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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 16, Number 11 November 2017 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

When Did Everybody Else Get So Old?
Jennifer Grant
Herald Press
1251 Virginia Avenue, Harrisonburg, VA 22802
9781513801384, $29.99, HC, 192pp,

Synopsis: From writer and veteran columnist Jennifer Grant comes an unflinching and spirited look at the transitions of midlife. "When Did Everybody Else Get So Old?: Indignities, Compromises, and the Unexpected Grace of Midlife" plumbs the physical, spiritual, and emotional changes unique to the middle years: from the emptying nest to the sagging effects of aging. Grant acknowledges the complexities and loss inherent in midlife and tells stories of sustaining disappointment, taking hard blows to the ego, undergoing a crisis of faith, and grieving the deaths not only of illusions but of loved ones. Yet she illuminates the confidence and grace that this season of life can also bring.

Critique: One of those impressively life-affirming, life-inspiring, life-changing reads, "When Did Everybody Else Get So Old?: Indignities, Compromises, and the Unexpected Grace of Midlife" is an extraordinary and inherently engaging reads from cover to cover. While unreservedly recommended, especially for community library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "When Did Everybody Else Get So Old?: Indignities, Compromises, and the Unexpected Grace of Midlife" is also available in a paperback edition (9781513801315, $16.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Cici's Journal
Joris Chamblain and Aurelie Neyret
First Second
175 5th Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781626722484 $17.99 hc / $9.99 Kindle

Synopsis: Cici dreams of being a novelist. Her favorite subject: people, especially adults. She's been watching them and taking notes. Everybody has one special secret, Cici figures, and if you want to write about people, you need to understand what's hiding inside them. But now she's discovered something truly strange: an old man who disappears into the forest every Sunday with huge pots of paint in all sorts of colors. What is he up to? Why does he look so sad when he comes back?

In a graphic novel interwoven with journal notes, scrapbook pieces, and doodles, Cici assembles clues about the odd and wonderful people she's uncovered, even as she struggles to understand the mundane: her family and friends.

Critique: The beautiful, earthy color artwork adds just the right touch to this heartwarming pair of graphic novel stories about an inquisitive and imaginative young woman. Although Cici's Journal: The Adventures of a Writer-in-Training will especially appeal to young adults ages 8-12, readers of all ages will enjoy these thoughtful stories featuring the plucky yet kind-hearted Cici. Cici's Journal is highly recommended for both personal and public library graphic novel collections, and makes an excellent gift. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Cici's Journal is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Living a Spiritual Life in a Material World
Anna Gatmon
She Writes Press
9781631522567, $16.99, PB, 200pp,

Synopsis: Holding a doctoral degree in Transformative Learning from the California Institute for Integral Studies, Anna Gatmon comes from a multicultural background that spans the USA, Sweden, Israel, and France. Her diverse professional background includes a career as a fashion model in Europe and the USA, founding an alternative elementary school based on an original holistic educational model, home-schooling her two sons, and leading workshops and performing individual work with clients in Israel, Europe, and the USA. Her eclectic cultural experiences and rich life journey have given her a deep understanding of people's daily struggles and insights into ways of transcending individual and cultural suffering.

In "Living a Spiritual Life in a Material World: 4 Keys to Fulfillment and Balance" Anna offers her readers an unconventional but effective approach to the spiritual-material split so prevalent in our culture. "Living a Spiritual Life in a Material World" demystifies the all-too-often elusive nature of spirituality and brings it down to earth, providing a concrete roadmap to living a life that is spiritually fulfilling without having to give up material pleasures.

Weaving stories from her personal life with insights and testimonials from her doctoral research, Anna offers what she describes as four keys to improve intuitive decision making, empowering readers to become their own spiritual guide and live a spiritually meaningful life while staying fully engaged in daily material living.

Critique: Impressively well written, and thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation, "Living a Spiritual Life in a Material World" is an extraordinary self-help instructional guide that will prove to be a life-affirming, life-enhancing, life-enriching read from beginning to end. While very highly recommended, especially for community and academic library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Living a Spiritual Life in a Material World" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.95).

Celtic Saints of Scotland, Northumbria and the Isle of Man
Elizabeth Rees
Fonthill Media
c/o Casemate
1940 Lawrence Road, Havertown, PA 19083
9781781556016, $29.95, PB, 208pp,

While most books about Celtic saints are based on their legendary medieval lives, but "Celtic Saints of Scotland, Northumbria and the Isle of Man" by Elizabeth Rees (who a Roman Catholic nun with a Master's degree from Oxford, and one of Britain's leading authorities on the Celtic saints in relation to the sites where they lived and worked) focuses on the sites where these early Christians lived and worked.

Archaeology, combined with early inscriptions and texts, offers us important clues which help us to piece together something of the fascinating world of early Christianity. "Celtic Saints of Scotland, Northumbria and the Isle of Man" is illustrated with the Elizabeth's own evocative photographs of the sites where the Celtic saints of north Britain worked and prayed. The reader is therefore drawn into the beautiful world which these men and women inhabited.

"Celtic Saints of Scotland, Northumbria and the Isle of Man" also includes accounts of most well-known saints, and a number of less famous individuals. It is not, however, exhaustive: lack of historical data means that there are hundreds more Celtic monks and nuns, of whom we know little beyond their names.

Critique: "Celtic Saints of Scotland, Northumbria and the Isle of Man" is exceptionally well written, organized and presented, making it ideal for students, academia, and non-specialist general reader with an interest in the subject. Featuring an informative introduction, maps to pinpoint the sites described and photographed, "Celtic Saints of Scotland, Northumbria and the Isle of Man" is an impressive work of simply outstanding scholarship and especially recommended for both community and academic library history collections for Scotland, Northumbria and the Isle of Man in general, and Celtic Saints supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

Awakening through the Nine Bodies
Phillip Moffitt
North Atlantic Books
2526 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Berkeley, CA 94704-2607
9781623171902, $26.95, PB, 256pp,

Synopsis: Based on meditation practices Phillip Moffitt (a Buddhist meditation teacher and writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area) learned some twenty years ago from Himalayan yoga master Sri Swami Balyogi Premvarni, "Awakening through the Nine Bodies: Explorations in Consciousness for Mindfulness Meditation and Yoga Practitioners" is beautifully illustrated guide to exploring the nature of mind and gaining a better understanding of experiences that arise during meditation.

The Nine Bodies teachings map out a journey that starts with consciousness that arises in the physical body and is directly observable, and then travels through ever more subtle levels of consciousness to that which is not manifest and is only potential, and therefore has to be inferred. "Awakening through the Nine Bodies" includes a series of mysterious illustrations that Balyogi created during his time of intense Samadhi explorations. Each illustration is a rich composition of symbols that express aspects of inner experiences that are almost impossible to express with language.

Moffitt makes these teachings available for meditation students from all spiritual traditions to use as gateways for exploring the nature of mind and as additional means for tracking and classifying meditative experiences. Students of yoga will also find value in the teachings of the Nine Bodies as they provide a means for contextualizing and connecting with yogic teachings on chakras, koshas, gunas, and the Three Bodies.

Synopsis: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Awakening through the Nine Bodies: Explorations in Consciousness for Mindfulness Meditation and Yoga Practitioners" is a complete course of instruction under one cover and will prove to be of immense and practical value for students and practitioners of meditation and yoga. While very highly recommended for yoga studio, community, and academic library Yoga & Meditation instructional reference collections, it should be noted for the personal reading of professionals and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Awakening through the Nine Bodies" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $18.99).

Mary Cowper

Donovan's Bookshelf

Unlocking the Cage
Mark Tullius
Vincere Press, LLC
ISBN kindle 9781938475276, $9.99
Hardback 9781938475269, $29.99
Purchase link:

Author Mark Tullius was a cage fighter and boxer who gave up his career, but never quite lost his passion for the sport, and Unlocking the Cage follows his journey as he sought to understand both his own attraction to blood and violence in the name of sporting and the experiences of other fighters.

He spent three years traveling to over a hundred gyms across the country, interviewing fighters in an effort to discover shared insights on why cage fighting is so attractive, and so his survey of MMA fighting's particular processes and psychology offers more than a casual inspection of what fighters find compelling about this pastime.

Whether the reader knows about and relates to cage fighting or not is irrelevant: Tullius offers all the background and specifics needed to understand not just the mechanics of the sport, but the minds of its players and observers.

One might anticipate this story to involve a condemnation of MMA techniques; but one of its many surprises are insights into how fighters have evolved into and then beyond MMA: "Marcus points to 2007 as the year his life became storybook, the type of life he'd always wanted but never imagined he'd have. He'd found a perfect partner with his third wife, he was finally making money doing what he loved, and he'd become much healthier as a person and a parent. Without a doubt, a huge part of the reason for that change was MMA, but there was another part, a mental technique he'd adopted. Marcus had discovered that as he became more peaceful and okay with himself as a person, he began to lose some of his fire, some of his edge. That angry little boy who'd become The Irish Hand Grenade had his purpose, and Marcus decided he'd keep him around. He just had to keep him separate and decide when he'd let him loose."

The journey between successful cage fighter and a peaceful life sans fighting, the personal goals that can be achieved through MMA, and the values that emerge from it (such as fairness in fighting that translate into life in general) are exposed and explored as Mark Tullius comes closer to understanding himself as well as his fellow cage fighters.

The result is a surprisingly revealing read recommended not just for enthusiasts of boxing, fighting, and MMA in particular, but especially for outsiders who abhor the idea of such a sport without really understanding its players. This audience will find their eyes opened about many things, including evolving values and maturity processes in life, and will discover Unlocking the Cage also unlocks preconceived notions about a little-understood sport.

Wayne Kerr
Imajin Books
Ebook: 9781772233315, $ 5.99
Paperback: 9781772233353, $16.99

Framed opens with a homicide cop in prison who faces the reality that: "I worked, ate and even watched the occasional movie with 250 people that wished me mortal harm simply because of what I had been - a homicide detective."

Inmate Reggie Swann is used to taking care of herself, but doing time in prison involves a degree of self-defense, political savvy, and social interactions as alien to this investigator as being on the other side of the law. And this is no sudden confinement: she's already spent 10 years in prison after being framed for a murder she didn't commit.

That's a long time to go through and investigate, from prison, a list of possible suspects involved in the frame-up. Swann's investigator friend helps in what increasingly seems like an impossible pursuit that seems like a lot of wasted time when the last suspect is eliminated, leaving Swann with no clues or hopes of regaining freedom any time soon.

The premise is stark and simple: "Someone had framed me and there had to have been a motive but I couldn't find it."

The process of finding motive, perp, and justice from behind prison walls opens Framed; but as the story moves beyond its initial purpose, readers are drawn into an investigative piece that sifts through witnesses as it provides a complicated and absorbing story that keeps posing new possibilities and then disproving them.

Before it's over, others are framed, as well. And the modus operandi and results hold a sinister motive that few could have guessed from the beginning.

In a story where 'who didn't do it' is just as important as 'whodunnit', detective and investigative fiction readers receive an absorbing probe of how an ex-cop framed in a professional manner becomes a PI with license to investigate anything and everyone. The evolution of justice and exoneration makes for a spirited puzzler that will delight readers looking for intriguing stories and absorbing twists and turns of detective work.

The Highway of Life
Kiyoshi Terrell Fish
1663 South Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781543443363, $19.97,

The Highway of Life: Learning About Your Purpose in Life takes the admonition "be the best you can be" and lends it new life through an approach that lends Kiyoshi Terrell Fish

authority as a mentor and friend to readers who are just embarking on their own journey to find their life's purpose.

A child killed in front of the author while crossing the street led to his reflections on how short life is and how quickly things can change. Most would stop there; but Kiyoshi Terrell Fish used these thoughts as a framework for change, pursuing a course of action that embraced new patterns of growth, a newfound ability to recognize signs of destiny and walk a different path, and an approach to truly living life rather than driving it from a sense of insecurity.

Having an author's story of personal transformation is one thing, and this has been presented numerous times in autobiography and self-help books; but what sets The Highway of Life apart from similar-sounding titles is its attention to refining the process of discovery to a step-by-step framework any reader can follow to jump-start their own search for and embodiment of purpose in life.

Chapters incorporate spiritual reflections on God's plan, select quotes from Biblical and other sources, and offer psychological discussions on self-awareness as they plot a course any thinking reader can easily follow.

The prerequisites to a thorough appreciation of this book will be a desire to jump-start a new view on life and the commitment to see this process to fruition. Readers unwilling to accept the spiritual piece of this journey or who want a simple plan that takes little effort should look elsewhere; for The Highway of Life requires the mindset of those who would embrace change and new possibilities.

This audience of new age, psychological, spiritual, and self-help readers alike will here find all the guideposts for a complete life makeover in a book which takes the approach of a professional life coach and synthesizes its steps into a framework anyone can utilize.

Don't Mind Me, I Just Died
Caroline Sutton
Montemayor Press
9781932727203, $16.95,

Don't Mind Me, I Just Died: On Time, Tennis & Unforgiving Mothers is an essay collection of reflections especially recommended for parents and children, offering insights on relationships, life-changing moments, sports, and efforts to understand, cope with, and accept family relationships and strife.

In some ways, Don't Mind Me, I Just Died is a slice of life - but not the kind of introspective collection one might anticipate from such a description. Its essays often capture those moments in life where truth and reality break through illusion with hard-hitting impacts, as in the ethereal 'The Ghost Player': "Late that night, and often at night, I hear voices without sound (as the ghost player saw form without form), silent articulations of combat and confusion, words repeated with aching clarity until daylight finds them drained of color, limp as a dogwood petal tarnishing at the rim. My voice calculates the number of years I have left to live by any reasonable estimation, while the whisper of an other obliterates those words with breezy denial....My other is as imaginary as a dragonfly cloud momentarily obscuring the moon."

Perhaps the reason behind these changing voices and descriptions and their varied topics lies in the fact that the essays were penned over a period of fourteen years, during which the author's life and family vastly changed. While her mother's decline and death lies at the heart of many of these reflections, and this account introduces the collection, it's by no means solely a tribute to a parent's demise or life; but an exploration of the connections between everyday experience and life-changing events.

The result is accessible, but not a breezy piece: a read packed with thought-provoking moments couched in the seeming banality of daily affairs that assumes new life meanings under Caroline Sutton's blend of psychology, philosophy, and quiet observation.

Readers of literary essays who like their works to move from the mundane and normal to extraordinary reflections will find moving sagas, a dose of whimsy, and introspection that will connect the stories in Don't Mind Me, I Just Died to their own experiences in satisfying, uniquely compelling ways.

Greco's Game
James Houston Turner
Regis Books (an imprint of Ruby Rock Films LLC)
9780958666473 (paperback), $12.99
9780958666466 (eBook), $ 4.99 (USA eBook) (USA paperback)

What does a 1619 classic chess match, in which the game was won in only eight moves, have to do with an old KGB chess instructor, the Russian mafia, human trafficking, and a man on a deadly course of self destruction?

Greco's Game embraces so many subplots and twists that under another hand, it would be easy for readers to get lost in the action, but James Houston Turner's ability to build a book into a chess-like game of cat-and-mouse moves makes it a read like none other, highly complex but entirely comprehensible and absolutely riveting.

KGB agent Talanov is actually a good guy trying to do the right thing - even when he tries to stop caring. Aleksandr Talanov's actions may be part of Turner's thriller series, but each book holds the ability to stand firmly on its own - and Greco's Game is no different, inviting newcomers to the series with a story that places the issue of human trafficking on par with Talanov's own struggles with past, present and future.

A stolen wallet leads him into this sordid world, where he draws on all his KGB procedurals and instructions to gain answers and survive.

At the heart of the story is this perception: "Chess is the ultimate game of strategy," Talanov explained. "It requires one to outwit an enemy mentally before engaging that enemy physically."

It's this mental clash of titans that drives a thriller steeped in Russian intrigue, social issues, and power plays that lead Talanov into an international human trafficking world filled with struggle, hope, miracles, death, and, unexpectedly, love.

Fans of international thrillers tempered with social issues will find Greco's Game not just a satisfying, well-done read, but thought-provoking long after its unexpected conclusion is digested.

Zoom Boom the Scarecrow and Friends
Joel Brown, author
Garrett Myers, illustrator
Rapier Book Publishing Company (Fannie Pierce, Publisher)
9780996608312 (Soft Cover), $13.00
9780997030723 (Hard Cover), $18.00

Zoom Boom the Scarecrow and Friends introduces young picture book readers to a magical farm filled with farm animal friends and a happy scarecrow named Zoom-Boom, who likes to help others stay out of trouble.

Everyone feels his concern and love, and Zoom-Boom relishes their adoration and the feeling of helping them. But, why 'zoom-boom'? Because when he's on the rescue, he 'zooms' and then 'booms' with action-packed words parents will especially enjoy using with their kids.

Zoom Boom the Scarecrow and Friends lends to read-aloud opportunities as the perfect choice for the very young, as parents will be able to guide kids through its several sentences per page and, more importantly, concepts of friendship, rescue and helping, and animal personalities who get into trouble as much as have fun.

"Trouble is so easy to get into, but hard to get out of!" That's just one of the simple admonitions in a gentle lesson about friendship, problem-solving, and a particularly useful scarecrow who is not afraid to help his barnyard friends.

The picture book's lessons and action makes for a fine read-aloud opportunity that parents will appreciate.

Be Tidy, Or Not?
Joel Brown, author
Garrett Myers, illustrator
Rapier Book Publishing Company (Fannie Pierce, Publisher)
9780996608329 (Soft Cover), $13.00
9780997030730 (Hard Cover), $18.00

Be Tidy, Or Not? adds to the Zoom-Boom book series, providing parents and young picture book enthusiasts with reads that lend to discussions and sharing.

Once again, the farm is the setting, and illustrator Garrett Myers provides colorful and fun embellishments to the story of daily chores and two individuals who undertake them despite the contrast between their names and their actions ('Dirty Bird', for example, is actually very clean and tidy. Charm's habits, in contrast, are anything but charming.).

Some unexpected messages are revealed beyond the obvious contrast between two very different habits, and parents will especially enjoy the opportunity to involve their kids in a read-aloud survey of ideals, perfection, the differences between friends who cultivate different habits and values, and more.

It's unexpected to find an important message about tolerance and friendship in the guise of a story about good and bad habits; but that's one of the strengths in a tale that is more about values and acceptance than about right and wrong.

Be Careful
Joel Brown, author
Garrett Myers, illustrator
Rapier Book Publishing Company (Fannie Pierce, Publisher)
9780996608336 (Soft Cover), $13.00
9780997030747 (Hard Cover), $18.00

Adding to the Zoom-Boom focus on friendships is Be Careful, a survey about being safe whether parents are present or not.

Kids are encouraged to think about all kinds of things that might lead to unsafe conditions, whether it be traffic, not seeing warning signs or cautions, or not being aware of one's environment. While the emphasis is on traffic situations, the overall encouragement to pay better attention to the world makes for an important discussion about dangerous situations and how to recognize them before trouble strikes.

Scarecrow Zoom-Boom is a rescuer of careless children, but his actions only supplement the overall, overriding advice to be careful, not let others talk you into doing unsafe things, and recognizing true friends as those who practice good, safe behavior themselves.

