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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 18, Number 11 November 2019 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

Able Greenspan's Bookshelf Diane Donovan's Bookshelf Gary Roen's Bookshelf
Helen Dumont's Bookshelf John Taylor's Bookshelf Mary Cowper's Bookshelf
Micah Andrew's Bookshelf Michael Dunford's Bookshelf Nancy Lorraine's Bookshelf
Paul Vogel's Bookshelf Richard Blake's Bookshelf S.A. Gorden's Bookshelf

Able Greenspan's Bookshelf

Directing Actors
Judith Westen, author and narrator
Dreamscape Media
9781974970513 $39.99 CD
9781974970551 $19.99 MP3 CD

Synopsis: In this essential guide to acting, internationally renowned directing coach Judith Weston demonstrates what constitutes a good performance, what actors want from a director, and what directors do wrong. She also goes over script analysis and preparation and how actors work, and she shares important and helpful insights into the director/actor relationship.

Critique: Available in both audio CD and MP3 CD formats, Directing Actors: Creating Memorable Performances for Film and Television is an in-depth reference and resource by professional directing coach Judith Weston, for both directors and actors. Filled with tips, tricks, and techniques for script analysis, delivering a quality performance, avoiding common directing mistakes and much more, Directing Actors is a "must" for aspiring and practicing professionals, and highly recommended for public and college library collections. 10 CDs, 12 hours 42 min.

Leadership in the Age of Personalization
Glenn Llopis, author
Eber Jim, contributor
GLLG Press
9781733812511, $21.95, HC, 200pp,

Synopsis: Society is more diverse than ever. People are more informed than ever. Employees and consumers are prouder of their individuality and seek influence, a sense of contribution, and purpose like never before. Welcome to the age of personalization.

Most organizations and leaders say they want to empower people to contribute at their fullest capacity. They "know" individuality and inclusion make us stronger. And yet they remain stuck in standardization-- their offices filled with frustrated and exhausted employees consumed by delivering transactional results in the present instead of sustainable and significant growth for the future. Everyone just playing it safe and doing what they re told. Individuality? Inclusion? Nice ideas but who has the time? Let the business define the individual. No. That s the standardization trap.

Glenn Llopis has been in this trap and he knows the way out. In "Leadership in the Age of Personalization: Why Standardization Fails in the Age of Me", he shows leaders and organizations how to break free from entrenched habits, escape the trap.

"Leadership in the Age of Personalization" shows how to: Turn diversity into inclusion; Stop being tribal and start seeing each other as human; Invigorate the shared mission by elevating individual identities and contribution; Free people from the tyranny of outdated metrics and activate methods that lead to success and significance.

This is all easier said than done. Because personalization spooks standardization and, when threatened, standardization fights back, hard. It s time to free ourselves from the standardization traps of the past. And it all starts with two words -- let go.

Critique: Exceptionally informative, expertly written, organized and presented, "Leadership in the Age of Personalization: Why Standardization Fails in the Age of Me" is an extraordinary read from cover to cover and unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of academia, corporate executives, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Leadership in the Age of Personalization" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

The Grave on the Wall
Brandon Shimoda
City Lights Publishers
261 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94133
9780872867901, $16.95, PB, 222pp,

Synopsis: An award-winning poet, with "The Grave on the Wall" Brandon Shimoda has deft crafted a lyrical portrait of his paternal grandfather, Midori Shimoda, whose life as a child migrant, talented photographer, suspected enemy alien and spy, desert wanderer, an American citizen, mirrors the arc of Japanese America in the twentieth century.

In a series of pilgrimages, Shimoda records the search to find his grandfather, and unfolds, in the process, a moving elegy on memory and forgetting.

Critique: While unreservedly and singularly recommended for community, college, and university library 20th Century Biography collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Grave on the Wall" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.10).

American Justice 2019
Mark Joseph Stern
University of Pennsylvania Press
3905 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-4112
9780812252132, $22.50, HC, 184pp,

Synopsis: Following the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy and the controversial confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the Supreme Court plunged into a contentious term that featured divisive cases involving abortion, immigration, capital punishment, and voting rights on the court's docket.

In "American Justice 2019: The Roberts Court Arrives", legal analyst and Supreme Court Correspondent for Slate magazine Mark Joseph Stern examines the term's most controversial opinions and highlights the consequences of Chief Justice John Roberts stepping into a new role as the court's swing vote.

No longer bound by Kennedy's erratic moderation, Roberts has begun doling out victories to both Democrats and Republicans, albeit with a clear rightward tilt. Early in the term, Roberts delivered a public rebuke to Trump's attacks on the judiciary, foreshadowing his refusal to tolerate some of the president's most extreme contortions of the law.

"American Justice 2019" tracks the chief justice's evolution from staunch conservative to part-time centrist. Along the way, "American Justice 2019" also details the term's blockbusters and surprises, including an unlikely alliance between Justices Neil Gorsuch and Sonia Sotomayor on criminal justice, and an especially radical ruling on the death penalty that overturned decades of precedent.

Stern's account comprising "American Justice 2019" depicts a court sharply divided over its role in American democracy, with the man at its center striving to stay above the political fray without abandoning his conservative instincts.

Critique: An inherently fascinating and impressively informative read, "American Justice 2019: The Roberts Court Arrives" offers exceptional insights into the current workings of the U.S. Supreme Court. Appropriate for both community and academic library collections, "American Justice 2019" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to the personal reading lists of all members of the legal community, as well as political activists and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject.

Able Greenspan

Diane Donovan's Bookshelf

Cruising the Mississippi
Al & Sunny Lockwood
Front Porch Publishing
9781642370782, $12.99, Paper
B07XVPTNGR, $3.99, ebook

Cruising the Mississippi: From New Orleans to Memphis on a Genuine Paddlewheeler joins other books from the Lockwoods and provides travel memoir enthusiasts with a paddlewheeler guide that doesn't need a destination-oriented reader to prove satisfying.

Al and Sunny were bitten by the travel bug when they were kids. As adults, they traveled extensively both before and after they got together. Cruising the Mississippi follows their journey upriver, employing a "you are there" tone to capture the steam powered paddlewheeler experience and documenting the authors' first river journey, from their pre-board ideas of what it would be like to the realties of life aboard the American Queen, a riverboat holding some 400 passengers.

From descriptions of the cabin to explorations of the culture and organization of a paddlewheeler, readers are given the opportunity to take a virtual trip, following the Lockwoods as they survey the ship and its various stops.

Anticipate a step-by-step coverage of these experiences, from the local history of each area and insights about Southern culture and Mississippi's regional attractions to onboard conversations and connections such as one with Fred Bishop, a long-time singer who has performed on the American Queen since 1995. The author was shocked to uncover a "family" connection with the professional performer.

If it's a "you are there" experiential survey of the paddlewheeler environment that is desired, along with a heavy dose of Mississippi history and culture from a tourist's viewpoint, then there could be no better virtual tour than Cruising the Mississippi. This travel memoir brings its readers right down to the water line and into the destinations explored by the Mississippi paddlewheeler.

Why Can't We Trust God?
Tom P. Wise
Zion Press/Crosslink Publishing
9781633571891, $11.95

His Way: Trust in the Father is recommended reading for Christian adult believers and thinkers, and focuses on the latest scientific evidence supporting belief and the Word of God. Tom P. Wise's purpose and focus is clearly presented in introductory paragraphs that combine science, news, and affairs of belief and the heart: "In this book we are going to explore what it means to trust in Jesus, and to trust in our God - - who is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. As we broach this subject, we will dig into concepts of suffering as they are presented in the Bible and in issues of trust as they are described in current academic research. Combining the two elements of academia and faith may provide for us a picture by which we may choose to trust in Jesus, God's only son."

This blend of perspectives from both scientific and faith-based examinations allows readers to contemplate not just the meaning of God's Word and Biblical promises, but the scientific evidence that supports them. Additionally, Wise creates a blueprint for this progressive examination and follows it religiously: "As we progress through this discussion, we will learn together how the three bases of trust form our ability to choose to trust. These bases are personality, cognition, and institutional trust."

Chapters stick to Wise's plan as they document God's consistency in His message, advocating a form of attention and listening which encourages not only introspection and belief, but cultivating time to truly listen and perceive this message in daily life: "God does not need us in order to carry out his plans. He provides us with opportunities to participate in his plans so that we are blessed by doing his work, and that others can see God in us and in our lives. By listening carefully, God will tell us what he is doing and then we can do his will."

One doesn't anticipate the injection of autobiography into such a treatise, but Wise adds observations of life that includes his own, juxtaposing Biblical passages and quotes with his own experiences to pinpoint moments of enlightenment and realization. This creates a multifaceted, human approach to spiritual understanding that encourages his readers to adopt their own reflective process from a combination of reasoned examination and Biblical study, daily life experiences, and scientific knowledge.

The result is a survey recommended for any thinking Christian who would better understand the nature of God's actions in the world, the process of both watching and acting, and how to link personal objectives and goals with God-driven belief.

Christians will find His Way: Trust in the Father empowering, enlightening, and rooted in personal, political, religious and scientific experience.

Distant Signs
Anne Richter
Neem Tree Press
9781911107088, $22.45, hardback
9781911107095, $12.99, paperback
9781911107163, $9.99, e-book

Distant Signs opens in an unnamed city in East Germany in the mid-1960s, when two students, Hans, a villager, and Margret, a girl from the city, meet and marry despite their different backgrounds. Against the backdrop of the rise and fall of the East German state and the exposure of family secrets, the couple forges new lives for themselves and faces a set of circumstances that nobody could have predicted.

Readers of novels set in modern Germany will find that, more so than most, Distant Signs offers an astute and lyrical examination of changing personal relationships and values affected by political and social strife.

This story is also presented on a multigenerational level, which means that the resounding impact of many choices affect not just the present-day, but future generations who move ever more distantly from their roots.

One reason why the atmosphere and events in Distant Signs seems so real is that Anne Richter's portrait of family life behind the Iron Curtain is partially based on her personal and family experiences. She was 16 years old at the fall of the Berlin Wall, and her memories combine with considerable research to provide the background for a story that closely considers how family patterns evolve, change, and are transmitted.

This focus makes for more than a political investigative piece, incorporating observations not just of East Germany, but a changing Europe as a whole: "How the city must have changed! I mean Prague, with its wonderful lanes and bridges, its unique history. How well the people will now be faring in their warm apartments, in newly built, unostentatious buildings that perhaps look a little odd next to the houses from the turn of the century. But beauty is something we will think about as soon as no one needs to watch their pennies anymore."

Richter's ability to capture the sights, sounds, and effects of social and political changes as they reverberate throughout Germany and the world makes for a perceptive observational piece that is thought-provoking and revealing. Late in the novel, Hans, a man who has conformed with state socialism, reflects with ambivalence upon German reunification: "At the third stop, through the window Hans watched some petite women, barely older than him, one of whom was holding out her open shopping bag to the others. The women were bent over the bag in rapture. Hans pressed his worn briefcase tighter to his stomach. Here, on the other hand, was a clear correspondence: between the greed with which people now carried home their wares in oversized plastic bags, filled their apartments with them, discarded their old things, tried to forget; and the disconcerting call for a united Fatherland, which had first rung out two years ago in streets across the country and which had unsettled even Margret who, unlike him, came back at first from every pro-reform demonstration with a gleam of hope in her eyes."

The result is a hard-hitting examination that takes East German society and politics and places it squarely in the personal worlds of not only those who lived through the times, but generations to follow.

Anyone who would understand the East German experience and psyche will relish Distant Signs for its ability to pick up the pieces of a shattered nation and era and recreate them in all their complexity, as a legacy for future generations.

P.W. Walters
Izzard Ink Publishing
9781642280326, $34.95, Hardback
9781642280319, $27.95, Paperback
9781642280302, $9.99, eBook

Reunion: Abuse Has No Limits... But Neither Does Love is about a devastating cycle of childhood abuse and how this translates to a desire for revenge upon reaching adulthood.

Owen Crowley is only too familiar with sexually abusive adults, from his family of origin to a seemingly loving relationship with an adoptive family which also turns bad. His refuge in books and gathering intelligence leads him to become an educated, attractive young man, but his passions and positive life trajectory crumble too easily in the face of adversity, and he finds himself repeating patterns and confronting dark impulses.

As new beginnings, new enemies, and new ways of dealing with them rest on old patterns, defense mechanisms, and impulses, Owen begins the slow slide into the deprivation he suffered and rejected in his childhood, and followers of his story are drawn into this course, which pulls the reader in as steadily and inextricably as quicksand.

It's fascinating to observe the different levels Owen experiences through first-person revelations based on his past, present, and future. Even as he acknowledges his past and his efforts to move forward ("It was time that I, too, went on my way. Life goes on. It has to."), Owen discovers that changing his psyche and moving on is easier said than done.

The foundations and feelings of sexual confusion are explored ("I couldn't help but gaze at the girls in the room. I drank them in as one would marvel at a crimson sunset or a kaleidoscopic painting. The sight of them stirred me feverishly. They were such magnificent creatures; what a tragedy they weren't as exquisite internally as they were externally. I didn't want to desire them...yet I did. I so wanted to have command over my venereal hunger, but I could not resist it. Its strength was pythonic and its roots fathomless. And it seemed the older I got, the more intense my appetite became."), as is his almost hypnotic progression towards the very things he's rejected from his past.

Readers gain an astute, even frightening, vision of the evolution and inheritance of depravity and its potential for disaster.

Themes of homosexuality, school violence, adult/children relationships, depravity, and the formation of a logic system that moves into twisted views of the world create a story that juxtaposes violent encounters with reflections on evolving new value systems: "Nice guys end up you. And me. Besides, true niceness doesn't even exist. Every act of kindness is merely a pretty skin over an ugly skeleton. How did Isaiah put it: And all our righteous deeds are as filthy rags."

From paradoxes to life purposes, Reunion is no light read, but toes the line between Stephen King's Carrie and a novel of psychological suspense as Owen confronts the kinds of decisions that build, warp, and direct his character towards an almost inevitable (yet unpredictable, in many ways) outcome.

Reunion is about finding love, facing loss, and ultimately learning how to view life on different terms. Owen's character is nicely drawn. His dilemmas and their ultimate resolution will keep readers thinking long after the final, passionate moments which press together broken hearts in an outstanding, surprise conclusion to Owen's intense, gritty life journey.

Johan Fundin
Asioni Press
9781999981723, $15.99, Paper
9781999981730, $2.99, e-book

Imagine an eccentric scientist who fancies becoming a writer, but discovers that the murder mystery he is crafting, still in manuscript format, is actually mirroring real-world events.
Consider the schizoid personality's potential for turning into a serial murderer. Then add a bizarre chemical signature that the murderer employs to brand his victims, a cat, and a girlfriend into the mix to get a sense of this multifaceted story that blends romance with a medical murder mystery.

The best murder mysteries do more than tell a story. They get into the mind of the perp and others to impart a "you are there" feel to the events, creating a deeper understanding than is typically gained from observing a killer's modus operandi. Schizoid achieves this atmosphere as it probes the killer's fantasies, nightmares, life history and influences, and relationships.

From crystal chemistry to strings pulled and favors called in to make a potentially career-busting psychological diagnosis go away, Schizoid provides the kind of gripping tension that keeps readers on their toes and involved.

Johan Fundin is at his best when capturing small, succinct moments of observation and insight that connect different worlds: "You could use the telescope for other purposes than studies of the sky. He mounted the equipment. The telescope caught images from Rebecka's bedroom. From one world to another. From Saturn's rings to Sara's eyelashes. It took only a fraction of a second to shift the telescope's angle of incidence. Via the telescopic eye, multiple worlds were in continuous juxtaposition with one another."

Readers may not expect references to nanotechnology to evolve, nor Kenneth's dubious position as either a killer or an innocent schizoid caught up in a nefarious plot. Fundin weaves in many elements that make his story's outcome delightfully elusive.

Schizoid is a thriller worthy of high praise: a medical mystery that combines psychology, science, and the quirks of interpersonal relationships with an edge that keeps readers guessing to the end, as a writer's dreams become his worst nightmare.

