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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 21, Number 5 May 2022 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

Fights 'N' Stitches
Gregg Emmel
Independently Published
9781736371206, $20.00, PB, 100pp

Synopsis: Gregg "Egg" Emmel became well-versed with the power of his hands at a young age. Learning many life lessons through various memorable fights and sets of stitches, he grew from using clenched fists in acts of anger and self-defense to handcrafting incredible works of art and becoming a celebrated artist.

"Fights 'N' Stitches: A Collection of Adventures from Adolescence" is a compendium of short stories, in which Gregg shares experiences of his adolescence with the hope that others can find the joys and comforts of a wonderful life while avoiding the trials and lacerations that he's accumulated along the way.

Young men growing up today can relate to the struggles he faced, while finding wisdom in his hindsight before following all of his footsteps -- maybe preventing a black eye or two, as well as getting to know the local emergency room staff too well. Rowdy and entertaining, this rough and tumble collection is "all boy," authentically pointing out the challenges, changes, and goals most guys are bound to face throughout their important journey into adulthood.

Critique: Exceptionally well written and presented, "Fights 'N' Stitches: A Collection of Adventures from Adolescence" is a riveting, thought-provoking, and memorable read from cover to cover -- making it a unique and especially recommended addition to personal reading lists, as well as community, college, and university library collections.

Editorial Note: Today, as a product designer, engineer, artist, and entrepreneur, Gregg holds over 47 patents in highly technical fields. After graduating from the Architectural-Industrial Model Building program at Northeastern Wisconsin Technical Institute, Emmel moved to the West Coast in 1984 and became a sought-after modeler and fabricator. In 1987, he began Egg Inc., an industrial design incubator facilitating entrepreneurial projects and intellectual property, and has explored many new ventures since, including Knotz Massage Tools Inc. Gregg has a website at

The Museum: A Short History of Crisis and Resilience
Samuel J. Redman
NYU Press
411 Lafayette St., 6th Floor, New York, NY, 10003
9781479809332, $24.95, HC, 232pp

Synopsis: On an afternoon in January 1865, a roaring fire swept through the Smithsonian Institution. Dazed soldiers and worried citizens could only watch as the flames engulfed the museum's castle. Rare objects and valuable paintings were destroyed. The flames at the Smithsonian were not the first (and certainly would not be the last) disaster to upend a museum in the United States. Beset by challenges ranging from pandemic and war to fire and economic uncertainty, museums have sought ways to emerge from crisis periods stronger than before, occasionally carving important new paths forward in the process.

With the publication of "The Museum: A Short History of Crisis and Resilience", Professor Samuel J. Redman explores the concepts of "crisis" as it relates to museums, and how these historic institutions have dealt with challenges ranging from depression and war to pandemic and philosophical uncertainty.

Fires, floods, and hurricanes have all upended museum plans and forced people to ask difficult questions about American cultural life. With chapters exploring World War I and the 1918 influenza pandemic, the Great Depression, World War II, the 1970 Art Strike in New York City, and recent controversies in American museums, "The Museum" takes a new approach to understanding museum history. By diving deeper into the changes that emerged from these key challenges, Professor Redman argues that cultural institutions can (and should!) use their history to prepare for challenges and solidify their identity going forward.

A captivating examination of crisis moments in US museum history from the early years of the twentieth century to the present day, "The Museum" offers inspiration in the resilience and longevity of America's most prized cultural institutions.

Critique: An inherently fascinating and often dramatic historical study of the institution of the museum in America, "The Museum: A Short History of Crisis and Resilience" is an impressively written, extraordinarily informative, exceptionally well organized and presented study that is especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library collections. An outstanding work of meticulous and detailed scholarship, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Museum: A Short History of Crisis and Resilience" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.720.

Editorial Note: Samuel J. Redman is Associate Professor in the Department of History at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and is the author of "Bone Rooms: From Scientific Racism to Human Prehistory in Museums" and "Prophets and Ghosts: The Story of Salvage Anthropology".

Able Greenspan

Diane Donovan's Bookshelf

Sandman: A Golf Tale
David W. Berner
Roundfire Books
9781789049121, $9.95 PB, $7.99 Kindle, 96pp

What does a young boy's newfound interest in golf have to do with a homeless man who hangs out near the course? As the story of these two disparate individuals emerges in Sandman, it's evident that what sounds like a book limited to golf enthusiasts actually opens its themes to embrace social issues, thus expanding its audience from the golf course to general-interest readers who relish stories of survival and change.

Two boys who play golf regularly have seen Jimmy almost daily, but when he vanishes, they discover that the greenskeeper has chased him away, calling the police on him for sleeping on the property.

This sparks a different kind of relationship between all - including the reader, who receives not just the perspective of the budding golf players, but the homeless Jimmy himself: "This is how it would go when Jimmy was on the course. At the green's edge, facing the tee box some 390 yards away, Jimmy took deep breaths, closed his eyes, and began to walk down the middle of the fairway. He was blind to the world, but it didn't matter in the early hour. The sunlight hadn't yet cracked the horizon. With each slow step, he allowed all of his senses to take over. The birds chirped, there was the mustiness of dirt and dampness of dewy grass, and the turf gave in like a pillow each time his toes pushed off for the next stride."

Readers who anticipated a golfing story alone will be surprised at the scope of this account, which moves not just into social issues, but philosophical reflections about life: "Life is not meant to be lived badly, he thought. I will not do that. Experiences, the good and the bad, are the doors to happiness. Heartache and joy run alongside one another. Love is found and lost, and both feed us. The only constant is where we find ourselves, the land we walk on, this turf, this ancient sandy earth, the sea, and the wind. Life plays out on nature's heavenly spaces. We fail and we prevail."

Also unexpectedly moving is Jimmy's link between golf and nature: "The wind here is a beautiful thing," Jimmy said, standing on the 14th tee. "It's as much a part of this land as the sea and the turf. If you accept this, you can weather it."

As Jimmy assumes the three-dimensional persona of more than just a homeless man living alongside a golf course, golfers in the novel and readers alike become part of a unique process that moves from a homeless man's dilemma to his rare gifts of golfing and life knowledge: "Do you see the church steeple? Far along the horizon?" Jimmy asked. "That's your aiming point. Your target is God, if you will." Jimmy smiled, hoping to ease the man's mounting fears with a bit of light humor. "But then there's Hell out there, too," the man said, referring to one of the course's fiercest hazards, Hell Bunker. It is a monstrous hole in the ground, 300 square feet of sand and seven feet deep. If one's ball ends up there, consider it in the belly of the beast. "Nothing to worry about," Jimmy said. "No concerns on your tee shot and we'll work around it when we get there. It's all about managing."

Readers who enjoy both golf and philosophical and social reflection will find that Sandman fits the bill on both counts. It is an exceptional read filled with surprising insights and attractions that make it both a literary standout and hard to put down.

The Full Extent: An Inquiry Into Reality and Destiny
Richard Botelho
Windstream Publishing Company
9780964392632, $17.99

The Full Extent: An Inquiry Into Reality and Destiny is a philosophical and scientific discourse that delves into the nature of reality. It considers whether a "true reality" can ever really be known or identified.

Reality is, in fact, layered, complex, and hard to quantify or identify - so how can Richard Botelho create an inquiry which successfully navigates the pitfalls of supposition, assumption, and quasi-scientific processes? By identifying, from the start, the foundations of such an investigation, rooted in an inquiry that tackles known facts and links them to new possibilities: "The structure of this book will be to introduce one incredibly compelling experiment, investigate the primacy of Consciousness, consider the course of Spirit, review the management of destiny, position the human future, and demonstrate the progression of the universe to its teleological end."

Readers who choose The Full Extent should ideally be well versed in scientific and philosophical processes, and should arrive at this book with a preset interest in the nature of reality and the questions of predetermination and destiny.

Those with such a background will find this discourse involving, enlightening, and backed by a satisfying foundation in science and inquiry that includes math and logic formulas.

It should be noted that The Full Extent does not attempt to be an end-all answer to such questions, but the opening salvo to a broader inspection that blends established scientific knowledge with social, spiritual, and speculative investigations.

As theories about the universe, its origins, and its reality are analyzed, readers will also be attracted to Botelho's astute consideration of areas in which science is stymied by its own process: " itself is beginning to realize the absurdity of the initial singularity argument and constructing competing theories."

The subjects are wide-ranging here, it should be cautioned, for those who anticipate a singular philosophical bent. From UFOs and interconnections between body, mind, soul, and spirit to human overexploitation of the Earth's resources and God's role in matters, Botelho's topics are both broad and thought-provoking.

Philosophy and science students who hold interest in both subjects, and who enjoy analysis that blends human affairs into bigger picture thinking about reality, the universe, and everything that operates on macro and micro levels, will find The Full Extent a logically arranged, astute discussion that opens the door to and paves the way for more inspections.

Popoto: The Maui Dolphin
Noemi Knight, author
Alvin Adhi, illustrator
Pink Flamingo Press
9798985326413, $14.99 Hardcover/$2.99 Kindle

The Maui Dolphin (or Popoto) is a small, endangered New Zealand dolphin, the subject of Noemi Knight's engaging picture book which explores not just this dolphin, but the native M?ori peoples' legends about it, overall dolphin natural history, and more.

This is narrated through the first-person reflections of Popoto, who lives with Hector's dolphin (a close cousin) off the shores of New Zealand.

Picture book readers receive fun color illustrations that are filled with character and provide lively embellishments to the story.

They also receive a review of environmental issues surrounding human activities on the waters: "We have many natural enemies, like sharks. But our most dangerous enemy is fishing nets left behind by irresponsible human fishers."

The ultimate message is about such threats as trash in the ocean. It implores kids to become educated, concerned, and involved in protecting the oceans not just for Popoto, but all marine life.

Adults looking for a picture book that pairs a natural history story with an environmental discussion will find Popoto: The Maui Dolphin an inviting blend of science and environmental examination.

Through Popoto's experiences and life, kids receive an invitation to become more conscious about their decisions and impact on the world. This thought-provoking, vivid picture book story holds a broader message than adventure alone, for all young readers and the adults who choose it for read-aloud enlightenment.

The World Against Her Skin
John Thorndike
Beck and Branch
9780999445747, $15.00

The World Against Her Skin tells of a mid-life crisis experienced by Ginny, who has been married for over twenty years when she embarks on an affair with a younger surgeon, eventually leaving husband Joe to go live with him.

Her story opens with telling Joe the truth about what's been going on, when she admits she wants a divorce so she can move to Miami for a new life. Her own parents' marriage is hopeless and her choices seem to mirror theirs, even though she holds visions of a vastly revised future for herself: "Her wishes are still unfair: if only Joe would disappear for a few weeks until she leaves for Miami. She doesn't want to explain her plans to him or anyone else. She just wants to start living with Rich. In the end they will marry, she is sure. He has said he wants to, and has already left his own wife and children."

She didn't expect her dreams to fall apart so quickly, though. She didn't think that she would become unfettered, without a home.

As she finds herself unexpectedly adrift, on the road, and with few connections left, Ginny must examine the raw pain of her choices and their consequences and the new opportunities it brings for revised old relationships and better new ones.

John Thorndike creates a story about "the other woman" which personalizes these choices in different ways as Ginny interacts with the world around her: "Ginny's glad they're having this talk. She should have started it years ago. There were lots of things she might have done if she hadn't been so obsessed with Rich."

As a struggle with morals, values, and revised approaches to life turns into a struggle with drinking, Ginny faces many obstacles. She knows she needs structure to avoid drugs and booze, but her downward spiral continues.

Thorndike is masterful at capturing not just the circumstances of her fall, but the logic behind Ginny's actions.

At different life-altering junctures, Ginny makes both good and bad decisions that are backed up by reason, moral examination, and perceptions of opportunities which may really be adversity in disguise.

Ginny's search for a new life outside her comfort zone introduces her to others who approach their lives in different ways. This lends balance and insight to her growth process, resulting in insights that acknowledge the gray area between good and bad choices: "She did not do everything right as a mother. But some things, yes."

More introspective and inviting than most, The World Against Her Skin not only follows a wife and mother into unfamiliar territory, but explains her rationale for making such a journey.

There are plenty of novels about 'the other woman,' but few tackle their subjects in a reflective manner that allows for understanding how choices evolve in the ebb and flow of changed lives.

Women's fiction readers will find The World Against Her Skin especially thought-provoking reading.

Hiro's War
Rebecca Taniguchi
Gaman Publishing LLC
9781737070405, $17.99 Paper/$7.99 Kindle

Hiro's War is a novel about the life of World War II veteran Hiroshi Koga, whose family was moved to an internment camp amidst rising national prejudice against American Japanese.

Motivated by love for his country despite these actions, feisty Hiro becomes a popular, highly decorated staff sergeant in the segregated 100th/442nd. On the battlefield, Hiro discovers a zone of mental centeredness and clarity to rise above the chaos and lead his men to victory. But upon his return home, he suffers not only continued bigotry, but also the psychic repercussions of an unjust court-martial by his vindictive colonel.

Compounding this trouble is a grave misunderstanding between himself and his platoon lieutenant, Toshio Ando, who apparently did nothing to help Hiro during the court-martial and is, in Hiro's eyes, responsible for the death of his best friend in the last days of the war.

The story opens as Hiro and Ando prepare to attend a bicentennial veteran's reunion and moves backs to the war years when Ando, who was never interned in his native Hawaii, asks Hiro about being imprisoned by their own government. Hiro speaks first of the horrors of the camps and then the bravery of both prisoners and the Japanese Americans who went on to fight. As the war unfolds, we learn that Ando had, unbeknownst to Hiro, tried in vain to help him in his court-martial. Behind his calm and measured demeanor, Ando now struggles with misgivings over their comrade's death and Hiro's anger toward him.

Clearly, Hiro's war continues well after the cessation of battle as he and his peers deal with their nightmares of fighting while facing continued prejudice at home. As Hiro reflects: "Tight as the men in 442nd were, it seemed to me that we had each ended up with our own war in our hearts. At our reunions, one veteran regaled old comrades with stories of combat while another couldn't utter a word. One man was haunted by an atrocity that another couldn't or wouldn't remember. We could only give one another the freedom and support to deal with our better angels and our worst demons as best we could, to come to our own resolutions about our wars, which truly knew no end."

Though Hiro and Ando are possessed of different temperaments, their wars and their peace are inextricably bound.

The bicentennial reunion proves a turning point in the story, as the post-war action years move into the present of 1976 and Hiro finally confronts his thin-skinned colonel. A haunted Ando goes on to lead a crusade for justice for Hiro over the next two decades, and the men seek peace within themselves and between each other. Along with Ando, Hiro reconsiders the different forms of betrayal he had faced and the difficult decisions the war had introduced to his life, and readers receive a compelling portrait of not just prejudice, but changing concepts of heroism, justice and redemption.

Lies long held secret by the government about Japanese Americans are revealed, as are more benign secrets kept by the novel's characters, including secrets kept "out of love" between Hiro and his wife. Together, Ando and Hiro acknowledge that compassion, truth, and trust are the only way to rediscover one's true center and live, fully present. The country offers reparations for the internment as the old soldiers complete their final battle.

Because Rebecca Taniguchi takes a sweeping approach to Hiro's saga, readers receive an unusually wide-ranging probe of twentieth-century Japanese American life, focusing on Hiro's energy and his passion, his hopes and his fears, as he struggles for justice and peace. Through his story, we consider the relics of war, which include physical and psychic wounds, and the long-term effect of government fears about Japanese citizens. These spill into public perceptions, tainting the past and the present.

As Taniguchi builds her story, she blends history with cultural and social insights to capture a sense of the changing times via dialogue and interpersonal interactions. Hiro stays at the center of many dilemmas, but other characters contribute prominently to evolving scenarios as they each search for a meaningful life and dignity beyond their military actions. Dialogue between characters brings to life many of the underlying challenges faced by Japanese Americans, from employment to relationships, as in this scene between Hiro and his brother-in-law: "You can work in defense-related jobs?" I thought back to the government's fear that we would sabotage the Boeing factory in Seattle. Besides the businesses Lawson had mentioned, I knew Chicago had steel mills that might call for sensitive hiring. "Even munitions," Lawson said. "You just have to figure out how to make your way. We're not Caucasian and we're not Negro here, and we have to get around the people who see us as 'Japs'."

Readers who look for stories of the Japanese experience from different vantage points that are wider-ranging than most will especially appreciate Taniguchi's attention to broadening her characters' lives, as time passes.

Hiro's War is fought on many levels: ethical and moral, philosophical, psychological, and cultural. It should find a place in (and is highly recommended for) any library strong in World War II experiences, Japanese cultural struggles in America, and novels that represent the ability to traverse generations of experience to probe the roots of difficult choices and ultimate redemption.

No More Neckties
Loren A. Olson, MD
Oak Lane Press
9781737995623, $15.95 Paper/$9.99 Kindle

Readers of essays about psychiatry, aging, and life changes will find Dr. Loren A. Olson's No More Neckties a fine blend of medical and personal memoir.

It compliments the prior book, Finally Out, with a focus on Olson's evolving life, from family secrets and forming relationships within the gay community to sexual and social revelations that influenced the course of his life.

The chapter titles that segregate these experiences into subjects are particularly evocative ("Can I Pray Away the Gay" and "I Didn't Expect Sex to Be This Difficult," among others), setting the stage for discussions of gay lifestyles and the move from attempting a heterosexual life to entering the world of gay relationships in midlife: "I left my marriage at the beginning of the HIV/AIDS crisis. I knew few gay people. I didn't know how to begin dating as a middle-aged gay man. I worried about how my daughters would introduce me to their prospective boyfriends. Once again, I had magnified the negative and minimized the positives. Whitney and Krista had plenty of boyfriends, but not one ever made my sexual orientation an issue."

It should be cautioned that No More Neckties is sexually explicit. Readers who look for more circumspect descriptions should look elsewhere; but those who appreciate candid surveys of sexual and emotional pathways will find the mix of physical and emotional connections satisfyingly straightforward.

This frank approach isn't limited to graphic sexual encounters, but also is represented in psychological self-assessments which are equally hard-hitting: "I never intended to break my vow to their mother or to walk away from my children. Yet I have never second-guessed my decision to come out."

No More Neckties's special perspective in following a family man's transition from a heterosexual marriage to accepting his feelings for men will gain it attention from any reader who has been (or knows somebody) 'in the closet' and who is interested in the process of coming out and growing into one's true identity.

By reflecting on past, present, and future relationship possibilities, Dr. Olson injects positive reflections into his memoir that will serve as inspirations and road maps to others who are making (or have made) such transitions: "But all of us have evolved into much more complicated individuals than we anticipated. We have expanded our world to include a new definition of family."

Libraries strong in memoirs about the gay experience and the process of making the leap to a different definition of family and connection will find No More Neckties unerringly frank and attractive to patrons.

My Dad and the Dragon
Montserrat Coughlin Kim
When a Dragon Comes
9781737507116, $21.99 Hardcover/$13.95 Paper/$5.99 ebook

My Dad and the Dragon attracts picture book readers and read-aloud parents with the winning story of an ordinary family that holds a big difference. The father has a dragon in him. And that dragon is called 'cancer'.

Colorful illustrations by Rebekah S. Cheresnick enhance a story that refutes the common notion of what cancer can be. For one thing, there's the idea that all "people with cancer look really sick." But, the child's father doesn't appear to be ill.

As the story progresses, a wise mother invites the kids to help "fight cancer as a family." This involves radiation, surgery, and other treatments which are described using terminology a young child can readily understand.

Most important is the focus on how a family can support a parent in the course of such a battle.

The result is a powerful set of insights into the unpredictable environment that cancer can introduce to the family, exploring how kids can work with parents to help battle the 'cancer dragon' in various ways.

Parents and educators seeking to teach the very young about this process will find My Dad and the Dragon the perfect introduction to a difficult subject.

Loon Rangers
James McVey
Saddle Road Press
9781736525845, $22.00 Paper/$9.99 Kindle

Loon Rangers is a literary novel about Miles Radke's community service assignment to survey loons for the summer. His brushes with the law and his tendency to drift through life are in stark contrast to his assigned partner, wildlife biologist Annie, whose dedication to her craft carries her into wilderness situations with a steady attention to detail and a mission to document and preserve nature.

During a canoe trip into a remote area of the Adirondacks, Miles experiences many sea changes as he encounters and considers a stability and purpose that's long been lacking in his own life.

Perhaps predictably, romance blossoms between these two disparate individuals. Less predictable, and equally satisfying, is a concurrent growth of appreciation for nature and work which gently transforms Miles into a "loon ranger" as his new job impacts not just his personal perspective about life, but his habits: "We split up, walking in different directions, which is good because I'm dying for a smoke. It's not that I'm trying to be a sneak about it, it's just that the habit seems unbecoming of a wildlife professional. It's all about perception. People expect their scientists to be clean-cut and free of vices."

Transformation often works on many different levels. James McVey does an excellent job of documenting its process as physical and emotional changes are sparked not only by encounters with Annie and her mission, and by nature, but by confrontations with lumberjacks and others who hold different perceptions of the value of the great outdoors.

As in life, Miles comes to realize that "it sounds more complicated than it really is." "It," in this case, is documentation, work, love, life purpose, and everything in-between.

McVey's ability to capture both the atmosphere and beauty surrounding a nature study, and the evolution of those who operate in this milieu, creates a novel that is hard-hitting and replete with lovely imagery and thought-provoking encounters.

Readers and library collections seeking a literary exploration and contrast of outdoor and inner worlds will find Loon Rangers evocative and gently compelling.

