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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 19, Number 5 May 2020 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

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

Able Greenspan's Bookshelf

Boneheads and Brainiacs
Moira Dolan, MD
Quill Driver Books
2006 South Mary, Fresno, CA 93721
9781610353502, $18.95, PB, 260pp,

Synopsis: The inventor of the lobotomy won a Nobel prize in medicine for destroying his patients' brains. Another Nobel laureate thought malaria cured syphilis. The discoverer of anaphylactic shock also researched the spirit world and ESP. A pioneer of organ transplants was an ardent eugenicist, while the founder of sports physiology heroically spoke out against Nazism.

In "Boneheads and Brainiacs: Heroes and Scoundrels of the Nobel Prize in Medicine", Dr. Moira Dolan deftly profiles the winners of the Nobel Prize in Medicine from 1901 to 1950 -- a surprisingly diverse group of racists, cranks, and opportunists, as well as heroes, geniuses, and selfless benefactors of humanity. Forget all the ivory tower stereotypes of white-coated doctors finding miracle cures. "Boneheads and Brainiacs" informatively reveals the messy human reality behind medical progress, in a highly entertaining book written for the ordinary reader.

Some were bad scientists; others were great scientists but lousy human beings. However, the majority of these researchers produced knowledge that now saves millions of lives with priceless discoveries like the role of vitamins in nutrition, the dangers of radiation, treatments for diabetes and deadly infectious diseases, and more. "Boneheads and Brainiacs" effectively showcases the enthralling, all-too-human personal lives that made modern medicine possible.

Critique: An inherently fascinating, impressively informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking read from cover to cover, "Boneheads and Brainiacs: Heroes and Scoundrels of the Nobel Prize in Medicine" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to both community and academic library History of Medicine collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Boneheads and Brainiacs" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99).

Editorial Note: Moira Dolan, MD, is a graduate of the University of Illinois School of Medicine and has been a practicing physician for over 30 years. Dr. Dolan is a patient advocate and public speaker who educates patients on their rights and the need for a healthy skepticism of the medical profession. She is a contributor to the blog SmartMEDinfo and the author of three previous books: No-Nonsense Guide to Antibiotics: Dangers, Benefits & Proper Use; No-Nonsense Guide to Cholesterol Medications: Informed Consent and Statin Drugs; and No-Nonsense Guide to Psychiatric Drugs: Including Mental Effects of Common Non-Psych Medications. Dr. Dolan maintains a private medical practice in Austin, Texas.

Search and Rescue Alaska
Tracy Salcedo
The Lyons Press
c/o The Globe Pequot Press
246 Goose Lane, Suite 200, Guilford, CT 06437
9781493037285, 18.95, PB, 208pp,

Synopsis: In a place as vast and extreme as Alaska, no one can take their safety for granted. Whether adventurer or homesteader, tourist or native, Alaskans look out for themselves and for each other. But sometimes it just goes bad, and no amount of resourcefulness or resiliency can make it right. That's when search and rescue teams kick into gear, launching operations by air and by land that have generated amazing tales of heroism, tenacity, and human kindness.

Some of those true life stories have been gathered in "Search and Rescue Alaska" by Tracy Salcedo and include: Rescues on Denali, North America's highest peak, from the mountain's first search and rescue in 1932 to a rescue in 2017 that highlights the utility of modern equipment and decades of SAR experience; A World War II search and rescue that ended with a remarkable recovery more than half a century later; Rescues during the Good Friday quake of 1964; The rescue of mountaineering students and their instructors in the Chugach Range; The rescue and recovery of Klondike-bound gold-seekers caught in an avalanche on the infamous Chilkoot Trail.

The deftly told stories and informative commentaries will kindle a new appreciation for the skilled and selfless pilots, troopers, military personnel, and rangers on call for search and rescue in Alaska.

Critique: Expertly written, organized and presented, "Search And Rescue Alaska" is a simply fascinating read from first page to last. While an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to community library Alaskan History collections and supplemental curriculum studies, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Search And Rescue Alaska" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: is the author of fifteen Best Easy Day Hikes guides, including four to the San Francisco Bay area, as well as Best Rail Trails California (all of which are published Falcon Guides).

Able Greenspan

Diane Donovan's Bookshelf

The Outlaws of Maroon
John Curl
Homeward Press
0938392042, $20.00 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 304pp,

Because the main characters in The Outlaws of Maroon are fourth graders, one might automatically think that the audience for this story would be elementary-level readers. However, John Curl bills it as an "adult novel about the world of children," and this billing gives adults permission to acknowledge that just because children feature prominently in the story doesn't mean that children should be its sole readers.

Indeed, this is a story of 1950s Cold War America and how a group of children face the lies of grownups during McCarthyism and the threat of development that will take away the forest and their special place. They become radicalized in the process of absorbing adult changes, messages, and challenges.

As police searches, confrontations, and danger from the adult world spills into the special dreams and refuges they've created, children and adults alike are changed by a myriad of forces, from developers to political undercurrents of repression and control.

Reflections on these changing conditions are nicely woven into the story, which probes personal motivation and changing perspectives: "So you told them she's a subversive because she wouldn't approve some real estate deal?" "She is a subversive. Her husband was at least. I did not make that up. This all didn't have to happen. No one had to lose. Helen can be so hard headed. She gets such fixed ideas into her head. Foolish. She almost dares you to break her will. It would have cost her nothing. Everyone would have won. She simply refused. And now look where we are. If she would have simply agreed last fall, everything would have been fine, and none of this would have happened. This was the only way left to me. The development will improve the neighborhood. That stretch of sidewalk is isolated and dangerous."

John Curl's literary novel is highly recommended reading for all adults. Because it embraces the perspectives and lives of children and adults alike, juxtaposing them against the backdrop of evolving social and political changes, a depth and attention to detail is cultivated that keeps readers engaged with the different age groups, competing forces, and changing perspectives that influence them all.

Curl's ability to weave escalating threats and violence into a complex series of interchanges between adults and between children alike creates a remarkably astute atmosphere designed to keep readers of all ages involved until the surprising crescendo of a battle for justice over competing dreams of Maroon's future.

One Monsoon in Mumbai
Anitha Perinchery
Independently Published
9781733798600, $4.99 ebook
9781733798624, $12.99 Paperback
Free on Kindle Unlimited

Ordering link:

One Monsoon in Mumbai presents Seema Rawat, cyberspy, who is, predictably, a nerd (less predictably) involved in a complicated romance and a spy mission. How does an Indian girl move from being a pickpocket to becoming a top cyberspy assigned to target the handsome Adhith Verma, son of India's finance minister?

The first strength to note is that the sights, sounds, smells and feel of urban Indian streets comes to life through Anitha Perinchery's observational descriptions: "She crouched on the road and squinted through the windows of the taxi at the office building, trying not to breathe in the exhaust fumes from the succession of vehicles cruising down the road. The heat radiating from the asphalt had her drenched in sweat within seconds. "Aey," exclaimed the driver. "Are you crazy or what? You can't sit on the street. Some poor fool will hit you and have his licence taken away. Get up, please. And gimme my money." "In a minute," Seema muttered. The crook she was supposed to be covertly investigating was at the entrance. If she paid now, the taxi would take off, leaving her exposed."

Anyone who has visited or lived in India will breath in a deep breath of urban atmosphere upon reading this book, and will find familiar the cultural and social observations embedded in Seema's world. One doesn't expect comedy to emerge from such a crowded and embattled atmosphere, but irony is judiciously added into the mix to spice the story and bring Seema's confrontations and conundrums to life.

Convoluted encounters evolve that lead overly protective auntie Madhu to join forces with the personality Seema is supposed to be covertly investigating. A terrorist attack on South Mumbai and Adhith's showdown over Seema's presence in the office adds to a rollicking, spicy, relentless roll of events and personalities. These surge through the streets of Mumbai and into the hearts of readers who will find Seema's story compelling, action-packed, and hard to put down.

Perinchery doesn't omit the complex family relationships that involve honor, pride, jealousy, and marital arrangements that affect child and parents in a complex series of perceptions and deceptions about choice and consequences: "What you think of as my forgetting where I came from was my unwillingness to take any more of my father's taunts."

Between its engrossing cultural and political inspections, the dilemma of a woman facing romantic prospects with two very different men, and a spy's rocky career moves, One Monsoon in Mumbai isn't about just one storm, but a series of confrontations steeped in Indian atmosphere, intrigue, and fun.

Readers looking for a romantic thriller that is more than a cut above the ordinary and who particularly enjoy stories set in India will appreciate the details and impact of this spy adventure. It's a production that tickles the funny bone while adding intrigue and mystery to keep the conclusion unpredictable and engrossing.

Very highly recommended as a standout in Indian action fiction.

A Goan Holiday
Anitha Perinchery
Independently Published
9781733798631, $4.99 ebook
9781733798648, $19.99 Paperback
Free on Kindle Unlimited

Ordering links:

A Goan Holiday provides another amorous romp across India by Anitha Perinchery, who brings the culture, politics, and social caste system of her Indian heritage to life as nicely as was done in the previously-reviewed thriller One Monsoon in Mumbai.

This story takes a different turn. It's a medical thriller that involves spunky heroine Anjali in a series of complicated encounters with two exes, a clinic which could be a front for illegal operations, and a vindictive neighbor who keeps trying to drive her out of town, and who holds the power to affect her brother's position.

As other characters such as Dr. Joe face their own strange encounters, including meetings with family members in the afterlife, A Goan Holiday ramps up to include romance and intrigue combined with ironic encounters and reconnections: "This can't be happening, her mind screamed, wildly. In her dreams, they'd met again a thousand times. Each time, she'd been a diva, unleashing royal fury on him for ripping her heart apart and trampling on the pieces. Each time, the agony of loss overwhelmed her pride and anger, and she cried loud, ugly sobs which left her humiliated even in her imagination. She was finally - finally - trying to put the painful chapter behind her, and she ran into him exactly when she bore a close resemblance to a drowned rat."

American readers think 'medical thriller' and associate it with the in-clinic intrigue crafted by writers such as Robin Cook, but Anitha Perinchery excels in a culturally-based, powerful examination not just of illicit, illegal activities in the Indian medical community, but the impacts of class, caste, romance, and cultural changes in a small Goan town.

Her story thus moves beyond the clinic's walls and into the milieu of Indian society. It offers a surprise in the return of Seema, the protagonist in One Monsoon in Mumbai, as well as other characters who here are presented from quite a different perspective as Anjali struggles with conflict, contemplates suicide, and uncovers her own brand of investigative intrigue.

Just as in One Monsoon in Mumbai, a spunky, progressive, determined, yet very human female protagonist drives the story line, creating a read that is compellingly difficult to put down.

The Further Life of Rusty Kenneficke
Keith Thye
Classic Day Publishing
9781598492774, $18.95 hardcover/$4.95 ebook

The Further Life of Rusty Kenneficke is the second book in the series and continues the story of a man who survives a terrible year in 1979 and moves into happiness for a while. Now a legal threat could change everything he's struggled to build since.

Revenge, retribution, and Boomer's inability to let Rusty move into a better life after the disaster mark a story that, like its predecessor, is replete with growth stories about an evolving man, his motorcycle business, and his life.

The tale opens with a threatening anonymous note from a sender who obviously knows about both Rusty's birthday and his past, then takes a quick turn back to 1979, the origin of events that have returned to haunt him today. As chapters move through the 1980s and into the 90s, following Rusty and Boomer's concurrent evolution, readers are treated to another road trip through time and place that focuses on friend Boomer's scams, woman problems, and Rusty's place in that world.

Keith Thye writes with a seasoned hand that expands upon details from Book 1, adding an extra dimension of interpersonal relationships that explore the growth processes of both men.
His scenarios are realistic, absorbing, and compelling as money turns heads, changes minds, and causes shifts in values and ethical behaviors.

Readers expecting another road trip receive a different kind of journey that is as much about Boomer's life and choices as it is about his intersection with Rusty's world.

It should be noted that the open-ended conclusion paves the way for Book 3, which will conclude the trilogy. There's no neat tie-up of angst to an investigation that becomes inconclusive and troubling.

With its astute observations of this process and two very different men whose lives coalesce, The Further Life of Rusty Kenneficke is an absorbing story of choices and consequences that leaves readers reflecting long after the realization that arguments can take on dangerous lives of their own.

Seven Gifts in The Rain
Strange Land
B005K01ATU, $4.03 Ebook
9798605986614, $12.00 Paperback

Amazon link (ebook):

Amazon link (paperback):

Seven Gifts in The Rain opens with a parable about a little girl who grows up and dies before ever knowing her true adversary and purpose - a girl who chose to live in a time where mankind was on the cusp of change, yet never saw her real potential, living an unrealized existence instead: "Her life, which had once been open, inquisitive and mystical, shrank into a solid, firmly structured matrix built entirely around the need for material comfort. Any struggle would have to be of her own making. But she made nothing. In the company of her peers, she sank slowly and steadily, and quite willingly, into the seductive quicksands of mature adulthood."

An Angel is telling this story to a boy who wonders about a girl who never fought, who never identified an adversary in her life, and whose "...elders had drawn a veil over her mind and left her only eyes with which to see."

But the Boy is different, and so are these seven interlaced stories about human potential, purpose, and the obstacles that obscure vision and intention. These stories originate from seven books, each of which "...contains a story illustrating one of the gifts...When you have read all seven, you should understand the purpose of the guardian's seven gifts, and the reason for them being unveiled at this time."

Thus, the reader and protagonist embark on a philosophical, ethereal series of encounters that each hold a lesson about life and living and dying, bringing readers into the realm of life's inspection and meaning through tales such as 'Charlie's Angel', about a shipwreck and a seagull.

In one such story, strong descriptions of the power of storms and the sea lead to an old Bosun who experiences yet another shipwreck and reflects on the gifts the sea has given him: "He and the Captain were the lucky ones, he reflected, to have such clarity of thought as only the sea could give. To see life in its simple forms, uncluttered by all the confusion of riches and social graces; and the obligations and blindness they create. The Captain had found peace, and so, one day, would he."

It would have been too easy to allow each story to stand alone and resonate with the reader, but discussions between boy and Angel of the lessons learned from each event reinforce each tale's perspective and possible impact. Often, there is more to each than meets the eye, and so the deeper lessons imparted in the course of these debates hold philosophical and spiritual lessons for readers.

The gifts from the sea that form the foundation of these experiences and life lessons are teased from the wind, sand, and stars of nature and are given to any who would delight in stories that serve as more than just entertainment devices.

Seven Gifts in The Rain is highly recommended reading for readers of metaphysical fiction, who will find its gentle philosophical and visionary reflections to be compelling, inviting, and thought-provoking life lessons.

Human Rights, What Are They Really?
Robert Stephen Higgins
Bradich Books
9780981063119, E-book $3.95, Paperback $11.95



Human Rights, What Are They Really? makes an assertion that may surprise and anger many, initially - that some claimed human rights are ideals, are not necessarily inalienable, and should not be part of what is popularly seen as a 'human right'.

Robert Stephen Higgins is quite clear about the origins of his examination and this book's intention: "Through my adult life I have been conscious of a border between my natural rights as a person and the power of governments and other organizations over me. Regrettably, there has been systematic operation by both over that border. This has included the aggravating inclination to tell me what to think on certain general issues such as what rights a person has. As I see it, rolling back this incursion requires a clear, unequivocal definition of universal and permanent human rights that marks the ground where governments and other organizations may not tread. This book is my endeavour to do that." What ensues is the discovery of human rights by analysis, in much the same way as theorems in mathematics are discovered. The result is a list of fundamental rights that is quite different from the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

His close inspection of the boundaries between individual rights and government ideals, the process of defining, refining, and implementing 'true rights', and issues that move into wide-ranging circles such as resource management, allocation choices, and the right of ownership applies these ideas to institutions and individuals across the board.

Higgins applies the theory of rights to business with disturbing results. For example, he claims that in an employment situation the employee owns the value of what he/she created and should be paid for that instead of for his/her time. Also, that when a company extracts minerals or fuels from the ground they are not ownerless. Rather, they are owned by everybody in common and everybody should be compensated. These are only a couple of the fall-out results from the theory.

Higgins promotes conversion to a true human rights-based social arrangement that would operate like the rules of the road, providing a code for human conduct in any situation. This will require many changes in not just legal and social structures, but attitudes: "In a community, attitudes determine what is regarded as acceptable and what is not, and therefore generate the flavour of a society in terms of freedoms and taboos. In a human rights-based society, a specific range of attitudes will naturally accompany the philosophy on human rights. This range is quite different from that existing currently, and the more so as the society in question is in contradiction of fundamental rights. Therefore, conversion to a human rights-based society will necessitate some or many profound changes in attitude."

With its application of an objective theory of human rights to a range of issues from capital punishment to world poverty and its analysis of forces opposed to the enactment of the theory, Human Rights, What Are They Really? is a wide-ranging discussion that should be essential, required reading for American history, social and political studies, and debate courses from the high school level on up.

Disruption Games
Trond Arne Undheim
Atmosphere Press
9781647647285, $18.99 PB, $7.99 Kindle, 226pp

When does managing company failure become a growth opportunity? Disruption Games: How to Thrive on Serial Failure advises companies on how to not only recover, but use that failure as a stepping stone to greater heights. It maintains that failure needs to be managed as carefully as success, and it provides the keys to doing so under a range of circumstances.

One might expect futurist Trond Arne Undheim's book to be idealistic, filled with untested admonitions, but it cultivates a proactive real-world approach to everything from better communication in a startup situation to fostering innovation. This approach takes advantage of innovation fads and not just managing but embracing failure's underlying opportunities for innovation and change.

Chapters delve into these subjects with footnoted references to global business pursuits and methods, considering how approaches and attitudes are revised and the unexpected benefits experienced by global corporations such as Bosch: "Innovation scouting, accelerators, and all good external sources of innovation cannot compete with the fact that a company has much more control with internal ideas - and can incubate them far more effectively. Plus, the indirect benefit of such effort is culture change toward a more innovative company, which is much harder to achieve by acquiring an innovative startup or simply partnering with one."

Fast, low-cost, measurable methods of commerce development are considered and contrasted with traditional methods of doing business.

Business readers should ideally be change-driven and interested in the specific forms of innovation which have proven to promote real growth and new directions.

This audience will appreciate an approach that loads its ideals with real-world examples of success from around the globe, creating a structure that allows fellow business movers and shakers to consider the heart of true innovation and change.

From the underlying characters of company serial founders to opportunity costs and raising venture capital, Disruption Games excels in specific examples, approaches, and game-changing plans for addressing both success and failure. It is recommended reading for any forward-thinking businessperson interested in not just learning from business failures, but embracing and growing from them.

Final Act
Van Fleisher
Independently Published
9781732083318, $9.99 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 275pp,

Final Act provides a sequel to Van Fleisher's prior thriller Final Notice, but requires no prior familiarity in order to appeal to newcomers because it recaps the prior book's events in a succinct, satisfying prologue.

The story's concept is simple: a smart watch invention that can predict one's day of demise is intended to help people get their affairs together, but an unexpected result is that some use this knowledge to enact programs of revenge or vengeance.

Final Notice followed that initial development. Final Act expands the idea to what those around the watch-holder would do if they held such knowledge.

A cast of characters follows the prologue, but doesn't explain their roles. This is left for the story to fill out as it follows the dilemmas of Vijay Patel, the VT2's inventor, and Zoe Brouet, the FBI agent trying to contain the trail of deaths left by wearers of the VT2.

To add a contemporary twist to an already-engrossing setting, a tumultuous election year involving a foreign power's interference in the U.S. elections complicates matters for the two who are trying to monitor and control the fallout from the VT2 device.

As the story moves from California to Massachusetts and New Hampshire, readers are treated to a vivid romp through relationships, politics, and technology that builds a complex, compelling interrelationship between all three.

As a member of the original team that developed VT2, Alek Belikov holds information that is desired by opposing forces. Coerced into helping them lest Jennifer and Zoe be murdered, Alek finds his special interests at odds in a battle for both control and redemption.

The intrigue and thriller components of this story are very well done. Readers will be on the edge of their seats as the cast of characters navigates the uncertain waters of political clashes and special interests over a technology and political process gone awry.

What makes this story especially strong, however, is its moral question: "Would you kill, knowing you would never live to stand trial?"

The answer to that question creates a riveting story that is impossible to put down for political thriller fans seeking something different.

Linda Naseem
Independently Published
9781974579952, $12.50 paperback, $2.99 Kindle


Set in San Francisco in the mid-1960s during the height of the hippie movement and Vietnam War, Eden tells of the prophetic dream of teen flower child Lani, whose boyfriend Harv Stetson is sent home in a coffin. There's one twist to the story: in a prophetic dream about his death, she'd seen him as a black man. And when she opens his coffin, that same black man is there...not Harv.

Chapter 2 explains the puzzle from Harv's perspective, but adds an extra dimension of angst as events unfold with the reader now cognizant of both Harv and Lani's very different realities.

