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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 17, Number 11 November 2018 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

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

Cowper's Bookshelf

Book Girl
Sarah Clarkson
Tyndale Momentum
c/o Tyndale House Publishers
351 Executive Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188
9781496425805, $15.99, PB, 288pp,

Synopsis: When you hear a riveting story, does it thrill your heart and stir your soul? Do you hunger for truth and goodness? Do you secretly relate to Belle's delight in the library in Beauty and the Beast? If so, you may be on your way to being a book girl (or boy!).

Books were always Sarah Clarkson's delight. Raised in the company of the lively Anne of Green Gables, the brave Pevensie children of Narnia, and the wise Austen heroines, she discovered reading early on as a daily gift, a way of encountering the world in all its wonder. But what she came to realize as an adult was just how powerfully books had shaped her as a woman to live a story within that world, to be a lifelong learner, to grasp hope in struggle, and to create and act with courage. She's convinced that books can do the same for you.

In the pages of "Book Girl: A Journey through the Treasures and Transforming Power of a Reading Life" readers will join Sarah in exploring the reading life as a gift and an adventure, one meant to enrich, broaden, and delight in each season of life as a woman.

In Book Girl, reader's will discover: How reading can strengthen your spiritual life and deepen your faith; Why a journey through classic literature might be just what you need (and where to begin); How stories form your sense of identity; How Sarah's parents raised her to be a reader -- and can be done to cultivate a love of reading in the growing readers around us; and some 20+ annotated book lists, including some old favorites and many new discoveries.

Whether you've long considered yourself a reader or have dreams of becoming one, "Book Girl" will draw you into the life-giving journey of becoming a woman (or a man!) who reads and lives well.

Critique: Although primarily written for female readers as reflected in the title, "Book Girl: A Journey through the Treasures and Transforming Power of a Reading Life" by author, a blogger, and a student of theology Sarah Clarkson is an extraordinary read that is very highly recommended to the attention of all dedicated bibliophiles regardless of gender. Rarely has a truer portrait of the joy and influence of a literate life been so well exemplified or showcased.

While "Book Girl" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that it is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.44) for the personal reading lists of students and non-specialists general readers with an interest in the subject. Librarians should note that "Book Girl" is also available as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9781982558284, $34.95, CD).

Never Work Harder Than Your Students and Other Principles of Great Teaching
Robyn R. Jackson
1703 North Beauregard Street, Alexandria, VA 22311-1714
9781416626527, $29.95, PB, 278pp,

Synopsis: Some great teachers are born, but most are self-made. And the way to make yourself a great teacher is to learn to think and act like one. In this newly updated and expanded second edition of "Never Work Harder Than Your Students, National Board - certified English teacher Robyn R. Jackson reaffirms that every teacher can become a master teacher.

The secret is not a specific strategy or technique, nor it is endless hours of prep time. It's developing a master teacher mind set -- rigorously applying seven principles to your teaching until they become your automatic response: Start where you students are; Know where your students are going; Expect to get your students there; Support your students along the way; Use feedback to help you and your students get better; Focus on quality rather than quantity; Never work harder than your students.

In an accessibly conversational and candid style, Jackson explains the mastery principles and how to start using them to guide planning, instruction, assessment, and classroom management. She answers questions, shares stories from her own practice and work with other teachers, and provides all-new, empowering advice on navigating external evaluation. There's even a self-assessment to help you identify your current levels of mastery and take control of your own practice.

Teaching is hard work, and great teaching means doing the right kind of hard work: the kind that pays off in the classroom and for the students.

Critique: Exceptional, practical, inspired and inspiring, "Never Work Harder Than Your Students and Other Principles of Great Teaching" should be read by every classroom teacher from preschool through graduate school. While very highly recommended for school district, college, and university library Teacher Education instructional reference collections, it should be noted for aspiring teachers, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Never Work Harder Than Your Students and Other Principles of Great Teaching" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.65).

The Aging of Aquarius
Helen Wilkes
New Society Publishers
PO Box 189, Gabriola Island, BC, Canada, V0R 1X0
9780865718944, $17.99, PB, 208pp,

Synopsis: By the time we arrived at a retirement age we find that our career has wound down, our now adult children have moved, and our schedule is clear with up to some 30+ years left for us to live out.

In our youth, we cared about people and planet earth, perhaps had grand visions of changing the world. At some point, those passions and that sense of purpose got buried under the demands of child rearing and the 9-5 grind.

The principle message of Helen Wilkes in her new book "The Aging of Aquarius: Igniting Passion and Purpose as an Elder" is that now, with the rest of our lives ahead, we can be the change we always wanted to create and can make this next stage of our life the most powerful and productive one yet.

Helen Wilkes is a retired professor and activist who takes her readers on an inspiring journey to find renewed purpose in retirement. Along the way she helps her readers navigate the transition to a post-work identity by fanning the embers of lost passions and developing new interests.

Those interests are unlimited and can range from gardening clubs, to social justice issues, political campaigning, ethical investing, or creativity through the arts. "The Aging of Aquarius" offers inspiration, practical steps, and extra resources to help reignite passion, develop a sense of purpose, and to effect real change in the world as an empowered 'Baby Boomer' generation elder!

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, ""The Aging of Aquarius: Igniting Passion and Purpose as an Elder" is a life affirming, life enhancing read from cover to cover. While very highly recommended for senior citizen center and community library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Aging of Aquarius" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $17.99).

Power Yoga: Strength, Sweat, and Spirit
Leah Cullis
Human Kinetics Publishers, Inc.
PO Box 5076, Champaign, IL 61820-5076
9781492560654, $24.95, PB, 368pp,

Synopsis: "Power Yoga: Strength, Sweat, and Spirit" by celebrated power yoga teacher and holistic health coach Leah Cullis will enable dedicated yoga practitioners to expand their energy and raise their sense of personal power with power yoga, -- the athletic and dynamic style of yoga that delivers high intensity and quick results.

This potent practice is a complete workout on its own, but "Power Yoga" also offers tremendous benefits when combined with other workouts and sports. In addition to physical strength, stamina, and flexibility, the dynamic movements of power yoga challenge you to develop focus, balance, and purpose that extend to life beyond the yoga mat.

Dozens of warm-up, power, peak, and cool-down poses are presented in full color, and adaptations to modify or intensify each pose allow you to customize your practice for maximum effectiveness and safety. Sequences ranging from 5 to 60 minutes - including sport-specific sequences for running, cycling, team sports, and high-intensity activities - offer options that match your goals and lifestyle, and the 28-day plan can be adjusted into a plan that works for you, based on the results you want.

"Power Yoga" is the ideal instructional reference vehicle for creating extraordinary physical and spiritual results that will be noticed quickly and be able to be maintained for a lifetime.

It should be noted that a CE exam available for certified professionals. This companion continuing education exam can be completed after reading this book. The Power Yoga Online CE Exam may be purchased separately or as part of the Power Yoga With CE Exam package, which includes both the book and the exam.

Critique: Profusely illustrated with step-by-step instructions and available in a digital book format (eTextbook, $11.99) "Power Yoga: Strength, Sweat, and Spirit" is impressively accessible in organization and presentation, making it an ideal 'how to' manual for personal, professional, community, and academic library Yoga Studies collections and being unreservedly recommended to the attention of all yoga instructors and practitioners from novice beginners to seasoned veterans.

Miraculous Encounters
Bruce Edelstein & Davide Gasparotto, editors
Getty Publications
1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 500, Los Angeles, CA 90049-1682
9781606065891, $40.00, HC, 160pp,

Jacopo Carucci, known as Pontormo (1494 - 1557), was the leading painter in mid sixteenth-century Florence and one of the most original and extraordinary Mannerist artists. His extremely personal style was much influenced by Michelangelo, though he also drew from northern art, especially the work of Albrecht Durer.

Collaboratively compiled and co-edited by the team of Bruce Edelstein (who is the coordinator for graduate programs and advanced research at NYU in Florence) and Davide Gasparotto (who is Senior Curator of Paintings at the J. Paul Getty Museum) ."Miraculous Encounters: Pontormo from Drawing to Painting" is a beautifully illustrated catalogue that brings together a small but important group of preparatory drawings and finished paintings that center on Pontormo's great masterpiece, The Visitation, one of the most moving and mesmerizing works by the artist.

The Visitation represents the intense moment of encounter between the Virgin Mary and her cousin Elizabeth, who reveal to each other that both are pregnant. The painting is presented (for the first time) along with its highly finished preparatory drawing, which is squared for transfer to the larger surface of the panel.

The combination of rigorous research and gorgeous reproductions reveals the painter's creative process as never before. Other acclaimed paintings, including Portrait of a Halberdier and Portrait of Carlo Neroni, will also be shown alongside their preparatory drawings.

Readers will encounter Pontormo both as a religious painter and a painter of portraits, in this original and nuanced account of the celebrated artist.

"Miraculous Encounters: Pontormo from Drawing to Painting" is published to accompany an exhibition on view at Galleria degli Uffizi Florence, Italy May 8 to July 20, 2018, the Morgan Library & Museum New York, NY September 7, 2018 to January 6, 2019, and at the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center February 5 to April 28, 2019.

Critique: Representing an impressive body of scholarship and showcasing the extraordinary artistic genius of one of Italy's finest artists, "Miraculous Encounters: Pontormo from Drawing to Painting" is extraordinarily informative and exceptionally well written, organized and presented. No personal, professional, community, or academic library Art History collections con be considered comprehensive or complete without the inclusion of "Miraculous Encounters: Pontormo from Drawing to Painting".

Keeping Faith in Congress
Lois Capps
Fortress Press
P.O. Box 1209, Minneapolis, MN 55440-1209
9781506433745, $22.99, HC, 152pp,

Synopsis: In 1996, Walter Capps won a seat in US House of Representatives. Less than a year later, he suffered a massive heart attack at Dulles Airport and died in his wife's arms. Lois Capps, a retired school nurse, decided just a few days later to run for her husband's seat. She won that election and went on to serve eight more terms in Congress, representing the central coast of California and advocating progressive causes.

In "Keeping Faith in Congress: Why Persistence, Compassion, and Teamwork Will Save Our Democracy", Lois poignantly tells her story -- of her husband's death and her decision to run, of her daughter's death to cancer just a few years later, of her efforts to work across the aisle, and of her work on behalf of her constituents.

No matter what personal or professional obstacles she faced, Representative Capps never lost faith in democracy. Instead, even the challenges taught her lessons. Now she shares those lessons, hoping that others can be inspired to work on behalf of the common good.

Critique: Lois Capps represented the central coast of California in the US House of Representatives from 1998 to 2017. Before serving in Congress, she had successful careers in both nursing and education. In Congress, she was a leader on issues of public health, domestic violence against women, the environment, and mental health services. She helped get the Affordable Care Act passed, and she voted against the war in Iraq. She made a point of working collaboratively across the aisle, and she was voted the Nicest Person in Congress four times. Capps retired from Congress to Santa Barbara, where she is active in the community, her church, and with her grandchildren.

Now she has added to her impressive legacy the story of her experiences, observations, commentaries, and faith in the American people and American democracy. Inspired and inspiring, "Keeping Faith in Congress: Why Persistence, Compassion, and Teamwork Will Save Our Democracy" is an extraordinary read and a valued contribution to the current national dialogue with respect to women, government, and defending the values of democracy at home and abroad.

While very highly recommended, especially for community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Keeping Faith in Congress" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $20.99).

Mary Cowper

Donovan's Bookshelf

Blood Cold
James Lindholm

Author James Lindholm himself is a scientist, diver and explorer; so his background lends a deep note of authenticity to both the prior Into a Canyon Deep and this latest Chris Black adventure, Blood Cold. This time Chris journeys to South Africa to help explore a marine protected area where, thirty years earlier, government officials loaded a fishing vessel with thousands of gold krugerrands. When the ship sank, the fortune was never recovered.

Seal Island is home not just to one of the world's largest seal colonies, but to some of the fiercest sharks in the world. It's just the place to drop off someone whose body should not be found, and just the place to begin a story as a man faces such a drop-off.

Dr. Chris Black's latest marine investigation wasn't supposed to become a probe of illicit lost money and murder. He is in South Africa for a new marine research project, and he's well aware of the ferocity of local sharks. One of the reasons he's so good at handling trouble on all levels is that he is the embodiment of sangfroid - literally, blood cold. He remains calm when others would panic.

Since the death of a trusted colleague and the violence that encompassed their previous adventure, Chris and his team have fallen apart, with everyone scattered around the globe. He'll have to resurrect more than the fate of a long-vanished ship if he's to find out what really happened, risking new lives in the process.

Blood Cold holds not just action and intrigue, but an overlay of scientific facts that will especially delight readers who like their novels steeped in real-world facts and natural history: "One of the enjoyable points of contention in their party conversation, Chris recalled, had been the notion of what Brody called 'bioclutter.' It seemed that to archeologists who study undersea wrecks, the very living material that so fascinated Chris and his scientific colleagues - such as dense clouds of fishes swimming along the bottom and tall sponges and corals attached to substrates - presented a huge impediment to their archeological work. It was difficult to study a seventeenth century wooden ship if it was covered with living organisms, hence the 'bioclutter.'" This comes from Lindholm's background and gives non-scientist readers a satisfying series of insights into the ocean world which are unexpected and delightful.

As a treasure hunt ensues in which Chris faces attackers, illicit marine salvage efforts, murders, and violence, he must call upon all of his 'blood cold' reactions to stay alive and get to the bottom of the threat.

Readers who like their action gripping but firmly seated in the real world of science, politics, and special interests surrounding marine salvage operations will relish not just the adventure, but the details that keep this story believable and educational.

Characterization is solid and past events are outlined so that readers need not have prior familiarity with Chris Black in order to easily dive into his latest challenge.

Blood Cold is highly recommended as a fast-paced, reality-centered saga that will keep thriller readers thoroughly immersed right up to an unexpected ending that demonstrates that this won't be Chris Black's last adventure.

The Civil War at Home
Dustin McKissen
Working Class Books
9781732769328, $14.95, paperback, $9.00, Kindle

One shooting changes everything. It changes the lives of a family and Marina, who didn't even know they'd owned a gun. It changes those who witnessed or fell victim to the shooting. Both of the male characters are blessed with privileges, yet both feel that Donald Trump embodies what they either hate (Kevin, a liberal) or love (Rick, a conservative) about the direction of the country.

It quickly becomes evident that part of the underlying story in The Civil War at Home lies in the disparity between Trump supporters and those who believe otherwise. Having a novel that moves between the viewpoints of liberal and conservative characters deftly illustrates not just politics but personal perceptions and experience, allowing readers to digest both sides of a coin that is usually quite one-sided: "Our MAGA sticker tells the world who we are and what matters most to us: church, family, community. Traditional values. The backside of our Dodge Neon tells the world the Sullivans are a Trump family. Politics has made things worse, but Kevin and I were never more than neighbors. Even before Donald Trump. My neighbor is pretty smug and entitled. The man buys a new car every year. His wife looks like she's half made of plastic. Kevin might be a good dad, but his home clearly lacks the Lord's presence. Kevin obviously thinks he's too good to have a relationship with Jesus Christ...Underneath all his money Kevin lacks a moral core. Just like most liberals."

The character of Marina adds yet another important dimension to the story, for she is: "...Mexican the way Bill O'Reilly is Irish. Meaning, I am genuinely one-quarter Mexican, but with a few exceptions my Spanish is limited to "No queso on the frijoles."

These different viewpoints are clearly presented under headers which make it easy for readers to follow the changing perspectives and events impacting each character. This focus on racial, class, and social divisions in the same neighborhood between those who come from different backgrounds makes for a solid perspective that doesn't condemn one group or person, but strives for equality in showing how each character's background and experiences grew their belief systems.

As Kevin and his neighbors perceive the growing influence of Trump in these interpersonal relationships ("Rick obviously hates Mexicans. He couldn't take his eyes off Marina the entire night. I know what he's thinking. He doesn't even have to say it. I could see it on his face. He's thinking, "How does an illegal afford a twelve-hundred-dollar dog?" He's thinking, "We've got to get that wall built, right now."), readers are provided a healthy dose of insight into how people become separated by their heritage, experience, and most of all, by the politicians and perceptions of those in charge.

How do you break a heart? You have affairs. You lie and feud. You choose options and paths that divide rather than unify. Rick is lying, Kevin struggles with anger management issues, and the entire neighborhood is a volcano waiting to blow. Marina and Kate find themselves caught up in their husbands' vendettas and dangerous responses, as a result.

The Civil War at Home is about understanding what lies beneath the fašade of belief systems, perceptions of threat, and political divisions.