Blue Electrode
Margaret Barbour Gilbert
Finishing Line Press
9781646625406, $14.99

Blue Electrode is a poetic journey through illness (seizure disorder, specifically...thus, the title's reference) and healing that captures, in powerful visual history, the evolution of a life buffeted not only by illness, but the prejudice surrounding it.

Some of these poems reflect on the monster within, as in 'Gorgon', in which the author considers "I am one of those,/unstable as water/with wings and snaky hair,/whose look turns men to stone./Woman, island, I live alone."

Others are stark representations of the medical experience: "At the moment I am all wired up and/buckled into a $9,000 belt with tape recorder/-getting a 24-hour recording of my brain./Like Medusa or one of the/Gorgon Ladies, I have over 100 tiny blue/electrodes all over my scalp, wires coming/out of my head and a collar of blue/electrodes around my neck."

Individually, these works capture experiences of the moment as the poet struggles to transcend her own sickness with personhood. Collectively, Blue Electrode holds the ability to not just captivate, but grab and shake its readers in its own associative seizure of life, death, and the worlds that lie between; whether they involve illness or romance.

They also represent diverse poetic forms and structures. “County Graveyard in Alabama,” for example, is a villanelle, and “Thanksgiving Dinner” is a sonnet, and “The Blue Hour” is an elegy in free verse. Gilbert displays equal skill in moving between these forms, as well as an astute ability to employ the particular poetic device at its best.

Those with epilepsy well know its impact on the entire family, and these wider-ranging subjects are included in the poems, as in "Little Sickness" which captures a mother's reflections about her daughter's sickness: “I feel sure that, as a child, you had/Petit Mal. You looked and sounded as if/you were day dreaming, and you did not/respond or hear or react when we/talked to you." It should be noted that the book's title, Blue Electrode, refers to one of the electrodes used to hook a person up to an EEG, a machine which records the brain for neurological disorders (only one of which is epilepsy).

From a family challenged by financial burdens caused by illness and love to vivid descriptions of having a seizure ("My eyes are closed/the look that you see on buses/when a blind person with a dog/and stick gets on and sits in/the front of the bus."), Blue Electrode is a captivating portrait of a life in epilepsy that needs to be included not just in poetry collections, but in the health sections of any library strong in self-help and individual experience.

The poems are ultimately about healing and a life that has transcended epilepsy.

The author has been seizure-free since 1989. Blue Electrode is her second chapbook of poems. Swallow Barn, a new collection, will be published by Dancing Girl Press of Chicago in 2022.

Killer Killer
Frank May
Lost Ridge Press
9781736915004, $9.99

Yes, Killer Killer is a murder mystery. But when the perp isn't human and the killing floor takes place in a watery preservation reserve for sea creatures off a 450-acre island that houses a research institute, zoology and intrigue meld in surprising ways. This story is thus particularly highly recommended for fans of both mystery and animal research.

The new Head of Cetacean Behavior, Lee Ingram, never suspected he'd be involved in a murder investigation when he took the job, but his dedication to sea life is interrupted when a maintenance diver's body is found floating in one of the sea pens.

This is when his savvy inspections of animal behavior is tested, added to his enlightening probes into human behavior and the intersections between the two.

Frank May's dual focus on science and behavioral quandaries gives added dimension to the murder mystery scenario which firmly roots it in scientific processes and research. This approach requires no prior affection for or familiarity with sea life or science in order to be fully appreciated by murder mystery readers looking for a different atmosphere in their whodunits.

The action-packed adventure and sea forays also move into unexpected ethical realms as May explores the Institute's concepts and challenges from many different angles: "As trainers gained experience, individual orcas' personalities bloomed. Whales like Akhlut thrived on performances. It was their time to interact with someone, something, besides the walls of their enclosure. Their glazed-over eyes longed for stimulation. A way to grind out the monotony of the day. Trainers knew keeping the orcas locked in tanks was unethical. Even though it meant the end of their careers, it had been a relief when Marineworld had opened the CRI. Their partners had a fantastic space to retire. They were in the ocean, where they belonged. The company made things right after decades of the questionable choices. Enthusiasm for the project had only increased when the board had presented their plan for reintroduction."

This added value focus creates not just a mystery, but an educational piece that delves into the special issues involved in sea life management and refuge politics and processes.

The "you are here" atmosphere is particularly well done as Lee navigates matters of the ocean and the heart with a vivid inspection that brings this world to life: "Ever so faintly, a recognizable sound resonated in the distance. He wished it hadn't. He waited, listening. It repeated. This time closer. The familiar khoosh of air being expelled from a blowhole. It explained why she hadn't answered him. Panicked, he searched for the closest beach. It was no use. He was too far from the launch point, and there wasn't another spot to reach shore until after the stacks. His mind flashed to Akhlut. That feeling of helplessness with nothing but the void beneath him. He cozied his kayak up to the rock face. The rational half of his brain shuffled through facts. There wasn't one documented attack on a human by an orca in the wild. They ignored humans and continued to their destination. Ollju, Akhlut, and the others were contained."

Killer Killer's ability to present an intense mystery amidst the backdrop of an oceanic research milieu sets it in a category apart from the usual formula-written murder story.

Replete with mammal zoology and high-octane adventure on the water, Killer Killer is a captivating read especially recommended for genre readers looking for a very different environment containing mystery-solving challenges that do not neatly fit into a predictable story line.

Libraries with patrons who enjoy complex murder stories that educate as well as entertain will want to include Killer Killer in their collections.

Dancing With David
Siegfried Johnson
Atmosphere Press
9781639882571, $18.99 Paper/$7.99 Kindle

Readers of Biblical novels who enjoy Christian fiction blended with historical mystery will find Dancing With David just the ticket for an engrossing saga of revelation and action that's on par with some of the best thrillers, such as The Da Vinci Code.

Siegfried Johnson posits the idea of a female arriving before the next return of Jesus...a miracle child whose existence revolves around a hidden seventh tablet that links archaeologist David Aaronson's discovery of a 3,000-year-old autobiographical psalm of David near the Dead Sea with the miracle child of Stella Maris.

Although this is a fictional story, Johnson makes clear its roots in reality in an introduction which provides Biblical readers with a foundation for its possibilities: "Dancing with David is premised on two actual events in the archaeological history of the Dead Sea: (1) the 1956 discovery in Cave 11 of the Great Psalms Scroll, which included a psalm often labeled Psalm 151 and described as David's only autobiographical song; (2) the 2017 excavation of Cave 53, a joint project of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Liberty University in Virginia, its lead archaeologists concluding that Cave 53 had once housed Dead Sea scrolls which were likely looted by locals and sold to antiquities dealers."

This backdrop helps cement events in a manner that neatly pairs action-packed drama with nonfiction elements to bring the story, characters, and possibilities to life.

Christian readers may find that the premise of Dancing with David challenges them to think outside the box of traditional Christian beliefs and teachings. What at first appears revolutionary, however, turns out to hold foundations in Bible teachings and interpretations, making this story suitable for Christian group discussion.

God's propensity for surprising his people is outlined in a first-person story that vividly captures many possibilities: "...what if God planned something very different than centuries of professional theologians have imagined? What if God's next step in the redemptive plan is to send another baby, this time, a girl? Why, after all, should it be surprising if God's plan unfolds differently than long expected? Was not a virgin giving birth to a boy in a Bethlehem cave two thousand years ago drastically unlike long-held Jewish messianic expectations? Could it not happen again?"

The story operates on many levels: as a mystery, a thriller, a Biblical inspection, and an alternate interpretation of events and potentials.

Whether readers choose Dancing with David for its action-packed story or its Biblical insights, one thing is certain - readers of (and libraries catering to) Christian fiction are in for a thought-provoking treat. The mystery and story involves not just a captivating quest for a missing tablet, but viewing the books of the Bible and God's word in a satisfyingly different manner.
The dance extends an offer to readers of a partnership in faith, and is highly recommended for Christian readers who enjoy both drama and contemplative reads.

Allie the Albino Squirrel
E.K. McCoy
Atmosphere Press
9781639882632, $13.99

E.K. McCoy's engaging picture book story Allie the Albino Squirrel receives equally colorful illustrations by Ghazal Qadri as it tells of squirrel Allie and her family, who live in a big oak tree.

Allie faces her first day of kindergarten at Acorn Academy with trepidation. What will all the other students think of her? She's the only albino squirrel in Waverly Woods, and she stands out. Her unique countenance has kept her from playing with her brothers and their friends, and she's sure that school will pose similar problems as her peers see her big difference from them.

"The color of your fur doesn't define you," her wise mother advises. As the school experience plays out, Allie learns some powerful lessons about love, acceptance, differences, and coping with prejudice and peers.

E.K. McCoy's gentle story is just the ticket for read-aloud by a parent addressing a young child's concerns about being different. It couches its message in a cheerful pictorial about a squirrel family's interactions, so it's easy for parents to approach the subject in a non-threatening way.

As Allie's mother points out that "squirrels are made in many different colors," young readers receive a story about how to handle not just their own differences, but those of their peers.

This story of acceptance, tolerance, love, and positivity will resonate with any adult seeking to teach the very young about getting along with others and accepting differences in the world and in themselves. Allie the Albino Squirrel is highly recommended for picture book collections looking for lasting, meaningful stories containing lessons about acceptance.

New Madrid
Robert Tomanio
Woodhall Press
9781949116953, $18.95

New Madrid, Missouri in the early 1800s is a relatively lawless town overseen by sheriff and loner Jack Ellard, whose propensity for violence has resulted in his expulsion from the Army and a job he is good at, but which sometimes conflicts with his desire for peace and privacy.

When a young girl goes missing, Jack finds his new life, possible new romance, and relationships tested as he embarks on an investigation that leads him straight into the very types of conflicts he so carefully avoided in the past.

Religion in the former of a determined preacher isn't the only thing that comes to town. So does a form of danger that Jack is ill equipped to handle alone. Thus the interference of two very unlikely allies, preacher Elijah Prescott and a city-raised Native American Chata, inject even more quandaries into Jack's already overly complicated life.

As Jack discovers that missing girl Abigail's mother Sarah is also keeping secrets, along with his new comrades and many in the town, he finds himself questioning the reality around him as this murder mystery Western becomes something even more complex.

Readers who enjoy multifaceted stories will enjoy a tale that defies easy categorization, reaching beyond its initial tag as a 'Western' to embrace mystery and even supernatural elements.

It's unusual to see witches and justice issues woven into a plot in which a flawed loner hero becomes the central representation of a dubious form of good in a struggle against evolving evil. Robert Tomanio deftly wields the power of his pen to create a compelling portrait of characters who are different than they initially appear.

This focus on mercurial characters and special interests keeps readers not only involved, but on their toes as the story evolves in many satisfyingly unpredictable ways.

Whether it's a Western, a mystery, a love story, or a tale of prejudice and justice, one thing is certain: New Madrid captures the action and ethical dilemmas of a cast of characters who find their secrets and special purposes tested, and will cross genres to attract a disparate group of readers, as well.

New Madrid should ideally become the focus of many a book club looking for discussion material surrounding fiction that takes history and predictability and turns them upside down to create thought-provoking reflections on social, ethical, and spiritual dilemmas alike.

Winter & George: A Path Across the Sea
Natasha Nelson
Atmosphere Press
9781639882359, $12.99

Winter & George: A Path Across the Sea is a picture book that is especially evocative both in its gorgeous full-page color illustrations and its lyrical language: "Winter sat on the damp wooden planks of the pier with George, her older brother and closest friend. They sat with their legs crossed and their heads together staring up at the stars twinkling like tiny golden fairies."

It recounts the moon's rise, which portends the "adventure they've been waiting for" as George exhibits enthusiasm and Winter feels fear over the possibilities the shining moon path offers them.

From the lovely promise and support of Moon Blossoms to George and Winter's very different reactions to magic, picture book readers receive an evocative story of different approaches to life and friendship that couches fantasy with a lesson in facing fears, problem-solving, and evolving different new strengths.

Parents who choose Winter & George: A Path Across the Sea for read-aloud will find many opportunities to help children explore the underlying themes of life approaches and support systems.

The lovely illustrations enhance a story that is thought-provoking, whimsical, and fun, recommended for adults who want to give picture book readers an adventure and learning experience from one vivid story.

A Blind Man Crazy for Color
Rob Couteau
Dominantstar LLC
9781736004999, $19.95

A Blind Man Crazy for Color: A Tribute to Leon Angely documents an early 20th century retired clerk who collected art by Picasso, Modigliani, and Utrillo before these artists were famous. Despite his failing vision, Leon Angely could see the promise of these artists before those around him acknowledged their talents. He employed a young girl to help him make his selections when his sight no longer permitted him to personally enjoy them.

The book is illustrated with original artwork by Picasso's model and muse, Sylvette David, who posed for the painter in 1954 when she was only nineteen years old. Her black and white and color sketches accent this colorful portrait of Leon's life, motivations, involvement in the art world, and the pieces he collected.

Previously unpublished information about the blind man's passion and his influence on the art world enhances a survey that should be required reading and acquisition for any serious art history student and the libraries catering to them.

The well-researched treatise is supported by documentation that ranges from birth and death certifications to Rob Couteau's personal research into Sylvette David who, at eighty-seven, adds her memories to the story to expand reader insights about both Picasso and David's life and their art involvements.

Readers also receive revealing inspections of the process of interviewing artists and capturing their historical and artistic impact, adding to A Blind Man Crazy for Color's importance as a survey that goes beyond a singular biography of an art enthusiast to delve into the world of artists, art appreciation, and muses.

The blend of all these elements demonstrates the interlinked potentials and importance of artists, muses, and those who appreciate, purchase, and analyze their work: "Although he died impoverished and nearly forgotten, and although the identity of his youthful guide is still enshrouded in mystery, le Père Angely helped to preserve what Richardson calls the "sacred stuff of art" - regardless of whether his motivation was merely pecuniary. Leon and Josephine may also have inspired the greatest artist of the twentieth century."

Serious art libraries should consider this extraordinary recreation of artistic ambitions against all odds a mainstay that stands out in many different ways.

Seagull Lane
Aea Vereland
Independently Published
9798703435557, $6.56 Paper

Seagull Lane is a coming-of-age story that will appeal to adult and young adult readers alike. It surveys the personality and life of an 11-year-old with schizotypal personality syndrome, and life in 1960s Southern California.

While it explores gender dysphoria and psychological issues, it also delves into magical realism and social norms with an eye that employs metaphorical descriptions that are evocative and unusual: "At Robert and Maya's wedding, even though their cake contained no vegetables, it was even stranger than the one at Charity and Ernie's wedding. Maya and Robert's cake looked like an alien-made artificial asteroid which, falling to Earth, had been severed by razor wire looped atop a chain link fence. It appeared that raccoons scavenging at night along the base of the fence had playfully tussled over and finally shared half of the asteroid that was inside the fence, but that a human had found the other half and, instead of eating it, had called the Smithsonian."

These and other delightful atmospheric descriptions of time-stopping experiences are just one reason why Seagull Lane stands out from other novels, promising to attract a wide, appreciative audience of literary readers.

Another reason is the astute psychological inquiries and revelations the narrator presents during the consideration of puzzles in adult interactions, the challenge of understanding gender and social differences, a growing awareness of different perceptions about life and sense of place in it, and more.

Seagull Lane provides many thought-provoking introspections and moments of revelation as it navigates friendships, family relationships, and life's challenges.

"...when you stack up what you learn in school next to what you learn in real life, the most interesting things are the things you find out on your own. If finding out things on your own was the job of kids, instead of all kids learning the same things, then we'd spread out and discover different things, then tell them to each other."

Seagull Lane is a celebration of learning these differences in different ways. It's a look at absorbing life from various angles, and is highly recommended reading for literary collections looking for coming-of-age novels that comment on and contrast different ways of looking at the world.

In the Neighborhood
Aea Vereland
Independently Published
9798720717568, $5.50

In the Neighborhood provides a sequel to Seagull Lane, and ideally will be read after the introductory story sets the stage with its young narrator's experiences. While there is enough background information provided to allow newcomers access to this life and its encounters, Seagull Lane provides a fine introduction that serves as an excellent precursor to these ongoing experiences.

Here, the narrator is in 6th grade and continues to explore the world of 1960s Southern California and the disparities experienced as a gender dysphoric student with schizotypal personality disorder.

These sound like strong buzzwords requiring some degree of psychological or social savvy; but in fact Aea Vereland makes the story come to life through a series of discoveries that require no prior familiarity with either condition.

In the Neighborhood may best be viewed as a series of interconnected stories as Ginny (aka Willoughby) continues to move through experiences both real and imagined.

More about gender stereotypes, school pressures to conform to a birth gender identity, and details about gender issues expand the story and evolve Ginny/Willoughby's life in a way that helps readers from all walks of life relate to the protagonist's challenges.

During the summer before the class is set to enter junior high, the narrator explores all facets of these changing relationships and their own evolving perceptions of what these mean.

The result is another story of growth, social ironies and inconsistencies, and the evocative journey of a youngster who sees the world differently than most.

Readers of fiction about gender dysphoria and social norms will find the story just as thought-provoking and revealing as Seagull Lane, while literary collections will want to include both as examples of astute social and psychological analysis.

Here and Away
Aea Vereland
Independently Published
9798483299387, $5.50

Completing the trilogy of coming-of-age novels about a character who exhibits gender dysphoria is Here and Away, which provides more interlinked stories in which the young narrator traverses a puzzling world.

"Are you out of your mind?" This is a rhetorical question that she has often asked me. I don't know the answer. If you were sometimes out of, and sometimes in your mind, wouldn't you notice a difference? And where would you be when you're out of your mind?"

From choosing descriptive adjectives to describe this strange yet oddly familiar world to interacting with adults and peers, the narrator brings to life their own oddities and inconsistencies about how they view the world and their place in it.

It should be noted there is no definitive beginning, middle, or end to this story. Like its predecessors Seagull Lane and In the Neighborhood, the narrator's perceptions and changing lessons from the world are presented as vignettes of encounters that each hold their own carefully crafted visions and insights of different lives and social presences.

As the narrator grows, so do these relationships and perceptions. "Eccentric sexlessness will be my bag," they explain to adults.

Readers who look for different ideas of life and elements of fantasy that blend with a different way of considering reality will find Here and Away just as evocative as its predecessors, continuing and completing the journey of social and psychological inspection and introspection as family and worldly relationships continue to grow and change.

The Bonds Between Us
Emily Ruhl
Atmosphere Press
9781639882588, $17.99

The Bonds Between Us reaches fantasy readers with the first book in the Web of the Wyrd trilogy, introducing Katya Anders, a young woman cursed to spend eternity alone until a soulmate mark on her wrist appears to portend that she will gain a partner.

Mateo is both everything that compliments her and something that confuses her, because he really shouldn't be part of her future and fate. Indeed, she should be running from him, because pursuing love against all odds can hold fatal repercussions for them both.

Katya's research into Venice's myths helps solidify her place in the world even as it alienates her from what she truly wants for her future. As destiny forces Mateo and Katya to work together and evolve an uncertain relationship against all odds, her quest for the truth from Venetian folklore turns into a struggle to survive and grow on many different levels.

Emily Ruhl's story of shifting emotions, uncertain connections, and paradigm-defying choices cultivates an atmosphere of discovery and revelation, couching these in a fantasy that juxtaposes personal ambition and perception with bigger-picture thinking.

As Katya evolves a purpose beyond her initial love for Venice and her existing life, readers are brought into a realm steeped in controversy and challenge.

The emotional component of Katya and Mateo's relationship is only one facet that makes The Bonds Between Us a powerful saga.

Other notable features include issues of past bonds and broken promises, encounters with the Devil, and conflicts between prejudice and innocence that lead to a debate over whom to punish and who should be rewarded for their loyalty.

Ruhl cultivates suspense, mystery, and ethical and moral dilemmas that are even raised by the Devil: "Why would a Daski - a monster - like you want to defend a group of people that wouldn't hesitate to slaughter you in the most painful way they know how, as though they were righteous slayers driving a wooden stake through the heart of a vampire?"

The story invites readers to examine friends, enemies, and the influences on their choices through an engrossing first-person saga that follows Katya into issues of right, wrong, and what it takes to defend a flawed city.

Fantasy readers seeking a compelling story of a young woman who confronts her own preconceptions and motivations for choosing sides will find The Bonds Between Us hard to put down, and a fitting introduction to the series.

A Very Chilling Mystery
Steve A. Erickson
Atmosphere Press
9781639882519, $20.99

A Very Chilling Mystery is a children's book written and illustrated by Steve A. Erickson. It tells of a cold, cold place which contains mysteries (yes, it's the refrigerator), and captures the secret world of food in an especially delightful, rollicking rhyme: "If it wasn't dark in there,/What would the food be doing/Among the Tupperware?/Well, I am here to tell you,/There's life inside that box./When the door is shut, the light stays on/And that frosty space? It rocks!"

The vivid dance and musical antics of various fridge denizens commands young reader attention both by the fun rhymes and unexpected scenarios they paint and the equally vivid illustrations Erickson uses to embellish his story.

Even the most reluctant of young eaters will find plenty to like in a tale that celebrates hidden lives, mystery, and food facts, all couched in whimsically imaginative description: "Then there is the milk carton/Who becomes extremely grumpy/When it stays past its "best by" date/And turns quite sour and lumpy."