Between a sergeant who condones a deadly choice, a girlfriend who can never understand the politics and pressures of being a grunt in Vietnam, a prophetic dream that threatens the best-laid plans, and the atmospheric unraveling of American society during the 1960s, Eden represents a compelling blend of murder mystery, 1960s social exploration, romance, and more.

Linda Naseem excels in capturing the scenes of this era through the experiences of a girl who wanders through its mysteries: "I fly home. The night is a black cape I've wrapped around me. I'm invisible. I can go anywhere and no one will know I'm there and no one will bother me. My eyes are the size of dinner plates. I can see without light. My mouth is a beak and I am a giant owl hunting the tiny mice of the city, my feet soaring inches above the sidewalk. The music rings in my ears and I hum as I fly. I don't know who the band was, not a well-known one but it doesn't matter. Everyone got stoned and had fun."

As race relations enter into the picture to influence decisions and deadly choices, readers are treated to an absorbing interplay of events solidified by events of the 1960s.

Again, the atmospheric reflections of changing morals and values of the times are exquisitely portrayed: "Is this how Petra feels? Her bed is shared by a different guy every night. She enjoys it but I don't like being touched, prodded, and rubbed by hard hands that don't care what I need. I don't want guys who pinch and squeeze and bite. I don't know why it's called making love: it isn't love. Love hurts your heart, not your body. I don't want love in any form. It hurts no matter how you define it."

As truths, lies, dreams and reality become jumbled, readers receive a powerful survey that is mercurial and hard to put down. Eden is a powerful novel that will leave its readers reflecting long past its final surprises and insights.

The Burden of Darkness
Barry Finlay
Keep On Climbing Publishing
9780995937987, $12.99 PB, $4.99 Kindle

The Burden of Darkness is the fifth in the Marcie Kane Thriller Collection and involves Marcie Kane and hubby Nathan Harris. Nathan is suffering from PTSD after a Tampa hotel fire nearly claimed her life and that of the President of the United States. While her quick thinking saved them, it could not prevent the rise of terror and tension in Nathan's mind every time thunder sounds or something sparks these horrible memories.

At first, this FBI consultant seemed fine. They married. Life moved on until the PTSD claimed part of his personality, confidence, and life. Now it is the dominant force affecting their lives and relationship, and even Marcie's quick thinking and savvy reactions can't seem to change its relentless course.

The Burden of Darkness is an astute survey of the insidious process of PTSD. Its ability to create a thriller that incorporates descriptions of a life gone awry due to the tensions of being active agents is particularly well done: "He stopped working; the gym was a distant memory and he had little enthusiasm for anything. It seemed like he struggled between letting her do what she wanted and being

with her constantly to provide the protection he thought she needed. She had suggested help, but he insisted he was fine."

From handling Nathan's panic attacks, nightmares, and a husband's denial of any problems to another threat that evolves from outside their relationship, Marcie has her hands full, and even her formerly-capable husband can't help.

As she comes to realize the dangerous extent of his condition while confronting an adversary whose terminal disease gives him added strength, these seemingly disparate threads of connection become interwoven with a bigger picture of further danger.

The strength in The Burden of Darkness lies in its ability to move from the microcosm of changed lives to the macrocosm of an endangered society and the impact of one strong woman's decisions that affects them both.

Another strength lies in the psychological revelations Nathan discovers during his recovery process...insights that will, in turn, help Marcie in her quest to help her husband and others: "The term brainspotting is easier to remember. It's something new she introduced me to. It's hard to understand and even harder to explain, and if you'd asked me two months ago, I would have told you it was voodoo. The doctor said it combines elements of a bunch of different approaches. She said the reprocessing part of the equation is the most important. It involves helping the brain digest and store appropriate emotions from experiences that are causing the problem. It's like retraining the brain to stop thinking the next event will be like the last."

As psychological discoveries and recovery leads to newfound love and new tools for healing, readers are informed about not just the causes and impact of PTSD, but its recovery process.

Meanwhile, adversary Strand is going downhill, and has limited time in which to exact revenge using clever drones and a grudge against Marcie that he has cultivated for years.

Nathan's overriding message that leads him back to being an effective husband and FBI agent is also the battle cry in a story that is evocative and compelling: "Anxiety will not dictate the terms. I'm in charge."

The result is a suspense thriller that is an outstanding follow-up to Remote Access, yet leads readers on some unexpected journeys. Those who like their thrillers especially strong in interpersonal relationships and connections and character psychology and evolution will welcome The Burden of Darkness for its compelling blend of action and insight.

Zany Can Do Anything
Nicole Hansen
Handersen Publishing
9781647039004, $11.95 Paper/$19.95 Hardcover/$4.95 Kindle

Zany is a unicorn with a uniquely positive view of daily living and its many opportunities. His explorations of this world and his reactions to it begin with picking out the perfect outfit to greet each day (in the introduction, this is a 'superhero' assembly of safari hat, star glasses, the required cape, and a grass skirt).

As fun, simple rhymes accompany a series of bright drawings by Tevin Hansen, young picture book readers enjoy the tale of a savvy little unicorn who has 'to do' lists to help direct his day, cultivates an awareness that healthy foods are just as important as coveted sweets (and that 'health' can arrive in unexpected food packages), and harbors the desire to take risks and experiment, whether it be with art, sports, or choosing different kinds of books to read.

Kids follow Zany's explorations and positive perspective on life and absorb the underlying messages that new things aren't always easy to learn or cultivate, it's ok to make mistakes, and individuals need to take unique approaches to life.

Young picture book readers receive a series of uplifting messages during this amusing story of a colorful little unicorn who grasps life's opportunities with both paws.

An Old Man and His Penguin
Alayne Kay Chirstian
Blue Whale Press
9781732893566, $16.99, hardcover
9781732893573, $10.99, paperback

An Old Man and His Penguin: How Dindim made Joao Pereira de Souza an Honorary Penguin displays colorful, realistic art by Milanka Reardon as it provides picture book readers and their parents with a story set on an island off the coast of Brazil. Here, Joao finds a penguin soaked in oil, spends much time cleaning him up, and discovers in him a new companion.

The two come to love each other as Dindim becomes part of Joao's world, but Joao realizes that his penguin friend needs the companionship of fellow penguins more than a new home among humans. And so he attempts to do the best thing for his buddy, and the inevitable happens. Or, does it?

An Old Man and His Penguin holds a number of important messages about human/animal relationships, love, oil slicks and their impact on sea life, and loneliness.

Its underlying focus on letting go and reaping rewards from non-possessiveness offers an outstanding lesson about love for the very young, delivering this message in a colorful tale that repeats and emphasizes its point in a creative, compelling manner.

Adults looking for an inviting animal story with an important message will welcome this appealingly different seaside tale.

Son of Nothingness
Ona Russell
Sunstone Press
9781632932983 $19.95 paperback, 9781611395884 (epub)

A man's search for meaning in 1940s California consumes his world but results in a revelation that affects not just his life but two nations in Son of Nothingness: A Novel of Appearances.

It's been seven years since Andrew Martin's 4-F rejection by the army. He's a lawyer whose cases receive much public attention, yet he struggles with issues related to the rejection, including an odd disability, and a confrontation with the Bar.

When new legal challenges change his course, it's apparent that Andrew may have lost his famous 'golden touch' in the courtroom, as well. His search to uncover truths about the past is only one facet of his obsessions, angst, and revised purposes in life. Only his faithful parrot Emerson, attuned to his moods, offers some respite and adds meaning to the place he calls home.

Andrew recognizes this value when he contemplates the reason for returning home in the face of his personal investigations into Nazis who have fled Europe and who possibly live undercover in his very community: "Home. I wanted to go home. But home to what? My bird, of course. Emerson, poor thing. A creature of the jungle whose ability to survive there had been domesticated out of him. A weakened being. All talk, like his owner. Yes, I'd go home to my bird. My home. A modernly furnished cage where I was imprisoned by a calendar, by the next anniversary, and the next."

Ona Russell takes the time to capture Andrew's conundrums as he struggles with his life, history, and its purposes. His recognition of the ongoing impact of the war comes to life throughout the story in vivid depictions of and contrasts between personal and social insights: "I felt afraid, like a kid forced to look under the bed at night. He brought his arm closer. 20405. Twenty thousand, four hundred and five. Behind those impossible numbers were trains and showers, ovens and gas. Swastikas, salutes, and yellow badges. Mountains of decaying flesh. Horrors I might have been forced to see for myself had my number not been 4-F."

Patriotism, duty, and survival mode often clash as Andrew makes his way through a civilian world carrying the weight of the Army's successes and failures with him.

Russell's use of the first person represents a fine job of capturing these experiences and their ultimate impact from Andrew's changing perspective. This adds an extra dimension to his legal and ethical conundrums to bring his story to life. Can love find a place within these existential and career crises?

The added value of Son of Nothingness lies in its powerful internal discussion of a man thwarted from his desire to serve and its impact on his civilian existence. The journey Andrew undertakes is revealed on multiple levels as he encounters women and legal actions, faces an identity crisis, and revises not just his goals but his moral perspective about survival.

The social and political sentiments of the times, including legal processes, also come to life under Russell's hand: "The comparison wasn't hyperbole. The Guild needed a new

precedent. Anything smelling of class or racial injustice. They wanted another Sleepy Lagoon, the murder case that had brought them fame. Defending all those Chicanos, losing in court, and then, years later, getting their convictions overturned. Noble, one might say. But they were idealists, and, as in Scopes, weren't above risking the person to the principle. Was López such a case? I didn't know, but I'd muddied the waters by suggesting it was."

The result is a passionate, involving story about evolving a sense of place, purpose, and revised objectives that keep readers thoroughly immersed in a vivid tale of Andrew's growth, discoveries, and 1940s world.

Speak No Evil
Liana Gardner
Vesuvian Books
9781944109851, $19.95 Hardcover, $17.95 Paper, $8.99 Ebook

The connection between truth-telling and evil was never so firm as in Speak No Evil...only, it's not what you think. Here, truth is directly connected to the growth of an evil force, as foster child Melody Fisher knows all too well.

The story opens with fifteen-year-old mute orphan Melody in custody for stabbing a football star classmate. How did she get to this point in life, a far cry from a good life with parents at age nine?

Melody tells her own background in a flashback that recounts an encounter with snakes and her unique ability to sing the deadly serpents into tranquility. Her father is a snake handler in Appalachia and her mother died from a snakebite, but Melody's own connection to snakes continues to haunt her life and is just one of the many influences that sets her apart from the norm.

Her mother's church also was deeply involved with snakes, linking them to faith and God. After her mother's death, her Uncle Harlan forces her to handle snakes as a test of her faith...something her mother had forbidden. Torn between her mother's admonition and her uncle's insistence, Melody finds her own hopes influencing her decision: "It was too soon after her death. But if it meant God might listen to my prayer, I had to try."

Riddled by sorrow and events that keep testing not only her survival skills and faith but questions of good and evil, Melody finds the snakes are always present in her life years later, either metaphorically or physically: "The raging sense of loss and overwhelming heartbreak rose out of the desert of her past, like a snake ready to strike and swallow her whole."

Liana Gardner does an outstanding job of entwining a suffering orphan girl's coming of age with the story of a special ability that represents a tightrope walk on the edges separating good and evil intentions.

Melody's character is well done and drives a story line that keeps mature young adult readers wondering about her future as she faces her snakes and demons in more than one encounter.

Compelling, gripping, and evocative, Speak No Evil is a study in personality development, horror, how support systems for teens can either succeed or fail, and the impact a caring adult can have on a teenager's life.

It's an empowering story that embraces abuse, best friends, secrets, and loyalty that will keep not just mature teens but new adults involved until its unexpected, satisfying conclusion. It should also be noted that Speak No Evil is one of 6 that made the final ballot this year as a Bram Stoker Awards Nominee for Superior Achievement in a Young Adult Novel.

It Takes Death to Reach a Star
Stu Jones and Gareth Worthington
Vesuvian Books
9781944109523, $21.95 Hardcover, $17.95 Paper, $8.99 ebook
Audio: free through Audible subscription or available everywhere else for $24.95

The scenario in It Takes Death to Reach a Star is almost uncanny as it relates to the latest coronavirus outbreak. Set in 2251, the story documents the aftermath of a world-wide plague that strikes at the end of World War III, decimating the population and leaving only one conflicted Siberian city intact.

Two groups struggle in that city: a poor group naturally immune to the plague and an elite, rich group which has been bioengineered to be immune. Mila is a member of the poor group, forced to work for an organization which wants revolution. Demitri is a member of the elite group, but is ill and dependent upon an expensive, forbidden drug to survive.

The choices made by these two disparate individuals hold the power to change not just their lives but the remnants of humanity in this vivid story.

There are plenty apocalyptic stories of survival on the market, but the difference between a contrived, mundane production and an extraordinary presentation such as It Takes Death to Reach a Star lies in its depth of characterization, culture, and a sense of place created by the authors. The insights, reflections, and descriptions presented throughout the story are supercharged with energy and vivid language: "To my genuine surprise, I don't dream of shadows and flame. Three hours feels like twelve. I'm a new woman, or might as well be. At least I'll be able to work tonight. Clief will be happy, and Clief being happy means a room for a while yet. I swing my feet over the edge of the cot and lower my head to whisper a short chain of rehearsed words. The Graciles abandoned faith long ago, but for us - for me - the power it has to sustain, to motivate, to generate hope, is more powerful than the evils at my door."

It should be cautioned that It Takes Death to Reach a Star is no quick thriller or sci-fi read. Stu Jones and Gareth Worthington take the time to create a complex society utilizing in-depth psychology and detailing the political, psychological, and social influences in a very different world. This translates to a satisfyingly detailed account that is anything but quick to pursue. Readers interested in simpler scenarios should look elsewhere.

Many apocalyptic thrillers offer such simplicity, but what is more satisfying and unique about this story is that it takes time to build a society and atmosphere that follows its characters through the sights, sounds, and streets of an almost-alien city, contrasting its social makeups in the process: "This side of Zopat is run-down and desolate. What was a shadowy blessing before has now become a curse. Here, there's no swelling mass of people to disappear into, no businesses to enter and blend into, just street after darkened street."

Perhaps part of this book's intense language and style comes from the fact that neither author is a writer alone. Stu Jones is a career law enforcement officer with over a decade of experience, and this background lends a realistic, gripping touch to the descriptions of struggles with authority and survival processes. Gareth Worthington holds a degree in

marine biology and a PhD in endocrinology, in addition to being a sci-fi writer.

Together, these two created a riveting novel that grabs attention, crafts a realistic, thoroughly engrossing scenario, and probes the roots of tyranny and forces that work against impossible odds (including their own training, backgrounds, and natures) towards elusive freedom.

Warning: once begun, It Takes Death to Reach a Star proves difficult to put down!

Beyond Truman
Douglas A. Dixon
Lexington Books
c/o Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group
4501 Forbes Blvd., Suite 200, Lanham, MD 20706
9781793627810, $90.00 Hardback
9781793627827, $85.50 Ebook

Beyond Truman: Robert H. Ferrell and Crafting the Past is a scholarly, historical survey of a widely respected Hoosier historian and the evolution of history-making in the twentieth century and beyond.

Readers with some background in American historical scholarship will be pleased with Dixon's ability to entwine Ferrell's work, set against the nuances of revisionist controversies, postmodernism, and various approaches to analyzing the past.

Beyond Truman provides a rare attention to detail that embraces current debates over Ferrell's impact and approaches with methods of historical analysis. These offer important food for thought in considering twenty-first century "new approaches" to history which have many of their foundations in Ferrell's research and era.

While American history, politics, and biography readers will be the primary audience for Beyond Truman, it is quite accessible to lay readers interested in the methodology of historical scholarship, its history, and its impact. Packed with numerous detailed footnoted references and illustrations, Dixon's own scholarship and supporting bibliographic materials are impeccable.

Dead Dogs Don't Bark
Tolu A. Akinyemi
9781999815929, $10.88 Paper/$3.99 Kindle, 129pp

Dead Dogs Don't Bark ... And They Don't Bite is another reflective, inspirational, uplifting free verse poetry collection by Tolu A. Akinyemi who, in this second collection, continues to capture the basics of motivational thinking in poems that support the premises of Dead Lions Don't Roar while expanding on its themes.

From poems about Akinyemi's native Nigeria and experiences that shaped his life to the title poem, which entreats the reader to "...let the world hear your bark/Be a bright spark/Make a difference...", these works provide stimulating and reflective poetic pieces that discourage life's mediocrity and entreats readers, "Don't be a tourist/When you could have been the pilot."

Some may think that everyone can't be a guiding light...but these poems continually reinforce the notion that one person can, indeed, make a difference in the world, however small.
Though Akinyemi admits he is a "work in progress," he also acknowledges role models and leaders, the possibilities of evolving ever upward in spirit and intention, and the methods by which daily life may be addressed, assessed, and honed. The goal is to live dreams where the poet and reader can "burst apart at the seams" with eyes wide open.

Heartfelt, thought-provoking, and inspirational, Dead Dogs Don't Bark nicely supports new approaches to considering life and its changes, and makes for an excellent game plan for building a better world.

Little Tea
Claire Fullerton
Firefly Southern Fiction
9781645262596, $14.99 Paper/$3.99 Kindle, 252pp

Set at Greer's Ferry Lake in Heber Springs, Arkansas, Little Tea explores the bonds of female friendships that have lasted through the ages, coming home, and coming to terms with aspects of Southern culture.

Claire Fullerton sets the stage when three childhood friends reunite after a decade of separation. "I've had more friendships than I care to list come and go over the years. People I thought would be in my life forever fell by the wayside for one reason or another, some leaving me baffled and bruised and second-guessing. But Renny Thornton and Ava Cameron have remained. The progression of years and disparate locations has not altered our bond one iota. We became friends when we were thirteen, and now that we're "a little older," each of us realizes we're in it for life. Our dogged loyalty to each other is partially based on longevity. We've invested too much time in each other to turn back now. We overlook the fact that we're as different as night and day in what our lives have become, because we began at the same starting point. Born to a certain sect of the South so staid in its ways few people ever leave."

Their reunion is laced with childhood memories as narrator Celia Wakefield reflects on her coming-of-age on her family's 3rd generation farm in Como, Mississippi. In the midst of deeply-engrained cultural beliefs about the racial divide in the Deep South, readers are swept into a family saga impacted by society's opinion of Celia's close friendship with the spirited Thelonia, who goes by the nickname Little Tea.

Readers of women's fiction and Southern fiction will find Little Tea thoroughly engrossing and satisfyingly unpredictable as each character undertakes an emotional journey that is captured with a lyrical, lilting attention to detail: "I've heard it said you don't recognize the best times of your life unless you see them in hindsight, but I beg to differ. I knew every moment of this day for exactly what it was, and each crystalline variable seemed to me a highlight: the selection of the low heels and white sleeveless dress I wore, the arrival of Renny and Mark and Ava, the secret flutter of my heart every time I met eyes with Tate."

Little Tea is the story of the ties that bind during changing times and documents the bravery it takes to move forward. Readers of women's literature will find it a compelling story of Southern friendships and their evolution.

Continued Miracles, second edition
Debra L. Stout
Independently Published
9780986174612, $15.00

Don't believe in miracles? The second updated edition of Continued Miracles: Inspiring Testimonies of God at Work in the Lives of Everyday People shows how God removes obstacles to lead believers to better paths, whether it be away from addiction and prison or via circumstance and connections such as pets.

These experiences define miracles and demonstrate how God operates, with testimonials recounting adversity, struggle, and pain with the purpose showing how each was overcome, defining the nature of a miracle and its spiritual impact.

Each story is very different. Often, the 'seeds of faith' are planted early on but are not followed until a miracle changes everything. Other times, the individual narrating the account seemingly stumbled onto the path (guided by God) of understanding and devotion.

Each story offers a conclusion and a reflection, inviting readers to consider the presence of miracles in their own lives, and those moments which served as transformational vehicles.

In addition to quotes from Biblical passages reinforcing the divine nature of these experiences, the 'Your Responses' section requires that readers do more than absorb another person's miracle and experience, inviting them to analyze their responses to the story: "What do you think of Dolores' story? Would you have made the same decisions if you were in her situation?" and "Would you be able to forgive if you were Sam? Is there someone you need to forgive now?"

This interactive encouragement goes beyond gathering testimonials about the presence and methods of God. It encourages readers to take a closer look at their own lives, events, and the reactions, presumptions, and spiritual lessons to be learned from individual choices and responses.

Under another hand, it would have been too easy just to gather stories and add a few Bible passages. But Debra L. Stout's added value to this approach involves creating an interactive lesson from these miracles. This sets Continued Miracles apart from most other collections of spiritual experience and, indeed, is an intrinsic part of the Continued Miracles concept of sharing and growing.

