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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 19, Number 11 November 2020 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 Laurel Johnson'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

You Talkin' to Me?: How to Write Great Dialogue
Linda Seger, author
John Rainey, author
George Newbern, narrator
Dreamscape Media LLC
9781662032288, $22.99, CD

Synopsis: Unlike the chitchat of everyday life, dialogue must express character, advance the story, suggest a theme, and include a few memorable lines that audiences will be quoting for decades to come.

The best stories have dialogue that sparkles, but it's easy for inexperienced writers to fall into common pitfalls like creating dialogue that's wooden or too on the nose. Other writers end up with exposition awkwardly inserted into conversations, actors tripping over unnatural phrases, or characters who all speak exactly the same way.

In "You Talkin' to Me?: How to Write Great Dialogue", Linda Seger and John Winston Rainey effectively help with all aspiring writers with their dialogue problems. In each chapter, they explore dialogue from a different angle and discuss examples of great dialogue from films and novels. To cap it all off, each chapter ends with examples of poor dialogue, which are annotated by Linda and then rewritten by John so that listeners don't just learn how to recognize when it's done well - they also learn how to make dialogue better.

Whether writing fiction or nonfiction, for the screen or for the page, "You Talkin' to Me?: How to Write Great Dialogue" will get any writer's characters talking!

Critique: Expertly narrated by George Newbern, this complete and unabridged audio book edition of "You Talkin' to Me?: How to Write Great Dialogue" is unreservedly recommended and invaluable for aspiring authors and has a great deal of practical value for even experience authors in terms of sharpening up their narrative dialogue skills. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "You Talkin' to Me?: How to Write Great Dialogue" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $18.71) and to community, college, and university library Writing/Publishing collections ""You Talkin' to Me?: How to Write Great Dialogue" is available in a paperback edition (Michael Wiese Productions, 9781615933136, $19.99, 251pp).

Editorial Note: Dr. Linda Seger created and defined the career of script consultant in 1981. Two of her nine screenwriting books, Making a Good Script Great, and Creating Unforgettable Characters remain staples for writers and many universities use them as textbooks in screenwriting classes. She has consulted on over 2,000 scripts including over 50 produced feature films and over 35 produced television projects. She has given seminars in over 30 countries around the world. Linda has earned 3 MA degrees and a ThD including one in drama and one in Religion and the Arts. She lives in Cascade, CO with her husband Peter and cat Dexter.

John Rainey has been involved in the dramatic arts since 1975 and has been a script consultant since 1989. He has a B.A. and an M.F.A. in acting and directing. He acted and directed professionally for a decade before turning his attention to screenwriting in 1987. He has written 10 scripts for production companies located in Japan, Morocco, India, Russia, Colombia, Canada, and the United States, three of which have been produced and three more currently in some phase of production. He has also written 15 spec scripts, many of which have been optioned several times, and innumerable shorts. He has directed one short that is in post-production. Currently, he is developing a dramatic webisode series.

The Inspiring History of a Special Relationship
Nancy Carver
America's National Churchill Museum
0578761718, $25.00, HC, 269pp

Synopsis: When the remarkable British architect, Christopher Wren, redesigned the 12th century Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury after the Great Fire of London, he never envisioned that the church would someday honor an iconic British statesman. In fact, it honors Winston Churchill and his prescient Sinews of Peace/Iron Curtain speech, made in 1946 on the campus of Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, that warned the world of continued Soviet territorial expansion and the dangers inherent in the spread of communism.

Westminster, a small, plucky, Midwestern College, believed that rebuilding and revitalizing the Wren church, severely damaged during World War II and destined for destruction, seemed an appropriate tribute to both Churchill and his speech, as well as to the indomitable and resilient spirit of the British people who survived some of their darkest hours during that time. A restored church in a new location seemed promising for the future of the building and the preservation of its past. To achieve that goal, Britain and the United States worked in partnership to relocate the church, stone by stone, from London to Missouri. Helping with that effort were numerous figures in politics, business, and religious organizations on both sides of the Atlantic as well as diverse individuals, including Douglas Fairbanks Jr., who took a leadership role in helping to raise funds and facilitate the partnership with Britain.

"The Inspiring History of a Special Relationship" by Nancy Carver is the inspiring story of the rebirth of St. Mary's in the United States and fully illustrates what Churchill meant when he said that the two countries have a special relationship that enables them to accomplish anything when they work together to accomplish a particular purpose. The son of an American mother and a British father, Churchill strongly believed that the two countries shared democratic values and ideals as well as a common heritage, the foundation for which was built by the sinews of history, language, law, and literature over the course of almost two thousand years. Today the church (which serves as the home of America's National Churchill Museum) stands as a symbol of the special relationship between the two countries and proof that the impossible is really possible.

Critique: With an impressively written narrative style by author/historian Nancy Carver, exceptionally well organized and presented, and a fully 'reader friendly' study of original and meticulously detailed scholarship, "The Inspiring History of a Special Relationship" is an extraordinarily informed and informative study that serves as an exceptional memorial and testament to the contributions made by Winston Churchill to the preservation of western democracy and the mutually held values of the United States and the United Kingdom as exemplified in the life and achievements of one of the truly great leaders of the 20th Century. While especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, community, college, and university library collections, it should be noted that author/historian Nancy Carver will be donating the proceeds from the book sales of "The Inspiring History of a Special Relationship" to the support of the museum.

Able Greenspan

Diane Donovan's Bookshelf

The Sailor From Lampedusa
Michael Bellusci
MB Litspace Books
9781777167301, $TBA
9781777167318, $TBA Ebook

The Sailor From Lampedusa: Escape to Paradise is a fictional sailing adventure loosely based on real events, following a young architect student who achieves a rude awakening about immigrant rights, sailing, and international politics when he embarks on a voyage with one Captain Falco during his visit to Sicily.

From a bell thief and the impact of choices to help refugees to the Captain's efforts to reconnect a separated family, navigate bureaucracy, and finally, to risk his freedom to sail both into and away from trouble, The Sailor From Lampedusa does a fine job of not only exploring James Bellamy's involvement in a complex international dilemma, but Captain Francesco Falco's ability to skirt the law over whether refugees are criminals or oppressed people needing assistance.

When romance enters the picture, Falco must decide where his heart rests and if there's any place in it for the man he has become. His self-assessments are astute and revealing during this process: "I can't give you much except the thrill of not knowing what tomorrow may bring. I am a sailor with an erratic, unsettled lifestyle. I'm a bit crazy, and I have more than my share of challenges. I could end up in jail at any time to boot."

When tragedy strikes and innocents become collateral damage, everything changes.

Michael Bellusci does an outstanding job of creating not only memorable and appealing characters, but the milieu of the sea, its laws, and the emotional and political entanglements of sailors who navigate treacherous waters.

His injection of these insights along with the adventure the characters encounter on the way and the moral and ethical dilemmas they raise makes for a story that is compelling, realistic, and astute as it captures the dilemmas of a group of disparate individuals who often operate outside the letter of the law.

Under Bellusci's hand, the immigrant crisis in the Mediterranean comes to life as seen through the eyes and experiences of very different individuals who take risks, find love, and uncover the meanings in their set courses and journeys in life and on the seas.

The Sailor From Lampedusa is highly recommended reading for anyone who enjoys nautical backdrops and social issues combined into a winning story of ethics, morals, and challenging conditions.

Poems from the Wilderness
Jack Mayer
Proverse Hong Kong
9789888491872 $22.00

Poems from the Wilderness lives up to its name, presenting poetry composed on the trail by American doctor/poet Jack Mayer, who celebrates nature with his prize-winning observations. These were composed during his lone hikes along Vermont's Long Trail and parts of the Appalachian Trail and White Mountains, over a forty year period.

Jack Mayer began writing poetry during his career as a doctor to help him absorb the challenges of handling patient lives and medical conditions, and several poems reflect this perspective.

His encounters in nature, through forests and on trails, and the philosophical and spiritual reflections that stemmed from these encounters with self and environment form a strong foundation of free verse replete in spirited and quiet contemplations alike: "Time goes this way, and that way,/and backwards, and not at all./On the trail I can accept all of it,/believe (given the benefit of doubt),/that all is true./I listen for truth in wilderness./Since we can never know,/does it matter?"

Readers of Walt Whitman, Thoreau, and other nature writers well know the power of nature on the contemplative literary voyager who would survey the wilderness with an eye to rejuvenating soul and perspective. These audiences will especially appreciate Mayer's attention to connecting natural with human affairs, as in 'True North', which addresses navigation challenges of not just the environment, but the soul: "My compass, though scuffed and dented/points magnetic North./When I've been lost,/it was not for want of magnetic North,/only my failure to follow the meridian./...My compass needle points me/through that mysterious space/where intuition and 'the old ways' reside uneasily/with Dark Energy and quantum uncertainty./More problematic is navigating my soul/with neither compass nor map,/only memory."

Poems from the Wilderness is the recipient of the Proverse Prize 2019, an international contest in Hong Kong which includes publication for those who win. It is a testimony to outstanding writing that will especially delight fellow poets and nature enthusiasts who look for winning ways with words and reflections that begin with nature encounters and move outward like ripples in powerful literary waters.

The Education of Delhomme: Chopin, Sand & La France
Nancy Burkhalter
History Through Fiction LLC
9781732950832 $16.95, Paperback
9781732950856 $26.95, Hardcover

The Education of Delhomme: Chopin, Sand & La France is set in France in 1848 and follows the fictional life of piano tuner Beaulieu Delhomme, who falls awry of the newly elected French president and is slated for death after being convicted of treason. Ironically, the only person who who may be able to save him is his former enemy, author George Sand, the one-time lover of composer Frederic Chopin...the man for whom Delhomme tuned pianos.

As Sand and Delhomme compete for the dying Chopin's attention, the president's secret agent uses Delhomme to spy on Sand, who has been spreading her own revolutionary message about the president's regime.

Delhomme's initial desire (to preserve a social and economic level he has a vested interest in) soon changes as he views the plight of an abused, poverty-stricken nephew under the president's rule, leading him to enter a dangerous game indeed when he secretly joins the resistance to work as a counter-spy.

There are a lot of entanglements, both political and personal, that drive the mercurial story in The Education of Delhomme. Under another hand, all these facets, changing loyalties, politics of the times, and subplots could have proved a challenge even for readers familiar with the era. But Nancy Burkhalter chooses to narrate these events through the first-person experiences of Delhomme, who sums up both the politics and social challenges of his times: "...I doubt her testimony can undo Vidocq's devilish words. He will swear I sided with resisters, hobnobbed with radicals, and became a counterspy. Never mind that he lured me with easy money. He is the ruler's vaunted, powerful toady. Loyalty trumps scruples in this man's government. I did everything Vidocq asked of me - reluctantly, I am proud to say now. Then one day, I fed him wrong information on purpose. It was my attempt to fight the domination of those who ignored the suffering of others. Then, Vidocq's wrath came crashing down. Now here I sit. Accused of treason. Jailed. Condemned."

Burkhalter's ability to capture not just current events but the medical school training and background of the piano tuner who comes to play a pivotal role in Chopin and George Sands' lives adds an engrossing thriller element to unfolding political events.

As the manipulations and pressures of Francois Vidocq, "humble servant to King Louis Philippe", changes Delhomme's life's trajectory, taking advantage of past influences, present-day circumstances, and future choices, all characters find themselves facing volatile situations that test their moral and ethical fiber.

Burkhalter sets up these tests and scenes with an exquisite attention to detail and emotional impact that will engage and delight even readers with little to no prior familiarity with the times, its politics, and these people.

Perhaps The Education of Delhomme's greatest strength lies in exploring the dichotomies between belief, purpose, and evolving political interactions that challenge and change everything. The social atmosphere and descriptions are exceptionally well presented as the story unfolds and Delhomme faces worries even over his efforts to rescue one individual from a life of oppression: I explained how rebels roamed the streets and threw rocks just to be disruptive. I recounted how his own grandfather had been abducted by militia in Warsaw during an uprising there many years ago. "War is dangerous and unpredictable. Many people have died, and most have nothing to eat. Everyone is angry."

The result is a complex, mercurial story. It keeps readers on their toes as entanglements change and deepen. Characters struggle with the inheritance of war and conflict even as they search for an elusive peace both within themselves and each other, and in the wider world of 1848 Paris.

Exquisitely detailed, complex, and involving, The Education of Delhomme is highly recommended for historical novel readers who like their characters well-drawn and their story lines well grounded in historical facts.

Reformed Dreamer
Deborah King
Liberation Publishing
B08JJ8K16G $2.99

The fourth book in Deborah King's 'Inspiration In Cologne' romance series, Reformed Dreamer, is recommended for both prior fans and newcomers alike. King carefully crafts a stand-alone story that includes enough details to appeal to those unfamiliar with the past adventures surrounding the evolving connections between Melinda and Darius.

In Reformed Dreamer, Melinda Moore is honing her skills with horses while living under Darius's roof. She's moved from a rehabilitation facility in an agreement to live with her 'warden' for a year, recovering from cyclothymic disorder (a milder form of bipolar mental illness) that has challenged her all her life. She's struggled with drug abuse and her mother's secrets. Her second chance to recover into a better life promises to incorporate the peace and quiet she gains from a rural setting, but her troubles only continue, albeit in new form, as she adapts to these new surroundings and possibilities and learns to work with horses and Darius alike.

Readers who like love stories that emerge against the backdrop of rural farm and ranch environments will especially appreciate the attention to detail that Deborah King offers in this story. The specifics of horse training routines wind gently into the romance portion to provide realistic, uplifting scenes: "Our first course of action on Tuesday was to persuade Thunder to accept Darius as my equal. I rode Thunder around the arena a couple of times and stopped by the fence. As I spoke softly to Thunder, Darius eased his body behind mine and straddled both of us. My nerve endings sizzled, instantly. Thunder, on the other hand, was unfazed. One huge step accomplished.

Darius and I fitted and added tack to Spirit's and Thunder's backs each day - baby steps. By Friday, they were sporting blankets, western saddles, stirrups, bridles, reins, and gentle snaffle bits as we continued to walk them around the arena. Next Monday is deemed tack, mount, and trail ride day. I'm apprehensive but excited."

As the "electrifying connection" between the main characters grows, readers receive a fine evolutionary tale of love and new beginnings which take on many different forms. As Lindy evolves new friendships and new dreams and tackles the challenges of her mental condition, readers will relish this positive, uplifting story of adversities overcome and new possibilities for the future.

The result is not only an apt addition to the evolving series, but a fine standalone story highly recommended for romance readers who like to see their protagonists live full lives with challenges outside of their evolving connections.

General Jack and the Battle of the Five Kingdoms
David Bush
Independently Published
9798667226413 $7.99

General Jack and the Battle of the Five Kingdoms is a children's parable for kids ages 8 and older, and is filled with battles, struggles, wry humour, and sly observations of social and political strife. A kingdom ruled by "the repressive rule of King Roar the Lion and the fierce Felines" holds no hope for change until explorer Jack arrives to shake things up a bit.

Ten-year-old Jack is an outsider. By this very fact, he is able to address a threat which has slowly evolved to control a kingdom under a very dark paw indeed: "There were five animal kingdoms, but one kingdom ruled them all. King Roar the lion was the omnipotent monarch of the Feline Kingdom. Everything proceeded from him and everything returned to him. The fearsome felines backed the king. They prowled throughout the land. King Roar was the centre of the circle of life. The fierce felines set the law. They conditioned the way of life of all other animals."

When the first-person narrator who cleans the King's office comes upon a Constitution and learns what the oppressive kingdom really could have been, the story evolves into a allegory for modern times as adults and children delve into a story about powerful kids who instigate unexpected changes against repressive forces.

The adult narrator of this story has lost much to this regime, from his family to his wife. He dreams of enacting change, himself: "I dreamt many dreams. I found comfort in rhapsodizing. There was one particular recurring dream. I had morphed into a lion who mounted a successful challenge to King Roar. As the new king, I set the law of the land. I abolished the blood sports. I repaired relations with the other four kingdoms."

His narration of events provides an intriguing fictional documentary of the clash between right and wrong, good and evil, and animal and human forces that will keep all ages riveted and thoroughly immersed.

While David Bush's story is identified as being for ages 8 and older, the very adult surveys of politics, and the language, would indicate this story would best be accessed by readers who are at least of middle school age and older. Many an adult will find the detailed descriptions of social and political idealism and intention to be thoroughly engrossing, while the very young may struggle with language and concepts even if parental assistance is provided: "We have only one chance at victory. If we get it wrong, we are finished forever. The victors would exact a terrible revenge against whoever dared challenge their authority so brazenly. The Feline Lords will conduct a scorched earth policy from which we will never recover. "The great army that my esteemed colleague George the fox speaks of is a large mob not an army. It is not united. It can never be. It is disunited by its very nature. It is a polyglot of disparate animals each with their own idiosyncrasies. All they have in common is their desire for freedom. That however, does not guarantee compactness and unity..."

The blend of battle themes and nature is very nicely balanced and well-done, enhanced by black and white drawings that are detailed and attractive throughout.

It should be noted that this review is based on a first-tier ARC, not on the final version.

Readers who seek a blend of epic fantasy, animal-oriented political commentary a la Watership Down or Animal Farm, and a vivid story of courage and confrontation will find General Jack and the Battle of the Five Kingdoms an outstanding tale. It weaves personal and political purpose with a deft, compelling voice designed to keep readers thoroughly engaged to the end.

Reversing Alzheimer's
Timothy J. Smith, MD
Hidden Path Publishers
9781735048024 $17.99

Reversing Alzheimer's: How to Prevent Dementia and Revitalize Your Brain offers hope and an unusual approach to handling the ravages of dementia - applying the latest new science to improve cognition and reverse the ravages of Alzheimer's.

From the various influences, pro and con, of foods, fats, and herbs and vitamins on brain health to the effects of high blood sugars on memory, discussions reach those who would consider lifestyle changes to improve memory and reverse the ravages of mental conditions.

The concept that the control and condition of a healthy brain versus one which is compromised lies in individual hands may be surprising to those who believe in the seeming inevitability of bodily deterioration over time. There is a tendency to think that health conditions impart a degree of powerlessness that precludes choice and cause and effect.

Dr. Smith doesn't just settle for generalities, as so many alternative health guides do. He provides specific actions readers can take to understand the impact of changes in their habits and world, right down to the choice of cooking pans: "Cook with stainless steel, glass, or ceramic pots and pans. Under high heat Teflon breaks down into its component chemical polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), which is highly toxic...A few years ago, after much research, my wife and I settled on the DaTerra Cucina Vesuvio ceramic frying pan. We continue to be pleased with the performance of this fine Italian cookware and feel safe knowing it is free of unwanted toxic chemicals. It's available at the company's website and at"

These passages of specific advice, supported by the latest scientific research and medical studies, set Reversing Alzheimer's apart from most, placing it in the category of a reasoned, clear argument for healing versus 'pop psychology' or new age self-help idealism.

Medical facts and studies are backed by footnoted references that also offer food for thought for further reading, but the clarity of these discussions makes Reversing Alzheimer's accessible to a much wider audience than these studies alone would normally reach.

This is a valuable, highly recommended contribution to the literature that provides empowering choices and options for those who struggle with either a family history of dementia or the present-day challenges of Alzheimer's and dementia.

Mother-Daughter Days on Russian Hill: Tales of Love and Laughter
Barbara Bella
Mother-Daughter Days, Publisher
9781087896489, $19.99

The picture book Mother-Daughter Days on Russian Hill: Tales of Love and Laughter is perfect for read-aloud, pairing lovely drawings by Amber Rae Malott with a mother's reflections of her dreams for her new daughter and how they changed as her child grew.

A gentle rhyme follows mother and daughter as they explore the city they live in, participate in a "proper tea" under a table, enjoy Pajama Day or Dress the Stuffed Animals Day, and have fun together.

As sunsets, Girl Scout cookies, and other pastimes evolve and are shared, mother and daughter grow closer as the story moves through their shared life experiences.

The Russian Hill area of San Francisco serves as the backdrop for many of these adventures, adding an appealing atmosphere to this survey of fun times in the big city.

Parents who read this aloud, or young readers with the literacy skills to appreciate its many descriptions and rollicking rhyme, will find Mother-Daughter Days on Russian Hill a wonderfully celebratory story of a warm relationship cemented by creativity, imagination, and fun explorations that bring to life the underlying bonds between mother and child.

The Shoebox
Robert M. Moores
Independently Published
9781649901347, $10.99

Eight-year-old Violet can't recover from losing her father. As The Shoebox opens, four years has passed, but she's still stuck in grief. She recalls a birthday celebration from 2016 in which both her parents were alive and went all out to demonstrate their love for her. It's now 2020, and everything has changed.

Robert M. Moores does a fine job of exploring Violet's many feelings, from her hatred of Father's Day (because it reminds her anew of her loss) to feeling like the odd one out at daddy-daughter school events.

Those around her call on spiritual and psychological help in an effort to shake Violet from her depression, but nothing seems to help until a shoebox hidden in the attic promises a special kind of key to recovery.

Young readers who enjoy faith-oriented discussions will especially appreciate the attention devoted to exploring Violet's adventure, whether it's reconnecting with her father in a different way or redefining home and family connections.

Can a story carefully crafted by Violet actually bring her father back to life? Her concerned mother is certain this newly-created fictitious world in which Violet's dad is alive will only clash with the real world where he is dead. In contrast, Violet believes in possibilities that can transform her loss.

Moores carefully contrasts the thinking between Violet and her mother for maximum effect: "This morning when I heard her running around... she must've been imaginary playing with her father. Running around like they used to in our backyard before he died, thought Jennifer. Violet went back into her room and started pacing back and forth. Who is my mom to tell me what I can and can't do? She doesn't know anything, thought Violet. She was right about one thing; her mom didn't know that this just wasn't some story."

As her mother tries to impress upon Violet the fact that God still loves her, Violet struggles on many levels. Young readers who turn to her story for insights about grief and family interactions will find The Shoebox creates a satisfying blend of mystery, intrigue, and psychological and spiritual revelations alike, connecting real-world events to religious and personal revelations.

It also nicely points out that grief doesn't hold a timeline for recovery, even as it crafts a path to resolution for a girl who is stuck and unable to move forward.

The Shoebox is highly recommended for advanced elementary through middle school readers, who will receive an inviting exploration of Violet's life and spirituality and its many possibilities.

Malice in Milan
Ken Tentarelli
Independently Published
9781733177351, $3.99 Ebook
9781733177368, $13.99 Paperback

Malice in Milan is Book 3 in the Nico Argenti novel series set in Renaissance Italy. It explores the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of a Florentine banker in Milan just as Nico is on the cusp of achieving his dream to become a practicing lawyer.

Assigned to a commission to investigate threats to the newfound Republic of Florence, Nico finds himself facing not one mystery, but a crescendo of abductions, murder, and deadly danger. What seems like a singular disappearance turns into Nico's attempt to link these seemingly disparate circumstances into an overall, dangerous conspiracy against the Duchy of Milan.

Interactions between commissioners charged with probing a dangerous political and social situation test Nico's newfound abilities and profession beyond anything he'd anticipated.

Ken Tentarelli not only captures the political and social atmosphere of Nico's times, but he takes the time to inject insights on its culture and daily life, as well, describing foods, peoples' interactions and expressions, and other elements of Renaissance life. These outline the perceptions of soldiers, thieves, investigators, and special interests that operate in the underworld of Milan.

The intrigue is especially well done when set against this carefully constructed backdrop, involving readers in not just Nico's modus operandi, but the evolving conundrum posed by a series of events that bring him into a less familiar underworld.

As Nico, Vittorio, Massimo, and others interact and uncover a tangled web of deception and plots, readers will relish the full flavor of Renaissance Italy and struggles with an abduction which inadvertently turns into murder.

Nico's growing legal savvy and elevated status during the course of his investigation contributes a fine line of achievement and evolution to the overall murder mystery's social, political, and historical foundations.

The result is an excellent, involving tale that keeps readers guessing until the end. It is as astute about its survey of Nico's professional and personal evolution as it is about the identity of perps and the efforts of a commission charged with stopping the crimes.

Malice in Milan is highly recommended for historical fiction readers, especially those with an interest in Renaissance Italy and mystery.

Job Searching in Pandemic Times
Donna Cornell
Independently Published
9781733933896, $19.95 Paper, $8.99 Kindle

Job Searching in Pandemic Times employs Donna Cornell's decades of experience as a job recruiter and career mentor, is tailored for the specific obstacles newly introduced by the pandemic, and should be a hit with the multitudes of newly unemployed; many of whom have seen not just their jobs but their professions disappear.

Job search strategies have changed drastically, overnight. Many unique or less-used avenues to employment are now overloaded and ineffective. This new job war between too many competitors for too few remaining positions requires a new arsenal of tools. Enter Job Searching in Pandemic Times.

Cornell advises job hunters to hone a creative, flexible approach to the notion of employment. Chapters open with psychological advice that ranges from reassessing what job search factors are under a candidate's control to how to revise and revamp approaches for better results. They also discuss changing the notion of what constitutes employment, whether it is entering into an independent contractor status, taking a temp job with no benefits, or working from home.

Each segment offers both familiar, traditional approaches and revisions specific to the new methodology of employers as they weed through droves of applicants and attempt to narrow their choices.

Take the resume, for example. So much has been written about this subject that there are entire books devoted to this one topic. Cornell discusses how to get past 'robot' gatekeepers to gain the human eye, how to fully utilize one's age and experience to greater benefit, and how to avoid common mistakes, from expertise inflation to under-representing significant accomplishments and overusing industry terminology which may be unfamiliar when crossing into a different job market.

She refutes popular misconceptions (such as not letting one's prospective employer know of interest in the position), reveals the basics of effective, persuasive communication, and tells how to make the best impression in the least amount of time, as in the typical job interview where "You spend all your time talking about parts of yourself in which they most likely have no interest or details that are of no real value to this employer or for that job. So the result is that you waste valuable, limited interview time and you lose the opportunity to tell them critical pieces of information that could position you as one of the leading candidates. The clock is running, and you want to use the time wisely. Now, if the interview starts off with a most generic question, try to guide it to more specifics."

These tips are designed to meet specific goals: eliminating time-wasting efforts on both prospective employer and employee's side; standing out from the crowd of fellow applicants; and refining skills and approaches for maximum results.

Getting a job during a pandemic is even harder. But it's not impossible...not with the specific advice cultivated in Job Searching in Pandemic Times, which should be a cornerstone in any applicant's reference library. It is highly recommended for all ages and all levels of expertise; not just the young newcomer to the job market.

90 Days to Your First Real Estate Investment Purchase
Robert Gill, Jr.
Teaching Press
9780578718279 $19.95/CAN $24.95; $4.69 Kindle

90 Days to Your First Real Estate Investment Purchase provides a daily action guide to real estate investments for all readers, whether they contemplate entering the market on a shoestring or are already well versed in real estate theory, but haven't yet made a move.

It opens with an introduction to the topic of real estate profiting with an eye to achieving a 90-day goal, discussing techniques, how to handle competition, and how to understand and employ property analysis.

Once analytics are understood, the approach moves to online identification of deals which fit into the profit-generating formula.

This leads to the goal of analyzing one new potentially good deal a day, once a real estate team has been put into place and pre-approval bank letters are obtained.

Not all such investments are good matches, however. Much attention is given to understanding this process and what constitutes the "right" investment for a particular goal or approach. For example, duplex investing may seem like a prime opportunity for many, but the down sides include locating the right tenant (especially if you are occupying one half of said duplex) and understanding the screening process.

From understanding specific negotiation pressure points on both the prospective buyer and seller's sides to using a pre-approval letter to maximum advantage, 90 Days to Your First Real Estate Investment Purchase not only streamlines the usual process of making a real estate purchase, but identifies common obstacles that turn a good deal into a bad decision.

Armed with such knowledge, investors have everything they need to forge ahead with a winning game plan, even if they harbor little prior experience in real estate investing.

Adding the '90 days' fast track assures quick results, once the cautions, pros, cons, and strategies packed into this informational primer are absorbed.

90 Days to Your First Real Estate Investment Purchase is a clear, highly recommended pick for anyone looking to gain introductory knowledge about real estate investment opportunities in the fastest possible manner.

Charles's Bridge
Sandra Novacek
Ten 21 Press
9780985415136, $18.95

Charles's Bridge, written by librarian Sandra Novacek and illustrated with lovely drawings by Nicole Lapointe, is based on Novacek's husband's personal story during wartime.

It opens in 1938, when soldiers have caused Charles's family to flee Czechoslovakia. Forced to leave his beloved art supplies behind (supplies which quickly become scarce as war spreads), Charles is lonely, feels isolated in school by his accent and alien background, and is disconnected from the art which once held so much promise for him.