The result is a cautionary tale that clearly identifies not only good friends and better behavior patterns, but the kinds of thinking and actions that lead to dangerous situations - an excellent introduction encouraging parents and kids to talk about the greater world and how to handle it.

Billy Twigg and the Storm of Shadows
Ninian Carter
Kindle Press
9781542969024, $10.99
ASIN: B01N4EFMZ5, $2.99

It's rare to have a story begin with a flashback on the cusp of death, but Billy Twigg and the Storm of Shadows' opening scene is just one of the surprising routes the story takes as teen Billy faces death in the ruins of a national monument with no memory of how he arrived at that point.

When snippets of memory do begin to return, he's not sure if they're dreams or reality, as they revolve around an evil threat from the Arctic that is moving relentlessly towards the world - a force only he, a quiet English schoolboy, might be able to repel.

Kids often dream of becoming the saviors of the world - but for Billy Twigg, this dream assumes all too nightmarish a proportion as he finds himself in roles that continually challenge him.

While young adults are the intended audience of this action story, Billy Twigg and the Storm of Shadows is one of those thrillers that crosses age lines despite the obvious youth of its protagonist, offering a classic sci-fi thriller format that many an adult will find surprisingly complex and accessible, while teen audiences will relish the development of a not-so-obvious (or even capable) teenage hero.

In his dreams, Billy has long been a traveler. When those dreams begin to spill over into reality, Billy discovers there are more to them than illusion - even if sometimes they involve a real-looking alien cooking him a meal in an odd cafe, for one.

His strange dreams may not actually be dreams. Governments need to get used to the idea that aliens are on Earth. And Billy needs to adjust to the fact that he may be the only (unlikely) hope for his planet.

All this seems like heady adult reading (which is why many an adult sci-fi enthusiast will relish its story line), but the character and choices of the unassuming Billy Twigg will engross teens who will appreciate a very different kind of superhero in a shy boy whose attempt to solve a puzzle leads him to cultivate unusual friends in strange places and an uncommon courage.

Original, wry, sometimes funny, and always action-packed, Billy Twigg and the Storm of Shadows is engrossing and sets the stage for further books which will be eagerly anticipated by all ages.

The Last Deception
D.V. Berkom
Duct Tape Press
9780997970869 $17.99 (ppb), $5.99 (eBook)

Ordering links:

Former assassin Leine Basso thinks she's retired from her profession - but apparently she's not done killing, yet. The Last Deception is Book 6 in the thriller series and involves her investigation into a Russian deception and its implications for a new world war.

The story opens with Leine's violent rescue of a battered young woman from a brutal terrorist group, an event that takes place in Libya and involves an organization that reunites kidnapped women with their families.

As other subplots emerge in a rain of bullets and confrontations, readers receive high-octane, action-packed scenes that wind social issues and efforts to seek justice with the brutal, violent impact of clashes between different forces in the world.

This sets the stage for the greatest clash of all when the globe-trotting Leine uncovers acts of international espionage that lead her on a desperate hunt for an elusive spy that could bring down the world.

Warning: once started, The Last Deception is difficult to put down. The feisty and creative problem-solving techniques Leine employs throughout will make newcomers want to turn to her prior adventures even though no previous familiarity with the other books is needed.

As Leine faces bad characters and good guys, makes decisions that will affect her world and beyond, and plays her part in a dangerous game that tests her skills and cleverness, readers along for the ride will relish a blend of satisfying insights into terrorism, world social issues, politics, and mystery that make The Last Deception a powerful survey into the life of a jet-setting assassin who just cannot lay her special skills to rest.

Keep Me Close
Elizabeth Cole
SkySpark Books
9781942316275 (ePub), $ 4.99
9781942316282 (Print), $14.95

Keep Me Close opens the Brothers Salem series and revolves around professional ghost hunter and demon slayer Dominic Salem, who breaks his own rule not to pick up hitchhikers and finds himself saddled with artist Lavinia's dreams and nightmares.

Perhaps only Dom could tell that her nightmares aren't actually limited to the realm of dreams and that she faces far more danger than she suspects - and perhaps he's the only one to not only save her, but introduce love into her lonely life.

The first thing to note about this paranormal romance is the wry sense of humor that winds even into life and death confrontations between human and demon: "I'll cut your skin into slivers and make you watch while I eat them," it hissed. Flames dripped from its mouth as it spoke. "Sure you will," said Dom. "Watch me! I can-". Perfect. A big mouth."

But how does he explain magic to a 'civilian' like Vinny? How does he explain that not just her life, but her soul, is in danger? And how does he fight the romantic impulses that stem from their mutual attraction despite constant interruptions and demonic interventions?

As Vinny inadvertently strolls into other worlds and Dom faces her uncommon ability to walk into realms most humans can't enter, he finds himself discovering more about this stranger than he could ever have anticipated as he confronts a force that challenges his skills, his purpose, and his heart.

To call Keep Me Close a paranormal romance may be over-simplifying the description; because the humor, drama and intrigue that permeate a story of close-held secrets, spells, and love make it a gripping read heads and shoulders above any formula writing or genre description.

Readers who love stories of demons, dangers, and matters of the heart will find Keep Me Close a diverse, involving read.

When Soulmates Unite
Christina Renee Joubert
Teaching the World to Love, LLC Publishing
9780999118504, $21.99

When Soulmates Unite: Learning to Love Ourselves from the People Who Can Hurt Us the Most provides the author's love story, but it's as much about how she learned to love herself as it is a struggle with a seemingly-perfect life that nonetheless lacked something major.

The story of Christina Renee Joubert's lifelong search for love and how she discovered it takes the form of journal entries, blogs, and letters, divided into two sections: learning to love self, and learning to incorporate a feeling of worthiness into one's life.

Readers who look to When Soulmates Unite for insights on romance and change should be advised that there is a heavy spiritual component involved in this quest. Because "the soulmate relationship is a spiritual one," no treatment of love can be assessed sans the spiritual element. Joubert explores a 'higher purpose' alongside psychological interactions and self-analysis, so readers receive a multi-faceted inspection that revises the definition of 'soulmate' and the bigger picture involved in this connection, often employing a chatty tone that personally addresses the reader: "The purpose is so we're inspired to shed some of the baggage we've gathered during our lifetime. It's so we're compelled to look at ourselves - and really see ourselves (faults and all!) and to look at our lives, and really see our lives (just as they are! happy or not!). And then, my dears, the purpose is to inspire, compel, and energetically force us to grow, evolve, and get closer to our Higher Selves (which is unconditional love), live the life we're meant to live, and to live our purpose."

Through separation, distance, and other loves, love is always there, and the messages she gives to her young son are equally powerful instructions to readers: "Love transcends physical reminders of that love. And love isn't something someone does; it's something you feel. It's on the inside of your body. If you believe in the love, it will always be right there. You'll always be able to draw on it for your comfort, your inspiration, your growth, and as your guiding/directional force. It becomes yours, and not a feeling predicated on someone else. The love begins to guide your faith, your belief in love and in yourself."

From healing processes to revelations about what constitutes a good relationship and partnership ("I'm ready for a partner who is ready. I'm ready for a partner who can let go of the things/patterns that no longer serve him (or has already let go of the things/patterns that no longer serve him). I'm ready for a partner who looks forward to sharing his life with me and Benjamin and is excited about the idea of waking up next to us every morning..."), this blend of memoir and advice guide isn't your usual approach to finding, keeping, or even benefitting from love, but a hard-hitting survey of the changes soulmates can bring, the blessings imparted by a kind of love that dissolves old patterns in favor of new opportunities, and the lessons and letters Joubert writes to her partners and herself in the process of searching for not just a better life, but a better perception of and acceptance of the powers of love.

What better approach to sweep readers into these possibilities than the hopeful, eye-opening blend of personal experience and life revelations in When Soulmates Unite? Her book is highly recommended reading for new age, self-help, and psychology and memoir readers on their own paths of self-discovery and growth.

A Winter Friend
Rose Mary Stiffin, PhD
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781512252347, $25.00,

A Winter Friend opens with a typical successful American family torn asunder by a job loss and changes which prompt new decisions, which could serve as a mirror for many modern Americans who struggle as economic and social conditions change.

Forced to relocate after tragedy strikes, a family of six discovers that a new environment brings newfound conflict and strange attractions as first a devoted wife and mother and then a daughter meet others, fall in love, and face some life-changing moments that question everything they've believed about love and life.

A Winter Friend is about new friendships evolving during turbulent times. It takes a classic nuclear family, breaks it, and turns it on end, offering a close inspection of the stresses and forces that lead family members to divert from familiar beliefs and dedications into dangerous waters of emotional dependence and new relationships.

As a series of hardships forces not just new lives but new ideas of romance, the family's females embark on paths that receive especially strong descriptions of the links between personal habits and changed economics: "When they'd lived in Houston, she'd belonged to a couple of book clubs. She had enjoyed meeting the members, mostly women, to discuss a book, gossip, and even drink the occasional glass of wine. Now, with no money for a babysitter and the guilt of forcing her older daughters to take on an adult role too soon, she had to be content to read a few pages of a novel every night."

As lies build up between mother, daughter, and the family, Connie questions abilities she'd thought she had for raising her children properly ("Was this her fault? Yes. She was a terrible mother. She had to be. No good mother would allow this or not know about it."); but one of the strengths in A Winter Friend is that there aren't always clear right and wrong choices - only diversions, unexpected love, and opportunities explored on all sides.

How friendships turn into something more and how these affect family structures makes for an engrossing story packed with psychological depth and detail as it explores several evolving timelines of interconnected family members who form their own responses to the changes in their lives.

Readers of women's literature who enjoy stories about family structures facing the rigors of tragedy and recovery will find much to appreciate in a novel by a gifted author, which does more than lightly brush the surface of life and love, offering a depth and focus that examines individuals as they operate in a wider arena of changing connections.

Casino Blues
Rose Mary Stiffin, PhD
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781545315118, $19.00,

Casino Blues tackles a family structure under stress, much like Rose Mary Stiffin's prior A Winter Friend; but takes a much different approach in portraying a family addicted to and affected by drugs.

Trudy is pregnant with her third child even though she's hopelessly addicted to cocaine. Her boyfriend goes to school and sells marijuana to keep them afloat. This is an accident waiting to happen, and when the inevitable occurs, it proves a life- and habit-changing force where addiction clashes with parenting in a big way.

In some ways, Casino Blues represents the evolution of prior themes Dr. Stiffin has explored in previous books about family interactions and life-changing moments. In another, it represents a big departure in her style because the characters involved aren't just facing emotional challenges, but physical obstacles that entwine with the emotional piece to make recovery even more elusive.

Dreams turned to nightmares, healers with ulterior motives, new romances with old friends, and different characters on trajectories set to collide produce a novel steeped in tension, self-inspection, and a gritty style of writing that keeps readers guessing about relationships and their potential for emotional disaster.

Even when describing such a disparate group of individuals, Casino Blues nicely explains their diverse viewpoints, motivations, and methods of facing life which teeter on the edge between survival and death.

Readers who enjoy stories of damaged individuals seeking ways out of their dilemmas will find Casino Blues precisely captures the kinds of situations that keep individuals invested in life, and on their toes.

The result is a hard-hitting, insightful and moving story that traces the disparate paths of all involved, from healer to struggling parents and beyond. It's ultimately the story of winning a long, hard battle and it considers the boundaries between destiny and choice and stops along the winding road of life that can lead to miracles and love.

Walk in Bethel
Rose Mary Stiffin, PhD
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781452838908, $16.00,

Walk in Bethel represents yet another departure, in some ways, from Dr. Stiffin's prior family stories in that it's set in the Mississippi Delta and steeped in an atmosphere of the South, focusing on a Christian woman who is a reverend's wife, convinced that God walks among us.

How many times have best intentions resulted in angst, struggle, and difficulty? When Nashville helps a once-battered young woman, she is literally dragged into an assault and rescued herself, and unwittingly introduces terrorism and sin into her life during a flight that leads her to question everything she's valued, from family to God.

As her choices resound in three generations of this Southern black family, readers are treated to a story that evolves along with its plot and characters, with accounts moving from the 1800s to modern times as they follow the threads of Nashville's decision and its lasting impact.

Despite a plethora of characters which introduce a degree of complexity into the story, Walk in Bethel's ability to explore depth and meaning at every turn means that readers are seldom lost or left wondering. Descriptions are well-done, and nicely reflect character thoughts, emotions, and moral and spiritual conundrums: "He thought of his sermon. God exacted vengeance, not man, not him. God judged swiftly. Seeking those boys out, exacting his revenge would ensure him one thing, his own death. Vengeance is Mine, sayeth the Lord. He had to believe these words."

It's one thing to believe in good times. It's quite another to reassess and remain strongly moved by conviction when the desire for retribution burns in one's heart.

This is one theme that shines in a story that changes generations, perspectives, and experiences, from the Klansmen burning a house because of a suspected illegal marriage between a white man and a colored girl to terrible decisions to sacrifice self for the sake of bringing peace to a beloved husband.

Prejudice takes many forms. Sometimes it's in the guise of an untimely death; other times it's in the hearts of those who would keep loving gay parents from adopting a child into their lives. Physical attractions and affairs of the heart are two of the themes that permeate the spiritual and social clashes in Walk in Bethel, keeping it an absorbing account of changing lives against the backdrop of changing society.

In many ways, these stories read like a series of vignettes as characters move through their lives and choices and search for the light that keeps them purposeful and connected. Thus, readers who fall in love with one of the characters, or a particular era, receive a broader discussion that moves through the decades with the precision of a military march.

Walk in Bethel is complex, deeply rooted in Southern tradition and evolving social changes in America, and a powerful, must-read recommendation for readers who look for sweeping family chronicles, African-American historical inspection from personal perspectives and experience, and a tribute to family connections as they change through time.

Groovin' on the Half Shell
Rose Mary Stiffin, PhD
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781494965532, $25.00,

Groovin' on the Half Shell: The Biography of Bluesman Carl Murray provides a novel steeped in Southern musical tradition as it tells of a newly married dreamer who journeys to Memphis with the goal of making it big as a famous blues singer.

His trajectory towards success is stymied in many ways, however, when his perfect marriage falls apart for lack of a child, resulting in a living and love arrangement that raises many eyebrows and is anything but conventional in appearance and purpose.

Carl isn't just an aspiring musician, but a would-be family man; and he will go to great lengths to make both happen. Having the story also narrated from the perspectives of others, from 'the other woman' to a father-in-law, adds depth and an interesting contrast to a plot that offers challenging observations about both the music business and the process of forming a family, however unconventional these approaches might be.

Love, respect, and the process of getting to know one another coalesce in a wide-reaching saga that moves from family to career objectives and back again in the lively fictional biography of a man determined to achieve his goals by any means possible, while retaining a sense of connection to and decorum in his world.

Readers who enjoy stories about unconventional lives and characters who dare to be different will find much food for thought in this tale as it unwinds a different kind of life that's still filled with love and ambition.

Rose Mary Stiffin, PhD
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781478321231, $23.00,

When does 'tall, dark and handsome' not translate to an ideal romance? This happens when physical beauty masks a self-centered drunk: something not initially recognized by naive eighteen-year-old Cosby Tates, even though she's purposely rescued this drunk, beautiful man from a wedding and changed his life for the better.

Fast forward ten years. Cosby is long gone, Warren is now sober and on the fast track to business success, and he is engaged to a lovely photographer when he's tapped to attend a conference, there to espy a haunting woman from his past who is accompanied by a little boy.

But the 'girl from his dreams' is also engaged to another, and a complicated scenario evolves involving the lives and decisions not just of the now-mature Warren and his rescuer from the past, but two fiancees and a small child.

If all of this sounds convoluted, it should be advised that one of the strengths of Reflections lies in its ability to take complex entanglements of human emotions and associations and lend them a logical structure and evolution that makes it easy to empathize with good and bad choices made by all sides.

From single motherhood and secrets kept for a greater good to connections of the past that arise to haunt and possibly challenge future happiness and trajectories towards fulfillment, Reflections does a fine job of tracing the psychological evolution and perspective of all its characters.

In many ways, Warren has changed for the good. In other ways, the past maintains its magnetic pull, injecting doubt just when everything seems certain and stable: "Why have the dream now? Everything was perfect in his life. He was getting along with his parents and The Traumatic Trio. His father's health was good, which made his mother happy. If his parents were happy, they were not crowding him."

Readers who seek a novel about entwined, complex results of decisions made long ago will relish the devices used in Reflections, which uses a complex, fast-paced story line to inject a deeper level of psychological understanding than most novels offer.

MAD Librarian
Michael Guillebeau
Madison Press
9780997205527, $20.00 Paper, $7.99 Kindle

Librarian Serenity is hopping mad: she's lost her library funding even as the city's fat cats seem to have plenty of funding available for their own special interests. There doesn't seem to be anything she can do about it, either - or, can she?

What if she uses her librarian skills to get back what has been lost? Would she use that money to change the world?

MAD Librarian is the intriguing story of a traditional polite, retiring librarian who finally has enough of graft and corruption and decides to take matters into her own hands. She's managed to build a calm sanctuary out of the library, making it an oasis of comfort in a sea of conflict. Now even her most basic support system is threatened, leaving her no choice but to fight back in ways she never could do before.

There are many surprises in MAD Librarian - so many that readers who approach this read with preconceived notions of characters, action, or outcome in a story about a librarian may feel stymied because of its additional depth, fire and unexpected passion - not to mention the subterfuge and plots - which emerges from dialogue and events. Quite simply, there's a lot going on, and many moments where MAD Librarian doesn't seem to fit its own direction - and that's not necessarily a bad thing unless the reader desires predictability.

Political confrontations, elusive funding, revenge, fraud and account manipulations, and even light humor enter the picture: "Something happened. Any case, the ring was pulling in a ton of money until a bunch of folks died and it stopped. But here's the thing: Kendall thought something much bigger was going on now, with ten times the money. But we could never find anything in Jericho." "Any idea what could squeeze more money out of corporations than the mob?" Joe asked. "No. But it doesn't sound like a library."

Everyone views the library and its overseer librarian as a relatively benign force in the community. But books have teeth, and it's not a good idea to jilt a fed-up librarian.

Community outreach takes on a life of its own in this story, which is at once quirky, quaint, funny, and pointed in its message about library funding, politics, and revenge. Perhaps readers need Southern roots in order to appreciate all this, but the result is an edgy, complex read that deftly moves beyond the initial plight of libraries facing public funding cuts to enter realms that even include closely-held secrets and murder.

Pair angst and social dismay with a wide-ranging story that offers dashes of something for everyone and you have an original production recommended for readers unafraid of chick-lit stories laced with social observation as a pillar of the community decides enough is enough.

Sarah & Zoey
Linda Watkins
Argon Press
9781944815035, $2.99

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Sarah has everything good in life: a career, family, and nice home. Mindy Sue is her opposite: she has none of these things and few joys in life - just her dog, Zoey. It's ironic to find that a dog will bring these disparate worlds together in a meeting that portends changes for both, and intriguing to read the process whereby Sarah and Mindy find their very different lives on a parallel trajectory.