Readers are invited to write their own miracle stories to embark on a journey that embraces journaling, reflection, creating a testimonial, and most importantly, considering its impact and message: "How did my miracle affect my belief, faith, and trust in God? Scripture that applies to my miracle: What would I like someone else to learn from my miracle? With whom have you shared your miracle story so far? What was the outcome? Did I miss my miracle? Think. A coincidence is not a miracle and a miracle is not a coincidence."

Those on a spiritual path who would do more than read messages will find Continued Miracles a powerful documentation of living faith not just experienced, but reflected and examined.

Woman in Scarlet
Karen L. Adams
Adams Enterprise
9781999404314, $24.99 Hardcover, (IngramSpark)
9781999404338, $5.99 Ebook
B07GZ8TPXJ, $4.99 Ebook

Amazon ebook purchase link:

Universal purchase link for other major retailers:

Woman in Scarlet offers a true memoir of Karen L. Adams' 28 years of service in the formerly-male-only Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and is a lively survey not just of the RCMP's activities and history, but the growing presence of women in the ranks and the challenges faced by these early participants.

Adams was only 22 when she joined the first group of female recruits. Her idealistic vision of service and respect received many challenges at the hands of men who had long viewed the RCMP as being off-limits to females, and who gave her a hard time. This even involved a physical confrontation with a fellow member of the force!

Adams takes the time to explain not just the internal influences on the force, but the external political and social strife which affected her perceptions and life: "The whole of the RCMP was watching every move by members of the first troop of female officers. The media was inquisitive and reported to the country on our arrival in communities across Canada. My belonging to the RCMP resulted from a political decision, forcing the reluctant organization to accept women members. And it was obvious the RCMP was looking for any excuse to demonstrate that women could not cut it as regular members."

While her encounters with fellow members and the public takes the form of a memoir, it could be argued that Adams also crafts an account suitable for women's history holdings, documenting the step-by-step process of integration that she, as one of the early women in a male-only profession, helped foster.

This feeling is reinforced not only by encounters which survey her public appearances and image, but the evolution of her purpose as she delved into her dream of teaching: "In the New Year, my first troop as an operational training instructor was all male. Up until 1989 troops were still separated by gender and not integrated. I believe the proportion of female recruits back in the day was two troops annually, in other words 64 women a year. The training academy staff scrutinized every move the new female instructors made, concerned the male recruits would not respect us. Speaking for myself, I believe respect is not granted on the basis of rank. Respect has to be earned and I worked very hard to be credible, inside and outside of the classroom."

These specific insights about the process of integration, social acceptance, and political forces both within and outside the RCMP contribute to a story that moves far beyond one individual's life and experience. Woman in Scarlet documents the ideals, philosophy, psychology, and sociology of all women who struggle to gain acceptance in male professions.

The result is a memoir that blends Adams' life and professional dreams with some very solid insights into how other women can succeed against all odds. This story belongs not just in autobiography and memoir collections, but in any library strong in law enforcement experience and RCMP history in particular. It creates a legacy that goes beyond any original intention of capturing her experiences for her family, to reach future generations of women.

Sometimes She Smiles
J. A. Hailey
Independent Publishing
B082K7KNC2, $2.99

Sometimes She Smiles excels in vignettes and slices-of-life encounters that make for succinct, hard-hitting reading for attention spans limited by busy lives. It tackles many different subjects in a collection designed to make the most of the short story in as broad a representation of subjects as possible.

The opening story, 'Act of Goodwill', offers a dialogue-driven philosophical encounter between Saint Peter of the Pearly Gates and John, who could go either way, and who had an eternal life game plan that turned into a Ponzi scheme involving cryogenics and his mistaken notion that "I am the first human to have not died."

Humor is unexpected in this jovial conversation about possibilities, injecting a sense of irony into the story: "But why am I here, if this is indeed the gateway to heaven?" "You're facing the wrong way." "What? That fiery place behind me? Wow, and it actually has a sign over the gate, just like the poet fellow said. Abandon hope, all ye who enter here. How did he know?" "He didn't. But he gave us the idea and the words, so we made the sign. He was reciting the poem when we booted him in."

For quite a different take, consider 'Humans Are Virtuals', a short piece excerpted from a larger work and crafted into the standalone story of a virtual world containing intelligent beings who converse with the wheelchair-bound Stephen Dawkings.

A philosophical and scientific discussion evolves to consider the origins of geniuses and morons, the involvements of these 'virtuals' in human lives, and the possibilities of sanity and insanity as they relate to these odd interfacers with human affairs.

A light proofreading would have caught the punctuation errors peppered throughout the pieces, which would have made for a better reading experience.

This caution aside, the meat of the diverse stories in Sometimes She Smiles is always intriguing and provides fun food for thought in stories that are easy to grasp and intriguingly different.

The Silent Path: Awaken to Your Highest Possibility
Meditation Farm
9780578637068, $16.95 PB, $6.95 Kindle, 308pp

The Silent Path: Awaken to Your Highest Possibility provides the perfect introduction to meditation for newcomers to the practice. It speaks about cultivating individuality and purpose in life against the onslaught of collective thinking pressures.

Avi points out that few modern systems "are working for the liberation of the individual." Most are juggernauts of collective melding that work for themselves. This is why meditation can provide answers that society cannot. It's individual-centric, and just as society cares little about inner pursuits, so the foundation question "Who am I" cannot be addressed by society, but marks a path of self-inquiry that meditation supports.

Those who embark on this journey will realize new possibilities, from renewed purpose and identity to revised approaches to life itself. And that's what The Silent Path is all about.

Readers already contemplating a personal journey towards enlightenment will find The Silent Path intriguing in many ways. For one, it points out that a spiritual path and a religious path are different: "Spirituality has nothing to do with religion. If spirituality is a living garden where beautiful flowers are growing, religion is a museum where all those once-beautiful flowers are now wilting...While religion emerges out of the mind of man mostly for his selfish desires, spirituality takes birth in the longing heart of an individual. Spirituality is an existential longing to know who you are; it is the desire of the universe to know itself through you."

Later discussions synthesize and further illustrate this concept: "Spirituality is always a leap of faith. It's like walking to the edge of the mountain and jumping off without worrying whether you are wearing a parachute, or if someone is down there to catch your fall. That moment of trust when you reach deep within and take the leap, is the moment of your spiritual liberation. The rest of the journey is simply to realize the fact that you have already found what you are looking for."

Readers unfamiliar with these processes may initially believe this discussion will revolve around philosophical or ethereal concepts of higher purpose, but there's a grounded benefit to many of these approaches that translates to improved everyday life. One example lies in pain sufferers: "When you watch the pain intensely, the energy of watching completely transforms the way you experience pain. Although the source of pain is in the body, it is the mind that makes it real. Mind controls everything, including the sensations of physical pain. When you gain control over your mind, you gain control over physical pain as well."

As Avi applies the concepts and approaches of spiritual enlightenment and meditation to every facet of daily living, readers come to understand that the benefits of following this silent path go beyond enlightenment on the spiritual realm to permeate every facet of life.

As an anecdote to the Culture of Doubt, The Silent Path: Awaken to Your Highest Possibility is more than just uplifting. It's simple, achievable, and easy for anybody to digest. It offers a course of action and a set of admonitions that should resonate with a wide audience, lies within no single religious realm, and can be understood and applied to all lives, across the board.
Those with an interest in self-help and spiritual growth will find The Silent Path an excellent beginning to embarking on a different life journey grounded in the pursuit of happiness and renewed purpose.

Side By Side But Never Face to Face
Maggie Kast
Orison Books
9781949039085, $18.00, PB, 186pp,

Side By Side But Never Face to Face collects a novella and short stories for a presentation of linked narratives revolving around the shared grief of Greta and Holocaust survivor Manfred over the loss of their child.

Past, present, and future become mercurial as Greta and Manfred see their life perspectives shift and the gap between them widen, with tragedy highlighting the underlying differences between a refugee from Germany and a woman who has "...never known war or borders or boots. She hadn't even been born forty years ago when Manfred ran for his life. Raised in harmonious comfort, she barely understood why Mutti had refused to have her Fredi circumcised, why she had painted over the dates in his baby book to make it look like he had been baptized Lutheran at birth. Now, without warning, calamity had shoved its way into Greta's presence, decimating the rich and varied pleasures of their life together."

There is confidence that the grief will pass and their relationship will continue to survive: "We've had good times," said Greta in the morning, speaking through tears, "and we will again." But in the face of death and all its changes, a transformative process threatens to change many facets of life.

It would have been easy to have the focus rest solely on Greta's shoulders, as women's grief is often more easily observed and captured. But Maggie Kast takes the time to focus on Manfred's struggles, as well, and this lends a powerful perspective to their story, bringing the emotional turmoil to life from both sides: "He wanted to order her alive, but all that came out was dry sobs."

Side By Side But Never Face to Face is not just a story of grief and survival, but a summation of the coming together of a couple distanced by circumstance and cultural connections. As stories reveal this disparity, readers are treated to lyrical observations of these differences which proves compelling: "She felt free to criticize but was nonetheless infatuated with all the sights and smells that had formed Manfred. His "fatherland" would always be her "otherland," its yellow facades and sunny vineyards and damp coffeehouses the Austria she had married."

As the stories that accompany the novella move beyond Greta and Manfred to probe the lives of other family members, readers receive a full-bodied exploration of the lingering effects of family heritage and struggle that brings to life the process of coupling and growing together.

The language, too, evolves and changes in each of these descriptions of daily life unwinding: "You married your husband largely for his freedom and nerve, for the way he suddenly stopped on the street, took a deep breath, and raised his arms to embrace the world, knowing he deserved its gifts. He reached like a tall stalk to speculate about the world beyond his limits, and he sent down searching roots to probe the muddy depths of behavior, his and yours."

These changes in character, purpose, and literary style coalesce to profile interconnected lives that are not linear productions, but lively, growing entities. They traverse the world, exploring different traditions and belief systems from Germany to Minneapolis to Vietnam.

Readers looking for a powerful literary collection that takes daily life challenges and moves them outward like a ripple into society and psyche alike will find Side By Side But Never Face to Face a compelling read replete with psychological, spiritual, and cultural strength.

Cassie Pup's Favorite Ladybug and Snake Stories
Sheri Poe-Pape
Privately Published
9781797051543, $13.99 Hardcover, $10.99 Softcover, $3.99 Kindle


Cassie Pup's Favorite Ladybug and Snake Stories enjoys bright, fun drawings by Harry Aveira that introduce young children and their read-aloud parents to bugs and snakes via inviting rhymes.

The collection opens with 'Lucy the Loony Ladybug?' which presents a forest ladybug's dilemma when she begins to change colors. As these changes venture into some fantastic territory (who wants to be Scotch plaid?), she struggles until the remarkable Clem Chameleon, fully rainbowed, makes a proposal.

The dialogue includes some rollicking lingo that parents will want to use to illustrate the different choices of language and how words can reflect personality: "Reminds me much as the old timers howl/you are truly 'a horse of a different color!' "

'Claiborne the Cha Cha Cobra' is a dancing fool. But in a contest, can her evocative sways win against dancing king Miko Mongoose?

These lovely pieces, embellished with the captivating, colorful work of Harry Aveira, will draw in both prior Cassie Pup fans and new readers who will enjoy the poetry that follows original creatures and their special dilemmas.

As an early introduction to poems, fantasy, and description, Cassie Pup's Favorite Ladybug and Snake Stories is an attractive production holding original presentations backed by large-size, compelling drawings that bring ladybug and snake to life.

Giacomo's Daughter
Rosanna Savone and Diana Savone (aka The Savone Sisters)
Liv Luhv Rahyt Inc.
9781734468809, $15.99 PB, $9.99 Kindle
9781734468816, $30.00 HC, 334pp,

Giacomo's Daughter introduces a new crime thriller series centered around Sofia Spera, and presents a realistic Mafia story replete with violence and social observation. Its vivid descriptions might disturb readers looking for a lighter treatment, but it pointedly captures the realities of this world for those who look for historical stories about domestic violence that pull no punches.

Max Denaro heads a powerful Italian mob family, the Scalici Squad. He's coveted performer Sofia Spera since he first saw her sing, and has made her his wife. Now Sofia is trapped not just in a marriage, but a dangerous world that even her father Giacomo can't save her from.

But eighteen-year-old married-to-the-mob Sofia is no delicate rose paling in the face of danger. She's a spunky, determined, feisty young woman who cleverly fights not only her newfound Mafia connections, but society's view of a woman's strengths as she takes matters into her own hands. She concocts schemes that take advantage of her aura of innocence, which makes for a sly cunning many a male could not match.

The only problem is that her cleverness results in an unexpected danger when she inadvertently sparks the infamous Detroit Mob War.

Rosanna Savone and Diana Savone do an outstanding job of capturing the origins of Sophia's spunky attitude: "According to her strict Catholic parents, well-behaved women didn't run around on stage making spectacles of themselves. Good women weren't created for entertainment. At least, not for wide audiences. They were created for a higher purpose, a more noble cause, only to be enjoyed by one special man. Her future husband."

From the culture of an immigrant Sicilian father who believes that women are only suitable to be nuns, whores, or wives to a husband who literally owns her, Sofia's 1924 world seemingly holds few other options. Or, does it?

Sofia's determination leads to a series of conundrums that results in her best friend's disappearance, her husband's lies about his involvement in that event, and her decision to confront him, even while naked, about the truth. Max really doesn't know what to do with Sofia, sometimes. On the one hand, she's his beautiful heart's desire. On the other hand, her ability to manipulate him occasionally backfires, causing him to question her motives and loyalties: "Not allowing Max to brush her question away easily, Sofia continued, "Again with the laughing. Do you blame me for thinking it? That's what you do, right? Besides being a bootlegger... You do kill people." Growing wearisome of her antics, Max stared right into Sofia's eyes. Giving a severe warning to his mouthy wife with his deliberate glare, he replied, "Yes, I do kill people, but that's no laughin' matter."

As Sofia takes advantage of a man's innate tendency to protect a woman, provokes courtship in order to gain answers which create further dangerous situations, and encounters mob connections and surprises that endanger her life and those around her, readers receive an engrossing story indeed.

Max has held the power over her from the beginning of his attraction: "You are my wife," Max reminded her, but it came out as a barked order. "And it's death do us part." Now everything is about to change...for both of them.

The gritty reality of mob politics, social interactions, and 1920s sentiments towards women and their value contrast nicely with young Sofia's changing situation and determination to rise above her destiny against all odds.

Rosanna Savone and Diana Savone create powerful characters and capture the underlying nuances of mob encounters and politics, profiling the wellsprings of Sofia's courage and changes as she navigates a strange world her father Giacomo never raised her to survive in.

As she cultivates new connections and allies based on a mutual life-threatening fear of Max, the Savone sisters add other characters both within and outside the mob community in an engrossing story of special interests that is compellingly realistic, streetwise and gritty, and hard to put down.

The underlying focus on domestic violence and sociopathic mob men sets this story apart from most other stories about the mob, adding a rare dimension of history, psychology, and intrigue to the story of Sofia's survival.

Readers of fiction where women's strengths are prominently displayed will relish Giacomo's Daughter, a crime thriller that rests firmly on the evolutionary process of a beautiful daughter who develops and pursues her own best interests in the midst of the city-wide mob confrontation she inadvertently (and sometimes purposely) helped to build.

Zona Romantica
James Gilbert
Anaphora Literary Press
9781681145204, $20.00, PB
9781681145211, $35.00, HC, 176pp,

Amanda Pennyworth is beginning a new job as American Counsel in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. It's a position that seems a dream job at first, but turns into a nightmare when a famous expat writer vanishes and Amanda becomes involved in searching for him.

At first the reader might wonder why a Counsel would be drawn into such an investigation, but keep in mind that this is Mexico. The layers of politics surrounding the Mexican Federales and local authorities immerses Amanda in layers of subterfuge and corruption that raise more problems than they solve about not just one man's life, but a plot that thickens.

Amanda shows an uncanny ability to absorb many of the investigative processes of those professionally involved in the PI business. From utilizing a facial recognition technique that involves equating animal cues with faces and names to navigating both State Department protocol and her rising fears that something is very wrong in Mexico, the story embarks on a satisfyingly complex journey.

Readers need have little familiarity with Mexican politics or culture in order to appreciate Zona Romantica's setting and action. Everything is laid out during the course of the story, from the position and processes of the typical American Counsel to the motivations of an intuitive investigator who sees "...a different edge of things."

From a journey into a botanical forest and ransom money that doesn't do the job to Amanda's strange feeling that somehow Joshua Talbot knew he was about to be kidnapped, Zona Romantica winds through all kinds of connections and clues as it crafts a satisfying, engaging mystery designed to keep readers moving through Mexico with Amanda, discovering clues embedded in cultural revelations and special challenges.

The dash of romance added to the intrigue and historical references keeps Zona Romantica a thoroughly inviting read, juxtaposing personal and political observations right up to an unexpected conclusion.

Eliot Parker
Morgan James Publishing
11815 Fountain Way, Suite 300, Newport News, VA 23606-4448
9781642797138, $14.95 PB, $9.49 Kindle, 220pp,

Snapshots represents just what its title insinuates - a collection of short story vignettes designed to capture slices of life in succinct revelations that make for both quick reading and lingering impressions, much like a photograph.

Each short piece is carefully crafted to capture individual lives and reflections on the moment when they change.

Take 'Hub2000' for one example. The narrator is working his last graveyard shift for United Parcel Service, and Hub2000 is the employee terminal he's entering for the last time as he moves on in his career.

Veteran Owen encounters first-day employee Bryce on the bus at this hub. Bryce is new, enthusiastic, and "ready to go." Owen is seasoned and ready to leave, but he's called upon to serve as Bryce's mentor for the night. Their brief encounter changes both when a strange package leads to a restricted area, an escapee, and a strange truth that transforms Owen in a shocking, truly unexpected conclusion.

'The Ten Pin' documents a bowling experience on steroids when Brett, who grew up in a bowling alley, encounters Justin and finds a kidnapping leads to a horrific conclusion. Everything leads back to the bowling alley - but in a twisted manner that reveals another side to Justin.

Eliot Parker's ability to take these 'snapshots' and add extra dimensions to what begin as ordinary life experiences is what sets this collection apart from others.

Each story specializes in a twist that challenges readers to think about their expectations and prejudices about outcomes, people, and circumstances. Each will delight short story enthusiasts looking for literary works strong in tension development, plot, and the ability to craft something unexpected and different from disparate life experiences.

Complex Jungle
Mara Ocean
9798623222985, $3.99

Tamara Tambellini could be any American citizen. She's looking to move away from home into an urban apartment with her shepherd dog. She's not enthralled about her new place, but few rentals will accept larger dogs. She's about to be less thrilled when she uncovers the truth about the apartment's secret.

Complex Jungle is about starting a new job, entering a new world, and being surprised by its magical qualities. Tamara is feeling more and more uneasy in her new apartment, but attributes her creepy feeling to overthinking until something happens that she can't ignore.

As she enters a realm where trees talk, Reapers creep into apartments and threaten humans, and enchantment is a superpower, Tamara finds she holds a rare immunity that sets her apart from her fellow apartment dweller victims. The building is obviously a portal to danger, and just as obviously, she's one of the few to sense or understand the full extent of the threat.

Readers who believe they're reading about a new adult encountering many 'firsts' in her life will be surprised and delighted to find Tamara's story an adventure that leads them into a magical alternate reality. This remains grounded by Tamara's practical side even as it's tested by her special abilities and perspective.

Mara Ocean does a fine job of crafting a story that lives well on the borders of real-life experience and the extraordinary, providing enough realistic detail to allow new adult readers to become engrossed in Tamara's journey and struggles.

With its focus on her evolving emotions and maturity as she confronts these extraordinary situations, Complex Jungle uses emotional connection to drive both mystery and action: "Leaning forward on the bench, I placed my chin in my hands. It was all beginning to overwhelm me. I'd known I was probably the one to break the curse, but I'd had no idea just how big the whole operation was, and I was currently feeling very small."

Mature teens to new adult readers will relish a story that reflects many of their concerns about moving out, moving on, and growing up even as they absorb the elements of fantasy that make Complex Jungle an unexpected journey into an extraordinary reality underlying the familiar urban apartment building.

It's highly recommended for its ability to weave an emotionally driven plot with a novel of intrigue and investigation.

Don of the Q
Michael Guillebeau
Madison Press
9780997205572, $13.99 Paperback
9780997205565, $3.99 Ebook

This modern-day spoof on Don Quixote, Don of the Q, introduces a Quick Stop clerk who suddenly loses his memory when "the world blinks" and he conjectures that he's an angel sent to Earth to do good. His puzzlement at being behind a store counter immediately turns into an altruistic gesture when a checkout customer complains about the price of the beer he's purchasing: "Much money as I've spent in here, this damned well ought to be free." Maybe this is my purpose here. "Take it, bro." I smile, proud to add a momentary exchange of sunlight to the semi-darkness of the convenience store cave. I give him generosity; he will give me thanks. We will go on with our day brightened by a positive moment with a stranger who is now a friend. "With blessings."