Adults who want to teach the young reader a bit about food but who face resistance to staid nonfiction accounts will find this assessment of the good and the bad in a typical refrigerator to be a fun way of absorbing food facts and fancies. It lends to both adult read-aloud and individual pursuit by youngsters who already have good reading skills.

A Very Chilling Mystery also serves as both an example of poetic prowess with its winningly whimsical approach to food and the mysterious possibilities that lurk behind closed doors.

Future Skinny
Peter Rosch
Art Cult Books
9798985473902, $12.95

"How will the world know you?" In this case, by the quality and content of portents of the future.

Future Skinny is a novel of intrigue and destiny. It revolves around an anorexic who also has visions of the future when he binge-eats.

Obsessed with both staying thin and making money from his revelations, Casey Banks finds himself in a dilemma and a special form of hell when he has a vision of his girlfriend committing murder.

Casey's special skill places him in increasing danger as he faces a volley of bullets and confrontations that challenge his ironic pursuit of a more normal life against odds that lay both outside and within his control.

Peter Rosch crafts a unique story that takes many unexpected twists and turns. At once a tale of obsession, murder, prediction, and struggle, it neatly fits in no singular genre category, but will reach across them to engage readers of mystery, social issues, suspense, and novels about flawed individuals who find in their faults an unexpectedly powerful ability to survive.

From what defines a normal lifestyle and weight to perceptions of powers that defy both relationship-building and naysayers of psychic abilities, Rosch creates a story that blends intrigue with psychological inspections that operate on different levels.

As institutionalization and his relationship with Lylian affect his eating disorder and his perception of his future, Casey reaches for new goals that confinement can't help him achieve: "I want to live out my days as the best version of myself."

Think One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, but with the added value of intrigue and relationship conundrums that lead two disparate individuals to become tangled in odd circumstances ultimately beyond their control.

Libraries strong in psychological fiction that operates on both a suspense and self-inspection arena will find Future Skinny an intriguing concept. It's nicely developed and spiced with thriller components throughout as Casey's journey changes him with a new vision of a future Casey who is different from his current incarnation.

Think Before You Shoot
Santino Zafarana
GOFF Books
9781951541781, $70.00

Think Before You Shoot: The Art of Taking Creative Photographs might sound like many other photographer artist's guides to improving shots; but this book isn't about technical prowess with either camera or darkroom.

It's about the underlying impulse that goes into perceiving a photographic moment and the techniques that support both this perception and the process of capturing these instances in a manner that is not just technically adept, but creatively original.

Lovely, full-color, full-page images provide stunning examples. The facing pages emphasize the technique being illustrated and analyze why this image works, supporting the advice.

Take Technique #11, 'Be Aware of Your Background,' for example. The advice maintains that "Paying attention to your background will make all the difference in your ability to create impressive photographs. More than 50% of a great photograph depends upon the background; for the other 50%, learn to wait for the right subject to enter the space."

This is then supported by analysis of the featured image: "When I discovered this background, I knew I was going to be able to create a fabulous photography - I just needed patience. And so, I waited, and sure enough, eventually the perfect subject came along."

Santino Zafarana's ability to create both visual and written insights into what makes for a superior photograph and how to envision and capture it offers a standout book in the photography how-to market that is reinforced by an oversized hardcover collection of eye-popping works.

The result is recommended not just for libraries strong in photography guides, but for arts holdings that would center on the process of capturing and crafting truly unique artistic results via techniques that go beyond how to take a picture.

The Gift of Great Sorrow
Louise Braün Frank
Atmosphere Press
9781639882960, $17.99 Paperback/$25.99 Hardcover

The Gift of Great Sorrow is a memoir of love, loss, and grief... and something more. While Louise Braün Frank's basic experiences might at first seem to mirror many writings by those who have struggled to make a new life after a death, the great sorrow depicted here is different, celebrating life's daily routines, choices, and the opportunities for positive perspectives which emerge even during devastating conditions.

Frank lost both of her children in their early twenties within two years from Friedreich's Ataxia, a hereditary disease neither parent knew about or knew they had.

Perhaps the greatest gift of this memoir is the fact that, unlike many other books, Frank's focus is different: "I never asked "why?" The only question I asked was "how?" How could I be a great mother to my babies? How could I be the mother they will need? How could I help them find purpose in their lives and guide them through this debilitating disease. And the obvious, inevitable, and most frightening question of all -- how would I be able to survive the pain of watching their lives diminish, cruelly cut so short, and survive the agony of losing both of them?"

Hers was the most basic of questions: how to create and live a life knowing that health challenges and, ultimately, death would arrive much sooner and more certainly than in the typical family.

Frank's father provided the basic simple tenet that became her guiding light in the years that followed: "Watch them live...don't watch them die."

Her world became one of repurposing life and channeling grief over what future inevitably into avenues that supported that life. This approach is the greatest gift of all, giving readers in similar health-challenged circumstances the opportunity to celebrate the days of life even among those of suffering and medical crises.

As her children followed their parents' lead and looked for purpose in their short lives through giving to others, readers receive a sense of the family dynamics and processes that led them to experience joy in the midst of suffering.

At once a memoir and a road map for others who find themselves struggling with chronic pain, end-of-life conditions, or diagnoses that affect their futures, The Gift of Great Sorrow is not just a memoir of love, loss, and grief; but a story of rebirth and rejuvenation that will inspire and soothe any who need its message of hope and achievement.

It's highly recommended not just for libraries strong in health issues, memoirs of recovery, or family dynamics; but for discussion groups tackling grief or health challenges. These audiences will find the message in The Gift of Great Sorrow to be delightfully inspirational and especially relevant.

Of Courage and Sacrifice
Matt Hartle
Independently Published
9798757251615 $11.99 print/$4.99 kindle

Of Courage and Sacrifice is a sci-fi story of bots and battles and presents the first book in a projected trilogy. It's recommended for teens interested in both robots and futuristic struggles.

Adam Wesley and his friends know that society is crumbling around them. But they've just finished high school, and are anticipating another summer of parties and fun.

That is, until their first outing brings them into contact with a reconnaissance robot that represents not just one-time disaster, but a portent of what is to come. When they return to the city, martial law and robot rulers are the new environment, changing everything in their upward trajectories.

Forced to go underground to survive, Adam and his friends find themselves in a completely different milieu as they battle the bots and fight to survive, building a resistance that is surprisingly low-tech to fight the high-tech threat that has invaded their world.

Matt Hartle excels in creating a fast-paced story of teens who confront overnight changes. Their world moves from flawed to threatening, making the prior imperfections seem like a cakewalk in comparison to present circumstances.

What can be done when one has achieved a semblance of safety that cannot last? Long-time friend and confirmed nerd Skip informs Adam that long-term thinking is in order... something Adam has never been good at doing. Skip is eccentric, brilliant, and perhaps their only hope for not just surviving the bots, but staving off their threat.

Hartle combines high technology with an action-packed series of engagements that will keep teens reading and wondering about outcomes and choices. The adventure component blends nicely with the psychological profiles and dilemmas as teens and bots confront one another and a revised future Adam never saw coming. Against all odds, Adam embarks on a mission that challenges his abilities, friendships, and survival tactics.

The result is a fast-paced story that ends with a cliffhanger of possibilities as Adam begins to grow into his powers and faces the possible end of the world.

Libraries strong in teen sci-fi and robot scenarios will find Of Courage and Sacrifice an excellent story of courage and adversity in a world that literally changes overnight.

Save the World
J. Scott Coatsworth
Other Worlds Ink
9781955778343, $19.99 Paper/$6.99 Kindle

Save the World: Twenty Sci-Fi Writers Fix the Planet is an anthology that charged twenty sci-fi writers to produce original stories about saving the world from climate change.

Many sci-fi apocalyptic collections revolve around the last days of humanity and the world, but this focus on fixing climate change provides a more positive tone with an eye to exploring and expanding the possibilities for resolving global conflict in the best possible way.

The solutions proffered range from engineering marvels of science to wider-ranging approaches to and concepts of what it means to save the world from a climate gone wild.

Take the opening story by N. R. M. Roshak, "By The Light Of The Stars." The setting is Hawaii, where a date is going awry between two women who turn out to have very different mindsets about science.

One believes that the volume of stars in the sky aren't real, and that NASA is a conspiracy group that fosters lies about space. The narrator faces Mishael's very different vision of science and space in much the way modern travelers through life vie with different mindsets as Mishael cements her beliefs with insights into the motivations of big businesses that keep people in the dark: "If we believe there's other planets out there, we won't care so much about fucking up this one. So industry is way behind this too. The Koch brothers. Big Oil. All the details are on YouTube if you wanna know more."

Readers might not anticipate the social inspection that comes with this interaction, but Roshak creates an unexpected link between personal experience and scientific belief: "I learned to trust my own judgement when I was a kid, and people kept trying to tell me I was straight. I got told girls should like boys, dykes are ugly, and being gay is wrong. And it was all bullshit. If someone tells me something that doesn't fit my experience, I gotta have a good reason to believe it."

Saving turtles is just one of the unexpected developments that reaches out to embrace readers in a thoroughly thought-provoking story that links the macrocosm of the universe with the microcosm of personal experience and belief systems.

"Thirty-Five and Change" by M.J. Holt is another attention-grabber that highlights the diversity and creativity of this anthology as a whole.

Here, the narrator is changed by a plasma cloud that encircles the Earth and prompts disappearances and the visit of a niece who is "the most oppositional person I ever met."

From harbingers of disaster to revolutionary efforts to rebel against extinction, this story, too, embraces both personal experience and bigger-picture thinking in a story that is unexpected and compelling.

Each tale in this hard-hitting collection holds the ability to transform the reader's perception of pipe dreams, future possibilities, and individual values systems and efforts to change self and society alike.

Each features a disparate group of people who make a difference in their world and the world, providing an ultimately positive perspective of life both challenged and changed by climatology and those who operate both within scientific circles and outside of them.

Sci-fi audiences expecting another apocalyptic collection of cataclysmic forces will find a different tone in this anthology. It offers hope, profiling alternate lifestyles that present new opportunities, perspectives, and visions of the future and the individual's role in changing it.

Libraries strong in LGBTQ+ literature and cli-fi science fiction alike will find Save the World a strong literary work that will attract both audiences.

Love Letters from Janey
Richard Cheu
9780578349206, $18.00 Paper/$10.95 ebook

"Life as an American-born Chinese in the decades after World War II was one continuous anti-Asian incident."

Relatively few writings capture the milieu of growing up in this environment than Love Letters from Janey: 50 Years of Breaking Barriers Together, a testimony to love, perseverance, and changing social norms. Its 167 letters from Chinese-American woman Janey Mildred Young serve as both a tribute to her life and love and a portrait in courage as Janey confronts the turbulence of an America making its way through racism and women's rights issues.

Why is Janey's story particularly and uniquely revealing? Because "The generation of Chinese Americans to which Janey's and my parents belonged established a beachhead in the struggle to obtain civil and legal rights for all Asian Americans. Most of them, except for the very rich or corrupt, were thwarted in their efforts to achieve economic or professional success in a white society."

This quoted passage is written by husband Richard Cheu, who provides an equally fine tribute to his wife in a preface that not only reviews her life during these times, but her many achievements against all odds: "Janey proved that Betty Friedan was right. Over the next five decades, she was a curriculum developer and systems engineer at Bell Laboratories, one of the first two women and the only Asian American woman to receive the highest technical award at that company, and associate director of the Institute for Science, Technology, and Social Education at Rutgers University."

Richard's words continue throughout these letters from Janey, adding social and political perspective to writings between them which consider their differences, draw new connections, and reflect hopes, aspirations, and fear as their love grows: "The other day a friend of mine gave me some very acute objective criticisms of myself. It certainly made me stop and think and try some quick reevaluations. It all seemed to boil down to my trying to live up to a certain idealist image, sort of how I think I should be or living up to a certain character I want others to see in me. I guess this is what you term a "facade." Needless to say, when one trusts another, it is so much easier to be honest and sincere. So I guess it is because I trust you so completely that I can be completely uninhibited and truly honest."

While Janey's writings alone would have been compelling, it's husband Richard who places them in the perspective of their times and the events which affected not just they and their families, but the Chinese community and culture in America.

This juxtaposition of emotional letters reflecting on religion, wealth, values, and growing love provides the foundation of experiences, but it's the blend of Richard's astute commentary and Janey's exuberant reflections that give this book its special depth and atmosphere. Without either one, the result would be singular. Together, it's a masterful reflection on Asian-American experience, culture, changing times, and how one couple navigates these family and societal forces to build a life both individually, as professionals, and together.

Like a good marriage, Love Letters from Janey becomes more than its individual writers. It's very highly recommended reading for a wide audience, especially those interested in Asian-American experience and social, political, and family perspectives. Women's issues readers seeking a celebration of life and achievement will also find much food for thought here as Janey makes positive connections that evolve not just her and her husband's worlds, but affect her conservative Chinese family's perspectives on marriage, women, and duty.

Libraries with patrons interested in love stories, memoirs, Asian-American history, women's rights, or intergenerational relationships will find Love Letters from Janey a top choice.

The Potrero Complex
Amy Bernstein
Regal House Publishing
9781646032501, $18.95 Paper/$9.99 Kindle

The Potrero Complex is set in a familiar-feeling near-future world in Maryland, following five years of a pandemic that has changed everything.

Journalist Rags Goldner is sick of covering the devastation that is big-city Baltimore, and seeks a quieter refuge in smaller town Canary. But adversity follows her in the form of a missing teenager case that commands her attention and her reporter's eye for detail, and suddenly Rags is involved over her head in a dilemma that moves from the fate of one missing teen to a plot that involves much more: "Rags hadn't been in town five minutes and already she could tell things were going to get complicated - and complicated was the very thing she and Flint were trying to get away from."

The post-pandemic world Rags navigates contains many vestiges of modern-day experience, giving it a realistic tone that eases readers into an immediate future that feels all too possible: "Over half the people in the room wore respies - the latest generation of facemask respirators, which looked like translucent teardrops covering the nose and mouth; they simply could not believe that the era of contagion was actually over. Rags did not count herself among them, putting herself automatically at odds with many of those around her. At least no one was required to wear a respie now - a small sign of progress."

As she probes missing papers, a troubling puzzle, a conspiracy, and a growing mystery that reaches out to affect her life, Rags leads readers on a journey replete with health hazards, threats, intrigue, and threats not just to individuals, but freedom in America.

Amy Bernstein's ability to place all these forces and influences in perspective gives the story a powerful tone that makes for absolutely compelling reading.

Anyone immersed in the experience and possible outcomes of social change after this pandemic will find The Potrero Complex frightening and hard to put down, presenting thought-provoking insights on the progress and erosion of freedom in the name of safety and social preservation.

It's a story highly recommended for libraries interested not just in thriller and suspense stories, but accounts that encourage close examination of liberty, life, and making a stand to preserve both against all odds.

Book club readers will find these themes packed with discussion points, while those interested in mystery and suspense will find this social inspection firmly rooted in a compelling drama that features a surprising outcome.

Dream Incubation for Greater Self-Awareness
Kelly Lydick
Pure Carbon Publishing
9780967688770, $15.95 print/$6.99 ebook

Dream Incubation for Greater Self-Awareness: A Handbook is a study in the history and biology of dreams, as well as a self-help guide on how to link dreams with expanded self-awareness and improvement techniques. It's a recommended acquisition for libraries interested in psychology, self-help, and dream biology, and covers all these topics in a guide designed to help readers better understand their dream milieus and their opportunities for transformation.

There are many books about dreams on the market, but Kelly Lydick's sports a major difference. It embraces techniques designed to help the reader's recall and more effective interpretation of dreams, linking the biology and psychology of the dream state to greater self-awareness.

Chapters not only consider the nature and impact of dreams, but include a brief history of dream practices and perspectives that contrast disparate approaches to understanding and using dreams.

The mix of psychological and biological insights creates an approach that differs from most, offering a foundation for understanding dream theories and practices in new ways.

Perhaps the strongest attribute of Dream Incubation for Greater Self-Awareness lies in its ability to creatively promote the idea of 'incubation' so that dreamers have the opportunity to not just interpret what befalls them in the dream state, but create and direct the kinds of dream experiences that lead to new revelations and understanding upon awakening.

This final piece of the dream puzzle places empowerment in the hands of those who would create and direct the atmospheres in which dreams emerge to foster greater opportunities and insights.

While some libraries may chafe at the thought of adding yet another 'dream interpretation' title to their collection, it should be emphasized that Dream Incubation for Greater Self-Awareness is not just about interpretation. It's about a wider-ranging process of incubation that allows readers to take better charge of a process which taps the subconscious. The resulting new connections can be recalled and employed for better living, making this book a standout in dream literature.

This Storied Land
Marilyn Oser
Independently Published
9798417836855, $18.00 pbk / $6.00 epub

This Storied Land is a novel of the history and struggles of the Middle East, and is grounded in the lives and hearts of Jewish settlers and Arab inhabitants who confront each other and their hopes and dreams in the 1920s.

Marilyn Oser opens the story with a surprising scene: "Here is a man on another man's back." She follows this with an explanation that embraces the humor, historical references, and personal perspectives that are hallmarks of this novel's attraction, painting the opening scene in a honeymoon to The Land (Palestine) which brings to life its riches and possibilities.

Oser makes sure her readers receive any history associated with these places and times, steeping her novel with background descriptions and explanations ("Ashkenazi Jews are those whose ancestors settled in northern and eastern Europe. Their traditional language was Yiddish. -- Sephardi Jews are the descendants of those who settled long ago in Spain and North Africa and Western Asia -- as well as those who never left Palestine. While they used many languages, Ladino, notably, Sephardic Hebrew was the language commonly spoken in Palestine.").

This assures complete understanding of the roots, history, and influences of characters such as Rivka, who is born and raised in Russia and is "...Ashkenazi in her bones," and Avram, a Sephardi born in Palestine.

Oser's careful employment of language, description, and history emphasizes the interactions of various peoples in the region, promoting a rare understanding of their past influences and present-day motivations. This keeps This Storied Land a full-flavored production that requires no prior knowledge from its readers in order to prove enlightening.

Oser's ability to meld personal events and perspectives with the historical and political influences of the region creates a novel steeped in activity, insight, and personal perspectives as the characters find their places in the region, both individually and as a community.

From Palestine to New York and from military to social engagements over the decades, This Storied Land evolves a tale built on the experiences and legends of those who developed the Middle East.

As events move from the 1920s to the 1940s and beyond, a rich scenario is created starting with these early pioneers that blends nonfiction historical backdrops with realistic fictional characters to bring to life the evolution of the state of Israel.

This Storied Land is very highly recommended for anyone who would better understand Israel's heritage and meaning, whether it be its promise to Jewish people of the world or its challenge to Palestinians and neighboring countries who shared or influenced its evolution.

Readers who want a historical overlay laced with the drama of fiction will find This Storied Land thoroughly absorbing, as well as educationally revealing. Book and history discussion groups will find it includes plenty of fodder for spirited debates.

Aleksandar Nedeljkovic
Atmosphere Press
9781639882656, $19.99

A lot can happen in a second. You can decide if you're going to love someone for the rest of your life inside of a second. It's enough time to recognize an idea that can lift up a civilization or start a war that will destroy countless lives.

It's also about how long it takes the AI mind of Newseam Neural Network to construct a tailored news story to fit a headline like this one: The Systems That Aren't Busy Being Born Are Busy Dying.

A second is a measure of singularity closest to zero in which the past, present, and future are all contained as one, where what has been, what is now, and what might be, can still change one another."

ALT is a dystopian novel set in the near future which opens with the above introductory bang of revelation, charging into that future with a fire and passion that will captivate even non-sci-fi readers.

In this future, decaying world ecology has resulted in the evolution of high technology to answer humanity's problems. This takes the form of Sundance, a plan to harness unlimited solar energy by altering humankind's co-existence with nature. Sundance may be the last best hope humanity has to save itself.

As ALT explores alternative pathways to survival, it profiles the human impulse to turn to technology for answers, over behavior modification. Perhaps this is why its story of greed, struggle, the cultural experiences of different age groups, and diverse survival training and tactics is so compelling. It mirrors many of the issues and struggles between groups that readers face in modern times, but places them in a futuristic perspective that highlights their long-term impact and meaning.

Aleksandar Nedeljkovic is especially adept at describing these experiences through different viewpoints as the novel embraces not just technological shifts and struggles, but young people who have unwittingly devised their own training methods for survival by the choices they make to utilize this technology: "Open world games. Players can modify the games and create their own ways to play. There are still game environ-ment restrictions obviously, mostly technical limitations, but they all run on adaptable algorithms that constantly rewrite the games as players change the structures. So, the games are constantly changing. Remodeling is all the fun, you just have to balance the freedom of an open world with the structure of a storyline. And you really have to pay attention to the flow of the game, shifting objectives, changing rules, that type of stuff. It's more like real life."

As the rules of these games change, so do the rules of real life as the countdown in the final stages depicted here affects characters Moonie, Miles, and a host of others who play games in both alternate realities and real life.

The intersection of high-tech devices and alternate reality states with the very real issues facing these individuals is especially well crafted, juxtaposing a delightful aura of intrigue with an ethical dilemma that surrounds the costs of saving the world: "...deep down he believed that the greater intentions should count for something. When you're trying to save the world, nothing should be off-limits."

The result is a powerful saga that is hard to put down, spinning a realistic story of opportunity, anguish, and the fallout between individual sacrifice and social preservation.

While ALT will likely attract sci-fi readers interested in dystopian scenarios, it should prove of equal interest to novel readers. It should also ideally be considered for book clubs where debates over technological progress and its price tag and promises will be fueled by this story's thought-provoking plot.