Animal lovers will relish the clear contrast between a woman who feels truly blessed with her life and choices and one who feels trapped; all set against the backdrop of a special dog who brings them together.

For Sarah, this involves a day when everything changes and her perfect world comes apart in an instant. For Mindy Sue, it's when the final blow sends her dog and herself to the brink of death. Mindy must consider what's best for Zoey's future. Sarah is deep in grief.

Three disparate lives - two human, one canine - whirl through a circle of circumstance that is poignant, involving, and especially moving to dog lovers who want a novella about crisis, escape, and recovery.

Sarah and Zoey can be read in short segments, so it's perfect for busy fiction readers who want high drama packed into succinct chapters. The mechanics whereby loss and endangered lives heal are nicely portrayed in a winning story that emphasizes hope and offers an involving tale dog lovers will relish.

Murder at Broadcast Park
Bill Evans
Koehler Books
210 - 60th Street, Virginia Beach, VA 23451
9781633934917, $16.95,

Murder at Broadcast Park is a thriller piece about a CBS news station that finds itself in its own broadcast headlines when local news reporting about murders turns into a crime scene itself. Broadcasters need look no further than their offices as a gruesome discovery at an anchor's desk starts a whirlwind of murders, with the station at the eye of the storm of its own reporting.

The process of this particular investigation probes behind the scenes of broadcast television to create insights into the TV business that are surprisingly sordid, vivid, and engrossing for a station located in a relatively monied area of California where murder is not usually part of the morning's local news.

In addition to creating a winding mystery surrounding the perp and his objectives, Murder at Broadcast Park succeeds in immersing readers in California culture, from Jacuzzis and company meetings to conflicts between loyalty and justice, gourmet meals and last meals, an autopsy that fails to turn up anything abnormal in the case of death when all evidence points in this direction, and the fine line between news reporting and sales.

The interactive environment of a broadcast news station, from company meetings to reporter conundrums, comes to life in a story where broadcasting is a fitting, if not unusual, backdrop to events that leave even seasoned reporters puzzled about their purpose and outcome.

The result is a murder mystery steeped in broadcasting and California culture: a spicy blend that is absorbing, hard to put down, and filled with surprises right up to the end.

Mystery and thriller enthusiasts - especially those with some interest in media or California atmospheres - will find Murder at Broadcast Park is a vivid, engrossing read - very highly recommended as a genre standout for its character complexity, fine atmosphere, and realistic feel.

Blood Business: Crime Stories From This World And Beyond
Edited by Mario Acevedo and Joshua Viola
Hex Publishers
9780998666792 $27.99 (hardcover), $4.99 (eBook)

Blood Business: Crime Stories From This World And Beyond offers two sections of mysteries (stories from 'this world' and those 'and beyond') - 'beyond' meaning: prepare for something entirely different.

Readers expecting the usual 'whodunnit' approach will find this anthology offers far more than intrigue or murder problem-solving alone. The introduction deftly states some of the purpose and feel of Blood Business: "Bad business...blood business, baby. The nature of our engagements and interactions can be a tricky thing. For each heartbeat of altruism, greed is the selfish counter tempo. For each measure to provide comfort when a confidence is shared, there's the flip side of knowing certain information must never come to light - that money can be extorted to ensure such secrets remains unspoken. The mark is drawn into the con, duping themselves because they itch for something more. They need to feed their hunger and inexorably they fool themselves into believing what they desire is within reach - if only they had the guts to act.

The stories in this enthralling anthology offer a step through the funhouse mirror and into our rubbery distortion. On the other side we see beyond the image and are fascinated by what is reflected."

Blood Business is horror wrapped in the guide of crime and mystery. It is human psychology turned on end, and it's as much about embracing fate's darker side as it is about crime sprees or the clues surrounding them.

Humanity's darker nature is profiled in such works as Alvaro Zinos-Amaro's 'Morphing', about Cadmus Burnett's evolutionary process when a war with rodents in his house takes a horrible turn involving snakes, the changing definition of his Pals, and something darker. His fluid definitions of friends, enemies, and a purposeful effort to eliminate the bad guys produces a fascinating, dark read into a disturbed man's logic and processes (or, is he really disturbed?).

The ultimate issue lies not with Pals and their purposes; but in murder and depravity in a twisting story that takes its time to thoroughly probe one man's motives and dreams. Where's the crime in this? You'll see...

Each short story is different. Each, however, holds the same ability to capture mercurial personalities in its protagonists, providing vivid scenes tinged with horror, and incorporates a moment-by-moment immediacy that is thoroughly engrossing, as in a deadly cat-and-mouse tie in Sean Eads' 'The Guessing Game': "I escaped into Leeweather's bedroom and shut the door, locking it. Moments later the knob rattled. Then the whole door shook as both Nathan and Screamer tried to kick it open. But the door was good, sturdy oak, and not your typical hollow core Home Depot shit. I had some time."

Take horror writing at its best and add a crime/mystery spin. Then pair this with psychological depth for the foundation of the special atmosphere and focus of Blood Business, where every story is powerfully wrought, filled with satisfying twists, and presented with a flair of originality and surprise not typically seen in crime story collections.

For all these reasons, Blood Business is a unique, compelling, dark production very highly recommended for fans who like their crimes tinged with psychological depth and horror, and who look for original, unique, compelling productions where every story is a gem and no 'filler' is allowed.

White Water, Black Death
Shaun Ebelthite
J John Riley Books
ASIN: B074Y4X37Y, $0.99,

White Water, Black Death introduces magazine editor Geneva Jones, who is assigned to a cruise ship to gain a major advertising deal from its CEO. But business objectives are interrupted by a crew member's sudden death, which the cruise line explains away as a suicide. Perhaps it's her former line of work as an investigative journalist, but something isn't right, Geneva fears - and so she moves beyond her original purpose into a murder probe with a difference: a possible perp and his pursuer are in close quarters aboard a luxury liner, with no possibility of escape.

What she uncovers is a deeply-held secret that involves not just an outbreak of murder, but an outbreak of Ebola that threatens everyone on board - and again: mid-Atlantic, there is no escape for anybody.

Other mysteries have used the cruise ship model to heighten the tension between murderer and investigator; but what sets White Water, Black Death apart from others who utilize the same backdrop is its deeper attention to detail, which goes beyond a murderer on the loose and ventures into something far more complex.

From the beginning, purposes are revealed which (it should be forewarned) are not as straightforward as they initially appear: "Time slows when you feel like this, like you're dying. Almost as long as my six month to a year contract, almost as long as each day before my new life. In my old life I was a nameless face among many shades of brown, a temporary screw in a great machine of temporary parts. Six months a year, that's how long contracts are here. They discard you like a flimsy receipt when you aren't needed anymore. They don't realize how much damage a nameless face can do. If a plane can be a missile, why can't a cruise ship be a biological weapon? I cough into my hand now as well."

The cruise line is desperate for free publicity - but not the kind it likely will wind up getting. Geneva is desperate for something more, and as events ramp up, she and readers become embroiled in turns of events that excel in unexpected twists and engrossing threats.

This murder mystery turns into a social commentary on business and employee psychology, set against a blossoming threat that could move beyond the liner's boundaries.

Mystery fans will find a degree of complexity in White Water, Black Death that keeps them on their toes. There are no easy answers, and Shaun Ebelthite neatly eschews common genre devices in favor of surprises. Lots of threads, subplots, and possibilities will keep readers involved, puzzled, and intrigued to the unexpected ending in a story highly recommended for mystery readers who like their stories fast-paced, unexpected, and satisfyingly intricate.

The Unexpected Visitor
Tom Alberti
ASIN: B0753FTPK4, $0.99,

The Unexpected Visitor features three Chicago murders that lead Lieutenant Paul Marconi to make an unexpected connection at a ritzy private club that harbors a secret worth killing for.

The problem with secrets revealed is that once they go public, nobody is safe - not even professional investigators with a vested interest in exposing killers, subterfuge, and plots. And while justice isn't blind, sometimes it's stupid.

The crime involves an unexpected visitor who feels others are ruining his life, and whose horrible deed involves not just murder, but a deeper plot. Detective Marconi is so immersed in his job that it's taken over his life - but his commitments and investigative process are about to move in new directions as he faces a homicide far more complex than the usual perp's modus operandi.

Nobody knows what pain they inflect on others; especially when pain perceived as a game. That's how madmen are created. That's how situations evolve which return to haunt the game's instigators. And that's part of what immerses Detective Marconi in one of the deadliest investigative courses of his career.

One notable feature of The Unexpected Visitor is its ability to move through different mindsets and perspectives. Killers, detectives, and bigger-picture thinkers all are explored in chapters of alternating perspectives which don't always clarify the point of view being offered, but which always lend a piece to the bigger puzzle of what's going on.

Thus, readers should expect a degree of complexity in The Unexpected Visitor which surpasses most whodunit approaches to probe the reasons for the kinds of choices and actions leading to murderous intentions.

Darkness permeates The Unexpected Visitor, from the detective's night prowls to the psychological wounds that foster revenge and more. As the chronicle emphasizes, justice isn't blind - but it can sometimes turn a blind eye towards moral issues before the dust finishes settling.

But not before hostages are taken and a detective charged with problem-solving finds himself drawn into something more deadly than a singular murder investigation.

Replete with psychological depth on the makings of a killer and the motives of a problem-solving detective, The Unexpected Visitor will reach and engage audiences who look for involving investigative pieces that reveal secrets, depravities, and circumstances which draw victims and bad men into an engrossing series of dangerous games. Mystery readers will find it a nicely detailed, absorbing plot that moves between characters with a fluid attention to detail and psychological insights on all sides.

Wartime Vignettes
T.A. Dolotta
Uniflow Press
9780999124604 (paperback), $11.95
9780999124611 (hardback), $20.95
9780999124628 (ebook), $2.99

Wartime Vignettes: A Boyhood Memoir of World War II and of Its Aftermath at first glance seems a story, like so many others, of a young boy and his family caught up in the Holocaust during World War II.

75 years later, T.A. Dolotta embarks on a trip down memory lane as he recalls those years of hiding in the Polish ghettos, narrow escapes from concentration camp death, and how the family made it to the end of the war and picked up the pieces of their world.

Unlike many similar accounts, this did not involve a flight to America during the war; but a process of survival in Europe to the war's end and beyond. The family wound up in France, where Ted resumed his studies, and they lived there for years before they came to the U.S. to built new lives for themselves in America.

Unlike others which focus on escape to freedom, this memoir's survey of determinations to survive reveals logic in the actions and processes of living in Poland during the war and offers insights too rarely touched upon elsewhere: "After a year or so, history repeated itself: more sweeps in the ghetto, more railroad coal gondolas with their soon-to-be-gassed human cargo, and my father still believing that safety lay in numbers. This time, we decided to go for broke: back to Warsaw and its ghetto."

Even when Warsaw is almost completely destroyed by the war, his parents want to return and resume their lives - and this, too, represents a departure from most Holocaust memoirs, adding an extra dimension of insight to the portrait of lives transformed by war's impact.

The result is a powerful survey that moves beyond personal family choices to consider how many survivors forged new lives for themselves during and after World War II, remaining in Europe.

No military or Holocaust collection should be without Wartime Vignettes.

Cops Lie!
Leonard Love Matlick
GSP Press
9781548866068, $14.95

NYPD police officer Charley Griffin isn't your usual policeman sworn to uphold the law - not when he's regularly breaking it himself. It's no surprise when bully, drunk, and a drug dealer Charles is killed - but what is surprising is the depths of depravity that homicide detective Tony Philadelphia uncovers when an assignment to probe his fellow officer's activities reveals far more than anticipated.

The first thing to note as Cops Lie! unfolds is the wealth of police procedural information it contains, from abbreviations used in radio communications to nicknames for perps: "Cops like the 12 midnight to 8AM shift because that's when the skels come out and that's when they make most of their arrests. The most violent crimes occur between 8PM to 4AM. Skels are the term cops use for criminals, not perps. That's the term writers gave. Skels are short for skeletons, that's what drug addicts look like, and the name stuck."

Street talk is part of what lends Cops Lie! its realistic feel, which goes beyond many investigative mysteries to capture a sense of real-world atmosphere both within police ranks and on the street.

From open-and-shut cases (which Tony finds particularly time-consuming and dull) to court processes, cover-ups, officer actions and review board consequences, and Charles Griffin's complex secret life, investigative processes are well detailed and mob operations realistically portrayed.

Readers receive a fine mix of mystery, intrigue, and the unraveling of one policeman's life by peers who uncover more than a simple case of street graft or drug money. One doesn't expect some of the elements that enter the picture and move beyond police procedurals and into personal lives, changing Tony's life in the process - and that's yet another quite satisfying element to Cops Lie! which makes it an exceptionally interesting read filled with turns even the savviest detective story reader won't see coming.

The Journey to Wealth
James E. Demmert
New Insights Press
ISBN: 9780997335712 (print-Hardcover), $40.00
ASIN: B01M3VJJ02 (eBook), $15.00


Author James E. Demmert has been managing investment portfolios for institutional and individual investors for over 30 years, making him the perfect author for a book about building wealth. In The Journey to Wealth: Smart Investment Strategies to Stay Ahead of the Curve, he focuses on basic, key concepts involved in the process, but don't expect the usual series of explanations on different forms of financial investing and how to choose among them.

Demmert's approach is original in books about investing because it covers a process he created himself. He eschews the reiteration of basic facts in favor of analyzing strategic approaches to a portfolio to keep it versatile and responsive under a variety of economic scenarios. It especially pinpoints common mistakes that often keep investors from realizing the full income potential of their investment choices.

Chapters examine the foundations of making wise investments, providing the keys to recognizing just where the unpredictable curves lie in a changeable marketplace. Investors seeking basic definitions and 'how to' approaches will be surprised at the wealth of knowledge contained herein, as it should be cautioned that this is no quick and easy 'pop' approach, but a detailed strategy designed to explain market trends and how to anticipate, recognize, and strategically take advantage of them: "Being knowledgeable about what leads up to these cycles is invaluable for today's investor. With a better perspective on this repetitive cycle of advances and declines, you can adapt to it."

This approach is anything but simple, linking lessons of economic cycles with psychology as it shows how to profit from bear and bull markets alike.

Even investors with basic market knowledge should anticipate many thought-provoking moments here, including definitions of popular terms often bandied about by other authors without clear underlying meaning: "The term debt does not have a fixed definition. Some analysts use only long-term debt when calculating the debt/equity ratio. Others use the total of both long-term and short-term liabilities that the company has. When evaluating a stock based on the debt/equity ratio, be sure to know which definition of debt is being used."

From preferred stocks and the value and limitations of bonds to diversification processes, there is no better book on the market suitable not just for explaining investment processes, but for understanding the psychology of creating and sticking to a flexible strategy that works not by formula, but by concrete knowledge and market analytics.

Sound complex? Not under James E. Demmert's hand: he makes The Journey to Wealth accessible to a wide audience, from savvy investors to novices alike, and gives it a straightforward, jargon-free treatment that makes it an informative pleasure to read.

Unloved, a love story
Katy Regnery
Katharine Gilliam Regnery, Publisher
9781944810153, $4.99 e-book, $14.99 paperback

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Cassidy's father was executed when Cassidy was only eight for his role in murdering twelve innocent children. Cassidy has grown up under this shadow and, sensing the dark potentials within himself, has chosen to isolate himself from life in an effort to keep from following in his father's footsteps.

Love seems to bring this inner dragon to life; so it's something he especially must avoid. When Brynn inadvertently enters his world, something changes in both of them. Love looms - and death awakens, hungry.

It's unusual to see a romance so wound into murder and angst as in Unloved, but one of the special forces at work in this story line is its cross between the story of a killer and the saga of a lover. Circumstance and serendipity play big roles in what transpires, because Brynn wouldn't be single were it not for a dead car battery that leads her fiancee Jem to a nightclub and into the sights of a deadly shooter, one fateful night.

Another unusual aspect is Unloved's ability to include psychological inspection in its story, explaining the motivations and feelings of everyone involved in life-changing events: "The shooter left a note saying that he didn't love or hate the music of Steeple 10.What he hated was the idea of all those people in a club for the same reason: having something in common that they all enjoyed. He didn't enjoy anything with anyone and was jealous of their communal happiness, their shared appreciation for noise pop."

There is despair in abundance - but also the soul's longing for love and the kinds of actions that keep evil and death at bay. Star-crossed lovers are in abundance here, and they traverse just as rocky a terrain as Romeo and Juliet, in many ways - although here the threats come from within as much as outside.

Thanks to Cass, Brynn can finally say goodbye to Jem. Thanks to Brynn, Cass can learn new things about himself: desire, caring, and perhaps even love. These moments of revelation are succinctly and powerfully revealed in flashes of insight that grab and wrestle with the reader's own heart: "But even that moment was surpassed by another - by the communion of two hearts that have broken and kept on beating. By the keen and consummate sympathy that is only born from surviving something that almost broke you and recognizing that journey back from hell in someone else's eyes."

By now it should be evident that Unloved is actually not about the absence of love, but its presence; and what happens when two lonely individuals who have eschewed romance for various reasons find solace and newfound love in another, against all odds.

Poignant and absorbing as it shifts in perspective between Cass and Brynn, Unloved is a read like few others and is highly recommended for audiences who like their love tempered with a flirtation with danger, frosted with psychological inspection, and packed with revelations that resound in the heart long after the last page is absorbed.

Inklings: Poems of the Point and Beyond
Don Gutteridge
Black Moss Press
9780887535819, $10.00,

The first striking thing to note about Inklings: Poems of the Point and Beyond is the depth of its images, which pull readers into each succinct poem like a snapshot captures the eye with colourful immediacy: "When the harnessed heads of the/Clydes shook, music/tingled the star-startled/night above, and whiskered/hooves sped along the back-/country roads like Pegasus/preparing for flight..."

Readers can see, feel, smell, and taste the scenes being observed, be it the "ear-curdling cry" of one Mrs. Bradley, who transmits her rage at being trapped in an elderly body to the entire village, or the photo of a beloved Gran who looks pensively into the distance on a Sunday morning, "while the Sunday jello cools on the veranda behind her", perhaps reflecting on how she came to be in this place and time, while a grandson looking at this portrait feels the transmission of all that is left unsaid: "I'm left/wondering what courage it took/to abandon your home and say/hello to a far country...".

As the collection evolves, it becomes clear that the "inklings" being described are the remnants of family and their physical and emotional legacies to the next generation and beyond. And what is an 'inkling'? Even this definition uses powerful poetic imagery: "An inkling is a tingle/in the brain, a sprout abruptly/unbudded, the beginning/of a word or more precisely/its first singing syllable..."

These are the moments that define our lives past, present, and future. Like Kodachrome, they are snapshots of what was, is, and could be. As the camera captures the image in its seconds of glory before it fades or transforms, so Inklings captures those connections in life and family before they evolve into something different, bringing free verse poetry readers along for a ride through metaphor and experience.

Succinct in presentation (every word counts) and compelling in its choice of images and life portraits, Inkling's strong voice and propensity for building striking analogy and metaphorical reflections makes it a top recommendation for any free verse reader who wants their poetry filled with astute observation tempered with the reflective powers of a superior attention to atmosphere and detail.