It's evident at this point that hilarious interchanges will be a part of Don of the Q as the determined clerk, aided by fellow clerk and sidekick Sancha, forays into the world to do good despite all the odds against his actions resulting in a better environment.

There's another twist to this modern incarnation of Don. He harbors an atomic bomb in his basement. It vanishes. And someone is out to get him and locate the bomb.

In a society gone mad, Don and Sancha of the Q represent a romp through insanity as they journey through minority neighborhoods and encounter individuals struggling against their own windmills of adversity.

Philosophical reflections pepper the saga, creating compelling observations of how people live their lives unaware of each other and the world: "People always notice skin-deep changes on the outside, and never the large changes of the heart."

When Don is captured and made part of the search for the bomb and his father, nobody knows whether to view him as a genius or an idiot.

Readers should prepare for a wild ride with a lot of laughter. Social observations are funny and astute as Don navigates the uncertain waters of women, government bureaucracy, and a deadly threat. As Don's attitude spills into the world around him, readers are treated to a fun and thought-provoking blend of observations and encounters: "Heaven's for heroes and angels. This is just people making the best of a bad situation." "Maybe that's the same thing. Look at that woman over there, helping the young mothers take care of a crowd of kids. Yesterday when we came here, I saw her sitting on the side of the road with a WILL WORK FOR FOOD sign. Today, she has food and work. Her hands have a purpose. And everybody else is a little bit better off for it."

Michael Guillebeau creates the perfect madcap romp through modern society that requires no prior familiarity with the classic Don Quixote (but those with such a background will certainly relish the literary allusions here).

The modern-day Don and Sancha are likeable characters, immersed in urban culture and encounters with women and ethnic groups that operate on different levels than government agents and authorities. They face their own impossible circumstances and battles while imparting lively observational viewpoints.

Think Dr. Strangelove blended with One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest...only set in the macrocosm of a society gone just as mad as Don possibly is.

The tongue-in-cheek humor, social insights, and action-packed encounters will both entertain and enlighten readers interested in a lively blend of honor, world destruction, warped family relationships, and comedy.

Don of the Q is highly recommended as an original, involving read that pushes the boundaries of comedy, stormy relationships, and social commentary alike.

K. J. Farnham
K. J. Farnham Publishing LLC
9781732283220, $13.99 PB, $3.99 Kindle, 358pp,

Sixteen-year-old Jenna Kemp is a typical teenager with a circle of friends, a boyfriend, and a good home and life. It seems incongruous that her world would spin out of control from a childhood trauma that resurfaces, but as she begins to drink and do drugs in an effort to repress it, her life begins to fall apart.

Six and a half months after her disappearance, her mother Bonnie is still looking for answers about what happened and where Jenna went. When she stumbles upon Jenna's old diary, answers begin to surface that offer clues and condemnation over Bonnie's involvement in Jenna's downfall.

As Bonnie uncovers answers, Jenna's former best friend and others who have been part of her life struggle with their own involvement in Jenna's downward spiral. Jenna's diary powers these revelations and provides revealing insights into the process of repressing painful traumas: "After lying for so long to everyone, including myself, I'm more terrified of telling the truth. Maybe keeping my distance from Eli will make it easier to keep my memories and secrets locked away."

This series of insights into the struggles of a victim to repress memories under impossible circumstances drives a young adult story that touches readers with an emotional grip few other stories of mental illness can duplicate.

Perhaps this is because the diary format and changing perspectives of mother, daughter, and friends create a satisfyingly complex, believable juxtaposition of rationales, emotions, and responses. These all lend credibility and understanding to the experience from different vantage points.

Add the efforts of detectives and family to solve a puzzling missing person case, the mystery surrounding Jenna's past, and the coping process of survivors of sexual abuse for a story that is revealing, riveting, and thrilling, all in one.

Usually, stories of trauma and survival revolve around the victim alone. By expanding this circle to family and friends, K. J. Farnham creates a dialogue between self and community that goes beyond most trauma victim stories to inject psychological, social, and family dynamics into the equation of a teen's struggle.

Spin is a captivating young adult read that lingers in the mind long after the story's conclusion.

The Flying Cutterbucks
Kathleen M. Rodgers
Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing
9781948018784, $15.95 PR, $4.99 Kindle, 296pp,

The Flying Cutterbucks is a story about a serial sex offender, a family of women forced to stay silent in order to survive, and the legacy this creates which is passed down through the decades. It's also a surprising contrast between modern-day US politics and elections and the pain that erupts both from this secret and the tensions that come from the election of a man who seemingly condones sexual violence against women.

When Jewel returns home to help her mother get the house in order after her father's passing, she gains the opportunity to finally come to terms with past and present challenges. A mother who doesn't know what happened to her son, a daughter who faces the truth about a missing father, and their combined code of silence contribute to a story that is multifaceted and compelling.

Just because a rapist dies, doesn't mean his legacy doesn't live on. It is alive and well in the hearts and souls of women who continue to live their lives cognizant of how he's changed them forever. That's what Trudy discovers when a mysterious grave visitor in a Lexus defaces a tombstone with the one word the family has struggled to suppress all these years.

Kathleen Rodgers provides this emphasis in various ways as Jewel, Trudy, and Georgia interact, allude to their shared adversary and pain, and continue to struggle to not only make peace with the past, but with present-day events that seem a further assault on their recovery process.

Death does, however, hold the opportunity for new beginnings. As the women begin to let go of terror and close-held secrets made for the sake of survival, they also begin to each change in ways that bode well for a different kind of future.

The Flying Cutterbucks excels in depicting haunted lives and a renovation process that involves more than a house. It shows how the women reconnect and become closer as each recognizes in the other a different method of coping and survival. This results in a strength that finally moves beyond alienating each other and protecting themselves from the world.

The Flying Cutterbucks is a powerful story of women returning from the dead (in a manner of speaking) to finally recover not just from assault and secrets, but from the lasting patterns, habits, and the alienation that stemmed from it. It will immerse readers in a world of discovery, recovery, and revised family lives, and is highly recommended for readers seeking an evocative, compelling story of family relationships and change.

Crucibles of Power
C. T. Fitzgerald
Independently Published
9798616940483, $12.99 Paper/$2.99 Kindle

The island nation Athlan is a civilized light in the darkness of the world in Crucibles of Power...but nothing lasts forever, and it too faces the threat of instability and destruction from dark forces. Only the defenders of Athlan, the Marfach Gardai, can prevent disaster in Book 1 of the Threat of Angeals series.

Epic fantasy readers who look for vivid settings and descriptions receive a healthy dose of each in this story, Book 1 in a four-book series, which benefits from C.T. Fitzgerald's strong descriptions: "Cean stood before the main gate of the Ban Castlean, the Ivory Castle, chest heaving, eyes bright. Pushed by some otherworldly force, he had run for two days and nights to arrive on time. The walls were massive and carved with runes. The rock of the fortress was white, glowing in the sunlight, on an island nation where all other rock was hard, black basalt. There was no explanation. The entire castle was carved from the living rock of Radahar."

Caen Mak-Scaire is ready for battle and indeed shows his prowess with sword and courage as he is summoned to battle a deadly ancient opponent. Exhausted by a series of confrontations which test his abilities even before his goal is reached, he journeys through a land that holds equal opportunity for defeat and promise.

As a fisherman's son turned warrior faces the challenges of Angeals, he also discovers a higher purpose in their involvements in his world: "I am the Cath Angeal: the Death Angel. I decide who lives or dies. You will be put into situations. You will have to make decisions. Your decisions will have consequences in the real world. If you choose to save people, they will be saved. If you kill, they will die. Your decisions will determine your fate. I can tell you no more. Remember, be true."

But, are they relics of the past or portents of his future? As the timeline becomes mercurial and he is charged with protecting his people, Caen finds within himself power, determination, and most of all, the hope for a better future.

As Mother Earth herself joins the fray, a host of characters on both sides struggle for survival and a world revision which may consume the last vestiges of civilization.

Readers seeking an epic fantasy replete with battles, strong forces, convincing characters, and men and women who confront Gaia and other forces at odds with their world's survival will find Crucibles of Power fits the bill for an invigorating, compelling read that builds a series of confrontations and special interests.

Supernatural warriors require extraordinary heroes to defeat them, and these forces are in place in a story that probes the nature of good, evil, and the choices and consequences of warriors and ordinary individuals called upon to be heroes.

C. T. Fitzgerald creates a compelling blend of battle scenes peppered with philosophical and psychological insights. These draw readers into a story that is hard to put down, following Caen's evolution into a Warrior worthy of participating in the biggest battle of all.

Epic fantasy readers are in for a treat.

Foundlings and Other Misfits
Estelle Gilson
Garden Oak Press
9781732375376, $14.99,

Foundlings and Other Misfits collects 41 poems and 15 short stories that represent observations of families, children, and the ironies of daily life conundrums, such as finding a pear stuck in the toilet. It's a synthesis of experience that blends flashes of humor with serious inspection of evolving from a foundling to honing a life purpose: "Wet at the ghetto gate/without clothes, speech or food/I am taken in, taught never to be naked, speechless/or wet again./I think it love 'til the cashier asks a price/ - teaching learning never ends - /then swallow understanding./Hold it in."

From mismatched Gemini twins and longings for connection and reconnection to a rail against psychotherapy's conclusions ("...all you bastards are innocent./I'm the one ruining my life./Now what?/Hemlock?/Screw you, Socrates!"), Estelle Gilson provides a vivid inspection of life which shines in poetry and prose alike.

Take 'The Man Who Sold His Mother', for example. This short story revolves around Horace Ross, a man who decides to sell his mother. "Promise me one thing." How many times had she sworn him to the oath. "No matter what happens, you won't stick me in an old age home." Well, he wouldn't."

Anger, irony, and fun coalesce in a story that tells what happens when he packs ma and a wheelbarrow into his car, only to find that he can't give her away for free. And his mother actually likes the barrow, deeming him as being considerate for saving her the effort of walking.

Estelle Gilson's ability to weave anger and observation into humor to provide a taste of something different is one of the facets that connects her poetry and prose pieces to keep them lively and fun.

Other strong features of this collection as a whole are its close inspection of life events, relationships, and the evolution of a girl's independence as she moves from foundling to savvy child able to deflect the unwelcome advances of a predator (among other events).

The result is a powerful literary and psychological inspection that lingers in the mind longer after the collection's final short story.

Poet in a Pin-stripe Suit
Jay M. Mower
Garden Oak Press
9781732375383, $15.95,

Poet in a Pin-stripe Suit features well over a hundred poems divided into sections that range from 'The Swamp Witch' and 'Roller Derby' to 'Beyond Electricity, Strange Encounters, and Visits to Dystopia'. Each section offers writings that closely inspect different experiences and life encounters, capturing a sense of place and a moment in time.

Take 'That Old Black Magic', for example. Its slice of life/love feel evolves from a description of magic moments that blend with a Halloween backdrop: "Louis and Keely's vocal ends/followed by a bumblebee buzz/on the sax while my last sip/of scotch whiskey disappears/off the rocks. Halloween and Keely,/I'm drawn to magic spells, witches/and a spider that spins elastic/catenaries, no visible knots,/glistening across the morning/sidewalk to a weatherworn fence..."

The blend of atmosphere and romance is well-done, with the latter an unexpected injection into the setting of smooth jazz, sharp whiskey, and past love.

'Passages' offers a glimpse of the writer's inspection of life as he observes "...collies fly into fuchsia Frisbees,/boys soar into Japanese warrior kites/on Central Park green and see money/as a knife we plunge into each other,/like cords of wood loom as future pyres." As he sees the universe abiding and changes looming, his conclusion is to capture the appeal of small moments and pleasures: "...I'll not wait/for a fireworks extravaganza,/but live for a trice of ice cream."

Jay M. Mower cultivates a back-and-forth perspective between bigger-picture thinking and small slices of life. He excels at forming connections between the two that capture the fleeting moments and threats of life, be it "the big one" earthquake or the lack of a tsunami's roar that leads him full circle to the ordinary before a concluding extraordinary event changes everything in 'An Eerie Evening'.

This blend of speculation and reality, imagination and daily life, and the intersection of ordinary experience and extraordinary encounters to be found within them and the mind creates a collection that is evocative, wonderfully written, and a breath of fresh air.

Readers can easily follow the juxtaposition of literary and daily affairs in poems that bridge the gap between intellectual and everyday experience, making Poet in a Pin-stripe Suit widely accessible to all.

Richard W. Wise
Adelaide Books
9781951214753, $27.10 HC, $19.60 PB, $7.99 Kindle,

Redlined: A Novel of Boston is set in 1974 and focuses on the Jamaica Plain section of town. This area has been redlined by banks, due to the housing market's crash, which sets the stage for racial steering and blockbusting, prompting the transition from a healthy neighborhood to a slum. Abandoned buildings proliferate as crime rises.

When a building is burned and the body of a community activist is uncovered, fellow community organizer and Marine combat veteran Jedidiah Flynt and assistant Alexis Jordan become determined to stop the destruction of the neighborhood. They assume the role of amateur investigators who probe the arson and death with a focus and determination reflective of their abilities.

All too soon, however, adversity strikes even closer to home. Jedediah and Alexis face their own prejudices, pasts, and the initial discomfort of a forthright, sexual woman confronting a former Marine already uncomfortable with the power women have assumed in society and the workplace. These experiences capture the first phase in the blossoming women's movement that was to change many of these roles.

This interpersonal interplay of emotions sets the stage for a dual confrontation as the unlikely team forays into unfamiliar territory both personally and politically.

At first, Redlined reads with the setup and motivation of a murder mystery. Readers are in for a bigger treat, however, because Richard W. Wise incorporates real, contemporary social issues and tensions into this story, along with a special dynamic between the investigators, which elevates his read beyond a typical whodunit.

From Jedediah's ability to face Alex's charge that he is a "consummate opportunist' whose worldview affects his life choices and taints his perspective to their shared zeal and campaign, the politics which plays dirty tricks behind the scenes in Boston affairs, and gang members (a coalition of actors; real estate agents, developers, crime syndicate, who make money from the destruction of an urban neighborhood) who play a key part in community choices and makeup, Richard W. Wise tailors the kind of story that is steeped as much in Boston's unique cultural and social makeup as it is in community struggles to change it.

While investigative mystery readers will be the likely audience of Redlined, the story will especially appeal to women who like their characters strong and purposeful. Another audience will be readers familiar with Boston's cultural milieu, who will find Redlined an absorbing series of conundrums that lead ever deeper into the heart of a community's manipulations, politics, and social interactions. Highly recommended.

John Casey
Adelaide Books
1951214056, $27.40 Hardcover
1950437019, $22.30 Paperback

Devolution is the first book in a spy thriller series by John Casey and tells of Michael Dolan, a staffer at the Pentagon who is approached by the CIA to use his unique skills to stop a terrorist attack in Europe. Now an undercover agent, Dolan finds himself tasked not only with a threat to society, but a threat to his own carefully constructed psychological state of mind.

As cat-and-mouse espionage games play out, Dolan employs his tech-savvy prowess and ability along with his military background and political experience to navigate dangerous waters indeed.

The story doesn't open with Dolan's life or abilities, however. It sets the stage for events to come by presenting the efforts of agent Lauren Rhodes, who coordinates a mission that involves deploying a new deadly device. It's a mission seven months in the making which thus far has seen no success, with only loosely linked evidence and spy material to show for a concerted effort.

Once Dolan enters this complex picture, the story becomes much more than one of espionage and spy games. John Casey injects a healthy note of psychological self-inspection into Dolan's efforts. This creates added value in presenting a character who is a cut above the usual seasoned spy.

Dolan inspects many facets of his psyche and brings readers along for his self-revealing ride: "He'd also heard that one wouldn't dream about doing something they wouldn't do in real life. Not that you wouldn't want to do it or think about doing it. It's more accurate to say one wouldn't ever do something in a dream that they wouldn't dare to do when awake, like committing murder. Which led him to wonder, why was he was prevented from helping his friend? In a real situation he would, without hesitation. Instead he freezes, his friend is killed gruesomely and he wakes up sweating, eyes wide and heart pounding. It was an evil dream. It scared him. He hated it and wished it would go away. And he also liked it."

As the story unfolds, this extra psychological inspection keeps Dolan's character believable and complex, inviting readers into the action using an emotional component designed to keep them engaged in the step-by-step moments of his experiences: "Dolan's heart rate had slowed by the time he was back to his original hiding place in front of the house. He felt confident he now had the upper hand and he was fully in his zone. He hadn't felt this way since Afghanistan, and he welcomed it like an old, dear friend. He was calm. Precise. Lethal."

Committed to his mission, Dolan never gives up and always does his best. That edict is challenged and changed by circumstances that keep readers on edge and thoroughly involved.

Those seeking a seat-of-your pants thriller that avoids the usual formula character and writing in favor of something refreshingly different will find Devolution a fine story that is riveting and hard to put down.

Dharma: A Rekha Rao Mystery
Vee Kumari
Great Life Press
9781938394423, $14.95, PB, 302pp
978193839443, $4.99 Ebook,

Dharma: A Rekha Rao Mystery features Rekha Rao, a thirty-something Indian American professor of art history who faces many conundrums. Her father has been murdered, her family is fixated on getting her a beau to marry, and she's struggling with PTSD while recovering from an abusive relationship.

Any of these situations would be cause enough for angst. The last thing Rekha needs is to become involved in another murder and its investigation, but her background in art history may reveal the clues needed to find the real perp in both cases. And so Rekha embarks on a journey that places her squarely on an investigative hot seat.

From a cross-dresser whose lies could hide either a hidden impulse or a murder to a suspect list that continues to grow, Rekha's skills and psyche are assaulted by moves that place her in danger and threaten her carefully built recovery from PTSD.

As she probes the murder and its connection to an art relic, the idol of the Hindu Goddess Durga, Rekha struggles with her own attraction to the fiery detective on the case, her family's attempts to choose an appropriate Indian suitor as her next beau, and a sense of duty that keeps her questioning apparent truths about the real murderer's identity.

Dharma is a lively story about duty, discovery, and growth as much as it is a murder mystery steeped in Indian tradition, yet set in Los Angeles.

Vee Kumari does an outstanding job of weaving the process of Rekha's awakening and various avenues to romance with her pursuit of truth, both in the murder cases and in her own life. This juxtaposition of goals and values keeps the story fast-paced for mystery readers, yet involving for those who look for cultural insights and psychological growth in their protagonists and stories.

Dharma's powerful female character is not only intellectual and clever, but fuels the engrossing romance story of a woman deciding between two very different suitors. It will please those seeking strong characterization that drives an underlying story of intrigue and revelation.

The Benevolent Lords of Sometimes Island
Scott Semegran
Mutt Press
9781087878645, $15.99 Paper/ $3.99 ebook

It's 1986 in Texas, and a war is being conducted by two groups of boys who find themselves stranded on an island with a battle raging between them.

The Benevolent Lords of Sometimes Island could serve as the poster child for a psychology class in group dynamics. Scott Semegran's story, narrated in the first person by young suburbanite William Flynn, adopts a sense of slow horror reminiscent of the approach of Stephen King. All appears frighteningly normal at first, but evolves into a dangerous situation cemented by adversity and isolation in a dangerous pairing of events.

The groups of middle school kids in question already harbor relationships 'as thick as thieves', as the young narrator observes. This lends to the dilemma as this close-knit band of buddies confronts something dangerously beyond their middle-America experience. Semegran's choice of voice for this narration is compelling, setting the story's unique feeling and atmosphere from the start: "Earlier, I said that middle school was the time in my life when I first experienced real danger, but I failed to recall a time in my life during elementary school when, in fact, I also experienced something quite dangerous. Sorry I didn't mention it earlier, but that's how it goes with memories sometimes. They can appear and disappear in your mind like fireflies dancing across your front lawn on a warm spring night."

Remember: this is a slow-building horror story. It takes the proper time to build moments of levity, play, and unsuspecting encounters into its percolating plot about dangerous changes and situations. This is one of the outstanding features that makes William's story feel compellingly realistic.

As events unfold and challenges evolve beyond the usual childhood conflicts, readers are treated to a crazy adventure involving the threat of the Thousand Oaks Gang, the added impact of a setting that encourages deadly truths to emerge, and the changing perspective of a middle grade boy well on his way to becoming an adult.

Semegran's cultivation of a first-person voice that is evocative and compelling drives the story line and makes for an absorbing read fueled by William's very real reactions to his changed life: "Here's the thing about adulation for an introvert: it's kryptonite. After about an hour of stares from strange students and congratulatory handshakes from grinning teachers, I was ready to cover myself in the sheet of anonymity that a ghostly wallflower like me enjoyed so much. Being anonymous is only truly appreciated after it's gone. I guess if I learned anything that day, it was this: I didn't want to be famous."

