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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 15, Number 11 November 2016 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

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

Cowper's Bookshelf

Rio: A Photographic Journey down the Old Rio Grande
Melissa Savage, editor
University of New Mexico Press
MSC05 3185
1 University of New Mexico, Albuquerque NM 87131-0001
9780826356895, $29.95, PB, 144pp,

Synopsis: Melissa Savage is a geographer and conservationist. She is a professor emerita at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the director of the Four Corners Institute in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In the pages of "Rio: A Photographic Journey down the Old Rio Grande" she deftly weaves together landscape and memory in her presentation of historical photographs taken of the Rio Grande of the American Southwest.

The dynamic Rio Grande river has run through all the valley's diverse cultures: Puebloan, Spanish, Mexican, and Anglo. Photography arrived in the region at the beginning of the river's great transformation by trade, industry, and cultivation.

"Rio: A Photographic Journey down the Old Rio Grande" is a remarkable compendium of visual photographic images that document the sweeping history of that transformation and include those of nineteenth-century expeditionary photographer W. H. Jackson and the photographic work of the great twentieth-century chronicler of the river, Laura Gilpin.

The photographs are assembled in thematic bundles including river crossings, cultivation, trade, floods, the Mexican insurrection, the Big Bend region, and the estuary where the river at last meets the Gulf of Mexico.

"Rio: A Photographic Journey down the Old Rio Grande" is informationally enriched with the inclusion of informed and informative essays by Rina Swentzell, G. Emlen Hall, Juan Estevan Arellano, Estella Leopold, Norma Elia Cantu, Jan Reid, and Dan Flores

Critique: The stunning, full-color photographs make "Rio: A Photographic Journey down the Old Rio Grande" a joy to simply page through, and the next best thing to sightseeing the Rio Grande in person. Unique, informative, and a visual tour-de-force from beginning to end, "Rio: A Photographic Journey down the Old Rio Grande" is unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library American Photography collections.

Arthritis-Proof Your Life
Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM, ROHP
Humanix Books
9781630060626 $24.99 hc / $9.99 Kindle

Synopsis: Are you one of the 350 million people worldwide who has been diagnosed with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, lupus, or fibromyalgia? In Arthritis-Proof Your Life, discover the bodily imbalances and lifestyle choices that are causing the inflammation and get rid of it. Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook shows you:

How to Eat to Beat Inflammation, Stiffness, and Discomfort
Dangers and Limitations of Common Arthritis Medications
New & Cutting-Edge Natural Treatments for Joint Disorders
Top Anti-Inflammatory and Anti-Pain Foods and Spices
Pain Reduction at Your Fingertips With Acupressure
The Gut-Arthritis Connection - and Why it Matters
Using Medical Aromatherapy to Feel Better Fast
How to Safely Boost Your Body's Innate Healing Capacity
Delicious Recipes to Relieve Pain and Heal Joints
And Much More

Critique: Arthritis-Proof Your Life: Secrets to Pain-Free Living Without Drugs is a "must-read" for anyone at risk for, suffering from, or who has a loved one menaced by arthritis. Candid advice for dietary and lifestyle changes, as well as information about noninvasive alternative medicinal treatments, make Arthritis-Proof Your Life a resource for improving the quality of day-to-day living. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Arthritis-Proof Your Life is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

St. Francis of Assisi
Bret Thoman, OFS
TAN Books
c/o Saint Benedict Press
PO Box 410487, Charlotte, NC 28241
9781618907493 $27.95 hc / $9.98 Kindle

Synopsis: All Christians know his name. Few truly know the man.

Francis of Assisi was not even five feet tall. He was not well educated. And yet he is the one saint commonly recognized as Alter Christus, the "other Christ." Francis is not just any saint - he's a saint for everyone, whatever your place or position in life. But do we really know him?

Who was this man at his core? What was it that thrust this little man from a little town to the heights of sanctity, into a place of high honor among the celestial court?

In this riveting biography, author Bret Thoman accomplishes what few biographers have. He pierces the inner life of Francis, revealing his deepest passions, his unquenchable love for poverty, and his unshakable grip on the core of the Gospel. The life of Francis, so often festooned with spectacle and miracle, is in reality the story of a soul yearning for God in every moment and glimpsing His presence in all creation.

If you want to see the hidden life of the greatest saint, if you want to hear his thoughts, if you want to feel the fervor that blazed within his soul, you must read St. Francis of Assisi: Passion, Poverty, and the Man who Transformed the Catholic Church.

Critique: St. Francis of Assisi: Passion, Poverty and the Man Who Transformed the Catholic Church is a biography that not only chronicles St. Francis' mundane life, but also explores his inner life and path of connection to God. This is the true-life story of a man's yearning for God, and his search to spread love and compassion. Uplifting and inspiring, St. Francis of Assisi: Passion, Poverty and the Man Who Transformed the Catholic Church is highly recommended religious biography collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that St. Francis of Assisi: Passion, Poverty and the Man Who Transformed the Catholic Church is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.98).

My Life with the Saints
James Martin, SJ
Loyola Press
3441 North Ashland Avenue, Chicago, IL 60657
9780829444520 $16.95 pbk

Synopsis: Witty, wryly honest, and always original, My Life with the Saints is James Martin's story of how his life has been shaped by some surprising friends - the saints of the Catholic Church. In his modern classic memoir, Martin introduces us to saints throughout history - from St. Peter to Dorothy Day, St. Francis of Assisi to Mother Teresa - and chronicles his lifelong friendships with them. Filled with fascinating tales, Martin's funny, vibrant, and stirring book invites readers to discover how saints guide us throughout our earthly journeys and how they help each of us find holiness in our own lives.

Featuring a new chapter from Martin, this tenth-anniversary edition of the best-selling memoir updates readers about his life over the past ten years. In that time, he has been a New York Times best-selling author, official chaplain of The Colbert Report, and a welcome presence in the media whenever there's a breaking Catholic news story. But he has always remained recognizably himself. John L. Allen, Jr., the acclaimed Catholic journalist, contributes a foreword that shows how Martin has become one of the wisest and most insightful voices of this era.

Critique: Now in a tenth anniversary edition with a new chapter from the author, My Life with the Saints is the award-winning memoir of Jesuit priest James Martin, SJ, who speaks of the spiritual connections he cultivated with saints including Peter, Francis of Assisi, Therese of Lisieux, and Ignatius of Loyola. Some of the faithful and pious figures he speaks of have since canonized: Pope John XXIII and Mother Teresa have been elevated to sainthood, while Pedro Arrupe and Dorothy Day have been declared "Servants of God" by the Catholic Church. Poignant and passionate, My Life with the Saints is highly recommended especially for church library collections and personal reading lists.

Neuron Galaxy
Jay Leibold
Morphonix, LLC
9780692747667 $9.99

Synopsis Neuron Galaxy is a story about a lonely little neuron that wants to connect with other neurons. The book will help children to understand the basic function of the brain and appreciate what a wonderful, amazing organ their own brain is -- one of the most remarkable things in the galaxy! Prominent neuroscientists vetted the text and have endorsed the book. The story makes a graphic connection between the stars in the sky and the cells in our brain. It leaves readers with a sense of awe and wonder for the human brain equal to our awe and wonder for the universe.

Critique: Intended for young people ages five and up, Neuron Galaxy is both a delightful bedtime story and an intriguing glimpse into the complex mysteries of the brain. A joy to read aloud and share, Neuron Galaxy is a wonderful giftbook for families with young children, and a choice pick for public library picturebook collections. Highly recommended.

The Capital of Kansas City
Gary Gildner
BkMk Press
University of Missouri-Kansas City
University House, Room 224, 5100 Rockhill Road, Kansas City, MO 64110-2446
9781943491025 $15.95

Synopsis: In Gary Gildner's fourth collection of original fiction, composition teacher Wanda Delight, in heels long and sharp enough to pierce a rattler, loses her heart to prime example Timmy Sheean; WWII vet Sergeant Major George Prolly flees Piney Woods Rest in his wheelchair, leaving behind Miss Flambeau the exotic dancer; Kansas City lawyer Mary Beth Urquhart makes her way among her long-ago college poetry professor, truck driver Marvin Gaye, and the cologned-up, slippery father of a White Sox pitching phenom. Elsewhere, the bishop's teenaged nephew and yard boy, "Samson" Tuohy, is smitten by Professor Singh's young cello-playing wife Isabel - plus there's Polish beauty Beata, old bronc rider Ray Wheeler, Aunt Gussie, the king and queen of the swans, and many more.

Critique: The brief stories in The Capital of Kansas City come alive with conflicted, three-dimensional characters facing all-too-human dilemmas. A literary treasure that can be savored one story at a time or all at once, The Capital of Kansas City is a choice pick for personal reading lists, book clubs, and public library collections. Highly recommended.

The Five Elements
Dondi Dahlin
Tarcher Perigee
c/o Penguin Group, USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3657
9780399176296, $17.00, PB, 320pp,

Synopsis: In the pages of "The Five Elements: Understand Yourself and Enhance Your Relationships with the Wisdom of the World's Oldest Personality Type System", Dondi Dahlin (an award-winning speaker and teacher, internationally-acclaimed dancer, and member of the Screen Actors Guild) shows us that we are all born with individual rhythms that go beyond the influence of our genes and upbringing.

The five elements concept originated in ancient Chinese medicine over 2,000 years ago -- when scholars theorized that the universe is composed of five forces: water, wood, fire, earth, and metal. Understanding these elements helps us stay in balance physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. By explaining the efficacy of wood, the depth of water, the joy of fire, the compassion of earth, and the wisdom of metal, "The Five Elements" helps people understand themselves and form lasting connections to others, answering the age-old question of why we do what we do.

Critique: Impressively researched and exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The Five Elements: Understand Yourself and Enhance Your Relationships with the Wisdom of the World's Oldest Personality Type System" is an extraordinary read that is as insightful and it is thoughtful and thought-provoking. Thoroughly 'reader friendly' in tone and commentary, "The Five Elements" is very highly recommended for community library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Five Elements" is also available in a Kindle format ($12.99).

Keep Your Chin Up
Linda Lendt
Balboa Press
c/o Hay House, Inc.
PO Box 5100, Carlsbad, CA 92018-5100
9781504345101 $11.99 pbk / $3.99 Kindle

Synopsis: "Keep Your Chin Up" was written by Linda Lendt for the specific purpose of helping her readers to 'take the lid off your mind'; discover that you have more potential than you ever dreamed; how simple and easy it is to access. The underlying message of all her little stories is that you just need the desire to discover a better you. "Keep Your Chin Up is a roller coaster of happy and sad times, told with humor and includes some hard knocks.

Critique: "Keep Your Chin Up" is the story of Linda's own life and the lessons she has learned -- offered with wit and wisdom that will her readers see that life is ultimately good and worth while. Original, exceptional, entertaining, insightful, thoughtful, thought-provoking, and thoroughly 'reader friendly' in tone, commentary, organization and presentation, "Keep Your Chin Up" is very highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections. It should be noted that "Keep Your Chin Up" is also available in a Kindle format ($3.99).

Childhood Speech and Language Disorders
Suzanne M. Ducharme
Rowman & Littlefield
c/o Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group
4501 Forbes Blvd., Suite 200, Lanham, MD 20706
9781442238459, $35.00, HC, 160pp,

Synopsis: Communication is one of life's most fundamental joys, yet one often taken for granted until it is lost or fails to develop. Yet for millions of children each year, the skills that encompass communication stall or do not emerge at all. Even a mild disorder or temporary interruption in development can have long-term effects and results in serious and far-reaching deficits that touch every aspect of a child's life. Each year, millions of children and their families join the ranks of those who are navigating a life they never expected, and frequently feel they are unable to take on.

While it is critical to address the child's deficits with supports and specific interventions, it is equally important to directly address the impact on the family, from the marital relationship to the well-being of siblings. In "Childhood Speech and Language Disorders: Supporting Children and Families on the Path to Communication" by Suzanne Ducharme (a licensed and American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) certified Speech Language Pathologist with 20 years of experience working with children with a range of complex medical and developmental challenges) employs a warm and compassionate approach to providing parents with comprehensive information about speech and language development and the intervention process, but also delves deeply into the fears, concerns, and questions that every parent faces when something goes wrong.

"Childhood Speech and Language Disorders" provides families with information and resources, but also support and perspective. Using real stories throughout, Ducharme is able to illustrate the range of difficulties, challenges, and triumphs of families who love and support children with speech and language issues.

Critique: Enhanced with the inclusion of two appendices (Speech Sound Development; Channeling Your Emotions), a four page list of Resources, four pages of Notes, a four page Bibliography, and a four page Index, "Childhood Speech and Language Disorders: Supporting Children and Families on the Path to Communication" is the latest addition to the outstanding 'Whole Family Approaches to Childhood Illnesses and Disorders" series from Rowman & Littlefield. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Childhood Speech and Language Disorders" is especially appropriate for non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject, as well as very highly recommended for both community and academic library Family & Relationship collections in general, and Childhood Learning Disorders supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

Mary Cowper

Donovan's Bookshelf

The Seventh Generation
Dave DiGrazie
No Frills Buffalo

The Seventh Generation is a novel about a fictional Buffalo, New York mayor in the 1960s and comes with a myriad of characters and themes that move it beyond a quasi-political representation into the realm of a city's evolution and struggles and the concurrent lives of its youth, who grow up in different ways thanks to the influences of adults around them.

As such, it's a powerful reflection that in some ways represents the coming of age of youngsters and America alike, charting these courses with an eye to revealing different ethnic group experiences, melting pot influences, and the experiences of a second-tier American city that comes of age politically, socially, and culturally.

Various characters introduce different backgrounds and influences ("Darcie wanted to believe that he's a good man. He was a Republican. She belonged to a Republican family in a Republican part of the country. Her dad liked Ike. She didn't think Barry Goldwater was off his rocker in 1964. She did vote for Humphrey in '68 and was sadder than ever when Bobby Kennedy's life was cut short. But that had to do with wanting to stop the war. Besides, her boss kept telling her that the Democrat is the figurehead of a political machine whose behavior over the years has been nothing short of criminal.") which are believable and recognizable as microcosms of American dreams.

Love, trust, brotherhood, and betrayal all become different facets of political and social encounters in adulthood as candidates running for election face off against the backdrop of a changing world.

In some ways the publication of The Seventh Generation is a 'typical American' type of timeless saga, but its appearance in this, an election year representing some of the greatest diversity in approaches in American history, lends it a powerful atmosphere that holds many messages for Americans who may wonder how we got to where we are today, in 2016.

The 'timeless' aspect comes into play when one considers that The Seventh Generation travels through various generational concerns to examine how these contribute to change. Championship games, increasingly fragile elders and political approaches, and a story that moves from the 1960s into the new century and carries readers along for a rollicking ride makes for a strong saga especially recommended for readers who relish novels examining American lives, perceptions, and evolutionary processes.

What is the true legacy of generations past? The Seventh Generation deftly charts the process of change, evolution, and growth through characters that move from childhood to adult concerns and the specter of a "New Buffalo".

Ah, Men
Nancy Scott
The Aldrich Press
c/o Kelsay Books
24600 Mountain Avenue, #35, Hemet, CA 92544
9780692671375, $17.00,

Ah, Men: New and Selected Poems is a collection centered around poet Nancy Scott's encounters with men from childhood through adulthood, and its unusual and specific focus allows for a sweeping series of observations that examine not just relationships, but the male psyche.

The collection's chronological arrangement allows for a sense of growth and maturity as the first section provides a poignant series of friendships and shared experiences from childhood and then moves to blossoming relationships and different kinds of encounters.

Each poem holds the microcosm of change within its grasp as readers follow associations from fathers and daughters and childhood friends to a father's love for beauty; all presented in various forms. As the progression continues, a daughter realizes the impact of her parents' separation, comes to know her father's affection for cars and his love of life, and at sixteen she is shyly smitten by a sailor on the eve of his shipping out and later in college explores interracial dating in the Jim Crow period.

With every section comes growth and insights that lead to different perceptions of men, love, relationships, and self. The poems themselves are packed with vivid imagery and emotion ("A buzz-cut guy in chinos leaned across/the front seat and smiled, Do you need help?/ I shook my head./I'm Army; he said. I'm perfectly safe./So began the saga of the rest of my life."), carrying readers on a tide of exploration and discovery that will provoke thoughts about males, females, and the ties that bind them.

In some ways Ah, Men is an autobiographical piece; but in others it's a wider-ranging survey of the state of relationship-building in general and the nuances, both subtle and overt, of men as they dance around women's attractions and lives like butterflies.

Passages of prose that explore pivotal moments form the basis of sections which serve as points of relief and insight to keep Ah, Men's changing perspectives on track. This book will especially delight poetry readers fond of personal touches and inspections of the male/female condition, and is highly recommended for this audience.

For Now and Forever (The Inn at Sunset Harbor - Book 1)
Sophie Love
Sophie Love, Publisher
9781632918161, $3.99,

Emily Mitchell is at dinner on the seven-year anniversary of her relationship after a string of failed relationships - and she's nervous. She anticipates this dinner will bring with it an engagement ring; but when it brings something less important, Emily knows that once again, it's time for her to change course.

Sophie Love's ability to capture these turning points in life is demonstrated in the first few paragraphs of For Now and Forever, which provide clear insights on this particular pivot point in her life: "Emily was hit by a moment of clarity. She looked at him as though seeing him for the first time. Ben would never change. He would never commit. Her mother, Amy, they'd both been right. She'd spent years waiting for something that was so obviously never going to happen..."

When one feels stymied by life, the impulse is often to flee and return home - but Emily's mercurial experiences actually began with a tragic accident that shattered her family and sent her out into the world and into a series of failed connections. Can returning home heal what's gone wrong in her life?

For Now and Forever is about love and romance, but it's also about finding the kind of foundation that leads not to fantasy, but to lasting commitment. It also considers how a return to early illusions and comfort places can lead to new revelations. Even though the idea that "you can't go home again" is often unerringly accurate, in this case Emily finds new truths by revisiting old haunts and habits from a newfound perspective of maturity; and with these revised insight she discovers the power to move onward and upward.

The best romance novels are about more than surface experiences: they probe the rudiments of interpersonal relationships and changes, lead readers to question and re-look at their own expectations and objectives in life, and they use the trappings of an evolving romantic connection to consider wider issues of life goals, morals and ethics, and the key points of connection that lead to deeper relationships.

For Now and Forever falls into this category. Much more than a steamy love story typical of the genre, it's about Emily's evolutionary process and transformation as her dreams and hopes solidify and allow her to connect to real-world experiences and people.

In this scenario an old, abandoned house in Maine which was once an intrinsic part of a girl's magical childhood now offers hope and despair with the project of rebuilding of its shattered facade. It also adds a sense of mystery as Emily peels back layers of intrigue, expectation and hope in the house's countenance and her own psyche, aided by a secretive caretaker who encourages her to stay.

Lest this sound one-dimensional in any way, be advised that Sophie Love's ability to impart this magic to her readers is exquisitely wrought in powerfully evocative phrases and descriptions: "What she saw as she emerged on the other side made her breath catch in her lungs. Roses, in every conceivable color, were everywhere. Red, yellow, pink, white, even black. If stepping into the ballroom and seeing the light through the Tiffany glass had been awe-inspiring, this was even better. Emily twirled in a circle, feeling more alive and free than she had in years."

For Now and Forever is the perfect romance or beach read, with a difference: its enthusiasm and beautiful descriptions offer an unexpected attention to the complexity of not just evolving love, but evolving psyches. It's a delightful recommendation for romance readers looking for a touch more complexity from their romance reads.

From Blue Ribbon to Code Blue
Jennifer Miller Field with Joanne Field
Grove Street Books
P.O. Box 117, Peterborough, NH 03458
9781941934036, $24.95,

At age seventeen, author Jennifer Field was a typical horse-crazy girl, but with a difference: her talents and focus had her on track for the Olympics with an eye to riding on the equestrian team. Under different circumstances, From Blue Ribbon to Code Blue could easily have documented her rise to success; but life has a way of changing course, and a near-fatal auto accident moved Jennifer from an up-and-coming Olympics rider to a brain-damaged, comatose patient with a poor prognosis for recovery.

Again, under different circumstances the resulting story could have been about recovery and re-learning; but in fact From Blue Ribbon to Code Blue is so much more, and will delight readers of survival narratives with its intense saga of going for gold in a whole new way.

As chapters move from the fast track to success to a basic struggle to survive, readers are treated to the progressive story of restarting a life under vastly changed conditions, finding new purpose and determination from habits that formerly centered on equestrian achievement.

From the beginning, From Blue Ribbon to Code Blue charts this sense of determination and how it evolved and changed. From the initial impetus of translating riding ability to a purposeful goal to its evolutionary process as Jennifer is challenged to apply these skills to a completely revised life, changed relationships and life-or-death confrontations are told not just from Jennifer's viewpoint, but include observations from those who surrounded and supported her throughout her ordeal.

These first-person accounts juxtapose neatly with the author's story through the use of italics, highlighted sidebars, and descriptions which flow smoothly and clarify who the narrator is, leaving little possibility of confusion as Jennifer's story is related from different perspectives.

Jennifer's poems pair well with a peppering of color photos throughout to add life and personality to her narrative, which documents both her daily struggle to adapt and some of the hard realizations which come with newfound disability: "In the end, it didn't matter how supportive and encouraging people were, or whether my mom said she could see the old rider that I had been. Once I was back on a horse, I couldn't feel it. I had no sensory memory, no knowledge of how to control the huge animal using my arms and legs. My reaction time was slow and my legs were too weak to grip Swanny's sides."

Few narratives can so clearly document this step-by-step healing process; but From Blue Ribbon to Code Blue is as precise in its approach and experiences as it is candid about the many hurdles that must be jumped, both alone and with the help of others, in such a recovery.

Readers of true-life, near-death experiences and stories of survival will relish the lessons and life-affirming experiences Jennifer imparts, and will find her story one of the top leaders in literature about the healing process: "Ironically, it's human nature not to appreciate something until it's gone, or, in my case, taken away. Simple things like breathing, eating, sleeping, walking, enjoying a cup of great coffee, or sharing laughter with friends and family - these are all fundamental things I've learned not to take for granted." Very highly recommended as a riveting read that, once begun, is hard to put down!

Ave, Caesarion
Deborah L. Davitt
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9780986091629, $16.50 pbk / $7.00 Kindle,

Ave, Caesarion is Book 1 in 'The Rise of Caesarion's Rome', and opens with a simple premise: what kind of world would evolve if Rome had never fallen? While Davitt's theme is part of her "Edda-Earth" series as a whole, it's particularly powerful in this book, where Caesar's survival and his son by Cleopatra has created an uncertain dynasty, a powerful political and psychic connection between Egypt and Rome, and two young people tasked with either supporting their world or challenging it.

One might expect that such a theme would of necessity require a strong background in history and research. Davitt undertook this challenge with the help of historians who guided her through the literature of ancient Rome with an eye to building a concrete, realistic portrait of the times.

Be advised that this is a work of fantasy - an alternate timeline of a possible Rome that never was - so though the story line is steeped in historically accurate research and references, it also diverges at a number of points, keeping readers on their toes. Readers of historical fiction will want to take note that this fantasy element's diversions are satisfyingly thought-provoking features of an alternate reality and not reflective of a true historical piece.

That caution aside, Ave, Caesarion is a fantastically complex, evocative and involving story that moves through its world from the viewpoints and perspectives of characters young and old who experience every nuance of the social, spiritual and political world of their times.

Deborah Davitt employs a deft hand to recreate a sense of ancient Rome ("In the last light of sunset, five cohorts of legionnaires marched along the Via Flaminia towards the gates of Rome, accompanying two young men on horseback. The dirt and dust on their uniforms suggested a long journey, conducted rapidly. The senior centurion and all the men on foot were hardened soldiers in their thirties, members of the Legio X Equestris - the first legion levied by Julius Caesar.") and thus her settings and characters are strikingly realistic and well-drawn, adding complexity and depth to a story line that's more than a cursory adventure.

This depth is reflected in encounters between characters that explain and explore their psyches and motivations: "Sorry," Alexander apologized immediately. "I thought I'd be down here quietly taking notes for the next three hours." He smiled merrily in Caesarion's direction. "My brother has just revealed that under the stern facade of the stoic soldier, he actually has a romantic soul." "I do not," Caesarion replied in a repressive tone. "I simply can't reconcile an arranged marriage to someone I don't know with the words of the wedding ceremony. Mother certainly seemed to mean them today. I'd like . . . to mean them, too." So late at night, it seemed a good time for confessions. If nothing else, I might sleep better if my head stops spinning."

The roles of men, women, and new adults entering into their special powers are all well-done and designed to draw readers into this world ("Eurydice concentrated on keeping her balance in the saddle. Her reins were tied to Caesarion's saddle, so she didn't have to divide her attention three ways. Because now that they were on land, her responsibilities were clear, if exhausting - don't fall off the horse, and keep a constant vigil from the air, looking for ambushes set up along their route north. The native population was agitated, and might well see an opportunity to throw off Rome's yoke entirely, while its forces were divided, after all."), while the inclusion of powerful women who fully participate in Roman society create satisfying scenarios of confrontation and force.

That Eurydice often comes across as powerfully as the lead protagonist Caesarion is testimony to a wide-ranging attention to detail and psychological depth where individuals and society are well-drawn and their lives and influences much discussed.

Readers who enjoy alternate reality historical fantasies in general and depictions of early societies in particular will find Ave, Caesarion as gripping, involving, and as real as today's modern world.

These Thy Gifts
Vincent Panettiere
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
ASIN: B01L0CQTJ2, $5.99,

These Thy Gifts is a love story with a difference. The difference lies not in the romance itself, but in the nature of the two individuals involved and the length of time that their love perseveres. One of the participants is a priest; the other the widow of a mobster. Set against the backdrop of vast changes in the Catholic Church, their deep connection is reflective of society's transformation as a whole; and so to call These Thy Gifts a 'romance' in the typical sense of a one-dimensional relationship exploration would not be adequately describing its wider-ranging prowess.