Anorexia: You Can Never Be Too Thin - Or Can You?
Jennifer K. Jordan
Motivational Press
9781628654011, $12.95

Anorexia: You Can Never Be Too Thin - Or Can You? joins a host of other books on the topic, probing the challenges of image, health, and psychology where anorexia intersects with daily life. Author Jennifer K. Jordan, a recovering anorexic, wrote this book for upper elementary to middle school age levels, and though older teens to adults can also benefit from its discussion, the fact that relatively few discussions of anorexia are designed to reach this age group, who needs it the most, makes Jennifer K. Jordan's approach a standout from the majority which are addressed to adult readers.

Another difference in her title lies in its interest in clarifying the topic, from an easy checklist of anorexic tendencies and knowing what constitutes 'too thin' to discussions of triggers, healing therapies, and spiritual as well as health insights.

At each step, Jordan's own experience cements statistics, facts, and studies, offering preteens the kinds of tools that are typically only provided to older readers. (Lest one question this focus on younger age groups, it should be noted that even kindergartners have been diagnosed as anorexic, and the disease is on the rise for youngsters under 12.)

Three parts are used to attract this younger audience: a fictional story, the author's account of her own recovery process, and a section of healing strategies. By opening with the example of young Tina's story and how her self-perception was questioned, fueled by the taunts of schoolmates, to evolve into anorexia and continuing with the author's experiences, this book succeeds in involving the youngsters it's designed to attract.

The book's organization, approach, and information are attractive and perfect for this age group, offering parents, educators and students options for understanding, recognizing the signs of, and averting anorexia at an early age before it becomes firmly entrenched into a condition notoriously hard to treat and alleviate.

Jennifer Jordan reveals that "A short version of a cliche says, 'You can never be too thin.' I learned that you can." By giving her experiences and insights to a younger audience than is usual for a book on this subject, Jordan takes an important step in empowering young audiences and their caretakers with early information that can lead to prevention and understanding.

Cassie Pup Takes the Cake??
Sheri Poe-Pape
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781974028153, $5.99 Paperback, $3.99 Kindle

Cassie Pup is being adopted! The opening paragraph of this inviting children's book nicely captures Cassie's world with delicious descriptions that illustrate Cassie's inviting new home in a bakery: "The bakery shop glistens like whipped topping. The revolving door smells like cotton candy."

A cupcake-baking contest between Cassie and the resident baker cat treats young readers ages 3-7 to a fun and lively blend of inviting description, cooking contest mayhem, and sly jokes traded between the competitors.

When things get out of hand and the unexpected happens, who will emerge the winner; and what lessons will be learned?

Young readers with good reading skills or adults looking for an especially lively read-aloud will find Cassie Pup Takes the Cake?? to be an inviting, fun story of responsibility, competition, and friendship in a new Cassie Pup adventure highly recommended for adults who look for leisure stories about animal friends and lessons about how friendships are built.

(Illustrations were not seen by this reviewer, but are presumed to be on par with the previous engaging Cassie story.)

Lesson Plan for Murder: A Master Class Mystery
Lori Robbins
Barking Rain Press
Trade Paperback: 1941295541, $14.99
eBook: 194129555X, $5.99

What are the connections between psychopathic behaviors and teachers? Lesson Plan for Murder explores this and other facets of an English teacher's sudden demise with a story line that is hard-hitting from its first sentences: "If you wish to inflict the kind of pain that festers forever, consult an English teacher. They're easier to find than psychopaths, and they understand how to make people suffer. I speak from experience. Ten years of teaching English has taught me that emotional torture delivers slings and arrows that linger long after the initial attack."

Perhaps there's no one better qualified to both assess the powers and problems of English teaching or the possibilities involved in the murder of an especially demanding instructor than a fellow teacher. Liz just knows no self-respecting English teacher could commit suicide (as some have suggested) without leaving a grammatically-correct note detailing the matter.

And so she joins a police investigation, embarking on a mission outside her area of expertise to solve the puzzles surrounding Marcia's death. The first thing she finds is that some of the answers lie in the English language, in coded lesson plans that involve Shakespeare references and clues that a non-English instructor could not decipher.

Her special English language knowledge thus places her in a better position to track down the possibilities than even the savvy detective assigned to Marcia's case (it also helps that she's the daughter of a small-time crook and con man). As she unravels a complicated case, a series of dangerous encounters place her not only closer to the truth, but at odds with others who also are racing against time.

Within the mystery genre there are always standout titles, and the reasons for their exceptional presence lie not so much in murder mystery solving, but in the delicate process of crafting personalities, purposes, and logic that lead mystery fans on a satisfyingly complex route during the investigation.

In the case of Lesson Plan for Murder, this art is carefully construed to lend a lively feel to a story line filled with clever twists and psychological intrigue. Part of the reason why these devices work so wonderfully here are the story's tie-ins with English literature and teaching: "Mrs. Donnatella was not a likely candidate as the target of Marcia's lesson plan on Lolita, since the book featured a pedophile, and she loathed children even more than she loathed adults."

Liz maintains close relationships with students and family and attends to her teaching duties throughout, adding realistic atmosphere and insights to the story line. The peppering of psychological insights about these relationships also offer plenty of well-done moments: "When I asked George "what about you" I meant that I wanted to know what he would be doing to help take charge of the situation, and I was distracted by his selfish answer."

Threads of humor also offer a style of comic relief unexpected for a murder mystery ("While I was waiting I called the Oak Ridge police department, although I was slightly embarrassed at the thought of the cops inspecting the house. The cleaning ladies were due to come the following morning, which meant that from a housekeeping perspective, the house was at its worst."), rounding out the attributes that place Lesson Plan for Murder in a class of its own as a thoroughly engrossing, occasionally funny, wry examination of the world of teaching, students, and the special challenges of solving a colleague's demise.

Very highly recommended as an exceptional stand-out powered not just by its mystery, but by a psychological atmosphere that brings characters and setting to life to keep its action fast-paced and vivid.

The God Scrolls
Michael J. Rhodes
Ancient Elders Press Inc.
9780982597088, $21.95,

Uncovering alien plots was the last thing that college philosophy teacher Michael Whyse had in mind, but a journey to Cairo with the intention of going off the beaten tourist path leads him straight into trouble when old scraps of papyrus pose an incomplete puzzle and a visionary encounter.

When offered these ancient artifacts, Michael is initially cautious - after all, many a tourist has been jailed for trafficking ancient antiquities out of the country, and he refuses to be one of them. When he learns he is the 'rightful owner' of these scrolls, what seems like circumstance and chance becomes something larger as his small-time position in the scheme of things suddenly becomes much bigger than he'd ever imagined.

The God Scrolls is billed as sci-fi, but it's also a thriller in disguise. There's an ancient secret to unravel, encounters with Egyptian priestesses who have led past lives, and a secret government behind the government (The Order) which is in collusion with the aliens, working behind the scenes.

As alien encounters become more frequent and priests fall under their spell, it's up to Michael to thwart alien and human ambitions alike to save the day.

It should be cautioned that The God Scrolls is no light read. Over seven hundred pages delve into magic, politics, ancient truths, and present-day alien conspiracies in a complex series of encounters designed to keep readers guessing.

Readers who enjoy the intersection of visionary fiction and science fiction and who appreciate multifaceted stories that move quickly, with thriller elements added into the mix, will find The God Scrolls satisfyingly unexpected and fast-paced. It's highly recommended for readers who enjoy stories of alien intervention that offer higher-level thinking than most.

A Shadow of Hope
Pamela Bauer Mueller
Pinata Publishing
9780980916355, $18.00,

A Shadow of Hope: The Story of Dr. Samuel A. Mudd is a historical novel centering around the Civil War era and the experiences of a country doctor who finds his profession, his life, and his world changed by politics and conflict.

The real Dr. Mudd was imprisoned when he treated the broken leg of President Lincoln's assassin, unwittingly assisting a patient embroiled in political conflict, As a result of his professional impulses he endangered his reputation and life. In his case, justice was not served, and his actions resulted in four long years of prison hardship, torture, and vanishing hope.

Dialogue, letters written to prisoners, Lincoln conspirators, and court verdicts that ignored the formerly-esteemed doctor's contributions to society are facets of a novel that reads like history, but re-creates events from facts and adds lively interpersonal interactions against the backdrop of evolving social and political turmoil.

Pamela Bauer Mueller's close attention to historical detail and accuracy and her focus on adding the dramatic elements that mark good fiction produces a mesmerizing, well-researched story based on her survey of the diaries, published letters, and stories by Mudd's relatives (and even his enemies) and historical records.

A Shadow of Hope is a hard-hitting, absorbing novel that is hard to put down, bringing Civil War politics to sparkling life as it considers how a small-time country doctor became embroiled in an unjust and fiery political controversy. A Shadow of Hope is especially recommended for historical fiction readers who want their dialogue crisp, their characters firmly based on real personalities, and their history accurately represented in the course of a rollicking good read.

All the Tomorrows
Nillu Nasser
Evolved Publishing
9781622537853, $14.95

Picture a young man on the cusp of adulthood, facing an arranged marriage in India. Imagine a new wife who can't handle the affair he embarks upon soon after their union, and who takes matters into her own hands to change the situation to make him solely her own. Add a tempest blossoming under the sweltering sun of Mumbai and you have the foundations of All the Tomorrows, a heated, passionate story of two young newlyweds not quite ready to build lives together despite the politics and norms of their society.

In one way, All the Tomorrows is a love story that reflects the characters' perceptions of love both within and outside the confines of marriage. Akash and Jaya both have hopes for their arranged marriage; but romance can't be forced, and doesn't seem to be evolving. Instead, dreams literally go up in flames, and everything changes for them both.

As All the Tomorrows turns into a story of physical and mental survival, it also becomes a search for redemption and a story of time's healing properties. As Jaya faces her own rage and the impact of her decisions and Akash turns into a broken man, the two find the winds of life and circumstance bring them back together for a second encounter which will either fill their dreams or wreck additional havoc: "How easy it would be to fall into his arms, to wish away the years of hurt. But that would be an illusion. In reality, this broken man could not be hers, and she could not be his. They had gone too far in separate directions."

Replete with hard lessons, determined dreams, and illusions and realities surrounding love and relationships, All the Tomorrows is a gripping saga set under the sweltering heat of not just India, but hearts on fire. It's an involving story of the tides and trajectories of love which will especially intrigue readers looking for more than a light dose of Indian cultural insight.

Esme's Wish
Elizabeth Foster
Odyssey Books
9781925652246, $23.95,

Esme's Wish is an enchanting young adult story which winds two genres (mystery and fantasy) together under one cover. It follows the adventures of fifteen-year-old Esme Silver, who has the gall to stand up and protest her father's remarriage. Just because her mother vanished long ago, doesn't mean that she's actually dead and should be replaced!

Esme embarks on a journey to find her mother, convinced that the 'lost at sea' designation on her mother's empty tomb masks the real truth about her disappearance. Her journey takes her away from her island home, where she and her mother were always treated as outsiders.

The first thing to note about Esme's Wish is its language, which offers up poetic descriptions that pull young adult readers into the story. Atmospheric descriptions are thick with sensations and emotions: "Neglect hung in the air. A layer of dust covered the logbooks on the desk, and the clock was stuck on half past the hour. A large storage cupboard, behind the ladder to the lantern room, caught her eye. The door, usually locked, was ajar. She opened the cupboard door wide, and stepped back in shock. The past came rushing back to her. The air hummed with loss. The cupboard was full of her mother's paintings - ones she hadn't seen for years."

Esme follows her mother's footsteps into another realm, where she makes friends as she tries to solve the mystery. Much of the story takes place in the canal city of Esperance, where the waters are enchanted and dragons populate the skies.

The purely fantastical elements are nicely described, bringing this world to life: "After taking one for herself, Esme handed the bag of dragonsbreath buns over to Daniel. The red paste inside the buns was the spiciest thing she had ever tasted. Her eyes brimmed over with tears. "What's - what's in these things?" Lillian laughed. "They've got dragons on them. What did you expect, jam? Come on, let's go."

Strange creatures and shadowy figures stalk her journey and Esme's determination is tested at every turn: "The preternatural thing hung there in the gloom. Fear glued itself to the bottom of Esme's ribs, making it difficult to breathe, but she stayed there, staring up at it."

Esme's odyssey is filled with the kind of action and adventure that keeps young readers immersed in her changing perspectives and experiences. This vivid story is packed with twists and turns that will keep readers involved up to its unexpected end. It should be noted that while Esme's Wish concludes nicely, its open-ended possibilities keep the door ajar for more adventures.

Summer Girl
Linda Watkins
Argon Press
9781944815042 (eBook)
9781944815059 (Print version)

It would be too easy to bill Summer Girl as a young adult romance story; for it contains all the elements of a breezy summer fling as sixteen-year-old protagonist Jake meets vacationer and new best friend Andi during her seasonal sojourn on Cutter Island in Maine in 1965.

However, take a deep breath; because Summer Girl isn't formula writing about a summer fling, but a deeper story of coming of age, sexual abuse in families, and methods of survival that enter the picture of a blossoming interpersonal relationship, crafting an unexpectedly complex atmosphere to Summer Girl's plot.

This intricacy is strengthened by the perspective of three different characters who narrate events: Jake, Andi, and Sammy (who views their evolving romance from a distance and harbors his own secrets). It also includes flashbacks and changed viewpoints on all sides as readers are treated to Andi's musings about her continued connections to the past, (cemented by letters) and her observations not only of how her world has evolved, but what it might have been: "...after I'd read what he'd written, I watched his hand move, reaching for me, and I knew that if I'd been given the chance I would have taken it and RUN . . . run away from this cottage . . . away from this life . . . run with him as fast as I could, the wind and salty air putting roses in our cheeks, the sound of the waves pounding in our ears. Run. Run until we found a beach . . . any beach . . . anywhere . . . where we could lie in each other's arms and, if only for one night, tell the stories written in the stars once again. Consequences be damned."

The process of falling in love is closely examined in a moving account that is especially powerful for its inclusion of not only Andi and Jake's perspective, but that of an outside observer. These three threads create a potent story of one fateful summer of change and its lasting impact on participants and observer alike.

Readers who enjoy coming of age stories given from the perspective of maturity and the passage of years will relish the unique detail and perspectives Summer Girl embraces, which sets it apart from other coming-of-age romances and makes it accessible to new adults as well as mature teen readers.

Last Things
E. J. Myers
Montemayor Press
1932727248, $16.95,

Last Things represents a departure from a set course in life when priest Frank, who has driven past dozens of accidents without pulling over, stops at the scene of a horrible crash and is called upon to give last rites to a deceased Catholic victim.

Until this moment, three decades of being Father Francisco Ochoa has imparted a degree of ennui to his tasks that has led him to feel restless about his choices as he leaves middle age. There must be something more useful for his skills than tending a parish - and when he's asked to extend his abilities to directly work with victims, joining an EMT team that weekly faces terrible decisions, he finds his life changed not just professionally, but personally.

In many ways, Last Things is about a midlife crisis on both a spiritual and an emotional level. When Frank accepts the challenges of a new purpose in life, he also finds the door open to unexpected relationships and feelings that introduce both opportunity and dangerous temptations.

His entry into the fast-paced world of EMT emergency response brings him face to face with some of the deepest emotions and confrontations with life and death that he could ever imagine - and so his world changes.

One of the special pleasures of Last Things is its ability to draw people into the story of a priest's transformation. As he moves from spiritual offerings to hands-on EMT work, Frank not only confronts life and death in a more intimate and immediate manner, but discovers that many people around him don't want to hear about his experiences and new career.

Liturgical, counseling, and bureaucratic responsibilities occur as usual; but what is less familiar to him is the types of people he encounters and the friendships that evolve into something different than he's known all his life.

Last Things is about a man whose course has long seemed set, who finds himself on an uncertain trajectory sparked by a single impulse to become involved beyond his expertise. As he discovers new aspects of life and death, readers are carried into a story that is thought-provoking, evocative, and engrossing all in one, charting complex emotions and new duties that takes the emergency medical world and dovetails its experiences with those of a well-meaning priest embarking on his own late midlife journey.

Readers who enjoy stories of personal transformation and midlife changes will relish the insights and details Last Things provides as the story follows Frank's life-giving efforts.

California Cures!
Don C. Reed
World Scientific Publishing, Inc.
ISBN: TBA, Price: TBA,

California Cures! How the California Stem Cell Program is Challenging Chronic Disease and Disability - How We Have Begun to Win...And Why We Must Do It Again! is a hard-hitting testimony to the power of stem cell research, but differs from most general approaches to the topic by focusing on the California Stem Cell Program.

One reason why this book is so important is that most coverages of stem cell research present general analysis and discussions of scattered research results; but California Cures! provides the specifics of a single program's objectives, processes and successes, and this narrowed focus allows for a depth few other stem cell overviews can match.

Another notable feature lies in its case history examples of clinical trials using stem cells, from efforts to use injections to halt the destructive blindness that results from macular degeneration to the 42 therapies being tested through California's stem cell program. These promise major health and therapeutic breakthroughs ranging from an embryonic stem cell therapy that has already returned hand and arm function to six paralyzed patients to the specter of a stem cell "credit card" for diabetics that can be slipped under the skin to provide insulin.

These aren't goals but achievements that hold groundbreaking promise and sound like miracles (getting the deaf to hear again, or helping the blind to see); but they come with a price, and that price involves special interests and political battles.

These elements aren't missing from this survey, but are thoroughly covered in chapters surveying the political, moral, ethical, and social issues surrounding stem cell research and applications.

What does it take to convert a country to biomed's possibilities? What do other scientists around the world think about California's revolutionary stem cell program and its results? And how can quality of life be improved for those who suffer chronic (and currently incurable) health problems?

California Cures! charts the cusp of research potentials just beginning to be realized as clinical trials play out for better or, sometimes, for worse.

One doesn't expect the references to Marine World animal encounters and management that is one of the threads running through this story; but it's just one of the elements that makes for a lively, unexpected consideration of California's program and its implications for health care everywhere. All this contributes to an engrossing read that is hard to put down and packed with insights that blend history and the latest research with broader examination of stem cell potentials to change not only health conditions, but society as a whole.

No collection covering stem cell advancements should be without this hard-hitting examination that uses California's results as a foundation for considering stem cell's special promises and powerful obstacles to success.

Erec Stebbins
Twice Pi Press
Paperback 9781942360322, $12.99
Kindle 9781942360315, $3.99

Serial killers often gravitate towards women and children as easy victims; but the Eunuch Maker is different: he's specifically targeting more dangerous male prey, and New York City's best investigators are stymied in their efforts to stop him.

The story begins with the death of the Reaper, a man used to being in control when it comes to domination and fear. But tonight he's picked the wrong victim. Tonight, prey becomes predator. And on this night, everything changes when a serial killer's modus operandi is defined.

At this point, it should be noted that this is 'Intel 1, Book 5'. But where other books make a series connection obvious and prior book reading essential, one of the pleasures of Androcide is that no prior familiarity is required in order to thoroughly enjoy this book, which stands well both individually and as part of an ongoing theme.

