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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 20, Number 5 May 2021 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 S.A. Gorden's Bookshelf  

Able Greenspan's Bookshelf

The Lost Samurai
Stephen Turnbull
Frontline Books
c/o Pen & Sword Books / Casemate
9781526758989, $34.95, HC, 192pp

Synopsis: "The Lost Samurai: Japanese Mercenaries in South East Asia, 1593 - 1688" by Professor Stephen Turnbull reveals the greatest untold story of Japan's legendary warrior class, which is that for almost a hundred years Japanese samurai were employed as mercenaries in the service of the kings of Siam, Cambodia, Burma, Spain and Portugal, as well as by the directors of the Dutch East India Company.

The Japanese samurai were used in dramatic assault parties, as royal bodyguards, as staunch garrisons and as willing executioners. As a result, a stereotypical image of the fierce Japanese warrior developed that had a profound influence on the way they were regarded by their employers.

While the Southeast Asian kings tended to employ samurai on a long-term basis as palace guards, their European employers usually hired them on a temporary basis for specific campaigns. Also, whereas the Southeast Asian monarchs tended to trust their well-established units of Japanese mercenaries, the Europeans, whilst admiring them, also feared them. In every European example a progressive shift in attitude may be discerned from initial enthusiasm to great suspicion that the Japanese might one day turn against them, as illustrated by the long-standing Spanish fear of an invasion of the Philippines by Japan accompanied by a local uprising.

It also suggested that if, during the 1630s, Japan had chosen engagement with Southeast Asia rather than isolation from it, the established presence of Japanese communities overseas may have had a profound influence on the subsequent development of international relations within the area, perhaps even seeing the early creation of an overseas Japanese empire that would have provided a rival to Great Britain. Instead Japan closed its doors, leaving these fierce mercenaries stranded in distant countries never to return -- making them truly lost samurai indeed!

Critique: An inherently fascinating, impressively well written, exceptionally informative, and meticulously detailed history, "The Lost Samurai: Japanese Mercenaries in South East Asia, 1593 - 1688" is a unique and unreservedly work of seminal scholarship. Enhanced for academia with the inclusion of a thirteen page Bibliography and a four page Index, "The Lost Samurai: Japanese Mercenaries in South East Asia, 1593 - 1688" is an extraordinary and especially recommended addition to community, college and university library Japanese/India/Philippines history collections in general, and Samurai Martial History reading lists in particular. It should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Lost Samurai: Japanese Mercenaries in South East Asia, 1593 - 1688" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.49).

Editorial Note: Having lectured widely in East Asian Studies and Theology Stephen Turnbull is now retired and holds the honorary positions of Lecturer Emeritus at Leeds University, Research Associate at SOAS and Visiting Professor of Japanese Studies at Akita International University. His expertise, including an extensive picture library, has helped with numerous media projects including the award-winning computer strategy game Shogun Total War, and in 2010 he acted as Historical Adviser to Universal Pictures for the movie 47 Ronin.

The Believer
Ralph Blumenthal
University of New Mexico Press
1 University of New Mexico, Albuquerque NM 87131-0001
9780826362315, $29.95, HC, 360pp

Synopsis: "The Believer: Alien Encounters, Hard Science, and the Passion of John Mack" by Ralpph Blumenthal is the weird and chilling true story of Dr. John Mack. This eminent Harvard psychiatrist and Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer risked his career to investigate the phenomenon of human encounters with aliens and to give credibility to the stupefying tales shared by people who were utterly convinced they had happened.

Nothing in Mack's four decades of psychiatry had prepared him for the otherworldly accounts of a cross section of humanity including young children who reported being taken against their wills by alien beings. Over the course of his career his interest in alien abduction grew from curiosity to wonder, ultimately developing into a limitless, unwavering passion.

Based on exclusive access to Mack's archives, journals, and psychiatric notes and interviews with his family and closest associates, "The Believer" reveals the life and work of a man who explored the deepest of scientific conundrums and further leads us to the hidden dimensions and alternate realities that captivated Mack until the end of his life.

Critique: An inherently fascinating biography that is a 'must read' for all dedicated UFOlogists, "The Believer: Alien Encounters, Hard Science, and the Passion of John Mack" is extraordinarily detailed, informed and informative -- making it an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college and university library American Biography, ESP, and UFO collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Believer: Alien Encounters, Hard Science, and the Passion of John Mack" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.17).

Editorial Note: A distinguished lecturer at Baruch College, Ralph Blumenthal was also an award-winning reporter for the New York Times. He co-authored the Times article in 2017 that broke the news of a secret Pentagon unit investigating UFOs, and he is the author of four nonfiction books including Miracle at Sing Sing: How One Man Transformed the Lives of America's Most Dangerous Prisoners.

The Call of Kilimanjaro
Jeff Belanger
Charlesbridge Publishing
85 Main Street, Watertown, MA 02472
9781623545116, $24.99, HC, 224pp

Synopsis: After his brother-in-law Chris passed away, author and aspiring mountaineer Jeff Belanger made the decision to take the trip of a lifetime, both in honor of Chris and in pursuit of clarity about his own life and goals.

"The Call of Kilimanjaro: Finding Hope Above the Clouds" is a day-by-day record of Belanger's ascent to the peak of Africa's highest mountain. By turns contemplative and irreverent, joyful and thoughtful, boyish and wise, this detailed account shows by example the wisdom and necessity to take stock of our accomplishments, eye the lofty goals we've placed in front of ourselves, and push higher than we've ever dared, turning an honest eye toward past, present, and future, through the end of life and beyond.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The Call of Kilimanjaro: Finding Hope Above the Clouds" an inherently fascinating read all aspiring mountaineers, as well as the personal reading lists of armchair travelers with an interest in spirituality. While an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to middle school, highschool, community, college and university library Caving & Spelunking, Mountain Climbing, Adventure Travel, and Contemporary American Biography collections, it should be noted for students and non-specialist general readers with and interest in the subject that "The Call of Kilimanjaro: Finding Hope Above the Clouds" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99).

Editorial Note: Jeff Belanger is the award-winning, Emmy-nominated host, writer, and producer of the New England Legends series on PBS and Amazon Prime, and is the author of over a dozen books (published in six languages). He also hosts the New England Legends weekly podcast, which has garnered over 3 million downloads since it was launched.

Able Greenspan

Diane Donovan's Bookshelf

Christine Melchior
Christine Melchior, Publisher
9780578863832, $12.99 paperback; $4.99 ebook

Readers of women's fiction will receive a treat with Christine Melchior's Bright, a story that opens in 1983 in Massachusetts, where twelve-year-old Leeann Bright observes a fire and her father running from it.

Fast forward to 1998. Leeann works in a Boston high-rise and faces the lingering aftereffects of her father's involvement in the blaze when new information breaks open the arson case.

As the timeline fluctuates between the 80s and Leeann's coming of age and new adult challenges, readers receive an engrossing story of the impact of adult decisions on a child's psyche and its reemergence in adulthood.

Christine Melchior is at her best when describing the aftereffects of this choice: "Leeann woke in the middle of the night on a sweat-soaked sheet. Panic tightened her chest. She sat up, trying to catch her breath. She had lied to the police and that was a crime. She broke the law. People get arrested for lying to the police. They get prosecuted. She could end up in jail or juvenile hall for a long time. She took deep breaths trying to relax and clear her mind. Her eye caught a patch of blue and yellow paisley patterned wallpaper, dimly lit by her night-light. When she squinted, she saw sea urchins with monster heads floating across the wall."

She also excels at crafting a long-ranging story that follows Leeann's confrontation with her mother, her father's journey, and the long-term consequences of a choice that changes a family's trajectory and life.

From an anonymous note years later that reopens old wounds to the progression of years from age 12 and upwards which contrast with the now-adult Leeann's struggles, Melchior's story is poignant, realistic, engrossing, and follows the newly challenged connections between a child and her parents through the years as everything changes: "Under normal circumstances the day would have left Leeann feeling pumped. She was heading to Boston University with a four-year scholarship a few days before Labor Day to live in a high-rise dorm with its view of the Boston skyline. She walked onto the stage to the cheers of her softball teammates. She should have had a glow on her face. The principal handed her a diploma, that piece of parchment releasing her from childhood, launching her into adulthood, but all she thought of was her mother, who had wanted to live long enough to witness this day."

Can Leeann rebuild her own life against the forces that moved her from childhood too early? Bright is a compelling study of this process. It is highly recommended as a coming-of-age story of moral and ethical struggle and growth, and is a riveting inspection of intention and consequences.

Women's fiction readers will find Bright thoroughly engrossing.

Shades of Silence
Liz Lazarus
Mitchell Cove Publishing LLC
9780990937456, $14.95 Paper/$5.95 ebook


Readers will find Shades of Silence a sober, involving story that grips the heart and mind with its tense tale.

The story opens with a news report about a missing Ormond Beach pilot and restaurateur's plane. This segues into the first-person observation of Julianna Sandoval, who has just closed her restaurant for the night, only to receive a mysterious visitor who is killed before her eyes...and before she can transmit a message of warning.

In the homicide investigation that ensues, Julianna finds herself drawn into a world she'd previously been unaware of. Detective Grant, too, finds his latest homicide case much more complex than he'd realized, one that leads him in unexpected directions.

As the story unfolds between their two perspectives and moves from the missing Michael, Julianna's husband, to a murder investigation that turns up secrets about the restaurant's chef, bartender, and others on the periphery of the case and business, an engrossing set of circumstances keeps readers guessing and involved.

As Julianna learns about conversations between Michael and his son that challenge everything she thinks she knows, Detective Grant becomes even more involved in the unfolding secrets that lead them all into a world of danger.

Another strong point to this story are the graphic descriptions of victim experiences and how sex trafficking changes their lives: "I shut my eyes and resigned myself to the fact that this was my life now. In some way, I felt that I deserved it because I'd run away. I became complacent, and my will to fight back was gone. I believed the only value I had as a human being was the use of my body for sex."

Readers who have prior familiarity with such scenarios may find these candid discussions difficult, but their realistic contents add elements of truth to the tale that makes it all the more absorbing for its roots in real circumstances that often affect different members in a community.

The result is a murder mystery with a social message that will keep readers engaged, engrossed, and involved to the end. It's a story of one woman's dangerous involvement in the consequences of a homicide investigation. The plot grows to embrace questions of how grief and loss are absorbed and reflected into daily life, and how communities and individuals can draw together to identify and change evil forces in their lives.

All these subplots and facets make Shades of Silence a hard-hitting tale, indeed.

Merin And Her Very Bright Star: A Story of Resiliency
Lori Mier
Independently Published
c/o New Beginnings Publishing
9781736656907, $14.95

Young Merin lives on the outskirts of town, where the sky is dark enough to see a very bright star that she equates with her missing parents. Merin And Her Very Bright Star: A Story of Resiliency is about loss and grief six years later. It is a very simple reader that follows a young girl's ongoing life and adjustments.

This joins a relatively small number of books that cover the long-term effects of grieving. Merin struggles as much with the notion that her parents' absence is somehow her fault as she does with the vacancy this has left in her young life.

As a grief counselor helps her and Merin discovers her imagination is an acceptable approach, young readers receive an evocative, compelling story that follows Merin's ongoing resiliency as a process rather than a singular revelation, unlike so many books about grief.

The transformative opportunities of this process are especially nicely explained: " is what became true: all the bright and beautiful things were filling her life. And she was brighter. And she was not the only person with an unknown space wanting to be filled. The star taught her that she could turn something lost into something found, and if everyone did this, the world would be brighter."

The result is an outstanding story that will bring healing and better understanding to all ages, whether they are read-aloud adults or children able to absorb this short work for its enlightening, uplifting, supportive message.

Very highly recommended, Merin And Her Very Bright Star: A Story of Resiliency takes an important extra step in outlining the long-term approaches and effects of grieving and its opportunities for growth and developing a positive resiliency that transforms despair into something brighter.

Balloons for Tiger
Lori Orlinsky
Mascot Books
620 Herndon Parkway, #320, Herndon, VA 20170
9781645435235, $14.95, HC, 38pp

Balloons for Tiger talks about balloons that take center stage after a beloved pet's death, discussing concepts of grief, the 'rainbow bridge', and how adults can help children identify and cope with their feelings about loss.

The rhyming exploration opens with: "It was a cold winter day. When the balloons for Tiger floated away."

The balloon's journey is compared to the journey Tiger will take after death, serving as a gentle form of instruction as read-aloud adults use Balloons for Tiger to show how Tiger will live on in the memories of those who loved her.

The in-depth survey and approach of this tender story ideally will work best with adults who choose it as a starting point for discussions with children about pets and death.

Youngsters drawn to the unexpectedly cheerful approach of a story about pet death will find Balloons for Tiger inviting. It pairs Common Core discussion points (presented at the story's conclusion) with five selected coping strategies parents can employ with the very young.

Vanessa Alexandre employs bright and appealing color illustrations throughout.

It's the perfect primer for a young child facing the loss of a beloved pet.

Linda Sheehan
Black Rose Publishing
9781684337033, $19.95 paper/$6.95 ebook

Decanted's story opens in Paris in 1936, where middle-aged artist Marciel struggles to capture the woman's form in a modeling session, but lacks inspiration. The story then moves to modern-day New York. Here, discussion during a wine tasting at Spence's Fines Wines & Spirits turns to first-person protagonist Samantha Goodyear's great-aunt, who was a model, rebel, and wine appreciator in Paris right before the war, eventually moving to the U.S. to continue exploring her passion for fine wine and culture.

Samantha has inherited much from her spunky aunt's attitude towards life, working long hours as an accountant in the online sales world of Weatherhouse towards goals that suddenly feel elusive.

Admonished to "enjoy her ride" though life as her aunt did, Samantha embarks on a sea change when Paris reaches out to her in a different way, fueled by the dual lure of wine and romance.

As Samantha embarks on a journey that reveals her aunt's hidden history and her own connections to wine and modeling, she learns much about aging beautifully. Her journey from Manhattan to Paris and then to a job working with a winery in California leads to a new role and discoveries that change everything.

Fans of romance and wine will find plenty of both steeped in Samantha's evolutionary process as she moves from past to present and rubs elbows with major players in California's wine industry. The lap of luxury and culture is explored as she makes a new life for herself and realizes new ambitions and goals far from the type of success she'd already built in New York.

Fans of women's fiction will find the flavor of this read more full-bodied than a romance, embracing career and growth as much as it embraces the wine industry and Samantha's mercurial explorations of life.

Decanted is highly recommended reading for those interested in the intersection of traditional women's roles and newfound passion that lies beyond marriage, presenting an amazing journey that links them both. Fueled by wine, grapes, and personal growth, its lively, realistic tone engagingly juxtaposes the cultures of France, New York, and California in satisfyingly realistic detail.

The Last Review
Lucas Pogrzebny
Azure Midnight Press
9789874754332, $3.99

Detective story enthusiasts are in for a treat with The Last Review, because it takes the P.I. approach beyond traditional routes while including all the trappings of a solid investigative piece.

Meet Polo Levington, a film critic genius who finds himself in the role of an unwitting investigator when he witnesses a murder. The story opens with a bang ("The camera was still rolling when she was shot."), but the real story takes place twenty years later, when the bodies begin piling up, leading a strange actress and a tired detective to become involved in Levin's production and its deadly backdrop.

Interactions between director and actors, investigators and novices with no investigative savvy, and those who find themselves out of their comfort zones whether on shoots or probing criminal activities make for a fine juxtaposition of backgrounds, differing approaches to events, and changing perspectives.

Drawn back to a country he'd resisted entering, Polo Levington finds his approaches to life and even his genius challenged on many different levels: "Now I understand why I didn't want to come back here. This is one of those places where truth cannot be reached. I hate Buenos Aires..."

There are many places where truth remains elusive; not the least of which is Levin's own barriers to getting to the truth of many different matters.

As events unfold, he finds his past, his fears, and his focus on an amazing production all working against him in the search for answers, leading different characters into worlds they are ill-equipped to handle.

The blend of stage backdrop and intrigue is very well presented. Lucas Pogrzebny excels in precise descriptions of the theater milieu that draws readers in: "To understand this, you have to think about the lighting of the set. When the studio lights are turned off and only the scene ones are left on, the contrast is absolute. Inside the circle of the Fresnel lights and the camera, everything can be seen; on the contrary, outside that area, everything else is darkness."

Much like a stage production, this mystery develops slowly, weaving intrigue, motivation, and the blinders of background experience into a murder story that is hard to put down and difficult to predict.

Readers who enjoy stories of savants drawn into worlds beyond their comfort zones will find The Last Review exceptionally well done and hard to put down.

Maya Loop
Lis Anna-Langston
Mapleton Press
9781087943060, $16.99 Print / $9.99 ebook

Middle-grade readers who look for first-person narratives strong in contemporary perspectives will find Maya Loop attractive. Eleven-year-old Maya Loop's world is falling apart as she begins her story. Everything is about to change, but she just wishes she could turn back time and keep everything the same in her beloved Baltimore, which has also changed around her.

It all began with her father's death years ago, which leads to her mother's desire to move into a bigger place and get away from her dead-end job as a Baltimore cop to accept a position which offers much higher hazard pay.

Moving to the country to live with relatives wasn't in Maya Loop's game plan, but she is told she has to "find a way to love this place." The process by which she sets aside old connections, including the internet, and adjusts to a very different world makes for a compelling read.

Middle graders will find Maya thoughtful and intriguing. As her adventure traverses otherworldly realms, the fantasy component of her encounters lends to a powerful exploration of her evolving strengths and ability to not just adjust, but break free of the dead-end loop her former life became.

As she discovers the truths surrounding her family heritage and her abilities ("only the Loops can restart the clock"), she faces new choices that lead her to question what she really wants from her life.

Especially powerful passages explore her psyche and the difficult choices involved in saving not just herself, but others: "An old anger swells in my gut. The kind I feel when kids push other kids around in the halls or take their lunch or steal their backpacks. The anger and fear that arises when I'm not sure I can make the situation right. The anger of helplessness. Bullies feed off of it. I try to swallow it back, but it stays. I don't know what to do. My sketchpad is in my hand, but it's not an option. Not now. Drawing a door will get me out of this mess but it leaves everyone else behind. Drawing a door doesn't prevent the Landions from finding that one final piece and erasing us all."

The result is a story driven by Maya's changing emotions, life, and abilities. It will attract readers also challenged to accept new circumstances, relationships, and perceptions about life and its purposes.

Readers interested in a passionate journey of determination and evolving wisdom will find Maya Loop unpredictable, driven by understandable emotions and extraordinary events that lead Maya to a new form of determination and courage.

The Divine Language of Coincidence
Sophia Demas
Mascot Books
620 Herndon Parkway, #320, Herndon, VA 20170
9781645432111, $18.95

The Divine Language of Coincidence: How Miracles Transformed My Life After I Began Paying Attention charts the course of a spiritual evolutionary process that began at age 19.

Seemingly blessed with good fortune, Sophia Demas learned to trust her instincts to find that, in so doing, more good things fell into her lap. As she absorbed the choices and perceptions that built on this success, she became more aware of their spiritual roots: "The graces I received through apparent synchronicities and serendipities began to seem more intentional. I began calling them "miracles." Along with love, faith was a word I had heard my mother use forever, and I wondered what it meant. When I finally entered that realm, I knew. I had become a believer and attributed these mysteries to God."

More so than most books about faith, Demas has the ability to get to the nitty-gritty of different perceptions and how to make the most of them: "If you operate from the perspective of wishful thinking, you would most likely find yourself befuddled by these seemingly disconnected chance events and, chalking them up to coincidence, proceed to buckle your seatbelt in silence as you continue to wish for help in making the right decision. At the second level, operating from the perspective of hope, you become aware of the triple whammy coincidence as "something meant to be" and wonder if you should give in to the "gut feeling" telling you to strike up a conversation, hoping that you might glean some helpful information. Operating from the perspective of faith, the third level, you wouldn't hesitate for a second knowing that this man was put next to you for a reason, and you would find the first opportunity to engage in conversation that will yield the clarity you need to resolve your dilemma."

Chapters incorporate research into prayer, meditation, and attitude as they explore the foundations of each and how they intersect to create a divine approach to life.

More than a spiritual reflection or philosophical contemplation alone, Demas includes a memoir about her own life's course and the miracles, coincidences, and attitudes that continue to drive its progression. Her personal experiences, reflections on changing social and economic climates around her, and choices in expressing gratitude and using the Course in Miracles program to change fear to love makes for engrossing reading not just for its ideas, but for the insights into how they are enacted in everyday life situations.

Spirituality readers looking for a road map to making some of these transitions and realizations themselves will find that The Divine Language of Coincidence charts the results of a simple determination to pay better attention to life.

It's a powerful series of revelations that enlighten, educate, and inspire, and should be on the shelves of any new age or spirituality collection.

The Limits of Limelight
Margaret Porter
Gallica Press
9780990742012, $14.95 print / $5.99 ebook

The Limits of Limelight is a Hollywood novel about the cousin of Ginger Rogers, Helen Nichols, who finds a different kind of opportunity in the town when her cousin invites her to become successful in the new motion picture business that is rapidly evolving.

The Oklahoma teen comes to "talkie town" set for success, between her famous cousin's invitation, the possibility of a contract, and her new name (Phyllis Fraser). What she doesn't bring with her is an understanding of the undercurrents of 'tinsel town' and its ability to crush the dreams and aspirations of the inexperienced.

Her chaperon and aunt, Lela Rogers, also has stars in her eyes and her own agenda for personal success. This affects her relationships with her daughter Ginger and her niece.

As the females face a male-dominated film industry that is ruthless its money-driven approach to life, each changes and faces challenges to her dreams that forces a revised picture of Hollywood's allure and opportunities for women.

Their relationships grow (as does the sense of family connection) from these experiences: "Was Ginger going to ask her to move in? She'd grown so attached to Anne and Mimi Shirley. What's more, she was reluctant to return to that place she'd previously occupied, deep within the shadow cast by the outrageously talented and enormously popular movie star."

As each is transformed by hobnobbing with other stars, handling new wealth and its promise of more, and dealing with Hollywood's social and political environment, The Limits of Limelight does a fine job of capturing family relationships affected by the backdrop of opportunity (either real or illusionary).

Based on the true journey of Helen Maurine Brown Nichols (best remembered as Phyllis Fraser Cerf Wagner), this story's progressive examination of the price of success and a young girl's entry into an industry notorious for prosperity and romance provides an engrossing glimpse into a bygone era and the forces affecting a young woman's evolution into her own abilities and adulthood.

Women who like stories of Hollywood and family ties will find The Limits of Limelight adds just the right blend of action to keep it vigorous and involving to the end. It's a story especially recommended for anyone interested in Hollywood history and affairs.

Walking Away from Hate
Jeanette and Lauren Manning
Tidewater Press
9781990160004, $23.95

Walking Away from Hate: Our Journey through Extremism tells of how, as a teen, author Lauren Manning was recruited through the internet by a white extremist group. They were adept at feeding into her middle-class family's values and her simmering teen anger to foster within her a hatred and prejudice that led her to denounce her family and enter into a violent life on the streets of Toronto.

The process of Lauren's recruitment into extremist beliefs, her rejection of her family's upbringing and values, and her participation in this dangerous world is documented in her personal story of changing beliefs and visions of justice and truth. Her account also closely considers how her family fought to forge a new relationship with their daughter.

Walking Away from Hate's contrasts between mainstream belief systems and extremist thinking processes, the methods by which young adults are convinced to embark on life-changing paths of destruction and hate, and an insider's thoughts about the experience are told from both sides to create an especially evocative read: "My life was already fucked up so who cared if I didn't show up? It was just one more thing - in addition to living on the streets, having no place to call home and no family to belong to - that I couldn't bring myself to care about. My thought process had always been more or less "ignore it and it'll go away."

Of particular note are the feelings of the participant as she examines the differences between what she has been taught, her newfound friends' beliefs, and what she observes in the world around her: "White kids aren't going to be safe if we allow these Blacks to walk all over us. We're defending our people." His answer was the one I'd heard many times before but this time it got me thinking about parenting a child of hate. If a child saw evidence of their parent's fight, what impact would that have? Was it fair to raise a child in this culture? What about parents who forced their opinions on their kids?"

While the juxtaposition of two worlds is a central theme of this mother/daughter story, equally powerful are the insights into how white extremist thinking is fostered in the young.

Walking Away from Hate serves as a contrast between ideals of justice, truth, and social issues. It ideally will be used for classroom study and parent/child discussions of ideology gone awry, and its powerful lure and message for those who grow into adulthood angry about society's failures and parental teachings.

Find Your Carrot
Jacquelyn H. Berry, Ph.D.
FYC Enterprises
9781736479209, $12.00

Find Your Carrot comes from a Fulbright scholar and cognitive scientist who studies human/computer interaction and authenticity. In it, she asks a succinct and hard-hitting question: are those motivated to succeed chasing the carrot, or running from the stick? Do the foundations of success hold their roots in fear, or positivity?

These and other questions drive a self-help psychology examination that excels in understanding goal-oriented behavior sources and how to not just gain heart's desires, but identify and separate them from influences that deviate from the heart's true path.

This process involves refining and honing goals ("The price for taking up space on this planet is doing something only you were meant to do and helping others in the process."), identifying struggles and their deeper meaning ("Struggling with how to do something is normal. But make sure it's the how you're struggling with and not the why."), and finding a better level of focus, surrounding oneself with those who share that same objective ("The people you surround yourself with should reflect who you want to be.").

While many of these messages aren't new concepts, what is new is their appearance under one cover under the uniform goal of creating a transformative experience that develops new support systems, replacing old patterns and expectations of self with revised, more purposeful visions of the future.

More than just a formula for success, Find Your Carrot gets down to the nitty gritty of identifying unique personal goals and cognitive avenues that free individuals to strike while the iron is hot, tapping into one's personal power to create and recreate an authentic self.