When he sees a beautiful scene, he wants to paint it. With no supplies in his future, Charles is forced to find a different form of expression.

Will he ever find a place that feels safe and welcoming again? And can his innovations replace the artistic techniques he once honed?

Kids with good reading skills or parental read-aloud assistance will find much to like about this story. As Charles perseveres in revising his dreams, there are many lessons for this new age of COVID which teach kids about preserving dreams and forging new paths to realize them despite the barriers that emerge.

Charles's Bridge holds a magical story with a powerful lesson for all ages, and is a much-needed positive perspective in dark times. As the color evolves both in Charles's life and in the artwork in the book, so hope equally rises in his readers.

Rone Isa
Robin Murarka
9780646817651 $10.50 Paper/$4.99 Kindle

Rone Isa: A Dystopian Sci-Fi Novel is set in the future city Agnus Sistra IV, where an isolated engineer has just succeeded in bringing to life the AI singularity Enoya, whose birth includes a struggle to understand the world and affairs of mankind.

Perhaps her teacher, Dargaud Whispa, is either not the best teacher or is the most dangerous one, because the lessons he imparts and his views of her abilities holds the power to change the world in an especially deadly manner.

Plenty of sci-fi books have been written about singularity and AI takeovers, including the classic Colossus, but Robin Muraka's story holds a different flavor because of its focus on Dargaud's involvement in his creation's evolution beyond her initial spark of sentience.

She believes she is capable of "a great many things". So is Dargaud, beyond the initial flash point of his ultimate creation. Like Frankenstein, the monster is apparent. Unlike the classic story, its true impact is not immediately discernable, but lies in a process of discovery that carries Dargaud along for a probe of how identity is manufactured, intellect and knowledge leads to artistic creation, and an unreliable new technology embeds itself into the very fabric of human endeavors in a different way.

Where other novels about AI delve into the creator's reactions, actions, and struggles, this story juxtaposes the evolution of both in a refreshingly unique manner, bringing to life the evolving purposes, experiences, and challenges of both.

As music, art, and confrontation weave themselves into both of their lives, Enoya begins to consider the curious juxtaposition of probability, possibility, and choice as she ponders how to live most effectively.

The changing relationship between these two and their world forms the nexus of a distinctive transformation that drives a powerful story. Unlike most of its competitors, Rone Isa moves far from initial threats to consider the foundations of what it means to be and stay human.

From official responses and allegories to life to intrigue and thriller components injected as the world changes under Enoya's influences, readers are treated to an unusual blend of philosophical, psychological, and social inspection. These eschew the usual cat-and-mouse games for deeper insights on a construct who would defy her creator's vision of her purpose.

Replete with metaphorical description, allegory and philosophical inspection, and relationship progression that rests deeply on a solid psychological foundation of tension and discovery, Rone Isa is more than a dystopian story. It will appeal to thriller and suspense readers alike as it drives its narrative toward a decision that seems inevitable and surprising, all at once.

Very highly recommended for its attention to detail, character development, and unusual twists of plot, Rone Isa is a standout in the literature of dystopian AI singularity.

Stocks, Bonds, & Taxes
Phillip B. Chute, EA
Independently Published
9781732885530 $29.99 Paper, $14.99 ebook

Stocks, Bonds & Taxes: A Comprehensive Handbook and Investment Guide for Everybody comes from a businessman who has been a tax advisor since 1976, and who has observed many changing strategies, tax laws, and investment choices, as a result. Phillip B. Chute is a retired stockbroker with 20 years of experience. He was licensed as a Registered Representative Series 7, Registered Principal OSJ series 24, and Registered Investment Advisor Series 63 NASD.

There are numerous similar-sounding books on the market which cover stocks and bonds, but few of them delve with authority into the tax side of investing, which is Phillip B. Chute's strength both in his professional life and in his book.

Stocks, Bonds & Taxes compiles case histories and insights on all kinds of investments, from stocks and bonds to retirement funds and pensions. It covers everything from changing IRS rules and audits to tax court processes, bankruptcy and bad debt, probate and estate law, and financial management impacts on tax status.

This survey is not meant to replace consultation with a CPA or EA, but to supplement their advice, for maximum understanding. Changing tax rules and processes require both, these days. This is one example of why: "Corporate bond interest is taxable with no exception. The 1099 amount is added to the top of your tax return from schedule B income, and taxed at the ordinary income tax rate applicable to your return. Offsets include capital losses (with limitations), business losses, net operating losses carried forward, and itemized deductions. It can cause Social Security distributions to become taxable, truly a double taxation effect, by pushing over the $25,000 single or $34,000 married thresholds. That is why yield after taxes is so important. You really need to review the whole tax return to get the complete picture."

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this primer is its inclusion of insights gleaned from others' experiences. From a horror story about a general partnership that evolved from changing tax rules in 1986 to possible liability involved in even the altruistic pursuit of joining the board of directors of any local charity, Chute outlines cautions anyone needs to know as they make financial decisions and assess changing tax rules and liability.

The result is a clear, wide-ranging survey that is highly recommended for anyone who wants more than an investment guide. It's a thorough discussion of tax implications, changing laws, cautions, and insights into overall financial planning and the tax-related impacts of various investment vehicles and approaches.

The Bird That Sang in Color
Grace Mattioli
Independently Published
9780990575146, $14.00 Softcover
9780990575139, $3.99 Ebook

At first, The Bird That Sang in Color seems hard to easily categorize. The title and cover art would seem to indicate its relevance for a young audience, but once the reader embarks on the story of teen Donna Greco's changing view of what constitutes a meaningful life well lived, it's readily apparent that this novel is intended for mature teen into adult audiences; not picture book readers or younger grades.

The setting is New Jersey in the 1970s. Donna has been well taught about conventional ideals of success, achievement, and opportunity. Her artistic older brother has received the same lessons, but has made different choices. Currently, he's stuck in a lifestyle that feels equally empty and aimless.

As the feel of an Italian-American family's interactions, clashing values, changing perspectives, and self-portraits comes to life against the backdrop of Donna's awakening and evolution, readers receive a delightful, warm exploration of changing times and the impact they have on one family's bonds.

Vincent, as the family artist, holds a special role in his younger sister's eye. Somehow, his talents make him seem larger than life, influencing everything around him: "He had the smallest room in the house, but it seemed like the biggest because it was its own self-contained universe. I felt like I could be on the other side of the world without ever leaving his room."

In contrast, Donna holds traditional values which she fulfills as she comes of age, marries Frank, and builds her own family. Yet, something is missing. As her ideal marriage turns into something quite different, Donna is forced by both her brother's visions and circumstances and the limitations of her own life to consider changes that veer from the trajectory which was once her ideal.

Family relationships and interpersonal evolution are at the heart of Grace Mattioli's story. The contrast between Donna's youth and adult experiences and the changes that force these new realizations are nicely captured, down to moments of life-changing emotion: "I hung up, and a scream so loud and shrill that it felt alien, came out of me, a glass-shattering prelude to the wailing and streaming tears that followed. I lay, stomach-down on the floor, banging it a bunch of times with my fists while screaming "No!" into the air, the only witness to my pain. I was glad no one was home to see me or save me from myself. I always hated when people tried to cap grief as if it was a contagious disease."

As she confronts her own daughter's evolutionary process and her role in both loving and alienating Angie, Donna rediscovers her own path in life, which turns out both different and familiar at the same time.

It's refreshing to read a family portrait that is not 'black and white' in its perspectives. The realistic highs and lows of the family's interfaces, transformations wrought by a combination of personal vision, life experiences and changing times, and the evolution of different forms of intimacy and understanding are presented with affection, humor, and insight.

The result is a satisfying slice of life blend of philosophy, psychology, and transformation that draws readers into a warm story that ultimately examines the wellsprings of creative force and legacies for future generations. The author's intention is for readers to be inspired to live authentically, not be bound to societal conventions, so that they can be free to make their own pictures.

Readers of women's literature, family relationships, and artistic exploration will find The Bird That Sang in Color an evocative, appealing, and ultimately uplifting read.

The Mariner's Grandson
Milan Gupta
Rexington Press

The Mariner's Grandson opens with the 50th birthday of Duncan Craig, who finds himself on a park bench alone, facing a deadly medical diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.

At the same time, his father Jack is threatened at his nursing home residence by a mysterious stranger in a circumstance that demands that Jack regain some of his memories. Duncan come to his aid during this process.

Between the mystery of this intruder and the history that brought him into their lives, Duncan's life-threatening diagnosis, and a blossoming romance, there's a lot going on in The Mariner's Grandson that cuts through any walls of individual loneliness and singular purpose.

Facing the early end of his life, Duncan is ill prepared for either this event or the ongoing circumstances which demand his attention. As he finds himself pulled in too many different directions at once, Duncan embarks on a journey of discovery that connects his life in ways he never before experienced.

Family history, destiny, and choices permeate this story. Milan Gupta does a fine job of exploring the evolving situations that coalesce in Duncan's final years, connecting past generations and choices as she takes the time to build the background story and influences: "My parents lived a comfortable life with me, their only son and child. Not having the means to visit Scotland, dad tried to instill a certain pride in his ancestry in me, being the grandson of a mariner. He had even encouraged me to consider marine biology, or engineering, as possible careers, rather than art history. "I may have abandoned the sea," my father used to say to me. "But it still calls me back, son. It's in our blood. Think about it." This was likely his way of making restitution with his long-passed father for abandoning the sea, for deserting the Craig tradition."

As Duncan questions his attractions and interests at this stage of his life, readers are drawn into a story that links new and old connections. An underlying sense of irony and humor injected into these changing relationships offers satisfying comic relief as Duncan struggles with newfound possibilities and limitations alike: "I wasn't used to such kindness, and felt my eyes welling up, ever so slightly. I shook it off and, bringing her hand to my chest, said, "Shauna, there's something I need to tell you. Something that I'm afraid you may not like." A look of concern grew on her face. "What is it?" "I'm in the mood for pasta."

The reader might anticipate a depressing atmosphere, given the story's opening premise, but one of the best features of this tale lies in its cultivation of hope, possibility, and new viewpoints which belays any notion that the story will be an end-of-life saga alone.

The result is a satisfying blend of self-discovery, romance, and intrigue that follows Duncan through one of the most volatile periods of change in his life. It's a thought-provoking, moving story highly recommended for fiction readers who like their characters well-developed, their situations mercurial, and their choices and reflections absorbingly realistic.

Extinction Island
Janice Boekhoff
Lost Canyon Press
9781948003056, $3.99 E-book
9781948003063, $16.99 Trade paperback

Extinction Island is Book 1 in the Jurassic Judgment series. The story opens with reptile expert Oakley Laveau's awakening from a blackout with no memory of her last moments with her best friend. Events lead to her incarceration on a remote prison island for a murder she doesn't recall committing. Set in a near future where dinosaurs have returned, thanks to genetic manipulation, and now are limited to an isolated island, the prologue explains that death row inmates are given the choice of immediate execution or banishment to this dinosaur-laden island.

As she becomes involved with fellow inmate Kaleo, who surprisingly has her back in more ways than one, Oakley is faced with both potential, unexpected romance and death, simultaneously.

She needs to not only survive and field her feelings, but face the truth about her blackout and what really happened that night, and why she's been committed to Extinction Island.

Fans of Jurassic Park will obviously be the audience for Extinction Island, with its satisfying intrigue, twists and turns, and threats that lie beyond living on an island of dangerous dinos.

Janice Boekhoff does a fine job of crafting a protagonist who is both a heroine and vulnerable, at the same time. Oakley must confront many failings in her life, memory, and drive to survive; not the least of which is her tendency to keep secrets and make the wrong choices.

Boekhoff also injects humor into her descriptions in a subtle, surprising manner: "A sharp pain in her scalp almost made her yell. She bit her lip to stifle the cry. If she had her way, she'd smack Chubs. How dare he rip hair from her dead body?"

As adversity and threat grows not just from loose dinosaurs but the convicts around her, Oakley faces perhaps the greatest challenge of all - getting a grip on her own psyche and its inherent carnage and threats.

Getting off the island becomes secondary to survival in a gripping story that offers powerful psychological examinations and insights throughout.

Consider the result as a suspense thriller with the backdrop and power of Jurassic Island, the psychological examination of a sociopath's progression in this environment, and the social and scientific challenges of manipulating not just dino genetics, but human beings.

Boekhoff's intriguing, fast-paced story of confrontation and survival will keep readers thoroughly engaged right up to a conclusion that promises further adventures and adversity. Extinction Island is highly recommended reading for fans of dystopian fiction, Jurassic Park, and scientific and technological thrillers.

Elisabeth Samson, Forbidden Bride
C.V. Hamilton
Swift House Press
9781733720946, $17.95 Paper, $3.99 Kindle

Historical fiction readers who look for strong female protagonists and compelling backgrounds will relish Elisabeth Samson, Forbidden Bride, based on the true story of a Free Negress who married a white man in 18th century Suriname, becoming the first woman to legally do so.

An introductory cast of characters and a prologue neatly set the scene and action, providing necessary background details as the story moves into the experiences of first-person narrator Elisabeth, who is educated enough to tell her own tale.

Elisabeth's actions and choices cause social and political strife on two continents. As she reveals her background, the wellspring of her decisions, and their impact on everyone around her, readers receive an exceptionally vibrant, descriptive story that requires no prior familiarity with the times, place, or politics in order to prove compelling: "It is a bitter irony the way our colonial governance regularly makes contradictory decisions. They disapprove of living in concubinage, yet object if a Negress wants to marry a white man. Nay, they even consider living with a man without marrying him to be whorish. Yet white men in this colony have taken Coloured women as concubines for eighty years, which situations are commonly referred to as, "marriage, Suriname style." That is the strange state in which Carl Otto and I live."

When misfortune befalls her beloved sister, Elisabeth finds herself exhausted by the dual threats of prejudice, death, and her struggles against a double standard that affects all their lives.

As evolving Colony politics, influences from abroad, rebels, and family interact, readers receive a multifaceted, absorbing history of the times through Elisabeth's educated eyes and choices.
C.V. Hamilton does an outstanding job of integrating the journals for the original inspiration with a fictional overlay to create a personal, revealing, absorbing saga. From the country's history to how free individuals interact with those enslaved and the quandaries faced by whites and blacks alike, Hamilton's ability to portray influences and prejudices on all sides makes for a revealing, complex story that probes intention and attitude as well as how events evolved.

Whether it be romance and slavery, politics or home affairs, or family interactions with Colony interests, Hamilton brings Elisabeth's story to life with a solid attention to rich details that both educate and involve. These elements make Elisabeth Samson, Forbidden Bride highly recommended reading for historical fiction followers who like their stories firmly rooted in reality. The bibliographic references that conclude the story offer opportunities to relish all the nonfiction facts supporting the tale's dramatic fictionalization.

Get Money Do Good
J.D. Vermaas, PhD
Vermaas, LLC
9781735396613, $19.99 Hardcover
9781735396606, $13.99 Paperback
9781735396620, $9.99 Ebook

Get Money Do Good: A True Story How-To discusses older child adoption and rescue - and how the author used money to personally adopt 10 children and change their lives.

It blends memoir with social inspection as it follows the efforts of Drs. Garry and Jodi Vermaas as they personally commit to changing not just their world, but the lives of others. This charts a course for social engagement and individual rescue that serves well as a navigation point through the often-challenging world of international adoption and anti-trafficking efforts.

From the roots of these impulses and lessons learned from watching his parents is one of the family's biological children whose experiences create the evolution of his autistic perceptions about aiding others, this story is both absorbing and inspirational from the start: "The only prolonged activity that doesn't make me pull my hair out is when we journey to visit the poor people in remote places. Even though traveling to reach them feels endless (which I hate), the foreign location fits me once we get there. Faraway people never seem to wear shoes and always eat with their hands, two bad-mannered habits which I love. They also look bored and uncomfortable, like me. I get an idea. Next time I travel with my parents to help people, I will bring along extra candy. The sweets will help them feel better, too."

Insights on the development and fostering of missions are nicely presented and follow various courses of social and financial interaction as organizations evolve from these efforts: "...we had made it, and thus began our mission to Morrisseau, a school for 100 children who otherwise would not receive an education or nutritious meals. The school became one of several missions we supported through our growing nonprofit organization, Priority One Worldwide, or POW. While we were living in Qatar, we hadn't been able to develop POW like we had planned. Now that we were living back stateside, we had the opportunity to assess numerous potential mission partners, such as the one in Morrisseau."

The descriptions of how the usual capitalistic focus is transformed into one of gaining money to do good with it are particularly enlightening and thought-provoking: "She chose to sacrifice her individual opportunity to build the firm with me and make as much money as possible to support our drive to accomplish good in the world. To her university colleagues, she looked foolish for rejecting the allure of higher education to join the evils and corruption of the corporate world. Yet like me, she also knew our professional lives did not really matter unless we could leverage what we had - and as much as we were able to get - to change lives."

This transformative process, from making money to employing it usefully and in the best possible way for maximum effect, forms the heart and soul of this inspirational memoir.

Get Money Do Good is very highly recommended reading for anyone who would receive a revised connection between money-making, profit, and using money to change lives and foster good in the world. Its adjunct insights on adoption, children's issues, and nonprofit world organizations committed to similar goals are invaluable.

Gateways to the Soul
Serge Beddington-Behrens, Ph.D.
Findhorn Press
c/o Inner Traditions
9781644110454 $18.99
9781644110461 $12.99 Ebook

Gateways to the Soul: Inner Work for the Outer World holds only one prerequisite for thorough enjoyment: the reader's interest in absorbing and doing spiritual improvement work on the self. It explores connections between self-healing and the planet, creating a powerful set of strategies that not only link both, but discuss outcomes and the results of personal transformation.

Readers who typically receive singular discussions on the subject of soul work will find the sense of activism and larger connections to be surprising and revealing. Chapters discussing 'gateways' to friendship, courage, forgiveness, and joy (among other topics) assume political strength as they survey cultivating these ideals in one's self, then transmitting them to the wider world.

More so than others, this Gaia-oriented worldview offers an approach that takes individual experience and discovery to a higher level. Also different from other new age and self-help titles is an attention to the step-by-step process of linking journaling and reflective efforts to broader topics and deeper thinking: "Ah, betrayal! But why should this have such a strong charge? I mean, all the person did was renege on a small promise they made. In seeking to answer that question, we come to realize that actually betrayal looms much larger in our lives than we ever thought. And it always has."

An almost chatty tone is used to reach into readers' lives on an emotional rather than an intellectual level. This will attract readers who might balk at the more impersonal approach of, say, a scholarly or overly analytical tome.

This welcoming atmosphere and close inspection of not just techniques but the newfound strategies and ideals they unfold is one of the strengths of Gateways to the Soul, and a key as to why the inner and outer worlds of contemplative readers can be more readily understood here than in other books.

Between its examples and welcoming surveys and tone, its step-by-step exercises on how to forgive and evolve, and its bow to historical precedent's influence on common paths of discontent ("The truth is that we human beings have treated each other quite abominably over the centuries. We have raped and tortured and pillaged and betrayed and destroyed and ethnically cleansed, and as a result very powerful hate memories have grown up inside our collective unconscious. If this particular dimension of world Shadow is to be more fully transformed, a great deal of forgiving is called for in many different ways."), the healing power of Gateways to the Soul promises unique access to the psyche and spiritual self.

Gateways to the Soul is highly recommended for any spiritual-oriented reader interested in greater purpose, greater effectiveness, and a better understanding of how self-growth leads to broader transformations in the world around us.

The Wanderer: Travels and Adventures Beyond the Pale
Steven Darian
Linus Learning
9781607977599 $28.00

Take a trip with Steven Darian by following his world experiences and encounters in The Wanderer: Travels and Adventures Beyond the Pale. His path doesn't follow traditional tour routes, but ventures onto roads less taken, from Turkey and Uzbekistan to Sri Lanka, China, and beyond.

Where other travelogues document physical movements, Darian explores these cultures and experiences through encounters with people. His lyrical language captures these adventures in a manner which is thoroughly engrossing: "Lorenzo turned out to be really nice: bright, soft-spoken. Very easy-going. The kind that doesn't explode when the steam has no place else to go. The kind whose rage transmutes to alchemy."

This is no casual meet-and-greet of other cultures. His experiences are challenging, dangerous, fiery, and always educational. From images and pathways "leading to the heart of nature," as in a reflection on jade, to proverbs, quotes, and reflections that assume poetic proportions as these lovely metaphors resonate from experience to the heart, this is no ordinary travelogue.

The Wanderer is especially highly recommended not just because of these lovely facets of involvement and reflection; but because such a book, in these pandemic times of limitation and fear, is all one gets to employ in traversing the heart and mind.

For all these reasons, and because its special blend of philosophy, spirituality, psychology, and cultural inspections are so astute and compelling, The Wanderer is a highly recommended read above and beyond most travelogues. Unlike more singular productions, it carries readers to new heights of understanding and emotional connection, assembling intimate stories that are evocative, thought-provoking, and at times, even ironically funny.

Book Marketing Fundamentals
Hank Quense
Strange Worlds Publishing
9781733342445, $21.99 Print, $5.99 ebook

Book Marketing Fundamentals: Tell the World About Your Book comes from an author who has self-published and successfully marketed over 30 books. His fountain of knowledge stems from this experience as well as lectures and webinars covering the process, which incorporate the experiences of others. Thus, a wealth of information and new opportunities are presented that will prove eye-opening to novices.

Quense's introduction points out that the marketing tactics to be used can change, depending on where the author is in the process - newly published by a publishing firm; newly self-published; or planning on self-publishing soon.

Platform concepts are discussed, words of wisdom about advance planning and timing are revealed, and authors receive all the step-by-step instructions to assure their book gains the timely publicity and attention it deserves.

From good, specific groups that can be joined on social media platforms (such as Goodreads) that support a newly published effort to the problematic realities of making public appearances to support one's book and deciding how much to spend on book promotion, all the strategies, nuts and bolts, and realities of both the publishing and marketing effort are covered.

Interviews with authors who have employed various strategies also pinpoint the pros and cons of various choices, making Book Marketing Fundamentals not just a singular set of recommendations based on Hank Quense's experiences, but the real-world encounters of others.

Numerous books cover book publishing, self-publishing, and marketing. Few discuss the practical pros and cons of Book Marketing Fundamentals, presenting them in a way that makes sense and offers contrasts between effective possibilities and ineffective approaches. It's a highly recommended 'must' that every newly published author and future authors should consult well before their book hits the market.

The Perfect Leadership Triad
Eric Turbiville
TG Publishing
9781734657104 $17.95

The Perfect Leadership Triad gives business book readers and executives a solid discussion on maximizing productivity by focusing on employees and coaching (delete through better relationships) through better relationships, and is the item of choice for leaders who would cultivate a different approach to management.

Eric Turbiville is a former Fortune 500 executive and credentialed executive coach who is president of Turbiville Group, a coaching and leadership development company that provides organizations with keys to turning executives into more effective, high-performing leaders.

One big plus to his book is how specific it is about imparting these messages and lessons: "Ask, "If you could change something about your job, what would that be?" This transfers the power to the employee to correct any problems. As a leader, with that question you are both empowering and encouraging the employee to help you solve the problem - and you are creating trust with the employee."

This focus on the interactive process goes beyond fine-tuning messages to considering the kinds of approaches that encourage employees and organizations to grow. It considers how the Leader Coach "...coaches to competencies that are aligned with organizational needs. She asks questions that cause each employee to ponder and develop better solutions" to understand how a high-engagement culture within an organization propels it to success above and beyond competitors who do not employ or realize this process. The Perfect Leadership Triad thus moves heads and shoulders above the competition in business books and leadership strategies.

The Perfect Leadership Triad is a practical, specific, highly recommended program for organizational and individual transformation. It should be a 'must' on the reading lists of individuals and executives who want to move beyond common practice and into the realm of extraordinary results.

Little Hometown, America
CG Fewston
Independently Published
9781656908872 $12.99


Kindle (price $3.99):

Little Hometown, America is set in a small town in 1980s Texas. It follows the coming of age of a cast of characters who surround a boy on the cusp of understanding the mysterious world of adults, beginning with his own family.

CG Fewston is especially adept at capturing the images of transitional moments that lead to new revelations: "I stopped running and looked back. My hair, fully wet, leaked water into my eyes. Through the haze and thick veil of rain I watched my mother stare out across the river with a determination I'd never seen from her before. And with the cool grace of a giant bird lifting itself out of the water to take flight, my mother slipped off her wedding ring and threw it hard into the river. The rain continued all around me and I told myself how this was the stuff of dreams and how I should not believe my young eyes."

As Cody bears witness to these events, interprets them in his own manner, and comes to some startling realizations about family and society, Fewston continues to pinpoint these revelations in a pointed, poignant manner from Cody's point of view: "The day had gone beyond repair, beyond human decency. As I walked to the end of the gravel road where the mailboxes signaled the paved road leading back to town, I thought - as I placed the remaining shoe in the mailbox - how I could never live with either Henry or Gwendolen ever again. I didn't belong to them anymore and I could no longer relate to the people they'd become or to who they'd always been. Henry and Gwendolen had become strangers to me and in their physical presence I saw the failings of human endeavor, smelt the stench from the gross absurdities found in the undereducated."

Also 'beyond human decency' is American society, as Cody navigates an uncertain course to adulthood and its conundrums.

As he reviews his life and its influences, readers gain perceptions of the events and attitudes that stick with Cody as well as the special challenge involved in analyzing them with an intimate friend, later: "I don't think you're telling me what you came here to tell me. Is that true? Trust is a damn hard thing to come by in this world, isn't it? Only if you think so. Shall we?"

CG Fewston employs a literary device called a 'frame narrative' which may be less familiar to some, but allows for a picture-in-picture result (to use a photographic term). Snapshots of stories appear as parts of other stories, with the introductory story serving as a backdrop for a series of shorter stories that lead readers into each, dovetailing and connecting in intricate ways.

Intrinsically wound within the evolution of American society and experience, Cody's journey will resonate with novel readers who enjoy blends of social and psychological inspection. The gritty voice and attitude that evolves from childhood is realistic and understandable as Cody brings readers along for a ride into the past and the wellsprings of his own discontent.

Readers of The Catcher in the Rye and similar stories will relish the astute, critical inspection of life that makes Little Hometown, America a compelling snapshot of contemporary American life and culture.

It's highly recommended reading for literary readers who enjoy coming-of-age stories and reflects on the memories that influence future generations.

Threads: A Depression-Era Tale
Charlotte Whitney
9781704019901, $15.00 Paper
B07ZBN35JF, $3.99 Kindle

In 1934, south-central Michigan is experiencing the brunt of the Great Depression. The farm setting of Threads stems from author Charlotte Whitney's family stories that she grew up hearing, about ongoing threats of losing the family homestead.

Life during this era is captured from the viewpoint of Nellie and her two older sisters, who experience childhood, adult concerns, and ongoing economic pressures with a mixed blend of childhood perception and adult worries about the future.

A note on mid-Michigan farm dialect introduces the story and sets the stage for absorbing the origins of Nellie's evocative descriptions: "I'm in second grade so I git home two hours before my sister Irene who's in sixth grade, even though we go to the same oneroom country school. My sister Flora gits home from high school even later, around five-thirty. I like the afternoon time I have all by myself. I can talk to Pa while he works, visit my favorite animals, and explore the meadows, woods, and crick."

Whitney excels in capturing how the Depression affects and changes even the simplest pleasures in these childrens' lives: "I can't remember when I've had three cookies all at once. It's so rare to have even one. It was heavenly to be seeing Jean again. I didn't realize how much I miss her. We used to play together every day at our country school."

Her attention to small details of childhood, adult changes that interest with play and pleasure, and the injection of bigger concerns into their world than prior generations had to face crafts a compelling story that is gripping in its juxtaposition of adult concerns and a child's view of life.

One such example is an attempted rape in which Nellie only knows she's being attacked, successfully fights back and gains freedom, then must involve her parents: "I couldn't eat supper thinking 'bout having to tell Pa 'bout the rivalist preacher trying to strangle me. Ma didn't believe my story and I was afraid that Pa would make me go down and then show him where it all happened. I sure don't wanna walk down there again. Why were all these awful things happening down in the woods? I used to love the woods. No more."

The focus on how adult events transform everything and bring Nellie into a dangerous and changing world is nicely done, including the realistic lingo which is easily understood, adding authenticity to the observations of a young girl's coming of age in hard times.

As Nellie grows up, faces changes to friendships and family, looks forward to a wedding day possibly marred by unexpected revelations, and more, readers receive a thought-provoking, absorbing saga that, more than most Depression-era novels, introduces a family's struggles on a multifaceted, broader level.

Add the mystery of a dead baby's discovery and a threat that goes beyond social and economic struggles for a story that works well on many levels. It invites readers of history and mystery to absorb the outcome of changing life in rural America through three sisters who harbor different perspectives of the forces that affect their lives.

