captures the essence of Prentice Mulford's book "Thoughts are Things" capsulizes them and reiterates the content in a MAP for success for today's reader. In three to five pages Doyle succinctly:

* Identifies the Main points

* Suggests an Application for consideration

* Plan of Immediate Action

Doyle's insight helped clarify my understanding of Mulford's principles in a way I can now readily translate them into applicable action steps. I am moving forward in areas of forward thinking, cultivating courage, and in attracting aspiration.

I am confident that these same tools will help you to develop these same practices, tools, and skills for application, and implementation to accomplish your goals as well as find a richer, fuller life.

I am already looking forward to reading book two in the Motivational Mentor Series.

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

Stories of Divine Healing - Supernatural Testimonies that Ignite Faith for Your Healing
Randy Clark
Destiny Image Publishers Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
978768416343, $21.99, 272 pages

The Power of Testimony - Life Changing Miracles

Randy Clark's new book "Stories of Divine Healing - Supernatural Testimonies that Ignite Faith for Your Healing" is packed with testimonies, stories, and simple teaching on activating the Holy Spirit's healing presence.

The book is organized alphabetically by subject matter from the testimonies of people who found incredible healing from cancer through to the urinary system, including spiritual breakthroughs, deliverance, marriage and family healing, and global awakening. A convenient and complete index is included at the close of the book for easy referencing.

Although in reasonably good health for my age, since becoming a Senior Citizen I have faced several health issues. I read with interest the testimonies of those healed from arthritis, diabetes, and heart issues. These stories have renewed my determination to pray for supernatural intervention and healing earnestly.

Randy Clark is the founder of Global Awakening, an international conference speaker, active in missions and leadership training.

I can highly recommend "Stories of Divine Healing - Supernatural Testimonies that Ignite Faith for Your Healing."

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

Seeing Behind the Veil - 100 Invitations to Intimate Encounters with the Holy Spirit
Ana Werner
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768443830, $16.99, 220 Pages

Informative, Inspirational, and Relevant

In her book "Seeing behind the Veil - 100 Invitations to Intimate Encounters with the Holy Spirit" bestselling author Ana Werner relates refreshing, real-life experiences of encounters with God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. She shares stories from her own life as examples of entering into God's presence.

Each chapter challenges the reader to examine their spiritual hunger for more of God which results in considering poignant, probing, questions relevant to a personal relationship with God.

Ana's experiences of entering into God's presence; radiate a childlike nature that exemplifies the faith Jesus talks about in Matthew 18 and demonstrates the joy of coming into His Joy with expectancy, and belief.

"Seeing Behind the Veil" is a book you will want to keep handy for those days when things start all wrong. These invitations, when accepted will draw you into God's presence, restore confidence, increase faith, and give you the needed strength for every trial.

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

Prophetic Words for 2019
Larry Sparks
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Spartanburg, PA 17257
9780768446395, $16.99, 194 pages

Redemption, Renewal, Revival, and Revelation

Publisher, author, and seminar leader Larry Sparks is well known and highly respected for his leadership in the Charismatic and Pentecostal movement. In his book "Prophetic Words for 2019," Larry has compiled significant writings from world-renowned prophets, emerging prophetic voices, apostolic leaders, and bestselling authors with a vision for revival, renewal, and visionary revelations.

Each of these participants relates a revelation they have received from the Lord telling of the Holy Spirit 's outpouring, of prophecies with a global impact for the year 2019. These visions, dreams, and encounters are already being fulfilled as we see cooperation and harmony developing among church leaders today, translating into societal reformation around the world in areas of significant advances.

* In artificial intelligence

* In the automobile industry

* In aerospace engineering

* In new technology in generating electricity

* In computer engineering

I was encouraged by the evidence of a current movement in cyber evangelism and discipleship, the awakening of the Church, and a coming revival, more significant than anything we have seen in the past.

"Prophetic Words for 2019" is a wakeup call for Christians to partner in prayer and watch the purposes of God unfold in this season of redemption, renewal, revival, and revelation.

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

Prayers Declarations and Strategies, for Shifting Atmospheres
Dawna De Silva
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768418897, $14.99, 230 pages

Spiritual Warfare, Transformation, Victory, and Release

Each of the 90-day readings in Dawna De Silva's book "Prayers Declarations & Strategies for Shifting Atmospheres" incorporates a Scripture passage, a brief commentary, a sample prayer, and a suggested declaration.

Over the last 30 - 45 days I have been blessed, challenged and strengthened as I read and meditated on the suggested prayer and declaration. I was then able to personalize the results to formulate a personal application and strategy.