Butterfly Love From Above
Melissa Stuart
Performance Publishing Group
9781956914603, $20.99 Hardcover/$16.99 Paper

In Butterfly Love From Above, Star has just lost her best friend, a butterfly named Twinkle. Twinkle was her special friend, beloved above all others. They have amazing adventures together, they fill each others' days... and then suddenly Twinkle is no more.

Melissa Stuart's picture book story of grief receives lovely large-sized, colorful illustrations by Kate Solenova as it follows this friendship, until one day a dark cloud looms over everything upon Twinkle's loss.

Star knows she will never find another friend like Twinkle. But her wise mother offers advice that Star finds important: "All the precious moments you shared are like a treasure chest to which only you hold the key! You can open it anytime you need, even if it's just to take a peek. You will see that just like treasures full of diamonds and jewels locked safely away under the sea last a lifetime, so does the special memories locked in your heart. It's proof that love lasts forever, even when the one we love is no longer here."

Ultimately, it's Twinkle's own words that live on in Star's heart, encouraging her to take new risks.

Many picture books have been written to help kids through grief. Butterfly Love From Above's focus not just on grief but on moving forward to live, laugh, and love again provides an important message that parents will want to share and discuss with children.

Additionally, Butterfly Love From Above is highly recommended as a therapy tool to help children move forward not just into and out of grief, but to possibilities beyond loss.

Within Butterfly Love From Above's survey of that process lies the opportunity for recovery that is an important key to facing not just life, but death and its aftermath.

"Always look up! I'm right here, little Star!"

Thomas Jefferson Family Secrets
William G. Hyland Jr.
Palmetto Publishing
9781685155728, $29.99 Hardcover/$22.99 Paper/$8.99 Kindle

Readers of American history and biography will find William G. Hyland Jr.'s Thomas Jefferson Family Secrets a powerfully in-depth (if not daunting) production that chronicles not just the nuts and bolts of Jefferson's actions and importance, but the relationships and family dynamics that surrounded and supported them.

It feels daunting because the biography opens with a long list of characters from different generations of Jefferson's family and from his life. Readers with little prior familiarity with Jefferson's world may find this long list intimidating, portending a complex read, but Hyland's own preface to his work emphasizes the personal focus he gives to a largely political icon, portraying the lively series of personal insights his book promises to highlight: "During the last seventeen years of his cloistered family life, his story was infused with high drama in a congealed world of alcoholism, domestic violence, family jealousies, bankruptcy, and a grisly murder. Then came a humiliating series of political wounds, including an alleged sexual affair with a slave, corroding Jefferson's personal and professional reputation."

While the account embraces the drama of fiction, it's based on thorough research, which Hyland also emphasizes from the start: "This book pierces Jefferson's private family veil, uncovering the dynamic relationship between Jefferson and his grandchildren, sealing their roles as central figures in his autumn years. Through firsthand accounts of the people closest to him in his final years, I reveal little-known poignant scenes, bringing Jefferson's family out of the shadows into vibrant life."

As he analyzes Jefferson's family relationships, the degree of their closeness and complexity, and the dynamics of their influence, Hyland creates a far more psychologically detailed account of Jefferson than almost any competing biographical examination.

Even more importantly, Hyland details of changing family roles and relationships in response to social and political changes, tying in Jefferson's heritage and influences and the stormy milieu of his leadership.

Hyland is especially astute at highlighting common misconceptions, reviewing controversies surrounding Jefferson's life, and presenting a full-faceted view of Jefferson's personality and relationships, linking these elements to Jefferson's political choices and public persona.

In a nutshell, any reader of biography or political history who would better understand Jefferson must read Thomas Jefferson Family Secrets. It should be a mainstay in collections of American history, biography, and social issues; as well as part of discussion groups interested in books of historical significance that outline not just psychological family profiles, but how these interact with social issues and political decision-making to affect the world.

Dirty Diana
Yolanda Randolph
9781734385342, $12.00 Paper/$2.99 ebook

Readers of women's fiction who are familiar with the typical scenarios and diversity this genre embraces will find that Dirty Diana represents a step in a different direction, in terms of subject and approach.

Diana James is in love. But, in this scenario, she is the "other woman" in married man Adam's life, confronting not only the possibility that she's finally found a soul mate, but the reality that he is already more than taken, with a wife and family.

Under such circumstances, Diana ideally should back away, realizing that her connection with Adam is in fact tenuous and contrary to the life he has successfully built.

Instead, convinced that she is (and will be) better for Adam than his current situation, Diana embarks on a mission of marriage-destroying acquisition that places Adam in the position of rejecting her once and for all.

Hell hath no fury than a woman scorned. Diana's resulting vendetta illustrates a flawed character that readers will come to both hate and better understand.

Yolanda Randolph holds the amazing power to capture her characters' tangled emotions as love and hate run together like disparate rivers forced by circumstance to co-mingle.

It's impossible to thoroughly like the main character (an unusual feature in a woman's story); but it is equally possible to thoroughly understand her dilemmas, rationale, and the wellsprings of her hopes and rage.

Randolph's ability to elicit this rare understanding and emotional response in readers who pursue Diana's story and viewpoint creates a read that is engaging, volatile, and hard to put down.

At stake is more than Adam's marriage and Diana's happiness. Readers also will appreciate the circumstances which lead each to question their trajectories and ultimate goals, and will find the tale of duplicity a fine study in how obsession turns into stalking, with deadly results.

These psychological profiles create a story that moves in directions readers may not anticipate, making Dirty Diana a powerful saga of careening disaster that operates and attracts on many different levels.

Why would women want to read such a story, and why should libraries include it in their collections? Because characters like Diana, with her betrayal, hate, and passion, exist in real life. The more you know them, the easier it is to identify the motivations that lead to abuse and a warped sense of justice.

Dirty Diana is a study in caution and passion that is highly recommended for women who want to pursue a story replete with life lessons and examples of struggle, survival, and motivations for extreme behaviors that lead to dangerous love triangles.

Drummond: Learning To Find Himself In the Music
Patrick R. F. Blakley
Independently Published
9798429926469, $12.99

Young adults looking for stories about music and a student's venture into the world of a middle school marching band will find Drummond: Learning To Find Himself In the Music an engrossing tale of musical ability, fitting in, and standing out.

Drummond at first believes that band is "just another class in school." Little does he know that it will prove both a microcosm of his interactions and problems with the wider world and a milieu in which he can grow and prove himself through revised skills and approaches to life and friendships.

Middle grade readers who choose Drummond will find it a story grounded in musical explorations. Patrick R.F. Blakley seamlessly incorporates many insights into various band instruments as Drummond experiments with new ideas beyond drumming and comes to realize the different opportunities posed by both music and the interpersonal relationships it fosters through group efforts.

Educators and parents seeking to instruct kids about music, band, and life will find all these elements and more as Drummond makes his way through a new environment and finds his revised place in it.

Blakley's attention to relationship-building, group efforts, and individual growth create a winning first-person story in which Drummond learns about marching bands, music, and himself.

The many explanations of musical instruments and the process of using them to create music cements the fictional growth as Drummond evolves, but the focus on "this extraordinarily divine world called marching band" also portrays a boy's coming-of-age moves through competition and life.

Drummond: Learning To Find Himself In the Music draws connections that young readers will find engrossing. It's a recommended read for leisure audiences who will find its many musical insights to be both educational and compelling, and should be a choice for any middle grade library collection.

Ideally, it will also be part of a classroom assignment, discussed for its psychological revelations as Drummond learns about his strengths and employs them in a group effort to make music.

Sword and Sorcery: Frostfire
Ethan Avery
Stories By Storytellers
9798985622829, $24.99 Hardcover/$5.99 ebook

Sword and Sorcery: Frostfire is a young adult epic fantasy story that revolves around Erevan, a street kid whose friend has been jailed because of his mistake. It contrasts his life and dilemma with that of privileged girl Aireyal, who has been accepted into a prestigious school of magic despite the fact that she really has no magical talent.

Ethan Avery paints an engrossing story of two very different teens who exhibit (and often rely on) reckless impulses. These traits have changed their lives in unexpected ways, and are poised to change them again through adversity that brings their individual dilemmas into a bigger picture encounter with forces set to change society.

As the two main characters confront their skills, new possibilities, and what they really wish to become, young adults receive the powerful story of a quest which operates both internally and externally.

Fans of sword and sorcery stories will find plenty of action scenarios that draw attention with confrontation and a call for courage, but those unfamiliar with the genre will also appreciate how Avery incorporates a sense of duty, purpose, and changing perspectives as evolving new abilities portend failure: "She felt her very future drop like a boulder off a cliff. There was nothing to feel, except for defeat. But the mix of forced confidence within her gave a gross feeling of division. She still believed she could do it, even though she now knew she couldn't."

A cast of supporting characters also presents strong influences and possibilities. These include the apothecarist's assistant Zale, the beautiful Morgana (who stands in stark contrast to Aireyal's dubious attributes), and Erevan's father Sir Lee, who attempts to teach his son some important life lessons.

As the lives of each character entwine and are changed, young adults will appreciate the attention to psychological profiles that blend with high-octane action in a quest story that stands out from the crowd.

Whether reading Sword and Sorcery: Frostfire for its action-packed fantasy or its coming-of-age story of two very different young characters, readers will find it a fine dance between thought-provoking insights about growth and opportunity and a vivid adventure.

Sword and Sorcery: Frostfire deserves a place in libraries catering to young adult fantasy readers.

Circadian Algorithms
Tom B. Night
Independently Published
9798404135985, $17.99 Hardcover/$12.99 Paper/$5.99 ebook

Circadian Algorithms is a sci-fi thriller about dreams, reality, and forces that control both. The story opens with promising neuroscientist Darwin, who finds himself on the wrong side of the law. He reflects on the cause and effect of his demise as the authorities threaten this stay-at-home dad and newly wanted man, sending him on the run.

Wife Madeleine is the aspiring career pursuer in their family, reaching ever higher up the corporate ladder. She will do anything to tip the balance of success to her side... including making choices that impact her family and, ultimately, Darwin's place in it.

Who has Darwin become? As he faces the critical impact of his decisions, readers enter a world rocked by not just his downfall and attempts to correct his errors, but by Madeleine's moral and ethic dissolution.

Darwin never expected that his career and his wife's ambitions would dovetail with a dangerous group's plot to control dreams for their own gain. His failure to recognize the power in a procedure which changes her and threatens to transform the world under the wrong hands costs him heavily as he tries to back away from the results of research gone awry.

Tom B. Night presents this circadian nightmare in alternating chapters between Darwin and Madeleine's perspectives, which are aptly titled to assure no chance of confusion as their entwined lives and increasing alienation from one another and the real world evolves.

Night captures both the psychological profiles of these two and their conjoined dilemmas over a scientific discovery that proves as deadly as it is promising. This makes for a riveting thriller surrounding the efforts of those who would take control of and profit by the procedure.
His attention to portraying high-octane action weave seamlessly into the science and interpersonal relationships of the plot: "Darwin ran out to the open bridge wing and had what felt like an acid flashback to Rick Larson leaping from one of the Golden Gate Bridge's towers; former Chief Engineer John had not made it to the water, if that had been his intention, though from the bridge's height it wouldn't have mattered. Darwin looked up to where he'd jumped from, and it was clear even to him that all the various antennas were now useless. He reentered the bridge and was surprised to find Preston visibly shaken given how unconcerned he'd been when someone he knew personally had done something similar. Odd."

The result is a highly recommended choice for libraries and readers interested in Robin Cook-style science dilemmas and the special brand of suspense that runs through his and similar stories of science gone awry, and individual efforts to save the world.

Black, White, and Gray All Over
Frederick Douglass Reynolds
9781638485216, $30.75 Hardcover/$16.99 Paper/$6.99 ebook

Black, White, and Gray All Over: A Black Man's Odyssey in Life and Law Enforcement is a memoir and a study in prejudice, achievement, and war and peace on the streets. It is written by a policeman/detective author who documents "how the issues relating to policing and violence play out on the streets in tears and blood."

Frederick Douglass Reynolds fostered criminal connections in his younger years that would seem to preclude his professional involvement on the other side of the law. He became homeless before embarking on his career in law enforcement, and so arrived at his profession with a streetwise, keen observational eye and attitude not shared by many of his fellow officers.

From his inside experiences in gangs that led to his successful participation in the police's gang unit to his candid assessments of the approaches that led to his professional success ("I have always been a stickler for details because that is where the devil hides."), Reynolds provides a dual examination that proves as savvy about internal investigative processes within the department as it is in portraying interactions on the street.

As his relationships within and outside his department change, so do his realizations about good guys, bad guys, and influences on their choices: "Many years after the OJ case, I testified at Fort Compton on a gang-related shooting. Darden was the defense attorney. He lost this case too, but I found him more gracious in defeat this time than when he went up against Johnnie and his Dream Team. We talked afterward in the hallway, not about either case, just general conversation. I realized that he was a nice guy who had just gotten caught up in the tidal wave of Black rage sweeping America in the aftermath of Rodney King and Latasha Harlins."

Numerous books detail the experiences of being a detective or police officer. Few come from Reynolds' background and vantage point, and even fewer offer Black, White, and Gray All Over's thought-provoking inspections of racism, personal growth, and professional conundrums that evolve in the course of police work.

These different perspectives set Black, White, and Gray All Over in a class of its own, making it a recommendation not just for collections strong in true crime or police operations, but for those considering prejudice, racism, and the impact of social discontent and change on department relationships and operations.

The personal memoir tone keeps readers involved with a "you are here" atmosphere while the bigger pictures are being crafted, making Black, White, and Gray All Over additionally recommended for discussion groups strong in police work's legal and social issues.

Fatal Shadow
Noel Coughlan
Photocosmological Press
9781910206171 $16.99 Paper/$2.99 ebook

Fatal Shadow presents the first book in the Champions of Fate epic fantasy story of Drinith, whose kingdom has been toppled, leaving her a wandering exile determined to raise an opposing force from others who survived the siege.

Evading pursuit from tyrant Magian the Infinite partially due to the magic of foresight that comes from oracle Quiescat, she is well aware that magic is fading, leaving her vulnerable to a final attack.

Desperate to save both herself and her people, Drinith takes a big risk as Quiescat struggles with his own fading force in the world and attempts to venture into unknown territory that challenges his status and talents: "Mortal men dreamed, why couldn't he? Was even that scrap of comfort to be denied to him? The dead don't dream, and he had been marked for death."

From ambushers and assassins to the evolution of more than one conspiracy that places Drinith in the middle of battles she didn't even know were being fought on different levels, Noel Coughlan creates a fantasy force to reckon with. He invites readers to absorb the mercurial alliances and purposes of a world divided and under siege, using Drinith and other characters to explore the nature and simmering underbelly of this milieu.

All Drinith wants is to feel safe, and to have this feeling of safety mirrored in the world she seeks to influence. Ironically, her influence is already on the wane as she is captured, manipulated, and finds her role as a royal leader threatened by forces that operate both within and outside of the familiar enemy's territory.

Coughlan is especially adept at portraying the psychological tension and interplays between characters on the cusp of both growth and failure.

This nicely compliments the physical and mental battles that drive both sides with passion and purpose, creating both a vivid story of conflict and a tale of courage and redemption.

What is the ultimate goal of such a struggle?

As war rises within the kingdom and within hearts, Drinith's charge to regain what she has lost, but in a different manner, creates a powerful introduction that both sets the stage and begs for more. Fantasy readers and libraries catering to them will find Fatal Shadow an engrossing first step in Drinith's journey.

Worse Than Murder
Stephen Wechselblatt
Barringer Publishing
9781954396159, $14.95 Paper/$9.95 ebook

Worse Than Murder is a literary murder mystery that departs from the usual formula writing approach to add metaphysical elements and psychological questions into the task of solving a murder.

Homicide detective John Carver is no newcomer to the force. He's a seasoned investigator who thinks he's seen about every kind of murder, over the years. Until now. His latest case not only leads him to reconsider his perceptions, motivations, and logic, but reaches out to involve his daughter in a dangerous game.

As the story unfolds, Stephen Wechselblatt uses changing viewpoints (clearly identified in chapter headings) to add a multifaceted flavor to the dilemmas that evolve.

The tale opens from the first-person story of psychic Alicia Flores, who experiences a particularly grisly vision of the death of young woman Betsy Lamb. Such abilities come with a heavy price tag: "This was the price I paid for my gift, watching tragedy unfold...I alone bore the awful gift of knowledge. I alone carried the burden of being too late - unable to protect the innocent."

In contrast to Alicia's emotional response and quandaries is Carver's staid approach to murders and perps: "There was nothing at all like working a murder."

Their very different approaches, attitudes, and experiences as this case presents a series of dilemmas like no other makes for an especially intriguing juxtaposition of crazy-making quandaries. These pit a pragmatic investigator's stark worldview ("...spirits didn't exist, and Alicia was nuts.") with a streetwise, savvy woman's unusual connection to another realm.

Carver's role as a concerned father also enters the picture to change his focus, motivation, and views: "Empathy as a father outpaced expertise as a cop."

Worse Than Murder thus unfolds on many levels, embracing readers with more than just a whodunit approach alone.

Its ability to craft a picture-in-picture view of two individuals challenged and changed by a special brand of evil in a murder mystery that is unpredictable in its twists and turns creates a story both hard to put down and much more thought-provoking than most.

Worse Than Murder is highly recommended both for mystery collections and for discussion groups. Readers will welcome a murder mystery that dives into uncharted waters with an especially thought-provoking approach.

Power Park
David Keay
Independently Published
9781667817194, $12.00 Paper/$5.99 ebook

Power Park: A Novel features a range of characters that live in West Moreland and face their different visions of what should happen to the 1937 former wonder the Power Amusement Park - once a marvel, but now an aging artifact.

The unlikely list of characters interested in the park's history and possibilities range from renegades and rebels to business people who envision different possibilities. Then there's the park's strange history - it's a twenty-thousand-year-old roller coaster? Is this a surreal re-envisioning of facts which can be deemed either fake or real, depending on one's mindset and perspective?

From dossiers filled with unspecified clandestine "evidence" to plans to level the park and replace it with a modern-day technological wonder, the characters and their lives become embroiled in the future of an institution that holds as much mystery as it does the promise of resurrection.

These elements are captured and narrated through a veil of irony and satire that weaves social inspection with individual lives and motives for embracing or rejecting both change and the truth.

David Keay creates a masterful dance and interplay between these competing factions, employing literary devices that embrace attractive descriptive elements: "Here we see Brian, ringing the doorbell of his best friend Jimmy, but nobody's home."

As harmless pranks, initiation rituals, grassroots projects, and humor abound, Keay's story assumes the literary lure of a social inspection that embraces many different perspectives.

Sometimes the characters vote against their own best interests. Sometimes they evolve bigger-picture thinking based on tenuous "facts" and uncertain truths. And sometimes, the power of The Park's history, possibilities, and future proves a compelling force that changes hearts, minds, and ambitions.

Power Park: A Novel is especially recommended for high school to college-age readers of contemporary satire. Its social, political, and psychological inspections are not just fun. They are sterling examples of literary usage that deserve not just casual leisure pursuit, but to be part of any classroom discussion about the literary devices of modern-day satirical observation.

The Cuban Gambit
Jay Perin
East River Books
9781736468050, $14.99 Paper/$3.99 ebook

The Cuban Gambit is the third book in the One Hundred Years of War series, and opens in April 1986 in the White House's situation room.

Here, President Temple fields a volatile world rocked by AIDS, a nuclear explosion in Russia, and the betrayal of a woman Temple once loved as a daughter.

As Jay Perin unfolds this story of greed, political alliances, and too many presidential secrets, readers are quickly immersed in an environment that weaves a David and Goliath story of intrigue into a tale of personal strife and sacrifice.

The story moves from America to India and other countries which become embroiled in a military crisis and changing political alliances.

As the Kingsleys, Sheppards, and Barronses families interact on a dangerous playing field, readers who enjoy historical suspense stories of political and personal intrigue will find much to appreciate in a myriad of characters with disparate interests that interact on the world stage.

From drugs and suicides to keeping memories alive, Perin juxtaposes changing scenarios and various games that play out around conference tables, in bedrooms, and in offices.

A special strength of this story lies in the intrigue that evolves from interpersonal relationships to affect and direct complicated lives and political and personal choices alike: "Something is going on," Brad agreed. "I finally have an opportunity to prove myself, and you don't want to let it happen. It would take away every excuse you ever used to justify your preference for my brother."

The blend of business and political interests in a story that hops around the world exploring the impacts of these concerns lends to a gripping saga that will require of its readers an attention to a more diverse set of characters than most books feature.

While prior familiarity with the others in the series is desirable in order to appreciate The Cuban Gambit's background and ability to continue expanding its premises, people, and scenarios from previous books, newcomers will find its special brand of action involving.

The Cuban Gambit is especially recommended for libraries strong in history, political struggles, and decision-making processes for the greater good that influence even the closest personal relationships.

Pioneer Passage
JF Collen
Evolved Publishing LLC
9781622536398, $18.95

Book 3 of the Journey of Cornelia Rose series, Pioneer Passage, continues to follow Cornelia Rose's journey on the Oregon Trail as she leaves family and familiarity to cope with the wilderness's challenges, using skills she never knew she had.

What's not to love about an early pioneer story that opens with an especially compelling "you are there" feel?: "Gritting her teeth, Cornelia Rose Entwhistle Wright clamped her mouth shut and refused to vomit her morning's breakfast as it surged up her throat. She leaned on the oxen's yoke, exhausted by the effort, but kept walking."

