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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 20, Number 11 November 2021 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

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

Able Greenspan's Bookshelf

Death of a Whale
Captain Paul Watson
Groundswell Books
9781570674013, $19.95, PB, 256pp

Synopsis: "Death of a Whale: The Challenge of Anti-Whaling Activists and Indigenous Rights " by Captain Paul Watson presents an inherently fascinating and informative narrative about a historic dispute involving cultural entitlement, the sovereignty of whales, and international whaling agreements. This compelling, in-depth account documents how Sea Shepherd Conservation Society fights to defend and protect whales and other aquatic marine mammals from human predators who hunt and murder then under the false pretense of Indigenous rights. In the process of discharging its duties, the organization has created global enemies and allies and, by necessity, has put its staff and vessels in harm's way.

Reading like an electrifying adventure tale, "Death of a Whale" is a true-life logbook that reveals how members of one community, the Makah (located on Washington's Olympic peninsula), attempted to circumvent international whaling laws by invoking outmoded cultural entitlements for the sole purpose of killing, rather than for sustenance or survival. Tribal members, conservationists, and non-Indigenous Americans representing disparate points of view on the cultural appropriation of whaling rights contributed to the highly charged atmosphere of this incident.

Impressively detailed and documented, the narrative account replays the events as they unfolded. Throughout, Captain Watson's deep respect for Indigenous traditions and rights never waver, even when they conflict with his own devotion to the sovereignty of whales.

Critique: A compelling, informative, exceptionally well presented, and thought-provoking read throughout, "Death of a Whale: The Challenge of Anti-Whaling Activists and Indigenous Rights" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library Oceanic Environmental Studies, Whaling History, and Indigenous Peoples Social Issues collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, environmentalists, indigenous peoples rights activists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Death of a Whale: The Challenge of Anti-Whaling Activists and Indigenous Rights" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Captain Paul Watson is a Canadian/American marine conservation environmentalist. A direct descendent of Chief Henri Membertou (1490-1560) of the Mi?kmaq First Nations, Captain Watson was born in Toronto and raised in the fishing community of St. Andrews-by-The Sea, New Brunswick. One of the founding members and directors of Greenpeace, in 1977 he left Greenpeace and founded Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. He later became familiar to the public through Animal Planet's television show Whale Wars. He is the author or coauthor of over a dozen books on his life as an activist, the environment, and Sea Shepherd's numerous campaigns to defend marine wildlife. His most recent release coauthored with Tiffany Humphrey is Orcapedia: A Guide to the Victims of the International Orca Slave Trade (GroundSwell Books, 2020).

Able Greenspan

Diane Donovan's Bookshelf

Chasing the Darkness
Cassie Sanchez
Morgan James Publishing
9781631956096 $17.95

In Chasing the Darkness, Azrael, the Angel of Death, has become Pandaren's most powerful assassin. He is fueled not only by a passion for his job of destroying anyone with magic, but the determination to locate and kill a particular Fire Spectral who changed his life.

Ironically, the pursuit of his greatest goal leads Azrael to become the very thing he despises the most. When an experiment gone awry gives him magical abilities but accompanies them with chaotic forces, Azrael finds his new abilities change his alliances, purpose, and life. This brings him full circle to accept help from those he once viewed as his mortal enemies.

The twists and turns in Chasing the Darkness are simply delightful as Azrael reconsiders everything he knew about the world and his motivation for being a soulless murderer.

He can't be an effective murderer when he begins to question his soul. And so Azrael embarks on a new series of confrontations, alongside new compatriots. His revised attitude even surprises those who'd expected something far different from his changed position: "Do you have a plan?" Kord said, kneeling next to him, blowing into his hands. "Yes, but let's wait for the others to see what they have to say." Kord lifted a brow. "What?" Azrael said. "Just figured you'd take command and expect people to follow." Azrael shrugged. "A good leader isn't afraid to hear other opinions."

Readers who like stories about sword-and-sorcery fantasy worlds where the hero is deeply flawed and transforms from evil to good; where love is a new possibility and redemption a driving purpose to life and justifying one's actions; and where physical form, magic, and the desire for a life of love sometimes overwhelms larger purposes will find Chasing the Darkness compelling.

Its ability to set up characters for given roles, then change their psyches and abilities mid-story, lends it an attraction missing from the typical sword-and-sorcery romance piece, fueling a series of engagements in which disparate loners forge new ties to become friends, family, and more.

Fantasy readers are in for a treat.

The Woods of Hitchcock
Ann W. Jarvie
JazzComm Publishing
9780578932002, $29.00 Hardcover; $16.99 Paper; $4.99 Kindle

Thriller readers with a special affinity for horses, psychic investigations, and murder will find The Woods of Hitchcock a captivating, engrossing story. It's set in South Carolina, where a southern girl working in Chicago returns to her beloved home, only to find that angst and danger have followed her from the city streets into her rural haven.

Suzanne Clayborn's reading of her grandmother's manuscript uncovers eerie facts about her family's heritage and hidden involvements in supernatural affairs. This dovetails nicely with her own psychic abilities, fostering new understandings that explain much about not only her past, but abilities she never wanted or completely accepted in the first place.

The first thing to note about Suzanne's story is that it reaches beyond her psyche to embrace and explore the lives of many different peoples around her, who support and reflect her world in unusual ways: "Pivoting, he rode ahead of her, creating a tunnel of light that would lead them home, like he'd done so many times before. Suzanne smiled, feeling the love of a drunk who sometimes came through for her, usually when she least expected it."

With grandmother Henrietta's words and wisdom as her guide, Suzanne begins to hone and fine-tune the powers that not only will change her life, but reinforce her return home, her sanctuary, and her newfound connections to her community. The spiritual inspections are particularly interesting as these processes of self-discovery are revealed: "I've worked hard to make this estate a sacred sanctuary of light, love, and peace." Suzanne turned back to her grandmother. "How have you done that?" "By following the advice of Buddha and Jesus." "Oh? I was expecting you to say Bears Repeating," Suzanne said with a laugh. "Where do you think he got it from?" Henrietta giggled. "Ha!" "Buddha taught us how to claim our power, space, and our God-given right to be self-sovereign," Henrietta said. "And Jesus taught us how to go within to connect with God and forgive others seventy times seven. In doing so, we're able to establish healthy boundaries for our personal sanctuaries."

It's unusual to find such spiritual reflections in the guise of a thriller that weaves paranormal and psychological tension into its murder mystery, but Ann W. Jarvie achieves this with a fine attention to detail and depth on many different levels.

This means that readers anticipating a murder mystery or thriller alone receive the added value of a spiritual and psychological inspection in the story of a young woman just beginning to fall into her heart's desire in a new life and world: "What an incredible solution! It was a beautiful blending of her old creative life and what felt like her new life's mission unfolding. Or as Gran would've said: What a beautiful synchronicity! Suddenly, she saw the big picture of it. And it felt glorious."

Readers seeking a multifaceted story that moves beyond the 'thriller' label and into arenas packed with psychological inspection and growth will find The Woods of Hitchcock excels in an evolving sense of place and purpose that places it a cut above most thriller adventures: "Because of the nightmares in my life, I was finally able to know who I am, accept my God-given psychic and creative abilities with gratitude, and start using them correctly, which, in effect, has solved my own life's riddle," she said."

Suzanne's evolutionary growth makes for a thoroughly engrossing story that's hard to put down.

Morning Puppa
P. Anastasia
Jackal Moon Press
9781952425028, $18.99 Hardcover
9781952425004, $12.99 Paper

Australian Shepherd dog Puppa likes nothing better than a warm cup of tea in his favorite mug, in the mornings. When he discovers that cup missing, one day, he decides to ask his crocodile friend Matcha to help him recover the purloined porcelain.

But, mysteriously, Matcha is also is monkey Earl, and his other friends.

Why are so many beloved things vanishing from Puppa's life? Even food has gone missing, and his tummy is rumbling.

P. Anastasia does a fine job of building the dilemma and tension in a picture book story that presents Puppa's startling discoveries in what must be the worst morning of his life.

Zoe Saunders brings her story to life with large-size, colorful, whimsical illustrations that keep kids and read-aloud parents engaged and wondering about the outcome of Puppa's terrible day.