Middle grade leisure readers are in for a treat. Adult teachers and literary readers should also consider using some of the ideas in this story for classroom discussion, debate, and education, much as Lord of the Flies was used as an iconic literary representation of group dynamics.

It's a highly recommended, superb example of psychological twists and interpersonal encounters gone awry.

Welcome to the Darkside: A BDSM Primer
Rajan Dominari
AKO Publishing Company
9781734527100, $12.99


Barnes & Noble:



First, a definition: BDSM is an acronym that stands for Bondage/Discipline, Domination/Submission and Sadism/Masochism. Welcome to the Darkside: A BDSM Primer is an introduction to this topic and its sexual applications, presenting a positive, supportive spin for those who want to explore their less sexually accepted inclinations: "BDSM is ultimately about two or more people trusting and caring for one another, sometimes expressing this via erotic play sessions. This is one of the reasons I feel that BDSM is so attractive to those that want to become involved with it."

Readers receive candid, graphic descriptions of the interplay between partners and will appreciate descriptions of the underlying emotional interactions which accompany these sexual plays and choices: "Selfishness and self-importance are synonymous in the case of damaging personality traits to have when you're trying to be submissive. Most new and/or untrained submissives tell themselves that they won't submit unless they get something in return."

There's a fine line between those with experience and knowledge of BDSM practices and newcomers. Rajan Dominari takes the time to thoroughly explore this difference between individuals and in group situations.

From clear explanations of BDSM's common terminology and its overt and underlying meanings to the etiquette of how to act, react, and new ways of considering the opportunities in sexual exploration, Welcome to the Darkside cultivates an approach that is candid, sexually and emotionally explicit, and leaves nothing to wonder about how the process works.

The advice goes beyond this book to address common issues of becoming part of such a community, including gaining a mentor who will support such explorations: "I think mentors are awesome. They help you navigate a community that's likely new to you, and they are a useful resource for learning the etiquette and language of BDSM. ... To make sure that your potential mentor has good intentions, you should lay out two simple rules: no play and no sex. A real mentor wouldn't want these things anyway, and any mentor worth their salt knows this as well, so if they refuse, you know where they stand."

The result is a guide that covers the entire definition, approaches, individual and group interactions, social and sexual meaning and makeup of BDSM. It's a rare collection of guidelines that will prove especially essential to those newly entering this world.

Charleston Green
Stephanie Alexander
Bublish, Inc.
9781647040505, $14.99 Paperback
9871647040512, $4.99 Ebook


Barnes and Noble:

Communicating with the dead is not on her list of things to do, but in Charleston Green Tipsy discovers that her new home harbors unexpected guests whose union is not only stormy, but creates a special posthumous angst because wife Jane believes Henry killed her and then accusation Henry vehemently denies.

'Psychic investigator' was also not a role Tipsy expected to play, but as she's drawn into the history of Jane and Henry's dilemma, she probes not only the circumstances of their deaths but their personalities, secrets, and motivations.

Stephanie Alexander does an outstanding job of not only outlining a mystery and the dilemma of a psychic who would rather not imbibe in the problems of the afterlife as she faces her own relationship and family dilemmas, but who finds her own psyche buffeted by too many emotional entanglements.

Tipsy is a struggling artist who never gets the time to fully realize her talents, she's broke, and she's on edge because the everyday world and her psychic connections keep colliding, especially around Henry's techno-puzzles.

As she struggles to maintain equilibrium with new beau Will and forge a new life for herself, she comes to find that her future happiness is intrinsically tied just to not her own past, but her ability to uncover the truth about Henry and Jane.

Stephanie Alexander's story holds other strong features: a wry sense of observational humor, encounters with other ghosts where she can make a difference (such as freeing young Luisa from her haunting ways), and handling cantankerous twins.

Readers will appreciate Alexander's attention to detail, drama, and the interactions and concerns of both worlds, and will find the mystery woven into the story a nice icing on the descriptions of Tipsy's life.

It would be a shame to limit Charleston Green to either readers of psychic fiction or mystery fans. These audiences, as well as historical fiction readers and those who want a romp through life and the influences of afterlife, will find Charleston Green a thoroughly engrossing saga.

Simply Amazing Women
K.C. Armstrong
WMAP Publishing
9781734705805, $28.99 HC
9781734705829, $19.99 PB, 198pp
9781734705812, $8.99 Kindle,

If ever there was a good time to publish an inspirational collection of stories, it's now. Simply Amazing Women is about choosing the kinds of responses during adversity that translate to survival and courage. While these mini-biographies were compiled before Covid-19, they highlight the ongoing need for inspiration now as never before, and are intended, like those in its predecessor Simply Amazing Special Author's Edition, to provide the encouragement to not just go on with life, but make it the best possible.

The examples posed by these women all demonstrate paths to rising above adversity. Readers receive a survey filled with intense battles involving self-healing, transformation, and the kind of self-improvement that leads to helping others both through example and by outward-oriented effort.

Take 'A Mother's Love', a hard-hitting interview with mother Marcy Stone about an amazing journey into motherhood against all odds. K.C. Armstrong's interview here is designed to follow the building blocks of how Marcy Stone evolved her life perspective and came to rely on it to face and overcome many obstacles in her life. From how she overcomes impossible predictions to her realizations of what it really means to be a mother, her story is filled with insights readers will find hard-hitting, remarkable, and clear in their progressive learning opportunities.

Another thoroughly engrossing piece is 'A Song of Gratitude', an interview with Dr. Feyi Obamehinti, who met her abusive mother for the first time at age 16. Dr. Obamehinti's life experience not only led her to become a prominent Christian figure serving as an example for other women, but helped her build a strong family without many of the challenges she faced as a child: "Sometimes, we have to become what we never had. For me, that meant being a loving, caring and present mother for our daughters."

As these remarkable lives unfold through interviews designed to pinpoint the origins of their strengths and perspectives, readers are treated to a moving, inspirational account offering various strategies for overcoming adversity.

As a new world replete with fear, death, and division emerges, there is no better time for reading and considering this book's underlying message about not just survival, but building and rebuilding a better life from the ashes of disaster.

Very highly recommended as a torchlight guiding the way to transformation.

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

Gary Roen's Bookshelf

A Stranger In The House
Shari Lapena
Penguin Books
c/o Penguin Random House
9780735221130, $16.00,

"A Stranger In The House" begins with a car crash that sends a woman to the hospital. When she awakes, she has no memory of why she had the collision. As the story unfolds it takes many complicated twists and turns to the final surprising ending. Shari Lapena is a master of suspense and "A Stranger In The House" is a rapid fire, on all cylinders, thriller that delivers on every page.

Someone We Know
Shari Lapena
Pamela Dorman Books
c/o Viking
c/o Penguin Random House
9780525557654, $27.00,

"Someone We Know" opens with a husband calling the police to find his missing wife. Later her body is found, beginning an investigation to find her killer. There is also a teenager who breaks into neighbors' homes just for the fun of it. He stumbles onto something that ties into the death of the woman but can't admit his crime. Complicating his situation further, his mother finds out about his doings circulating an anonymous letter to several of his victims, that stirs up a hornet's nest with some of them. Shari Lapena handles the intricate plot of "Someone We Know" masterfully keeping the reader turning pages to the very end where once again she concludes with a surprising ending.

The Holdout
Graham Moore
Random House
9780399591778, $28.00,

"The Holdout" holds your interest the same as the classic "12 Angry Men" all the way to the end. Maya Seale is a holdout juror who convinces others to find the defendant not guilty. Ten years later she is a practicing attorney because of her experience. She is contacted by one of the members who claims he has new evidence that he would like to share with all of the others in a sort of reunion. He is doing a true crime docuseries that he intends to broadcast. Before he can though, he is murdered in Maya's hotel room with her as the number 1 suspect. "The Holdout" races along between the years of the past and present with solid story telling with characters who are all hiding something that becomes evident as the novel unfolds. "The Holdout" is gripping suspense that will have readers rapidly turning the pages to get to the shattering ending.

Something In The Water
Catherine Steadman
Ballantine Books
c/o Penguin Random House
9781524797676, $17.00,

Erin and Mark are on their honeymoon in Bora Bora, enjoying the sights and sounds of the area. While scuba diving, they find something below the surface that will change their lives forever. You know you are in for a great read in "Something In The Water" with the very first line "Have you ever wondered how long it takes to dig a grave?" From there, the story is a nail biting suspenseful read to the very end. The story twists and turns with many surprises that keep the pages turning. Many of us will remember Catherine Steadman for her portrayal of Mable Lane Fox in the mega hit series Downton Abbey. Now, she branches out to be a first-time author with the fantastic thrilling tale "Something In The Water" that is perfect summer reading fare.

L. Ron Hubbard Writers Of The Future Volume 36
Edited by David Farland
Galaxy Press
9781981619866591, $15.95, www,

The 36th Volume of "Writers Of The Future" is a bit different in several ways from past ones. To begin with the lavish artwork spawned a short story by an established author instead of being from one of the newer authors. Then there are several tales by established authors including Hubbard himself. The yarns and art here, are from some of the newest crop of genre writers who can only go up in their careers. "Writers of the Future" is the gold standard of emerging talent into the field of science fiction fantasy that has contributed more to the genre than any other source.

We Had To Be Brave Escaping the Nazis on the Kindertransport
Deborah Hopkinson
Scholastic Focus
c/o Scholastic
9781338255720, $18.99,

"We Had To Be Brave" chronicles an aspect of the Holocaust, few of us have ever known about, until now. Hopkinson meticulously details Kindertransport, a movement established that saved the lives of ten thousand Jewish children trapped in Germany and Austria, in the years of 1938-1939, providing them a way to escape the Nazi regime to other countries including Great Brittan and United States. It was also thru many of their parents who were committed to saving their children any way they could. Most of the parents lost their lives in the death camps but some were reunited with their offspring after the end of the war. The first hand accounts shed new attention to the atrocities committed throughout Europe by the Nazis to eliminate one group of people based on one man's insane desires. Though "We Had To Be Brave" depicts one of humanities darkest hour, it shows another more positive side of civilization's kindness of individuals forsaking everything to save others. "We Had To Be Brave" is not just for young people, but all ages, that, should be included in all courses about the Holocaust, as well as Judaic studies to dispel the Nay Sayers who believe the atrocity never occurred. Based on "We Had To Be Brave" and other writings, and media, I say to them "Never Again."

Stolen Justice
Lawrence Goldstone
Scholastic Focus
c/o Scholastic
557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012
9781338323481, $18.99,

"All men are created equal." So wrote the founding fathers of this country. "Stolen Justice" dispels those well-intentioned words, throughout the work, by showing how African Americans have been treated thru the country's history. Utilizing such things as voting rights, the author takes readers through the ups and downs, of times when certain politicians gave many different benefits to blacks, that, almost as soon as given, were rescinded. It has been a constant fight that is still going on today. "Stolen Justice" is for all ages to read to learn more about a darker period of the United States history that should be included in all types of courses to reshape our race relations.

Emancipated: My Family's Fight For Freedom
Cheryl Wills
Lightswitch Learning
c/o Susman Education/Lightswitch Learning
9781682653548, $14.95,

Award winning journalists Cheryl Wills, reveals details of her own family, tracing back to her great-great-great grandparents, who were freed slaves, due to the Emancipation Proclamation. She also talks about her own life with a father who died when she was a teenager detailing his effect on her life. After his funeral she wanted to know more about her lineage so she made it her mission to research it, through many different means, that is now depicted in "Emancipated: My Family's Fight For Freedom." She learned she had family that fought in many different wars for this country. She also reveals the racism in many forms, that has been carried out along the way. An example is, her great-great-great grandma Emma, fought for and finally won military benefits as the widow of Sandy. It was long in coming but she was able to persevere. "Emancipated: My Family's Fight For Freedom" is a powerful personal struggle by generations of one family through the ages, that is uplifting for so many in these tough times we are going through.

The Emancipation Of Grandpa Sandy Wills
Cheryl Wills
Illustrated by Randell Pearson
Lightswitch Learning
c/o Susman Education/Lightswitch Learning
9781682653036, $18.63,

Many of the details in "The Emancipation Of Grandpa Sandy Wills" are detailed in Cheryl Wills earlier book "Emancipated My Family's Fight For Freedom," but not all. In fact, she imagines a live TV interview with her great, great, great, grandfather. It's a unique way to tell his story that is enhanced with the beautiful artwork. "The Emancipation Of Grandpa Sandy Wills" is for all ages to learn of a darker period of the country's history.

Cheryl Wills
Illustrated by Sue Cornelison
Lightswitch Learning
c/o Susman Education/Lightswitch Learning
9781682656426, $18.63,

NY1 anchor Cheryl Wills tells the story of her great-great-great grandmother Emma, once a slave in Tennessee. Emma, like others, was born into slavery, until The Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 freed all of them. Later she met Sandy her future husband. Emma determined their children would have things she and Sandy were unable to. Examples are knowing the date of their birth, being able to read and write, as well as receive an education to make their lives better. Strong willed she fought for many things she and her family were entitled to. The prose and artwork of "Emma" reveal a story to be told and retold of the power one person has on others.

Gary Roen
Senior Reviewer

Helen Dumont's Bookshelf

How To Live Forever
Kimberly Best
Westbow Press
c/o Thomas Nelson Publishers
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9781973675341, $30.95, HC, 150pp,

Synopsis: The fundamental message underling "How to Live Forever: A Guide to Writing the Final Chapter of Your Life Story" by Kimberly Best is that: Your life is a story, and it's yours to write, all the way through to the end. There are numerous decisions to be made regarding aging, illness, and end-of-life issues, but many people put off those decisions until it's too late. We may be purposeful in planning for our lives, but we often leave the last piece, the final chapter, undefined.

"How to Live Forever" seeks to lay a foundation for people to live well in the time they have, to leave their stories behind as their legacies, and to write their own best ending so that their final wishes can be honored. "How to Live Forever" encourages you to consider what you want the final chapter of your life to look and feel like, providing you with tools and prompts that can help you have difficult conversations regarding legal decisions, health care plans, relationships, and death and dying. If we recognize the finite nature of our days, we can live purposefully, plan ahead for the end of our life story, and die without regret, living fully to the end and finishing well.

Interested readers can visit for additional tools and worksheets to help them to write their own last chapter.

Critique: Expertly written and thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, "How to Live Forever: A Guide to Writing the Final Chapter of Your Life Story" is a life changing, life enhancing read and an inspired and inspiring instruction guide that is unreservedly recommended for community and academic library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "How to Live Forever" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781973675334, $13.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99).

Editorial Note: Kimberly Best is a professional conflict mediator focusing on conflict coaching, family mediation, and elder care mediation. She holds a master's degree in conflict management from Lipscomb University. She spent her early career as a registered nurse in intensive care, trauma, and emergency medicine, where she gained valuable experience in the medical system. A mother and grandmother, she currently lives in Franklin, Tennessee, where she runs her mediation practice.

Don't Forget Me
Steve M. Grant
Morgan James Publishing
11815 Fountain Way, Suite 300, Newport News, VA 23606-4448
9781642795486, $14.95, PB, 168pp,

Synopsis: With the pervasiveness of drugs today and death by overdose as the leading cause of death for people under 50 in the US, almost everyone has been directly or indirectly affected by this drug epidemic. Loving someone with substance abuse can be terrifying.

In "Don't Forget Me: A Lifeline of HOPE for Those Touched by Substance Abuse and Addiction", Steve Grant shares what he learned during his own difficult journey to encourage and guide other parents who are living with children who are struggling with substance abuse.

"Don't Forget Me" tells the story of Steve's two sons, Chris and Kelly, who took distinctly different paths to the same outcome: death by overdose. Steve reveals not only a highlight reel of the things he got right but takes an honest look at the mistakes he made along the way to help other parents avoid those same mistakes.

Of special note is the provision of time-tested, practical suggestions to assure family members of those struggling with substance abuse they have not lost their mind and encourages them to find hope -- even on the darkest days.

Critique: A truly extraordinary, sensitively presented, impressively informative, and deeply personal account, "Don't Forget Me: A Lifeline of HOPE for Those Touched by Substance Abuse and Addiction" should be a part of very community and academic library Grief & Bereavement, Substance Abuse Recovery, and Drug Dependency Recovery collections and supplemental curriculum studies list. It should be noted for students, counselors, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject and/or who are dealing with substance abuse within their own families that "Don't Forget Me" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.49).

Editorial Note: Steve M. Grant is an active volunteer in the community, has been a guest on several podcasts, and is a regularly sought-after speaker with the nonprofit he founded: Chris and Kelly's HOPE Foundation which maintains a web site at

An Almost Zero Waste Life
Megean Weldon
Rock Point
c/o Quarto Publishing Group USA
400 First Avenue North, Suite 400, Minneapolis, MN 55401-1722
9781631066580, $19.99, HC, 176pp,

Synopsis: What is zero waste living is a life style designed to send no waste to landfills. But it should be noted that "zero waste" isn't necessarily about achieving zero waste but reducing waste to a minimum, about changing or altering the way we see the world around us, how we consume, and how we think about waste. It's about making better choices when we can, and working to reduce our overall impact by reducing the amount of packaging and single-use plastics we bring into our life.

Focusing on the positive, "An Almost Zero Waste Life" presents simple ways to reduce waste in every aspect of your life including: Cleaning (recipes for natural cleaners and how to ditch paper towels for good); Meal plans: (weekly menus and recipes for zero waste meals that use bulk pantry staples); Shopping (how to shop zero waste at big chain stores and ways to reduce food packaging); Bathroom (sustainable beauty routine); Recycling (ingenious ways to re-purpose old clothing and how to recycle small metals, like razor blades); Compost (the basics of composting); And so much more!

Reading "An Almost Zero Waste Life" will change the way you see the world around you, how you consume, and how you think about waste for a healthier planet and happier you.

Critique: Packed with practical and inspiring DIY ways to reduce the waste that is a part of modern life for the benefit of ourselves and the environment, "An Almost Zero Waste Life: Learning How to Embrace Less to Live More " fully lives up the promise of its title and is unreservedly recommended for all personal, community, highschool, college, and university library Sustainable Living, How-to & Home Improvements, and Crafts & Hobbies collections in general, and Environmental Studies supplemental curriculum reading lists. It should be noted for students, academia, environmental activists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "An Almost Zero Waste Life" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Megean Weldon is known as The Zero Waste Nerd and has re-evaluated her life to send nearly no trash to the landfill. She started her blog Zero Waste Nerd ( to show her progress of eliminating waste from day one. The transition made her more connected to food, it saved her a lot of money, and it made her healthier.

You Might Die Tomorrow
Kate Manser
Highline House Publishing
9781952018015, $24.99, HC, 230pp,

Synopsis: The underlying message of "You Might Die Tomorrow: Face Your Fear of Death to Live Your Most Meaningful Life" by Kate Manser is that we should forget the idea that death is morbid, and start using it as our greatest motivation to live our best life while we are still alive.
That whether our dream is to quit our job, travel the world, be more present with our children or partner, or just really enjoy our daily life, remembering that (especially in this era of the pandemic) we might die tomorrow is the perspective needed to start really living before we die.

"You Might Die Tomorrow" is comprised of invaluable commentary, entertaining stories, engaging studies, and powerful strategies -- all for the purpose of helping us to face our fear of death and light the fire in our gut to live our most meaningful life possible -- giving as a primary example how Kate herself went from living in fear of death to make it her close friend and best source of clarity.

Critique: An inherently engaging, thoughtful, and ultimately inspiring read, "You Might Die Tomorrow: Face Your Fear of Death to Live Your Most Meaningful Life" is an extraordinary, unique, and unreservedly recommended addition to both community and academic library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "You Might Die Tomorrow" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781952018008, $14.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

Editorial Note: At 30 years old, Kate Manser realized an important truth: Remembering that you might die tomorrow is the best inspiration to live today. After experiencing this radical shift in perspective, Kate quit her job at Google to build You Might Die Tomorrow -- her movement to inspire people at every age to really live before they die. The movement has grown to a fanbase including an anonymous individual who spray-painted the logo on a building in Argentina, the person who hired Kate to speak to the employees of Facebook, and the thousands of people around the world who have the sticker on their cars, laptops, and bathroom mirrors. Interested readers can find more of her work at

Honeymoon Alone
Nicole Macaulay
4B Pub
9781733276900, $16.99, PB, 309pp,

Synopsis: For 26-year-old Lucy Gray, life revolves around her family, friends and a classroom full of third graders. Reliable and responsible, she puts everyone's needs before her own, often without even realizing it. In a chance meeting with the psychic at her sister's 80s-themed wedding, Lucy is confronted with the idea that she is missing out on life and should follow the signs of fate happening all around her. Awakening to this realization, these signs spur Lucy to take a last-minute trip to London, which was the very trip her sister had reserved as a honeymoon backup plan. She'll just have to pretend to be her sister -- what could go wrong?

Once in London, what Lucy hoped to be the getaway she's always dreamed of turns into an adventure she never expected. Tangled in lies and in over her head, she struggles to follow the signs (and her heart) to figure out who she truly is.