The world is changing, in 2006. The Church faces regular accusations and spiritual and moral trauma over charges of sexual abuse, social challenges to long-cemented doctrine are rampant, and Pastor Steven Trimboli finds that his own commitments and life challenges pose special conundrums about his faith that results in his close inspection of his life, motivations, and spirituality.

What makes his story so compelling is that romance is woven into these themes of a practicing Catholic's deeper commitments. Sins of pride and passion, continual self-inspections for moral transgressions, and a determination to expose those who would threaten the sanctity of everything he loves leads the Monsignor on a journey that is more than a struggle with judgment and sin. It's about the very survival of the church he loves.

Readers are swept through in an inspection of self and society that walks with the Monsignor through the very streets of his parish. The energy propelling a man approaching his seventieth year is as compelling as his blend of philosophical and spiritual observations of his world around him and his changing place in it.

As a result of a heavier hand on philosophical, spiritual and psychological development, readers are treated to far more than a casual romance story: the true nature of the epic presented lies in these societal and self-inspections as a love affair between priest Trimboli and Rosalie LaMarca evolves against all odds.

Passages replete with philosophical inspection (" now you should know I find life a difficult journey. We live on the edge of the knife, something I learned in double-you, double-you two."), New York culture and atmosphere, Mob and church operations and politics, and a host of equally-powerful characters makes for a story line that is as full-bodied and complex as a fine wine.

Blackmail, justice, revenge ... one doesn't expect these elements of intrigue to enter into a romance read. But again, romance is just the tip of the iceberg in These Thy Gifts. A deeper, underlying theme of public prayers and private dreams delves into life choices that move far from the altar and into the changing world of 2006, crafting and fine-tuning a gripping saga that's hard to put down and whose taste will linger in the mind far after the complex meal is consumed.

Children of Italy
Christine Simolke
Hawkins Publishing Group
P.O. Box 447, Bellflower, CA 90707
9780996214512, $13.95,

Children of Italy: Love Secrets & Betrayal is set in 1924 and tells of an Italian immigrant who left his family in Italy over a decade earlier to become a coal miner in West Virginia, where he's been involved in an affair that has healed some of his loneliness and alienation.

Now it's time to end the relationship. His family is on the way to join him, and it's a day that his lover Isolde has long known and accepted would arrive - until, it does. But matters of the heart are not so easily loosed, and so Luigi Falconi struggles to regain control of not just his family and his life, but his heart.

In many ways, Children of Italy is a historical piece reflecting the experiences of Italian immigrants to this country and the heartbreaking decisions facing families separated and rejoined. Author Christine Simolke's story may be fiction, but it's based on the facts surrounding her family history. Their decisions and challenges were an intrinsic part of many early Italian immigrant experiences.

With all the changes and action that Luigi, Appelonia, and his family face, one might think the timeline of Children of Italy would be sweeping; but the fact is that all events take place in a four-year period. Vast changes take place in a relatively short period of time as the family faces some of the greatest challenges to its structure and purpose.

Family secrets, a daughter's first romance, a father's love, and a lover's obsession all serve as backdrops to a greater story of immigrant survival and experience that's told on more than a singular level.

The result is a gripping read that serves as a reflection of the Italian-American immigrant experience, creating an intense, realistic portrait that is a microcosm of how this country and its immigrant peoples evolved.

Red Winter
Kyra Kaptzan Robinov
Dancing in the Dark Press
9781533393470, $11.90

Red Winter: One Woman's Struggle to Survive the Russian Revolution begins in 1920 in the remote Siberian town of Nikolaevsk-on-Amur, which has just been invaded in the frigid darkness of winter by Bolshevik revolutionaries who arrest most of the prominent citizens in town.

The map, cast of characters, author's historical note and glossary of terms that precede the story are ample indication that Red Winter won't be a light leisure pursuit, but is a serious novel of change based on the author's family history of struggle and survival. Her family was one of those 'bourgeoisie' identified as public enemies of the newfound revolution and slated for destruction, and Red Winter, albeit presented in novel form, is actually their story.

Imagine being an upper-middle-class citizen with all its privileges, only to discover overnight that status, wealth, and one's carefully-built achievements are all gone. Imagine being on the run from revolutionaries with four small children in a world where suddenly friends are enemies. And imagine Luba, a woman determined to salvage what remains of her family and her life against all odds, who runs through this altered world and its strange new rules, determined to survive.

All this forms the essence of Red Winter, a story made much more powerful by the facts of the author's family history which are woven into her grandmother Luba's first-person, fictionalized account.

A top feature of Red Winter lies in its ability to draw readers into the Russian landscapes and lives being presented: "The sky was striped with the pink of dawn when we awoke. The symphony of wildlife that announced daybreak was leveling off. Our carriage drove along the path that hemmed the river. The pulsing motion and the lull of the water flow-ing beside us was hypnotic. All was quiet except for the bells on the harnesses, the clopping of the horses' hooves and Ivan's deep baritone. As he crooned Russian folk tunes, I lost myself in the tranquility." This attention to detail extends from outside atmosphere to inner emotions, injecting the story line with a powerful sense of its times and the kinds of people Luba encounters in her journey.

As Luba gingerly interacts with her much-changed world, readers are swept along in a tide of emotions and incidents charged by these exact descriptions: "Our family wasn't allowed to use the living and dining rooms, unless it was to set the table, empty ashtrays, sweep up or clear dishes. I felt as if I worked in a hotel. A rhinoceros of a man, his thick jowls laced with veins that made his skin seem like glazed pottery, spent hours reclining on the living room sofa. The scrawny soldier with the cobweb beard loved to sit at the piano any free moment he could. Whenever I was in the vicinity, he'd strike up a sentimental tune, as if to apologize for the behaviour of his comrades. The men leered at Nessia and me when we served their meals and their suggestive re-marks made me shudder."

A privileged life made into a newly stark struggle for survival, imposed by revolutionaries whose ideals involve toppling not just regimes but individual lives, makes for a story line that captures the true essence of the Bolshevik upheaval in a gripping manner which no nonfiction approach could equal. By personalizing the politics of events, Kyra Kaptzan Robinov has taken a major step in capturing the emotions, motivations, and experiences of the Russian people at a pivotal point in their history, as well as taking the struggles of a specific family and turning it into a real, moving saga of an entire nation's social and political transformation.

Red Winter is thus more than a novel: it's a passionate, revealing memoir of a family's struggle to survival political change and oppression at the outskirts of Russian society in this isolated locale. Their perilous adventures reflect intricate details of that Red Winter which are largely unknown to the rest of the world, returning the "lost" city of Nikolaevsk-on-Amur to the map and making its tumultuous past a part of not just one family's world, but Russian history as a whole.

No reader of Russian history should be without this thoroughly engrossing, emotionally captivating work which uses the trappings of fiction to round out and emphasize very real events.

Poet of The Wrong Generation
Lonnie Ostrow
Harmony River Press
9780997404203, $15.99,

Poet of The Wrong Generation opens with a poet's lament: specifically, that of Johnny Elias, who faces disillusionment after a whirlwind of luck has propelled him from a life as a directionless poet to a megastar and back in the blink of two-years.

In 1991, Johnny is a Brooklyn college student in love and filled with big dreams for his future. He views the world (and his love) with rose-colored glasses; but her mother's pragmatic assessment of his pros and cons and ability to be the kind of partner she wishes for her daughter leads to some heartless decisions about their relationship which ironically spins Johnny into the very limelight he'd seemed destined to never reach.

As lovers and friends spiral around an elusive definition of success, the seeming pinnacles of achievement in life, and a meteoric rise and fall that will carry them both on a wave of many changes, Poet of The Wrong Generation brings its readers along for a roller coaster ride through poems and songs, successes and failures, and epic decisions that alter the course of life.

Plenty of stories revolve around success and failure; but few are able to capture the subtler nuances of life decisions and changes through the eyes of various protagonists who have different perspectives on life's wealth and how to grasp it.

This juxtaposition of experience, tied to song lyrics and a struggle to represent the empowering language and experience of those in Johnny's life, makes for a compelling read filled with depth, music insights, nostalgia, and the motivations of lovers, parents, friends and all whose lives intersect in his journey.

Alluring and engrossing, Poet of the Wrong Generation's saga of the costs of achievement and the promises of love will attract and hold any fiction reader interested in more than a casual probe of love's evolution in the face of life's greatest obstacles and successes.

The Chinese Shadow Game
Stuart Craigie
ASIN: B01J471EE0, $3.99,

The Chinese Shadow Game is Stuart Craigie's third espionage novel; all of which are centered on world terrorist networks and the secret efforts of the American CIA and British M16 forces against them. This latest is set in North Korea, where agent Roger Jones's discovery of an illicit and dangerous Chinese/North Korean military alliance has resulted in his capture and torture.

But this is only the opening to the story as Americans, British, and German forces combine efforts to learn what Jones was only able to hint at before he vanished.

With North Korea in the news with its latest nuclear detonation, the premises and action in The Chinese Shadow Game should prove especially realistic as the story follows a dangerous alliance and the efforts of global forces to stop it.

Stuart Craigie's ability to deftly portray the undercover efforts of spies and agents, the political masterminds and military forces at work on all sides, and most of all, the cat-and-mouse games that take place as attacks, counterattacks, and subterfuge remain under the radar contributes to a thriller that provides tense, gripping moments in every chapter.

Recurring nightmares from past experiences and future possibilities, illegal deals traced from China to America's Silicon Valley, a rescue mission involving a veteran traumatized agent's journey to the mysterious and threatening world of China, and informants, subterfuge, and a secret Chinese organization all create plots, subplots, and a diverse cast of characters who keep special interests and deep secrets close to their hearts.

Craigie takes the time to develop these characters, including a cast of agents and special interests, from MI6 agent Mike Sanders, who has trained recruits in Afghanistan, to Li Zhi-fu, the leader of a secret world wide Chinese clan who is overseeing a new border crossing detection system designed to catch North Korean refugees slipping over the Chinese border.

Yet, Craigie never lets their development get in the way of action and intrigue, which drives the story line and keeps readers immersed in a tale with no easy answers and many unpredictable moments. But Craigie's real talent lies in taking readers right up to the line of predictability, whether it is a spy operation or a firing squad, and turning the tables at the last second to turn events in a new direction.

Given that approach, The Chinese Shadow Game becomes more than just another military spy thriller. It's a powerful, highly recommended tale of a dangerous deadlocks, kidnapping, and impossible choices which even the most seasoned thriller reader will find satisfyingly unpredictable and engrossing.

Red Death
Jeff Altabef
Evolved Publishing
9781622533190, $30.95 hc / $17.95 pbk / $3.99 ebook

Book 1 of Red Death opens with a colorful map, reference to a "cast of characters" section at the back of the sweeping story, and the introduction of seventeen-year-old Aaliss, a trained Guardian charged with protecting her world of Eden from the dangers outside it.

Eden isn't perfect. It suffers from a plague, the Red Death, which affects many children, so when her younger brother discovers a cure, Aaliss expects that the priests of Eden will celebrate his discovery as a miracle.

Instead, mysteriously, they decide to condemn Aaliss and her brother, and both are forced to flee into the deadly world outside of Eden in a struggle to survive that brings with it a more critical examination of everything Aaliss has believed in her life.

Young adult to adult readers of dystopian fiction will find Red Death a powerful, if not complex, read that takes the familiar saga of siblings at odds with their evolving world and gives it a special twist.

The importance of souls and their purposes and preservation, the threats inherent in a Witches' Wood which offers an unexpected miracle, the impact of a potentially society-changing cure on friends, family and associates of the two ("Being branded the brother of two traitors made Piers notorious, dangerous even, as if traitorous behavior flowed in his blood and could be transmitted as easily as the Red Death. The other novices seemed to have decided on silence and space as the best ways to deal with him."), and the lasting impact of a journey into an outside world long perceived as deadly introduces not just a wide cast of characters, but diverse belief systems.

While this translates to a complex dystopian story recommended for older teens, its ultimate impact and winding, engrossing story will be welcomed and relished by not only this audience but new adult readers who appreciate the complex worlds and feisty protagonists of The Hunger Games and similar dystopian novels.

In the end, it's more than just a story of teens surviving of their world; but a thought-provoking saga about belief systems and religion, courage, adaptability, greed and goals of ruling humanity, and a seemingly-unstoppable juggernaut of change that rolls over everyone in its path.

Red Death is ultimately about revolution, the kernel of which begins here, in a gripping story of two talented and determined siblings who reach out to connect with and embrace their world.

Revisioning Activism
David Bedrick, J.D.
Belly Song Press
518 Old Santa Fe Trail, Suite 1 #626, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505
9780985266783, $19.95,

Revisioning Activism: Bringing Depth, Dialogue, and Diversity to Individual and Social Change comes from an author with ten years in law practice and twenty years counseling individuals and organizations, and envisions a new brand of activism and a different type of dialogue surrounding it.

David Bedrick's definition of this activism is different than the usual perceptions of protest, resistance, and political strategies in that it embraces a form of connection and association that defies the usual disconnection, distance, and resistance associated with activism and its actions.

Essays focus on that point where individual lives and political and social presence meet, adding a psychologist's eye to clarify different levels of conversation and encounter, such as that surrounding race, where personal engagement usually overlays conversations about incidents and observations.

Bedrick uses case history examples from his practice to consider such wide-ranging topics as the deprivation of diet programs and the challenge of weight loss, repairing trust to build lasting sustainable relationships, and why people feel compelled (and find it a futile task) to argue others out of set patterns and positions about social issues such as gun control.

Each essay begins with a topic that may seem far from the book's focus on 'activism' in the usual sense; but winds into it the experiences of different people, their perspectives, and how the process of meaningful engagement can prove a transformative experience, thus falling neatly into the underlying definition of activism and working for change.

Denial, divergence, separation, dialogue, debate, and ultimately, coming together are all part of this process. It's the latter which truly constitutes activism in its best sense; and these essays present a sampling of the tough issues of society with an eye to demonstrating the many ways in which social disturbance touches personal lives, and can provide the impetus for change.

Readers of social science, civil rights, activism, and psychology will equally find Revisioning Activism a powerful and different approach to the subject.

A Pyre of Roses
Roland P. Joseph
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781534966291, $12.00,

Michael's past has always been a puzzle, but he never expected the mystery of his abandonment to lead to the murder of his wife and child in adulthood. Moreover, his exotic looks and mysterious background lead him further into danger when he marries a woman who seems to have ties to a past he never knew.

Perhaps it's his Caribbean island home that's bringing danger to his door - and so Michael flees a troubled past and an uncertain future, only to find that distance and flight are not the answers to his problems.

In this chaotic life, the confession of a regretful, dying priest poses a glimmer of hope for answers. In such a world, a conspiracy swirling around drugs, dynasties, and death provides just as many troubling conundrums as mystery. And to Michael's eyes, there's little hope of ever understanding his past unless he makes some very difficult and dangerous choices about his present and future.

This is the mercurial and powerful foundation of A Pyre of Roses, which takes readers on a whirlwind tour of Michael's life and his many struggles for identity. But Michael isn't the only one investigating his elusive past: so are others. It seems that everything's searching for the truth, and the first one to arrive at the complete picture may be in for some powerful revelations.

A Pyre of Roses is thriller writing at its best, creating a winding plot powered by the dual strengths of psychological examination, interpersonal relationships, and political struggles. Just as vividly drawn as Michael's life is that of Beatrice, who faces her own guilt, knowledge, and hopelessness in the maelstrom of Michael's life: "Beatrice felt unexpectedly relieved - as though she had confronted and rid herself of her demons. For once in her life she felt independent and free - no longer dependent on Michael or anyone to support her...Her past life seemed more distant and she no longer felt as emotionally attached to Michael. It was as though a burden had been lifted from her life."

The fate of an unborn child, a closely-held priest's secret, abandonment and alienation, and government and church special interests all coalesce to create a fast-paced, complex and riveting story that will immerse thriller readers in mystery right up to its surprisingly life-affirming conclusion, which takes the pervasive theme of grief and transforms it into a message of hope.

Transformed: Paris
Suzanne Falter and Jack Harvey
New Heights Publishing
ASIN: B01K0T768E, $2.99,

Transformed: Paris is subtitled "A Quirky Queer Spy Novel" for a reason: its hero is transsexual man and spy Charley MacElroy, and its quirky brand of humor and character also embraces many social issues affecting modern Paris, as well.

Take Dickie's reflections on how her beloved Paris has changed, which appear only a few paragraphs into the story line, for one example. This provides a nice summation of some of the modern sentiments of European experience: "It seemed you couldn't cross a street in Paris without running smack into yet another set of migrants. Migrants without money or much of anything, really. Migrants who cluttered up her beloved Paris with too much sweaty, smelly, foreign ... humanity. Dickie remembered a time not too long ago when France was filled with French people and just a smattering of well-dressed tourists. That was when a baguette was baked by a master pastry chef with a degree in the craft. God knew who was doing all that kneading and rolling now."

One of the pleasures of Transformed: Paris lies in its ability to shift subjects with little warning. In one instance, Dickie and Electra seem to be hooking up in a styling salon. In another, Dickie is knee-deep in intrigue: "Dickie stood by her living room window, studying the shadows of Rue Jean de la Fontaine as the twilight deepened. At this exact moment her temples were pounding, her nerves were frazzled, and all she could think about was Cask's insanity. Leaving the dirty bomb in plain view. What in God's name was he thinking?

All the housekeeper had to do was glance inside the rubbish bin, notice the curious 'extra' bag of trash, dig through it, and it was all over. God forbid she somehow set the bomb off."

As the plot thickens and Electra finds herself in trouble over her head, immersed in dangers she never could have envisioned from her Parisian sojourn, readers are treated to a story filled with quirky, feisty characters, intrigue, and an unusual bid for a more open relationship that leads Electra and Charley on whirlwind of romantic angst, connecting all to the cafes, passions, and challenges of a Parisian winter.

Readers who expect their thrillers to focus more on action than protagonist development, and who expect their protagonists to be walk more on the conservative side of life may wish to look elsewhere; because Transformed: Paris is anything but staid, predictable, or conventional in nature.

Just as its characters are cutting-edge representations of a different kind of social world, so are their personal transformations more than typical. Even when things go wrong, they often do so with a twist of underlying humor that's a refreshing balance to a serious saga: "The impatient knock sounded again at the door. "Please hurry up!" said an insistent voice on the other side. Cask ignored the knock and attempted to wash the blue from his hand, but it wouldn't come out. Then he regarded himself in the mirror on the wall. He opened his mouth. His gums and his tongue were already starting to turn a brilliant shade of blue. Christ! Now he was not only half dead, he was blue. Eventually even his lips would be brilliant, unmistakable blue. This was getting worse and worse."

What evolves is a romp through Paris, alternative lifestyles, love challenges, and unfamiliar turf that in the end circles around to become familiar after all. Thoroughly steeped French atmosphere ("At the next table, a French father was serving up tete de veau to his family-calves head served country style in a large dish with boiled carrots, potato, and green onions."), Transformed: Paris is a dish best served hot: its action and very different, yet realistic, protagonists will delight thriller enthusiasts looking for cutting edge reading that offers more than light entertainment value.

The Bloodstone Ring
Barbara Taylor Sanders
Tate Publishing
127 East Trade Center Terrace, Mustang, OK 73064
9781683526629, $19.99,

In the 1840s, love between a white woman and any man of color is verboten. The result of the union of an English noblewoman, Lady Carmen, and Jamaican man Jake thus leads to a love child who is banished without knowledge of her heritage, leading to a series of events that involves young Lily in kidnapping, the slave trade, and a mysterious and powerful Baroness who wears The Bloodstone Ring.

The stage is set for high drama and tension, and in this The Bloodstone Ring does not disappoint. It provides a whirlwind of adventure laced with social inspection as Lily traverses her world, faces abandonment and danger, and embarks on a long road to find home, her roots, and the truth about her heritage.

Unexpectedly, the heart of The Bloodstone Ring's story is actually synthesized in its introductory paragraph: "The ancient road crossed the entrance to her father's brewery, taking a sharp turn to the south once it passed the massive stone buildings that produced England's favorite ale. The road was well traveled. For centuries, neighboring Scotsmen used this trail since it was the easiest and shortest route to the mining town she was from. No one in Carmen Wright's family considered the history of this matter, nor did one consider that notables of the highest court also once traveled the same path."

Historical precedent, well-worn paths chosen without regard for or knowledge of their past, and easy routes which turn into complex entanglements all permeate a story line replete with satisfyingly thought-provoking stories as a young girl's destiny turns out to reflect the greater social and political changes of her times.

The ideal reader of The Bloodstone Ring will appreciate the history dashed with fantasy in a rollicking read that features abolitionists, private detectives, Dutch slave traders, racial and social issues, Christian sentiment and spiritual determination, and more. Many candid, raw emotional moments are presented as Lily considers her world and its options, forging a path for survival against all odds and assessing the potential salvation of faith: "Lilly wished she had their enthusiasm for God. It seemed so genuine. There wasn't anything fake about it because they seemed to have unfeigned faith in God. She sensed they loved Jesus with all their heart and soul. She admired such demonstration of happiness even though she felt very sad inside."

The result is not a singular focus or production, but a wider-ranging, sweeping blend of history, religion, and social issues in a coming of age story especially recommended for historical and religious fiction readers who like their novels complex, enlightening, and absorbing.

Brain Damage
Freida McFadden
Hollywood Upstairs Publishing
9781532902949, $9.99,

Dr. Charly McKenna is a successful dermatologist who has the perfect life - a successful career, a fine lawyer husband - until she's shot and her brain injury causes her to lose everything she's achieved. Faced with the challenge of recovering from brain damage, she comes to find that the truth about her injury lies in the damaged parts of her memory; and so begins a quest to not only rebuild her life, but to rebuild the memories that could hold the answer about why she was shot.

Brain Damage opens with a particularly powerful bang: "If someone had asked me before this happened if it would hurt to be shot in the head, I would have most certainly answered yes. Of course, yes...I remember staring at the gun, not really believing that it would go off, not believing that this could happen to me...The truth is, I didn't feel it at all. What hurt is everything that came after."

With this life-changing opener, Brain Damage is off and running into a dangerous world where a high-end doctor is shot for no apparent reason, where threats to her world continue on many levels, and where everything familiar becomes alien and must be rediscovered.

One important feature of the story is the experience of recovering from brain injury. From Charlotte's early struggles with the taste of food, her sense of identity, and re-learning the most basic things in life to the painful evolution of higher-level thinking, her recovery from brain trauma is intricately and realistically portrayed.

Chapters covering time frames prior to her injury impart a sense of events leading up to the shooting for a fine juxtaposition with the current situation, where Charlotte's struggles with her changed condition involve everyone around her ("There are good days and bad days...sometimes Charlotte seems almost back like her usual self, and is sharp as a tack. But other times, she hardly talks at all and doesn't even seem to know who I am.").

The result is a satisfying interplay between recovery and intrigue, drawing readers into all facets of Charlotte's life before and after and building suspense as readers learn more about her seemingly-perfect marriage, her uncertainties about her life, and the series of events immediately after which hinge on her recovery process and her ability to identify the man who shot her. One doesn't expect shots of wry humor to permeate the story line (or the romance that evolves); but, they're subtle and satisfyingly surprising.

The new compromises she must make to stay married, her different reactions to situations, and her very psyche all are damaged, and the choices she makes now often aren't related to those the "old Charlotte" would have considered, and provide realistic scenarios that feel true to life and individual struggle.

In blending a recovery process with a story of attempted murder and intrigue, Freida McFadden has created an engrossing saga with plenty of twists and turns, highly recommended for medical thrillers readers who look for realistic, compelling writing.

A Plague in Venice
Michael E. Henderson
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781535182607, $5.99,

Venice, during the plague of 1576, is a burning land of burials, mourning, death, and threats; and while Michael E. Henderson's story includes all of these facets, it more startlingly opens with two strange men who rescue a living girl from a muddy grave. As the second startling revelation to appear in two pages emerges (the men were responsible for introducing the plague) readers are drawn to a thriller revolving around 'shroud eaters' and the intervention of immortals' purposes in human affairs.

Not your typical or anticipated story, whether a plague saga or a thriller; and this plethora of surprises continues as readers discover that a twenty-six-year-old Venetian artist on the cusp of success finds himself confronting a deadly ghoul from the grave who was responsible for the past plague in Venice and, newly freed, threatens the world again with a far deadlier danger than before.

William never expected to travel through time. The present has been challenging enough. But that's just what he does, in the company of his patron, Lorenzo Zorzi, who leads him into a world he'd never have believed in, had he not seen it with his own eyes: "I know what you are thinking," Zorzi said. "This is the Renaissance, not the twenty-first century. It can't happen to us. We have technology and advanced medical science. But let me tell you, your society hangs by a thread. I have seen it many times. Take away your electricity, clean water, communications, and transportation, and what do you have? You have 1576. "What do you think would happen to your society if people began to die at this rate? Half the population in a matter of weeks or months. What you see here is Venice and all the world as it will be if Gregor is not stopped. And why? Because he will survive it to rule the world, and because he prefers the taste of the flesh of plague victims."

As William faces truths about a past that no historian could have imagined, so he struggles with a gripping discovery about his newfound role in the world above and beyond his artistic endeavors, and embarks on a desperate, impossible mission to prevent the Venetian plague (and something even more dangerous) from re-emerging.

A Plague in Venice holds just the right touch of horror and fantasy elements, but keeps its plot firmly rooted in the juxtaposition of past and present dilemmas. Protagonist William moves reluctantly and realistically from his present concerns and reality to embrace a wider-ranging vision of the truth that takes him away from his world and his place in it, bringing readers along for a powerful tightrope walk through death.

As clues mount and murder touches William's life, tension mounts in an exquisitely twisting fashion even the astute thriller reader won't always predict.

The result is a tense and powerful realization that "innocent things can be quite deadly" and that an innocent bystander can make the difference between apocalypse and salvation, possibly even stumbling into love in the process of an epic struggle for survival. Thriller readers who enjoy history, horror, and a dash of fantasy will find these exceptional facets of how A Plague in Venice unwinds its story.