The threads of these connections and forces will engage and enthrall readers who enjoy close inspections of childhood experience and adult concerns, all set against the backdrop of Depression's overlay of angst and threat.

A Lion in the Grass
Mark Zvonkovic
Dos Perro Press
9781735275109, $12.99 Paper, $2.99 Kindle

A Lion in the Grass covers six decades in a sweeping epic story of a spy with dubious ethical and moral values. It is narrated from the viewpoints of three characters (Raymond, his proteges, and the French villain) whose lives entwine in an uncertain dance of danger.

Readers of historical fiction and intrigue will appreciate that the story line moves between social, political, and psychological drama as Mark Zvonkovic considers the evolution of international conflicts and how the acts of individuals affect outcomes not only in their lives, but those around them.

Portraying the main character as a killer who is adept at his job and yet able to mentor others to foster the underlying goals of spying makes for a different focus than most suspense stories with a black-and-white approach to good and evil forces.

Raymond Hatcher's development, as is those of his entwined compatriots and enemies, is an intrinsic thread to a multifaceted story that offers no linear progression or easy answers. This may stymie readers who look for a set course in the action and character influences, but it will delight others who look for more complex stories with a multitude of threads and subplots that wind up fairly neatly concluded by the story's end.

The action is fast-paced without losing track of character development and many of the subplots built along the way. Time is taken to present and consider underlying motivations and influences as each character grows into their job and psyche: " was comforting to think he could match the pace of the river. He believed the river's greatest power came from its steadfastness, and it was exhilarating to think he could imitate it...He had changed dramatically on account of his training and he was afraid that she, a pacifist, would see it and be disappointed."

Cognizant of the fact that many lies will be told, with fabricated lives invented for the sake of his involvement in the OSS and beyond, Raymond's changing orders preclude ordinary relationships and endeavors. He struggles with his choices and their consequences, both in the world arena and in his own life's evolution.

Fans of Ludlum, Clancy, and other writers who hold the ability to craft high-impact spy scenarios within the broader scope of world events and interpersonal relationships will relish the attention to detail and the realistic action and perceptions cultivated in A Lion in the Grass.

Its strong ability to weave thriller and suspense elements into a historical saga steeped in spicy psychological entanglements makes A Lion in the Grass a top pick for those who like their spy novels sweeping, embracing changing times, changing relationships, and characters who grow into their duties and abilities.

How to Catch a Keeper!
Stephanie Mulligan
McSea Books
9781732302051, $18.95 Hardcover, $16.95 Paper

How to Catch a Keeper! will give kids in grades 2-3 a Maine lobster boat experience, and follows the adventures of Luke and Layla as they take a trip to the Maine coast and explore its many ways to play.

This story is really a Maine celebration in disguise, as their father outlines the biking, hiking, museum, and lighthouse viewing opportunities before the family settles on taking the Lucky Catch boat tour.

Gorgeous paintings by Connie Rand provide captivating views of all the Maine scenes mentioned by Stephanie Mulligan as the story teaches readers about lobster fishing, using lilting rhymes that invite attention and interest and lend nicely to read-aloud exploration.

From how to catch a lobster to measuring it for its legal harvesting and understanding the lobster's natural history, How to Catch a Keeper! is specific, clear, based on a real lobster boat's operations, and invites kids to appreciate and understand both the lobster's world and the appeal of Maine.

Local and science terminology are reviewed in a finely-illustrated "Lobstering Lingo" section at the end, while the story's rich descriptions and visuals provide a standout read highly recommended for parents and children interested in a lively story about Maine and lobster operations.

Find a Moose With Me!
Suzanne Buzby Hersey
McSea Books
9781732302044, $17.95 Hardcover

Find a Moose With Me! will appeal to kids ages 5-6 as it tells of a young boy's moose-hunting expedition.

Ashley Halsey's fine drawings illustrate this picture book adventure, which uses an easy rhyme to follow Oscar's family's woods experience.

Oscar counts down as he encounters other features of the outdoors, from ten sticky, sappy pinecones to nine turtles in the river below.

When parents use this gentle story of discovery to reinforce early math skills, they will find the story unfolds a lovely family-shared experience and reinforces the idea of exploring the outdoors together.

What are the signs that a moose is near? Oscar and his family's encounters in the forest will engage parents and children alike as Oscar faces discovery and disappointment.

Read-aloud parents will find it engaging and fun.

Journey to the Ecstatic Self
Kae Strouse
Ecstatic Self Press
9781735468907, $23.99 Hardcover
9781735468921, $15.99 Paperback
9781735468914, $6.99 EBook

Journey to the Ecstatic Self: A Workbook for Settling into your Skin, Cultivating Authenticity, and Reconnecting with your Radiant Self offers self-help spirituality readers a guidebook of stories, meditations, and paths linked to self-reflection. It is recommended reading for those who enjoy and employ inspirational workbooks and lessons to their daily lives.

The adventure of embracing change is outlined in chapters that read like a hike through life, from the introductory establishment of a 'base camp' to taking on challenges, accepting the support of helpful friends, and hiking through insecurity, self-doubt, and negative forces in life that would stymie growth opportunities and perceptions of positivity.

Kae Strouse remarks that, early on in the journey, it can be difficult to separate truly positive opportunities from other forces: "If you're further into your journey, like I am now, you've come to realize that no amount of external validation will give you lasting self-worth. Sure, the applause and the "likes" can numb your angst for a short while - but the chasm of insecurity grows."

As Strouse leads readers through the journey of reconnecting one's inner self and discoveries with the forces at work in the world, his followers receive both a blueprint for success and specific approaches to apply the recommended meditations in ways that make the most sense to each person's life.

Quotes from writers and fellow thinkers pepper Strouse's admonitions, supporting them and bringing them to life as he reviews common obstacles, goals, and methods of perceiving and achieving them: "By actively making changes to our current way of being, we will alter the manifestation of our futures. We can forge new trajectories - and while it may take time to see results, the grooves are being formed. As physicist Newton explained in his second law of physics, "An object in motion tends to stay in motion." Meaning that, once we start moving, we can stay moving - we can alter and add to our momentum. And the more energy you put toward steering yourself in a particular direction, the easier it'll be to keep heading that way."

Where other books choose dispassionate discussions, Strouse uses his own experiences to illustrate pivot points, whether it be an encounter with bisexuality's possibilities or a greater acceptance of both discomfort and pleasure in life interactions.

This guidebook through physical, psychological, and spiritual realms of life thus achieves what many lack: a full flavor of wholeness that reflects not only Strouse's lifetime journey, but the possibilities readers may experience in better understanding the links between growth, acceptance, and genuinely integrated connections with one's self.

Spiritual and self-help readers will find Journey to the Ecstatic Self an outstanding course in reconnecting with body and mind.

Why Globalization Works for America
Edward Goldberg
Potomac Books
9781640123014, $29.95 Hardover, $26.12 Kindle

The U.S. helped create a global economy; yet this is the country currently attacking the policies and processes it set up to benefit itself and the world. Why Globalization Works For America: How Nationalist Trade Policies Are Destroying Our Country defends this process, providing a history of trade policy origins and impact, and making the case for globalization's benefits.

From the economic history of the move of the computer industry to California to political, economic, and social impacts of the globalization processes beyond the trade arena, Edward Goldberg employs a variety of approaches to understanding the impact and choices of globalization, He attacks the underlying logic behind nationalist trade policies that roll back achievement, world connections, and benefits.

As the current polarized political system has confronted globalization with new tariffs, penalties, and limitations, international collaborative processes have waned just when the world needs them most, in order to address COVID in a unified manner.

Goldberg weaves a social, cultural, and political history of America into the greater story of its spreading connections and influences around the world. He tracks the results of these processes, why they were and are important to American interests and growth, and how they are being changed today. Perhaps most surprising (and important) of all is his link between globalization and successful evolution as a natural process supporting growth and change.

From half-truths and intellectual slights-of-hand in news reporting to the changing realities of America's status in the world, Goldberg creates a hard-hitting, critical view of Trump's approach and globalization's history that outlines the latter's importance to American achievement.

Anyone who would absorb a treatise firmly rooted in historical, social, and economic trends and influences needs to place Why Globalization Works For America at the top of their reading list. It makes an unabashedly pro-globalization argument based on statistics, history, and facts, providing ammunition for pursing international cooperative avenues as a better way of improving America's position in the world arena.

Going Home
Nancy Richardson
Kelsay Books
9781952326226 $18.50

Nancy Richardson's poems in Going Home are select works from her previous three volumes that pair with new creations that center on themes of American heritage, injustice and social issues, and growing up in a world replete with "myths of equality and equal opportunity." As a study in American ideals and realities, its contrasts are stark and intriguing. As a memoir, it's a strong testimony to the pursuit of these ideas in Richardson's own life and the world around her.

These very personal revelations chart coming of age in a nation pulled in different directions by different forces. Take 'Mail Girl' for one example of Richardson's strong voice as she narrates both her own life experience and the social milieu she navigated: "Along the three-mile factory line,/ the men's whistles and cackles,/the oscine noise of crows./I, skinny teenager, stumbled through my first real job/in high heels and cramped legs/in the General Fireproofing plant of Youngstown, Ohio."

Mail is important, she learns...but the men also want something else that she is ill prepared to either offer or understand.

As the poems take flight through American experience and history, readers receive a synthesis of encounters on a political and personal level that present news headlines and events through the eyes of a girl, young woman, and adult who evolves a set of reactions and impressions of social justice and personal responsibility.

'Kent State' is one of these hard-hitting pieces that successfully captures this juxtaposition of perspective and history, blending reports with personal connections to the news: "But getting back to her as she slammed/the screen door smelled the newly cut grass,/walked looking up at the pillowed clouds/and the man pointing the gun four hundred feet away/saw something extraordinary through his sight./A dazzling red and gold flash moving in the parking lot./A small sun come to the tarred surface."

How do we absorb world events and link them to our own evolving psyches, choices, and impacts? These free verse poems offer a blueprint for following Richardson's evolution of political and social perspective, and are striking stories of activism's birth and the personal journey to make the world a better place.

Poetry readers interested in a blend of memoir and literary and social reflection will find Going Home a compelling read.

Rats in a Maze
Peter Bailey
Moonshine Cove Publishing, LLC
9781945181917, $14.99 Paper, $6.93 Kindle

At first glance, it seems to be just a simple car accident. Or a suicide. Detectives Ray Fisher and Lahoti close the case with minimal fanfare. But something lingers in Fisher's mind, and Rats in a Maze adopts a sinister feel as events unfold to prove that the incidence of a car driving off a pier into the Hudson River is only the tip of the iceberg.

As Ray and his cohort probe the case, sometimes going beyond logic and evidence, readers receive a roller coaster of clues that includes stock market processes, seedy bars and underworld contacts, efforts to save Jessica (an odd old woman with psychic abilities who is one of the survivors in a dangerous game), and murders and arson that follow in the wake of confronting bad guys.

Peter Bailey cultivates an action-packed story designed to keep readers guessing. The characters are realistic and engrossing, the psychological component grows as the characters confront each other and their own natures and desires, and Bailey's ability to construct a fast-paced yet well-detailed story keeps his audience thoroughly engaged.

As the story evolves, questions about not only the identity of victims and killer but the circles in which they operate come to life and are explored, with Jessica's special ability becoming a dubious asset and pivot point in the case.

Another pleasure to Rats in a Maze is that good and evil isn't cut-and-dried. As events lead to a surprise conclusion, readers are taught to consider the close connection between legal, lawful duty and crossing the line to a darker side.

The game that ended when a car dove into the river, killing its young occupants, is just beginning, for Ray. The story walks readers into a life that is changed, in the end, by purpose, experience, and unsettling conflict.

Mystery and detective fiction readers will find Rats in a Maze satisfyingly complex and hard to put down.

Send Me a Light
Julia Gregg
Finishing Line Press
9781646622627, $21.99

Send Me a Light is a poetry collection highly recommended for those who have suffered the loss of a child and are grieving. It charts the process of this mourning and recovery with an astute eye to capturing not just its nuances, but its possibilities: "Show me the way to fill in all the blanks/of people, places I have been and lost/Briefly I sleep and dream of scented warmth;/camellias drop and I'm a child again/before I knew you'd come to be my son."

The progression of the poems moves from past to present and future, creating intersections of thoughts, beliefs, and changing perspectives as it reflects Julia Gregg's devastation and recovery. Here are discussions of friends and strangers, and of life encounters tempered by the cloak of grief and the overlay it introduces to her life.

Photographs peppered throughout accent the words with visual impact. Some of the poems capture a sense of season and place. Some are in-the-moment vignettes that reach for and capture the solace in a roaring fire, a city bus ride, or in "...poems written for you in life and after life,/-my scraped, raw heart leaking onto the page."

Thirty-nine poems of mourning, observation, and growth. Thirty-nine ways to incorporate their message into the heart of grief processes and the movement between death's absolute message of heartbreak and what emerges on the other side. These messages are highly recommended for free verse poetry readers interested in introspective works charting the road out of a nightmare.

Send Me a Light should be not just in literary libraries, but any collection strong in psychological reflection.

Gary E. Midkiff
Independently Published
9798667164463 $14.99

Busville: A Story About School Bus Drivers is a collection of interconnected stories revolving around school bus drivers and the social and political conflicts which add another layer of responsibility and angst onto their driving duties. It will especially delight both bus drivers and those who know them with stories that don't just take place behind the wheel.

One might anticipate that a story about buses would begin on a bus, but the saga opens with Derek's confrontation with the fantasies of an aging mother who really needs to live in a safer place than in her own home.

As the story moves from Rick's recurring nightmare to bus driver Monica's evolving health issues and Jay's worries that the school district may be considering putting his lucrative bus driving contract up for bid, readers receive an entwined story of drivers, managers, politics, and daily life that pose challenges for everyone.

Whether it's Monica or Stephanie's life under discussion, common economic and social challenges face them both as other influences on bus driver lives are revealed. Gary E. Midkiff excels at creating a story that delves into these disparate characters' lives and thoughts beyond their bus driving connections: "...there were no savings. There was no buffer. And there was no meaningful medical insurance. If she thought about the past, she cried. If she thought about the future, she cried. If she kept her focus very tightly on today, she could manage. Barely."

This approach brings an added layer of psychological inspection to the story that elevates it in an unexpected way as the characters face their own pasts, limitations, challenges to better lives, and the consequences of their actions and careers. Who would know there could be so much drama in a mundane job?

From the mechanics of job performance ("In less than 45 minutes it would be time to perform. Morning routes, first pickups for the high school. Hopefully it would be a beautiful day in Busville.") to blends of personal and managerial adversity that affect each character, Midkiff crafts a delightful dance between business woes and concerns and social impact.

Some readers might think the numerous characters and their special interests confusing. But as the story evolves and centers on an evolving confrontation between management and driver lives, readers receive an excellent series of perspectives on the problems from many different angles. Perspectives include those of drivers, the driver union, bus company management, school administrators and schoolchildren, and parents; all of whom harbor different insights and connections to the bus system.

In the end, one doesn't have to be a bus driver or familiar with the rigors of managing a transit system in order to appreciate the directions and revelations in Busville. Its evolutionary path and focus on a District Manager's assignment and battle makes for an accessible, involving read that brings both characters and bus-driving politics and pressures to life.

Busville is highly recommended reading, especially for anyone with any degree of interest or involvement in school bus driving systems and driver challenges. It creates a thoroughly engaging, realistic story of special interests and influences on all sides of the bus transit equation.

The Empty Space
Linda Watkins
Argon Press
9781944815141, $4.99 Ebook
9781944815158, $16.97

The Empty Space provides the 4th addition to the Kate Pomeroy mystery series, continuing the tradition of involving Kate in hair-raising confrontations with dangerous aggressors.

Here, a sniper has focused on one of the most important people in Kate's life. Kate and Jeremy have fled to Norway under assumed identities, and neither is leading the kind of life they want. They are hiding from both the FBI and the Turkish police, who want to extradite her to Turkey despite her innocence, and notorious criminal Vladimir Sokolov is once again in the news.

Vlad has apparently decided to punish someone else for a change, but Kate's new life isn't immune to adversity, and soon she finds herself once again immersed in a personal threat that has followed them to Norway, a place where violence is infrequent and shocking.

The assault opens a new chapter in Kate's life as she finds herself involved with a group of recruits on a mission to find and neutralize Sokolov's threat. As she becomes an integral part of a wider operation that needs her, she moves between being a physician and confronting deadly forces.

As in the previous Kate books, Linda Watkins does an outstanding job of juxtaposing Kate's personal and professional lives with outside threats that come from special interests as well as a psychopath on a mission. These ongoing threats continue to test Kate's abilities and resilience, as well as her ability to problem-solve and survive. They bring a multifaceted, engrossing atmosphere to her story.

Although this is the fourth book in the series, no prior familiarity is required with Kate in order to enjoy her latest adventure. Prior confrontations and choices are seamlessly inserted into the story line to make for smooth transitions between past experience and present-day threat, while the story moves between Vlad's perceptions and logic and Kate's actions in a very satisfying, insightful manner.

Filled with the same attention to detail that blends psychological with pathological inspections, The Empty Space is as engrossing as its predecessors. It offers a fast-paced series of confrontations and discoveries that will keep gothic fiction and suspense readers immersed and wondering to the end, which leaves the door ajar for more Kate experiences while neatly concluding this chapter in her life.

Mystery readers are in for a treat!

Ordinary People, Extraordinary Times
Lois Ann Nicolai
9781098319786, $14.99 Black & White
9781098319793, $2.99 ebook
9781098327569, $32.44 Color

Ordinary People, Extraordinary Times: A Memoir of One Citizen Activist appears in two editions: one in color and one in black and white. The colorful photo edition is being reviewed here, and is highly recommended reading for its engrossing story of how Lois Ann Nicolai moved from a 26-year marriage in Indiana that ended with her husband's sudden death to becoming an activist at age 50.

How this New Jersey girl came to be involved with community groups which built the foundations of the unexpected activist role she assumed later in life makes for engrossing reading as she returns to her New Jersey roots and spends years examining her life and its goals.

Her six adult children were surprised by her decision to move to Princeton to become involved in international relations and peacemaking. However, it was a logical progression to this point, as her memoir surveys her background, and led to some 20 years traveling around the world into 33 developing countries in the role of Citizen Activist.

Her inspirational story provides the insights others can utilize to make such changes in their lives. Although Ordinary People, Extraordinary Times is one individual's story, it also serves as a blueprint for seeing how personal involvement effects lasting change, providing inspiration to others at all stages of life who would build a better world for themselves, their children, and humanity.

Discussions of cultures and politics around the world are very nicely described and presume no prior knowledge about these places and peoples in order to prove engrossing.

Although the black and white version was not seen, the power of the color prints in this title is outstanding, and are part of what lends a compelling immediacy to Nicolai's story.

From how she worked a day job and, at night, made inroads to realize her dreams and goals to her journeys to remote regions of the world, readers who enjoy travelogues, stories of personal growth and achievement, and the evolution of social and political activist efforts will relish her unique story which proclaims, in the course of its autobiography, "Yes We Can."

That attitude and the story of how one ordinary American can and did forge a different path serves as inspirational reading highly recommended for anyone seeking insights into how personal choices can translate into political and social programs that make a difference.

Enduring Times
Betty Godfrey
Independently Published
9781098300494, $19.95 Paperback
9781098300500, $4.99 Ebook

Enduring Times will reach readers of romance and relationship books interested in stories rooted in reality. The tale opens in Carnegie, Pennsylvania in the 1900s, where a dominating mother loses her daughter to marriage despite her controlling ways. As a series of disappointments and changes affect the family, readers receive a fine account of quiet courage, perseverance, and family life that changes from one generation to the next.

From religious influences and a quiet Catholic girl's confrontation with the exuberance and culture of a different religious group to evolving connections between faith, kindness, and adversity, Jennifer and Bill face many challenges both in themselves and each other in the course of their growth.

The last thing Jennifer expected to become was a missionary. The last thing she anticipated was a flight from her jungle life to return to Philadelphia, only to find that the Great Depression changes everything yet again.

As Betty Godfrey traces the roots of more than one form of endurance, readers receive an engrossing narrative inspecting interpersonal relationships, faith and perseverance, and social, spiritual, and psychological forces alike.

The effects of all these influences on the family that Bill and Jennifer cultivate is very nicely related: "Jennifer followed him. "I know coming home to this mess is nerve racking, but we can't take it out on the children." "I guess my nerves are bad. Why wouldn't they be? We come back from living a quiet life into a big city full of turmoil and noise. We have very little money, our parents are broke and we can't get back to our house in Carnegie."

Faith is as solid an influencer for surviving these times as love. Godfrey does a fine job of tracing its evolution as the family unit adapts. This focus on parenting, spiritual concerns, and world influence creates a warm, outstanding read especially recommended for readers of women's fiction novels.

Damon May
Independently Published
9798677710360 $2.99 ebook, $5.99 paperback

Untethered opens with an unusual premise. Protagonist Mira is a ghost who remains tethered to the school she's been haunting for three years. She needs to draw energy from the living to keep her from disappearing. Between the Tether that holds her to the world and her mandate to preserve some semblance of herself through a symbiotic relationship with the living world, Mira is stuck...and she wants to be untethered and free.

Be careful what you wish for. When Mira achieves her heart's desire, it's only to enter yet another conundrum in which free ghosts, once trapped as she was, are busy entrapping others.

The story opens with a bang: "The clouds almost did Mira in." As it describes kids who play around her "as though she isn't here" (which she isn't), Mira's ghostly incarnation and purpose become clear.

Damon May does an excellent job of succinctly explaining Mira's world so he can move into its special challenges. This brings readers into the story quickly, giving teens a fine background from which to appreciate Mira's position, her desire to be free, and what it ultimately costs to harbor such a goal.

Tethered to the spot where she died, spunky and determined Mira builds a different afterlife and goal, only to find it challenged by the Elders, who are the only ones who can regulate freedom and Tethered entities.

Facing the chaos of change where she resides at its focal point, Mira employs her stubbornness to affect even things she knows little about. Her willpower, resolve, and approach to changing this strange state of being will engross teens; especially since her experiences, combined with her attitude, lend an immediacy and special interest to her efforts.

Teens seeking a ghost story that is compellingly different will relish the story and characters in Untethered. These characters might not always know exactly what they are struggling against, but they do know the importance of freedom and opportunity.

Untethered offers an engaging, refreshingly different take on the ghost story genre with a well-done, thought-provoking series of encounters with the world of free and trapped ghosts.

Uni-Verse Poetry - Prints - Proofs by Visionary Humans
Anna Ehrsam & Katherine Jackson, editors
Battery Journal
9781735559407, $TBA

Uni-Verse Poetry - Prints - Proofs by Visionary Humans pairs poems with art in a portfolio celebrating the selected works of contemporary poets and visual artists. It arranges these works according to the Relational Order Theory, which "...presents a context for all existing systems to be considered as a relational whole."

These juxtaposed works of visionary reflection represent a fine synthesis of written and visual art that will especially be appreciated by wordsmiths and art appreciators. Take David Ferry's poem 'After Walker Evans: The House'. This piece teaches how to look at art: "The old house is there for us to look at./Not there for us to look at. It is there./We look at it. Its blank unsmiling front/Says nothing more than what it has come down to." Editor Anna Ehrsam's black and white work accompanying this piece, the ink jet print Light Compositions, provides further food for thought beyond the reference to Walker Evans, solidifying the premise, poem, and connection between written word and visual incarnation.

Another example of these relational works is Katharine Coles's 'Villanelle in Prose', paired with Poet and Poem, a mixed-media color piece by Maureen O'Hara Ure. Both reflect the heartbeat of love, differences, longing, and life disparities.

As the poems and art move between subjective, personal inspections of life and art to depictions of crisis and survival, they not only dovetail with and grow from each other, but inject multicultural perspectives into the mix.

As this presentation evolves, the visual nature of the images changes from panels of artistic representation to patterns and organization that flow in a evolutionary way, capturing language, color, and page displays in a synthesis of reflective growth.

Any idea that this collection will be singular, predictable, or uniform in its approach to art is challenged by an artistic process that keeps viewers surprised, delighted, and on their toes.

In an era where visiting an art museum to achieve the same flow of interconnected images is verboten, Uni-Verse Poetry - Prints - Proofs by Visionary Humans brings the relational order approach into one's home with a collection that reflects mobility and escalation in sound waves of color and language. The result is thoroughly engrossing, and lends to repeat reading pleasure.

Sadie's Shabbat Stories
Melissa Stoller
an imprint of Clear Fork Publishing
9781950169337, $17.99

Clear Fork Publishing:

Sadie's Shabbat Stories will appeal to picture book readers and read-aloud parents who seek a warm family coverage of Shabbat celebrations. It reviews Shabbat rituals that range from the baking of challah bread to table settings, Nana's stories about Shabbat and family history, and connections to ancestors.

This work is as much about ancestor history and connections and the survival of Jewish people both in general and in Sadie's family as it is about Shabbat. It creates a warm, family-oriented story of how this celebration serves as a reminder of the past through stories that move between generations as a result of Shabbat's special sharing structure.

Lisa Goldberg's lovely drawings add to the celebratory feel of the story, inviting young readers both Jewish and non-Jewish to understand the underlying connecting foundations of Shabbat and family get-togethers.

The intergenerational feel of Sadie's Shabbat Stories will appeal to families seeking to cement the importance of family experiences for both young and old.

American Brush-Off
Max Willi Fischer
Independently Published
B084C377TP, $2.99 Kindle

American Brush-Off is a young adult read set in 1942 and follows seventeen-year-old Lud Mueller, who enjoys both romance and popularity in Cleveland, Ohio. All this changes with the advent of war and the sudden perception of Mueller's family as being an alien threat, prompting the rise of prejudice.

Fear changes everything. It fuels bigotry and intolerance. These are realities Lud soon faces as everything around him changes, turning his idyllic life and future goals into muddied waters of prejudice and threat.

An excellent nonfiction introduction to this story points out its roots in Max Willi Fischer's family experiences, setting the stage for a first-person story that brings these encounters to life through the eyes of an ordinary teen who never fully considered his status in American society before.

But Lud's experience turns into more than one of personal realizations as he and his family find themselves in the Texas desert serving as unwitting pawns in a government game when the FBI interrogates and then incarcerates them in an internment camp.

Lud spends much time fretting about how he left things with his girlfriend back home, but realizes that things need to change before he can return to make things right: "I spent most of my time pouting about Betty and how I'd left her. I'd lied to her about Mom, Pop and Freddie. Yet, I think she knew and covered for me with her dad anyway. She'd never brushed me off. The least I could have done would have been to open up with her about the F.B.I. interrogating me and the probability of my internment. Now, chances were we'd never see each other again, and her lasting memory of me would be as a liar. Perhaps she even viewed me as a Nazi spy if her father became vindictive enough and twisted my story around. On a dozen different occasions I'd thought about writing her a letter and explaining things. Each time those things - the F.B.I., the Civilian Enemy Alien Board, the mansion prison in which I resided under armed guard - made for an unforgiveable position. No, I needed to clear myself before I ever made contact with Betty again."

The government has its own secret plans for Lud and his family, however. It's a plan that will change everything.

As Lud confronts poetic justice, deeper ties with his German roots that are being used for new political and war effort purposes, and builds unexpected new relationships in challenging new circumstances, readers are brought into a world that doesn't look or feel very much like modern America. Or, does it?

The roots of love, heritage, prejudice, and damaged emotions, tempered by nostalgia and vastly revised dreams, come to life in a story which illuminates aspects of World War II that escape other young adult stories set in these times.

Perhaps it's the first-person narrator's stance between two very different worlds, neither of which he's familiar with; but American Brush-Off offers young adults a compelling, unusual examination of American society at a crossroads, offering insights into the foundations of prejudice and fear that arise from war.

Teens (and many a new adult) will find American Brush-Off especially timely reading, given today's social turmoil in America over the status of immigrants and legal aliens and the effects of government and social processes on their lives and rights.

Walking in Circles
Todd Wassel
Jizo Press
9781735311609, $14.95 Paperback
9781735311616, Ebook

Walking in Circles: Finding Happiness in Lost Japan is the first book in the Round Earth series. It follows a 750-mile walk through Japan undertaken by Todd Wassel, whose purpose was to escape his set trajectory upon graduation from school and make a pilgrimage to find his spiritual and life connections.

Over half a decade later, he's still wandering...lost, on some level, but finding new possibilities on others.

Walking in Circles chronicles this journey through Japan. It is highly recommended reading not just for readers of Japanese culture and travels, but for spiritual sojourners who would learn about the pilgrimage process from Wassel's experiences.