The international backdrops that carry readers far from domestic shores are present here, as they are in other books of the Intel series; but just as delightfully solid are a detective's desperate search for a clever killer with an urban city as his playground of pain, a PI's game-changing case, black market business intrigue and the influence of one Nemesis, and terrorists operating in domestic and international scenarios alike.

As body bags and prisoners escalate and covert operations expand, readers are treated to an unusual combination of international espionage and murder mystery that (it should be warned) involves torture and death scenes which serve as backdrops to bigger questions and deadlier investigations.

The result is a powerful thriller that pairs high-octane action with investigative processes designed to keep thriller and mystery readers on edge throughout: a satisfyingly engrossing read that romps through New York City and the world alike; very highly recommended for thriller and murder mystery fans who like crossover titles and engrossingly unpredictable scenarios.

The Summer of Crud
Jonathan LaPoma
Almendro Arts
9780998840321, $12.95

It's the crack of dawn, and two friends newly graduated from college are embarking on a journey that involves the idea of a long road trip across the U.S. and into Mexico. Each searches for something missing in their lives, and each seeks to discover a sense of freedom, purpose, and history after their newfound release from college.

The opener in The Summer of Crud offers a powerfully positive sense of purpose that two new adults seek from such an endeavor. This is just one example of the evocative, absorbing language that sets this coming of age/new adult saga part from other road trip accounts: "I wanted to roll in the dirt and wash myself in the rain and touch the earth and feel my atrophied spirit rise inside of me. America as I'd known it was oppressive and filthy and imbalanced and negligent and abusive. But there had to be a real America out there. A Great America. And there had to be a real me out there too."

But is such a trip, replete with dreams and ambitions, doomed to failure? Danny states this possibility early on, given the personality and background of his travel companion, and this feeling is reinforced in chapters that are steeped in musical ambition, a road map to a different/better life, and a series of encounters that involve cute girls, camping, crippling fears, life's passage, and struggles with drugs and angst.

Although The Summer of Crud is a loose prequel to Jonathan LaPoma's previous Understanding the Alacran, it both sets the stage for that story yet stands well on its own as a unique coming-of-age story of a new college grad out on his own, embracing the positives and negatives of a wider world that is alternately both familiar and strange.

Also most notable in this production, setting it apart from other road trip sagas, is its connections between different geographic atmospheres and their social and cultural differences, nicely expressed by a narrator who draws important links between them and his evolving life: "I was thrilled to cross the Columbia River, which, to me, felt like the last natural barrier between us and California. Once we passed over the Cascades, we rolled down into Seattle. By the time we got to the city, I was feeling like myself again. Coming from Buffalo, this place seemed so foreign. Cozy Craftsmans and minimalist modern houses littered the city's fringes, and the whole place stunk of real wealth - not Buffalo wealth. Not both-of-my-parents-are-lawyers wealth, but millionaire and billionaire meeting-with-world-leaders kinds of cash. It made me feel ashamed of my dirty, ripped clothes and the shitty car we were driving."

Just as compelling are Danny's references to his musical ambitions, which permeate a story filled with insights and emotion: "The song got to me too, but for a different reason. While dicking around at band practice one day, I came up with a riff that was halfway between the one driving "Take Me Out" and another song wildly popular at the time, "Float On" by Modest Mouse. I knew it took more than a fucking riff to make a song, but every time I heard either of those tunes, it reminded me that the whole world was passing me by. Some people felt inspiration and turned it into something beautiful. But me . . . I felt inspiration and ducked for cover."

The Summer of Crud weaves an extraordinary road trip with a young man's changing and gripping perceptions of the wider world and his place in it. It's a pot-smoking, paradigm-changing journey that brings reads along for a wild ride, offering a high-octane blend of psychological revelations and cultural observation designed to captivate and involve readers in Danny's search for what truly constitutes a sense of place, home, and meaning in his young life.

The Summer of Crud is especially recommended for readers who appreciate coming-of-age stories beyond the usual teenage angst focus.

Permeable Divide
Ellen Rachlin
Antrim House
9781943826278, $15.00,

Permeable Divide provides Ellen Rachlin's fourth volume of poetry and blends it with a philosophical observational style that is elegant in expression and rich in description and psychological insight. Take, for one example, the unexpected depth of 'Families': "Those slack wire acts that balance/by focusing near, love the sloped wire./First, there are the shakes of contorting bodies/then the hold while they juggle troubled kin/in each outstretched hand."

Readers are invited to reflect on various incarnations of what Rachlin describes as the "permeable divide", which consists of the gap between the living and a loved one lost to death, the rift between art and business, or the breaks that limit freedom and result in revolutions that may based be as much experiences of the past as the present.

Each poem is so different that this collection requires slow, careful, contemplative thought before realization sets in that each poem is actually interconnected, in a much broader sense. 'Divide', for example, also explores change, loss, and being lost in a different sense than 'Families' offered - yet, in a familiar way: "There is nothing to change/if you fit in/but that's the catch./To go from shore to mountaintop/you must adjust./The mind won't let go."

Permeable Divide captures confrontations with self, evolving efforts to change and grow, and how gaps are bridged or widened between life, death, and daily affairs in a succinct yet absorbing collection of images and ideas that requires slow, thoughtful reading from free verse fans and rewards these efforts with rich insights that linger in the mind long after the last poem is read.

Autumn J. Bright
A Light Bulb Publishing
9780986192340, $13.95,

Lovely is a coming-of-age story about the life of young Lovely, who faces the aftermath of an accident, helps care for a terminally ill parent, and assumes the adult duties of running a household.

Preteen Lovely is adept at her new role in life and seems more than capable of fielding the issues that arise daily until a questionable family member enters her world and adds to her challenges, changing her perspective to one that includes self-destruction - an unwelcome transformation that plagues her into young adulthood and threatens her independence.

It's unusual to find a coming-of-age story that moves beyond the early teen years to follow the protagonist into new adulthood, but this is just one of the strengths in Lovely, which creates a foundation fusing her personality and life events and then follows her evolution and influences.

At all points, her first-person perspective is engrossingly presented: "Sliding underneath the sheets with my grief, I hugged a pillow thinking how I no longer cared about being pretty. Pretty only got me unwanted attention from a dirty old man. So I sobbed into that pillow making a pledge: From this point on, I'd make sure to look like shit. That way, no man will ever want me."

Lovely is a compelling, gripping story that follows one positive girl's personality and its terrible progression to the dark side. Mature teens to new adults who enjoy coming-of-age stories that incorporate threats to newly formed personalities and perspectives will appreciate Lovely's portrait of exactly what it means to overcome adversity in all its various forms.

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

Dunford's Bookshelf

George Washington Carver In His Own Words, second edition
Gary R. Kremer, editor
University of Missouri Press
113 Heinkel Bldg., 201 S. 7th St., Columbia, MO 65211
9780826221391 $29.95 hc

Synopsis: George Washington Carver (1864-1943) is best known for developing new uses for agricultural crops and teaching methods of soil improvement to southern farmers. This annotated selection of his letters and other writings from the collections at the Tuskegee Institute and the George Washington Carver National Monument in Diamond, Missouri, reveals the forces that shaped his creative genius - including the influence of persistent racism. His letters also show us Carver's deep love for his fellow man, whether manifested in his efforts to treat polio victims in the 1930s or in his emotionally charged friendships that lasted a lifetime.

With a new chapter on the oral history interviews Dr. Kremer conducted (several years after publication of the first edition) with people who knew Carver personally, and the addition of newly uncovered documents and a bank of impressive photographs of Carver and some of his friends, this second edition of our classic title commemorates the 75th anniversary of Carver's death on January 5, 2018.

Critique: George Washington Carver was an African-American who lived before the Civil Rights era; yet he achieved incredible accomplishments in spite of pervasive racism and discrimination. Now in an updated and enhanced second edition, George Washington Carver In His Own Words offers unique insights into a genius scientist who tirelessly applied his talents to improve the well-being of others. Astutely researched, yet accessible to readers of all backgrounds, George Washington Carver In His Own Words is highly recommended for both public and college library American History collections.

Shady Lady
Lieutenant Colonel Rick Bishop
Specialty Press
99 Spring Street, 3rd floor, New York, NY 10012
9781910809099 $24.95 hc

Synopsis: At the very edge of the atmosphere, invisible against the deep indigo sky, lurks a spy plane so sophisticated that it replaced the SR-71 Blackbird some 30 years ago. Its flat black shark-like skin deflects and absorbs all but the most advanced radars, leaving it to roam undetected while silently gathering detailed intelligence. Considered a 'National Asset' the U-2 Dragon Lady, in its various forms, has been in continuous military service for over six decades. Indeed she is deemed so important that she has enjoyed three separate production runs at the super-secret Lockheed 'Skunk Works', each time emerging with new and highly classified intelligence gathering capabilities.

Rick Bishop, a former U-2 pilot, takes the reader deep into the Black World of 'air-breathing' (non-satellite) reconnaissance, with a revealing and detailed account of the trials and challenges of flying a machine widely acknowledged as 'the most dangerous aircraft in the world', as well as revealing the personalities and adventures of some of the elite cadre of hand-selected pilots who have the right stuff to tame the Dragon Lady. From the grueling two-week interview process, through early training flights to many exploits flying top-secret missions around the world, and his eventual rise to Commander, the author sheds new light on a world that is largely unknown outside the tight fraternity of U-2 pilots and support personnel.

Critique: Shady Lady: 1,500 Hours Flying the U-2 Spy Plane vividly recounts author and former U-2 pilot Rick Bishop's personal experience handling this highly specialized aircraft in high-altitude recon missions. A handful of color photographs, a glossary of terms, and an index round out this viscerally descriptive, "you-are-there" experience. Thoroughly accessible to readers of all backgrounds, Shady Lady is highly recommended, especially for public and college library military and aviation history collections.

Rhetoric and Writing Studies in the New Century
Cheryl Glenn & Roxanne Mountford, editors
Southern Illinois University Press
1915 University Press Drive, SIUC Mail Code 6806, Carbondale, IL 62901
9780809335671, $40.00, PB, 320pp,

Synopsis: Collaboratively compiled and co-edited by the team of Cheryl Glenn (Distinguished Professor of English at Pennsylvania State University and Director of the Program in Writing and Rhetoric) and Roxanne Mountford (Professor of English and Director of Composition, Rhetoric, and Literacy Studies and Director of the First-Year Composition Program at the University of Oklahoma) is a simply outstanding collection of essays investigating the historiography of rhetoric, global perspectives on rhetoric, and the teaching of writing and rhetoric, offering diverse viewpoints. Addressing four major areas of research in rhetoric and writing studies, contributors consider authorship and audience, discuss the context and material conditions in which students compose, cover the politics of the field and the value of a rhetorical education, and reflect on contemporary trends in canon diversification. Providing both retrospective and prospective assessments, "Rhetoric and Writing Studies in the New Century" is comprised of an impressively body of seminal scholarship that collectively showcases original research by important figures in the field.

Critique: Extensively researched and analytically presented, Rhetoric and Writing Studies in the New Century is a "must-have" resource for advanced students and prospective instructors in the field. While unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Contemporary Rhetoric & Composition Studies collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Rhetoric and Writing Studies in the New Century" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $38.00).

Hemingway at Eighteen
Steve Paul
Chicago Review Press
814 North Franklin Street, Chicago, IL 60610
9781613739716, $26.99, HC, 256pp,

Synopsis: In the summer of 1917, Ernest Hemingway was an eighteen-year-old high school graduate unsure of his future. The American entry into the Great War stirred thoughts of joining the army. While many of his friends in Oak Park, Illinois, were heading to college, Hemingway couldn't make up his mind and eventually chose to begin a career in writing and journalism at the Kansas City Star, one of the great newspapers of its day.

In six and a half months at the Star, Hemingway experienced a compressed, streetwise alternative to a college education that opened his eyes to urban violence, the power of literature, the hard work of writing, and a constantly swirling stage of human comedy and drama. The Kansas City experience led Hemingway into the Red Cross ambulance service in Italy, where, two weeks before his nineteenth birthday, he was dangerously wounded at the front.

"Hemingway at Eighteen" takes a measure of this pivotal year when Hemingway's self-invention and transformation began from a "modest, rather shy and diffident boy", to a confident writer who aimed to find and record the truth throughout his life. "Hemingway at Eighteen" provides a fresh perspective on Hemingway's writing, sheds new light on this young man bound for greatness, and introduces anew a legendary American writer at the very beginning of his journey.

Critique: Steve Paul is an award-winning writer and editor who worked at the Kansas City Star for more than 40 years, including stints as book critic, arts editor, restaurant critic, and (before his retirement in early 2016) editorial page editor. He is a former board member of the National Book Critics Circle. In "Hemingway at Eighteen: The Pivotal Year That Launched an American Legend" he draws upon his years of experience, research, and expertise to provide an impressively informed and informative biographical study that is an essential and unreservedly recommended addition to community and academic library American Biography collections in general, and Ernest Hemingway supplemental studies lists in particular. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academicians, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Hemingway at Eighteen: The Pivotal Year That Launched an American Legend" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.19).

Michael Dunford

Gary's Bookshelf

What the Widow Knew
Jonnie Jacobs
Create Space
4900 LaCross Road, North Charleston SC 29406
9781546945918, $5.38

Attorney Kali O'Brien is back in a new story in "What the Widow Knew." Though this is a novella it packs as much suspense as any of the novels in the legal mystery series. Presently Kali has a client who continually claims she is innocent of the murder she is charged with. The evidence is overwhelming against the woman who, even Kali begins to wonder if she could have killed her husband. The tale races along to a final explosive ending that is sure to please any fan of legal thrillers. "What the Widow Knew" is a great addition to the Kali O'Brien thrillers.

Ten Sure Ways To Move From Ex To Next
Crystal Robinson
Create Space
4900 LaCross Road, North Charleston SC 29406
978154377649, $12.99

Through the years I've read and reviewed books about relationships that come to an end and what people should do to move on. "Ten Sure Ways To Move From Ex To Next" is the first to warn women to not go backwards by hanging on to the person. She instead tells females to make a clean break and look forward to moving on without that person. There are many different exercises author Crystal Robinson tells that are sensible and easy for people to learn to have a better life for themselves. Using personal experiences and those of others the author presents in a straight forward manner things all of us can learn to do to find that soul mate all of us are seeking. "Ten Sure Ways To Move From Ex to Next" is a ground breaking title that is filled with common sense measure anyone can follow.

Hank & Jim: The Fifty-year Friendship of Henry Fonda and James Stewart
Scott Eyman
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781501102172 $29.00,

Scott Eyman goes behind the scenes of two iconic actors who were friends for 50 years in "Hank & Jim." Jimmy Stewart and Henry Fonda were as different as night and day in their political beliefs, acting styles and many other aspects. With that in mind they remained close friend throughout their careers. The author reveals many unknown facts about the many projects where they worked together and by themselves, how many of them came into being while also showing a very different world of entertainment than what we have today. "Hank & Jim" is a wonderful tribute to two giants of the film industry that should be enjoyed by anyone who enjoys the two actors work.

A Shattered Dream
James E. Crawford
Create Space
4900 LaCross Road, North Charleston SC 29406
9780440243823, $9.99

Crawford was a child who believed in the system and grew up in a time when cops, firemen, and teachers were respected. His one dream was always to be a cop to protect and serve. As he became an officer of the Detroit police department he learned that his aspiration was tarnished by many aspects among them crooked cops, bad ones who would use deadly force whenever they could get away with it and many other things that even made him question his on value system. "A Shattered Dream" has a lot to say about our present system of justice that shows our dilemmas that has been festering for a long time and will not be easily solved as many believe it can. "A Shattered Dream" reads like a fast-paced work of fiction that is a non-fiction expose of a system in chaos.

Indie Author's Guide to Surviving Conventions
Elyse Reyes
Irrisoria Publishing
9781533290557, $5.50

A dynamite way for authors to promote themselves is by attending many different types of conventions. Author Elyse Reyes in "Indie Author's Guide to Surviving Conventions' prepares writers on what to expect from getting tables to sell books to the people who will attend the conferences. Told in simple terms Reyes coaches authors on many different aspects to be aware of before attending events. "Indie Author's Guide to Surviving Conventions" is very informative for writers and attendees to learn about before attending

Silly Sleepytime Poems
Leslie C. Halpern
Illustrations by Oral Nussbaum
Cautious Optimist Publishing
9781478254751, $10.99

There is something for everyone in Leslie C. Halpern's newest kid's book "Silly Sleepytime Poems." The poetic writings here are tightly written topics of interest on dreams, pillow fights among siblings, and other subjects. Though at times the pieces seem trivial there are a lot of underlying premises that many readers will pick up on. "Silly Sleepytime Poems is an entertaining collection by a very talented writer

Ragel's Brood
A.L. Awtrey
9780440243823, $7.99

"Ragel's Brood" captures the reader from the first page to the last with characters and writing by a master of the genre of children's fiction. A king is determined to kill all of the dragons that stand in his way, stopping at nothing to achieve his purpose. To the same degree the dragons are protecting their young from the human aggressors. Reminiscent of the "Star Trek" episode "Devil in the Dark," the dragons like the creatures in the show are just doing what comes natural in similar situations. "Ragel's Brood" moves along to a final satisfying ending that is for all ages to enjoy.

Juju the Good Voodoo
Michelle Hirstius
Fleur de Dat, LLC
P.O. Box 930, Mandeville, LA 70470-0930
9780985920203, $10.00

Normally we think of something involving voodoo as something evil but in "Juju the Good Voodoo" we learn that is not true in fact, Juju is a doll whose purpose is to do good things for people she comes in contact with. The author takes readers on a magical journey with a very interesting character that concludes with an opening for more stories of a very appealing character.

Juju Saves Christmas in da Bayou
Michelle Hirstius
Fleur de Dat, LLC
P.O. Box 930, Mandeville, LA 70470-0930
9780985920210, $10.00

Santa Claus has an overwhelming problem when he reaches New Orleans His reindeer are tired and worn out leaving no way to guide his sleigh to deliver the Christmas goodies. Enter the good voodoo doll Juju who has a remarkable plan to save Santa's mission. "Juju Saves Christmas in da Bayou" is a charming tale of Christmas for all to enjoy any time of the year. Michelle Hirstius has told a wonderful story through prose and artwork that is an appealing uplifting story for all ages to adore.

Bobby Meets the 4 Cardinals of Gun Safety
R. J. Camarota
Artwork by Jeff Meyer
Create Space
4900 LaCross Road, North Charleston SC 29406
97814909352, $7.25

With all the attention on guns author R. J. Camarota focuses in on an aspect that reminds people there are many sound principals of the safe use of guns in this society in "Bobby Meets The 4 Cardinals of Gun Safety" What comes to mind is the "Andy Griffith Show episode where Opie learned a valuable lesson when a mother bird is killed when he plays with a slingshot. There are consequences for our actions and those are the same messages R. J. Cannon portrays here. "Bobby Meets The 4 Cardinals of Gun Safety" should be required reading in schools and for parents to instill proper uses of guns to their kids.

Gary Roen
Senior Reviewer

Gloria's Bookshelf

Cast Iron
Peter May
1290 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10104
9781681441610, $26.99/32.49 CA$, Hardcover 400 pp.

Riverrun in UK
9781780874593, 18.99 BPS

This is the sixth and final book in the Enzo Files series, and it is a worthy addition indeed.