Fast Track To Glory
Tomasz Chrusciel
Agato House
Paperback ISBN: 9780992957438, $11.99
E-book ISBN: 9780992957421, $2.99

Nina Monte is a young Italian professor who has established her reputation for research at a very early age; but her youth doesn't prepare her for the opportunity which falls into her lap when she's called upon to work with an ancient artifact, only to find that it unleashes a maelstrom of adventure and mystery reaching far beyond her professional prowess.

If the plot of Fast Track to Glory sounds like a thriller styled after Indiana Jones or Laura Croft (or even Dan Brown), readers should be forewarned that all these elements are present, spicing a fast-paced sense of adventure that takes discoveries, actions, and consequences and pairs them with gripping encounters and events for an unusually compelling read.

And yet, there's an attention to detail that belays a hasty romp through Europe and a focus on nonstop action that may give pause to action-centered readers who expect light description and an emphasis on adventure. This attention separates Fast Track to Glory from stories that are more cursory and casual, forcing many readers to adapt to a somewhat slower than anticipated pace which rewards its audience with an attention to complexity and detail not usually seen in the typical thriller action read.

This attention to detail can be as specific as Nina's questioning why she's been chosen above others for her professional knowledge, or her growing involvement in a series of encounters that lead her through Europe on a treasure hunt she never anticipated, facing a myriad of plots and special interests along the way.

Tomasz Chrusciel's attention to describing these places employs a tone of immediacy with exquisite descriptions of Nina's observations and journeys ("She walked into Duomo di Milano. It was quiet and pleasantly warm inside. Among the smell of flowers and candles, she inhaled a faint scent of incense used by priests during a mass. Daylight slipped through vibrant religious scenes depicted on the stained glass of huge Gothic windows. Forty twenty-five-metre-high columns supported the ornamented ceiling of a stunning structure able to accommodate forty thousand worshippers. Every square metre of the church was decorated with something."). This adds to the compelling richness of a saga that brings readers along for the ride.

With so much action and so many subplots, it could be easy to become lost in details and possibilities. Fast Track to Glory does require an astute reader's attention. It's entertaining, but not light or quick reading. Thriller fans who relish international intrigue and settings won't want the story line to end any time soon; for it embraces nightmares and dreams, confrontations with the possibility of immortality and terrorist factions, and a mystery that's every bit as captivating as the best Laura Croft adventure. Those who bask in complex and thoroughly engrossing reads will find Fast Track to Glory an outstanding choice.

Melissa's Locket
Judith Iverson
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781537280233, $10.50,

A woman left for dead, half-buried in a log at a campground by an angry would-be murderer and fellow churchgoer, a faithful dog who follows his beloved mistress to what could have been her final resting place, and a lovely locket that holds the key to this mystery ... all these open the intense Melissa's Locket, a compelling story of survival and discovery.

Readers follow Dayle's journey as she survives her ordeal, faces many unanswered questions, and follows the clues that point in directions she never could have envisioned for her life.

One point of surprise (that a church leader would not only attempt murder, but would be involved in a human trafficking scheme) is revealed early on in the story; but it turns out that this is only the tip of the iceberg as Dayle's account unfolds to reveal her own intimate involvement with the church's leader as one of many of his women, and her addiction.

Readers might not expect a story of addiction to evolve from a church member's brush with death; but Dayle's experience embraces descent, redemption, new beginnings and dangerous associations from the start in a process that only becomes more mercurial and complex as her tale evolves.

As an investigation into Melissa's death draws Dayle into deeper questions and conundrums, the mysteries surrounding Melissa's life and fate begin to hold ramifications for Dayle's own choices and their consequences.

Steeped in church encounters, self-inspection, mystery, and danger, Melissa's Locket is about more than one woman's struggles to survive on many levels. Ultimately it's about faith and the process of finding serenity and trust in a chaotic world fraught with danger. Dayle's life is a ticking time bomb with plenty of hints that things are about to explode. Will a savvy investigator and Dayle get to the truth behind kidnapping, murder, and mega-church operations before it's too late?

Mystery fans will find plenty to like in a story that poses no easy answers and creates memorable protagonists who find that the key to almost everything lies in a single locket and their ability to uncover its secrets.

Eye of the Storm
Frank Cavallo
Ravenswood Publishing
9781535327077, $18.99,

Readers who anticipate an action mystery from the initial premise of a former Navy SEAL and a doctor who are caught in a storm during a research mission to a remote area will find that the adventure quickly turns into a dark fantasy survival saga when the two are flung into a rift in space and time and transported to and marooned on another world.

No ordinary environment awaits them, for there a wizard and his undead army battle an Amazon-type queen and her Neanderthal horde. The treasure at stake is not land or conquest, but a treasure with the power to re-open the portal between Eric Slade and Dr. Anna Fayne's world.

This alternate universe is satisfyingly different from most fantasy creations, blending paranormal and fantasy worlds with a deft attention to creating an action-packed story that is hard to predict and replete with fresh, original scenarios.

The main characters are described in just enough detail and depth to prove inviting and intriguing ("At forty-three, Eric Slade carried himself with a trademarked eccentricity. He dressed more like a European cinema auteur than either a former soldier or professional fighter, though his sun-narrowed eyes were unmistakably hawkish."), and although it could be said that the depth of their motivations and emotions is not as thoroughly developed as they could have been, Eye of the Storm still stands above others in the fantasy/alternate universe genre for its original story line and unpredictable twists.

Action-oriented readers who prefer a focus on building environment and believable, detailed fantasy will be fine with Frank Cavallo's approach, which assumes the trappings of an Indiana Jones-type thriller without the intrusion of too much psychological detail and complexity. And if the drama appears heavy-handed at times, it only serves to thicken the plot with dramatic encounters and confrontations: "The denizens of the mad city sprang from every corner of the ruins. They pounced like rabid dogs, armed with woodaxes, pitchforks and scythes. Screaming waifs charged from every direction, hacking and slashing. The human paroxysm surged, trampling over each other in a frenzy. Slade didn't waste an instant. He bounded into the fray, twin swords in hand. The crowd swarmed. Drooling savages clawed at him."

As the story evolves, Eric and Anna come to realize that they are tasked with more than finding their way home or saving their world from invasion. At stake is the fate of two worlds and the forces that keep them separated, as well as control of the powerful Eye of the Storm and its ability to reveal fates and futures and allow them to witness the mysteries of all eternity on a cosmic scale.

Are there any real choices being offered to Eric and Anna in the face of their world-changing mission? And even if they achieve these greater goals, can they still go home? Nobody escapes the Eye of the Storm unscathed. Happily, readers looking for uncommon adventure and plots will find in Eye of the Storm a leisure read that's hard to put down, fueled not by overly complicated psychology but by the simple desires of lives interrupted and under siege.

Beyond the Tiger Mom
Maya Thiagarajan
Tuttle Publishing
364 Innovation Drive, North Clarendon, VT 05759-9436
9780804846028, $18.95,

Maya Thiagarajan is a mother and teacher who has lived and worked in both the United States and Asia. Her background lends to a close analysis of the best of both worlds as she interviews Asian parents about their parenting approaches, values, and goals and incorporates them into a wider-ranging survey of global pressures and technological advancements and their influence on parenting techniques and their outcomes.

Beyond the Tiger Mom: East-West Parenting for the Global Age may deserve a place on parents' shelves, but it's anything but the usual guide on how to raise a child. Embedded in its pages is the concept of the 'tiger mom' and the stereotypes revolving around Asian parenting and child-rearing, and as chapters probe not only these images but their effects on Asian households, values systems, and interactions with the world, they craft the bigger picture of Asian parenting choices' lasting influences and the realities and illusions which drive them.

Chapters assume some intriguing formats as they explore specific myths, from why "All the Asian Kids Are on the Math Team" and how math importance and education is taught in home and school and reinforced by parenting expectation and training processes to why Asians excel in memorization techniques to ace tests, how parents and children adapt to and modify Western educational trends, how Asian mothers view play and leisure time.

Because this focus on East-West parenting techniques reaches heavily into educational processes, standards, and options, many a teacher or student of social science or education will find it captivating reading, moving neatly beyond the boundaries of a parenting guide to consider issues of educational approaches and differences in East-West values systems.

There are many concerns raised when considering the duality of parenting and educational pursuits. Among these are the challenge of rearing resilient and flexible kids where happiness is part of the achievement equation; the family relationships (both inherited and perceived) which provide foundations of belief and support for a child; and the global challenges of taking metaphors and myths and recognizing their underlying purposes, applications, and possibilities for transformation.

At every step of the process, discussions offer parents specific options for change: "While some American education experts may say that all learning should be fun, I personally believe that the word "fun" is the wrong word to use. Learning should be challenging, meaningful, rigorous, engrossing, interesting, and satisfying. It does not need to be a game or a party. If your child attends a school that is focused on "fun," encourage serious learning activities at home to show him that earnest academic engagement can be pleasurable and satisfying."

Maya Thiagarajan's candid assessments of generational differences are strikingly revealing and offers much food for thought: "When I spoke with Indian and Chinese parents about their expectations of their children, most of the mothers said, "If we take care of our parents well and do our duty, then hopefully our children will learn that this is the right thing to do." While I fully understand how central the ideas of filial piety and family loyalty are to Asian societies, I also wonder whether these parents are right in assuming that their children will, in fact, do for them what they have done for the older generation."

The result is a frank discussion that pulls no punches, offers many alternative ideas, and is very highly recommended not just for parents and anyone working with kids, but for educators and those looking to build a better global community. It's an exciting discourse no parent or educator should be without.

What to Expect When Adopting a Dog
Diane Rose-Solomon
SOP3 Publishing
Paperback: 9780985769048, $14.99
Digital: 9780985769055, $ 4.99


Barnes and Noble:

Families who want to adopt a dog and need a little extra knowledge to make this process a success shouldn't start at the animal shelter, but with Diane Rose-Solomon's What to Expect When Adopting a Dog. There's a wealth of information presented here, from assessing one's resources and ability to care for a dog's needs to finding out the physical and psychological traits of an ideal adoptee and understanding options on where to locate and adopt.

All these may appear to be basic first steps; but in advocating advance planning and a basic understanding of the various options and routes to animal adoption, Diane Rose-Solomon takes in a bigger picture which includes such concerns as how to integrate a new pet into a household with kids and other animals (including tips on introducing dogs and cats), fostering safe kid and pet interactions, and traveling with a pet's needs in mind.

Statistics and guidelines from research and professional sources are peppered throughout the account, supporting tips on handling pet separation anxiety, training, and handling fleas and physical ailments. It's important to note that this book leaves nothing left to wonder about: there are over 100 links to these articles and products.

Case histories, reports, tip sheets, and information packs her account, making What to Expect When Adopting a Dog the item of choice and the first line of reason for anyone considering adding a dog to an existing family of people and pets.

Touching Death
Becky Johnson
Amazon Digital Services LLC
ASIN: B01IJE2XY4, $2.99 Kindle

Rachel Angeletti's uncanny ability to know things with a single touch floods her with information. It's an ability which extends to inanimate objects, making her exceedingly good at her job as curator in a Chicago museum. The terrible truths it can reveal, however, means her gift is a liability in personal relationships, where her visions break down the usual barriers of choice and anonymity and lead to disasters. And in Touching Death, it can even uncover a murderer's heart.

Rachel was only eleven when she first "saw" someone die through her visions, one hot September day - the same day she was introduced to the museum's amazing exhibits and all their possibilities ("They were all so beautiful and fascinating. My imagination ran wild with stories and images. I imagined hands cupping a bowl or pulling a comb through a child's hair. In my mind's eye a thousand stories and possibilities ran wild."). In that instance, touching an artifact brings up a horror from the past.

But this is different: her latest encounter is from the present, and it holds much more impact than ancient history. The refuges of her tiny apartment and her work soon fall victim to the consequences of her gift as Rachel combs through everything she knows and discovers a deadly force that sweeps her along, compelling her to flee her safe havens and sanctuaries.

What happens when a killer meets a survivor? Both have gifts in different directions, and both have different objectives and focuses in their lives. Their clash results in a series of encounters involving a virtual dance of death as the fate of each becomes locked in the persona and perspectives of the other.

As Rachel reluctantly allows her self to dig deeper in an effort to gain freedom for herself and prevent a murder, her heart is wrung and challenged by her choices: "Every time I connected to the killer it took me further and deeper. I didn't want to do it again. I didn't want to get sucked into him. But I couldn't just let it go either. I'd seen Christopher James die. How do you just walk away from that?"

All Rachel wants from life is to feel safe and loved. Her current journey embraces neither. When the truth comes out, Rachel comes to find she doesn't know everything - and that those she trusts the most may be the ones she should really fear. Insanity isn't always on the side of evil; nor is her gift's potential the sole barrier between life and death.

Murder mystery fans that look for a hint of the paranormal in their stories but require a plot steeped in good character development, swift action, and unexpected twists will find Touching Death is about a superpower gone awry and reveals stories of many compelling struggles.

Finding Ourselves in Venice, Florence, Rome & Barcelona
Al & Sunny Lockwood
Front Porch Publishing
9780692599907, $11.99,

Finding Ourselves in Venice, Florence, Rome & Barcelona: Aging Adventurers Discover the Power of Place While Exploring Fascinating Cities at Their own Relaxing Pace combines a memoir and armchair travel read with a survey that gives the older adventurer hope that travel may be accessible despite their special requirements, and is a top recommendation for any older person who longs to see Europe.

Images in color (available on Kindle and e-reader devices; the paperback version does not have color photos) accompany the authors' journeys along Venice's Grand Canal, the Accademia in Florence, the lanes and neighborhoods of Barcelona, and more.

It should be mentioned that Al & Sunny Lockwood may be older travelers, but they aren't disabled. Although stairs and walking are not major challenges to them (as they might be for some older travelers), their travel choices do need to be adjusted to their energy levels and abilities. Readers looking for "how to travel with a disability" guides thus won't find such advice here.

What will be found is a candid assessment of tour pros and cons, snafus and satisfyingly amazing sights and scenery, descriptions of classic sites such as Rome's Colosseum and Florence's Duomo cathedral, the fourth largest church in the world, and personal encounters and tips as they travel Europe.

Finding Ourselves can be used in one of two ways: as an armchair travel guide that promises hours of "you are there" reading by pairing a chatty autobiographical tone with close inspections of sights, sounds, and close encounters with the peoples and places of four areas; and as a tip guide that includes recommendations that aren't usually a part of more specific "where to go, stay, and eat" travel guides: "My reason for choosing lodging as close to major monuments as possible is three-fold. First, if we don't have the energy to do everything, we'll at least see the most important sight of each city. Second, if we get lost or if we just "run out of steam" a long way from our room, we don't have to remember our address. We can simply tell the taxi or bus driver to drop us off at the monument. Third, we will not spend our precious time traveling to and from these major monuments."

Aging would-be adventurers who dream of touring the major cities of Europe and seeing some of their best monuments will find Finding Ourselves a rich memoir pairing personal experience with practical travel savvy adjusted for arthritic knees and aging spirits.

UFOs and God
Michael R. Lane
Bare Bones Press
P. O. Box 9653, Seattle, WA 98109
9781634917124, $16.95,

The short stories in UFOs and God are fictional works, but aside from the title piece, anyone who anticipates that this book will be centered around UFOs should be advised that there are bigger scenarios at stake, here; and these involve belief, perseverance, determination and survival.

At the pivot point of many of these stories are basic, gritty assessments of life and why it's worth living, while others support the themes of visionary belief systems, hope, and newfound revelation.

'Locusts', for example, takes readers on a winding journey through a desolate wilderness brought about by the greed of mankind as it follows the thoughts and trajectory of Thurgood Boyd, a farmer and environmentalist who views "evidence of the same shortsighted deeds" everywhere in his world, and who (perhaps naively) anticipates a positive outcome even as his grandparents struggle to hold on to the family farm.

'Crossing the Burnside Bridge' contrasts the broken life of an engineer whose divorce sparks a deeper questioning of love as he faces his conflicted desire to both love and leave an upcoming family matter.

Michael R. Lane's various characters stand at different crossroads in their lives: some brought about by their individual choices and their consequences; others forced upon them by the outside world and life's twisting changes.

The questioning process, the juxtaposition of past and present lives, and the ways in which people disappoint, say goodbye, or welcome new opportunities lie at the crux of many of the pieces in UFOs and God.

So if it's alien or religious stories that are anticipated or desired; look elsewhere. UFOs and God is much more: it's a closer examination of succinct moments in life where people get the opportunity to look back, look ahead, or take a close look at the world; and each piece is carefully crafted to support a reader's perceptions of their own 'aha' moments in life.

Short story readers who relish philosophical and psychological introspection in a diverse array of characters and life-changing yet small events will find this collection thought-provoking in nature and satisfyingly diverse in scope.

B.S., Incorporated
Jennifer Rock and Michael Voss
Wise Ink Creative Publishing
Paperback: ISBN 9781634899055, $10.50
Kindle: eISBN 9781634899048, $ 6.49

B.S., Incorporated is a work of fiction born in a bar after another day of corporate business shenanigans, and thus it's firmly rooted in the business environment even as it uses its fictional cloak of anonymity to explore the ironies and inconsistencies of that world.

Business Solutions, Inc. is falling apart: its lower-level employees are using business hours for their own dubious personal purposes even as upper management is busy hiring consultants to solve problems even they don't understand. Typical dysfunctional corporate activities, right?

But wait: B.S., Incorporated ups the ante through the character of manager Will, tasked with carrying out consultant changes he can't possibly understand; and by having him interact more closely than he expected with the ambitious cutthroat Anna, who cares for neither corporate goals nor individuals' jobs in her relentless fight to get to the top of what she perceives as a winning game.

Caught up in a maelstrom of change that sweeps from corporate realms into their personal lives, Anna and Will are collateral damage in a process that actually makes as little sense as the business' dysfunctional structure. Can (and should) Will pair up with his worst enemy to save the business (and, ultimately, themselves) and help return B.S., Incorporated to the position of being named one of the '100 Best Companies to Work For'?

B.S. Incorporated stands with some of the best business novels in its genre, adding whimsy and humor into the serious mix of rolling dice, rattling cages, and revealing characters who either drive business success or teeter it on the brink of bankruptcy.

At the cutting edge of its humor is a grim sense of reality: "TK stood nearby, repeatedly poking the thermostat button. "You know that doesn't work." Anna walked into the aisle.

"It's hotter than an Ecuadorian cooking class in here. I turned it down to sixty-three." Anna reached past him and plucked the box from the wall, revealing no wires curled inside, just a battery for the digital readout on the front. "What? It's not even connected to anything," TK gasped. "Of course not." Anna snapped the box back into place. "It's the illusion of environmental control. Employees complain less and work more when they think they can adjust the temp. I learned it at an architecture firm I worked for. It's a productivity ploy."

The mix of real-world inspiration and situations and a cast of fictional characters who interact within this world and carve their own form of business sanity from the milieu of a fading great structure make for lively reading - but that's what the best business novels should do. They can take the dry figures and processes of the corporate world and translate them to human endeavors, emotions, and emotionally-driven returns on investments: "She wanted to pump her fist in the air - like a rom-com's plucky heroine. But she'd only gotten in the door, and she didn't have a trite-but-heartwarming script to tell her what to do next. She couldn't extrapolate life wisdom from '70s-era sitcoms like Judd."

Anyone who enjoys the business novel genre will find many riches embedded in this treasure trove tale of how a business is turned around and how its diverse movers and shakers adopt new strategies that spill into their psyches and lives to ultimately outline a bold new initiative with its own haunting connections to the past.

31 Ghost Novels to Read Before You Die
Deb Atwood
New Potato Press
9780985703820, $1.99

What are ghosts? Surely they're not the things that haunt the horror genre these days, which focuses on other facets than specters waylaid by death and left to wander among the living, unacknowledged and unseen. And these kinds of ghost stories seem less evident than ever before; replaced by buckets of blood and terror that are the hallmarks of the harder-hitting horror genre.

So it's a special pleasure to find 31 Ghost Novels to Read Before You Die, an acknowledgement of and throwback to the old-fashioned ghost story: the one where ghosts are lost, loving, observational guests who just happen to be stuck in the wrong place or time; but who don't foster ill will towards the living.

What do ghosts do? What do they want? Deb Atwood presents thirty-one tales of haunting, from Simone St. James' The Haunting of Maddy Clare to Richard Matheson's A Stir of Echoes. Each profile receives a plot synopsis and a "What I Thought" section that reviews the story and critically assesses its ghostly devices ("So, if you like your fog thick, your winds howling, your marches amorphous, your pauses pregnant; in short, your atmosphere atmospheric, you will enjoy the novella Woman in Black.")

In the course of reading these reviews, readers are not only inspired to return to a fading genre of genuinely ghostly encounters and read (or re-read) for themselves their diverse approaches, but receive publisher information that makes the books easy to locate.

It's been a long time since this reviewer indulged in a good ghost story. 31 Ghost Novels to Read Before You Die is the perfect place to begin, to read old classics and learn about some exciting new writers who stay true to their ghostly genre without spilling over into today's more common (and less ghostly) horror approaches.

Neuron Galaxy
Jay Leibold
9781535252874, $9.99,

What do stars in the sky and brain cells have to do with one another? One doesn't expect this information to be present in a slim picture book format, much less prove appealing to a wide age range; but Neuron Galaxy: A Story from Morphonix About Your Brain is something special in the realm of science reads and doesn't follow the usual pathways to exploring brain science.

For one thing, it's backed by the knowledge of a team of consulting neuroscience advisors, including some conducting original research on how games can be used to alleviate cognitive deficits. The game approach is thus incorporated into the overall presentation, which at first reads like a picture book story for the very young ("When you were very, very little, a tiny baby neuron grew inside your head. The baby neuron was lonely. It wanted to connect to neuron friends.").

Science-minded youngsters who read beyond this very simple beginning will be surprised to find that discussions proceed relatively quickly to the evolution of neural networks, scientific names and concepts such as dendrites and axons and how electrical messages are transmitted, and discussions of why neurons are the basic forces driving almost everything in human life; from the ability to feel joy and sadness to the ability to draw, play, and learn.

The journey moves from very simple, basic neuron science to consider the wider galaxy, noting that "You have as many neurons as there are stars in our galaxy." Gorgeous full-page color illustrations by Max Weinberg and Christine Gralapp help transmit this concept; offering kids an easy way of understanding the basics of neurons and their importance to the world.

The result is a unique and wide-ranging story that readers of all ages will find accessible and surprisingly easy to understand, highly recommended for any science collection for elementary-level readers.

Mantra Design: Innovate, Buy, or Die!
Dana A. Oliver
Xlibris Corporation
1663 South Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
Hardcover 9781514415849, $29.99
Softcover 9781514415832, $19.99
eBook 9781514415795, $3.99

Many books discuss innovations in business structure and product design, promising readers revolutionary results if they would just adapt and apply these philosophies to their business pursuits. Few come backed with the authority of Dana A. Oliver, whose endeavors include growing Medtronic's Surgical Technologies ENT/NT division from, $100 million to approximately, $2 billion in annual revenues over fourteen years.

This, plus some 30 years of experience, makes Dana Oliver an impressive figure whose concept of "mantra design" should be considered by any serious innovator and business manager. But what is "mantra design"? Quite simply, it's a process of uncovering one's customer's unmet needs and organizing a business structure to fill those needs through innovative, profitable pursuits.

Chapters offer lessons for all kinds of businesses and leadership approaches, linking these lessons to strategies designed to build flexibility and creativity into business pursuits. This is accomplished through a blend of anecdotal case histories and Oliver's own experiences at Medtronic, and it's imparted in an approach that outlines common misperceptions and keys to overcoming hurdles.

Of necessity, at times the language is detailed and complex as it reviews common obstacles to business and business organizational challenges; but it also is quite clear in describing its processes: "Every simulated laboratory I have ever participated in resulted in learning something new and was advantageous for either the product or its promotion. Given this time-consuming and evolving new product convergence process, there are three key product development strategies to aid in reaching a commercially successful design freeze: don't obsess on hitting a bull's eye; collect product feedback from friends, foes, and average Joes; and aspire to share your latest concept with customers at least twelve to twenty times."

From recognizing "game-changing difference makers" when designing new products to the goals and cautions involved in recognizing that new products and innovations are the lifeblood of any organization, chapters discuss the logic involved in acknowledging and using creativity, consider the partnerships between creative design and marketing and research processes, and discuss rules of thumb for innovation leaders.

The result is a powerful discussion that bases its innovation ideas on real-world scenarios, backed by the experience and savvy of a man who has a proven track record in his industry. Business leaders will want to consider his discussions of applied innovation and the processes that lead to success.

Kenneth Eade
Times Square Publishing
9781537554044, $10.50,

Thriller readers who enjoy novels that revolve around terrorist struggles will relish Paladine's special brand of excitement; for here the action and interplays focus on an ex-military man who becomes a CIA assassin and then retires, only to find his inadvertent killing of a terrorist, saving dozens of lives, sends him on another career path where he specializes in killing other terrorists.

In his new alter ego persona of 'Paladine', Robert's nearly-supernatural killing prowess is unequalled and his life and purposes expand far beyond the character's initial introduction in Eade's prior Beyond All Recognition.

It is a logical transition for Robert because retirement after an active military career and professional killing assignments has never seemed a satisfying goal for the rest of his life. Fueled with a new vision backed by a sense of righteousness and justice, he's now in the perfect position to expand the talents and purposes honed in his prior careers.

One of the devices Kenneth Eade consistently employs that sets his writing apart from others is a solid attention to not only developing protagonists and following their most minute motivations and influences, lending authenticity and real feeling to their encounters and choices; but his ability to provide a deeper focus on juxtaposing their individual interests against a wider world view.