Given these tumultuous times, this fictional presentation holds many vivid messages about choosing sides, the perceived righteousness of a given perspective; and about the process of losing self, love, and connections to the world. Readers receive all this and more from a hard-hitting novel that could be about one's family, neighbor, or neighborhood. It is about modern-day America, issues of villains and heroes, elitism, and who becomes either deplorable or respected in a society turned upside down.

Every American seeking connections between classes, races, and political divides needs to absorb the thought-provoking, realistic, and fast-paced action of The Civil War at Home, a novel highly recommended for its closer inspection of the roots of discord than most accounts about the Trump era would provide.

The Railway Children Chronicles
Raymond Cook
Raymond Cook, Publisher

At first glance, The Railway Children Chronicle sounds like this will be another addition to (or perhaps a takeoff on) Edith Nesbit's classic children's book, serialized in 1905 and the subject of movies and reprints over the decades. But this children's story of orphan children in a booming Western town is quite different, surveying the lives of different children orphaned in the mining town of Silver Plume, Colorado, which has neither church or nor orphanage to help them.

The story opens with the experiences of newly orphaned Sarah, who is lucky enough to stumble upon a couple who will take her in and keep her alive and off the streets; but quickly moves to focus on Elizabeth's children, who become orphans and find themselves in the dire circumstances they've too often observed among their peers.

A kindly railway yard operator does his best to fill in for missing parents and opens his heart and yard to this group and other orphans who follow them, but the issue of orphans struggling in the streets of Silver Plume remains a problem until help arrives from an unlikely source.

Raymond Cook fills this story with images from the old West, building a fictional saga that is spiced by research on the atmosphere, politics, and social issues of the times. He then tailors the events and children's' perceptions of their world for a young audience of elementary-level readers (likely grades 4-6) who will find the wealth of vintage photos of children and settings of the era compliment the story of a struggling small family.

The result is a realistic, refreshingly absorbing tale recommended for young readers that brings to life the plight of early frontier orphans and the processes whereby they are rescued.

Three Days of Darkness
S. A. Teller
Vista Alegre Publishing House
Hard Cover, 9780999738429, $24.99
Trade Paper, 9780999738405, $14.99
Kindle, 9780999738412, $4.99

Three Days of Darkness: The Final Secret is based on true events and tells of an evil society confronting the Vatican, an army of demons, miracles and premonitions, and the rise of a holy war against Christianity known as the Three Days of Darkness, prophesied to begin on the Holy Mother's centennial anniversary.

It should be noted that The Miracle of the Sun, the Miracle of Bernadette, Pope Leo XIII's Vision, and the Blessed Anna-Maria Taigi's Prophesy were officially documented historical events, although they've been slightly altered to confirm to this story's premise.

The Virgin Mary has chosen a common peasant to carry her message; but the obstacles facing shepherd girl Lucia are formidable ones that would stymie even a Vatican official used to facing down evil forces, much less a simple girl. Lucia's ultimate task, to thwart an impending apocalypse, seems impossible.

The story opens with the beginning of the end in 2017, when a blanket of fiery destruction consumes a Florida church. (This is a good place to note that descriptions of violence, though appropriate to the story line, are graphically detailed.)

Unexpectedly, the story shifts, in the second chapter, to 1917 Italy, where a baby is being baptized. Unfortunately, the proud parents don't realize that their chosen priests are actually mocking the Baptismal Sacrament until a terrible moment reveals an underlying horror in the Church sacrament.

As good rises to confront evil (the Blue Army of Mary versus the Red Army of Satan), a series of bloody clashes begins that not only leads to evil's final encounter with forces of redemption, but the involvement of Church officials, nuns and priests, a boy's nightmares, and humanity's fading hopes for spiritual and corporal survival.

From visions of how the Holy Virgin Mary miraculously appeared to fourteen-year-old Bernadette Soubirous at the Grotto in Lourdes, France and its impact on modern events to confrontations with a frightening darkness, a host of characters interact and struggle in an epic battle in this vivid, engrossing story of apocalyptic struggle that embraces religious belief, predictions, and the end of days.

The result is a hard-hitting story filled with action, bloody encounters, stories of redemption and evil, and visions of destruction that revolve around whether the Holy Mother and Katherine's prayers can save the world.

Readers of good-versus-evil spiritual clashes will find Three Days of Darkness: The Final Secret is simply riveting, juxtaposing nonstop action with a variety of characters who each hold a vested interest in the outcome of this ultimate battle.

War of Chaos
Stephan von Clinkerhoffen
Waldorf Publishing
9781642048360, $16.95

War of Chaos is the second volume in 'The Hidden City of Chelldrah-ham' series and tells of Stig and his friends, who set out on a mission to Polandrea to determine if the evil Bach creatures are still a threat and, if so, how to eradicate them.

That's not their only goal. Stig is also on a personal mission to return to the city and rescue his friend Meg, who was trapped there; while fellow traveler Baits searches for a missing leader.

Each is tasked with achievable goals; yet the overlay of a kingdom's preparations for war thwarts their efforts and leads to discoveries that involve the Bach creatures and a well-kept secret that could change everything - including their mission and perceptions of their kingdom and its alliances.

As individual quests become greater purposes in the face of overwhelming obstacles and new truths, readers are immersed in a changing mission that holds the fate of a kingdom in the hands of three purposeful adventurers.

Familiarity with the prior book in the series will add a smooth recognition of the story line, but is not a key requirement for understanding this new saga, which fills in atmosphere, history and background so adeptly that newcomers won't experience any confusion. Indeed, they will find Stig and his friends and the Chelldrah-ham milieu immediately compelling.

Rescue missions changed by new discoveries and greater purposes lend a sense of high drama to a story that views the world through Stig's eyes and brings its oddities to life: "Outside, the moons were just setting. Stig thought he knew the way, so he set off. He had only gone a short distance when he felt a presence in his head. He could feel the caretakers all over the forest and one near to him now, telling him, in images and colour, that if he must go, then he should go the right way."

From Stig's ongoing love of mechanical devices and how they operate in and affect the world to nicely detailed fantasy elements that expand the atmosphere of this story and set the stage for more, War of Chaos details the rise of not only conflict, but hope in a kingdom vastly changed and challenged by its forces.

Young and new adult fantasy readers will relish this compelling adventure, which nicely crafts a world that is vivid and revealing.

Starting from Scratch
Merle Rosenbloom
Favorite Recipes Press
9780871976437, $24.99

There are many cookbooks on the market which go back to basics to explore easy cooking and entertaining strategies, but Starting From Scratch Cooking and Entertaining Made Simple is a standout written by a culinary professional who had no background in cooking when she began. She didn't grow up in a family of accomplished home cooks and her first forays into the kitchen were less than successful, but she learned to become a good hostess and cook, and Starting From Scratch Cooking and Entertaining Made Simple is the starting point for anyone who would emulate her accomplishments.

There are 78 recipes in this culinary journey; but what makes them exceptional is a combined focus on very simple yet elegant-looking, foolproof results and a back-to-basics approach that covers what may seem obvious to more experienced cooks: "Whether you're a master chef or beginner cook, the same rule applies: preparation is everything. Read the recipe, make your grocery list, and shop smart. Save time by preparing your ingredients ahead of time and measuring everything out."

There's an overview of kitchen equipment, from pots and pans to prep devices, a review of pantry staples, and a chart of measurement equivalents. The recipes themselves are faced with full-page color photos of finished results and can be as complex-sounding as a Lobster Bisque to as easy as a quick vegetable soup made with frozen soup vegetables and carrots and boxes of low-sodium chicken broth.

This is the second big lesson: good food needn't require time-consuming preparations. Shortcuts that include boned chicken breasts, packaged sliced mushrooms, or canned ingredients pair with fresh fare to streamline a beginner's time and efforts.

The result is the kind of cookbook that should accompany any teen out of the home and into the world of easy cooking and entertaining: a fine-looking hardback that invites bare-bones beginners into a world of successful culinary accomplishment with no prior assumption of skills, knowledge, or time.

Starting From Scratch Cooking and Entertaining Made Simple is very highly recommended.

Three Days at Wrigley Field
K.P. Gresham
K.P. Gresham, Publisher
0996700226, $16.99, Print, $4.99, ebook

Rachel Caravetti is a statuesque female baseball player with a strong arm and a penchant for winning. She loves teammate Kevin, a pitcher whose time has passed and whose position is up for grabs. When Rachel's upward trajectory collides with Kevin's slump and a team owner's interest in hiring her against tradition and odds, trouble brews on Wrigley Field.

Adversity comes from unlikely places - not just the threatened romance between Rachel and Kevin; but from the Cubs manager and the granddaughter of the team owner who would hire her.

If this were a romance story or a baseball account alone, it would be much more singular; but the characters examine, question, confront, and rebel against the forces that change their lives, and this element of self-examination accompanies the politics, confrontations, and even murder that runs through Three Days at Wrigley Field's baseball focus: "For the last hour he'd been sitting in this pew, examining and reexamining his life, trying to make sense of what had passed and make peace with what would never be."

The element of surprise, combined with psychological inspections, crafts a more detailed story line than anticipated from a baseball romance/thriller, and will please readers who may have anticipated a sports focus alone.

Another strength to Three Days at Wrigley Field lies in its ability to portray underlying special interests, influences, and concerns; from Rachel's choices (which stem from wanting to prove her femininity despite her sports prowess) to Leah's commitment to using her political savvy to try to get Rachel to fail ("She'd been taught by her parents from early on that favors were part of the game. The politics of money was every bit as important as the amount.").

As motivations, managers, and muscle collides on the field, readers are treated to inside perceptions of the world of professional baseball as Rachel looks for a way in even as other characters seek ways out.

Intrigue builds and combines with game descriptions to create a satisfying buildup of egos, politics, and confrontations that will delight baseball fans; especially those with special interest in the Chicago Cubs.

Issues of women's barriers, rights, and struggles for recognition combine with this sports focus to create a well-rounded story filled with delightful twists and the struggles of a woman who strives to be recognized as a major athlete by giving the game (and her relationship) a real shot at success.

The Singularity Witness
Dan Grant
MindScape Press, Inc.
9781732504011, $19.95

The Singularity Witness follows neurologist-turned-investigator Thomas Parker as he tracks a trail of clues that points to a clandestine new technology's development as the motive for a kidnapping and murder. When Parker teams up with FBI Special Agent Kate Morgan in an effort to infiltrate the secret lab, they both find themselves at a loss as they probe not only a mystery's roots, but a secret that will change the world.

Fans of Robin Cook who seek more intrigue and moral and ethical dilemmas in their stories will find The Singularity Witness offers edge-of-your-seat reading: "This may become one of those cases where everyone is expendable. Everyone."

It should also be cautioned that reading The Singularity Witness might expand some readers' vocabulary, with its peppering of words such as "prognosticating" or "depilation."

From safe houses and medical torture to research conducted on fragile, unwilling victims kept in a semi-vegetative state because of their neurological conditions, Parker enters a world of dark experimentation and powerful developments. Here, The Frontier (a neurological singularity) is envisioned for military control and exploitation rather than to benefit mankind.
Parker and Morgan's encounters are action-packed, their dilemmas clear and compelling, and their roles as investigators who unwittingly serve as the only stopgate to an ultimate horror makes for riveting reading that proves nearly impossible to put down.

How can revolutionary technology that will alter mankind forever prove justifiable? And how can a senator's abduction move beyond a problem-solving scenario and into the horrors of clandestine lab work and game-changing results?

Readers seeking a blend of medical thriller and the consequences of a madman's wanton disregard for human life will find these medical, moral, ethical, and interpersonal dilemmas fuel a hard-hitting story that is vivid, realistic, and frighteningly compelling.

The Patron Saint of Lost Girls
Maureen Aitken
Southeast Missouri State University Press
9780997926279, $18.00

The Patron Saint of Lost Girls is a Nilsen Prize for a First Novel Winner, is set in the Midwest in the late 1970s, and offers a series of fourteen interconnected short stories about Mary, who grows up in Detroit during an era of conflict and change.

The social fluxes described within (addiction, unemployment, conflict) were issues observed by author Maureen Aitken when she lived in Detroit in the 1970s and 80s; but when set into fiction and paired with the first-person observations of a young woman who breathes the air, atmosphere, and changes of her time, this past world comes to life.

Each statement compels readers to soak in and reflect upon the protagonist's observations and life. This literary device takes the opening paragraphs of the first story and makes them shine with gripping impressions and a sense of change and excitement: "In August, when the cicadas burned and the lawnmowers sounded like industrial bees, we couldn't stop. In the bedroom, on the couch, on the floor. Afterwards we would lie there, reading the paper or letting the television taunt us like a car salesman. Paul would wiggle his toes against mine, and we'd look at one another for a long time. His face was like a catcher's mitt, warm and beaten. He reminded me of one of those boys who had moved away when I was little, but Paul had returned a man. Then it would start all over again, and I felt like one of those cicadas, burning up from something that had no name. The dog licked our legs. The mail fell through the slot. But we didn't move. Even a smile felt like it would slice through us. I don't know if we were fragile or potent or both, but one conversation dangled on us like an ornament."

Mary's observations are poignant and astute, whether it's about herself, her family, or messages she's grown up with, whether they are about being female or encountering a squatter: "This man wanted a home, too, I reasoned. He just wanted to be left alone. That's what the man was trying to convey. But why was he moving toward me? Everyone who was robbed or attacked had a piece of advice: don't be a girl."

In this tale, the lessons learned from a near-tragic encounter are particularly thought-provoking, connecting personal experience with bigger-picture social realizations: "I would run all the way home. He didn't understand. It wasn't just a man. It wasn't just a house. It was all wrong: our theft, his squatting, the government, the corporations. Whatever made this situation was wrong."

These connections form the threads of Mary's life, pulling readers into a world where being female in Detroit during this particular era creates dichotomies of perplexing confusion that leads Mary to question and mistrust her values versus everything she sees, feels, touches, and encounters in her world.

Mary's experiences are a microcosm of American life ("This was America. Who doesn't know an addict but the addict himself?"), and are an enriching way to absorb not only the protagonist in this series of sparkling vignettes, but the pulse of American society as a whole.

In capturing these observations and bringing them to life, Maureen Aitken has produced a masterpiece highly recommended not only for fans of literary fiction (and most deserving of being the Nilsen Prize for a First Novel Winner), but for anyone seeking a winning, accessible and compelling portrait of growing up female in Detroit in an era where everything familiar is changing.

Burying the Lede
Joseph LeValley
Book Press Publishing
9780996761673 $TBA

Burying the Lede is a murder mystery that centers around a young man wrongly convicted and a newspaper reporter convinced of his innocence, documenting a reporter's desperate search for the truth against all odds.

Joseph LeValley's background as a news reporter lends authenticity to a story set in Iowa, and is immediately evident by both the book's title (which refers to the media's process of highlighting a secondary story rather than the main event) and in the progress of local daily news reporter Tony Harrington, whose probe of a high-profile attorney general's involvement in a seemingly small-time case leads to an investigation of a run for governor and the questionable circumstances that surround that race.

It's satisfying to read a story that opens as a simple murder mystery but evolves into a multifaceted survey of Iowa's politics, struggles, and the criminal justice system's processes and failures.

In this case, both lawyer Pike and reporter Tony believe in the defendant's innocence; but have no real idea how to prove it: "Yes, Tony. I believe Ralph Wells really is innocent of these horrendous crimes. However, I'm sure you realize that no one ever can be completely certain. Only Ralph and the Ennises, God bless their souls, know for sure if he was involved. But you're right. I feel I know him and I can't imagine him killing two people in cold blood while their young daughters slept nearby. The circumstances just seem to exist in a universe completely different than the one in which Ralph lives."

Tony finds himself simultaneously pursuing a murder case, confronting a crazy woman, and realizing that if Ralph is, indeed, innocent, then this means he is facing a clever killer, indeed. And one motivated to kill a sleeping couple when their daughters are asleep in the next room will certainly have no hesitation over killing a snoopy reporter who edges too close to the truth.

From questions about who is a victim and who a perp to pressures to report events in a given manner ("I just want your assurances you'll look at the facts and focus the story on what was done to us, and not what we did unwittingly."), action is gripping and leads not only to discoveries about politicians and murderers, but moral and ethical dilemmas and the challenges of reporters who probe events too deeply, to become part of their own story line.

A superior murder mystery is more than about 'whodunnit.' It covers the motivations behind actions and often places the investigator in a precarious role, leaving readers guessing right up to some surprising revelations.

Burying the Lede's ability to craft an involving, compelling story based on reporter Tony's personal involvements, connections, and challenges in the case creates a particularly moving story that operates on both emotional and investigative levels, proving nearly impossible to put down and more than satisfying in its surprising conclusion.