After Olympus
Santiago Xaman
LoneThink Press
9781733801706, $14.99

After Olympus blends magical realism and science in a hard-hitting, fast-paced story representing a genre blender of humor, fantasy, philosophy, mythology, and more. Perhaps this is why Santiago Xaman chooses to label his production 'quasi-fiction', because its wide-ranging scenarios incorporate so many elements of fiction, nonfiction, and sci-fi that it fits into no particular box.

With so many formula genre reads these days, it's satisfying to see an unexpected, category-defying story like After Olympus. Original themes and approaches are both unique and rare in the book world. One reason is the challenge of branding, marketing and filing such a creation.

How do you define and describe a book with so many facets? Xaman opens by defining his own creation, 'quasi-fiction': "1. A narrative combining fictional characters with published facts of minor historical significance. 2. The form of realism evoked by quasi-fictional content."

But this definition is only the tip of the iceberg, because After Olympus touches upon so many reading nerves that it's actually impossible to adequately describe. Mystery? There's plenty of intrigue in the plot, as Ephraim Martz faces death on a stormy Santa Cruz mountain road before the story segues into Aliya Hathaway's prologue, in which she reviews a lost and found manuscript by Santiago Xaman which comes with a faded photo of the reader's mother, and an odd puzzle.

The crux of the story opens in 1978, when Xaman confronts evidence of Olympus' fall to earth in the remote mountains, receives a rare visit from strangers who have observed a falling star and who are investigating, and faces many possibilities, including the crash of a Soviet craft in his own backyard (that, or aliens).

From magicians and prophecies to the evolving anguish of life, Xaman employs poetic and metaphorical descriptions that are compellingly vivid: "There's a mystery that binds us in this quiet space via some invisible umbilical cord - in spite of Luca, in spite of my curse, in spite of my ever-present mission to steal the magicians' wings; yes, in spite of everything, there's a constant rebalancing of expectations in our mixing of sweat. That is the yin-yang of our lives: she anchors on the very thing that drives me like a rhinoceros through the wild. That is the seduction of our common existence. I dream sometimes of a child, a daughter perhaps, who might capture this splendid dance of opposites in her spirit. But it is only a dream."

By now it should be more than evident that Xaman's After Olympus isn't some genre-bending fluff adventure, but a literary achievement that is compelling not just for its strong plot and characterization (not to mention its unique twists and turns), but for its literary prowess. Whether it's futuristic designer drugs to alleviate generational inheritances of medical conditions or the financial frustrations of a would-be miracle drug inventor ("For Holmes, imagining new molecules with new functions was an exquisite delight. He enjoyed building function into a minimal sequence of amino acids that would be cheap to make, sit on a shelf for years without spoiling, be clever enough to penetrate, say, the skin, enter a nearby nerve, travel to (say) the nucleus accumbens in the brain, and trigger such traits as boldness. Or go somewhere else and reverse pain signals, depression, or apathy. He was certain that some of the future of medicine was his to invent. The insane part was figuring out how to do it on just a few hundred dollars a month."), After Olympus traverses pitfalls, conundrums, miracles and madness with a relentless march through irony, possibility, and the magic and reality of transformational processes.

Is this a manuscript of imagination or new possibilities? Does it arrive at an end, or promise a new beginning?

The real pleasure in After Olympus lies in its ability to inject magic into realism. Readers seeking a wide-ranging, original, creatively compelling read will find this literary work presses all the buttons of a solidly engrossing, superior masterpiece.

Into the Fairy Forest
J.M. Stephen
D. X. Varos, Ltd.
9781941072585 $18.95, paperback, $6.99, ebook

Into the Fairy Forest is Book 1 in the Chronicles of Pan series and gives young adult readers the engrossing fantasy story of ordinary girl Pippa, who finds her life turned upside down after her mother dies and she is attacked by a mysterious fire that seems both sentient and intent on her death, too.

Fleeing this threat brings her into the arms of the mysterious boy Pan, who introduces her to a whole new world far from familiar Irvine, California or her upstate New York home with her Aunt Catty. The Catskill Mountains surrounding her new abode are beautiful, but Pippa feels at home and safe primarily in the house's garden, where she senses that an inexplicable loving, protective presence is watching out for her.

So when things go horribly awry in her life once again, she is able to step away from a place that has become familiar and into the world of this blond-haired, blue-eyed boy who is both a stranger and yet feels familiar.

As Pan explains monsters of legend and the presence of two worlds and how they were nearly destroyed, Pippa gets to meet Queen Mab, ruler of the fairies, and discovers not only another reality underlying everything she's known, but a new purpose and threat to her life.

Teens who enjoy atmospheric descriptions will appreciate J.M. Stephen's close attention to detail, which creates a "you are here" feel to the story: "Queen Mab opened her door and walked, or more like glided, out of her tree. She looked fully rested, her long black hair was plaited in gold, shining in the waning sunlight. A whisper of the moon flickered in the darkening sky and the stars were peaking their shining heads out, the day and night were in the midst of a shift change and this was the only moment that all heavenly features were visible. Pippa looked up at the sky as Queen Mab appeared to float toward her, two glasses in her hand, followed by a flood of shimmering fairies."

When a threat evolves which indicates forces are against Pan himself, Pippa finds herself in the middle of a conflict she never could have imagined, serving as the pivot point to life or death.

Teens in middle to high school grades who appreciate fantasy quest stories will relish this tale, thoroughly infused with fairies, hidden relatives and family plots, legends, and an adventure that turns the roots of good and evil upside down as Pippa uncovers who the enemies really are.

Everything she's held true about her life and world has changed. Teens, too, will find their concepts of fantasy altered by a fast-paced, emotionally charged story that places Pippa in a whirlwind of action, hard decisions, and nonstop revelations tinged with newfound love.

Although Into the Fairy Forest is the first in a projected series, it stands well alone and concludes nicely, setting the stage for more without relying on a frustrating cliffhanger.

The result is a compelling read that draws readers in, works its magic with strong characters and a story filled with surprises, and then concludes nicely while leaving the door open for more experiences.

It deserves a place in any teen fantasy collection and is especially highly recommended for young readers looking for an added touch of romance to their fantasy adventures.

Deep Agroecology
Steven McFadden
Light and Sound Press
9781792309281, $16.95

Readers interested in farming and agricultural challenges will find Deep Agroecology an important examination of a different approach to growing food: one that views the farm as an ecosystem rather than just a resource to be exploited for better productivity.

Steven McFadden is neither a farmer nor a researcher, but a journalist. He reports on the changing face of farming and agricultural management, with a focus on the overall importance of agriculture beyond human concerns.

His focus on "deep agroecology" is more than the promotion of another growing system. It represents a fundamental change in the perceptions of humans about the choices they make in planting, harvesting, and eating food, incorporating an ecological perspective that has its foundations in the long history of agrarian idealism.

McFadden's journalist roots are reflected in an approach based on reports from media coverage as well as research. As he examines the vast, fragile, increasingly fragmented agricultural pursuits and systems of communities and nations around the world, he pursues the historic roots of the present-day agroecology movement: "Agroecology recognizes farms as ecosystems embedded in broader landscapes and social settings, with which they interact continually and significantly."

From interviews with Native Americans about concepts of natural law and resource considerations that move into spiritual realms ("Native people know already that the spirit lives not only in the land, but also within in their relationships with it and with one another. As part of their way, for thousands of years they have had the understanding of spirit life on a practical level.") to paradoxical conflicts between economic and ecological interests, Deep Agroecology goes beyond farming systems to probe the philosophical, spiritual, and moral roots of human relationships with the land.

The result is a hard-hitting, powerful survey that takes the food system ideal a step further by interrelating it to pursuits of justice, freedom, and health for the entire plant.

Agricultural to new age readers will find Deep Agroecology filled with food for thought, backed by different perspectives that join forces to support the ideal of agricultural practices. All this is linked to a deeper understanding of the importance of supporting ecological systems for the greater good of the planet.

The Tao of the Viper
Linda Watkins
Argon Press
9781944815103, $4.99, Ebook
9781944815110, $16.97, Paper

The Tao of the Viper is the second book in the Dr. Kate Pomeroy mystery series and is set some time after the events of the first book, from which Kate is still struggling to recover.

She still dreams of the dead and has nightmares, but thinks her life is finally getting back on track until an old man appears to introduce new threats into her half-stabilized world. As secrets are exposed and new revelations come to light, Kate discovers she's in a pivotal role that requires her to take charge of not only her trauma over the deaths of her father and relatives at Stormview and her ongoing conflicted emotions, but her ongoing responsibility to Steve, Jeremy, and other island community members.

Medical mysteries, unnatural threats, a diary filled with superstitions that may not be all myths, and the involvements of Russian mafia and other forces make for a riveting mystery that goes beyond a medical thriller to delve into political, paranormal, and romantic influences on events.

Unlike many mystery genre reads, Linda Watkins cultivates a unique voice and an ability to weave disparate themes into her story of a doctor recovering from her own life's blows.

Contrasts between character traits and underlying motivations and influences are well done, while Watkins injects fine, thought-provoking moments into Kate's discoveries that continually challenge reader anticipation and presumptions: "I felt confused. How could that evil old man have made a home like that? It didn't make sense. But, then, what did I expect? A dark, dreary old house, full of cobwebs, roaches, and bats? No, Morrison thought he was privileged and liked the better things in life. It made sense that his home would reflect that taste."

This device allows readers to not only follow the plot, but the winding and ever-changing reactions, growth, and insights which Kate hones as she moves through her world and looks at bigger goals than lasting recovery.

Perhaps this mystery is just what Kate needs. Or, it could be the straw that broke the camel's back. Either way, The Tao of the Viper a satisfying series of questions, conundrums, and revelations that keep mystery readers, prior fans, and newcomers alike involved in not only Kate's investigations, but the changing course of her life.

It's a top pick for mystery readers who look for more than the usual whodunit. And, it should be cautioned that this story ends in a cliffhanger. By the time it does, readers will be thoroughly hooked. And that's not a bad thing.

Richard Robbins
Evolved Publishing
9781622538225, $6.99

Panicles opens with a literal bang. Emerson Murnane has just had a car accident after some light drinking, calls driver and caretaker Mike for help, and wonders if this is the end of his goal of running for office. But Mike has connections, cleans up and hides the event, and Emerson is back on track with his political aspirations. Or, is he?

Two powerful families are changed during the course of Panicles. The Murnane family and the Wax family both experience the challenge of playing by the rules (or not), building a comfortable life for themselves and future generations, and dealing with high level political power plays that challenge their ideals and decisions.

Richard Robbins creates a compelling series of events where the juxtaposition of personal and political interests sparks conflict, but is careful to inject family dynamics and legal considerations into his saga of election processes and ethical decisions.

As readers move from Emerson's challenge and eventual fall to the processes, politics, and meaning of leading a privileged life with all of its underlying perks ("That's one of the privileges of wealth: the ability to hide things."), they receive a story fueled not just by social and political aspirations, but the interrelationships of very different families and individuals.

Readers who enjoy novels steeped in a sense of purpose and psychological insight and inspection will relish this story because it doesn't take the easy way out by following predictable social climbs, but includes plenty of serious inspection of purpose and personal responsibility as the characters hone their goals and test their values against life's ups and downs.

Fame, fortune, and achievement leave each family in the story considering the ultimate impact, costs, and effects of wealth and power, and their considerations of these challenges and the extent of their duty to self and country create involving scenarios and revelations that make for a fast-paced, purposeful, well-written production.

Novel readers who like their social and political insights steeped in psychological revelation will relish Panicles, which places history-changing events firmly in the realm of generational aspirations, experiences, influences, and choices.

First Earth
Cami Murdock Jensen
Independently Published
164570792X, $34.99 hardback; $15.99 Paper, $4.99 ebook



First Earth, Book One in the Arch Mage series, provides many compelling surprises in the course of its fantasy adventure, from the more familiar wizards to an interplanetary journey made by a victim who is not a wannabe female wizard, but who suffers from physical ailments and many uncertainties.

Agnes, a scarred burn victim, seems the least likely candidate for such an extraordinary task, but her drive and perseverance in the face of insurmountable odds is what makes her a heroine even before she becomes involved with mages and other worlds.

Teen readers who like their characters spunky and determined with their actions powered by extraordinary scenarios will relish the pace of First Earth, but it's important to note that Cami Murdock Jensen takes the time to portray evocative scenes through descriptions that are alluring and precise: "The sun does chase me," I insisted. "Scientists say light travels in straight lines, but I can't accept that when the sun dodges buildings just to find me."

In her drive to be normal, Agnes faces the possibility of a magical cure, but finds that even magical solutions are not that easy.

Second Earth is unremarkable. First Earth tests Agnes even when assessments of her abilities would seem to indicate she holds no special powers - not even the rudimentary skills of an entry-level candidate. But what she does possess is equally extraordinary and different. First Earth explores this special brand of magic that brings her into a war she'd never opted into.

Good fantasies focus on adventures and quests. Extraordinary reads, however, inject into the mix a blend of emotional uncertainty, growth, and confrontations with self as well as the outside world(s). The characters' reactions to extraordinary situations drive change and make for a vivid read.

As Agnes learns that the best part of her adventures doesn't lie in the discovery of her abilities but in her connections to others, readers enjoy a vivid and fast-paced story powered not just by action, but by Agnes' personality and self-discovery.

First Earth is highly recommended for teens seeking not just the usual fantasy trappings or quest story, but a powerful character in a spunky young protagonist who has already found her survival skills tested long before mages, wizards, and war transported her to another realm.

Neffatira's First Challenge
Tom Xavier
Koehler Books
9781633938403, $17.95, Softcover
9781633938427, $25.95, Hardcover

Neffatira's First Challenge provides the setting and action for Book One in The Light Guardian series, a teen story featuring a protagonist who struggles with being of mixed race in a small town Iowa high school. Neffie faces ridicule but risks much to hang out with the 'cool gang' in school, even when her best interests aren't being served.

Neffie also keeps an embarrassing secret that only her parents know, so she's in a doubly challenging position trying to fit into Windmere's small-town atmosphere. When a daring stunt led by the 'cool clique' turns into their introduction of just how odd Neffie is, her life gets more complicated just as a solution to her dilemmas lands in her lap.

Teen fantasy readers who enjoy stories that open with realistic portraits of protagonists challenged by their backgrounds and differences will find the fast-paced introduction to Neffie's life in Neffatira's First Challenge surveys different forms of life and interpersonal relationship challenges.

As Neffie embarks on a search for her grandfather and uncovers some surprising truths in the process, readers receive an engrossing story of a teen's new life in an alternate world where she is not as uncertain. Indeed, here she is a powerful, moving force in a scenario where civil war demands her loyalty to one side and her death from another.

Friends and enemies, an almost supernatural athletic talent that sets her apart in both worlds, and a journey undertaken with Jessica that tests both their evolving friendship and their different abilities makes for an absorbing read which pairs an alternate world fantasy with an exploration of Neffie's place in it.

When human Jessica becomes a prisoner in the world of Fastness, Neffie is charged with working miracles even while resisting the forces that would possess her.

Risks, battles, and the evolving powers of a teen who is at once human and light guardian creates the riveting story fueled by Neffie's strong personality and lessons. The blend of action, quest, and personal growth encounters makes Neffie an appealing, believable character.

Teen fantasy readers are in for a treat with Neffatira's First Challenge as Neffie's world moves from a quest for popularity to a pursuit of much bigger goals.

John Molik
Independently Published
9780473489823, $15.95, paperback
9780473489847, $3.99, ebook

Collective, global intelligence overseen by an artificial life form combines two common sci-fi themes in the powerful Victoria. Think Colossus and the Borg of Star Trek, add a dose of social and spiritual inspection, then imagine the far future of 2430, when a near-extinction solar event has evolved a model of perfection governed by the authoritarian Victoria, a genetically engineered woman implanted with an AI interface who directs the networked survivors with her artificial love and high technology.

It's an approach which eschews religion. When a band of religious zealots launch a terrorist attack against their genetically enhanced, superior overseers, Victoria struggles to keep her perfect society, and her role as its leader, intact.