In this case, Robert's choice leads to the creation of not just a new career, but an urban legend, and his newfound persona is perfectly captured in a gripping description that's one of the hallmarks of Eade's compelling style: "The attempted "McDonald's massacre" had been foiled by a miracle man, a lone, armed soldier who had somehow spotted the 22-year-old terrorist, neutralized him before he could deliver his deadly payload, and slipped away like a super hero without claiming any of the accolades. Internet reports melded with eyewitness accounts on Instagram and with social media gossip. The man was hailed as a hero, a paladin in the urban folklore culture of the Millennials, whose minds infused what most people knew as real with the virtual reality of video gaming."

This trademark approach embeds Paladine with a sense of purpose and realism that embrace sub-themes of honor, redemption, military precision, and a host of attitudes and insights that ultimately create a professional killer fueled with new social perspective on a never-ending mission to keep his life meaningful and super-charged with cat-and-mouse encounters.

To say that Paladine is a typical thriller about terrorism or hit men or even lone wolves is to over-simplify its complexity, which has its strength in layers of meaning. Each chapter thus not only expands Robert's encounters and reactions, but adds yet another piece to the puzzle of his transformative new life and career.

The result is a satisfyingly original, compelling piece that moves well beyond genre writing and into the realm of military precision, insight, and adventure, linking action with modern-day pursuits and concerns with the precision of a surgeon.

Paladine is very highly recommended reading for anyone looking for a story that goes the extra mile and then keeps on running, following an urban legend's ever-elusive dash towards the finish line of his life.

History's Prisoners: Invasion
James Garmisch
9781370789801, $2.99,

Huan has long known his ultimate fate will be execution. The time has come, dreams of the utopian society are crashing around him, and his only concern is for his children's future without his place in it as their protector. As a high member of the failing Western Global Alliance, Huan was supposed to be immune from execution and imprisonment; but in the tide of chaos that accompanies social collapse, all bets are off.

It's the cusp of his death - but also the moment of his rebirth, when he's given another chance at a very different scenario and purpose - that will take his careful course in life and completely turn it around.

History's Prisoners: Invasion is military and political sci-fi reading at its best, backed by social changes and the collapse of a dysfunctional utopian society that brings Huan to his knees and alters everything he's believed in. His only choice for survival is to become something he's never been, a soldier and a spy, infiltrating the resistance movement on a mission that seems to have no good outcome.

But his world isn't the only one collapsing, and he isn't the only main character struggling against vast changes. Ava is a young woman who lives in a city where the average age is seventy-nine. Like many her age, she's narcissistic, oblivious to the world, and a product of her job and her connections to the underworld.

Doon, her brother, is another battle survivor, more experienced with the "outside" and fighting with the Rangers, even though he and his comrades don't really understand the politics of what they're involved in.

Take a former member of the upper echelons of society, place him in the unfamiliar role of a special agent, introduce him to facets of a world he barely knew existed, and mix with military muscles and special forces for the essence of a story that pits two worlds against one another before introducing surprises that rest as much upon dreams of home, peace, and stability as they do upon struggles to survive.

Action is swift and while military and political factions and descriptions are present throughout, there's also a solid attention to building believable, compelling characters who interact with each other and their changed environments to the best of their abilities.

As Doon faces a terrible truth and all characters are forced to consider what they most value in life, readers are drawn into a struggle that takes place on not just a military or political level, but on a moral and ethical stage, as well.

The result is a story that's complex, involving, and hard to put down; recommended for all sci-fi fans.

Aunt Betty Horns In
Sally Sockwell
Mascot Books
560 Herndon Parkway, #120, Herndon, VA 20170
9781631774416, $9.99,

Aunt Betty Horns In is an intriguing middle school read narrated in the first person from the perspective of Emily, a straight-A responsible girl who interacts with her quirky Aunt Betty and her companion Aunt Jane, who live in a swanky apartment and are lots of fun, compared to her staid mother.

Aunt Betty is a successful stockbroker (thus their swanky lifestyle). Aunt Jane has already made her money, so she stays home and harbors dreams of selling a screenplay to Hollywood. Emily is learning some important lessons from her aunts - including how to dream.

Fun black and white drawings accent a story line which really takes off when Emily views a unicorn at a circus - something her parents think is an impossibility - and her savvy aunt takes her to a museum and discusses proof, possibilities, and different points of view: "Was that a real unicorn in the circus?" I ask Aunt Betty. "It was an animal with a horn in the middle of its head, and that says it's a unicorn to me if I believe it is, and I do. That unicorn made a lot of people happy, and if we believe it's real, then why not? You catch my drift?"

Aunt Betty is always horning in on Emily's education, and the validity of unicorns is only one small example of perspectives that place her aunt at odds with Emily's family, leading Emily to know that her aunts are exceptional beings who view the world in quite a different way.

Aunt Betty champions individuality, dreams, and stubborn determination and her attitude is lovingly and lightly conveyed in a series of encounters which are hilarious and pointed, as one phone call demonstrates: "Hello, Betty, this is Peggy. Now, Betty, we want to clear up a little matter. You don't really believe in unicorns, do you?" Peggy holds the phone so we all can hear. Aunt Betty says, "I MOST CERTAINLY DO, and you tell that crazy husband of yours to stop 'raining on everyone's parade.'"

When what begins as a different of opinion (or different perception of reality) evolves into something bigger, Emily must make her own decisions about what's important in life, what's more real, and what to fight for.

A whimsical, fun story evolves which embraces bad days at school, a school science project involving a frog that "Roams the house at night and can open the refrigerator door. He also knows how to use the oven" and an attention-getting court case.

One never quite knows where Aunt Betty Horns In will wind up - and that's the pleasure in a story highly recommended for elementary to early middle school readers looking for an adventurous read about family connections and differences which is entertaining, different, and thought-provokingly fun.

On Love
Vatsal Surti
Amazon Digital Services
ASIN: B01LWCXI8Q, $2.99 Kindle

On Love is a collection of short stories and prose poems designed to capture, in quick staccato sentences and descriptions that blossom in complexity and content, the essence of love.

These depictions of romance are diverse creations that reflect more than infatuation: they also examine connections and distance, the ebb and flow of attraction, the sadness of separation, and the angst of evolution and change.

Each of the six pieces contains a sense of heartfelt relationships juxtaposed by loneliness; the ache of surrender and loss coupled with the ecstasy of discovery and deep communications.

People leave love in an effort to know who they are outside of it. They reject growing together in favor of achieving a sense of individuality and self before returning to the fold, ready for more love. And in the process of separation and pain, they discover (or rediscover) the forces that keep love a vibrant, alive, and committed process.

On Love's protagonists find out all this and more as they move through experiences and grow from the challenges to what they've build together.

Sometimes the perspective (and tense) changes, as in 'Seasons': "Time keeps moving and nothing stays the same. Either the people outside us change or we change inside...They gave each other their whole, and became empty. The last word - march! It is not in our hand to love. It is not we who begin it, so it cannot be us ending. You are a fate that was brought to me..."

While the back-and-forth changing viewpoints in the same story, from an outside observer to a first-person experience, can be confusing at points, ultimately it's a strong part of the ebb and flow structure that pulls love apart, examines it, then pieces it back together from a different perspective.

Readers looking for short, contemplative pieces that explore the spaces and links between two people will find much food for thought in On Love: not always as easily digested as some of the short staccato writing promises; but always compelling.

Don't Go, Ramanya
Rush Leaming
Bridgewood Ent.
9780692772881, $5.99,

Ramanya was a rebel soldier in his native Burma, but is now a Buddhist monk expat living in Thailand. He lost everything, including his family, when he fled his former home - or, has he? When a stranger visits him to let him know all is not lost, Ramanya faces a terrible decision between the new peaceful life he's forged in Thailand and returning to war-torn Burma in search of family and answers.

But all is not as it appears. Is Thailand really a peaceful haven, or Burma's dangerous neighbor, facing its own brand of terrorism and disruption? And is his family really alive; or is this a ruse to get him to return to a country where he can be captured and executed for treason?

Against the backdrop of a hostage situation placing Thailand and Burma at odds with one another and threatening to ignite the entire region, Ramanya faces his own challenges, from modern world to ancient conflicts, decisions made to flee his homeland and the impact they've had on his love and life, and a possible one-way ticket back to hell.

Don't Go, Ramanya is steeped in the sounds, flavors, and atmosphere of Asian experience, from urban and countryside scenes to train rides: "The outskirts of Bangkok stretched on for several more miles, crooked shantytowns planted on muddy roads, until at last city gave way to countryside. Michael pressed his head to the window and watched as rice paddies rolled by, their brilliant green shoots rising from shallow water; then came plantations of papaya trees, banana trees, sugarcane, and small farms of lychee trees, their plump red fruit looking like giant raspberries. Inside the train, the small fans pointing down from the ceiling did little to push away the stuffy mix of humidity and body heat that seemed to soak into the old worn walls."

Rush Leaming's careful attention to recreating the physical and social world of Thailand and Burma is part of why Ramanya's journey is so compelling, as it brings readers into the worlds of three men who find themselves on an incredible odyssey.

The intrigue, struggles, and nitty-gritty feel of the choices they make and the social and political lines they toe assumes no prior knowledge of Asian politics or scenes and provides all the information needed to place Michael, Ramanya and Bob's world in perspective.

Can a former rebel soldier turned monk, an American teacher, and a British priest sneak over a heavily-guarded border before it's closed, and can they survive their choices and confront secrets they'd thought were long buried in the past? And most of all: is there any recognizable home left to return to?

Don't Go, Ramanya is thriller reading at its best, cementing a turbulent political atmosphere with an overlay of diverse and realistic human concerns and endeavors that border on the extraordinary. Genre fans who seek atmosphere and description in their reads will find that Leaming doesn't sacrifice either psychological depth or evocative setting for the sake of fast-paced action, winding all into an emotionally and socially charged saga that's hard to put down.

In the Moment
Gerry Cousins
Strategic Book Publishing and Rights Agency
9781681813073, $19.50,

There are so many actor's guides on the market today that it may be hard to see the need for yet another; but sometimes a truly original approach is provided that links real-world experience with tips essential to acting success. Such a book is In the Moment, an audition workbook directed not to novices but to the trained actor.

Since many other acting books assume no prior knowledge of the industry, it's refreshing to see a guide that intermediate actors can use. Other books often come from fellow actors who have enjoyed some measure of achievement; but Gerry Cousins is a teacher who founded a successful school in Studio City, California teaching on-camera audition technique to "trained" actors, so her entire approach is different.

The focus on auditioning for film and television roles uses a workbook format to present the author's specific strategies and classroom teachings and methods which can be applied to virtually any role or acting endeavor.

Her guide is different because "The trick to getting the part is winning the audition. By and large, acting classes are about theater - scene study and performance. Preparation includes the luxury of time, memorized lines, rehearsals, blocking, costumes, and sets. Film/television, however, while taking that training into account, is a whole other skill set. Auditioning for a part in this genre has its own rules and conventions."

In the Moment refines not just a technique, but a purpose. It captures the essence of "living in the moment" and shows how to translate this feel to an audition, and it emphasizes that in order to achieve success, actors have to consider their audition as not just reading a scene, but immersing themselves in a situation.

Exercises take sample audition readings and break them down to explore underlying character traits, how to score a script to identify transition moments and emotional emphasis, and how to avoid the common tendency to over-complicate characters in the interests of dramatic effect.

Nuggets of information pepper each moment and sample audition, always returning to the heart of the matter: the process of capturing, translating, and living in the moment for maximum impact: "Auditioning is a real skill and is learned by doing over time. Don't go cerebral. The moment you start judging every little thing you do and try to squeeze it all in, you're done! Do your homework thoroughly and then let it go. Work in the moment."

It sounds so simple and so basic; and yet this objective and its process are often missed by aspiring, seasoned, and too-intense would-be actors alike. That's why the actor with some experience under his belt needs the program specifics of In the Moment. Drama book stores and most especially academic drama programs will find the attention to audition techniques to be invaluable, and an important difference between this and other drama instructionals. "Preparation is foremost" - and the neo-professional will be better prepared with the help of this specific program.

With Ballet in My Soul
Eva Maze
Moonstone Press, LLC
9780983498384, $24.95,

With Ballet in My Soul: Adventures of a Globetrotting Impresario begins with a young Rumanian girl's dreams of entering ballet and explores what happens when her initial dream of dancing leads her to instead become one of the most successful theatrical impresarios in Europe.

Many memoirs document lives that experience some of the worlds Eva Maze encounters in the course of her long journey; but the special pleasure in With Ballet in My Soul lies in its winding ride through social, political, and personal upheavals as Eva earns a name for herself in unexpected ways.

From dance schools and theater groups to programs and personalities who moved between these European worlds in the 1940s to the 1960s, With Ballet in My Soul offers a sweeping journey that takes many turns to bring readers into the birth and evolution of new opportunities in theater and life.

Maze finds newfound purpose in a life forged abroad, has romantic involvements with men from other countries, serves a stint in India as a successful radio show host, and encounters forces that led her to stumble into what would be her lifelong achievement. Throughout this entire process, Maze's memoir is direct, powerful, and filled with vivid insights: "My career as an impresario began with this friendly request. Up until that moment, I had never considered the profession of impresario (a.k.a. producer, manager of performing artists, touring manager, booking agent, etc.) - and a female one at that. Neither did I ever dream of following some day in the footsteps of the most famous Russian-born American impresario of the day, Sol Hurok."

Black and white and color snapshots (over two hundred) liberally pepper the story and highlight her heady life with visual embellishments that capture whirlwind productions, people in her life, and other countries. Readers should also expect a healthy dose of historical background which blends in social and political observation: something else that's missing from many memoirs.

The result excels in exploring not just Eva Maze's life and many experiences; but the forces at work during her lifetime and her tours and interactions with professional performers and artists from different walks of life.

Lively, educational, and a fun romp through Europe's professional circles, With Ballet in My Soul blends the artistry of performance and visual enhancements with an adventurer's heart to provide a heady mix of travelogue, career journey and personal odyssey that's hard to put down. With Ballet in My Soul is one of those rare gems that provide an outstanding performance, documenting the rich worlds of professional theater and dance alongside the author's life and interactions as her experiences become memories to treasure and share.

Khafa The High Priestess
Lory La Selva Paduano
Elevation Book Publishing
P.O. Box 15000, Atlanta, GA, 30324
9781943904044, $14.95,

Khafa The High Priestess is a novel of Egyptian heritage and modern concerns and revolves around the knowledge of an ancient race which is passed down from a grandmother to her only granddaughter. Many stories would use a fantasy or time-travel approach for this kind of theme; but the story's pleasure lies not in fantasy but in a past world's struggles and how they come alive for a present-day girl on her path to womanhood.

In many ways Khafa The High Priestess is about filling in historical blanks and applying ancient knowledge to modern living. As Elizabeth discovers how women in general (and high priestesses in particular) operated in Egyptian society, a girl who loves history and archaeology largely because of her loving grandmother's intense passion for the subjects finds her life changed because of this knowledge.

Chapters reveal the story of High Priestess Khafa and her world with an unusually precise attention to historical detail, a quality usually set aside in novel formats in the process of highlighting action and adventure. In this case, information about witches, spells, extraordinary powers, and equally strong competing forces fuel a plot that doesn't thicken with complexity but flows from interactive engagements between granddaughter and grandmother.

Contrasts between family stories and legends and archaeological discoveries focus on differences between two approaches to facts, and the conflicts this can provoke between generations ("It is important for Liz to know the facts." Justin sat back down gathering his composure before Anta spoke in anger. "You, my own flesh and blood, wish to deny the stories and proof that our ancestors taught us?")

Much detail embracing Egyptology, archaeological findings, conflicting theories, and modern perceptions of the past is incorporated into a lively survey of a feisty priestess and her far-ranging visions of change: "The conclusion was that pyramids would be built for light, having electricity all through the land powered by water underneath the pyramids! Construction was to commence before the future King was to arrive, right on the Giza strip and along the Nile for easy accessibility." Liz stopped Grandma Anta's story. "I knew it Grandma! This proves the Tesla theory all too well. He's the only one who got it right!" Grandma Anta said, "Yes, the only one, and yet, it was still considered a theory. The world couldn't be further from the mark!"

As Khafa's life comes to embrace intrigue, political and spiritual challenges, betrayal from the highest places and those she's loved and trusted (and, in the future, Liz's own growth, coming of age, and betrayals), their different stories dovetail and create parallels of circumstance and conflict.

While a proofreader's touch might have caught some minor glitches peppered throughout the story ("As she turned around, she wasn't shock one bit." and "They entered the tunnel and made their way into, what looked like a shrine ..."), the tale still succeeds in presenting two vivid, engrossing timelines of events that weave two lives into one powerful historical tale of sweeping discoveries and far-reaching visions.

Khafa The High Priestess is especially recommended for historical fiction fans who like their settings thought-provoking and solidly linked to romance, intrigue, growth, and the passions of protagonists who journey through strange worlds of dynasties and rebels. Khafa's dreams for Egypt's future stand out as strongly as a grandmother's dreams for her granddaughter as she narrates a compelling story that follows and haunts Liz from childhood into adulthood. Vivid, engrossing reading makes for a story that will appeal to all ages.

The Filmmaker's Journey: Or What Nobody Tells You About the Industry
Chris Esper
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
ASIN: B01F6J3W5O, $1.99 Kindle,

Chris Esper has been making films for six years, and reveals the first part of these experiences in a book directed to fellow filmmakers who would learn more about the process from the industry experiences of one who's been there. But be forewarned: readers shouldn't expect a treatise on how to make a good film; nor does it provide a formula for success.

Instead, The Filmmaker's Journey is about the process of growth and how an eighteen-year-old who understood his career aspirations while still young succeeded in making a place for himself in that world.

Chapters thus assume the form of an autobiography as they probe Esper's route through the industry, peppering his story of his career's evolution with insights on how others evolved and achieved, from a Sundance Film Festival winner whose video was shot entirely on an iPhone to how the crux of success can be as simple as making exceptional movies with whatever equipment is available.

It's not about attending the best film school or affording the most expensive, advanced equipment: success in the film industry lies in the creative talent involved in making a production and the artistry refined during a lifelong learning process.

Esper's industry experiences blend with his personal observations and feelings and moves between advice for other aspiring filmmakers to what he felt about and experienced in the industry. From how to handle a bad review and use feedback and criticism to one's professional advantage to assessing distribution companies for one's short and understanding that a film career is not a linear path, but holds many detours along the way, Esper's story is compelling on both a personal and business level, excelling in a blend of emotion and insights not usually present in the typical filmmaking advice guide.

The result is a powerful series of industry insights that Chris Esper had to learn the hard way. With the publication of his book, peers don't have to take this hard route, and can more effectively navigate the pitfalls and successes of their own personal filmmaking odyssey.

Highly recommended as an accessible, involving, and candid collection of experiences and tips from a filmmaker who is still traveling the road of filmmaking success.

Diet Slave No More!
Svetlana Kogan, MD
Svetlana Kogan, M.D, Publisher
9780692753071, $19.99,

Diet Slave No More!: A Fun Literary Journey into Your Self is an unexpected journey in that it's not another book on "how to diet". Instead, its holistic approach combines the medical traditions of East and West as it considers the fact that typical dieting strategies just don't work, and it reviews a new idea that offers better balance and insights.

Where most diet books advocate a singular program that can be followed by all, Diet Slave No More maintains that in order to achieve lasting results, diet efforts must be customized and tailored to and by the individual dieter.

This is further emphasized by the fact that ninety-seven percent of those who lost weight gained all of it back within a few years, neatly demonstrating that artificial weight loss efforts not backed by deeply life-changing strategies are likely only temporary achievements.

One of the purposes of Diet Slave No More is to provide medical insights into weight gain and loss and what occurs on a metabolic and physical level when one's diet changes. Discussions move to a cellular level as they probe how food is digested and absorbed into the system.

A touch of metaphysical insight adds to Dr. Kogan's approach, as well: "By coming to understand that your Cells are highly intelligent by design, you are not committing to any religion or a cult. You are simply coming to terms with why you were born perfect and why you are such a mess today. And what's more: you are learning to tap into your birthright - your cellular integrity, to recreate your perfection."

Specifics of emotional ties to food are revealed ("Just like a positive emotion, like hearing your beloved calling you with a cup of coffee, can strengthen your positive perception of an object, in this case coffee, the negative emotion will cause predictable results. Even if only one of the five senses is suddenly conveying an unpleasant emotion, the overall perception of an object will be affected dramatically. A cup of coffee offered by someone you resent will make this beverage tough to swallow. So, emotions are always there, accompanying our five senses, feeding into them, and getting nourished by them."), backed by the latest research, the author's case history examples, and discussions of how perception and taste play a part in food choices.

Part of the book promotes an accompanying app of the same name - Diet Slave No More! - as part of a plan to link outside world experiences with reinforcements for habit change, which can be as basic as eating healthy at home before an event or outing to adopting a slower pace of life and an organic, non-GMO-based diet.

The result advocates not one approach, but a series of psychological, physical, and spiritual insights into the mechanics of eating, diets, and decision-making and choices that will help readers realize and define a better path for overall health. Serial dieters will be surprised and delighted with a book that doesn't advocate yet another regimen, and which blends science with anecdotes and examples from real-life situations.

Cat Born to the Purple
C. L. Francisco
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781537605562, Paperback -, $12.98, ebook -, $5.99

Cat Born to the Purple is Book 4 in the Christian historical fantasy series 'Yeshua's Cat', which is set in Biblical times and follows the adventures of a wise cat who "...once traveled with Yeshua ben Yosef, the human known among cats as He Who Brings Life to the Earth, beloved of the One."

The cat narrators hold a noble cat lineage, a gift for storytelling, and a cat's curiosity about the human world that leads to having a paw in (or a cat's-eye view of) virtually everything that surrounds Yeshua ben Yosef, bringing events alive from a different perspective. This viewpoint is not your typical collection of retellings of legend, but represents a truly unique 'voice' that comments on decisions and interactions between spiritual and human forces: "Later that evening, Ben Adamah told me that Eliana just needed time, that once she realized her own strength, the memories would return. Until then, the One would hold them for her in a small pouch spun of spider's silk. I think he might have been making up that last part. But he knew that I found Eliana's lapse disturbing. She'd mislaid a chunk of her life, a part of who she was. What if she never got it back? Would her mind be pocked with empty holes where memories used to be? More than a few times while we were in Cana, I dreamed of walking through a wilderness riddled with black pits echoing with nothingness, waiting to swallow me up if I missed a step. Even cats have nightmares."

It successfully captures not only the social and political nuances of early times, but places them in a different context as a woman recovers from being stoned and interacts with cats and humans destined to form the nexus of Christianity.

It's rare to see a Christian story that remains attentive to Biblical history and gospel while providing a different, compelling set of insights on the words, actions, and choices of major Biblical figures as they impact human and cat's lives alike.

From a kitten named Purple, who is determined to tear things apart to see how threads fit together, to the awe-inspiring "son of Earth," with his power to heal and help thwart the evil forces of his times, dialogue is powerful and interactions enlighten readers with engrossing visions, questions, and encounters: "Who are you, that healing burns in your hands like light, and power flows through you like the ocean tides?" Aqhat pursued. "You hold the lives of the goddess' sacred cats in your hands, and bend their wills to your own. Who are you, that you can take the crippling weight of years away and restore a blind woman's sight? This I would know, Rabbi Yeshua ben Yosef." ..."I am who I am, my friend," he replied. "I am who you see. I am my father's son, and I come to offer your suffering world words of healing and love, calling them to turn again, and remember - like your cats, Aqhat - to remember that they are the beloved children of the One who created them, and that they are neither lost nor alone."

Too many Christian historical novels are dry presentations, but Cat Born to the Purple's language and approach are so original and unexpected that the events of its times, even those well known by Christian readers, are eloquently presented with new twists and always with a cat's-eye take on matters.

Subtitles ("Cat tales and purple snails" and "Purple Gleaming in Shadow speaks") keep themes in perspective and eliminate confusion as they shift from cat contemplations, story events, and between different feline narrators. Poetic language, questions of healing, control, power, choice, and spiritual insights all contribute to one of the most powerful accounts of Biblical times in Christian literature.

It's rare to find the fourth book of the series just as gripping a read as its predecessors, and equally extraordinary to find such an addition both a stand-alone achievement and an impressive expansion of themes presented in prior books. The cat's involved yet observational position is exquisitely done and is the perfect device for exploring the strange world of humans and the guiding lights that lead them.

All faiths will find this story hard to put down: it's the language of Cat Born to the Purple, which seeps into one's mind and enlivens both the narrative and its underlying spiritual, ethical, and moral questions as they delve into basic issues of mercy, justice, and belief: "The son of Earth looked long and steadily at Chariton's desperate face. "The only sacrifice the One asks of his children is the love of their hearts, freely and humbly given, Chariton. Can you offer that?" "How can I love what I have never known, Lord?" "Do you love the golden light on the mountain peaks at evening, Chariton? Their soft blush at morning? Does your memory float on fragile wings of delight at the sharp scent of mountain pines? Does your heart reach out to the silver flash of fish as they swim in the waters of your bay? Is the warm touch of a new-shorn sheep's flank a blessing to your soul? When you look into Aeliana's eyes, do untold wonders stir there? "Trust me, my friend, you know the One, for hers is the vision that brought all these things to birth."

Mojo for Murder
Carolyn Marie Wilkins
Pen-L Publishing
12 W. Dickson #4455, Fayetteville, AR 72702
9781683130352, $3.97,

Mojo for Murder adds another book to the Bertie Bigelow mystery series as it tells of a Jamaican woman's hex, a gullible woman's belief in its powers, and a husband's decision to hire investigator Bertie Bigelow to prove the witchy woman is a phony.

Bertie, however, is already overwhelmed by her personal life and her professional jobs; all of which have gone on overdrive. Is something terrible about to happen, and are the psychic's powers real?

As Bertie becomes immersed in a series of high-voltage encounters while juggling a major concert's organizational demands, she still has room for a murder investigation despite her longing for "A life that did not involve Mabel Howard, policemen, psychics, or murder."

With its numerous subthemes of intrigue, romance, career decisions and murderous intentions, Mojo for Murder is a spicy and absorbing read made personal by Bertie's conundrums and angst over too many choices.