The Inquisitor's Niece
Erika Rummel
D. X. Varos, Ltd.
9781941072424, $17.95, Paper, $5.99, ebook

The Inquisitor's Niece opens in Seville, Spain, in 1514, just after the deaths of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. The Inquisitor General, a a cardinal and bitter enemy of the Jews, has issued a decree that all Jews must convert to Christianity or face exile. In this world, "A Jew has no friends among Christians." It's not the kind of atmosphere which would encourage a Jew and a Christian to fall in love; but Alonso and Luisa are star-crossed lovers whose paths entwine even though Luisa is married to another.

Inquisition-era Spain comes to life through the thoughts and perceptions of these two and those who surround them, from the mercurial Natale, whose effects on others is powerful and changing ("It is good to recognize one's weaknesses," Natale said. "But to examine your conscience is not an intellectual exercise, my friend. You must begin by humbling yourself before God." It was always good to put a sinner in his place. The more abject he was made to feel, the more generous in the end."), to the Cardinal's rise to Regent. Ripples of deadly danger change the kingdom when its leaders die and their successors promote a special religious mission: "But even if God preserved the Cardinal, and the Prince reached Spain without incident, there was one more obstacle to overcome: the mad Queen must agree to hand over the government to her son."

Readers of historical fiction will find this story absorbing and packed with historical facts and insights that well represent the atmosphere, politics, and religious and social concerns, and politics of 16th century Spain. Daily life under the darkness of the Spanish Inquisition is well detailed and teaches much about the era while supporting a compelling tale that involves readers in matters of the heart.

From Spain to Venice, The Inquisitor's Niece provides a powerful survey of the ideals, thoughts, and perceptions of Christian theologians and those who question them. It deftly moves beyond the story of two frustrated would-be lovers separated by forces beyond their control, and into a world that offers hope in the face of darkness. Historical fiction readers are in for a real treat with The Inquisitor's Niece.

Darkest Before the Dawn
Mike Martin
Ottawa Press and Publishing
9781988437132 $14.99 pbk

The seventh book in the Canadian Mountie Winston Windflower mystery series takes place in Newfoundland, where Winston is surrounded by women and a community that has always felt safe until it experiences a series of burglaries.

The town is close-knit and filled with well-meaning neighbors and it seems like nothing can challenge these connections, but when a series of deaths and ghostly encounters creates tension and confusion, Winston finds that some of his most peaceful, favorite things in life are threatened.

The first thing to note about Darkest Before the Dawn is its gentle buildup of small-town places, people, and Winston's place in the world. Descriptions capture personal and social atmosphere alike ("When he got home, Windflower was greeted by three of his favourite things. Sheila gave him a warm embrace, Lady circled him like a long-lost relative, and the smells from the kitchen drove him nearly crazy."), creating a gentle lead-in to a situation that turns into sad vigils, omens that things are getting worse in the small town Winston loves, and a community's silence, which is literally killing people.

In order to solve the mystery, Winston must tackle some close-held secrets and longtime conventions, and as he and Corporal Tizzard, and other police officers move closer to the truth, they uncover a trail of clues that lead further into the past than anticipated.

From lawyer involvements and deals for their clients to payoffs, hit jobs, and a tightening web of intrigue surrounding Elizabeth Crowder and a series of partial truths, readers interested in a small-town setting and a whodunit that is satisfyingly complex and thought-provoking will find Darkest Before the Dawn excels at creating a realistic atmosphere that keeps the story fast-paced and involving.

The fact that the story line is as rooted in home life and community plans as it is in murder and motive makes for a particularly notable creation that is clean, creative, and compelling. Darkest Before the Dawn is highly recommended for murder mystery readers who like their stories as filled with life as with death.

Cakewalk: The Science of Happy
CJ Staples & Lily Ness
Think Ink Pubishing
Black and white, 9781732089907, $9.99
Color, 9781732089914, $15.95

Cakewalk: The Science of Happy is for teens and tweens who want a head start on understanding the roots of happiness and how to cultivate them, providing a primer on the law of attraction that requires no prior familiarity with the process in order to prove accessible.

Young people receive a combination of admonitions, quotes, stories, and invitations to reflect on their own short lives and evolving concept of happiness.

There are many practical approaches to this process, including handling the "three sad stooges" (negative, pessimistic, and gloomy) that may inhabit family and friends, cultivating and using alone time, fostering supportive role models, and handling and acknowledging emotions about school, friends, and life.

At each stage, case history examples and exercises invite young people to more closely examine their own lives, motivations, reactions, and responses to self and others.

Cakewalk: The Science of Happy should be required reading for any teen or tween. It covers many common pitfalls and how to handle them, creating an early opportunity for cultivating a more self-reflective, cognizant approach to life.

While its audience is younger readers, many an adult will want to browse this as a basic introduction to the Laws of Attraction in an insightful primer appropriate for their own changing approaches to life.

Hatching Charlie: A Quest for Happiness and Meaning
Charles C. McCormack
9781987751338, $14.95

Hatching Charlie: A Quest for Happiness and Meaning is a passionate memoir designed to educate and inspire, following Charles C. McCormack's journey through life and events that range from encounters with family violence and racism in the Jim Crow South to the spillover from early encounters with violence, adult confrontations and mishaps, and an emerging quest for a purpose-driven life.

The first thing to note about McCormack's memoir is that it holds more psychological self-inspection than most. It's not just the story of one man's journey through life and its many changes: Charles C. McCormack brings readers into his heart, revealing connections between events and the actual process of personal transformation: "I was starting to understand that if I sat with my uncomfortable feelings, rather than abort them through drugs or action, the feelings themselves would become a gateway to myself. In the years to come, I was to learn that boredom and floundering are often calls to creativity and constitute a fertile soil from which inspiration can bloom."

One of the story's many themes becomes evident early on as new generations arrive and affect the narrator's course in life: "Isn't it amazing how values change, often in perfect tandem with self-interest?"

From early days of changes and attempts to balance professionalism with fun to the author's attempts to break free from traditional therapist/patient routines to achieve more meaningful dialogue and interactions, readers follow a life journey that delves into personal and professional anxiety, offers surreal moments spiced with self-assessments ("Having my assessment of the situation so concisely confirmed, including that the thought of fleeing wasn't beyond the pale, made me laugh - animosity was indeed loose in the room, it hadn't simply been a construction of my anxiety ridden mind."), and most of all, cover McCormack's realization that it's within his power and abilities to cultivate a good life against all odds.

Nary a life experience is left unexplored; from family violence and heartbreak to divorce, mental illness, and broader philosophical reflections on the nature of adversity: "Is the success of this family in growing authentic and resilient relationships despite or because of the trials and tribulations we've navigated together?"

Hatching Charlie is a moving, multifaceted exploration of the human condition through one man's volatile, changing life experiences. It is especially recommended for autobiography readers who appreciate blends of adventure and self-inspection that leads from youth to later years, embracing a sense of growth and evolution that's clearly tracked in the story of Charlie's 'hatching' process and emergence into a positive state of being.

The Shaman
David Nees
9781721169184, $12.95, Paper, $3.99, ebook

The Shaman is the second book in the Dan Stone Assassin Series and is especially recommended for prior fans who enjoyed the first book about Stone, a contract assassin for the CIA.

His current mission is to assassinate the head of the Sinaloa cartel, after which he will be extracted from the dangerous desert world inhabited by these enemies of the state. When his extraction fails, it's up to Stone to survive as an alien invader in a nest of vipers.

The safest choice is to flee into the desert, where he faces a prolonged but less predictable death, but when he meets a shaman who introduces him to spirit worlds against all his beliefs and experience, Dan finds himself on an unexpected journey indeed - and so do his readers. It turns out there is more to fear (and learn from) in the desert than encounters with scorpions, murderers, and odd birds.

This is just one of the many surprises in a story line that journeys from espionage and assassinations to spiritual realms: a move that adds a mystical mission and perspective to a story that takes Dan's feelings about his first mission (that was a 'throwaway mission' with him being an expendable element) and turns it into a revealing odyssey of self-discovery. Dan was warned to expect a bonus if his 'delivery' goes well. He didn't expect this.

Action is fast-paced between cartel intrigue and politics, Jane and Henry's efforts back home, and the espionage and intelligence work being conducted on the ground; but the meat of his journey really lies in encounters which take Dan into previously unexplored spiritual realms. His encounters with shaman Tlayolotl and this alien natural world are nicely portrayed both in dialogue and description: "I should turn you out to die in the desert. I thought you were the one. Maybe I am old and don't see so well. But you are the one who doesn't see well. You are blind. You try to remain blind while I try to give you sight."

There is little cut and dried or predictable about the story as Dan moves outside his familiar territory in more ways than one; and this search is what lends The Shaman a unique flavor that makes it a standout in comparison to other thrillers revolving around spies, terrorism, and international politics.

As Dan "grows his understanding of the world...of reality," readers receive a vivid series of encounters that takes Dan into the spiritual world and back again, where he employs some of his newfound perceptions and abilities as he continues to confront the cartel and many challenges to his survival and mission.

Drugs, traps, protection plans gone awry, and a more complex world than Dan had ever imagined coalesce to create a story that is rich in cultural exploration and spiritual probes, with satisfying thriller action throughout.

The result will especially satisfy readers who eschew formula writing and look for different elements in their thrillers. This audience will find The Shaman a solidly good read: action-packed, but with the kind of personal growth that keeps its characters alive, realistic, and compelling.

Hope in the Shadows of War
Thomas Paul Reilly
Koehler Books
9781633937024, $17.95, Softcover
9781633937048, $26.95, Hardcover
9781633937031, $5.99, ebook

Hope in the Shadows of War tells of Vietnam War veteran Timothy Patrick O'Rourke, who returns from battles that test his soul in 1973 to find even greater battles taking place on the home front.

His struggle to find meaning in his life as a vet seems futile as he carries the baggage of battle into his home. Even his girlfriend can't begin to help or understand as Timothy confronts bigger demons than enemies on the field.

Nightmares of bodies and death haunt his dreams while his waking life is plagued by shadows until he meets the mysterious Hoffen, who has been there, and come out the other side with some unique answers.

The many lessons he learns, from how overwhelming circumstances can be managed and are familiar to many to Hoffen's desire to study psychology to better understand and cope with a crazy world, all lead Timothy on an unexpected journey to recover his self, his purpose in life, and come to grips with the nightmares he carries with him, which are deep scars on his psyche.

Many novels have been written about the Vietnam vet experience; but few hold the compelling narrative style, intersections between characters on different paths to better lives, and insights about grieving, sorrow, joy, and the pursuit of a better life than Hope in the Shadows of War.

It carefully captures and winds together many issues intrinsic to veteran experience in a compelling read that stands out among the fictional chronicles of vets returning home to a different kind of survival or holding pattern.

The Benghazi Affair
Steven E. Wilson
H-G Books
9780982970706, $14.99

The Benghazi Affair is Book 3 of the Stone Waverly series about a retired CIA case officer who is satisfied with his life away from service, but finds his newfound jobs as a parent and teacher challenged by a call for him to return to service to lead a covert team into revolutionary Benghazi during the Arab Spring.

Six months away take a toll on his kids, especially coming out of the blue, just as they've adjusted to a new life and have started to rely on Waverly's presence. He envisions his job as a final assignment, after which he will never leave home again. Even when in the field, he longs to return to the life he's newly built and had to leave.

But his mission (to uncover and disable a terrifying weapon that could be used on American soil) will ensure that his family lives in a better world, and so he perseveres in an operation that could cost him everything, whether he succeeds or fails.

This no-win scenario is one of the strengths of a story that provides enough background to allow newcomers easy access to Waverly's personality, purposes, background, and dilemmas. It should be mentioned that torture scenes are part of the story line, but are presented in good taste, with just enough detail to prove riveting without being unduly graphic.

As Waverly faces vanished traitors, injury and captivity, torture, and the possibility that he could betray his own mission, readers become immersed in the world of jihadists, Libyan forces and revolutionaries, and a dilemma which threatens the lives of his children back home.

With so much at stake and so much tension delicately balanced in a compelling story of personal survival and political struggles, The Benghazi Affair creates a gripping story rooted in a real-world atmosphere and filled with powerful cat-and-mouse maneuvers between secret operatives and equally elusive psychological forces.

The result is a thriller that is hard to put down, highly recommended for readers who enjoy international espionage, strong characters, and a story line that is packed with action. The Benghazi Affair is guaranteed to enthrall prior readers as well as capturing new audiences with its pairing of high-octane action and a father's dilemma as he's caught between duty and being a good single parent.

New Horizons
Michael J. Farlow
Wolf Press, LLC
9780997312188, $12.95

New Horizons is Book 4 in the Host Saga series, and is especially recommended for prior readers of Galactic Force. Here humanity faces a devastating alien invasion but receives the gift of powerful technology from the Host who may have given them the one asset they need to survive.

Newcomers to the series should be advised that a prologue explains the background of the Host Saga and Van Childs and his forces, who are tasked with protecting humanity. The Galactic Host helps them, but keeps their distance and lets humanity solve its own problems. This prologue provides a succinct but thorough review and sets the stage for this latest book's action, thus requiring no prior familiarity in order to prove accessible.

As for the story itself, readers interested in military sci-fi and stories of interplanetary engagement will find plenty to like in a tale that pairs hard science descriptions about military weaponry and strategy ("The Enterprise was armed with a single plasma cannon and no missiles. There was also an old leftover weapon, twin projectile-throwing 30mm cannons that were seldom used as Galactic Force got more sophisticated. But this old and reconstructed ship still had them.") with strong dialogue, a fast-paced plot, and a saga that continues to unfold as hard work towards an eventual confrontation pays off.

Strategic assessments ("Reeb didn't want to engage any warship at this point. His forces were already spread thin, and the two small ships with him wouldn't do much against an armed opponent.") mix well with combat encounters, changing perceptions of good and bad guys in the face of piracy and sabotage, and efforts that are thwarted by forces within humanity as well as outside of it. Even more absorbing are the internal clashes within different factions representing humanity, over the question of how much control humanity should give up to the Host in exchange for their assistance. What, then, is the price of freedom? And are the costs of survival (lost dreams, innovations, and cultural values) too high to accept?

The moment-by-moment military clashes are well described ("Mia slumped in her chair. Eight was half what the combined ships should have fired.") and will especially delight military sci-fi fans who look for strategic assessments, cat-and-mouse action, and a sense of how the leaders of this universe struggle for their individual and collective purposes.

The result is an action-packed military sci-fi space opera thriller that pairs powerful dialogue and interpersonal relationships with an overlay of forces struggling to survive. This will delight readers who enjoy vivid stories of alien encounters and world-changing clashes.

B State: A New Roadmap for Bold Leadership, Brave Culture and Breakthrough Results
Mark Samuel
Greenleaf Book Group Press
9781626345694, $9.99, Kindle, $24.95, Hardcover

B State: A New Roadmap for Bold Leadership, Brave Culture and Breakthrough Results is directed to business and leadership readers interested in innovative measures for transformative thinking and actions, and considers the process of how leaders evolve and why they become stuck as 'A' players instead of moving forward.

Chapters follow how to move from 'stuck' to 'unstuck' in a variety of situations that illustrate process of growth and proactive engagement. Although B State focuses on organizational examples to explore such situations, its advice applies equally to individual as well as enterprise pursuits.

At this point, readers may think the message will come from yet another inspirational life coach viewpoint; but Mark Samuel creates a different perspective that, from the beginning, acknowledges common failures in similar-sounding routines: "In the individual A State, you cannot make your relationships work, find the job or career path that makes you happy, or maintain the diet/exercise regimen you swore to your friends and family - and doctor - you'd keep up to feel better. No matter how many personal-growth workshops you go to, how much "positive thinking" you employ, how many affirmations you dutifully write out, or how many life coaches, therapists, and gurus you follow, you just cannot seem to get out of your own way."

Having defined this 'A State' and its limitations, Samuel then defines the parameters of the 'B State' and discusses exactly how and why breakthroughs are possible there, incorporating his own journey, misconceptions, and growth and using them as case history examples of change: "I started giving credence to people's negative and positive energy flows. It was bit tricky at first to sort out whether someone's reaction is theirs or the result of someone else's negativity, but over the years I've gotten better at making those distinctions. It all comes down to awareness and practice."

His work with mission statements, organizational revamps, and most particularly, the challenges in the processes he developed ("We couldn't create a single Picture for the entire organization - no one could be accountable for that. We had to create it specifically for the SLT - the ones who would lead the hospital's survival - and only look for those mindsets, attitudes, and behaviors they would do differently to ensure that survival. No point picturing what they were already doing - that's what got them into where they were now!") are supplemented by summary quotes that lend to skimming and easy absorption.

Written for business managers, executives, and those who would become more effective leaders in any organizational structure, the author's 30-plus years of professional and academic expertise as an author, speaker, and change agent create dialogues that compliment ideals with actionable, concrete paths to achievement and success.