Dawna's depth of spiritual understanding, passion, and faith are apparent in her writing. Her book "Prayers Declarations & Strategies" is a significant devotional tool for every Christian concerned and actively enlisted in contending against in Spiritual warfare.

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

Richard R. Blake
Senior Reviewer

Taylor's Bookshelf

The Railroad Tycoon Who Built Chicago
Jack Harpster
Southern Illinois University Press
1915 University Press Drive, SIUC Mail Code 6806, Carbondale, IL 62901
9780809337361, $22.50, PB, 328pp,

Synopsis: William Butler Ogden (June 15, 1805 - August 3, 1877) was a pioneer railroad magnate, one of the earliest founders and developers of the city of Chicago, and an important influence on U.S. westward expansion. His career as a businessman stretched from the streets of Chicago to the wilds of the Wisconsin lumber forests, from the iron mines of Pennsylvania to the financial capitals in New York and beyond. Jack Harpster's "The Railroad Tycoon Who Built Chicago: A Biography of William B. Ogden" is the first chronicle of one of the most notable figures in nineteenth-century America.

"The Railroad Tycoon Who Built Chicago" traces the life of Ogden from his early experiences as a boy and young businessman in upstate New York to his migration to Chicago, where he invested in land, canal construction, and steamboat companies. He became Chicago's first mayor, built the city's first railway system, and suffered through the Great Chicago Fire. His diverse business interests included real estate, land development, city planning, urban transportation, manufacturing, beer brewing, mining, and banking, to name a few. "The Railroad Tycoon Who Built Chicago" however, does not simply focus on Ogden's role as business mogul; he delves into the heart and soul of the man himself.

"The Railroad Tycoon Who Built Chicago" is a meticulously researched and nuanced biography set against the backdrop of the historical and societal themes of the nineteenth century. It is a sweeping story about one man's impact on the birth of commerce in America. Ogden's private life proves to be as varied and interesting as his public persona, as journalist and biographer Jack Harpster deftly weaves the two into a colorful tapestry of a life well and usefully lived.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The Railroad Tycoon Who Built Chicago: A Biography of William B. Ogden" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to both community and academic library 19th Century American Biography collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Railroad Tycoon Who Built Chicago" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.25).

They Said It First
Kenneth F. Kitchell, Jr.
Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers
1570 Baskin Road, Mundelein, IL 60060
9780865168640, $19.00, PB, 326pp,

Synopsis: Compiled by Kenneth F. Kitchell, Jr. (Professor Emeritus of Classics and former Director of the MAT Program at the University of Massachusetts), "They Said It First: The Wisdom of the Ancient Greeks and Romans" provides a unique twist on quotation collections in the form of ancient Greek and Roman sayings, alongside their English translations, and paired with their more modern counterparts.

The likes of W. E. B. Dubois and Mark Twain may have eloquently expressed eternal truths and pithy witticisms -- but frequently, Homer or Seneca the Younger got there first.

This text of "They Said It First" works particularly well as both a reference and an entertaining read, offering up a diverse array of sources which range from eighth-century BCE epic poetry to twenty-first-century song lyrics -- with select commentary. Quotes are arranged thematically, so finding the perfect saying to suit any occasion is simple and straightforward. Precise citation locations for each quote ensure that curious readers are able to directly consult the source material.

"They Said It First" features: An introduction with a general overview, notes on using the book, and further reading; Approximately 1,300 ancient and modern quotations arranged according to 101 themes and a separate proverbs section; Nearly 400 authors and sources represented; two appendices: Pronunciation of Greek and Ancient Authors and People Cited; and an Index of authors.

Critique: A unique, informative, thought-provoking, and inherently fascinating read from cover to cover, "They Said It First: The Wisdom of the Ancient Greeks and Romans" will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to personal, community, college, and university library Reference & Quotation collections.

Corridor Ecology
Jodi A. Hilty, et al.
Island Press
2000 M St NW Suite 650, Washington, DC 20036
9781610919517, $40.00, PB, 350pp,

Synopsis: Migrating wildlife species across the globe face a dire predicament as their traditional migratory routes are cut off by human encroachment. Forced into smaller and smaller patches of habitat, they must compete more aggressively for dwindling food resources and territory. This is more than just an unfortunate side effect of human progress. As key species populations dwindle, ecosystems are losing resilience and face collapse, and along with them, the ecosystem services we depend on. Healthy ecosystems need healthy wildlife populations. One possible answer? Wildlife corridors that connect fragmented landscapes.