A mystery, an adventure, and a warm-hearted story of a problem-solving pup contribute to a gentle tale that kids will find absorbing and fun.

King of Thieves
Kevin Casebier
Vinings House Press
9781737771616, $14.95

Historical fiction fans will find King of Thieves: Tailor, Smuggler, Spy is based on the true story of Christian Andreas Kasebier. It opens in Prague in 1757, where the first-person narrator gazes down upon a city his beloved King Frederick has just conquered.

Christian Andreas Kasebier was once a king himself, famous throughout Prussia by his nickname "The King of Thieves." Robbing from the rich to become wealthy while giving to the poor, Kasebier's notoriety earned him a reputation for cunning that reached even the king's ears and helped stay his execution when he was finally caught.

Freed from years of prison to employ his craft in the service of King Frederick, Kasebier is determined to fulfill his duties to the king and regain a normal semblance of life. Is freedom too much to ask for?

As readers learn how Christian becomes the notorious King of Thieves, one of the most infamous criminals in Prussian history, they absorb the sights, sounds, and politics and social order of the times through Christian's eyes and experiences.

Kevin Casebier is particularly adept at capturing these times and their influences. His descriptions of prison experiences, political choices, and friendships that both endanger and support those involved in subterfuge and action add to a riveting story that requires no prior familiarity with Prussian history or the King of Thieves in order to be accessible: "Weeks became months, and while the situation with

Olbrecht did not improve, I at least became used to Stettin. There was so much to despise: the cold, the smell, the food, the lack of space. And yet, I did admire how the other 'lifers' made the best of such an awful situation; and their ways helped Curt Richter and I to cope."

From soldiers to watchmen and outright criminal behaviors, Casebier captures the interests and events that change lives as Christian navigates his world with constant threats to achieving his desire of a "simple, settled life."

The politics and battles of the time come to life in a series of escapades that place Christian at the pivot point of many social changes. Readers will enjoy a vivid story which captures a sense of the times and the family and struggles which lead Christian to understand that the Austrians are simply protecting their land from invasion.

1700s Bohemia comes to life in a manner that keeps readers both engaged and educated by a story that follows one notable man's choices and struggles. Historical fiction collections should consider King of Thieves: Tailor, Smuggler, Spy a notable acquisition for its vivid re-creation of the times.

Hao and Sabine Buy the World's Currencies
SB Hilarion
Independently Published
9780578932781, $48.95

Hao and Sabine Buy the World's Currencies is a global trot through the world's currencies that provides all ages with insights not into the usual valuation details of money, but the main motifs of money and how countries choose designs for their banknotes and coins.

The characters who populate this journey aren't just Trinbagonian residents nine-year-old Hao Finley Lee and his younger sister Sabine Yi Lee, but include an astronaut, a millionaire, a museum curator and a chef, and even a "fairy."

The currency-purchasing adventure that Hao and Sabine embark upon follows them through different countries around the world as they uncover geographical and numismatic facts.

Sidebars with quotes and data and an intensely visual format enhance the wealth of information on places, peoples, history, and currency development that are packed into this book.

Good-sized color photos of the fronts and backs of selected world currencies are accompanied by explanations of their design and the choices that went into the final product.

Adults (as well as middle grades and older) will find that Hao and Sabine Buy the World's Currencies requires slow reading to fully absorb. It would be daunting, were it not for the compelling illustrations throughout, the use of sidebars to impart quotes and other details, and Sabine, Hao, and others' insights.

More than the usual discussion of world history and currency, Hao and Sabine Buy the World's Currencies imparts facts in a lively manner that supplements many insights with the give-and-take of family members and others who navigate this world's diverse cultures ("The food here in Vietnam is sooooo good!" - SY, drinking pho (a traditional flat rice noodle soup)

"Uh-huh! I'm really liking this bun ch *. Mummy, Daddy, thanks for getting us also some new non-las." - HF

"You're welcome. I hope the original artworks that we just bought will arrive home without damage." - Mummy

"Don't forget the soy sauce and vermicelli from Cu Da Village." - SY").

The result is a wide-ranging account that demands much in the way of absorbing history, but provides solid returns with an unusual format that lends to attention-grabbing insights.

Hao and Sabine Buy the World's Currencies is highly recommended for all ages interested not just in money or its history, but in different cultures.

A Final Call
Eliot Parker
Headline Books
9781951556662, $19.95

Readers of Eliot Parker's Code for Murder who longed for more now have their wishes granted with A Final Call, a Stacy Tavitt story that revolves around police investigators Stacy and Austin's latest probe, which holds a personal note from the start.

Stacy is a savvy investigator who stays one step ahead of the perps she pursues: "Her instincts kicked in. The gunshots coming from the front of the house were a diversion to keep the police from gaining entrance. Stacy knew that if Brandon Dearfield oversaw his crew, he knew the way to catch the police by surprise in these situations was to hide in the shadows and use deceit whenever possible."

She also has a problem. She's confronting fellow cop Brandon, who doesn't have much to lose. As she tries to uncover the truth about special interests, what really happened to Chance, and cops and bad guys involved with each other, the tension mounts.

From exploding safe houses to igniting hearts, Eliot Parker is especially adept at capturing action and emotion, entwining the two in a gripping story that profiles motivation, intrigue, and matters of the heart alike.

The Cleveland Police Department procedurals are realistically narrated and come to life, as does the adrenaline of an investigation that holds many twists, turns, and challenges for Stacy's world.

From decisions that influenced Chance's imprisonment to the threats that place Stacy's life in the balance, the story is fast-paced and hard to put down.

Parker takes the time to build a cast of characters, motivations, and connections that are designed to keep readers both informed and guessing about outcomes and interconnected interests.

As a sequel to Code for Murder, Stacy's routines and perspective continues to grow. As a stand-alone mystery, A Final Call needs no prior familiarity in order to prove thoroughly engrossing, riveting, and filled with surprises and nonstop action from beginning to end.

Linda Gruenberg
Kenda Press
9789198631708, $13.99

If Hummer sounds familiar, that's because this is the 30th Anniversary re-launch of a middle-grade children's story that was nominated for both the Mark Twain Award and the Golden Sowers Award. Its appearance with a bright new cover, new pencil drawings, and newly revised writing will reach contemporary audiences with a story just as winning as it was when it was originally published.

Twelve-year-old Hummer's home life is anything but stable. From a mentally ill mother and a pigsty of a home to a father who lives in their barn, only the presence of a runaway Arabian horse enters her life as a potentially positive event.

The horse that she's named Fox belongs to Old Man Riley, who normally wouldn't let anyone touch his prized animal. But as Hummer places her hopes and impossible dreams on her new find, her life begins to change: "Everything would probably start solving itself with Fox around, Hummer thought. Leona would surely start coming out of the house again to watch Hummer ride, and Virgil would want to take them to horse shows."

Between what is fantasy and impossible and what can become a new reality lie hopes and dreams that Hummer cultivates successfully. This process, plus descriptions of her life on the farm, comes to life in a warm story that is delightful in its realistic scenarios and characters.

Linda Gruenberg explores Hummer's struggles with family mental illness, dysfunction, and her own role in the world. Hummer's horse-loving personality succeeds in confronting many things around her, and these facets also emerge as middle grade readers receive a realistic story of challenges and changes.

It's easy to see why Hummer was nominated for awards. Gruenberg's winning story of a young girl's determination to succeed against all odds, Hummer's unusual friendship with a gruff old man challenged to go against his nature, and her ability to see the good in adversity makes this more than another story of a horse-crazy girl, but a compelling tale of success that proves hard to put down.

Its reappearance in new form for new generations is to be celebrated as Hummer makes the kinds of choices that lead to unexpectedly positive results against all odds. It's the kind of success story young people especially need today more than ever.

Stella Peabody's Wild Librarian Bakery and Bookstore: A Novel-in-Stories
Stacy Russo
Wild Librarian Press
9781737675907, $16.95 Paperback/$10.99 E-book

The problem in too many novels is that they represent weighty reading for busy readers or those with short attention spans. That's one reason why Stella Peabody's Wild Librarian Bakery and Bookstore: A Novel-in-Stories will prove appealing to a broader audience than most. It cultivates a delicious blend of stories and recipes which lend to succinct bites of tasty reading.