The result is the type of blueprint for change that should be welcomed by any business leader concerned about creating and enacting programs that hold real transformational opportunities for all involved.

Storm Island
Linda Watkins
Argon Press
9781944815073, $0.99, (eBook)
9781944815080, $15.97, (Print version)

Storm Island is the first book in a Kate Pomeroy series of mysteries, and opens with flashing lights and a dead body which comes with an additional puzzle: protagonist and neighbor Kate anticipates that she needs to be ready "when they come."

"They" is closely tied to present and past events. Surgical resident Kate has come to Storm Island to recover from a breakdown and face her memories of the past, but instead she comes to doubt their validity and her own sanity.

Further complicating matters is an unexpected romance and mystery on the island, which places Kate in both desirable and dangerous positions as she assesses her talents, reactions, history, and present-day threats.

Linda Watkins' ability to draw readers into a gripping mystery that involves psychological inspection, suspense, and drama rests firmly on strong characterization and Kate's first-person observations.

The juxtaposition of Kate's dreams and nightmares are nicely detailed and add a haunting element to the story line: "I was inside Stormview Manor, standing in the middle of the great room. How I had gotten there, I didn't know. It was still night, and all the electric lighting had somehow disappeared and been replaced by candles and oil lamps. The illumination from these outdated fixtures cast strange, flickering shadows in the cavernous room and I felt a finger of fear run down my spine as I watched them. What was I doing here?"

As Kate backtracks over past experiences and her mother's gruesome murder and tackles her changed life, she interacts with the island community, comes to learn about underlying social and political currents, and plans on bringing medicine to the island; an endeavor which would allow her to put down roots and stay.

When the unthinkable happens, she discovers her psychological history, medical training, and newfound world are built on fragile foundations indeed. Readers become immersed in unexpected possibilities that pit Kate not just against a murderer, but her own psyche and forces that would implicate her in a crime.

Dr. Kate Pomoroy's search for "happily ever after" just got more complicated in this involving story, an absorbing mix of cozy mystery with a dash of romance and psychological inspection creating just the right blend of suspense.

Janet McNulty
MMP Publishing
9781941488812, $19.99, Paper, $4.99, ebook

Enchained is Book 1 in a trilogy of the same name and tells of Noni, who has just become a member of the honored Martial Diplomatic Corps, an organization for top achievers tasked with visiting the maternity wards and taking the healthiest children from their mothers. These children (as was she) are raised in bunkers and are trained in the letter of the law.

Corps membership and becoming the "arbiter of Arel" is their pinnacle of achievement, but failure to pass this final test means death - and that's the position Noni is in at the novel's opening. She passes the test; but then the real challenge begins: observing her world with changed perceptions for the first time in her life.

Enchained is more than the story of a young girl's coming of age: it's a study on social abuse, reality checks, attacks, battles and struggles with the populace, and Noni's coming of age as she breaks with her military training and traditions to become cognizant of much greater issues and dilemmas.

Noni's process of realization, from her early confrontations with attackers holding weaponry they should not possess ("I follow her across the crosswalk to the inner wall and back to one of the stairwells that lead downward into my city, unable to shake this feeling that something is not right.") to struggles with her newfound role as arbiter representing a system she may ultimately not wish to support, documents the awakening of a girl rigidly trained to adhere to a particular social and political paradigm, and what it takes to introduce doubt and revelation into that mindset.

If this sounds complicated, be advised that Enchained is actually billed as young adult reading; so both mature teens and new adult readers will find it easily compelling and understandable on social, political, and psychological levels. Action and engagements are strengthened by the powerful character of Noni as she faces her ambitions and dreams.

Twists and turns of plot keep readers both on edge and involved, the outcomes of Noni's growth process are unpredictable on many levels, and readers of dystopian young adult works will find Enchained holds many bigger-picture moments that expands Noni's perceptions with insights into various forms of enslavement and the kinds of encounters that shake certainty and reality to its roots: "Our lives out here and at other outposts may seem rough and a bit uncouth to some, but this is our reality," Commandant Jensen explains. "Arel is the only place where civilization thrives."

Is Noni really tasked with bringing stability to her world, as is her perception and the ideal of her superiors; or is she part of the forces that would subjugate it?

Engrossing moral and ethical dilemmas, Noni's growth, and her journey create a compelling vision of what comprises humanity, enslavement, and freedom, making for a highly recommended saga that is original, absorbing, and nearly impossible to put down.

A Far Different Path
Michael Stone
Independently Published
9781732671300, $14.99

Ordering Link:

A Far Different Path is a historical novel based on a true story, set in 1918, when the Influenza Epidemic's second wave killed some 50 million people and changed the world, and focuses on Lucile Ball's changed life as she becomes a teacher in Michigan while awaiting her fiance's return from the Great War taking place overseas.

Michael Stone excels in capturing events through Lucile's eyes and experiences, bringing to life the often-dry facts of history and placing them in perspective: "I was not normally so absent-minded, but the week that unfolded just prior to climbing aboard that train left me no time to contemplate the actual trip. It all started with a late-night knock on the door of my family's farmhouse. A full day of threshing left us in the fields until dark and we had just sat down in the parlor, resting for the first time since sunrise."

Just how pervasive and deep these challenges will be are revealed in chapters that follow Lucile into her teaching job, missed communications with her soldier fiance (who has been wounded and possibly killed), and the world-changing specter of the Spanish flu, which kills healthy adults out of nowhere, in no time.

Charged with changing her life yet again to both survive and contribute to society under the worst of personal and social conditions, Lucile volunteers to care for those stricken with the flu, facing new challenges that make her transition into teaching seem like an easy choice, in comparison: "My sense of responsibility for the sixteen deathly ill people in our care was overwhelming - not unlike the feeling I had the first time I stepped into a classroom full of children, ready to learn mathematics. At least with teaching there were books to rely on and numbers especially had precise properties and followed logical functions. But with the epidemic, nothing made sense and there was no way to understand what was happening. Simply getting through it was the only possible goal after all."

This first-person observational piece about the flu's impact reaches beyond personal experience and boundaries. Lucile traverses this changed world with a sense of duty and concern that takes her own personal angst over a mounting stack of unopened letters to her missing loved one and transforms it into an opportunity for giving to others.

From letters from fiance Howard and their separate experiences of the Great War to relationship challenges with Thomas, Charlie, and the sense that everything is on a downhill trajectory that may never change ("It was desperately wanting to go home but refusing to give up. I'd been doing my best to cope with all of the strain and uncertainty, but I was close to breaking if there wasn't some sort of reprieve. Some sign that my world wasn't actually coming to an end."), Stone's ability to capture the wellspring of Lucile's courage, determination, and the methods by which she copes with not just one but many life-altering forces creates a moving story that brings the protagonist and her times to life.

Engrossingly realistic yet firmly rooted in facts, A Far Different Path is highly recommended reading not just for historical novel enthusiasts, but for anyone interested in how individuals overcome life challenges and changes to aid others in a world shaken to its foundations.

The Last Devadasi
Barbara L. Baer
Open Books
9781948598088, $16.95, Paper, $8.99, ebook

Picture contemporary India, where popular star Kamala Kumari is also a member of the Devadasi caste, an ancient cult operating in modern times, dedicated to having girls placed in South Indian temples to serve gods and men. Kamala's modern world seems to preclude such activities; but she becomes caught between tradition and romance in The Last Devadasi, a story set in the 1970s which follows Kamala's complicated triangle.

The first thing to note about this novel is that it is steeped in the sights, smells, and sounds of Indian culture. Powerfully written descriptions bring a sense of place and familiarity with Kumari's world into the average Westerner's home: "This neighborhood is called Thousand Lights. It is where the Mohammedan people live. There is a special sweet store here I have brought you to try, but first, let us have kabobs." Salome led her to a smoking grill where a man wearing a white cap was turning over sticks with meat on them. They paid two rupees for kabobs dripping with onions and vinegar. In the sweet shop, Salome ordered kulfi ice sweets. A boy, also wearing a white cap, handed them cold pale squares that appeared to be wrapped in silver paper, with tiny silver balls on top. "What is this? Do I remove the silver?" Celeste held the cold square in her hand. "No, you eat it all." She bit into the flat cake, icy almost slippery and tongue-tingling sweet. Pistachios crunched within the cool hardness. She almost swooned from the pleasure of it."

Another notable strength is Kumari's encounters with servant Celeste, Celeste's growing enlightenment about other lifestyles and choices, and the intersections between film star and everyday lifestyles.

The "old ways" are nicely juxtaposed against contemporary habits and thinking as the characters encounter, interact with one another, and are changed by these relationships and the new ideas they bring: "The Hindus are strange to me as well, as if I came from another country," Celeste said. "I have seen the very old and peaceful Souers who didn't fear death but they would have been terrified if in death their clothes were to be removed for all to see."

As each learns about the various cultures, spiritual, and social changes of India, their own experiences, expectations and backgrounds come into play as the plot winds through movie sets, Indian weddings and celebrations, hard-working Kamala's world, and the destiny and decisions she faces.

Each character brings a different angle into the story, from Kamala's relationship with Jules and the marriage taboo that keeps Kamala from a full relationship with him to classical dancer Tanjore Balasaraswati, a real, great South Indian dancer with whom Barbara L. Baer had personal acquaintance.

Readers seeking a story based in India but filled with flavors of past and present will find The Last Devadasi a powerful read that draws important, thought-provoking connections between spirituality, relationships between men and women, and the kinds of institutions that keep old beliefs alive; sometimes beyond their relevance to contemporary experience.

They Gathered As Unto Strife
Jeffrey W. Tenney
Whistle Creek Press
9780979633386, $13.95, paper, $2.99, ebook

They Gathered As Unto Strife is a poetic dramatization of the Civil War's second battle at Wilson's Creek, capturing events as they unfolded just prior to and during the Civil War. It provides an unusual focus and structure that captures battle experiences and facts, presenting them from the different perspectives of those involved.

This focus and art form allows for a deeper inspection of Civil War participants, creating fictional characters based on real people who represent an array of experiences and perceptions.

Take, for one example, the narrative poem from the viewpoint of soldier Simeon Taylor in 'The Thwarted': "In my seventeen years of field labor and dock work,/I had displayed no end of good health,/and a hardiness that shamed many of my fellows./How was it, then, that I fell before them, a casualty not of/war but of heat and exhaustion?/Was it that my sister had spurned the advances of this/sergeant and a year gone by brought that dullard's/revenge upon me?/I think not in the main. No, I had endured worse from/much better men./Regrettably, it was that leaden uniform, that tight, airless/weave about each limb and torso that exposed some/hidden frailty and delivered me to my doom."

The free verse allows for a thorough representation of experience without the need to conform rhyming, but it's the diversity of that experience which makes They Gathered As Unto Strife a standout.

It should be noted that in keeping with this diversity are representations of the experiences of women, from the opening story of seamstress Stella May Wheeler to the emotionally charged protest of Sarah James, 'truth teller' extraordinaire: "I made no uniforms for my sons./No need to wrap the bad will and thoughtless hubris/of the men in Jefferson City in fetching clothes./Would I bake a pie from the finest peaches/only to throw it against the outhouse wall?"

At times, the poetic structure seems to convert to prose, as in 'The Mingler': "How could it happen that we would find ourselves/standing into line with a company of the enemy army/and neither side knowing the other to be its foe?/True, they wore gray and appeared in all respects/as ragged and confused as our own boys. But we/were at the bottom of the hill - our ground. We had/just beaten back their assault in a most persuasive manner./How be it those Yankees could lose themselves so/completely as to stand hand by hand with us/and join with our formation?"

For the sake of diversity and exploration, these vignettes need of necessity remain loosely structured; and so readers anticipating conventional rhyme may find these accounts ill suited to poetry in the traditional sense.

Their literary, historical, and psychological value are, however, sterling; and readers with a prior interest in Civil War participants and perspectives will find no better attention to detail and the breadth of experience than They Gathered As Unto Strife which, more so than most other representations, attends to a depth of observation that brings the Civil War experience into modern understanding with an immediacy lacking in other dramatic or fictional approaches.

Peppered with evocative sketches throughout, these poems excel in capturing different voices, experiences, and observations and will prove especially accessible and key to an introductory study of the Civil War's impact on the lives of Northerner and Southerner alike.

Scarlet Reign: Malice of the Dark Witch
R.D. Crist
ShoRic Publishing
9780999882207, $2.99, eBook
9780999882214, $8.99, Paperback

Scarlet Reign: Malice of the Dark Witch tells of fourteen-year-old Natalie, who has just lost her mother and who retains only a mysterious ring that she carries with her and guards through her much-changed life and into a female orphanage, which brings with it bullies, threats, and further challenges.

Young adult fantasy readers ages 14 and older will appreciate this focus on dark times, the prophecies surrounding the rise of a new Scarlet Reign of heroines in a land which faces repression and domination, and Natalie's sacred ring and all that it promises.

As Natalie embarks on a journey far from anything she's experienced in her short years with her mother, she is visited by three women in red who give her the gifts of wisdom, health, and resilience.

From the death of a homeless woman/witch to Natalie's confrontation with Mrs. Haggle and her own danger, Scarlet Reign unfolds like the chess game that appears as part of the story line, with character moves and countermoves creating a powerfully evocative story of discovery and change, with a dash of romance that keeps Natalie on her toes and balancing between new opportunities and dangerous visions.

Throughout it all, her role in her own and the world's future remain uncertain, perilous, and subject to influences beyond her understanding.

What sets Scarlet Reign apart from other young adult fantasy reads is its attention to detail and insights not just about evolving goals and new understandings, but their costs and possibilities for gaining control. Natalie's lessons are nicely detailed ("The road to power requires hard work and discipline, just like any other field. And if it didn't, there'd hardly be any respect for the power you attain - again, just like any other field in life. The more power you want, the more work it takes to attain it."), creating a powerful story that is appealing on many levels, both psychologically and in terms of romance and adventure experiences.

Scarlet Reign is a complex, engrossing saga that is highly recommended for young adult fantasy readers seeking more than just a quest story: it's a tale of confrontation and achievement in a strange, changing world.

Carusi: The Shame of Sicily
Louis Romano
Vecchia Publishing
9781944906207, $16.95

Carusi: The Shame of Sicily represents a slice of life story about late 1800s Sicily and reviews the life of a young "carusi" miner who, at 5 years old, becomes an indentured servant and new head of his family when his father is killed in a mining accident. Aspanu leads a dangerous and demanding life in the small Sicilian mining town: one which holds him financially and emotionally in thrall.

Destined to work the mines to pay off family debt, Aspanu becomes caught up in the revolt of miners who have had enough of deadly working conditions and poverty, becoming embroiled in an uprising which threatens almost everything he holds dear in life.

Carusi is steeped in the sights, smells, and sounds of Sicily. It follows Aspanu's social and political awakening as he evolves from a poor miner into an activist. These moments embrace cultural, spiritual, and social traditions and impart a "you are there" feel to events, recreating bygone years and Sicily's atmosphere: "At dawn on Christmas morning, a small band traveled throughout the town playing Christmas songs in front of the votive niches, all decorated with fragrant bay leaves. The music sounded the commemoration of the birth of Jesus. Soon, the aroma of fresh baked bread and fried zeppoli, filled the small streets and alleys of Lercara. Aspanu and Carlo woke at five as usual. Carlo dressed, had his usual breakfast consisting of a cup of sheep's milk and some bread. Aspanu had some milk, a small piece of pecorino cheese and some olives from the family tree."

From overseer Modica's treatment of men who are beaten like animals to older beauty Nina Miceli's role as an attractive accomplice, Aspanu navigates this world and makes choices that, in only one day, change his life; crippling his friend, killing others, and granting him his greatest wish: freedom from the mines.

One might think that this story would paint a quick background of Sicily and then move to new opportunities in America for the remainder of Aspanu's story; but this powerful saga not only has its roots in Sicilian culture, but focuses and expands upon events that influence the course of Aspanu's values, choices, and life.

There is nothing hasty or singular about Louis Romano's novel, which takes the time to portray a myriad of social pressures, from labor issues, tragedies, and rapidly-dying townspeople, to carusi who dare to dream of forbidden love, freedom, and change.

Carusi: The Shame of Sicily is about shame, redemption, peasant uprisings, love and hate, and mafia roots and influences. No prior familiarity with Sicilian history and culture is needed in order to enjoy this vivid novel. Louis Romano presents all the background needed to absorb Aspanu's life and times and weaves a compelling saga of those who sell their souls to live and those who live to save their souls in a very highly recommended, compelling historical novel.