The moral, ethical, and spiritual issues raised by these events is part of what makes Victoria so inviting as it moves beyond the realm of an AI's benevolent control and into issues of freedom, purpose, religious struggles, and different perceptions of how survivors should live: "I just don't get it. These Luds and the metal nuts. What are they so afraid of ? Knowledge? Evolution? Using educated skepticism?" Pierre paused. "Themselves?"

Molik does a fine job of creating memorable characters who struggle for different aspects of their future, from Conan and other ESP members (viewed as 'electronic beasts' by Boniface and his people) to the challenges of synthetic love's capacity to really care, and the nature of different kinds of control that clash with religious perspectives even in prison: "It was considered a sin for a MH member to use the substance, as it reflected poorly on the requisite pure faith and belief in Rodolpho whose texts clearly instructed that God is to provide these feelings naturally. To the Luds, and especially the MHs, drugs were artificial ways to provoke rebellion of all that had been provided by God through Rodolpho."

Is Victoria a demon, an evil ghost, and the bane of humanity itself? Is she a god, or a mixed-breed electronic beast? And will her purpose and method ultimately prove the downfall of humanity?

Readers receive many thought-provoking themes to consider during the struggle between Victoria and her ilk and the rebellious remnants of humanity, who make the point that humanity's savior might actually be a devil in disguise.

What does it mean to be human? And are Victoria's purpose, evolution, and interests in sync with either divinity or nature itself?

A surprise conclusion about salvation, evolution, and human and artificial life's boundaries lingers in the mind long after the story is complete, making Victoria a powerful commentary on the core of humanity's guiding lights.

The Adventurer's Guide to Mexico's Yucatan
Deanna Keahey
Uphill Zen
9780988839243, $9.99, Ebook
9780988839250, $21.95, Paperback

The Adventurer's Guide to Mexico's Yucatan: Fifteen Adventures to Discover Lost Cities, Deserted Beaches, and the Soul of the Yucatan serves as both an advance planner's guide and a take-along tote, and is important reading for adventure-oriented travelers who want to plan their own escapes. With its many color photographs and evocative descriptions, even armchair travelers will enjoy the read.

Why another travel guide to Mexico? Deanna Keahey says: "Millions of tourists each year arrive in Cancķn. They come for the gorgeous beaches, turquoise seas, balmy weather, and luxurious resorts. ..[Yet] many people have no idea what they're missing! The vast majority of visitors barely scratch the surface of what this amazing land has to offer."

Rather than a comprehensive guide to everything in the region, Keahey has created a specialty guide of fifteen specific, personally selected adventurous destinations stemming from her extensive drives throughout the Yucatan.

From pristine beaches to ancient ruins, tropical wildlife, small towns, and byways still off the traditional tourist paths, this book takes you to places most visitors never see. Its focus on 'off the beaten path' eschews popular tourist traps for the more authentic, lesser-known areas where English may not be spoken and tourism is not a primary industry.

Each of the 15 adventures in the book includes vivid color photos and descriptive text that immerses you in the scene. It then provides the nuts and bolts information you need to experience this yourself with details about where it is, how to get there, when to go, where to stay, special preparation notes, and more.

The Adventurer's Guide to Mexico's Yucatan covers everything from general travel tips to specific insights about selected, recommended areas. No prior knowledge of the region is needed. Keahey provides maps, color photos, basic history, geography, travel tips, and everything needed for the newcomer to Mexico.

From site details to camping information and special tips for planning for gas, water, and the basics, The Adventurer's Guide to Mexico's Yucatan provides a wealth of practical insights that are essential for planning an excellent getaway without professional guides or advice.

The book's charts are particularly notable, as in the early introduction that lists specific recommended areas, ideal number of days to spend there, main attractions (beaches, ruins), and whether or not a car is needed.

In addition, The Adventurer's Guide to Mexico's Yucatan shows that females can drive solo throughout "Mexico's safest state." All that's required is the physical fitness to undertake an adventure-oriented trip and an interest in independent travel far from the maddening crowds.

The Adventurer's Guide to Mexico's Yucatan is not a guide for those who like big hotels, guided tours, and familiar places. It's a highly recommended standout for the destination-bound visitor who wants family-oriented accommodations and food, an independent travel itinerary, and solid, practical tips on not just where to go, but how to get there.

The blend of lively discussions, extensive photographs, and enthusiastic observations sets The Adventurer's Guide to Mexico's Yucatan apart from other Mexican holiday guides, making it a top pick for those who want a Yucatan vacation that's more exotic, exciting and adventurous than the norm.

Porcupette and Moppet
Nadine Poper
Blue Whale Press
9780981493831, $16.99, hardcover
9780981493848, $10.99, paperback

Porcupette and Moppet is a lovely picture book featuring bright, vivid drawings by Alicia Young, and will reach ages 4-8 with the fun story of a bookworm and a predator who have very different views of life and leisure.

Porcupette considers his forest a quiet sanctuary and loves to spend his time reading alone, but Moppet, a fisher, is a chatty weasel-like character who just can't stop talking. Porcupette reads up on him, but still can't understand him and resents the intrusion in his quiet life, while Moppet just can't comprehend why the shy, subdued bookworm isn't interested in him or the world outside of his books.

Facts about fishers are inserted into the fun encounters between these two very different creatures, which come to life with the lovely colorful, whimsical drawings. A surprise ending gives both characters the opportunity to reflect on their choices and encounter.

Parents who choose Porcupette and Moppet for its read-aloud pleasure will find this a thoroughly engaging, refreshingly original story, while youngsters with rudimentary reading skills receive a fine lesson in differences, predators and prey, and the value of information.

Highly recommended both for its leisure value and its pointed insights about different personalities and creatures, Porcupette and Moppet is a lovely picture book that promises lasting attraction and interest to parents and library collections alike.

The Best People
Marc Grossberg
Greenleaf Book Group Press
9781626346550, $23.95
9781626346567, eBook

In many ways, Paddy Moran is approaching the end of his best game at age thirty-six, as an ex-cop. In other ways, in The Best People: A Tale of Trials and Errors, he is posed at the beginning of new opportunities as a new Houston divorce attorney who finds himself quickly rising in his new career after some public acclaim elevates his name and career. He sees himself not just as one of the good people, but one of the best.

The time seems ripe for change to enter into his world in the form of the beautiful but flawed Pilar Galt, a single mother from the barrios who struggles in a different way.

In many ways, Paddy has gotten a late start while Pilar has gotten the short end of the stick. As their lives collide and entwine against the bigger picture of corporate corruption and dirty politics, they find that what looks like disparate, very different purposes and experiences actually dovetail in an unusual manner.

As court proceedings and litigation efforts, Paddy's big day in court, and Pilar's efforts to redeem herself coalesce, readers receive a story peppered by Paddy's temper and sometimes-crude reactions to crime and the consequences of running up against the Internal Revenue Service.

When disaster strikes and Paddy and his partner Will face a terrible dilemma that threatens to repeat destructive patterns of the past, it's Pilar who, despite her own desperation, may be the one to save them all.

From an aggressive divorce push and its political impact to legal obstacles to success, The Best People pushes the buttons of legal process and personal lives in a way that will delight fans of courtroom procedurals.

Money, power, and corruption currents in a smaller city are captured in an engrossing story contrasting the elite and downtrodden of Houston, creating a milieu that promises either riches and redemption or the biggest downfall in Paddy's life.

The fine line Paddy walks between these promises and pitfalls will keep readers thoroughly engrossed and guessing about Pilar and Patty's future and the consequences of their choices, right up to the end.

David - Savakerrva, Vol 1
Lawrence Brown
Independently Published
9781096469919, $19.99, Paper, $7.99, Kindle

David - Savakerrva, Vol 1 is an intriguing sci-fi story that weaves together the stories of an extraordinary boy from Detroit, an extraterrestrial invasion that leads a king to flee to Earth, and the prophecy of a son who will save the world with mystery, heroes and legends. As it treads lightly between the story of an alien savior and a boy's coming of age, it creates an epic, visionary read that is remarkable and notable for its ability to take ordinary scenarios and craft them into extraordinary challenges and opportunities.

Take the opening, where Ana faces a home invasion with feisty determination: "Ana felt her fear boil into frustration, then into rage, then she just didn't care. She should have called the police and sheltered in place, but sheltering sounded like surrender, and who gives up in their very own house? This porch-banger had no right, and more to the point, Ana had her gun." Not the kind of introduction one expects from a world-sweeping saga.

But this is just the kind of setting that Lawrence Brown loves to play with, because Ana Redhawk's encounter with an injured stranger on her front porch leads to extraordinary events surrounding the visitors, their origins, and their intentions. Eighteen months later, her life has changed in ways she never could have predicted.

The visitors have left her with a legacy and a warning ("Not just a child, he'd left her an alarm. But an alarm for what? She never asked. Didn't want to ask, because by his stories, those ale-oiled tales on her couch, she already knew."), and her love and decisions have unwittingly brought her into close contact with a kind of war and enemy that her planet has never seen before.

Brown does an exquisite job of creating a memorable character in the feisty Ana and her life-changing moments. This approach drives the story from its introduction to events that unwind with an equally astute attention to detail, psychological growth, and wider-ranging dilemmas that aren't always predictable. The blend of intrigue and mystery elevates thriller and sci-fi elements to new levels, spicing action with descriptions designed to pull readers into these fast-paced encounters: "No longer bleak, Michigan Central Station stood transformed. Bright light streamed from every window and so did the sound, some inexpressible melody from the million voices within. Garth grabbed a tall train station door and pulled. Too heavy. He pulled harder, strained with all he had left. The door yielded, started to give. I'm not alone, his glorious thought, but the door slammed shut in a blinding white blast."

From the searing image of Garth as a phoenix-like boy arising from what seems like death ("Garth shot from the river afar in a convulsion of flash. His mind electric and muscles afire, he screamed from a billion lit nerves and waves of pummeling rush.") to his ongoing, increasing confrontation with impossible forces, truths, and challenges, readers will quickly find themselves drawn into a world that is vividly portrayed with a fine balance between evocative description and psychological insight.

From generals who battle the Beast to caves of fog, battlegrounds, and Garth's learning curve as he faces impossible circumstances ("Do you know nothing of their tribal god? Where that unholy bug breeds?" "I don't care about bugs, I'm talking about the cliffs!" "And so am I, Odd Boy, do you not see?" Torgen tossed the souvenir cliffs to Garth. "Are you blind to color, the blush on its face?" Painted orange flecks glimmered the souvenir cliffs. "The spots?" asked Garth. "The spots," said Torgen, "mark the barbed-wing nimaj. And when they breed on Elka's cliffs, they turn the color of the Greater Sand." Garth eyed the orange flecks. "There's - a lot?" "There's millions, it's their home!" said Torgen. "And if anyone kills just one?" "They Walk?" "They Walk," Torgen replied. "But instead of killing just one nimaj? Oh, no, not you, you'd bomb the cliffs and kill them all! Now, is this your plan, what you'll propose to the Sykah of Nimaj?" Garth wondered how a plan so right went so wrong. "But - " "Some advice, Odd Boy." Torgen grabbed a cushion off the adjoining throne. "Next time you want to save a world? Start with yours."), David - Savakerrva, Vol 1 paints his world with colorful details and believable characters both alien and human, cementing all with a special purpose that makes the story nearly impossible to put down.

The mark of a good sci-fi adventure lies in both its premise and how it fills out characters and backgrounds to support the setting and dilemmas of its worlds.

David - Savakerrva, Vol 1 demonstrates an almost uncanny ability to reach into the minds and hearts of its readers to craft a story that is mercurial and action-packed, yet populated with compellingly realistic characters and situations that keep readers guessing and involved. In another book, this level of complexity might prove a challenge for a reader to absorb, but in David - Savakerrva, Vol 1, the background and worlds are seamlessly explored within the context of each character's perceptions and special interests.

The result is a gripping, imaginative, emotional rush that grasps mind and heart and keeps pumping action up to an unsettled ending that nicely completes this story of madness and strife while keeping the door open for further adventures.

It should be noted that this Volume 1 encompasses the first two books of the Savakerrva series. The series will be 4 books in total, and books 3 and 4 will be released in early/mid 2020, respectively.

Sci-fi readers looking for stories of invasion, aliens, romance, and war will find everything here - and more! It's a sweeping epic in the true sense of the word, and a worthy standout from the crowd.

The Trouble With Becoming a Witch
Amy Edwards
She Writes Press
9781631524059, $16.00, Paperback
B0788QXV53, $9.95, Ebook

Veronica's life initially seems happy in The Trouble With Becoming a Witch. She has a lovely daughter and lives in a fine suburban house. Dabbling in witchcraft should be the last thing on her mind, but as trouble ramps up with her husband, Veronica takes just such a course to find that magic is changing her world and her relationship with her husband.

The trouble with becoming a witch is that the effort involves empowerment, and when that happens, all hell can break loose. Veronica's trouble didn't begin with her newfound passion. It is present from the story's beginning: "You know," he spouted with a finger pointed my direction, lockstep behind me, "I can't ever say anything to you about your weight." He didn't used to be like this. It used to be fun and sweet and easy. Now it's pointy and accusatory and weird. It makes me want to run away. I want to see my friend and have someone be nice to me, someone to have fun with."

Veronica has always lived up to others' expectations, but at the same time, she maintains a feisty, defiant nature and is willing to reconsider and repurpose her life. This serves her well, as a miscarriage results in many changes and new challenges. What also works in her favor is a determination that propels her into new possibilities.

Amy Edwards is not above adding dashes of humor throughout, even to such a serious subject as a first prayer to the Goddess: "Oh Goddess, God, powers that listen and powers of nature and sky, please hear me tonight. I don't know you yet, but I want to. I ask for you to listen, and I ask for help. I honor the spirits all around us, all the time, and I honor nature, that natural, deep beauty that so often gets ignored through the bustle of daily life." I'm kind of impressed with myself. I keep going."

Edwards does a fine job of juxtaposing Veronica's forays into a new life with her dread of rocking a familiar boat, adding insights and reflections that are compellingly familiar and realistic: "I know that when I get home, I can use my little built-in buffer to avoid anything I need to, at least until she goes to bed. I feel exhausted even imagining what I may have to go through with him. There is nothing I want to say anymore. I just want to be let go. I want it to be easy. I just want him to know that I am no longer happy and I don't think I ever will be, not with you, Pete, and not in this marriage. Not here in suburbia, not on a boat, not with a goat, not anywhere with you. I know, deep down, that I have just started the beginning of the end, that I have set in motion something that cannot be undone, and I wonder if I was ready."

Readers receive insights into her feelings and the many avenues facing her as well-meaning friends and relatives try to help ("I would be in my car driving and just want to keep driving and never go home," she confides in a near whisper.

She tugs on the edge of her cardigan, which is peppered with multicolored polka dots the size of ping-pong balls. "Then, we came out the other side - we made it through. Now, he is my soul mate. I can't imagine life without him. It can get so much better, I promise you."), but witchcraft pulls them apart even as it's gives Veronica the power to confront her life's course.

Readers expecting a fantasy story about spells may be disappointed to discover the story is really more about self-empowerment and realization than the birth of a witch. Veronica's abilities lead her to become a strong woman able to survive anything. This is actually the central theme in a quirky, fun story of friendships, love, change, and tapping one's inner strength to speak and live a more truthful life.

Chic lit and women's fiction fans will find The Trouble With Becoming a Witch a gripping story that lends not only to a beach take-along or leisure choice, but to thought-provoking insights about the sources of growth and achievement.

Near and Far
Al Zolynas
Garden Oak Press
9781732375369, $15.95

Near and Far features 91 poems peppered with comets, planets, and observations of life close and distant, and captures and grasps succinct moments of life, juxtaposing them with small celebrations of bigger pictures.

Examining the poems of Near and Far is like training a far-reaching telescope on the microscopic world. One might think that a lens that can be focused so sharply on distant objects would become blurry or questionable when narrowing inspections to matters closer to home, but one of the compelling aspects of the poems comprising Near and Far is their ability to draw new connections between the two.