The Wild Librarian Bakery & Bookstore is an imaginary place populated by fictional characters and real recipes, in this book. The recipes have all been tested and range from "Magical Day Muffins" to "Scandalous Strawberry Cupcakes" and "Poet's Beer Bread."

Part of the magic of the story lies in the culinary descriptions peppered throughout, but the main attraction reposes in characters that sparkle in their daily lives and observations about growth and change: "Mary slept in the next morning with her cat Dr. Freud curled up against the small of her back. She made coffee and went out to sit under her avocado tree. Instead of reading the newspaper or a few pages from a book as she usually did, she sat with her bare feet in the grass, picking yellow paint off a corner of the chair, and looking toward the house. Dr. Freud was sitting at the French doors watching her. She looked at the Mexican tiles in the garden path until she found her favorite one of the crescent moon. She got up and knelt down on the ground, placing her hand flat on it. The tile was already warming up from the morning sun. Mary looked at her hand. It seemed weathered, old. "Had it looked like this for awhile?" she wondered. "What else about my body has changed?"

A sense of whimsy blends nicely with the ingredients of solid characterization and good reads much in the manner of a cozy mystery, but without the intrigue portion the only power in the tale. "Cozy" is brought to life in the descriptions, evolutionary processes, and book-and-food-based world of characters that revolve around books and/or food in different ways.

From new recipes "inspired by adventure" to travels that result in new shared stories to spark imagination and change, a bookstore's commitment to community, baking, and love translates to vignettes about individuals who are changed not just by the store's presence, but by its varied offerings.

Book and food enthusiasts alike will find much to relish in

Stella Peabody's Wild Librarian Bakery and Bookstore: A Novel-in-Stories. As its characters and world evolves, so does a sense of joie de vivre that inspires art in various forms, pays tribute to women's lives, and centers on the powers of imagination, questions, and cultivating creative fun in peoples' lives.

Stella Peabody's Wild Librarian Bakery and Bookstore's delight resides in its delicious sense of community and depiction of women's connections. It will reach its appealing aroma into the minds and hearts of readers that enjoy good books, tasty recipes, and compelling stories alike.

How to Bury Your Dog
Eva Silverfine
Black Rose Writing
9781684338214, $18.95

Fiction readers who enjoy growth stories will find How to Bury Your Dog offers a satisfying blend of small-town experience and environmental concerns.

It follows the experiences of animal rescuer Lizzy, who faces the sad prospect of putting down her long-term charge, basset hound Happy.

Lizzy faces many changes, both to her environment as developers move in to threaten it, and to her familiar world as friendships and life change.

She lives alone, close to nature, and is a blood tech in a hospital. Her staid life also is subject to comments from friends who are concerned about her trajectory: "Lizzy, you sure have forgotten something - you're alive. I don't want to sound trite or insensitive, but you need a new life plan."

What that life plan will be when she is already busy burying many things around her evolves into a story of transformation.

Readers will be especially pleased at the time taken to depict long-term relationships of all kinds, and how Lizzy grows away from her habits and comfort zone to contemplate new relationships and life purposes.

The small town setting, environmental concerns, and intersections between the lure of developer interests and a rural area's bounty makes for an intriguing story presented on different levels, from the personal to the political.

The burial of Happy lends another puzzle piece into an evolving war in a story replete in thought-provoking moments that embrace visions, revised outcomes, and a newfound appreciation for the environment.

Readers seeking a story about connections between individuals, communities, and the forces of special interest that challenge them will find How to Bury Your Dog an outstanding story of transformation. It weaves through different themes to arrive at an unexpected resolution that brings closure to a seemingly insurmountable problem.

A Better Heart
Chuck Augello
Black Rose Writing
9781684338269, $18.85

The last thing indie filmmaker Kevin Stacey expected was to become involved in animal rights issues. But, in A Better Heart, that's exactly what happens when his estranged father shows up on his doorstep sporting a gun and a monkey that has been liberated from a laboratory.

The second-to-last thing Kevin wanted was a relationship with his father. Or a monkey. But as he becomes more involved in the complex dilemmas of both, Kevin begins to grow on unexpected levels that hold ramifications not just for their father/son relationship, but his ability to change his life.

A road trip both brings them together and reinforces their differences. Chuck Augello presents these with a wry dose of humor that excels in tongue-and-cheek observations beyond the normal family road trip experience: "In three hours we've gone exactly forty-five miles, the only "America" on view being the rusted back fender of the Ford Taurus in front of us and the yellow Roadwork signs spaced every hundred yards as a reminder of why exactly we're in gridlock Hell. In the backseat Henry plays with a tangerine, content to rub his fingers over the smooth rind. He's strapped into a car seat, dressed in blue overalls, and any onlookers would assume he's my son, his grandfather in the passenger seat, three generations on the drive back to grandmother's house for dinner."

Ironic satire and comic relief permeate this uncertain journey to add levity into a rollicking adventure that revolves around protecting Henry and redeeming family relationships. During the process, rifts are addressed and repaired in many different ways.

Film references throughout keep the cultural backdrop and components alive while adding atmosphere and insights to the evolving story: "Maybe I'm wrong, but if we're going to help Henry, we need a leap of faith." My father nods. "Like Butch and Sundance, right? The leap off the mountain top?" I know the scene - a great one - in which Dad's so-called buddy Redford confesses that he can't swim, but he and Butch leap into the river anyway. And survive, inexplicably. Should I tell Dad that, like Sundance, I can't swim either, having grown up without a father to teach me?"

Between the intrigue, the moral and ethical conundrums, a more personal experience of animal rights issues, and a father/son road trip that brings with it new opportunities, Augello creates a solid psychological and social examination. The tale embraces movie rights, individual rights, and choices and their consequences. These diverse subplots and themes will resonate with different readers.

Think Kerouac's On the Road, but with contemporary social and relationship inspections. Add in film industry insider experiences; a son's desire for fame and connections; intrigue and escapes; and philosophical life inspections. The result is a fun, literary story that offers many sweeping lessons about the road to a better heart that will linger in the reader's mind long after the story ends.

"I thought all I was doing back then was making an easy buck," he says, "and it wound up changing our lives. I've met so many legends...Mr. Hitchcock, Peter Fonda, Bob Redford..." "Dad..." "Who would have thought the most memorable would turn out to be a monkey?"

Deven Greene
Black Rose Writing
9781684337934, $19.95

Unwitting is the second book in the Erica Rosen MD trilogy, and opens with the physician facing the aftermath of a suicide bomber who detonates in a large stadium crowd in San Francisco.

How and why does a doctor become involved in an investigation like this? Because a teacher of autistic men, afraid of contacting authorities, chooses Erica as a confessional alternative because of her well-known background working with special needs children.

Dr. Rosen also has a personal stake in the investigation because her clinic and her condo are located quite near to the explosion at the Willie Mays Gate at Oracle Park, affecting her home and business alike. It turns out that an autistic man does hold the key to identifying the perp...if she can use her skills to get him to talk.

Newcomers to Dr. Rosen's life need not worry that familiarity with prior events may be a prerequisite to enjoying Unwitting. Deven Greene inserts a recap of the Chinese affair into the story to provide a seamless background on Dr. Rosen's China adventure which led her to meet her future husband Lim, setting the stage neatly for the perspectives and reactions in this story.

This is important because some characters from past events re-emerge in the present-day dilemma.

Charged with not only preventing future bombings but protecting the autistic man who holds the only clues to future safety, Dr. Rosen faces numerous conundrums, both ethical and personal, as she employs her skills to prevent more tragedies.

Greene's ability to bring the characters, the San Francisco setting, and murder challenges and investigations to life enhances a realistic story that proves hard to put down.

It can be challenging to weave past and present situations in such a way that newcomers don't feel left behind, but Greene achieves this in a manner that won't put off prior fans, engrossing all her readers in a story that rests as much upon psychological revelations as it does upon logical investigations and past experience.

Surprising outcomes, twists of plot, and the interplays between Rosen and her husband Lim and the autistic Zaron, who becomes part of their lives create perfect tension. It evolves nicely in the course of a medical thriller that should attract Robin Cook fans with its special form of medical conundrums paired with psychological inspection and investigative revelations.