This tone of personal inspection is evident throughout Cornelia ("Nellie")'s story as she navigates a treacherous land, new possibilities, adversity, and her own heart: "Mercy, this scenery not only captures my breath, but it squeezes my heart full of elation! she thought. Nature presents to my view hill, valley, and mountains in every direction, changing my expectations of splendid landscape entirely from the countryside I loved in the Hudson Valley of New York. Here, I witness a more beautiful sight than I have ever beheld."

Nellie encounters many new ideas on the journey, as well, as sights are set on the Great Salt Lake City and encounters evolve between people whose religions are unfathomably different from her engrained Catholic faith.

It's unusual to see a pioneer woman depicted as not just inherently savvy, but quite educated. Nellie fits both these descriptions, and her character is quite well-rounded as she faces pioneer life and challenges with a spirit and knowledge well fitted to both her personality and her commitment to her marriage.

JF Collen's portrait of a woman who embraces changing mindsets and friendships represents a convincingly realistic account of pioneer life and Oregon Trail experiences that focuses on women's' disparate lives and motivations for undertaking the arduous journey.

As Nellie assumes roles she never envisioned and new interactions with Native Americans and all types of other people she'd never experienced before, she grows in many surprising ways.

By bringing these times and women to life, Collen provides an engrossing story that will be well suited to historical fiction library holdings; especially those strong in American pioneer experience in general and women's history in particular.

Dear Friends: Pops the Club Anthology
Amy Friedman and Dennis Danziger
Out of the Woods Press
9781952197123, $17.95 Paper/$7.95 Kindle

Dear Friends: Pops the Club Anthology is the eighth anthology from the Pops the Club nonprofit organization helping youths affected by the prison system, gathering powerful stories by kids who grew up alongside gangs, violence, and life-challenging milieus.

The chapter headings alone portend an unusual impact in their sources of subjects ("Our Hood," "Our Humility," "Our Homies," "Our Honesty."). Color illustrations throughout provide artistic embellishments both captivating and complimentary to the written artistry of this anthology's contributors.

Each of these topics receives essays and poems that are striking, hard-hitting, and filled with impact and insight. Each piece is delivered with an unerring honesty that teens, in general, seem to hone and which this group, in particular, has cultivated to a high literary level.

Riva Goldman's "The Song" offers one such inspection, derived from a school assignment that led to a different choice of writing topic than the one close to her heart: "That's the setting for the first time those lyrics resonated with me - a sad, angry, weird, misunderstood teen, and I was sure that no one knew what it was like to be me, what it was like to feel so misunderstood and so sad. It was true that behind my eyes I felt despised, disliked, and somehow Townshend understood all that, every bit of it. The words of his song made me feel, at last, understood, even if he wrote about blue eyes. I have brown eyes, but he had captured the essence of what I felt in my relationship with my mother in those days, and intermittently for the rest of her life."

Often, the fine line between free verse poem and essay is blurred for the sake of powerful reflection, as in Jessica De La Mora's self-inspection piece "Disgusting": "I cannot smile with a meaning, I smile because I want others to believe I am okay. I don't want others to worry about me, I need them to think I'm okay. Once I hear the question "Are you okay?" I break down immediately. I can only blame myself for holding in everything I hold in. I build up my emotions and problems.

Imagine an empty cup with pure negativity. It's like swallowing a cup full of acid. I feel like I am drowning, like I am dying. I don't know how much longer I can hold my emotions in."

If one phrase could describe the soul of this literary explosion of emotional inspections, it would be "don't hold back." Nothing is held back in its writings from kids with incarcerated loved ones, and readers should not hold back from reading and absorbing these pieces.

Dear Friends is especially highly recommended reading for high school students who seek candid discussions of life's trials and the ability to survive them. When used as a reading group or book club pick, Dear Friends holds the rare opportunity to not only reflect poetic and literary expressions, but represents the lives and spirits of young writers who don't come from staid walks of life, making their own courses through angst and challenge in the world. Their literary marks are unerringly precise and powerful.

Special Proper Magic
Michael McAdam
House of Gargs
9781778119019, $16.99

Special Proper Magic will attract young adults with its intriguing story of magic in an enormous sprawling British home, Locksley Hall, owned by the Whitingham family. This structure's air of mystery has long created a sense of intrigue and threat in the nearby town.

An only child, thirteen-year-old Adrian Whitingham has just come home from boarding school to face a summer with too-busy parents who are quiet, proper, and too involved in their routines to pay him much attention. It promises to be a dull experience... but nothing stays dull at Locksley Hall for long, especially since Adrian has determined to use his time off to explore some strange abilities that he's been demonstrating.

Unlocking these secrets changes his life in unexpected ways that will delight young readers as Special Proper Magic evolves.

As Adrian learns about who he really is, and about the nature of the magic and spirits haunting his life, readers receive a vivid fantasy story that proves hard to put down, filled with satisfying insights: "...some ghosts miss being alive so much they'll do anything to live again, clinging on to anything that reminds them of life... like living people. That's what haunting is. It's a ghost who can't - or won't - let go of what used to be because they can't face what is..."She strikes me as just that type. So used to being the centre of attention that she can't stand that she isn't any more."

As Adrian and his cousin Holly search for the missing Ethan and answers to their questions about who they are, summoning a bravery neither really feels, an engrossing blend of mystery, supernatural elements, and a summer experience evolves.

Young readers will appreciate Michael McAdam's dual attention to building suspense and relationships which change as Holly and Adrian build new connections to each other and their lives.

McAdam crafts a fine adventure steeped in the English countryside, exploring new possibilities and connections that close some doors while opening others. He leaves the door of future possibilities (and books) ajar while deftly concluding Adrian and Holly's tale in a manner that will attract and maintain the interest of middle grade readers.

Special Proper Magic is highly recommended reading for young adults looking for magical stories of connection and for libraries seeking superior leisure reads about magic, ghosts, and problem-solving as the spirit world touches Adrian and Holly and brings with it unexpected life lessons.

The Singing Shore I: Sea and Song
E.P. Clark
Helia Press
9781952723247, $4.99

What happens when magical promises fail?

In The Singing Shore I: Sea and Song, Dasha seemed destined to bring great magical powers to the world. In reality, she can only offer visions of terror and destruction; not resolution or salvation. What use is a power that portends disaster without offering a solution?

E.P. Clark creates a vivid story of a flawed potential heroine's journey, and the story blossoms into a coming-of-age saga that embraces an old form of untamable magic whose very unpredictability could prove the world's salvation.

Dasha is called upon to tap her powers in different ways. But will she become the powerful sorceress she's supposedly destined to be, or will her abilities cause the death of everything around her?

It's unusual to see an epic fantasy saga embrace spiritual and romance components simultaneously. Sea and Song weaves these themes together with a sense of place and spirit that proves compelling as Dasha explores not just her evolving abilities and place in the world, but the presence of magic in unexpected situations: "There was no sign of any magic as Dasha had ever understood it. But she could feel there was a kind of magic being worked even so."

Clark's evocative descriptions power this journey as much as the strong characterization that develops between Dasha and those who interact with her: "The note she drew was higher, but even sweeter than the one before, like fresh berry juice chilled in the last of the previous winter's ice."

It should be noted that this is the first book of a trilogy. Though Sea and Song is a fictional story, the background for this book was drawn from the history, mythology, and geography from what is now Russia and the Nordic countries; especially Finland. From gender roles and social rules in Slavic and Russian communities to the matriarchal world of Zem and its influences and forces, this fantasy thus is embedded in the rich cultural and social inspections of the real world. Perhaps this is what lends the story its especially compelling, realistic feel within the trappings of a fantasy setting.

Clark presents all the pertinent background influences and information at the back of his book, which allows readers a smooth entry into the main story, uncluttered by the wealth of information that so neatly concludes the saga.

Sea and Song is a powerful story of love, righteousness, discovery, and growth that ends with both a surprise and a cliffhanging promise of more to come.

Fantasy libraries attracted to in-depth, world-building sagas that richly embrace Nordic heritage and matriarchal worlds, embedding both with an unexpected spiritual component, will find Sea and Song just the ticket for patron interest and discussion groups.

Your Sleep Map
Thad R. Harshbarger, Ph.D.
Psych Maps Press
9798985665505, $19.95

Your Sleep Map: Finding Your Own Path to Relief from Insomnia is a self-help book that will prove attractive to those who need to fix their sleepless nights. It comes from a clinical psychologist who reviews the main sources of insomnia and different techniques for resolving such problems.

One satisfying aspect to this coverage is that it doesn't adopt a "one size fits all" solution, as is the case with many other insomnia books. Instead, it reviews chronic insomnia symptoms with an eye to mapping out possible avenues of resolution. This allows readers to tailor their options to match the best information with the most relevant scenarios.

The approach actually represents a shortcut to synthesizing the volumes of information written about insomnia to help readers reach the most likely solution for each individual problem.

The circadian issues covered range from the basic "can't fall asleep" to "can't stay asleep." Each circumstance receives Dr. Harshbarger's special brand of analysis, mapping linking scientific research to proven solutions whether the problem lies in getting to sleep, awakening in the middle of the night, or waking too early to feel completely refreshed.

Everyone is different. The problems of insomnia lie in diverse situations, so it's logical that its solution also needs to be flexible in order to account for these individual differences.

The mapping solution presented here offers the biggest bang for the buck. It's the fastest, easiest way for readers to move through the wealth of literature and science on insomnia to arrive at their own hand-tailored solutions. Few other books advocate skipping large tracts of information that may not be relevant to one's unique situation.

From keeping records of bedtime routines to assuring a continuity of approaches, Your Sleep Map depicts the promises and pitfalls in a manner that lends to building not a singular approach, but a tool kit that works for different individual.

Any reader with sleep issues (and libraries looking for science-based solutions paired with a savvy, streamlined approach to quickly reaching them) will find Your Sleep Map just the ticket for achieving the goal of a good night's sleep.

Cyber Fighter
William Joseph Hill
Independently Published
9781082737930, $16.99 Hardcover/$12.99 Paper/$4.99 ebook

Blend martial arts with sci-fi action and what do you get? Cyber Fighter, with its special blend of science and social observation. It's powered by unlikely hero Brian Baldwin, a geek who volunteers to download a new martial arts software app into his brain.

Perhaps predictably, his newfound fighting abilities attract the military, who views him as little more than an enhanced cyber fighting machine capable of achieving what an ordinary human cannot.

Satisfyingly unpredictable are the series of events that lead Brian on a vivid virtual and real-world journey. Also surprising is the humor that runs as a current through these action-packed encounters: "Without warning, the beautiful satin dress that Chun Zhiyi was wearing split along slash marks that opened, the silk threads separating in clean cuts that widened in an almost slow-motion movement. The dress fell away from her body in pieces, flopping to the forest ground around her, and revealing her underwear. As Zhiyi looked at her body, her face flushed with embarrassment. She covered herself with her fans and glared with rage at Brian. "Damn you!" She exclaimed. "That was a Vera Wang!"

From flashbacks to agents who look like Matrix avatars to agents who find their encounters with Brian thwarted, William Joseph Hill keeps the action swift and the observations intriguingly ironic: "Good afternoon, Agent Rand. I understand you've hit a snag?" Kate turned to look at Brian, remembering how he mucked things up by crashing her hidden control room back at her temporary residence. "You could say that, sir." Brian couldn't help but notice the eerie resemblance of this Salisbury character to one of science fiction's greatest writers. He turned to Kate to mutter so the webcam mike couldn't hear. "I thought Isaac Asimov was dead."

Hill is also adept at charting Brian's increasing dilemmas as he moves from being a martial arts warrior to a possible killer: "He knew how to kick ass, but kill? That was an exponential jump in warrior response that he wasn't sure he had the stomach for."

These philosophical and ethical conundrums power the story as much as the vivid martial arts confrontations and the science and subterfuge that are the hallmarks of an exciting read.

Fans of dark sci-fi humor will find plenty to relish in a story that is unpredictably wide-ranging, incorporating the latest technological, social, and political dilemmas into a military/martial arts series of confrontations.

It should also be noted that the door is left more than ajar for more adventures... which will be welcome, given the fast pace, fine premise, exquisite action, and satirical inspections of Cyber Fighter.

Cyber Fighter is especially recommended for libraries strong in sci-fi, military sci-fi, and action reads. Hill intends his story to serve as the foundation of a screenplay and, more so than most, it's easy to envision the strength and action-based scenes of this story in a movie theatre.

Dr. Rosie Helps the Animals
Jennifer Welborn
Waterbear Publishing
9780578829296, $16.99 Hardcover/$10.95 Paper/$2.99 ebook

Dr. Rosie Helps the Animals is a picture book that features an African-American girl who loves animals. Rosie's mom, a veterinarian, lets her help care for them, answering questions about honey, compresses, and other techniques she incorporates into her practice to help her animal patients.

Young Rosie's participation and concern give her the ability to begin helping animals herself, and as she moves from barnyard to more fantastic large animal patients, young readers receive a whimsical story steeped in animal care information and fantasy alike.

As the story becomes more and more fantastic, kids and read-aloud parents will especially appreciate how Rosie moves from problem to problem, building on the healthcare insights and routines her mother has taught her and applying them to the most challenging of animal cases.

Rozillia MH provides inviting, colorful illustrations that capture Rosie and her animal world.

The blend of fictitious drama and real-world animal care information makes for a satisfyingly dramatic fantasy story laced with nonfiction elements that adults can use to discuss animal care basics and homeopathic remedies with kids.

There are many learning opportunities in Dr. Rosie Helps the Animals, from basic animal care and empathy to how a youngster may be proactive in helping improve lives in the world around her.

Based on real-world veterinarian approaches, but far more diverse in its embrace of powerful solutions and approaches to life, parents of young children who want to impart the basics of appreciation for animals and self-empowerment alike will find Dr. Rosie Helps the Animals an inviting story.

Careers for Girls
Anne Daly
CKD Press
9781739817503, $19.99

Careers for Girls: Let Go the Sandbags and Dream BIG is a STEM educational picture book about encouraging girls to dream big. Part of the special irony of this admonition is because STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) guides tend to be largely male-dominated and oriented towards encouraging boys. Anne Daly's survey of careers for girls takes a giant leap forward in addressing the disparity created by male-dominated role models.

Boys are already pushed into STEM programs by parents, teachers, and cultural expectations. Girls need an extra push... and that's where Careers for Girls comes in.

Parents and educators alike are charged with using this book to empower girls because, as Anne Daly points out: "If we don't get girls interested in STEM careers, how can we expect them to choose STEM subjects?"

Ideally, Careers for Girls will be shared between adults and girls. Career ideas range from cartographer and ceramics engineer to data scientist and electrician, covering what skills are involved in each selected career and why and how girls can find them attractive. Geneticists, for example, hold the potential to "make us all superhuman."
From marine biologists to glassblowers, each career is linked to a STEM pursuit and tailored to pique the curiosity and adventurous spirit of a girl who may find that career inviting and exciting. Daly's colorful illustrations compliment facts that survey the careers and the skills sets they use.

Any collection strong in STEM teachings and subjects and early career preparation needs this outstanding picture book survey, which transmits not just facts, but empowerment.

Bunster, An Easter Story
Christine Hwang Panzer
Mascot Books
620 Herndon Parkway, #320, Herndon, VA 20170
9781637550854, $11.95

Bunster, An Easter Story is a board book highly recommended for the very young. It follows Bunster's day watering daffodils, collecting eggs, and loading his 'squad' of ducklings into a basket to provide "unexpected cuteness to celebrate Easter."

As Easter festivities and traditions are explored, Bunster's efforts to celebrate with his disparate friends enjoys an engaging series of drawings and encounters by Christine Hwang Panzer. These will prove especially attractive for read-aloud parents looking for a spirited, colorful story about Easter celebrations from a rabbit's viewpoint.

The positive portrait of Easter being a "happy celebration and time with new friends" makes for an enriching tale that embraces inclusiveness and positivity alike.

Parents seeking a board book representation of Easter that emphasizes interpersonal connections will find Bunster, An Easter Story a vivid story, filled with fun.

Policing Bodies
I. India Thusi
Stanford University Press
425 Broadway Street, Redwood City, CA 94063-3126
9781503629745, $90.00 Hardcover/$28.00 Paper/$28.00 ebook

Policing Bodies: Law, Sex Work, and Desire in Johannesburg is a study about sex work, a legally gray area in South Africa, and one in which regulatory and police work remain largely discretionary and undirected.

It should be emphasized at this point that Policing Bodies is a study. It incorporates a great deal of research as well as presenting social, ethical, and legal inspections about the ideals, processes, and challenges of policing sex work: "Although I began my research ambivalent about whether sex work should be (de)criminalized, the limitations of promoting human rights by policing and criminalizing conduct became evident as my research progressed. I began to seriously question whether a human rights approach to sex work should ever contribute to more policing of sex work, even if the policing is limited to sex workers' clients. This issue is important, as there is growing concern about the appropriate role for police, if any, in society."

The analytical portions of this research piece are well-done as I. India Thusi considers the geography of the neighborhoods where sex work is done, the fabric of urban life in Johannesburg, and the types of reforms needed to provide transparency in the policing of sex work.

Thusi's attention to social inspection creates additional, powerful dialogues about the special nature of and conundrums involved in policing sex workers: "The interests of police and sex workers frequently align, even though this relationship is often treated as static, flat, and polarized. There is an assumption that the police enforce sex work regulations against sex workers at a much higher rate than they do against clients. This is no doubt true in certain circumstances, but the reality is most likely more complicated. Police may be targeting clients with alternative motivations, and clients may be able to buy their way out of trouble, creating the perception that only sex workers are being arrested because only they are being booked. In imagining a state where decriminalization exists, it will be important to acknowledge the complexity of the relationship between police and sex workers and to promote strategies for security that look beyond the police."

From how samplings were obtained and interviews conducted to author bias inherent in and acknowledged during the research process, Policing Bodies provides astute examinations that embrace both the nature of sex work and police relationships and the influence of research bias on reporting these cases: "The legality of the act was relevant only to the extent that it influenced how the sex workers were policed and perhaps to understanding how they should negotiate their relationships with police officers. I could appreciate arguments made by advocates from various sides of the argument. Although I anticipated that I might lean toward the "pro-sex" stance, I was not completely sold on any particular approach. My research would be undertaken from a neutral position, one that did not necessarily promote any particular advocacy agenda. However, as I became immersed in my research, spending nights on the streets of inner-city Johannesburg speaking to sex workers, becoming a friend to the many sex workers who operated from the streets of Rosebank, my orientation on this subject rapidly shifted."

The result is a powerful study that, though centered on Johannesburg, holds implications for any society in which sex work remains on the fringes of legal and ethical examination.

With its numerous footnoted references and studies providing both support and additional bibliographic research opportunities, Policing Bodies is a unique scholarly consideration that should be considered a mainstay not in just South African libraries, but in any collection strong in social and legal issues in general and sex work and law enforcement in particular.

Witchcraft Legacy: Stories from the Big Attic
Richard Warren Brewster
Protean Press
9780991352067, $19.95 (paperback), $9.95 (Kindle/ebook)

Witchcraft Legacy: Stories from the Big Attic is the perfect example of how family legacies and history can affect future generations. It tells of how Richard Warren Brewster and his brother Sam uncovered a trunk of books and writings in their attic that once belonged to William Stoughton, the chief judge of the 1692 Salem witchcraft trials.

The survey traces four centuries of these books and how their history is handed down, from 1650s stories of Providence to family memories that revolve around these events. This approach creates a clear connection between past choices and present-day impact that juxtaposes a genealogical survey with American history and a family's changes.

More so than most books about Salem's history, Witchcraft Legacy traces the emotions, impact, and experiences of these days, providing rare and close attention to detailing the movement of these books from the 1600s to modern times.

It's unusual to find a history (much less a family history) thoroughly embedded in the emotions, choices, and reactions of a wide playing field of characters over the centuries. Brewster keeps his account firmly rooted in these experiences, giving the discussion more the feel of a memoir than the usual researched history of Salem witchcraft.

This approach results in a livelier collection of insights and growth-inducing experiences than the usual Salem history provides, fueled by the antique journals' handwritten opening lines: "Those Evil Spirits haunt me Every Day..."

As the two young boys decipher the meaning of these writings, an exciting set of possibilities emerges which are tested over the years that follow, with the research into these books offering new revelations. Brewster's personal involvement in and motivations for conducting this research and linking it to his family's history and his own life creates a lively interplay: "At the time of our discovery, Sam and I thought that the "Evil Spirits" referred to some ancient curse. The "evil spirits" that haunted Henry Peacham, that would not let him eat, hear, read, or pray were noted, by hand, in a family book, in the family's steamer trunk, in the family's attic, and had come from the family's homestead in Maine. To me, the curse was undoubtedly connected to the family...Over the course of a rainy winter in Manhattan a half century later, and after corresponding and working with an archivist at Oxford, where Stoughton did graduate work in the 1650s and, indeed, purchased the books that Sam and I found, I learned the true meaning of his flyleaf notes: The lines beginning "Those Evil Spirits haunt me Every Day" were excerpts from a Jacobean poem by Thomas Randolph, railing in fury at the bill collectors and creditors who were beating down his door to collect their money. The rest were random notes of Stoughton's thoughts and excerpts from a book called The Worth Of A Penny, Or A Caution To Keep Money, by Henry Peacham, first published in 1641, before William Stoughton traveled from Massachusetts to England."