All the nuts and bolts of that process are here. Motivated self-help readers will find many insights to guide them on the path to authenticity, helping them visualize and achieve ideal outcomes with an ultimate "carrot" or goal in mind.

Self-help collections and readers already on that path will want to make Find Your Carrot a foundation read. It covers a process author Jacquelyn H. Berry has successfully employed herself, to get to where she is today.

The Apple King
Barbara Anne King
Cypress Point Press
9781733536950, $16.99 Paper/$4.99 Kindle

Readers of historical fiction centered around World War I will find The Apple King a powerful story that winds 1881 immigrant Nikola Markovich's secret and a journey to a new life in America with events that bring him full circle back to Croatia, where he confronts the past and his future.

From Nikola's poverty-stricken European heritage and his success in the apple industry in the new country to a legacy that draws him back into a world stuck in a bygone era, there to confront his failures, successes, and opportunities for redemption, Barbara Anne King paints a gripping portrait of Europe, America, and one man's pivot points.

As generations of patriotic pride in the Croatian city of Ragusa influence Nikola's choices and lend to his decisions to reclaim his heritage, the milieu of a world teetering on the edge of war comes alive through his perceptions and experiences.

What Nikola finds when he returns is an uneducated country that has made little headway out of poverty under the Austrian Regime. The next generation who would have fought for it has left for bigger promises. Nikola's return portends many big changes not just for him, but for the countries he loves, which share the common value of freedom.

To many in his new home, Nikola is "...just another Croat seeking his fortune in California." As readers move through Nikola's experiences with fellow immigrants from different countries, his connections to his homeland and his newfound successes in America, and the ties which draw him back to his roots, they receive a powerful saga steeped in European and American history and culture at the turn of the century.

Barbara Anne King's ability to intersect the personal ideals, secrets, dreams, and struggles of Nikola's life with bigger-picture thinking about liberty and the choices of individuals and nations alike provides historical novel readers with the opportunity to understand many influences on World War I's prewar milieu.

Those who seek insights on Croatian culture, in particular, will relish all the details of a world which too rarely receives much in-depth exploration.

From Serbia's dream of a Slav empire (shared by other Slav countries, including Croatia) and the end result of its victory in the Balkan Wars to the struggle to "seize the moment before it flees," King crafts a satisfying juxtaposition between political events and personal struggle as the story evolves.

There are no singular or simple perspectives here. From the complicated relationships between immigrants from different countries to the evolution of California's lucrative apple industry, King gives examples of all kinds of growth on many different levels.

The Apple King is a compelling saga of struggle between generations, countries, political objectives, and social transformation. It brings readers into a compelling situation and the life of a young man challenged economically, morally, and ethically by many hard decisions in a fast-changing world.

A Different Kind of War
J. Malcolm Garcia
9781953236180, $15.00

A Different Kind of War: Uneasy Encounters in Mexico and Central America comes from the unusual vantage point of a social worker turned journalist who worked in Afghanistan and reported on South American countries, as well. His unique perspective and background combines a people-focused social worker's approach with a reporter's eye for detail. His title documents peoples' lives, interactions, disappearances and threats, and the changing atmospheres of their worlds.

More than a dispassionate listing of political influence (as one might expect from the title), this hard-hitting social expose delineates the worlds of different peoples in Mexico and Central America who operate and intersect at different levels of their societies: "She felt bad for the women living as they did. Some of them, she saw, were indigenous Mayas like herself. Sister Magdalena grew up in the province of Santa Cruz Chinautla. Her family identified as Mam, one of many Maya nations that make up rural Guatemala. The people of Santa Cruz Chinautla molded clay pots and farmed. It was a town almost insignificant in size. A river ran through it, and the black water carried waste from Guatemala City. Still, Sister Magdalena recalls a happy, cheerful childhood, the dirty river just part of life's struggle."

These stories often read with the quiet drama of fiction, as in the story of a Sister operating an orphanage: "Kissing her niece on her forehead, Sister Sandau sighs. Hours from now, the sun will rise, and with it the possibility of new orphans. She receives very little notice. The police or a family just show up with a child."

Contrast this scene with that of a reporter's newsroom shortly before an execution in 2009 and an interview which captures the violent effects of active drug trade on the streets of Mexico: "...the two-year-long drug war raging in this desert city of 1.5 million kills an average of nine people a day. The Mexican government sent in the army to help quell the violence. For two months, the number of violent deaths dropped dramatically. But in June, it spiked back up. "Before, there were gunfights in the street with automatic weapons," said Juarez Mayor Jose Reyes Ferriz. "Now they kill with 9-millimeter handguns. Before, they drove around the city with AK-47s. They can't now. But they are still fighting. They fight all the way down to small-time distributors killing one another."

It's evident, through this contrast of social ills, that the war being fought isn't a singular event or experience. J. Malcolm Garcia's 'uneasy encounters' capture and contrast a revised state of 'normal' throughout the region. This approach will prove eye-opening for Americans who envision beaches and tourist destinations when they think of Mexico and its neighbors.

A Different Kind of War holds the rare ability to make its readers feel uneasy. It should. It's not an easy world, but one which is too rarely portrayed in all its contrasts and nuances, making this book essential reading for anyone who would truly understand the region's social, economic, and political struggles.

Tamel Wino
Independently Published
9781777408824, $0.99

Ekleipsis provides short horror stories of inhumanity and transformation, and is a recommended choice for literary, sci-fi, and horror audiences alike.

These suspense pieces are steeped in psychological darkness, and are especially recommended for readers who like a Hitchcock-style element of horror injected into the lives of everyday characters.

Take 'The Other Son', the opening story, for example. First-person narrator Dougie has been doing the same job for nearly thirty years. He's fifty, on this day, working for a noxious boss in a nondescript job where he has a set routine and no different prospects for the future.

His gift to himself is Charlie. Who is Charlie? 'Shiny and new', Charlie is "A radiant flower rising from the dirt, a new life for me to care for." Charlie represents Dougie's ability to remain a giving person, but as the story unfolds, an unexpected darkness joins good intensions, causing them to go awry.

Another example is 'The Has-Been' which explores the intersection and encounters between Ben Taylor, who is set to inherit an endowment, and those who challenge him to think about the roots of altruism, selflessness, and greed.

As his protegee comes up for recognition, Ben finds himself torn in different directions between different people in his life; including his father, who barely acknowledges Ben as his son.

Each story examines a dark facet of life's challenges and social issues ranging from alcoholism to PTSD and family relationships. Each demands from its reader a level of contemplation and inspection of the dark elements of the psyche, and each delves into the minds (and, more importantly, the motivations) of characters who choose their particular careers and lifestyles.

The result won't be for the reader seeking action-packed high drama, but for the literary-minded horror fan who finds value in psychologically astute suspense approaches.

This audience will relish the slow buildups of tension that permeate each story in Ekleipsis, and will welcome its ability to traverse the boundaries of bizarre reflection and daily life.

The Great Weight Debate
Amy Newman Shapiro, RDN, CDN, CPT
Snewman Media
9780988607125, $14.95 Paper/$9.99 Kindle

The Great Weight Debate: Get the Facts and Choose the Diet That's Right For You explores the rationales behind the myriad of popular weight loss plans and premises on the market today.

Unlike weight loss books designed to promote a particular avenue towards success, Amy Newman Shapiro's guide contrasts the latest research, theories, and perceptions of what kind of diet promotes weight loss. Her approach offers a foundation of knowledge of contrasting scientific and health approaches to managing weight, giving readers the opportunity to debate and contrast all the facts.

The diets range from popular, well-known ones to those equally effective but less familiar. Individual health and genomic profiles are as great an influence on a diet's success as the science behind each method. This explains why various diets work for some and not others, and also supports the importance of understanding what's involved in a diet's ultimate success, which goes beyond willpower alone to delve into individual bodily makeup.

As Shapiro expands her discussion, readers receive important facts about weight control which probe overall gut health (how to maintain, preserve, or restore it), connections between diet and exercise, how to handle plateaus, and how to understand the difference between a fad diet and a lifestyle change.

The Great Weight Debate is the perfect book for readers interested in weight loss who question the approaches and need for different diets. Its survey of the principles and research behind each diet allows for a reasoned contrast unavailable in books that focus on the process itself. Its assessments of the latest trends and research assures that weight loss enthusiasts have all the facts at hand to make reasoned decisions about how they can best lose weight.

No weight loss or health collection should be without this simple discussion of weight loss risks, benefits, and options.

Mystic Invisible
Ryder Hunte Clancy
Winter Goose Publishing
9781952909054, $14.99 Paper/$5.99 Kindle

Mystic Invisible provides teen fantasy readers with the compelling story of Monte Darrow, a young wizard who moves to the mystically jeopardized Scottish Highlands to find that magic is forbidden in a place where legends run awry.

Monte's world is regulated by the International Mystic Bureau's limitations and oversight, but it's still a threatened world in which magic is becoming unstable and dangerous.

The introductory milieu of teens in high school fades into supernatural and fantasy realms involving missing Mystics, vanishing creatures, deadly possessed seashells, and mysterious figures cloaked in rainbow lights. Monte and his friends Cameron, Finn, and others find themselves both evolving their abilities and confronting something no adult Mystic dares to face.

From efforts to discover the intrigue behind a mysterious seashell to the dilemma involved in trying to identify valor from vice, Ryder Hunte Clancy creates a fast-paced story which builds its foundations on interpersonal relationships as much as mystical and magical encounters.

These cement this story of teens coming of age and coming into their powers, embracing all the transformative choices these processes involve.

Teens who enjoy fast-paced action and adventure tempered by intrigue, mystery, and the efforts to keep magical disasters from the prying eyes of the non-magical world will find Mystic Invisible satisfyingly unpredictable and involving.

Its ability to blend mystery, fantasy elements, and coming of age themes as its young protagonists learn which rules to break and which to abide by makes for an excellent story.

Tatar Storm
Tibor Gergely
Independently Published
9798649768399, $12.99 Paper/$7.40 Kindle

Historical fiction fans with a special interest in the Mongol era and medieval European backdrops will find a special treat in Tatar Storm - it's the only fictional work to include all the significant events of the invasion.

The focus is on the grandson of Genghis Khan, Batu Khan, who has his sights set on ruling the entire European continent. He only made it to Hungary, where his rule changed the lives of its people and led to a firm rebellion that prevented him from achieving his broader goals.

One would expect such a story to open in this bygone era, but it begins in modern times, when a female archaeologist arrives on site to investigate an unexpected discovery during a construction project. An ornately carved, hidden door sporting the double seal of Bela IV leads to an ancient sealed box that holds a historical treasure: the words of Detre, son of Mate, who records in extraordinary detail the events which led he and his fellow men to hole up in an old castle for nine months; starving, cold, and dreading the Tatar invaders who have decimated Hungary.

This introduction injects a compelling desperation into the story from the start that draws readers while assuring that no prior familiarity with the era or Hungarian history is needed in order to thoroughly access and enjoy this vivid account: "I shall write down all that I witnessed during this last year, when our beautiful flourishing country became filled with corpse-stinking air and littered with rotting ruins hither and yon, until the time is upon us, until Our Lord's judgment is fulfilled. My story started here, in this small castle by river Danube exactly a year ago, and how, as the king's vassal I came to be here, and not, rather sharing the bitter bread of exile with my master, is all explained in the history of events recounted below..."

This preface leads into a story that attracts in two ways: though strong characters, and a 'you are there' series of atmospheric descriptions that capture the sights, sounds, smells, and times: "The mounted regiments, the heavy cavalry of the Knights Templar and Hospitaller along with the king's own heavy cavalry and also the county's light cavalry brigades camped on the left of the road leading to the city. The private soldiers of the aristocrats erected their tents to the right. There was an empty square, tram-pled flat and fenced in with barriers constructed by the squires, where their lords were passing the time jousting and practising dragoon duelling. The metallic clattering was constant, blade on blade, on shield, on armour."

From the invaders' underestimation of the power of the king and the determination of the Hungarians to choose their own leader and destiny to the close attention to historical detail unparalleled in other stories of the times (according to author Tibor Gergely: "About two-thirds of the events described in the novel actually happened. About 70% of the characters in the novel were real people. The novel also features details from original, contemporary documents that fit perfectly into the story."), this story is powerfully rendered. It will simply delight both newcomers and seasoned readers familiar with the times, who well know of the gap in literature surrounding this important, little-covered era (again, per Gergely: "So far no novels or films have been made about the events of the Mongol invasion in Hungary.").

The close attention to historical detail alone would have made this historical novel exceptional; but its ability to draw in those less familiar with the history blends accessibility with flair for drama that exquisitely captures the pathos, conflict, and tortuous social and political changes that were the legacies of an invasion that almost resulted in genocide.

It's rare to find such a blend of scholarly detail spiced with compelling fictional proficiency. Tatar Storm is a standout in many ways, and deserves a place as a foundation piece in any historical fiction library, and on the shelves of readers who may or may not have a prior background or interest in medieval European history.

Where Madness Lies
Sylvia True
Top Hat Books
c/o John Hunt Publishing
9781789044607, $18.95 Paper/$7.19 Kindle

Where Madness Lies moves between 1934 Germany and the USA in 1984 as it weaves connections between the Holocaust and its lingering impact on the world. It is especially recommended for readers who might wonder at the need for reinforcing Holocaust history in modern times, and considers the lasting legacy of repression and genocide on surviving generations.

It should be noted that this is the fictionalized story of Sylvia True's grandmother's world. True has embellished somewhat for the sake of crafting a captivating fictional read, admitting that while some details are how she imagines them, "the bones of the story are true." This realistic feel is part of what makes Where Madness Lies so compelling; but another satisfying reason for its strength is that no singular point of view is the lone capturer of these events.

The story opens with a Q&A session in 1947 Germany with Dr. Paul Viktor Bohm - Medical Director of Sonnenstein Psychiatric Hospital and Deputy Director of Action T4. The discussion of 'mercy murders' and why a professional physician would willingly become involved in gas chamber executions of his fellow ordinary countrymen makes for a powerful introduction, injecting moral and ethical examinations from the start: "Q: And you agreed to this because of orders from Bouhler? A: I agreed to it because we were releasing patients from lives of misery."

As events move back and forth in time and between different characters, True is careful to include these changing dates in each chapter heading so readers experience no confusion about past and present settings.

From the well-known methods of oppression which overtake Germany to the specter of mental illness and how it is handled over the decades, True crafts an involving story of the changing world and how mentally ill patients and people become especially threatened: "I am only thinking that because of the times we live in, I find some of the methods used at the hospital, to be blunt - barbaric."

As these different eras fall under True's close inspection, readers receive a discussion that examines concepts of freedom, civil rights, repression, and the lasting impact of social and political changes on generations to come.

It was more than a time of genocidal embraced the effort to use women's mental health against them as one of the many means of controlling the population and altering their perceptions of right and wrong.

This detailed examination of how a horrifying concept became part of the mainstream acceptance of Nazi contentions forms the backbone of a story firmly rooted in family experience and struggle.

Any reader of Holocaust history who thinks they already have likely received enough of the typically familiar focus on events should think again - and choose Where Madness Lies. It represents a powerful survey of control, transformative social experiments, and the real struggles the Nazi paradigm brought to ordinary Germans; and it traces these repercussions into today's world, with chilling food for thought.

Braving the World
Pam Saylor
Independently Published
9781736073100, $15.99 Paper/$4.99 ebook

Braving the World: Adventures in Travel and Retirement offers a familiar dream to adventure-oriented retirees that perhaps now belongs to a bygone world: traveling the world slowly, living amongst the locals long enough to experience changing seasons and the full flavors of each locale visited.

This is quite a different kind of travel than those conducted during one's work years, when schedules and due dates dictate the destinations viewed and the allotted time spent in them, often precluding any depth of experience.

2017 began this retirement dream for Pam Saylor and her husband with a one-way ticket to Italy and a plan to spend quality time in Europe after an early retirement.

But life holds surprises; not the least of which is the fact of the opportunity to sit back and reflect. Travel is not all about relaxation and contemplation. It brings with it challenges, obstacles, revised plans and worldviews, and the need for flexibility and cooperative thinking that can add to the problems if a couple traveling together are not in sync with many things.

And so Braving the World represents an inner journey of growth as much as a travelogue of places visited and discoveries made in the world at large. It considers the nuts and bolts of how Saylor and Dave made decisions, budgeted for the trip, and acknowledged the possibilities, limitations, and demands of their planned travel: "Dave and I lived like most working couples - alongside each other, but busy in our separate ways. Of course, we were together evenings and weekends, but we spent our work-days with co-workers. At home, there was room to spread out and we each had our own way of doing things. We had our separate routines, schedules, and hobbies. Spending every day, all day crammed on top of each other in a small studio apartment did not sound appealing. Even though we could have saved money with a studio apartment, it wasn't going to happen."

Saylor not only charts their journeys, but advises armchair and destination-oriented travelers on the best ways to make the most of whatever time they have allotted for their trip: "Just seeing the everyday sights in the city of London would be a month's long job, and what do you do if you, like most people, don't have months? I've listed dozens of things to do, and I'm sure there were many more I missed, wonderful places I walked right by and didn't notice. What to do with only a week in London? I say, go with the things you love and care about, your passions, and skip the rest."

From dealing with diabetes and insulin laws in different countries while on the road to navigating puzzling foreign systems and falling in love with places that might never be visited again, Saylor brings readers into a 'you are there' journey of a lifetime: "How can I hang onto this trip? If only I could somehow dig my fingers into time itself and hold it still. I wish I could snap my fingers and be standing in Greenwich Market eating oysters, or click my heels and be in Rome walking on Palatine Hill and looking down at the Colosseum. Finally, the tears came, and I rubbed them away - feeling angry, lost, sad, tired. It was ending. We had lived our crazy dream - from country to country, city to city, to Europe and Africa and back again. There wasn't one thing I would change. When will we ever come back?"

They returned different people, earmarking 2020 for a return to France. Then everything changed. While it would be enlightening to have an addendum about the post-Covid world of non-travel, this is a story still in the making. Revel, instead, in this adventure through bygone times in advancing years. If you can't hit the road yourself, Braving the World is the next best thing, and offers a vivid blend of travel advice and adventure that teaches much about how to live differently.

Project Renaissance: White Wings
Brian Gates
Independently Published
9780578845111, $12.99 Paper/$4.99 Kindle

One day, Detective Booker Vaux arrives home from work to find his entire family has vanished without a trace. It turns out that a large corporation set on altering reality has something to do with matters, and so Booker and his partner Sam head out to do what they do best: investigate.

Project Renaissance: White Wings follows that investigation into realms dangerous even in a futuristic world where androids abound and humanity is increasingly threatened by its own technological advancements.

In a world where "the hustle of police work is never tamed," Booker has carved a unique place for himself that can never be replaced or augmented by artificial means. Or, can it?

As he and Sam venture into unknown territory, they become increasingly ensnared in a plot that ranges from hacking into police feeds to making the Solis Corporation a powerful entity impossible to control or harness.

The goal is to artificially induce the next phase of Mankind, injecting him into a utopian world...for a price. It's a price Booker and Sam deem too expensive to pay as their probe results in a dangerous cat-and-mouse game in a thriller setting that blends AI functions, dystopian themes, and intrigue.

Brian Gates does an outstanding job of making this milieu come to life through the eyes of a policeman who just wants to live his life with purpose and family support, but finds his ideals and role at odds with this new reality.

The story progresses with a form of Robin Cook-style intrigue that keeps readers on the edge of their seats with satisfyingly unpredictable twists and turns throughout.

As the real personas, intentions, and challenges of both Booker and Solis emerge, readers are treated to a gripping series of clues and keys that Booker must unlock if he ever has hopes of seeing his family again. These keys lead him straight into a dangerously altered world.

How inconsiderate the world is, to go on in the face of such a threat! And how savvy Booker must be, to thwart a force he'd never imagined as being a part of his present life and possible future.

Gripping, involving, and powered by fierce characters who don't quit, Project Renaissance: White Wings will simply delight readers of dystopian worlds and intrigue who will find the thriller and sci-fi components to be powerfully compelling.

The Top Five Things to Consider Before Filing An Employee Relations Complaint
Patrice Miller
Page Publishing
101 Tyrellan Avenue Suite 100 New York, NY 10309
9781642984804, $11.95 Paper/$9.95 ebook

The Top Five Things to Consider before Filing an Employee Relations Complaint: And How to File an Effective Complaint is as important a reference as one's employee manual, providing insights for employees at all levels of business. Its review of company policies, the complaint process, how to assess the pros and cons of a dilemma for best resolution, and cautionary notes about investigators who look into a complaint should be foundation knowledge for any American worker.

Ideally, The Top Five Things to Consider before Filing an Employee Relations Complaint will be taught in business courses for new adults just entering the workplace. It provides concrete insights that more general books directed to this audience fail to mention and it assesses strategies, typical courses of action (and inaction), and includes psychological insights into common causes for complaints.

From bullying in the workplace and tips on conflict resolution to things to consider before an employee complaint is filed, this slim but accessible manual helps employees avoid many common pitfalls and lends to understanding how the complaint system works on both sides.

Succinct and packed with details, The Top Five Things to Consider before Filing an Employee Relations Complaint is an essential worker's guide that should be a staple in any business book collection and worker's reference library.

The Grave I Call My Garden
Victoria Cosmo
Barnes and Noble Press
9781666236323, $20.00

The Grave I Call My Garden blends autobiography with literature, using poetry to trace the memories and changing aspects of Victoria Cosmo's personal life. It will appeal to readers of literature and autobiography who appreciate the intersection of these devices and the opportunity it brings to expand the boundaries of both.

Time moves differently for writer Cosmo and her readers, in this collection. The poems are presented in a chronological order that begins with a section on childhood captioned 'The Waves of Oceans and Withdrawls', starting with 'The Oceans'. Here, readers receive the ebb and flow of the young mind's observation of the world and changing waves of "Earth calling my young body back to rest," reflecting on how "Florida rebuilds/Here on this swamp/We make things new from rot." It describes a place where "Preparation looks a lot like skepticism."

From ocean waves to swamp to tub, the sensations of water, childhood, and the experience of learning to swim in the deep end of life intersect with the Florida experience to provide not just a sense of evolving self, but place.

Each time Cosmo touches the world, it gives way and springs back with descriptive words that draw connections between past, present, and future, and the evolution of worldviews: "Children don't expect anything more than bare minimum/That maybe extraordinary could bring about more of you/Like love is merely a late shipment."

By now, it should be apparent that this book is rich in experiential descriptions and close connections between encounters with life and the inner interpretation that forms personality, hopes, fears, and values.

As the narrator ages, so do her lessons and reflections, which move from wonder to feeling stuck to moving into adjusting expectations of what it means to fully live: "I think the best advice I could ever pass on would be/Never hold onto a single afternoon/That it will not make up for the rest of it.../That you can't go your whole life expecting magic can make the same thing twice."

Punctuation (commas, periods, and the like) might have added an emphasis to these free verse pieces that would have further solidified their intentions. But by keeping the sentence structures fluid, Cosmo allows for a freer-ranging interpretative poetic license on the reader's part.

As the progression moves from cradle to grave, the vast world opens like a flower, using Cosmo's perspective to chart the ebb and flow of growth in different directions, from grief and parting to love and hope.

More so than most poetry collections, this moves from each flowering impression, passion, emotion, and lesson to another, building a progressive stage of events that brings readers not just into her life, but into her world.

Poetry readers looking for strong autobiographical development in a free verse presentation will find The Grave I Call My Garden aesthetically compelling, with each poem interpreting life's delights, challenges, and growth opportunities in a thought-provoking manner.

You Can't Write City Hall
Jeremy Nunes
Clovercroft Publishing
9781950892976, $14.99

You Can't Write City Hall: What Happened When A Stand-Up Comedian Got Elected Mayor is based on the true story of a stand-up comedian who was elected to public office. It comes from an author who was an active participate in the comedy community when he decided to help that same community by running for office.

The Introduction comes with a caveat warning of a slow buildup in the comedy arena as Nunes sets his stage for readers: "Like my mayoral career and any good comedic story, this book first takes a little time to lay the foundation. As the story builds, so does the humor. In my biased opinion, once you understand the basic details of the story, you'll really settle into the laughter it brings as you continue through the pages."

What follows can be best described as a romp through political and social conundrums as Nunes offers the first revelation: although he ran for office, he never intended on taking up the reins. Indeed, his comedy persona dominated his ticket: "I ran for office as a joke. I registered my name on the ballot as "Comedian Jeremy Nunes." Then, I distributed fliers with my campaign slogan: "Put a Real Joker in Office."

You'd think the community would get a general laugh out of such a campaign, and then turn over the keys to the city to a seasoned politician. The fact that they went for the punch line hook, line, and sinker only goes to show that a breath of fresh air is preferable over staid approaches to holding public office, these days, at all levels.

Nunes first won a seat on the council, virtually uncontested. His bid for Mayor resulted in a win...and then began his political surprises as he settled into the job of running a town where questionable characters can be observed egging a house in the night, yet still can't be confronted: "Sure enough, they had egged the house. We called the police, yet again, and filed a report. And yet again, the police said that just because we say we saw the Greens do this, didn't mean they could do anything about it. We had to prove it, or all the police could do was talk to them. Yet again, I was reminded that somehow we had to get them out of this town."

The combination of real political conundrums, backroom discussions, dog-and-pony shows between politicians, and wheeling and dealing to get things done blends well with the elements of irony, satire, and a comedian's perspective on the job.

The latter lends a tongue-in-cheek observation of the political process which readers will find accessible even as they are enlightened about what a town mayor does and how he does it.

Passages delving into this process are delightful: "The annual argument over what night to hold the bonfire and wiener roast then commenced. Rhonda chimed in, saying, "I am sick and tired of Buffalo doing their event the same night as ours. We did it first in our community, so there's no reason to change it!"

The result may sound incongruous, at first, but it's a fine mix of real-world processes and a comedian's very different take on how to react to complainers and small-town drama queens.