Readers interested in a well-balanced murder mystery and explorations of scientific process will find Unwitting just the ticket for a tale steeped in an autistic client's abilities and disabilities.

Dark Side of Memory
Tessa Bridal
Invisible Ink
9781736938607 $16.99 paperback, $9.99 ebook

Maybe it's because author Tessa Bridal was born and raised in Uruguay, leaving the country at age 20 as military oppression began to take over. Or, perhaps it's her evocative writing as she combines memories of past with a return visit that brings alive the perils and plights of a people living under repeated oppression.

Whatever the reasons, Dark Side of Memory: Uruguay's Disappeared Children and the Families That Never Stopped Searching is a powerful story of Uruguay and its neighbors that should be part of any collection strong in South American history and culture.

The story opens, as Bridal returns to her homeland, with a rich observation: "As deep and as wide as the sorrow its people have endured is the river that separates Buenos Aires from its small neigh-bor, Montevideo. As the plane banked preparatory to its descent into Montevideo Airport, I saw the Rio de la Plata below me and remembered how during the summer months of December, January, and February, thousands of Argentines would leave their sprawling capital and cross the R-o de la Plata to bask on the golden sands of Uruguay's beaches."

In the course of exploring the rivers, streams, and scenes of her childhood and the nation, Bridal blends a deeply passionate affection for her people with an analytical study of the nation's heartbeat that mirrors her own ongoing connections to its event.

She outlines the reason for this introspection and inspection from the beginning: "I was twenty years old when my family decided to immigrate to the United States. I cried from the moment we boarded the Pan American flight until we were well on our way to Washington DC, at which point I finally fell asleep. I remember most poignantly the effort to adjust to what at the time felt like insurmountable cultural differences...As a means of mourning, of celebrating, and of escaping into the familiar, I began writing fictional stories, published later in two novels set in Uruguay. Now I was returning to interview the families of four of the Uruguayan children who disappeared during the Cold War years, when Uruguay's democracy, one of the oldest in Latin America, fell to a military dictatorship, along with the democracies of Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Guatemala, Panama and Honduras. Resistance movements existed in all these countries, and each had a story to tell."

And, such a story it is! It requires no prior familiarity with the nation or even South American history, politics, or culture in order to prove immediately gripping.

As events progress, the standout themes of survival against all odds shine through various interviews that capture the experiences of revolutionaries and ordinary people alike. Exceptionally moving are the stories of not just surviving atrocities, but efforts to improve the legacy being passed on to future generations as present-day people rebel against their bonds: "By now, Sara thought, she should have become inured to horror. She had chosen the path of revolution, but somehow, events had spun out of control. It was one thing to confront soldiers and policemen; to destroy a few political targets; even, painful as it was, to accept the occasional accidental death of an innocent bystander. But the extent of the violence that had been unleashed against the revolu-tionaries was incomprehensible to her."

From politics both internal and influenced by other nations to Uruguay and Argentina's revolutions and struggles, Bridal captures the special impact of economic, military, political, and social strife on the everyday people of these nations.

Her compelling interviews chart the search not just for those children and adults who disappeared with only hints of their fates, but broken individuals and families who regroup to try to assemble broken lives lived under ongoing political changes.

As Bridal's interviews and stories traverse different generations and their experiences, readers gain a new sense of the region's influences and the fractured relationships that operate on different levels.

Anyone interested in the ongoing connection between political and social forces of change must read Dark Side of Memory. These families never give up...and never stop hoping.

Readers will never stop, either. This story is a powerful choice not just for memoir and South American history collections, but for any library strong in family experience and the lasting psychological impact of political tides of change on present and future generations.

Deadly Serious
A. J. Thibault
Encircle Publications
9781645991847, $26.99 Hardcover, $16.99 Paper, $4.99 ebook

Suspense, mystery, and thriller genre readers should prepare for a treat, because Deadly Serious is as deadly grave about stand-up comic Dan Goodis and his determination to solve a puzzle as it is about his probe into a hermit scientist's murder and his CIA father's mercurial life.

When Dan inadvertently comes to possess a secret code given to him by the physicist before he dies, he becomes as determined to learn its secrets as he was to hone comedy as a professional career.

Goodis is forty...long past the prime age for conducting an active investigation with a fresh young mind. Perhaps this and his unique background are the best preparations for the strange circumstances he's about to enter into, because they are well beyond his comfort zone to test his problem-solving abilities and friendships alike.

A comedian would seem a relatively simple target for a seasoned Russian assassin intent on taking revenge for Dan's role in his brother's death. Think again. Dan leads his would-be killer on a merry chase and stumbles from one situation into another in the course of his attempts to solve an increasingly dangerous puzzle that changes not just his life, but everyone around him...including new lover Lauren.

Life is funny. Dan never expected the events and coincidences that would lead him to a violent confrontation on his own property: "If Dan had known where this would lead, he never would have left teaching, bought a dog, or gone jogging, and he never would have met Lauren."

George Aiken is a career spy also in his mid-forties. As Dan and George's lives become entwined, black comedy winds into the mystery with struggles Dan never could have imagined for his life, carrying readers into a cat-and-mouse game of subterfuge, confrontation, and different types of predators even as he navigates his uncertain relationship with Lauren.

Is Lauren a friend or foe? Why has she been lying?

Dan is forced to reconsider not only his new romance, but the courses of his life and the motivations of those around him as he begins to realize he's in too deep to walk away unscathed.

A. J. Thibault takes the time to fully explore Dan's psyche, evolving life, and motivations for taking on and biting off more than he can chew.

His concurrent concerns with the mystery, the increasing threats, and his personal struggles with life and growth nicely accent the story's intriguing twists and turns as he, like Br'er Rabbit, stumbles deeper and deeper into pitfalls with seemingly no choice but to forge ahead.

The tension is exquisite. The juxtapositions between daily life concerns and the special circumstances of violence that the puzzle introduces, and the combination of perspectives between Dan and Lauren as she comes to understand she's involved with both a rising star and a dangerous man, make for a delightful dance between psychological examination and action.

The result is a mystery/thriller that will be enticing to genre fans as well as fiction readers who want an absorbing story of budding career, romance, and the conundrums a forty-something man faces over the choices that impact his world.

The Experience of Leadership
Fred Stuvek, Jr.
Triumvirate Press
9781732306073 $14.99

The Experience of Leadership: Proven Examples from Successful Leaders is a collection of stories that exemplify the traits, approaches, and insights of successful leadership. It should appear in any military, business, or self-help library as a study in contrasts of achievement, and is also recommended for a wide age range of young adult readers into adult circles.

Fred Stuvek, Jr. selected fifteen individuals whose stories reflect a diverse array of personal experiences and achievements. Don't expect to find any of these names familiar. These are profiles of common courage and everyday example, and while the individuals are highly respected leaders in their own sectors, they aren't necessarily at national recognition levels.

Introductory pages outline concepts that set this book's subjects and their approaches apart from the usual emphasis on leadership traits: "Many theories of leadership focus on the leader, emphasizing physical traits such as height or bearing and personality traits such as charisma or energy. Such traits are clearly assets for someone who aspires to lead an organization. But, by focusing on the leader and not the people to be led, this perspective misses the point."

The point is that effective leadership goes beyond charisma. It embraces deliberate responses to adversity, setting examples that foster respect rather than trying to teach by admonition and showing how management skills can be used to disseminate and share responsibilities in a manner that encourages followers to step up to become leaders in their own right, rather than simply followers.

Each contribution comes from a different sector of experience, and offers another piece of the larger picture of what it means to lead effectively.

The diversity of these examples and the passion of each contributor as they explain their unique approaches and the results they have gained in comparison to other leaders supports a collection that is a powerful study in contrasts.

Effective leaders grow other leaders, "paying it forward" in a way that keeps the benefits flowing not just from them, but through those that they influence.

By grounding ideals in proven experience, The Experience of Leadership creates a foundation for understanding a process that takes different forms in those of different backgrounds; but ultimately feeds back to one central theme: real leadership is about more than simply providing support and direction. It's about growing a new generation of leaders, in turn.

The Experience of Leadership is essential to this process.

Hope Disappearing
Sherman Haggerty
Izzard Ink Publishing
9781642280685, $27.95 Hardcover, $19.95 Paper, $9.99 Kindle

Hope Disappearing: A Population Left Behind is a study in homelessness and social issues that should be on the shelves of any collection strong in local and federal housing issues.