Take the title poem 'Near and Far', which considers a lunar event's impact on observers on Earth. As the poem moves from observation to irony, the writer/observer using not a telescope but a smartphone camera to capture a rare lunar eclipse, readers are treated first to a macrocosmic effort of trying to pinpoint a moment in time and then the impact of irony as the results, viewed the next morning, prove to be something quite different.

The surprise factor enters into a number of these poems, as in 'Phosphenes and Mother Light', in which both mysteries of the universe and obvious answers remain elusive on many levels. Perhaps the greatest influence on the observer is not the disparate objects being observed nor traditional methods of analyzing their logic and meaning, but the observer's own reactions: "When you're startled from darkness into light,/or when you rub your eyes,/those lights you see are your own pattern."

There are also visionary dreams - flights of fancy that bring readers into realms of possible and impossible, as in the jaunty 'When Pigs Fly', which presents a fun dream adventure on the subject: "As he turns the handle,/something begins to slide/out of the wall - a huge, pink, plastic pig,/looking like one of those old-time merry-go-round creatures./The pig, too, sports little hand-holds/here and there on its surface with neatly/printed signs, ?Grab me/and ?Hang on tight/...they spiral down, the dreamer and his dream pig, until the ground/finally appears clearly.

With one more graceful quarter arc,/the pig lands with a squishing slide just/as the morning sun slants in and lights up/the familiar pig-pen world/with its rollicking and terrible life..."

The metaphors and descriptions are exquisite, whether Al Zolynas is speaking of the stuff of dreams, the solidity of reality...or something in between.

From lucid dreaming to mall visions and cafe observations, each poem holds the power to grasp heart and soul, inject philosophical reflection, pinpoint moments of self-absorption and the irony of self-importance, and couch all in a reflective, fun voice that will leave readers thinking long past the final verse.

Is Near and Far a collection of the stuff of dreams, or a celebration of bigger pictures? Readers will find these pieces compellingly revealing.

Toxic Spirits
Calumet Editions, 2019
9781950743100, $16.99, Paperback
B07WSXR5PM, $2.99, Kindle

It's rare to see an international thriller that captures the intricacies of a complex story so succinctly. Toxic Spirits achieves this and more, adding dashes of humor, social inspection, and insights into multiculturalism. These keep readers engaged throughout this fascinating story of a retired, widowed African-American intelligence analyst's romp across Thailand. The novel also offers thrilling back-stories set in the US and India.

Benton Sims did not come to Thailand for romance or intrigue. But his intelligence background and nose for trouble is awakened when he's first enchanted by a beautiful bar singer from a hill tribe, then dismayed by her abrupt disappearance. As his investigations uncover secret drug trials and a genetically engineered drug that could change the world, his own transformation begins on more than one level.

Multicultural insights are woven into the plot so deftly that these casual injections become part of the intrigue: "He remembered then what Little John had told him. One should never make a Thai lose face. Especially a woman. She was now muttering under her breath as her fingers clenched the knife."

Benton is still recovering from the death of Sylvia and the guilt he harbors over his choices: "Let me be me. He hadn't, had he? He had screwed up that last segment of her life, the part when he should have made everything as beautiful as she wanted so she could cry and rage and tear things up and go blazing like a meteor into the night." He never expected to fall in love again. Now he has new choices to make, and their impact will go far beyond individual lives.

Mani's attention to detail is nicely done, and his descriptions are just complex enough to intrigue and add atmosphere while contributing to the story's fast pace. It should be cautioned that graphic descriptions of torture are part of the story line, and not for the faint-hearted. As hate, shame, and revenge evolve into a tale of hacking and intrigue, readers are drawn into Benton's investigations and dilemmas against the backdrop of a country where anything can happen.

Moody and atmospheric, compellingly swift and surprising, and steeped in intrigue and Thai culture, Toxic Spirits is an engrossing read on many levels, juxtaposing personal conundrums with issues of greater good and high-tech experiments conducted in the jungles of another world. It's a puzzle piece with a surprise bang to its ending that will not only keep readers on their toes, but leaves the door open for another book even as it deftly concludes a powerful, stand-alone story.

The Ethereal Vision
Liam Donnelly
Independently Published
9781508603306, $9.99

Jane Conner has suppressed her paranormal abilities since a terrible accident in her childhood, and has committed to living a life without them until a new threat forces her to not only accept them, but learn how to use them. In doing so, she accepts the help of Max, a supernatural entity from her past, and faces the fact that she's in danger whether she accepts her destiny and powers or not.

Set in the near future of 2028, The Ethereal Vision tells of Jane and her mother Nora, who have both coped with impossible powers and their legacy. The story then moves into the now-adult Jane's struggles to recall the past, confront her fears and powers, and accept the help of those who would help her awaken her long-dormant talents.

With Max at her side guiding her, Jane has a chance to regain memories from when she was young which could hold the key to her survival now. Max's ethereal presence in her life, combined with the story's near-future setting, contributes to a surreal feel to events which makes their progression at once logical and fantastic.

It should be noted that while this begins as a paranormal adventure with a hint of romance, The Ethereal Vision widens its vision and approach to embrace sci-fi as it turns out that Jane represents much more than just one individual with extraordinary talents.

As Jane's desire for a peaceful life gives way to bigger purposes and struggles, readers are carried into a greater war where Jane serves as a pivot point of danger until and unless she can control what lurks in her mind.

Her ethereal vision is a problem for those who oppose her because she (and it) cannot be controlled. And that poses a danger to society unless Lucas Johnson, charged with capturing and testing her, can change her abilities and mind.

Elements of sci-fi, paranormal mystery, thriller, and romance contribute to a multifaceted, engrossing story powered by Jane's powerful personality and determination.

Liam Donnelly does a fine job of depicting Jane's dilemmas, thoughts, and emotions. This contributes to a compelling saga of capture, escape, special interests, and radical threats as the nature and purpose of Ethereals is revealed.

Sci-fi readers seeking a satisfyingly engrossing story of mind control and paranormal abilities will find The Ethereal Vision hard to put down, filled with unexpected moments designed to keep readers engaged and on their toes.

Love is the Law
Marieta Oslanec, Esq.
LITL Publishing
9781733305419, $18.19, Hardcover

Love is the Law: 21 Universal Laws to Activate Your Inner Genius & Uplift Humanity is motivational success writing at its best. Author Marieta Oslanec moved to the U.S. with only $700 to her name and no English in her skill set, put herself through law school and became a licensed New York attorney, then began her own practice. During this process, she gathered and cultivated 'laws' to follow that range from self-love and balance to self-healing and loving others.

While Love is the Law stems from her determination and experiences, it also holds a spiritual component that will especially attract readers who search for the intersection between love, success, and bettering the world.

Chapters discuss these foundations of love with an eye to not just describing the journey to achieve them, but to defining what they actually mean: "Loving myself means respecting who I am by setting healthier boundaries, saying no to others, while saying yes to myself. Loving myself means following my desires, no matter what people think. Loving myself means doing what feels right for me when my mind tells me otherwise."

Love is the Law is not a passive instructional, but is filled with challenges and admonitions that invite and direct readers to commit to tackling fears, defining (or redefining) success, and taking the steps needed to both direct the future and "...collaborate with the Universe by simply letting go."

The blends of admonition, insight, exercise, and reinforcing insights on how to envision, then hone, a new life are quite specific and best used by readers open to applying these 'laws' to their own self-examination process: "Write down the wrong limiting beliefs and then scratch every limiting belief and next to it write the new belief. Make sure to use present tense all the time."

Where other motivational guides would use generalities and ideals, Oslanec focuses on specifics from small steps to large, creating a foundation that serves as a series of stepping-stones to change.

The result is a motivational guide that takes readers by the hand and leaves nothing to wonder: a purpose-driven series of insights and applications that will prompt thinking readers to redirect their purposes and aspirations with a key goal in mind: "Your life purpose is to become your true self that is love." Spiritual and inspirational readers, especially, will find that this message resonates.

Ready for the People
Mike Langan
Hilliard & Harris
9781591334361, $18.95

Ready for the People is a Hank Fisher mystery that continues the private detective's career's rocky changes as, reeling from his past challenges, he uses his legal prowess to investigate white collar crimes. He teams up with a former police officer who has also struggled with his career due to some poor choices, but this doesn't mean that success will follow either man.

Their efforts flounder and place Hank in the precarious position of applying for a loan to keep his practice afloat. It's a move that leads to bigger, even more dangerous choices as Hank finds himself accepting an offer that leads him from investigating white collar issues to probing a terrorist network's operations.

Hank Fisher isn't your ordinary aspiring legal beagle. He has a checkered past, and those who are offering him this new challenge well know it: "Put someone else on trial so I wouldn't be put on trial? I started to stand but Aaron put a hand over mine. He said, "Of course we'd have to make sure his bar status is still active." I sat back down and gave Aaron a look of suppressed alarm. They were talking about me actually prosecuting someone for a capital offense. Me, the guy who changes jobs every few years, bends the law for a living and takes meds for fainting spells. My bar status was the least of my concerns."

But it's an offer Hank just can't refuse, and his venture into uncharted waters leads him to legal and political investigations that test him in new ways.

Mike Langan's prior background as a Washington, D.C. litigator lends authenticity and authority to his fast-paced legal story of Hank's downfall, rise, and challenges. Each step, choice, and consideration is backed by realistic scenarios and encounters that contrast career challenges with conundrums affecting Hank's personal life: "What was I doing? I was about to destroy the guy. I didn't have a choice. Forget about bankruptcy. Forget about prison. I would be accused of killing Amelia's step-uncle, my own client."

It should be noted that while this story is steeped in legal and political dilemmas, it also holds a literary accent that is refreshingly unexpected in a legal mystery: "I walked to the end of a pier and stared out onto Lake Erie. The sky was clear, the moon and stars shining. Waves emerged from the darkness and crashed into the shore beneath me. I closed my eyes and tried to picture myself surrounded by water, an island in a peaceful ocean. But all I could hear were pages of federal regulations falling around me, rising up to bury me. For the first time I felt I really understood the last line of a short story by James Joyce that I used to teach, about a young woman who was too afraid to leave home - All the seas of the world tumbled upon her heart."

Langan excels not only in crafting a sense of purpose, but a sense of place, winding Hank's career and personal dilemmas into an atmospheric production that is compellingly realistic and which blends moments of comic relief and observation with high-octane action and confrontation.

These elements keep the story on track, fast-paced but realistic, and thoroughly absorbing not just for prior fans of Hank Fisher, but newcomers.

The result is a legal mystery that nicely blends a struggling protagonist's life with a touch of romance and ambition to keep readers guessing about many outcomes, both personal and professional, right up to the end, which highlights the ultimate consequences of Hank's choices.

Deliciously Holistic - Inspired Favorites
Valerie Penz
Shellback Publishing, LLC
9781733335805, $21.95, paperback

Deliciously Holistic - Inspired Favorites is written by a nutritional therapist who debunks the myths that eating well involves expense, time, or the need to consume unappetizing fare for the sake of healthy eating.

While there are no processed ingredients here (nor gluten, dairy, corn, or refined sugars), that doesn't translate to dull food, strange flavors, or time-consuming preparations. Deliciously Holistic is all about making healthier foods accessible to the ordinary, busy cook and family, and the recipes chosen for this book are especially crafted to please all.

An introductory pantry list reveals some special staples the cook may need to acquire. Nutritional yeast, liquid aminos, and raw coconut oil may not be in every kitchen, but they are essential for the successful pursuit of this cookbook.

Next comes the recipes, accompanied by bright color photos of completed dishes. These will prove inviting and easy, as in a Pleasing Pea Salad which contains fresh basil, peppers, peas and garbanzo beans, lemon, onion and tomatoes, among other ingredients.

As cooks move from salads and side dishes to dishes such as a Please Eat Pot Roast (note: this cookbook doesn't eschew red meat: only the typical methods used to consume it) with sweet potatoes and veggies or a Truly Tasty Turkey Meatloaf that acknowledges the usual problems with turkey being too dry or tasteless (overcoming these obstacles with added oats, balsamic vinegar, garlic and onion), it's evident that Valerie Penz does more than gather recipes. She addresses common obstacles to their use, modifies approaches that have resulted in negative experiences in the past, and puts together a deliciously holistic cookbook of flavor-rich dishes designed to appeal to the entire family's tastes.

There are many healthy, natural, holistic cookbooks on the market these days; but Deliciously Holistic - Inspired Favorites stands out from most with its tested, flavor-filled dishes, mouth-watering color photos of completed dishes, ease of preparation, and an approach that combines healthier eating goals with flavors that can't be beat.

Anyone looking to make the transition into better eating should start with Deliciously Holistic - Inspired Favorites. It's a foolproof way of engaging cook and diner over a delicious culinary experience.

Mind in Chains
Bruce M. Perrin
Mind Sleuth Publications
9781732083523, $10.99, paperback
B07XQHRRS9, $3.99, eBook

Mind in Chains is the third book in The Mind Sleuth series. This installment revolves around terrorists and medical politics that affect health access for all (versus only for a few).
The efforts of Dr. James Conroy, Jr., who leads a movement to improve medical access in America, directly oppose those of the Crusaders for Common Sense, who maintain that medicine is dominated by self-interest and edging too close to impinging on God's judgment.

As violence increases and Sam "Doc" Price, Nicole Veles, and FBI agent Rebecca Marte face the Crusaders in a series of escalating confrontations, readers receive a medical thriller that takes place over one month in May where everything changes.

The story begins seven years earlier, when a baby goes missing from a hospital. There are no clues, and Martha Wilson, who was in charge of the newborn, feels that she has failed in her duty.

Fast forward to May 3rd, when Sam and biomedical engineer Nicole announce wedding news to the family. Only a few days later, Reverend Micah Eastin leads his flock in a dangerous direction as he maintains they are "surrounded by evil" and outlines a threat not just from opioid addition, but the medical community he views as inherently greedy and evil: "Is change in this epidemic before us, you may ask? I say, it is not. Nothing will change because despite all the evidence - the addiction, the betrayals, the deaths - the men of medicine will not allow it. They continue to foist their false beliefs upon us. In fact, if the group assembled in this house of worship represents the norm for our state, we will be told over 215 times in the coming year, 'here, take this drug, it'll fix everything.' And under their breath, the men of medicine will whisper, 'and it will make you its slave.' Two hundred and fifteen times! That's the number of prescriptions for opioids the 300 of us could expect if we represent the state's norm. Thankfully, we're not average."

As the Crusaders become synonymous with serial killers and domestic terrorism, medical community and American values both fall under siege in a manner that challenges everyone, from religious circles and FBI investigators to a couple in love. As their relationship changes based on threats and new pursuits, Bruce M. Perrin creates an absorbing interplay between social issues and struggles and the couple's changed focus: "My throat tightened as I realized the possible implications of her question. "Have I been ignoring you?" "Oh, no," Nicole replied, sitting forward to look back at me. "You've been a bit preoccupied, but I understand that entirely. And even in the midst of everything that's been happening, you've been very sweet, letting me crash at your place on Thursday. And now, staying here. Having you around has really helped get things back to normal. Better than normal actually. Thanks, Sam."

The best medical thrillers juxtapose the personal and the political, crafting conundrums that affect both. Mind in Chains moves deftly between church matters and perceptions, misconceptions about technology fostered by the Council for the Right and other influencers, and interplays between the medical community, believers, individuals with other motivations, and Sam and Nicole.

As Mind in Chains examines different beliefs and motivations, readers are treated to a fast-paced thriller that grows intrigue, crafts delusions, and moves back into the introduction's events with new perceptions of its significance. The premise which evolves is riveting, original, and thought-provoking.

Readers seeking a well-developed medical thriller that injects a substantial dose of moral, ethical, and social considerations into its story, tempering all with strong psychological growth in its characters, will find Mind in Chains just the ticket. It's a multifaceted, absorbing read that lingers in the mind long after the final revelation which examines issues of justice and humanity, as it crafts a growing story of horror.

So Far from Paradise
Judy Alter
Alter Ego Press
0996993548, $3.99

So Far from Paradise is a Western ranching novel with several differences: it takes place in North Texas, and it focuses on the efforts and challenges of a rancher woman who tackles frontier life and grows not only her ranch, but new approaches to ranching in Texas.