Readers who like their comedic encounters firmly cemented in serious real-world confrontations will find You Can't Write City Hall cultivates a delightful blend of insights on political processes, memoir, and a comedian's unique perspective on how to react to an audience which embraces an entire community. It gives chuckles; sure...but within the arena of political inspection that succeeds in offering rare enlightenment while it spices the story with fun encounters of the comedic kind.

Falling Forward, a Woman's Journey West
Pat Benedict Jurgens
Purple Pine Publishing
9780578701578, $15.95 paper; $6.99 Kindle eBook

Falling Forward, a Woman's Journey West is coming-of-age literary fiction at its best and follows the saga of seventeen-year-old Louisa, a Mennonite farm girl living in 1890s Ohio.

Her dreams of travel and adventure seem impossible when her mother dies in childbirth, leaving her to care for her younger siblings as her father struggles to keep the farm running.

When he hires Thomas, an outsider to the Faith, to help on the farm, Louisa finds everything changed not just by her attraction to him, but the differences between her strict Mennonite upbringing and the challenges he poses to them as an outsider with very different beliefs and perspectives on life and God.

When her loving father agrees to their union, Louisa and Thomas thus begin their own journey, making many discoveries about themselves and each other along the way. They are challenged to create a life together in a community that has shunned them.

Pat Benedict Jurgens brings the times to life, as well as introducing the foundations of a Mennonite household and its Germanic heritage. Her attention to detail includes dialogue between father and daughter which captures these foreign flavors while keeping the story understandable: "I haf lost face in de church, but still haf my daughter. Vith a strong-headed girl like you, dat is victory." She looked up with an uncertain smile, but didn't say anything. "Nineteen years you are, a voman grown, and one who knows her own mind." Louisa's fingers stopped sewing to take in his words: "I hope it nein vill land you in too much trouble."

When yet another tragedy strikes, the headstrong and determined Louisa is challenged to continue her foray into the world alone: "...outdoors in the natural world, grass along the walk greened, crocuses and then daffodils pushed their way up from the earth. The scent of earth and early blossoms permeated the air. Looking at the buds on the big cottonwood tree in the yard, Louisa saw the world awakening. Gradually she began to feel that life was for living."

Jurgens adds many observations about women's roles during this era, in these wild places and times: "A woman's livelihood hinged on either having a husband or enough money to be independent." But Louisa is not the kind of woman to remain quietly true to her assigned role even as a bank president stymies her proposal: "I don't doubt your capability, Miss. And I admire your enthusiasm, but starting a business is a man's job. If your husband were alive, I doubt that he'd agree to your ambitions. I understand you need to make a living, but perhaps something you could do at home would be more seemly. A store run by a woman? Pardon me, but a man's head for commerce is needed for an endeavor of this magnitude."

Readers who anticipate the journey of another pioneer girl will find this coming-of-age story offers so much more as Louisa's ventures in the West evolve from travel to business to enter another forbidden circle, politics, which brings with it a blossoming women's suffrage movement.

All these elements are presented in a warm, involving story that is a delight to read. The personal growth of a homebody and feisty girl into a determined woman who falls into a role of advocating for social change is well done and compelling.

Women's fiction readers who seek more than adventure alone will welcome Louisa's story of social, political, and personal transformation.

Reflections From Both Sides of the Glass Ceiling
Stephanie Battaglino
L'Oste Vineyard Press
9781735389622, $16.99 Paper/$7.99 Kindle

Reflections From Both Sides of the Glass Ceiling: Finding My True Self in Corporate America is a businesswoman's memoir about how she transitioned while working as a senior executive at New York Life. Her experience provides a unique perspective on the glass ceiling in business from the viewpoint of a male who became female and unexpectedly confronted the disparity in not just income, but respect between the genders.

Many books are now on the market covering the social impact of transitioning. However, more so than most, Stephanie Battaglino's candid discussion of the business world is striking from the start, and will open many eyes to the issues: "I have lived a life on both sides of the glass ceiling. On one side, I came into the world identified by an anatomy that said to society I was male, even though inside I knew I was really female. On the other side of the glass, I lived with the privilege afforded to most white males, and did not understand what that privilege really meant until I lost it. When I stepped into my office as Stephanie, a trans woman and a person that most of my colleagues saw as female, I suddenly found myself looking at the glass ceiling from a very uncomfortable perspective - with my nose firmly pressed up against it, thinking, "How far I have fallen!" But that's not even the half of it. What happened at that moment was just the first of many challenges I faced in finding my true self in corporate America."

Stephanie's candid honesty in charting these revelations is part of what sets this memoir apart from others, creating a solid inspection of status quo, class, and gender issues that traces experiences from both sides of the table she sat at.

Readers uncomfortable with issues of gender equality and underlying attitudes and prejudices might find Reflections From Both Sides of the Glass Ceiling a difficult read because it forces the viewer to confront these in their own approaches to life and business. Battaglino's focus on creating human connections that lead to understanding over confrontation, her contrast between the trans and non-binary community and the traditional business world, and her stance on cultivating honesty and a complete life pulls no punches; yet delivers its hard-hitting message with a gentle insistence on understanding.

Her words are passionate, clear, and inviting even as they acknowledge the inherent privilege of being white: " the grand scheme of things, I have it easy - really I do. To many who see me, I'm just another white woman of privilege, and with that comes a free pass, a "Get Out of Jail Free" card of sorts that society allows me to carry with me every day. The daily reality for many of my trans brothers and sisters, especially those of color, is nothing at all like mine. But I have a responsibility to raise up into your consciousness a different daily reality. The one that the vast majority of trans people live with; the one that involves pain, hardship, and for some, violence."

Between her divorce, handling her son, and her business pursuits, Battaglino's memoir embraces the building blocks of constructing a completely different life.

Few memoirs embrace the mission of fostering ideals of transgender workplace inclusion. Few juxtapose the personal and business impact of these actions in such a candid, revealing manner.

This book's discussions of power, attitude, prejudice, and redemption makes for a powerful read highly recommended not just for trans people navigating a new glass ceiling in the workplace, but for business and workplace readers seeking a better understanding of what inclusion really means.

Its hard-hitting discussions will leave everyone thinking long after the story is finished.

Alicia J. Novo
INtense Publications
9781947796652, $16.99 Paper/$28.99 Hardcover

Unwritten will reach teens interested in magical realism and stories about bullying, and introduces the Zweeshen Chronicles series.

Beatrix Alba is a book nerd and is ripe fodder for bullying, which takes place not just in school, but at home. Like most nerds, she harbors dreams of being powerful enough to overcome these forces of darkness. Unlike the rest, she actually holds the secret capability to do so...a power that brings her into the book world she so loves when a spell to keep her hidden breaks.

In Zweeshen, all the tales she so loves are alive. It's a world where wishes come true, there to live alongside horrors the ordinary world keeps buried out of sight, with only books of legends remaining to document this alternate reality.

Unlike her former world, in this one, Beatrix's ability to change everything proves not just an asset, but the starting point for a world-changing battle. Amidst confrontations between good and evil, Beatrix finds herself joining forces with a cursed conjurer to face an adversary intent on taking over.

Only she holds the puzzle key to his ability to do so. And only Beatrix can tap the help of her friends to use darkness to succeed, even if it means destroying the world she's lived in all her life.

Alicia J. Novo creates a powerful story which relies on a set of literary clues and puzzles that drive the main character and her friends to make difficult decisions. Beatrix is motivated by her need to see her mother, but there's a deeper purpose to her actions. She also needs to uncover truths about herself.

Teens receive a coming-of-age (or, perhaps more correctly, a coming-into-power) tale that is delightfully hinged on literary figures and devices from not just fantasy realms, but romance and other genres.

As she questions "How much bad is tolerable?" Beatrix begins to find answers to questions that include many philosophical moments: "I'm convinced the best we can do is live our way. It denies everyone else power over us."

While its moral and ethical queries are one of its strengths, Unwritten will be relished by teens who have experienced bullying and who will especially delight in the unexpected convergence of literary figures on the stage of a world that brings them all to life, fighting side by side: "Elizabeth has arranged for a ship captained by one of Peter Pan's defected pirates."

Its surprising confluence of fantasy and its unexpected twists and turns, supported by strong characters, draws readers into a story that is satisfyingly unpredictable and hard to put down.

Saints and Martyrs
Aaron Roe
Atmosphere Press
9781636495644, $18.99 Paper/$7.99 Kindle

Saints and Martyrs follows protagonist Damian Kurt's determination to write his father's story, proving that he was a saint and that, therefore, Damian is in line to become a saint in heaven himself. This involves confessing his sins, handling his overly-Catholic mother, and recovering from an accident that leads him away from home and the prospect of becoming a religious figurehead, thanks to his mounting list of sinful ways.

The pursuit leads him to a remote seminary which at first seems ideal for following his goal of sainthood. However, it just goes to show that ideals of godliness are rarely achieved by those who aspire to purity. As Damian faces new challenges, the real challenge to his objectives emerges in a place of healing, wonder, and revelation.

Aaron Roe injects a wry sense of humor into his descriptions. Readers will find delight in the most common of experiences, such as Damian's ill-sought experiences during confession: "Dizzy, he suddenly found himself leaning to the left. He swung his torso in the opposite direction and almost fell through the confessional curtain and into the body of Canadian Martyrs. To steady himself he gripped the sides of the small, square window facing him. Through its diamond-pattern grating, Father Dennis slouched in a black cassock and purple stole. With his thick thumb and index finger, the priest pinched the ridge of his nose, raising his glasses to his forehead. Then he rubbed his eyes before resting his cheek on his fist. He seemed oblivious to Damian's flailing."

The sense of place, purpose, and people are cemented throughout by such descriptions, which tap realistic scenarios but present them with a chuckle - perhaps because of their astute commentary on the realities of Catholic thinking: "He wanted to confess his masturbation along with looking at the underwear model in the catalogue, but it was his practice, when confessing acts of lust, to sandwich them between other, less embarrassing sins."

Damian's ability to transcend earthly challenges seems doomed as Roe outlines his failures in even the most mundane of tasks: "Damian was fully awake now and recalled Thoreau's injunction to keep awake "by an infinite expectation of the dawn." This infinite expectation was, to Damian's understanding, a perpetual readiness to re-approach life, adjust one's worldview, and to daringly alter how you spent your days. Also, to ever hope afresh, to never dampen one's outlook by adopting dull, outmoded, and conventional beliefs. Ultimately, to retain, as Christ had enjoined his followers, a childlike awe for nature's beauty, for life's flowing spring of surprises. And since today was just about to fully dawn, he waded to shore where, chilly and dripping, he realized he'd forgotten a towel and fresh underwear. If he dried himself with his old clothes, his stale, smelly past would cling to him just when he was about to sail forth into a fresh future!"

The result is a tongue-in-cheek romp into the ideals of sainthood and godly behavior that will have readers both reflecting on and laughing at Damian's convoluted journey. Religious readers who think they are choosing a story about achieving a spiritual goal will find this story of a flawed character who strives for perfection to be funny, thought-provoking, and poignant as Damian tries to rid himself of his fears and the seminary's increasingly crumbling façade of corruption, only to stumble into unexpected truths and a new vision of life.

It's a vocation story of another order, entirely!

Mystery of the Khar Chuluu
Wilson Whitlow
Independently Published
9781734909807, $7.99 paper; $2.99 Kindle

Mystery of the Khar Chuluu will reach middle grade to adult readers and holds a surprise: it's a full-length book designed to be read aloud. Those who believed their read-aloud days ended with growing away from picture books will find this a delightful prospect because this gentle fantasy, narrated by the "Djinn of All Deserts, who piles himself like a pillar of smoke and rolls across the ages," reveals this sweeping tale using metaphor and mystery to grab attention.

It's the perfect milieu for read-aloud attention by all ages, and so lends well to those who want an ongoing bedtime read filled with action and adventure.

Chul Sun has been hired to steal the khar chuluu, a powerful black stone. But, he's decided not to follow through on turning it over to an even deadlier force, and is on the run. So is Anita Aminou, who is on her own quest to unlock dark powers to save her magical family.

The convergence of the two and their seemingly disparate purposes form a saga that reveals the khar chuluu is not a key, as Chul has believed, but a "wicked thing, full of dark magic" (as the reluctant Djinn is forced to reveal to the children).

Those who command its force will face decisions and dilemmas beyond the ken of most humans. And Chul and Anita may be pushed to make the hardest decision of all in its deployment and protection, tapping into a power that defies even the narrator Djinn's abilities.

Wilson Whitlow's enchanting, fast-paced journey is replete with a special form of magic. It's unusual to find a story featuring young protagonists that holds the ability to thoroughly immerse adult audiences, as well.

As the mystery evolves, powered by the Djinn's savvy and sometimes sarcastic observations of human behaviors, it becomes a riveting read impossible to put down, filled with gripping moments that transform not just the characters, but the readers and read-aloud listeners.

Mystery of the Khar Chuluu is very highly recommended for its astute definitions of wickedness, goodness, power, and wisdom.

If any book deserved a family's read-aloud participation, it should be Mystery of the Khar Chuluu.

Eddie's Boy
Robert Schwab
Warren Publishing
9781735860015, $18.95 paper, $4.95 ebook

Eddie's Boy is a literary survey of family ties and healing. It opens in 2007, when "Dr. Landon Ratliff's fortieth birthday had been lost, thwarting everyone's expectations, including his own." An accident has changed the course of his life, resulting in a head injury and a shattered thumb. On the surface, this appears to be a recoverable incident.

However, like ripples in a pond, his healing sends undercurrents of change through his life, from his relationship with Luna Quinn to changes in his ability to help and teach others.

As Landon's healing moves beyond immediate trauma to embrace issues of a past he'd never successfully confronted, his journey becomes one of reestablishing connections on more than one level - and in more than one life.

His medical leave from his former passions, including teaching, begins to offer him new opportunities, and Landon discovers himself on a trajectory in which nothing of value is protected, certain, or, oftentimes, even appealing.

Robert Schwab does a fine job of exploring a healing process that changes everything. As Luna joins his journey into his past and family relationships, readers are treated to a story of reconciliation and transformation that offers an enlightening, thought-provoking story.

His attempts to confront his own mortality, his choices and their consequences, and his connections to self and the wider world at large are particularly strongly portrayed as Landon learns difficult lessons on how to solidify and handle his responses to life: "I don't know what to tell you, Landon. I don't understand the battles you fight inside your head, but I wish you could get past them. They aren't doing you any good."

The focus on how long-held family relationships and patterns are revised on all sides is particularly nicely done, and will especially attract psychology students and readers interested in how a commitment to doing the right thing goes awry in Eddie's life, Landon's, and others.

Eddie's real legacy turns out to give readers pause for thought as they absorb the lasting impact of life and death decisions on a son's ability to love and embrace life. Perhaps more than anything, this is the shining light in a story that moves through Landon and Luna's world and what it means to be part of a family.

Literary readers who enjoy novels about pivot points in life that lead characters in new directions will appreciate Eddie's Boy, which comes full circle to lead an esteemed doctor to heal himself, opening up his life to new possibilities and the warm embrace of a different depth of love.

Dear Parents
Christina Singh, Ed.D
Warren Publishing
9781736171400, $14.95

Dear Parents...Lessons from Your Child's Teacher: The Parent and Teacher Guide to Creating a Better Bond comes from a parent and teacher who was motivated to write this discourse due to recent challenges to parent/teacher interactions and experiences inside and outside the classroom.

This relationship, once supported by both sides, has become dysfunctional and broken in modern times. Parents and teachers are often seen as being on opposite sides of the fence, when their real objectives should be shared and supported.

Author Christina Singh taught in both Brooklyn, New York and in North Carolina. The diversity of her classrooms and experiences with parents created a unique opportunity to address the modern disconnect between parents and teachers.

Singh seeks to re-establish these connections by reminding readers what parents and teachers have in common. One might think this is self-explanatory, but Singh points out the forces at work in creating modern disconnections between parents and teachers, while placing blame on neither. "The problem is not the teachers; the problem is not the students; and the problem is not the parents. The problem is that everyone is living on their own island without access to the others' perspectives. This is where I come in. I've been a parent, and I've been a teacher. In today's society, both parenting and the education system are under attack. Every day, the news and social media of all kinds is filled with negative stories of teachers, bus drivers, or schools and, sometimes, all of the above in one news segment."

Her consideration of the psyches, teaching methods, and social environments of schools and homes and how they intersect offers astute analysis of many different scenarios and issues arising from them: "Some of the most outstanding teachers are structured, well-organized, and no-nonsense. There is a fine line between this individual - insert teacher name who comes to mind here - and the grumpy teacher who sits behind the desk, never budging an inch even in the most dire of circumstances. I will interject these thoughts: The purpose of school is to learn, and it is challenging to be a student, parent, or teacher in this world. Please do not mix a structured teacher who pushes your child to the fullest potential with a teacher overdue on retirement."

From methodologies that foster positive bonds between teachers and parents to her own experiences as a teacher that taught her, in turn, how to best tap the strength of parental connections to reinforce both her approach and the student's learning opportunities, Dear Parents aims to rebuild these broken ties for a stronger educational and parent-supported result.

Parents who have felt frustration over their local school systems and individual teachers, as well as teachers who have felt the same toward parents, would do well to consult the examples, routines, and advice of Dear Parents. It won't disappoint.

Shotgun Finish
Greg Rode
Warren Publishing
9781735091549, $14.95 Paper/$4.99 ebook

Shotgun Finish reaches fantasy and horror readers alike with an engrossing post-apocalyptic world where unexpected humorous observations give the story an atmosphere like few others.

Zombies are no laughing matter...especially to a dedicated golfer who won't forego the sport just because the world has turned into a mass of zombies, changing even the familiar atmosphere of the fairway: "The constant hum of golf carts, the clink-thwack from the driving range, and the mutter of men enjoying the outdoors is all gone."

It's a world in which the narrator can suddenly afford the finest club, because there's nobody manning the pro shop. And he must golf with gun at ready in case of zombies.

He's been alone for months, golfing and shooting zombies. A woman's arrival seems to portend that his isolation might end, though his caution leads him to question her arrival and bloody countenance (" 'What are you doing out here?' she asks. 'Just playing golf, shooting zombies. You know, typical Wednesday afternoon at the office.' You slick devil, whispers my brain buddy.").

It evolves that the zombies aren't brainless, but are actually clever, organized, and purposeful. The narrator finds himself not just stuck in pause on the course, but involved with a zombie leader, a dreadful deadline, and the possibility that only he can save the world...if he can give up the club and the fairway long enough to do so.

Greg Rode's special blend of witty observation, unexpected twists and turns, and a post-apocalyptic world filled with irony and surprises will especially attract readers of zombie literature looking for a fresh, original take on the subject.

Black and white illustrations pepper a story that is at once gory, engrossing, and filled with flawed heroes and threats.

This isn't your usual zombie scenario. The narrator isn't your typical world-saving hero. And readers will find this special blend of horror and dystopian bloodbath a satisfying illustration of how satire and irony can alter even the most predictable of genres and worlds to change everything.

Shotgun Finish presents a world not to be missed. It is a refreshingly original read especially recommended for zombie apocalypse fans who think they've seen everything.

It should be warned that this is Book 1 of the Sanctuary Chronicles. Be prepared for more.

Nursing Home 101
Ruthie Rosauer
Warren Publishing
9781736171493, $16.95

Nursing Home 101: A Daughter's Perspective deserves a place in self-help, health, and family living collections. It documents a family's uncertain journey through the world of nursing homes when a social worker gave two daughters less than 24 hours to locate a nursing home facility for their elderly mother.

Thrust into the challenges of a long-term care world they were ill prepared to handle, Ruthie and her sister learned the hard way about a myriad of issues, from dental care and dealing with staff to insurance, paperwork, and rules and regulations.

If she's done nothing else by providing this journal record of the journey, Ruthie Rosauer successfully documents a path of pitfalls and possibilities that offer a blueprint for other families facing similar challenges.

Choosing a good nursing home is just the tip of the decision-making iceberg. Even when an elderly person is properly placed, there are a myriad of care issues that family members need to address and consider, from the daily routines of care to dealing with staff members and rules, visiting, and considering little things, such as the challenge of finding glasses that work when the patient can't properly handle a vision test.

Journal entries provide both an easy way of understanding these issues and document the daily frustrations and challenges, as well as solutions found by employing creative problem-solving methods. The format will prove more accessible to readers than most books about nursing home experiences.

Heartfelt insights help readers understand their revised role in a loved one's life when they enter a nursing home: "I reflected on that day, thinking how being present to ask her these questions was a luxury probably enjoyed by no one else in her nursing home. I was acting as an amateur therapist, asking her to consider her hopes and dreams. I was willing to listen to what went on in her mind. The nursing home tried to keep residents clean, out of bed, dressed each day, fed, quiet, and protected from falls. Staff would say a few words, but no one reached out to the residents' hearts. I was, and still am, so grateful I was there for my mom to do that."

Anyone facing the challenges of not just locating but dealing with a nursing home needs Nursing Home 101!

Healing Ourselves Whole
Emily A. Francis
Health Communications, Inc.
3201 S.W. 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442-8190
9780757323775, $15.95 Paper/$11.99 ebook

Healing Ourselves Whole: An Interactive Guide to Release Pain and Trauma by Utilizing the Wisdom of the Body comes from a motivational body worker who provides self-help and new age readers with a powerful survey of how to use the body's inherent healing systems to release pain and trauma.

Emily A. Francis is a wellness expert with much educational prowess to her name. She earned a Bachelor's degree in Exercise Science and Wellness as well as a Master's of Science in Physical Education, graduated from the Atlanta School of Massage in clinical and neuromuscular massage therapy, and went on to specialize (through the Dr. Vodder School North America) in manual lymphatic drainage and combined decongestive therapy. New age health readers will be particularly interested in the fact that she also is a Usui and Karuna Ki Reiki master-level practitioner.

This extensive background, combined with her expertise as a speaker who hosts a regular internet radio show (All About Healing, on Healthy Life Radio), contributes to an authoritative guide on healing that few other authors can match.

Her book teaches how to pair affirmations with exercises, deep meditation techniques, and various therapeutic approaches to supporting positivity and healing-promoting measures.

Audio and written meditations link to her exercise instructions to provide dialogues designed to regain connections with and communication between mental and physical bodily systems.

Between journaling, audio meditations, and supporting science, Healing Ourselves Whole offers a fine opportunity for identifying poisons to body and soul and how to heal from them. It's a self-help workbook recommended for new age and health-oriented readers who would use the power of meditation and healing to foster their own revised, positive paths to complete body and mental health.

The Legend of Jet the Gerbil
Michael Keller
Wise Ink Creative Publishing
9781634894180, $19.95

The Legend of Jet the Gerbil's subtitle is hilarious ('Could Be the Greatest Gerbil Story Ever Told') and portends an exceptional read as young picture book animal enthusiasts absorb the story of Jet, who is more than just another in the many pet gerbils Michael has enjoyed in his young lifetime.

Jet "Did amazing things and had unbelievable adventures" and this story reviews his extraordinary life, spiced by lovely, detailed drawings by Patrizia Donaera.

As Michael reviews all the ways Jet is bigger, stronger, faster and braver, and even challenges invading cats, readers will delight in the tale of a spunky little gerbil who defies gravity and the odds to stand out from the gerbil crowd.

Owner Michael thinks Jet can do anything...but can he confront an appliance monster, and death?

This uplifting, fun celebration of a very special gerbil is truly delightful. Kids who have an affinity for pets or gerbils will find Michael's celebration of his beloved pet is moving and appealing, concluding in a section of natural history facts about gerbils.

Parents and teachers will find the story lends to read aloud, while kids ages 3-8 with good basic reading skills will want to pursue Jet's adventures for themselves. It's an all-around positive story of a boy and his pet that delights with both its action and Donaera's accompanying, beautiful illustrations that support science-based lesson plans, as well.

The Legend of Jet the Gerbil is very, very highly recommended for its excellent combination of both word and art.

Le Deal
J. Byrne Murphy
The Lyons Press
c/o The Globe Pequot Press
9781493060689, $19.95 Paper/$7.59 ebook

Author Bryne Murphy was a successful entrepreneur at a young age, cultivating the finer art of the deal long before the term became a business buzzword. Le Deal: How a Young American, in Business, In Love, and in Over His Head, Kick-Started a Multibillion-Dollar Industry in Europe follows his sojourn into the European retail clothing trade in a business book that reads with all the drama and action of a novel. Because of Murphy's approach to the written word, readers who normally eschew business lesson nonfiction memoirs will relish this tale.

If this title sounds familiar, it should be noted that this is a republication of an earlier book, retailored for new millennial business readers and for future generations who have moved beyond the original book's Baby Boomer paradigm.

Le Deal is about the fine art of identifying and making the next step in a series of building blocks of business acuity. This reformatted exploration emphasizes this process and the pattern recognition associated with it as Murphy explores the cognitive approaches that lead to new, successful outcomes and approaches.

Unlike traditional models about building business success, every venture is different. Murphy found this out when he entered the foreign world of European business circles, explored the start-and-stop social and political underpinnings of entering a strange new world with something valid to build upon and share, and honed a success story during the process of restructuring his vision.

The intersection of human connections and interactions and commerce makes for an engrossing read that contrasts American and European retailing approaches as a whole, as well as the paths Murphy traveled to realize his success in both milieus.

From product life cycles to basic concepts involved in moving from and between American and European export and import markets, business readers receive a lively survey based not just on facts and figures, but the course of Murphy's life and decision-making processes.

As high adventure, high risk, and high hopes lead Murphy and his cohorts continually into new arenas and revised observations of the branding processes, the British buying public, and new markets, readers will be fascinated by the recreation of dialogue between all levels of business folk. The rise of hopes and new expectations, the realities of roadblocks, and unexpected disasters sometimes hold their roots in cultural differences: "Byrne," Marie-France responded calmly and with confidence, "this is normal. In France, it is always this way before an opening." "Well, not in America," I barked. I had never been harsh with Marie-France, and she didn't deserve it even then. But all I could think of was the train wreck that was about to happen the next day as hoards of shoppers (we hoped) descended upon twenty-nine stores that would be nowhere ready for them."