It documents the events of 2017, when some 200 homeless people waiting for a place in a transitional housing program were suddenly jettisoned from this possibility. They were left to their own devices due to a federal program's policy change and abrupt termination.

The irony was - there was already an established, supportive community program in place performing much-needed services to help the homeless transition to employment and housing. It changed the lives of thousands who successfully participated in it.

Years of experience at this proven, successful model went down the drain as Northern California's Mather Community Campus lost federal support and became just another shelter, ultimately costing the community much more money while providing only temporary respite rather than the permanent solutions it had so successfully fostered over the years.

One might think Mather's experience is an isolated example, but actually, it's only the tip of the iceberg of federal policy changes and their devastating impacts, as Sherman Haggerty documents in Hope Disappearing.

If there's one thing to evolve from this book, it should be a sense of outrage. Outrage that proven-successful transitional programs to help the homeless have fallen upon the axe of political policy-making games; fury that those homeless who wish to change their lives have diminishing opportunities and support systems to do so; and anger that the issues Mather experienced mirror a broader problem reverberating throughout communities all around America.

Haggerty, too, is outraged; yet he takes the time to clarify his opinions and perspectives, cementing them to the wealth of facts he uncovers: "My view (and it is mine alone) is that there has been a focused effort to replace VOA (Volunteers of America) on all of the county contracts for programs where they were providing homeless services. There is no option for recourse when situations like this happen with government agencies. All the power, money, and direction are fully controlled on that side of the ledger and out of the public view."

He also strives to present different perspectives on the issues and processes which he highlights. This lends a more balanced feel to the story...and to, perhaps, an even greater sense of outrage.

Haggerty's experience operating local homeless programs adds more authority and insider insights to the equation than any outside reporter could have achieved.

America's homeless - especially those who would re-enter life off the streets - are being systematically and deliberately thrown under the bus by policy changes at the federal level.

Hope Disappearing testifies about this process on their behalf. It should be in any social issues collection as a powerful analysis of transitional housing models and the political forces behind them, either supporting them or closing them down.

It keeps its finger on the pulse of vanishing opportunities and ultimately points out why America has a "homeless problem" it can't seem to solve: "Placing individuals with these co-occurring disorders into housing without intensive services only touches the surface of the deep-seated issues facing most chronically homeless people."

Dear Heroin
Linda Morrison
Wise Ink
9781634894203, $15.99

Dear Heroin, a "Memoir of Goodbyes," is highly recommended reading for anyone living alongside someone caught in the web of a substance use disorder (addiction) or in the aftermath of one's death by suicide. It documents Linda Morrison's four-year struggles with her son Michael, a heroin addict.

Addiction changed not just her son, but her entire family's lives. His death by suicide did not end the suffering, but expanded it to new realms as Morrison struggled to find resolution and build a new life in the aftermath of devastation. Anyone who has a loved one addicted to a substance will find, in Dear Heroin, a resonating pulse of pain as Michael's story unfolds.

Also contained within its pages is the supportive approach of family and friends and a relationship with God which all provided strength and help during impossible times.

The title of Dear Heroin refers to an actual letter Michael wrote in the throes of trying to divorce himself from his drug of choice. It's a moving testimony to a process that began in high school with an addiction that moved from OxyContin to deadlier substances.

As Morrison embarked on a long road to recognizing her beloved son's addictive tendencies and downward spiral, she transmits this process to audiences who will find her book a moving story of failed treatments, ongoing cycles of relapse, heartbreak, and lessons on how families facing similar circumstances can recognize the danger signs of addiction and know what can be done to help. Sprinkled throughout the book are times of sobriety when Morrison hopes he will stay on the path of recovery.

Morrison's anguish shines through her story of discovery and family interactions. Parents will readily relate to her experiences and will absorb that constant juxtaposition of hope and failure until the final choice is made...and beyond.

Although death changes her, Morrison's journey does not end with a life consumed with grief and sorrow, but walks into finding abundance after unimaginable loss.

At each step of this heart-warming (and heart-wrenching) read, Morrison chronicles the emotional, spiritual, and relationship changes that represent the ups and downs of addiction as well as everyday life: "As the two of them talked, laughed, and shared inside jokes, Allan and I looked on with deep gratitude in our hearts. It's hard to describe the feeling I had watching my son in his new world - so happy, carefree, and sober. I can't say it was worth the harrowing nights of Mike's drug use, but it was a joy to see how far he'd come."

Any reader who has lived through a loved one's addiction patterns will see themselves in this memoir, while those outside the process gain a better understanding of family impact and choices.

Ideally, Dear Heroin will find its way into libraries strong in family issues, social issues, addiction, and recovery. Its path to faith and serenity is charted with an unfailing honesty and offers tribute not just to son Michael, but to the sense of purpose that drove Linda Morrison to capture the evolutionary process of her entire family.

The Choices
Alan L. Moss
Cresting Wave Publishing
9781735413587, $12.99 paperback, $1.99 Kindle

Thriller readers will enjoy a blend of high-octane action set against the backdrop of a treasure hunt that leads Gary Levine, wife Sharon, and other characters through the dangerous threats of hate groups and international affairs in The Choices.

More so than most genre reads, Alan L. Moss cultivates the ability to craft a suspense story that comes with its own special blend of atmosphere and intrigue that rest as much upon psychological undercurrents as it does upon action.

Moss takes the time to outline evolving relationships, connections between action and choices, and a treasure hunt that not only tests legal standards, but challenges the expectations of those involved in an expedition that turns deadly.

From code breaking and unexpected deaths that prove to have nefarious sources to the influence of a dangerous business that includes Adrienne's revenge on a man who took her love away, grad student Mia finds that her innovative idea to retrieve a diamond treasure has led her into the world of powerful, dangerous men who operate on both sides of the law.

As Gary's past returns to haunt him over his choices in unexpected ways and other characters confront their own changing worlds, Moss crafts a story of moral and ethical conundrums that provides a more complicated backdrop than most genre reads.

This story demands of its readers an ability to navigate a range of special circumstances and changing intentions. A synagogue shooting leads Gary on a dark hunt that drives him to enter a dangerous world to investigate a seductively dangerous operation.

Just when you think you know where the story is heading, it changes yet again. The myriad of characters, special influences, conflicting choices, and blend of intrigue and ethical problems keeps The Choices thought-provoking on a level that goes beyond an adventure and action saga alone.

Readers are challenged to consider a range of issues. These include domestic terrorism and personal motivations for gain to relics, rewards, and a hunt that reveals as much about the soul as it does about the pursuit of happiness, love, or justice.

The Choices is a multifaceted read that is a delight to pursue. Just when you think you know its intentions and purposes, everything changes yet again. While this atmosphere may stymie those who want action alone, it's the perfect formula for attracting an audience that appreciates higher-level thinking and more engrossing situations than the usual thriller story provides.

The Choices is very highly recommended reading as a cut above most suspense stories. It focuses on the decisions and choices that change not only outcomes, but the hearts and minds of all involved.

Nelson's Folly
Oliver Greeves
Independently Published
9780645023701 $18.95 Paper/$5.99 Kindle

Set against the backdrop of the French Revolutionary Wars in 1792, Nelson's Folly is a story of a couple separated by war. They conduct themselves in different milieus under vastly changed conditions both at home and abroad.

When Horatio finally returns to Fanny, albeit a much-changed war hero after years in the Royal Navy, the true questions of duty, love, and the individual life pursuits of each come to the foreground.

The role Horatio Nelson envisions for his wife and family as he is away doing his duty is one that challenges Fanny on many levels: "'You, Fanny, have a role to play for me and for Josiah. I want you to be my representative in England. You will move up in society as I am promoted. I will have money then. You will buy good dresses and fine hats. And visit London and Bath and great country houses. We shall write to each other about everything.'"

While on the surface, given the times, Fanny is not being asked to do anything extraordinary; given the nature of her own heart and the rebellion social change brings to it, she in fact finds herself navigating murky, dangerous waters indeed; both in her marriage and in her social milieu.