From the publisher: In 1989, a killer dumped the body of twenty-year-old Lucie Martin into a picturesque lake in the west of France. Fourteen years later, during a summer heat wave, a drought exposed her remains - - bleached bones amid the scorching mud and slime. No one was ever convicted of her murder. But now, forensic expert Enzo Macleod is reviewing this stone-cold case - - the toughest of the seven he has been challenged to solve. But when Enzo finds a flaw in the original evidence surrounding Lucie's murder, he opens a Pandora's Box that not only raises old ghosts but also endangers his entire family. The challenge was from a Parisian journalist, Roger Raffin, who told Enzo that his skills would be insufficient to solve these very cold cases, including that of his [Raffin's] wife. Candor makes me admit that all of the nearly interchangeable relationships in the novel at times confused this reader, what with the various characters' relationships with each other, both parental and marital.

Time frames range from the time of Lucie's murder in 1989 in the book's Prologue to the discovery of the bones of the victim in the summer of 2003 on the 1st page of Chapter 1, to the concluding chapter in the Spring of 2012, with p.o.v. initially being that of Enzo but soon nearly alternating with that of Sophie, Enzo's daughter, and Bertrand, her lover. The question of the identity of Lucie's murderer, as well as that of Pierre Lambert, a significant character in the tale, is not resolved until very nearly the end of the novel, as well as "the enigma that is Regis Blanc," thought initially to have killed many (all?) of the many victims enumerated here.

Macleod explores the possibility that Lucie was murdered by a man she met while doing social work with recently released felons, on one of whom Enzo focuses: But Enzo has so much personal baggage to wrap up - - the vindictive ex-wife, the uncertain paternities, the infidelities, his new girlfriend - - enough to negatively influence his investigation. The frequently [and wonderfully] poetic writing, combined with the suspense wrought by the author, makes this a highly recommended read.

Glass Houses
Louise Penny
Minotaur Books
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780250066190, $28.99/33.99 CA$, 388 pp., Hardcover

From the publisher: When a mysterious figure appears on the village green on a cold November day in Three Pines, Chief Inspector Gamache, who now resides there, knows something is wrong. Yet since no laws are being broken, he does nothing. But a shadow falls over Three Pines, and unease sets into the community. Soon the figure disappears, and not long after, a body is discovered. During the ensuing investigation and later, when a trial begins against the accused, Gamache considers the events he set into motion long ago, disastrous means to an uncertain end, and if there will be a reckoning. "This case began in a higher court," he says at his testimony. "And it's going to end there." And regardless of the trial's outcome, Gamache understands that in the end, he will have to face his conscience. A gripping and haunting mystery, "Glass Houses" explores what Gandhi called the court of conscience and asks us, when the chips are down, is there a court that supersedes all?

This is the 12th book in the series, all of which take place in and around the aforementioned Quebec village of Three Pines, variously described as lost, hidden in the hills, and not on any map or GPS, in the middle of nowhere, and a place where "getting lost was almost a prerequisite for finding the place." All the residents of the village are present, and the many fans of the series will welcome them: Gamache, former Chief Inspector of the Surete, a post now held by Isabella Lacoste, Gamache now the Superintendent, heading up the division that oversees Homicide and Serious Crimes; his wife, Reine-Marie; Myrna, a large black woman who runs a new and used bookstore and was once a prominent psychologist in Montreal [referred to by others in the novel as "a verbal speed bump"]; Ruth Zardo, an eccentric, award-winning and "demented old" poet, and Rosa, her beloved pet duck; Gabri and Olivier, the lovers who run the bistro and the B&B; Monsieur Beliveau, the grocer; Clara Morrow, an artist and portraitist; as well as Henri, Gamache's German shepherd; Jean-Guy Beauvoir, second in command in the Surete [formerly Gamache's second in command] and now married to his daughter; and Madeleine Toussaint, the first woman in charge of Serious Crimes and the first Haitian to head up any department. Three Pines, and its residents, remain as charming as ever.

Shortly after the book opens, a trial is about to begin, the defendant being accused of the above-mentioned murder, Gamache being a key witness, the judge one Maureen Corriveau, handling her first murder case, a murder which seemingly had no motive behind it. The identity of the defendant is withheld from the reader until much later in the novel. The villain in the piece, a figure known as "the cobrador," is a fascinating creation, apparently with its origin in Spain, in fact a Spanish debt collector, who followed and shamed people into paying their debts.

Thee is much here that is timely, dealing as it does with issues of drug/opioid use/abuse [present in our newspapers on almost a daily basis], and political corruption, among other things of national importance today. As always the writing is never less than elegant, and the book is recommended.

Gloria Feit
Senior Reviewer

Gorden's Bookshelf

Founders' Keeper
Ed Markham
Amazon Digital Services LLC
Three Brothers
B0141ZVEDG, $2.99, 2015, 361 pages
9780997172201, pb

Founders' Keeper is very well written police procedural with a detailed character development. It is nearly a cross between a cozy detective mystery and a contemporary procedural. It has enough major historical components to satisfy readers who enjoy deep historical backgrounds to their stories.

FBI Special Agent David Yerxa has been assigned a particularly gruesome serial killer case with connections to US Constitutional history and the modern extreme right political philosophies. The historical clues left with the murder victims are the key to tracking down the serial. David needs the help of his father, semi-retired FBI agent Martin Yerxa, who has studied US history all of his life.

Founders' Keeper is highly recommended for all mystery readers. The detective procedural is very well written with plenty of clues and twists for the reader to enjoy. The detailed and in-depth development of the major characters in the story is well done. And finally, the historical connections add a deep background for the contemporary story.

The Illustrious
Pavel Kornev
Amazon Digital Services LLC
Magic Dome Books
B01J1WY2U6, $2.99, ebook, 2016, 390 pages

The Illustrious is a different type of fantasy story. It is a blend of steampunk, magic, mystery and alternative history. Surprisingly the story generally works except for the lack of an ending.

Detective constable Leopold Orso is a detective who specializes eliminating paranormal criminals from the public streets. When his boss gets greedy and tries to blackmail Orso into helping him, he is soon out of a job and trying to solve a lethal series of mysteries before he is killed by the multiple forces arrayed against him.

The world building in The Illustrious is very well done. Using a steampunk alternative world history, makes it easier to add depth to the fictional world. The story generally plays fair with the reader and is filled with action sequences. The biggest drawback in the story is the abrupt finish at the end of a section. It is a recommended read for steampunk readers who like a little mystery and action in their stories. There is a book 2 in the series, which might alleviate the pain of not having a key storyline finished. Readers wanting to try an introduction into the steampunk genre might be better served looking at a different title first with a solid conclusion at the end of the book.

S.A. Gorden, Senior Reviewer

Greenspan's Bookshelf

Challenges of Diversity: Essays on America
Werner Sollors
Rutgers University Press
106 Somerset St., 3rd Floor, New Brunswick, NJ 08901
9780813589336, $90.00, HC, 214pp,

Synopsis: In his essays comprising "Challenges of Diversity", Werner Sollors (who is a research professor of English at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a professor of global literature at New York University Abu Dhabi, and Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences) address such foundational questions as: What unites and what divides Americans as a nation? Who are we, and can we strike a balance between an emphasis on our divergent ethnic origins and what we have in common?

Opening with a survey of American literature through the vantage point of ethnicity, Professor Sollors deftly examines our evolving understanding of ourselves as an Anglo-American nation to a multicultural one and the key role writing has played in that process.

"Challenges of Diversity" includes stories of American myths of arrival (pilgrims at Plymouth Rock, slave ships at Jamestown, steerage passengers at Ellis Island), the powerful rhetoric of egalitarian promise in the Declaration of Independence and the heterogeneous ends to which it has been put, and the recurring tropes of multiculturalism over time (e pluribus unum, melting pot, cultural pluralism).

Professor Sollors suggests that although the transformation of this settler country into a polyethnic and self-consciously multicultural nation may appear as a story of great progress toward the fulfillment of egalitarian ideals, deepening economic inequality actually exacerbates the divisions among Americans today.

Critique: A thoroughly thoughtful and thought-provoking read from beginning to end, "Challenges of Diversity: Essays on America" is an inherently engaging, impressively informed and informative, exceptionally well reasoned, written, and organized work of original scholarship that is unreserved recommended for both community and academic library collections. For the personal reading lists of students, academicians, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Challenges of Diversity: Essays on America" is also available in a paperback edition (9780813589329, $27.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $24.57).

The Good Fight
Rick Smolan & Jennifer Erwitt
Against All Odds Productions
c/o Sterling Publishing Company
387 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10016-8810
9781454927341, $35.00, HC, 258pp,

Synopsis: The cooperative project of Rick Smolan and Jennifer Erwitt, "The Good Fight: America's Ongoing Struggle for Justice" vividly depicts the human face of America's sporadically violent, often triumphant, always risky struggle to fulfill the promise of freedom and equality for all.

Fought in the streets, the courthouse, and the corridors of Congress, "The Good Fight" is a story that has become America's own morality play, illustrated here through more than 180 memorable photographs, nearly 60 embedded videos, over a dozen compelling essays plus examples of music and lyrics that rallied America's resistance to injustice.

For those who wish to eradicate bigotry and intolerance in America, "The Good Fight" is a call to action. It shows us how much we as a nation have accomplished; it also reminds us of the fragility of our success and how quickly this hard-fought progress can slip away if we do not remain vigilant.

In addition, "The Good Fight" features a smartphone app ('The Good Fight Viewer') that enables readers to point their smartphones or tablets at over 60 photos to immediately stream online video clips, including TED Talks, that vividly bring each story to life.

"The Good Fight" is timely book captures the struggles and the successes experienced by women, African Americans, Native Americans, Jews, Muslims, the LGBTQ community, Latinos, Asian Americans, and the disabled. Along with the eloquent images and graphics, "The Good Fight" includes an impressive series of short guest essays from individuals representing each group.

Critique: The struggle for justice and equality in America is multifaceted and spans hundreds of years up to the present day. Unique, informative, thought-provoking, exceptionally well organized and presented, "The Good Fight: America's Ongoing Struggle for Justice" is an extraordinary and engaging read from beginning to end. "The Good Fight" is highly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as community and academic library American History and Contemporary Social Issues collections.

Iced In
Chris Turney
Citadel Press
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21, New York, NY 10018-2522
9780806538525, $27.95, HC, 320pp,

Synopsis: On Christmas Eve 2013, off the coast of East Antarctica, an abrupt weather change trapped the Shokalskiy (the ship carrying earth scientist Chris Turney and seventy-one others involved in the Australasian Antarctic Expedition) in a densely packed armada of sea ice, 1400 miles from civilization. With the ship's hull breached and steerage lost, the wind threatened to drive the vessel into the frozen continent, smashing it to pieces. If nearby floating icebergs picked up speed, they could cause a devastating collision, leaving little time to abandon ship and potentially creating an environmental disaster. The forecast offered no relief because a blizzard was headed their way.

As Turney chronicles his modern-day ordeal, he revisits famed polar explorer Ernest Shackleton's harrowing Antarctic expedition almost a century prior. His ship, Endurance, was trapped and ultimately lost to the ice, forcing Shackleton and his men to fight for survival on a vast and treacherous icescape for two years. Turney also draws inspiration from Douglas Mawson, whose Antarctic explorations were equally legendary. But for Turney the stakes were even higher -- for unlike Shackleton or Mawson, he had his wife and children with him.

Yet there was another key difference: Shackleton and Mawson were completely cut off; Turney's expedition was connected to the outside world through Twitter, YouTube, and Skype. Within hours, the team became the focus of a media storm, and an international rescue effort was launched to reach the stranded ship. But could help arrive in time to avert a tragedy?

Critique: A taut 21st-century survival story, "Iced In" is also an homage to Shackleton, Mawson, and other scientific explorers who embody the human spirit of adventure, joy in discovery, and will to live. An inherently fascinating read from cover to cover, "Iced In: Ten Days Trapped on the Edge of Antarctica" is exceptionally well written, organized and presented, making it unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Iced In" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.99). Librarians should be aware that "Iced In" is also available as a complete and unabridged audio book (Brilliance Audio, 9781543672473, $14.99, MP3 CD).

Able Greenspan

Helen's Bookshelf

She Read to Us in The Late Afternoons
Kathleen Hill
Delphinium Books
9781883285722, $24.00, HC, 225pp,

Synopsis: Beginning with a Best American award-winning narrative, Kathleen Hill's memoir, "She Read to Us in The Late Afternoons: A Life in Novels" explores defining moments of a life illuminated by novels, read in Nigeria and France and at home in New York.

As a child in a music class where a remarkable teacher watches over a classmate marked for tragedy, Kathleen, by chance, reads Willa Cather's novel, "Lucy Gayheart", and is prepared against her will for death by drowning. And prepared for the teacher's confessions to the class of a frustrated ambition to become a pianist, her regret for a life that will never be.

Later, recently married and living in a newly independent Nigeria, a teacher now herself, Kathleen gives Achebe's "Things Fall Apart" to her students and is instructed by them in the violent legacy of colonialism. Kathleen loses her American innocence when she visits a nearby abandoned slave port and connects its rusting shackles with the students sitting before her.

Reading "A Portrait of a Lady", also in Nigeria, Kathleen ponders her own new marriage through the lens of Isabel Archer's cautionary fate, remembers her own adolescent fear that reading might be a way of avoiding experience.

A few years later, this time in a town in northern France, haunted by "Madame Bovary", with the character of Emma's solitude and boredom, Kathleen puts aside Flaubert's novel and discovers in Bernanos' "Diary of a Country Priest" the poverty and suffering she had failed to see all around her.

The memoir closes with a tender account of the Kathleen's friendship with the writer, Diana Trilling, whose failing sight inspires a plan to read aloud Proust's masterwork, an undertaking that takes six years to complete. Faced with Diana's approaching death and the mysteries of her own life, the author wonders whether reading after all may not be experience at its most ardent, its most transforming.

Critique: A deftly crafted, inherently fascinationg, consistently engaging, informative and thoughtful life story, "She Read to Us in The Late Afternoons: A Life in Novels" is a compelling read from first page to last and will prove to be especially appealing to all of the bibliophiles amongst use. While highly and unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Contemporary Biography collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "She Read to Us in The Late Afternoons: A Life in Novels" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99).

Women Heroes of the American Revolution
Susan Casey
Chicago Review Press
814 North Franklin Street, Chicago, IL 60610
9781613745830, $19.95, HC, 240pp,

Synopsis: The Boston Tea Party, Paul Revere's infamous ride, or George Washington crossing the Delaware River are well known events associated with the American Revolution and showcase the role of male heroes struggling against British tyranny.

But there are many other, lesser-known stories of the war that engulfed women's lives as it did the lives of their fathers, husbands, and sons. Some women served as spies, nurses, and water carriers; some helped as fundraisers, writers, and couriers; and still others functioned as resistors, rescuers, and (surprisingly) even soldiers. Most often, their names did not make it into history books.

In "Women Heroes of the American Revolution: 20 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Defiance, and Rescue", a representative selection of these fascinating women step into the spotlight they deserve. "Women Heroes of the American Revolution" showcases such brave rebels as Martha Bratton, who blew up a supply of gunpowder to keep it out of the hands of approaching British troops and boldly claimed, "It was I who did it!"; 16-year-old Sybil Ludington, who rode her horse Star twice as far as the legendary Paul revere did in order to help her father, Colonel Ludington, muster his scattered troops to fight the British; and Deborah Sampson Gannett, who bound her chest, dressed as a man, enlisted in the Continental Army as Robert Shurtliff, and served undetected for three years alongside her fellow soldiers.

These and 17 other inspiring stories of women and girls contributing to our nation's independence are recounted through energetic narrative and revealing letters and documents that allow us to hear the voices of the women themselves and those who knew and admired them.

Critique: Exceptionally well researched, written, organized and presented, "Women Heroes of the American Revolution" is unreservedly recommended as a critically essential addition to highschool, community, college, and university library American History collections in general, and American Revolutionary War supplemental studies reading lists in particular. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Women Heroes of the American Revolution" is also available in a paperback edition (9781613738313, $12.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.64).

Is Your God Big Enough? Close Enough? You Enough?
Paul R. Smith
Paragon House
3600 Labore Road, Suite 1, St. Paul, MN 55110-4144
9781557789310, $24.95, PB, 400pp,

Synopsis: "Is Your God Big Enough? Close Enough? You Enough?: Jesus and the Three Faces of God" by Paul R. Smith (who is a life-long follower of Jesus, mystic, author, teacher, and retired pastor of Broadway Church in Kansas City where he served for 49 years) presents a new framework for knowing the God of Jesus Christ. It reveals, in biblical, experiential, and contemporary terms, the Three Faces of God. These three dimensions of God uncover the bigger, closer, and more human God than many commonly understand and experience. These have long been hidden behind the traditional words and images of the "Father, Son, and Spirit" of the Trinity.

Others have presented parts of this path, or one or two Faces of God, but no widely recognized Christian group has yet fully integrated all Three Faces of God. Most denominations, churches, and Christians hold to one or two of these and dismiss the other. Most disagreement among Christian groups are over these three dimensions, arguing for one or two and against the other.

The three-dimensional God that Jesus demonstrated is God-beyond-us, God-beside-us, and God-being-us. This last one is least understood in the West. It is, in part, Spirit within, which is best understood biblically as divine-human consciousness in all its modes.

This is a God who is big enough for our minds, close enough to our hearts, and us enough for, and as, our deepest identity.

Critique: Exceptionally thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Is Your God Big Enough? Close Enough? You Enough?: Jesus and the Three Faces of God" is an inherently fascinating and potentially life-changing read that is especially recommended to all members of the Christian community regardless of denominational affiliations. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Is Your God Big Enough? Close Enough? You Enough?: Jesus and the Three Faces of God" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.95).

Why LA? Pourquoi Paris?
Diane Ratican
Illustre Books
9780991131501, $26.95, PB, 256pp,

Synopsis: "Why LA? Pourquoi Paris?: An Artistic Pairing of Two Iconic Cities" by Diane Ratican (who is a long-time resident of both cities and a successful entrepreneur) offers a unique comparison student that explores Paris and Los Angeles, by mixing and pairing of yesterday and today, the monumental and the everyday, the people and things, all shared through text and illustrations that tell the stories of these two very different, yet similar, cities.

"Why LA? Pourquoi Paris?" features full-color illustrations by famed artists Eric Giriat (Paris) and Nick Lu (Los Angeles), highlighting the Yin-Yang relationship of everyday life between two of the world's great cities. Primarily an art book, "Why LA? Pourquoi Paris?" is visual publication playfully "connects the dots" between respective architectural icons, historical legends, fashion trends, and cultural peculiarities. With the added benefit of historic information, cultural trivia, and a guide to the author's favorite "addresses," "Why LA? Pourquoi Paris?" is a unique visual guide for visitors to Los Angeles and/or Paris who want to experience the cultural milieu of these two distinguished cities.