Educational, enlightening, and lively enough to be chosen for leisure pursuit by business readers, Le Deal defies the usually-staid process-oriented approach of the typical business book. It holds the potential to reach beyond its genre borders into general-interest audiences who simply relish a good read, strong characters, and engrossing stories that lead to better insights about the process of crafting success.

It's Not the Trauma, It's the Drama
Marjorie Leigh Bomben
Independently Published
9798706984625, $14.98 paper/$11.99 Kindle

Chicago has one of the busiest ambulance services in the country. Its murder rate is high, its population dense, and its paramedics are used to facing extraordinary situations. It's Not the Trauma, It's the Drama: More Stories by a Chicago Fire Department Paramedic captures Marjorie Leigh Bomben's experiences in vivid detail for lay readers and fellow medical professionals alike.

Each Chicago neighborhood has its own story, its own cultural milieu, and its own predictable problems. Take Ambulance 39, known as the "geriatric ambulance," located in a quiet neighborhood of rest homes and assisted living establishments. Here, the average patient is over eighty years old, there are few surprises, and often the EMT is called upon to service the Slipper Ladies...elderly 911 callers whose complaints tend to be less true emergencies as the result of loneliness and isolation.

These ladies insist on going to the hospital even when nothing is apparently wrong...but before they get there, they'll have ordered the paramedics to bring them the right coat from the closet, sort through articles of clothing for just the right ensemble for leaving home, and - horror of horrors - choose just the right slippers from a plethora of possibilities.

How do you make the most serene, unshakeable paramedic in history experience a momentary flash of anger? Assign him to a Slipper Lady.

This hilarious story is a surprise opener to a collection that juxtaposes life-threatening, dangerous scenarios with those that are just plain ironic, unbelievable, or taxing for all involved.

Readers who anticipated high drama and edge-of-your-seat reading won't be disappointed, but that's not all that goes on in the life of a typical fire department paramedic, as Marjorie Leigh Bomben reveals in these diverse tales.

From a dangerous confrontation with a schizophrenic family member who refuses to take her meds to interactions between field chiefs, medics, police, and other officials as calls are handled, readers gain not just a series of lively stories and surprising situations, but insights into how this public service is handled politically, socially, and professionally at all levels of the chain of command.

Readers who may know little about what a fire department paramedic actually does will want to hold onto their hats for a wild ride through diverse challenges, while fellow professionals who well know many of these routines will find much to relish as the creativity and response talents of teams are put to the test.

The unexpected lighthearted dash added into a sobering subject will delight general-interest readers in a collection of real stories of lifesavers who face a myriad of scenarios that demand they respond not just with professional expertise, but psychological flexibility, creativity, and restraint.

These stories make perfect reading for those who want a blend of action and reflection on interpersonal relationships and handling difficult people and situations with finesse.

George Franklin
FPA Books
9781733444422, $14.95

Incentives: The Holy Water of Free Enterprise may sound like a business book or a motivational self-help piece, but it's a humorous novel that spoofs and looks at the motivators for economic development and the intersection between politics and rogue actions. It offers a tongue-in-cheek survey of public policy, business special interests, and considers the often-questionable incentives that drive both.

One of George Franklin's objectives was for his readers to "...have a good laugh and be completely entertained from page to page through each character's storyline." This goal is met through the stories of two rednecks who insert themselves into a multi-billion-dollar industry thanks to government aid, with ribald results. But the story holds more than comedic observation alone.

Also embedded in this saga is a set of cultural mishaps and investigations, tongue-in-cheek commentary on male and female relationships and roles both within and outside the business world, legal entities and political entanglements, and more.

The rogues aren't just the rednecks who find themselves in new and unpredictable circumstances, but the social structures and politics which surround their rise to power and their newfound objectives.

Carl Hiaasen fans, especially, should take note; because the approaches, characters, and ironic situations that swirl throughout the story are reminiscent of his works, as well as a good Christopher Moore spoof.

Readers warned about the novel's humor might find unexpected the business, political, and social food for thought embedded in the ruckus - but it's there, and is a nice contrast to the inherently fun nature of the read.

Readers looking for something original, sassy, and intriguing will find Incentives: The Holy Water of Free Enterprise defies easy or pat categorization as its characters embark on paradigm-changing romps through business and social milieus alike.

Stand Up for Bastards
Caleb Mason
Amika Press
9781937484989, $17.95

Stand Up for Bastards is a new novel by Caleb Mason, a Los Angeles defense attorney and former prosecutor. The narrator is a private investigator and former police officer named Marcus Heaton. The story opens with Marcus playing the clarinet in Central Park, while remembering a fight from his days as a cop. Marcus's own history of violence and corruption are mirrored in the complicated case he gets drawn into. Marcus finds himself moving from New York to L.A. in search of elusive answers and witnesses as he draws the attention of both state and federal prosecutors.

Marcus is a savvy investigator, and tells the story with a gritty sense of realism about law firms, clients, and street-level detective work. The story is steeped in astute observations seen through Marcus's eyes: "The ex-cops get the legwork. Walking a neighborhood canvassing for witnesses. Surveillance on workers' comp scams. Domestic stuff, regular snooping. And security. There's always work standing around looking tough. Lord knows I had done enough of it. We all did. It was just free, beautiful money. My theory of private security is that it's mostly just another version of the suit or car or Rolex. Just another way to shout that you can pay for something shiny and expensive and useless. And there were plenty of celebrities who picked their security staff for sex. Which was fine, too, if you were into that sort of stuff."

Caleb Mason captures the milieu of a complicated case and an investigator who is tested not just by the perps, but also by the political intrigues of his employer and client.

Readers will find the tense action and cat-and-mouse games to be thoroughly engrossing and unpredictable to the end, as the intersection of crime and politics pushes the investigator to his limits.

Stand Up For Bastards is a detective novel that embraces the atmosphere and streets of West and East coasts alike and tells a powerful story about the "informal side of law enforcement" with a compelling swagger. Highly recommended for fans of detective fiction.

Whispers: An American Legend
Bonne Bartron
Independently Published
9798693420434, $24.99 Hardcover; $12.99 Paper; $7.99 Kindle

Whispers: An American Legend opens with five-year-old Lucy Ann Talbet, a "fairy of a human being" who is playing hide and seek in the old Talbot colonial mansion with her brother Jeffrey when disaster strikes. Mister Tasty Treats has lured her into the woods beyond the family home. The disaster reverberates until it comes to rest in another time, when three sisters find their dream vacation turned into a nightmare.

Whispers is a unique story of social and family danger that reaches into disparate lives with a powerful threat by Mister Tasty Treats. The kidnapper has struck again, taking Stacey's eight-year-old niece. Only this time, he has to contend with Stacey's prowess and determination, as well as her savvy about modern approaches to problem-solving and devices such as the internet.

Stacey encounters a group that has been hunting this perp for four years, but she's not impressed by the kind of help it offers her: "I just blurted out, "Hunting an abductor of children long after the missing kid is grown-up and still not solving the thing? That doesn't inspire much confidence. You ever find anyone?" I couldn't believe how direct I was being. It wasn't like me to provoke instead of coax. I think I was just over the bullshit at that point."

Does it help if the victims are found alive, many years later? Does it help if women's' experiences aren't believed or publicized? As Stacey delves deeper into the mystery, a strange truth emerges that challenges her ideals of justice and the reality and myth of Mister Tasty Treats, who turns out to have long roots reaching back to 1910.

Readers who like stories of investigation, horror, and a family challenged by history and present-day events and attitudes will find Whispers a surprising blend of not just horror, but satirical social inspection and political commentary.

Those who choose Whispers expecting the usual staid supernatural thriller will find that it evolves from a typical kidnapping scenario into a brand of special inspection that may stymie those who expected a one-dimensional entertainment piece. It's not.

It's a treatise on women's changing roles and strengths in the world, it cultivates an uncanny ability to pose uncomfortable truths in the guise of a thriller, and its engaging examination of different social truths and realities, both political and personal, create a dynamic story that is anything but a ghost tale or thriller alone.

The mystery powers the explorations of women in distress who are strong and savvy enough to take charge of their own destinies in unexpectedly astute, original ways.

Whispers is highly recommended reading for women (and men) who like unexpected twists and turns, sometimes-uncomfortable social insights, and a mystery that creates the backdrop for social inspection at an unexpected level.

Whispers won't be for everyone; especially those who anticipated a thriller or supernatural tale alone. Those who enjoy plots that begin with seemingly predictable genre elements, only to evolve into inspections of corruption, racial inequality, and social issues, will find this story wide-ranging, unexpected, and delightfully thought-provoking.

Bedside Matters
Richard Alther
Rare Bird Books
9781644281635, $26.00 Hardcover/$11.49 Kindle

In the novel Bedside Matters, Walter is literally at the end of the line. He's not only reviewing his life's trajectory up to this concluding act, but he's considering his family ties, his ambitions, and the process of letting go. This forms the heart of a story that is firmly based in how a man used to being in charge lets loose of the things he cannot control... death being at the top of his current list.

Readers interested in stories of family intrigue, connections, and literary influences and lessons on how to take the next steps beyond life itself will find Bedside Matters a special blend of ethereal and spiritual reflection. It reviews the conundrums of a man who finds his life cinching ever tighter as it draws to a close.

It asks a powerful question ("...what else is there, with no future?") and probes how his relationships change as his body deteriorates - even that with his ex, Polly, who is by his side even now: "Their boundary lines from each other have been well established and long respected. But she is absorbing this like surrendering one's aching body to a hot bath."

Readers may not expect the humor, or the additional of LBGTQ, sexuality, and gender issues, that are present in the story of a gruff curmudgeon in his last days of life; but Richard Alther considers family ties and bonds in more than one way. This approach creates a delightful interplay between various pieces of the end-of-life puzzle that increasingly lead Walter to turn over the reins of his life to those who attend him.

Part of getting ready to move on involves an attitude change about his life and his role in it: "...he is becoming increasingly alone even with faithful Rufe plus various people poking about, Irma included. This is good, he is thinking. I'm getting ready. It's getting close. Soon I'll have had all the rehearsal one could hope for. And then the show must go on. You say you are about ready; he addresses himself, but meanwhile you manage to concoct one amusement after another."

Fiction readers interested in an ethereal story that includes increasing disability, the loss of independence and self-reliance, and the challenge of saying goodbye in a meaningful way will find Bedside Matters an unexpected journey merging mind, body and soul towards a new perspective on life and those left behind.

It's an evocative tale that takes one man's evolution a step further into the unknown, and will delight readers with its story of the legacy of a man who moves from participant to observer in his life.

The Darkness That Slept
Keegan and Tristen Kozinski
Kozinski Books
9780998244020, $18.00 Paper/$4.99 Kindle

The Darkness That Slept is the first book in the Chronicles of the Far Dawn series, and tells of the reawakening of an ancient terror that emerges from deep within The North. The New Order has invaded The North, bringing demons with them. The High-Warden of Winsyria guards against the supernatural threats that reside in the Mortal Kingdoms. The Lord of Antiark stands against those who would profit from war, and the North is gathering its strength for the struggle ahead.

A host of characters interact during this epic fantasy struggle. Each region holds its leader's special interests, affecting the outcome of changing interactions with neighboring kingdoms as they cultivate schemes that support their own disparate objectives. As old nightmares emerge to shatter long-held pacts, alliances, and long-trusted havens and routines, The Darkness That Slept presents many characters who are each challenged to confront their own abilities, values, and ambitions.

The sweeping epic feel of this story is supercharged by opposing forces who exchange the lead throughout the story. Time is taken to explore each of these major players. This attention to detail may prove challenging to those who seek less description and more action; but will delight readers who enjoy complex stories that make the effort to deeply explore all the overt and hidden motivations for choices.

Many features of this fantasy bring to mind The Lord of the Rings. There's a Dread Lord, a ring, and a quest. Disparate forces clash on both physical and supernatural arenas. The epic fight between darkness and light is captured through different experiences of different sides. From imminent invasions to power plays between Wardens, Lords, and gladiators, this world is filled with forces that seem to fall more on the side of darkness than light.

Just when the power plays and battles are at their darkest, the character of teen genius Slade Lammerock enters the picture to introduce a wry sense of humor into the mix: "Slade let his head drop backward, grinning at his stunned audience before wrenching free and walking up the invisible wall to stand upon the ceiling. There he reproduced his six colored balls and tossed them at the ground only to watch as they fell back toward him. Unperturbed, he started juggling upside down. Murmurs spread through the crowd. Questions about whether his tricks weren't magic after all."

Descriptions of not just these characters but the milieu they navigate are particularly well-detailed, creating strong atmospheric backdrops that compliment the action: "Despite the Dread Lord's urgency, he progressed slowly, impeded by a morass of latent power, so thick it became a physical burden, and coughing fits provoked by the centuries of accumulated dust. Nondescript black doors looked on from either side of the ancient, mostly forgotten passageways, offering no solace and denying the world entrance. As he ventured deeper into the palace, the labyrinth grew darker and the magic denser until his skin vibrated with it. His blood flashed from chillingly cold to boiling hot ceaselessly, his clothing fluttered despite the lack of wind, and his braid writhed on his back. Even the stone had grown pliant over the years and now yielded beneath his steps."

Tristen and Keegan Kozinski are especially adept at capturing the energy behind commanding positions, the interplay between characters that hold different objectives for power and control, and the threats of chaos which test even the most powerful warriors.

As the great Northern wall becomes poised to fail, so are those who believe in its invulnerability and their own abilities to thwart forces beyond their ken, which include soul-destroying threats: "In their zenith, the Dragon Lords warded three evils. The first they buried in stone, lies, and veils; the second they imprisoned with silver, ice, and twelve keys; the last they broke and scattered. These represented their greatest burden. Yet these evils constantly stirred, and whether through happenstance or lust, men, children, and beasts always found them. Time and again the Dragon Lords suppressed these evils, but never before they wrought fathomless grief upon the world. The Dragon Lords were mortal, forbidden the omnipresence of gods, and thus lost perception of the evils when they appeared, excluding only the second evil, which never stirred."

The Darkness That Slept sets the stage for more stories, crafting a firm foundation of interest with explorations of fear, hope, and a quest involving a door, a ring, and a renewed purpose in life.

Readers who enjoy Lord of the Rings and similar epic quest adventures that embrace an emerging new land that challenges the psyches of its peoples will find The Darkness That Slept a gripping read. It's filled with action, insights, and confrontations between disparate forces in a world gone amok - a fitting read for a new generation of dark fantasy and sword and sorcery followers.

Paris Secrets
Sean Vogel
MB Publishing
9780985081430, $9.95

Paris Secrets, the third novel in the Jake McGreevy series, combines a pun-filled culinary adventure in Paris, France, with a historical family mystery from World War II. This is a fast-paced tale of intrigue that will appeal to middle grade readers ages 10 and up.

The stage is set by a prologue that opens in German-occupied Paris in 1942. A courageous woman, forced to make difficult decisions and employ survival tactics during the war, must part from her 11-year-old daughter, Esther. Two fellow underground members will escort her south to the Free Zone in France. The woman packs a family photo with a cryptic note written on the back into her daughter's belongings and jots down important information about Esther into an already jam-packed journal, next to the details about her two other daughters, who had been smuggled out of Paris earlier.

Fast forward 71 years. It's spring break in 2013, and fifteen-year-old Jake and his best friend Ben Meyers have just arrived in Paris to participate in a televised baking contest, run by the Le Cordon Bleu cooking school. When not being judged on their baklava and brioche, they will be digging into Jake's late mother's family's past. A photo from the 1940s with a mysterious note, which once belonged to Jake's late grandmother, is their only clue, but it's enough to get them started.

With the photo as their guide, Jake and Ben begin their journey. After knocking on a few apartment doors, they meet Jake's cousin Sophie and her grandmother, Esther (Jake's great-aunt), who tells them about her mother's special mission in the 1940s and two journals. The four of them marvel at the identical photos. If the note on the back can be deciphered, it will lead them to answers about Jake's family history - and so much more.

Soon, Heather (a new friend from the baking contest) and Sophie's friend Claire (a Parisian Catacombs expert) join their quest. Along the way, contemporary dangers emerge: Whom can the teens trust? And who is that shadowy person following them on a moped?

Readers will find Paris Secrets an outstanding read that requires no prior familiarity with Jake McGreevy's first two adventures, and they will be riveted by this impactful story about friendship and valor, past and present.

T is for Time Travel
Stanlei Bellan
Imagilore Publishing
9781954109001, $9.95 Paper/$19.95 Hardcover/$4.99 Kindle/$14.95 Large print

T Is for Time Travel: A Collection of Timely Short Stories offers ten sci-fi tales that revolve around time travel, but move beyond the usual scenario of time travel journeys that involve searching for the key to either change history or return home.

Stanlei Bellan eschews these staid trappings in favor of a series of surprising revelations that take the time travel notion one step beyond the usual expectation, and this is what makes this collection an outstanding presentation, in addition to its literary prowess.

'Another Time' opens the collection with its reflection on a traveler trapped in a wall clock lying on a table, forced to jump every time the hand moves. How did Ollie become trapped inside a clock? And what is the price of freedom?

It's a tongue-in-cheek dilemma that leads him to do more than jump through time (literally). First, he must break it. Then, he must face the Clockmaker.

This is just one example of the many time travel surprises, dashes of humor, and fun explorations that Bellan offers.

For a completely different example of this collection's diversity, take 'Behind the Timestream'. Here, B'litk has an unorthodox plan to reach the other side of a timestream which holds an unknown entity. His attempts to communicate with creatures he has no knowledge about is intriguing: "I am, right now, in a very precarious position in the timestream side of the rectangle, having a conversation with you, in whatever dimension you inhabit, on the other side of the rectangle. From your point of view, what is happening with me has actually already happened on your side, which is why you are seeing it already written on your side of the rectangle. Got it?"

B'litk has broken time. It's his duty to restore it. And he needs help.

Each story in this collection is unique unto itself, from the tale of a Djinn who grants time travel journeys to that of a spaceship ensign faced with impossible choices. Each holds a power and surprising twist even the most avid time travel enthusiast won't see coming. Each is well-done, compelling, and thoroughly absorbing.

Time travel sci-fi readers are in for a real treat with T Is for Time Travel, a literary collection filled with delightful twists and turns.

To Every Page a Turning
Carl Buccellato
Mascot Books
620 Herndon Parkway, #320, Herndon, VA 20170
9781645435228, $16.95 pbk / $6.99 Kindle

To Every Page a Turning: One Life's Journey presents the transformative fictional journey of a seventy-seven-year-old narrator who reflects back on his life and its conflicts as he cleans out the memories of his past.

It is Florida, 2019. He is prompted to undertake a sentimental journey through the decades when he stumbles upon scribbled pages in a file. These bring him back to Vietnam, to a world of steamy jungles, an eighteen-year-old boy thrust into the work of military men, and a survival process which results in a long-term emotional cost: "...the tears were buried deep within him, so deep he wondered if he could ever really feel again, or just go on pretending."

Religious beliefs and sentiments aside, this young man has developed coping mechanisms for war that continue to influence his life choices and attitudes during peacetime: "He wondered, "Does anyone really know me? Can anyone see me below the surface? Am I alone in a world full of strangers?" Somehow, he had always been a stranger, on the edge, waiting, judging, watching, appearing to be on the inside smiling, joking, but that was always the mask for show. And once again he asked, "Is this the day, Lord?"

As the story moves from war-torn jungles to his marriage to Mary and his involvement in a twelve-step group, he learns new ways of engaging with a world he'd purposely disengaged from in order to survive. This process is engrossingly described, and readers receive inspections of the various means by which he confronts his past and present: "Sunday evening, he sat in the silence of his room, pen in hand, writing a letter to his late father and mother, finally able to speak his heart to them without condemnation and with acceptance."

To Every Page a Turning is a captivating novel of recovery and reflection that will especially reach readers who have their own wartime and military experiences to consider. Its journey of growth also reflects America's changing ideals and experiences as seen through the eyes of a young man who moves beyond survival tactics to adopt a new vision of the world and his place in it as an adult. These evolving social issues change his life completely, bringing him full circle to share his strengths, his weaknesses, and his joys in a new way that comes full circle.

Its different take on the long-term aftermath of the Vietnam War will involve and interest readers with a special interest in a lifetime of coming to terms with the past.

Dangle Him Purposely
T.B. O'Neill
Independently Published
9781500334130, $TBA

Dangle Him Purposely continues the story of author Tim O'Neill's family and his coming of the age in the 1960s, a time when things change for the better, but bring new challenges. Ideally, readers will have already absorbed this story's prequel, Timmy, which will make these changes and insights even more notable and important.

Events swirl around a boy who comes of age in a turbulent era - ironically, one in which his family is finally settling down. His alcoholic father has gained sobriety, his mother and stepfather have found work, and he's finally growing up in small-town America in the manner so many of his peers in more stable family settings have enjoyed.

His new home holds all the ingredients for a fresh beginning, but different challenges emerge from the social whirl of confusion around him. Thus, life assumes the feeling of a vortex of misinformation, danger, violence, introducing a war which consumes the hearts and minds of Timmy and everyone around him.

The child is not a child anymore, as this book says in the beginning - but neither is he yet a man. The pathos of his growth process is captured in accounts that excel in recreating these haunting moments of uncertainty in a young man's life: "Mary and a group of friends were coming Tim's way down the outside junior high corridor, their shoulders bumping as they all laughed at some secret joke. Tim turned the collar up on his jacket, leaned against the iron support post, crossed his ankles, and dipped a shoulder in a casual don't give a damn fashion. She'd be passing by soon. He hadn't quite mastered James Dean's smirk - his head tilted down and to the side with that rebellious curl of the lip, looking up over his brows. But he came close. It was, after all, who he was. He needed no one, was afraid of no one, and had the answers. That's how he felt . . . at least among his friends."

There are two notable facets about this memoir: it reads with the third-person description and embellishments of fiction; and it presents vignettes which assume no linear, logical progression, but move through time in a fluid manner, immersing readers in the moment.

T.B. O'Neill's cautionary introduction about the fluid story structure correctly identifies its mercurial process, but almost does it an injustice by forewarning its readers. Those who seek novels with plots may find these vignettes less structured than fiction, but will still find their emotional punch effective and nicely construed.

As this story follows Tim into the Army and encounters with more bullies, leaders, and ideological angst, readers view his life through the lens of an outsider who becomes intimately acquainted with the nuances of Tim's thoughts, memories, emotions, and experiences.

Deployed to Europe and slated only see combat during the last year of his enlistment, Tim finds a new world opening up to him beyond the boundaries of his family and small-town America. His experiences provide a study in contrasts about the cultures and peoples he encounters.

From developing trust in a different system to survival tactics that operate on many levels, Tim turns twenty-three in Nam and moves from small-town American thoughts to embrace bigger ideas about the world at large.

Readers seeking a memoir of coming of age in the 1960s, the Vietnam War experience from the eyes of a young man, and a continuation to the prior memoir Timmy will find this exploration engrossing, revealing, and worthy of the read.

The Butterfly Bruises
Palmer Smith
Press Dionysus LTD
9781913961428, $TBA

What does life now mean during challenging modern times? Palmer Smith provides 80 poem and prose pieces that consider the transformation of modern man in The Butterfly Bruises, a compilation of works that blend original new pieces with those which have seen prior publication.

The piece 'Migraines, Please' opens the collection with an acknowledgment that "There were such good times and there will be more. I know." Although this short reflection is not entirely about Covid, the alienation and contrast between what was and what is provides a moving introduction to the poetry pieces that follow.

These are general meditations on states of mind and connections between humans and nature, travel and experience. Palmer Smith does a fine job of structuring free verse and prose in a manner designed to capture the literary and non-poetry reader alike, crafting compelling images of journeys of transformation and interpersonal experience. One example is the poem 'Asheville', a travelogue of love, alienation, and departure: "I'll pick up the stones that resemble/your sour lonesome lime eyes./Digging is the action of how you love me."

Each piece captures a sense of place and interpersonal connection and disconnection. Sections are introduced by contemplations such as 'Shedding', which introduces the pieces on 'Pain and Relief' with a powerful eye on the snakeskin-shedding pain and promise of transformation: "After each session you ponder if your doctor sheds her skin and turns into another person or perhaps the snake she is, likely a rattle with fake eyelashes. what if Confucius were your therapist instead?"

What does it mean to be alive under such circumstances and conditions?

The Butterfly Bruises sleepwalks through a world replete with pain, change, and opportunities for transformation.

Its reflections are at once disturbing, thought-provoking, and powerfully important interplays between dreams and the realities driving them.

Literary readers seeking writings replete with wake-up calls for change will find The Butterfly Bruises to be reflective, visionary, and hard to put down.

Graffiti on the Window
Alexej Savreux
Illogical Conceits Publishing & Multimedia
9781521985021, $15.95

Graffiti on the Window begins with a cautionary note by the author: "This book is a mutt. It's a whacked out amalgamation of weird, scary and beautiful things." Perhaps this is because of Alexej Savreux's schizophrenia and the fact that this book was largely written in segments, with one section produced after a manic episode. This approach embraces streetwise, artistic, passionate sentiments with a candid fervor over the emotional pursuit of art and science.

The places where these objectives intersect with life forms the foundations of a poetry collection that is anything but your staid collection of iambic pentameter verse.

As self-described, Alexej Savreux is a "tormented kid with a vision," and this comes to life in an artistic foray into desperation that turns observational niceties on their sides.

He uses many literary devices unexpected for the poetic form. Take 'Sophocles's Unfound Friend Tragedy About Scarlet Haired Darcy', for example. Here is a play/poem presented in ancient lingo, but with an emotionally charged literary angle that is unexpected, compelling, and autobiographical as it describes interplays between police, psychologist, parent, and kid.