So Far from Paradise was first written in serial form in 1986 in response to a call for stories celebrating the 150th anniversary of the state. After its publication and the historic date's passing, Judy Alter focused on other writings until she decided to resurrect So Far from Paradise as an ebook.

The first-person observations and experiences of Cassie Belden come alive in this tale, which opens in the form of recollections that Cassie knows should be put down on paper rather than lost to future generations. And so she begins with a contrast of past and present Texas: "It's hard to call up the past. Sitting here at my desk, a slight Texas breeze blowing in through the open window, the joys and trials of my younger years seem almost unreal. The breeze doesn't smell like the prairie but of city smells, and my view is not of wide-open spaces but carefully manicured lawns, bushes and trees trimmed into shapes that God never intended, gracefully curved paths. How can I sit here and call back the vision of the prairie, where trees grew only sparsely and then in wild shapes and paths were worn over the years by buffalo and cattle? Dust, drouth, Indians and, yes, death, all seem part of another, earlier life. Yet that past is a legacy to pass on, one that must not die with Colin and me or even with our children who have moved so far from those origins..."

As Cassie reviews her life and the experience of pioneer days in Texas, readers are treated to a bit of history, some fiction, and an overlay of drama in encounters that built the state, whether they were confrontations with Indians or the rise of power plays and ranching politics in the struggling frontier community of Paradise.

Descriptions of women's work and seasonal daily chores ("It was spring, and we planted not only the field of corn, but a vegetable plot for Mama with squash and beans, onions and potatoes. There was corn meal to grind daily, and laundry to do weekly, soap to make in the great kettle over the open fire, and a milk cow to care for and two mules to be tended to.") contrast nicely with Cassie's fear of the prairie's threats and her efforts to protect the family around her ("All through the Christmas season, the weather was balmy. Shirtsleeve weather we called it. Victoria rode her horse from dawn to dusk or so it seemed to me. I had insisted on some fairly strict rules and limits. She was not, for instance, to ride beyond the edge of town nor be gone at dusk or later. She chafed at these, and I know she secretly ventured out on the prairie a time or two. Once I saw her racing like the wind across a rise in the direction of the old cabin, but I lacked the energy to confront her about it, and I knew talking to Colin would do no good. Sometimes it's easier to pretend ignorance."). This is an evocative story that captures all facets of frontier life as seen through the eyes of a woman who confronts many changes.

As life moves from rural to urban and Cassie finds that her familiar world is changing yet again, readers are carried into her family's journey with a passionate observational tone that will resonate even with those who may have relatively little familiarity with Texas or its history: "It was all right, Cassie, for us to grow up free on the prairie. It was a different world then. Victoria doesn't need to know the same things we did to survive. She needs a whole new kind of knowledge, and she won't get it in Paradise. I guess I've been more convinced of that since I've been spending more time in the city. Like Pa said that time we were all there, ranching is going to be done as much in the city as it is on the prairie."

The result is a thoroughly engrossing read that stays true to much of Texas history, adds drama when and where needed, is candid and blunt about perceptions and conflicts between white settlers, Indians, and power plays between ranchers and others, and creates a rollicking good read for all.

I Eat Men Like Air
Alice Berman
B07VBPFPYB, $24.47

The scenario is familiar for a murder mystery: as snow isolates the New Hampshire countryside, a group of seven gather to celebrate a forthcoming wedding, only to find that the past catches up to them and leads to a grisly murder.

Podcast reporter Tyler, who found Alex's body before he was officially declared dead, has just an inkling of the past connections within this group that could have led to such a disaster, but he's determined to use his investigative skills to probe deeper. After all, his podcast Crime and Question has solved such mysteries in the past.

As tension ramps up and matters unfold in a classic Agatha Christie-style approach, Tyler at first isn't sure what there is to investigate and what there isn't. As he probes the lives of the rich, their relationships, and their entwined interests and pasts, a different kind of mystery evolves.

Under a different hand, I Eat Men Like Air could have become a predictable, staid Christie-like story of intrigue, but Alice Berman takes the time to explore the relationships between not just Alex Sable but Maxie, Lulu, Freddie, and the others, winding these stories into a compelling probe of all bridal party members and their friendships.

The dual timelines and changing focuses on different members is well done and easy to understand, but especially notable is Alice Berman's evocative descriptions of the characters' perceptions of their lives: "He walked into the building he didn't like and took the elevator up to the apartment he hadn't picked. She was awake, scrolling through Instagram in long john pajamas that it was too warm for. The lights were very bright, very bright and very white in the living room full of shiny things. She didn't say anything and he didn't say anything and for a moment, while he stood there with the door open and her pretending she hadn't noticed him come in, he had the urge to walk right back out of it and keep walking and walking and walking until he was completely gone. Why hadn't modern life created an application for an easy out from the life you didn't like? An automatic service that completed your break up and found you a new apartment and quit your job and sent you listings of new positions, that changed your name and your phone number and your email so no one from your past could ever find you again, that fed you the potent drugs of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and let you rise from the ashes of the disaster you'd stumbled into, and begin again."

These reflective moments, peppered throughout, enhance the psychological interplays between characters and spice the events, narrated from different angles, which led up to a disaster affecting all.

Loss and love, wedding promises nearly broken by tragedy before they even begin, and little cruelties and love assume different forms both before and after the event, creating a multifaceted, absorbing read that contrasts different lives and values.

I Eat Men Like Air's ability to grasp and twist the same event from different perspectives results in a gripping story of invisible justice, changing love, and a revealing mystery surrounding not only what really happened, but why.

Murder mystery fans will find it astute, compellingly complex, powerful in its psychological depictions, and hard to put down.

Black Volta
Pete KJ
Pete KJ, Publisher
9781541102620, $12.95
B07XJZ8F2L, $2.99

Carlos Mario committed many crimes as a young man, but now it's time for him to go back to Ghana and make amends.

Liz left Ghana to create a very different, successful life; but now finds herself supporting her poverty-stricken family back home. She has her own new family in America, but cheap fares to Ghana prompt a long journey in hopes that her presence will make a difference in her needy siblings and mothers' lives, which are always in economic crisis.

Each feels compelled to return to Africa, and in Black Volta, both find that going backwards to revisit something familiar is an effort tainted by the circumstances that birthed their new lives.

Liz and Carlos face difficult decisions in Ghana, wondering if its pull will let them leave Africa unchanged. The difference between them? Carlos is actually fine with the way things are. And Liz needs her family to change if she's to ever find lasting peace. Their destinies entwine as the Black Volta River becomes a backdrop for further confrontations and change (although Ghana is still a familiar home, in many ways).

One notable feature of Black Volta is its ability to add insights that contrast with traditional views of African culture and ways of navigating the country. This thought-provoking conclusion to Liz's attempt to get around a rule that could thwart her journey before it begins is one example of a very different way of viewing these third world processes: "Along with all the insidious and damaging drawbacks, the Ghanaian system of corruption had a silver lining. It gave a person an option in a situation such as this. What if it had been the other way around, and she was trying to enter the United States without valid documentation? She looked with gratitude at the Port Health woman's face, and watched it brighten."

As she travels near her father's village where her life began and unearths memories of the past, Liz discovers that her present and future are not only tied to it, but will be changed by current decisions made in Ghana.

Bound for Wa and determined to see the country, enjoy his journey, and keep his memories and concerns repressed, Carlos faces an uncanny reunion with a town at once familiar and much-changed. He also encounters stranger Liz, who feels the same about her Ghana roots and new experiences.

As Carlos muses about the possibilities of elusive love ("What about love? Carlos Mario asked himself a few days later, as he sat in his room at the Konatey Lodge. He wondered if true love existed in this Wa society, just like he wondered if it existed anywhere else in the world. No matter where he went, everything always seemed to be based on some type of exchange. As for love, he sensed the people of Wa probably strove for it, or for their concept of it anyway, just like people did in Puerto Rico including himself. Puerto Ricans seemed to be yearning for love. But at the same time, they treated it like it was something superfluous. Other things were always more important: success, money, power, prestige. These were everyone's daily priorities. Despite being starved for love, they treated it like it was a luxury, not a necessity."), he compares his revised expectations of life between his former 19-year-old self to his present-day perspective twenty-six years later.

As their Ghana experiences change both their lives, readers receive a warm, vibrant story steeped in African culture and society - one which lingers in the mind long after the reading. Liz's real journey is just beginning. And Carlos is about to embark on the greatest transformation of all.

Readers interested in literary psychological explorations of African cultural roots will find Black Volta as compelling for its social inspections and atmospheric descriptions of the country as it is an absorbing story of two very different individuals who dare to go backwards in time; there to rediscover their roots and wings.

Finding Lisa
Sigrid Macdonald
Total Recall Press
9781590958285, $6.93, Kindle, $14.89, Paper

Tara is leading an unhappy but safe life, stuck in a career and marriage she doesn't like, until her best friend vanishes. Finding Lisa is about having everything, losing something important, and re-evaluating life, love, and purpose as a result.

It stands out from other stories of disappearance and searching because of its focus on a variety of themes beyond the event itself. These include women's connections and friendships, the kinds of shared interactions that keep such connections alive, and underlying issues of spousal abuse, midlife changes, and new possibilities.

The first step to making meaningful changes is to confront evidence that one's values, perceptions, and patterns are no longer serving their purpose. As long as Lisa is part of her life, Tara isn't compelled to take this step or make these realizations; but Lisa's disappearance prompts a cascade of grief, self-examination, and determination in ways than one, and this in turn fosters new experiences and choices.

Set against the backdrop of Canadian culture, Finding Lisa follows Tara's journey as she learns to trust strangers, runs into danger and even possible romance, and navigates strange new worlds in which her usual responses need revision: "Alain had been sincere in his offer to locate Lisa. I was impressed but couldn't picture myself in a pool hall drinking with Alain. It seemed surreal, like I had walked through a portal into a parallel universe."

Her shortcomings and failures are reassessed ("Lisa had always wanted me to go with her to a meeting, but I'd never gotten around to it. Never made her addiction a priority in my life.") as her search leads to not only dead ends, but a passage of time that gives her the feeling that Lisa is being left behind as life moves forward without her: "The Steve Miller band was singing, "Time keeps on slipping, slipping into the future." I had a sense of motion. The car was moving forward, and with every traffic light I passed, I was moving farther away from Lisa and our routine evenings at the ByTowne Theatre. The rest of us were going ahead, and Lisa had been left behind. I wanted to go back, not just to last Thursday night, but to my university days, so I could live my life all over again."

As she faces questions about whether Lisa lost her sobriety and whether her boyfriend Ryan was involved, Tara confronts her own life decisions. Ultimately, Finding Lisa is about Tara finding herself, her place in the world, and her own willingness to accept pat answers and appearances that defy easy explanations.

The emotionally charged conclusion that takes an unexpected twist will delight readers who anticipated a very different ending from Tara's thought processes, making Finding Lisa a delightful study in surprises that holds the power to thoroughly engross right up to its stormy conclusion.

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

Gary Roen's Bookshelf

Copper and Goldie
Rosemary & Larry Mild
Magic Island Literary Works
9780990547259, $14.95,

The authors of "The Misadventures of Slim O. Wittz" are back with new characters in 13 stories in "Copper and Goldie" that is simply delightful. This time out disabled in the line of duty cop; Sam Nahoe now drives a cab to make ends meet. He also finds at a pound a pooch that rides around with him. The unlikely pair solve mysteries and get into all kinds of mischief that is bound to please anyone who loves good old mysteries. The writing in 'Copper and Goldie" takes readers along a marvelous rollercoaster ride till the very end, when it has all concluded. Part of the fun is also the pictures for each chapter and the detail of Hawaii presented in the stories. "Copper and Goldie is a great collection that begs for more stories in the future.

The Fog Ladies
Susan McCormick
The Wild Rose Press Inc
9781509227006, $17.99,

Several elderly residents in an apartment complex in San Francisco, are dying one by one. Some of the senior ladies who are retired with a lot of time on their hands, believe there is someone targeting them for murder. The group known as The Fog Ladies try to interest Sarah James a medical resident to delve into what the feel is a case, as they believe there are clues have been left behind. Sarah also has her own problems when one of her patients dies that she is blamed for his death. "The Fog Ladies" is a wonderful mystery with lots of twists and turns to keep readers turning pages, as well as delightful characters sure to please anyone looking for a great murder thriller.

The Misadventures of Slim O. Wittz, Soft -Boiled Detective
Rosemary & Larry Mild
Magic Island Literary Works
9780983859796, $7.95,

Slim O Wittz is a wonderful addition to the traditional private detective genre because unlike, Mike Hammer or Michael Shayne, Slim's misadventures will have you laughing out loud throughout the 8 short stories. He has a beat-up older model car that most of the time he cannot afford to pay the parking fees, a small office with a wonderful secretary who is studying to be a lawyer and an array of oddball characters and situations that make him one of the most unique investigators to ever come along. Fans of the Jim Rockford will love Slim O Wiltz.

Nourish Your Tribe Empowering Parents to Grow Strong, Smart, Successful Kids
Nicole Magryta, MBA, RDN
Purple Bear Publishing
9781732829602, $19,99,

Though the title mentions parents and kids, "Nourish Your Tribe" is for all ages to begin to do more things to stay fit. So often we see theories on the relationship of certain foods and health, that are ridiculous, we even hear of sleep habits being affected by the amount of synthetic light or other nonsensical premises that a lot of times people buy into. Magryta who has been a clinical nutritionist for many years, utilizes her expertise to write, about food issues in terms all of us can understand, to achieve a much healthier existence by being more cautious of what we take in. Unlike other books of this type, Magryta does not advocate getting rid of anything. Instead she is a firm believer of moderation. There are tips like natural methods to treat such things as the common cold. Instead of taking antibiotics there are many different foods that increase the body's own abilities that are not harmful at all. She does not advocate ending having a steak or things from other animals, she says instead know if the cows or chickens have been given steroids, antibiotics, or other things that prevent our bodies from functioning more properly. She also conveys knowing about fruits and vegetables and if anything has been added to them to increase their size. Magryta has included different types of recipes that sound exquisite. Miso Tahini Dip, Curry Fish Salad, Frozen Chocolate Banana Bites, Dark Chocolate Bark with Super Seeds and Sea Salt are some of the delightful concoctions. There are appetizers, main course meals, and desserts that are for anyone who wants to eat healthier "Nourish Your Tribe" will have your body saying. I'm the carriage, and you're the brain. It's time to enjoy our new beautiful relationship.

The 3 Minute Rule
Brant Pinvidic
c/o Penguin Random House LLC
9780525540724, $27.00,

So often people make presentations where they cannot figure out why they were turned down. "The 3 Minute Rule" reveals reasons and the proper way to write a proposal for anything in the world. The author presents sound logical premises for anyone to learn for presentations of all kinds, including, speaking engagements, proposals for jobs, pitches of a new product. He shows that most are boring and go too long. Pinvidic writers crisply and clearly using example after example of the wrong way that is often too long winded where no one has any idea of what its about. He points out people's attention span for things in not very long and that it must capture whoever it is being given to. Authors who want to find a mainstream publisher should read and learn from "The 3-Minute Rule" on the proper way to do a pitch to an agent. The same holds true for smaller publishers where there is no agent needed. "The 3-Minute Rule" is a valuable resource for anyone wanting to get ahead no matter what the idea is.

Your Third Story
Flip Flippen & Dr. Chris J. White
9781532078019, $12,99,

In all my years of doing reviews, I've encountered many self-help titles that are very useful for people to change their lives. Unlike those Your Third Story," is too confusing to understand om the first page. This type of work is supposed to encourage, and guide to a higher enjoyment of life. On the other hand, "Your Third Story" begins with Flip Flippen telling about his own life, how he made mistakes being a boss, then launches into becoming a grandfather for the first time. He never clearly shows why he deals with a woman who is at the hospital with a newborn who soon leaves the health care center in a waiting cab. Any type of writing weather its fiction or non, has to have several things, a beginning, middle, and an end as well everything has to fit together like puzzle pieces. "Your Third Story" is a hodgepodge of writing that is very confusing, because there is not anything for readers to learn because the authors do not explain what they mean by a third story. "Your Third Story" was just too complicated for me to gain anything positive.