Scams, allegations, the wonder of a life suddenly too full of options ("In the past ten days, she had been kissed by three different men - a thing that in and of itself was a source of considerable wonder."), and sagas of bureaucrats with secret identities and purposes all spice a vivid story that's fueled as much by Bertie's life and its evolving purposes as it is by death and its evolving mystery.

Murder mystery fans need not hold a prior familiarity with Bertie's escapades in Melody for Murder (though newcomers will likely want to imbibe) to find this exciting, and can anticipate that an engrossing read is in the cards.

Echoes of Atlantis: Crones, Templars and the Lost Continent
David S. Brody
Eyes That See Publishing
9780990741329, $14.95 print; $4.74 Kindle and Nook versions

Echoes of Atlantis: Crones, Templars and the Lost Continent is the sixth thriller novel in a series; but it should be noted that the special pleasure of David S. Brody's approach is that each book is a stand-alone creation. This means that newcomers can pick up any book and begin reading without prior familiarity with Brody's writings or the series.

In the case of Echoes of Atlantis, this is a big plus, as the action literally opens with a bang with a barking dog who alerts Amanda that a mysterious shoebox has been left at her door without any trace of its deliverer. Its contents are just as mysterious as its delivery mode: a necklace and a note indicating that it's a family relic that comes with "a blessing and a curse" attached.

Can an inanimate object breathe life? Can it contain the connections to a broken family past, and can it threaten Amanda's future?

As Amanda and Cam investigate odd relics, strange circumstances, and odder worlds, a great deal of Templar and archaeological history adds to the mystery. Readers who relish detailed descriptions that ultimately build background and intrigue will be pleased that David S. Brody takes the time to craft a story line backed by real-world facts (even if they are presented in great detail, at times).

From religious connections between Templars, Christians and Jewish people to Cam's study of ancient maps that give further clues to Atlantis' fate, a woman's military assignment to infiltrate the Knights Templar, and Amanda's journey to South America in search of answers, Echoes of Atlantis toes the line between a thriller and an international espionage piece.

As circumstances place the Templars on the cusp of discovering an ancient and powerful force, political tensions rise. And as Amanda and Cam experience their own discoveries and miracles in the course of journeys far from home, readers are swept into a current of history, philosophy and adventure that offers many riveting moments: "She felt like she did after seeing a rainbow or watching a puppy play or witnessing a great magic trick. Of all the evidence Meryn had presented in favor of Atlantis, nothing spoke quite so loudly as the ability - apparently passed down through hundreds of generations of Abraham's family - to turn a hunk of rock into gold. It was the thing of fairy tales, yet she had seen it with her own eyes."

At some point, people outgrow their fairy tales. They either prove or disprove impossible dreams, and life moves on. In the case of Echoes of Atlantis, a mysterious spiral necklace with strange powers brings with it some dangerous choices, and Amanda and Cam find their abilities tested with past and present on a collision course, based on their decisions: "...perhaps the wiser play would be to use the spiral to prove Atlantis rather than disprove it. There is much in the true story of Atlantis that undermines another fairy tale: That of the right of modern Jews to rule Israel."

Can a simple yet powerful artifact lead to the discovery of a lost Atlantis colony whose presence will change the world? And will Cam and Amanda's search for the truth uncover a hornet's nest of historical conflict that will change the world forever?

Readers receive much more than an action thriller in Echoes of Atlantis. The wealth of historical information (which permeates the story line and provides much detail), archaeological findings, and more than a light dose of world political encounters and intrigue make for a saga that is unexpectedly rich in scope and vividly engrossing in its presentation.

Butterflies and Bullets
Trisha Sugarek
Writer at Play
PO Box 15783, Savannah, GA 31416
9781450591942, $7.99,

Butterflies and Bullets, a curious title for a book of poetry, delivers what its title implies: an interplay between nature and emotional inspection. Its free verse observational approach captures the intersection between environmental and human affairs.

Poetry readers should anticipate ethereal pieces that capture a wide range of sensations. From the smells and feel of the world in 'Fragrance of Life' ("Sultry air twines itself through the/Quarter, crushed sugar, wet/pavement, yeasty bouquet of/hot beignet. Warm beer,/praline sweet, heady grape/Old river water slugs along.") to the cry of self-inflicted pain in 'Song of Agony' ("Steel scores cold, thin lines/ice and fire/Swiftly, thin red lines follow/warm and wet/First the/burning, the/shame, the self-disgust./Then sweet relief/The little suicide."), these are pieces that cry, ache, observe, and immerse the reader in emotional responses to life's beauty and treachery.

Joy and anguish, pleasure and pain ... concurrent tides of diverse expressions run through these pieces to profile the intricacies and nuances of life. When paired with evocative illustrations, it's a dance of life that flies and falls through experience with a poet and observer's astute, deft touch.

Poetry fans will find these works accessible; and though they may seem deceptively simple at first, their lasting impact lies in their thought-provoking, descriptive moments.

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

Dunford's Bookshelf

A Long and Bloody Task
Stephen Davis
Savas Beatie
PO Box 4527, El Dorado Hills, CA 95762
9781611213171 $14.95 pbk / $7.53 Kindle

Synopsis: Spring of 1864 brought a whole new war to the Western Theater, with new commanders and what would become a new style of warfare. Federal armies, perched in Chattanooga, Tennessee, after their stunning victories there the previous fall, poised on the edge of Georgia for the first time in the war.

Atlanta sat in the far distance. Major General William T. Sherman, newly elevated to command the Union's western armies, eyed it covetously?the South's last great untouched prize. "Get into the interior of the enemy's country as far as you can, inflicting all the damage you can against their War resources," his superior, Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, ordered. But if Atlanta sat some 100 miles away as the crow flies, it lay more than 140 miles away for the marching Federal armies, which had to navigate snaking roads and treacherous mountain passes.

Blocking the way, too, was the Confederate Army of Tennessee, commanded by one of the Confederacy's most defensive-minded generals, Joseph E. Johnston. All Johnston had to do, as Sherman moved through hostile territory, was slow the Federal advance long enough to find the perfect opportunity to strike. And so began the last great campaign in the West: Sherman's long and bloody task.

Critique: Part of the Emerging Civil War series, A Long and Bloody Task: The Atlanta Campaign from Dalton through Kennesaw to the Chattahoochee, May 5-July 18, 1864 is a meticulous analysis, carefully researched and accessibly presented by Civil War scholar Stephen Davis. Focusing on General Sherman's notoriously destructive campaign to end the war at any cost - an effort that inflicted so much damage on land and property that it all but defined the concept of "total war" - A Long and Bloody Task vividly reconstructs history. Highly recommended, especially for college and public library Civil War shelves.

Training for Sudden Violence: 72 Practical Drills
Rory Miller
YMAA Publications
PO Box 480, Wolfeboro, NH 03894-0480
9781594393808, $18.95, PB, 256pp,

Synopsis: How does anyone prepare for the speed and brutality of a predatory attack can shock even an experienced martial artist? Former corrections sergeant and tactical team leader, Rory Miller is a proven survivor. He instructs police and corrections professionals who, in many cases, receive only eight hours of defensive tactics training each year. They need techniques that work and they need unflinching courage. In "Training for Sudden Violence: 72 Practical Drills" Miller draws upon his years of experience and expertise to provide the martial arts student with the tools required to prepare and prevail, both physically and psychologically, in sudden physical attacks. "Training for Sudden Violence: 72 Practical Drills" covers: The fundamentals of combat drills and dynamic fighting; Developing situational awareness; Conditioning through stress inoculation; Taking a critical look at training habits; Dealing with stalkers; Escape and evasion; The predator mindset; Personal threat assessment.

Critique: "Training for Sudden Violence: 72 Practical Drills" is thoroughly 'user friendly' in tone, content, organization and presentation, making it very highly recommended for dojo, community, and academic library Martial Arts instructional reference collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Training for Sudden Violence: 72 Practical Drills" is also available in a Kindle format ($6.49).

The Devourer of Gods
Thomas Benjamin De Mayo
Bagwyn books
Arizona State University
PO Box 874402, Tempe, AZ 85287-4402
9780866988162, $16.95, PB, 330pp,

Synopsis: In "The Devourer of Gods: Viking Magic in the New World", author Thomas Benjamin De Mayo deftly weaves the tapestry of an alternate Viking North America soaked in blood and magic. Pagans and Christians clash with ship and shield-wall, unaware of the supernatural menace that hungers for them. When his son departs on a doomed raid against the natives, the Norse chieftain Jorund must confront the seeress Gudhrun GrImswidow and the sorcerous allies he once betrayed. In the city of St. Brendan, the Marklander woman Maria-Abit finds conspiracy and mystery in the court of her king. Can they uncover and defeat the Devourer of Gods?

Critique: In this exceptionally well written novel, De Mayo perfectly the Viking era as an axe age, a sword age, a wind age, a wolf age, and a time when iron men sailed wooden ships out into the great unknown. A riveting read from first page to last, "The Devourer of Gods" is action/adventure heroic fantasy at its very best and will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community library collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "The Devourer of Gods" is also available in a Kindle format ($5.99).

Psychedelic Marine
Alex Seymour
Park Street Press
c/o Inner Traditions International, Ltd.
One Park Street, Rochester, VT 05767
9781620555798, $16.95, PB, 240pp,

Synopsis: After returning from a tour of duty during the war in Afghanistan, Alex Seymour needed a way to cope with the extremes he experienced as a member of the Royal Marine Commandos, losing 7 men in his unit, and having his best friend critically injured by a Taliban bomb. Drawing upon his pre-deployment experiences with DMT and psilocybin mushrooms, Alex knew that entheogens could help him release his fears and traumas. But he also knew that simply taking psychedelics wasn't enough--he needed ceremony, something sacred to draw meaning from his experiences, to help him reassess not only the war and his role in it, but his entire life. So he set out for the Amazon in search of the hallucinogenic brew known as ayahuasca and a shaman to guide him.

He draws upon his experience in writing "Psychedelic Marine: A Transformational Journey from Afghanistan to the Amazon", riveting account of his journeys deep into the jungle and himself as we went deep into the jungle on an incredible adventure, sailing on the Amazon river with an ayahuasca shaman and his troop of 8 female shamanas, whose ethereal songs help guide participants during the nightly ayahuasca ceremonies.

Accompanied by others seeking wisdom and a redemptive experience from their First World professional lives, Alex finds his core beliefs fundamentally challenged, replaced by the power of direct experience of the sacred, which allows him to release his fears from the war and set an inspiring path for the future.

Critique: Alex Seymour enlisted in the Royal Marines Commandos as a teenager, serving for 6 years and completing 2 tours of duty on active service. Twenty years later he returned to the service as the oldest front line commando in Helmand Province in Afghanistan. He is currently the Technology Account Director for a global technology company. Exceptionally well written, "Psychedelic Marine: A Transformational Journey from Afghanistan to the Amazon" is a consistently compelling read from beginning to end and very highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library collections. It should be noted that "Psychedelic Marine" is also available in a Kindle format ($9.99).

Michael Dunford

Gary's Bookshelf

Black Friday
William W. Johnston with J.A Johnston
Kensington Publishing Corp
119 West 40th Street, New York, NY 10018
9780786038909, $9.99,

"Black Friday" is the newest thriller by this writing team that is a top flight thriller. It is the day after Thanksgiving and as we all know it's also the biggest shopping day in the country. Arab terrorists also know it as they plan an attack on a mall in Springfield Ill. As the assault unfolds the terrorist get a surprise as many citizens decide to fight back. Readers of this genre will not be disappointed with "Black Friday" that keeps the action to a feverish pitch to the very end.

Robert B. Parker's Debt To Pay
Reed Farrel Coleman
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399171437, $27.00,

It's taken a little time but Reed Farrel Coleman finally has the style and character of Jesse Stone down pat in the newest thriller "Debt To Pay" This time out there is a dangerous killer out to settle an old score that involves Jesse and other people close to him. The writing is closer to Parker with a lot of snappy dialogue as well as a fast pace that holds readers interest all the way to the end. "Debt To Pay" is the best Jesse Stone novel by Reed Farrel Coleman so far.

The Fixer
Joseph Finder
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451472571, $9.99,

"The Fixer" has a lot to say about the legal profession in a very timely thriller. Down and out former reporter Rick Hoffman returns to his father's home to renovate it. His dad who had a stroke many years ago has been living in a nursing home. As Rick does some of the work himself he finds over 3 million dollars stuffed into walls of the home. As he begins to learn the history of the money, he is attacked several times and learns that his attorney father was not all that he seemed. From the beginning where Rick finds the money to the surprise ending "The Fixer" is a rapidly paced page turning thriller that will hold interest all the way to the end.

Let's Play Make-Believe
James Patterson with James O Born
Little Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316317221, $4.99

Martin Hawking is a con artist operating in the Palm Beach area of Florida. A woman named Christy fresh from a divorce, hooks up with Martin and enjoys the danger of getting caught for the crimes they commit. Told at a rapid pace "Let's Play Make-Believe" moves along to its final surprising ending that is guaranteed to have readers wanting more from these two talented writers.

Little Black Dress
James Patterson with Emily Raymond
Little Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316276382, $4.99

The series of BookShots titles has some great short novels and "Little Black Dress" is one of them. Magazine editor Jane Avery buys a new black dress that changes her life forever. The writing is sure fire excitement as Jane encounters a whole new erotic lifestyle that could get her killed. "Little Black Dress" is a terrific rapid paced thriller that will have readers turning pages to the very end.

200 Love Lessons from the Movies Staying Moonstruck for Life
Leslie C. Halpern
Taylor Trade Publishing
c/o Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group
4501 Forbes Blvd., Suite 200, Lanham, MD 20706
978031630761370, $16.95

Unlike Halpern's other titles that also delve into film "200 Love Lessons from the Movies Staying Moonstruck for Life" goes further on how film relates to real life. She has picked some of the very best romantic movies and why they are classified as such but goes further on how to learn lessons from them for a romantic life. Some of the movies are no surprise like "Moonstruck" but others like "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" are a total surprise how they relate to romantic film. Readers will have lots of fun reading about the many films as well as agreeing or disagreeing with Halpern's choice of films and the lessons learned from each one.

Out On Parole
Stacey Green
Legacy Book Publishing
1883 Lee Road, Winter Park Fl 32789
9781937952839, $19.95,

"Out On Parole" begins with a bank robbery then takes readers thru one convict's life after prison and how he deals with society. Normally this would make a great story especially because the author has a similar life story but, something goes wrong from the beginning. The events of the bank robbery are hard to follow and the story is very choppy. "Out On Parole" could have been a very good novel if it had been better thought out how to tell the story.

Memories of a Creole Boy
Patrick Marshall
Legacy Book Publishing
1883 Lee Road, Winter Park Fl 32789
97819379528914, $19.95,

Patrick Marshall has led an extraordinary life. "Memories of a Creole Boy" is a charming story of a man who came from nothing to accomplish so much in his life He now tells all. He begins by giving readers a history of the town that he was born and grew up in Louisiana. He takes readers thru his military career to present day life. Along the way he also reveals that he invented a life saving device that is used every day by so many in the medical profession as well as his many other accomplishments. "Memories of a Creole Boy" is a positive statement that "If I can make anyone can."

A Dog Named Cat
Anne Toole
Illustrated by Richa Kinra
Outskirts Press Inc
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781478773399, $14.95,

A little boy named Tad and his family adopt a dog from an animal shelter. The little canine is happy to have a new home. Thru a series of encounters with other animals he learns that the name of Cat is not really appropriate for him. Readers of all ages should enjoy "A Dog Named Cat" for its masterfully told story of how important a name is.

My Truths
Michelle Farmer Anderson
Outskirts Press Inc
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781478777939, $14.95,

"My Truths" in poetic verse delves into many different aspects of life. Anderson has a unique style that takes readers on a journey thru many things we all take for granted. She deals with children, mothers and daughters, grandparents and romantic relationships. There is much to enjoy in "My Truths" that will hold readers interest to the last poem.

Gary Roen
Senior Reviewer

Gloria's Bookshelf

Dante's Dilemma
Lynne Raimondo
Seventh Street Books
c/o Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228
9781633880429, $15.95, Paperback, 290 pp,

From the publisher: Blind psychiatrist Mark Angelotti is faced with his most troubling cast yet when he is asked to evaluate Rachel Lazarus, the estranged wife of a slain University of Chicago professor. Months earlier, the professor's body was found stuffed into one of the exhibits at "Scav," the school's world-famous annual scavenger hunt. In a feast for the press, his body was missing a vital piece of its anatomy. Though she's confessed to her husband's murder, Rachel is mounting a Battered Woman's defense. Forced into helping the prosecution, Mark becomes unsure of his objectivity when his investigation uncovers uncomfortable parallels between Rachel's history and his own. That concern proves well-founded when his damaging admission at trial all but convicts Rachel. Then a tip connects the case to another suspected murder and evidence that Rachel may not be guilty after all. As he plows ahead during a brutal Chicago winter, Mark soon learns that he has far more to worry about than treacherous snow and ice: Someone will do anything to guarantee that Rachel takes the fall.

Mark Angelotti (he seldom uses his given name, Dante) has some bit of vision, though legally blind for the past three years. Now, just shy of 50, he is a clinical psychiatrist in a large Chicago teaching hospital, but has been ordered to drop everything he was doing to assist the recently elected State's Attorney for Cook County to assist with the Lazarus murder trial. He lives with his beloved pet, Top Cat, and is in the throes of a nasty divorce and difficult custody battle. (He reflects that "marrying my boss' daughter had been the biggest mistake of my life.") He and Annie soon had their first child, Jack, who not long thereafter developed what seemed like an ordinary childhood fever when Annie was 8 months pregnant with their 2nd child; unfortunately, the illness was fatal. Mark guilt was overwhelming: He had been having a one-night stand with another woman on that night, which he confessed to Annie. She is now trying to deny him all but the slightest contact with his surviving son, Louis, born a few weeks later.

The underlying theme of the novel is domestic abuse. Mark knows all about that subject: his mother had died in childbirth, and his father had never forgiven him, and took out his hatred and anger on Mark. He relates all too well to Rachel Lazarus' history of abuse at the hands of her husband, something she shares with her beloved daughter.

I must admit that the author had me early on in the book, when he mentions his protagonist's dedication to the New York Mets baseball team, but that's another story. The writing is captivating, and the reader is drawn into the tale immediately. The author captures this perfectly when he speaks of "the pleasure of reading itself, of getting mentally lost in an artfully constructed flow of words." That would sum up my absorption in the book and my reaction to the novel, which is recommended.

Reykjavik Nights
Arnaldur Indridason, author
Translated from the Icelandic by Victoria Cribb
Picador USA
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1800, New York, NY 10010
9781250111425, $16.00, Paperback, 304 pp.,

From the publisher: In this stunning prequel to his critically acclaimed Inspector Erlendur books and the tenth volume in the series, Erlendur is a young and inexperienced detective walking beat on the streets in Reykjavik, encountering routine traffic accidents, theft, domestic violence, contraband - - and an unexplained death. When a tramp he met regularly on the night shift is found drowned in a ditch, no one seems to car. But his fate haunts Erlendur and drags him inexorably into the strange and dark underworld of his.

Erlendur knew that in the year that had elapsed since the man, whose name was Hannibal, drowned Reykjavik CID had uncovered no evidence of suspicious circumstances. Yet he was also aware that the death of a homeless man had not been high priority." At around the same time as the death of the tramp, a 19-year-old girl goes missing. And not long before that a young woman who had gone out for a few drinks with friends had disappeared and never been found either. "Stories of people going missing held a particular fascination for Erlendur . . . The missing left a series of unanswered questions behind them. . . No one else was asking questions about this man who had drowned like a stray dog." And so he goes on his own investigation into these particular disappearances. "The more details Erlendur uncovered about Hannibal's case, the more his curiosity grew." Now 28 years old, he finds himself "wondering if his decision to join the police had been precipitated by his fascination with stories like theirs. . . This fixation of his with disappearances - - with the phenomenon itself, the fates of those who were never heard of again and the sufferings of those left behind to mourn."

The title derives from Erlendur's musings about Reykjavik nights, "so strangely sunny and bright, yet in another sense so dark and desperate." And his investigation leads to unexpected lines of inquiry, at one point tying into one of the other "disappearances." There is a large cast of characters, all very well drawn. We are given a window into the path Erlendur's career with the police will take, as at the end of the book the results of his unsanctioned investigations so impress the top brass that he is invited by his superior to "get in touch if you're interested in doing more of this kind of sleuthing." And he thinks "how good it would be to shed his uniform." Especially so since for the first time he is thinking of settling down with Halldora, his "significant other." Wonderfully well-written, and a definite sign of what is to come from this author, the novel is highly recommended.

Harlan Coben
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780525955108, $28.00/37.00 CA$, Hardcover, 395 pp.,

From the publisher: A decade ago, kidnappers grabbed two boys from wealthy families and demanded ransom, then went silent. No trace of the boys ever surfaced. For ten years, their families have been left with nothing but painful memories and a quiet desperation for the day that has finally, miraculously arrived: Myron Bolitar and his friend Win believe that have located one of the boys, now a teenager. Where has he been for ten years, and what does he know about the day, more than half a life ago, when he was taken? And most critically: What can he tell Myron and Win about the fate of his missing friend?

After a hiatus of about five years, this novel marks the return of Myron Bolitar and Win Lockwood (nee Windsor Horne Lockwood III), his best friend since their freshman year at Duke University. The big change in Myron's personal life is that he is engaged to be married to Terese, an anchorwoman on an all-news channel,with Win as his best man. The aforementioned still missing friend was the son of Win's cousin, Brooke, so the matter becomes a much more serious and personal one for Win, and thus for Myron. Myron had been a standout, if not "legendary," basketball star until a serious injury ended his career, after which he went to Harvard Law School and then opened his own sports agency, with his friend Esperanza Diaz as his "receptionist/assistant/confidante/assorted other hats." (A subplot of sorts deals with Esperanza, known in the wrestling world as Little Pocahontas along with her tag team partner, Big Cyndi, a/k/a Big Chief Mama.)

In this newest novel from Mr. Coben, and in his inimitable style, he explores every nuance of that simple word "Home." It is that in the most literal sense for Myron when he buys the home he grew up in from his folks when they decide to retire to Florida. The tale of "two boys who had grown up in the lap of luxury and been snatched away" when 16 years of age takes our protags to London, Rome, the Netherlands and back in the author's trademark suspenseful fashion, with p.o.v. alternating between Myron and Win, before a totally unexpected ending.

Well deserving of its place atop the Bestseller List, "Home" is recommended.

Fool Me Once
Harlan Coben
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780525955092, $28.00/36.00 CA$, Hardcover, 387 pp.,

From the publisher: In "Fool Me Once," readers meet Captain Maya Stern, a former special-ops Army pilot. Still grieving the recent loss of her sister in a home invasion, Maya then witnesses her husband Joe's murder in a robbery gone wrong. Left to care for her [two-year-old] daughter alone she sets up a nanny cam - - and sees the unthinkable. There, on the footage, is her dead husband playing with her daughter. As the investigation into Joe's murder progresses, Maya is left with nothing but questions. Is Joe alive and not to be trusted? Or is it herself she can't trust? With Joe's family circling around her, not to mention the car that's been following her for the past couple of days, Maya must come to terms with the truth about her husband and, more importantly, the truth about herself.

The publisher also says: One of Harlan Coben's great talents is not only to keep readers guessing until the very last page but to leave breadcrumbs that fool readers into thinking they know the ending when they don't. Believe that!!

Maya has come to depend greatly on her late sister's husband, and adores their 14- and 12-year-olds. That family and her former platoon mates are there for her as well. Her husband's family, on the other hand, with their family fortune and reputations to guard, are another story. Joe's brother had also died under tragic circumstances. Maya, nearly six feet tall, still carries herself like the helicopter pilot/war veteran she was; her "military notoriety, if not heroism, also made her something of a local celebrity."

I found it rather odd when the schoolmaster of the elite private school that her husband and his siblings had attended is named Neville Lockwood IV, as one of the protagonists of the author's much-loved Myron Bolitar series is named Windsor Horne Lockwood III. Maybe the author just couldn't resist having a similarly-named character in the present standalone. The deaths do not stop with Joe's murder, and did not start there either, and the red herrings abound. I loved the reference to Occam's razor, of Arthur Conan Doyle fame. The stunning denouement is completely unexpected, and the novel is recommended.

Say No More
Hank Phillippi Ryan
c/o Tor-Forge
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780765385352, $25.99/36.90 CA$, Hardcover, 384 pp,

From the publisher: When Boston television reporter Jane Ryland reports a hit-and-run, she soon learns she saw more than a cara crash - - she witnessed the collapse of an alibi. Working on an expose of sexual assaults on college campuses for the station's new documentary unit, Jane has just convinced a date rape victim to reveal her heartbreaking experience on camera. However, a disturbing, anonymous message that arrives in her office mail - - SAY NO MORE - - has Jane really and truly scared. Homicide detective Jake Brogan is on the hunt for the murderer of Avery Morgan, a hot-shot Hollywood screenwriter. Morgan's year as a college guest lecturer just ended at the bottom of her swimming pool in the tight-knit and tight-lipped Boston community called The Reserve. As Jake chips his way through a code of silence as shatterproof as any street gang, he'll learn that one newcomer to the neighborhood may have a secret of her own. A young woman faces a life-changing decision - - should she go public about her assault? Jane and Jake - - now semi-secretly engaged and beginning to reveal their relationship to the world - - are both on a quest for answers as they try to balance the consequences of revealing the truth.

In the opening pages, Detective Jake Brogan, grandson of a former Police Commissioner, one of the city's top homicide cops and his partner, Paul DeLuca, discover Avery's dead body at the bottom of her pool. That same morning, Jane witnesses the hit-and-run which puts her in the middle of a tough balancing act between her obligations as a citizen and those of a journalist. The entire fast-moving and page-turning plot takes place over a four-day period. A second story line deals with the issue which is the crux of Jane's documentary being prepared for airing on her TV station, taking her into the lives of women who have reported the sexual assaults visited upon them and duly reported to Edward Tarrant, the dean of students at the University and the Title Nine coordinator whose job it is to make sure all assault complaints are investigated, if the students want that done. Jane, now nearly 34 years old, is a former award-winning investigative reporter who has spent more than seven years in news, often on the crime beat, though no longer covering crime.