This somewhat lengthy quote serves as a microcosm of example that demonstrates the special allure of Witchcraft Legacy - its ability to connect generations of family history to examine both American experience and the author's life.

Witchcraft Legacy was written during the COVID lockdown. It's fortuitous that Brewster used this time to organize his thoughts, family legacy, and the intriguing story of these books, because otherwise, these facts might never have come to be published.

Highly recommended for memoir readers, American history students, and fans of genealogical research and family legacies alike, Witchcraft Legacy's ability to combine intrigue, research, facts, and personal experience under one cover makes for a rare glimpse into a unique inheritance that should be on the shelves of any general-interest and many a specialty library.

Corrupted Souls
Lynn-Steven Johanson
Level Best Books
9781685121006, $16.95

In Corrupted Souls, Chicago detective Joe Erickson has just returned to the force after a medical leave of absence when he becomes embroiled in a high-profile murder case.

His first shrink didn't think he was fit to return to duty, as he not only missed sessions when he was involved in the last case, but hasn't completely addressed the issues that led to his work-related acute stress disorder. The solution? Get a shrink who will give him a pass to return to work.

But the pass she gave him didn't anticipate that he would enter the fray of yet another murder case that places him in many of the same uncertain positions as in the past, testing his ability to respond and to recover completely from his prior trauma and depression.

As Joe assumes the duties that require him to probe a hate crime's deeper social connections, he enters a world which can only be explained by a conspiracy theory that is all too real. It's also one which requires he enter a neo-Nazi world that operates under the radar, yet is increasingly powerful and threatening.

Lynn-Steven Johanson evolves a mystery that operates on many levels. It's a tale of intrigue, of social unrest and undercover activities - a survey of one man's resiliency and ability to recover from past trauma to use his newfound strengths to address a conundrum that touches his life in unexpected ways.

Joe's personality and issues come to life in the course of solving a mystery that navigates a killer's motivations and a hate group's processes. It turns out that the target hits closer to home than Joe expected. And so the story offers many gripping moments that will especially please seasoned mystery readers as well as those with prior familiarity with Joe's life and adventures in Rose's Thorn and Havana Brown.

Surprise revelations, satisfyingly unexpected twists and turns, and detailed psychological challenges mark a tale that tests Joe and his love Destiny Alexander as they work together for their future while Joe embarks on a quest for justice and answers.

Libraries strong in detective mysteries will find Corrupted Souls an excellent story that works well either as a stand-alone read or as an extension of Joe's previous mysteries.

A Merry Life
Sarah Branson
Sooner Started Press
9781957774015, $18.99 Paper; $8.99 ebook; $15.99 audiobook

A Merry Life is the first book in the Pirates of New Earth series. It opens in 2349, where the human survivors of climate change and pandemic crises have forged a new life in a new world.

Kat Wallace has inherited the legacy of these Old World humans in a milieu based on the ability to survive not just the environment, but the predatory humans around her.

Kidnapped by human traffickers, Kat's struggles and efforts to regain her freedom lands her in the pirate nation of Bosch, where she forges a new identity, purpose, and ideals of freedom.

"Dying is not an option. At least not today. Freedom is my only goal."

As Kat absorbs Bosch's unwavering dedication to the cause and reflects this in her own passion for independence, readers receive a dystopian novel driven not just by individual relationships and goals, but by community-building paradigms that threaten established world orders.

Kat's new identity is deeply rooted in her new home: "I'm Bosch. I do not run from an enemy." So deeply that she may be overlooking what it means to be human as she confronts those who have unleashed terror and pain into her existence.

Sarah Branson creates a compelling saga of a life not always so merry. From the wellsprings of Kat's newfound strengths and sense of purpose to her choices in wielding her own axe of confrontation and change, readers receive a satisfying adventure replete with personal growth, social inspection, and confrontations over control and Kat's own responsibility for inflicting pain on others.

The ethical and moral dilemmas woven into her story create a dystopian environment replete with elements not often seen in dystopian stories of struggle as Kat confronts what kind of survivor she will be, as well as the kinds of justice and strength she will encourage in this new environment.

Readers who look for more than just a satisfying futuristic adventure story of survival will find plenty of social, ethical, and psychological inspections in A Merry Life which bring this futuristic world and its competing forces to vivid life.

A Merry Life is highly recommended for libraries strong in dystopian sagas as well as book discussion groups who will find it holds plenty of points for lively dialogue on the nature of survival, community-building, and loyalties to self and ideals.

It's Murder Dontcha Know
Jeanne Cooney
North Star Press of St. Cloud
19485 Estes Rd., Clearwater, MN 55320
9781682011331, $16.00

It's Murder Dontcha Know: A Quirky Murder Mystery with Recipes will delight murder mystery cooks with a story steeped in trouble and bubbling with intrigue. It's a cozy mystery embedded with humor and fun as it unfolds the dilemma faced by an unlikely band of friends in a small-town Minnesota cafe.

One of the immediate attractions of the tale is an uncommon opening that portrays not the mystery, but the challenges faced by the first-person narrator: "The evening breeze caressed my cheeks and propelled shivers down my arms. It was the closest I'd come to a sexual experience in more than a year. Physical intimacy had been missing from my relationship with my husband, Bill Connor, during the last three months of his life."

Widow Doris Connor, having buried her husband with his drama, is in search of a little peace and quiet when she moves to the small town of Hallock. When family and friends move in with her, bringing their own needs and drama, it seems like her search for serenity will prove elusive. Add a local robbery, a murder, and her own family's implication in these events for a scenario in which Doris is compelled to enter a fray far beyond her experience or desires.

As she becomes an unwilling and inexperienced investigator, Doris quickly finds herself both over her head and unusually skilled at digging into the truth - even if that reality is buried in small-town relationships and unexpected motives for murder.

Jeanne Cooney crafts a chatty, compelling cozy mystery that romps through a number of unusual characters who each hold clues to not just the murderer's identity, but the undercurrents of this small town's lives.

The maturity of this circle of growing friends and their ability to navigate personal pain and community special interests alike adds a realistic flavor to the story as Doris considers who is using people, who is a threat, and who is a friend.

As they close in on the truth, readers receive a surge of relationship complexities that each tie into the murder scenario in an unusual way. The recipes that pepper the story serve as an added attraction.

The result is a cozy mystery filled with small-town atmosphere, shifting relationships and alliances, and special interests that lead to a final confrontation.

Libraries strong in cozy mystery books will find It's Murder Dontcha Know fosters a quirky, delicious recipe for attracting a wide audience.

White Storks of Mercy: Formation
Joni Anderson van Berkel
Independently Published
9780578957807, $19.95 Paper/$5.95 Kindle

White Storks of Mercy: Formation is the first book in a projected magical realism trilogy and opens with a lovely description of clairvoyant supernatural storks that soar over the skies in the Bronze Age.

Events move from ancient Egypt's Eighteenth Dynasty to twentieth century Portugal as the Sacred Stork of the Bach, Tara, embarks on a time-traveling journey to locate women who are willing to help her reset humanity's moral trajectory.

Tara's mission involves rescuing selected women and transforming them into White Storks of Mercy whose mission is to use their newfound immortality and loyalty to Tara to enter human form and promote transformation.

All is not about altruistic good deeds in this story, because Tara's jealous sister, an ancient Egyptian Siamese cat named Reba, is set to thwart her good intentions and tries to corrupt the cause of White Storks of Mercy, using magic to turn their power in a different direction.

Joni Anderson van Berkel's ability to capture the magic, moral dilemmas, and changing tides of influence from ancient to modern times enhances a story that evolves on several different levels. While fantasy readers will find its magical components thoroughly engaging, readers who look for more depth will find that underlying the magical encounters and conflicts is a running stream of ethical considerations involving storks, women, and humans in an alternative vision of healing that takes place on many levels.

The motivations and power plays of healers and wounded alike intersect on a broader playing field of adventure to expand the concept of magical realism and what it means to use magic to make dreams come true and redirect human affairs.

Readers seeking compelling reads equally steeped in mythology, history, and revised views of good, evil, and the choices that lie between them will find White Storks of Mercy: Formation engrossing and hard to put down.

Its special blend of magical realism and the quest of disparate peoples to live in harmony provide many points for book discussion groups, making it a top recommendation for libraries strong in fantasy and folktales that go beyond action to probe the motivations and perceptions of those involved in quests for power, healing, and peace.

Drone Child
David H. Rothman
Independently Published
9781736783191, $26.48 Hardcover/$9.99 Paper/$2.99 Kindle/$12.95 Audio

Drone Child: A Story of War, Family and Survival may sound like a sci-fi title, but it's actually a military action thriller in which a Congolese teen electronics genius, Lemba Adula, is kidnapped and forced to use his prowess to fly drones in a war, lest his parents be killed. The reader roots for him to escape his captors and save his sister from sex slavery.

Readers might anticipate a very explicit story that would have precluded young adult readership; but David Rothman keeps his story clean and the violence present, but not as graphic as it could have been. This gives the story a wider audience, reaching into younger circles that need to be educated about the realities of war and its social issues as the novel unfolds. The barbarities of the conflict in Ukraine make Drone Child all the timelier, although Rothman's themes are timeless. An audiobook narrated by TV-and-movie actor Dion Graham, one of the stars of the audio world, could further expand the audience.

Drone Child takes the form of a first-person memoir in which the narrator reviews the circumstances which took him from a loving, supportive family to life as a child soldier forced to do the bidding of machete-wielding thugs and pirates in his struggle to survive. It opens with a candid assessment designed to capture reader attention from the start: "The problem with a war memoir is there's no suspense. You already know I live. I need to tell you, too, that I not only survive, I thrive. Even less suspense. But such is the nature of the horrors I'll share with you."

The story then embarks on a dramatic survey of love, riches, hate, and evolving terrorist activities that murder individuals and separate families and friends.

By way of the memoir written decades after the horrors Lemba Adula witnessed and suffered, audiences will benefit from his juxtaposition of personal and social experience and the rigors of war and survival. It all comes to life with a special quality of introspection to give Drone Child an authentic, compelling flavor.

Many military novels have been written about child soldiers. Few offer the unique perspective of this story, in which war is the backdrop against which individuals and societies struggle with the moral and ethical implications of choices sparked by conflict.

The dilemma of a child who becomes immersed in military actions and is confronted by the changing nature of loyalties is captured in dialogue and encounters that keep readers thoroughly involved: "'I kill enough enemies,' I asked, 'I go back to Kinshasa?' How I missed Josiane and my cafe life! 'Not back to your father and mother?' I said I missed them, too. 'Well,' Sako said, 'you're already with your family. We're it.'"

Readers who look forward to a story of military engagements in Africa will find that much more takes place, narrated from a young man's vantage point as he comes into his military prowess and navigates treacherous teachings. Rothman is especially adept at capturing the milieu in which a holy war is promoted and run amongst children: "After these latest killings, Demon Killer couldn't resist a chance to act concerned and reinforce his holy ways among the children. 'An accident,' he told them in his most reassuring tone. 'This is what happens when you don't listen to your gun.'"

Fortunately, this child also listens to his heart, and narrates those occasions when it delivers a different message about his past, present, and future.

As he navigates war and its aftermath, moving into a position where he and others try to uplift their country, readers receive thought-provoking growth stories that will especially lend to group discussions, whether they take place in high school social issues classes for mature teens or in book club circles.

From how trauma is absorbed and recovery instigated to how the Democratic Republic of Congo makes choices both on a political and a social level, the individuals and intertribal warfare that overlays their lives are realistically depicted and represent many of the real-world issues affecting that country today.

Rothman's ability to use the microcosm of a child's experiences of war to translate it to bigger-picture thinking about community, relationships, and conflicts results in a gripping story highly recommended for a wide range of readers; especially those interested in the lives, motives, and influences of modern-day Africans.

Climate Restoration
Peter Fiekowsky with Carole Douglis
Rivertowns Books
9781953943101, $19.95

Climate Restoration: The Only Future That Will Sustain the Human Race contains a warning about the human race's current trajectory and its focus on achieving net zero carbon emissions as a solution to climate change.

It comes from a scientist, engineer, and visionary who does more than critique the logic of current approaches. He provides a different view of returning the climate to a condition that is good for all life on Earth - a world in which atmospheric CO2 levels are below 300 parts per million. In contrast, the goal of net zero emissions will leave the world with a dangerous level of about 460 parts per million, which is not conducive to a healthy state.

Where most books might focus on the contrasting goals and arguments pro and con, Peter Fiekowsky provides specific routes for achieving the revised goal of climate restoration, from employing synthetic limestone and fostering marine permaculture to enhancing atmospheric methane oxidation.

Clear discussions of the problem, different approaches, and the solutions recommended by this author assume no prior science background or knowledge of the various forces affecting climate change. This makes Climate Restoration's science-based survey accessible to a wider audience of general interest readers who here receive all the tools necessary to thoroughly understand the issues and the science behind them.

Technical footnotes, tables and charts, and statistical figures support Fiekowsky's discussion throughout, providing additional studies for pursuit by those who would better understand the source materials supporting his contentions.

The good news is that all his solutions are within the grasp of today's technology. All that's needed is a better understanding of these issues and the importance of focusing on climate restoration versus other actions that have been suggested to reduce carbon emissions.

Fiekowsky even considers the economics of how these adjustments may be funded and encouraged, which also differentiates this book from other discussions of climate change problems.

Climate Restoration's pragmatic, science- and solution-based discussion is highly recommended for any library interested in the ongoing issues of climate change and the future of life on Earth. It should also earn a place as a foundation title for any discussion group studying ecology, climate change, and methods for positively altering the future of life on this planet.

Coming Alive
Anne Ierardi
Shanti Arts Publishing
9781956056198, $26.95 (print) $7.99 (ebook)

Coming Alive is a memoir that embraces Anne Ierardi's spiritual and psychological evolution as she searches for meaning and revised purpose in her life's faith-based journey.

More so than most memoirs that offer similar-sounding accounts, Coming Alive is an artistic portrait in discovery and self-realization that charts the author's fifty-year course to a "theory of relatedness, the I and Thou," narrating the move from Catholic roots to wider-ranging series of religious revelations.

Her move from her childhood faith of Catholicism moves through the social issues and reforms that redirected her course and faith into new arenas, following her effort to form a more authentic life.

The memoir opens with her church job falling apart, reflecting on the impact of a male-dominated religious sector that never has acknowledged her achievements and education. Ierardi is quite candid about the other facets of her life that have butted heads with her chosen vocation: "Yes, I was there physically, and yes, I did my best to care for them pastorally. Yet I didn't feel safe there. I didn't really know who my allies were. How could I be me? I could not come out without losing my position. I was different in so many ways: educated, urban, feminist, Catholic turned Baptist, and gay."

From Catholic dilemmas during early days in seminary to the evolution of a special brand of faith and education that embraces the other components of who she is, Ierardi follows the course of her spiritual calling and the evolution of conundrums surrounding it with an analytical eye to contrasting the disparate influences in her life: "While I thought my life in seminary was moving in a Good Orderly Direction - Julia Cameron's metaphor for call - I was unprepared for what lay ahead."

LGBTQ libraries, in particular, will find many of her reflections of the process of coming alive socially, spiritually, and emotionally to be thought-provoking mirrors of gay Christian leaders who struggle with their calling and their identity within and outside the church.

As she becomes a pastoral therapist and focuses her energy and work in new directions, Ierardi provides a road map of self-discovery and religious growth that will prove especially compelling to other Christian leaders who struggle with many of the same dilemmas in their vocations, beliefs, and lives.

Through its story of discovery and new paths, Coming Alive charts the special process of aligning faith with social interactions, capturing a sense of self that embraces, accepts, and fosters growth.

"Abide in me, and I in you" is the Bible edict mirrored in this engrossing memoir, which is highly recommended for Christian collections that strive to embrace diversity, cultural differences, and the path that lies between being a good Christian and embracing one's authentic self.

Ierardi maintains that "Life is a bigger mystery than we can grasp. We can either spend our days running away from life or running toward life. I have crossed many bridges in my life and I have tried to make bridges."

Coming Alive is one of those bridges, and deserves a place not just in memoir and spiritual libraries, but on the reading lists of LGBTQ readers and Christians who would better integrate faith with diversity and acceptance.

Dusty's Big Oops!
Tammy Fortune
Tammy's Toolbox, LLC
9781734694956, $10.95 Paper/$2.95 ebook

Dusty's Big Oops! is an appealing picture book portrait of a first day at school gone awry, and follows the obstacles to learning presented by a dog who joins his boy at school, causing both to make mistakes.

Pieter Els and Nika Pieterse provide engaging illustrations that highlight Tammy Fortune's story of what it means to make a mistake and learn from it.

The story is narrated from Dusty the dog's perspective as he tails his beloved owner Danny to school. He anticipates the new environment as being fun, but also holds a degree of worry about it, and wonders if young Danny feels the same.

What could possibly go wrong? And what if it does?

Fortune lays out the process of trying new things, adopting a positive perspective about life, and tackling the results of big decisions and choices gone awry in a lesson that helps youngsters accept new possibilities and learn from bad experiences.

There is also an undercurrent of diversity and lessons on inclusiveness as Danny's classroom holds many different personalities and opportunities.

Kids will laugh at Dusty's ability to unleash chaos in the classroom, and adults will appreciate the opportunity to point out how to accept responsibility when "my oops kept getting bigger and bigger."

Dusty's Big Oops! presents the perfect marriage between fun and learning, and promises an engaging story that helps adults deliver not just one but a series of important life messages.

It's highly recommended as a leisure read for young animal lovers that will spark further opportunities for engagement and absorbing early lessons on positivity and turning negative problems into insights on better choices.

Suddenly Retired
Donald J. Hurzeler
Kua Bay Publishing, LLC.
9798985787535, Hardcover: $24.99/Paperback: $16.99/ebook: $7.99

Suddenly Retired: A Roadmap for What Comes Next reflects author Donald J. Hurzeler's experiences with COVID and career trajectory derailment. It also mirrors the realizations and conundrums faced virtually overnight by everyone around the world, many of whom found carefully laid plans changed in ways they'd never anticipated.

It's a rebuttal to the many, many retirement books on the market that assume a pragmatic approach when, in times of disaster, there is no such opportunity, and it provides solutions and observations perhaps unique to this era.

There are thus many surprises in Suddenly Retired; especially for readers who have already absorbed a plethora of retirement guides that advocate a singular strategy based on a stable environment that allows for much advance planning.

One surprise is that retirement has upsides and downsides which shift with age and milieu. Another is that there is no singular definition of 'retirement'. What works for one person as a definition may be entirely wrong for another.

Donald J. Hurzeler promotes a flexibility in approach which highlights the real difference between his book and others on the subject. This lies in the title itself. 'Suddenly' portends the unexpected. And no matter how organized a planner for the future may be, sudden retirement brings with it a special set of challenges that relies on the ability to make sudden and quick adjustments.

Chapters consider workarounds to the suddenness of the specter of retirement and the process of disassociating from past patterns, whether in career or expectations from life in general.

Hurzeler adopts a chatty, accessible tone that belays a foundation filled with facts and solid advice. This makes for an easy read that will prove interesting as well as eye-opening: "Honestly, very few of us get the gold watch, the big party, and the "little something extra" to send us on our way to a wonderful retirement after a long and universally agreed-upon successful career. Most of us get an inadequate briefing by Human Resources on what to expect, a booklet on the process, and a mass of confusion about how things like healthcare plans work going forward. A whole lot of important decisions that can make or break us financially in the future are thrown at us all at the same time. We get a layer cake and cup of coffee in a side room with a bunch of people attending because most people like those things. And we get a quiet send-out through the back door after handing in our credit card, cell phone, company ID, and parking sticker."

Acknowledging these changes and remaining open and flexible to them can be as simple as accepting that lava landscaping in Hawaii is far simpler than terraforming a new environment to preset expectations.

Ultimately, this is the core message in Suddenly Retired: preset expectations without that ability to adjust, learn, and re-envision are hard to find satisfying.

Filled with Hurzeler's own experiences making both good and bad retirement decisions, Suddenly Retired advocates a kind of structure that is always willing to bend with changing conditions.

This is why it's a standout in the literature, and deserves a place in any library and in personal collections where retirement planning is of interest. It offers a different form of adventure and encouragement than most - one that stems not just from pragmatic financial planning, but accepting the volatile and changing nature of later years: "One of our best retirement decisions was to frontload our retirement with the more adventurous things we wanted to do in life."

Climb that mountain. Read this engaging, enlightening guide to get there.

The Heretic's Book of Death & Laughter
Steven Darian
Linus Learning
9781607979722, $28.00

The Heretic's Book of Death & Laughter: The Role of Religion in Just About Everything is a wide-ranging survey of religion, philosophy, and history that goes where few other books attempt to go. It surveys the influence of religion on almost every part of our life, as revealed by the studies and journeys of the author, whose comments ripple through time and space.

One example is the traditional story of Adam and Eve, that begins the presentation, and sets the tone for the lively observations to follow:


The first thing you want to watch out for - - is apples. I mean,

look what they did to Adam:

Narrator: How do you like them apples, Adam?

Adam: They're the only apples I've ever seen. But I've heard there are other fruits in the Garden. Is it true?

Narrator: Like what?

Adam: I don't know. Persimmons?

Narrator: Too Chinese.

Adam: Macintosh?

Narrator: Too Irish. Actually, it's Scottish.

This ribald sense of wit takes a serious topic and adds the humor necessary to digest the many insights into the different themes of world religions and their role in human affairs across the centuries. Steven Darian's unique approach makes for a historical examination like few that provides the opportunity for believers and unbelievers alike to partake with delight.