The story opens in a therapist's office, with a chorus laying the foundation for this tragedy: "The Kid had spent his days in mournful solitudes./He had been rejected by the Worlds and the Peoples/and the Tribes/His CBT therapist consoled him,/his woman had left him./His life in shambles. His head,/a head case for all psychologists./He had remembered meeting a girl named Darcy,/a sensitive chick./She was the only one who had said "goodbye"/upon the afternoons of his lost days, and last days."

As the point of view of this enlightening play poem shifts between points of view of the chorus, the Kid, the CBT Therapist, and others, the classic structure of the tragedy form intersects with the modern dilemma being presented: "Yea, Kid, my sovereign patient and consumer,/Thou seest how both extremes of despair enthrall/Your cerebral altars--falling hardly winged,/And stocking hat bowed with 24 years,/case managers, as am I/Of clinical training, and thus the flower of all advice."

As Savreux deftly employs literary avenues to capture the "beautiful suffering" of his life, the bittersweet possibilities of Death, and "the confines of rhapsodic mathematics,

and the wrapping sands of rustling time," it's evident that this work of art is no light psychological exploration. Instead, it's a venture into the meaning and experience of life that delves into Savreux's desires to both explain and represent its flavors.

Much like graffiti on the window, these pieces tantalize, are thought-provoking, and colorfully depict the irony, pathos, and logic and illogic of 'feasting and foraging" through life's "unending supper."

A background in ancient, classical poetry and literary devices will lend special appreciation to how deftly and creatively Savreux employs both in a modern interpretation and representation of an art too often set aside for the winding, disjointed effects of free verse structures.

Modern literature and ancient poetry classes and students, in particular, will find Graffiti on the Window a wonderfully intriguing, evocative presentation that both redefines and breaks poetic and drama rules.

The Algorithm of Consciousness
Kenneth A Macfarlane
Independently Published
9780578716893, $9.95 Paper/$1.99 Kindle

The Algorithm of Consciousness presents essays that link mathematics to questions of spirituality, consciousness, and philosophy. It is recommended reading for those who seek reasoned inspections of the process of becoming self-aware.

Readers who consider inspections of the Divine to be part of this process will embrace the tenants of these essays and the underlying purpose of this book: "If you commit to considering this book's contents with an open mind, I can assure you that you will emerge with a new inner feeling of self-worth. You will begin to embrace patience and a sense of peace - the peace arises from knowing that you/we are not alone."

Its inspections will particularly be welcomed by those who like mixes of spirituality, philosophy, and autobiography as Kenneth A. Macfarlane considers how family dynamics and dysfunction contributed to building a set of values and approach to life that then shifted over the years.

His personal inspection ties in well with the lessons he learned from life experience. This blend of candid self-assessment and spiritual evolution will help readers face their own transitions and pivot points in life: "My storyline says I am always accurate and speak from a truthful place! Not true! So, when faced with the accusation, my suppressed denial had been called out, despite the fact, in this example, I was in a "cry wolf" situation."

It should be mentioned that these essays provide a progressive journey into spiritual realms some readers will find unexpected: "The role the planets, as sentient beings, have in the development of matter and consciousness is breathtaking. I concede there is truth buried in the lore of Astrology. Until now, I never imagined that planets within a given system worked as a community to achieve the desires of the Divine."

Its progressive logic and discussions will especially delight those who look for a blend of ethereal reflection cemented by concrete experience and influence.

An open mind and heart is thus required, as well as an affinity for expansive spiritual concepts. This examination of the Divine, its plan and incarnations, and its purpose is especially recommended for those already embarking on a path of self-awareness and spiritual reflection. The Algorithm of Consciousness offers a fine synthesis of memoir and life examination, adding a spiritual overlay that provides much food for thought.

Ruby Falls
Deborah Goodrich Royce
Post Hill Press
9781642937091, $27.00, Hardcover

Ruby Falls is a psychological thriller that revolves around a young actress. Much like in the classic Rebecca, Eleanor finds that her new husband isn't the man she had thought, and the clues that begin to add horror into her life form the foundation of a story that is compellingly intriguing as two individuals with hidden aspects to their pasts come to terms with an uncertain result from their union.

In addition to the building mystery, Ruby Falls is adept at chronicling the dysfunctional relationship between a husband and wife: Eleanor. "Orlando cuts me off sharply and then laughs a little as he continues, 'I said I have it covered. You might try listening.' I study his face, trying to connect the look in his eyes with his laughter. 'I'm sorry, darling,' he says. 'You were just prattling on and not really paying attention. I told you I have it covered. You don't need to worry.' I suppose he means to telegraph to me that the conversation is over."

As Eleanor begins to uncover the foundations of Orlando's attitude, approach to life, and the effect of his presence and absence alike, she draws ever closer to a life that assumes a spooky similarity to that of Rebecca's. She is cast in a Hollywood production of the classic story and finds her life becoming an eerie mirror to the protagonist's discoveries and trials...albeit in a storybook cottage setting in the Hollywood Hills.

Los Angeles's atmosphere is drawn as realistically and engrossingly as that of Rebecca's Manderley as Eleanor finds herself not only in legal trouble, but investigating what happened to her cat-crazy neighbor Dottie Robinson, who was born in the house in 1907, and whose presence is both a compelling and a threatening force in her life.

Orlando's personality is changing. So is Eleanor's. And the juxtaposition of the two forces is on a trajectory for a clash that will expose long-held secrets and threaten a discovery like none other.

Deborah Goodrich Royce does an outstanding job of creating a contemporary parallel story that connects Rebecca and Ruby Falls. Fans of DuMaurier's classic will find in Royce's story an intriguing blend of mystery and revelation as strongly steeped in psychological undertones as the original classic.

This contemporary literary thriller is highly recommended reading for those who like gothic stories infused with psychological tension and introspection. It is especially recommended for classes studying Rebecca, who will find its contemporary contrast and current-day doppelganger in Ruby Falls.

The tale exposes the fine paradox between magic, family ties, and the boundaries of what is real and what is not: "Once I started filming - you don't know what is real or fake right now, but the movie was real, I assure you." So is the outstanding tension and surprise conclusion.

#ImpactMyLife: Being the Change
Eric Godwin
Mascot Books
620 Herndon Parkway, #320, Herndon, VA 20170
9781645432524, $24.95

#ImpactMyLife: Being the Change charges readers to spread kindness around the world by making a difference in small ways. It is especially recommended reading (and a call to action) for those who feel they can't really impact the world in a positive way.

Its choice of using memoir rather than admonition creates a concrete link between desire, action, and impact, setting the stage for the intersection of all three right from the start: "The purpose behind this book is to create a transformation in the way each person impacts another's life, which in turn positively impacts your life. This book is for anyone who has contemplated the thought, I want to make a difference, or, I wish I could do something more. I am one of those people."

By publishing this treatise, Eric Godwin actually lives up to the letter of change in his own words by reinforcing that negativity can be offset by constructive and purposeful efforts to engage with the world, causing it to adopt a different course.

His is a blend of memoir, blank page journal, and action-encouraging admonition that provides a game plan for healing and empowerment. Weekly tasks are quite simple to achieve: "Your task this week: go to any grocery store and purchase five dollars' worth of non-perishable goods and donate them to the local food bank, school, church, et cetera. You can do more than five dollars, if you wish. Food is an essential item for life, so the bigger the impact, the better!"

#ImpactMyLife doesn't just focus on individual action and effects, however, but broadens its scope and approach to embrace community-changing efforts: "After this week, you will have made an impact on yours and others' lives for a month! There is an old saying, "When you are green, you are growing." This week, let's impact the environment in a positive way."

As the weeks unfold, tasks and notes lead to bigger and bigger jobs, such as mentoring another, adopting a highway or community road to care for, or baking a cake to donate to a worthy community-supporting office. For example: "Bake a cake for your local soil and water conservation office. The soil and water conservation service provides numerous resources for your business, home, or community to help you understand soil conservation techniques, water quality management, and youth education programs."

The result is highly recommended for readers who want to help, but are stuck in routines and approaches that thwart meaningful efforts.

Anyone prepared to not just lip sync the idea but do the service work will welcome this firmly-grounded approach to changing lives for the better through small efforts and volunteer work that can be easily done. Kindness starts with home and heart, and with a blueprint for action. The kind of actions specifically outlined here.

Look at Me!
Niyka Hicken
Mascot Books
620 Herndon Parkway, #320, Herndon, VA 20170
9781645433101, $14.95

Look at Me! follows a child's active imagination as he goes exploring with his mother and uncovers a world of possibilities. It is recommended for read-aloud to the very young.

As the young child views the world as his oyster and contemplates flying and exploring, vivid language pairs with equally lovely color illustrations by Vanessa Alexandre to bring his playful, hopeful enthusiasm to life: "Do you think I can reach? Do you think I can be everything I hope and see?"

His mother has taught him how to soar. Now he wants to fly. And he brings her along to witness his achievements in a fun, positive story that reminds the young of all the possibilities of life, and how parental encouragement and participation is part of the magic.

As the young narrator dreams of the unbelievable, the impossible, and the possible; children receive an excellent, enthusiastic survey of a child's life where his mother runs beside him and people of color face all the magic of the world with big dreams and hope.

Collections looking for positive reinforcement of all possibilities, both real and imagined, for the very young reader will find that Look at Me! captures the combined themes of opportunity and imagination, winding them into an exuberant story that's just perfect for read-aloud fun.

The Topography of Hidden Stories
Julia MacDonnell
9781953236067, $14.95 Paper/$4.99 Kindle

A number of the stories in this collection have been published elsewhere - but that doesn't mean that even those with prior familiarity with Julia MacDonnell's literary prowess should anticipate nothing but a repeat performance here.

Although the stories here have been published elsewhere, sometimes with slightly different titles or forms, The Topography of Hidden Stories holds many hidden gems for prior fans; not the least of which is the opportunity to have all the works under one cover. This lends a uniformity and theme to the various characters who each struggle and search for emotional connections in their lives.

When placed side by side, these stories move beyond individual creations to represent a collaborative impact that is far greater than their original, singular presentations.

Take the introductory piece 'River of Grace', for example. Under the guise of an unexpected road trip, a mother and child leave in the middle of the night. The mother hadn't intended on bringing her daughter, who stumbled upon her secret exit in the darkness. But the journey embraces them both, even as the child observes: "My mother did not like me with wind in my sails. Now, by accident, I'd taken the wind out of hers, and right away I knew that I did not like her without it. Ma wasn't Ma without wind in her sails. We looked at one another in the dark, the space between us deeper than a river, but neither of us sailing."

As the child reviews her experiences with her mother, cousins, and her short life, the story keeps winding between past and present: "I was trapped now in the Pontiac, speeding forward, moving, moving, moving and it didn't matter one bit how scared I was. It was going to keep on going, my mother with her foot on the pedal, her hands around the steering wheel, her eyes on the black snake of road ahead."

Bound for the River of Grace locale that her mother covets, her reflections of her short life come full circle with new beginnings and endings, as well.

Contrast this with 'Witness' (which actually is a theme that pops up in numerous places and ways throughout the stories in this collection). Here, a New York mother's preparations for Thanksgiving with her baby leads to quite a different scenario as she becomes an unwitting witness to a shooting. Other 'watchers' from windows safer distances away also bear witness in a way that they (but not she) can deny.

In a flash, the mother understands her danger: "The shooter stood in plain sight, a few steps beyond my arm's reach, not yet knowing we were there. He was about to turn around; he would have to turn toward us. I knew this as I stood there. Knew exactly what the shooter would do next. He'd turn around and see us. He'd realize we were there, that we'd borne witness. A queer aura, shimmering but transparent, surrounded him, and I watched him transfixed, as though all of us had fallen out of time."

The only route that can possibly save her and her daughter is a determined pretending that she did not witness anything at all - against all moral and ethical feelings.

The flashbulb 'aha' moment and decision reverberates as her friends try to console her and she goes to the police, only to realize that she's the only one willing to stand and bear witness to what she saw.

The fear and scars that she carries from this inadvertent and unexpected connection to strangers and their actions and demise create in her a newfound knowledge about the fleeting threats of the world around her: "Somebody got away with murder. Some people's lives don't matter. Evil exists. In the aftermath of the killing, those thoughts made their way through my life, my heart and mind, leaving an unhealed contusion."

And yet, at the end of innocence, there is her daughter to think of. And life goes on.

Dissimilar, evocative, and compelling, these snapshots freeze pivotal moments in time. They will captivate readers looking for literary examples of women trapped by circumstance and fate, their choices, their commitments to family, and their illusions and realities about the world and their place in it.

Readers seeking stories of growth and change and women's evolving lives will find The Topography of Hidden Stories hard-hitting and thought-provokingly unexpected in its diversity and impact.

The 48 Laws of Happiness
Dr. Rob Carpenter
9781736615508, $16.99

The 48 Laws of Happiness: Secrets Revealed for Becoming the Happiest You teaches the rudiments of self-actualization and positivity through a survey that identifies the common thought processes of happy people, showing how these can be adopted by anyone.

It's all well and good to propose positive thinking, but quite another thing to understand the routines and processes which prompt and support such reactions to daily living.

Dr. Rob Carpenter's focus on these nuts and bolts covers the process of loving oneself, then moving that self-love into the world at large. Chapters cover common pitfalls along the way, consider statistics that indicate that too many people are failing to adopt lifestyles and attitudes that support life-enriching choices, and share the stories of others who have tapped negativity to create transformative experiences. This book thus goes far in not just illustrating the 'why', but the 'how'.

One such example is Myles, whose devastating grief over the loss of his mother seemed insurmountable. His discussion of how he moved through the grief period to better times is specific: "This acceptance of my mother's death and adaptation into inner strength which I created from it has been a key element of my being for my entire adult life. I am grateful for my mom's foresight that allowed me to turn a tragic event into a transcendent one with the careful choice of words and values which she instilled in me."

This is just one small example of the many avenues Dr. Carpenter illustrates as concrete courses leading into a better attitude and life.

Tips run the gamut from emotional reflection to choosing clothing that radiates positivity (oh, you think clothing shouldn't matter? Consider this reflection: "The colors of our clothing carry symbolic and psychological meaning. In fact, our clothing can trigger chemicals in our brains so we can dress ourselves happier.").

The result is a wide-ranging consideration of psychological influence, social issues, and the impact of choice and attitude on the concept and realization of happiness.

Anyone in pursuit of happiness who has felt at odds with the effort will find footnote-supported research, case histories, and plenty of solid advice in The 48 Laws of Happiness. Together, these elements set this book apart from most similar-sounding discussions.

Writ in Water: A Novel of John Keats
James Sulzer
Fuze Publishing
9781733034425, $17.99 print/$5.99 ebook

Fans of poet John Keats who like literary fiction works will relish Writ in Water: A Novel of John Keats. Keats died at just 25 years old, but here, his soul lives on as he communicates with spirits, observes the world and his place in it, and considers the impact of his writing.

The story opens from the perspective of a simple bird who observes the "wingless creatures" known as humans and, in particular, the woebegone figure of poet Keats, who "is in peril." Somehow, the bird knows that his mission is to stay close to this suffering young poet who, after listening to his special song, "began to fill up some white squares with long trails of those things they call words."

As the bird's spirit blends with the poet's reflection on his unrealized life goals, a poetic series of descriptions and fictional and biographic insights emerges, using literary devices to bind together the spirit of Keats and the worlds he encounters. His angst is nicely captured: "Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced. All my life and death remain a mystery but for one certainty. In every dream that I cherished, I failed."

So are his encounters with the bird spirit, and the opportunity to review the world from a different perspective: "The little spirit flutters out of my hands and hovers at a distance from me. We are almost as close to the earth now as we were at our first meeting - I can espy the grey procession of the Spanish Steps and the distant dark hollow of the Colosseum - and we resume our slow, upward drift while, below us, my life continues to unfold in excruciating detail."

Literary readers with prior affection for and familiarity with Keats, his works, and his life will especially appreciate the allusions and connections James Sulzer cultivates in this fictional fantasy review.

From the promise of his love for Fanny Brawne and his secret engagement to an illness which takes a turn for the worse, dashing his dreams and future, the life of Keats assumes the form of a quiet three-dimensional drama that gives a compellingly realistic feel to his world and art.

Readers who enjoy literary works with a spiritual overlay that rests as firmly on biographical representation as fictional magical realism will find Writ in Water: A Novel of John Keats a thought-provoking celebration of Keats' world. It liberally paraphrases from and quotes his works, including his letters, throughout; and is strongly backed by Sulzer's extensive research into the critical biographical literature surrounding Keats.

Archibald Lox Volume 1: The Missing Princess
Darren Shan
Home of the Damned Ltd.
9781910009109, $22.00 Paper/$32.00 hardcover; $4.99 ebook

Archibald Lox Volume 1: The Missing Princess was originally released as three ebooks: Archibald Lox and the Bridge Between Worlds; Archibald Lox and the Empress of Suanpan; and Archibald Lox and the Vote of Alignment. This edition brings all three under one cover for the first time and will delight young adults who choose this fantasy for uninterrupted adventure reading.

The story opens in a "house of death" still stunned by loss where the young London narrator, a foster child, struggles to deal with an accident that has resulted in a great grief. How easy it would have been for him to save Dave through a few simple words of warning. How easy it is to regret what is left unsaid, and the consequences that stem from inaction.

Archibald's encounter with a girl who is running away from a threat changes everything, thrusting him into a parallel universe filled with evil characters, new friends, and a newfound mission that takes him away from everything he's known...and from his sadness.

Prompted by his experiences to reconsider what is real and visible and what is unknown to most people around him, Archibald moves from witnessing something impossible to being a part of that unlikely world and mission.

The magic lies not just around him but within him as his innate skills for handling locks prove to be a saving ability that leads him to realize that only he holds the key to fighting repressive forces that would change and control everything.

Darren Shan does a masterful job of capturing young Archibald's conundrums and choices: "I'm different. If I fled, I could pretend it never happened, convince myself that I dreamt the whole thing, carry on with life as before. Except...I'd know. Deep in my heart, I'd know, and I'd always hate myself for accepting the limits that everyone else in the world accepts, when I now know that there's so much more for me to explore. Adults often tell us kids that we act without thinking. They say we don't consider the consequences of the choices we make. That's always made me roll my eyes, but maybe they're right. If I was older, I think I'd hesitate, analyse things to death, probably decide that the risks are too great. But I'm not a grown-up."

Powered by strong evolving interpersonal connections between the protagonist and peers, kings, and adversaries alike, Archibald Lox Volume 1: The Missing Princess is fantasy, mystery, and a coming of age story all in one. Think The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, but with an even stronger focus on the process by which a grieving young boy falls into his powers to change the world.

It's a gripping saga that will be appreciated not just by the young adult audiences who likely will choose it, but by adults who enjoy Philip Pullman and other strong YA authors who create fantasy worlds appealing to young and old alike.

Alien Ti and the Earthling Inventor
John P. Boyle
Independently Published
9798612240686, $5.99 Paper/$2.99 Kindle

Imagine stumbling onto the power source for an alien spacecraft. In Alien Ti and the Earthling Inventor: Where Science and Space Collide, inventor Philip finds an amazing alien device that, less fortunately, places him in the crosshairs of aliens who want to not only retrieve it, but kill the man who would use it.

Alien Ti is a mercenary sent to Earth to perform this dastardly deed. But Philip is no lowly nerd and proves himself fully capable of defending himself and his discovery...even against superior alien technology. Even if his aim is a bit off.

John P. Boyle injects a wry sense of humor into the situation as Philip's larger-than-life dreams and initial attempts to profit from his discovery keeps bombing. His frustrated schemes and remarks on their failures provide tongue-in-cheek fun: Philip gets into his car and begins to drive away, just as the owner shouts after him: "If this junk doesn't hold up, you'll be hearing from me." Philip smiles and waves to him...then grimaces. Now why did he have to call it junk?
From arduous treks up snow-covered trails to mishaps which plague the ambitious but often-bumbling Philip, Ti is diverted from his mission, and even comes to emphasize with the human as he observes this savvy inventor building his first UFO and somewhat successfully testing it.

Not only the world is set to change. So is Ti's mission and loyalty to his people.

Boyle's ability to pack fun and high drama into a story a little over a hundred pages in length creates a blend of struggle and humor that is refreshing. There's more going on than self-realization, shifting alliances, questionable discoveries, or the outcomes of a clash between alien and human, here.

Sci-fi readers who appreciate both humor and the intersection of science and special interests will relish the tale that unfolds, which holds many satisfying twists and turns as Philip and Ti embark on a journey that will change both of their lives.

Delightfully entertaining and whimsical as well as filled with battles and confrontations on many levels, Alien Ti and the Earthling Inventor: Where Science and Space Collide is an excellent leisure choice for sci-fi readers looking for something a bit out of the box and creatively portrayed, over the usual alien/human confrontation.

A Dog Named Trouble...Goes to a Forever Home
Anthony Gonzalez
Mascot Books
620 Herndon Parkway, #320, Herndon, VA 20170
9781645436003, $16.95

A Dog Named Trouble...Goes to a Forever Home tells the story of a large Saint Bernard dog rescued from a shelter that proves a handful for his new owners.

Picture book readers will enjoy, both, the dog story and the engaging, fun drawings by Walter Policelli, who brings to life the story of a dog anxious to fit into his new family, and enthusiastic about the outside world after his life in a shelter.

Trouble the dog likes exploring, guarding his new home, playing with children and going for rides in the family truck. He also lives up to his name as Mommy and Daddy face a series of adventures getting him acclimated to their home and setting boundaries that work for them all.

Trouble may be his name, but as the dog becomes a part of the family, it would be more trouble to live without him.

A Dog Named Trouble...Goes to a Forever Home celebrates the pros and cons of integrating a shelter dog into a new family. It's a realistic portrait of the process that helps young kids understand how their new pet will settle into their family and come to display unique personality traits, needs, and desires of their own.

Parents who wish a young child to better understand their new pet will find A Dog Named Trouble...Goes to a Forever Home just the ticket for following the process of pet adoption in a whimsical, revealing manner.

Photos of the real-life Trouble conclude this delightfully warm dog adoption story.

Brian Ascalon Roley
Finishing Line Press
9781646624126, $14.99

Ambuscade is a poetic journey through a father's struggles with his son's disability. The second poem adopts a "how could you let this happen?" lament that defines the nature of the book's title, emerging from a 1901 setting in the jungles of Luzon during the violent American occupation of the Philippines to depict the feeling of being hunted and attacked in an unfamiliar intersection between dreams and reality.

As Brian Ascalon Roley moves from the initial diagnosis of his son's disease to adjusting his role to become parent and caregiver, Philippine horror mythology is injected into the lives of a California family to create a series of poems firmly rooted in past, present, and Asian and Western cultures and mythos.

Don't expect this collection to be replete in sadness alone. There is rage and anger, there are transformative moments, and there are words and visions steeped in Filipino legends and realities: "Even in Santa Monica/my lola would tell my sister and I/to watch out for the aswang/and we would say "But/we are in California"/to which she replied "That does not/matter. They follow the Filipina wherever she/may live in great numbers."

The aswang and boyhood memories brought about in nightmares and dreams contrast with his much-changed world and a future he'd never imagined. The poems reflect his interactions with the medical community, well-meaning platitudes, the helpful (and sometimes unhelpful) efforts of others as they enter and leave this family's life and struggles, and a father's ability to come to terms with his present and future: "They say there is no point in asking why/god decays the bodies/he gave us, a waste of time to try/we need to get on with it./We are not to decide for them, or try to change/them, as if they need fixing."

Caregivers will find familiar these chronicles of love and pain, the struggle of reconciling daily care with life's challenges, and the efforts to understand cause and effect (which, in the case of disability, may be impossible to discern): "You didn't do anything wrong, he said./We must have done something, she said,/something I ate, or maybe I shouldn't have worked/so late/or stressed out so much/I knew I shouldn't have taken a flu shot/(she looked into the mirror: mouthed: you bitch)."

Filled with literary excellence, cultural and social reflection, philosophical inspection, and many ghosts, Ambuscade is a powerful poetic journey through one man's heart. Perhaps the words in one poem best capture the feel of this entire collection: "...she says every word counts more in poetry/he says, every word burns."

Anything That Happens
Cheryl Wilder
Press 53
9781950413331, $17.95

Anything That Happens is a memoir in verse about a life changed forever by one bad decision made at the age of 20: to drink and drive. The accident that came from this action left her friend in a coma, landed author Cheryl Wilder in jail, and redirected her onto a path where she would become a wife, mother, and eventually, a caregiver.

Readers who embark on this poetic re-examination of her life trajectory begin their journey with Cheryl at 20 years of age: "Until I was twenty, I believed anything/wouldn't happen to me."

As readers move through the experience of jail and beyond, the poems provide both a sense of changing atmosphere and an inspection of concurrent changing purpose and perspective: "I don't know how I brought a child/into the world when I can't reconcile/if crashing a car and a friend's skull/is karmic debt created/or payment for a past immoral act./I open doors and say thank you and do not try/to behave in a way I cannot afford."

Even when she makes mistakes, Wilder moves through them with a revised sense of life: "Years later, I got pregnant by a man/who gloried in reminding me/that I could never be loved./Neither of us knew/our baby would carry my heart/in his tiny clenched fist, learning/to open and close his fingers/to the beat of my blood."

Readers interested in literary, personal stories of transformation and change will find the beat of these poems in their hearts provides inspection not into just one life changed by a bad choice and its lasting consequences, but newfound connections to home, family, and a revised purpose in life.

It's a potent collection that invites readers to walk in Cheryl's shoes. And, it provides traction for assessing and moving beyond these poignant and powerful moments of quiet desperation.