The Girls Are Gone
Michael Brodkorb & Allison Mann
Wise Ink Creative Publishing
9781634891653, $18.95

True crime fans interested in stories of missing kids will appreciate the riveting reenactment of events surrounding the disappearance of two teen sisters who vanished amidst their parents' divorce in The Girls Are Gone: The True Story of Two Sisters Who Vanished, the Father Who Kept Searching, and the Adults Who Conspired to Keep the Truth Hidden.

Most parents never stop searching for their missing child; but the intense feelings of these moments, days, and years are seldom captured as intimately as in this story, which features a countdown of events that begins with 497 days gone.

One would think that even with a divorce in the works, the estranged parents would join forces to locate their missing children. Father David Rucki, left with three remaining children at home with him, worked day and night with officials searching for his daughters. Mother Sandra Grazzini-Rucki traveled the world on holiday, eventually to disappear, herself.

Key events surrounding the intense search, its outcome, and the criminal charges filed against those responsible for the girls' disappearance assume the tense, dramatic atmosphere of a fictional piece as moment-by-moment experiences are detailed: "Back home that night, even with the three kids he did have at home - the ones he could see and hear and hug - the house felt just a little emptier. The hole in his heart was getting bigger. All he wanted was for his girls to come home. He wanted them and their stuff back where they belonged, not boxed up, not . . . God only knew where. He wanted them home."

By focusing on the daily experiences and challenges of living under the gun with uncertain results from an increasingly despairing search, Michael Brodkorb and Allison Mann capture the moments that grabbed David Rucki's heart and mind, penning them in a way which audiences can not only understand and relate to, but in a manner that proves nearly impossible to put down.

True crime stories relate facts and events; but superior accounts grab the reader's heart. The Girls Are Gone achieves this as it portrays the bigger issues of parental responsibility, kidnapping, child endangerment, and legal investigations.

Another big plus: The Girls Are Gone isn't just narrated from the father's perspective. The authors met during the criminal trial surrounding the case. Allison worked at a law firm representing David Rucki while Michael was working for the Star Tribune at the time, covering the story as the case developed. Their observations and input about these processes are invaluable as the story unfolds from different perspectives, adding a layer of reporting that explains and explores court procedures, kidnapping issues, and parental rights on both sides.

The result is far more complex than the usual singular individual's experience, offering a probe into a conspiracy to hide the truth and manipulate the lives of all involved as a courtroom case spirals out of control and divides a family.

As true crime and kidnapping stories go, The Girls Are Gone is head and shoulders above most others, probing a network of crime and the impact of hidden truths that will leave readers thinking long past the conclusion.

It took a village to gather all the information to write this book. The Girls Are Gone should be on the reading lists of anyone interested in not just true crime stories of kidnapped children, but accounts of desperation and the bravery of survivors who come forth to tell their stories to change the world.

Page 6 And Beyond
Hureen Gandhi
Amazon Digital Services
B07FDYQ8ZR, $8.99, Kindle, $10.99, Paperback

Amazon India:

It's important to note that Page 6 and Beyond: Let's Stir the Pot is not an autobiography in the usual sense of the word. It's a satirical observation of an Indian girl living in Northern Virginia who grows up in a volatile and strange world, and it captures the nuances and eclectic experiences of classmates in a manner reminiscent of the Page 6 gossip section of the New York Post that shared news, pop culture, and gossip, pairing them with visual embellishments.

Hureen Gandhi became, in effect, the CEO of this mission to share gossip and lives, and her account documents these stories as it fluctuates between her past and present worlds and creates a roller coaster of experience that brings readers along for a rollicking social and cultural inspection.

The first thing to note about Page 6 and Beyond's approach is that although its roots lie in real-world encounters and experiences, these events are narrated with a dash of satire, and some names have been changed (often with humorous descriptions embedded in them, such as 'Ms. Lady Half') to protect the innocent.

The second note is that there's nothing innocent about this high spirited exploration. Gandhi embarks on a series of revelations designed to entertain, enlighten, and provoke laughter and shame-faced self-recognition among readers. One doesn't have to be familiar with her life, times, or area in order to appreciate full-faceted vignettes that are peppered with fun illustrations throughout and which focus on the individuals, purposes, and perspectives of a diverse SXH School WhatsApp group of friends.

From the 'rules' of the newly-formed Page 6 group to headline stories revolving around family and friends, intersections between Indian and American cultures, and the evolution of an online class community where messages spark debates, confrontations, and influence close-knit relationships, Page 6 and Beyond excels in capturing the nuances and ironies of daily lives and provides slices of these lives to a wide audience.

The back-and-forth postings and responses reminiscent of texting (but with more detail and better spelling) will particularly appeal to generations who enjoy their drama and observations in digestible snippets of information.

Whether it's obtaining guidance on morals and values for youngsters or the fundamental tenants of a democratic society and how social and political lines are crossed, examined, and formed, Gandhi in effect creates a lively dialogue that will encourage readers to consider their own cultural influences, dialogues and interactions with peers and elders. This leads to a closer inspection of these influences on their evolving lives, whether they are political, social, or psychological.

How Gandhi gets her group to submit stories and create dialogues around them and how Page 6 evolves is just as much a part of the bigger picture surrounding this book's evolution as the details of her life as she explores her Indian heritage, influences, and traditions.

The result is hard to easily categorize: neither strictly autobiography in the usual sense nor social observation in the typical dispassionate, analytical manner, Page 6 and Beyond is quite simply a treasure trove of cultural enlightenment. It takes a group of peers, gathers their stories, and uses a storyteller's gift for drama to bring everything together. It's a comedic gossip piece that provides important revelations about interpersonal interactions, life choices, and the process of forming and managing connections.

Readers who enjoy personal stories of Indian/American culture and interactions between generations will appreciate Page 6 and Beyond for its unique voice, multifaceted observations, and spunky, lively writing style that places it within reach of all readers regardless of age, ethnicity, or political direction.

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

Dunford's Bookshelf

Eleven Miles to Oshkosh
Jim Guhl
University of Wisconsin Press
1930 Monroe Street, Third Floor, Madison, WI 53711-2059
9780299319106, $24.95, HC, 312pp,

Synopsis: As the Vietnam War grinds on and the Nixon presidency collapses, Del "Minnow" Finwick's small world in Wisconsin has blown apart. His father, a deputy sheriff, has been murdered by the unknown "Highway 41 Killer." His mom has unraveled. And a goon named Larry Buskin has been pummeling Minnow behind Neenah High.

Minnow finds support in the company of his roguish grandfather, his loyal pal Mark, and beautiful Opal Parsons, who has her own worries as the first African American student in their school. When the sheriff seems in no hurry to solve the murder, Minnow must seek justice by partnering with unlikely allies and discovering his own courage.

Critique: Deftly written by an author with a genuine flair for originality and character driven narrative storytelling, "Eleven Miles to Oshkosh" by Jim Guhl is an inherently compelling read from beginning to end. With more twists and turns than a carnival roller coaster, this unfailingly entertaining novel is an especially recommended addition to community library Mystery/Suspense collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Eleven Miles to Oshkosh" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Theophrastus Characters
James Romm, author
Andre Carrilho, illustrator
Pamela Mensch, translator
Callaway Arts & Entertainment
9780935112375, $24.95, HC, 112pp,

Synopsis: Written by James Romm, illustrated by Andre Carrilho, and expertly translated into English for an American readership by Pamela Mensch, "Theophrastus' Characters: An Ancient Take on Bad Behavior" outlines 30 different characters, with each one crystallizing a human flaw that all readers will immediately recognize.

"Theophrastus Characters" is a humorous survey of failings, follies, and bad behavior taken straight off the streets of Athens and brought into our everyday fraught and divisive social and political scene.

"Theophrastus' Characters" transports the reader into a world populated by figures of flesh and blood, not bronze and marble. The wry, inventive drawings help invoke the cankered wit of this most modern of ancient texts. Lightly but helpfully annotated, these thirty thumbnail portraits are startlingly recognizable twenty-three centuries later. The characters of Theophrastus are archetypes of human nature that remain insightful, caustic, and above all -- relevant.

Critique: An inherently absorbing, deftly crafted, and wonderfully entertaining read that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Theophrastus' Characters: An Ancient Take on Bad Behavior" is unreservedly recommended for personal, community, college, and university library collections.

Below Freezing: Elegy for the Melting Planet
Donald Anderson
University of New Mexico Press
1 University of New Mexico, Albuquerque NM 87131-0001
9780826359834, $24.95, PB, 176pp,

Synopsis: Despite the well founded propaganda put out by the petroleum industry and the politicians they have bribed, climate change is a reality and it is now here.

"Below Freezing: Elegy for the Melting Planet" by Donald Anderson (who is the Director of the Creative Writing Program at the US Air Force Academy) moves beyond misery and misunderstanding to take a literary approach to the debate.

"Below Freezing" is a unique assemblage of scientific fact, newspaper reports, and excerpts from novels, short stories, nonfiction, history, creative nonfiction, and poetry -- a commonplace book for our era of altering climate. This polyphony of voices functions as an oratorio, shifting from chorus to solo and back to chorus. An unconventional and brilliant approach to the subject of climate change, "Below Freezing" is both timely and pertinent -- an original gaze at this melting ball we call home.

Critique; An inherently absorbing and impressively informative approach to the subject of climate change, "Below Freezing: Elegy for the Melting Planet" should be considered mandatory reading for those to whom the human involvement with our globally changing climate has been charged as a hoax, and will prove to be exceptionally helpful contribution to our on-going national dialogue on the subject. While an absolute 'must' for community and academic library Environmental Studies collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Below Freezing" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $24.95).

John E. Fetzer and the Quest for the New Age
Brian C. Wilson
Wayne State University Press
4809 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, MI 48201-1309
9780814345306, $34.99, HC, 344pp,

Synopsis: "John E. Fetzer and the Quest for the New Age" by Brian C. Wilson (Professor of American Religious History in the Department of Comparative Religion at Western Michigan University) follows the spiritual sojourn of John E. Fetzer, a Michigan business tycoon.

Born in 1901 and living most of his life in Kalamazoo, Fetzer parlayed his first radio station into extensive holdings in broadcasting and other enterprises, leading to his sole ownership of the Detroit Tigers in 1961. By the time he died in 1991, Fetzer had been listed in Forbes magazine as one of the four hundred wealthiest people in America. And yet, business success was never enough for Fetzer-his deep spiritual yearnings led him from the Christianity of his youth to a restless exploration of metaphysical religions and movements ranging from Spiritualism, Theosophy, Freemasonry, UFOology, and parapsychology, all the way to the New Age as it blossomed in the 1980s.

In "John E. Fetzer and the Quest for the New Age", Professor Wilson demonstrates how Fetzer's quest mirrored those of thousands of Americans who sought new ways of thinking and being in the ever-changing spiritual movements of the twentieth century. Over his lifetime, Fetzer's world view continuously evolved, combining and recombining elements from dozens of traditions in a process he called "freedom of the spirit".

Unlike most others who engaged in a similar process, Fetzer's synthesis can be documented step by step using extensive archival materials, providing readers with a remarkably rich and detailed roadmap through metaphysical America. "John E. Fetzer and the Quest for the New Age" also documents how Fetzer's wealth allowed him to institutionalize his spiritual vision into a thriving foundation-the Fetzer Institute-which was designed to carry his insights into the future in hopes that it would help catalyze a global spiritual transformation.

"John E. Fetzer and the Quest for the New Age" offers a window into the rich and complex history of metaphysical religions in the Midwest and the United States at large. It will be read with interest by those wishing to learn more about this enigmatic Michigan figure, as well as those looking for an engaging introduction into America's rapidly shifting spiritual landscape.

Critique: A uniquely detailed, comprehensive, and inherently fascinating work of biographical scholarship, "John E. Fetzer and the Quest for the New Age" is deftly crafted, impressively informative, and simply extraordinary read from beginning to end. While very highly recommended for both community and academic library 20th Century American Biography collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "John E. Fetzer and the Quest for the New Age" is also available in an inexpensive digital book format (Kindle, $0.99).

Michael Dunford

Gary's Bookshelf

King of the Weeds
Mickey Spillane & Max Allan Collins
Titan Books
c/o Titan Publishing Group Ltd
97810857686788, $7.99, www,

Mike Hammer, Mickey Spillane's most famous character is back in another great mystery in "King of the Weeds." Originally intended to be the last of the character, Spillane never finished it as well as a large body of works. Max Allan Collins who collaborated with Spillane was commissioned to finish many of the unfinished works. With "King of the Weeds' Collins has remained faithful to the original style of Spillane with a Mike Hammer who is much older in age but just as hard boiled as ever. "King of the Weeds" is a great addition to the series.

Plaisted Publishing House Presents A Treasure Chest of Children's Stories
Plaisted Publishing House
9781387561063, $11.20,

12 authors works are offered in the collection "A Treasure Chest of Children's Stories." 2 are written in the poetic form while 10 others are presented in prose structure. Among the outstanding pieces are "the Mermaid and the Genie" where a genie is asked a question of what he would wish for if it could be granted to him. "A Glass of Orange Juice" reveals how important one glass of the juice can affect a person's life many years later. "Dragon Meets Treacle" is where a dragon learns his fate in life. My only problems with the book are I would have like to know who the editor of the collection is as well as bios about each author that is common in other short story collections. "A Treasure Chest of Children's Stories is filled with many different talented writers who are together for the first time in a grand collection for any age to enjoy.

The Dolls
James Patterson with Kecia Bal
c/o Little Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group
1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104
978031646777, $5.99

Lana Wallace an investigative reporter delves into her most complex story of prominent men being murdered. What she finds is the most unique piece she has ever delved into because the killers are not human. "The Dolls" is another surefire page turner of suspense that is also science fiction.

So Many Doors
Oakley Hall
Hard Case Crime
c/o Titan Publishing Group Ltd
978178565688, $9.95, www,

Hard Case Crime has a winner on its hands with "So Many Doors" that is not just a good mystery novel but also a well written study of human nature. Out of print for 60 years this is the first appearance anywhere that is well worth the time of any reader who wants a flawless story to get immersed in that will keep the pages turned until the very end. Beginning with a man on death row for the murder of a woman who is ready to end his life. "So Many Doors" then goes back to show how he ended up there. The characters are flawed as the writer moves the story along to a satisfying conclusion. Hall is an author who has been very hard to find and "So Many Doors" is a gem of a novel that should be on everyone's list to read and enjoy in a timeless plot that unfolds slowly.

Straight Outta Tombstone
Edited by David Boop
Baen Books
PO Box 1188, Wake Forest NC 27588
9781481483490, $7.99, www,

Boop has come up with "Straight Outta Tombstone" that combines two genres in a fantastic group of stories by some of the best science fiction, fantasy writers producing works today. Taking readers into realms never thought of before the tales add new life to western fare with aliens with six guns and lots of other things that only can be found in science fiction. Some of the authors are Alan Dean Foster, Jody Lynn Nye, Sarah A. Hoyt, Kevin J. Anderson, Michael A Stackpole, and Jim Butcher to name a few. "Straight Outta Tombstone" hopefully is the first of a series of collections of this type of story.

Out of This World Ideas and the Inventions They Inspired
Edward M. Wysocki, Jr.
Create Space
4900 LaCross Road, North Charleston SC 29406
9781724654038, $17.99,

Over the years debates have taken place about where things we take for granted ever came from. "Out Of this World Ideas And the Inventions They Inspired" begins to settle the discussion by showing if and how science fiction influenced inventors to create many devices and things we use every day. Some of the revelations are did "Star Trek" play a role in the creation of the cell phone, GPS, and clear metal as brought out in Trek movie 4? Wysocki also reveals where and how the waterbed was created while he also shows authors of science fiction who were also scientists and what they contributed to the world besides their writing. Like his other two books Wysocki has a writing style that is clear to understand as if he is talking directly to the reader. "Out Of This World Ideas And the Inventions They Inspired' is fascinating reading for all science friction fans proving with it's impressive cover how important it is to catch a person's interest to want to enter the work in question Hopefully this will be a series that will delve further into other things and what helped them to be created.

AJ & Magnus Night of the Roach
Bryan Steel
Illustrated by Simon Steel
Privately Published
9780692239, $19.99,

Normally readers can find the AJ & Magnus comic strip on many different social media outlets. "AJ& Magnus Night of the Roach" is the first collection of three volumes that can appear to a larger audience. With the world filled with so much negativity it is wonderful to have characters who have readers laughing out loud at their antics. Some may find some of the material offensive but that is really their problem as there are too many things today to find fault with. Instead people should sit down and cruise through the fun filled stories. "AJ & Magnus Night of the Roach" is a beautifully done job of storytelling and illustration that should find new readers.