Religious history is accompanied by reports from news media and commentaries by the Heretic. This makes for a blend of scholarly, documented examination and whimsical yet thought-provoking comments that illustrate the ironies and inconsistencies of the Bible, the Koran, and other approaches to religious 'revelations' - - from both ancient texts to people living today.

Well researched, but with attention to details and discrepancies in historical reporting about beliefs and traditions long handed down and revised over the centuries, The Heretic's Book of Death & Laughter holds special appeal for all thinking and questioning readers of religion.

Hopefully, the book will assume a key role not just on library shelves, but in discussion groups where humor and history intersect with religion and popular culture. Its astute and sometimes controversial examination of religion's place in the world - - makes for a survey that takes readers from Biblical to modern days, in a romp through the often frozen-in-time customs that have varied so little, for hundreds, even thousand, of years, to the changing influence of religious convictions that often dominate our social, economic, political, & lives.

Few books hold the ability to pair weighty scholarly research with witty analysis that challenges preset and long-held perceptions. Thinking readers will find more than light food for thought in The Heretic's Book of Death & Laughter, that offers maps, photos, and illustrations, to keep the traveler wide-eyed and sometimes incredulous, till the end of the journey.

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

Gary Roen's Bookshelf

Her Last Goodbye
Rick Mofina
97807783311720, $9.99 pbk, $7.99 Kindle

Like many other Mofina novels "Her Last Goodbye" begins with a simple premise that gets more and more complicated as the work moves along. Jennifer Griffin disappears after a meeting of her neighborhood book club. Her husband Greg begins a search to find her after members tell him she left after the gathering of readers. Greg does everything he can to find her but also at first is considered by police, to be a person of interest, in her disappearance. So many things are possible of why she is missing as Mofina once again takes readers on a rapid paced ride that concludes with a satisfying ending. There are lots of twists and turns of exciting page turning thrills. "Her Last Goodbye" is rip roaring entertainment for anyone looking for fast paced yarn

Sand Dollar Lane
Sheila Roberts
9780778386353, $9.99 pbk $7.99 Kindle

You do not have to read any of the titles in the Moonlight Harbor series to enjoy "Sand Dollar Lane" Brody Green and Lucy Holmes are similar in many ways. They are both out of a marriage, have same age children, in real estate in the same city by the ocean. Fireworks ensue as they continue to see each other that leads to a more soothing relationship later. Sheila Roberts writing is a masterful blend of comedic timing with characters you believe in and want good things for them. "Sand Dollar Lane" is a wonderful summer read for anyone who wants to enjoy a well told story.

21st Birthday
James Patterson & Maxine Paetro
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
9780316499347, $29.00 HC / $14.99 Kindle

A woman comes to Lindsay Boxer to ask her to look into the disappearance of her daughter and her child. As Boxer examines, she finds many twists and turns, while reporter Cindy Thomas is working on the same case. The rest of the women's murder club work together to find what happened to the woman and her daughter. "21st Birthday" is another rapid-fire enthralling dynamic thrill ride to the end.

Safe House
Stuart Woods
c/o Penguin Random House
9780593331750, $28.00 HC/ $14.99 Kindle

Stone Barrington is asked to assist a friend who asks Stone to transport a person to several residences of his to keep the individual safe. But others are on their trail as Stone moves from place to place to accomplish his task. The Barrington novels are always fun reads and "A Safe House' is another captivating tale of great story telling.

Weird World War IV
Edited by Sean Patrick Hazlett
Baen Publishing Enterprises
9781982125967, $16.00 pbk $8.99 Kindle

As we are seeing with the unfolding events in Ukraine, war is something that continues to be a part of the human race. "Weird World War IV" is filled with many great stories by modern masters of the science fiction genre who present war in many different aspects in possible worlds of the future. Some of the names to look for are T. C. McCarthy, D.J Butler, Steven Barnes, Jonathan Maberry and Laird Barron to name a few. "Weird World War IV" is a great collection that is for the many readers of military science fiction

Thieves' Dozen
Donald E Westlake
Mysterious Press
c/o Open Road Integrated Media
9781504068116, $21.99 pbk // $8.99 Kindle

Westlake is in rare form with "Thieves Dozen" that are a whole slew of Dortmunder capers under one cover. The series of novels have always been some of the best side-splitting humor in the mystery field. This collection of shorter pieces has the same laugh out loud writing but a larger number to enjoy. Imagine Dortmunder being hired to consult on a crime, Kelp and Dortmunder tunneling into a bank vault, Dortmunder discussing health issues are several of the comic madness that abounds "Thieves Dozen".

Bud Smith
c/o Penguin Random House Inc
9780593315224, $16.99 pbk $7.99 Kindle

"Teenager" opens with the escape from juvie of Kody Green on a personal mission to hook up with his girlfriend Tella even though Tella's father warned in a letter to Kody to not pursue a relationship. On the run Kody sneaks into her home to confront the love of his life. Just before he is reunited with Tella, Kody kills both of her parents in a cold-blooded manner. Even though Tella is made aware of Kody's offense, she travels with him on a cross country crime spree. Her brother Neil, AWOL from the navy after learning, who killed the parents, sets out to avenge their death by wiping out Kody. "Teenager" is a nail-biting rollercoaster ride of suspense.

How To Survive Middle School Science
Rachel Ross and Maria Ter-Mikaelian
Bright Matter Books
c/o Penguin Random House Inc
9780778386353, $16.99 pbk $11.99 Kindle

"How To Survive Middle School Science" is fun learning written in an easy form for kids and adults to absorb different aspects of science. Some of the topics are the weather, our planet and others, insects, animals, differences of analog and digital signals. Some people had the idea that once you leave school you are done learning. "How To Survive Middle School Science" reinforces the belief that you are never too old to learn something new.

Is This A Lousy Job Or Is It Me?
Terri Jacke
Inspired Publishing LLC
9780960100903, $24.95 pbk $9.99 Kindle

We all have at one time or another had work we didn't like. Terri Jacke through her own experiences cautions that from every job there is something to learn negative and positive to climb the ladder of success. She teaches that no matter what your coworkers do you should make it your policy to do your best. From being on time to responsibility for your own actions or standing up for yourself when a boss is wrong are some of the issues covered. Is This A Lousy Job Or Is It Me?" is a personal excursion into the professional world that has pointers for many to follow to have a better career.

Buck Rogers In The 25th Century A TV Companion
Patrick Jankiewicz
Foreword by Erin Gray
Bear Manor Media
9781593931711, $29.95 pbk $9.95 Kindle

Erin Gray who played Willma Deering in her Foreword tells how this role helped clear the way for other women to play strong lead characters. Jankiewicz picks up from Gray to reveal many new untold behind the scenes stories that makes viewing the Buck Rogers TV show so much more fun to watch. There are also episode guides, cast and guest bios, as well as never before seen pictures to scrutinize before sitting down to watch an episode. "Buck Rogers In The 25th Century A TV Companion" is the perfect resource to enjoy even more than ever before for viewing on DVD, Blu Ray, streaming services, or networks like Me TV.

Gary Roen
Senior Reviewer

Helen Dumont's Bookshelf

Aggie Mundeen Mystery Series
Nancy G. West
Southwest Publications

Nancy G. West is the author of outstanding mystery novels featuring female amateur sleuth Aggie Mundeen.

#1 "Fit to Be Dead" (9781734117509, $15.00 PB, 240pp)

Aggie Mundeen moves from Chicago to San Antonio with plans to start over, shape up at Fit and Firm Health Club and share fitness hints with readers of her column, "Stay Young with Aggie." While she sizes up Texans, a girl turns up dead. Despite the SAPD detective who arrives, she is determined to flush out the killer. When the club evacuates members in various stages of undress, and the killer comes after her, she has to forego fitness to try to stay alive.

#2: "Dang Near Dead" (9781734117554, $14.99, PB, 236pp)

Aggie Mundeen, friend Meredith, and Detective Sam (incognito) vacation at a Texas dude ranch where Aggie will research how to stay young and fresh in summer for her column readers. What could go wrong?

Cowhands hide secrets, the ranch manager envies her assistant, and former ranch owners died suspiciously. When an expert rider is thrown from a horse and lies hospitalized in a coma, Aggie is convinced somebody caused the fall. Despite Sam's warnings, she probes deeper and concocts ingenious methods to expose the assailant. When she scatters a cabal of cowboys, more than one hombre in the bunch would like to see her permanently Home on the Range.

#3: "Smart, But Dead" (9781734117561, $14.99, PB, 242pp)

Skirting forty and appalled by the prospect of slip-sliding into middle-age, Aggie Mundeen blasts off to the local university to study the genetics of aging and provide youthful hints for readers of her column, "Stay Young with Aggie." She is doggedly determined to stay young.

Despite conflicts with her professor, she learns about genetics and DNA. When she discovers a dead professor, the San Antonio detective urges her to avoid the investigation. But dangerously curious and programmed to prod, she races to solve the crime, flusters the academics, winds up prime suspect and is on target to become next campus corpse.

#4: "River City Dead" (9798985136920, $14.99, PB, 230pp)

Aggie Mundeen, single, excited and jittery, plans her first rendezvous with love SAPD Detective Sam Vanderhoven at a hotel on the San Antonio River Walk...a vacation from crime and a reset for their tumultuous relationship. In the midst of River City during Fiesta Week, what could go wrong?

Aggie meets the Fabulous Femmes, ladies holding their convention at the hotel. When hotel guests are murdered, she ignores Sam's advice to avoid the investigations and doggedly pursues clues. Her dancing debut with the Femmes in a Fiesta performance at Arneson River Theater is fraught with danger. When the killer shows up, chaos reins. Somebody might end up in the river.

"The Plunge" (Wildside Press, 9781479449323, $8.99, PB, 136pp)

"The Plunge" is the lead-in novella to the next spinoff series, Aggie Mundeen LAKE Mysteries.

When Aggie Mundeen accompanies SAPD Sam Vanderhoven on a weekend getaway to Lake Placid, she anticipates fun in the sun. They'll be caretaking Sam's friend's cottage on the Guadalupe River in Central Texas while Sam discretely investigates the theft of a friend's boat.

Unfortunately, the weather has plans of its own. Buckets of rain and gusting winds roil the lake, turning the peaceful Guadalupe into an angry raging river. As darkness descends, lightning reveals two people arguing on a dock across the river. When lightning flashes again, they are gone. Did Aggie and Sam witness an accident? A drowning? A murder?

The Plunge sweeps readers along with the threat of looming disaster, helpless before an untamable force, where sleuthing takes a back seat to survival.

Critique: Each of the Aggie Mundeen mystery novels by Nancy G. West is a deftly crafted and fun 'whodunnit' read that is laced with humor, inherently interesting characters, and more plot twists and turns than a carnival roller coaster. They are a lot like potato chips in that you can't just stop at one! Community library Mystery/Suspense collections, and the personal reading lists of dedicated mystery buffs would be well advised to follow the above order of the titles currently comprising the Aggie Mundeen Mystery Series.

Editorial Note: Nancy G. West is the award-winning author of psychological suspense, "Nine Days to Evil". She has a website at and can be followed on Aggie Blogs at http: //

A Brick and a Bible
Melissa Ford
Southern Illinois University Press
1915 University Press Drive, Carbondale, IL 62901
9780809338559, $28.50, HC, 242pp

Synopsis: "A Brick and a Bible: Black Women's Radical Activism in the Midwest during the Great Depression" is the first study of Black radicalism in midwestern cities before the civil rights movement in which author, academician and historian Melissa Ford connects the activism of Black women who championed justice during the Great Depression to those involved in the Ferguson Uprising and the Black Lives Matter movement.

"A Brick and a Bible" deftly examines how African American working-class women, many of whom had just migrated to "the promised land" only to find hunger, cold, and unemployment, were able to forge a region of revolutionary potential.

"A Brick and a Bible" also theorizes a tradition of Midwestern Black radicalism, a praxis-based ideology informed by but divergent from American Communism. Midwestern Black radicalism that contests that interlocking systems of oppression directly relates the distinct racial, political, geographic, economic, and gendered characteristics that make up the American heartland. "A Brick and a Bible" also illustrates how, at the risk of their careers, their reputations, and even their lives, African American working-class women in the Midwest used their position to shape a unique form of social activism.

Case studies of Detroit, St. Louis, Chicago, and Cleveland (all hotbeds of radical activism) follow African American women across the Midwest as they participated in the Ford Hunger March, organized the Funsten Nut Pickers' strike, led the Sopkin Dressmakers' strike, and supported the Unemployed Councils and the Scottsboro Boys' defense. Professor Ford profoundly re-imagines how we remember and interpret these "ordinary" women doing extraordinary things across the heartland. Once overlooked, their activism shaped a radical tradition in midwestern cities that continues to be seen in cities like Ferguson and Minneapolis today.

Critique: Enhanced for the reader with the inclusion of an Appendix (Black Populations in Selected Cities), a section of black/white photograph illustrations, thirty pages of Notes, a fourteen page Bibliography, and a nine page Index, "A Brick and a Bible: Black Women's Radical Activism in the Midwest during the Great Depression" is an impressively informative and original work of meticulous historical research and scholarship.

Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "A Brick and a Bible: Black Women's Radical Activism in the Midwest during the Great Depression" is an unique and highly recommended addition to community, college, and library Black History, Women's History, American History, and Feminist Theory collections and for a supplemental curriculum studies syllabus.

It should be noted for students, academia, political activists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "A Brick and a Bible: Black Women's Radical Activism in the Midwest during the Great Depression" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.39).

Editorial Note: A former Black Metropolis Research Consortium fellow, Melissa Ford is an assistant professor at Slippery Rock University specializing in African American history. Her work has appeared in American Communist History.

Milo's Eyes
Lissa Bachner
Behler Publications
9781941887103, $16.95, PB, 347pp

Synopsis: Lissa Bachner was born with a passion for horses and won her first blue ribbon at age five. Other awards would follow as a young rider, and for years Lissa trained with jumpers, tackling more difficult leaps, and working to perfect her ride.

When blindness struck in her teens, it appeared her passion for riding would come to an end. How could she jump hurdles when she could barely navigate through her own home?

But success, trust, and love came to Lissa when her trainer convinced her to buy a "diamond in the rough" from Germany. On New Year's Eve, Milo arrived at the barn, frightened and neglected. Taking one look at his shaking, filthy body, Lissa promised Milo that he would only know kindness. In return, Milo took special care of her in the ring.

Through countless eye surgeries and the many months of training and work, Lissa and Milo formed a magic bond that made them inseparable. And winners.

Critique: An inspiring and 'feel good' true life story of faith, love, compassion, and animal companionship and loyalty, "Milo's Eyes: How a Blind Equestrian and Her "Seeing Eye Horse" Saved Each Other" by Lissa Bachner is one of those books that will linger in the mind and memory of the reader long after it has been finished and set back upon the shelf. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community library collections, "Milo's Eyes" is a simply 'must read' selection for anyone who has had an equine companion of their own.

Editorial Note: Lissa Bachner grew up in Great Falls, VA. She was three years old when she first sat on a horse and by the time, she was five, she was competing in local horse shows. Soon after her sixth birthday, Lissa was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and a rare immune disorder that attacked her eyes called uveitis. Her left eye was the weaker of the two and when Lissa was 13, her retina detached leaving her permanently blind in that eye. Doctors and surgeries became a way of life for Lissa but no matter what, as soon as her doctors gave her the, "okay," she was back on a horse.

In 1996, Lissa graduated from Skidmore College with a BA in English. Two years later, while living in Maryland, Lissa's left eye developed complications and had to be enucleated.

While struggling to make decisions about her future and trying to get used to her prosthetic eye, Lissa purchased a misunderstood, yet talented horse from Germany. He arrived in Maryland, New Year's Day, 1999. Lissa and her horse, Milo, quickly developed a powerful bond. Her love brought the champion out in Milo. When glaucoma began to strip Lissa of her remaining vision, that same love gave her the strength to keep fighting for her sight.

Helen Dumont

John Taylor's Bookshelf

Introducing the Pseudepigrapha of Second Temple Judaism
Daniel M. Gurtner
Baker Academic
c/o Baker Publishing Group
6030 East Fulton, Ada, MI 49301
9780801049873, $49.99, HC, 480pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Introducing the Pseudepigrapha of Second Temple Judaism: Message, Context, and Significance", Daniel M. Gurtner introduces his readers to a much neglected and misunderstood assortment of Jewish writings from around the time of the New Testament.

Dispelling mistaken notions of "falsely attributed writings" that are commonly inferred from the designation "pseudepigrapha", Gurtner demonstrates the rich indebtedness these works exhibit to the traditions and scriptures of Israel's past. In surveying many of the most important works, "Introducing the Pseudepigrapha of Second Temple Judaism" shows how the pseudepigrapha are best appreciated in their own varied contexts rather than as mere "background" to early Christianity or emerging rabbinic Judaism.

Critique: In biblical studies, the term pseudepigrapha can refer to an assorted collection of Jewish religious works thought to be written c. 300 BCE to 300 CE. They are distinguished by Protestants from the deuterocanonical books (Catholic and Orthodox) or Apocrypha (Protestant).

"Introducing the Pseudepigrapha of Second Temple Judaism: Message, Context, and Significance" is a complete and exceptionally informative, well written, organized and presented study that is ideal for use as a textbook for Biblical Apocrypha & Pseudepigrapha curriculums, as well as curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of bible students, academia, clergy, seminary students, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the history of Judaism, Old Testament commentaries, and early Christian (1st through 3rd Century) history, that "Introducing the Pseudepigrapha of Second Temple Judaism: Message, Context, and Significance" is also available in a paperback edition (9781540965417, $47.00) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $35.32).

Editorial Note: Daniel M. Gurtner (PhD, University of St. Andrews) has written extensively on Second Temple Judaism, notably Second Baruch: A Critical Edition of the Syriac Text and the T&T Clark Encyclopedia of Second Temple Judaism (edited with Loren T. Stuckenbruck). His primary research interests lie in the Gospels and their interface with the Hebrew Bible and Second Temple Judaism, as in his published dissertation, The Torn Veil: Matthew's Exposition of the Death of Jesus. He is currently writing the Word Biblical Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew.

Sex in City Plants, Animals, Fungi, and More
Kenneth D. Frank
Columbia University Press
61 West 62nd Street, New York, NY 10023-7015
9780231206068, $120.00, HC, 208pp

Synopsis: Cities pose formidable obstacles to nonhuman life. Vast expanses of asphalt and concrete are inhospitable to plants and animals; traffic noise and artificial light disturb natural rhythms; sewage and pollutants imperil existence. Yet cities teem with non-human life: In row house neighborhoods, tiny flowers bloom from cracks in the sidewalk. White clover covers lawns, its seeds dispersed by shoes and birds. Moths flutter and spiders weave their webs near electric lights. Sparrows and squirrels feast on the scraps people leave behind. Pairs of red-tailed hawks nest on window ledges. How do wild plants and animals in urban areas find mates? How do they navigate the patchwork of habitats to reproduce while avoiding inbreeding? In what ways do built environments enable or inhibit mating?

With the publication of "Sex in City Plants, Animals, Fungi, and More: A Guide to Reproductive Diversity", Dr. Kenneth D. Frank explores the natural history of sex in urban bacteria, fungi, plants, and nonhuman animals. Dr. Frank also illuminates the reproductive behavior of scores of species. He examines topics such as breeding systems, sex determination, sex change, sexual conflict, sexual trauma, sexually transmitted disease, sexual mimicry, sexual cannibalism, aphrodisiacs, and lost sex.

Dr. Frank offers a guide to urban reproductive diversity across a range of conditions, showing how understanding of sex and mating furthers the appreciation of biodiversity. He presents reproductive diversity as elegant but vulnerable, underscoring the consequences of human activity.

Featuring compelling photographs of a multitude of life forms in their city habitats, "Sex in City Plants, Animals, Fungi, and More: A Guide to Reproductive Diversity" provides a new lens on urban natural history.

Critique: Beautifully and profusely illustrated throughout with full color photography, "Sex in City Plants, Animals, Fungi, and More: A Guide to Reproductive Diversity" is exceptionally informative and impressively 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation. While unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Zoology, Ecology, and Phyusical Anthropology collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Sex in City Plants, Animals, Fungi, and More: A Guide to Reproductive Diversity" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9780231206075, $30.00) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.19).

Editorial Note: Kenneth D. Frank is a retired physician whose current research focuses on how plants and animals adapt to urbanization. His work has been published in journals including Science, the New England Journal of Medicine, Pediatrics, Entomological News, and the Journal of the Lepidopterists' Society.

John Taylor

Mary Cowper's Bookshelf

A Life Cycle
Nicole Asherah
Woven Ember Press
9798985187106, $10.99, PB, 152pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "A Life Cycle", Nicole Asherah follows the introspective process of transformation after emotional hardship through poetic language. Asherah serves as a guide through the sections of her book while also allowing the readers to see the words as their own.

"A Life Cycle" is broken into sections after a traumatic event that represents the final tipping point. What follows is The Shattering: a deep dive into the suffering of fully losing one's sense of self and safety, The Healing: a journey through processing layers of trauma to reach the root hurts of childhood, Light Shines Through: an exploration of reigniting hope and learning to find joy, and The Loving: a discovery of what love is and how the act of loving has much more to do with one's self than the person receiving the love.