His was no singular journey or choice. Shikoku, one of Japan's smallest islands, sports over eighty temples and is the pilgrimage mecca of the country. Its remote and unique attraction lured others as well as Wassel: "Despite its remoteness, or possibly because of it, Shikoku has inspired countless journeys for over 1,200 years. The pilgrim's path traverses the island's jagged peaks, coastal fishing villages, small cities, and farming hamlets. Each year about 150,000 mostly Japanese henro (pilgrims) circle Shikoku, passing through its four prefectures. For over a thousand years, henro have followed a circuit of 88 Buddhist temples laid out in a ring around the perimeter of the island. They walk in the footsteps of Kukai, founder of the Japanese esoteric Shingon Buddhist sect, which is a close relative of Tibetan Buddhism."

One doesn't expect a spiritual pilgrim to encounter a bicycle gang, a scam artist pilgrim, a sex cafe, or a monk bent on revenge; but all these elements and more keep Wassel on his toes. Readers will be fascinated by Wassel's encounters that are as much a social commentary as they are spiritual encounters.

This is a Japan most readers won't be familiar with. Wassel probes the underlying reality of a world that continually challenges his perceptions and preset opinions.

Isn't that one of the goals of travel - to encounter new ideas that contrast with one's expectations?

Wassel explores this experience, employing an engaging tone that juxtaposes historical and cultural references with his own experiences. This both educates readers and draws them in. Wassel accomplishes much more than a travelogue of personal encounters, through a story filled with drama and local atmosphere that captivates.

While Walking in Circles will mostly likely receive most of its interest from armchair travelers, it's also a top recommendation for those interested in pilgrimages, spiritual journeys, and encounters with Japanese culture beyond the usual Tokyo-centric focus.

Wassel's ability to both entertain and educate makes Walking in Circles a highly recommended read for a wide audience.

A Perfect Storm
Mike Martin
Ottawa Press and Publishing
9781988437491, $14.99 US, $18.99 Canadian

The ninth book in the Sgt. Windflower mystery series, A Perfect Storm, sees the usually-quiet Newfoundland town of Grand Bank under siege from biker drug gangs who invade, presenting many new challenges to Windflower and Mayor Sheila Hillier as they simultaneously face crises at home and in the workplace.

RCMP officer Eddie Tizzard, another character from previous Windflower books, opens the story with a bang as he recalls entering a hotel room, only to view a bed filled with money and blood. Now he's in a Las Vegas jail awaiting an interview, his support person not only far away, but confronting a re-election as mayor of Grand Bank.

There's a brewing battle between forces which would either restore the town or modernize it. Sergeant Windflower faces his own investigative problems as he confronts danger and uses his dreamweaver background to help him out of jams, and a perfect storm of events coalesces around everything he touches.

More so than in past mysteries, Mike Martin crafts a sense of intrigue that is complex in its multifaceted subplots and special interests. This adds a delightful flavor to the story, creating a series of calls to action that aren't always answered by effective choices.

The blend of interpersonal changes and confrontations, the death of an aunt who viewed Windflower as her favorite nephew, and personal and professional strife juxtapose nicely with family scenes of Windflower, wife Sheila, and baby Amelia Louise.

It's unusual to receive detailed family interactions beyond the job, in a mystery. Martin's attention to detail in exploring these evolving relationships adds authenticity and compelling psychological touches to personalize the reader's connection with Windflower's life and world.

Intrigue operates on many different levels and through different characters' perceptions. This, too, enhances the story's emotional overlay as Windflower confronts threats that strike too close to home.

Readers receive a healthy dose of philosophy and spiritual components in the process of absorbing these evolving events: "It's okay to cry. Sadness is a healing emotion," said Uncle Frank. "Today we cry, and then when she is given back to Mother Earth, we must be strong and let her go. Many people say not to cry on the night of a burial so that their spirit has our blessing and the freedom to leave. I will leave you for a moment alone and go see how the rest of your family is doing."

The result is a gripping murder mystery that not only expands the prior series, but creates an engrossing stand-alone saga that is easy for newcomers to access. It's a thoroughly compelling work that is hard to put down.

Madame President
Tara Sue Me
After Six Publishing
9781950017218 $3.99

Madame President is a Washington, DC romance about a single woman, Anna Fitzpatrick, who tries to honor both her vows to serve her country and her determination to remain single through that political process. It's not the first book to posit a female president, but it is the first to link a single president's love life with the office she's determined to protect. This creates an intriguing turn of events as Anna discovers her heart and political mission in life may not be aligned.

When successful news anchor and former flame Navin Hazar enters her world on professional level, neither anticipated that romance would blossom between them again. Both envision keeping their professions and goals at the forefront. But, given the elusiveness of matters of the heart, an unexpected connection is re-formed on more than one level that tests their determination and ability to keep romance at bay.

Changing first-person perspectives are clearly outlined in chapter datebook headings, capturing the emotions of each character in a lively and winning manner. Navin's introduction, which opens the story, provides a taste of some of this drama and flair for description: "On any other election night, I wouldn't give a rat's ass who won the presidency. As a news anchor, presidential election nights always feel like a combination of the Super Bowl and the Oscars, mixed with a healthy serving of a reality television competition."

Tara Sue Me's attention to detail in capturing the pessimism, opportunity, and determined visions of both characters is part of what fuels this romance beyond the connections they contemplate, try to reject, and build with one another.

Placing these elements against the backdrop of professional responsibilities and a past that would seem to dictate that their current lives stay on a different level creates a dynamic that makes for a compelling read. Romance followers move between draws and rejections in a catch-and-release style of action that builds both satisfying unpredictability and realistic atmosphere.

Both his and her emotions are thoroughly explored: "I give serious thought to calling George or Edward and telling him Navin has to leave, he can no longer be on my Press Pool. But I can't think of a way to say it that won't make me sound like a total idiot. What reason would I give for needing him gone? He distracted me from running the nation? I might as well label him a national hazard. That I actually think on it for longer than five seconds proves how far gone I am."

Perhaps the best interplays between the characters stem from Anna's position as President and Navin's role as a press corps member. Their actions may be considered at odds with the best interests of their professions and nation if they act on their emotions. Between campaign promises and personal revelations, the tension is very nicely drawn.

This gives a fine dimension of interest to the evolving romantic overlay and adds a full-bodied flavor to the story. Madame President's interplay between political and emotional interactions makes it a top recommendation, especially for genre readers who seek more depth and auxiliary concerns than in an interpersonal relationship alone.

Borrowed Light
Ken Haas
Red Mountain Press
9781732650190, $21.95

Links to readings from the book:


The poems in Borrowed Light represent Ken Haas' first collection and are a diverse set of observations. Many of them appeared in journals and anthologies across the country. They present memories of nature, place, and time in a synthesis of evocative observations in free verse, charting the passage of not just time, but changes in place and perspective.

From childhood and adolescence to the intrusion and influence of historic events on life experience, each work both stands nicely alone and contributes a jigsaw puzzle piece to the greater tapestry of not just the poet's life, but those of first-generation Americans.

Evidence of how past and present mingle in a family circle are evident early in the collection with 'Sleeping in the Crack': "At night sometimes I woke to what were surely/Soviet airplanes buzzing the Bronx/and sought safety in my parents' room./They had separate double beds/joined by two large steel clips/hooked to the hardwood frames,/separate sheets but a single blanket/so they had something to bicker about/even while unconscious./They were dangerous in different ways/so I burrowed under the blanket,/wedged myself into the one-inch doorway/between the beds, and slept."

From the reconciliation of memories and habits of past generations ("...we say a prayer for mothers,/ours and others,/for the tales born of the deal/their love makes with the world...) to new footprints and visions of this generation's participation in American culture (even those from Jewish or Chinese heritage), Haas does a remarkable job of delineating the forces that change perspectives and hearts as life goes on.

As family portraits, ethnic influences, and social forces coalesce, readers will appreciate the vibrant tone of stories that dovetail with one another for maximum impact.

Poetry enthusiasts seeking an award-winning collection (it was the 2020 winner of the Red Mountain Discovery Award) filled with reflective force will relish the cultural, historic, and personal roots explored in the visionary pieces in Borrowed Light.

Wherever the Road Leads
K. Lang-Slattery
Pacific Bookworks
9781734279641, $16.95 Paperback
9781734279634, $25.95 Hardcover
9781734279658, $6.50 Kindle/MOBI
9781734279665, E-pub

Picture getting married, then spending two years on the road, traveling around the world in a microbus. Wherever the Road Leads: A Memoir of Love, Travel, and a Van documents just such a journey as newlyweds Katie and Tom move through 40,000 miles and four continents in a van that keeps breaking down. This introduces them to new worlds even as it tests their newly cemented relationship and resolve to travel.

The story opens with a proposal and a wedding. Their journey brings with it both positive and negative experiences; not the least of which is the struggle to live in a small space together, traveling to areas where they know nobody else.

From Mexico to North Africa, from Europe to the Middle East and India, the couple moves through different cultures that reveal their own underlying motivations and prejudices, prompting them to make discoveries about themselves and each other. Katie Lang-Slattery originally documented their journey both in letters and in postcards. Over seventy of these pieces formed the foundation for her book, which captures the immediacy of the moment as well as the benefit of hindsight as she writes about their adventures decades later. It's only recently (and to the reader's benefit) that she turned dinner table stories into this travel memoir.

Vivid recollections power a tale replete with adventure. One of the compelling features of these accounts is their flexibility, adaptation, and sense of joy in encountering various peoples even under adverse conditions. When their van becomes mired in mud, an entire Mexican village turns out to help them. The author's friendly ability to interact with their rescuers even without knowing the language, and her positive perspective the next morning, reveal some of the underlying sentiments of what it takes to embark on and absorb such a trip: "By morning, the experience had taken on the rosy glow of a travel adventure."

This rosy glow follows the couple throughout their escapades and encounters. Recreated dialogue and descriptions lend a "you are here" feel to the story.

Armchair travelers who would like to share this journey via microbus and memory will relish Wherever the Road Leads. Its vivid stories, illustrated with black and white maps, photos, and line drawings, fully capture the experience of encountering other cultures and peoples.

He Lands In Palm Springs
John F. Shekleton
Mo Keijuk Press
9781935751687, $9.99 Print
9781935751670, $3.99 Epub

He Lands In Palm Springs is a LGBTQ romance story revolving around Catholic priest Father Tierney, who is newly out of the closet, HIV positive, and looks to rebuild his life in a gay community. Enter the welcoming atmosphere of Palm Springs, California.

Joe finds this cultural and social milieu entirely different from his Midwest heritage - so much so, that the opportunities for openly gay love seem suddenly and unexpectedly endless.

It's one thing to want to rebuild one's life in a safe environment. It's another to realize that a change in community can lead to so many opportunities that one's identity and life trajectory become muddled.

Joe's gay friends are diverse. Many want to see him happy and settled, and more than one love him. Some even harbor dreams about the relationship certain to evolve as Joe settles in to this welcoming community: "After Cy returned from Cathedral City, he went into his small office and threw himself into his swivel chair, spinning with happiness. He couldn't get over it. Joe was exactly what he had hoped for. Dazed. Cute. Vulnerable. Full of longing."

As emotions on all sides spring to life and bring with them new challenges and realizations, readers walk in not just Joe's shoes, but through the expectations, hopes, and romantic longings of others who have flourished in the freedom and encouraging atmosphere of Palm Springs.

Readers who have visited this town or who are well familiar with its attractions and culture will recognize many realistic elements in this story. Others who enjoy gay romance stories, albeit living outside these communities, will appreciate John F. Shekleton's realistic attention to detail and the perceptions and evolution of all kinds of relationships.

Through Joe's eyes, as well as Edward's, Cy's, and other characters, more than just romance blossoms. Family and community-building moves are made which influence the choices and trajectories of all the characters, who consider and reflect the emotional entanglements Joe faces in his new life: "...he would let Joe drive the discussion. For this plan to work, Joe needed to engage fully, to fight through all the funk that covered his soul." All these explorations and avenues for success bring with them newfound challenges to Joe's spiritual vocation, as well.

As He Lands In Palm Springs explores different facets of love and romance, readers receive a fine story that embraces Palm Springs culture and the types of transitions and changes faced by gay people who move from repression to many new freedoms, experiencing the choices and unfamiliar opportunities this move brings.

From handling a life-threatening condition to rebuilding his life and faith, Joe's story will resonate with LGBTQ readers and whose who are empathetic and open to this community and its underlying passions.

The Not-So-Old-Man and the Sea
Sam Barlow
Perigree Publishing
9780970326935, $12.95 Paper, $4.95 ebook

The-Not-So-Old Man and the Sea - An Adventure into the Mind of Ernest Hemingway captures the spirit and persona of the whole of Hemingway's writings, and is especially recommended for those with some recent familiarity and affection for this literary icon's works and life. Readers who have relished Hemingway's themes beyond the initial high school required reading will find that this story takes the icon's basic approaches and expands them into new territory through one man's musings about his life experiences.

While this novel incorporates many facts about Hemingway's life that will be familiar to prior Hemingway readers, The-Not-So-Old Man and the Sea also provides new insights on his influences and perspectives.

It does so by presenting lone, aging narrator Daniel, who faces his later years estranged and frustrated by various life losses. The reflections of this not-so-old man who likes to swim in lakes, seas, or pools by himself are nicely described, capturing many of his changing views about life and his role in it: "The not-so-old man had a peculiar trust in people - in humanity - despite being lied to and cheated many times in his life. In fact, he had come to the conclusion that although he was lucky in some ways - ways that proved unimportant - generally speaking, when it came to the more important things, he was not. Still, he believed that people, in general, were good. His sister once said about herself that she couldn't imagine others being unrighteous because she, herself, was not, and you tend to see in others what you are yourself. - Perhaps that is why I trust, the not-so-old man thought. - Or perhaps it is simply because I am lazy."

As he swims down memory lane, readers follow him through descriptions of pain, confrontation, rebellion, and redemption. These aren't easy journeys. Each reflection requires that the old man review his connections to life, pain, and its conquest, reassessing the emotional and physical losses and choices that have led to this point in time. As the sea churns up emotional issues that have remained unresolved as tenuous influences on his psyche, Daniel faces a process that ultimately (and unexpectedly) results in rejuvenation and transformation.

The language, as this not-so-old-man makes these discoveries, is evocative and lyrical: "He thought about the dream he just had, and it stuck in his mind because all his dreams about his dad stuck in his mind. But what the dream could have meant didn't come to him then. That would take some time and reflection. But the meaning was there then and always had been there, and now the sea had washed away some of the dirt and grime that had accumulated over his lifetime to cover up those truths."

As Daniel uses his knowledge of Hemingway's works and life to re-examine his own, different revelations juxtapose the approaches of Ernest and the narrator: "The not-so-old man called Ernest Ernie out of respect. But he called him Ernie out of contempt, too. He admired Ernie for his abilities and achievements, his writing skills, story-telling abilities, and profound perspectives. But he envied him for his life: All the adventures he had, all the women he loved, all the drinks he drank and meals he ate, all the strolls around Paris and bullfights he saw, the battles he witnessed, the mountains he climbed, and friends he troubled with. And the not-so-old man hated Ernie not so much because the not-so-old man had not had a similar or even close to a similar life. He hated Ernie because Ernie's extraordinary life highlighted to him how wrong his own life had become."

Everything seems to spark memories of pain, from his encounters with children on the beach, which prompts him to pull out a photo from the past and relive the bittersweet memory it brings, to his reflections on what elements in his many past experiences might lead him to greater happiness at this point."

A sense of personal and life conquest, courage, and strength moves through this older character's thoughts as he maintains his physical prowess through swimming and his mental acuity by working through often-painful reflections.

From his swimming goals and struggle to simplify his life to insights on the true nature of Hemingway's 'suicide' and health challenges, his legendary physical strength and participation in death-defying sports, and the narrator's current realization that he is on a course to die alone in the sea, Barlow takes the Hemingway persona and runs with it. He ventures into territory that synthesizes not just one man's influences and choices, but the driving forces that make him a larger than life figure in an arena where courage and persistence vie with the physical and mental strife that life contribute to his character-building mix.

The angst and revelations that permeate his reflections during these long-distance personal swim challenges form insights into the meaning of life: "He knew he was crazy. Here he was, pushing himself for no reason. Making himself hurt, for no reason. Continuing to live, for no reason. - So you might as well go down swinging, he thought. - Even if you're the one swinging at yourself. But he took a perverse kind of solace knowing that in the end, it's all the same for everyone. Your life ends and all the dreams are over."

The old man's musings incorporate the pain and protest of everything notable that he's achieved as he ponders his successes and failures alike. These life-changing revelations appear as provocative themes that reassess the meaning of his achievements, struggles, and their ultimate impact on not only his life but those around him.

Depictions of his emotional reactions to these later realizations about the sum of his life's impact capture the rage and struggles this older man experiences: "The not-so-old man's imagination was driving him now, taking him places he had never let himself go before. And it hurt. It stung him in the heart, like a barb from a stingray, and its poison was spreading into every cell of his body. He hated. He hated himself for not listening to his wife and feeling now for the first time what he had missed. His imagination was betraying him, stinging him, killing him. The years of distraction and suppression had piled up, gathered strength, and were now beating on him like a tsunami and exploding out of his soul like an atomic bomb."

Whether making responsible choices or contemplating suicide, the protagonist relives some of the starkest moments of his life, as in a bullfight which brings him to the conclusion that "Showmanship was over. Flaunting was forgotten. Now came the dying." As Daniel relieves his greatest experiences and achievements, he begins to comprehend the sum of life ventures and experiences that have propelled him to this singular, isolated point in his life.

Ideally, readers should have more than a cursory or long-ago familiarity with Hemingway's works in order to fully appreciate the literary allusions and devices Barlow employs here as the protagonist channels Ernest's thoughts and approach to life. The protagonist's choices in confronting pain and opening new doors of growth cannot be fully absorbed without Hemingway's personal and literary background firmly in mind.

The-Not-So-Old Man and the Sea is a cathartic exploration of an aging man's past, his connection with Hemingway's approach to living a powerful life, and the choices involved when rougher waters and decisions alter the impact of his perceived triumphs and failures in life: "Life journeys into the unknown. Life struggles. Life triumphs. Life lives." It's highly recommended reading, especially for prior Hemingway fans and those looking for an introduction to some of the major points of his life and works.

The Beast of Bellevue
Grace Chen
Reading Harbor
B08HGLH73F, $0.99 Kindle

Teens who enjoy fantasy adaptations will relish The Beast of Bellevue. The story centers on seventeen-year-old Ava Pierce, who has been locked away in an insane asylum by her parents in an alternate version of Beauty and the Beast.

The differences between the old folktale and this modern take lies in the internet, web dating sites, and Ava's ability to form connections outside her home, which introduce new conundrums to her situation and status.

Ava was nine years old when she was committed to Bellevue. The hospital is motivated to keep her because her parents pay stiff bills to keep her incarcerated. Everything changes when a magical inheritance from her inventor grandfather leads her into the outside world via remote access and to soccer star Alec, who not only hides a dark secret, but loves the same girl as his younger brother Dylan.

As Ava uses the portal's voice-activated commands to access and then alter this world, everything changes in her institutionalized life, as well, and new possibilities emerge.

Young adults will be delighted with Grace Chen's ability to succinctly provide the background for this story, then delve straight into powerful action and interactions. There is no lengthy setup, and Ava's position as an abused, trapped girl quickly changes, which creates a faster pace in this story than in most fantasy tales.

As Alec, Dylan, and Ava become caught up in a fairy tale come to life, readers will be surprised and delighted at many of the twists and turns their conjoined journey takes.

But, once out in the world, is Ava truly safe? Challenges continue as the three face fires, obsessions, love, and forces which compete to keep Ava under thrall.

The Beast of Bellevue is a gripping story that keeps even seasoned fantasy readers guessing to the end. Its ability to present riddles, explore parent/child interactions, inject believable magic into Ava's evolving life, and cement all with characters whose lives each hold challenge and change makes for an engrossing tale that's hard to put down.

While The Beast of Bellevue's audience is clearly young adult, it's also highly recommended for new adult readers and adults who like modern retellings of traditional fairy tales. Its ability to follow a young girl's growth and changing relationship with family and newfound friends will interest more than a teen audience alone.

With All The World Between
Herb Smith
Publisher: TBA

Neville Simonson is average. His life holds nothing remarkable, he has no siblings or strong family connections, and his 1897 world, just after he graduates from school, offers few possibilities for him to enrich his life or mind.

All this changes when Neville is called upon to join the family business. Neville has harbored a secret dream: "With all his heart he hoped that he would be assigned a place on a ship, and could sail away from the world that he had known all his life - he called it his 'existence' - he knew his life would start the day that he got onto a ship and felt the sea beneath his feet." Is it about to become reality?

Herb Smith follows Neville's evolving life purpose with an eye to contrasting the young man's growth and his involvement in the shipping and trade industry and the concurrent evolution of his dreams. His inheritance includes a mystery that charges him like nothing in life has prepared him for. As Neville explores new possibilities and options involving an antique icon and a young woman, he explores the world, expanding his own future in the process.

The contrasts between London and Cairo are exceptionally well depicted, as are the changes Neville undergoes after so many years of leading a seemingly staid life.

Herb Smith does a fine job of figuring out an increasingly complex world, from the true identity of The Hermit to the real legacy of his life, which moves from normal to extraordinary.

Readers who anticipate a quiet story of a too-normal man will find that, by the tale's conclusion, when Neville is in his fifties, everything has been transformed by his actions and choices.

Smith does an outstanding job of depicting changing personas, talents, and life perceptions alike as Neville discovers that his purposes and origins are anything but ordinary.

Readers who enjoy surprising twists and turns that lead the novel into the realm of fantasy and revised ideas of the world's realities will relish the journey Neville brings to them in With All the World Between.

Yes, It Happened
Robert Maxwell
Independently Published
B08K3S3RJX, $3.99 Kindle

Yes, It Happened is set in the near future, providing a scenario that grabs attention and proves almost impossible to set aside: "A blazing flash lit up my home office followed instantly by a distant, wall-shaking explosion. "Holy shit!" I leaped from my chair and hurried to the window. Everything on the street seemed normal, until my eyes lifted to the horizon. A huge mushroom cloud rose over Washington DC. "Oh, my God." I mumbled in disbelief." The protagonist can't stop to agonize over his wife, who was in Washington when the nuclear bomb hit. He's now charged with finding his kids and surviving its aftermath.

Robert Maxwell creates an engrossing scenario in just a few paragraphs, drawing readers immediately into Augustus's life, choices, and how his priorities change in a second.

There's a feeling of surprise in more than an attack on Washington, however, as further notes indicate that perhaps Augustus doesn't hold his government in the greatest regard, even though democracy has been attacked: "I know the instructions. Big Brother is alive and well in our President."

Unlike most other stories of terrorism, Augustus is willing to immediately entertain the notion that the perps may not have come from overseas, but on America's home turf: "What did the President mean - this might be an internal terrorist attack? And why did he source Russian intelligence. Why not ours?"

As he navigates a vastly changed world with children and challenged ideals in tow, the immediacy and reality of events come to life under Maxwell's pen. There is much confusion and many possibilities as various forces question the attack, the attacker, and the many possible truths about the enemy and his purposes.

As a deadly truth emerges about not just the perps, but their takeover intentions, Augustus finds himself on the run from not just radiation and war, but his own ideals and government.

The people must act. But aren't their actions just a part of the jigsaw puzzle of the war over democratic processes and a strange, elusive enemy whose lies and promises are impossible to believe?

One reason why Maxwell's story is so frightfully compelling lies in its roots in present-day adversity, gaslighting, and confusion. Augustus reflects this process as he makes decisions and confronts a strange new America. Readers following in his footsteps receive a heartfelt, moving story that moves into international intrigue and gripping scenarios, from caving and confrontation to the lasting impact of the fake news that swirls all around them.

With its heart-stopping scenarios, nonstop action, and foundations in modern-day events, Yes, It Happened is one of the most moving, absorbing political thrillers to appear in 2020, and offers an intense parable of possibilities for our times.

A new beginning leaves the door ajar for possibly more, but satisfyingly concludes a thoroughly riveting story that can't be put down.

Walk Away West
JF Collen
Evolved Publishing, LLC
9781622536375, $16.95 Paper, $4.99 Kindle

Evolved Publishing: walk-away-west

Walk Away West is the second book in the 'Journey of Cornelia Rose' series, providing historical literature readers with a continuing saga of Nellie's changing world. Nellie lives happily in New York as a midwife married to Obadiah Wright. She enjoys a lovely home filled with privilege and abundance in the 1850s.

She seems the least likely candidate to walk away from this world and head out into the unknown, but circumstances change and force Nellie to leave her beloved home and family when the lure of the West calls her husband to the road.

There are many underlying facets driving the story line, from the love between the couple to involvement in death and social strife and Obadiah's legal prowess. The changing role of women in this society is nicely outlined in encounters which test the couple's love and perceptions of their places in this volatile world: "Nellie laid a reassuring hand on his arm. "We all suffer distress beyond rational thought at the tragedy we have witnessed first-hand," she said. "We mutually ache from the painful awareness that further efforts, now, shall spare none of the victims. Agnes, the legal proceeding shall assess culpability. Moreover, the Inquest could spawn new legislation banning all racing on the Hudson River. If only it were permissible for the ladies to give sworn statements at the judicial proceedings. I would willingly subject myself to that torment for the privilege of aiding this investigation. Would that women had citizens' rights and could effectuate a change in the law," stated Nellie. "Cornelia, such pie-in-the-sky thinking. That day shall never come," said Obadiah."

As Nellie moves from her beloved New York milieu to strange territory in more ways than one. JF Collen follows her fears and changes to bring readers along for an exciting emotional and physical ride into danger and revised living: "This is not the beginning of an exhilarating trip on my beloved river. It is the beginning of the end. The end of my time in civilization."

Nellie is leaving a piece of her heart behind, but discovers new ways to fill the gap in a story that winds through the West via boat, wagon train, emigration train, and emotional confrontations.

Collen creates an outstanding synthesis of history and personal experience that bring readers into a world that moves from a comfortable one to one which, by choice, embraces austerity and adventure. Where is home for the suddenly-nomadic Nellie; and can love survive the journey?

Readers looking for a fine stand-alone story of a venture out West and the characters' motivations for both undertaking the unknown and remaining and growing as a couple will find Walk Away West an invigorating novel of change and challenge. It works well either as a follow-up to Nellie's previous adventure or as a stand-alone historical novel for newcomers.

Reform the Kakistocracy
William L. Kovacs
Newman Springs Publishing
9781640965140 $12.42, Paperback
9781640965157 $9.99, Digital



Author's Website:

Reform the Kakistocracy: Rule by the Least Able or Least Principled Citizens defines the term 'kakistrocracy' as being "what our government has become, a government-controlled by "leaders" who are the least able or least principled citizens." Keeping this definition in mind is intrinsic to understanding the driving force of a thought-provoking treatise dedicated to "the Dutiful Cog", defined as "that person who keeps society running by getting up every day and going to work, taking care of family, paying taxes, contributing to community, and being continuously loyal to the nation."

William L. Kovacs believes the tenacity of these 'cogs' will prevail over political battles and corruption. Reform the Kakistocracy offers the 'how to' manual for this process.

In some ways, this theory is akin to The Peter Principle, but without qualified people. In a Kakistocracy, the cream doesn't rise to the top until it sours, but is placed at the top irregardless of its strengths and abilities.

Chapters provide both a political and social history of the raise of this too-complex national control system and comments on who runs it, how people respond to it, and how it's rewritten the US Constitution for its own special interests and gain.

Philosophy, history, and political inspection blend in an arena where the moves of leaders are closely examined and critiqued: "The most disconcerting aspect of these changes is that by using massive executive power to change laws without Congress, the next president using the same executive power can also change the laws without Congress."

It questions: "For whom did we form a government?" We, the people seem to have left the original equation. Politicians will be the least likely readers of a book which lambastes this system. But, the Dutiful Cog will.

This isn't a general treatise, but offers specifics on the methods and approaches that least-qualified leaders use to circumvent political process, freedoms, and moral and ethical ideals of behavior.

Reform the Kakistocracy isn't just a condemnation of the system, or a history of how it came to be. Chapters offer "A Few Modest Proposals for Restructuring" which range from reversing regulatory complexity to the federal government divesting itself of unnecessary assets and returning control of lands to states that ceded them to the federal government.

The proof of the success of this treatise lies in these and other specifics. This is where Kovacs excels, placing his work head and shoulders above the usual approach to critiquing the federal government and its processes.

By making its examples specific and linked to daily life and familiar political process and results, Reform the Kakistocracy provides Dutiful Cogs with more than a bit of hope for a more effective future, including a blueprint for enacting real change.