Poems by Mary Flynn
Barlemarry Press
9781732838024, $10,99,

"Delighted" is an amazing collection of poetry of many different forms, including free verse, rhyme and the very difficult Haiku. There are many unique perceptions on such tings as love, faith, religion, and things that affect us all in our daily lives. "Delighted" is a gem of irreplaceable writing mastery of the craft of poetry.

Granny Can't Remember Me: A Children's Book About Alzheimer's
Susan McCormick, author
Timur Ceberdeev, illustrator
Caroll Press
9780998618708, $7.99,

We hear all the time about Alzheimer's but rarely are we made aware of the effect on the family the disease poses. Recently the drama The Young and the Restless has done a wonderful arc to show how family members are affected by the downward progression of a loved one. "Granny Can't Remember Me" does the same in a children's book to expose the way a young boy watches how Alzheimer's is changing his beloved grandmother. "Granny Can't Remember Me" also has tips for all of us to learn how to treat a person dealing with Alzheimer's. There is something for all ages in "Granny Can't Remember Me" to face this terrible, degrading, affliction that continues to be a mystery of its causes and ways to medically slow it down.

Blair Thortnburgh, author
Scott Campbell, illustrator
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781534414006, $17.99 hc / $10.99 Kindle,

Most of us never think about our heads and what is beneath the skin but "Skulls" delves deep into what it is and has some great answers for all of us to think about. "You probably don't think much about skulls," begins the ideal excursion through our bodies highest point with some satisfying results. "Skulls!" has a lot to say about who we are and how we are made up to be the people we are for all of us to enjoy.

Mark Teague
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781534451285, $17.99,

There are no prose for "fly" but the artwork by Mark Teague tells the whole story very well of a bird who leaves the next in search of adventure. His travels even take him around Florida as he experiences all kinds of wonderful things meeting all kinds of other characters on his escapades. "fly" for all ages to enjoy and think about the hidden meanings throughout this wonderful tale of one being's journey.

Gary Roen
Senior Reviewer

Helen Dumont's Bookshelf

Knights Club: The Message of Destiny
Shuky, author
Waltch & Novy, illustrators
Quirk Books
215 Church Street, Philadelphia PA 19106
9781683690658, $9.99, PB, 152pp,

Synopsis: "Knights Club: The Message of Destiny" is middle grade graphic novel series for young readers ages 8-12 that makes them the valiant hero of a fantasy quest. The young reader can pick panel, find items, gain abilities, solve puzzles, and play through new storylines again and again!

In a medieval age of chivalry and sorcery, you've been training hard to become a knight. Now the king has a mission for you: carry a message of the utmost importance to the leader of a neighboring country. But traps and enemies will be numerous on your route! Forge your weapons to make them more powerful, win points collecting magical cards, be victorious in battle, and advance through the levels to become strong enough to bring your mission to a successful end.

To begin a quest, just select a character. Numbers are hidden in every panel. Decide where to go next, and then flip to the panel with the matching number; Solve puzzles, collect supplies, and defeat enemies in a quest for success. If able to succeed, then be knighted!; If the mission fails, just start again at the beginning! Kids can play the book over and over again, making different choices every time.

Critique: "Knights Club: The Message of Destiny" is no ordinary comic book or just another graphic novel. It's a choose your own adventure style DIY entertainment that offers hours and hours of pure entertainment. While unreservedly recommended for family, middle school and community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Knights Club: The Message of Destiny" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.99).

Happier As A Woman
Martina Giselle Ramirez & Alicia Partnoy
Cleis Press
101 Hudson Street, Suite 3705, Jersey City, New Jersey 07302
9781627782388, $18.95, PB, 240pp,

Synopsis: Martina Ramirez first started wearing her mother's shoes in secret in second grade, when everyone still knew her as Martin. Growing up in a conservative household as an adopted Mexican-American in a racially segregated city, she swore she would not be just another crime or teen pregnancy statistic. Martina lived up to that promise when she was named high school valedictorian, became a tenured professor at a prestigious university, and had a family. It was only then, after she had become established in her life and career, that she was able to finally be her true self.

"Happier as a Woman: Transforming Friendships, Transforming Lives" is not just a story of one woman's transition. It is a story about relationships -- those she fostered with herself, those that were hurt, those that were saved, and those that would not have existed if not for Martina's desire to be a mentor, to be the change. Martina made it her mission to pave the way for all of those that would come after her, from women seeking to break through the glass ceiling to fellow victims of emotional abuse, regardless of who they appeared to be on the outside.

It's as though all the emotions she had to bottle up in her youth became more potent with age, and they now tell of a compelling journey of acceptance, self-discovery, and self-love. Martina's story is artfully expressed through letters, anecdotes, and powerful interviews conducted by and written alongside her renowned coauthor, human rights advocate, and memoirist Alicia Partnoy.

Critique: An inherently fascinating, ultimately inspiring, deftly written, deeply personal and candid, "Happier as a Woman: Transforming Friendships, Transforming Lives" is unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library LGBT Biography collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, LGBT activists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Happier as a Woman" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.49).

From Belly to Baby
Lucy Riles
Rockridge Press
c/o Callisto Media
9781641526166, $14.99, PB, 202pp,

Synopsis: Early symptoms, odd cravings, labor and birth, footprints, and beyond can now be documented with the other milestones of a pregnancy and baby's first year. "From Belly to Baby" by Lucy Riles is a sweetly illustrated pregnancy journal that has plenty of space for a new mother to journal and jot down delightful details of pregnancy and first year of mothering.

There are so many wonderful memories being made and "From Belly to Baby" is an ideal way record them with thoughtful writing prompts, ample room to write, and even inspirational motherhood quotes, and all in a fun and celebratory package.

"From Belly to Baby" includes: What to expect (Find insights about your baby's development, as well as a list of common things most moms go through at each stage of pregnancy); Helpful templates (Even if you're suffering from "pregnancy brain" now, remember the important details?from first trimester highlights to a list of "firsts and favorites."); Wonderful keepsake (This charmingly illustrated journal is the perfect way to record your treasured memories for your future child.);

Now all new mothers can rejoice in the memories of your pregnancy and baby's first year (and remember them always) by journaling their experiences in the pages of "From Belly to Baby".

Critique: Exceptionally well organized and presented, "From Belly to Baby: A Journal for Pregnancy and Baby's First Year" is an especially and unreservedly recommended babyshower gift.

The Serenity Passport
Megan C. Hayes, author
Amelia Flower, illustrator
White Lion
c/o Quarto Publishing Group USA
400 First Avenue North, Suite 400, Minneapolis, MN 55401-1722
9781781319161, $20.00, HC, 144pp,

Synopsis: From ancient meditative practices to simple self-care philosophies, throughout history and around the world people have sought ways to live a more balanced life. In our busy, modern lives we are constantly seeking a deeper state of balance and calmness of mind, such as that evoked by the the Sanskrit upeksa.

Whether you find peacefulness in an afternoon siesta, prefer a calmingvolta or simply like to grab a beer with mates to unwind as described by the Norwegian utepils, "The Serenity Passport: A World Tour of Peaceful Living in 30 Words" by psychologist Megan C. Hayes will inspire you with new ways to find calm in everyday life.

Critique: Charmingly illustrated throughout by Amelia Flower, "The Serenity Passport" is an especially commended and effective addition to personal reading lists for anyone seeking a bit of daily tranquility in the seemingly constant uproar of our present era. Indeed, "The Serenty Passport" will prove to be an immediate, unique, and enduringly popular addition to community and academic library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections.

Helen Dumont

John Taylor's Bookshelf

The Tao of Ordinariness
Robert J. Wicks
Oxford University Press
198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016-4314
9780190937171, $21.95, HC, 240pp,

Synopsis: "The Tao of Ordinariness: Humility and Simplicity in a Narcissistic Age" by Robert J. Wicks (Professor Emeritus at Loyola University Maryland) is an invitation to come home to your authentic self in a world that is frequently mesmerized by "spin", narcissism, fantasy, and exhibitionism.

Psychology and classic wisdom literature have, in various ways, long recognized the value for simply becoming who you are (i.e., ordinariness). However, this call is becoming increasingly drowned out by the many other voices that emphasize publicity and image-making over authenticity and humility.

"The Tao of Ordinariness" offers a way of beginning to address these tendencies in contemporary society. In this new countercultural work, the strength and joy of exploring who you are (and proceeding to share yourself with others in a way that they too can reclaim themselves) is revisited from a range of vantage points. Professor Wicks specifically reexamines themes of humility, simplicity, letting go, self-awareness, "alone time", resilience, and mentoring.

In an era when people increasingly measure self-worth by external measures, such as the number of likes and views and followers on social media feeds (which have many individuals chasing impossible fantasies and living with a constant fear of "missing out"), Professor Wicks offers a return to your authentic self.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, impressively thoughtful and thought-provoking, offering a deft blending of documented research and insightful information, "The Tao of Ordinariness: Humility and Simplicity in a Narcissistic Age" is an extraordinary read that will have immense value and appeal for both academia and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject. While highly recommended for community, college, and university library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Tao of Ordinariness" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Hidden Lives of Jews and Africans
Jonathan Schorsch
Markus Wiener Publishers
231 Nassau Street, Princeton, NJ 08542
9781558766303, $26.95, PB, 300pp,

Synopsis: The 16th- and 17th-century Iberian Atlantic was a turbulent world of adventurers, slave traders, and forced conversion to Catholicism. The Spanish and Portuguese rulers used caste and "blood" to divide the peoples of the empire, who, in turn, created their own societies to cope with their oppressors and one another.

Converted Africans and Jews were persecuted in the Inquisition for secretly practicing their former religions. The Africans working in the jails of the Inquisition wielded power over the accused converted Jews (Conversos). Some were witnesses for the Inquisition; others became messengers between Converso prisoners.

In this tangle of religions, cultures, and hierarchies, nothing was simple or straightforward. A conflict between two surgeons in Cartagena de Indias, one a former slave and the other a Converso, involved not only jealous lovers and persecution at the hands of Inquisitors, but also secret societies, African magic, and worldwide conspiracy theories. Another Inquisition case, against a woman known as "Mulatta Marano," the daughter of an African slave woman and a Converso father in Mexico, revealed a network of Africans engaged in Jewish rites.

Critique: An extraordinary and seminal work of exhaustive research, meticulous scholarship, and a unique approach to the study of historical black and white relationships, "Hidden Lives of Jews and Africans: Underground Societies in the Iberian Atlantic World" by Professor Jonathan Schorsch (University of Potsdam, Germany) is unreservedly recommended for the personal reading lists of students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject, as well as inclusion in both community and academic library collections.

Thomas Schirrmacher & David Schirrmacher
Wipf and Stock Publishers
199 West 8th Avenue, Suite 3, Eugene, OR 97401-2960
9781532692000, $13.00, PB, 94pp,

Synopsis: Corruption is neither a private problem nor a peccadillo. Corruption can be deadly, for instance if poor quality parts are installed in planes, if development funds for the hungry are diverted for private use, or if the drinking water supply is overpriced due to corruption and as a result the poor can not afford it.

Corruption affects everyone, or at least a great many, even if they do not usually immediately notice or know it. Everyone is affected, but the poorest of the poor worldwide are the most affected, for example when crucial funds are lacking for drinking water or medical care.

The World Bank estimates that more than a trillion dollars flow into corrupt channels every year. Eradicating the most extreme poverty (people living on less than $1.25 a day) would cost an estimated $60 billion a year. In large-scale industrial projects, even within Germany, Austria and Switzerland, there is a rumor that 3 percent of the contract value is bribe money.

International managers assume that corruption increases project costs by an average of 10 percent, but it might well be as high as 25 percent. "Corruption: When Self-Interest Comes before the Common Good" gives a global overview on corruption, describes its different forms and effects and argues how and why corruption should be combated by all means. It also includes more than a hundred of brief examples of corruption from the German speaking countries as well as worldwide.

Critique: Meticulously researched, exceptionally informative, effectively organized and presented, "Corruption: When Self-Interest Comes before the Common Good" is unreservedly recommended to the attention of social activists, governmental policy makers, corporate executives, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject. Simply stated, there should be a copy of "Corruption: When Self-Interest Comes before the Common Good" in every community, college, and university library collection in the country.

Palestine Posts
Daniel S. Chertoff
The Toby Press
c/o Koren Publishers Jerusalem Ltd.
PO Box 8531, New Milford, CT 06776-8531
9781592645121, $19.95, PB, 528pp,

Synopsis: Mordecai Chertoff came to Palestine in 1947 as a twenty-five-year-old, determined to make his contribution to the emerging Jewish state.

In vivid and often moving letters to his family Mordecai describes the news of the UN vote for partition, the siege of Jerusalem, the bombing of the Palestine Post, the declaration of the State of Israel, his travels along the dangerous Jerusalem-Tel-Aviv highway, and, inevitably, the loss of friends.

The correspondence, filled with details of everyday life in Jerusalem and meetings with famous and soon-to-be-famous people, includes historical information never before disclosed.

Mordecai Chertoff's powerful first-person account allows us to re-experience a momentous turning point in Jewish history, while we accompany his son, Daniel, on his journey to penetrate into the heart and mind of his father.

Critique: "Palestine Posts: An Eyewitness Account of the Birth of Israel" is an impressively informative, deftly presented, expertly organized and presented compendium of informative, eye-witness accounts by Mordecai Chertoff. A unique and unreservedly recommended addition to community and academic library collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers that "Palestine Posts" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

John Taylor

Mary Cowper's Bookshelf

Florence Nightingale: The Lady with the Diagrams
Robert Black
Royal Fireworks Press
First Avenue, PO Box 399, Unionville, NY 10988
9780898247053, $12.50, PB, 124pp,

Synopsis: Florence Nightingale (12 May 1820 - 13 August 1910) is best known for her revolutionary impact on medicine. She transformed the hospital system and dramatically reduced the death rate from infection and disease. She reformed the nursing profession from a job fitted only for women of low repute to one that employed dedicated, educated women who wanted a career in nursing. She was known internationally as the woman with the lantern who visited sick and wounded soldiers at night to soothe and comfort them.

But what most people don't know is that Nightingale's influence went far beyond the medical profession. In an effort to make the results of her research on disease and death rates accessible to people, she began creating diagrams-visual tools to allow people to see beyond the simple numbers they were reading in order to understand the true nature of what those numbers conveyed. She invented an array of circular diagrams and bar charts, many of which are still in use today or which have evolved to become commonplace to our modern eyes.

The "Lady with the Lamp" can also be credited as the "Lady with the Diagrams" for her work in pioneering a way for mathematicians and statisticians to present bare facts and intelligible truths.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Florence Nightingale: The Lady with the Diagrams" is an impressively informative and unreservedly recommended addition to community and academic library American Biography collections in general, and Florence Nightingale supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

The Battle Between the Frogs and the Mice
A. E. Stallings, translator
Grant Silverstein, illustrator
Paul Dry Books
1700 Sansom Street, Suite 700, Philadelphia, PA 19103-5214
9781589881426, $19.95, PB, 100pp,

Synopsis: From the award-winning poet and translator A. E. Stallings comes "The Battle Between the Frogs and the Mice: A Tiny Homeric Epic", a lively new edition of the ancient Greek fable originally printed in Germany in 1513.

Originally attributed to Homer, but now thought to have been composed centuries later by an unknown author, The Battle is the tale of a mouse named Crumbsnatcher who is killed by the careless frog King Pufferthroat, sparking a war between the two species. This dark but delightful parable about the foolishness of war is illustrated throughout in striking drawings by Grant Silverstein.

The clever introduction is written from the point of view of a mouse who argues that perhaps the unknown author of the fable is not a human after all: "Who better than a mouse, then, to compose our diminutive, though not ridiculous, epic, a mouse born and bred in a library, living off lamp oil, ink, and the occasional nibble of a papyrus, constantly perched on the shoulder of some scholar or scholiast of Homer, perhaps occasionally whispering in his ear? Mouse, we may remember, is only one letter away from Muse."