Critique: Author Nicole Macaulay reveals a very special knack for humor, charm, and originality as a novelist with "Honeymoon Alone". A thoroughly entertaining and engaging read from beginning to end, "Honeymoon Alone" will prove to be an exceptional and appreciated addition to community library Contemporary Romance Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Honeymoon Alone" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

It's Just Me
Lacey Stockwood
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781727315363, $13.95, PB, 296pp,

Synopsis: "It's Just Me: How I Unmasked a Stalker and Survived Dating Romeos" by Lacey Stockwood is candid memoir that every woman can identify with and that every man will find enlightening. Based on a true story, Lacey walk the reader through her life after being married for twenty years and involved in a long-term relationship and discovering the methods by which men can use spyware to monitor the women they fancy.

Lacey began her quest for love again by jumping onto the roller coaster of dating Romeos. She learned to navigate dating websites as she unveiled the behaviors of those notable men that can cause harm. The craziness continued when she escaped from Hurricane Irma to the regions of South Carolina and Georgia. "It's Just Me" is intended to help other women learn of Lacey's experiences and help them through this ambivalent life in general, and the dating scene in particular.

Critique: An inherently fascinating and candidly informative read from first page to last, "It's Just Me: How I Unmasked a Stalker and Survived Dating Romeos" will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition for both community and academic library Contemporary American Biography collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "It's Just Me" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99).

Editorial Note: Lacey Stockwood is a pseudonym for the real author. She was born and raised in a Christian home in the northern suburbs of the Chicago area. After the end of a twenty year marriage, she found love again while raising her four gregarious children along with entertaining friends. It was a passionate and stormy relationship that turned into heartbreak. Her love for people and the desire to find a sweetheart led her to begin dating again. Throughout the years, Lacey has enjoyed writing songs, plays and children's verse.

An Energy Healer's Book of Dying
Suzanne Worthley
Findhorn Press
c/o Inner Traditions International, Ltd.
One Park Street, Rochester, VT 05767
9781644110324, $14.99, PB, 176pp,

Synopsis: Written by a highly skilled intuitive energy worker, "An Energy Healer's Book of Dying: For Caregivers and Those in Transition" by Suzanne Worthley is compassionate guide reveals what is happening energetically during the transition back to spirit and details how to provide support in any phase of losing a loved one: before death, during the dying process, and afterward.

Taking readers step-by-step through the nine energetic levels of dying, "An Energy Healer's Book of Dying" explains what is happening at each level or dimension energetically, what to watch for in each stage, and specific ways in which we can support our loved ones through their transition back to spirit. For each of the nine stages, Suzanne describes what the dying person may see and experience, including the stages of transition at which people undergo the familiar elements of near-death experiences, such as entering a tunnel, conducting a life review, or encountering angels, guides, loved ones in spirit, or a bright light. She also explores what family members and friends may see and experience, such as spirit energy, and what they can do to offer practical support and emotional solace to their loved one.

Examining how life force energy works as well as what Akashic records and soul contracts are, Suzanne shares hospice case studies for each level of transition, so caregivers can see how belief systems and energy blocks in specific chakras affect the death process and why it is important to clear energy blocks like fear, anger, or guilt during life if possible. Susan also explores the grieving process and offers helpful strategies for moving through it as well as "at-a-glance" reference tables of the nine stages and related healing strategies designed to be referred to by those holding vigil.

Shedding light on one of the great mysteries of existence, "An Energy Healer's Book of Dying" offers a compact yet comforting guide to support caregivers and family members through this emotional, grief-filled, and exhausting time and help bring solace to loved one during the transition back to spirit.

Critique: Informative, inspiring, exceptionally 'reader friendly' in tone, commentary, organization and presentation, "An Energy Healer's Book of Dying: For Caregivers and Those in Transition" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to community and academic library Death & Dying collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "An Energy Healer's Book of Dying: For Caregivers and Those in Transition" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Suzanne Worthley is an energy healing practitioner and intuitive who has focused on death and dying for 20 years. She has played a vital role in partnership with families and hospice teams, helping the dying have a peaceful transition and helping families and caregivers understand what is happening energetically during the death process.

Helen Dumont

John Taylor's Bookshelf

This Difficult Thing of Being Human
Parallax Press
PO Box 7355, Berkeley, CA 94707
9781946764515, $16.95, PB, 224pp,

Synopsis: Being to be kind to yourself may sound like a simple idea, but if you pay attention to your thoughts, habits, and self-talk, you may find that it's more difficult than it sounds.

The intentional practice of self-compassion, outlined in "This Difficult Thing of Being Human: The Art of Self-Compassion " by Buddhist scholar and teacher Bodhipaksa, can help you find greater overall well being, emotional resilience, physical health, and willpower. Bodhipaksa provides both the why and the how of mindful self-compassion, drawing on contemporary psychology and neuroscience and also on Buddhist psychology, weaving the modern and ancient together into a coherent whole.

Contemporary psychologists are focusing less on self-esteem and more on self-compassion. Bodhipaksa, a practicing meditator of more than thirty years, effortlessly blends ancient techniques dating back to the time of the Buddha with the most recent understanding of psychology and neuroscience.

And in the end, as Bodhipaksa writes, it is actually quite simple: "Life is short. Be kind."

Critique: Offering a distinctively Buddhist perspective, "This Difficult Thing of Being Human: The Art of Self-Compassion" will prove to be a welcome and appreciated addition to community and academic library Popular Psychology Counseling and Art Therapy & Relaxation collections and supplemental studies lists. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "This Difficult Thing of Being Human: The Art of Self-Compassion" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99) for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject.

Building: Lessons Learned In Real Estate & Life
Brian Watson
NEWTYPE Publishing
9781949709612, $15.99, PB, 154pp,

Synopsis: Basically a DIY blueprint for personal and professional success, the fundamental message of "Building: Lessons Learned In Real Estate & Life" by real estate developer Brian Watson is that building a successful life is often like constructing a skyscraper. Both require a firm foundation to support the structure rising above it. Both benefit from using the best materials available. And both fulfill the builder s vision with a carefully drafted blueprint based on the collaborative wisdom of others.

Watson knows how this construction process works, for both life and business, and in "Building: Lessons Learned in Real Estate and Life", he persuasively shares some of the design details needed to build the very best life possible.

Critique: Informative, inspiring, practical, and thoroughly reader engaging, "Building: Lessons Learned In Real Estate & Life" is an ideal and unreservedly recommended addition to community library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Building: Lessons Learned In Real Estate & Life" is also readily available in an inexpensive digital book format (Kindle, $0.99).

Editorial Note: As founder and CEO of Northstar Commercial Partners, Brian Watson manages every aspect of his firm s business, from new initiatives to investment strategies, growing a full-service real estate investment and asset management company with property holdings valued at more than $1 billion throughout many states in America.

John Taylor

Mary Cowper's Bookshelf

Pain Studies
Lisa Olstein
Bellevue Literary Press
c/o NYU School of Medicine
550 First Ave., OBV A612, New York, NY 10016
9781942658689, $16.99, PB, 192pp,

Synopsis: "Pain Studies" is essentially an extended lyric essay by Lisa Olstein an academic and poet who mines her own lifelong experience with migraine to deliver a marvelously idiosyncratic cultural history of pain -- how we experience, express, treat, and mistreat it.

Lisa's sources range from the trial of Joan of Arc, to the essays of Virginia Woolf and Elaine Scarry, to Hugh Laurie's portrayal of Gregory House on House M.D. As she engages with science, philosophy, visual art, rock lyrics, and field notes from her own medical adventures (both mainstream and alternative), she finds a way to express the often-indescribable experience of living with pain.

Eschewing simple epiphanies, Olstein instead gives her readers a new language to contemplate and empathize with a fundamental aspect of the human condition.

Critique: Deftly organized and thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation, "Pain Studies" is provides original, informative and inherently interesting commentaries that will hold the readers thoughtful and thought-provoking attention from cover to cover. Especially recommended to the attention of anyone suffering from migraine, "Pain Studies" is particularly recommended for both community and academic library Medical Reference, General Women's Health, and Sociological Study of Medicine collections and supplemental curriculum studies. It should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Pain Studies" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Dreamscape Media, 9781690587415, $19.99, CD).

Editorial Note: Lisa Olstein teaches at the University of Texas - Austin, and is the author of four poetry collections published by Copper Canyon Press: Radio Crackling, Radio Gone, winner of the Hayden Carruth Award; Lost Alphabet, a Library Journal "Best Book of the Year" selection; Little Stranger, a Lannan Literary Selection; and Late Empire. She is a member of the poetry faculty at the University of Texas at Austin where she teaches in the New Writers Project and Michener Center for Writers MFA programs. Olstein also serves as an associate editor for Tupelo Quarterly. Pain Studies is her first book of creative nonfiction.

The Latecomers
Rich Marcello
Back Bay Books
c/o Hachette Book Group
1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104
Blackstone Audio
9780316476881, $16.99, PB, 432pp,

Synopsis: In 1908, sixteen-year-old Bridey runs away from her small town in Ireland with her same-age sweetheart Thom. But when Thom dies suddenly of ship fever on their ocean crossing, Bridey finds herself alone and pregnant in a strange new world.

Forced by circumstance to give up the baby for adoption, Bridey finds work as a maid for the Hollingworth family at a lavish, sprawling estate. It's the dawn of a new century: innovative technologies are emerging, women's roles are changing, and Bridey is emboldened by the promise of a fresh start. She cares for the Hollingworth children as if they were her own, until a mysterious death changes Bridey and the household forever.

For decades, the terrible secrets of Bridey's past continue to haunt the family. And in the present day, the youngest Hollingworth makes a connection that finally brings these dark ghost stories into the light.

Told in interweaving timelines and rich with detailed history, romance and dark secrets, Helen Klein Ross' The Latecomers spans a century of America life and reminds us all that we can never truly leave the past behind.

Critique: An impressively crafted and inherently riveting novel by an author with a very special knack for effective and entertaining narrative driven storytelling, "The Latecomers" by Rich Marcello will prove to be a particularly popular addition to community library General Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Latecomers" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9781549176449, $35.00, CD).

Fight for Love: How to Take Your Marriage Back from Porn
Rosie Makinney
B&H Publishing Group
1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN 37234
9781535967327, $17.99, PB, 208pp,

Synopsis: Pornography is addictive. Pornography is corrosive to the emotional bonds that hold families together. "Fight for Love: How to Take Your Marriage Back from Porn" is a DIY instruction manual and guide that offers a biblical based plan for wives who are seeking to take their marriage back from porn.

Author and psychologist Rosie Makinney reveals: The science behind why your husband struggles to stop watching porn; Why the wrong marital advice will only make things worse; How to help your husband get free and stay free from porn; How to best protect your kids and yourself from porn; What fighting against porn will do for you, your marriage, your family, and your faith.

Makinney's message is that pornography is a billion dollar industry, a national epidemic, seeping into our homes, and taking marriages captive. In the battle against porn, instead of hiding, faith-filled women must engage this issue head-on, armed with a right understanding of biblical truth and their roles as wives and mothers. With God's help and a battle plan in hand, wives and their husbands can face the darkness and emerge victorious, taking back their marriages and families.

Critique: Deftly and aptly dealing with a sensitive subject, "Fight for Love: How to Take Your Marriage Back from Porn" is an extraordinary, effective, and ultimately inspiring read that is especially commended to the attention of woman having to deal with the malignant influence of pornography in a spouse. Specifically recommended for community library Martial Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Fight for Love: How to Take Your Marriage Back from Porn" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.55).

Editorial Note: Rosie Makinney is a writer, speaker, and podcaster, who ten years ago entered the fight against her own husband's compulsive porn use. Through her faithful and uncompromising stance and his repentance, counseling, and group work, their marriage is now porn-free. From the very beginning of her journey, Rosie has been bold and relentless about reaching other wives struggling with porn-invaded marriages. There is now a thriving recovery community on the central coast of California, supervised by her husband, Mark, a certified sexual addiction therapist. Rosie is also the founder of Fight For Love Ministries, which empowers women with both the facts and the faith to fight against porn addiction and its effects on them, their spouses, and their families. Rose also hosts a website at

Trust: Understanding My Why
Deb Richard
Balboa Press
c/o Hay House, Inc.
PO Box 5100, Carlsbad, CA 92018-5100
9781982234430, $19.99, HC, 216pp,

Synopsis: Deb Richard holds a guiding belief that everyone has a gift to give to the world. In "Trust: Understanding My Why", she seeks to help her readers to recognize their gift, embrace its value, and let it guide their purpose.

Based on her years of experience as a pro golfer and executive coach, Deb reveals her journey to find clarity in strengths, purpose, and values. By sharing the stories of her relationships, she invites her readers to reflect, to reconsider, to recommit, to explore, to connect, and to celebrate the self they have to share with others.

In "Trust: Understanding My Why", Deb also tells how she benefitted greatly from the talents, insights, and values of others who invested in her success. It is through those shared experiences she learned to bring her best to those who needed her inspiration. She affirms no journey is complete without struggle, but asserts that through adversity, the light shines brightest on who we have the power to become.

Critique: Informative, thoughtful, inspiring, exceptionally well written and thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation, "Trust: Understanding My Why" is part memoir and part self-help guide -- making it unreservedly recommended for both personal reading lists and community library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections.

Pinot Girl: A Family. A Region. An Industry.
Anna Maria Ponzi
Bristol Press
9781734578805, $17.95 PB, 374pp,

Synopsis: In 1968, California cabaret and French wines ruled the world. That was, at least, until the Ponzis and a handful of other determined visionaries dared to consider wine making in Oregon. Dick and Nancy Ponzi were among the first to grow and process Pinot Noir grapes in the then undiscovered Willamette Valley. They were neither farmers, winemakers, nor businesspeople, but they were motivated by their passion and were determined to realize their dream.

With their three children in tow, the young couple helped the valley to expand into a world-class wine region with an international reputation for revolutionizing American Pinot Noir. Through intimate and candid prose, Anna Maria Ponzi shares an insider's view of this humble beginning -- how a scrappy piece of land developed into a world-renowned wine business.

"Pinot Girl: A Family. A Region. An Industry." by Anna Maria Ponzi is a heartfelt account of the hard work, persistence, ingenuity, and collaboration it took to help establish this now famed wine region, told through the eyes of a young girl who grew up among the vines.

Critique: An inherently fascinating memoir and impressively informative history that will be especially appreciated by knowledgeable connoisseurs of American wines in general, and Pinot Noir in particular, "Pinot Girl: A Family. A Region. An Industry." is especially and unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Pinot Girl: A Family. A Region. An Industry." is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

Honest Answers: Exploring God Questions with Your Tween
Janelle Alberts & Ingrid Faro
Kregel Publications
2450 Oak Industrial Drive, NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49505
9780825446443, $15.99, PB, 224pp,

Synopsis: Somewhere between "Jesus Loves Me" and high school cynicism, the childlike acceptance of pat answers about faith is lost -- often forever. But while many parents find this transitional period daunting, they don't want their kids to leave the Christian faith just because they didn't get good answers to how prayer works or whether dinosaurs were on Noah's ark.

"Honest Answers: Exploring God Questions with Your Tween" by the team of Janelle Alberts and Ingrid Faro is a discussion book specifically designed and intended to help parents tackle the God questions that make them sweat. This isn't the place to come for pat answers that will make their kids nod, smile, and disconnect. Both Janelle and Ingrid know that when tweens start asking questions, they are already old enough to understand the answers. "Honest Answers" will equip parents with the language, theology, permission, and confidence to join in the discussion -- and learn how to offer deeply doctrinal answers in 140 characters or less.

The tween years present an incredible opportunity to build trust with kids and to keep them coming back to their parents for answers rather than finding other sources. With the tools and conversational tips here, mom and dad can engage in a hopeful conversation and help their children build a Christian faith to hold them steady their whole lives.

Critique: Expertly and sensitively written, thoroughly 'parenting friendly' in organization and presentation, "Honest Answers: Exploring God Questions with Your Tween" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to family, church, and community library Christian Parenting collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Honest Answers" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.19).

Called Out
Paula Faris
Bethany House Publishers
c/o Baker Publishing Group
6030 East Fulton Road, Ada, MI 49301
9780764235436, $24.99, HC, 192pp,

Synopsis: The underlying message of Paula Faris in her new book "Called Out: Why I Traded Two Dream Jobs for a Life of True Calling" is that all too often we lean into the wrong things and burn out. We buy society's lie that our worth is our work, our value is our vocation, our calling is our career. Confusing what we do with who we are wreaks havoc on our bodies, our souls, and our relationships.

A deeply personal memoir, "Called Out" is the candid and deeply personal story of Paula Faris, the beloved on-air reporter for ABC News and former co-host of The View. In "Called Out" she shares her journey through conquering fears that nearly kept her from the high-profile, high-stakes world of broadcast journalism, and then the dangers when that world threatened to consume her. She burned out and faced public humiliation, physical breakdowns, and family struggles. But along the way, she heard God gently calling her out of that dangerous place. As she struggled to find who she was outside of what she did, she discovered her true purpose and true calling. Today, she is the host of ABC's popular podcast Journeys of Faith.

Written with passion and conviction, "Called Out" reflects on what it truly means to be called, how to move past the fear holding you back, and how to walk in God's path for you.

Critique: Inherently engaging and ultimately inspiring, "Called Out: Why I Traded Two Dream Jobs for a Life of True Calling" is an extraordinary and highly recommended addition to both community and academic library Contemporary American Biography collections in general, and Christian Inspirational studies in particular. It should also be noted for personal reading lists that "Called Out" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.99).

Mary Cowper

Micah Andrew's Bookshelf

Correctional Health Care Delivery: Unimpeded Access to Care
Kenneth L. Faiver
Charles C. Thomas, Publisher
2600 South First Street, Springfield, IL 62704
9780398093228, $44.95, PB, 306pp,

Synopsis: The current coronavirus pandemic has made stark the proposition that each person confined in jails, prisons, and juvenile detention facilities must be afforded unimpeded access to needed health care. Such persons, without risk of interference or fear of reprisal, should be able to alert health care staff of a medical need, obtain a timely professional evaluation of that need, and receive treatment in the manner prescribed by a competent provider.

Simply stated, this current pandemic makes it clear that no correctional officer should ever prevent, impede, or inhibit anyone from alerting a health care provider of a perceived need for health services, even though the officer may believe the request is trivial, fictitious, or undeserved.

"Correctional Health Care Delivery: Unimpeded Access to Care" focuses on access to health care services by special populations in correctional institutions (women, youths, elderly, persons with dementia, and the terminally ill), which includes important information on privatization in corrections.

The topics covered in "Correctional Health Care Delivery: Unimpeded Access to Care" include: the context, principles, balance and implications of correctional health care, including the recent detention of immigrants in the United States; the unimpeded access to care, enhancements, stress reductions, health literacy, culture, ethnicity, religion, intake health screening, medical clearance for transfer or release, medications and clinical appointments, emergency care services, special settings, copayments, and budgeting for health care services; privatization, contracts, evaluating bids, monitoring the contract, and minimizing adverse risks; special health concerns of incarcerated women, communicable disease, pregnancy-related concerns, aging, frailty, osteoporosis, mental health, cosmetic concerns, health education and job assignments; youth in corrections, hygiene, exercise, gender-specific needs of young women, informed consent, supervision of vulnerable youth, substance abuse treatment, and the community connection; special health needs and humane care and alternative care of the aging; the prevalence, person-centered care, elements of care, environment, restraints, visits, and the ethics of incarcerating persons with dementia.

"Correctional Health Care Delivery: Unimpeded Access to Care" concludes with end-of-life care in prison, hospice, palliative care, and compassionate release. It will serve as an invaluable tool for correctional officers, health care providers, justice and legal professionals, social workers, mental health professionals, and counselors.

Critique: Expertly written, organized and presented, "Correctional Health Care Delivery: Unimpeded Access to Care" is an ideal curriculum textbook and given the current pandemic's impact on American prisons and jails, and absolutely mandatory addition to personal, professional, governmental, college, and university library Criminology & Penology collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Chinese Travelers to the Early Turkish Republic
Giray Fidan
Markus Wiener Publishers
231 Nassau Street, Princeton, NJ 08542
9781558766358, $64.95, HC, 152pp,

Synopsis: In the first quarter of the 20th century, China was in turmoil, facing an existential crisis. Chinese politicians and intellectuals looked to the Turkish Republic as a role model. Turkey defeated foreign invading forces and renegotiated unfair treaties, adapted to the modern world, and initiated series of reforms in all walks of life. Chinese travelers chronicled their observations, and included the notes of Shi Zhaoji, the first Chinese ambassador to the US, and Hu Hanmin, an early leader in the Kuomintang.