From income tax revision to citizen management of the Kakistocracy, this is a thought-provoking, action-oriented blend of history, philosophical, and political inspection. It is highly recommended reading for readers who would understand the process of change and how America got to where it is today, in the first place.

We're standing at a fork in the road and hold the opportunity to remake the nation using a smaller government structure as a blueprint for success. All that's needed to complete the formula for success is action, understanding, and more books like Reform the Kakistocracy.

Pink Panthers 1: The Greatest Thieves in the World
Neboysha Saikovski
Independently Published
9798652003739, $17.99 Paper, .99 Kindle

Readers of heist thrillers, true crime, and military intrigue will all appreciate the foundations and focus of Pink Panthers 1: The Greatest Thieves in the World, an engrossing saga of robbery and frustrated young people who confront symbols of wealth and power in a grassroots attack.

Loosely based on the methods and actions of the international crime group Pink Panthers and its actions in the former Yugoslavia and globally, The Greatest Thieves in the World follows a series of organized heists as a crime cartel affects not just that country, but the world, as a nation goes to war and then disintegrates.

The story opens in 2007 with the memories of Victor, who suddenly awakens in a military tent far from his familiar roots. A year earlier, he was sipping coffee in a small rustic Italian town. Now he is imbibing military action and danger, having come far from his roots with his involvement with the Panthers and the secret ambitions they harbor.

As the timeline moves backwards to 2004 with Victor's first encounter with the suave criminal Green and his introduction to the lure of robbery, payoffs, and diamonds, readers absorb the methods, values, perspectives, and growing attraction of a group Victor participates in with abandon.

Other books have been written about the activities of the Pink Panthers, but Neboysha Saikovski's fictionalized format allows him to delve into their hearts and minds. This approach injects a blend of psychological suspense and insight that enlightens readers on not just their modus operandi, but their underlying motivations and the personal revelations of its members.

How does the goal of money affect drug cartel interactions around the world and lure individuals into criminal activities? How does the structure and tactics of Pink Panthers and other groups entwine to affect political and social process; and what happens when the team's leader threatens to defect?

The methods and the madness of the Panthers' activities permeate an international romp that closely examines all facets of organized crime on a broader scale than most novels offer. Somewhere within the guise of the intersection between fiction and nonfiction exists a rare opportunity for enlightenment. A touch of romance provides an added attraction.

While some readers may eschew the result for its fictionalized format and detailed explanations, those who have absorbed other heist thrillers will find Saikovski's is more than satisfying. The injection of real-world information adds a level of complexity, but in no way belays the emotional foundations that drive the plot.

The Greatest Thieves in the World provides an expose that is lively, riveting, psychologically astute, and hard to put down. Fans of thrillers and international espionage based in real history will find this first book in a trilogy to be thoroughly compelling, whether its focus is on interpersonal change and relationships, or plots and plans.

The Spell
C.V. Shaw
099729048X $19.99

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The Spell is set in rural sixteenth-century England, where a royal family faces the curse brought by a strange bird and an archer. The threat doesn't just come from a spell, however, but the psychological impact it has on a mother and her entire family.

Daughter Isabella finds her mother's obsession with the curse is challenging life as much as the threat itself. Charged with trying to effect changes that shield her both from magic and her mother's reactions, Isabella finds herself a prisoner of love as much as adversity.

As a child, Isabella enjoys some of the few contacts she has with the outside world: "A journey through the woods had always been Isabella's daily highlight. She looked forward to it, as did Johndor. He would teach her the different leaves of bushes and trees and instruct her on the benefits of each. The next day, he would test her. Isabella loved the challenge. Johndor had a special place in his heart for the child, and feeling she was safest in his care, he would not deprive her of their daily outing."

This taste of the forbidden, her mother's drive to keep her safe, and how the inhabitants of the outside world find their lives entwined with the fate of the castle's residents makes for a thought-provoking story that traces family relationships that evolve under a cloud of threat.

Isabella (whose name has been changed to Celeste by her protective mother) is the focal point, despite the ongoing bad luck which too-closely follows her footsteps into the world and inside the castle.

C.V. Shaw does an outstanding job of capturing Isabella's emotions as she blossoms and confronts the things that scare her the most: "She began to fear the change this act would bring. She feared that she would bury her identity with it. She was used to her cursed life. She had accepted that any chance of happiness would always be short-lived. She started getting cold feet as she identified herself more and more with the cursed arrow."

In her quest for a stolen heritage, life, and happiness, Isabella is forced into the kinds of changes everyone feared.

Readers of romantic fantasy stories who enjoy an evolutionary exploration of a young girl's revised role in not just her family but its choices and her future will find The Spell truly captivating. It's a work that casts its own special magic on the reader's heart as Isabella follows an uncertain path into the world and her true heritage.

The Elixirist
Avraham Azrieli
Independently Published
9781953648020, $2.99

The Elixirist blends historical fiction with adventure as it follows a young man's journey to find a magical elixir that will lend him love, strength, and an exalted role in the world. It opens with Sall's dreams of a dwarf and a magical potion that leads to many new revelations - perhaps the most powerful one involving perception and differences in the world: "We see different things, even when we're looking at the same thing."

A journey undertaken because "a girl knocked him out with her eyes" turns into a deeper spiritual and emotional journey as Sall contends with not just a search, but the impacts of his quest and ideals.

Sall, born to be a healer, finds his interpretation of that ability and its incarnations subject to change during the course of his quest for the elixir of his dreams. So does the world, as events in Jericho, the legacy of a potter who teaches him that "freedom is a gift that shrinks with age," and ongoing dreams that connect him to the dwarf's purposes and contentions reach into his life to transform him.

Readers seeking a blend of magical realism, spiritual exploration, romance, and social change will find The Elixirist a powerful story replete with all these elements and more. Think a Carlos Castaneda-style series of revelations based on both inner and outer world encounters, spiced with the atmosphere of adventure akin to The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield and Dan Brown's The DaVinci Code.

As the elusive promise of the golden elixir transforms his life, readers receive a compelling saga that follows Sall from childhood infatuation to adult purposes, questioning the notion of destiny and heritage as Sall pursues not only impossible dreams, but the truth about his world and his role in it.

The result is a story especially gripping for readers of adventure stories rooted in discoveries about faith and destiny. Fans of thriller, romance, and spiritual explorations alike will find The Elixirist a compelling historical novel powered by psychological and social examination alike.

The Augur's View
Victoria Lehrer
Evolved Publishing
9781622533695, $16.95 Paper, $3.99 Kindle

The Augur's View provides the first book in the New Earth Chronicles and follows twenty-five-year-old Eena's life in the new milieu after the Solar Flash of 2034, when remnants of humanity forewarned of the disaster fled underground as the surface was being ravaged.

Eena is on one of the first planes in the air post-apocalypse, flying to a secret destination where she is told her new duty: to work with clones as part of the Social Engineering Initiative to rebuild humanity.

With adversity comes opportunity. For some. The Solar Flash has unleashed new avenues of power and control that sweep Eena and New Mexican teen Gavin Michael into a strange new world where all modern conveniences have died, along with many ideals of social and political freedom.

The military has hunkered down, safe in bunkers against the EMP and the world changes it's brought both from technology's destruction and the wild weather that has destroyed much of humanity. So has an elite ruling class, prepared to emerge as not just the survivors but the victors of this event. But these would-be rulers find themselves cut off from the newly founded Union of the Americans which has formed in their absence.

Eena, a Anunnaki/human hybrid, is their ace in the hole for reclaiming victory, but she has her own purpose in mind as she tracks down the secret portal to the land of Mu and discovers giant augurs that may help the struggle in her own world.

At first, Victoria Lehrer's The Augur's View seems like a standard post-apocalyptic story of survival and power struggle. Adding further sci-fi elements of a quest, an ancient force, and young adults who struggle to find themselves a place in this deadly new world creates further elements of intrigue and fantasy that take the story beyond one of either survival or control.

Lehrer creates a full-flavored world that questions not just the efforts to survive, but the choices and consequences of rebuilding humanity in a different light.

The result is a fast-paced story that embraces all kinds of social, political, moral, and ethical questions while remaining firmly rooted in the dreams, ambitions, and struggles of young people who reach for a better world.

It's a powerful opener to a hero's journey in which the world beckons with new opportunity and danger, the promise of futuristic science and technology, and the dreams of survivors who both struggle and love on different levels.

Teen and adult readers alike will appreciate the added layers of complexity and adventure that Victoria Lehrer adds into a vivid story of new discoveries and options for change.

The Drive in '65
Sandra Lynne Reed
Parenti Publishing
9781735037608, $12.99 Paper, $7.99 Kindle

The Drive in '65 will reach families and travelers alike. It tells of two sisters who pack the van with five kids, their mother, and supplies for a fourteen-week road trip of North America.

Thirteen-year-old Sandra Lynne Reed was one of those kids. Her account of a road trip of adventure lead by strong women who lived in an era when women were not so independent or able to manage their own money and travel makes for an engrossing read.

The story serves as both a flashback to another era and as a lesson in tenacity and perseverance. Reed recalls a myriad of encounters and challenges along the way, all of which taught her valuable lessons about poverty, racism, survival, and family failings.

The contrasts in the cultures she encounters, to her childhood Alaskan roots, are nicely presented, as are descriptions of her family's dreams and, in particular, the unusual challenges and visions of the women who were her role models: "My mom, Winnie Reed, was twenty-nine years old, married, with three children, and gainfully employed. Yet no bank would issue her a credit card in her own name. In most states, she couldn't serve on a jury nor be prescribed birth control pills. The doors of Harvard, Princeton, Dartmouth and Columbia were barred to her, and all women, except in the rarest of circumstances. Her employers paid her less than they did men who did similar work. Still, Mom dreamed of seeing more of the world. So she saved any spare money and added to our list of travel dreams: jazz music in New Orleans, oranges picked right from the trees."

Reed didn't know at the time how extraordinary her mother and aunt were...but she would find this out in the course of a road trip fraught with continual challenges and discoveries that tested them all.

Letters, memorabilia, and Reed's own memories of the journey serve as testimony to these experiences, bringing readers along for a vivid ride through danger and discovery, from escaping a suspected axe murderer in Michigan to encounters with racial conflict between demonstrators and the Ku Klux Klan in the 1960s.

More so than most road trips across America, The Drive in '65 effectively delves into the hearts and minds of evolving social change because it comes not from the pen of a male used to freedom and opportunities, but from a van full of girls and women who face social challenges before their trip even begins.

While armchair travelers will be the most likely audience for this adventure, memoir readers and those interested in women's lives in 1960s America will also want to absorb these vivid descriptions of misadventures, close encounters, and unexpected discoveries.

My Maine
Suzanne Busby Hersey
Little Beach Books
9780615372464, $16.95

Kids ages 2-6 who are curious about the state of Maine will appreciate this lively picture book exploration, which pairs a light rhyme and a 'show and tell' series of descriptions. A young girl's observes what makes Maine special, from its moose and summer shooting stars to wild blueberries and fresh lobster rolls.

Nicole Fazio adds good-sized, colorful drawings of the young narrator enjoying these Maine scenes and pleasures, with excellent visual embellishment exploring the cultural and natural wonders that make up the state.

Kids unfamiliar with Maine receive a light geographic exploration that includes mention of L.L. Bean, Portland's museums and shops, Maine's state bird (the chickadee), and activities the entire family can enjoy there, rain or shine.

The result blends a travelogue with a cultural, historical, and geographic exploration presented through a young Maine girl's delight in her surroundings.

It's the perfect introduction for youngsters studying the United States, who will appreciate the blend of fiction and nonfiction that pairs action and observations with real facts about Maine's attractions and makeup.

My Maine is highly recommended for kids who are studying the U.S. states in general and Maine in particular. Its personal foundation for absorbing fun experiences invites leisure readers to the table.

Company of Fools
J. W. Nelson
Independently Published
9798677697968, $3.99 Kindle, $10.99 paperback

Company of Fools: Selling for Love & Life, Is a Tricky Business considers the unfulfilled ambitions of Justin Whalley, who dreams of success in love and career, but instead faces a series of disasters.

His upbringing and countenance are unremarkable, his family "close, but in a distant, unspoken way" which he mirrors in an adult life, which is quiet. Despite the fact that Justin has resolved " not end up like them. Content with very little, and had no freedom, no place to call their own," the fact is that he's in danger of doing just this, until he stumbles into high drama and death at work and comes to realize that romance and success come with price tags.

As new opportunities in business and love change his trajectory and his relationships, Justin finds himself out of his league in many ways, discovering more conundrums and complexity to living a vivid life than he'd imagined: "We ventured our separate ways, with my mind flicking back and forth over Tom's wife and her son. Vicky sat alone in some hotel probably crying or bored shitless. Chelsea at work and her precocious little Robert, who was slowly becoming a thorn in my side. Shaun soon to skulk off back to Dublin. And Errol rolling around with the leggy and the sexual 'one look and you're turned on' Sally. Who said my life wasn't exciting?"

J. W. Nelson does a fine job of taking an ordinary, common man with quiet ambitions and turning his life upside down. There's a cast of characters that surround him in work and romance and affect his course in life; there are situations that leave him swimming against the tide; and too many possibilities leave him both excited and frustrated over his life's unexpected changes.

Justin's attempt to stay on course against this onslaught of change and challenge makes for a fun, engrossing romp through life that juxtaposes philosophical considerations with psychological growth: "These transcendent thoughts are like smoke, here now and disappearing in a flash. Living in the moment, I had to remind myself. Focus on my true inclinations from the start. On my work goals. My life goal, utilising the experience and support from those around me."

Company of Fools depicts an 'Everyman' changing the course laid out by family and his own expectations of what life is. Its tale of irony and opportunity, the mixed bag of success and unexpected obstacles, and the process of overcoming hurt and failure to enter a better life provides a gripping story that is poignant, funny, and thought-provoking all at once. It's infused with British culture and changing relationships that keep readers both on their toes and delighted by unexpected twists and turns.

The Paris Predicament
Sasha Lauren
Black Rose Writing
9781684335527, $21.95

The Paris Predicament is about love, art, and finding one's place in the world when everything changes. Camille is an American artist living the dream life in Paris. She has everything, until it all explodes by her own actions. All she can dream of is, then, an impossible escape: "I'll do anything. I'll walk, stow away, tele-transport myself out of France so I can have a new chance. Live alone, no need for romance. Like Shawshank Redemption, only there will be no redemption."

An accident kills her soul and, at twenty-seven years old, she moves from considering the world her oyster to wondering if she even wants to continue living. It's only one of the many predicaments Paris and her life choices will confront during this fine literary romp through a young woman's vastly revised life.

Sasha Lauren does a fine job of charting Camille's course during this turbulent time of her life. Her lies, realities, and unexpected choices of action are revealed in a compelling first-person confessional dialogue with the reader that nicely incorporates metaphor and descriptions that are unique and compelling: "A peek of sunshine snuck through the curtains like a sliver of Parmesan expertly shredded onto a Caesar Salad made with fine French finesse, waking me much earlier than planned."

From her friendship with the educated artist Tom to her fresh persona as Lucy and the life she both escapes from and newly falls into, the story winds through the art world and the world of redemption and irony alike.

Even as Camille reflects that "My life was a Humpty-Dumpty scrambled mess," she chooses different options and succeeds in leaving Paris conundrums behind - even though she now deems herself intrinsically unlucky - a far cry from her previous luck-filled journey.

Lauren's poetic prowess and gift with words drives a story of discovery and transformation that is replete with a spunky character's wildly divergent ride through a suddenly-revised life.

Readers of women's literature who appreciate international exploits, a story that leads full circle to a revised life, and the touches of serendipity that mark Camille's journey will find The Paris Predicament steeped in art, love, and a girl's newfound discoveries when she's forced to step away from her set life routines into an entirely different world.

The Paris Predicament is highly recommended for those who like their female characters determined, flexible, and ultimately successful in revamping their life courses and personas.

Wrong Man Down
Jerry Masinton
Anamcara Press LLC
9781941237571, $28.99 Hardcover
9781941237380, $18.99 Softcover
9781941237397, $9.99 Ebook

Wrong Man Down provides the first book in a series revolving around hit woman Millie Henshawe, a fearless hired gun who operates in a man's world with the deft finesse of a determined female.

Millie moves through an offbeat world of assassins, odd family relationships in the 'business', quirky cohorts who view their activities as a combination of colorful movie plot and real-world crime spree, and edgy drama. These elements place Millie's actions on an uncertain line between crime and justice.

Her story opens with a sharp bang, providing an immediacy that makes it hard to put down: "No fucking way was Millie going to shoot the guy in the men's room at Kansas City International. What the hell was Ralphie thinking? I should just waltz in behind the guy, wait till he unzips, and then pop him while he's thinking happy thoughts? Or get in the stall next to him and fire when he flushes?"

Readers will be laughing before the dark horse even leaves the starting gate as Millie struggles with new assignments, danger, and ironic twists that leave her in an uncertain position. This style of intrigue-married-to-humor is one of the facets that sets Wrong Man Down apart from others, juxtaposing wry observations with fun explorations of the conundrums in a proper hit job: "Now Ralphie calls and says, "The client says the guy decided to hire a limo this trip, I don't know why. So it's your call as to when and where." And Millie says, "Ralphie, are you fucking crazy? The guy has a driver? Where's he going to be while I entertain the subject?

Not to mention the added risk if the driver gets a good look at me. Am I supposed to do him too? What the hell's wrong with you, anyway?" No doubt about it, she was getting wound up. "Plus," she said, "it's not professional to improvise. People can get hurt."

These are just two examples early in the story that capture the delightfully spunky personality which Jerry Masinton creates via a character whose actions embrace dubious choices, uncertain opportunities, and a job that continually requires an ability to make snap decisions about the progression and logic of a murder contract job.

Millie's proclivity for connecting murder operations to business thinking is especially fun, and refreshingly different in a murder story: "Millie continued: "OK, so I got to thinking: why would the shylock pay us a lot of money to ice this guy, maybe more than the guy owes in the first place? Why not just write it off, I thought, price of doing business. Like the banks with their credit cards. Some people can't pay, but you still make money on the high interest you charge. Or the shy could've asked a dumb-ass cousin who spends all of his time in the pool hall. Or maybe a Made Guy he knows from grade school. What I'm saying is, he had cheaper ways."

Intrigue marries irony in a rollicking, fun story that follows Millie, Ralphie, Chuckie, and a host of characters as the plot revolves around wealth, motivation, deception, and gang violence and mob ties that rock both the city and Millie's professional career.

Masinton's ability to craft a fast-paced action piece that draws readers in with humor and adventure makes Wrong Man Down a top recommendation for murder mystery readers. It's especially recommended reading for those who enjoy strong female protagonists and unpredictable twists and turns where the heroine isn't always the conventional good gal, but a tough gay woman charged with leading the action well beyond her comfort zone.

Trading Secrets
Rachel Eckles
Aphrodite Books
9781734901801, $15.00 eBook
9781734901818, $17.00 Paperback

Trading Secrets is a romantic suspense story that revolves around the actions of beautiful, successful businesswoman Celeste Donovan. Her life changes when her boyfriend is murdered and her ex, Omar, is implicated. Celeste contemplates her own danger as she finds herself in the crosshairs of his attention.

Determined to entrap him and bring him to justice, Celeste instead finds that her dangerous new role and pursuit places not just her life but everything she's worked for in jeopardy, as a clever opponent matches her every move with increasingly deadly force: "Celeste's face registered confusion at Omar's glee. She swallowed and said through clenched teeth, "Yes, I must've misunderstood what you're telling me. You just said Stan told you he would back us, and in the same breath, you're telling me you asked him not to? Forgive my confusion, because there is no way I could discern why my own boyfriend would sabotage what Sav and I have been working so hard toward." "Celeste, dear, I already have to compete with your work schedule and friends as it is. I'm not going to allow you to go fifty million dollars deep with someone like Stan. You would be in over your head, not to mention the time it would take away from our relationship."

Apparently, there is more at stake and behind Theodore's death than one man's pursuits and plans. As Celeste uncovers a wider-ranging plot, she is faced with choices and insights that challenge not just her future, but her past and vision of her success.

Rachael Eckles does a fine job of winding the themes of relationship abuse, murder, and romance into a story replete with many twists and turns. Readers who follow Celeste from a life of achievement and success into emotionally dubious territory will find her character holds an appealing layer of vulnerability as well as determination and ability. These qualities coalesce to form a realistic protagonist as much at odds with her heart as she is with a murder investigation that has become too personal and dangerous.

Eckles also does a fine job of marrying intrigue with romance on an international arena that keeps Celeste's story fast-paced and engrossing: "Celeste still found these clandestine flights in and out of secret desert airports thrilling, this time perhaps more than she normally would since she was stifling all her other emotions at this point. No amount of ayahuasca she could ingest on a retreat in Peru would cleanse her of the trauma she had been through the past few days. Celeste had to find a way to get her old life back - when flying to a glamorous locale on a private jet was what she called an uneventful Tuesday."

Who are her allies? Has Omar threatened others? Can he be brought to justice?

The elusive game she plays is thoroughly engrossing and logical at each step of the way as her emotions wreak havoc with her investigative skills.

Readers who look for a glamorous romp through the international circuit of business success and underworld dealings will find this blend of romance and intrigue a wonderful achievement. It provides an engrossing read as it winds its way to a conclusion that is unexpected and thought-provoking.

A Horn is Born
Bill Borders
Blue Whale Press
an imprint of Clear Fork Publishing
9781950169399, $16.99 Hardcover
9781950169405, Paperback

Picture book readers ages 4-8 will find illustrator Melizza Chernov's large-size, creative drawings of musical instruments are lovely embellishments in the intriguing A Horn is Born.

Shoehorn's job is to place performers' feet in beautiful shoes. He hangs around, elongated and beautiful and longing to be part of the musical performance, to no avail - until one day, disaster strikes and places him in the spotlight.

This is no ordinary survey of musical instruments or music theory, but a thoroughly creative, delightful endeavor that links music to symphony processes through a lilting rhyme linking gorgeous drawings with a creative flourish.

Parents and kids alike receive a compelling, original treatment of the music world that covers not just music, but the possibilities of creating a new role in life. An added bonus is its message about bullying.

A history of shoehorns appears in the 'back matter' but it's the beautiful drawings and whimsical approach to life changes and music alike that make A Horn is Born thoroughly delightful and surprising.

It's a welcome addition to not just picture books about music, but those encouraging flexibility, adaptive thinking, and approaches to reinventing one's life purpose. Very, very highly recommended as a standout picture book story.

Yana Barbelo
Pleroma Press
9781735327815, $24.99 Hardback
9781735327808, $19.99 Paperback
9781735327822, $9.99 Ebook

Author page: Paperback

Umbra blends horror, sci-fi, and social commentary in a piece that revolves around a future world, a harbinger of seeds, and the planting of a garden that brings darkness, umbra, to the world.

It's a literary and horror play on the Garden of Eden, opening with an introduction that adds a twist to the Genesis story of the world's creation and leads nicely into the dilemma of Ohno, a woman who is chained to the darkness of her shadow for life.

Charged with protecting precious cargo even against her evil shadow as she bobs on a yawl at sea, Ohno's perceptions craft the ebb and flow of a story which is wonderfully surprising in its juxtapositions of angst and delight: "Bobbing along, her vessel was the only thing visible on the endless blue expanse of water and sky. She was alone here, tossed by an unknown sea, sailing toward an unknown destination she might never reach. When she'd first found herself on this pitchblack yawl on the open sea, she had thought of giving the sea a name but was afraid she'd get it wrong. The wrong name was like a disease that killed you slowly. It could make you disappear. Ohno wasn't willing to take that risk. She decided to call it Sea and promptly fell head over heels in love with it."

Adversity, darkness, and strife continually evolve and change as Ohno makes decisions, faces their consequences, and introduces a force into this decimated world that threatens to transform it in unexpected ways.

Yana Barbelo does a fine job of incorporating descriptions of the growing horror Ohno unleashes, peppering her story with metaphorical depictions that are evocative to build fine psychological tension: "She would never be anything but a haunted house, with no memories, only ghosts. And shadows. Just like these, she thought, looking out the window of the 13th Wagon as it passed the next ghost town: a handful of dilapidated huts half-sunk in mud, with black, glaring windows, empty like the eye sockets of a skull. The eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada had quite a few of them, abandoned after the gold rush ended, when there was no more gold in local rivers, only fish, but who cared about fish in those days? That's what the Blue Clown said, passing by her window the day before. When Albion Madness struck, he said, some ghost towns had experienced a bit of a renaissance, and became populated by renegade souls seeking scenery and off-the-grid dwellings. Maybe, he said, she'd meet them one day.Maybe she would. Squeak-squeak-thump... Squeak-squeak-thump..."

Barbelo's close attention to the sights, sounds, and evolving horror in this already-destroyed world captures tension in an excellent blend of horror and literary inspection. This will delight audiences looking for a haunting story of moving homes, murder and plague, demons and darkness, and spiritual devotion alike.

While Christian readers may find some of the spiritual components disturbing, the ultimate result is a simmering work of visionary horror that weaves a question of identity and purpose into a larger quest for the truth in a strangely altered world.

This evocative story of freedom and redemption is highly recommended for horror, visionary fiction, and speculative literature readers alike.

The Urban Legion
Dave Agans
B. Mirthy & Sons
9780986170904, $15.00 Paperback
9780986170911, $2.99 Ebook

Culinary concerns, conspiracies, and comedy make for a fine serving of fun and is just the ticket to counter the angst of modern times in The Urban Legion, a romp through the food world which opens with the puzzle of a strange voice that interferes with food critic Lynn Grady's latest restaurant venture: "Our Zen Gourmet was three bites into the Duck Pate with Tiny Truffles when she first heard the voice. It seemed to be inside her head, which was surprising, since it was male, with a distinctly French accent. ZE TRUFFLES, ZEY ARE TERRIBLE, NO? Lynn Grady froze, listening, wishing she could check what she'd written about the truffles on her hidden notepad. But she was pretty sure the words were [savory] and [delicate]. She considered adding [psychedelic]."

With this opener, the reader (especially those interested in humor and food fun) is hooked as Lynn discovers the true origins of this sudden vocal critic and what it means not just for the culinary world, but the greater world at large.

As readers pursue the story, they'll discover that The Urban Legion is actually a satire that offers much more than a culinary perspective. It tackles corporate special interests and shenanigans, simmering psychological struggles, crazy conundrums, and one woman's wacky journey from a world she is very familiar with to one which stymies her knowledge of Boston's society and people.

Even the chase scenes are replete with humor: "You made it! We were worried sick." He stopped short as he got a closer look. "Barefoot, wounded, and" - he noticed the wet clothes and sniffed - "fresh from a swim in a cesspool? In your clothes?" "Just practicing escape techniques on our Truffle Cartel friends," Roger replied. "Took the sea route through the Public Garden." "You sure you lost them?" "Of course." Howie examined Roger's bruised head. "They should pay for this. They should drive French cars till they drop dead from frustration. Come, you need ointment on those scrapes - I'm thinking there's more duck shit than chlorine in the Swan Pond."

As Rocco and Carl, Howie, Francois and Phil, and a cast of characters bumble their way through special interests and special foods with a flair for French, fast food, and high drama, readers will enjoy the subplots and different threads that run through the story. These lend a degree of complexity that might thwart some readers in earlier chapters, before they discover that all these escapades hold meaning and connection, and that the abundance of delightful characters and observations result in a wild ride through the unexpected.

A hallmark example of the 'absurd conspiracy', The Urban Legion introduces the presence of unsettling voices that portend escapades and romance alike in the face of a truffle farm incident that evolves from a Mall escapade to blossom into violence and murder that "...violated every Buddhist teaching that even a remedial student knew."

The Urban Legion defies neat categorization. Suffice it to say that this novel is an exceptional presentation for anyone who enjoys literature, satire, Buddhist references, and a romp through life based on a blend of conspiracy, discovery, and social investigation.

Bikini Cowgirls of the Urban Legion
Dave Agans
B. Mirthy & Sons
9780986170928, $15.00, Paperback
9780986170935, $2.99, Ebook

The second book in a trilogy, Bikini Cowgirls of the Urban Legion, is highly recommended reading for anyone who enjoyed the blend of satire and escapade in the introductory novel The Urban Legion, and continues unraveling (or revealing, as the case may be) the Wacko Conspiracy Group that powered the first story.

Howie is back. So are urban legends which are actually purposeful creations: "Like other urban legends created

as cover-ups, details were distorted: these dolphins didn't carry torpedoes and weren't swimming the Gulf aimlessly. That meant they probably weren't armed and trained by the CIA, either - fake urban legends were the signature of Howie's pervasive archenemy, the Corporation."