Unfortunately, Tarrant sees himself as the "fireman . . . When there's a public relations fire, I put it out." As to the "incidents" themselves, his job, to him, calls for them to be "glossed over, erased, redeemed, or Band-Aided." The timing of this novel, in this pre-election period when sexual assaults are in each day's headlines, is nearly prescient.

Interestingly, p.o.v. changes are identifiable by the chapter-like (although often mid-chapter) headings. Another excellent entry in the series, and one which is recommended.

The Girl with the Deep Blue Eyes
Lawrence Block
Hard Case Crime
c/o Titan Publishing
9781783297504, $22.99/29.99 CA$/16.99 BPS, Hardcover, 240 pp.
9781783297528, $9.95/12.95 CA$/7.99 BPS, Paperback, 240 pp.

From the publisher: Cashed out from the NYPD after 24 years, Doak Miller operates as a private eye in steamy small-town Florida, doing jobs for the local police. Like posing as a hit man and wearing a wire to incriminate a local wife who's looking to get rid of her husband. But when he sees the wife, when he looks into her deep blue eyes . . . He falls - and falls hard. Soon he's working with her, against his employer, plotting a devious plan that could get her free from her husband and put millions in her bank account. But can they do it without landing in jail? And once he's kindled his taste for killing . . . will he be able to stop at one?

The prolific author this time around includes in this novel sex [a lot, of which I wished there had been less], baseball - with a potential no-hitter! [of which I wished there had been more!], and a killer-for-hire - what more could one ask [other than as noted above]? The mystery aspect of the plot is very cleverly done, and Doak is a fascinating character, as is his would-be employer, Lisa, she of the "deep blue eyes," a feature that has Doak practically foaming at the mouth [insert your own salacious comment of choice] nearly from first page to last. The author himself has described the book as a "down-and-dirty noir thriller, characterized by my Hollywood agent as James M. Cain on Viagra." That's certainly apt!

Sheriff William Radburn, who Doak thinks of as the "closest thing he had to a friend in the whole State of Florida," where he'd moved three years ago, is the person who brings the potential client, Lisa, to Doak, who he describes as a reliable hit man. Doak is to wear a wire so that the woman can later be prosecuted, and doesn't see a problem. Until he does. He falls for her, hard, after which things don't go quite as planned.

This is a real page-turner of a book, which I finished is less than 24 hours, and my only real problem with it (as referenced above) was the numerous scenes of graphic sex. But I guess that only makes Doak's predilections more true to character, and despite that negative, the novel is recommended.

Gloria Feit
Senior Reviewer

Gorden's Bookshelf

Future Visions
Elizabeth Bear, Greg Bear, David Brin, et. al.
Melcher Media, Inc.
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
B0182NCTWS, $0.00, US copyright 2015, File Size: 35585 KB,

Future Visions is an ebook only release. It is a collection of short stories inspired by Microsoft Research after they invited a group of famous SF authors for a visit. The SF authors are good so every short story is interesting and fun. A few stand out as very good. Short stories take a different talent than novelists generally have so the best short stories are usually written by those authors who are not focused on novels and sagas. I enjoy short stories because they are frequently more edgy and experimental than a novel. The majority of the stories in this collect feel a bit reserved. But the best thing about the collection is that it is free. If you want to explore the style of any of these SF authors before putting out the money for a whole novel, this collection is a great way to go.

You might think that these SF stories would stay close to contemporary settings because they are inspired by actual technology at Microsoft. But don't be surprised if the stories go beyond reality and into the 'what if.' And that is what good SF is all about.

There is no reason why you shouldn't pick up this collection. If you are a SF reader, this gives to you a handful of stories by a few of the best writers in the genre. If you have never tried SF, this is a sampling of what you will find in the genre. Every story is fun and well written. A few will stick with you forever. It is even better when you consider the stories are based on what the writers learned visiting Microsoft Research and seeing the actual technology that is being explored today. It can't get any better since it is free.

Gingerbread Man
Lee Strauss
ESB Publishing
Amazon Digital Services LLC
B00QZD9EXK, $3.99, Kindle
9781927547762, $11.99, PB, 338pp,

The Gingerbread Man is a parallel universe murder mystery. It is a solid story but it has a few problems. The most annoying problem for the reader is that there are four characters who are all written in first person. Strauss does limit each first person narrative to separate chapters but the shifting pushes the reader out of the storyline until the reader adjusts to the new point of view. The confusion finally drops away when the narration is later dominated by just two of the characters.

Marlow has an online relationship with a shy girl named Teagen. A serial rapist and killer is lurking on the college campus they are both attending. Teagen disappears and Marlow with Teagen's roommate Sage try to save her before the rapist kills again.

Gingerbread Man is an average suspense mystery blended with an average SF parallel universe storyline. With the odd choice of using four separate first person narrations, the blend of mystery and SF becomes confusing enough that only hard core mystery and SF readers will want to finish the tale. The story does have a solid but weak end. With the narrative shifting at the beginning of the story, it would have been better if there was more of a reward at the end. Gingerbread Man is a good find on sale but is a weak choice at full price.

S.A. Gorden, Senior Reviewer

Greenspan's Bookshelf

This Strange and Powerful Language
Iban Zaldua
Center for Basque Studies
University of Nevada - Reno
Reno, Nevada, 89557
9781935709701, $20.00, PB, 212pp,

Synopsis: Basque is an isolated language, related to none other in Europe. It is therefore understandable that Basque literature is mostly unknown, even though much of it is now available in Spanish and English translations.

In "This Strange and Powerful Language: Eleven Crucial Decisions a Basque Writer Is Obliged to Face", Basque novelist and essayist Iban Zaldua set himself the task of providing a guide for outsiders to contemporary Basque authors. His concise and readable guide was winner of the 2015 Euskadi Prize, the highest literary honor in the Basque country.

Nevertheless, "This Strange and Powerful Language" is a non-academic work specifically designed and intended for students, teachers, and the general reader. The title comes from a quotation from critic George Steiner, who felt that while Basque was a "strange and powerful" language, mysterious and ancient, it was also unimportant -- a minor language incapable of supporting a body of literature. Zaldua shows that the truth is just the opposite. Moreover, by choosing to write in Basque, authors inevitably face intriguing literary and political questions of subject matter, point of view, and audience.

Critique: Exceptional, unique, impressively informed and informative, "This Strange and Powerful Language: Eleven Crucial Decisions a Basque Writer Is Obliged to Face" must be considered to be an essential, valued, and core addition to college and university library Basque Studies collections. Indeed, "This Strange and Powerful Language" is extraordinarily 'reader friendly' in tone, commentary, organization and presentation making it ideal for non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject.

Last Voyage of the Hornet
Kristin Krause
Royal Fireworks Press
First Avenue, PO Box 399, Unionville, NY 10988
9780880922654, $9.99, PB, 170pp,

Synopsis: In 1866 the clipper ship Hornet caught fire and sank, leaving the passengers and crew (thirty-one men in all) adrift in three small boats in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. "Last Voyage of the Hornet: The Story that Made Mark Twain Famous" is the tale of those men as they struggled for survival for an astonishing forty-three days on less than 10 days of rations. The survivors drifted for thousands of miles before reaching shore. It was an incredible tale, and one that the down-on-his-luck newspaper reporter Samuel Clemens (a.k.a. Mark Twain) wanted to tell. The story made him famous, launching his writing career. It is a gripping story of the determination of men to survive against all odds.

Critique: Impressively researched, exceptionally well written, thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation, "Last Voyage of the Hornet: The Story that Made Mark Twain Famous" is enhanced with the inclusion of a one page listing of "Points to Ponder", a three page Glossary, and a two page listing of bibliographic Resources. Making it very highly recommended for the personal reading lists of true life adventure enthusiasts, as well as community and academic library Maritime History collections.

The CS Detective
Jeremy Kubica
No Starch Press
245 - 8th Street, San Francisco, CO 94103-3910
9781593277499, $17.95, PB, 256pp,

Synopsis: In the pages of "The CS Detective: An Algorithmic Tale of Crime, Conspiracy, and Computation" by Jeremy Kubica, readers will be introduced to Frank Runtime, a disgraced ex-detective, a hard-boiled private eye, and a search expert.

When a robbery hits police headquarters, it's up to Frank Runtime and his extensive search skills to catch the culprits. In this detective story, readers will learn how to use algorithmic tools to solve the case. Runtime scours smugglers' boats with binary search, tails spies with a search tree, escapes a prison with depth-first search, and picks locks with priority queues. Joined by know-it-all rookie Officer Notation and inept tag-along Socks, he follows a series of leads in a best-first search that unravels a deep conspiracy. Each chapter introduces a thrilling twist matched with a new algorithmic concept, ending with a technical recap.

Fun and effective, readers will learn about: The algorithms behind best-first and depth-first search, iterative deepening, parallelizing, binary search, and more; Basic computational concepts like strings, arrays, stacks, and queues; How to adapt search algorithms to unusual data structures; The most efficient algorithms to use in a given situation, and when to apply common-sense heuristic methods.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The CS Detective: An Algorithmic Tale of Crime, Conspiracy, and Computation" is unique and ideal for use as supplemental textbook for computer science students and amateur sleuths alike. "The CS Detective" truly adds an entertaining and novel twist to making the learning algorithms fun, practical, and effective. While very highly recommended for community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The CS Detective" is also available in a Kindle format ($14.95).

The Great Suppression
Zachary Roth
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9781101905760, $26.00, HC, 256pp,

The control of the Unites States of America is up for grabs and the Republicans have been rigging the game in their favor. Twenty-two states have passed restrictions on voting. Ruthless gerrymandering has given the GOP a long-term grip on Congress. Meanwhile, the Republican appointee dominated U. S. Supreme Court has eviscerated campaign finance laws, boosting candidates backed by big money.

It would be worrying enough if these were just schemes for partisan advantage. But the reality is even more disturbing. As investigative reporter Zachary Roth reveals, a growing number of Republicans distrust the very idea of democracy -- and they're doing everything they can to limit it.

In "The Great Suppression: Voting Rights, Corporate Cash, and the Conservative Assault on Democracy", Roth unearths the deep historical roots of this anti-egalitarian worldview, and introduces the reader to its modern-day proponents: The GOP officials pushing to make it harder to cast a ballot; the lawyers looking to scrap all limits on money in politics; the libertarian scholars reclaiming judicial activism to roll back the New Deal; and the corporate lobbyists working to ban local action on everything from the minimum wage to the environment. Roth travels from Rust Belt cities to southern towns to show us how these efforts are hurting the most vulnerable Americans and preventing progress on pressing issues.

A sharp, searing polemic in the tradition of Rachel Maddow and Matt Taibbi, The Great Suppression is an urgent wake-up call about a threat to our most cherished values, and a rousing argument for why we need democracy now more than ever.

Critique: As the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump, with his none to subtle appeal to the Alt Right, his authoritarian approach to problem solving, and the abject loyalty of millions of members of the Republican base willing to elect a self-documented sexual predator to the Oval Office absolutely confirm, "The Great Suppression: Voting Rights, Corporate Cash, and the Conservative Assault on Democracy" is a clarion call to protect and defend and restore democracy, civility, honesty, and equity to the American political system. "The Great Suppression" is unreservedly and emphatically recommended for community and academic library Contemporary Political Science collections and supplemental studies reading lists. For the personal reading lists of students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject it should be noted that "The Great Suppression" is also available in a Kindle format ($12.99). Librarians should also note that "The Great Suppression" is also available in a complete and unabridged audio Book CD edition (Blackstone Audio, 9781504704540, $28.92).

Able Greenspan

Helen's Bookshelf

Kicking the Bucket List
Gail Rubin
Rio Grande Books
925 Salamanca St NW, Los Ranchos De, Albuquerque, NM 87107
9781943681150, $15.95, PB, 128pp,

Synopsis: In the pages of "Kicking the Bucket List: 100 Downsizing & Organizing Things to Do Before You Die", death educator Gail Rubin brings a light touch to her readers on how to organize and prepare for end-of-life issues. "Kicking the Bucket List" covers tackling downsizing without being overwhelmed by the job; evaluating what to keep, toss, donate and recycle; creatively removing excess goods from the home; manage finances for today and tomorrow; organizing for a funeral and creating a legacy. "Kicking the Bucket List" is especially appropriate for members of the Baby Boom generation who are now facing their parents estates and their own downsizing.

Critique: "Kicking the Bucket List: 100 Downsizing & Organizing Things to Do Before You Die" is packed from cover to cover with practical, useful information. Thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation, "Kicking the Bucket List" will prove an extraordinarily valued and appreciated addition to community library collections. For personal reading lists that "Kicking the Bucket List" is also available in a Kindle format ($7.99). It should be noted that "Kicking the Bucket List" is the eighth title in the Bucket List series, and supports the work of the nonprofit National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization and the National Hospice Foundation. A Certified Thanatologist, Gail Rubin also writes The Family Plot Blog at

Calm Birth
Robert Bruce Newman
North Atlantic Books
2526 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Berkeley, CA 94704-2607
9781623170578, $17.95, PB, 248pp,

Synopsis: The "trauma of childbirth" is a commonly heard phrase, but one that this newly updated and expanded edition of "Calm Birth, Revised: Prenatal Meditation for Conscious Childbirth" by Robert Bruce Newman authoritatively counters. Here is an invaluable resource for pregnant women and birth workers who are looking for empowering mind-body practices for a healthier kind of birth, this edition, revised with updated research and new material, shows how we can restore childbirth to its sacred status. "The Calm Birth" method, based on successful programs of the Harvard Medical School and the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, combines three proven practices (relaxation, meditation, and healing) with current scientific knowledge to nurture the expectant mother's natural ability to give birth in true harmony with her body and her baby. Newman contextualizes the multilayered method within the existing literature of mind-body medicine and meditation science, as well as the meditation traditions from which two of the methods originate. "Calm Birth" includes eight inspiring case studies of women who have experienced calm births.

Critique: This newly revised addition features approximately twenty-five percent of new material including a new foreword by Sandra Bardsley, updated research in the fields of meditation, birth, and the prenatal period, two new birth stories, three new chapters, and new photo documentation. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Calm Birth" is especially recommended reading for any woman contemplating or already experiencing pregnancy. While very highly recommended, especially for community and academic library Pregnancy/Child Birth reference collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Calm Birth" is also available in a Kindle format ($12.99).

State of Grace
Sandra Moran
Bywater Books
P.O. Box 3671, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48106-3671
9781612940915, $18.95, PB, 480pp,

Synopsis: Birdie Holloway is a typical eleven-year-old growing up in a small, corn-fed Kansas town in the early 1980s -- that is until her best friend, Grace, is brutally murdered. Suddenly, everything changes for Birdie, and everything she believes she knows about her insulated small-town life is called into question. Obsessed in figuring out who killed her friend, Birdie spends years trying to find the murderer. Eventually, she connects with someone who is every bit as interested in the case as she is. Someone who knows how close she is to solving the murder. Someone who will kill again to keep her quiet . . .

Critique: The late Sandra Moran was an author and assistant adjunct professor of anthropology. She was also a master of literary fiction in general, and mystery novels like "State of Grace". Published posthumously, "State of Grace" is a deftly crafted and riveting read that is unreservedly recommended for community library Mystery/Suspense collections. For the personal reading lists of dedicated mystery buffs it should be noted that "State of Grace" is also available in a Kindle format ($9.99).

#Loneliness: The Virus of the Modern Age
Tony Jeton Selimi
Balboa Press
c/o Hay House, Inc.
PO Box 5100, Carlsbad, CA 92018-5100
9781504344012, $35.95, HC, 236pp,

Synopsis: In this electronic age so many Americans are connected, yet find themselves desperately alone. We have become accustomed to a whole new way of being alone together in a technological cocoon that covers up our real pain. Our true essence is hidden behind facades that we show to the world from the fear of being judged, criticized, and rejected. This is what brings us out of a natural state of healthy balance, is the root cause of disease, and what creates the segregation experienced worldwide. "#Loneliness: The Virus of the Modern Age" by tony Jeton Selimi is a global call for people to redefine themselves in the face of life's greatest challenges. Comforting, moving, and spiritually practical, "#Loneliness" is a guide to help people break through their apparent loneliness, and shift them toward crowd-nurtured world peace and the next stage in our evolution.

Critique: Insightful, informative, practical, thoroughly 'reader friendly' in tone, commentary, organization and presentation, "#Loneliness: The Virus of the Modern Age" is a consistently compelling read from cover to cover and very highly recommended, especially for personal, community, college, and university library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections. For the personal reading lists it should be noted that "#Loneliness" is also available in a paperback edition (9781504343992, $18.95) and a Kindle format ($7.99).

Ideas for Action
Cynthia Kaufman
PM Press
PO Box 23912, Oakland, CA 94623
9781629631479, $22.95, PB, 352pp,

Synopsis: Now in a fully updated and expanded second edition, "Ideas for Action: Relevant Theory for Radical Change" by Cynthia Kaufman (Director of the Vasconcellos Institute for Democracy in Action) explores a wide range of political traditions that includes Marxism, anarchism, anti-imperialism, postmodernism, feminism, critical race theory, and environmentalism. Kaufman fully acknowledges the strengths and weaknesses of a variety of political movements and the ideologies inspired by or generated through them. She then offers a coherent analysis without pretending to offer "the final word" on complex issues. Instead, she helps orient a critical understanding of the social world and a glimpse of the excitement and rewards of serious intellectual engagement with political ideas. This new edition directly addresses the pressing issues of today ranging from mass incarceration to climate change, from the war on terror to the national security state, from rising inequality to a global shortage of care. "Ideas for Action" also examines the work of diverse thinkers such as Adam Smith, Paulo Freire, Grace Lee Boggs, and Stuart Hall. Kaufman's insights break the chains of cynicism and lay a foundation for more effective organizing.

Critique: Informed and informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking, extraordinarily well written, organized and presented, "Ideas for Action: Relevant Theory for Radical Change" is unreservedly recommended for both academia and non-specialist general readers alike. While very highly recommended as a core addition to community, college, and university library Political Science collections and supplemental studies reading lists, it should be noted that "Ideas for Action" is also available in a Kindle format ($9.99).

Spirit Traveler
Sonja Grace
Findhorn Press
9781844096947, $17.99, PB, 176pp,

Synopsis: "Spirit Traveler: Unlocking Ancient Mysteries and Secrets of the World's Great Historic Sites" by mystic healer Sonja Grace takes a unique approach to analyzing why famous historic sites, including the Great Pyramids, Stonehenge, and Tiwanaku, were constructed. Sonja reveals the secrets of these ancient buildings in this new and fascinating way. Sonja herself is a 'spirit traveler' who is deeply devoted to the protection of our beautiful Earth and has spent a lifetime working in the ethers with angels and guides.

In "Spirit Traveler", Sonja travels back through the realms to reveal history as it happened. She answers the questions that have puzzled historians and archaeologists for hundreds of years: What was the purpose of Stonehenge? How were the Great Pyramids built, and why is their particular geometry so significant? Why was Skellig Rock so important to the monks? Have our beliefs about these great sites been wrong all along? Is their importance something other than what we have always thought? Sonja Grace's discoveries shine a whole new light on our historical understanding of these places and on their relationships to the Earth.

Sonja Grace aims to bring a new spiritual truth to these questions and fulfill her purpose in the awakening of humanity. Spirit Traveler is a purposefully structured book. Sonja discusses eight specific historical sites: Skellig Michael; Tiwanaku - The Gate of the Sun; Stonehenge; Hagar Qim; St. Winifride's Well; Chichen ltza and Temple of Kukulcan; The Great Khafre Pyramids; and the Rock of Cashel.

Each chapter tackles the scientific and historical information available about each site up to this point in time. Sonja addresses the questions that continue to puzzle archaeologists and historians. The second half of each chapter is devoted to Sonja's Spirit Traveler' experience, what she learned, and the answers to some of those longstanding questions.

Critique: An inherently fascinating, informative, and occasionally iconoclastic but always consistently compelling study, "Spirit Traveler: Unlocking Ancient Mysteries and Secrets of Eight of the World's Great Historic Sites" is a unique and critically important addition to personal, community, and academic library Metaphysical Studies collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Spirit Traveler" is also available in a Kindle format ($14.99).

The Courtship of Eva Eldridge
Diane Simmons
University of Iowa Press
119 West Park Road, Iowa City, IA 52242-1000
9781609384616, $19.95, PB, 272pp,

Synopsis: It seemed like everyone got married In the 1950s, then moved to the suburbs to have the children of the soon-to-be-famous baby boom. For these Americans who had survived the Great Depression and World War II, prosperous married life was a triumph. The unwed were objects of pity, scorn, even suspicion.

And so in the 1950s, Eva Eldridge, no longer so young and marginally employed, was the perfect target for handsome Vick, who promised everything: storybook romance, marital respectability, and the lively social life she loved. When he disappeared not long after their honeymoon, she was devastated.

Eva hadn't always been so vulnerable. Growing up pretty and popular in rural Oregon, she expected to marry young and live a life much like that of her parents, farming and rearing children. But then the United States threw its weight into World War II and as men headed to battle, the government started recruiting women to work in their places. Eva, like many other young women, found that life in the city with plenty of money, personal freedom, and lots of soldiers and sailors eager to pay court was more exhilarating than life down on the farm.

After the war, she was ambivalent about getting married and settling down-at least until Vick arrived. Refusing to believe her brand-new husband had abandoned her, Eva set about tracking down a man who, she now believed, was more damaged by wartime trauma than she had known. But instead of a wounded hero, she found a long string of women much like herself-hard-working, intelligent women who had loved and married Vick and now had no idea where-or even who-he was.

Drawing on a trove of some eight hundred letters and papers, "The Courtship of Eva Eldridge: A Story of Bigamy in the Marriage Mad Fifties" by Diane Simmons (Professor of English at Borough of Manhattan Community College-City. University of New York) tells the dramatic story of Eva's poignant struggle to get her dream husband back, as well as the stories of the women who had stood at the altar with Vick before and after her. Eva's remarkable life illuminates women's struggle for happiness at a time when marriage-and the perfect husband-meant everything.

Critique: An exceptional and impressive work of impeccable and extraordinary scholarship, "The Courtship of Eva Eldridge: A Story of Bigamy in the Marriage Mad Fifties" is an inherently and consistently compelling read from beginning to end that is unreservedly recommended for community and academic library Women's Studies and American Cultural Studies collections, it should be noted for academia and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that it is also available in a Kindle format ($9.99).

How to Win at Feminism
Reductress, et al.
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062439802, $22.99, PB, 244pp,

Synopsis: "How to Win at Feminism: The Definitive Guide to Having It All - And Then Some!" is ultimate guide to winning feminism and packed with four-color illustrations, bold graphics, and hilarious photos that enhance the commentary that teaches women of all ages and backgrounds how they can battle the patriarchy they encounter better than everybody else. From the 'herstory' of feminism, to how to apologize for having it all, women will learn how to be a feminist at work and at home with tips that include: How to Do More with 33 Cents Less; How to Be Sex-Positive Even When You're Bloated; How to Love Your Body Even Though Hers Is Better; The 9 Circles of Hell for Women Who Don't Help Other Women; Designer Handbags to Hold All Your Feminism; How to Get Catcalled For Your Personality. "How to Win at Feminism: The Definitive Guide to Having It All - And Then Some!" is a fresh take on women's rights through the lens of the funniest women in comedy today.

Critique: A complete "how to" instruction guide for women making their way in a 'man's world', "How to Win at Feminism: The Definitive Guide to Having It All - And Then Some!" is informed and informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking, inspired and inspiring. While very highly recommended for community, college, and university library Feminist Studies collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "How to Win at Feminism" is also available in a Kindle format ($12.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9781441720337, $25.99).

Helen Dumont

Lorraine's Bookshelf

Oaxaca Stories in Cloth
Eric Sebastian Mindling, author/photographer
Martin Prechtel, foreword
Thrums Books
9780983886082, $36.95, HC, 268pp,

Subtitled "A Book about People, Belonging, Identity, and Adornment," "Oaxaca Stories in Cloth" is a stunning documentary collection of formal dress portraits of many men and women in colorful formal traditional dress from different outlying areas of Oaxaca, Mexico.

Created by the author photographer pursuant to a goal of documenting traditional practices of weaving and fabric ornamentation, "Oaxaca Stories in Cloth," the author's search for old-style fabric huipils required specific permission from elders of the town council. After carefully considering a number of related questions ('Would the photographs be used respectfully? Would the village receive a copy of the book? What village resources would be required?'), the council leader granted permission to Mr. Mindling. The result is "Oaxaca Stories in Cloth," a truly beautiful glimpse of traditional huipil fabric creation and adornment as practiced by Mixtec and Zapotec and other women of mountain village areas of Oaxaca.

The cover interior of "Oaxaca Stories in Cloth" shows a detailed map of Oaxaca with colored dots indicating village areas where the community styles are worn, grouped by chapter headings into Living Threads, Last Generation, and Living Threads and Last Generation. this gives an idea of the vast area covered by the mountainous state of Oaxaca, and the remoteness of some of the villages whose huipil fabric artists are represented. The over 70 photograph/ portraits are deeply moving in their detail, color, composition, and content. The cotton huipils are an extension of the faces, hands, bodies, and essential identities of the people wearing them. Pride and dignity are innate, and each symbol portrayed or embroidered has specific meaning that is suggested in accompanying notes of explanation. Most of the portrait subjects are women, but some are also of men in traditional dress.

One arresting portrait shows a smiling woman with hands outstretched upwards, wearing a Yalalag style huipil, saying, "This village would not be Yalalag without women dressed in our huipils." Her name is Luisa Molina Jeronimo, and she is one of the last forty women to dress traditionally in Yalalag. This illustrates the common theme of community and individual identity expression through cloth and clothing.