Listen Mama
M.S.P. Williams
Souls Take Flight
9780578730172, $7.50 Paper/$2.99 Kindle

Listen Mama is powerful reading for the teen and young adult audience it's directed towards - but then, many other genre reads also embrace themes of abuse, depression, and struggles with a parent's mental illness. What sets this story apart from others is its attention to bringing these situations alive through diary entries, letters to a mother (that come from a fourteen-year-old recovering from his abusive parent's physical attacks), and the devastating and healing effects these had on a loving family and his long-term relationships

The first thing to note about Listen Mama is its candid assessment of how these choices were not cut-and-dried (as they too often appear in other stories of family mental illness). Williams acknowledges, from the beginning, the clash between belief systems, values, and realities which require hard decisions that often go against all perceptions and ideals: "...although you screamed to the heavens that everyone was against you, that's just not the case Mama. The vote to have you committed was a lot closer than you would have ever imagined...But the concerns of the rest of the family had me pretty worried. They said they did not know what might happen to you, that this was wrong, and nobody's freedom should be taken away from them. And I'll be honest, I was really scared due to the portrayal of mental institutions in films and television. For all I knew they would have you locked up on the same wing as some psychopath or deranged killer . . . I was mainly terrified at the potential for abuse and mistreatment at the hands of the clinic's staff. For one, I thought it was more like a jail scenario, with all degrees of the mentally ill lumped together."

As the narrator reviews the ideas and realities of not just mental health and illness but institutionalization, the healing process of all involved, and young Manny's search for answers about his own place in life and his role in his mother's illness, readers receive a compelling saga. It moves into adult choices when he finds himself in a caretaker role while struggling with his own legacy of mental illness.

Many other issues are woven into the story, from racism and poverty to struggles to identify and separate mental illness concerns from daily life obstacles.

One reason why Manny's story is so accessible to teen readers, especially, is its candid, heartfelt acknowledgments of searching for a mother's love and accepting both the good and bad moments that stem from that search and the alienating facts of mental illness's effects on love, parents, and children alike: "Whenever I am away and don't visit her for a while, I find myself missing Mama for all the wrong reasons. How she made me feel about myself is high on the list. How she gave me tremendous love as a child when no one else could/would - not even you. How she made this sad little boy think a withered old lady would slay a dragon if it meant keeping him from harm. On those days I ran home crying, I was not aware of anything off-hand that I had done wrong to deserve a treatment of this caliber from society. And Mama Dear would often cry silently too. She would then try to get me to understand that I was normal, like any other child. The only difference I had was actually on the inside. That's what made me special. That's what made me different - not the burns on my head. But I was usually not appeased, and I would beg her to tell me when it would get better. When would people see my inside instead of my outside - just like she could? And her reply was always the same, "Sooner than you think, honey. Sooner than you think."

Manny speaks of the "soft bigotry of low expectations" and social interactions that also intersect with family strife. He also adds humor and close inspections of family circumstances which ultimately gave him the strength to rise out of poverty, prejudice, and abuse to live a good life.

All these make for compelling reading that injects a positive note into a situation seemingly fraught with inevitable disaster: "Did I have a tough life? Yes. Did I grow up in poverty and face things during the day and night that I would never wish upon my worst enemy? Yeah. Do I wish he had shown just the slightest interest, or at least talked/met me once? You bet. And while I am not a saint or martyr, I am also not vindictive. I am not spiteful and I am not a bad person."

Young adult (and many an adult) readers will find Listen Mama a thoroughly absorbing story about not just a mother's love and a family's mental illness, but the dysfunction of society as a whole.

Isn't It Scary?
Vernon Hamilton
Archway Publishing
9781480889163, $25.95

Isn't It Scary? is a children's picture book story that opens with a baby rabbit who disappears into a dark hole. Young Travis observes that the darkness is scary...but Mother points out that it's not scary to the rabbit family that considers the darkness their home.

And so begins a nature-centered exploration of elements which initially seem scary, but prove to just be part of the ordinary, to other creatures. These scenarios include squirrels unafraid of climbing tall trees; swamps that hold bugs and worms; the hidden, unknown, dark woods the deer call home; and more.

Each potentially frightening place is presented as a welcoming home to other creatures as Mother guides her two children through a world of nature that isn't actually scary after all, upon closer inspection.

Vernon Hamilton's book is a study in contrasts between initial perception and learning more about what seems frightening. As the children's knowledge of nature expands, the world seems less scary.

Children who enjoy this book as a read-aloud with parental support in place will also find it a welcoming introduction not just to the different environments of nature, but confronting one's fears with an added dash of knowledge and a wise mother's support.

It's a lovely story of family, home, and different comfort zones, and is especially recommended as bedtime reading to reinforce the notion that the world is filled with differences that don't have to translate to being scary at all.

The Bethlehem Boy
Linda Long Radosevich
Independently Published
9798607920456, $19.99 Paper/$7.99 Kindle

The Bethlehem Boy is a historical fiction piece about Jesus, but Linda Long Radosevich provides a cautionary note at the start: it "...intentionally expresses my personal faith in who and what Jesus of Nazareth was." As such, this tale involves personal interpretation and poetic license not designed to be authoritative, but embracing, warm, and revealing.

Readers of Christian fiction will relish a fictional focus on the young Jesus and how he grew up, what his influences in the world were, and how he stepped into his role as a spiritual leader in a world fraught with political and social unrest.

Even before Jesus appears on the scene, Radosevich demonstrates a prowess in bringing the times and its peoples to life through strong dialogue that weaves social and political observations into daily lives operating at different levels of society: "Simon changed the subject and asked the two Pharisees, "What do you know about the brilliant star?" "Ah, the star." Nicodemus cleared his throat. "I've searched the Scriptures as you asked. The Prophet Daniel spoke of leaders of justice being like the stars forever. Therefore, so new and so bright a star may well indicate the birth of a future leader of justice or perhaps a great prophet." Nicodemus hesitated. "Or perhaps a king." A loud groan issued from Simon's chest. "For everyone's sake, don't tell Herod about any future king. He'll assume a challenger to his dynasty is being born. Thank you, though, for that information. God be with you."

Also astute are the representations of a young boy's life as he survives terrible onslaughts and is accused by peers of being a teacher's pet, among other things: "What did you call him?" an older classmate asked. "Bethlehem Boy," shot out Baruch with disdain, "because he thinks God let him alone escape Herod's slaughter." Jesus looked confused. "I never said or even thought that," he told the small group gathering around. Moshe immediately looked to Sam and realized the secret he'd shared hadn't been kept. Sam's guilty expression confirmed so. "I heard otherwise," Baruch contradicted. "You think you're so special, and you act special, too. That's why you're the rabbi's favorite."

The general sentiment among the boys is that nothing good has ever come from Bethlehem. Though Jesus represents something different, being different isn't necessarily embraced; especially in hard times where ritual and familiarity supersede new ideas, people, and events.

As Radosevich unfolds Jesus's life, readers are treated to a powerful story that also embraces the changing lives of his parents, who never thought they'd be part of a Son of God's upbringing and world, and who face losing him in more than one way: She wondered, though, what such a powerful influence might portend, and if it might take Jesus away from her again. "He did say it was his Father's business," Joseph reminded her. "Perhaps he senses - " "No, he couldn't possibly," responded Mary, knowing perfectly well what Joseph had been about to say. "So let's not speak of this again, please. Not to my parents either. It'll encourage them to promote Jesus as a rabbi, and he may not want to become one." Or maybe you don't want him to become one, thought Joseph. Maybe you prefer a carpenter son who'll always stay near you in Nazareth. Joseph turned over and closed his eyes. He wasn't about to disagree with Mary, who, he realized, had probably been traumatized over losing Jesus a second time. To his thinking, any mother would panic over a missing son, but no mother but Mary would have to panic about losing God's son. Therefore, he easily forgave her for wanting Jesus close."

Christian readers interested in a different, more personal take on Jesus's childhood, upbringing, and evolution (both spiritually and politically) will find The Bethlehem Boy rich in interpretative details that probe the perceptions and evolution not just of Jesus, but his family and friends.

The discussions possible from this approach and warm review should be welcomed by any Christian looking for a broader inspection of Jesus's life than most fictional works adopt.

Not Your Happy Dance
Ryan Scariano
Finishing Line Press
9781646624362, $14.99

Not Your Happy Dance offers uplifting prose poems and poetry designed to celebrate the small things in life, whether they be pickling in the kitchen; connections to nature observed through the rituals and interactions of man, beast, and insect; or the emergence of sugar ants "after every time you leave/never suspecting your blazing return."

These are celebrations of life, adversity, and everything in between that use nature-bound imagery and associations to illustrate love, life's connections, and the hope and positivity that lie within the undercurrent of angst: "She turned on the light in her heart, then sent me back/into the dark. I drove in circles, corkscrewing into winter."

Love, in many of these cases, assumes a powerful daily presence, promising changing opportunities and experiences. These are reflected in such delicate, whimsical and thought-provoking pieces as 'Vernal', in which the observer's choice of praise influences the directions a transformative experience might take.

There are many unexpected delights, here, as in an ode 'To Vinegar at Summer's End' and 'Still the Wave', which reflect passages of "black time" and a special appreciation of the here and now which rests firmly in descriptions of the moments, breath, and incarnation of people, places, and events.

Ryan Scariano's words capture shards of experience that are bright, sharp, and dark. These poems reflect an ethereal world's smallest inhabitants and seconds, bringing them, full-bodied, into wider-ranging life experiences and issues.

The result is a powerful gathering of words which, like the dust in lazy sunrays in the heat of summer, are suspended in the mind for an instant, as flavorful and lingering as a fine wine.

Dead Tree Tales
Rush Leaming
9780999745656, $19.99 Paper/$3.99 Kindle

Dead Tree Tales opens with the poisoning of a 1,000-year-old tree and efforts to uncover the perp, but soon becomes a crime thriller as a dead body is uncovered and detectives find that much more is involved than an ancient tree's demise.

Set on Johns Island, South Carolina, the story assumes a twisted path of intrigue over a threat that evolves, literally piece by piece, beyond arborcide.

Widowed Mayor Jim is looking forward to retirement. Mired in grief, his second son, Len Rawlings, manages to nonetheless shake up his world. The revolution continues as a myriad of challenges, special interests, and world-changing events ripple from the ancient tree's imminent demise to threats that portend the community will never be the same.

From the painful, violent death of a young woman found in the water to explosions which also literally shake the town to its roots, Dead Tree Tales charts the opening up of a sheltered world to a myriad of social, political, and cultural threats. These immerse the mayor, detectives, and potential perps in a struggle that leads to unspeakable tragedy and rebirth as a world-changing virus dawns.

Dead Tree Tales represents a slow, steady evolution from a singular puzzle to a paradigm-altering series of events that rocks both individual lives and an entire community. Its powerful characters, multifaceted special interests, and blend of murder mystery, intrigue, and social inspection will particularly delight thriller readers looking for something different.

Its firm roots in all these elements which connect a tree's demise to wider-ranging issues makes for a riveting story that's hard to put down and highly recommended for readers who enjoy thought-provoking surprises throughout.

The Cornmarket Conspiracy
Sharon Hoisager
Moonshine Cove Publishing, LLC
9781952439087, $15.00 Paper/$6.00 Kindle

The Cornmarket Conspiracy is a novel that opens in the French countryside, where farmers in the small town of Coquelles are started by an explosion that lights up the sky at 10PM.

In the UK, Jeffrey Hunter, Chief of Staff to Britain's Prime Minister Trevor Wellington, is awakened at midnight by the world-changing phone call he's long been dreading - the news of an explosion and fire in the English Channel Tunnel which has trapped and killed hundreds on the train.

The shocking news portends a conspiracy that involves British Intelligence, the CIA, and those who aim to profit from global tragedy for their own special interests.

As the story takes off, thriller readers receive an engrossing probe of motivations and everyday people. Annie Craig, a staffer in the P.M.'s office has been carrying on an affair with colleague Andrew Bolling, whom she is shocked to find out has died in the attack. She journeys to France to find answers. Surprisingly, one of her questions was whether or not Andrew was involved in the heinous disaster; for her discovery of some notes indicates he was somehow connected to other world-changing scenarios: "She couldn't help but wonder, was he involved in this somehow, even unintentionally? She knew Andrew. There was simply no way he was overtly involved in anything immoral, unethical, and certainly not anything criminal. But how did his private notes, outlining the terrorist strikes of the past few years, seemingly predict a train bombing? Had he somehow been working to thwart the attack?" Is he a hero or a villain?

As low-grade Muslim criminal Akeem trails Annie in his role as a part-time errand boy to one of the largest criminal networks in France, sharing a taxi with her to get in her good graces, Annie and Jeffrey Hunter find themselves not only attempting to solve many questions, but in the crosshairs of danger themselves.

Rasul also operates on the fringes of society: "He is not fully Yemeni, nor is he fully French. Raised by Yemeni parents in the French Capital, and educated at the finest University in England, Rasul can never shake the feeling that he is a man with no real home and no real nationality."

As Annie becomes Jeffrey's reason for pursuing the truth about Rasul and Jorge, three old college friends begin to realize that their past knowledge of one another is contrary to their present-day passions and personas.

Sharon Hoisager creates an outstanding interplay between Western interests, political and social strife between immigrants and mainstream society, and a plot that thickens as the story progresses.

Readers interested in a thriller's fast-paced progression also receive the added benefit of social inspection in an equally quick-changing world that changes individuals and leads determined ordinary people to become heroes as they continue to fight for the good of their friends and communities.

The result is a powerful saga that provides more than a conspiracy story, but a social examination that will keep readers engaged and thinking long past the tale's conclusion.

Faux Friends
A.J. McCarthy
Black Rose Writing
PO Box 1540, Castroville, TX 78009
9781684337255, $19.95

Make one mistake and you can pay for it for a very long time. That's what Quebec policewoman Chantal Pouliot discovers when her investigation goes awry, relegating her to desk duty. In Faux Friends, she is just beginning to probe a cyber-crime case that might restore her reputation and ability to work as an undercover cop; especially when the case becomes a murder investigation.

The problem? Within this assignment lies a too-knowing set of circumstances that draw her into someone else's dangerous game, with her as the target.

A.J. McCarthy creates a mystery thriller that engrossingly moves between Chantal's moves and efforts and the thoughts and motivations of dangerous adversaries: "The man smiled. Sometimes life took an unexpected turn, and it worked out for the best. Was it possible a higher power had decided it wasn't their time and stepped in to change his plan? He laughed out loud at the thought. Call it a higher power, fate, or plain luck. He took it as a sign that the game wasn't over. Like hockey, they were in the second of three periods. With any luck, it would play out in overtime."

Chantel re-enters an all too familiar (and coveted) investigative world with Jeff Lafond, but the moves she is forced to make once again send her on a road that is frustrating, portending disaster: "Chantal squared her shoulders. She needed to pull herself together. It wasn't the first time she was disillusioned, and it wouldn't be the last. She was a cop with a job to do. If she repeated that statement often enough, it might take away the pain."

As she and Jeff face a host of challenges in their latest case, Chantel is forced to face her fears.

A.J. McCarthy crafts a fine interplay between thriller and murder mystery story, intersecting Chantal's evolution as a policewoman and a potential victim with a case which seems to hold no ready solutions for anyone.

As fear, doubt, and even love enter into the picture, McCarthy creates a fast-paced story that rests as much upon Chantal's ability to change her focus and sense of duty as it does on the undertones of a treachery and tragedy that changes her relationships.

This psychological-based story of intrigue will delight readers who like murder mysteries, strong female protagonists, and a puzzle which offers many satisfying twists and turns. Most of all, Faux Friends excels in a juxtaposition of professional and emotional growth that leads Chantal to reconsider friends, enemies, and all that lies in-between as police force relationships are pulled apart.

Readers who like their thrillers embedded with emotional growth will find Chantal a memorable and strong protagonist who questions the roots of her decisions, assumptions, and their ultimate impact on her life.

Presence, The Play
William Jefferson
Port Estillyen Productions, Inc.
9781736496701, $17.95 Paper; $.99 Kindle

"To sleep, perchance to dream." Only, in Presence, The Play, the dream stems not from ordinary sleep but a coma, and consists of a mission through hell and beyond that changes a writer on the cusp of success.

Monk and playwright Brother Script lives on the island of Estillyen and has finally, after six years, produced a play, Presence, whose production has packed the local Theatre Portesque. Plot thinks this an exciting local development for his friend, and both are looking forward to opening night - until Script falls from the balcony and enters into a coma. The event supersedes opening night as the main attraction: "Plot looked at the cast standing there and thought, At this point, the only script at play is Script, oblivious of the scene around him."

This novel enters his comatose state and plays out largely in that world in which Script now resides, leaving his real-world friends behind. Or, is it the real world?

The first thing to note is that all the characters have literary names. Writer, Epic, and Story are part of Script's monastery. His best friend Plot "knows he's somewhere" and that "God's presence is with him."

The literary allusions and satire begin in The Path, where Script has journeyed to a different level of being. Philosophical, allegorical, and literary references (footnoted) pepper his journey, creating a lively interplay and exploration. Think Dante's Divine Comedy blended with Tolkein's Middle Earth: "Gotta go now," the figure said. "Go? No," Script said, "you can't! Miserere: 'Save me, whatever - shadow or truly man - you be.' I need help, please! I'm a playwright." "So, Miserere: 'Save me, whatever,' - is that line from a work of yours?" asked the tall man. "No, no, not mine," said Script. "But, as a playwright, I know many lines from poets and plays. I know them, they know me, they speak to me, and therefore I speak of them. What I mean is that they are a part of me." "I see you're honest," said the man. "I, too, know that line." "Okay, you see, I've become lost somehow," said Script. "I don't know where I'm at or where I'm going."

At this point, it's clear that Presence, The Play has a lot more going on than a simple fantasy or novel adventure. Literature readers who enjoy philosophical and spiritual reflection added into the mix will find it a revealing, fantastic tale of mortality, otherworldly composition, a mission filled with twists and turns, adding more than a dash of wry humor: "We need to move the mission along without killing off the one we've been sent to aid. Time is of the essence. What do you think? Should we send him back tonight, or wait till the morning? I know Melchizedek will turn up to show Script the Seven Valleys of Sin." "In that case," said Simon, "I think it should be bouillabaisse tonight, and off to hell in the morning."

It's the literary and philosophical reader who will best appreciate all the delightful plays on words, literary allusions, and tongue-in-cheek references which permeate Script's delightful new world.

The blends of comedy and observation are astute and nicely done: "A fine morning mist drifted across the Meadow of Gates and Doors, adding a mysterious quality to the tranquil scene. No chatter, no screams, no ripping of scripts and pages, as Script slept soundly in Writer's Cottage, not knowing he had arrived...What Melchizedek, Mock, and Script encountered in hell, words could not convey, no matter how adroitly they might be assigned and assembled on the page. Yet without words, Script would not have had "The Raven" to recite on the ridge across from the Reservoirs of Bewilderment."

"To sleep, perchance to dream." Script's nightmares and dreams power a journey that leads to new revelations about life's meaning, the Devil, and his place in both worlds, which leads him to new forms of struggle and literary expression: "Satan extolled the promise of platform building and the efficacy of technopoly. He said, 'This is the new discarnate age, our kind of age. Today the Race reels in confusion, and delusion. They know not what to believe.' "Then he said something about the Race being like vipers; I didn't get that. But I do recall him pontificating about a new narrative, the dominant narrative called Bewilderment."

Script is on a journey. All he needs to do is stay on the path. But, is this possible?

William Jefferson's story is delightful, whimsical, thought-provoking, and philosophically and spiritually enlightening. Its romp through literary allusion comes with footnoted references that will delight readers with not only the foundation for their origins, but an assurance that no reference will be missed or misinterpreted.

Eventually, Script's journey comes full circle.

The theater is packed. There's not an empty seat in the house. They should all be filled by readers of a story designed to change the relationship between observer and adventure narrator, immersing both in a divine comedy that pushes against the forces of darkness that would engulf lives on the island of Estillyen and the everyday world alike.

Thomas Holladay
Cinema Enterprises
9781736914007, $12.99 Paper/$.99 ebook

"The white man never listens to the Indian." even when he is trying to warn them, and even when his message is meant to save their lives and their world. This is the opening warning of Meadowlarks, which introduces a savvy old Native American, a dark spirit which protects a sacred valley, and a simmering legacy that explores events that took place ten years prior and its threat to a new generation.

Supernatural forces menace a family, which has fled the city for a more peaceful rural lifestyle, when a long-standing blood sacrifice designed to keep a beast at bay is set aside, resulting in a rash of murders that make the family's urban challenges look tame in comparison.

Carolyn and her eight-year-old son Jason seek a safe haven and a new life. Instead, they unwittingly step into a maelstrom of horror partially brought about by their unwillingness to allow a long-standing ritual to continue. As family relationships, heritage, neighbors, and deadly forces intersect, evil becomes apparent in not only an unleashed supernatural beast, but in the hearts of men.

Christmas is coming as events from the past threaten to spill into the present. Readers drawn by stories with rural roots, supernatural horror, Native rituals, and family relationships will find each of these facets well explored. These multiple components blend seamlessly to build a nicely-paced drama that comes full circle for elderly Native John Crow, whose new neighbors have now become part of this sacred valley and its long-standing ritual practices, changing their lives forever.

Meadowlarks is especially recommended for fans of Tony Hillerman-style intrigue who seek a vigorous dose of the supernatural added into a mix of mystery and interpersonal struggle.

The Song Garden
Vicky Weber
Trunk Up Books
9781734212976, $12.99 Paper/$2.99 Kindle

The Song Garden is a lovely, lively story of music, creativity, and a child's determination to contribute to the musical community by crafting her own original song, and creates an uplifting celebration highly recommended for picture book readers and parents interested in musical celebrations.

Zoe Mellors provides large-sized, appealing illustrations that capture the personalities involved in a community gala celebration, bringing to life the enthusiasm of collaborative work and independent creative effort alike.

There is an element of fantasy involved, as each participant in the town event is tasked with creating a song that "magical flowers" in different gardens will sing.

Calla's family has always participated in this event as a group, but this year she's determined to work separate to make her mark as an independent creative force in her own right.

Her decision to visit others' song gardens to see what else is in the world has an unexpected result: she is overwhelmed by all the choices already taken and becomes worried that she will "get it wrong" with her own creation.

A wise mother, a bit of encouragement, and an epiphany about creativity leads Calla back on the path of positivity, which is transmitted to young readers, along with a concluding project reinforcing their own creative force with an opportunity to participate in a song garden project, themselves.

Once again, Vicky Weber accepts the challenge of encouraging a child's creativity and positive perspective about opportunities. Her song garden story is more than a whimsical tale or a gentle reminder of supporting a creative spirit - it simply and successfully teaches the basics of self-awareness, collaborative and individual effort, and how to develop autonomy and strength by realizing a goal. Through her story, kids will be encouraged to consider their own path to musical and artistic composition.

The message and its translation through bright, large-size drawings by Zoe Mellors will delight adults seeking stories that go beyond entertainment value to reinforce a child's inner spirit.

Rhythm Rescue
Vicky Weber
Trunk Up Books
9781734212990, $18.99 Hardcover/ $12.99 Paper/$3.19 Kindle

Rhythm Rescue introduces readers to Music Metropolis, where "there's always a song to sing and instruments playing everywhere."

Filled with light and music as the city is, Tala is a talented young musician who appears to be in just the right place as she puts her abilities to work. Vicky Weber's artistic co-creator Geneviève Viel-Taschereau captures Tala's spirit in large-size pictures that insert a sense of power and self-strength into the story.

More than just a story about music, Vicky Weber teaches the very basic introductory rudiments of reading music and accompanying it with rhythm, injecting simple bass and cleft notes into the story and inviting young readers and their musical adult accompanists to clap along at various intervals.

Tala is superpowered by music. The rhythms she (and the reader) cultivate over the course of the story help her overcome obstacles and find her way, whether it be past downed traffic signals, over flooded roads, or beating a storm.

Adults with even the simplest music-reading ability can help youngsters navigate Tala's world and employ the clapping beats which teach diverse rhythms, resilience, and participation in the read-aloud experience. Those who struggle with vague memories of music receive further written instruction in the back of the book on how to interpret the rhythmic beats of each section.

Much more than the usual passive read-aloud picture book, Rhythm Rescue goes beyond encouraging a collaborative experience, but teaches youngsters how they may empower themselves to overcome life's obstacles through encouraging creative artistic abilities.

Once again, Vicky Walker has achieved a dual goal in a story that both encourages resilience, individuality, and community interaction and imparts a basic awareness of an aspect of music's power to uplift, support, and contribute to a sense of adventure and positive connections in the world.

Any adult interested in psychological support and musical education will appreciate having this dual opportunity under one cover.

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

Gary Roen's Bookshelf

Deep Strike
Rick Campbell
St Martin's Press
9781250164773, $27.99 HC / $14.99 Kindle

Campbell is one of the best in the field of techno thrillers but "Deep Strike" is his best effort so far. Beginning with an explosive beginning with an attack at the UN headquarters by a domestic terrorist who gets away. This begins an all-out search for him by U.S. Intelligence throughout the world. He later masterminds a crazy plan that includes a Russian submarine commander to attack the United States. Unlike other authors in the field Campbell has readers understanding the Russian's motivation that many of us can relate to if in similar circumstances. "Deep Strike" is a pulse pounding suspenseful read guaranteed to please any fan of the genre.

The Family Lawyer
James Patterson
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Books
9781538751589, $9.99 pbk / $9.99 Kindle

"The Family Lawyer" is just one of three stories in this collection of shorter works by Patterson and three other authors. The lead "The Family Lawyer" has Attorney Mathew Hovanes conducting his most difficult case. The defense of his own daughter who has been charged with bullying another girl to commit suicide. All the states circumstantial evidence points directly to his daughter. "The Good Sister" and "The Night Sniper" are the two other tales for readers to enjoy.

The Shadow On My Heart
Stefan Rybak
Nico 11 Publishing
9781945907739, $19.99, pbk/ $11.99 Kindle

Stefan Rybak a workaholic, had everything going for him in his life, until he suffered a major health issue. Told by a doctor he was in a grave situation with odds against him to survive a surgery, he prepares for the worst. Digging deep into his soul he dredges up his mothers' teachings as well as religious principals he learned through the years. With a deep commitment to faith and the words of his mother whose life was very negative he also surrounds himself with family to face the odds of his mortality. "The Shadow On My Heart" is a deeply touching personal memoir that gives us all hope during the severest of situations we may have to endure.