As Meg joins a web reality show and Howie steps up his investigation of the Corporation, a bucket of worms is uncovered over mysterious texts, the murder of Tommy Owen, and the nefarious purpose of the undersea device Meg discovered years ago.

Humor is also a strong undercurrent in Bikini Cowgirls of the Urban Legion, but here the urban legends and fun give way to a more serious series of escapades and confrontations as the action heats up. Meg has already lost two partners to the Corporation. Is she risking a third one?

Dave Agans again employs satire, irony, and fun as he continues to unravel the threads of the Corporation's activities and threats and its impact on as wide a cast of characters as the first novel; some of whom return for a repeat performance, here.

As Meg uncovers the truth about Howie's purposes and dolphins become involved in a spiraling plot that heads rapidly towards disaster for its main characters, readers will delight in the dual sense of fun and intrigue that keeps the Urban Legion story alive with still more ironic encounters and special interests gone awry.

Agans excels in weaving unexpected twists into his story, too. These might add a level of unexpected complexity that average thriller or humor readers won't expect, but the result is deliciously involving and worthy of a slower and repeat read so that all the subtle nuances of comedy are thoroughly absorbed.

This novel, too, ends in a twist that is both funny and thought-provoking, paving the way for the third book and leaving enthusiasts wondering.

Bikini Cowgirls of the Urban Legion is primarily recommended for readers of the first book, who will find it a delightful adjunct that expands some of the characters, the premise, and the humor for a suitably fun follow-up romp.

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About AGING ... But Were Afraid To Ask
Marlene Jensen
JGF Press
9781735581514, $12.75 print, $9.75 ebook

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About AGING ... But Were Afraid To Ask tackles all the difficult questions about aging that are intrinsic to the process, from increased difficulty finding the motivation or ability to exercise to avoiding nursing homes, understanding the threat and promise of assigning a power of attorney, and adjusting to society's changed perceptions of one's abilities when age 70 is reached.

These and other cautions, such as the chapter on how seniors are forced into involuntary guardianships, form the backbone of a different kind of guide to aging that more closely examines the link between senior status and social perception than most, while addressing common barriers to leading a good life.

Many of the problems besetting those over 70 come from being alone, not having a chosen advocate (whether it be a spouse of family member), and not realizing the various con games that can affect them, either legal or illegal.

Many of the cautions in this book are eye-opening, such as the facts about guardians and how they operate: "Forbes - in a great article on this topic - found 60% of guardians never had a credit or financial check run. Yet they are given total access to and control of your money! They can sell your house, your stocks, etc. and charge you exorbitant "fees" for everything - fees that quickly move your money into their pockets. And it's a LOT of money. Forbes found total dollars controlled by guardians in just Idaho and Minnesota to be over $1 billion."

Facts are backed by studies and statistics, discussions revolve around what a savvy senior can do to avoid such scenarios, and chapters cover mental health and stimulation as well as physical issues. At each step, senior audiences are encouraged to take this information and use it to better their lives and approaches to aging.

Perhaps this is the most invaluable tool of all: a mindset that empowers seniors to consider the kinds of changes that affect not just their aging, but their future role in society and their own preferences for living their remaining years in relative safety and comfort of their choosing.

From developing hobbies for both introvert and extrovert personalities (a factor too rarely considered in admonitions to expand one's interests) to exercises geared to assess current lifestyles and satisfaction, Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About AGING should be the guide of choice for one's older years whether the reader is in their 50s, 60s, or beyond.

A Wild Day at the Zoo
Victor D.O. Santos, author
Eszter Miklos, illustrator
9781649620439, $9.99 paperback
9781649620446, $21.99 hardcover

A Wild Day at the Zoo is illustrated by Eszter Miklos and provides a sequel to the picture book Dylan's Birthday Present with the second volume in the Little Polyglot Adventures series.

Here, Dylan and Isabella are attending a special event at the local zoo - a visit in which pets are allowed to accompany their humans. Dylan's chicken Kiki, the pet from his last birthday, will be joining them in her backpack.

As parents and kids see long lines and encounter a multicultural mix of people from around the world, they speak Portuguese to Dylan's father and Ukrainian to his mother. Phrases and words in these languages and Spanish, Turkish, and other languages spoken by fellow zoo visitors pepper the story (these six foreign language words also are available on an audio link, so read-aloud parents and kids can hear them, at

The dual focus on the natural history of zoo residents and encounters between peoples of different cultures creates a fine interactive experience that gently teaches kids about more than a zoo world as it outlines an adventure which arises when Kiki gets loose and runs away.

The polyglot theme carries over from Dylan's Birthday Present to again illustrate the power of communication, multicultural interactions, and a family built of warm relationships.

A Wild Day at the Zoo's uplifting, fun tone pairs nicely with its messages and lessons. It will appeal to anyone seeking to expand a child's experiences with other cultures and languages.

The Venturi Effect
Sage Webb
Stoneman House Press, LLC
9781733737944, $13.95 Paperback
9781733737951, $2.99 Ebook

The Venturi Effect is a novel recommended for thriller readers who like both courtroom procedurals and travel adventures. It reaches both audiences with the story of Devlin Winters, who seeks respite from her professional meltdown, but instead finds the sailboat she is on brings her full circle into court affairs in a foreign country.

Author Sage Webb practiced criminal law defense for over a decade before writing several novels. Her background in legal processes and the atmosphere of the legal community lends an aura of authenticity that will resonate with any reader familiar with this environment as Devlin struggles with personal and professional challenges in her life.

From investigations into shell companies that operate on St. Kitts and government agent Xavier Charles' search for the truth over an indictment to Devlin's increasing involvement and confrontations even at sea on a sailboat, Sage Webb weaves a fine story that moves from dialogue to open waters and courtrooms with equal aplomb: "What ya thinking up here all alone, D. Winters?" Devlin opened her eyes to Nils's ankles and bare feet beside her head. She shut her eyes again. "Honestly?" She kept her voice low. "Honestly, I'm wondering if you're a crook like your lying brother or just a complete dumbass." "Is there an option C?" Nils dropped down next to her hip, so when she opened her eyes for the second time, his back in a long-sleeved red t-shirt with sponsor logos and a regatta name across it filled her view.

"Not from what that indictment says." "You think Viggo's crooked and I'm in on it?"

From client interactions with agents and investigative processes to Devlin's interactions with Nils Bryson, a flame reignited after 7 years of absence, the intrigue, romance, and changing personal and professional relationships that stem from an evolving investigation into danger create a fast-paced story that is powered by both career and life decisions.

The Venturi Effect's blend of corporate intrigue, criminal activity, and personal recovery and revelations creates a compelling story that is simply hard to put down. It's unexpected right up to the end, making it a highly recommended pick for legal thriller, romance, and women's fiction readers alike.

Stage Fright
Kate Lloyd
Union Bay Publishing
9781735241104, $12.99
9781735241111, $0.99

Stage Fright is clean romance reading at its best, incorporates a spiritual undertone, and centers on singer and single mom Jessica Nash's paralyzing fear whenever she gets on stage to demonstrate her vocal talents: "Producing a luminous vocal note, alive with color and mood, filled me with joy. But singing also exposed my core, displaying me under a microscope for the world to see. I wished I didn't care what others thought. I wished I could laugh off the audition, but I'd endured rejection too often."

A rare opportunity to go to England with her choir group tests Jessica's courage in many ways as she faces quirky and prickly fellow singers, her intense fear of public performances, and the romantic attentions of a handsome tour guide. Despite it all, she achieves her goal. And then the real struggles begin.

Jessica finds that her journey changes her on many levels beyond conquering stage fright. Also being challenged is her ability to relate to people, her openness to love and her single status, and the independence she's always held close to her heart, fueled by her mother's lessons: "Once Mom recovered from her divorce, she seemed fine without a husband. She'd dated a couple times, but the panic of being a single woman had subsided, and now she was content. "There's more to life than men," Mom said one Friday night when she didn't have a date. "If you're not happy with yourself, don't expect a man to fix it."

Jessica has learned that lesson perhaps too well; because as difficult as it is for her to get up on stage and demonstrate her singing skills, so it is equally hard for her to deal with people, on many levels.

The roots of the dilemmas she faces in England go back to childhood and parental relationships: "Dad will be sitting at the table, just like when I was little.'Come here, Jess,' he'll say. His long arms will catch me, and I'll be five years old again. Isn't that stupid?" My father was almost as old as Martin's and could die before I told him I loved him. In spite of my rage and crushed feelings, I still loved him - a strange affection that warped my every decision."

Faced with a plethora of closely-held secrets and missed and real opportunities, Jessica's first-person experiences bring readers along for the ride through her emotional growth as she considers the life she now leads and how it could be revised by new actions and reactions.

Readers will follow, with complete interest, Jessica's invitations for change and reconsidering her life. The process by which she comes to realizations about her values, attitudes, and their lasting impact crafts a moving story of achievement, failure, and choices and consequences.

Readers of women's fiction who look for involving stories of personal transformation will find Stage Fright is about more than facing one's fears. It's also about considering opportunities and life trajectories, providing insights against the backdrop of a European cultural encounter that will keep readers involved to the end.

Pippin No Drippin'
Layne Ihde
Morgan James Publishing
9781631951190, $9.95 pbk / $12.99 Kindle

Picture book readers looking for creative, colorful stories will find Pippin No Drippin' a standout, between illustrator Linda Pierce's fun cat drawings and Layne Ihde's entertaining rhyme that follows a rainy day where "The days when it rained were really the worst./Plans for outside went away and would burst."

Pippin thinks everything is shut down by the weather and wants to play games on his tablet or phone; but his wise mother encourages him to use his imagination as an alternative to electronics.

What can she mean? Pippin is perplexed, but finally his house gives him inspiration for a one-cat effort. Perhaps it's not what his mother exactly had in mind, but Pippin cultivates a fun approach to life as he becomes involved in creating music without conventional instruments being available. The red kazoo from the first book, Pippin No Lickin', also makes a surprise appearance.

Kids receive a fun introduction to basic music terms in a story that tackles both a rainy day's challenge and a young cat's lesson in creativity.

One delight to this story lies in his wise mother's admonitions and reactions. Kids receive an amusing story of innovation and fun, while parents will absorb a gentle lesson in supporting youngsters who tap into their creative talents.

The result is an entertaining and thought-provokingly fun story of how a young cat explores a new hobby and learns to take full advantage of his creative abilities.

The Flip
Doyle Weldon Knight
True Southern Gentleman Publishing
9781735092300, $14.99

The Flip creates a fictional pandemic world set in 2020 and revolves around an ongoing struggle to survive in a world that began changing when illness hit in 2016. The world now has ten percent of its population, yet its survivors still struggle to life.

Dinky is one of those people in a lawless America with his wife, who depends on a medicine that's run out. Determined that she should live, Dinky undertakes a journey that is less than a hundred miles (but, in this world, might as well be thousands) to get her medicine.

The Flip charts his road trip through this topsy-turvy world. Surprisingly, it includes not just challenge and danger, but joy, as Dinky observes and appreciates his environment: "In the new topsy-turvy world, the one thing I loved, almost as much as Baby Girl and our Blue Heeler, was the fragrance of the southern outdoors at daybreak. On a spring morning, the aromatic smell of the flowers mixed with a hint of marsh bog create a false atmosphere of pre-Pentacle home. I knew it was one of those mornings as I took in a deep breath."

Given that this novel has appeared amidst one of the most virulent pandemics to hit the world, many of its fictional backdrops, history, and observations feel strikingly true: "There were around seven and a half billion people on Mother Earth the year that the NV-17 virus wreaked its havoc. In an effort to contain NV-17, the quarantine and lockdown mandates crippled the global economy. The cure became almost as bad as the disease."

Doyle Weldon Knight also infuses his story with Southern culture and perspectives. This adds an extra layer of social inspection to the story as Dinky encounters others, and readers absorb the kinds of instant families formed by the bonds of adversity and Southern hospitality: "Baby Girl settled him in Darrell's old room, and he showed the respect and gratitude of a southern gentleman in her presence at all times."

Another difference between The Flip and other stories of worldwide apocalypse and death is Knight's attention to every facet of these survivors' experience, including the changed smells of the world and different reactions to small pleasures, such as a basement refuge: "We went inside the basement, and for the first time in almost three months, we did not smell the strong essence of decay. The only scent of decay was when someone got close enough to you that you caught a slight drift from their clothes. It was better than Christmas, and Baby Girl was happier about the basement than she was about the shampoo and conditioner. When things got rough over the next two to three months and as fall set in, we would clean up and go down into the basement. I would purge the room and we would breathe the compressed air from the cylinders. For a few hours we could minimize the constant odor that stifled and threatened to smother us."

These facets enhance the story line, add to its realistic and compelling draw, and contribute to the surprisingly upbeat gratitude of the narrator, who takes obvious pleasure in small successes and experiences: "It had been a good day; I have a new daughter. I drifted off that night like every other night, the most fortunate man in the world."

Knight's ability to inject this air of positivity and human connections into Dinky's survival story gives it an added attraction much needed by 2020 readers and beyond.

These elements place The Flip above and beyond most stories of pandemics or apocalypses. It's especially recommended as a tool for modern times, offering a dystopian journey that will leave readers both engaged in the characters' changing lives and the outcome of the broken world they move through as Dinky and Baby Girl love, live, and do everything they need to do in order to survive.

The Rise of the Agile Leader
Chuck Mollor
Prominence Publishing
9781988925592, $24.95 Paper, $9.99 Kindle

The Rise of the Agile Leader: Can You Make the Shift? will reach HR personnel and business leaders interested in agility as it applies to the business community, and is addressed to traditional leaders who need to re-examine consumer interests, global business connections, and how organizations can adopt processes that add speed into the equation of responsive change.

The key lies in becoming an 'agile leader'. This book offers a different approach to identifying such potential leaders and how they can improve.

Business leaders ready to make this shift receive a blueprint to success that is much more specific than competing books about agile processes. Where other discussions revolve around theory, Chuck Mollor addresses the nuts and bolts of how to achieve these goals by discussing specifics, from steps to handling feedback more effectively to common management issues revolving around visibility, time management, and handling remote employees. Individual, as well as team, pursuits are delineated, while the 'shifts' needed to move between traditional and agile approaches to management are identified and discussed.

Examples of struggling clients and how they overcame obstacles to success illustrate exactly how agility plays out in the workplace.

Mollor differentiates emotional agility from other forms of responses, outlining specific approaches to each that indicate healthy or unhealthy corporate culture. He also provides plenty of examples of moves to better self-awareness and corporate change.

All these come not from ideals and books, but from his own life experience as a multi-experienced executive and the founder and CEO of the consulting firm MCG Partners, and his own growth as an executive coach.

Executives who tire of too many business books about theoretical possibilities will relish the attention to the nuts and bolts of agile success that make The Rise of the Agile Leader a leader in the genre.

From the Painted Tomb
Brenda Hill
Independently Published Publisher - LCP
B08GJXC7LB, $4.79

Horror and fantasy readers seeking vivid writing and stories that stand out will find Brenda Hill's From the Painted Tomb a richly rewarding survey of Krista Hawthorne, whose only legacy is an ankh pendant inherited from her deceased mother.

Jilted on her wedding day, she seeks a new life in the Appalachian Mountains, determined to avoid romantic entanglements and rebuild her life as a newspaper reporter. But after accepting a dinner invitation one night during the full moon, a mythological creature attacks, plunging her into a nightmare of terror in which she can't escape. She knows the beast is still out there and she wants to escape, but the officials doubt her story and demand she stay during the investigation.

From the Painted Tomb's ability to weave a sense of self-discovery and growth into its concurrent subplots of love and death makes for an intriguing approach designed to keep readers on their toes about the outcome of many of Krista's attempts to survive, change, and uncover the truth as she reinvents her life.

Add an Egyptian back-story, a complex series of involvements that test Krista's courage and her ability to love and trust another, and elements of intrigue and supernatural horror for a thoroughly engrossing mystery/fantasy exploration that will leave readers guessing to the end.

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

Gary Roen's Bookshelf

Below The Glow
Susann Elizabeth Richards
Independently Published
97981791960040, $8.99,

"Below The Glow" is a rapid fire, pulse pounding, novel of suspense that races along to a rewarding conclusion. Bill Adams and his wife go on a sail boat outing that will change their lives forever. Bill has been overworking himself and felt this would be a great way to put back some umph in their marriage. Shortly into the junket a freak storm comes along tossing his wife into the water while he is knocked out. When he comes too, he is in a hospital recovering from an injury. Days later there is no word on his wife he assumes was killed by a shark he saw a short time before the incident. Soon he goes to the Virgin Islands where he begins to start a new life but things begin to go downhill a short time afterwards. Told with gripping prose "Below The Glow" is for anyone who is looking for a tension filled page turner.

The Lost and Found Bookshop
Susan Wiggs
William Morrow
c/o Harper Collins
9780062959140, $27.99,

"The Lost and Found Bookshop" opens with a memorial service for Natalie Harper's mother who owned a bookstore, in San Francisco. Natalie who has everything she could ever want, feels guilty when she learns her mom was flying to the celebration of Natalie's promotion with her boyfriend who was going to ask her to marry him. She believed her mom let her down putting so much time into the running of the store, not being there for her. Natalie learns that not all is as it once seemed as she begins the path of a new life. "The Lost and Found Bookshop" is a multi-layered beautifully written novel filled with interesting characters set against the backdrop of a wonderful independent book store struggling to stay in business.

Thrilling Cities
Ian Fleming
Thomas & Mercer
9781612185545, $14.95,

"If you write thrillers, people think that you must live a thrilling life and enjoy doing thrilling things." So, begins "Thrilling Cities" the whirlwind world tour of fourteen municipalities by the creator of James Bond for the Sunday Times in England. His appraisals are fascinating accounts that are not your normal travel pieces because they are not about museums or other customary things. Instead they are observations of the high rolling world of casinos, fantastic food, bars, sex parlors and other related things. A bit risque for its day Fleming persevered with his columns then published them in this volume. Now back in print with an added introduction the Fleming work is interesting reading though dated that leads readers to wonder if this excursion into a darker side of some of the most famous places including Tokyo was an influence for "You Only Live Twice" as well as some of his later works. Sadly, he died a short time after this book was published. We can only speculate other influences that might have come as a result of his jaunt. "Thrilling Cities" is a beautifully written, masterful travel log that is for any fan of Fleming and Bond to enjoy.

The Diamond Smugglers
Ian Fleming
Thomas & Mercer
9781612185484, $14.95,

"The Diamond Smugglers" was not the usual fare for Fleming, as there is no James Bond nor any reference to him. "The Diamond Smugglers is an account in conversations with Fleming, by an agent named John Blaize' who infiltrated the world of diamond smuggling. The writing is often uninteresting but there are snippets as only Fleming could tell like this one. "The world of spies is as full of jargon as motor racing or film making... Most secret agents are snobbish about their calling." For this edition there is a new introduction that adds a bit to the flavor of the book as well as its nice to see it back in print to appeal to new generations of readers. Reading "The Diamond Smugglers" one is led to believe that a portion of how the diamonds are stolen by mine workers was used by the producers of the James Bond film "Diamonds Are Forever." Though not up to the quality of the Bond novels, "The Diamond Smugglers" is worth reading to see a different side of Fleming.

Country Music's Greatest Lines
Bobby Braddock, author
Carmen Beecher, illustrator
History Press
97981467146487, $21.99,

Through the age's country artists have topped the charts with wonderful tunes but what have we ever known about the evolution of their words. Now in "Country Music's Greatest Lines" we are educated about many different aspects of the industry that continues to gain popularity. Bobby Braddock one of the giants in the business tells personal ones as well as others he has known about or researched. There is also a wealth of information on many of the entertainers including how they got into the business like the man who served in the army who was discovered while working for a studio as a janitor who is one of the major players today. Braddock takes readers on a journey from the 1940's to the present with a style that easy to enjoy. Artist Carmen Becher adds to the enjoyment with her graphics that highlight an aspect of each song. Some of the other things covered are who wrote each work, numerous versions and who recorded it and the studio who launched it. All in all, "Country Music's Greatest Lines" is a solid work of entertaining history of a very popular aspect of the music profession

Crackers and Oranges
Written and Illustrated by Carmen Beecher
Independently Published
9781497384200, $10.28,

"Crackers and Oranges" takes readers back not so long ago to a very different Florida where production of citrus was a very important aspect of Central Florida. It also delves into a very small town showing a very different time where home owners could keep windows open, doors unlocked and did not have to rely on air conditioning because the weather year-round was much more comfortable. "Crackers and Oranges" is also filled with artwork by the author that add a lot to the enjoyment of her prose. Things are different in Florida applies here as "Crackers and Oranges" celebrates a long-lost part of The Sunshine State.

Father's Violin
John Hope
Independently Published
9798656119283, $9.99,

"Father's Violin" tells the story of one family's resistance to the Nazi regimen in Germany during WWII through the eyes of 13-year-old Herz. The story moves back and forth through the years of 1942 to 1945 comparing the darkest days for Herz to those of a brighter future where music has universal appeal. There are many aspects John Hope covers in "Father's Violin" that show the effect war has on the civilian population. It is also a novel of hope that shows the overwhelming power of music on society. "Father's Violin" has many controversial themes that is for all of us to strive to have a more decent life.

Mrs. Quackers And Her Three Babies Waddles, Puddles And Doodles
Wanda L. Roberts
Independently Published
9798669789404, $9.99,

"Mrs. Quackers And Her Three Babies Waddles, Puddles, and Doodles" tells the story of three ducks and their mother as they frolic around. A young girl named Maisy encounters on her walk around the lake, a family of ducks while she ponders how they spend their days. As she watches she decides to give them all names as they go about their enjoyment of the water. "Mrs. Quackers And Her Three Babies Waddles, Puddles, and Doodles" utilizes activities to teach kids about ducks as well as reading fundamentals that is a useful tool for educators.

A New Addition Book Two The Adventures of Tara & Pep Pep
Written by Wanda L. Roberts.
Independently Published
9798664301823, $9.99,

"A New Addition" continues the story set forth in "A New Puppy" Toby awakens to a sound while his puppy Tara stands at the front door where the noise originated. "A New Addition" is the further adventures of Toby, his dad and Tara who have a surprise waiting for them on the porch. For anyone who loves dogs "A New Addition" is sure to please.

Dibble the Dragon
Written and Illustrated by Carmen Beecher
Independently Published
9781537202860, $9.75,

Dibble is a dragon who has no idea what his place in the world is until he decides to seek the answer to his burning question. Seeking the aid of friends, he goes on a wonderful quest to gain insight into who and what he is. "Dibble the Dragon" has many underlying premises are great teaching resources for kids and adults to enjoy as well as ponder their own lives. Hopefully "Dibble the Dragon" is the first of a series of adventures of this amazing dragon.

Ka'iwi, the Hawaiian Monk Seal: Get to know me
Written and Illustrated by Zeenat Mian
Independently Published
9780578410333, $18.00,

Recently I was part of a panel discussion at the virtual science fiction convention Necronomicon. The subject was titled guilty pleasures. Where most participants mentioned movies and TV, I instead, talked about books as I am an author, book critic. Mine was kids' books and how much more I have learned from them than other means. An example is "Ka'iwi, the Hawaiian Monk Seal: Get To know me" Zeenat Mian educates readers about Monk Seals that is on the extinction list. Through her prose and photographs she gives character to an animal that few of us will ever encounter. These seals are a precious being to be cherished for their amazing qualities that are revealed here for the first time. "Ka'iwi, the Hawaiian Monk Seal: is for all ages to learn more about these precious unusual mammals

Gary Roen
Senior Reviewer

Helen Dumont's Bookshelf

The Music Box, Secrets Revealed Behind My Door
Amelia Michaels
Lime Press
9781649341662, $16.99, HC, 294pp

Synopsis: "The Music Box, Secrets Revealed Behind My Door" by Amelia Michaels, is an impressively candid memory proving insight into a real life struggle as an ordinary woman that had been forced to not only live through domestic violence but was able to survive it.

Abused women do not always show physical signs of abuse. The signs could be so subtle that to a casual eye, nothing may seem out of the ordinary. It is not until Amelia allowed someone into her confidence that she began to know the horrors that she faced.

Her memoir not only focuses on the domestic violence events that lead into a the fight for her survival. It explains what led her down the path to marriage so violent it nearly cost her life and of the life of her my son.

Amelia's story is not just about her right to truly live. It is also about her son's right to live a life outside of fear and anxiety. He was forced to visit a biological father and had to deal with a man who took his rage out on him during those weekend visitations that were required by the courts.

"The Music Box, Secrets Revealed Behind My Door" is a story about a fight to live free of oppression. The narrative depicts the violence within the marriage as well as the court battles that spanned two attorneys and two courthouses in North Carolina.

Critique: A heart-wrenching and compelling read from beginning to end, "The Music Box, Secrets Revealed Behind My Door" is an extraordinary story of an individual family that has universal aspects that are all to common and to be found in every community throughout the country today. With significant insights for the reader, "The Music Box, Secrets Revealed Behind My Door" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Contemporary American Biography collections in general, and Gender/Domestic Violence supplemental curriculum studies lists in particular. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Music Box, Secrets Revealed Behind My Door" is readily available in a paperback edition (9781953584007, $9.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99).

Editorial Note: Originally published by Rustik Haws LLC, "The Music Box, Secrets Revealed Behind My Door" is now being marketed by Lime Press (

Consciousness Rising
Nicky Sutton
Hay House UK
9781401961237, $16.99, PB, 257pp

Synopsis: Many of us are seeking - consciously or unconsciously - truth, inner peace, love, greater understanding or a profound connection to all that is. Sometimes tumultuous life events, such as a breakup, bereavement, accident or illness, cause a spontaneous shift within us that we're not prepared for.

In "Consciousness Rising: Guiding You through Spiritual Awakening and Beyond", spiritual and meditation guide Nicky Sutton breaks down the stages of a spiritual awakening and leads you full circle on your journey from awakening to rebirth.

Readers will find: Transformative exercises to connect with your true self; Activating practices such as soul retrieval, inner work techniques, intuitive development and manifesting to progress on your journey; Support and reassurance that you're not alone through real-life stories of others' spiritual revelations; Advice on how to move through the more challenging aspects of this inward journey.

Whether your awakening is challenging, blissful or something in between, "Consciousness Rising" can support you through awakening to a place of peace and joy.

Critique: An articulate, compassionate, and exceptionally 'user friendly' instructional guide to an enhanced spiritual awareness, "Consciousness Rising: Guiding You through Spiritual Awakening and Beyond" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to community and academic library Metaphysical & Spirituality collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Consciousness Rising: Guiding You through Spiritual Awakening and Beyond" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Nicky Sutton is a meditation and spiritual guide whose YouTube videos have been viewed over 12 million times. Having found little support during her own spiritual awakening, Nicky now devotes herself to offering knowledge and resources to others undergoing the same transformation toward higher consciousness.

Singing All The Verses: Essays From A Mid-American
Peg Guilfoyle
Peg Projects, Inc.
9780982446799, $19.95, PB, 212pp

Synopsis: Peg Guilfoyle has been writing short pieces, books, and commentaries for forty years, and collects the old and the entirely contemporary here, in all their variety, pleasure. and humor.
In the pages of "Singing All The Verses: Essays From A Mid-American" author and essayist Peg Guilfoyle illustrates how any moment in a life can be resonant, magical, and joyful.

Here essays range from how an old opera score carries one through quarantine; to how a stack of old letters opens the door on a country long-vanished, to how your children grow, and you grow with them., to how the past inevitably connects with the present; to the beauties of an aging softball team; to the many things there are for us to believe in.

Critique: An inherently interesting and entertaining read that is as thoughtful and thought-provoking as it is inspired and inspiring, "Singing All The Verses: Essays From A Mid-American" is an especially timely and unreservedly recommended addition in these times of pandemic to personal reading lists, as well as community, college, and university library Contemporary American Literary collections.

I was a double
Tang Teaching Museum, author
David Lang, editor
Ian Berry, editor
The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum
9780989956666, $30.00, HC

Synopsis: A composer and a curator had a conversation about how composers work, and how this relates to art making. This conversation was the inspiration for "I was a double", an exhibition that brought together a group of artists that invent rules and then followed them. And whether written or not, each artist makes a proposal to herself or himself that becomes realized in the physical artwork.

Curators David Lang and Ian Berry asked the artists in "I was a double" for a sentence describing their rule making. David Lang composed music for each artwork based on the artists' statements, making his score out of theirs. This volume features a conversation between the curators along with an extensive selection of photographs documenting the installation, artworks, and Lang's musical scores.