Critique: An inherently fascinating read from cover to cover, "Why LA? Pourquoi Paris?: An Artistic Pairing of Two Iconic Cities" will have special appeal for the armchair traveler and is a 'must read' for anyone with a particular fondness for both of these magnificent cities half way around the world from each other. Simply stated, "Why LA? Pourquoi Paris?: An Artistic Pairing of Two Iconic Cities" will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to personal, community, and academic library collections.

Helen Dumont

Lorraine's Bookshelf

Ten Waltzes by Johann Strauss, Jr. for Solo Piano
Gail Smith, editor, author, performer
Mel Bay Publications
1734 Gilsinn Lane, Fenton, MO 63026
9780786699551 $24.99, PB, 144pp,

"Ten Waltzes by Johann Strauss, Jr. for Solo Piano" presents ten of the most popular and beautiful waltzes of the hundreds of waltzes composed by the composer. Written in clear standard piano two staff notation, each waltz has introductory notes or comments, the title in English and German, with full dynamic and other special musical indications. These beloved waltzes are challenging to intermediate and advanced pianists, but well worth the effort to learn to perform. Selections include Voices of Spring, Vienna Life, Artists' Life, Emperor Waltz, Wine, Women & Song, The Kiss Waltz, Tales from the Vienna Woods, You and You, The Beautiful Blue Danube, and Morning Leaves. Occasional black and white period illustrations and manuscript impressions add to the grace and beauty of this faultless edition of favorite Strauss waltzes for solo piano. Online audio performance of all ten waltzes by Gail Smith is available at, including over an hour of waltz music for solo piano.

DADGAD Easy Christmas Favorites
Rob MacKillop, arranger/author
Mel Bay Publications
1734 Gilsinn Lane, Fenton, MO 63026
9780786699575, $14.99, PB, 36pp,

A beginning/intermediate level guitar book, "DADGAD Easy Christmas Favorites" is a collection of twenty favorite Christmas carols that have been scored for solo guitar using the DADGAD method of tuning, an alternate system of guitar tuning that tunes the first and sixth strings down to D, and the second string down to A, which is further explained on page 4. Additional instruction follows on page 5 and 6, a Technique Primer, plus exercises, explanations of notation, and tips for the use of the right hand. Tablature for basic DADGAD chords is provided in enlarged diagrams on page 34. Twenty popular holiday songs are presented in standard and DADGAD tablature notation, just the melody line without bass or harmonizing notes, along with chord names and song lyrics. Here are such Christmas favorites as Adeste Fideles, Away in a Manger (2 versions), Deck the Halls, Ding Dong Merrily On High, It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, O Little Town of Bethlehem, Silent Night, The First Noel, The Holly and the Ivy, and more. This is one of the easiest guitar songbooks of the DADGAD collection, which assumes the guitarist knows how to hold and tune the guitar, play some notes and a few simple chords. "DADGAD" Easy Christmas Favorites" includes access to online audio featuring performance of each song by Rob MacKillop. This book makes an excellent holiday for the novice guitarist.

The Blue Pool of Questions
Mayo Abu-Alhayyat, author
Hassan Manasrah, illustrator
Hanan Awad, translator
Penny Candy Books
PO Box 3205, Oklahoma City, OK 73101
9780997221985 $13.95

"The Blue Pool of Questions" is a book for children and adults and everyone in between. Stunning, complex, colorful, mood shaded illustrations marry perfectly with simple, haunting, evocative poetry that echoes Arabic cultures and discord and conflict between varying outlooks. "The Blue Pool" is very deep, inviting exploration, but the reader has choices regarding how much of each level to perceive. The author, illustrator, and interpreter are a mystic triumvirate of talent whose union works on so many levels. A mysterious, odd man travels city streets, trailing old, annoying, strange songs, while "dried flowers fell from his sleeves... Books slept inside his coat like shoes." The odd man may perhaps be seen as a sacred clown figure, whose books asked questions that gathered into a blue pool which began to overwhelm the city. Finally the sad, strange man gathered the courage to dive into the blue pool of questions ins search of the answer. Facing his fears, in diving he found an amazing peace and acceptance as well as the Answer. "The man and the Answer became friends. Both had been alone for a long time. Both were kind. Neither of them, not even the Answer, knew anything but questions. With the threads of their conversation, the man sewed a curtain, fastening it to the sky to protect him from the jeers and scowls of the people. Nowadays, if the stars look like a lonely man eating onions, and snoring, or like a man who wraps himself in all the answers, he's just reminding us to ask more questions, throw them into the blue pool, be brave, and dive in." "The Blue Pool of Questions" is a magnificent book which deserves all and more of its many awards and invites readers of all levels to dive deep into the compassionate questions it magnifies.

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Micah's Bookshelf

The First Railroads: Atlas of Early Railroads
Derek Hayes
Firefly Books Ltd.
50 Staples Avenue, Unit 1, Richmond Hill, ON, Canada L4B 0A7
9780228100096, $29.95, PB, 272pp,

Synopsis: In "The First Railroads: Atlas of Early Railroads", historian and railroad enthusiast Derek Hayes has compiled archival maps and illustrations, many never before published, showing the locations and routes of the world's early railways, as well as the locomotive and rail technology that was key to the development of those railroads. In addition to maps, the illustrations include photos of most of the surviving first locomotives from collections around the world and of replicas too, where they exist.

Much of the world's early railways originated in Britain, but Hayes also considers the earliest systems in North America, continental Europe, and elsewhere. "The First Railroads" covers the emergence of the first steam locomotives, including the historically important Stockton and Darlington, the world's first public railway system to use steam locomotives, and Liverpool and Manchester, for its pioneering use of cast iron girders.

In addition to mainstream railways, atmospheric railways are considered as well as electric railways, underground railways, monorails, and mountain (rack) railways, all of which have fascinating histories.

It is interesting to not that for "The First Railroads", Hayes personally travelled to most of the locations mentioned and visited railway museums all over the world, amassing a wealth of information and illustrative materials, including never before seen ephemera.

Critique: Beautifully and profusely illustrated from cover to cover, "The First Railroads: Atlas of Early Railroads" is a unqiuely informed and informative history that is a 'must read' for any and all railroading enthusiasts. Impressively informed and informative, "The First Railroads: Atlas of Early Railroads" is a simply fascinating read and unreservedly recommended for personal, community, and academic library Railroading History collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

Pilgrimage: The Great Pilgrim Routes of Britain and Europe
Derry Brabbs
Frances Lincoln Publishers
c/o Quarto Publishing Group
400 First Avenue North, Suite 400, Minneapolis, MN 55401-1722
9780711239005, $40.00, HC, 256pp,

Synopsis: Down through the centuries, pilgrimages in Europe were a thriving activity. Now in this century the cathedral at Santiago de Compostela alone has seen 40 times the number of pilgrim visits. "Pilgrimage: The Great Pilgrim Routes of Britain and Europe" visually revisits this classic route, and nine other inspirational journeys across Europe.

Browsing the pages of "Pilgrimage" will lead you along deeply historical routes like the 'Jakobsweg' in Germany, between Cologne and Trier. You'll find great walks in Britain and France, like St. Cuthbert's Way which winds around the Scottish Borders to the holy island of Lindisfarne, and the World Heritage Site of Mont-St-Michel built on the tiny island off the coast of Normandy.

The most notable addition to the rejuvenated era of pilgrimage is the Via Francigena, now a very well established path through Switzerland and Italy. The Italian section begins on the bleak summit of the Great St Bernard Pass where a hospice still caters to the needs of passing pilgrims before heading down to Rome through some of Italy's most beguiling countryside interspersed with medieval hilltop towns and villages.

Astounding photographs by Derry Brabbs deftly combine with an absorbing text that describes the history and key features of each route, as well as brief details of the distances and the number of days it takes to walk, and a list of websites to help plan your journey.

Critique: An inherently fascinating read from cover to cover, "Pilgrimage: The Great Pilgrim Routes of Britain and Europe" is beautiful, extraordinary, informative, and will have immense appeal for the armchair traveler. Unreservedly recommended for personal, community, and academic library collections, "Pilgrimage: The Great Pilgrim Routes of Britain and Europe" would make and enduringly popular and appreciated Memorial Fund acquisition selection.

Open Licensing for Cultural Heritage
Gill Hamilton & Fred Saunderson
Facet Publishing
9781783301850, $89.00, PB, 240pp,

Synopsis: Collaboratively written by Gill Hamilton (Digital Access Manager at the National Library of Scotland) and Fred Saunderson (National Library of Scotland's Intellectual Property Specialist where he has responsibility for providing copyright and intellectual property advice and guidance, as well as coordinating licensing and re-use procedures), "Open Licensing for Cultural Heritage" is practical and explanatory guide for library and cultural heritage professionals introduces and explains the use of open licenses for content, data and metadata in libraries and other cultural heritage organizations.

Using rich background information, international case studies and examples of best practice, "Open Licensing for Cultural Heritage" outlines how and why open licenses should and can be used with the sector's content, data and metadata.

"Open Licensing for Cultural Heritage" presents the concept of open in relation to intellectual property, provides context through the development of different fields, includes open education, open source, open data, and open government. "Open Licensing for Cultural Heritage" deftly explores the organizational benefits of open licensing and the open movement, including the importance of content discoverability, arguments for wider collections impact and access, the practical benefits of simplicity and scalability, and more ethical and principled arguments related to protection of public content and the public domain.

"Open Licensing for Cultural Heritage" includes: An accessible introduction to relevant concepts, themes, and names, including Creative Commons, attribution, model licenses, and license versions; Distinctions between content that has been openly licensed and content that is in the public domain and why professionals in the sector should be aware of these differences; An exploration of the organizational benefits of open licensing and the open movement; The benefits and risks associated with open licensing; A range of practical case studies from organizations including Newcastle Libraries, the University of Edinburgh, Statens Museum for Kunst (the National Gallery of Denmark), and the British Library.

"Open Licensing for Cultural Heritage" will be useful reading for staff and policy makers across the gallery, library, archive and museum (GLAM) sector, who need a clear understanding of the open licensing environment, opportunities, risks and approaches to implementation. This includes library and information professionals, library and information services (LIS) professionals working specifically in the digital field (including digital curation, digitization, digital production, resource discovery developers). It will also be of use to students of LIS Science, digital curation, digital humanities, archives and records management and museum studies.

Critique: Presenting a complete course of instruction, "Open Licensing for Cultural Heritage" is as impressively informative as it is exceptionally well written, organized and presented. Unreservedly recommended as an essential, exceptional, indispensable, core addition to community, governmental, and academic Library Science collections, "Open Licensing for Cultural Heritage" is a necessary and invaluable instructional reference.

Micah Andrew

Richard's Bookshelf

Success From Scratch - Mental Strategies for Success in A Survival of the Fittest Environment
Nick Ruiz
Sound Wisdom
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9781937879877, $15.99, 208 pages

How to Sculpt the Right Mindset to Produce Success and Opportunity

Nick Ruiz has packed his book "Success From Scratch" with concepts, and principles, for recalibrating your viewpoint and perception of the foundation of your success

In a natural progression, Ruiz leads the reader, step by step, to recognize how the influential people in their life have impacted their viewpoints and actions. This self-awareness will help you to recognize the success opportunities open to you; motivate you to move on to develop the elements of success within you, and to implement these new attitudes and strategies into your life.

Ruiz writes with clarity, freshness, and ease of understanding. An example of his practical valuable lessons for ambitious entrepreneurs simply states: "One of the best strategies in the world is - choose to be around positive people." I also benefited from Nick's approach to creativity and imagination as I began to pursue my individual thoughts on success, and taking an entirely new approach to the legacy I pass on to my family.

Nick Ruiz is a twice self-made entrepreneur. "Success from Scratch" is an important resource and must have a book on personal growth for everyone with a dream of experiencing a lifestyle of success.

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

Accessing the Courts of Heaven - How to Breakthrough in Prayer
Robert Henderson
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768417401, $6.99, 110 pages

Practical Keys for Understanding the Three Dimensions of the Courts of Heaven Prayer Strategy

"Accessing the Courts of Heaven - How to Breakthrough in Prayer" outline and provides precursors to the "Unlocking Destinies from the Courts of Heaven" curriculum and subsequent books in the series.

The book is divided into three parts. Part One introduces the Courts of Heaven prayer strategy. In Part Two Henderson shares the three keys that will help the reader understand and apply the concept of breakthrough prayer in the courts of heaven. Part Three presents a preview of "Healing from the Courts of Heaven."

This compact concise edition is an ideal resource ministry tool. Within its pages, Robert Henderson presents a blueprint for approaching God as a father, friend, and judge. He has the unique ability to appeal to the intellect with information and the spiritual insight to transform the heart.

Robert Henderson is an internationally acclaimed apostolic leader, author, and speaker. He is recognized for his bold and authoritative teachings on prayer, spiritual warfare, and hidden truths of the Scriptures.

"Accessing the Courts of Heaven - How to Breakthrough in Prayer" provides a fresh mindfulness on the importance of perseverance in praying and how to "position yourself through a breakthrough in your petitions.

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

Heaven an unexpected journey - One Man's Experience with Heaven, Angels, & the Afterlife
Jim Woodford with Dr. Thom Gardner
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768414127, $16.99, 200 pages

A Compelling Story of Transformation and Hope - A Foretaste of Divine Glory

As a successful airline pilot and businessman, Jim Woodford had a lot going for him. a challenging career, a large home, an adoring wife, a young family, and financial security. Acquiring another new car, another new aircraft did not fulfill his inner void. Jim longed for something deeper.

Jim was never a religious man. Although his wife, Lorraine, was a vibrant Christian, Jim gave very little thought to religion, God, creation, or man's purpose in life. Matters of faith just were not of much concern. He was motivated by an inner drive and motivation for acquiring more tangible possessions.

Suddenly Jim's world was spinning out of control. The doctor's diagnosis was Guillain-Barre 'disease. He couldn't work. His livelihood was gone. He has to start selling off assets to keep up his lifestyle, and then one night he ended up in the hospital, his life drained from him. That night he was pronounced clinically dead.

Jim describes the next eleven hours as being sub-consciously aware of being transported into the magnitude of heaven's awesome splendor, and the horror of the deep blackness of the chasm leading to hell. He relates the reality of his extraordinary experience, the intense brightness, and spectacular sights of heaven, and the awe of being face to face with Jesus.

Jim's consciousness returned. His life was changed forever. He had called out to God and found the answer to what his soul had been longing for. Jim is taking the message of his journey across America, sharing the good news of heaven, the grace and mercy of God, and the glory of His presence.

Each chapter includes a scripture refuge, profound thought-provoking questions, parallels from Jim's career as a pilot, and a place for the reader to record or journal an observation, question, personal insight, and a spiritual application.

As you read and reflect on the scriptural you'll discover, the life-changing message of forgiveness, wholeness, and freedom, resulting from Jim's journey.

Jim's story is compelling, and heart-stirring, a clear message with an eternal perspective; inspiring and challenging, a story that will resonate with anyone seeking to deepen their faith and experience a new awareness of Christ's presence.

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

A Small Book About a Big Problem - Meditations on Anger, Patience, and Peace
Edward T. Welch
New Growth Press
9781945270130, $17.99, 192 pages

Tame Anger, Develop Patience, Pursue Peace

"A Small Book About a Big Problem" is made up of 50 brief reflections that address the subjects of anger, patience, and peace. These thought-provoking vignettes are designed to expose the reader to the destructive effect of anger and to set them on the path to exchange anger for patience and to experience the compassion of Christ leading to a life of peace.

Penetrating questions help the reader consider their issues with anger.

Does your anger hide behind more innocent words? What are your innocent words and what are they saying?

How does anger feel?

In your anger, what are you really saying to God?

Have you confessed your anger?

Ed Welch is a Biblical Counselor and licensed psychologist, author, and faculty member at Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation. Ed is highly thought of among his peers. His writing is based on Biblically sound teaching, helping the reader to take an honest look at how anger is impacting, family and social relationships, as well as the emotional, physical, and spiritual impact on health.

"A Small Book About a Big Problem" is described as: "rich, insightful, and piercing; as eminently probing and practical. The importance of God's grace, mercy, and His plan of forgiveness through Jesus is presented with clarity. Think your reading as a 50-day adventure in overcoming the battle with anger.

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

Prophetic Break Through - Decrees that Break Curses & Release Blessings
Dr. Hakeem Collins
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768414806, $16.99, 208 pages

Declarations and Prayers That Release Heaven's Blessing and Destroy Curses

"Prophetic Break Through - Decrees that Break Curses & Release Blessings" is designed to communicate, empower and equip the reader to better understand and recognize the importance of prophetic declarations in living out God's divine purpose, and a life of overcoming spiritual warfare.

The book is divided into two parts. Part one includes instruction on prophetic breakthrough, prophetic vision, breaking curses, releasing blessings, waging prophetic warfare, and breaking ungodly soul ties. Part two is a 90 day devotional with activations to release blessing and break curses. Each of the devotionals contains a Scripture verse for the day, teaching and encouragement, additional Scriptural references to read, an awe-inspiring breakthrough prayer, and several powerful declarations or degrees for breaking curses and releasing blessings.

"Prophetic Break Through" is an important tool for today's believer who is seeking to activate their faith, access the power of God, and experience fulfillment. Must reading for anyone feeling stagnant in their spiritual walk.

Dr. Hakeem Collins is a 21st Century prophetic and apostolic leader. He is recognized for his passion and his prophetic gift. He is in demand as conference, seminar, and church ministry speaker

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

Shifting Atmospheres - Discerning & Displacing the Spiritual Forces Around You
Dawna De Silva
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768415667, $16.99, 190 pages

New Vision and Freedom - A Strategy for Victorious Spiritual Warfare

In her book "Shifting Atmospheres" Dawna De Silva equips the reader with keys for taking dominion over your supernatural environment. She provides valuable lessons and practical instruction on how to:

Learn to use your weapons of spiritual warfare

Discern the enemy's tactics

Transform your spiritual environment from darkness to light

Demonstrate the power of Jesus over the power of darkness

Discern and understand the meaning of spiritual atmospheres

Shift and displace spiritual forces

Dawna's writing is well articulated, well balanced, passionately focused, and reflective. The narrative is rich in scriptural background and concrete examples. Well documented chapter end notes provide excellent resources and references; helpful tools for additional reading and study.

Profound descriptive phrases like "an atmosphere of praise" and "whispers of deception" remind the reader of the importance of praise and worship as a spiritual weapon against the forces of evil.

"Shifting Atmospheres - Discerning & Displacing the Spiritual Forces Around You" provides principles and truth with which to prepare readers to transform their personal environment by living victoriously through the power of the Holy Spirit, the indwelling spirit of Christ Jesus, in an intimate relationship with God the Father.

Author, and International Speaker, Dawna De Silva ministers prophetically out of Bethel Church in Redding, California, providing hope and healing while inspiring vision and freedom.

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

Redefining Rhema - Responding to God's Voice, Releasing His Purposes on Earth
Ed Delph & David Lake
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768414783, $16.99, 288 Pages

How to Listen, Hear, and Apply God's Word in Everyday Living

Worldwide ministry leader, Ed Delph, and David Lake, pastor, business owner, and marketplace minister collaborate in this deeply challenging analysis of the principal of the Greek word Rhema as used in the Word of God. In their book "Redefining Rhema - Responding to God's Voice Releasing His Purposes on Earth" address a Biblical reality of hearing first and speaking second.