Horatio's interactions with his wife over the years give him a glimpse of these changes, giving readers thought-provoking insights into the times, Fanny's transformation, and the impact of war, distance, and social change on the family. Their acknowledgment of these changes is astutely captured: "Her knowledge of current events startled him. She saw too that his sense of destiny or ambition made the possibility of an early retirement, if he were to be reinstated, unlikely."

Nelson's Folly is a compelling, vividly portrayed tale that is well grounded in a sense of the changing times, yet also nicely rooted in memorable characters who each are understandable as they make choices for both themselves and each other against the political and cultural currents of their times: "She knew Horatio would want the same as St Vincent and Duncan, at least. His resentment would know no bounds if there were a lack of recognition or an implication that his family were of insufficient quality."

Perhaps one reason why this story proves so evocative and realistic is that Oliver Greeves is a direct descendant of the real Frances (Fanny), Viscountess Nelson and her son, Josiah Nisbet. Years of research on her life and times contribute to the authentic feel of Nelson's Folly as it examines the concurrent impacts of duty and love.

Both Fanny and Horatio are memorable, likeable characters. Their dilemmas are well presented, both individually and as a couple, making Nelson's Folly an astute consideration of duty, commitment, love, family, and social aspirations alike.

Historical novel and political history readers, as well as general-interest readers who enjoy stories of British society in 18th century England, will find it an accessible, thoroughly involving saga rich in psychological, political, and social inspection.

The Unseen and the Unwilling
Kathleen Rapp
Padua Publications
9781735860336, $9.98 ebook, $16.78 paperback

The Unseen and the Unwilling opens with the specter of Congressman Edward Trey Custren's quasi-leadership role as the Speaker of the House, tracing the corrupt forces that dog his footsteps as threats to democracy come in the form of political maneuvering and subterfuge.

As murder, intrigue, and manipulation enter the picture of this political thriller, Kathleen Rapp excels in creating a blend of moral and ethical conundrums and political undercurrents of change that keep readers on their toes and guessing.

Reporter Finn Reese stumbles on a well-kept secret about a cabal operating not in international arenas, but in the very corridors of the nation's capital. It's up to him to convince others that this threat, however well-hidden and well-connected, exists. This places Finn in a personal position of adversity and danger as he enters a swirl of conflict that threatens to quash his reporting career and his life.

Finn acknowledges the complexity of these investigations: "Missing papers, hint of murder involvement, and a threat. Those papers could reveal the big and bad your gut warned you about." "Maybe, maybe not. Remember: head, not heart. 'Suspect' is the operative word. My source could be playing me, for all I know."

As his choices bring him deeper into a wider ranging threat than even he could have envisioned, readers are treated to a tale of borrowed time and events which lead Finn to question the very foundations of democratic processes: "Checks and balances only work if you use them. You tell me: who is doing the checks to balance things?" asked Finn."

Most of all, The Unseen and the Unwilling excels at chronicling the erosion process in specific, eye-opening ways that hold special meaning for modern times and those who would examine the foundations of democracy (and any threats to it) more closely: "You aren't supposed to see it. This takeover has the outward appearance of a natural evolution, but it's the farthest thing from being natural. It's a manufactured debasement."

This lends a contemporary relevance to the tale as political strife rocks the nation, and makes it even more essential reading for modern audiences who will be both entertained and forewarned by its scenarios.

Collections which specialize in political fiction and thrillers will find The Unseen and the Unwilling's thought-provoking navigation of a myriad of social, political, and legal challenges to be thoroughly involving (if not somewhat unnerving) for its poignant inspection of circumstances which hold important messages for modern times.

The Unwanted Dead
Yorgos Pratanos
Black Rose Writing
9781684337941, $19.95 Paper, $6.99 Kindle

Based on facts surrounding World War II politics and history, The Unwanted Dead: The Shocking End of Zorba's Heretical Author is recommended for readers of modern Greek history and romance stories, and is translated from the Greek original by Niki Stavrou and Franjeska Nicole Brison-Chraniotis.

Its intriguing blend of relationships and social inspection open in 1957 Freiburg with an intriguing conversation between husband and wife at his deathbed: "So? Have you finally found your God?" Helen asked her husband in the playful manner they loved to talk to one another, sparking a conversation that would surely help him forget the pain, even momentarily. But mostly, so that she might assess his clarity."

As Helen (now the widow of Nikos Kazantzakis) returns to Greece to honor her husband's burial wishes, she faces not only his lasting legacy and impact, but changing events in Athens which test the results of lifetimes she and Nikos have spent together and the legacy of their choices.

Readers may think they should have a background in Greek culture or history, here, but one of the delights of The Unwanted Dead its that its milieu of fiction based on fact requires no thorough grounding in Greek events or Nikos Kazantzakis in order to prove accessible for newcomers.

(For those unfamiliar with Kazantzakis' work, he produced such classics as Zorba, a worldwide bestseller whose movie adaptation was nominated for seven Oscars (it won three) and The Last Temptation of Christ. Kazantzakis was nominated nine times for a Nobel Prize in Literature, but his country (his powerful enemies) lobbied against him.)

What is required is a prior interest in either subject, and in historical fiction which is cemented by facts and events.

As Helen's efforts to fulfill her husband's last wishes bring her into a struggle she'd never anticipated, readers receive a powerful story of the death of a great author and the efforts of Greek political, religious, and social forces to quash his legacy.

Astute in its ability to traverse psychological, social, and political challenges, The Unwanted Dead holds the ability to educate readers about a potentially complex milieu through the eyes and heart of a widow and a determined young journalist whose efforts keep Kazantzakis's legacy alive.

Collections strong in Greek history and literature, romance story enthusiasts who appreciate a strong historical and cultural foundation and readers who maintain a special interest in contemporary Greek culture and events will find The Unwanted Dead a complex, powerful, compelling love story.

When author Yorgos Pratanos first began his story and researched Kazantzakis' life, the first thing that impressed him was their love affair. The couple was too progressive, even in terms of modern times. The age difference, the war which Nikos' ex wife declared on them, the difficulties they face together, and the marriage which took place after 20 years of affair all contribute to a powerful story based on real events.

The Unwanted Dead is highly recommended reading for those who wish to absorb the basics of Greek influence and events in a manner that brings its history to life through the heartbeat and ongoing influence of a wife's enduring love, which leads her to both influence him and interact with Kazantzakis' editors, lawyers in an era where women normally didn't have much of a voice or impact.

Yellow on Blonde
Stephen M. King
Atmosphere Press
B09CLL7CDS, $7.99

Yellow on Blonde will appeal to readers of family stories involving mixed ethnicities. It tells of two sisters, Celeste Reyes in Los Angeles and Molly Reyes in the Philippines, who reach across vast distances and divides to establish new connections.

Young adult readers receive a nice contrast between not only the two girls' personalities, but their different cultures before they meet. They come together with revised views of family and their place both within its larger context and in their relationship with one another.

Family is not a connection Celeste has valued in the past, but when her set and successful world changes with the breakup of her romance and a car accident, she embarks on a physical and mental journey that brings her into Molly's world.

Each character has a very different life and perspective on how to live it.

Each navigates her own emotional needs and transformation in a different way, while moving closer to the kinds of family connections that strengthen their lives.

As Celeste moves nearer to Molly in many different ways, young adults receive a story of understanding and second changes that embrace forgiveness and the emotional experience and costs of depression. Celeste's journey fosters better understanding, coping, and new possibilities for them both.

King creates a moving saga that inspects intercultural relationships and family conditions. The very different personalities, upbringings, and focuses of Molly and Celeste come to life under his hand, capturing each character's revised circumstances: "She used to feel that there was always something to look forward to, and that helped motivate her with her schoolwork. That was gone now."

Young adults interested in stories about depression, family changes, multicultural settings, and teen romances gone wry will find many lessons and much food for thought in Yellow on Blonde as Celeste finds her way into a new world and Molly cultivates new understanding of her sister's dilemmas and attitudes towards life and family.

Darkness and Grace
Kathryn Schleich
Chris Olsen Communications, LLC
9798720084042, $16.95 Paper, $9.99 Kindle

Paul Pierson is beginning his second marriage (a fact his family celebrates) after grieving the death of his first wife, but his siblings come to suspect that new wife Pamela is not what she seems, and strife arises in place of happiness and hopes for a better future.