This new and expanded second edition of "Corridor Ecology: Linking Landscapes for Biodiversity Conservation and Climate Adaptation" captures the many advances in the field over the past ten years. It builds on concepts presented in the first edition on the importance and practical details of maintaining and restoring land connectivity. New to this updated and expanded edition is a guest-edited chapter on ecological connectivity in oceans, including a detailed discussion on pelagic marine corridors and how coastal corridors can provide critical connectivity between marine protected areas.

Another new chapter considers the effects of climate change on habitat and offers recommendations on designing effective corridors as landscapes change with shifting climate conditions.

"Corridor Ecology" also includes a discussion of corridors in the air for migrating flying species, from birds to bats, butterflies, and even plant propagules -- a concept so new that a term to describe it has yet to be coined. All chapters are thoroughly revised and updated.

Editorial Note: Jodi A. Hilty is president and chief scientist of the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, in Canmore, Alberta. Annika T. H. Keeley is a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, Berkeley. Dr. William Z. Lidicker is Professor of Integrative Biology and Curator of Mammals Emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley. Adina M. Merenlender is a cooperative extension specialist at the University of California, Berkeley, and president-elect of the Society for Conservation Biology.

Critique: A groundbreaking and seminal study, conservation practitioners as well as serious scholars of landscape ecology and the science of protecting biodiversity will find this new edition of corridor ecology science an indispensable resource as informatively insightful and exceptionally well presented, making it a critically important addition to personal reading lists, as well as community and academic library Environmental Issues collections.

John Taylor

Vogel's Bookshelf

An Archaeology of Abundance
Kristina M. Gill, et al.
University Press of Florida
University of Florida
15 Northwest 15th Street, Gainesville, FL 32611-2079
9780813056166, $100.00, HC, 326pp,

Synopsis: The islands of Alta and Baja California changed dramatically in the centuries after Spanish colonists arrived. Native populations were decimated by disease, and their lives were altered through forced assimilation and the cessation of traditional foraging practices. Overgrazing, overfishing, and the introduction of nonnative species depleted natural resources severely.

Most scientists have assumed the islands were also relatively marginal for human habitation before European contact, but the contributors to "An Archaeology of Abundance: Reevaluating the Marginality of California's Islands" collectively reassesses this long-held belief, analyzing new lines of evidence suggesting that the California islands were rich in resources important to human populations.

The contributors examine data from Paleocoastal to historic times that suggest the islands were optimal habitats that provided a variety of foods, fresh water, minerals, and fuels for the people living there. Botanical remains from these sites, together with the modern resurgence of plant communities after the removal of livestock, challenge theories that plant foods had to be imported for survival.

Geoarchaeological surveys show that the islands had a variety of materials for making stone tools, and zooarchaeological data show that marine resources were abundant and that the translocation of plants and animals from the mainland further enhanced an already rich resource base. Studies of extensive exchange, underwater forests of edible seaweeds, and high island population densities also support the case for abundance on the islands.

Concluding that the California islands were not marginal environments for early humans, the discoveries presented in this scholarly volume hold significant implications for reassessing the ancient history of islands around the world that have undergone similar ecological transformations.

The contributors to "An Archaeology of Abundance" include: Amira F. Ainis; Linda Bentz; Todd J. Braje; Paul Collins; Jon M. Erlandson; Mikael Fauvelle; Scott M. Fitzpatrick; Kristina M. Gill; Michael A. Glassow; Michael H. Graham; Amy E. Gusick; Courtney A. Hofman; Kristin M. Hoppa; John R. Johnson; Dustin Merrick; Ken Niessen; Jennifer E. Perry; Leslie A. Reeder-Myers; Torben C. Rick; Rene L. Vellanoweth; and Andrew Yatsko.

Critique: A very special volume in the University of Florida Press series 'Society and Ecology in Island and Coastal Archaeology', "An Archaeology of Abundance: Reevaluating the Marginality of California's Islands" was collaboratively compiled and co-edited by the team of Kristina M. Gill (who is an archaeologist and archaeobotanist with the Museum of Natural and Cultural History at the University of Oregon and research associate at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden), Mikael Fauvelle (who is a doctoral candidate in anthropology at the University of California, San Diego), and Jon M. Erlandson (Professor Emeritus of Anthropology and Director of the Museum of natural and Cultural History at the University of Oregon). This ground-breaking edition of "An Archaeology of Abundance" will prove to be a welcome and valued addition to college and university library Archaeology Collections and Anthropology Supplemental Studies reading lists.