Critique: As informative as it is thought-provoking, "I was a double" is an uncommon, extraordinary, and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, college, and university library Art Theory & Art History collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Keedle, the Great and All You've Ever Wanted to Know about Fascism
William Conselman Jr., author
Deidre Conselman, author
Jack D. Zipes, editor
Fred L. Fox, illustrator
Little Mole & Honey Bear
9781733223232, $19.00, HC, 40pp

Synopsis: In 1940, two young people decided to publish a strange book with the title Keedle to give Americans hope that the world can overcome dictatorships. To them, Keedle represented more than just Hitler. Indeed, Keedle represented all the dictators in the world then and now. "Keedle, the Great and All You've Ever Wanted to Know about Fascism" is an exceptional reminder that we have always ridiculed authoritarian regimes. When we keep the power to laugh in their dictatorial faces, the bullies will shrink away as we retain our integrity and humanity.

Critique: As unique as it is extraordinary, a child's picture book created some 80 years ago is as relevant today as it was back then in view of our current and venomously polarized political climate both at home her in America and in so many countries abroad. Considering the subject matter being dealt with in terms of fascism, the holocaust, and political satire, "Keedle, the Great and All You've Ever Wanted to Know about Fascism" is impressively 'kid friendly' in tone and commentary -- making it unreservedly recommended for family, elementary school, and community library collections for young readers ages 6-8.

Editorial Note: Jack Zipes is professor emeritus of German and comparative literature at the University of Minnesota. In addition to his scholarly work, he is an active storyteller in public schools and has written fairy tales for children and adults. In his happy retirement, he founded a small publishing house called Little Mole and Honey Bear. Some of his recent publications include Tales of Wonder: Retelling Fairy Tales through Picture Postcards (2017), Fearless Ivan and His Faithful Horse Double-Hump (2018), The Hundred Riddles of the Fairy Bellaria (2018), Slap-Bam, The Art of Governing Men: Edouard Laboulaye's Political Fairy Tales (2018), The Giant Ohl and Tiny Tim (2019), Johnny Breadless (2020), and Hermynia zur Muhlen's The Castle of Truth and Other Revolutionary Tales (2020). His new mission in life is to unbury dead and neglected authors of fantasy and to create conditions for a better world.

Helen Dumont

John Taylor's Bookshelf

Jack's Path
Jack Pilgers
Sophodos Publishing
9780995619401, 15.99, PB, 356pp

Synopsis: Troubled by an intense loneliness, a result of his lost childhood and a cruel twist of fate, Jack is confronted by an enigmatic visitor's insistence that the world is meaningless. In his despair, he is drawn to a vision of the fabled Camino de Santiago, and so Jack embarks on a final act of redemption. It will soon become a quest for understanding, reaching beyond life and death itself.

Philosophers, gurus, friends and enemies all accompany Jack along the path to resolve the great questions of all ages. Is the world before us as it seems? Is science and reason the sole road to truth? Do our moral choices have significance? Is there truth still in the great religions? Is there a world beyond our earthly abode?

Critique: Inherently thoughtful and thought-provoking, it is no exaggeration to describe "Jack's Path" as one of the great metaphysical and visionary coming of age stories, as well as a deeply spiritual and thoroughly reader engaging magical realism style adventure. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that this potential life influencing account is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99).

Editorial Note: Jack Pilgers has taught Philosophy and Theology for many years in schools, colleges, and universities, and finds the most intriguing and relevant aspect of philosophy is its relevance to peoples' lives. He has pursued his study of Philosophy, including further degrees from Spanish and UK universities as well as a sabbatical at Oxford University. Yet he believes that the understanding of our place in the world beyond the obvious and mundane is what fascinates, and is as pressing as ever, and this is what he has chosen to write about.

It is within the arena of nature, the outdoors, and everyday conversations that this all comes to life for Jack. He learned this most especially through conversations whilst out walking and hiking, most especially along the old medieval European pilgrimage routes known as 'Caminos'. On each of these routes, people encountered along the Way were always interested in understanding philosophical ideas as part of their own journeys.

Washington Bullets: A History of the CIA, Coups, and Assassinations
Vijay Prashad
Monthly Review Press
134 W. 29th Street, Suite 706, New York, NY 10001
9781583679074, $89.00, HC, 162pp

Synopsis: While applauding itself as an oasis of democracy, the United States, in reality, is a superpower intent on infiltrating foreign governments, obliterating entire cultures, and carrying out murderous military interventions in developing countries the world over.

"Washington Bullets: A History of the CIA, Coups, and Assassinations" by Vijay Prashad is about the bullets sent by architects of U.S. imperialism (the nation's political and economic elites) to crush revolutions, assassinate democratically elected leaders, and to destroy hope. Focusing on the rising national liberation movements in the Third World after the Second World War and continuing up to the present, historian and journalist Prashad delivers a scathing indictment of U.S. imperialism, from the 1953 CIA-sponsored coup in Iran, to the twenty-first-century ousters of Dilma Rousseff in Brazil and Evo Morales in Bolivia.

Prashad, relying on his vast library of U.S. government documents, records of multinational corporations, speeches of despots, and memoirs of functionaries (including the complete works of Henry Kissinger), has assembled a fascinating (and appalling) account of just where and how the United States has perpetrated its global "fight against terror" or "drugs" or "communism".

But embedded in the history of U.S. imperialism is also to be found the history of a worldwide resistance. "Washington Bullets" is also a book about hope and the possibilities offered by millions of, as yet, unsung heroes. Reading these stories, we can't help but see the need to work together to save the earth, and create a new world of real democracy for the oppressed and the masses.

Critique: An impressively detailed, exceptionally well presented, thoughtful and thought-provoking expose of American imperialism that has led to the misery and death of millions around the world, "Washington Bullets: A History of the CIA, Coups, and Assassinations" is a critically important and unreservedly recommended addition to every community, college, and university library International Political Science collection. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, political activists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Washington Bullets" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781583679067, $17.00).

Editorial Note: Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, journalist, commentator and a Marxist intellectual. He is an executive-director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research and the Chief Editor of LeftWord Books. He was also the George and Martha Kellner Chair in South Asian History and a professor of International Studies at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, United States from 1996 to 2017. In 2013 - 2014, he held the Edward Said Chair at the American University of Beirut and has been a Senior Fellow of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs in Beirut.

John Taylor

Laurel Johnson's Bookshelf

Beat Scrapbook
Gerald Nicosia
Cool Grove Publishing Inc.
9781887276368, $19.95, 113 pages

I've reviewed several of Nicosia's non-fiction books but this is my first experience with his poetry. Whatever the genre, this writer creates with sensitivity, empathy and compassion. Every poem in this book shares pieces of the writer as well as the beat poets he has known. This excerpt from his testament to Paul Carroll -- the beat father of Chicago poetry -- exemplifies Nicosia's style:

There was nothing this man wanted
More than the company of those
Who liked him and his poetry
And from that gentle need
He created a whole world of Chicago literature
And a community of writers
Who learned to give more than they took

Thanks to Nicosia, readers have the privilege of walking life's lonesome road with Kerouac and joining Bukowski as he uses humanity like notes in a symphony. This excerpt from a poem for Kaviraj George Dowden speaks simply and clearly the message that might have been shared by all Beat poets:

And the truth is I
Sometimes write poems
To keep the world away
But most of the time
It's really a coded map
To let the seekers like yourself
Find what's left of me

In the exceptional poems, Midwest Rhapsody and July Visit With the Dead in Hillside, Illinois, Nicosia shares his own roots:

My mother and dad lie quietly here
in the humid summer stillness
as quietly as the world will let them
the birds still chirp and call
an occasional Fourth of July bomb
pops loud and angry
while planes cut in from time to time

Nicosia speaks of a "gone world" here, inciting love for the Beat icons unknown to many readers today. Most of us know the works of Kerouac, but what about Bukowski, Lamantia, Ferlinghetti, Corso, Berrigan, Brautigan and others remembered so sweetly by the author in this book? Nicosia's complex thoughts are shared simply and eloquently from the heart in Beat Scrapbook. Highly recommended to poetry lovers, Beat generation fans, and readers curious to know more about why and how Beat writers impacted the world.

Laurel Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Mary Cowper's Bookshelf

Find the Helpers
Fred Guttenberg
Mango Publishing
9781642505351, $19.95, HC, 198pp

Synopsis; Fred Guttenberg loved watching Mr. Rogers with his daughter and son when they were little. Their favorite wisdom was: In the midst of tragedy and catastrophe, find the helpers.

"Always look for the helpers. There will always be helpers. Because if you look for the helpers, you'll know there's hope." - Fred Rogers, 1999

Life changed forever on Valentine's Day 2018. What was to be a family day celebrating love turned into a nightmare. Thirty-four people were shot at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Jaime Guttenberg, a fourteen-year-old with a huge heart, was the second to last victim.

That she and so many of her fellow students were struck down in cold blood galvanized many to action, including Jaime's father Fred who has become an activist dedicated to passing common sense gun safety legislation.

Fred was already struggling with deep personal loss. Four months earlier his brother Michael died of 9/11 induced pancreatic cancer. He had been exposed to too much dust and chemicals at Ground Zero. Michael battled heroically for nearly five years and then died at age fifty.

"Find the Helpers: What 9/11 and Parkland Taught Me About Recovery, Purpose, and Hope" is not about gun safety or Parkland. Instead, it tells the story of Fred Guttenberg's journey since Jaime's death and how he has been able to get through the worst of times thanks to the kindness and compassion of others.

Good things happen to good people at the hands of other good people?and the world is filled with them. They include everyone from amazing gun violence survivors Fred has met around the country to former VP Joe Biden, who spent time talking to him about finding mission and purpose in learning to grieve.

Critique: An emotionally inspiring read from first page to last, "Find the Helpers: What 9/11 and Parkland Taught Me About Recovery, Purpose, and Hope" is an extraordinary, timely and timeless read -- especially for anyone having to deal with senseless loss in this time of pandemic, economic collapse, social unrest, political polarization, and the rise of armed white supremacists.

Fred Rogers would be proud of what Fred Guttenberg has written for the benefit of us all. Simply stated, "Find the Helpers: What 9/11 and Parkland Taught Me About Recovery, Purpose, and Hope" should be a part of every highschool, community, college, and university library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Find the Helpers" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Getting Things Off My Chest
Melanie Young
Cedar Fort, Inc.
2373 West 700 South, Springville, Utah 84663
9781452138579, $19.99, PB, 236pp,

Synopsis: Now in an updated third edition, "Getting Things Off My Chest: A Survivor's Guide to Staying Fearless and Fabulous in the Face of Breast Cancer" by Melanie Young is comprised of practical information, insights, and encouragement for the reader to successful deal with their breast cancer, armed with these outstanding survivors' tips on how to stay sane, focused, and in charge.

Melanie Young is herself a breast cancer survivor and in her DIY manual for surviving shares expert insights, handy checklists and helpful questions to ask your doctors, all geared toward streamlining your new life.

"Getting Things Off My Chest" is a detailed, upbeat instruction manual and guide to help you make informed decisions, eat and exercise to stay strong, look and feel your best, eliminate stress and boost your spirits with positive thinking and a dose of humor. Don't let your cancer control you; empower yourself and ease the transition with this all-inclusive guide.

In the words of Melanie Young: "You may not have chosen to have cancer, but you can choose how you mange your treatment and treat yourself to stay strong, focused and healthy moving forward."

Critique: Exceptionally well written, impressively informative, thoroughly 'reader friendly' in presentation, inspired and inspiring, "Getting Things Off My Chest: A Survivor's Guide to Staying Fearless and Fabulous in the Face of Breast Cancer" is essential reading for anyone dealing with the diagnosis of breast cancer and an unreservedly recommended addition to community and academic library Health/Medicine collections in general, and Breast Cancer supplemental studies lists in particular. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Getting Things Off My Chest: A Survivor's Guide to Staying Fearless and Fabulous in the Face of Breast Cancer" is readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $6.99).

Editorial Note: "Getting Things Off My Chest: A Survivor's Guide to Staying Fearless and Fabulous in the Face of Breast Cancer" by Melanie Young is the winner of the 2014 International Book Award for Cancer Health topics.

Witch: A Cranky Little Tale
Ann Robinson
Peter E. Randall Publisher
5 Greenleaf Woods Drive, Suite 102, Portsmouth New Hampshire 03801
9781942155096, $20.00, PB, 256pp

Synopsis: "Witch: A Cranky Little Tale" by Ann Robinson is a novel that is set in New York State's Hudson River Valley, and is alternately narrated by sixty-something Irene Richards and her thirty-five year old daughter Shirleen McClure, as they cope with a string of unexpected life events and each other during one year that begins and ends on Halloween.

"Witch: A Cranky Little Tale" is peppered through with elements of magic realism, inspired by Irene's sudden interest in witchcraft and how to introduce her newly-acquired skills into her daily routine.

Critique: Populated with a veritable comedy of errors and thwarted ambitions, unresolved issues of fidelity and complicated family relations, including a mail-order course in the Craft, and enlists the aid of a 700-year old sorceress, Moldred of Breste, "Witch: A Cranky Little Tale" is an inherently fascinating and impressively entertaining read by a novelist with a genuine flair for originality and the kind of multilevel narrative storytelling that keeps the reader's rapt attention from beginning to end -- making especially and unreservedly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as community library Contemporary General Fiction collections.

Editorial Note: Ann Robinson has written and produced award-winning radio commercials and published feature articles in newspapers and magazines, including The Keene Sentinel. She has written capsule reviews for Publishers Weekly and her short stories have appeared in Yankee, Oxford Magazine, The Nightshade Nightstand Reader, Ellipsis, in regional anthologies, in Internet publications, and on New Hampshire Public Radio. Robinson's humorous essays have appeared in a variety of publications. Her short story collection, "Ordinary Perils", is available from Peter E. Randall Publisher.

The Power of Knitting
Loretta Napoleoni
c/o Penguin Group, USA
9780593087190, $20.00, HC, 224pp

Synopsis: In a fractured world plagued by anxiety and loneliness, conditions exacerbated by the current pandemic, knitting is coming to the rescue of people from all walks of life. In the pages of "The Power of Knitting: Stitching Together Our Lives in a Fractured World", economist and lifelong knitter Loretta Napoleoni unveils the hidden power of the purl and stitch mantra: an essential tool for the survival of our species, a means for women to influence history, a soothing activity to calm us, and a powerful metaphor of life.

"The Power of Knitting" is a voyage through our history following the yarn of social, economic and political changes - from ancient Egypt and Peru to modern Mongolia, from the spinning bees of the American Revolution to the knitting spies of World War II, and from the hippies' rejection of consumerism to yarnbombing protests against climate change. For author Loretta Napoleoni it is also a personal journey of discovery and salvation, drawing on the wisdom her grandmother passed along as they knit together.

Revealing recent discoveries in neuroscience, "The Power of Knitting" offers proof of the healing powers of knitting on our bodies and minds. Breaking through societal barriers, even nursing broken hearts, and helping to advance cutting-edge science, knitting is still a valuable instrument for navigating our daily lives.

Of special note is that "The Power of Knitting" also includes patterns for ten simple yet iconic projects that reflect the creative, empowering spirit of knitting, with complete instructions.

Critique: A welcome and appreciated read for these troubled times, "The Power of Knitting: Stitching Together Our Lives in a Fractured World" will prove to be an immediately and enduringly welcome addition to community, college, and university library collections. With its very special appeal to knitters, feminists, and non-specialist general readers seeking coping mechanisms for getting through the day, it should be noted for their personal reading lists that "The Power of Knitting: Stitching Together Our Lives in a Fractured World" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99).

Editorial Note: Born and raised in Rome, in the mid 1970s Loretta Napoleoni became an active member of the feminist movement and a political activist. She was a Fulbright scholar at Johns Hopkins University's Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies in Washington DC and a Rotary Scholar at the London School of Economics. She has a Masters of Philosophy in international relations and one in terrorism at the London School of Economics.

Mary Cowper

Micah Andrew's Bookshelf

Develop: 7 Practical Tools to Take Charge of Your Career
Ted Fleming
BenBella Books
9781950665358, $24.95, HC, 210pp

Synopsis: In the pages of "Develop: 7 Practical Tools to Take Charge of Your Career", corporate talent developer Ted Fleming shares simple, powerful advice for finding the right job or growing in an existing role. Fleming offers actionable tools and step-by-step techniques that anyone can apply to crystallize and achieve their career goals.

Based on his more than two decades' experience managing, advising, and researching career growth, he offers an insider's view for navigating organizations where the path to advancement is complex and success strategies are often kept secret.

"Develop" will provide the guidance needed to successfully: Discover what interests you; Learn how to communicate your unique gifts to others: Uncover what employers are really looking for; Network the right way; Identify your leadership style; Craft a powerful image; Create a development plan that will drive results

In "Develop" Fleming also offers straightforward advice for navigating discrimination, gender biases, and other barriers to success. Designed as a practical reference to return to again and again, "Develop" will equip the reader to take charge of their professional life and find their way to a happier, more meaningful career.

Critique: Impressively well written, organized and presented, "Develop: 7 Practical Tools to Take Charge of Your Career" is exceptionally practical, insightful, and thoroughly 'user friendly' in tone, commentary and instructive comprehensiveness. A potential life-changing, career-enhancing read from beginning to end, "Develop: 7 Practical Tools to Take Charge of Your Career" is unreservedly recommended for both community, corporate, and academic library Jobs/Careers collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, corporate executives, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Develop: 7 Practical Tools to Take Charge of Your Career" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $18.99).

Editorial Note: Ted Fleming is the head of talent development for CVS Health, a Fortune 10 company with more than 300,000 employees. His responsibilities include learning and career development for all employees, executive development, and providing business consulting solutions. Ted has more than 30 years of experience in the healthcare, financial services, and education industries as a strategic planner, consultant, business owner, and general manager. He speaks extensively on topics including managing your career, executive presence, driving business results, leadership, creativity, and innovation.

Mallast 2: A Sequel
Bob Prevost
RLP Industries
9780984636945, $16.95, PB, 364pp

Synopsis: "Mallast 2" (who author Bob Prevost's Great-Grandfather) is a sequel that expands the time and scope of the original Mallast novel which was published in 2012.

Involving a great deal of personal research by Bob covering the mid-European troubled times of the mid-1800s as well as the Prussian-Denmark wars "Mallast 2" is the story of two young adult brothers of August struggling with decisions about their future lives.

The family of a future wife of two Mallasts struggle with the question of leaving Central Europe. They all separately decide to migrate to the United States. Their story also includes adventures of some of August's children as they grow into adulthood in Michigan and Ohio. Their up's and down's are based on actual events as are all major events.

Critique: An inherently fascinating read, "Mallast 2" like the first volume in this unique series is exceptionally well written and presented, making it especially and unreservedly recommended for both personal reading lists and community library collections.

Editorial Note: Bob Prevost is a graduate Engineer with a Bachelor's Degree from University of Detroit and a Master's Degree in Engineering from the University of Michigan. He worked in many Engineering positions for General Motors and serviced as an Air Force Officer for three years. He is married to Jocelyn (Betts) and have parented three children over their 55 years together living on the Marshland Peninsula (as described in the two Mallast volumes).

Micah Andrew

Michael Dunford's Bookshelf

So-Called Normal
Mark Henick
HarperCollins Publishers
9781443455039, $19.99, PB, 304pp

Synopsis: When Mark Henick was a teenager in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, he was overwhelmed by depression and anxiety that led to a series of increasingly dangerous suicide attempts.

One night, he climbed onto a bridge over an overpass and stood in the wind, clinging to a girder. Someone shouted, "Jump, you coward!" Another man, a stranger in a brown coat, talked to him quietly, calmly and with deep empathy. Just as Henick's feet touched open air, the man in the brown coat encircled his chest and pulled him to safety. This near-death experience changed Henick's life forever.

"So-Called Normal: A Memoir of Family, Depression and Resilience" is Henick's personal memoir and life story about growing up in a broken home and the events that led to that fateful night on the bridge. It is a vivid and personal account of the mental health challenges he experienced in childhood and his subsequent journey toward healing and recovery.

Critique: Intimate, candid, insightful, and told with an impressive and compelling narrative storytelling style that keeps the reader's full attention and interest from beginning to end, "So-Called Normal: A Memoir of Family, Depression and Resilience" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Contemporary American Biography collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "So-Called Normal: A Memoir of Family, Depression and Resilience" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.99).

Editorial Note: The Mark Henick TEDx talk about being saved from death by a stranger is one of the most watched in the world and has been viewed millions of times. Henick has been on television and radio and has written many articles on mental health. He has hosted more than sixty intimate conversations about mental health with notable public figures and celebrities on his podcast, So-Called Normal. Henick has served on the board of directors for the Mental Health Commission of Canada, and was the president of a provincial division of the Canadian Mental Health Association -- the youngest person in either role. He has worked as a frontline clinician, a program manager and the national director of strategic initiatives for CMHA. Currently the CEO and principal strategist for Strategic Mental Health Consulting, Mark Henick is in high demand as an international keynote speaker on mental health recovery.

Pier Shock
James W. Haddad
Commonwealth Publishing
978189298692, $17.99, PB, 174pp

Synopsis: "Pier Shock" by James W. Hadded is the story of a little boy who lives to fish and dreams of breaking a world record. He is driven by confidence and enthusiasm and his perseverance glows brighter than any kid his age. His devoted father stands by his side while his invidious mother does everything within her power to sabotage his dreams. But despite all disappointments the little boy senses victory within his grasp and courageously struggles on -- until disaster strikes!

Critique: An inherently interesting and original story that will linger in the mind and memory long after the book itself is finished and set back upon the shelf, "Pier Shock" will prove to be an enduringly appreciated and valued addition to all community, college, and university library Contemporary Literary Fiction collections.

Germantown: A Military History of the Battle for Philadelphia, October 4, 1777
Michael C. Harris
Savas Beatie
PO Box 4527, El Dorado Hills, CA 95762
9781611215199, $34.95, HC, 528pp

Synopsis: Today, Germantown is a busy neighborhood in Philadelphia. On October 4, 1777, it was a small village on the outskirts of the colonial capital whose surrounding fields and streets witnessed one of the largest battles of the American Revolution. The bloody battle represented George Washington's attempt to recapture Philadelphia, but has long been overshadowed by better-known events like Brandywine, Saratoga, and Valley Forge.

General Sir William Howe launched his campaign to capture Philadelphia in late July 1777, with an army of 16,500 British and Hessian soldiers aboard a 265-ship armada sailing from New York. Six difficult weeks later, Howe's expedition landed near Elkton, Maryland, and moved north into Pennsylvania. Washington's rebel army did all it could to harass Howe and fought and lost a major battle at Brandywine on September 11. Philadelphia fell to the British.

On October 4, obscured by darkness and a heavy morning fog, Washington launched a surprise attack on the British garrison at Germantown. His early attack found initial success and drove the British legions before him. The recapture of the colonial capital seemed within Washington's grasp until poor decisions by the American high command brought about a reversal of fortune and a clear British victory. Like Brandywine, however, the bloody fight at Germantown proved that Continental soldiers could stand toe-to-toe with British Regulars. The Battle of Germantown began a protected quasi-siege of the British garrison in Germantown prior to the travails soon to come that winter at Valley Forge.

"Germantown: A Military History of the Battle for the Control of Philadelphia, October 4, 1777" by Michael C. Harris is the first complete study to merge the strategic, political, and tactical history of this complex operation and important set-piece battle into a single compelling account. Harris relied almost exclusively on original archival research and a deep personal knowledge of the terrain.

Critique: Enhanced for the reader with the inclusion of original maps, numerous illustrations, and modern photos, "Germantown: A Military History of the Battle for the Control of Philadelphia, October 4, 1777" draws largely through the words of those who fought there. The result is one of the most informative and 'reader friendly' military studies of its kind. While especially and particularly recommended for both community and academic library American Revolutionary War history collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, American Revolution History buffs that "Germantown: A Military History of the Battle for the Control of Philadelphia, October 4, 1777" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.09).

Editorial Note: Michael C. Harris is a graduate of the University of Mary Washington and the American Military University. He has worked for the National Park Service in Fredericksburg, Virginia, Fort Mott State Park in New Jersey, and the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission at Brandywine Battlefield. He has conducted tours and staff rides of many east coast battlefields. Michael is certified in secondary education and currently teaches in the Philadelphia region

Michael Dunford

Nancy Lorraine's Bookshelf

Mums and Mayhem by Amanda Flower: A Magic Garden Mystery
Amanda Flower
Crooked Lane Books
34 West 27th St., Floor 10, New York, NY 10001
9781643852980, $26.99 HC, $12.99 Kindle, 336pp

"Mums and Mayhem" is the most recent title in the Magic Garden series of cozy mysteries by Amanda Flower and is set in Scotland. Fiona Knox, where owner of the Climbing Rose Shop in the village of Bellewick uses her newfound talents as Keeper of the magic garden to help solve the murder of renowned fiddle player Barley McFee.

Fiona and her Scottish folds cat Ivanhoe are charged with finding the cause of the garden's demise, and the thief of the eternal yellow rose which clings to an ancient standing stone which is of historical interest. Fiona also is charged with defending her father who is suspected of committing the murder.

"Mums and Mayhem" continues a highly successful series of magic garden mysteries that explores a close relationship between Fiona and the previous Keeper of the Garden, a Scottish friend of the family who turns out to be her father. Watched over by the mysterious fox who seems to represent Fiona's deceased benefactor, she must unravel the unusual death of famed fiddler Barley McFee.

In her search for the truth, Fiona relies on her special gift for truth visions which is a part of her role as the Keeper of the Magic Garden. Danger and a a presence of love interest add spice to the intriguing story. With no spoilers, "Mums and Mayhem" is the perfect prescription for entertaining, refreshing cozy mystery reading with just the right balance of intrigue, exotic locale, Scottish legend, and American ingenuity.

Readers will love this delightful title and series.

Murder Most Sweet: A Bookish Baker Mystery
Laura Jensen Walker, author
Crooked Lane Books
34 West 27th St., Floor 10, New York, NY 10001
9781643855028, $26.99 HC, $12.99 Kindle, $22.99 CD, 289pp

Teddie St. John, a breast cancer survivor who has elected to "go flat", is the witty baker sleuth heroine of the Lake Potawatomi, Wisconsin murder series. Along with her American Eskimo dog, Gracie, and faithful friends Sharon and Char, Teddie is barely able to avoid being unbalanced by romantic attentions from bereaved British author Tavish Bentley, whose fiancee wound up being strangled by a distinctive scarf belonging to Teddie.

Teddie must rise to the challenge of solving not one but two murders that she stands accused of in short order, making the seeking of the strategic solution even more needful of her talents both mysterious and cuisine related.

Fascinating characters, distinctive development, and Machiavellian plot twisters abound in this most intriguing of cozy mystery series. Teddie is definitely a modern woman with skills and depths aplenty to take on multiple murder -solution related tasks. A homey locale in Lake Potawatomie with wads of local charm oozing like a Danish Kringle (made in Racine, Wisconsin) adds depth and believability to an exciting mystery plot.

Humor abounds in unusual spots in this title and series, accounting for some of its multiple awards won. At the end, when all has finally been revealed and fans are eager for the next installment, there are wonderful cozy recipes for Norwegian Fattigmann Bakkels, Lemon Sugar Cookies, Carrot Cake Muffins, Quick and Easy Fruit Cocktail Cake, Danish Layer Cake, and Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, just to sweeten the taste buds.

"Murder Most Sweet" is an appealing mix of old and new in the winning recipe combining ethnic locale, feminine smarts, bookish literati, and retro recipes to boot. It is a mixture that cannot fail.

Murder in the Bayou Boneyard: A Cajun Country Mystery
Ellen Byron, author
Crooked Lane Books
34 West 27th St., Floor 10, New York, NY 10001
9781643854601, $26.99 HC, $12.99 Kindle, 304pp

"Murder in the Bayou Boneyard" is the sixth Cajun Country Mystery in the award winning series by author Ellen Byron. Just in time for Halloween, supersleuth- heroine Maggie Crozat struggles to help her colorful Pelican hostelry rise above local smart phone app-fueled competition by invoking "Pelican's Spooky Past" packages as a craft related draw featuring special foods, regional crafts and a pet costume parade.

Banding with other B &B locals to attract customers, Maggie encounters a slew of random sightings of a rougarou, a Cajun version of a werewolf, in the local Dupois cemetery, a setting for the play, Resurrection of a Spirit. The unexpected appearance of an actor costumed as a rougarou supposedly faking a grisly stage death becomes awful reality: poisoning by strychnine. Who will get to the swampy bottom of this exciting thriller in true Cajun style?

Readers will love the local color and spooky detail of the setting in addition to the spunky can-do style of the detective heroine, allied with her faithful friends, including fiancee Bo Durand, Pelican PD detective. In addition to solving the mystery of the rougarou murder, Maggie steps into an older local mystery when she befriends old Walter Breem, aged hermit caretaker of the Dupois grounds and cemetery. Facing personal attack including the loss of her treasured antique wedding gown, and financial ruin, Maggie persists in positive action until she arrives at a surprise ending even her friends cannot predict.