Critique: Enhanced for academia with the inclusion of an eight page Glossary, two pages of Notes, and a one page note 'About the Editor and Translator', "Chinese Travelers to the Early Turkish Republic" by Giray Fidan is an impressively informative and expertly written, organized and presented study that is a unique and especially recommended addition to community and academic library Chinese and Turkish History collections and supplemental studies curriculums. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, scholars, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Chinese Travelers to the Early Turkish Republic" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781558766365, $22.95).

Editorial Note: Giray Fidan of Haci Bayram Veli University, Ankara, is the author of numerous books and articles on topics that include "Chinese Witness of the Young Turk Revolution: Kang Youwei's Turk Travelogue".

Micah Andrew

Michael Dunford's Bookshelf

Fights: One Boy's Triumph Over Violence
Joel Christian Gill
Oni Press
9781549303357, $19.99, PB, 256pp,

Synopsis: Joel Christian Gill is Associate Professor of Illustration at Massachusetts College of Art and Design where he teaches, draws comics, researches black history, shares stories and beliefs at #28daysarenotenough

"Fights: One Boy's Triumph Over Violence" is the visceral and deeply affecting memoir of artist/author Joel Christian Gill, chronicling his youth and coming of age as a Black child in a chaotic landscape of rough city streets and foreboding backwoods.

Propelled into a world filled with uncertainty and desperation, young Joel is pushed toward using violence to solve his problems by everything and everyone around him. But fighting doesn't always yield the best results for a confused and sensitive kid who yearns for a better, more fulfilling life than the one he was born into, as Joel learns in a series of brutal conflicts that eventually lead him to question everything he has learned about what it truly means to fight for one's life.

Critique: An impressively depicted and intensely personal memoir presented in a graphic novel format by author/illustrator Joel Christian Gill, "Fights: One Boy's Triumph Over Violence" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to both community and academic library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Fights: One Boy's Triumph Over Violence" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle & comiXology, $13.99).

Tricky Logic Puzzles for Adults
Steven Clontz
Rockridge Press
9781646111459, $12.99, PB, 180pp,

Synopsis: Steven Clontz is a mathematician, professor, and puzzle designer. His puzzles and games have been featured by the National Museum of Mathematics and the international puzzle events DASH and Puzzled Pint. He also serves as director of Mathematical Puzzle Programs, which has designed and organized puzzle events at college campuses and math camps around the world.

In "Tricky Logic Puzzles for Adults: 130+ Difficult Puzzles to Challenge Your Brain", Clontz draws upon his years of experience and expertise to showcase a variety of puzzle types (including Sudoku, Masyu, Logic Grids, and Nonograms) in an easy-to-understand (but tough-to-solve) format. These are DIY puzzles that will help keep your mind sharp as you remain engaged and entertained for days to come.

"Tricky Logic Puzzles for Adults" includes: A plethora of logic puzzles for adults all packed into one portable package; True brain-busters that will stretch your abilities with puzzles that are designed to be tough (even for master puzzlers!); Options to banish boredom with several types of puzzles, including math-focused Calcudoku and innovative Cryptic Puzzles that require both code breaking and creative thinking.

Critique: An ideal way to pass the time when confined by the present pandemic, "Tricky Logic Puzzles for Adults: 130+ Difficult Puzzles to Challenge Your Brain" is very highly recommended for the personal collections of all puzzle solving enthusiasts.

Michael Dunford

Nancy Lorraine's Bookshelf

Project Anasazi
Michael Brian O'Hara, author
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781728327709, $28.99 PB, $3.99 Kindle, 481pp.
9781728327686, $39.99, HC, 504pp,

"Project Anasazi" is a completely believable science fiction version of what might have been underlying facts in a recorded incident in 1947 referred to as the Roswell incident, incorporating a theory of the origin of the mysteriously advanced Anasazi indigenous people, extinct or absorbed by other tribes for hundreds of years. "Project Anasazi" brings vivid details and rapidly moving action spiced with minimalist dialogue between characters from the fields of the military, indigenous studies, local f course, indigenous people, and the public, including the press.

Brad Davis is a man obsessed with investigating the source and story of the Anasazi, determined to follow his visionquest wherever it leads, near Magdalena and Horse Springs, New Mexico. His girl friend, Susan Adams, Brad's girl friend, follows him into the web spun of half truths, fictions, and suppressed information that surround a mysterious site near some supposed cliff dwellers' buildings in the area. Running Horse and his mother, Little River, are helpful Native Americans who seem to possess keys to the mystery of the area. They warn Brad and offer him the protection of a rattlesnake bracelet to wear when they discover his determination to investigate a strange area near Magdalena that slides in and out of focus, with profoundly confusing impact on passers by such as stopping time, reversing reality, self cloaking devices, and much more.

Add to the mix two FBI agents, Parker and Nelson, who are government licensed assassins, and even more interesting plot and subplot developments intensify the story. What eventually transpires bring clarity to all the mysterious events and sightings and happenings that precede the narrative of the Anasazi Project and its ultimate resolution. Intrigue, ancient astronauts, galactic peace mission workers, and even alien techniques to restore health, life, and years to the already deceased are themes explored in this masterful science fiction narrative of possible space saucer sightings. Readers will be immersed in the story from beginning to end, and a small tip suggests that the hero, Brad Davis, may be involved in future partnership with the Daconians, travelers from a planet in a galaxy far, far away.

Celtic Women
Putumayo World Music
9781587594373, $14.95, CD,

This beautiful CD album of Celtic women that includes Emily Smith, Karen Matheson, Cara Dillon, Capercaillie, Maightread, Triona Ni Dhomhnaill, Lasairfhiona, Cathie Ryan, Eilis Kennedy, Rebecca Pidgeon, and Rose Laughlin is a tempting sampler of current performers in Gaelic, in Scotland, Ireland, and North America.

The songs comprising "Celtic Women" include "Take You Home," "Ca Na Dh'fjag Thu M'ghichead Gini," The Hill of Thieves,"Ailein Duinn Nach Till Thu An Taobh-Seo," Spanish lady, Du O Deighdil Lom," "Garden Valley," Cailin Mo Runsa, Ghear a Bhara," and "Wild Mountain Thyme."

These songs are a blend of traditional, regional arias from places as far away as the outer Hebrides, and original works in traditional styles. Accompanying artists add dimension, sensitivity, and depth to all the stunning vocal performances. The CD notes and lyrics include references to further works of each artist.

The music is tuneful, lulling, enchanting, poignant, and rich. The purpose of such a sampler must surely be to tempt new listeners to explore specific artists' works further, and as such, "Celtic Women" is destined to succeed. For a wonderful treat in Celtic comfort tunes and smooth listening, give a listen to "Celtic Women."

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Paul Vogel's Bookshelf

Perilous Escape
Chaskel Wyszkowski
Urim Publications
c/o KTAV Publishing House
527 Empire Boulevard, Brooklyn, New York 11225
9781602803510, $19.95, HC, 171pp,

Synopsis: "Perilous Escape: My Journey from Nazi Europe to Freedom" is the true and compelling account of Dr. Chaskel Wyszkowski and his courageous escape from Poland in the dark years of World War II.

Separated from his mother and younger brother during the Nazi blitzkrieg of Europe, and the grandson of the illustrious Rebbe of Modzitz in Otwock, Poland, "Perilous Escape" takes us on Chaskel's journey through Vilna, Japan, Australia, Israel, and eventually to New York City where he was able to settle down and raise a family. His fully engaging narrative is enhanced with the inclusion of over 130 photos, documents and newspaper clippings, each one a testimony to his incredible bravery, love of Israel, deep faith in G-d, love for his family and ultimate success.

Critique: An invaluable addition to the growing library of World War II based Jewish memoirs and biographies, "Perilous Escape: My Journey from Nazi Europe to Freedom" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, community and academic library Holocaust collections and supplemental studies lists.

Editorial Note: Dr. Chaskel Wyszkowski is a retired teacher of Jewish History. He studied at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and received a BA at Yeshiva University. Dr. Wyszkowski has a MA and Ph.D. in Jewish Studies from Bernard Revel Graduate School and served as Chairman of the Jewish History department at Flatbush Yeshiva from 1970-2002, retiring to Deerfield Beach, Florida in 2009. He also taught at NYU, Brooklyn College and Empire State College. Other publications by the author include A Community in Conflict - American Jewry during the Great European Immigration; The Modzitzer Rebbe; and Mishkan Avraham, a collection of his father's writings. This autobiography is a legacy for his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren and a testament to the growth and success of post-WWII European Jewry.

My Dyslexic Life
Scott Douthit
Robert D. Reed Publishers
PO Box 1992, Bandon, OR 97411
9781944297602, $12.95, PB, 150pp,

Synopsis: Today, researchers estimate that between five and twenty percent of the population is affected by dyslexia. This growing awareness and understanding of different learning styles has changed the lives of tens of millions of people.

When Scott Douthit was growing up in the 1960s, though, no one could explain why it was so difficult for him to succeed in the one-size-fits-all schools he attended. "My Dyslexic Life: A Journey Out of the Shadows" is the deeply moving account of Scott's struggles and triumphs, and invites the reader to consider new ways of overcoming barriers to accomplishment and understanding, both for themselves and others.

At once entertaining and touching, "My Dyslexic Life" offers an intimate glance into the life, mind, and heart of a courageous individual. Scott's story serves as a reminder that the norms, standards, and expectations of society are a work in progress, and that it is within our power to make them more humane and compassionate.

Critique: A truly extraordinary and deeply personal memoir, "My Dyslexic Life: A Journey Out of the Shadows" is exceptionally well written, organized and presented, making it an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to both community and academic library collections, as well as the personal reading lists for anyone having to deal with dyslexia within them selves or a loved one.

Editorial Note: Scott Douthit was born in Fairbanks, Alaska and grew up in Berkeley, California, where he discovered the joy of acting in high school. Crossing the bay, he graduated from San Francisco State University and earned his teaching credential, which has since been put to good use at Charles Armstrong School in Belmont, California. Mr. Douthit's passion for the stage and his creative teaching style have energized and engaged Armstrong students for more than thirty-five years. As a proud dyslexic learner himself, he shares Armstrong's mission to empower and unlock the unique potential of those with dyslexia and other learning differences.

Paul T. Vogel

Richard Blake's Bookshelf

Soaking in the Spirit Effortless Access to Hearing God's Voice, Intimacy with the Father, and Supernatural Healing
Carol Arnott
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768448801, $14.99 148 pages

Prayer, Spiritual Growth, Charismatic

Carol Arnott's "Soaking in the Spirit" is a how to manual containing:

New Revelations on Resting, Abiding, and Tarrying in the Presence of God

Access to the Healing Power of the Holy Spirit

Keys to hear God speak

I found the book to be an interesting dichotomy, combining activation exercises that teach you to discover the supernatural power of spiritual rest. I was challenged to consider radical new ways to discover my own identity, develop a hunger to know God more intimately, and to connect with the spirit,

Profound, soul searching question in the Activation section at the end of each chapter is filled with practical pointers, and key guidelines for connecting with God's presence.

The Forewords by Beni Johnson and Heidi Baker add credence to the principle and experience of "Soaking in the Spirit" and the blessing they received from Carol Arnott's friendship and example.

"Soaking in the Spirit Effortless Access to Hearing God's Voice, Intimacy with the Father, and Supernatural Healing" is an important book for anyone seeking to develop a lifestyle of abiding in the presence of Father God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.

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

Soaking Encounter Journal - An Interactive Journaling Experience with the Holy Spirit
Carol Arnott
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768454765, $14.99, 130 pages

Devotional Journal, Prayer, Pentecostal, Charismatic

The Soaking Encounter Journal is designed to help the reader respond to prompts and questions, which lead to a better understanding of the experience of soaking as it relates to encountering God while abiding in His presence.

The thought-provoking exercises and prayer can be life-changing, transforming your relationship with the Holy Spirit, empowering and equipping you for a more meaningful ministry. There are some questions we should ask about ourselves, as well as some questions about God that we should consider as we make our application and form our prayers.

Carol helps the reader understand the importance of the Holy Spirit in our relationship with Jesus and the Father. The Holy Spirit is our comforter, friend, teacher, and helper.

There are several vital exercises from the book which I want to incorporate in my prayer life. Carol helped me realize the importance of stillness, taking the time to just wait upon the Lord in an attitude of quietness, of listening, minimizing distractions, allowing the love of God to overflow in my spirit.

The journal is designed for reader interaction and response. Carol suggests that readers write down their response to the time spent in intimate fellowship with the Lord, those times spent being still in His presence.

The book is made up of five sections. Each section prepares the reader for the next level in a natural progression, ultimately leading to a life of holiness and glory.

I highly recommend that everyone who reads Carol's book Soaking in the Spirit will want to purchase the Soaking Encounter Journal as well.

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

Conquering the Spirit of Death Experiencing & Enforcing the Resurrection Power of Jesus
Becky Dvorak
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
PO Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768450583, $16.99, 272 pages

Spiritual Warfare, Prayer, Charismatic, Pentecostal

A quick look at the endorsements, the forward, and the table of contents, and I knew I wanted more. Conquering the Spirit of Death - Experiencing & Enforcing the Resurrection Power of Jesus is a book for anyone seeking the abundant life that Jesus promised.

The book features Becky Dvorak's forceful testimony, compelling real-life stories, and prophetic teaching of overcoming the spirit of death, and depression through the resurrection power of Jesus.

Becky's writing is life-changing, promises hope, and addresses the authority of the believer. Her teaching is practical, candid, and sincere, filled with confidence in the promises of God.

The book is made up of four parts:

1. The Spiritual and Emotional Side of an Attack from the Spirit of Death

2. Created to Win and conquer the Spirit of Death

3. Other ways the Spirit of Death Attacks

4. The Warrior Conquers the Spirit of Death

The book is formatted to highlight topically, ideal for study notes. Each chapter includes a prayer, a pledge, questions from the section, powerful personal reflections, and challenging suggestions for group discussion.

I am pleased to add my recommendation of Becky Dvorak's book "Conquering the Spirit of Death" to that of her peers.

The Way of Life Experiencing the Culture of Heaven on Earth Updated Edition
Bill Johnson
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768451399, $16.99, 214 pages

Pentecostal & Charismatic, Spiritual Growth, Christian Life

An avid reader for many years, I have had the opportunity of reading many of the books written by the staff of Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry, which have introduced to the core values and message of the co-founder Bill Johnson.

Bill's book "The Way of Life - Experiencing the Culture of Heaven on Earth" is a definitive breakthrough in Kingdom values, not watered down doctrines but discoveries of heaven's realities, begging to be embraced in simple obedience.

Bill extends an invitation to read with an open heart with a mandated focus into finding applied wisdom, as he teaches and imparts a commission to pray and walk in a relational journey with God the Father, Son, Holy Spirit, and fellow travelers in a way that ignites revival.

Bill reminds the reader that worship goes beyond ritual and routine to miraculous transformation. As Christians, we are to heal the sick, evangelize the world, and to disciple the nations, to let go of old mindsets and to embrace a biblical worldview which results in seeing the earth filled with His glory - the manifest presence of Jesus.

"The Way of Life - Experiencing the Culture of Heaven on Earth" has opened my eyes to recognize:

God's goodness

Our identity of the Joy of Salvation

A Response to God's Grace

Also, a focus on His Presence

Jesus empowers supernatural ministry.

And that God's intent for man is to live in His Glory; This means exploring the delighting in who God is. We are to be a people yielded to God in worship.

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

How to Contend for Your Miracle: How Supernatural Encounters and Faith Work Together to Bring Answered Prayers
Ryan Johnson
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.,
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768451573, $15.99, 170 pages

Prophecy, Charismatic, Prayer

Ryan Johnson's book "How to Contend for Your Miracle:

How Supernatural Encounters and Faith Work Together to Bring Answered Prayers" shows the reader how to use dreams, visions, and prophetic words as practical tools to activate faith, receive prophetic promises, and keys to see prophetic signs come into being.

Chapters are filled with solid truths from the scriptures on various aspects of faith, answering the question, "What is faith? Ryan helps the reader understand how we perceive faith, and receive new sights into faith as it relates to claiming our prophetic promises.

Ryan shares a very personal story of dreams, prophetic signposts, and a dramatic journey of supernatural encounters in the miraculous healing of his mother of cancer. He includes a personal account of faith in action. And what it means to see promises come to a realization.

I was intensely inspired by the prophetic quotes that open each chapter, quotes from men like Jonathan Edwards, Martin Luther King, Billy Graham, and other contemporary prophetic ministers.

Ryan's writing is authentic and authoritative, practical and prophetic, relevant, and revelatory. He writes with clarity, discernment, uniquely establishing a spiritual hunger for more hope built on a foundation of truth, and a deeper trust in God's Word.

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

Keep On Keepin' On: Helping Kids to Never Give Up
Dian Layton
Illustrated by JD Hornbacher
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310 Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768453255, $9.99, 30 pages

Catchy Word Rhythm, Amazing Illustrations, Important Talk About It Time Suggestions

"Keep On Keepin' On: Helping Kids to Never Give Up" is designed to provide young children with the tools to establish positive attitudes when they face challenging everyday problems in school, at home, in sports, or at the mall.

Dian Layton is known for her insights in early childhood education, her love for storytelling, and her "Song-Story Series."

The book is written for young readers, ages 4 -6; however, it can easily be enjoyed by all ages. Words and music to the song "Keep on Keep'in On" are available on Dian's webpage.

JD Hornbacher's illustrations are fabulous, revealing facial expressions portraying the feelings of frustration and hopelessness things too hard to do, excitement, making bad choices, and the joy that comes when you "Keep on keepin' on.

I especially enjoyed the cadence of the Song-Story, the "Talk-About-It Time," and the Bible references introducing the King (Jesus) and the strength we can count on from him.

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

Releasing Heaven, Creating a Supernatural Environment through Heavenly Encounters
Candice Smithyman
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768452310, $16.99, 248 pages

Spiritual Growth, Prayer, Pentecostal, Charismatic, Heaven, Supernatural

"Releasing Heaven, Creating a Supernatural Environment through Heavenly Encounters" opens with Candice Smithyman's first testimony of a heavenly encounter. Throughout the book, she shares her profound real-life experiences.

Candice is known for her apostolic and prophetic ministry, supernatural life coaching, and leadership training. In the foreword of the book, Dr. Hakeem Collins lists over a dozen results readers can expect from their reading, study, and activating of the principles introduced in the book.

The book is divided into two sections. Part One establishes "Identity for Heavenly Encounters." Part Two follows up with "Heavenly Encounters that Create." Exciting chapter titles can be found on the Amazon website. Chapter by chapter, I became a captive audience to God's working in the ministry of Candice and her husband Adam through Freedom Destiny Church, and the personal insights I received.

I received a stronger desire to understand the fullness of God's holiness, in the fullness of His power and love. I have come away sincerely seeking, and boldly claiming the Holy Spirit's teaching, and ready for touch on my life; His anointing power.

Candice's writing is authoritative and engaging, insightful and revelatory, and reveals her passion for Jesus; it is cutting edge theology, life-changing, relevant, practical, and empowering.

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

Ten Largest Church Ministries Aggressively Touching the World
Dr. Elmer L. Towns
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768454666, $16.99, 268 pages

Pastoral Leadership, Church Growth, Evangelism

Before I start to read a book, I first like to become familiar with the author's background, qualifications, and purpose in writing the book I am about to read.

Dr. Elmer Towns has established himself in Evangelical and Charismatic Associations as a trusted spokesman in areas of church growth and Christian education. Dr. Towns is Dean Emeritus of the School of Religion and Theological Seminary at Liberty University.

In the Foreword of his book "Ten Largest Church Ministries Aggressively Touching the World," Dr. Towns explains the four areas that were looked at when choosing the ministries included in this book.

I also like to scan the contents or chapter titles for descriptive words and any appendices, bibliography, or other information pertinent for additional assessment of the material presented in the book.

Again, Dr. Towns has provided this information and more in the three appendices.

Exciting stories of building a multi-site church, faith ministries, using social media, faith, and vision, fill the pages of this fantastic collection of "Wisdom from some of the Greatest Church Leaders of our Time."

"Ten of the Largest Church Ministries Aggressively Touching the World" is a book for Visionary Church Leaders, Denominational Leaders, Pastors, and Church Boards.

I highly recommend Dr. Towns' work.

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

The Warriors Dance - A Seers Guide to Victorious Spiritual Warfare
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P O Box 310 Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768451429, $16.99, 2020, 172 pages

Prophetic Insights, Spiritual Warfare

Ana Werner's "The Warrior's Dance" addresses important issues with an outstanding prophetic message of hope for the crisis times we are facing today.

Throughout the nine fast-moving chapters, readers are equipped to see into the spirit realm, experience the prophetic, and the need to activate a deeper faith.

Ana warns of the hindrances of offense, the importance of extending forgiveness, and to partner with the Holy Spirit in a petition, praise, and in spiritual warfare. She challenges the reader with strategies for facing disappointments, offenses, grief and loss, offenses, forgiveness, and to recognize the signs of demonic operation.