Critique: A unique and delightfully entertaining read, this impressively presented edition of "The Battle Between the Frogs and the Mice: A Tiny Homeric Epic" published by Paul Dry Books is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as both community, college, and university library collections.

The Gifts Beneath Your Anxiety
Pat Longo
Citadel Press
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21, New York, NY 10018-2522
9780806539430, $26.00, HC, 256pp,

Synopsis: As a spiritual healer and teacher to some of today's most well-known empaths (including "Long Island Medium" Theresa Caputo), Pat Longo has found that many of the individuals who have come to her with anxiety and related symptoms possess a heightened sense of perception and an extreme level of intuition -- absorbing the energies, thoughts, and feelings that surround them and even experiencing them as their own. What's more, most of these individuals had no idea they had these abilities.

The good news is that, in Pat's experience, just beneath what feels distressing can be something wonderful. In "The Gifts Beneath Your Anxiety: Simple Spiritual Tools to Find Peace, Awaken the Power Within and Heal Your Life", Pat guides you to become aware of, care for, and protect your spiritual self and energy; discover, develop, and strengthen the powerful gifts within; and in doing so, to eliminate and prevent related anxiety and other symptoms.

Using simple exercises utilized in her own practice, plus instructive and inspiring case studies, Pat will shows how to: Understand what an empath really is and determine whether you are one; Learn simple spiritual healing steps to care for your whole self -- physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual; Connect to your inner spiritual self and the power within; Protect and ground yourself spiritually and energetically; Forgive and let go of past hurts; Raise your energetic vibration; Become aware of and develop your intuitive abilities with focused activities such as meditations, visualizations, automatic writing, psychometry, and other exercises.

In an increasingly anxious world, getting in touch with our deepest healing abilities and achieving inner peace is more important than ever. With "The Gifts Beneath Your Anxiety" as your tool kit, you begin your journey toward finding that peace, becoming aware of and caring for your spiritual self and gifts, and healing your life.

Critique: Particularly well written, organized and presented for the benefit of the non-specialist general reader, "Find Peace, Awaken the Power Within and Heal Your Life" is an extraordinary, unique, and unreservedly recommended addition to community and academic library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Find Peace, Awaken the Power Within and Heal Your Life" is also available in a paperback edition (9780806539447, $15.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99).

Defeating Scrooge
Renae Baker
I S.M.I.L.E. in New York Productions
9781732852518, $21.62, 198pp,

Synopsis: People suffer during the holidays for all sorts of reasons. Renae Baker learned, first hand, how painful it can be to struggle to find joy during the holiday season. But as the founder and director of a company of Broadway holiday carolers and someone who treasures her Christmas spirit, she found it unacceptable to go through another December with no warmth of the season bringing her joy.

In "Defeating Scrooge: How to Harness the Power of Christmas Carols to Revive Your Spirit Any Time of Year", Baker describes, with humor and pathos, the path which led her to her life's work in caroling, her crisis of spirit and how she set about reviving it. In her journey back to joy, she immerses herself more deeply into the carols and discovers poignant life stories of the lyricists and composers, the countries in which they were written, what was going on in those countries at the time and the catalysts which brought these carols to life. She also discovers fascinating histories about how the carols have affected people in profound ways long after they were written.

One of the truly original aspects about "Defeating Scrooge", aside from the fact that Baker is uniquely qualified to write it, is that she reflects on how we might apply the wisdom gleaned from the carols' histories to our world and lives today. Baker shares her "Spirit Saver" process with us and explains how it works to reset and revive damaged "spirit triggers."

In addition to leading carols, Baker is also a sought-after acting coach in New York City. A scientific method she employs to guide her acting clients into roles in Broadway, film and television productions turns out to be the secret sauce in her process, and she employs it now to guide us to a joyful and triumphant holiday season. The reader may take advantage of the workbook pages at the end of the book and begin their own journey through the carols.

Critique: A perfect holiday gift for the Christmas season (or any other time of the year), "Defeating Scrooge: How to Harness the Power of Christmas Carols to Revive Your Spirit Any Time of Year" is a deftly written, thought-provoking, inspired and inspiring read from first page to last. While unreservedly recommended for community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Defeating Scrooge" is also available in a paperback edition (Morway Media, 9781732852501, $16.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).

Mary Cowper

Micah Andrew's Bookshelf

To Serve the People
Leroy Chatfield & Jorge Mariscal
University of New Mexico Press
9780826360878, $34.95, HC, 264pp,

Synopsis: The long pilgrimage of LeRoy Chatfield weaves its way through multiple collective projects designed to better the condition of the marginalized and forgotten.

From the cloisters of the Christian Brothers and the halls of secondary education to the fields of Central California and the streets of Sacramento, Chatfield's story reveals a fierce commitment to those who were denied the promises of the American dream.

"To Serve the People: My Life Organizing with Cesar Chavez and the Poor" is collection of what the author calls Easy Essays, Chatfield recounts his childhood, explains the social issues that have played a significant role in his life and work, and uncovers the lack of justice he saw all too frequently.

His journey, alongside Cesar and Helen Chavez, Marshall Ganz, Bonnie Chatfield, Philip Vera Cruz, and countless others, displays an unwavering focus on organizing communities and expanding their agency.

Critique: Written with the assistance of Jorge Mariscal, "To Serve the People: My Life Organizing with Cesar Chavez and the Poor" showcases a life dedicated to equality of opportunity for all that will inspire and guide readers in their quest for a fairer and more just society. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "To Serve the People" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $32.19).

Editorial Note: In addition to being a former organizer who worked with Cesar Chavez to get union recognition for California farm workers, LeRoy Chatfield also created a Saturday school educational enrichment program for farmworker children in Bakersfield, managed the Northern California general election campaign for Jerry Brown, and built the largest volunteer charitable organization in Sacramento.

Jorge Mariscal is a Professor Emeritus of Spanish and Chicano/a Literature at the University of California, San Diego. He is the author of Brown-Eyed Children of the Sun: Lessons from the Chicano Movement, 1965-1975 (UNM Press).

Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts of the UCLA Library Special Collections: I. The Richard and Mary Rouse Collection
R. H. Rouse & M. A. Rouse
c/o Arizona State University
PO Box 874402, Tempe, AZ 85287-4402
9780866985253, $75.00, HC, 512pp,

Synopsis: The Rouse Collection contains 140 medieval and Renaissance manuscripts ranging through the fields of paleography, codicology, and social history as embodied in the commissioning, making, reading, study, and dispersal of hand-written books. It is a teaching collection that includes examples, often fragmentary, of many different sorts of manuscripts whose forms and scripts represent the widest possible variety of times, places, genres, and Western languages, and comprises not only Latin but vernacular texts as well. This volume has descriptions of the manuscripts, manuscript leaves, and documents that were collected over a thirty-year period and presented to the UCLA Library Special Collections in 2005 and 2011.

Many of the smaller pieces in the Rouse Collection have an importance that belies their insignificant appearance: ninth-century bifolia preserve a liturgical text marginally juxtaposed with the corresponding lectiones taken from the homilies of Haimo of Auxerre, a format not seen elsewhere (MS 116); two early-thirteenth-century bifolia contain significant variant readings in the Middle French romance Athis et Profilias (MS 68); bifolia from early fourteenth-century Oxford afford a unique example of the working methods of the Franciscans who were jointly compiling the Tabula septem custodiarum (MS 96); manuscript calendars preserve as annotations informative names of persons and places (e.g., MSS 11, 41, 102), as does the obituary of the long-vanished parish church of St-Jean-d'Ocques in Burgundy (MS 87); a pile of 60 scraped and apparently anonymous parchment leaves play a key role in the reconstruction of an elaborate books of hours painted by a known illuminator, the Master of the Brussels Initials (MS 32).

There are also variations of five different manuscript rolls: a ten-foot-long fourteenth-century genealogical roll of the kings of England (MS 49); two small rolls of income properties belonging to twelfth-century cathedral canons divided by prebend (MS 134); an homage roll mentioning Sir John Fastolf and a rent roll of the tenants of Sir Richard Lee of Hertfordshire (MSS 53 and 61); a royal act of Louis XII in roll form that mentions the infamous Gilles de Rais (MS 131); and even a nineteenth-century Esther roll in Hebrew (MS 99).

The Richard and Mary Rouse Collection at UCLA is out of the ordinary and this catalog will make its contents available to others for research and teaching.

Critique: A unique and comprehensively descriptive reference volume, "Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts of the UCLA Library Special Collections: I. The Richard and Mary Rouse Collection" is unreservedly commended as a core addition to professional, college, and academic library Medieval/Renaissance resource reference collections.

Innovation on Tap
Eric B. Schultz
Greenleaf Book Group Press
PO Box 91869, Austin, TX 78709
9781626346635, $27.95, HC, 352pp,

Synopsis: "Innovation on Tap: Stories of Entrepreneurship from the Cotton Gin to Broadway's Hamilton" is the story of 300 years of innovation in America told through the eyes of 25 entrepreneurs (living and departed) who have gathered to "talk shop" in an imaginary barroom under the watchful eye of economist-turned-bouncer, Joseph Schumpeter.

From Eli Whitney and his cotton gin to the author of the Broadway smash hit, Hamilton, their stories capture the essential themes of entrepreneurship, highlight the rules for success, and celebrate the expansive sweep of innovations that have transformed our world.

Critique: A unique storytelling approach to surveying and presenting insights into entrepreneurial success, "Innovation on Tap: Stories of Entrepreneurship from the Cotton Gin to Broadway's Hamilton" by Eric B. Schultz is an inherently fascinating, thoughtful and thought-provoking read from cover to cover. While unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of business students, aspiring entrepreneurs, corporate executives, business managers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Innovation on Tap" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Micah Andrew

Michael Dunford's Bookshelf

Mark Twain at the Gallows
Jarrod D. Roark
McFarland & Company
PO Box 611, Jefferson NC 28640
9781476679730, $45.00, PB, 232pp,

Synopsis: Jarrod D. Roark researches crime, punishment and gender performance in nineteenth-century American literature and culture, specifically in the works of Mark Twain and antebellum writers. He teaches literature and writing at St. Teresa's Academy in Kansas City, Missouri.

In "Mark Twain at the Gallows: Crime and Justice in His Western Writing, 1861-1873", he provides the reader with a literary exploration of Mark Twain's writings on crime in the American West and its intersection with morality, gender and justice.

Writing from his office at the Enterprise newspaper in the Nevada Territory, Twain employed a distinct style of crime writing -- one that sensationalized facts and included Twain's personal philosophies and observations.

Covering Twain's journalism, fictional works and his own personal letters, "Mark Twain at the Gallows" contextualizes the writer's coverage of crime through his anxieties about westward expansion and the promise of a utopian West. Twain's observations on the West often reflected common perceptions of the day, positioning him as a "voice of the people" on issues like crime, punishment and gender.

Critique: An absolute 'must read' for the legions of Mark Twain fans and scholars, "Mark Twain at the Gallows: Crime and Justice in His Western Writing, 1861-1873" is an extraordinary work of meticulous and seminal scholarship that is a critically important and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library Mark Twain collections and supplemental studies lists. It should be noted for student, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Mark Twain at the Gallows" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $24.99).

How Leaders Mobilize Workers
Konstantin Vossing
Cambridge University Press
One Liberty Plaza, Fl. 20, New York, NY 10006
9781107165175, $105.00, HC, 320pp,

Synopsis: Konstantin Vossing is currently an Associate Professor of Political Science at Humboldt-Universitšt zu Berlin. He was previously a John F. Kennedy Memorial Fellow at the Center for European Studies at Harvard University, Massachusetts, and then a Jean Monnet Fellow at the Robert Schuman Center for Advanced Studies at the European University Institute, Florence.

In "How Leaders Mobilize Workers: Social Democracy, Revolution, and Moderate Syndicalism" Professor Vossing explains why leaders choose social democracy, revolution, or moderate syndicalism to mobilize workers, and why it matters. In some countries, leaders have responded effectively to their political environment, while others have made ill-fitting choices.

Professor Vossing also explains not only why leaders make certain choices, but how their choices affect the success of interest mobilization and subsequent political development. Using quantitative data and historical sources, "How Leaders Mobilize Workers" combines an analysis of the formation of class politics in all twenty industrialized countries between 1863 and 1919 with a general theory of political mobilization. It integrates economic, political, and ideational factors into a comprehensive account that highlights the critical role of individual leaders.

Critique: Enhanced for academia with the inclusion of numerous figures and tables, as well as a list of abbreviations, sixteen pages of notes, a twenty-two page bibliography, and a nine page index, "How Leaders Mobilize Workers: Social Democracy, Revolution, and Moderate Syndicalism" is a groundbreaking and seminal study that is unreservedly recommended for college and community library 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 "How Leaders Mobilize Workers" is also available in a paperback edition (9781316616925, $31.99) and in a digital book format (eTextbook, $15.90).

All About Language
Lena L. Grigorenko, Yury Shtyrov, and Peggy McCardle
Brookes Publishing Company
PO Box 10624, Baltimore, MD 21285-0624
9781681253558, $79.95, HC, 280pp,

Synopsis: "All About Language: Science, Theory, and Practice" is an in-depth study of both oral and written forms of language, both typical and atypical language development, and the evolutionary, biological, sociocultural, and cognitive factors that affect literacy acquisition.

Based on presentations from a joint meeting of the 16th Extraordinary Brain Symposium and the conference All About Language, which was hosted and supported by St. Petersburg State University, Russia, this comprehensive volume combines cutting-edge research, insights, questions, and recommendations from more than 40 respected contributors.

Readers will explore key topics such as: How infants learn and build a body of words; What eye tracking can tell us about reading development; Whether language impairments are inherited; How early intervention promotes language acquisition in children with autism spectrum disorder; What role executive function plays in both reading development and disorders; How students with reading difficulties respond to intervention; How reading disabilities are identified in children learning English as a second language; What recent studies say about the relationship between spoken and written language; How telehealth can make language interventions more accessible.

Essential reading for researchers, specialists, and future professionals, "All About Language" expertly synthesizes our current knowledge about language and literacy development -- and highlights the knowledge gaps we need to fill to support better outcomes for children.

Critique: Comprised of sixteen articles expertly organized into six major sections (Biological Underpinnings of Language; Typical Language Development - Spoken and Written; Atypical Oral Language; Atypical Reading Development - Dyslexia; Language, Education, Disability, and Society; Finale), "All About Language: Science, Theory, and Practice" is further enhanced for academia with a complete listing of the editors and contributors that includes their credentials, as well as an eight page Index. An impressively informed and informative work of collective scholarship, "All About Language" is an especially recommended and core addition to college and university library Language Arts collections and supplemental curriculum lists. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "All About Language" is also available in a digital book format (eTextbook, $79.95).

Michael Dunford

Nancy Lorraine's Bookshelf

Roll with It
Jamie Sumner
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
c/o Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 4th floor, New York, NY 10020
9781534442559, $17.99, HC, 256pp,

Ellie is a girl who tells it like it is. That surprises some people, who see her as a kid in a wheelchair and think she's going to be all sunshine and cuddles. The thing is, Ellie has big dreams: She might be eating Stouffer's for dinner, but one day she's going to be a professional baker. If she's not writing fan letters to her favorite celebrity chefs, she's practicing recipes on her well-meaning, if overworked, mother.

But when Ellie and her mom move so they can help take care of her ailing grandpa, Ellie has to start all over again in a new town at a new school. Except she's not just the new kid -- she's the new kid in the wheelchair who lives in the trailer park on the wrong side of town. It all feels like one challenge too many, until Ellie starts to make her first-ever friends. Now she just has to convince her mom that this town might just be the best thing that ever happened to them!

"Roll with It" is a superbly entertaining and deftly crafted novel with an important underlying message. Unreservedly recommended for elementary school, middle school, highschool, and community library contemporary general fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Roll with It" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9781797104492, $29.99, CD).