"Oaxaca Stories in Cloth" provides a precious passing record of beautiful traditions in created fabric dress, with associated important histories, stories, and legends. The quality of each photograph is so fine and high it must be seen to be imagined. Such richness of spirit deserves the respectful and comprehensive treatment it is given in "Oaxaca Stories in Cloth".

Case Two: Big Bully Holly Howler
Elana Ashley, PhD, author/illustrator
Archway Publishing
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781480819566, $16.95,

"Big Bully Holly Howler" is Case Two in the Splunkunio Splunkey, Detective and Peacemaker series. Illustrated with colorful photos of fantastic puppet figures of all the story's characters, "Big Bully Howler" tells a common story of schoolyard bullying behavior made universal by the attractive animal puppet figures.

Ellie Elephant was upset by mean, bullying behavior of a classmate, Holly Howler, better known as Big Bully Holly Howler. She called on her magical detective/peacemaker friend, Splunkey to help. Splunkey suggests that Ellie call on her friend Eli Elephant to help with the problem. After listening to Ellie's report of several situations in which Holly displayed mean or bullying behavior, Splunkey made some suggestions, advising Ellie to use clues both seen and unseen, heard and unheard, to solve problems. He also encouraged Ellie to think about how Holly felt, and whether she had any friends or not.

Next day, Eli helped Ellie by saying: "Just be yourself - kind and funny...Act with Holly the way you want her to act with you." Ellie proceeded to surprise Holly and everyone else by making some kind, friendly remarks and gestures that helped Holly feel accepted by the group. Amazingly, Holly surprised Ellie by apologizing for her behavior in front of Mrs. Bea and the class. Then Ellie and Holly hugged each other.

On the way home from school, Eli asked Ellie how her day had gone, and she reported, "It was amazing!"

"Big Bully Holly Howler" ends with questions for teachers and parents to discuss with children, plus the final reminder from Splunkey: "Always remember: To make a friend - you need to be a friend!" This inspiring, charming story takes its place in the innovative series for elementary students, featuring creative use of detective and peacemaker skills to solve interpersonal problems.

Also highly recommended is the same title in Spanish and English: "Caso Segundo: La gran abusiva Holly Howler (9781480822184, sc, $16.95), written and illustrated by Elana Ashley, PhD.

Norris the Seahorse Takes on the Bullies
Jaime Amor
Watkins Publishing
9781780289564, $12.95, HC, 48pp,

"Norris the Seahorse Takes on the Bullies" is the picture book story of a little seahorse named Norris who is excited to be joining the Best Fish in the Sea club. Unfortunately, there are a few bullies in the club who do their best to make him feel bad about himself. With the help of his true friends, Norris learns to take pride in who he is, long nose, slow swimming and all. He starts up the Being Me club, and soon finds that everyone wants to be friends with him. "Norris the Seahorse Takes on the Bullies" concludes with a relaxation and some affirmations to reinforce the anti-bullying message and theme. Of special note is the inclusion of information at the back to help parents and teachers introduce children to yoga, even if they don't practice yoga themselves. The latest addition to the 'Cosmic Kids! Yoga Adventure series, "Norris the Seahorse Takes on the Bullies" is especially recommended for children ages 4 to 8 and certain to be an enduringly popular addition to family, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections.

My Very Own Potty Book
John Burke, author
Chad Kase, illustrator
First Time Books
No ISBN, $14.00,

"My Very Own Potty Book," the title and story of which can be personalized with the name of one's child (for example, "Evie's Very Own Potty Book", or "Ryan's Very Own Potty Book") is a practical, engaging potty training manual directed towards the inspiration of young children engaged in the challenge of potty training. Written in large print verse, with brightly colored illustrations, "My Very Own Potty Book" proceeds to celebrate and assist the growing independence of the potty ingenue through examples, instruction, and handy checking devices like the personalized potty progress charts at the end of the book. "My Very Own Potty Book" is part of a series of inspirational child development books by the same talented team of John Burke and Chad Kase, created from some of their own parenting experiences.

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Micah's Bookshelf

In the Unlikeliest of Places
Annette Libeskind Berkovits
Wilfrid Laurier University Press
Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, N2L 3C5
9781771120661, $34.99 HC / $8.69 Kindle, 296pp,

Synopsis: Annette Libeskind Berkovits thought her attempt to have her father record his life's story failed. But in 2004, three years after her father's death, she was going through his things and found a box of several years worth of audio tapes with his spectacular life, triumphs, and tragedies told one last time in his baritone voice.

Nachman Libeskind's remarkable story is an odyssey through crucial events of the twentieth century. With an unshakable will and a few drops of luck, he survives a pre-war Polish prison; witnesses the 1939 Nazi invasion of Lodz and narrowly escapes; is imprisoned in a brutal Soviet gulag where he helps his fellow inmates survive, and upon regaining his freedom treks to the foothills of the Himalayas, where he finds and nearly loses the love of his life.

Later, the crushing communist regime and a lingering postwar anti-Semitism in Poland drive Nachman and his young family to Israel, where he faces a new form of discrimination. Then, defiantly, Nachman turns a pocketful of change into a new life in New York City, where a heartbreaking promise leads to his unlikely success as a modernist painter that inspires others to pursue their dreams.

With the publication of "In the Unlikeliest of Places: How Nachman Libeskind Survived the Nazis, Gulags, and Soviet Communism", based on just an unexpected box of audio tapes, Annette Libeskind Berkovits tells more than her father's story: she builds an uncommon family saga and re-imagines a turbulent past. In the process she uncovers a stubborn optimism that flourished in the unlikeliest of places.

Critique: Rescued from oblivion, "In the Unlikeliest of Places: How Nachman Libeskind Survived the Nazis, Gulags, and Soviet Communism" is an extraordinary and compelling biography that is a simply riveting read from first page to last. While unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library biography collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "In the Unlikeliest of Places" is also available in a paperback edition (9781771122481, $22.99) and in a Kindle format ($8.69).

Studs Terkel: Politics, Culture, but Mostly Conversation
Alan Wieder
Monthly Review Press
134 W. 29th Street, Suite 706, New York, NY 10001
9781583675946, $89.00, HC, 240pp,

Synopsis: The late Louis 'Studs' Terkel (May 16, 1912 - October 31, 2008) was an American icon who had no use for America's cult of celebrity. He was a leftist who valued human beings over political dogma. In scores of books and thousands of radio and television broadcasts, Studs paid attention (and respect) to "ordinary" human beings of all classes and colors, as they talked about their lives as workers, dreamers, survivors. "Studs Terkel: Politics, Culture, But Mostly Conversation" by oral historian Alan Wieder is the first comprehensive book about one of the most influential figures in 20th Century American political discourse.

Drawing from over one hundred interviews of people who knew and worked with Studs, Wieder creates a multi-dimensional portrait of a run-of-the-mill guy from Chicago who, in public life, became an acclaimed author and raconteur, while managing, in his private life, to remain a mensch. We see Studs, as the eminent oral historian, as the inveterate and selfless supporter of radical causes, especially civil rights. We also see the actor, the writer, the radio host, the jazz lover, whose early work in television earned him a notorious place on the McCarthy blacklist. Then there is Studs the family man and devoted husband to his adored wife, Ida.

Critique: Exceptionally well organized and presented, "Studs Terkel: Politics, Culture, But Mostly Conversation" is an impressively informed and informative read from cover to cover and an ideal introduction to the life and thought of a most remarkable man. While very highly recommended, especially for community and academic library American Biography collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Studs Terkel: Politics, Culture, but Mostly Conversation" is also available in a Kindle format ($9.99).

The World in Flames
Jerald Walker
Beacon Press
24 Farnsworth Street, Boston, MA 02210
9780807027509, $24.95, HC, 208pp,

Synopsis: When "The World in Flames" begins, in 1970, Jerry Walker is six years old. His consciousness revolves around being a member of a church whose beliefs he finds not only confusing but terrifying. Composed of a hodgepodge of requirements and restrictions (including a prohibition against doctors and hospitals), the underpinning tenet of Herbert W. Armstrong's Worldwide Church of God was that its members were divinely chosen and all others would soon perish in rivers of flames.

The substantial membership was ruled by fear, intimidation, and threats. Anyone who dared leave the church would endure hardship for the remainder of this life and eternal suffering in the next. The next life, according to Armstrong, would arrive in 1975, three years after the start of the Great Tribulation. Jerry would be eleven years old.

Jerry's parents were particularly vulnerable to the promise of relief from the world's hardships. When they joined the church, in 1960, they were living in a two-room apartment in a dangerous Chicago housing project with the first four of their seven children, and, most significantly, they both were blind, having lost their sight to childhood accidents. They took comfort in the belief that they had been chosen for a special afterlife, even if it meant following a religion with a white supremacist ideology and dutifully sending tithes to Armstrong, whose church boasted more than 100,000 members and more than $80 million in annual revenues at its height.

When the prophecy of the 1972 Great Tribulation does not materialize, Jerry is considerably less disappointed than relieved. When the 1975 end-time prophecy also fails, he finally begins to question his faith and imagine the possibility of choosing a destiny of his own.

Critique: Unique, candid, informative, thoughtful, insightful, "The World in Flames: A Black Boyhood in a White Supremacist Doomsday Cult" is an inherently fascinating and consistently compelling read. While very strongly recommended for community, college, and university library American Biography collections, it should be noted that "The World in Flames" is also available in a Kindle format ($21.99).

Get Back Up: From the Streets to Microsoft Suites
George A. Santino
Greenleaf Book Group Press
PO Box 91869, Austin, TX 78709
9781626342767, $22.95, HC, 344pp,

Synopsis: In "Get Back Up: From the Streets to Microsoft Suites", written with rare humor and the instincts of a born storyteller, author George A. Santino describes his rise from rags to riches through a series of adventures that begin in Philadelphia's violent Tasker Street projects where he dodges his alcoholic father's fits of temper, fishes for rats, and sells tomatoes from the back of a truck. His escapades continue as he opens a sports bar with no walls in North Tampa, curses out a drill sergeant in Fort Jackson, and battles a hiring manager to get a job in Menlo Park that he fully intends to turn down. Santino's life adventures culminate when he enjoys a long, successful career with Microsoft, builds a family, loses (and regains) a small fortune along the way, and triumphs over a freak spinal injury that doctors predicted would prevent him from ever working again before his thirtieth birthday. Throughout, Santino shares his perspectives on business and mentorship and stresses, by example, his central lesson is simple -- No matter what life throws at you, get back up.

Critique: Exceptionally well written with wit, wisdom and insight, "Get Back Up: From the Streets to Microsoft Suites" is an inherently fascinating and consistently compelling autobiography that is unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library American Biography collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Get Back Up: From the Streets to Microsoft Suites" is also available in a Kindle format ($9.99).

Micah Andrew

Richard's Bookshelf

The Power of Right Thinking - Transform Your Thoughts - Transform Your World
Kerry Kirkwood
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768409505, $16.99, 2016, 192 pages

Shape Your Future - Fulfill Your Destiny

Pastor Kerry Kirkwood's book "The Power of Right Thinking - Transform Your Thoughts - Transform Your World" emphasizes the importance of the reader taking control of his thought life, the power of right thinking, and how this can establish an awareness of the purpose of God. He presents the relationship of the science of thought, the connection of speech and thought with truth of the Scriptures.

Part two introduces concepts of how altering your thinking can change your world, by changing how you receive the thoughts of God, how to develop a healthy thought life that will heal, build you up, see yourself as an heir of God's kingdom, and live accordingly. The final chapters talk about the transformation that comes when you allow the spirt of God to bring out the best in you and when you see things from God's perspective.

Kerry Kirkwood is the founding pastor of the Trinity Fellowship Church in Tyler, Texas. He currently serves as director of Antioch Oasis International, and is recognized for his ministry in prophetic conferences, nationally and internationally. Kirkwood's writing is based on sound Biblical principles, highly informative, inspirational, and practical, designed to result in spiritual and personal growth. Personal experiences and vibrant testimonies of others validate the principles set forth in his message.

"The Power of Right Thinking - Transform Your Thoughts - Transform Your World" will transform your thinking, shape your future, and fulfill your destiny.

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

Believe and Achieve - 17 Principles of Success
W. Clement Stone
Sound Wisdom
167 Walnut Bottom Road, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768408362, $15.99, 2016, 278 pages

Time Tested Principles for Achieving Success

W. Clement Stone's "Believe and Achieve - 17 Principles of Success" is an official publication of the Napoleon Hill Foundation. The writings and principles introduced by Clement Stone and Napoleon Hill have influenced and become the model for contemporary motivational writers. Nationally recognized leaders in industry and highly influential people in the medical and educational fields also validate the soundness of these principles.

The book is divided into five categories:

Attitudinal Principles which emphasize the importance of a positive mental attitude and a well-defined purpose

Personal Principles which discuss initiative, enthusiasm, self-discipline, finances, and health.

Fraternal Principles which introduces the Master-mind alliance and teamwork

Intellectual principles that include creative vision, controlled attention and accurate thinking

Spiritual Principles of applied faith and the constancy of change

Anecdotes and success stories demonstrate the importance of learning from defeat; going the extra mile, taking initiative, and maintaining enthusiasm; these stories are interspersed throughout the book. Readers can easily identify with the testimonials, and become motivated to apply the principles personally.

This revised and updated edition of W. Clement Stone's "Believe and Achieve - 17 Principles of Success" is must reading for anyone today seeking to achieve success in business, relationships, and a personal sense of finding purpose.

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

Dealing with Demons - An Introductory Guide to Exorcism & Discerning Evil Spirits
Bob Larson
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768409673, $15.99, 186 pages

New Insights into Identifying and Dealing with the Presence of Demons

In his book "Dealing with Demons - An Introductory Guide to Exorcism & Discerning Evil" Bob Larson shares from the true stories of men and women who have been deceived by the cunning schemes of Satan and have been enslaved by the evil and horror of being in bondage to Satan's control.

Incidents from Jesus ministry to individuals under demonic attack form the basis for case studies from Larson's extensive experience in dealing with Demons. These testimonies also relate stories of deliverance and the new freedom and victory found in presence and power of Christ's indwelling spirit.

Important guidelines are included that will help the reader better understand Larson's writing style and approach to subject matter. These guidelines will enable the reader develop mental and spiritual disciplines to discern spiritual warfare and demonic bondage and the steps to resolving and liberating individuals from Satan's demonic power over their lives.

"Dealing with Demons - An Introductory Guide to Exorcism & Discerning Evil Spirits" is written for Clergy, laymen, and for those in professional counseling ministries to provide sound psychological approaches to emotional healing and behavior patterns in cases involving demonic oppression.

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

Heaven Declares - Prophetic Decrees to Start Your Day
Hakeem Collins
Destiny Image Publishers
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768409932, $15.99, 2016, 278 pages

Read, Reflect, and Release God's Revelation Daily - A Ninety Day Devotional Journey

Dr. Hakeem Collin's "Heaven Declares - Prophetic Decrees to Start Your Day" introduces the reader to wisdom and guidance in finding and living out God's divine purpose on a daily basis.

The daily devotional readings are filled with prophetic declarations that provide a new sense of intimacy with God and help the reader experience the reality and significance of being open to receive the Word of the Living God.

Each day's reading includes: a verse of the day which provides the insight from the Word, additional scriptures for meditation, and a prophetic decree and declaration to start the day.

The book is designed to "kick start the prophetic process in your life" through a four step prophetic strategy: Identify, Speak, Seek, Implement. To get the full benefit of the 90 day devotional guide, it is important that the reader pursue the guidelines set forth in this strategic program.

"Heaven Declares" is destined to become a classic devotional guide for discovering the impact of prophetic degrees and finding and implementing God's purpose in your daily life and ministry. Highly endorsed by respected internationally recognized Pentecostal and Charismatic prophetic leaders.

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

Jump Start your Networking - 10 Jolts to Ignite Your Networking Success
Shawn Doyle CSP
Sound Wisdom
167 Walnut Bottom Road, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768410440, $14.99, 2016, 192 pages

Tools, Tips, and Techniques for More Effective Networking - Important Elements of Your Strategic Planning

"Jump Start your Networking - 10 Jolts to Ignite Your Networking Success" is based on the premise that a key element of success today is networking and making connections. Shawn Doyle, author, and development training professional, challenges the reader to consider the question, "How can I most effectively network at this stage of my life?

Doyle goes on to introduce ten important topics to stimulate identification of your networking goals and how to track the results. Each chapter includes a "Work It" section with specific questions which set in place a working approach to incorporating his 10 Jolts to Ignite Your Networking Success. These questions provide the basis of meaningful discussion for making successful networking connections, both professional and personal.

He has a unique communication style. He can create a distinctive sense of an informal friend to friend chat or of excitement generated at a formal seminar with a group of aspiring leaders. Doyle creates an atmosphere of learning: team building, communication, creativity, and leadership."

This is the sixth book in the "Jumpstart" series. I am fast becoming a fan of Shawn Doyle's books. The format of the material is reader friendly, conducive to assimilation, retention and later review. The thought provoking questions are stimulating and provide insights into making personal application.

"Jump Start your Networking" is an important book for small business entrepreneurs, corporate management, leaders in education, and for individuals at every stage of their career in any field. Highly recommended.

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

Sweet Sales - Successful Sales with Synergy
David K. Sweet, PHD.
Sound Wisdom
167 Walnut Bottom Road, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768411331, $14.99, 2016, 160 Pages

Communication - the Heart of the Sale - 14 Important Elements for Developing a Sales Mindset and Taking Your Sales to the Next Level

In "Sweet Sales - Successful Sales with Synergy" Dr. David K. Sweet explores the mental and physical aspects of sales. He talks about body language and communication, self and time management and the mindset needed for success in sales. He introduces 14 key elements important to developing this mindset.

I especially appreciate Dr. Sweet's straightforward writing style, with proven concepts and easy to implement strategies. An important component to getting the most from the material is to follow through with the suggested written exercises. This extra effort can provide powerful results in implementing an attitude of excellence, and enthusiasm that exudes confidence, establishes rapport with your customer, in building your customer base, and getting the next sale.

The "Recommended Reading" suggestions are divided into three sections: Sales, Time Management, and Motivation. Rather than the familiar chapter notes or complete bibliography Sweet simply states the author and title of the book. The unique feature of his approach is the one line reason for recommending the title and how the reader might benefit from each recommendation. I like this approach.

The principles, practices, and processes in "Sweet Sales - Successful Sales with Synergy" contain important guidelines that can move sales trainees or seasoned sales professionals to a whole new level of success.

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

Silent Takeover - How the Body Hijacks the Mind
Jacquelyn Sheppard
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768409246, $16.99, 2016, 254 pages

How the Body Affects the Mind and the Mind Affects the Body - A Plan for Redesigning Body, Soul and Spirit"

In her book "Silent Takeover - How the Body Hijacks the Mind" Jacquelyn Sheppard sets out to establish the concept that emotional, mental disorders and other addictive behaviors are directly related to diet. She provides a "roadmap" for anyone looking for answers to two questions: "Why am I the way I am? What can be done to change my Life?"

The book is made up of four parts. Part one deals with below the surface issues of emotional, mental, and addictive behaviors. Part two looks at surface issues; facing daily decisions and finding solutions to negative behaviors. Part three helps the reader understand addictions and look realistically at the impact of chemicals on everyday life. Part four provides strategies for redesigning body, soul, and spirit.

Jacquelyn's writing reveals sensitivity to the examples of shepherding in Jesus' teaching and a spiritual tone that resonates with the reader, establishes rapport, and builds confidence in her assumptions.

Sheppard's extensive research often challenges generally recognized and more traditionally accepted interpretations of mental and emotional issues. Her meticulous chapter end-notes provide the reader with substantial suggestions for additional reading which confirm her conclusions. Her work is endorsed by professionals in the fields of medicine, education, and clergy.

I found Jacquelyn Sheppard's "Silent Takeover - How the Body Hijacks the Mind" to be immensely interesting and vitally informative. Highly Recommended.

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

Heaven Made Real - A Biblical Guide to the Afterlife and Eternity
Tim Sheets
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768411812, $14.99, 2016, 214 pages

Frequently Asked Questions - Answers on Heaven, Biblical Truths - Straight from God's Word

Tim Sheets' book "Heaven Made Real - A Biblical Guide to the Afterlife and Eternity" addresses some of the most frequently asked questions regarding life after death, the reality of heaven, heaven's location and appearance, what we will look like and about details of life in heaven.

Tim Sheets refutes some of the fallacies and preconceived misconception "of heaven on earth," and the importance of assembling together with other believers in the church body. In addition to the mention of Old Testament references of heaven in Deuteronomy, in the book of Joshua, the Psalms, and the prophets, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and Isaiah, New Testament references of the Apostles. Matthew, John, Paul, and Peter add a new depth to our understanding of heaven

Sheets also includes testimonies of contemporary people who have experienced visions and dreams providing comfort and confirmation of loved one being in heaven, while worshiping in the spirit, caught up in the spirit, or praying in the spirit. He rejects some of the misconceptions and preconceived precepts of heaven on earth, and emphasizes the importance of assembling together with other believers in the church body.

I appreciated the deep insight Sheet's brings to the Great Cloud of Witnesses described in Hebrews, chapter 12 and stimulated a desire to read more from the authors included in Sheet's research.

"Heaven Made Real - A Biblical Guide to the Afterlife and Eternity" challenges Christians today to live "in this confident expectation...and the promise of eternal rest and of the presence of God Himself." Challenging.

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

God's Feminist Movement - Redefining "A Woman's Place" from a Biblical Perspective
Amber Picota
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768409345, $15.99, 2016, 176 Pages

A New Look at Womanhood Embraced by a New Generation - A New Covenant Platform for Christian Women

In her timely, Biblically based book "God's Feminist Movement" Amber Picota redefines feminism for today's generation of Christian women. She describes these women as "gracious, humble, wise, gentle yet strong, diligent, and pure in heart; revolutionaries who shape the course of history."

Her goal is to equip the reader, women and men, co-heirs in the body of Christ, to study the scriptures in light of the historical background, hermeneutics, and the original languages, to put aside preconceived concepts, and to discern for themselves the application of theses passages to make them applicable for a contemporary setting.

The subjects of women in leadership, submission in marriage, headship, and the cost of trail blazing are especially relevant for today. These are important issues that are being faced in business, education, and politics, issues that cannot be minimized in church life. Picota urges the reader to lead the way in breaking away from traditional misconceptions, and trite cliches to claim the promises and follow the patterns of the New Covenant.

I was deeply moved by Amber's personal testimony of coming to Christ, the struggles that followed and the unique way that God worked in her spirit to a commitment of her life to fulfil His purpose.

Amber writes from heartfelt convictions, her message is convincing, contagious, and commanding. "God's Feminist Movement - Redefining "A Woman's Place" from a Biblical Perspective" is important reading for pastors, organizational ministries, and lay leaders in the Church in this and future generations.

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

Smith Wigglesworth on Manifesting the Power of God
Smith Wigglesworth
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768408614, $16.99, 2016, 208 pages

Guidelines to Awaken and Manifest the Greatness of the Power within You

"Smith Wigglesworth on Manifesting the Power of God" is Biblically based and consistent with the basic tenets of the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements. The book features never before published writings of Smith Wigglesworth.

Smith Wigglesworth is recognized as a Pioneer in the modern Pentecostal movement. His life demonstrated such a powerful example that he left a legacy which is still impacting and inspiring lives generations later, a full century after his life changing encounter with God.

In a natural progression readers will learn important lessons from the Apostle Paul's writing in Romans on the results of being filled with the spirit of holiness and be transformed by the quickening power of the spirit of God, His indwelling, anointing, and abiding comfort. They will discover the importance of the gifts of the Spirit and the manifestations of the greatness of His power and how to walk in the fullness of Pentecost while sustaining the Spirit filled life.

"Smith Wigglesworth on Manifesting the Power of God" is for those individuals "hungry and thirsty" to be "immersed, covered, and flooded" by the anointing power of the Holy Spirit and desirous of impacting this same life and power to others.

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

Creative Strength Training - Prompts, Exercises, and Personal Stories for Encouraging Artistic Genius
Jane Dunnewold
North Light Books
F&W Publications, Inc.
c/o F+W Media
700 East State Street, Iola WI 54945
9781440344954, $24.99, 144 pages,

Aids to Becoming the "Self-Actualized" Artist We Are Capable of Becoming

"Creative Strength Training - Prompts, Exercises, and Personal Stories for Encouraging Artistic Genius" is designed to help the reader discover strategies that combine writing with hands on art and to develop a unique voice.

The table of contents reads like of a menu, filled with so many choices of mouthwatering delicacies and aromatic scents that it is difficult to know where to start. The catchy chapter titles grabbed my attention with key words and descriptive phrases that offer rewarding results and bright colored illustrations that offer irresistible prompts, and strength training exercises that focus attention on detail and cultivate imagination. Each uniquely formatted page contains a myriad of approaches that reinforce the theme of the chapter.

The exercises from How to Distill and Edit Your Story grabbed my attention. The suggestions on mining content, writing, distilling and editing your story are well worth the time and effort of implementing.

Jane Dunnewold understands all aspects of the creative process. Jane's book "Creative Strength Training" will resonate with artists and writers alike. The inspiring stories of artists, mentored by Jane, tell how they have benefited by applying Dunnewold's exercises and prompts in unique ways in their art.

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

Total Family Makeover - 8 Practical Steps to Making Disciples at Home
Melissa Spoelstra
Abingdon Press
P O Box 2809988, Nashville, TN 37228-0988
9781501820656, $16.99, 256 pages,

Basic Spiritual Practices for Nurturing Children and Transforming Families

"Total Family Makeover - 8 Practical Steps to Making Disciples at Home" provides a strong foundation for being intentionally authentic about transforming your life, your family, and your home.