The Little Giant Book of Jokes
Joseph Rosenbloom
Illustrated by Sanford Hoffman
Sterling Publishing
387 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10016
9780806961019, $17.99,

Every so often publisher flood the market with joke books of all kinds. Some are very good while others can be very distasteful. I am very pleased to say "The Little Giant Book of Jokes" is filled with all kinds of corny but hilarious side-splitting ones. There are ones about the wild west, doctors and patients, hospitals, law and order and sports are just some of the topics. Here is an example, "what did one caveman say to the other caveman? BC'ing you." "the Little Giant Book of Jokes" is the perfect gift for any occasion.

Three Friends Limeade
Brittney Kempink
Illustrated by Roger Luzardo
Richter Publishing
9781945812453, $15.00,

A long-held statement is so true with "Three Friends Limeade" "write what you know." Brittney Kempink teaches courses on business, so now she takes that knowledge and passes it on to kids on ways to make money at their age. She shows what it takes to get something up and running and keep it going. There are several interesting characters as they learn the product and how to market it. "Three Friends Limeade" is a beautifully told tale that all ages can enjoy for a long time.

Tomie dePaola
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781481477543, $17.99,

A grandfather takes his grandkids on an excursion into the animal world to teach them that there is a time and place to be rushing around but also one to relax. Tomie dePaola is a multitalented story teller as he also did the illustrations of "Quiet." Though "Quiet" is a children's book it has a great message to adults to take time for themselves to unwind from the hustle bustle of everyday life.

Gary Roen
Senior Reviewer

Gorden's Bookshelf

Soldier Son
D.K. Holmberg
Amazon Digital Services LLC
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
01MS90OZH, $2.99, ebook, 315 pages
9781544772172, $12.99 paper

Soldier Son is a very well written first chapter in a fantasy saga. The world building and depth of the characters created indicate a very good tale.

Endric is the second son of the general of the Denraen. As the second son, he feels neglected and pushes himself and others too far. His older brother, who Endric is closer to than his father, is killed in an attack to the south of the city. To revenge his brother, Endric tries to push his father, the general, to attack the people who killed his brother. His father disciplines him instead and Endric rebels. The crisis becomes worse as more attacks happen within the city and each time Endric discovers more about the attackers and gets in more trouble with his father. Endric knows his anger and youthful impatience is holding him back but can he control himself long enough to survive the growing threat.

The Soldier Son is an easy recommendation as a first book in a fantasy sword and sorcerer style saga. But it is the first book and the majority of the storyline is left hanging at the end of the book. There are possible weaknesses in the storyline but with this obviously being the first chapter in a larger tale those potential weaknesses might be easily fixed in later books.

Starship Conquest
David VanDyke
Amazon Digital Services LLC
Reaper Press
B00ROC6600, $0.00, ebook, 225 pages
9781626260566, $TBA paper

Starship Conquest is a classic style SF military space opera. It hits all the correct notes for a rich complex storyline with solid details and characters. There is a significant weakness. Any fictional science fiction story has to balance the science with the fiction. The balance here is tilted for the story to read closer to a World War II Pacific battle novel and less adjustment to actual physics. Normally in a space opera the scientific misses are easier to ignore but Starship tries hard to ground the story with reasonable science so when it drifts into obvious fantasy it is an abrupt enough shift to pull the scientific literate reader out of the tale.

Earth has been attacked by an alien empire who wants to absorb and control the life on Earth. After decades of fighting, Earth survives and is trying to fight back against the aliens by invading a nearby world already under their control. The earth battle fleet is massive with hundreds of thousands of individuals in stasis. For the lengthy journey the battleships are mated together into one large ship. It will break apart into various battleships, troop carriers and fighters before contact with the alien defenders. The aliens have control of a whole solar system and the ability to organically grow new fighting ships in a very short period of time. The opposing forces are evenly matched and only the skill and luck will decide the day.

Starship Conquest is an easy recommendation for anyone interested in a military space opera. It is a solid SF tale. It has weaknesses but overall they are easy to ignore. Starship Conquest is in the middle of a larger series of books building around a genetic plague and alien invasion. The characters and storyline obviously references earlier stories but there are more than enough details to read this book as a standalone. It also introduces a sub-series in this larger saga.

S.A. Gorden, Senior Reviewer

Greenspan's Bookshelf

Down from the Trees
Ralph D. Hermansen
Apple Academic Press
c/o CRC Press
6000 NW Broken Sound Parkway NW, Suite 300, Boca Raton, FL 33487
9781771887335, $99.95, HC, 422pp,

Synopsis: "Down from the Trees: Man's Amazing Transition from Tree-Dwelling Ape Ancestors" by Ralph D. Hermansen covers the evolution of man from tree-dwelling ape to Homo sapiens as he is today.

Using easy-to-read language and including the most up-to-date research, "Down from the Trees" takes complex, jargon-filled material and extracts the essence of the topic and coveys it in a clear and engaging manner as it approaches the subject of human evolution from three different disciplines: fossil evidence and its interpretation, evolutionary theory and its applicability, and genetic evidence and its ability to unlock prehistoric information.

There is nothing more interesting to humans than the story of their origins. The evolutionary process of a tree-dwelling ape becoming a walking, talking man who has developed the technology to walk on the moon, transplant hearts, or modify living things is no trivial story. "Down from the Trees" provides a fascinating and comprehensive view of what science has learned of human evolution.

Critique: Exceptionally well researched, written, organized and presented, "Down from the Trees: Man's Amazing Transition from Tree-Dwelling Ape Ancestors" is an extraordinary read that is enhanced for academia with the inclusion of a ten page Bibliography and a sixteen page Index. While unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Anthropology collections in general, and Human Evolution supplemental studies lists in particular, it should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Down from the Trees" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $43.41).

Revolutionary Threads
Bobby Sullivan
Akashic Books
232 Third Street, #A115, Brooklyn, NY 11215
9781617756559, $15.95, PB, 228pp,

Synopsis: "Revolutionary Threads: Rastafari, Social Justice, and Cooperative Economics" offers an American Rasta's retelling of episodes in American history with an anticolonial thrust, accented by Bobby Sullivan's own personal experiences.

"Revolutionary Threads" ties together various subjects while returning each time to the culture of Rastafari, social justice movements, and cooperative economics.

From how we perceive history in general, America's precolonial past, and global capitalism's early development and the resistance to it, to political prisoners and a celebration of religious tolerance, "Revolutionary Threads" approaches North America with an African-centrical perspective.

With "Revolutionary Threads", Sullivan aims to dispel the oversimplification of our perceptions of Rastafari, as well as other cultures, in the age of the Internet, where the loudest voices are often the most extreme and divisive. "Revolutionary Threads" aptly serves as a unifying agent for our all-too-connected global village, and for the resistance to the consolidation of global capital and all its excesses.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Revolutionary Threads: Rastafari, Social Justice, and Cooperative Economics" is a groundbreaking study that is enhanced for academia with the inclusion of an appendix (Rastafari Historical Time Line), and a nine page bibliography. While unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Political Science, Contemporary Social Issues, and Rasafari Studies collections, it should be noted for students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Revolutionary Threads" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.15).

Aesthetic Theory, Abstract Art, and Lawrence Carroll
David Carrier
Bloomsbury Press
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 315, New York, NY 10010
9781350009561, $114.00, HC, 224pp,

Boldly developing the central traditions of American modernist abstraction, Lawrence Carroll's paintings engage with a fundamental issue of aesthetic theory, the nature of the medium of painting, in highly original, frequently extraordinarily successful ways.

"Aesthetic Theory, Abstract Art, and Lawrence Carroll" by David Carrier (who is a former Getty Scholar, Clark Fellow, and Senior Fellow at the National Humanities Center, and has been a lecturer in Beijing and at Princeton University) explains how Carroll's understands the medium of painting; shows what his art says about the identity of painting as an art; discusses the place of his paintings in the development of abstraction; and, finally, offers an interpretation of his art.

The first monograph devoted to Lawrence Carroll, this philosophical commentary by Carrier employs the resources of analytic aesthetics.

Art historians trace the development of art, explaining how what came earlier yields to what comes later. Taking for granted that the artifacts they describe are artworks, art historians place them within the history of art.

Philosophical art writers define art, explain why it has a history and identify its meaning. Pursuing that goal, "Aesthetic Theory, Abstract Art, and Lawrence Carroll" roams freely across art history, focused at some points on the story of old master painting and sometimes on the history of modernism, but looking also to contemporary art, in order to provide the fullest possible philosophical perspective on Carroll's work.

Critique: A seminal work of simply outstanding scholarship, "Aesthetic Theory, Abstract Art, and Lawrence Carroll" is enhanced for academia with the inclusion of figures, plates, selected solo and group exhibitions, selected public and private collections, an eleven page listing of references, and a three page index. While very highly recommended for community, college, and university library Art History collections in general, and Lawrence Carroll supplemental studies lists in particular, it should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Aesthetic Theory, Abstract Art, and Lawrence Carroll" is also available in a digital book format (eTextbook, $102.60).

Uncompromising Honor
David Weber
Baen Books
PO Box 1188, Wake Forest NC 27588
9781481483506, $28.00, HC, 784pp,

Synopsis: The Solarian League's navy counts its superdreadnoughts by the thousands. Not even its own government knows how enormous its economy truly is. And for hundreds of years, the League has borne the banner of human civilization, been the ideal to which humanity aspires in its diaspora across the galaxy.

But the bureaucrats known as the "Mandarins," who rule today's League, are not the men and women who founded it so long ago. They are corrupt, venal, accountable to no one . . . and they've decided the upstart Star Kingdom of Manticore must be destroyed.

Honor Harrington has worn the Star Kingdom's uniform for half a century and served her monarch and her people well. In the course of those years, the woman the newsies call the Salamander has grown from a tactically brilliant but politically naive junior officer to supreme fleet command and a seat on the highest military and political councils of the Grand Alliance.

Very few people know war the way Honor Harrington does. Very few have lost as many men and women, as many friends, as much family, as she has. Yet despite that, hers has been a voice of caution. She knows the Mandarins and the Solarian League Navy are growing increasingly desperate as the truth of their technological inferiority sinks home, but she also knows the sheer size of the League. And she knows how its citizens will react if the Grand Alliance takes the war to the League, attacks its star systems, destroys its infrastructure... kills its civilians. Today's victory, bought on those terms, can only guarantee a future war of revenge against a resurgent Solarian League and its navy.

Honor knows the Grand Alliance must find a victory that doesn't require incursions deep into Solarian space, doesn't leave a legacy of bottomless hatred, and the strategy she supports has been working.

The League is sliding towards inglorious defeat as it steadily loses ground in the Protectorates and the Verge. As its central government teeters towards bankruptcy and even some of its core systems opt to secede in the face of the Mandarins' corruption. As the Solarian Navy finally realizes it cannot face an Alliance battle fleet and win.

But the Mandarins have embraced a desperate new strategy, and in pursuit of that strategy, the SLN has committed atrocities such as the galaxy has not known in a thousand years. The League have violated its own Eridani Edict against mass civilian casualties, violated the Deneb Accords prohibition on war crimes.

And they have finally killed too many of the people Honor Harrington loves.

Hers is the voice of caution and compromise no longer, and the galaxy is about to see something it has never imagined.

The Salamander is coming for the Solarian League, and Hell is coming in her wake.

Critique: The latest addition to David Weber's simply outstanding Honor Harrington saga, "Uncompromising Honor" will prove to be an immediately and enduringly popular addition to community library Science Fiction collections. A 'must read' selection for the legions of Honor Harrington fans it should be noted that "Uncompromising Honor" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Able Greenspan

Helen's Bookshelf

Kelly Huegel Madrone
Free Spirit Publishing
6325 Sandburg Road, Suite 100, Minneapolis, MN 55427-3674
9781631983023, $16.99, PB, 272pp,

Synopsis: Now in a newly updated and expanded third edition, "LGBTQ: The Survival Guide for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Teens" by Kelly Huegel Madrone is the indispensable resource for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning teens, their friends, family members, and allies within the gay community.

"LGBTQ: The Survival Guide for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Teens" includes current information on LGBTQ terminology, evolving understandings of gender identity and sexual identity, LGBTQ rights, and so much more, including advice on such topics as coming out, confronting prejudice, getting support, making healthy choices, and thriving in school and beyond.

Resources point the way to books and websites with more information, and quotes from LGBTQ teens (and allies) share stories of personal experiences. Created with input from PFLAG, GLSEN, GLAAD, and others, "LGBTQ: The Survival Guide for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Teens" was written specifically for young people who are beginning to question their sexual orientation or gender identity, those who are ready to work for LGBTQ rights, and those who may need advice, guidance, or reassurance that they are not alone.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "LGBTQ: The Survival Guide for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Teens" is a vitally important, unreservedly recommended, and thoroughly 'reader friendly' addition for highschool and community library collections, and the personal reading lists of any teenager struggling with gender identity issues.

Born Criminal
Angelica Shirley Carpenter
South Dakota Historical Society Press
900 Governors Drive, Pierre, SC 57501-2217
9781941813188, $19.95, HC, 272pp,

Synopsis: Radical, feminist, writer, suffragist Matilda Joslyn Gage (March 24, 1826 - March 18, 1898) changed the course of history. She fought for equal rights not dependent on sex, race, class, or creed.

Yet her name has faded into obscurity. She is forgotten when her comrades, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, are celebrated.

To explain this historical lapse into having been a forgotten voice in the women's suffrage movement, librarian and author Angelica Shirley Carpenter explores Gage's life in the pages of "Born Criminal: Matilda Joslyn Gage, Radical Suffragist", including her rise and fall within the movement she helped build.

Critique: A deftly written and seminal work of simply outstanding scholarship, "Born Criminal: Matilda Joslyn Gage, Radical Suffragist" is enhanced for academia with the inclusion of twenty-eight pages of Notes, a twelve page Annotated Bibliography; four pages of Questions, four pages of Activities, a four page Author Interview, and an eleven page Index, Impressively informed and informative, "Born Criminal" is unreservedly recommended for highschool, community, college, and university library 19th Century American Biography and Women's Suffrage History collections, as well as the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the heretofore forgotten life of a truly remarkable woman who help shaped American political culture to what it is today.

Kawaii Doodle Cuties
Pic Candle
Race Point Publishing
c/o Quarto Publishing Group USA
400 First Avenue North, Suite 400, Minneapolis, MN 55401-1722
9781631065682, $19.99, PB, 144pp,

Synopsis: Pic Candle is the online handle for Zainab Khan, whose doodle journey began in 2013, when she started making YouTube videos that demonstrated her love for drawing cute, random characters. Today, the Pic Candle YouTube channel has over 570,000 subscribers and more than 31 million views.

The Japanese word kawaii translates to "cute," and "Kawaii Doodle Cuties: Sketching Super-Cute Stuff from around the World" is how-to book is comprised of super-adorable images from favorite spots around the globe. Ranging from animals and nature to fashion and food, "Kawaii Doodle Cuties" shows how to draw cute artwork from countries all over the world!

Aspiring doodlers will learn how to draw a cute Eiffel Tower and kawaii macarons from Paris. Master how to draw natural beauty like Holland's stunning tulips and monuments like the Taj Mahal in India. Or sketch fashion fun with a cute K-pop skirt from South Korea or a kimono from Japan. The simple, step-by-step illustrations and instructions make drawing these characters perfect for beginner artists or anyone who wants to add a heaping spoonful of cute to their art.

Critique: Providing hours and hours of doodling fun, inspiration, and skill development, "Kawaii Doodle Cuties: Sketching Super-Cute Stuff from around the World" is especially and unreservedly recommended for anyone who enjoys doodling. It should be noted that "Kawaii Doodle Cuties: Sketching Super-Cute Stuff from around the World" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.71).

Cristina Mittermeier
teNeues Publishing
350 Seventh Avenue, Suite 301, New York, NY, 10011
9783961711246, $95.00, HC, 256pp,

Synopsis: Cristina Mittermeier is a professional marine biologist and a photographer who combines her work behind the lens with her passion for environmentalism. Her dedicated mission is to take pictures around the world as a means of exploring our relationship to the earth and to the ocean, thereby drawing attention to both the beauty and the plight of planet Earth.

In "Amaze", Mittermeier elicits our wonder and awe at the natural world and the labyrinth or "maze" of navigating a sustainable existence as it combines two series of images: "Enoughness" and "The Water's Edge."

"Enoughness" draws out Mittermeier's philosophy for a mindful and sustainable way of being in the world. Bringing together photographs from some of the most isolated corners of the earth, "Amaze' shows wild animals, remote landscapes, and indigenous peoples -- challenging the cult of material wealth and proposing alternatives for a meaningful and sustainable connection to our environment, each other, and ourselves.