Tomcat Rio
Dave "Bio" Baranek
Skyhorse Publishing Inc
9781510748224, $27.99 HC / $18.99 Kindle

Strap yourself in for the ride of a lifetime with author Dave "Bio" Baranek in "Tomcat Rio" Baranek who has been a Top Gun instructor as well as a combat pilot who masterfully takes readers into the world of Naval Aviator. His firsthand accounts highlight what it's like to fly the incredible F-14 aircraft that are masterfully flown all over the world to keep us safe. Included are many never seen photos of the machines in and out of the air that add to the enjoyment of this first-class flight. "Tomcat Rio is a beautiful book that makes a great conversation piece on anyone's coffee table

The Best New True Crime Stories Small Towns
Mitzi Szereto
Mango Publishing
9781642502800, $18.95 pbk / $9.99 Kindle

So often we see so many murder cases here, we forget there are other places in the world with just as many happening every day. "The Best New True Crime Stories Small Towns compiled by Mitzi Szereto is written by some of the best crime reporters transcribing today. Many of the crimes are from Australia, Europe and Asia that are just as interesting as anything in the US. This particular volume deals with small towns throughout the world. Part of the appeal is small towns have been perceived to be immune from the situations because everyone knows everyone or they are too small. As the author addresses in the introduction, these things can be found anywhere on the planet where you have human beings. "The Best New True Crime Stories Small Towns" appeals to anyone who loves true crime tales.

The Chiron Effect Healing Our Core Wounds through Astrology, Empathy, and Self-Forgiveness
Lisa Tahir, LCSW
Bear & Company
c/o Inner Traditions
9781591433958, $16.00 pbk / $9.99 Kindle

Chiron in astrology means "wounded healer" Author Tahir uses Chiron in "The Chiron Effect Healing Our Wounds through Astrology, Empathy and Self- Forgiveness" to help people with a number of negative aspects of their lives. She also utilizes principals of psychology and Eric Fromm as well as other modern-day techniques to achieve a perfect balanced life. So often books of this type have only concentrated on the Astrological aspect that appeal to a much slimer audience. By combing known aspects of treatments as well as telling personal stories "The Chiron Effect" is a valuable resource that appeals to a much larger group of people in need of help in this Covid time.

In My Next Life I'll Get It Right
Rosemary Mild
Magic Island Literary Works
9780990547280, $14.95 pbk / $5.99 Kindle

Known for writing funny mysteries with her husband, Rosemary Mild sets her sights on everything you can think of to comment on in "In My Next Life I'll Get It Right" Some aspects she sets her sights on are life with her husband, being a grandma, aspects of her religion, life as a senior are just a few of the humorous pieces. Her witty observations will have readers laughing out loud at her views on things we all face every day. "In My Next Life I'll Get It Right" is a perfect gift for any occasion.

The Antidote
Susan McCormick
Wild Rose Press
9781509235667, $16/99 pbk / $4.99 Kindle

"The Antidote" is a very different work from McCormick who usually writes wonderful mysteries of a group of senior citizen women who get involved in the circumstances of a murder case. Alex Revelstoke has no idea why he has the ability to see disease but does the best he can to use it in the finest way possible. As he learns more of his talent, he realizes it can be perceived as a gift or a curse. As more is revealed to him he finds he is the last of a long line of people to be able to use the skills he has and that something menacing is trying to confront him that will be a battle of survival that he must win. "The Antidote" is filled with wonderful full fleshed out characters and a pace that make it a page ripping suspenseful tale of good and evil

Bumbino The Italian Bumble Bee
Story and Illustrations by Art Manno
Nico 11 Publishing
9781945907630, $16.95 pbk / $11.99 Kindle

"Bumbino The Italian Bumble Bee" is an entertaining work of prose and art to please anyone of any age. Bumbino is a bee just flying around, attempting to make friends with all types of animals, in the neighborhood. Many shun him until he is the perfect resource to stop a terrible situation from continuing. Contained in "Bumbino The Italian Bumble Bee" are many lessons. Friendship, accepting differences and other wonderful morals to be learned by all of us as well as there are many different activities for kids to enjoy. Hopefully "Bumbino The Italian Bee is the first of many books to come.

The Tomte's Hat
Written and illustrated by Birgit Ruotsala
Nico 11 Publishing
9781945907715 $16.99 HC

"The Tomte's Hat" takes something from Scandinavian culture to modernize it with prose and art for kids to learn new things about why we all wear hats. Like many different things passed along to generation to generation the tradition of hats has a long line of succession as well as well in different cultures. "The Tomte"s Hat" keeps alive a legend that should continue to be told. All of us can enjoy this wonderful tale that adds new stories of why there are so many different hats to wear.

Gary Roen
Senior Reviewer

Helen Dumont's Bookshelf

Table for Two: Biblical Counsel for Eating Disorders
Krista Dunham & David Dunham
New Growth Press
1301 Carolina Street, #L101, Greensboro, NC 27401
9781645070740, $15.99, PB, 144pp

Synopsis: Breaking free from an eating disorder is difficult and complex. Those who are suffering often feel misunderstood. They struggle with feeling alone and afraid, ashamed to tell those closest to them. Their loved ones also feel helpless and ill-equipped to care for them. Within this dynamic, hurt, disappointment, and neglect often thrive. From the unique perspective of a husband and wife team, "Table for Two: Biblical Counsel for Eating Disorders" shares Krista Dunham's journey to freedom from her eating disorder while her husband David shares insights as the loved one coming beside her.

Krista suffered from an eating disorder for over ten years and, by God's grace and through biblical counseling, overcame it. She openly and honestly shares her experience, describing what she did, what she needed, and what proved helpful in the process of change. In conjunction with her insights, David shares what he did, how he failed, and what he learned along the way as a biblical counselor that was helpful to Krista.

Without minimizing complicated issues, the Dunhams provide practical, gospel hope and biblical encouragement to those suffering and help for loved ones walking with them. They share personal narratives, interactive exercises, and biblical direction for those navigating recovery. Individuals suffering from an eating disorder - and loved ones - will find practical help, hope, and encouragement in this couple's story. Applying the truth of Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, they know two are better than one and understand the need to connect and jointly navigate the process together.

"Table for Two: Biblical Counsel for Eating Disorders" is a powerful, redemptive, intensely candid memoir that reveals an intimacy beyond personal stories of struggle told through a biblical counseling lens; it highlights the close-knit relationship of husband and wife and a home life where one person struggles with an eating disorder.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Table for Two: Biblical Counsel for Eating Disorders" is an extraordinary, unique, and ultimately inspiring story that is unreservedly recommended reading for anyone within the Christian community struggling with similar issues with respect to eating disorders. This paperback edition from New Growth Press is especially and unreservedly recommended for community, church, seminary, college and university library Health/Medicine collections in general, and Eating Disorder Treatment & Recovery supplemental curriculum studies lists in particular.

Editorial Note #1: Krista Dunham has served as a women's mentor, biblical counselor, and curriculum developer for various women's and children's ministries. She has a degree in early childhood education from Ohio University.

Editorial Note #2: David Dunham, MDiv (The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary), is a pastor and biblical counselor at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Roseville, MI.

Yasodhara and the Buddha
Vanessa R. Sasson
Bloomsbury Academic
c/o Bloomsbury Press
9781350163157, $68.00, HC, 304pp

Synopsis: By combining the spirit of fiction with the fabulism of Indian mythology and in-depth academic research, Vanessa R. Sasson (Professor of Religious Studies in the Liberal and Creative Arts Department of Marianopolis College, Canada) presents the evocative story of the Buddha from the perspective of a forgotten woman: Yasodhara, the Buddha's wife.

Although often marginalized, Yasodhara's narrative in the pages of "Yasodhara and the Buddha" here comes to life. Written with a strong feminist voice, we encounter Yasodhara as a fiercely independent, passionate and resilient individual. We witness her joys and sorrows, her expectations and frustrations, her fairy-tale wedding, and her overwhelming devastation at the departure of her beloved.

It is through her eyes that we witness Siddhattha's slow transformation, from a sheltered prince to a deeply sensitive young man. On the way, we see how the gods watch over the future Buddha from the clouds, how the king and his ministers try to keep the suffering of the world from him and how he eventually renounces the throne, his wife and newly-born son to seek enlightenment.

Along with an impressively informative foreword from Wendy Doniger, "Yasodhara and the Buddha" includes a scholarly introduction to Yasodhara's narrative and offers extensive notes along with study questions, to help readers navigate the traditional literature in a new way, making "Yasodhara and the Buddha" essential reading for anyone wanting to learn about Buddhist narratives.

Critique; "Yasodhara and the Buddha" by Professor Sasson is a seminal and original contribution to Buddhism literature in terms of the life of the Buddha. An inherently fascinating, impressively informative, exceptionally well written, and thoroughly entertaining, "Yasodhara and the Buddha" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college and university library collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, Buddhist scholars, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Yasodhara and the Buddha" is readily available in a paperback edition (9781350163164, $22.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Are You Really OK?
Debra Fileta
Harvest House Publishers
PO Box 41210, Eugene, OR 97404-0322
9780736982511, $17.99, PB, 256pp

Synopsis: Getting healthy is an ongoing process that requires you to stop, dig deep, and ask yourself the hard questions.

In the pages of and offering a Christian perspective on the subject, "Are You Really OK?: Getting Real About Who You Are, How You're Doing, and Why It Matters" by author and licensed counselor Debra Fileta challenges you to get real with who you are and how you're doing spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically so you can recognize where you need growth and healing.

With "Are You Really OK?" the reader will learn to: Understand and express your emotions in healthy and helpful ways; Get to the root of what you believe about yourself, others, and God; Recognize the influences of past traumas and replace them with God's truth; Honestly assess your own mental health, and pursue help when it's needed; Prioritize your physical wellbeing and see how it affects every other area of your life.

It's time to get intentional about pursuing health in every part of your life. Using a combination of science, psychology, and faith, "Are You Really OK?" will help you get healthy from the inside out.

Critique: Thoroughly 'user friendly' in commentary, content, organization and presentation, "Are You Really OK?: Getting Real About Who You Are, How You're Doing, and Why It Matters" is an ideal DIY instructional guide and unreservedly recommended to all members of the Christian community who seek to honor their bodies as 'temples' endowed to them by their Creator.

Editorial Note: Debra Fileta is a licensed professional counselor and the author of "True Love Dates". A passionate speaker, she challenges people to have a psychologically and spiritually healthy approach to relationships. Debra maintains an informative website at:

Growing Boldly: Dare to Build a Life You Love
Emily Ley
Thomas Nelson Publishers
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9781400211319, $22.99, HC, 224pp

Synopsis: "Growing Boldly: Dare to Build a Life You Love" by Emily Ley is a DIY self-help/self-improvement instructional guide and manual whose goal is to enable you to: Believe in who you are and Whose you are and move past the lies and fears holding you back; Figure out what makes you tick and own it confidently; Gather all your grit, learned lessons, and tools because it's all valuable; Imagine the life you dream of and decide how to make it happen; Love your people well so that you create a lasting legacy; Clear the clutter and cultivate clarity so you can do what matters most; Do the hard work without forgetting to feed your soul.

In the pages of "Growing Boldly: Dare to Build a Life You Love", Emily draws on her own story of creating a highly successful business (and loving the process) as she teaches us how to move forward in our own vocations and serve others at the same time. This is the start of something good. Get ready to build a life you love.

Critique: Featuring beautiful photography, a ribbon marker, and a presentation page make "Growing Boldly: Dare to Build a Life You Love" a thoughtful gift for a friend or family member, a perfect present for Mother's Day, birthdays, or holiday occasions, and a very nice personal encouragement incentive for yourself. It should be noted that "Growing Boldly: Dare to Build a Life You Love" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99) and as a complete an unabridged audio book (Brilliance Audio, 9781713572190, $22.99, MP3-CD).

Editorial Note: Emily Ley is the founder of Simplified(R), a brand of planners and organizational tools for busy women, and the creator of The Simplified Podcast. Emily is also the author of "Grace, Not Perfection: Embracing Simplicity, Celebrating Joy", "A Simplified Life: Tactical Tools for Intentional Living", and "When Less Becomes More: Making Space for Slow, Simple, and Good".

Angels, of Course: A Collection of Illustrated Visits
Win Tuck-Gleason
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781532097188, $38.99, HC, 88pp

Synopsis: When Win Tuck-Gleason was growing up, she thought everyone could see angels. People just didn't talk about them; they still don't. She just accepted the angels' presence, and she kept silent. It was as if she wasn't given permission to talk about them.

But now she has permission and in the pages of "Angels, of Course: A Collection of Illustrated Visits", she offers a collection of stories and paintings that share her varied experiences with heavenly angels. It chronicles twenty visits by angels beginning with her childhood and continuing to the present day.

Tuck-Gleason isn't sure why she's been blessed with angelic encounters, but she communicates that their presence is comforting to her, they give her confidence, and they deliver a positive atmosphere when they're around. "Angels, Of Course" describes the different shapes and sizes of angels and the circumstances in which they visited. Tuck-Gleason tells how they fill her life with love, guidance, and protection, just when she needs it.

Critique: An inherently fascinating read, "Angels, of Course: A Collection of Illustrated Visits" will have a special interest for students of Angelic Metaphysics. While highly recommended for community, college and university library religious biography and memoir collections in general, and Metaphysical Studies supplemental studies curriculums in particular, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Angels, of Course: A Collection of Illustrated Visits" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781532086069, $27.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99).

Editorial Note: It should be noted that artist and author Win Tuck-Gleason also maintains an informative website at

Helen Dumont

John Taylor's Bookshelf

Disorderly Conduct
John Iannarelli
Indie Books International
9781952233470, $29.99, HC, 208pp

Synopsis: John Iannarelli (a.k.a. "FBI John") served for more than twenty years as an FBI Special Agent and was also the Bureau's national spokesperson. His investigative work included the Oklahoma City Bombing, the 9/11 attack, the Sony hack, numerous bank robberies, kidnappings, and other assorted federal crimes.

While most law enforcement matters are deadly serious, in the pages of "Disorderly Conduct: The Oddities of My 20-Year Life As an FBI Special Agent" John shows that there is a humorous side to the job of law enforcement that every cop, agent, trooper, investigator, and detective knows.

"Disorderly Conduct" is a collection of the lesser known but true and entertaining stories from the FBI. Here showcased is a wealth of oddities drawn of an FBI Agent's job and ranging from memorable arrests to truly bizarre search warrant discoveries. "Disorderly Conduct" takes the reader behind the scenes to reveal the lighter moments of law enforcement that are arrestingly funny.

Critique: Deftly written with wit and a true insider's expertise, "Disorderly Conduct: The Oddities of My 20-Year Life As an FBI Special Agent" is an inherently fascinating and fully engaging read from first page to last. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college and university library Law Enforcement and Contemporary American Biography collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Disorderly Conduct" is also readily available in an inexpensive digital book format (Kindle, $0.99,

From the Bayou to the Bay
Robert C. Smith
State University of New York Press
State University Plaza, Albany, NY 12246-0001
9781438482316,$95.00, HC, 192pp

Synopsis: "From the Bayou to the Bay: The Autobiography of a Black Liberation Scholar" is refreshingly candid intellectual autobiography in which Professor Robert C. Smith deftly traces the evolution of his consciousness and identity from his early days in rural Louisiana to his emergence as one of the nation's leading scholars of African American politics.

Professor Smith interweaves his personal narrative with the significant events and cultural flashpoints of the last half of the twentieth century, including the Watts Rebellion, the rise of the Black Power movement, the tumultuous protests at Berkeley, and the sex and drug revolutions of the 1960s.

As a graduate student he experiences the founding of Black Studies, the grounding in blackness at Howard University, and, as a professor, the swirling controversies and contradictions of Black Studies and feminism at San Francisco State University.

Professor Smith also locates his personal and professional story in the context of the scholarly literature on African American politics, imbuing it with his own personal perspective. His account illuminates the past but, at the same time, looks toward the future of the long struggle by African American scholars to use knowledge as a base of power in the fight against racism and white supremacy.

Critique: An inherently fascinating and impressive account of an extraordinary life of equally extraordinary achievements played out in times of social turmoil and cultural conflict, "From the Bayou to the Bay: The Autobiography of a Black Liberation Scholar" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college and university library Contemporary African American Biography collections and African American Demographic Studies curriculum reading lists. It should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "From the Bayou to the Bay" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781438482323, $31.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $22.95).

Editorial Note: Robert C. Smith is Emeritus Professor of Political Science at San Francisco State University. He is the author of many books, including African American Leadership (coauthored with Ronald W. Walters); John F. Kennedy, Barack Obama, and the Politics of Ethnic Incorporation and Avoidance; and Ronald W. Walters and the Fight for Black Power, 1969 - 2010, all published by SUNY Press.

One Week in America
Patrick Parr
Chicago Review Press
814 North Franklin Street, Chicago, IL 60610
9781641601788, $27.99, HC, 288pp

Synopsis: The major players in featured in the pages of "One Week in America: The 1968 Notre Dame Literary Festival and a Changing Nation" by Patrick Parr include such luminaries as: Ralph Ellison, Martin Luther King Jr., Norman Mailer, Lyndon B. Johnson, Joseph Heller, Kurt Vonnegut, William F. Buckley Jr.

For one chaotic week in 1968, college students, talented authors, and presidential candidates grappled with major events. The result was one of the most historic literary festivals of the twentieth century. "One Week in America" is a day-by-day narrative of the 1968 Notre Dame Sophomore Literary Festival and the national events that grabbed the spotlight that April week.

Critique: An inherently fascinating bit of American cultural history, "One Week in America: The 1968 Notre Dame Literary Festival and a Changing Nation" is exceptionally well written, organized and presented. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college and university library 20th Century Literary Criticism collections and supplemental studies curriculums, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "One Week in America" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99).

Editorial Note: Patrick Parr is the author of "The Seminarian: Martin Luther King Jr. Comes of Age", and a history columnist for Japan Today. Other work by Parr has appeared in The Atlantic, Politico, American History Magazine, and the Boston Globe. In 2014 Parr was awarded an Artist Trust Fellowship for his literary career. Patrick Parr also maintains and informative website at:

John Taylor

Mary Cowper's Bookshelf

The Adventures of a Victorian Con Woman
David Lassman & Mick Davis
Pen & Sword Books
c/o Casemate (distribution)
9781526764867, $49.95, HC, 368pp

Synopsis: Set in Victorian England, the true story of the life of Mrs. Gordon Baillie is stranger than anything to be met with in the field of fiction.

Mrs. Gordon Baillie, known throughout her life as Annie, was born in the direst poverty in the small Scottish fishing town of Peterhead in 1848. Illegitimate and illiterate, her beauty and intelligence nevertheless enabled her to overcome her circumstances and become a charming and wealthy socialite living a life of luxury while raising money for worthy causes and charitable works.

Behind her supposed perfect and contented life, however, lay one of the most notorious and compulsive swindlers of the Victorian Age. Her fraudulent fundraising and larger-than-life schemes played out across four decades and three continents, and involved land owners, crofters, aristocrats, politicians, bankers, socialist revolutionaries, operatic stars, and the cultural icons of the day.

She became mistress to a rich aristocrat, married a world-renowned male opera singer and later took as a lover a vicar's son with anarchist tendencies. For most of her 'career' she kept one step ahead of the law and her nemesis, Inspector Henry Marshall of Scotland Yard, but finally becoming undone through her own compulsion for petty theft, despite her amassed fortune.

During her life she used more than 40 aliases, produced four children and spent her way through millions in ill-gotten wealth. But at the turn of the twentieth century, her notoriety was such that she took refuge in America and disappeared from history.

Critique: "The Adventures of a Victorian Con Woman: The Life and Crimes of Mrs Gordon Baillie" is an impressive blend of history and biography by the team of Mick Davis "The Adventures of a Victorian Con Woman: The Life and Crimes of Mrs Gordon Baillie" is an inherently fascinating, informative, entertaining, and chronologically presented read throughout. While an extraordinary and fully recommended addition to community, college and university library Women's History, Victorian History, and Scottish Biography collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Adventures of a Victorian Con Woman: The Life and Crimes of Mrs Gordon Baillie" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

Editorial Note #1: Mick Davis' first book was The Historic Inns of Frome and his collaboration with David Lassman has so far produced The Awful Killing of Sarah Watts and Foul Deeds and Suspicious Deaths in and around Frome, both published by Pen and Sword. Current projects include a survey of the prehistoric barrows of North Somerset.

Editorial Note #2: David Lassman is the author of 'Frome in the Great War' and co-creator of 'The Regency Detective' series. He is also co-author (with Mick Davis) of 'The Awful Killing of Sarah Watts' published by Pen & Sword in 2018.

Spark: How Genius Ignites, From Child Prodigies to Late Bloomers
Claudia Kalb
National Geographic Press
101 West 104th Street, Suite 8, New York, NY 10025
9781426220937, $27.00, HC, 368pp

Synopsis: Although there is no scientifically precise definition of a genius, it is general considered to be a person who displays exceptional intellectual ability, creative productivity, universality in genres, or originality, typically to a degree that is associated with the achievement of new discoveries or advances in a domain of knowledge.

Yo-Yo Ma's ear for music emerged not long after he learned to walk. By the age of seven, he was performing for President Kennedy; by fifteen he debuted at Carnegie Hall. Maya Angelou, by contrast, didn't write her iconic memoir, I Know Why the Cage Bird Sings, until she was 40.

What propels some individuals to reach extraordinary creative heights in the earliest years of life while others discover their passions decades later? Are prodigies imbued with innate talent? How often are midlife inspirations triggered by propitious events, like Julia Child's first French meal at the age of 36? Do late bloomers reveal their talents because their skills require life experience and contemplation?

Through engaging storytelling and intriguing historical and cutting-edge scientific research, author and journalist Claudia Kalb explores these questions to uncover what makes a prodigy and what drives a late bloomer in "Spark: How Genius Ignites, From Child Prodigies to Late Bloomers".

In this compendium of linked biographies, Kalb follows the journeys of thirteen remarkable individuals ranging from Shirley Temple, to Alexander Fleming, to Eleanor Roosevelt, to Bill Gates, in order to discover the secrets behind their talents. Each one showcased possessed a unique arc of inspiration. Each one (through science, art, music, theater, and politics) reached extraordinary success at different stages of life. And each one offers us a chance to explore the genesis (and experience) of genius.

Critique: An inherently fascinating, informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking read from first page to last, "Spark: How Genius Ignites, From Child Prodigies to Late Bloomers" is an extraordinary, unique and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library Popular Psychology and American Biography collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Spark: How Genius Ignites, From Child Prodigies to Late Bloomers" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.99).

Editorial Note: Claudia Kalb is an author and journalist who reports on a wide variety of health and science topics. She is the author of "Andy Warhol Was a Hoarder: Inside the Minds of History's Great Personalities". A former senior writer at Newsweek who has also contributed to Smithsonian and Scientific American, Kalb has written cover stories for National Geographic that explore genius through the lens of biography, history, culture, and science. She can be followed on Twitter: @ClaudiaKalb, and maintains an informative website at

Collected Poems
Sonia Sanchez
Beacon Press
24 Farnsworth Street, Boston, MA 02210
9780807026526, $29.95, HC, 424pp

Synopsis: Sonia Sanchez-award-winning poet, activist, scholar, and formerly the Laura Carnell professor of English and women's studies at Temple University-is the author of sixteen books, including Like the Singing Coming off the Drums, Does Your House Have Lions?, Wounded in the House of a Friend, and Shake Loose My Skin.

Gathering highlights from all of Sonia Sanchez's poetry and newly published by Beacon Press, "Collected Poems" is compilation that is certain to inspire love and community engagement among her legions of fans. Beginning with her earliest work, including poems from her first volume, Homecoming (1969), through to 2019, the poet has collected her favorite work in all forms of verse, from Haiku to excerpts from book-length narratives.

Her lifelong dedication to the causes of Black liberation, social equality, and women's rights is evident throughout, as is her special attention to youth in poems addressed to children and young adults.

Critique: An impressive volume showcasing the broad scope of her literary work in general and word smithing talents in particular, "Collected Poems" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, community, college and university library Contemporary Poetry, African American Poetry, and Short Story Anthology collections. It should be noted for the legions of Sonia Sanchez fans (which include Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison!) that "Collected Poems" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $18.99).

Captain Cooked
S. P. Grogan
Addison & Highsmith Publishers
c/o Histria Books
9781592110650, $32.99, HC, 276pp

Synopsis: All she wanted was a quiet beach where she could go topless. It was not to be. Videographer Madison Merlot Dayne arrived on the Big Island to shoot the HDTV of her culinary father's popular television food show, "Insatiable Delights."

From the moment of her arrival and told in a first person narrative style, Madison and her father are involved in trying to discover who may have poisoned a revered Hawaiian singing star. Her working vacation involves riots, suspicious accidents, earthquakes, flowing lava, ancient Hawaiian war weapons, and a real 'cliff-hanger.'

Madison is likewise having men problems. She desires island romance, but is not prepared for three men in her life... at the same time. And there is the mystery of the boiling cauldron.

Will Madison get off the island alive?

Critique: Original, entertaining, absorbing, "Captain Cooked: Hawaiian Mystery of Romance, Revenge... and Recipes!" by S. P. Grogan is an inherently fascinating and memorable read -- making it an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to community library Contemporary Fiction collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of culinary mystery buffs and contemporary romance fans that "Captain Cooked" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781592111121, $24.99).

Rendezvous with God
Bill Myers
Fidelis Publishing
9781735428581, $16.00, PB, 240pp

Synopsis: A reclusive college professor's life is turned upside down by his impulsive, runaway niece who decides she's going to live with him. To make matters worse, he begins slipping back in time to watch various Gospel narratives unfold that include off-the-record discussions with Jesus Christ. Soon he realizes his conversations tie directly into the drama, pain, and bitter-sweet comedy of his own life.