The book is based on Scriptures Jesus modeled in the training of His disciples.
Each chapter features a section on modeling and another on training. Using this practical approach Melissa Spoelstra challenges the reader through:

Inspiring instructions on and suggestions for establishing principles of prayer in the lives of your children

Practical approaches to reading the Scriptures together and making application to daily family life

Comprehensive guidelines on the merits mentoring can have on your parenting skills

Building blocks instilling Christian character in your children through finding community in the church, by serving others, giving back to God, and sharing your faith

In addition to being active as a pastor's wife and the mother of four, author Melissa Spoelstra is a popular women's conference speaker, and Bible teacher. She speaks and writes from her heart and models the message she delivers.

"Total Family Makeover - 8 Practical Steps to Making Disciples at Home" is clearly must reading for parents from the crib through college. Highly recommended.

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

Richard R. Blake
Senior Reviewer

Taylor's Bookshelf

The Cocaspore Project
William Claypool
Meadow Lane Press
9780986063718, $14.95, PB, 314pp,

Synopsis: Dr. Paul Sloan, a brilliant academic botanist, has developed a technology that will eradicate the coca plant. Supported by several US Government agencies, he naively believes that the only obstacles to his success lay in the nuances of biotechnology. He could not be more wrong.

Dr. Sloan's harrowing journey begins in Washington DC and continues in Chicago where he, his family and staff are in mortal danger. Sloan has the support of an admiral in Washington DC but his true protector is Michael Franco, a career Navy officer, who has been placed in Chicago, unbeknownst to Sloan.

Although Franco is motivated by an unfailing dedication to duty, he begins to question his commitment and his ability to handle the assignment. He soon realizes that he is facing both an unknown spy and the drug lord Don Ricardo, whose ruthless thugs are waiting to destroy Sloan and all his work.

In this mortal game of cat and mouse, Franco is up against a clock. Don Ricardo is set to strike before Franco can expose the traitor and get much needed backup. As this thriller concludes, all of Franco's courage and skill are put to a final test at the hands of Don Ricardo.

Critique; Original, riveting, deftly crafted characters, exceptionally well written plot twists and turns, "The Cocaspore Project" is a consistently compelling read from beginning to end and documents author William Claypool as an impressively gifted storyteller. While highly recommended for community library Suspense Thriller Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Cocaspore Project" is also available in a Kindle format ($2.99).

Gareth Jones: Eyewitness to the Holodomor
Ray Gamache
Welsh Academic Press
c/o International Specialized Book Services
920 Northeast 58th Avenue, Suite 300, Portland, OR, 97213
9781860571220, $49.99, PB, 268pp,

Synopsis: "Gareth Jones: Eyewitness to the Holodomor" by Ray Gamache is the story of a young Welsh investigative journalist who is still revered in the Ukraine as a national hero and is now rightly recognized as the first reporter to reveal the horror of the Holodomor -- the Soviet Government created famine of the early 1930s which killed millions of Ukrainians.

Determined to alert the world to this suffering, and to expose Stalin's policies and prejudices towards the Ukrainian people, Jones published numerous articles in the UK and the USA (New York Evening News and Chicago Daily News). But soon he saw his credibility and integrity attacked by Soviet sympathizers, most famously by Moscow-based Walter Duranty of the New York Times.

The following year, Gareth Jones was killed by bandits while traveling in Japanese-controlled China. There remain strong suspicions that Jones' murder was arranged by the Soviets.

Critique: This impressively detailed and consistently compelling biography of Gareth Jones (1905-1934) is enhanced with the inclusion of a number of illustrations, a ten page bibliography, and a ten page index, making it unreservedly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as community and academic library General Biography collections in general, and Russian/Ukrainian supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

Shoot the Conductor
Anshel Brusilow & Robin Underdahl
University of North Texas Press
1155 Union Circle #311336, Denton, TX 76203-5017
9781574416138, $34.95, HC, 336pp,

Synopsis: Anshel Brusilow started playing violin in 1933 at age five, in a Russian Jewish neighborhood of Philadelphia where practicing your instrument was as ordinary as hanging out the laundry. His playing wasn't ordinary, though. At sixteen, he was soloing with the Philadelphia Orchestra. He was also studying conducting.

Brusilow's tumultuous relationships with Pierre Monteux, George Szell, and Eugene Ormandy shaped his early career. Under Szell, Brusilow was associate concertmaster at the Cleveland Orchestra until Ormandy snatched him away to make him concertmaster in Philadelphia, where he remained from 1959 to 1966. But he was unsatisfied with the violin. Even as concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra, he felt the violin didn't give him enough of the music. He wanted to conduct. He formed chamber groups on the side; he conducted summer concerts of the Philadelphia Orchestra. The price was high: it ruined his father-son relationship with Ormandy. Brusilow turned in his violin bow for the baton and created his own Philadelphia Chamber Symphony. Next he took on the then-troubled Dallas Symphony Orchestra. Unhappy endings repeat themselves in his memoir -- and yet humor dances constantly around the edges. Musicians need it.

Brusilow played with or conducted many top-tier classical musicians and has something to say about each one. He also made many recordings. Co-written with Robin Underdahl, his memoir is a fascinating view of American classical music as well as an inspiring story of a working-class immigrant child making good in a tough arena.

Critique: "Shoot the Conductor: Too Close to Monteux, Szell, and Ormandy" by Anshel Brusilow (who retired from conducting the Richardson Symphony after a long and distinguished career) with the assistance of professional writer Robin Underdahl is an impressively researched, extraordinarily well organized and presented, consistently engaging and informative read from beginning to end. Of special note is the inclusion of a section of black-and-white period photographs. "Shoot the Conductor" is highly recommended for both community and academic library American Music History and collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Shoot the Conductor" is also available in a paperback edition (9781574416466, $14.99) and in a Kindle format ($13.49).

Early Mormonism and the Magic World View
D. Michael Quinn
Signature Books
564 West 400 North, Salt Lake City, UT 84116-3411
9780941214469, $40.00, HC, 313pp,

Synopsis: "Early Mormonism and the Magic World View" is ground-breaking book in which Mormon historian D. Michael Quinn has masterfully reconstructed an earlier age, finding ample evidence for folk magic in nineteenth-century New England and its influence the Mormon church founder Joseph Smith. "Early Mormonism and the Magic World View" reveals that Smith's personal world was inhabited by supernatural creatures whose existence could be both symbolic and real; that the Smith family's treasure digging was not unusual for the times and is vital to understanding how early Mormons interpreted developments in their history in ways that differ from modern perceptions.

"Early Mormonism and the Magic World View" offers a thoroughly researched and document examination into occult traditions surrounding Smith, his family, and other founding Mormons. Among the practices no longer a part of Mormonism are the use of divining rods for revelation, astrology to determine the best times to conceive children and plant crops, the study of skull contours to understand personality traits, magic formula utilized to discover lost property, and the wearing of protective talismans.

Critique: An impressive work of seminal scholarship, "Early Mormonism and the Magic World View" is enhanced with the inclusion of ninety-four photographs and illustrations. Informed and informative, exceptionally well written, organized and presented for both academia and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject, "Early Mormonism and the Magic World View" is unreservedly recommended, especially for community, college, and academic library Mormon History collections and supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Early Mormonism and the Magic World View" is also available in a paperback edition (9781560850892, $28.95) and in a Kindle format ($9.00).

John Taylor

Theodore's Bookshelf

Last Words
Michael Koryta
Little, Brown & Company
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316122634, $26.00/31.50 CA$, Hardcover, 420 pp.
9780316122689, $15.99/19.49 CA$, Trade Paperback, 448 pp.

This is not an easy book to review. One has to read about a couple of hundred pages before the real plot emerges, and then it is no less confusing. Nevertheless, it is an interesting story and well worth the effort to read. At least when you get to the finish line.

Marcus Novak is an investigator for a Tampa-based non-profit that attempts to clear convicted murderers, and this first in the series is a tale about how he is sent to Garrison, Indiana by his superior after his wife was murdered. and he is in trouble with the board for not performing up to snuff.

The assignment ordinarily is not one the organization would consider. It was prompted by a letter from one Ridley Barnes, who is ostracized by the townspeople because he is thought to have killed a young girl, 15-year-old Sarah Martin, in a cave ten years before, and requests an investigation into whether or not he is guilty. Novak undertakes the task with the attitude that he doesn't care and will spend a day or two and then go back to the Sunshine State. Instead he gets himself into all kinds of fixes, increasingly forcing the board to consider his dismissal and eventually coming around to caring about Sarah's death.

The plot centers on a large cave and the events surrounding it, along with the people involved in owning and exploring it. The story is a complicated one, typical of the author's novels. While the writing is clear, plowing through the more than 400 pages is tedious, as Novak faces one challenge after another in an effort to save his career. That said, it is recommended.

J.A. Jance
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062297716, $26.99, Hardcover, 383 pp,

As if Joanna Brady doesn't have enough to keep her occupied: She's expecting a baby girl in December and having just solved the murder of her mother and stepfather, she is in the midst of planning their funeral, when two murder cases crop up to add to her burden. And she is just beginning to focus on her re-election campaign for Sheriff.

The first case to arise occurs when two female bodies are discovered, one atop the other, at the base of Geronimo, a popular hill to be climbed by the youth of Bixby, AZ. This is the far more interesting case, involving a joint investigation with a nearby police department headed by Brady's former deputy. It turns out to be a case of double murder. The other case involves the murder of a man by his wife, who had hit him over the head with a golf club.

This novel is quite a story and is filled with plenty of action as the plot unfolds. To this reader, too often the author relies on cliches to describe a thought or event. But she can be forgiven because the rest is so well-written. The insight into Joanna Brady's mind and personality, especially as it relates to her relationship with her mother, as well as her motivations and actions, are truly deep and penetrating, and the novel is recommended.

Devil's Bridge
Linda Fairstein
Dutton in US/CA/UK
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780451417305, $9.99/13.50 CA$, Paperback, 391 pp,

In the previous 16 novels in the Alex Cooper series the author selected one New York City landmark in which to set the crime and exhibit her meticulous research in giving all the facts and minutiae surrounding the site. In this novel, however, she chose three: the George Washington Bridge, Liberty (Bedloe's) Island, home to the Statue of Liberty, and Devil's Bridge, a rocky outcropping at the foot of the bridge atop of which is the only lighthouse in Gotham [NYC, that is], the Little Red Lighthouse.

And then to continue on a different path, the victim is Alex herself, who is kidnapped. allowing the author to delve more deeply into her new paramour, Mike Chapman, now that their relationship has deepened. Of the three sites, only the George Washington Bridge is described perfunctorily: opened in 1931, connecting the narrowest point between northern Manhattan and Ft. Lee, New Jersey. Everything you'd want to know, and then some, is provided on the other two landmarks.

There are two questions facing Chapman and the rest of the NYPD: Is her abduction related to a case she is prosecuting, or to her relationship with Chapman, With entire resources of the City and its police force, it still remains for Mike's intuition to arrive at an answer, while contributing his knowledge of military history and the various forts in the city, including the one beneath the statue of Miss Liberty and the two originally constructed where the bridge now stands during the Revolutionary War by George Washington. It was interesting to witness a conference at One Police Plaza during which the Commissioner led a group laying the groundwork to help find and rescue Alex. Equally absorbing was following Chapman's various thought processes as he investigates his lover's kidnapping. Obviously, the novel is recommended.

Final Account
Peter Robinson
William Morrow
c/o Harper Collins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062431196, $14.99, Paperback, 303 pp.,

Peter Robinson is known for the twists and turns of the plots in the DCI Banks series. And "Final Account" is no exception. It all begins with the home invasion of Keith Rothwell's house by two goons, during which ultimately he is removed to the garage, while his wife and daughter are tied to chairs. Then shots were heard and a body found in the garage with the face blasted by shotgun pellets.

Thus begins an exhaustive police procedural with any number of red herrings strewn through the investigation. Rothwell, an accountant and money manager, was presumed murdered for some shenanigan he had perpetrated on a client. An erstwhile associate, a tax attorney, goes missing, and a number of other acts of violence occur. As Banks proceeds from clue to clue the reader is led to believe the obvious.

Not so, as the author applies his trademark twisted conclusion. The book (and Banks) plod along, setting up the unusual finale. It is truly a masterstroke, to be read and enjoyed, and it is highly recommended.

Blue Madonna: A Billy Boyle World War II Mystery
James R. Benn
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616956424, $26.95, Hardcover, 316 pp.,

Billy Boyle has received all kinds of assignments in his capacity as a special investigator on Eisenhower's staff. But few, if any, match the bizarre task before him in the Blue Madonna. To begin with, he is arrested, tried on trumped up charges and stripped of his Captaincy and sentenced to time in the stockade for black market activities. (This, of course, a subterfuge to provide a cover story as part of an investigation.) Then he is sent behind enemy lines to rescue a downed airman who is needed to testify against a black market gang.

No sooner does Billy arrive in occupied France than he finds himself investigating two murders of airmen being hidden in a chateau. And he even participates in partisan operations, blowing up railroad tracks and bridges.

The Billy Boyle series takes him through various phases of World War II. This novel takes place as Allied troops sail for Normandy on D-Day, giving the author the opportunity to describe conditions in Occupied France, how the partisans operated, and what was done to return downed airmen through clandestine networks. The Blue Madonna, a valuable piece of art, is an example of how many Jews and others attempted to prevent the Nazis from stealing their possessions by hiding them in such places as the chateau, which also secreted parachuted Allied fliers.

As were the first 10 books in the series, Blue Madonna is highly recommended.

The Highwayman
Craig Johnson
Viking Books
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780735220898, $20/27.00 CA$, HC, 208 pp,

The author prefaces this Longmire novel by stating he always wanted to write a ghost story. And now he has, thrusting Walt Longmire and his friend, Henry Standing Bear, into the middle of an enigma. At the request of the head of the Highway Patrol, Walt and the Bear seek to determine what is happening to Rosie Wayman, who patrols a stretch of highway in the Wind River Canyon, an area where radio communication is almost nonexistent.

On the other hand, Rosie begins receiving calls from Bobby Womack saying "officer needs assistance." The problem is that Womack, a respected highwayman who patrolled the same route, died 35 years previously. Walt and the Bear have to determine whether Rosie really is hearing the signal, or is in need of psychiatric evaluation. What follows during the investigation is a series of events which might be ethereal, or explained by logic in the real world. It is up to the two men (along with the reader) to determine which.

It is a clever plot and, while it is a deviation from the 11 prior entries in the series, "The Highwayman" is a welcome addition to the earlier books, and it is recommended.

An Obvious Fact: A Longmire Mystery
Craig Johnson
Viking Books
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780525426943, $28/37 CA$, Hardcover, 317 pp,

Sheriff Walt Longmire is one compulsive character. What starts off as an apparent hit-and-run accident in which a biker is fatally injured turns out to be anything but that. When he and his friend Henry Standing Bear visit Hubert, WY, scene of a week-long biker jamboree in which Henry seeks to repeat his one past win in a competition, Walt undertakes to investigate. And from that point all kinds of complications unfold. But Walt never loses sight of solving how and why the biker was killed.

Along the way the possibility arises that drugs or smuggled firearms are at the heart of the accident. But when Walt learns from the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents working undercover in one of the biker gangs that a secret plastic is being fabricated into pistols, it all comes together. And Walt's Under-Sheriff, Vic, drops in from her sojourn in Philadelphia to enliven events, especially competing in her first skeet competition (while also seeking her brother's killer, an event which took place in an earlier book in the series).

The author, well-known for capturing the surroundings where the series takes place, here turns his attention to the motorcycle scene, more than adequately describing the riders and the atmosphere of a wild week-long rally. But most important once again is how totally committed Walt is to finding the truth. Now into its twelfth entry, the entire series is recommended, as is this newest.

C.J. Box
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312583217, $26.99, Hardcover 278 pp
9781312546908, $9.99, Paperback, 369 pp

When the art of fracking created an oil boom in North Dakota, it also gave rise to all sorts of complications from housing shortages to drug crime. What was before a sleepy little town, now arose a bustling area where the sheriff's staff grew like topsy to keep pace. The latest addition is Cassie Dewell, hired as chief investigator from her old job in Montana where she became obsessed with the so-called Lizard King, a trucker who preyed and killed prostitutes plying truck stops from coast to coast.

In fact, that's how we are introduced to Cassie, as she travels to North Carolina to participate in an interrogation of a person suspected of being the perpetrator just before she assumes her new duties. When she arrives in Bakken County, ND, the sheriff confides in Cassie his suspicion that all is not well in the department, and asks her to undertake an investigation by herself without telling her why. Meanwhile, a shipment of a large quantity of drugs is delivered by car, which is forced off the road by a rival gang, and a duffel bag is flung wide of the accident scene and recovered by a 12-year-old newspaper delivery boy.

As the plot unfolds, Cassie is in the middle of it all, making assumptions, detecting, analyzing, and finally guessing that the boy is the key to it all, except for the possible corruption that might exist in the law enforcement personnel (which of course is related to the drug gangs). The author demonstrates his reputation for writing novels with excellent characterizations and providing detailed environmental descriptions. When the outside temperature falls to 20 and 30 degrees below freezing, the reader almost feels compelled to turn up the heat.


Away in a Manger
Rhys Bowen
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781250052063, $15.99, Paperback, 247 pp.,

It was inevitable that the Molly Murphy series should have a Christmas tale, and now it does. It is the winter of 1905 in Little Ol' New York, and the streets are filled with Holiday shoppers, beggars and pickpockets. Molly, now Mrs. Murphy, with a little boy and married to police Captain Daniel Murphy, is looking forward to celebrating Christmas with her family and her husband's visiting mother. Instead, of course, she becomes involved with a murder mystery.

While out pushing the pram in which Liam is belted in, with her young ward Bridie accompanying her, Molly hears an angelic voice singing carols coming from a young girl sitting, freezing, in the entranceway of a store. It turns out that the little girl and her eight-year-old brother were left in the care of a Scrooge-like boarding house owner by their mother, who just brought them to America from England where they were living. The children, with little clothing, are forced into the streets during the day to beg for change by their minder. The mother is missing. Circumstances ideal for Molly to once again demonstrate her detective skills despite her promises to her husband to refrain from such activities.

The story is a simple one, straightforward and with few complications. About the only impediments are the snow and slush and the fact that Captain Murphy is shot along the way, delaying Molly's progress in discovering the whereabouts of the children's mother and hopefully reuniting them with their American family. The descriptions of turn-of-the-century New York, customarily excellent in previous entries in the series, are up to grade, especially in the way the author describes what no longer exists in Manhattan: the Sixth, Ninth and Third Avenue Els and trolley cars.

Another charming chapter in the life of Molly Murphy, and one which is recommended.

Theodore Feit
Senior Reviewer

Vogel's Bookshelf

Hazor: Canaanite Metropolis, Israelite City
Amnon Ben-Tor
Biblical Archaeology Society Press
4710 - 41st Street, NW, Washington, DC 20016-1700
9789652211019, $40.00, HC, 231pp,

Synopsis: Ancient Hazor is located in the Upper Galilee, north of the Sea of Galilee, in the southern Hula Valley overlooking Lake Merom. In the Middle Bronze Age (around 1750 BCE) and the Israelite period (ninth century BCE), Hazor was the largest fortified city in the country and one of the most important in the Fertile Crescent. It maintained commercial ties with Babylon and Syria, and imported large quantities of tin for the bronze industry. In the Book of Joshua, Hazor is described as "the head of all those kingdoms" (Josh. 11:10).

The Hazor expedition headed by Yigal Yadin in the mid-1950s was the most important dig undertaken by Israel in its early years of statehood. Tel Hazor is the largest archaeological site in northern Israel, featuring an upper tell of 30 acres and a lower city of more than 175 acres.

In 2005, the remains of Hazor were designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO as part of the Biblical Tels - Megiddo, Hazor, Beer Sheba.

A visitor to Israelite Hazor has the unique opportunity to witness the reliability of the biblical historiography first-hand and to cast his eyes upon the structures attributed to the days of the monarchs of the Kingdom of Israel, from Solomon, through Ahab and Jeroboam II,until the the days of Pekah son of Remaliah.

"Hazor: Canaaite Metropolis, Israelite City" by Amnon Ben-Tor (Professor Emeritus of the Archaeology of Israel at the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and participant in the excavations of Yadin's expedition to Hazor in the 1950s and 1960's, and for the past 25 years director of the renewed excavations at the site) is the story of Hazor as revealed by archaeological excavations and enhanced for both academia and the non-specialist reader with the inclusion of a twenty page Who's Who in Hazor's Excavations and an eight page Bibliography.

Critique: Beautifully and profusely illustrated throughout, "Hazor: Canaanite Metropolis, Israelite City" is an impressively detailed, exceptionally well written, deftly organized and presented history that is very strongly recommended as an essential, core addition to professional, community, college, and university library Biblical Archaeology collections in general, and Hazor Archaeology supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

Subtle Activism
David Nicol
State University of New York Press
State University Plaza, Albany, NY 12246-0001
9781438457512, $80.00, HC, 246pp,

Synopsis: Can awakened consciousness contribute to social change and, if so, how? In "Subtle Activism: The Inner Dimension of Social and Planetary Transformation", David Nicol (who teaches in the Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness Program at the California Institute of Integral Studies, and is also Executive Director and cofounder of the Gaiafield Project and cofounder of BeThePeace) introduces the concept of subtle activism to describe the use of consciousness-based practices like meditation and prayer to support collective transformation, such as global meditation directed toward peaceful resolution of a conflict. Subtle activism represents a bridge between the consciousness movement and the movements for peace, environmental sustainability, and social justice. It is not a substitute for physical action but rather a potentially crucial component of a more integrated approach to social change. Although ancient lore is rife with tales of shamans and adepts intervening on spiritual levels for the benefit of humanity, "Subtle Activism" is the first comprehensive treatment of this topic. Nicol grounds his consideration in the available scientific research and in dialogue with a broad range of thinkers in the fields of consciousness studies, transpersonal theory, and New Paradigm thought.

Critique: Remarkably well written, accessibly organized and presented, "Subtle Activism: The Inner Dimension of Social and Planetary Transformation" is an inherently engaging read from first page to last. "Subtle Activism" is very highly recommended for community and academic library Psychology, Spirituality, and Religious Studies collections. For the personal reading lists of academia and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject it should be noted that "Subtle Activism" is also available in a paperback edition (978-1438457505, $29.95) and in a Kindle format ($16.17).

Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights
Ben Saul
Hart Publishing
c/o International Specialized Book Services
920 Northeast 58th Avenue, Suite 300, Portland, OR 97213
9781901362404, $64.00, PB, 248pp,

"Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights: International and Regional Jurisprudence" by Ben Saul (Professor of International Law at the University of Sydney) provides a comprehensive examination of the treatment of Indigenous peoples in international law and from a comparative law perspective. While scholarly in approach, it is also intended to be used as a textbook for university students, and therefore covers a broad range of topics relevant to the study of Indigenous People and International Law.

"Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights" first considers the theory and practice of international law in encounters between Indigenous peoples and European colonial powers. It examines the prevailing legal doctrines governing acquisition of title to territory, underlying concepts of sovereignty, authority and self-determination, and competing theoretical approaches to conceptualising Indigenous legal interests. It then investigates how domestic legal systems applied, ignored or challenged relevant international law norms during the colonial era and explores the dominant legal discourses operating at the national level.

"Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights" goes on to consider how international law has developed to enable Indigenous peoples to challenge their treatment in national legal systems, particularly through the human rights machinery and political organs of the UN. "Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights" book draws on the colonial and post-colonial experiences of Indigenous peoples across Australasia, America and Canada, Africa, the Middle East and Europe.

Critique: An impressive and seminal work of outstanding scholarship, "Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights: International and Regional Jurisprudence" is unreservedly recommended for academic library Indigenous Studies collections in general, and Human Rights Law, International Law, and Comparative Law supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

"Guiguzi," China's First Treatise on Rhetoric
Hui Wu & C. Jan Swearingen, commentators
Hui Wu, translator
Southern Illinois University Press
1915 University Press Drive
SIUC Mail Code 6806, Carbondale, IL 62901
9780809335268, $40.00, PB, 196pp,

Synopsis: When Gorgias, Plato, and Aristotle were discussing and defining rhetoric in ancient Greece, many students in China, including Sun Bin (a descendent of Sun Tzu the man who wrote "The Art of War"), were learning the techniques of persuasion from Guiguzi, "the Master of the Ghost Valley". This pre-Qin dynasty recluse provided the basis for what is considered the earliest Chinese treatise devoted entirely to the art of persuasion. Called Guiguzi after its author, this translation of the received text provides an indigenous rhetorical theory and key persuasive strategies, some of which are still used by those involved in decision making and negotiations in China today.

In "Guiguzi," China's First Treatise on Rhetoric, the team of Hui Wu (Professor of English and the Chair of the Department of Literature and Languages at the University of Texas at Tyler, and the Distinguished Guest Professor of English at Shanghai Lixin University of Commerce, China) and C. Jan Swearingen (Professor of English Emerita at Texas A&M University) present a new critical translation of this foundational work, which has great historical significance for the study of Chinese rhetoric and communication and yet is little known to Western readers.

Professor Wu's translation includes footnotes that incorporate both past and present scholarly commentary, and is accompanied by a prefatory introduction that situates Guiguzi in the sociopolitical and cultural realities of ancient China, and a glossary of rhetorical terms used in the treatise. Professor Swearingen presents a comparative study suggesting the similarities and differences between emerging Greek and Chinese rhetorics during the same period, including the cultural contexts of warring states and emergent empires that surrounded each.

"Guiguzi," China's First Treatise on Rhetoric combines a new translation of a historically significant text with scholarly analysis and critical apparatus that will contribute to the emerging global understanding of Chinese rhetoric and communication.

Critique: Enhanced with the inclusion of a four page Glossary of Guiguzi's Rhetorical Terms, an eight page bibliographic listing of Works Cited, and a three page Index, ""Guiguzi," China's First Treatise on Rhetoric" is a seminal work of outstanding scholarship and an extraordinary, highly recommended addition to both college and university library collections.

Paul T. Vogel

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

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