The King of the Stars
Brandon Layne
Belle Isle Books
c/o Brandylane Publishers
5 South First Street, Richmond, VA 23219
9781947860520, $15.95, PB, 190pp,

In the land of Kama, the stars are magical and constellations determine the future. Stars can even grant a person the power of astronomy, enabling them to manipulate elements of nature. However, only one person is destined to be king. But of course, not everyone believes in the stars, and dark forces lurk with their own plans for the world.

Brian, the teenage son of a legendary warrior, is fated to possess the gift of earth astronomy, but he can barely lift a rock. With a villainous overlord ruling the town, Brian needs to develop his skills -- and quickly. But then a strange boy appears in the woods, and Brian has the feeling there's more to this kid than meets the eye. It's a race against evil and against the odds to rightfully throne the king of the stars.

Deftly written by an author with a genuine flair for originality and an impressively reader engaging narrative storytelling style, "The King of the Stars" by Brandon Layne is a very highly recommended and exceptionally entertaining addition to personal, middle school, highschool, and community library Fantasy Fiction collections.

Li'l Booger Buddies Inventors .... Go To School
Heather Konet, author/illustrator
9781981162512, $9.99 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 26 pages,

"Li'l Booger Buddies Inventors Go To School" is the most recent title in a series created to encourage girls (and boys) to pursue building and creating with engineering concepts. On a strange green planet named Boogie Woogie in a small galaxy far away live the Li'l Booger Buddies, who are curious creatures who love to make inventions using extra resources and space junk. All young Li'l Booger Buddies attend the Boogie Woogie Invent School when they turn 5 years old.

Little Roogie Boogie started at the Invent School with some apprehension, but her teacher, Mrs Soogie welcomed her and helped her. When Roogie felt nervous about starting their first assignment, she sent a message to Mrs. Soogie by making her stomach glow (Li'l Boogers' brains are in their bellies). Mrs. Soogie reassured Roogie and gave her a journal to take home to write down any problems she noticed that she wanted to solve. This helped Roogie explains her project challenge to her parents, who pointed out to Roogie the existing problem of her twin baby sisters fighting over their favorite red ball.

Having written down her problem, the first step was begun. Then at school Roogie brain stormed ideas with her fellow students, picked her favorite idea, and began drawing her concept of the solution. The next day Roogie got to pick building materials for making and testing her invention model. The most fun was grabbing tools and materials and starting to build. Then Mrs. Soogie told Roogie to take her model home and test it out, so she did. Guess what? It was amazing, her invention worked, and her sisters were able to share the red ball without fighting! Wearing her star Inventor badge, Roogie was happy and proud and excited to start learning more about inventing.

"Li'l Booger Buddies Inventors Go to School" is an excellent creative book for children aged 5-8 years. Its creative, simple illustrations appeal to young imaginations and the funny, active narration can jump start constructive thinking and budding engineering concepts. It should be noted that "Li'l Booger Buddies Inventors Go to School" is also available in a Kindle edition ($2.99).

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Paul Vogel's Bookshelf

Secrets of the Forge
Antonello Rizzo
Artisan Ideas
c/o Artisan North America
9780997979817, $39.95, HC, 223pp,

Synopsis: "Secrets of the Forge: Beginning and Intermediate Projects for Blacksmiths" is a fascinating and useful project book for beginning to intermediate level blacksmiths. Featuring twenty-four Italian master blacksmiths who share their techniques on a great variety of blacksmithing jobs, these illustrative tasks ranging from the basic and simple to the more complex and artistic. With each of the 48 different blacksmithing projects comprising "Secrets of the Forge", the individual steps of each job are clearly illustrated with high quality close-up color photos.

The text in this new English translation for an American readership has been expertly edited so all technical details are clear to the reader. "Secrets of the Forge" begins with basic smithing jobs such as twisting bars and making spearhead shapes and scrolls. As the reader progresses through this instruction manual the projects become more difficult and complex and involve forging truly artistic iron sculptures such as a duck in flight, a snail, flowers, a dragon, a nude, and more.

"Secrets of the Forge" concludes with two highly specialized projects: making a Damascus steel blade, and the construction of a fully functional hand-forged lock.

Critique: "Secrets of the Forge: Beginning and Intermediate Projects for Blacksmiths" by Antonello Rizzo is a new English language edition of an impressively written and profusely illustrated instructional curriculum for aspiring and practicing blacksmiths. Completely re-edited and is priced substantially less than the original printing, which was imported from Europe. There is a wealth of knowledge in this excellent book. Exceptionally well organized and presented, "Secrets of the Forge" is unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and technical college library collections on the art and science of blacksmithing.

The Lyrics of the Henry VIII Manuscript
Raymond G. Siemens, editor
Arizona State University
PO Box 874402, Tempe, AZ 85287-4402
9780866985802, $54.00, HC, 176pp,

Synopsis: Knowledgeably compiled and deftly edited by Raymond G. Siemens (Distinquished Professor in the Faculty of Humanities, University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada), "The Henry VIII Manuscript" contributes considerably to our critical understanding of the connections between poetry and power in early Renaissance society -- because of the prominence of its chief author, the king himself, and also because of its literary reflection of the social and political elements of the early Tudor court.

The lyrics of the Henry VIII Manuscript thoroughly document the fictions of the early Tudor court constructed and upheld by the courtiers of the day. As such, the Henry VIII Manuscript provides a rare opportunity for examining the light, earlier lyrical works of Henry VIII.

Critique: A masterpiece of meticulous and exhaustive scholarship, "The Lyrics of the Henry VIII Manuscript" is enhanced for academia with the inclusion of Tables of Abbreviations and Sigla, eighty-six pages of Commentary and textual Notes, a twenty-four page Bibliography and Cited Works, and a two page Index of First Lines. Volume 524 in the Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies series, and Volume 39 in the Renaissance English Text Society series, "The Lyrics of the Henry VIII Manuscript" is a very special and unreservedly recommended addition to college and university library Renaissance Literature collections in general, and Henry VIII supplemental studies lists in particular.

American Spy
H. K. Roy
Prometheus Books
15200 NBN Way, Blue Ridge Summit, PA 17214
9781633885882, $25.00, HC, 320pp,

Synopsis: "American Spy: Wry Reflections on My Life in the CIA" by H. K. Spy is a memoir written as a series of narrative vignettes by a former CIA operations officer who recounts his years of danger, intrigue, and adventure.

This candid and darkly witty memoir recounts an exhilarating life -- and a few close brushes with death. With remarkable sangfroid and a humorist's eye for absurdity, Roy describes his many strange and risky exploits in his long career with the CIA. Whether he was pursuing Soviet and Cuban spies, running "denied area" operations in Eastern Europe, hunting Bosnian War criminals, or providing actionable intelligence to US government and coalition forces in Iraq, Roy usually found himself at the right place at the right time.

Except when he didn't -- like the time he stumbled into a life-threatening ambush by Iranian terrorists while dodging Serb snipers and shelling in Sarajevo. Eight summers later, caught in a blinding sandstorm between Amman and Baghdad, he learned his fate was in the hands of an Iraqi tribal chief who had just lost his entire family to a US airstrike in Ramadi, in a failed attempt to kill Saddam Hussein that had tragic consequences.

Combining dedication to duty with a maverick's disdain for bureaucracy, Roy makes it clear that he prefers foreign locales to Washington and thrives on the adrenaline rush that comes with danger. He also sheds much light on why intelligence is an essential component of national defense, even our very survival as a nation.

Critique: An inherently fascinating and thought-provoking read from cover to cover, "American Spy: Wry Reflections on My Life in the CIA" is an extraordinary, unique, and unreservedly recommended addition to both community and academic library Contemporary American Biography collections in general, and CIA History supplemental studies lists in particular. It should be noted that "American Spy" is also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Brilliance Audio, 9781721353439, $24.99, MP3 CD).

The World around the Old Testament
Bill T. Arnold & Brent A. Strawn, editors
Baker Academic
c/o Baker Publishing Group
6030 East Fulton, Ada, MI 49301
9781540962317, $45.00, PB, 560pp,

Synopsis: What people groups interacted with ancient Israel? Who were the Hurrians and why do they matter? What do we know about the Philistines, the Egyptians, the Amorites, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, and others?

Collaboratively compiled and co-edited by Bill T. Arnold and Brent A. Strawn, "The World around the Old Testament: The People and Places of the Ancient Near East" is an up-to-date volume comprised of contributions by leading experts for the purpose of introducing the peoples and places of the world around the Old Testament, providing students with a fresh exploration of the ancient Near East.

Collectively, the contributors to "The World around the Old Testament" offer comprehensive orientations to the main cultures and people groups that surrounded ancient Israel in the wider ancient Near East, including not only Mesopotamia and the northern Levant but also Egypt, Arabia, and Greece. They also explore the contributions of each people group or culture to our understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures.

This supplementary text is organized by geographic region, making it especially suitable for the classroom and useful in a variety of Old Testament courses. Approximately eighty-five illustrative items are included throughout.

Critique: An ideal curriculum textbook for an Old Testament Studies courses, and especially recommended for personal studies, "The World around the Old Testament: The People and Places of the Ancient Near East" is unreservedly recommended for community, seminary, college and university library collections. It should be noted for students, academia, clergy, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The World around the Old Testament" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $28.99).

Editorial Note: Bill T. Arnold (PhD, Hebrew Union College) is Paul S. Amos Professor of Old Testament Interpretation at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. He is the author or editor of more than a dozen books, including Ancient Israel's History and Who Were the Babylonians?

Brent A. Strawn (PhD, Princeton Theological Seminary) is Professor of Old Testament at Duke Divinity School in Durham, North Carolina. He has authored or coedited various volumes, including The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and Law and What Is Stronger than a Lion? Leonine Image and Metaphor in the Hebrew Bible and the Ancient Near East.

Paul T. Vogel

Richard Blake's Bookshelf

Realms of the Prophetic
Naim Collins
Destiny Image Publisher, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768448672, $16.99, 256 pages

Spiritual Growth, Pentecostal & Charismatic, Prophecy

"Realms of the Prophetic" opens the keys to unlock and declare the secrets of God. Naim Collins informs and instructs his readers with profound spiritual insight, academic intelligence, and God-inspired relevance.

Beginning in Part One Prophetic Foundations, Collins introduces the roles of:

The Prophetic Spokesman

The Seer Prophet

The Visionary Prophet

The Watchmen

The Dreamers

Part Two describes the dimensions of the prophets.

Part Three unlocks the realms of the prophetic and contains the keys to declare the secrets of God.

"Realms of the Prophetic" is an essential foundational handbook or manual for developing an understanding of, the elements of prophetic anointing and accessing your prophetic office. Collins writes with clarity, backed by years of experience.

Whether you an experienced vet or newly acquainted with the role of the prophet, you will want to set aside ample time for the Holy Spirit to guide you in your study and revelation. Be sure to have your Bible, pen, and a notebook on hand to record your discoveries.

I highly recommend pastors, Bible teachers, and student alike add this book to their study library for in-depth study and ready reference.

Breaking Soul Ties - Freedom from the root of Toxic Relationships
Dr. Dennis & Jennifer Clark
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768448337, $15.99, 234 Pages

Spiritual Warfare - True and Lasting Change

"Breaking Soul Ties" opens with a heart-wrenching account of Jason Clark's story of being caught in a trap of a demonic toxic relationship.

Authors, Dennis and Jennifer Clark collaborate in a powerful in their book "Breaking Soul Ties." They combine expertise in theology and psychology to provide answers to those experiencing a form of spiritual warfare, those in bondage to a toxic relationship, the bitter battles hidden behind the closed doors, devastating, destroying the works of Satan.

The book is made up of five sections.

In Chapter One, the Clarks identify, describe, and help the reader understand soul ties and the "tangled web of co-dependency."

Section Two offers help in finding freedom, in dealing with emotions, thought patterns, weapons of warfare, and moving toward spiritual freedom.

Section Three reveals how habits lead to the trap of soul ties, and how to find deliverance from unhealthy relationships.

Section Four covers how to deal with and find healing in specific sexual issues.

Section Five shows the place of the church and family, the remapping of the brain, and restoration.

I found the chapter that dealt with the Habit of Prayer to be just what I needed. Dennis helped me realize that spending more time in prayer and the presence of God helps to develop a relationship with Him.

He also pointed out some additional benefits:

Improves our Self-Control

Offsets Negative Health Issues brought on by Stress

Diffuses the likelihood of engaging in any toxic relationships

The Clarks are gifted communicators, spirit-inspired, with a deep understanding of man's nature. Their work is thoroughly researched and well documented.

"Breaking Soul Ties" is a must-read and essential resource for every Christian seeking wholeness or by anyone seeking freedom from the ungodly emotional ties of a toxic relationship.

I received a complimentary copy of this book provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

The Hell Conspiracy: An Eyewitness Account of Hell, Heaven, and Afterlife
Laurie A. Ditto
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310 Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768446432, $16.99, 170 Pages

Christian Life, Pentecostal & Charismatic Spiritual Warfare - A promise of the Hope of Heaven, and the Reality of Hell

In her book "The Hell Conspiracy," Laurie Ditto shares her story of supernatural experiences and visions. Laurie writes with a contagious optimism. Her writing is simple, clear, and direct; credible, authentic, and sobering.

Laurie describes the Hell conspiracy as Satan's attempt to blind the eyes of man to the reality of Hell. Laurie feels compelled to counter Satan's conspiracy by exposing the unimaginable paralyzing fear, the weight of sin, and the pain of regret, all without relief. She describes the demonic beings, the hopelessness, and the toxic air pervading Hell's atmosphere.

A gifted communicator, Laurie trains others in the prophetic realm. She encourages them to pursue their spiritual gifts by alerting the urgency of accepting God's redemptive plan of salvation.

And following Jesus's example in holy living. Creditable readers highly endorse her book and friends who give credence Laurie's character, her pressing concern for her calling, and the importance of her message.

I found "The Hell Conspiracy" to be an intriguing, soul searching, and life-changing. It is well worth re-reading often, and a book you will want to pass along to family and friends.

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

Richard R. Blake
Senior Reviewer

S.A. Gorden's Bookshelf

The Daemoniac
Kat Ross
Acorn Publishing
Amazon Digital Services LLC
B01ID8J68W, $0.99, ebook, 328 pages
9780997236248, paper

The Daemoniac is a fun classic style murder mystery that takes place in 1888 New York. The protagonist is the younger sister of a renowned female detective. She is a friend and pen pal of Arthur Conan Doyle.

Harrison (Harry) Pell is sitting at home when she sees a couple coming to her front door. She suspects they are looking for Myrtle her older private detective sister. The couple is looking for an old friend who has disappeared under suspicious circumstances. Harry wants to be a detective like her sister and pretends to be Myrtle and takes the case. With her best friend (a doctor in training) she starts the investigation and stumbles into a slasher style serial killer case with supernatural overtones.

The Daemoniac is a complex period mystery with great characters. The obvious one to one correspondence with the characters in this book to the Sherlock Holmes stories is obvious. Harry is Holmes. Her sister Myrtle is Mycroft. Her friend medical student Thomas Weston is Watson. Housekeeper Mrs. Rivers is Mrs. Hudson... The story is recommended for anyone who likes Sherlock Holmes stories and enjoys classic style murder mysteries.

The Case of the Voice Spell: A Hillcrest Witch Mystery Book 6
Amorette Anderson
Amazon Digital Services LLC
B07QW42J24, $2.99, ebook, 212 pages
97810958772276248, paper

The Case of the Voice Spell is a light cozy mystery with a cast of fun characters. Penny Banks is an amateur private investigator learning to be a witch. Her knitting circle are learning to be witches by working their way through a grimoire. Their current lesson is the Voice Spell. Penny and her fellow knitters fumble through trying to learn the voice spell while at the same time trying to solve a murder that takes place in their small town.

The Hillcrest Witch Mystery series adds another full dimension to your typical cozy witch tale. The familiars to the witches in training have taken on the role of full characters in the storyline. Penny's cat Turkey has an IQ off the charts and helps Penny when she needs technical help. Another familiar, an owl, provides aerial support for the investigation. There are many other supernatural characters that add even a richer mix to the story.

Anyone who likes fun, light, character filled cozies will enjoy The Case of the Voice Spell. But don't expect more than a light weekend escape from the story.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

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

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