The authors are forthright, confident, and authoritative in their presentation. Their work is well documented with a balance of apostolic gift driven ministry and mainstream Christian theology. Pastors, Global Christian Leaders, and other Visionary Missional Leaders highly endorse the book.

Important evidence of validation of the principles presented in the book is found in the chapter "Illuminating Leaders, and Influencers, and mind molders." In this chapter both men relate testimonies of God's working in their life story through, a faith-infused utterance from God, providing illumination and direction, clarity and instruction in the next step in their lives.

"Redefining Rhema - Responding to God's Voice, Releasing His Purposes on Earth" is important reading for Christians worldwide, ready to take the challenge of "hearing God's Word" and then "releasing" the message "in the marketplace sanctuary where God has placed you."

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

Healing in His Presence - The Untold Secrets of Kathryn Kuhlman's Healing Ministry and Relationship with the Holy Spirit
Joan Gieson
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768414141, $15.99, 178 pages

A Glimpse Behind the Scenes, a Supernatural Compassion, and a Miracle Working Impartation

"Healing in His Presence - The Untold Secrets of Kathryn Kuhlman's Healing Ministry and Relationship with the Holy Spirit" is written with the express purpose of sharing unique salvation stories and miraculous healing testimonies with important secrets of Kathryn Kuhlman's ministry to reveal important transferable concepts available to all believers.

Joan Gieson humbly relates experiences and observations of her relationship with Kathryn Kuhlman over an eight-year period of association with the healing ministry. "Healing in His Presence" is an unassuming story with a dynamic power and a life-changing message.

Gieson describes Miss Kuhlman as a captivating presence. The spirit of God was with her all the time. She never stopped pursuing God's heart. Generations were reached and continue to be touched by Kathryn Kuhlman's childlike faith in God's healing power.

After her dramatic healing from blindness through Kathryn Kuhlman' ministry Joan Gieson, with her husband Frank, worked closely with Miss Kuhlman. They also actively arranged bus and other transportation for sick the sick, physically impaired to attend the healing services.

A concluding prayer of impartation challenges the reader to step out in compassion to be the person God created and designed them to be. Skeptics, seekers, and Spirit-filled Christians will all sense a touch of the miraculous as they read of lives changed by the healing power of Jesus.

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 Driftless Reader
Curt Meine & Keefe Keeley, editors
University of Wisconsin Press
1930 Monroe Street, Third Floor, Madison, WI 53711-2059
9780299314804, $26.95, HC, 400pp,

Ancient glaciers passed by the Driftless Area and waterways vein its interior, forming an enchanting, enigmatic landscape of sharp ridgetops and deep valleys. Across time, this rugged topography has been home to an astonishing variety of people: Sauk, Dakota, and Ho-Chunk villagers, Norwegian farmers and Mexican mercado owners, Dominican nuns and Buddhist monks, river raftsmen and Shakespearean actors, Cornish miners and African American barn builders, organic entrepreneurs and Hmong truck gardeners.

Collaboratively compiled and co-edited by Curt Meine (a conservation biologist and writer affiliated with the Aldo Leopold Foundation, Center for Humans and Nature, International Crane Foundation, and University of Wisconsin-Madison) and Keefe keeley (executive director of the Savanna Institute), "The Driftless Reader" is a compendium of writings that highlight the unique natural and cultural history, landscape, and literature of this region that encompasses southwestern Wisconsin and adjacent Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois.

The more than eighty selected texts include writings by Black Hawk, Mark Twain, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Frank Lloyd Wright, Aldo Leopold, David Rhodes, and many other Native people, explorers, scientists, historians, farmers, songwriters, journalists, and poets. Paintings, photographs, maps, and other images complement the texts, providing a deeper appreciation of this region's layered natural and human history.

Critique: Enhanced with the inclusion of a three page listing of illustrations, an eighteen page listing of Sources and Further Readings, and a thirteen page index, the 81 articles and extracts comprising "The Driftless Reader" are deftly organized into twelve sections: Geologic Origins; Ancient Peoples; Historical Ecologies; Native Voices; Explorations; Early Economies; Settler Stories; Farming Lives; Waterways; conserving Lands; Communities in Transition; Futures. An inherently fascinating, exceptionally informative, thoughtful and though--provoking read throughout, "The Driftless Readers" is unreservedly and enthusiastically recommended for personal, community, college, and university library Wisconsin History collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

Shoot-Out In Hell
Peter Brandvold
Five Star Books
10 Water Street, Suite 310, Waterville, ME 04901
9781432835521, $25.95, HC, 358pp,

Synopsis: "Shoot-Out In Hell" is comprised of two riveting western stories by Peter Brandvold and feature the legendary bounty hunter Lou Prophet.

In "The Devil's Bride" bounty hunter Lou Prophet is stalking the notorious train robber Frank Beauregard, a man with as much conscience as a rattlesnake with a baby rabbit in its craw. This snake, however, has a woman in his craw?an innocent young woman who came west from Minnesota to be the mail-order bride of a lonely rancher. Miss Mattie Anderson finds her new home high in the Colorado Rockies far from what she'd expected. She finds her husband-to-be far from what she'd expected, as well. Why is his hired man so tongue-tied? Who's the dead man in the shallow grave out back? As more dead are piled high and the lead flies like snowflakes in a prairie blizzard, Mattie begins to wonder if she hasn't promised herself to the devil himself. Only Lou Prophet can save her from the ties that not only bind but threaten to hang her.

In "The Devil's Furty" getting hitched in Colorado is one of the last things Lou Prophet remembers before he finds himself stumbling around the Mexican desert with a bloody gash in his head and a small army of Mexican cutthroats hot on his trail. The mercenaries are being led by a stubborn Pinkerton detective named Wolcott. Wolcott is looking for the stolen train loot that Prophet was supposed to return to the U.S. marshal in Denver. But that was before the bounty hunter got married. Before he was supposed to live happily ever after with the charming, beautiful mail-order bride, Mattie Anderson. Now Prophet is stumbling around Mexico, dodging bullets and bad men and trying to find out just how deep a hole he dug for himself when he said "I do".

Critique: An absolute 'must' for the legions of bounty hunter Lou Prophet, "Shoot-Out In Hell" is very highly recommended and will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community library western fiction collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of western novel fans that "Shoot-Out In Hell" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

The Making of Three Gardens
Jorge Sanchez
Merrell Publishers
8755 Lookout Mountain Ave.. Los Angeles, CA 90046
9781858946658, $70.00, HC, 208pp,

Synopsis: The garden design firm of SMI Landscape Architecture is known for its estate masterplanning, its pubic gardens and streetscapes, and its thoughtful private gardens for clients across the United States and in the Bahamas. The firm's philosophy incorporates a 'botanical garden' approach with exotic planning and elements of classical European design to create beautiful, usable spaces, and it is also known for its preservation and restoration of old landscapes.

As Jorge Sanchez puts it in the Prologue to "The Making of Three Gardens", 'Most of us tend to look at garden books for their pictures. In this one I would you to show you why; why the picture pictures came about. It is all part of why we came about. Gardens do not just happen. They are creations.' This book examines three of the firm's recent private gardens in great detail, two in Florida and one in Scarsdale, New York. Practical information about the design approach an details of the planting are combined with Sanchez's account of the process behind each garden, his relationship with the client and the reasons for his decisions. Through the narrative - often personal, always descriptive, always detailed - a picture builds up of his approach to each set of circumstances.

The first showcased project is in Miami, a family garden with a surprisingly untropical design for its southern location. Describing each area of the garden in detail, Sanchez explains that the clients wanted it to feel like a northern landscape, and how that requirement influenced his choice of plants. He puts forward his belief in the importance of the relationship between house and garden, saying: 'Our responsibility as landscape gardeners is to complement the architecture... to give the buildings a sense of place and grounding.'

The second showcased project, in Scarsdale, New York, came about in an oblique way: Sanchez was called in to propose suggestions for landscaping a large site that was to be subdivided and sold. He suggested to the owners that they instead develop it for themselves, and the idea took hold. He explains that having already worked with these clients, he was familiar with their taste and requirements but had to consider afresh the new site and the building that was already present. His priority was to make the plot look as though it had always been that way, keeping its naturalness while adapting it for the use of the family.

The final garden showcased in "The Making of Three Gardens" is the most dramatically sited, on a high cliff in Palm Beach, Florida. Sanchez delighted in taking advantage of the spectacular views throughout the plot. Influenced by the work of the renowned twentieth-century landscape designer Beatrix Farrand, he created an upper and a lower garden, separated by fountain staircases that break up the change in level and provide the cooling splash of water. He even describes how the swimming pool was at first destined to be a tennis court, but that the idea of a place for grandchildren to play won out. As Sanchez puts it, 'I have a feeling this is a property they will be using more and more.'

Throughout "The Making of Three Gardens" Sanchez gives a strong sense of participation - with the climate, with the local flora, with the clients and with other designers, whether sculptors, architects or interior designers. To be part of such collaborative efforts is hugely satisfying for him, as well as producing the best possible result for each set of clients.

Critique: Beautifully illustrated with the photography of Andre Baranowski, "The Making of Three Gardens"is stunningly visual study that will have a very special and enduring appeal to garden lovers and landscape design aficionados seeking a deeper understanding of the creative process behind making an esthetically appealing garden. Simply stated, "The Making of Three Gardens" will prove to be an especially appreciated addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library garden design collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

John Taylor

Theodore's Bookshelf

Killing Season
Faye Kellerman
195 Broadway, NY, NY 10007
9780062465931, $25.99, Hardcover
9780062270245, $15.99, Paperback

Turning her attention away from the long-standing series featuring Decker and Lazarus, Faye Kellerman has written a standalone involving a serial killer and rapist, a teenager obsessed with finding the murderer, first love, and hanky panky goings-on in high school. It makes for good reading throughout the rather bulky book.

The start of it all is the rape and murder of 16-year-old Ellen Vicksburg in a small town in New Mexico, not far from Las Alamos. Her younger brother, Ben, devotes his entire energy into finding her killer, amassing a vast amount of information during the next four years, despite warnings by police to stay away from such involvement (and frustrated by the lack of progress by these same officials). A mathematical genius, his analytical mind perceives patterns detectives miss.

The love story, as it may be, is gushy, and the sex and switching aspects of the high school students add nothing to the novel. On the other hand, when the author devotes her energy to the crime story she excels. The detail and progress of Ben's investigations are riveting, although the conclusion might seem a cliche to some. Over-all, however, a fine effort, and recommended.

A Legacy of Spies
John leCarre
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780735225114, $28.00/20 BPS/34.95 CA$, Hardcover, 264 pp

The Cold War may have ended many years ago in real life, but not for John le Carre, who has now written a fascinating book derived from two of his earlier George Smiley novels, "The Spy Who Came in from the Cold" and "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy." Smiley merely plays a background role in "Legacy." Instead, Peter Guillam, his disciple, who retired from the Circus (the British Secret Service) to the family farmstead in southern France, plays a central part in the story.

Peter receives a letter summoning him to London where he is instructed to review files and interrogated about an operation during the Cold War in which an operative and a source were killed. It would appear that a potential parliamentary inquiry or even a civil action blaming Peter and others for the deaths and seeking monetary damages, brought by the offspring of the two unfortunate victims, is possible.

As Peter reviews the material, le Carre recreates the times and travails of the period, as we relive through the actions of the characters conditions in East Berlin and the spy craft during the Cold War. It is history recreated with all the tensions of the period, excellently written with humor and panache.


An Alexandra Cooper Novel
Linda Fairstein
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9781101984048, $28.00/37 CA$, Hardcover, 400 pp.

Little Brown in UK

Still reeling from her harrowing experience in the preceding novel in the series, Alex Cooper may have reason to be portrayed in "Deadfall" as the weak, wishy-washy female rather than the forceful prosecutor she has been in this long-running story, in which this is the 19th entry. But it doesn't seem to be in character. Yes, she has always enjoyed a drink. But to almost become an alcoholic? And to be warned and even forced to stop drinking? Sure, there is some justification when her boss and mentor, DA Battaglia, is shot in the head on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and falls on Alex, pushing her to the ground beneath him. But until now we have been led to believe she is made of stronger stuff. Or perhaps she is changing as the result of her love affair with Mike Chapman, her detective boyfriend.

Be that as it may, the DA's assassination sets off not only a murder investigation, but a much more complicated look into an international crime based on importation of narcotics and valuable animal parts, like ivory tusks, rhino horns and bones. As part of their investigation, Alex and Detectives Mike and Mercer visit the Bronx Zoological Park, to learn more about the organization running it and the society charged with helping preserve endangered species, as well as giving the author the opportunity to exhibit her deep research into another New York City landmark.

The plot is so complicated that some readers may be put off by the book. While the denouement is not so far fetched, it takes Ms. Fairstein several twists and turns to get there, although the conclusion is pretty much a forgone conclusion almost from the start. Probably a little simplification could have prevented making the reader work through the various machinations Alex and Mike are put through. It's a tough way to finally get a Dewar's on ice.


On Her Majesty's Frightfully Secret Service: A Royal Spyness Mystery
Rhys Bowen
Berkley Prime Crime
375 Hudson St.,NY,NY 100144
9780425283509, $26.00, Hardcover, 291 pp.

Lady Georgianna Rannoch can find herself in the middle of a mess in the simplest of situations. But in this latest installment in this long-running series (this volume makes an even dozen), she finds herself in the middle of pre-World War II intrigue, two murders, several potential scandals, and an unassisted childbirth. And all because she visited Queen Mary in an effort to obtain permission to marry her long-time lover, Darcy O'Mara.

While with the Queen, Georgie lets it be known that she planned to go to Italy to visit and take care of a sick friend (Belinda is about to have a baby). The Queen then asks Georgie to attend a house party nearby which her son, the Prince of Wales (and future Duke of Windsor) planned to attend with his lady friend, Wallace Simpson, to determine whether they have married or are about to tie the knot. Further complicating Georgie's life, her mother also is present, but with a problem. It seems revealing photos of a past indiscretion are on the premises with the presence of the person with whom she committed the act, who is blackmailing her, and Georgie is asked to locate the incriminating pictures before her present fiance, Max, sees them. And on and on . . .

So, among the dilemmas to be solved: Will Georgie be granted permission to resign her 35th place in the line of succession so she can marry Darcy, a Catholic; will she find the photos; are the Prince and Simpson married; and who is the murderer, among other questions.

All the Royal Spyness mysteries are a fun read and delightfully written, and this story is no different. Given the plot, it is certain that another volume will be forthcoming. Since this one took place in 1935, I wonder whether the series will continue to reflect the events that led up to the war, and the conflict itself.


Theodore Feit
Senior Reviewer

Vogel's Bookshelf

Foxtrot in Kandahar
Duane Evans
Savas Beatie
PO Box 4527, El Dorado Hills, CA 95762
9781611213577, $25.00, HC, 200pp,

Synopsis: Kandahar is an ancient desert crossroads and, as of fall of 2001, ground zero for the Taliban and al-Qa'ida in southern Afghanistan. In the northern part of the country, the U.S.-supported Northern Alliance (the Afghan organization opposed to the Taliban regime) has made progress on the battlefield, but in the south, the country is still under the Taliban's bloody hold and al-Qa'ida continues to operate there. With no "Southern Alliance" for the US to support, a new strategy is needed if victory is to be achieved. Veteran CIA officer Duane Evans is dispatched to Pakistan to "get something going in the South." Foxtrot in Kandahar is his story.

Evans's unexpected journey from the pristine halls of Langley to the badlands of southern Afghanistan began within hours after watching the horrors of 9/11 unfold during a chance visit to FBI Headquarters. It was then he decided to begin a personal and relentless quest to become part of the US response against al-Qa'ida. Evans's gripping memoir tracks his efforts to join one of CIA's elite teams bound for Afghanistan, a journey that eventually takes him to the front lines in Pakistan, first as part of the advanced element of CIA's Echo team supporting Hamid Karzai, and finally as leader of the under-resourced and often overlooked Foxtrot team.

Relying on rusty military skills from his days as a Green Beret, and brandishing a traded-for rifle, Evans moves toward Kandahar in the company of Pashtun warriors - one of only a handful of Americans pushing forward across the desert into some of the most dangerous, yet mesmerizingly beautiful, landscape on earth. The ultimate triumph of the CIA and Special Forces teams, when absolutely everything was on the line, is tempered by the US tragedy that catalyzed what is now America's longest war. Evans concludes his memoir with an analysis of opportunities lost in the years since his time in Afghanistan.

Critique: Exceptionally well informed and informative, "Foxtrot in Kandahar: A Memoir of a CIA Officer in Afghanistan at the Inception of America's Longest War" is an extraordinary read from cover to cover and will have a special appeal and value for academicians and non-specialist general readers with an interest in modern warfare, Afghan tribal politics, and the contemporary role of the CIA in that part of the world. While unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Foxtrot in Kandahar" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Understanding the Ypres Salient
Thomas Scotland & Steven Heys
Helion & Company
c/o Casemate
1940 Lawrence Road, Havertown, PA 19083
9781911512509, $39.95, PB, 296pp,

Synopsis: "Understanding the Ypres Salient: An Illuminating Battlefield Guide" provides the reader with a clear understanding of what happened in Ypres Salient between 1914 and 1918. It sets out to transport the visitor around sites of importance for the First, Second and Third Battle of Ypres, and in so doing to bring the battlefield to life.

It will augment existing guidebooks by providing a unique new dimension without listing memorials and cemeteries. It doesn't matter whether you are in your armchair, on foot, on a bicycle, or in a car, "Understanding the Ypres Salient" will effortlessly transport you to Ypres Salient, where you will be able to visualize what happened. It will take you to Kruiseke Crossroads and Gheluvelt in late October 1914, where tired remnants of the British Expeditionary Force fought desperately to prevent the Germans from breaking through to Ypres. It will lead you to the St Julien-Poelcappelle road on 22 April 1915 where Canadian soldiers near the front line formed a defensive flank after a chlorine gas attack had engulfed adjacent French colonial troops, killing many, while the survivors fled to the rear.

You will visit Gravenstafel Ridge, where the Canadians were involved in bitter fighting two days later. You will go to locations throughout the Salient, which will help you to understand the four stages of the Second Battle of Ypres and the eight major phases of the Third Battle of Ypres where British, Australian, New Zealand and Canadian divisions all fought at different times. Eighteen concise chapters will focus on aspects of particular battles, explaining troop movements and strategy.

Each individual chapter is accompanied by many maps based on those in the Official History, which have been painstakingly designed to provide clarity, while color photographs taken by authors Thomas Scotland and Steven Heys in the course of many visits to Ypres Salient will help the visitor to understand important points made in the text.

After reading "Understanding the Ypres Salient" you should be able to stand at any location within Ypres salient and be able to work out what happened there throughout four years of war. You will also be able to conjure up a picture in your mind of events which took place more than 100 years ago as though they were happening in front of you

Critique: An ideal on-site travel guide and an impressively informative history of events, "Understanding the Ypres Salient: An Illuminating Battlefield Guide" is an indispensable reference and an invaluable contribution to the growing library of World War I literature that is very highly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as community and academic library 20th Century Military History 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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