Critique: An inherently fascinating, impressively original and deftly crafted novel that showcases the author's genuine flair for narrative driven storytelling, "Rendezvous with God" by Bill Myers is one of those works of literature that will linger in the mind and memory long after the book is finished and set back upon the shelf. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college and university library Literary Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Rendezvous with God" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.49).

Editorial Note: As an author/producer, Bill Myers' work has won over eighty national and international awards, including the C.S. Lewis Honor Award. His books and videos have sold over eight million copies.

Mary Cowper

Micah Andrew's Bookshelf

Please Open in the Event of My Death
Mark Hsu
Dear Kids Books
c/o Mascot Books
620 Herndon Parkway, #320, Herndon, VA 20170
9781645432975, $24.95, HC, 352pp

Synopsis: A fear of flying inspired on the part of Mark Hsu to write "Please Open in the Event of My Death: A Father's Advice to His Daughters in Case Something Horrible Happens (Which Hopefully It Won't But Just in Case...)". He was consumed with the unavoidable truth that if his plane went down during one of his business trips, his four- and three-year old daughters would not remember a thing about him.

Mark proceeded to write a book of astute and often hilarious advice (as hinted by the long and unwieldy subtitle) that's addressed to his children but geared toward adults. The life lessons from a longtime New York litigator are not corny or blindingly idealistic. He wants to tell his girls and us about the unwritten rules of the world, everything from character to friends to fear to social facility to work success to marriage to kids -- in essence, a kind of Manual for Life.

Throughout, Mark weaves in personal stories, including his fascinating childhood as the only child of a deep-cover CIA spy, the night he first met his Italian wife and determined that the Japanese-Chinese guy needed to show off his Roman-accented Italian, his transformation from a Clown About Town to a doting and sometimes grossly incompetent father, and the struggle to preserve his soul while being a litigator.

Critique: Deftly written with a great deal of wit and wisdom, making it a 'must read' choice for all fathers of small (and even not-so-small) children, "Please Open in the Event of My Death: A Father's Advice to His Daughters in Case Something Horrible Happens (Which Hopefully It Won't But Just in Case...) is a unique and unreservedly recommended addition to all community library Parenting and Mid-Life Management collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Please Open in the Event of My Death" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $6.99).

Paul Roehrig & Ben Pring
c/o Wiley Professional Trade Group
111 River Street, Hoboken, NJ 07030-5774
9781119785910, $25.00, HC, 176pp

Synopsis: "Monster: A Tough Love Letter On Taming the Machines that Rule our Jobs, Lives, and Future" by the team of Paul Roehrig and Ben Pring explains how we can responsibly engage with technology, and avoid its darker tendencies, while accepting its necessary gifts.

Roehrig and Pring draw upon their years of experience and expertise as insiders at one of the world's largest tech consulting firms, give a unique take on: The addictive nature of tech and how to fight it; The growing backlash against big tech -- where it's right and what it misses; Crucial steps for taming technology's role in your life and in your organization -- without becoming a modern Luddite.

Specifically written for business managers, corporate leaders, and staff/employees at companies of all sizes and in all industries, "Monster" will help the readers to understand and take control of technology's powerful role in their profession lives and their organization.

Critique: Impressively informative, exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Monster: A Tough Love Letter On Taming the Machines that Rule our Jobs, Lives, and Future" is an extraordinarily thought-provoking and potentially life changing read. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community, corporate, college and university library Computer Technology, Robotics and Automation collections and supplemental studies curriculums, it should be noted for personal and professional reading lists that "Monster: A Tough Love Letter On Taming the Machines that Rule our Jobs, Lives, and Future" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.00).

Editorial Note #1: Paul Roehrig is the Global Head of Strategy and Growth for Cognizant Digital. He is also the founder and former Global Managing Director of the Center for the Future of Work at Cognizant. A co-author of the best-selling and award-winning books What To Do When Machines Do Everything and Code Halos, Paul was a Principal Analyst at Forrester Research, where he researched, wrote, and consulted extensively on challenges and opportunities related to business and technology services. He also held operational positions in designing and implementing global technology services programs for customers from a variety of industries for Hewlett-Packard.

Editorial Note #2: Named as one of 30 management thinkers to watch in 2020 by Thinkers 50, Ben Pring is the head of thought leadership at Cognizant and co-founded and leads Cognizant's Center for the Future of Work. Ben is also a co-author of What To Do When Machines Do Everything and Code Halos. Ben sits on the advisory board of the Labor and Work Life program at Harvard Law School.

A.W.E.S.O.M.E.: Seven Keys to Unlocking the Speaker Within
Jess Ponce III, author
Emily Liu, author
The A Factor
9780998562322, $12.99, PB, 314pp

Synopsis: It is through speaking publicly that our ideas and beliefs are shaped into words heard by others. What we express creates in the presence of others creates a new reality -- one that can affect our lives and the lives of all those who hear us.

"A.W.E.S.O.M.E.: Seven Keys to Unlocking the Speaker Within" by the team of media coach Jess Ponce and international business consultant Emily Liu is an effective DIY guide awakens the powerful speaker within us all. Fear and uncertainty need no longer stop anyone from owning the spotlight.

"A.W.E.S.O.M.E.: Seven Keys to Unlocking the Speaker Within" showcases ways to speak with intention to provide the message to be presented to any size audience in any kind of circumstance as the reader will learn how to: Express yourself with clarity, confidence, and charisma; Deliver effective pitches, interviews, keynotes, toasts and presentations; Align words with body language, external surroundings, and untapped intuition; Create messages that stand out, regardless of the medium or situation.

Critique: A complete and comprehensive DIY course of instruction in the art and science of public speaking, "A.W.E.S.O.M.E.: Seven Keys to Unlocking the Speaker Within" is an especially and impressively 'user friendly' instruction manual and guide. Impressively organized and effectively presented, "A.W.E.S.O.M.E.: Seven Keys to Unlocking the Speaker Within" is also readily available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99) and will prove to be an immediately welcome and enduringly popular addition to personal, professional, corporate, community, college and university library Communication/Social Skills, Leadership/Motivation, and Business Management collections and supplemental studies curriculums.

Micah Andrew

Michael Dunford's Bookshelf

Lone Voice: The Wars of Isi Leibler
Suzanne D. Rutland
Gefen Publishing House
c/o Storch 255 Central Ave #B-206, Lawrence, NY 11559
9789657023228, $39.95, HC, 680pp

Synopsis: Belgian-born (1934) Australian-Israeli international Jewish activist, Isi Leibler has been a central player in the global Jewish arena for over six decades. The preeminent Australian Jewish leader, he was pivotal in driving the issue of Soviet Jewry onto the international agenda. And he played a crucial role in establishing diplomatic relations between Israel and China and India.

As Australia emerged from Britain s shadow after WWII to punch above its diplomatic weight, so too Leibler propelled the Australian Jewish community into wielding disproportionate influence in global Jewish affairs.

A key figure in the World Jewish Congress, he had no hesitation exposing corruption in its leadership or at the Holocaust Claims Conference. Pugnacious, colorful, principled, he befriended prime ministers, refuseniks, billionaires, Cold War warriors, Marxists, and diplomats to further the Jewish agenda, free Soviet Jews, support Israel, and fight antisemitism.

Critique: An inherently interesting biography of an impressively influential leader in the Australian Jewish community and the development of the State of Israel, "Lone Voice: The Wars of Isi Leibler" by Professor Suzanne D. Rutland is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college and university library Jewish Biography, Modern Israel History, Political Advocacy, and Human Rights collections and supplemental studies curriculums. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Lone Voice: The Wars of Isi Leibler" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Suzanne D. Rutland (OAM, PhD), Professor Emerita, Department of Hebrew, Biblical and Jewish Studies, University of Sydney, is a renowned Australian Jewish historian. She has published widely on Australian Jewish history, edits the Sydney edition of the Australian Jewish Historical Society Journal, and writes prolifically about the Shoah, Israel, Soviet Jewry, Jewish education, and antisemitism. Her book The Jews in Australia was published by Cambridge University Press in 2005. Her 2015 book Let My People Go: The Untold Story of Australia and Soviet Jews, 1959-1989, co-written with journalist Sam Lipski was a joint winner of the 2016 Prime Minister s Literary Award for Australian history. In 2008, she received the Medal of the Order of Australia from the government for services to Jewish higher education and interfaith dialogue. A member of the Australian Expert Delegation to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, she also serves on the Education Working Group and Committee on Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial.

Field Guide to the Trees of the Gila Region of New Mexico
Richard Stephen Felger, et al.
University of New Mexico Press
1 University of New Mexico, Albuquerque NM 87131-0001
9780826362377, $24.95, PB, 272pp

Synopsis: Beautifully illustrated in full color throughout and published by the University of New Mexico Press, "Field Guide to the Trees of the Gila Region of New Mexico " informatively documents over seventy-five tree species in the first wilderness area in the United States (and the largest in New Mexico) known for its wildness, remoteness, and significant recreation opportunities.

Drawing on extensive fieldwork, the collaborative authors, Richard Stephen Felger, James Thomas Verrier, Kelly Kindscher, and Xavier Raj Herbst Khera, feature detailed individual species accounts and special ecological and ethnobotanical information, providing full dichotomous keys to the families, genera, and species of all trees in the region. Color photographs of the species provide diagnostic clarity for easy identification, showing the whole tree, trunk, and foliage as well as macro photos of the flowers, fruits, or cones and other significant features.

Critique: Simply stated, the "Field Guide to the Trees of the Gila Region of New Mexico" is the definitive guide for field botanists, researchers, students, and avid nature lovers who wish to explore the natural history of native and introduced tree species across the Gila. Exceptionally well organized and presented, "Field Guide to the Trees of the Gila Region of New Mexico" is a comprehensive and user-friendly guide will be welcomed by residents and visitors studying and discovering the diverse trees of the Gila Region. While highly recommended for personal, professional, community, college and university library collections, it should also be noted that "Field Guide to the Trees of the Gila Region of New Mexico" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $24.95).

Editorial Note: Richard Stephen Felger (1934-2020) was a researcher with the Herbarium, School of Plant Sciences, University of Arizona. He published widely on arid-land botany, ethnobotany, and conservation, and he was a coauthor of Plant Life of a Desert Archipelago: Flora of the Sonoran Islands in the Gulf of California. James Thomas Verrier is a professional horticulturist and a researcher affiliated with the University of Arizona School of Plant Sciences. Kelly Kindscher is a plant ecologist and ethnobotanist at the University of Kansas. His recent works include Echinacea: Herbal Medicine with a Wild History. Xavier Raj Herbst Khera has a keen interest in new arid-land food crops and horticulture, especially desert plants.

Good Neighbors, Bad Times Revisited
Mimi Schwartz
University of Nebraska Press
233 North 8th Street, Lincoln, Nebraska, 68588-0255
9781496221209, $24.95, PB, 318pp

Synopsis: Mimi Schwartz's father was born into Jewish family living in a tiny German village thirty years before the advent of Hitler when, as he'd tell her, "We all got along."

In her personal memoir, "Good Neighbors, Bad Times: Echoes of My Father's German Village", Schwartz explored how human decency fared among Christian and Jewish neighbors before, during, and after the Nazi era. Ten years after its publication, a letter arrived from a man named Max Sayer in South Australia. Sayer, it turns out, grew up Catholic in the village during the Third Reich and in 1937 moved into an abandoned Jewish home five houses away from where the family of Schwartz's father had lived for generations before fleeing to America a few months earlier. The two families had never met.

Max Sayer wrote an unpublished memoir about his own childhood memories and in Schwartz's new edition of "Good Neighbors, Bad Times Revisited: New Echoes of My Father's German Village", the two memoirs 'talk' to each other. Weaving excerpts from Sayer's memoir and from a year long correspondence with him into her book, Schwartz revisits village history from a new perspective, deepening our understanding of decency and demonization. Given the rise of xenophobia, white supremacy, and anti-Semitism in the world today, this exploration seems more urgent than ever.

Critique: Given the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe general, and Germany in particular, "Good Neighbors, Bad Times Revisited: New Echoes of My Father's German Village" is impressively timely and (given its subject nature) timeless. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Good Neighbors, Bad Times Revisited: New Echoes of My Father's German Village" is an inherently fascinating and exceptionally informative blend of memoir and history. While very highly recommended for community, college and university library Australian Biographies, Historical Germany Biographies, and Jewish Holocaust History collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Good Neighbors, Bad Times Revisited: New Echoes of My Father's German Village" is also readily available from the University of Nebraska Press in a digital book format (eBook, 9781496225733, $24.95).

Michael Dunford

Nancy Lorraine's Bookshelf

Amazing Animals of the World
Sabina Konecna, author
Zuzana Dreadka Kruta, illustrator
Albatros Media
c/o Czech Children's Publisher
9788000059303, $12.95, HC, 64 pages

"Amazing Animals of the World" is a resplendent collection of unusual animals with unusual features, brilliant colors, and astounding adaptive features. The unique illustrations portray expressive, humorous but actual colorful features of over forty absolutely unique and mind boggling creatures.

Examples include the American Pocket Shark, the Elephantnose Fish, the Hummingbird hawk-Moth, the panther Chameleon, the Spider-Tailed Horned Viper, and the Thorny Devil. There is even a Vampire Squid and a Southern Three-Banded Armadillo. Each creature has a full description including special adaptive abilities and protective abilities.

The appealing humanoid eyes help young readers to identify with the strange and wonderful. Kids will adore this unusual collection of "Amazing Animals of the World." This gift is brought to English speaking readers by a famous Czech children's publisher also known for such publications as "Atlas of Dogs" and "Animal Helpers".

"Amazing Animals of the World" is very highly recommended for family, elementary school, and community library Pets/Wildlife collections for young readers ages 6-10.

Boarding With Murder, A Sierra Pines B&B Mystery
Kathryn Long, author
Camel Press
6524 NE 181st Street, Suite #2, Kenmore, WA 98028
9781603817301, $15.95 PB, $5.39 Kindle, 220pp

"Boarding With Murder" is a delectable starter cozy mystery in the Sierra Pines B& B Mystery series by Kathryn Long.

Unemployed screenwriter Ali Winston visits her aunt Julia's B&B in the California Lake Tahoe region, only to discover that her aunt has unexpectedly died. Amidst pronounced hints that the death was not natural, Ali finds that she is her aunt's sole inheritor of the B &B.

Meanwhile a second body is found in the picturesque boarding house, and Ali is challenged to discover the true murderer and to defend her Aunt's loyal friends, the Bellwethers, who have become prime suspects to Sheriff Quint Sterling.

Ali must decide how best to employ her amateur sleuth skills to save her aunt's friends and to save her newly inherited B&B business, with murder and danger as her constant close companions.

"Boarding with Murder" offers a beautiful setting, doughty heroine, complicated plot development, mixed with a hint of romance, danger and difficulties all around. It's the perfect recipe for reading entertainment and leads the reader to crave more stories from the Sierra Pines B & B Mystery series.

Music All Around
Gema Sirvent, author
Lucia Cobo, illustrator
Cristobal Lopez Gandara, music
The Secret Mountain
9782924774861, $16.95, HC, 48pp

"Music All Around" is a music picture book complete with expressive poetry, luminous illustrations, and a twelve minute CD of recorded song, plus down-loadable MP3 files. It tells the quietly beautiful story of Sofia's journey to the sea, where she hears its unique song.

Enchanted, she carries in her memory the song of the sea when she travels into the forest to visit her grandparents, where she hears a different song from the forest at night. This song includes the quiet of the stars and moon, quiet rustlings of mice, rising sounds from squirrels, fox, cats, and hedgehogs, the hooting of an owl, snorting of the deer and pawing sounds of rabbits, even the grunting of wild boars are included. A small frog in a stream completes the cadence, then silence falls. Then even the great wolf howls his answer.

Soria is inspired to offer as a gift the music of the sea. She waves her invisible baton. Then the forest hears, and dreams of the sea. "Music All Around" is an enchanting music picture book that teaches appreciation of beauty with senses of sound, sight, and even smell. Children and adults will love its magical appeal. It is an invitation to merge with the beauty of nature in music, heard and unheard.

Also highly recommended is "Summer Moonlight Concert," a companion music picture book with CD and down-loadable MP3, by author illustrator Han Han, music by Liu Tianhua, narration by Anie Richer, (9782924774878, $16.95), also published by The Secret Mountain.

Editorial Note: Lucia Cobo studied illustration at the Pablo Picasso School in A Coruna and has since created several picture books for children. Her most recent publication, A furgoneta branca, was released in 2019. She is presently the editorial director of the publishing house Libre Albedrio and also hosts a weekly show about children's literature on Candil Radio. Her most recent picture book, Cinematographico, came out in 2019.

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Paul Vogel's Bookshelf

Censoring God: The History of the Lost Books
Jim Willis
Visible Ink Press
43311 Joy Rd., #414, Canton, MI 48187-2075
9781578597321, $19.95, PB, 352pp

Why isn't the Book of Enoch in the Holy Bible, even though Enoch is referenced multiple times? Why were texts considered sacred by many, excluded by others? Who made the decisions and why?

There are more than 50 books (some of which exist only in fragments while others are complete and whole) that are not included in the biblical canon. Why were they discarded? Most Protestant denominations settled on 66 canonical books of the Bible, while there are 73 for Roman Catholics and 78 for Eastern Orthodox adherents. Why are there these differences of opinion?

We are often taught that the Bible is, in the words of many religious catechisms, "the infallible word of faith and practice". In reality, the Bible can also be seen as a political document as much as a spiritual one. In "Censoring God: The History of the Lost Books (and other Excluded Scriptures)", ordained minister and theologian Jim Willis examines the historical, political, and social climates that influenced the redactors and editors of the Bible.

In analyzing why texts were censored, Willis uncovers sometimes surprising biases. He investigates enigmatic hints of Bible codes and ancient wisdom that implies a greater spiritual force might have been at work. Willis explores the importance of the Book of Enoch, its disappearance, and how it was rediscovered in Ethiopia. He analyzes over two dozen excluded texts, such as Jubilees and the Gospel of Thomas, along with the many references to books that we know about from fragments but remain lost.

Thought-provoking and provocative, "Censoring God" scrutinizes how sacred texts might have been used to justify the power of the powerful, including the destruction of sacred writings of conquered indigenous cultures because they did not agree with the finished version of the Bible accepted by the Church establishment. "Censoring God" is an important and detailed study that looks at the human failings in interpreting God's words, and through a compassionate examination it brings a deeper understanding of the power and importance of those words. With more than 120 photos and graphics, this tome is richly illustrated. Its helpful bibliography provides sources for further exploration, and an extensive index adds to its usefulness.

Critique: An iconoclastic and seminal work of simply outstanding scholarship, "Censoring God: The History of the Lost Books (and other Excluded Scriptures)" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, seminary, college and university library Biblical Studies collections and supplemental curriculum lists. It should be noted for seminary students, clergy, academia, and non-special general readers with an interest in the subject that "Censoring God: The History of the Lost Books (and other Excluded Scriptures)" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.49).

Editorial Note: Jim Willis earned his master's degree in theology from Andover Newton Theological School, and he has been an ordained minister for over forty years. He has also taught college courses in comparative religion and cross-cultural studies. His background in theology and education led to his writing more than a dozen books on religion, the apocalypse, cross-cultural spirituality, and the mysteries of the unknown. His books published by Visible Ink Press includes: Ancient Gods: Lost Histories, Hidden Truths, and the Conspiracy of Silence; Supernatural Gods: Spiritual Mysteries, Psychic Experiences, and Scientific Truths; The Religion Book; Hidden History: Ancient Aliens and the Suppressed Origins of Civilization; and Lost Civilizations: The Secret Histories and Suppressed Technologies of the Ancients.

Giant Creatures in Our World
Camille D. G. Mustachio, editor
Jason Barr, editor
McFarland & Company
PO Box 611, Jefferson NC 28640
9781476668369, $19.99, PB, 212pp

Synopsis: Kaiju (Japanese for "strange beast") is a genre of films and television featuring giant monsters. The term kaiju can refer to the giant monsters themselves, which are usually depicted attacking major cities and engaging the military, or other kaiju, in battle. (Wikipedia)

Often dismissed as merely camp popular cinematic entertainment by critics kaiju films are enthusiastically revered by legions of fans around the world. Kaiju movies have become an iconic element of both Japanese and American pop culture -- most notably featuring the fire breathing and massively sized Godzilla and to a lesser extent Gamera, Rodan, Ultraman, Mothra and others.

Godzilla in particular is so ubiquitous in pop culture, that his name is synonymous with immensity and destruction.

Collaboratively compiled and co-edited by Camille D. G. Mustachio and Jason Barr, "Giant Creatures in Our World: Essays on Kaiju and American Popular Culture" is comprised of informed and informative essays in which articulate contributors deftly examine kaiju representations in a range of contexts and attempt to define this at times ambiguous cinematic/popular culture action/adventure fantasy genre.

Critique: While also available for dedicated kaiju fans in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99), "Giant Creatures in Our World: Essays on Kaiju and American Popular Culture" is an inherently fascinating and impressively informative read and will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to personal, professional, community, college, and community library Contemporary American Popular Culture collections in general, and Japanese/American cinematic curriculum studies lists in particular.

Editorial Note #1: Camille D.G. Mustachio is an assistant professor of English at Germanna Community College in Fredericksburg, Virginia. She is a specialist in medieval and Renaissance literature with research interests in cultural studies, popular culture, and higher education pedagogy.

Editorial Note #2: Jason Barr is an associate professor at Blue Ridge Community College. His work has appeared in African American Review, Explicator, The Journal of Continuing Higher Education, and The Journal of Caribbean Literatures, among others.

Japan's Green Monsters
Sean Rhoads, author
Brooke McCorkle, author
McFarland & Company
PO Box 611, Jefferson NC 28640
9781476663906, $39.95, PB, 226pp

Synopsis: In 1954, a massive irradiated dinosaur emerged from Tokyo Bay and rained death and destruction on the Japanese capital. Since then Godzilla and other monsters, such as Mothra and Gamera, have gained cult status around the world. A collaborative study by Sean Rhoads and Brooke McCorkle, "Japan's Green Monsters: Environmental Commentary in Kaiju Cinema" provides a new interpretation of these monsters, or kaiju-?, and their respective movies. Analyzing Japanese history, society and film, "Japan's Green Monsters" reveals with insightful commentary the ways in which this monster cinema take on environmental and ecological issues ranging from nuclear power and industrial pollution to biodiversity and climate change.

Critique: Godzilla is a worldwide pop culture icon, appearing in various media, including 32 films produced by Toho, four Hollywood films and numerous video games, novels, comic books and television shows. The latest film being the 2017 American film production 'Godzilla vs. Kong'. Offering a wealth of cinematic and popular culture history associated with the Godzilla character, "Japan's Green Monsters: Environmental Commentary in Kaiju Cinema" is a meticulously documented work of seminal scholarship that is unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Cinematic History collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of the legions of Godzilla fans that "Japan's Green Monsters: Environmental Commentary in Kaiju Cinema" is also readily available from McFarland & Company in a digital book format (Kindle, $17.99).

Editorial Note #1: Sean Rhoads is a film historian, Japanologist, and lifelong monster cinema aficionado. He has taught courses on East Asia and published on Godzilla and environmentalism in G-Fan magazine, and lectured on Japanese monster cinema at G-FEST.

Editorial Note #2: Brooke McCorkle is a Japanologist, double bassist, and a visiting assistant professor at SUNY Geneseo. She has published in Horror Studies and the Journal of Fandom Studies.

Paul T. Vogel

S.A. Gorden's Bookshelf

The Salvagers
John Michael Godier
Chalin and Harris Books
B00CSWOQC6, $2.99 ebook, 2013, 278 pages
9780989465403, $14.99 paper

The Salvagers is a throwback to a more classic SF story. The logistics in the story are more reasonable than many SF tales. The feel is closer to the classic tales. But Godier tries to use the personal detail type narrative of a more contemporary writer and the result is a slower pace with readers' feeling that the narration has been padded.

The Salvagers starts out a few hundred years in the future when Captain Camden Hunter and his salvaging crew stumble upon the lost mining vessel Cape Hatteras, which had disappeared two hundred years earlier after filling its holds with gold mined from an asteroid. Immediately other salvagers try to steal the gold. With pirates and the governments of the solar system all wanting to control of the abandoned vessel and what it contains, Camden and his crew struggle to survive as the Hatteras is towed and fought over across the solar system from Jupiter to Saturn.

The Salvagers is a solid SF story with notes of classic storytelling. The narration is slightly off trying to be a mix of contemporary writing style with a classic tale narration. Overall it is an average recommended for readers of SF as an addition to their collections. New readers in the genre might be put off by its slow pace. It is a stronger recommendation when it is on sale.

Cluster of Lies (A Joe Higheagle Novel Book 2)
Samuel Marquis
Mount Sopris Publishing
B01M142NJQ, $3.99, ebook 2016, 326 pages
9781943593163 $15.99 paper

Cluster of Lies is a fun contemporary mystery with an unusual set of characters. Marquis is a writer who can pen great dialogue. Dialogue in a written script is hard to do well and it is done well in Cluster. Unfortunately dialogue is also the most obvious weakness in the tale. The pace of the story is frequently interrupted with pages of dialogue.

Joe Higheagle, an environmental geologist, is hired to examine two new residential developments near Denver. There is a cluster of young boys with cancer at one of the locations. Most of the individuals involved have multiple agendas that create a tangle that Joe needs to untie. With millions of dollars at stake, someone is willing to do everything they can to protect themselves from political pressure, physical violence and even murder. Higheagle has to solve the mystery and still survive.

Cluster of Lies is an easy recommendation for the mystery reader. It has a storyline that could appear in your local paper today and enough questions throughout the story that need answers to keep you turning the page.

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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