Darkness and Grace is about good and evil intentions and entanglements that change family dynamics. It is made all the more powerful by events that hold their foundations in reality, in Kathryn Schleich's family.

But, more than a story of overt evil, it's the tale of how subterfuge and malicious intent invade a Midwestern family's loving circles to change relationships, hearts, and minds.

This makes for a powerful story that originally appeared in 2007 with the same title, but under a pseudonym.

Readers may anticipate the depth of psychological inspection that such a story embraces, but Schleich adds an overlay of historical detail, from news reports of the times to authentic settings, imbibing this fictionalization with newfound life and the compelling feel of a thriller.

The prologue introduces events with a report from the Minneapolis Star Tribune about a dog who returns home bearing the gift of a woman's severed leg. This creates a compelling scenario that demands reader attention from the start.

The events that unfold are no less riveting as Schleich rounds out news reports and events by dovetailing them with the insidious moral and ethical dilemmas that unfold when a family unwittingly brings a special form of evil into their circle, only to slowly recognize and acknowledge its powers.

Perhaps the most frightening aspect of this novel lies in the possibility that similar events could all too easily alter other families who think that their close ties cannot be broken.

As the thriller evolves and psychological inspections ramp up, readers will remain on the edge of their seats with unexpected twists and turns that keep them wondering about outcomes, moral resolution, and psychological healing under such duress.

As Pamela's real identity and intentions become clear, the narrator resists the stalking, intimidation, and threats Pamela continually poses to everyone around her. Pamela is "trouble" with a vengeance, and as courtroom brawls and legal entanglements stalk the family and bring them into unbelievable struggles, readers receive a gripping story that is hard to put down.

This powerful cautionary tale profiles a dangerous situation. Paul receives support from his narrator sister and his entire family...but even this circle of love may not be enough to thwart the lasting impact of a malicious woman's attentions.

Thriller collections and any strong in psychological inspections of family and legal entanglements will find Darkness and Grace a powerful saga that grabs readers by the throat and just won't let go. Is a cardinal sin the only path to resolution? The question and events will leave readers gasping as the story delivers powerful messages about struggle and choice: "I have come to understand that goodness and evil each present us with choices, and they are never as simple as they might appear. What one may view as the ultimate act of malice, another may see as the necessary destruction of evil."

Darkness and Grace is very, very highly recommended for its exquisite development of tension and characters and the many surprises it unfolds.

Family Snapshot as a Poem in Time
G.H. Mosson
Finishing Line Press
9781635348491 $14.99

Family Snapshot as a Poem in Time is a poetry collection the entire family can enjoy, and captures a father's love for his daughter and son with pieces that celebrate growth and family connections.

These free verses offer readers the chance to view their own families in a different light against the mirror of G.H. Mosson's experience with time's passage, growth, and interactions with his kids: "Firecracker daughter,/your volcano of energy exhausts my imagination. I always thought/imagination meant walking in a moonlit field weeping/Where was I? And where have I traveled to? The easy answer: time."

The narrator questions the legacy he transmits to the next generation ("If I am not a dreamer, how will my son know me?") while also transmitting to this generation poetic pieces that will resonate with young listeners and observers: "Thinnest crescent in the night, your moonbeams gleam/a tinsel light, and two tiny stars nearby/are just as bright./I think you'll play together tonight/when I'm not watching."

As the pieces for adults in the first half weave into verse for children in the second half, the entire family will find the arc of the book also evocative and reflective of the parenting experience: "Two years ago I showed my daughter the moon. I am too tired for stars./Yesterday, my son watched a squirrel climb a utility pole. His eyes bulged./I took him down the slide for the first time, in spring's first glorious afternoon."

Family Snapshot as a Poem in Time brings readers on a journey through time, child-rearing, and self-reflection; then returns to give younger audiences an evocative series of poems about nature, the universe, and family connections.

It's unusual to see a poetry collection that can appeal across generations, but Family Snapshot as a Poem in Time is such a production. It thus is recommended not just for the usual poetry collection and reader, but for anyone who would absorb reflections on self, family, and the interconnectedness of life, at any age.

B.B. Russell
Green Writers Press
9781733653466, $15.99 Paper, $6.99 Kindle

Teen readers will discover that sixteen-year-old newly orphaned Lilah has a lot on her plate, despite her youth. She's moving into foster care, but with the support of something familiar in the way of her deceased twin brother's best friend Joey. She falls into a different world that provides her with revised options and some challenging choices. And she needs to learn to not only follow her heart, but sometimes overcome its impulses with logic.

Kindreds is about finding family and connections in unusual places. It cultivates a secret, revealing a hidden world and a scenario in which Lilah must take into consideration her future and her impulse to change and take control of it.

As Lilah follows Joey, uninvited, into a strange new world, she's forced to not only make some special decisions about her future, but acknowledge her own heart's different direction...something even Joey wonders about: "I would've brought you here myself if I thought it was the right thing to do. I just didn't think this was something you'd be into," he said."

One of the messages B.B. Russell imparts in this powerful story is how to discern the true course of one's own heart from its connections with others. Despite Lilah's inclinations, she must make her own choices and accept their consequences: "She did love him, but she had lied. She wasn't joining Nolianna, at least not without a fight."

As the story progresses, Russell does an excellent job of outlining these choices, Lilah's pressures and influences to make them, and the evolution of her own individuality in the face of both romantic and social pressures.

In addition to being a fine story about new possibilities, change, and transformation, Kindreds is about self-empowerment in the face of manipulation and lies. It shows how individuals can rise above both influences and their own emotional conundrums to reach for better outcomes in their lives.

Teens need such messages in this turbulent world as they enter into society and love. Kindreds outlines the process whereby Lilah embarks on an adventure that leads her not only to examine her own heart, but make the kinds of choices that sync with who she wants to be.

It should be advised that Kindreds leaves the door more than ajar for more. Teens who enjoy Lilah's life and adventure will welcome this opportunity, while collections that eschew the often-abrupt mercurial conclusions of a stated series opener will appreciate the definitive conclusions in this initial encounter.

Fever Dreams and the End of All Things
A. J. Massey
Independently Published
9781668516546 $5.99 ebook

Fever Dreams and the End of All Things is Book 2 in the Where Dragonwoofs Sleep and the Fading Creeps series, and gives teen and young adult sword and sorcery fantasy readers an epic journey through the magical realm of Meridia.

Ben, Avery, and Marcus haven't visited this world since they stopped the Fading, but they are again called upon to thwart a new threat posed by The Ghastly Three, who are searching for a powerful artifact that can help them reshape the world.

A. J. Massey populates this world with the unexpected, from a razor octopus ("a gigantic red creature with eight tentacles, each covered in what appeared to be sharp, jagged blades") to talking goats who impart wise observations to those who would listen.

The host of magical encounters and vivid, action-packed scenes that permeate this story will keep young adults engaged and on their toes as unexpected encounters with ghouls, dragonwoofs, and more unfold.

Massey excels at creating vivid scenarios, demanding circumstances, and unexpected twists and turns that challenge young heroes to engage in the biggest battle of their lives.

As magic is wielded and altered on both sides, the young people come into their strengths as they are tested again and again, inching forward to make a difference, once more, in this world's survival.

The blend of vivid action, unexpected creatures and threats, and power plays that lead each hero to question their purpose and abilities makes for engrossing reading indeed.

The lessons on personal empowerment and perseverance are subtly woven into a fantasy adventure that's hard to put down, but holds underlying messages and meaning peppered throughout: "Why did the Creator choose us?" Ben asked. "Maybe he thought we had something in common with him," Marcus said. "But I really think it's because he knew we could save Meridia."

Kids who like coming-of-age fantasy stories packed with confrontation and action, yet tempered with a philosophical flavor, will find Fever Dreams and the End of All Things a fine choice.

Covid Seasons
Rick Goeld
GGFC Properties LLC
9780982945391, $13.95 Paper, $6.95 Kindle

Covid Seasons may sound like nonfiction, but it's a novel that embraces the special seasons of challenge to heart and mind that began in 2020. It contrasts the lives of three very different couples which are in upheaval overnight, providing an absorbing, familiar scenario of survival.