Science Breakthroughs to Advance Food and Agricultural Research by 2030
Engineering, and Medicine National Academies of Sciences
National Academies Press
500 Fifth Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001
9780309473927, $70.00, PB, 242pp,

Synopsis: For nearly a century, scientific advances have fueled progress in U.S. agriculture to enable American producers to deliver safe and abundant food domestically and provide a trade surplus in bulk and high-value agricultural commodities and foods. Today, the U.S. food and agricultural enterprise faces formidable challenges that will test its long-term sustainability, competitiveness, and resilience. On its current path, future productivity in the U.S. agricultural system is likely to come with trade-offs. The success of agriculture is tied to natural systems, and these systems are showing signs of stress, even more so with the change in climate.

More than a third of the food produced is unconsumed, an unacceptable loss of food and nutrients at a time of heightened global food demand. Increased food animal production to meet greater demand will generate more greenhouse gas emissions and excess animal waste. The U.S. food supply is generally secure, but is not immune to the costly and deadly shocks of continuing outbreaks of food-borne illness or to the constant threat of pests and pathogens to crops, livestock, and poultry. U.S. farmers and producers are at the front lines and will need more tools to manage the pressures they face.

"Science Breakthroughs to Advance Food and Agricultural Research by 2030" identifies innovative, emerging scientific advances for making the U.S. food and agricultural system more efficient, resilient, and sustainable. This report explores the availability of relatively new scientific developments across all disciplines that could accelerate progress toward these goals. It identifies the most promising scientific breakthroughs that could have the greatest positive impact on food and agriculture, and that are possible to achieve in the next decade by 2030.

Critique: A critically important and seminal study, "Science Breakthroughs to Advance Food and Agricultural Research by 2030" is a consensus-based report that is very highly recommended as a core addition to corporate, governmental, and academic library collections and the personal reading lists of agricultural research policy makers and social activists.

Union Command Failure in the Shenandoah
Daivd A. Powell
Savas Beatie
PO Box 4527, El Dorado Hills, CA 95762
9781611214345, $29.95, HC, 264pp,

Synopsis: Union General Ulysses S. Grant regarded a spring campaign in the Valley of Virginia as integral to his overall strategy designed to turn Robert E. Lee's strategic western flank, deny his Army of Northern Virginia much needed supplies, and prevent other Confederates from reinforcing Lee. It fell to Union general and German transplant Franz Sigel to execute Grant's strategy in the northern reaches of the Shenandoah while Maj. Gen. George Crook struck elsewhere in southwestern Virginia. Sigel's record in the field was checkered at best, and he was not Grant's first choice to lead the effort, but a combination of politics and other factors left the German in command.

Sigel met Confederate Maj. Gen. John C. Breckinridge and his small army on May 15 just outside the crossroads town of New Market. The hard-fought affair hung in the balance until finally the Union lines broke, and Sigel's Yankees fled the field. Breckinridge's command included some 300 young men from the Virginia Military Institute's Corps of Cadets. VMI's presence and dramatic role in the fighting ensured that New Market would never be forgotten, but pushed other aspects of this interesting and important campaign into the back seat of history.

American Civil War historian David Powell's years of archival and other research provides an outstanding foundation for this outstanding study. While previous works have focused on the Confederate side of the battle, using Sigel's incompetence as sufficient excuse to explain why the Federals were defeated, Powell reveals that this methodology neglects the other important factors that contributed to the ruin of Grant's scheme in the Valley.

Union Command Failure in the Shenandoah delves into all the issues, while offering a detailed and documented analysis of this critically important campaign from an operational standpoint.

Editorial Note: David A. Powell is a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute (1983) with a BA in history. He has published numerous articles in various magazines, and more than fifteen historical simulations of different battles. For the past decade, David's focus has been on the epic battle of Chickamauga, and he is nationally recognized for his tours of that important battlefield. The results of that study are the volumes The Maps of Chickamauga (2009) and Failure in the Saddle (2010), as well as The Chickamauga Campaign trilogy. The Chickamauga Campaign: A Mad Irregular Battle was published in 2014, The Chickamauga Campaign: Glory or the Grave appeared in September 2015, and the final volume, Barren Victory, was released in September 2016.

Critique: A seminal work of simply outstanding scholarship that is enhanced with the inclusion of original maps and historical photos, "Union Command Failure in the Shenandoah: Major General Franz Sigel and the War in the Valley of Virginia, May 1864" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, community, and academic library American Civil War history collections and supplemental curriculum studies collections. It should be noted for students, academia, and dedicated Civil War buffs that "Union command Failure in the Shenandoah" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $17.95).

Paul T. Vogel

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
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Oregon, WI 53575-1129
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