In "The Water's Edge," Mittermeier presents photographs from around the globe that capture the frontier between land and ocean and the special meaning it has for human life. Whether it is fishermen bringing in their daily haul, women washing laundry in the shallows, or surfers frolicking in the spray, the water's edge is revealed as an integral and universal space in which ephemeral moments reveal not only our common dependency on the planet, but also our common humanity.

Critique: An truly impressive compendium of superbly reproduced and enduringly memorable images, "Amaze" is an extraordinary collection of photographs and supportive commentary, making it an ideal and highly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library Nature Photography collections.

The Happy Human
Gopi Kallayil
Hay House, Inc.
PO Box 5100, Carlsbad, CA 92018-5100
9781401946227, $16.99, HC, 224pp,

Synopsis: Happiness is a multimillion-dollar industry, catering to our deep desire to live a joyful life and to a belief that, as human beings, we deserve to be happy. Gopi Kallayil believes in reversing that equation. He holds that what we truly deserve is to be human, and that the key to happiness lies in being 100 percent who we are, reveling in our authentic selves, even if that means falling on our faces. Which Gopi has done. Many times. But he's also had spectacular success.

In "The Happy Human: Being Real in an Artificially Intelligent World" Gopi deftly explores the qualities that make us human and have helped to make Gopi successful and happy in both his personal life and his professional career. Told with candor and humor, a deep compassion and a love of the absurd, "The Happy Human" spans the period from his first job as a software programmer in South China to his current position as an executive at Google in Silicon Valley.

Each individual chapter captures an event in Gopi's life where he dug deep and found the means to express himself from a place of radical confidence: Singing live at Burning Man, even though he sings off-key and was terrified. Participating in a triathlon, with an open-water swim, when he had only swum in a pool. (Lifeguards pulled him into their boat to save him.) Speaking at Toastmasters International and being willing to be awful (which he admittedly was) before finally, years later, becoming one of their top speakers.

Gopi also weaves in accounts of others who have dreamed big and acted on their dreams. Gopi's stories and practices help us find happiness by embracing not only our own selves but the entire human experience, inspiring us to expect miracles daily, to use every fall as a chance to bounce, to go for what we want on every front, to live our lives full-out.

Critique: As impressively entertaining as it is inherently riveting, "The Happy Human" is an inspired and inspiring read from beginning to end. While very highly recommended, especially for community library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Happy Human" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.99).

It's All Under Control
Jennifer Dukes Lee
Tyndale Momentum
c/o Tyndale House Publishers
351 Executive Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188
9781496430465, $24.99, HC, 288pp,

Synopsis: Jennifer Dukes Lee never thought she struggled with control. As long as everything went exactly the way she wanted it to, she was totally flexible.

But then Jennifer discovered what happens when you try to wrap your arms around everything, thinking it's all on you: You get burned out on hustle. You toss and turn more at night, and you laugh less during the day. You're so busy (caring, serving, working, and trying so hard) that you can't even hear God's voice anymore.

"It's All Under Control: A Journey of Letting Go, Hanging On, and Finding a Peace You Almost Forgot Was Possible" was written specifically for every woman who is hanging on tight and trying to get each day right -- yet finding that life often feels out of control and chaotic.

Reading "It's All Under Control" will enable women to: Overcome the anxieties and worries that burden your heart; Prioritize your busy life so you can make choices that align with God's best for you; Find freedom through a new "Do, Delegate, or Dismiss" approach to your daily tasks; Let go of what God has not asked you to do, so you can shine at what he has; Discover a new way of living that will free you to be you; Experience the peace of knowing a God who truly has it all under control.

Critique: Extraordinary, unique, inspired and inspiring, "It's All Under Control: A Journey of Letting Go, Hanging On, and Finding a Peace You Almost Forgot Was Possible" is unreservedly recommended to the attention of all Christian women who find themselves under stress in today's conflicted, aggravating, disturbing world. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "It's All Under Control" is also available in a paperback edition (978-1496430472, $16.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.99).

The Marriage Mentor
Steve and Rhonda Stoppe
Harvest House Publishers
2975 Chad Drive, Eugene, Oregon 97408
9780736971430 $15.99 pbk / $11.15 Kindle

Synopsis: Grow Your Marriage One Step at a Time.

Imagine if your good friends were a couple dedicated to help you build the marriage you've always dreamed of.

Steve and Rhonda are that couple. After three decades of helping couples build no-regrets marriages, the Stoppes have compiled their success secrets into this fun and easy-to-read book. It will help you ...

*learn to engage in meaningful conversation
*break free from regrets that hold you back
*renew your hope for lifelong love

Every page feels like a candid conversation with a friend. You will laugh and learn from a biblical perspective the secrets to enjoying a marriage that lasts a lifetime.

Critique: Pastor and counselor Steve Stoppe and his wife Rhonda Stoppe present The Marriage Mentor: Become the Couple You Long to Be, a relationship guide written especially for Christian couples. Chapters show how Biblical principles form the foundation of lasting, loving, mutually respectful marriage, as well as offering practical advice for problems ranging from difficulties with sex to coping with unexpected tragedy to the strain that raising children can place on a marriage, and more. Highly recommended.

A Lens of Love
Jonathan L. Walton
Westminster John Knox Press
100 Witherspoon Street, Louisville, KY 40202-1396
9780664263546 $16.00 pbk / $11.16 Kindle

Synopsis: In order to engage the Bible in the spirit of justice, compassion, and love, Jonathan L. Walton suggests reading the Bible in its world for our world. Perfect for individual or group study, A Lens of Love helps Christians to read and interpret the Bible morally and confidently as they engage society's pressing issues. Walton provides interpretive tools to help understand the context of the Scriptures along with the Scriptures themselves in order to engage the richness of the Bible as they strive to live in the world in a biblically grounded, theologically sound, and socially responsible way.

Critique: Jonathan L. Walton (Professor of Religion and Society and Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church of Harvard University) presents A Lens of Love: Reading the Bible in Its World for Our World, a Bible study guide that pairs practical theology with social ethics. Reading, interpreting, and enacting Scripture in today's world is a difficult practice; it is of paramount importance to view Scripture through a frame of love and scrupulous conscience. Chapters discuss "Explaining the Inexplicable: Sacred History and Suffering in the Dynastic Literature", "Origins, Apologies, and Attacks: Political Allegory in the Pentateuch", "Is God Racist and Sexist? Inappropriate Metaphors and Perverted Interpretations", and much more. A Lens of Love is highly recommended for Bible study groups, church libraries, and Christian readers from all walks of life. It should be noted for personal reading lists that A Lens of Love is also available in a Kindle edition ($11.16).

Helen Dumont

Lorraine's Bookshelf

Information and Fake News: Facts Matter
Diane Dakers, author
Crabtree Publishing Company
PMB 59051, 350 Fifth Avenue, 59th Floor, New York, NY 10118
9780778745426, $31.32 HC, $9.95 PB, 48pp,

"Information and Fake News" is a title from the media literacy series for students aged 11 years and up. Taking into account the bombardment of media information available today, it can be challenging to determine what news is fake, and untrue, and what is provable fact. This is the argument for education in media information literacy, as explained and presented in this series. An introduction helps define media and meaning and explains that developing media literacy can help readers understand and evaluate what is true or fact, and what is fake, or false. One initial suggested literacy technique is to monitor for one day all the different forms of media engaged in.

This gives a startup point for developing media literacy assessment tools.

Chapters one through four cover topics including Making the News, Different Views + Different Views, Fake News and Lies, and Truth and Consequences. Readers are encouraged to apply accepted standards to determine probable and provable factuality of news content of different media sources. Use of front page photo illustrations and color coded sidebars adds information dimensions to the media information presented in "Information and Fake News." A handy Fake News Checklist on page 31 helps students discover clues of characteristics of face news content. To illustrate and experience how easy it is to manufacture fake news, students are asked to write a face news story, confessing honestly that it is fake after being presented to the audience. Then they are asked to answer the questions does it matter how easily the public can be tricked by fake news and information?

The final chapter, Truth and Consequences starts with the following statement: "Everybody has the right to an opinion, but opinions are not facts. Questioning information is good, but ignoring or rejecting evidence because it suits already formed beliefs is not critical thinking." A further quotation from journalist Stephanie Busari is side-barred: "Everybody, you and I we have a role to play (in stopping the spread of fake news). We are the ones who share the content. We are the ones who share the stories online. In this day and age, we are all publishers and we all have responsibilities.

Finally, the discussion turns to the importance journalist-related of codes of ethics in media information presentation. These standards include rules for being fair, telling the truth, and being accurate. The continued growth of informed media literacy is crucially interdependent on demonstrable journalistic codes of ethics.

"Information Literacy and Fake News" is competed by a bibliography, suggested lists of related books and websites for more information, and a glossary.

Other titles in this outstanding information literacy series from the Crabtree Publishing Company that are also highly recommended for school and community library collections includes: "Free Press and Censorship (9780778745433)," by Susan Brophy Down, "Representation in Media (9780778745457)," by Diane Dakers, and "Power and Persuasion in Media and Advertising (9780778745440)," by Susan Brophy Down.

The Adventures of Energy Annie
Elizabeth Cosmos, author
K. Henriott-Jauw, illustrations
Ama Deus Energy Press
P.O. Box 93, Lowell, MI 49331
9780996278041, $15.95, HC, 29pp,

Winner of the Creative Child Magazine book of the Year award, "The Adventures of Energy Annie" presents a frame of reference about self- health awareness for children that includes meditation, traditional spiritual practices of many cultures, and aura sensitivity, as well as many other intangible aspects of health and self awareness, health, and self care.

Annie experiences a time of being unable to breathe normally when she is outdoors playing with friends. As a result, her Dr. assesses her and prescribes an inhaler to help her breathe when such asthma-related episodes recur for her.

Annie accepts the inhaler and the Dr.'s prescription, but she wants to pursue other traditional healing practices that her parents use, such as energy healing. Her parents are delighted to comply with her requests, and she has a session scheduled with Miss Katie to learn about energy healing.

Miss Katie teaches Annie to channel her love energy into a spiritual routine that connects her to the feeling of love, peace, grace, joy, and happiness that comes from her Creator. Annie learns that a spiritual routine and a prayer practice connects her to a sacred energy source to help heal herself from any ill health.

She hears a prayer in practice when she focuses: " Annie, you are a child of the Universe, you are being showered with loving golden grace to give you strength to help change this state." With her prayer and loving heart, Annie is able to feel the flow of loving energy and help to relieve some of the pain in her sore shoulders that Miss Katie feels.

Annie and her parents are delighted with her receptiveness and progress in the spiritual discipline that completes self and other healing, and they christen her "Energy Annie."

Beautifully drawn, sensitive portraits of Annie and her friends and family portray individuals and their energy auras in natural settings that are natural and healing. Suggested activities at the end invite readers to investigate their own mind body emotion and spirit bodies' energy fields, and to make needful changes.

The Adventures of Energy Annie is an amazing, creative series that helps children access special spiritual energy to heal their own and others' ills. it transcends individual faith focuses and cultures to provide a valuable tool for self healing.

Also highly recommended are the additional titles from this series: "The Adventures of Energy Annie: The Importance of Integrity (9780999841228, $10.95)," and "The Adventures of Energy Annie: Learning Respect (9780996278072, $15.95)," both by Elizabeth Cosmos, with illustrations by K. Henriott-Jauw.

Every Day Easy Air Fryer
Urvashi Pitre
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
3 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10016
9781328577870, $21.99, PB, 224pp,

The benefits to Air Fryer Cooking include: Minimal oil needed to cook most foods; Doesn't heat up entire kitchen; Has fan-forced heat so it reduces cooking time by 25 to 35%; Fan-forced heat can produce a crisper outer crust than baking alone; More energy efficient: lower temperatures and shorter cooking times; Splatters are contained to within the device; All of the surfaces (drum and grid/basket) can be put in the dishwasher; Smaller footprint than oven so it's great for smaller spaces like dorm rooms, apartments, and RVs; Drastically shorter pre-heating time. "Every Day Easy Air Fryer" showcases 100 illustrated recipes for Air Fryer made dishes that can be made in less than an hour -- and many of which can be on the table in as little as 30 minute!. The featured 'kitchen cook friendly' recipes range from Chees & Veggie Egg Cups; Chiles Rellenos with Red Chile Sauce; Root Veggie Shoestring Fries with Saffron Mayonnaise; and Tandoori Chicken; to Dukkah-Crusted Halibut; Easy Beef Satay; Fillipino Crispy Pork Belly; and Gluten-Free Ricotta Lemon Poppy Seed Cake. Inspiring to plan menus with, and also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.990, the "Every Day Easy Air Fryer" is certain to be an enduringly popular addition to personal, family, and community library cookbook collections.

Everybody knows how difficult it can be to get a delicious meal on the table night after night, not to mention a healthy one made from real and readily-available ingredients. Enter the air fryer, the must-have, revolutionary kitchen device. As Urvashi Pitre, the best-selling author of Indian Instant Pot Cookbook, will show you, the air fryer makes home cooking easy. Every one of the recipes in this book can be made in an hour or less, and many are on the table in as little as 30 minutes. You won't find "cream of anything" cans in the ingredient list: instead you'll start with fresh ingredients - healthful meats and vegetables - and let the air fryer do the hard work. In her signature way, Pitre will walk you through the simple process so you can learn to use your air fryer like an expert in no time. And there is no shortage of flavors - with recipes inspired by authentic Indian, Korean, Mexican cuisines and more, including Poblano Cheese Frittata, Thai Chicken Sate, Chicken Fajitas, Shrimp Scampi, and Chinese Spare Ribs, to name just a few. And because you're using an air fryer, you won't need to cook with loads of oil to get incredibly tasty results. Just like the recipes on the author's popular blog,, these recipes will always work perfectly and taste great.

The Greatest Showman
Benj Pasek & Justin Paul, composer and lyricist
Fox Music
c/o Hal Leonard
7777 W. Bluemound Rd. P.O. Box 13819, Milwaukee, WI 53213
9781540007117, $19.99 PB, $22.99 Spiral Bound, $9.36 Kindle, 100pp.

Featuring piano vocal guitar arrangement of hits from the motion picture soundtrack, intermediate difficulty level, "The Greatest Showman" is a collection of nine songs written for vocalists and choir of all voices (SATB, with male and female vocal solo parts).

Hit songs arrangements include "The Greatest Show," "A Millions Dreams," "Come Alive," "The Other Side," "Never Enough (Jenny Lind's solo)," "This Is Me," "Rewrite the Stars (duet for Phillip and Anne)," "Tightrope," and "From Now On," most numbers are for Barnum and oddities.

All vocal parts are clearly written on first lines, followed by fully illuminated piano score accompaniments plus guitar chords above the staff. Exciting lyrics, fantastic, vocally challenging arrangements, and fully convincing piano accompaniments bring these heart rending solos and numbers to life for all who are willing to work.

Excellent audition numbers are included of popular songs with inspirational cores.

This color photo-illustrated collection will be in high demand for show musicians, adult or teens. Inspirational themes of self acceptance, nonconformity, and visionary legend making predominate. Pianists who teach and accompany vocalists will want to add this star studded collection to their repertoire, while vocalists everywhere will love the adventure of learning to sing these songs.

My years of work as a piano teacher and vocalist accompanist have taught me to recognize great new show music when I find it. "The Greatest Showman" is solid value for musicians, teachers, and performers everywhere.

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Micah's Bookshelf

The State of Bourbon
Cameron M. Ludwick, author
Blair Thomas Hess, author
Elliot Hess, photographer
Indiana University Press
Herman B Wells Library 350, 1320 E. 10th Street, Bloomington, IN 47405-3907
9780253037817, $16.00, PB, 152pp,

Synopsis Kentucky is a state where bourbon barrels outnumber residents. But after all, bourbon is Kentucky! Its craftsmanship and flavors cannot be separated from the culture and history of the blue grass state.

"The State of Bourbon: Exploring the Spirit of Kentucky" showcases the region's finest distilleries as well as the local restaurants, hotels, parks, and adventures that every bourbon lover needs to experience. Bluegrass natives Cameron M. Ludwick and Blair Thomas Hess highlight some of their favorite stops on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, the Urban Bourbon Trail, and the Craft Bourbon Trail, at stills and rick houses where the history and heritage of the nation's only native spirit come to life.

Not just a trail or tasting guide, "The State of Bourbon" will lead the reader on a kind of armchair travel adventure across Kentucky, through the history of the spirit, and into a personal bourbon adventure.

Critique: In the pages of "The State of Bourbon: Exploring the Spirit of Kentucky" readers will discover that culture and history of Kentucky, including great food, fabulous drinks, and incredible people on a kind of armchair Kentucky bourbon road trip. While unreservedly recommended for community library collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of all dedicated bourbon enthusiasts that "The State of Bourbon" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.99).