As in her other books, Ana challenges the reader to examine their spiritual hunger for more of God and encounters with Him through the Holy Spirit and the Son Jesus. A visionary Ana calls for unity among believers, a pure heart, and submission, as readiness and preparation for an encounter with the Holy Spirit.

"The Warrior's Dance - A Seer's Guide to Recognized leaders in the highly endorse victorious Spiritual Warfare." Charismatic movement. Her personal story and other real-life examples are inspiring, insightful, relevant to today, and life-changing. Her writing is passionate, refreshing, and authentic.

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

Engaging the Prophetic Realm, A Prophet's Handbook for Every Christian
Dr. Joe Ibojie
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310 Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768448535, $17.99, 312 Pages

Receive and Apply Your Visionary Encounters

Note the title and subtitles on the cover of Dr. Joe Ibojie's book Engaging the Prophetic Realm, A Prophet's Handbook for Every Christian. I took special note of the words and phrases for Every Christian, Engaging, Receive, and Apply.

After a cursory look at the table of contents, I knew I was in for some vital reading, study, meditation, and some life-changing activation and visionary encounters. I opted to read the book as an instruction manual reading it over an extended period of time so that I could do the exercises and reap the extra benefits of:

1. Experiencing new intimacy with God

2. Exercising my spiritual senses

3. Strengthening my spirit

These benefits, in turn, opened up a fascinating invitation to experience exciting discoveries.

Chapters one through six explore the importance of vision and set the tone for activation of visionary encounters, the anointing of the seer, understanding the model of spiritual insight, and what it means to manage any revelations. I chose to begin with chapter three Intimate Moments with God, which proved to be very enlightening, practical, and edifying.

Throughout the remaining chapters, Dr. Joe Ibojie uses a combination of insightful teaching, interactive worksheets, and sample interpretation exercises to open the Scriptures introducing forms of prophecy and general principles of visions, dreams, and interpretations.

Engaging the Prophetic Realm is as the subtitle states A Prophet's Handbook for Every Christian. Highly recommended.

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

It's Rigged in Your Favor: How Would You Live If You Knew You Wouldn't Fail?
Kevin L. Zadai
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768450521, $16.99, 262 Pages

Transformative Encounters, Live Changing Truth, Fulfilling Your Destiny

In his new book "It's Rigged in Your Favor" Kevin L. Zadai asks the reader to consider the question, "How Would You Live If You Knew You Wouldn't Fail?

I claimed the promises of the fifteen power-packed chapters as though they were written primarily with me in mind, as I moved into a season of break-through favor for fulfilling my destiny. I plan to implement these Holy Spirit inspired principles into my life, to fully discover and fulfill the person God intended me to be through His enabling supernatural power.

Kevin's writing is straight forward, enlightening, and encouraging; a ready reference manual you will want to keep nearby for reference and study again and again. You may want to incorporate "It's Rigged in Your Favor" as a guidebook with your home study group, or as the curriculum in an adult class.

"It's Rigged in Your Favor" is written for those who are seeking a fresh touch of the Holy Spirit in their life leading to a season of revival, restoration, healing, and a new encounter with the Holy Spirit.

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

Glorious Freedom - How To Experience Deliverance Through The Power & Authority of Jesus
Percy Burns
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768452389, $17.99, 242 pages

Step by Step Guide to Finding Spiritual Freedom

Glorious Freedom by Percy Burns provides a message of hope, deliverance, and freedom to those caught up in spiritual bondage. The book offers helpful guidelines and encouragement to those who are called to a deliverance ministry.

As a retired pastor, Percy Burns, founder of Glorious Freedom Ministries, an organization which reaches out to people struggling with the trauma of spiritual, emotional bondage.

I became captivated by the faith building testimonies of freedom encounters and the ministry of deliverance. These stories opened my eye to the reality of the demonic forces in the world today.

The Questions to Consider at the end of each chapter calls for a response from the reader, triggering an honest honest self-examination.

The positive testimonies and endorsements of well-known Christian Leaders of Percy's life, message, and ministry validate the significance and timeliness of Percy's book Glorious Freedom - How to Experience Deliverance through the Power and Authority of Jesus.

Percy continues to minister within the community through the local church by providing spiritual breakthrough and prayer.

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

The Beginners Guide to Essential Oils
Dr. Josh Axe, Ty Bollinger, and Jordan Rubin
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768451917, $14.99, 128 pages

Health and Wellness, Nutrition, Aromatherapy, Naturopathy

Dr. Josh Axe, Ty Bollinger, and Jordan Rubin share their expertise in ancient medicines, aromatherapy, naturopathy, and health and wellness in "The Beginner's Guide to Essential Oils." he guide features frankincense,

lavender, peppermint, lemon, rosemary, and eight other essential oils. The book is well organized with easy to read and follow directions for safely using essential oils effectively both externally and internally.

Each page is packed with helpful illustrations, pictures, with essential instructions, key benefits, and research on each of the thirteen essential oils. Valuable, useful information related to common ailments from anxiety to weight gain, personal care, and household use.

Readers will appreciate the compact size, comprehensive material, and the convenience of easy access to the information.

"The Beginners Guide to Essential Oils" is informative, motivating, and potentially life-changing.

I can highly recommend the importance of "Essential Oils" to everyone caught up in the stress-filled lifestyles in our world today.

The Cult of the Customer
Shep Hyken
Sound Wisdom
9781640951532, $19.95, 268 pages

The Art of Creating Customer Satisfaction on a Journey of Amazement

New York Times Bestselling author Shep Hyken demonstrates how to build customer loyalty and how to implement customer service while creating "moments of magic" by using actual success stories gleaned from his readers and "evangelistic" clients.

The Cult of the Customer is filled with

the necessary tools to create that top of the feeling customer satisfaction, examples about companies that create the "Wow" feeling, and ways a company can win and keep winning customer satisfaction, leading to customer amazement.

Hyken's writing is authoritative, relevant, and focused. The book is well organized in a natural flow of instruction, examples, and illustrations. As a reader, you will want to read with a pen in hand, an open mind, and a commitment to enjoy the journey.

This updated edition includes updates that challenge readers to going beyond "moments of magic" to build a culture of customers who have moved from advocate to evangelist spreading your story of customer satisfaction.

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

Take Authority over Autism, Conquering Autism through the Power of God's Word
Angeletta Giles
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.,
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768451672, $16.99, 180 pages

Special Needs Children, Autism, Spectrum Disorders

Angeletta's writing touches the heart, a story tenderly told, and Holy Spirit inspired. She writes with the authority and intensity that we often need to move us to action. The book is filled with practical insights; Scripture promises to stand on, confessions, declarations, and activation exercises to free us. Our reaction can bring about answered prayers victory over discouragement and depression, conquering Autism.

I found that if I approach my reading of the book as a study guide, writing out the suggested responses, prayers, homework activations, and journal entries, I receive the additional benefits intended.

The chapter titled Adios Diagnosis is a chapter you might want to read again. The valuable Faith in Action and homework assignments are vital in this chapter.

Chapters seven through twelve are filled with tools for overcoming life patterns parents of autistic children face.

Angeletta has convinced me to consider the call to pursue becoming a part of PAAK-Parent Advocate for Awesome Kids in our community. I invite you to join me in this pursuit. You can begin by reading her book "Take Authority over Autism, Conquering Autism through the Power of God's Word."

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

Supernatural Finances
Kevin L. Zadai
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
9780768451351, $16.99, 244 pages

Personal Finance, Generosity, Blessing, and Increase

In his book "Supernatural Finances," Kevin L. Zadai helps the reader discern God's pattern for establishing financial abundance. Zadar begins by showing the relationship of praying in the Spirit and Supernatural provision.

Throughout the book, Dr. Zadai teaches Biblical principles for accessing battle strategies of giving and receiving, understanding God's favor and covenant and sowing and reaping.

Dr. Zadai gave me insights into essential disciplines I should integrate into my financial praying and planning.

1. Prayerfully consider my motivation when praying for an increase

2. Carefully examine my giving patterns

3. Honor God with my offerings

4. Pursue generosity as a lifestyle

5. Intentionally take steps to develop my prayer life

6. Yield to the Holy Spirit's leading, believing God can exceed my expectations

"Supernatural Finances" is Biblically based, spiritually challenging, highly motivating, well-formatted, and filled with supernatural insights.

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

Closing the Door to Demons
Joanna Adams
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.,
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768451948, $16.99, 176 pages

Deliverance, Inner Healing, Spiritual Warfare, Prayer

In her book, Closing the Door to Demons," Joanna Adams offer hope to anyone seeking deliverance and inner healing from the mental torment of spiritual bondage. Joanna begins by telling of God's transformative power in her life as she found freedom and liberation from demonic oppression.

Joanna helps the reader get a better understanding of how demonic spirits operate, how they enter an individual, various types of spirits, generational curses, and deliverance strategies to staying free.

I was moved and inspired by Joanna's testimony and the real-life stories of others delivered and set free from demonic strongholds. Joanna's writing is passionate and anointed, offering practical teaching and useful training resources for deliverance, maintaining freedom and living an active balanced Christian life.

"Closing the Door to Demons - Deliverance Strategies to Staying Free" is highly endorsed by well-known leaders in the Deliverance Ministry.

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

POTS, PANS & PEACE: The Legacy of Margaret Corey
Eleanor Corey
Privately Published
9781734035803, $15.00, 251 pages

A Pioneer Preacher and a Wife with an Incredible Faith

Pot, Pans & Peace portrays Margaret Corey as a pioneer preacher's wife, mother of 10 children, and a real model of the Proverbs 31 woman.

As the second child of eight children who also lived in the great depression era, I relived the memories of my childhood - so many similarities; a mother's faith and a father's determination.

Through her mother's journals, keepsakes and personal memories Eleanor captures the frustration, doubts, fears, and demands of wife, mother, and the additional expectations of being a pastor's wife.

Eleanor's writing is heartwarming, encouraging, and motivating. I was inspired, challenged, and captivated as I followed Corey's journey of faith, sacrifice, and example.

Never Alone
Lynelle Watford
Privately Published
9781981893515, $6.99, 44 pages

Gentle Reminders of God's Presence and Love

Lyn's writing expresses an awareness of God's amazing presence. Her book "Never Alone" is filled with gentle reminders of God's love through colorful photos, spiritual awareness, and Scripture promises.

We are living in difficult days. Lyn openly shares insights into some adversities she has faced to bring refuge, comfort, and consolation in a warm, caring way that draws the reader nearer to God and His steadfast love.

I found the devotional Nighttime Conversation helpful as I continue to work through the process of grief and the loss of loved ones.

I felt God's presence as I read of the source of our safety in the storms of life in the reading titled: Your Strength with Me.

I am planning on having an extra copy of "Never Alone - Gentle Reminders of God's Presence and Love available to share with friends in their times of trouble, despair, and distress.

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

Exposing the Enemy: Simple Keys to Defeating the Strategies of Satan
John Ramirez
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768450866, $11.99, 118 pages

Patterns, Tactics, and Strategies of Satan's Deceptions

In his book "Exposing the Enemy: Simple Keys to Defeating the Strategies of Satan" John Ramirez exposes the tactics and strategies Satan uses to deceive God's people to keep them from recognizing their identification in Christ.

Ramirez draws from his years of experience as a third-ranked high priest, a Satanic Cult in New York City. He tells of his miraculous conversion and liberation from the power of Satan.

As an International evangelist, speaker, and author John is now teaching believers how to defeat Satan, and gain freedom and victory in Jesus.

John is passionate about his message,

positive in his approach, and authoritative in his presentation. He helps the reader identify, discern, and defeat Satan in his tricks, schemes to keep Christians in bondage.

"Exposing the Enemy: Simple Keys to Defeating the Strategies of Satan" is a must reading for anyone struggling with: anger, addictions, and the torment of satanic bondage.

The 12 Traits of the Greats - Mastering the Qualities of Uncommon Achievers
Dave Martin
Harrison House Publisher
9781680314410, $16.99, 288 pages

Life-Changing Potential, Bringing Dreams to Reality

In the book "The 12 Traits of the Greats - Mastering the Qualities of Uncommon Achievers," Dave Martin encapsulates the big picture of what it takes to achieve greatness.

Every chapter in the book is filled with powerful teaching, fundamental principles. I was inspired by the incredible insight into the potential available by taking control over your life for "mastering the qualities of uncommon achievers" highlighted in the book.
I have been challenged and inspired by Dave Martin's writing. He has challenged me to seek the greatness that is latent within me.

The real-life stories, and examples from the Scriptures give hope for achieving my dreams. I have committed myself to be willing to change, to invest time in people, to be grateful for the incredible opportunities God has given me, and to recognize the blessing of generosity.

I am giving "The 12 Traits of the Greats" a prominent place on my inspirational library shelf for frequent encouragement, inspiration, and renewal.

Dave Martin is highly recognized for his internationally for his success as a life coach, mentor, and inspirational speaker.

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

Supernatural Freedom
Katherine Ruonala
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Office Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768451757, $16.99, 168 pages

Finding Freedom and Abundant Life

Katherine Ruonala's book Supernatural Freedom - Overcoming the

Greatest Barriers to Fulfilling Your Destiny is a refreshing blend of exposition, life-transforming application, and relational intimacy with Abba Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.

The supernatural stories, testimonies, and Katherine's transparent personal experiences and teaching deliver a message of Freedom from guilt, heaviness, sickness, and shame in exchange for the righteousness and holiness of Jesus, and a fulfilling of personal destiny

I found the chapter on our true identity in Christ especially helpful as I examined my life in light of being a redeemed holy and beloved saint, "an equate treasure in an earthen vessel" abundant with assurance, abiding in Christ's love.

Katherine's writing is timely and relevant, inspiring and encouraging, and challenging. Supernatural Freedom is for anyone seeking to kindle a new thirst for a deeper, more intimate relationship with God.

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

Stress-Proof your Heart: Live Longer, Feel Better and Protect Your Health
Eliz Greene
Sound Wisdom
9781640951631, $15.99

Stress, Heart Health, Wellness Diet and Exercise

Stress-Proof your Heart: Live Longer, Feel Better, and Protect Your Health is written to help the reader find a "work balance" and manage stress through better stress management strategies.

These strategies include: engaging assessments, actionable principles, and practical tools for evaluating the impact of stress and controlling risk factors.

Eliz Greene uses stories from study participants, interviews, blog responses and other social media to create the characters and themes included throughout the book.

I specifically found the physical activity diagram and related application questions to be helpful tools for setting up realistic expectations for maintaining my plan for heart health and nurturing heart resilience.

"Stress-Proof your Heart" is a must-read for anyone having symptoms of heart disease, heart attack, or stroke.

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

Three Feet from Gold - Turn Your Obstacles into Opportunities
Sharon L. Lechter & Dr. Greg S. Reid
Sound Wisdom
9781640951518, $15.99

Keys to Finding Personal, Spiritual and Financial Growth

Sharon L. Lechter and Dr. Greg S. Reid collaborate in this allegorical approach to challenge the reader to persevere; to always stay with their goal, and never to give up accomplishing their dream.

Each chapter begins with an inspirational quote from Napoleon Hill; followed by practical stories and applications of the key principles introduced in Napoleon's classic bestseller, "Think and Grow Rich."

These classic models from Hill's writing become a roadmap to success. Gregg uses Autobiographical sketches and life stories accompanied by fictional elements to identify and interpret the crucial principles inspired and promoted by Napoleon Hill.

The authors incorporate all the elements of good storytelling as they follow Greg's journey as he retraces Hill's steps to find his potential and accomplish his goals and dreams. It is their purpose to introduce to today's generation of young potential leaders the principles of Napoleon Hill using contemporary stories and examples of well-known leaders of today who have and are persevering to reach their dreams.

"Three Feet from Gold: Turn Your Obstacles into Opportunities" is motivational, with life-changing inspiration, and informational reading at its best.

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

He Healed Them All - Accessing God's Grace for Divine Heath and Healing
Barry Bennett
Harrison House Publishers
9781680314120, $15.99, 240 pages

Essential Truth About Receiving God's Healing

Barry Bennett shares fundamental truths and fresh revelation from God's Word on receiving God's Healing in his book "He Healed Them All.

Barry writes in an easy to read style to help the reader better understand fundamental truths regarding sickness, as well as physical and emotional trauma.

Barry systematically introduces Kingdom teaching, the gospel of Jesus, forgiveness, and the healing power of redemption.

Each chapter end's with a powerful healing prayer worthy of reading, repeating, restating, and reviewing often.

I found answers to many personal questions in the chapters explaining:

Releasing Healing

The Power of Words

The Authority of the Believer

Finding Purpose in Suffering

Paul's Thorn in the Flesh

"He Healed Them All" is an enriching reading experience and is a positive reminder that there is grace today for your healing.

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

Will to Win
Jim Stovall
Sound Wisdom
9781640951792, $15.99, 180 pages

Demonstrating the Will to Succeed in the Face of Adversity

Anyone who has ever played on a baseball team, High School, College, or as a Pro will enjoy Jim Stovall's creative imagination and baseball savvy in his latest book in the Historical Homecoming Series. "Will to Win," the third in the series.

"Will to Win" is the story of a baseball coach, a catcher, and Sky Forest, a senior student at the Will Rogers High School.

The story focuses on Sky's journey as the first-ever girl pitcher in the state high school playoffs. Sky's journey is filled with, her disappointments, as she joins the team, meets opposition, public humiliation, and insult

Raised by her grandmother, and influenced by her Cherokee tradition, Sky became captivated by the stature of Will Rogers prominently placed near the front entrance to the high school, named in his honor. Through a series of mysterious, mystic experiences, Sky receives clear messages from Will Roger's statue. Because of these messages and the reminder that "the best is yet to come," Sky forges ahead in perseverance, and determination to beat the odds.

Jim Stovall has given me a new appreciation for the impact and wisdom of Will Rogers. I became so engrossed in Jim's storytelling, and the motivation behind Will Roger's philosophy that I plan to provide five of my grand-children with their own copy as an introduction to Jim Stovall's writing and Will Rogers perspectives on life.

Stovall's writing is entertaining, motivational, humorous, suspenseful, fact-filled, writing at its best.

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

Richard R. Blake
Senior Reviewer

S.A. Gorden's Bookshelf

Golden Prey
John Sandford
G. P. Putnam's Sons
c/o Penguin Group
9781101988848, $9.99, 2017, 359 pages

Lucas Davenport likes being a detective but doesn't like the dull day to day work and the formalities of the typical police department. Using his success saving national politicians from homegrown terrorists, he lands a job with the U.S. Marshals as an investigator for the really tough cases.

Garvin Poole is a killer and a thief. For years he has been on the most wanted lists. He has been hiding out in Texas but is running short of easily accessible cash to live on. When an old partner comes to him with a job hitting a drug cartel's bank, he jumps for the chance to lay his hands on plenty of spendable cash. During the robbery, a little girl is killed and he gets wounded leaving a DNA trace. When Davenport comes across the report of Poole's reappearance, he decides to take the case.

The cartel wants its money back and the thieves killed. Soon a race between Lucas and cartel hit teams crosses the Southern US. Will Poole escape? Who will die and who will survive during this race across the country?

Any detective novel by John Sandford is an easy recommendation for the mystery reader. Although he doesn't always succeed, his characters, plot and logistics of the chase feel like they could be true. Golden Prey freshens up Sandford's Prey series by bringing the characters outside of the Northern Midwest and into the nation as a whole. The change might seem small but it is enough for Golden Prey to stand out among the two dozen other books in the series.

Kevin Tinto
Three Dog Publishing, LTD Services LLC
B01557MW80, $0.99, ebook, 2015, 460 pages
9780692406373, paper

Ice is a good action/suspense thriller. Unlike many books in this genre, Tinto stays closer to the real world than most. The logistics and some portions of the plotlines stray a little too far from reality but there is less creative real world situations than with others.

Leah Andrews is an archaeologist specializing in Southwestern Native Americans. She has gotten into trouble with her bosses in the Interior Department and has started illegally searching for cliff dwellings in New Mexico. She stumbles on an unknown dwelling that changes what we think we know about history. In order to show to the world what she has found she needs more proof. A drawing on the wall in the cave and a few rock deposits indicate that Native American cliff dwellers had been to Antarctica. Leah enlists the aid of her estranged mountain climbing ex-husband and a powerful industrialist to track down the proof she needs in Antarctica.

Information about what she has found leaks and governments across the world seem to be willing to start a world war to get a piece of the find. This puts her exploration team in the cross-hairs of the world's most powerful clandestine forces.

Ice is a well written thriller. The logistical holes in the storyline are smaller than with most books in this genre. The political incompetence in the plot is so extreme it matches the science fiction fantasy portion of the storyline. Surprisingly the story has become less of a fantasy with the current in your face corruption and incompetence in the US government. The tale sputters to a solid but messy conclusion necessitated by the extreme storyline. Even with these problems Ice is an easy recommendation. It reads smooth and the characters are solidly developed.

S.A. Gorden, Senior Reviewer

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

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