"A Life Cycle" simply transcends the genre of poetry because of its ability to universally help people process and name feelings that often elude words. It is ideal reading for anyone developing, hurting, healing, or becoming new versions of themselves. Nicole knows this because that is exactly what she was doing when she wrote it: healing childhood trauma, processing a sexual assault, and learning how to experience joy.

Critique: An apt way to describe "A Life Cycle" would be 'healing in the form of poetry'. All the more impressive when considering that "A Life Cycle" is author Nichole Asherah's debut as a published poetry, "A Life Cycle" is one of those life-healing, life-enhancing volumes that is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal and community library Poetry Shelf collections, as well as Self-Help/Self-Improvement reading lists.

Editorial Note: Nicole Asherah is an artist whose main mediums are poetry, film photography, and oil painting. Switching between mediums of expression, Nicole tries to connect readers to intimate moments, feelings, and relationships experienced throughout life. Nicole has unique background of being raised by a psychologist, backpacking around more than 15 countries by herself, attending Roehampton University's Creative Writing Poetry MFA, volunteering with SURJ and other grassroots organizations that have all synthesized to give her broad understanding of peoples individual struggles and how to capture them in art.

Yippie Girl: Exploits in Protest and Defeating the FBI
Judy Gumbo
Three Rooms Press
561 Hudson Street, Suite 33, New York, NY 10014
9781953103185, $18.00, PB, 360pp

Synopsis: In 1968, a 24-year-old woman moved to Berkeley, California and immediately became enmeshed in the Youth International Party, aka The Yippies, an anti-war satirical protest group. In the next few years, Judy Gumbo (a nickname given her by Eldridge Cleaver), was soon at the center of counter-cultural activity ranging from protests in People's Park, to meetings at Black Panther headquarters, to running a pig for President at the raucous Democratic National Convention in Chicago, a protest that devolved into violent attacks by the police and arrests that led to the notorious Chicago Conspiracy Trial.

With the publication of "Yippie Girl: Exploits in Protest and Defeating the FBI", the reader is provided with an historical account that is a combination of history and memoir in which Judy Gumbo reveals intimate details of (and struggles with) her fellow radicals Jerry Rubin, Anita & Abbie Hoffman, Eldridge Cleaver, Paul Krassner, Stew Albert, and more, detailing their experiences in radical protests.

This deep dive into her activism includes details of her organization of a national women's rights group, her visit to North Vietnam during the war, her travels around the globe to promote women's liberation and anti-war protest, and her environmental activism. It also includes extensive excerpts from illegal wiretaps and surveillance by the FBI.

"Yippie Girl" also explores Gumbo's life as a protester to show that, while circumstances always change, protesters can stay loyal to the causes they believe in and remain true to themselves. She also reveals how dogmatism, authoritarianism, and interpersonal conflict can damage those same just causes, offering a timeless and strategic guide for activists today protesting against injustice in all its forms.

Critique: Candid, informative, fascinating, detailed, impressively organized and presented, "Yippie Girl: Exploits in Protest and Defeating the FBI" is an extraordinary memoir of an extraordinary woman in extraordinary times. Timely in that contemporary political activists can draw inspiration from this member of a previous general of protestors, and timeless in that much of what was being protested about remain's controversial issues relevant today, "Yippie Girl: Exploits in Protest and Defeating the FBI" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library American Biography, Political Science, and American History collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Yippie Girl: Exploits in Protest and Defeating the FBI" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Judy Gumbo is one of the few remaining female members of the original Yippies, a satirical protest group who went on to write for the Berkeley Barb and the Berkeley Tribe, helped start a women's group, visited the former North Vietnam in 1970 then travelled the globe agitating against the war and for the liberation of women.

Austentatious: Life Lessons from Jane Austen
Avery Hayes
Smith Street Books
c/o Rizzoli
300 Park Avenue South, 3rd floor. New York, NY 10010
9781922417787, $16.95, Card Deck

Synopsis: It is a truth universally acknowledged that most of us who are dedicated Jane Austen fans could use some guidance. Whether we are looking to marry landed gentry with several carriages, have been falsely accused an in-law of murder, or our sister has eloped with our ex, the wit and wisdom of Jane Austen will steer us through any scandal or weekday morning.

Created by Avery Hayes (who is a writer and editor based in Melbourne, Australia), Each individual card of the 50 card deck comprising "Austentatious: Life Lessons from Jane Austen" features a quote and advice from Austen and her beloved characters or narrator. Just shuffle the deck and then let Elizabeth Bennet, Marianne Dashwood, or Mr Collins illuminate your path.

Critique: Providing hours and hours of great fun (and some notable insights!), "Austentatious: Life Lessons from Jane Austen" is a 'must' for the legions of Jane Austen fans -- and will prove to be a unique and enduringly appreciated addition to personal, academic, and community library collections.

Cook, Taste, Learn
Guy Crosby
Columbia University Press
61 West 62nd Street, New York, NY 10023-7015
9780231192927, $26.95, HC, 208pp

Synopsis: Cooking food is one of the activities that makes humanity unique. It's not just about what tastes good: advances in cooking technology have been a constant part of our progress, from the ability to control fire to the emergence of agriculture to modern science's understanding of what happens at a molecular level when we apply heat to food. Mastering new ways of feeding ourselves has resulted in leaps in longevity and explosions in population -- and the potential of cooking science is still largely untapped.

With the publication of "Cook, Taste, Learn: How the Evolution of Science Transformed the Art of Cooking ", food scientist Guy Crosby offers a lively tour of the history and science behind the art of cooking, with a focus on achieving a healthy daily diet. He traces the evolution of cooking from its earliest origins, recounting the innovations that have unraveled the mysteries of health and taste.

Crosby also explains why both home cooks and professional chefs should learn how to apply cooking science, arguing that we can improve the nutritional quality and gastronomic delight of everyday eating. Science-driven changes in the way we cook can help reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases and enhance our quality of life.

"Cook, Taste, Learn: How the Evolution of Science Transformed the Art of Cooking" features accessible explanations of complex topics as well as a selection of recipes that illustrate scientific principles. It also reveals the possibilities for transforming cooking from a craft into the perfect blend of art and science.

Critique: Enhanced for the reader with the inclusion of an eight page Bibliography, and a ten page Index, "Cook, Taste, Learn: How the Evolution of Science Transformed the Art of Cooking" is an impressively informative, expertly presented historical study that will prove an inherently instructive culinary history of how the human experience of cooking food has evolved over the millennia and down to the presented day. Fascinating and fun, "Cook, Taste, Learn: How the Evolution of Science Transformed the Art of Cooking" is a highly recommended addition to professional, community, college, and university library Food Science & Gastronomical History collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Cook, Taste, Learn: How the Evolution of Science Transformed the Art of Cooking" is also available in a paperback edition (9780231192934, $20.00) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.51).

Editorial Note: Guy Crosby is an adjunct associate professor at Harvard University, and formerly an associate professor in the Department of Chemistry and Food Science at Framingham State University. Prior to his work as a professor he spent thirty years in the food industry at FMC Corporation and Opta Food Ingredients, Inc. He is also the co-author of The Science of Good Cooking (2012) and Cook's Science (2016).

Mary Cowper

Micah Andrew's Bookshelf

Olaf Salie
Prestel Publishing
9783791386171, $70.00, HC, 256pp

Synopsis: Virtually no other musical discipline is as closely linked with the culture and essence of a country as the chanson with France. With roots in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, this secular, lyric-driven form of song has been reborn throughout French history -- and continues to influence today's pop artists. Featuring the work of such celebrated photographers as Robert Doisneau, "Chanson: A Tribute to France's Most Romantic and Poetic Musical Tradition" by Olaf Salie is an inherently fascinating history of the chanson and profiles some of its most beloved artists, their music, and the cultural moments they represent.

Readers will learn about Aristide Bruant -- the red scarf-wearing subject of one of Lautrec's most recognizable posters. "Chanson" also recounts the lives of Josephine Baker, Maurice Chevalier, and their contemporaries as it peeks inside the Folies Berge?re and the Moulin Rouge. It then introduces readers to the "Piaf Generation," which produced the likes of Yves Montand and Georges Moustaki. And it explores the bohemian enclaves of postwar France, when revolutionary artists remade the chanson in their own melancholy image.

In addition, this coffee-table style volume (9.83 x 1.1 x 12.12 inches) shows how classic songs of the all American song book, such as "My Way," or "September Morning" have their roots in the chanson tradition. Illustrated with 200 lavish photographs, the pages of this beautifully produced hardback are edged with the French tricolor. Whether you're a fan of 1920s torch songs or prefer the electronica of ZAZ, you'll learn how the chanson is important to just about every French musical tradition -- and why this genre is the perfect expression of the country's history and culture.

Critique: Beautifully reproduced photographs illustrating an impressively informative and exceptional text, "Chanson: A Tribute to France's Most Romantic and Poetic Musical Tradition" is as unique as it is comprehensive and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, college, and university library Music History collections in general, and France's Chanson traditions, influences, and performers in particular.

Editorial Note: Olaf Salie is a journalist and publisher specializing in media, design and culture. He is also the author of Rising: Young Artists to Keep an Eye on and lives in Berlin, Germany.

What's Good: Notes on Rap and Language
Daniel Levin Becker
City Lights Publishers
261 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94133
9780872868762, $22.95, PB, 312pp

Synopsis: "What's Good: Notes on Rap and Language" by Daniel Levin Becker is a blending of passionate lyrical analysis, a set of freewheeling liner notes, and a love letter to the most vital American art form of the last half century.

Over a series of short chapters, each centered on a different lyric, Daniel Levin Becker considers how rap's use of language operates and evolves at levels ranging from the local (slang, rhyme) to the analytical (quotation, transcription) to the philosophical (morality, criticism, irony), celebrating the pleasures and perils of any attempt to decipher its meaning-making technologies.

Ranging from Sugarhill Gang to UGK to Young M.A, Rakim to Rick Ross to Rae Sremmurd, Jay-Z to Drake to Snoop Dogg, What's Good reads with the momentum of a deftly curated mixtape, drawing you into the conversation and teaching

Critique: Exceptionally well written, impressively informed and informative, and an absorbing read from cover to cover, "What's Good: Notes on Rap and Language" will have particular interest for poets, literary critics, authors and lyricists. Thoughtful and thought-provoking, "What's Good: Notes on Rap and Language" is an extraordinary and highly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, college, and university library Contemporary Literary Criticism collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: Currently residing in Paris, France, Daniel Levin Becker is an American critic, translator, and editor, and the youngest member of the Oulipo literary collective. He is also the author of Many Subtle Channels: In Praise of Potential Literature (Harvard UP, 2012) and the translator of, among others, Georges Perec's La Boutique Obscure (Melville House, 2013) and Eduardo Berti's An Ideal Presence (Fern Books, 2021), and co-translator of Frederic Forte's Minute-Operas (Burning Deck, 2015) and All That Is Evident Is Suspect: Readings from the Oulipo 1963-2018 (McSweeney's, 2018). He is a contributing editor to The Believer, senior editor at McSweeney's Publishing, and English editor for the French nonfiction publisher Odile Jacob.

Micah Andrew

Michael Dunford's Bookshelf

Clock and Compass
Mark Monmonier
University of Iowa Press
119 West Park Road, Iowa City, IA 52242-1000
9781609388218, $19.95, PB, 196pp

Synopsis: A city guy who aspired to be a farmer, John Byron Plato took a three-month winter course in agriculture at Cornell before starting high school, which he left a year before graduation to fight in the Spanish-American War. He worked as a draftsman, ran a veneers business, patented and manufactured a parking brake for horse-drawn delivery wagons, taught school, and ran a lumber yard. In his early thirties he bought some farmland north of Denver, Colorado, and began raising Guernsey cattle, which he advertised for sale in the local paper. When an interested buyer eager to see his calves couldn't find his farm, Plato realized that an RFD postal address was only good for delivering mail.

Plato's solution was a map-and-directory combo that used direction and distance from a local business center to give farmers a real address, just like city dwellers. He patented his invention called the "Clock System" and tried to sell it to the Post Office Department.

"Clock and Compass: How John Byron Plato Gave Farmers a Real Address" by Professor Mark Monmonier is a tale of persistence and failure as rural farming declined and technology and capitalism overtook John Byron Plato's chances at geographic immortality.

Critique: A inherently fascinating, meticulous researched based, unique and original contribution to the study of American History, "Clock and Compass: How John Byron Plato Gave Farmers a Real Address" by Professor Mark Monmonier will prove to be an immediately welcome and enduringly appreciated addition to community, college, and university library collections. Impressively informed and informative, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Clock and Compass: How John Byron Plato Gave Farmers a Real Address" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Mark Monmonier is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Geography and the Environment at Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. He has authored twenty books, including "How to Lie with Maps".

Michael Dunford

Nancy Lorraine's Bookshelf

Pinky Swear
Diane Wright Forti, author
Maryana Kachmar, illustrator
Brandylane Publishers, Inc.
c/o Belle Isle Books
5 South First St., Richmond, VA 23219
9781951565350, $22.95 HC, 32pp, Ages 5-10
9781951565367, $13.95 PB, $2.99 Kindle

"Pinky Swear" is an inspiring story about a unique girl named Maggie and a unique pink river dolphin pal who comes to her for special solace at a time of loneliness. Maggie has a physical disability; she was born with an incomplete right arm. She had learned many ways to compensate by using her good left arm, and her best friend, Brooke, always helped her to manage daily play and activities as she needed.

Maggie and her family had to make a move to Urbanna, over an hour away from the community she had been born into including her friend Brooke. Her parents promised Brooke would come to visit sometimes. But Maggie was lonely at her new school. Other kids did not understand about her missing right hand and forearm, and asked her painful questions about it, like "Who cut off your arm?"

Maggie spent quiet time sitting on the river dock near her home and it was here that she met her new friend, Paddy, the pink river dolphin. Paddy always seemed to cheer Maggie up, and even would play and swim with her in the river. One day while Brooke was visiting, both girls were in the river with Paddy, and a speeding boat caused Maggie to be washed underwater, swallowing a lot of water. Paddy came to her rescue, and Brooke shouted for help. Paddy had rescued Maggie!

It was the first time her parents had ever seen Paddy, and they helped Maggie to investigate exactly what kind of dolphin she was. They found Paddy was very far from a warm water home where she belonged, so after praying and soul searching, Maggie agreed to request the help of the Sea Animal Rescue Team to help Paddy relocate to a safe waters climate where she could thrive and perhaps reunite with other pink river dolphins.

It was hard for Maggie to say goodbye to Paddy, but she knew Paddy would always be in her heart, and that God had sent her to help heal her heart. It was Maggie's part to help send Paddy on to a better, safer home. Maggie would never forget Paddy, and how she had helped her.

"Pinky Swear" is a beautiful and inspirational story about dealing with adversity and painful differences and especially recommended for family, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 5 to 10 will enjoy this moving story about a unique river dolphin and the girl she befriended.

Hiking the Grand Mesa: Clementine the Rescue Dog Story
Kyle Torke, author
Barbara Torke, illustrator
Loving Healing Press
5145 Pontiac Trail, Ann Arbor, MI 48105
9781615995066, $26.95, HC; 46pp
9781615995059 $15.95, PB; Kindle, $4.18

"Hiking the Grand Mesa: Clementine the Rescue Dog Story" is the most recent Clementine the Rescue Dog Story title about twins Coover and Conrad and their beautiful canine, Clementine, and their exploration hike into the Grand Mesa desert in the Colorado Dobies.

Author Kyle Torke is father to twins Coover and Conrad, and his descriptions of the many dazzling natural wonders large and small of the Colorado Dobies is both transfixing and transformative, while the watercolor paintings by Barbara Torke provide joyous, vivid flashing peeks into the entire adventure.

Clementine, the rescue dog accompanies the twins on their hike, which includes a slightly dangerous descent down into a ravine to investigate an old abandoned Jeep. Accompanied by their father, grandmother, and Clementine, the twins discover incredible variety in sightings, including a lizard, a stinkbug, a turtle, a jackrabbit, finches, a rabbit, a coyote, prairie dogs, yucca, wildflowers, and so much more. They dream of discovering long buried prehistoric mastodon or dinosaur bones, which their grandmother has told them are present in the Grand Mesa area.

The distinct differences in the two boy's personalities are gently portrayed, as Conrad confidently rushes into each phase of the adventure, while sensitive Coover feels a bit lonely and overwhelmed at first, taking his time to warm into the entire hiking adventure experience. In the end each boy is renewed by a multitude of exciting experiences and discoveries , returning safe to the trail with their father and grandmother and Clementine, ready to rest at home and tackle another great adventure tomorrow under the watchful eye of their beloved black and white dog, Clementine.

"Hiking the Grand Mesa" will appeal to a wide audience, adult as will as juvenile, including canine supporters and nature lovers of all ages. It is full of notable vistas and intricate miniature visions included in a great scenic panorama and adventure. This delightful series is a treat to read for all ages.

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Paul Vogel's Bookshelf

Benjamin Franklin's Last Bet
Michael Meyer
Mariner Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
195 Broadway, New York, NY, 10007
9781328568892, $28.99, HC, 368pp

Synopsis: Benjamin Franklin was not a gambling man. But at the end of his illustrious life, the Founder allowed himself a final wager on the survival of the United States: a gift of two thousand pounds to Boston and Philadelphia, to be lent out to tradesmen over the next two centuries to jump-start their careers. Each loan would be repaid with interest over ten years. If all went according to Franklin's inventive scheme, the accrued final payout in 1991 would be a windfall.

In "Benjamin Franklin's Last Bet: The Favorite Founder's Divisive Death, Enduring Afterlife, and Blueprint for American Prosperity", Professor Michael Meyer traces the evolution of these twin funds as they age alongside America itself, bankrolling woodworkers and silversmiths, trade schools and space races. Over time, Franklin's wager was misused, neglected, and contested -- but never wholly extinguished. With an eloquent charm and an inquisitive flair, Professor Meyer shows how Franklin's stake in the "leather-apron" class remains in play to this day, and offers an inspiring blueprint for prosperity in our modern era of growing wealth disparity and social divisions.

Critique: An absolutely unique and academically meticulous contribution to our understanding of the inventive genius of Benjamin Franklin, no personal, professional, community, college, or university library Benjamin Franklin or Founding Fathers collection can be considered complete without the inclusion of a copy of "Benjamin Franklin's Last Bet: The Favorite Founder's Divisive Death, Enduring Afterlife, and Blueprint for American Prosperity" by Professor Michael Meyer. Enhanced for academia and interested readers with the inclusion of a nine page Bibliography, thirty-two pages of Notes, a one page listing of Credits, a nineteen page Index, and a four page 'Time Line of Benjamin Franklin's Life and Afterlife', "Benjamin Franklin's Last Bet" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (HarperAudio, 9798200946389, $28.99, CD).

Editorial Note: Meyer is a professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh, where he teaches nonfiction writing.

Paul T. Vogel

S.A. Gorden's Bookshelf

Sherlock Holmes and the Giant Rat of Sumatra
Paul D. Gilbert
Joffe Books classic mysteries and crime
9781789312096 $9.99
B07YCQ5LWK, $2.99, 226 pages

Sherlock Holmes and the Giant Rat of Sumatra is a Sherlock tale written in the original style with references to the original stories. I have two problems with the story. The first is a problem with the formatting done for the ebook. A significant portion of the tale is a series of letters to the son of an explorer. Instead of changing the font style for the letters the publisher decided to make the font of the letters smaller. If the reader has already adjusted the ereader to their ideal font size, this makes the letters too small for easy reading. The final result is that the reader has to adjust the font size between the pages of letters and the narration. This becomes annoying very fast. The other problem is more of a personal choice. The author, while trying to match the original writing style, over does the matching. The forced style matching soon felt very artificial to the narration.

The Giant Rat is a good locked room mystery except that instead of a locked room there is an abandoned ship which drifted to a mooring. How did the crew disappear? Where did the ship come from? Who attacked the remaining crew on the ship? Who is the mysterious stalker? The questions carry the narration to the end of the story.

The tale is a solid mystery and reads in the original Holmes style, if a bit longer than how Doyle would have written it. People who already enjoy the Sherlock tales will enjoy this one. For those readers, who are starting to explore this subgenre, it would be recommended to read the original stories first. The formatting problems and the slightly off technique of mimicking the original writing style might put off the reader from this subgenre.

Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth (The Amanda Cadabra Cozy Paranormal Mysteries Book 1)
Holly Bell
9781720122661 $10.99
B07GZQH8P8, $2.99, 296 pages

Amanda Cadabra Book 1 is more of a coming of age story than a cozy mystery. There is a mystery in the story but the bulk of the tale is about a young girl growing up into a working witch. It is also obvious that this is an intro into a larger series. The story does have a solid ending but there are enough dangling threads to the backstory that sequels will be needed.

Amanda's parents and other relatives have died in an accident years before the start of the story. She has been raised by her grandparents. The death of her parents is now a cold case that the original detective on the case has never given up on solving. He is near retirement and has given the cold case to his replacement, Michael Hogarth.

Hogarth introducing himself to the Cadabras is where the story begins. The tale is filled with flashbacks, both the more ancient past and Amanda's growing into an adult.

Amanda inherits her grandfather's furniture restoration business. She takes a restoration job at an old mansion in her village. The mansion is haunted by both ghosts and neighbors. Amanda has to both finish her restoration project and clean the haunters out of the old mansion.

With the split storylines, Amanda Cadabra doesn't solidly fit into a single genre. Those seeking a cozy mystery might be best served looking elsewhere but those who enjoy a light paranormal growing up tale will like this book.

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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