Donald and the Golden Crayon
P. Shauers
Schiffer Publishing Ltd.
4880 Lower Valley Road, Atglen, PA 19310
9780764356551, $16.99, HC, 48pp,

Synopsis: In the middle of the night, Donald Trump woke from his terrific sleep and cried out, Covfefe!" A most tremendous adventure awaits Donald when his wakes from his sleep. "Donald and the Golden Crayon: A Book That Uses the Best Words" follows 'The Donald' as he draws his way through media frenzies, secret doors, nuclear buttons, and fake media.

"Donald and the Golden Crayon" is presidential parody full of ripped-from-the-headlines references by P. Shauers (the pen name of a New York Times bestselling author with more than 30 books published).

Critique: "Donald and the Golden Crayon" is hilariously brazen presidential satire from cover to cover. Give a copy of "Donald and the Golden Crayon" to all your friends and family members who are Trump supporters -- even if you have to do so anonymously. Then go out and buy yourself a copy of "Whose Boat Is This Boat?: Comments That Don't Help in the Aftermath of a Hurricane" by the staff of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (Simon & Schuster, 9781982121082, $14.99 HC, $9.99 Kindle).

This Place Called Notre Dame
Kerry Temple, author
Matt Cashore, photographer
University of Notre Dame Press
310 Flanner Hall, Notre Dame, IN 46556
9780268104818, $45.00, HC, 181pp,

Synopsis: Matt Cashore is a 1994 graduate of Notre Dame who has been photographing the university for over twenty years, and was named the 2016 University Photographer of the Year by the University Photographers Association of America.

Kerry Temple is a 1974 Notre Dame graduate who has been writing about the university for forty years and serves as the editor of Notre Dame Magazine.

Together, Cashore and Temple have combined their talents in a magnificent new coffee-table book called "This Place Called Notre Dame". in which Cashore's photographs beautifully document campus life, capturing the quads, the architecture, the academics, football festivities, the faith life, and student fun of contemporary Notre Dame. Now these images have been collected into one hardcover coffee-table style volume conveying the beauty, character, and spirit of the university.

Accompanying Cashore's exquisite photographs is an informative text by Kerry Temple, an astute university observer and writer whose articles and essays have chronicled the nature, traditions, and growth of Notre Dame over the past four decades.

Critique: Visually magnificent, impressively informative, "This Place Called Notre Dame" is unique and very highly recommended, especially to Notre Dame alumni, faculty, staff, students, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject.

Micah Andrew

Shelley's Bookshelf

The Prince's Playbook
Pamela DuMond
Pamela DuMond Publishing
9781984097965, $13.99 PB, $3.99 Kindle, 280pp,

Pamela DuMond, author of eight mysteries, eleven romances and one self-help book, is a USA bestselling author. She is also a chiropractor specializing in children's issues and people living with chronic pain. She lives in southern California with her cats.

THE PRINCE'S PLAYBOOK is actually a reworking of Royally Wed Romantic Comedy...something many of us authors would like to do. This time around, the Prince of Belleno, Maximillian Christoph Rocharte,

"...stumbled across Vivian in a biker bar when she had the stones to pour a pitcher of margaritas on a guy who was harassing another waitress. She had legs from here to eternity, the devil's own sense of humor, and the face of an angel. She was everything I ever wanted."

What follows is the Prince's machinations to save the royal fortune, hire Vivian as an impersonator for Lady Cici, who was scheduled to marry the Crown Prince, Max's brother, Prince Leopold. The idea was that Lady Cici's dowry would restore the failing finances of the House of Belleno. What could possibly go wrong?

In Pamela DuMond's inimitable way, a love triangle ensues. Vivian, after extensive princess training, falls for Prince Max. Prince Leopold falls for Vivian. Lady Cici disappears. A wedding is scheduled with Vivian standing in. And how does Vivian react to the ever-increasing plot as it thickens and expands?

Love, chaos, and comedy make for a rollicking great read. DuMond has added a zanier, sexier, and overall more exuberance to this reworking of what was originally a sweet, funny, and heartwarming romance. Dumond's literary output is amazing, as if she is carrying five or six novels in her brain at a time. She is the Queen or Romance, but her novels are neither sappy nor jingoistic. They are, quite simply, romance for the soul in a time when we all need that getaway.

Shelley Glodowski
Senior Reviewer

Taylor's Bookshelf

Fight Like a Tiger
Victoria L. Harrison
Southern Illinois University Press
1915 University Press Drive, SIUC Mail Code 6806, Carbondale, IL 62901
9780809336777, $27.50, PB, 184pp,

Synopsis: Focusing on the life of ambitious former slave Conway Barbour, In "Fight Like a Tiger" Victoria L. Harrison (who is an instructor in the department of historical studies at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville) argues that the idea of a black middle class traced its origins to the free black population of the mid-nineteenth century and developed alongside the idea of a white middle class. Although slavery and racism meant that the definition of middle class was not identical for white people and free people of color, they shared similar desires for advancement.

Born a slave in western Virginia about 1815, Barbour was a free man by the late 1840s. His adventurous life took him through Lexington and Louisville, Kentucky; Cleveland, Ohio; Alton, Illinois; and Little Rock and Lake Village, Arkansas. In search of upward mobility, he worked as a steamboat steward, tried his hand at several commercial ventures, and entered politics. He sought, but was denied, a Civil War military appointment that would have provided financial stability. Blessed with intelligence, competence, and energy, Barbour was quick to identify opportunities as they appeared in personal relationships (he was simultaneously married to two women) business, and politics.

Despite an unconventional life, Barbour found in each place he lived that he was one of many free black people who fought to better themselves alongside their white countrymen. Harrison's argument about black class formation reframes the customary narrative of downtrodden free African Americans in the mid-nineteenth century and engages current discussions of black inclusion, the concept of "otherness," and the breaking down of societal barriers. Demonstrating that careful research can reveal the stories of people who have been invisible to history, "Fight Like a Tiger" complicates our understanding of the intersection of race and class in the Civil War era.

Critique: Deftly written with exceptional insight and attention to documented detail, "Fight Like a Tiger: Conway Barbour and the Challenges of the Black Middle Class in Nineteenth-Century America" is an extraordinary biography of an extraordinary man who lived in extraordinary times. A unique and seminal work of impressively impeccable scholarship, "Fight Like a Tiger " is enhanced for academia with the inclusion of an Appendix (The Other Children), twenty-two pages of Notes, a sixteen page Bibliography, and a four page Index. "Fight Like a Tiger" is an invaluable and highly recommended addition to both community and academic library 19th Century African-American History collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

Interrupted Odyssey
Mary Stockwell
Southern Illinois University Press
1915 University Press Drive, SIUC Mail Code 6806, Carbondale, IL 62901
9780809336708, $34.50, HC, 272pp,

Synopsis: In the late 1860s, before becoming president, Ulysses S. Grant collaborated with Ely Parker, a Seneca Indian who became his first commissioner of Indian affairs, on a plan to rescue the tribes from certain destruction. Grant hoped to save the Indians from extermination by moving them to reservations, where they would be guarded by the U.S. Army, and welcoming them into the nation as American citizens. By so doing, he would restore the executive branch's traditional authority over Indian policy that had been upended by Jackson.

In "Interrupted Odyssey: Ulysses S. Grant and the American Indians, Mary Stockwell ( a retired Professor of History at Lourdes University) rejects the common claim in previous Grant scholarship that he handed the reservations over to Christian missionaries as part of his original policy. In part because Grant's plan ended political patronage, Congress overturned his policy by disallowing Army officers from serving in civil posts, abandoning the treaty system, and making the new Board of Indian Commissioners the supervisors of the Indian service. Only after Congress banned Army officers from the Indian service did Grant place missionaries in charge of the reservations, and only after the board falsely accused Parker of fraud before Congress did Grant lose faith in his original policy.

Professor Stockwell explores in depth the ousting of Parker, revealing the deep-seated prejudices that fueled opposition to him, and details Grant's stunned disappointment when the Modoc murdered his peace commissioners and several tribes (the Comanche, Kiowa, Cheyenne, and Sioux) rose up against his plans for them.

Though his dreams were interrupted through the opposition of Congress, reformers, and the tribes themselves, Grant set his country firmly toward making Indians full participants in the national experience. In setting Grant's contributions against the wider story of the American Indians, Stockwell's bold, thoughtful reappraisal reverses the general dismissal of Grant's approach to the Indians as a complete failure and highlights the courage of his policies during a time of great prejudice.

Critique: An original work of seminal research and thoroughly impeccable scholarship, "Interrupted Odyssey: Ulysses S. Grant and the American Indians" is an extraordinary contribution to our understanding of the Grant administration's Native American policies. Impressively informed and informative, expertly organized and presented, "Interrupted Odyssey" is unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library 19th Century American History collections and 19th Century Native American History supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Interrupted Odyssey" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $34.50).

Spaces of Disappearance
Jordan H. Carver
Urban Research
9781947198012, $29.99, PB, 264pp,

Synopsis: In 2006, then-President George W. Bush officially acknowledged the existence of the secret CIA Enhanced Interrogation program. Between the attacks of September 11 and Bush's announcement, the CIA had been shuttling suspected terrorists and "persons of interest" around the world in order to detain and interrogate them at black site facilities, the details and locations of which remain classified to this day.

By interrogating the sovereign claims of American power and the architectural spaces of its secret prisons, "Spaces of Disappearance: The Architecture of Extraordinary Rendition" by Jordan H. Carver (who is a Henry M. MacCraken Doctoral Fellow in American Studies at New York University) traces the multiple spatial manifestations of the so-called War on Terror and attempts to reconstruct sites, subjects, and histories that have been rendered intentionally abstract and beyond representation. Carver compiles an original archive of architectural representations, redacted documents, and media reports to build a frightening, if knowingly incomplete, spatial history of post-9/11 extraordinary rendition.

Framed with an introductory essay by architectural historian and theorist Felicity D. Scott, "Spaces of Disappearance" shows how architectures of confinement were designed to deny prisoners their human subjectivity and describes how the spectacle of government bureaucracy is used as a substitute for accountability.

Critique: Enhanced for academia with the inclusion of three appendices (Extraordinary Renditions; Proxy site Evidence; The Memos) and a seven page Bibliography, "Spaces of Disappearance: The Architecture of Extraordinary Rendition" is and impressively informed and informative work of original scholarship that is very highly recommended to the attention of students, academia, social activists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject, as well as the collections of both community and academic libraries.

John Taylor

Theodore's Bookshelf

The Line
Martin Limon
Soho Crime
9781616959661, $26.95 US/33.95 CA$, Hardcover, 374 pp.

There are two series of mysteries by Martin Limon that take place during or after wars in which the United States has participated. One is the wonderful Billy Boyle series, which takes place just before and during World War II. The other is the Bueno and Bascom investigations set in South Vietnam after the armistice. This, the 13th in the series, is the most dangerous one yet for the irreverent pair, taking them directly into conflict with the North Koreans at the DMZ.

They are tasked with going right up to the line dividing North and South because of the murder of a South Korean corporal assigned to U.S. troops. The body lies across the line and they drag it back to the south, nearly causing a new war on the peninsula. An American private eventually is blamed, to assuage the North Koreans, but neither Bascom nor Bueno believes him guilty. However, they are taken off the case (but that doesn't stop them from pursuing it). Meanwhile, they have another case involving a bored wife of a Corps of Engineers Captain who goes missing.

The author, who served a decade in the Army in Korea, applies his intimate knowledge to the fullest extent with detailed knowledge not only of Army life, but the conditions of the South Korean population. Written plainly with clever plotting, the story will keep the reader turning pages until he/she reaches the extremely unexpected conclusion.


Theodore Feit
Senior Reviewer

Vogel's Bookshelf

Israel's Long War with Hezbollah
Raphael D. Marcus
Georgetown University Press
3240 Prospect Street, NW, Washington, DC 20007
9781626166103, $110.95, HC, 320pp,

Synopsis: The ongoing conflict between Israel and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah is now in its fourth decade and shows no signs of ending. In "Israel's Long War with Hezbollah: Military Innovation and Adaptation Under Fire", Raphael D. Marcus ( a nonresident fellow at the Insurgency Research Group in the Department of War Studies, King's College London) deftly examines this conflict since the formation of Hezbollah during Israel's occupation of Lebanon in the early 1980s. He critically evaluates events including Israel's long counterguerrilla campaign throughout the 1990s, the Israeli withdrawal in 2000, the 2006 summer war, and concludes with an assessment of current tensions on the border between Israel and Lebanon related to the Syrian civil war.

"Israel's Long War with Hezbollah" is both the first complete military history of this decades-long conflict and an analysis of military innovation and adaptation. This groundbreaking study is based on unique fieldwork in Israel and Lebanon, extensive research into Hebrew and Arabic primary sources, and dozens of interviews Marcus conducted with Israeli defense officials, high-ranking military officers of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), United Nations personnel, a Hezbollah official, and Western diplomats. As an expert on organizational learning, Marcus analyzes ongoing processes of strategic and operational innovation and adaptation by both the IDF and Hezbollah throughout the long guerrilla conflict. His conclusions illuminate the dynamics of the ongoing conflict and illustrate the complexity of military adaptation under fire.

With Hezbollah playing an ongoing role in the civil war in Syria and the simmering hostilities on the Israel-Lebanon border, students, scholars, diplomats, and military practitioners with an interest in Middle Eastern security issues, Israeli military history, and military innovation and adaptation can ill afford to neglect this informed and informative study.

Critique: An impeccable, insightful, expertly written and timely study of one of the Middle East's most enduringly political, ideological, and military conflicts, "Israel's Long War with Hezbollah: Military Innovation and Adaptation Under Fire" should be considered as an essential and core addition to governmental, community, college, and university library Israeli/Hezbollah Military History & Security 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 "Israel's Long War with Hezbollah" is also available in a paperback edition (9781626166110, $36.95).

Moon of the Crusted Snow
Waubgeshig Rice
ECW Press
9781770414006 $14.95 pbk / $7.99 Kindle

Synopsis: With winter looming, a small northern Anishinaabe community goes dark. Cut off, people become passive and confused. Panic builds as the food supply dwindles. While the band council and a pocket of community members struggle to maintain order, an unexpected visitor arrives, escaping the crumbling society to the south. Soon after, others follow.

The community leadership loses its grip on power as the visitors manipulate the tired and hungry to take control of the reserve. Tensions rise and, as the months pass, so does the death toll due to sickness and despair. Frustrated by the building chaos, a group of young friends and their families turn to the land and Anishinaabe tradition in hopes of helping their community thrive again. Guided through the chaos by an unlikely leader named Evan Whitesky, they endeavor to restore order while grappling with a grave decision.

Blending action and allegory, Moon of the Crusted Snow upends our expectations. Out of catastrophe comes resilience. And as one society collapses, another is reborn.

Critique: What if natural calamity were to cut an entire modern community off from electrical power, modern conveniences, even food supplies? Set in Ontario during a brutal winter, Moon of the Crusted Snow tells of an Anishinaabe community thrown into a deadly predicament as an extended catastrophe and the incursion of unexpected visitors pushes their society to the brink, even claiming lives. Journalist and award-winning author Waubgeshig Rice has crafted a harrowing tale of struggling, despair, and the fragile seeds of hope. Highly recommended! It should be noted for personal reading lists that Moon of the Crusted Snow is also available in a Kindle edition ($7.99).

The Holy Ghost Speakeasy and Revival
Terry Roberts
Turner Publishing Company
200 - 4th Avenue North, Suite 950, Nashville, TN 37219
9781684421633 $16.59 pbk / $15.76 Kindle

Synopsis: Jedidiah Robbins is a man on a crusade. From town to town, his Gospel train rides the rails of 1920s Appalachia, spreading the Good News with his daughter and a loyal group of roustabouts in tow. But Jedidiah's traveling revival company has a secret: in addition to offering the gifts of the Holy Spirit, it also delivers spirits of another kind.

Prohibition is in full swing, but The Sword of the Lord train keeps the speakeasies in the towns it visits in business by providing the best that mountain stills have to offer. While beyond the gaze of federal agents, the operation eventually runs afoul of an overzealous small town sheriff and a corrupt judge, setting in motion a series of events that could land them all in chains.

Told with haunting lyricism, this is the story of a preacher full of contradictions, a man for whom the way is never straight and narrow. It bends like the river, a river that leads him in the paths of a different brand of righteousness - and perhaps even to salvation.

Critique: A unique, Prohibition-era novel that mirrors the innate hypocrisy in society with an unusual protagonist who preaches the gospel while delivering illegal alcohol, The Holy Ghost Speakeasy and Revival is a smartly written view askew, and a page turner to the end. Highly recommended! It should be noted for personal reading lists that The Holy Ghost Speakeasy and Revival is also available in a Kindle edition ($15.76).

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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