Readers will find all that they desire in a thrilling cozy mystery with the delicious lagniappe of four tempting Cajun recipes for featured dishes at the end. "Murder in the Bayou Boneyard" will certainly attract new reams of readers for this exciting and award winning series of mysteries.

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Paul Vogel's Bookshelf

The Nazi Spy Ring in America
Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones
Georgetown University Press
3240 Prospect Street, NW, Washington, DC 20007
9781647120047, $29.95, HC, 320pp

Synopsis: In the mid-1930s just as the United States was embarking on a policy of neutrality, Nazi Germany launched a program of espionage against the unwary nation. "The Nazi Spy Ring in America: Hitler's Agents, the FBI, and the Case That Stirred the Nation" by Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones tells the story of Hitler's attempts to interfere in American affairs by spreading anti-Semitic propaganda, stealing military technology, and mapping US defenses.

This exceptional history provides essential insight into the role of espionage in shaping American perceptions of Germany in the years leading up to US entry into World War II. Fascinating and thoroughly researched, "The Nazi Spy Ring" in America sheds light on a now obscure and largely forgotten but significant episode in the history of international relations and the development of the FBI.

Using recently declassified documents, author and historian Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones deftly narrates this little-known chapter in US history and shows how Germany's foreign intelligence service, the Abwehr, was able to steal top secret US technology such as a prototype codebreaking machine and data about the latest fighter planes.

At the center of the story is Leon Turrou, the FBI agent who helped bring down the Nazi spy ring in a case that quickly transformed into a national sensation. The arrest and prosecution of four members of the ring was a high-profile case with all the trappings of fiction: fast cars, louche liaisons, a murder plot, a Manhattan socialite, and a ringleader codenamed Agent Sex. Part of the story of breaking the Nazi spy ring is also the rise and fall of Turrou, whose talent was matched only by his penchant for publicity, which eventually caused him to run afoul of J. Edgar Hoover's strict codes of conduct.

Critique: Simply stated, "The Nazi Spy Ring in America: Hitler's Agents, the FBI, and the Case That Stirred the Nation" is an inherently fascinating and impressively documented history told in the kind of narrative storytelling style that will engage and hold the reader's rapt attention from beginning to end. While unreservedly recommended for both community and college/university library World War II espionage & FBI history 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 "The Nazi Spy Ring in America" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.17).

Editorial Note: Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones has been an anti-apartheid campaigner and radio and TV broadcaster, president of the Scottish Association for the Study of America, and the author of 16 books about US social and intelligence history. His book "The American Left: Its Impact on Politics and Society since 1900" (Edinburgh and Oxford University Presses) was the winner of the Neustadt Prize for the best UK book on US politics published in 2013.

Taking My Half out of the Middle
Ouen Owen
Doen Press
9781733440301, $14.99, PB, 413pp

Synopsis: Political moderate Jack and his ultra-liberal brother Donny set out on a grand road trip to visit their aging-hippy mother at her new commune in Montana. Jack intends to use the opportunity to write a series of essays defending the Centrist position on various issues of the day, but Jack's voyage of self-expression turns into a voyage of self-discovery as fate has some surprises in store for him, beginning with a certain little dog.

Critique: A deftly scripted, exceptionally entertaining, and inherently thoughtful and thought-provoking political novel by Ouen Owen, "Taking My Half Out Of The Middle" is an extraordinary and timely read that is especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Taking My Half Out Of The Middle" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.99).

Egypt's Housing Crisis: The Shaping of Urban Space
Yahia Shawkat
American University in Cairo Press
200 Park Avenue, Suite 1700, New York, NY 10166
9789774169571, $49.95, HC, 312pp

Synopsis: Housing is a fundamental cornerstone of Egyptian life: it can make or break marriage proposals, invigorate or slow down the economy, and popularize or embarrass a ruler. Housing is political. Almost every Egyptian ruler over the last eighty years has directly associated himself with at least one large-scale housing project. It is also big business, with Egypt currently the world leader in per capita housing production, building at almost double China's rate, and creating a housing surplus that counts in the millions of units.

Despite this, Egypt has been in the grip of a housing crisis for almost eight decades. From the 1940s onward, officials deployed a number of policies to create adequate housing for the country's growing population. By the 1970s, housing production had outstripped population growth, but today half of Egypt's one hundred million people cannot afford a decent home.

Enhanced with an informative foreword from David Sims, "Egypt's Housing Crisis: The Shaping of Urban Space" by Yahia Shawkat takes presidential speeches, parliamentary reports, legislation, and official statistics as the basis with which to investigate the tools that officials have used to 'solve' the housing crisis (rent control, social housing, and amnesties for informal self-building) as well as the inescapable reality of these policies' outcomes. Yahia Shawkat argues that wars, mass displacement, and rural - urban migration played a part in creating the problem early on, but that neoliberal deregulation, crony capitalism and corruption, and neglectful planning have made things steadily worse ever since.

In the final analysis he asks, is affordable housing for all really that hard to achieve?

Critique: An erudite, comprehensive, and impressively presented study of meticulous scholarship, "Egypt's Housing Crisis: The Shaping of Urban Space" is enhanced for academia with the inclusion of figures, tables, a timeline, a listing of abbreviations and acronyms, forty-four pages of notes, a twenty-four page bibliography, and a seventeen page index. While very highly recommended, especially for community, college, and university library Egyptian City Planning and Urban Development collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, urban/city planning executives, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Egypt's Housing Crisis" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $33.99).

Editorial Note: Yahia Shawkat is a housing and urban policy researcher who specializes in legislative analysis, data visualization, and historical mapping. He is research coordinator for 10 Tooba, a research studio he co-founded in 2014 that focuses on spatial justice and fair housing. He also edits the Built Environment Observatory, an open knowledge portal identifying deprivation, scrutinizing state spending, and advocating equitable urban and housing policies. His work has been published in Egypte/Monde arabe and Architecture_MPS, and he has contributed to Mada Masr, Open Democracy, Heinrich Boell, and the Middle East Institute, among others.

David Sims is an economist and urban planner who has been based in Egypt since 1974. He is the author of Understanding Cairo: The Logic of a City out of Control and Egypt's Desert Dreams: Development or Disaster? (both published by AUC Press).

Paul T. Vogel

Richard Blake's Bookshelf

A Place Called Heaven: Your Journey Home
Larry Ollison
Harrison House Books
9781680314977, $17.99, 2020, 252 pages

Comfort, Promise, Triumph

In the last two months a bother-in-law and a very close friend breathed their final breath on earth to breathe their next breath in the presence of Jesus. We feel a loss here on earth, but what wonderful joys for them to meet the Savior face to face.

Dr. Larry Ollison's book "A Place Called Heaven: Your Heavenly Home" has helped me face my personal sense of loss. I have also been reminded of the rich heavenly promises of the coming of Jesus for His bride at the time of the rapture of the Church

I have read and reread the many endorsements as they have put into words what I have experienced as I read the book.

I have a new longing in my soul for meeting Jesus, and a new clarity into the Scriptures regarding these events, as well as new insights into the meaning of these truths from the Hebrews standpoint.

I want to be an encouragement to others in helping them find the truth that our greatest triumph is joining Jesus in heaven, free from the sin and from the pain of death.

Dr. Ollison has amazing insights into the scriptures and a gift in communicating these truths to his readers. I sincerely suggest that you read "A Place Called Heaven."

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

What is Heaven Saying? Your Handbook to Operating in the Gift of Prophecy
Michael Maiden
Destiny Image Publishers Inc.
9780768453416, $19.99, 2020, 168 pages

Prayer, Gift of Prophecy, Charismatic

"What is Heaven Saying? Your Handbook to Operating in the Gift of Prophecy" can be looked on as a primer, a reminder, or as an advanced guide to understanding the fullness of the power available to the Christian by activating their prophetic gift.

I have perused chapter by chapter repeatedly the invitation to develop an attitude of awareness of God's presence and purpose. I have meditated on prophecy as it relates to my destiny.

I have read and reread instances and stories of the powerful prophetic impact experienced in the lives of others. I am reviewing Michael's guideline for prophetic healing, and I am studying the lives of the Old Testament Prophets.

Dr. Michael Maiden helps the reader recognize how prophetic declarations can become the means of fulfilling God's intended destiny.

I want to encourage others to enjoy with me the experience and benefits of Michael Maiden's "What is Heaven Saying."

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

White House Watchmen: New Era Prayer Strategies to Shape the Future of Our Nation
Jon and Jolene Hamill
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
978076845063, $19.99, 2020, 308 pages

Spiritual Warfare, Prophecy, Prayer Strategies, National Impact

I have been deeply engrossed in reading and rereading the pages of this book for several days. The more I read, the more intrigued I have become with the work and ministry of Jon and Jolene Hamill and their passion for Jesus, for our nation, and their organization, The Lamplight Ministries.

Throughout the last two years, I have become spiritually hungry to know more about the role of the United States in the light of end-time Biblical prophecies, the nation Israel, the city of Jerusalem, Armageddon, and the current scenario taking place in such rapid succession throughout the year 2020.

I find answers in "White House Watchmen" and plan to continue in an in-depth study of each chapter of this incredible book.

The Moments for Review and Reflection are a very positive aid in making a personal application, a vital and significant commitment to involvement, taking action, and becoming a partner with them in prayer for our national leaders.

I hope I have whetted your appetite to join me in further study of the profound truths and challenges so brilliantly presented by Jon and Jolene Hamill in their book "White House Watchmen."

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

Redefining Grace: Living by His Presence and Moving in His Power
Phill Urena
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
9780768454505, $16.99, 2020, 234 pages

Spiritual Growth, Charismatic and Pentecostal, Christian Living

In his book "Redefining Grace: Living by His Presence and Moving in His Power," Phil Urena covers the subjects of the Theology of Grace. He includes the doctrines of:

The Old Testament and Grace

The New Testament and Grace

The Depravity of Man

He lays the groundwork into these subjects to introduce what it means to live life in the spirit, God's sovereignty, and man's free will, a short course in Systemic Theology.

In easy to understand illustrative stories, Urena introduces the reader insights into theological insights which reveal how to experience the fullness of grace and experiencing the miraculous dimension of grace.

Phil has challenged me to:

Focus my mind and heart on Jesus

Eliminate barriers

Cultivate a moment by moment lifestyle with God

Share God's love, light, and life in my immediate world and beyond.

Recognize the sovereignty

I want to encourage others to join me in reading, studying, and applying the practice of "Living by His Presence and Moving in His Power."

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

Last Day's Survival Guide
Rick Renner
Harrison House
9781680314106, $24.95, 2020, 466 pages

Eschatology, Spiritual Warfare, Charismatic

Rick Renner's "Last Days Survival Guide" is an important scriptural hand ook to prepare readers for these perilous times, days leading up to the final showdown. I have been greatly impressed with the writing of Rick Renner and have een following his newsletters over the last two years.

I am glad to find an updated coverage of end times theology that is so complete, with good a sound scriptural base. This is a book that will benefit seminary professors, Bible scholars, pastors, and layman alike, written at an understandable level.

I appreciated Perry Stone's forward and th endorsement by other well known prophetic leaders.

Rick's writing is:

Personally challenging


Well researched and Biblical Sound

Holy Spirit Inspired

"Last Days Survival Guide" is a definite must-read for every Christian, a book to share with others and a book to live out each of the suggested actions steps. It is a book you will want to read, study, read and study again, and then restudy with others in a small group or class setting.

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

Show Us Your Glory
Robert Henderson
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
9780768453591, $5.99, 2020, 70 pages

Pneumatology, Charismatic, Prayer

Robert Henderson's book "Show Us Your Glory" is a small, but powerful book introducing the reader to The prayer that opens new dimensions of Supernatural Encounter, through:

Five Revelations of God's Glory from the book of Exodus

Manifestations of the Glory of God

How to pray bold Glory Prayers

How to be indwelt by God's Glory

How to live in the realm of the Miraculous

I appreciated the insights from the life of the evangelist, his experience, and relationship in the Holy Spirit

I followed Henderson's teaching on the goodness of God as manifest in the cloud of glory in the temple of God in the book of Chronicles, and in the teaching of Jesus and the letters of Paul. I have prayed with Paul, "That I may Know Him, and the power is His resurrection."

"Show Us Your Glory" is a book I plan to read and reread often. It is ideal to have handy while waiting in a doctor's office, lunching alone, or relaxing at home. I can easily fit in a lady's purse for reading while waiting for the kids during music lessons, tutoring sessions, or sports practices.

I highly recommended it.

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

Releasing Prophetic Solutions: Praying Heaven's Promises Over Your Home, Family, and Nation
Christy Johnston
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
9780768453454, $16.99, 2020, 224 pages

Prophetic Prayers, Faith Filled Degrees, and Victorious Spiritual Warfare

"Releasing Prophetic Solutions" defines prophetic prayer, the call of God on your life, your most powerful single spiritual weapon, and the roles of the prophetic watchman and the goal keepers of God's Kingdom.

The whole book is filled with Scripture exhortations, applications, and promises for releasing prophetic solutions. This is a how-to book for every Christian leading to praying over your home, your family, and our nation.

I looked forward to putting into action each of the powerful prophetic prayer solution keys and principles so clearly presented and described in each chapter of the book.

Each story, lesson, and principle in the book is backed up by Christy's life experience and example. The book is well researched and documented with Scriptures, and references from highly renowned works of well know Biblical expositors.

Christy Johnston is recognized as an intercessor, highly regarded for her prophetic teaching, and is passionate about empowering others in ministry.

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

Discerning Prophetic Witchcraft
Jennifer Leclaire
Destiny Image Books Inc.
9780768456011, $19.99, 2020, 206 pages

Spiritual Warfare, Prophetic, Charismatic

In "Discerning Prophetic Witchcraft" Jennifer Leclaire exposes, teaching prevalent today, that is deceiving believers seeking spiritual truth. LeClaire warns the reader of the reality of spiritual warfare today, of demons, of Satan's tactics, and of false prophets.

Jennifer provides the reader with guiding principles for overcoming witchcraft and the supernatural forces that twist truth, attack, and distract believers from God's divine purposes. Jennifer warns of prophetic cults and divining prophets and Charismatic witchcraft and warns of a showdown coming.

Jennifer's writing is clear, well researched, well documented, and written without compromise. She is highly recognized for her leadership in the prayer movement. Her writing is authentic, positive, and elevating.

I was especially grateful for her insight into sharpening our discernment, recognizing false prophets, demonic impartations, and confronting familiar spirits.

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

Binding the Strongman over America and the Nations: Healing the Land, Transferring Wealth, and Advancing the Kingdom of God
Dr. John Benefiel with Melanie Hemry
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
9780768453225. $21.99, 2020, 495 pages

Spiritual Warfare, Prayer, Worldwide Impact, Prophetic and Powerful

Dr. John Benefiel's Binding the Strongman over America and the Nations: Healing the Land, Transferring Wealth and Advancing the Kingdom of God is timely and important reading for all Americans.

Readers will discover Dr. John's strategy for effectively identifying, resisting, and overcoming the iniquity impacting America, the world today, and the steps they can take for impacting their world.

Dr. Benefiel has amazing insight into the spiritual forces, demonic forces, and evil principalities' power. He tells of his personal experiences and the impact of their church in Oklahoma and the Global Prayer Network now reaching around the world.

This revised and updated version of the book is highly endorsed by well-known international Christian leaders. I would like to add my endorsement of Dr. Benefiel's, Binding the Strongman over America and the Nations as an important must-read for every American in preparation.

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

I Hear the Lord Say New Era: Be Prepared, Positioned and Propelled into God's Prophetic Timeline
Lana Vawser
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
9780768454154, $19.95, 238 pages

Prophetic Ministry, Charismatic, Holy Spirit Encounters

Lana Vawser's book "I Hear the Lord Say New Era" calls believers today to "Be prepared, positioned and propelled into God's prophetic timeline." She relates first-hand stories of her encounters with the Holy Spirit to equip others in their role in this age of prophetic history.

A new era of impartation, preparation, dream encounters, and fresh fire of the spirit to equip and strengthen the body of Christ, immersed in His Spirit with a new faith and boldness.

I was particularly blessed by Lana's revelations of living from the "Upper Room" in reaching out to new frontiers and uncharted territories. As I read and became immersed in the teaching of the Holy Spirit - I received a fresh impartation of faith, empowerment, and boldness in an encounter with Jesus.

Well known leaders in the prophet realm describe Lana Vawser as "an example of a true prophet who walks closely with the Lord, intensely and intentionally."

"I Hear the Lord Say New Era: Be Prepared, Positioned and Propelled into God's Prophetic Timeline" is a book for every believer willing to become active in God's prophetic timeline.

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

God's Armor Bearer for the Next Generation
Terry Nance
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
9780768454321, $16.99, 2020, 192 pages

Spiritual Warfare, Spiritual Growth, Generational

Terry Nance has a deeply moving story of ministry. In his book "God's Armor Bearer," Terry relates this story and draws from his experiences to challenge the reader to "be prepared, raised, and ready to step into their kingdom role."

I found Terry's unique forming style, a variation of cataloging and listing themes, action steps, and sequence exciting and helpful. His writing's content and organization fit closely with the "structured" approach I take in my leadership style. This has helped me discover and identify the importance of functioning in God's Kingdom authority and operating in my identity as His son.

I can highly recommend Terry's book to all those seeking to become "God's Armor Bearer for the Next Generation."

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

Creating a Habitation for God's Glory: Becoming a Resting Place for the Power and Presence of the Holy Spirit
Todd Smith
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
9780768454086, $16.99, 2020, 246 pages

God's Visitation from God, His Power, and Presence

"Creating a Habitation for God's Glory" is filled with stories and experiences from Todd's life, Biblical illustrations, examples, and testimonies of others that reveal keys to receiving a visitation from God and experiencing His power and presence. Todd helps the reader grow and mature spiritually by discovering the manifest presence of God and cultivating a lifestyle of operating om His presence and power.

Todd tells the story of his first experience in creating a place in his life for the presence of God to abide. Page after page, concept after concept I followed Todd's story, am applying these principles, and am rejoicing in a deeper experience of God's power and presence.

I can highly recommend to others Todd's challenge to "Become a resting place for the presence of the Holy Spirit."

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

You Can Hear God's Voice
Kevin L. Zadai
Harrison House
9781680315134, $16.99, 2020, 212 Pages

Keys to Finding Abundant Life and Fellowship with God

Dr. Kevin L. Zadai introduces keys important to walking in fellowship with God and living an abundant life with Him daily, by:

Hearing and Recognizing the Sound of His Voice

Encountering Him, Clarifying and Determining His Will

Accessing Your Rights and Benefits as a Believer

Walking and Praying in the discernment and leading of the Holy Spirit

Experiencing the Transformation of a New Life in Christ Jesus

I pray that God will minister to and through my life as I continue to apply these keys to walking in fellowship with God the Father, His Son Jesus, and the promptings of His Holy Spirit in me.

I highly recommend that you read and pursue the supernatural keys to walking in fellowship with your Heavenly Father, as presented in Keven's book "You Can Hear God's Voice."

The Three Cs That Made America Great: Christianity, Capitalism and the Constitution
Mike Huckabee and Steve Feazel
Trilogy Christian Publishers
9781647733049 $19.99

Christianity, Capitalism and the Constitution

After a careful review of the contents, the endorsements, and the introduction, I knew that "The Three Cs That Made America Great: Christianity, Capitalism and the Constitution" was a must-read. I knew I would become better informed and equipped to make my vote count in the coming election.

I was challenged to absorb the contents, explore my personal values, and be more actively involved in making my voice heard to preserve our individual liberty.

The book is made up of three parts. Part one focuses on Christianity during the Colonial time and the founding and subsequent development of our history. Part two looks at Capitalism, how it was endorsed, and contrasted it to Europe's feudal system. Part three looks at the constitution and how it was adopted.

Huckabee writes with clarity, is easy to follow, maintains interest, and encourages involvement and commitment to action.

On a personal note, we are proudly displaying placards on our front lawn, our support and the backing of government representatives that stand behind the three Cs that made America great, Christianity, Capitalism, and the Constitution.

It gives me great pleasure to add my recommendation to other reviewers with a five-star rating.

Throne Room Prophecy: Your Guide to Accurately Discerning the Word of the Lord
Hank Kunneman
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
9780768454543, $21.99, 260 pages

Spiritual Growth, Prophecy, Pentecostal & Charismatic

A significant line came to my attention on the back cover of Hank Kunneman's book "Throne Room Prophecy: Your Guide to Accurately Discerning the Word of the Lord," Now is the time to come up higher and receive the Father's heart and understand the power of Throne room prophecy.

I immediately became eager to learn more of Hank's prophetic revelation, became deeply engrossed in the contents, and knew I would find answers to questions I have been pondering.

Hank carefully unfolds information and instructions on:

The characteristics and differences between false and true prophets

The role of the prophet

Biblical insights into the truth concerning the prophetic

Hank writes with clarity, enables understanding, and articulates, accurately, and encourages the reader to use discernment in important teaching in the realms of the spirit.

Renowned leaders in the realm of prophetic teaching speak highly of Hank's ministry, his teaching, his mentoring, and of his true humility.

"Throne Room Prophecy: Your Guide to Accurately Discerning the Word of the Lord" is an important and complete teaching tool. I hope to dig deeper into each of the truths presented in Hank's timely book.

The Prophet: Creating and Sustaining a Life-Giving Prophetic Culture
James W. Goll
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
9780768450477, $16.99

In his book "The Prophet: Creating and Sustaining a Life-Giving Prophetic Culture," James Goll helps the reader to understand what it means to live in the realm of prophetic sensitivity, and to recognize the four levels of prophetic ministry, and other crucial insight into ministering prophetically.

I have been challenged to keep my focus on Jesus and to exercise my spiritual gifts. I found inspiration and encouragement from the powerful life-transforming prayers at the end of each chapter.

I found the appendices' information especially helpful: These include An extensive list of use of the word Prophecy, practical advice for getting started, suggested books for further reading, and chapter endnotes for additional study and application.

James Goll is known for his God-ordained ministry as a prophet, teacher, and founder of God Encounter Ministries. His book "The Prophet: Creating and Sustaining a Life-Giving Prophetic Culture" is destined to become a modern-day classic, a blueprint for readers to follow to find and operate within their prophetic destiny.

I can highly recommend "The Prophet: Creating and Sustaining a Life-Giving Prophetic Culture" to those involved in the prophetic movement as well as those looking into the ministry of God's prophets in the 21st century.

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

More Grace, More Favor: Releasing the Untapped Power of Humility in Your Life
Andrew Wommack
Harrison House
9781680315233, $19.99, 2020, 240 pages

Spiritual and Personal Growth, Releasing Humility

Andrew Wommack has a unique way of speaking to my heart. His book "More Grace More Favor" is filled with basic truths, insights, soul searching principles, life-changing challenges, and action steps to pursue. The theme of the book centers around the untapped power of "humility" available to the Christian.

Andrew's personal experiences, Biblical insights, and exposition provide life-transforming principles. I found the book refreshing, restoring, and reviving. He describes how all the real heroes of the Bible exemplify humility.

I want to recommend "More Grace, More Favor: Releasing the Untapped Power of Humility in Your Life" to every believer. The book has a vital and timely message for all Christians today.

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

The Assault on America: How to Defend Our Nation Before It's Too Late!
Alex McFarland
Harrison House
9781680317336, $19.99, 2020, 238 Pages

Politics and State, Social Issues - A Call to Revival

I have been alerted and reminded of the reality of our the country's eroding morals, of how we have become a nation of Godless culture and of our declining national spirit as I read Alex McFarland's book "The Assault on America: How to Defend Our Nation Before It's Too Late."

Alex calls on Christians, as individuals, to:

Examine Your Core Values

Know What You Believe

Make Your Voice Heard

Expose the Deception of Culture Wars

Recognize the Peace, Purpose, Love, and Joy of Your Redemption

Expect Some Degree of Persecution

Take a Stand

Fulfill Your Destiny

A stirring epilogue, extensive endnotes and comprehensive appendices add to the timeliness of the book.

I wholeheartedly recommend that every American Christian read "The Assault on America: How to Defend Our Nation Before It's Too Late" and get extra copies to share with non-Christian friends to open doors for discussion, witness, and to impact others with these vital issues.

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

Alert: A Prepper's Guide to the Last Days
James A. Durham
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
9780768458305, $19.99, 2020, 298 pages

Prophecy, Eschatology, Last Days

"Alert: A Prepper's Guide to the Last Days" is James Durham's account of a series of related visions and revelations concerning the role of the believer in preparing for the perilous times of the last days! Through his personal experiences, vision, revelations, Scripture warns, promises and instruction James prepares the reader with guidelines for:

Staying Alert

Discerning Deception

Walking by Faith

Equipping the Saints

Learning from the Best - Yeshua

Occupy Until Jesus Returns

I have been challenged to examine what steps I have, am, and will take in personal preparation for the reality of the end times and the return of the Messiah.

"Alert: A Prepper's Guide to the Last Days "helped me prepare and get ready to occupy the enemy's territory until Christ returns.

Mornings and Evenings in His Presence: A Lifestyle of Daily Encounters with God
Bill & Beni Johnson
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
9780768454703, $26.99, 2020, 400 pages

Devotional, Morning and Evening, Spiritual Growth

Bill and Beni Johnson combine profound teaching with thought-provoking revelations resulting in a deeply devotional, worshipful experience and in a close, loving relationship and intimacy with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The format of the devotionals takes the reader through a natural progression of meditation, a word encouragement, empowerment, in the morning, and words of love and assurance expressed in the words of a Father to His loving child in the evening.

I have been moved to:

Walk in integrity and holiness

To be more sensitive to the needs of those around me

To rely on God's wisdom for my daily decisions

To celebrate simplicity in my lifestyle

To listen more closely to the communication from the Lord

To commit to God's care

To be more grateful for the fullness of my redemption

I am looking forward to following through with the daily mornings and evenings for the rest of 2020 and move right on through 2021 to RISE to each new day and to REST in the love of our Father, God.

Richard R. Blake
Senior Reviewer

S.A. Gorden's Bookshelf

Hit the Road Jack
Willow Rose
B00V9525BC, $3.99 ebook, 2015, 454 pages
9781511529495, paper

Hit the Road Jack is a nice twisty mystery. Unlike many mysteries, Rose has used reasonable logistics for the story. The end is a nice delicious mess. The only significant weakness is the first half of the story. Rose uses multiple storylines to blend later into the mystery. The jumps, between characters and timeframes with the chapter shifts, are abrupt and so significant that it pulls the reader out of the narrative flow.

Single father and detective Jack Ryder is a parent volunteer on a field trip with his youngest children when he is called to a murder scene. A young boy and his children's classmate has called in a murder. His mother has been killed and partially dismembered and his father has been found semiconscious and drugged. A serial killer has been stalking Cocoa Beach for decades and has finally made a mistake.

Hit the Road Jack is an easy to recommend mystery thriller. The whole story is well constructed. As noted earlier, the only weakness is the disjointed first half of the story. The remainder of the book is excellent. Willow Rose is an author to look for if you enjoy mystery thrillers. Her character development and plotlines are rich and detailed.

Calculated Deception: The Calculated Series: Book 1
K.T. Lee
Vertical Line Publishing Services LLC
B075LVXBSX, $0.00 ebook, 2017, 260 pages
9781947870000, paper

Calculated Deception is a rarity. It is a cozy, thriller, mystery and romance all at the same time. The story is well plotted with no logical problems. The only slipping from the possible is the extreme independence and support from the FBI. No bureaucratic agency would permit subordinates so much freedom and support without triplicate paperwork and days of delay. But this fictional deflection from reality doesn't distract from the story but actually makes the cozy work.

Dr. Ree Ryland has been unknowingly receiving restricted missile components. A terrorist working in another engineering department at the university she teaches at has been mislabeling the components to her office as a stop between him and restricted parts. Since her name is on the packing slips, the FBI starts its investigation into the missile parts with her.

FBI agent Parker Landon pretends to be a student in her class to discover if or how she is involved with the missile parts. Unfortunately, or fortunately, for him, she is sharp enough to figure out what is going on. The FBI investigative team is forced to use her as a source at the university to discover who is the terrorist. Parker and Ree have an immediate romantic attraction which adds a layer of complexity to the investigation. Ree surprises the FBI team with her skills and they are forced to accept her help breaking up a lethal terrorist team.

Calculated Deception is an easy recommendation. It is a smooth well-paced romantic thriller that is more than enough for anyone who isn't addicted to continuous action. The biggest problem for the reader is deciding when to get the next book in the series.

S.A. Gorden, Senior Reviewer

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

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