Rick Goeld chooses three disparate scenarios to contrast, from an attractive blonde professional policewoman married to a staid lawyer to an evangelical Trumper whose husband is set for revenge and a Latina woman whose husband has his eye on another.

Events open in late January with a mysterious illness and move through a "winter of blissful ignorance" when Covid-19 was still off the radar of most Americans.

Goeld's focus on building the lives and characters of each couple, then injecting the backdrop of Covid and its influences on each, creates a thought-provoking set of scenarios which operate on social, political, and psychological levels alike.

It's no small feat to juxtapose such different lives against the evolving challenges and nature of Covid, but this is exactly what happened in the real world...and why the shifting nature of reality becomes such an essential ingredient in this novel.

As each couple and the individuals within it experience sea changes to their belief systems, brought about by Covid, readers gain a fine set of insights into the disease's more insidious impacts beyond physical survival alone.

While current generations will more than recognize the mirrors being held up in this story, it's really future generations that stand to gain the most from Goeld's careful capture of the more elusive challenges of the pandemic.

The influence of health on belief systems, relationships, perceptions of social and political forces, and its reflection both in society and in these couples comes to life. The plot winds through the choices and consequences each individual makes in the face of not just a life-threatening, but a life-changing disease.

Nothing is left out of this bigger picture, whether it be news about China, illegal immigrants, or federal and state conflicts over decision-making processes and regulations.

The result will be more than familiar to anyone living in these times, but will prove an astute revelation that captures the real disturbing tides of overnight change for those who will read the story a few years from now.

For modern audiences already well familiar with Covid's events, Covid Seasons offers the opportunity to reconsider the foundations of truth, lies, and the kinds of distancing that take place not just for health reasons, but emotional self-protection.

The novel's careful blend of medical and political conundrums and its stories of loss, imploding relationships, and change will keep its audience reading, wondering, and involved as each character grasps revised truths and survival tactics alike.

L.K. Hingey
Independently Published
9798744173401, $13.99 Paper, $2.99 Kindle

While some series titles also stand alone as independent reads and provide easy access to past events for newcomers, it's simply not possible to place the science fiction epic Orion in the category of an "easy read." It's anything but...and that will also make it a delightfully complex and rich milieu for hard sci-fi readers of steampunk stories already familiar with its predecessor Kimber, the first story in The Elyrian Chronicles.

Kimber set the stage of a world still struggling twenty years after a solar storm ravages Earth. In 2209, the remnants of humanity have retired to underground abodes, and have been grafting human DNA with radiation-resistant animals in an effort to ensure its future survival.

In that world, protagonist Kimber is one of twenty-three members of a new subspecies of humans called Auroras, who are being groomed for survival even as they also are being treated like slaves.

Kimber sets the stage for events in Orion, which focuses on a journey that uncovers inhumane crimes committed by the Bureau, fostering a dangerous journey by Kimber and those who struggle not just for survival and freedom, but the essence of what they will remake of their world and new species.

Orion continues their journey of discovery with new revelations about their underground city and its place in the world, their survey of America's remaining fragments, and the moral and ethical challenges which face their rebuilding process.

It should be noted that this review's descriptions over-simplify all the currents of action and dilemmas embraced by both Kimber and Orion. There are a host of characters, subplots, and scenarios that receive concurrent attention in the saga that make it as impossible to round up in the space of a relatively short review than Lord of the Rings can be described as an 'epic journey and struggle between darkness and light'.

The delight in L.K. Hingey's works is that they take the time to build entire worlds that rest on the foundations of moral, ethical, and survival challenges that test all the characters. Physical and mental trials affect their relationships and support the characters as a whole, while the birth of "the first" baby Orion Aeneas, which represents one of the positive pivot points in mother Eve's world and those around her, portends future world possibilities: "Kimber recognized Eve's desire to gift Orion with a name that would always be a reminder of love and strength instead of always haunting him with loss."

These are only a few of the remarkably thought-provoking scenarios and themes in Orion. Sci-fi readers interested in sagas that build worlds and new possibilities from the ashes of old paradigms will find the interlinked Kimber and Orion novels vivid in their review of genetic engineering's promises and perils in a stormy human future.

Sci-fi collections seeking epics that are more satisfyingly complex than the average adventure-oriented leisure read will find Orion a worthy addition.

Queen of the Sugarhouse
Constance Studer
Atmosphere Press
9781637529225, $16.99

Queen of the Sugarhouse provides a collection of short stories that hones the cutting edge of moral, ethical, and transformational decision-making. It is highly recommended literature for those who enjoy thought-provoking works about realistic people facing conundrums that test their mettle.

Take the opening short piece 'Mercy', for of several medical crisis stories that draws readers into a medical professional's conundrum - in this case, when she administers the wrong drug to an ICU patient.

The opening lines move from everyday, familiar experience ("My car threw a hub cap on my drive to work. There are police in the parking lot as I pull into my spot. "Here, I'll walk you in," the cop says, one hand on his gun.") to a life-changing situation: "Working short-staffed again. Endless interruptions. Phone calls. Lab tests. IVs to be changed. Sterile dressings. Head-to-toe assessments. I'm passing nine o'clock meds and the minute that Tanya Lewis swallows, I realize that I just handed her the wrong pill."

Constance Studer gets right to the point in these works, creating atmosphere and dilemma with brisk, staccato descriptions which are compelling without being unduly verbose. This will especially appeal to those with shorter attention spans who eschew the normal descriptive challenges of even the short story piece in favor of stories like these, which make every word count.

As the pieces unfold, readers will readily recognize aspects of their own response and thought processes when facing life-changing dilemmas.

Another example of this strength lies in 'The Isolation Room', which follows writer Mary's revised world in a psychiatric institution after a suicide attempt. How she uses her writings and characters to work her way out of a dangerous situation makes for engrossing insights into her peculiar survival process.

Each character draws upon moral, ethical, and psychological strengths and convictions to find their way past life-changing situations to revised ways of looking at themselves and the world.

Each story offers a passionate lesson in how to achieve this, and each fosters a literary and psychological depth as social and medical issues are explored.

While Queen of the Sugarhouse will appeal to a wide audience of literary short story readers, fiction readers, and those seeking deep psychological inspections, it is especially highly recommended for medical professionals and personnel. This audience will find, in these characters and stories, much to relate to and understand about their own experiences, lives and potential transformative situations.

Delivering the Digital Restaurant
Carl Orsbourn and Meredith Sandland
Amplify Publishing/Mascot Books
9781645439493, $26.95 Hardcover, $9.99 Kindle

It's hard to think of a timelier restaurant business advice guide than Delivering the Digital Restaurant: Your Roadmap to the Future of Food. While its advice would have certainly been relevant pre-Covid, given the transformation and special challenges the pandemic has demanded of restaurants in particular, Delivering the Digital Restaurant is an even more essential read for any who would stay in business in this new milieu.

Delivering the Digital Restaurant is no light coverage of one restaurant's experience, but interviews a host of culinary professionals and businesspeople from all walks of the industry, gathering and synthesizing their experiences and advice for both existing establishments and newcomers who will operate under vastly revised conditions.

The crux of the focus is on operating in a virtual environment, from establishing a brand and identity to managing promotions and fulfillment processes.

From operating an effective delivery service and moving beyond dine-in options to using kitchens in a different way (such as 'ghost kitchens'), Delivering the Digital Restaurant not only represents a challenge to conventional ideas of what makes a restaurant, but provides options that support all levels of food processing, consumption, and delivery.

The authors don't pretend this is an easy transformation. Indeed, chapters are quite candid about the obstacles involved: "Compared to dining in, the digital ordering interface all but guarantees a poor experience. We can browse a restaurant menu on a small smartphone screen, but we often then make decisions with less information compared to ordering in-restaurant. We may not click through to the detailed description. We don't get to ask a member of the restaurant team a question about the food. We might be able to request some changes to an item, but our ability to customize will likely be limited by the ordering platform. A menu designed for a different ordering context simply cannot function well on a tiny screen with no human interaction. "Adapt your menu for delivery" is the advice of Henry Roberts, owner of Two Hands restaurant in New York City."

This attention to hands-on and real-world experience moves Delivering the Digital Restaurant from concept to applied behavioral and structural changes both on the part of the restaurant and in meeting customer expectations.

The candid assessments of common pitfalls and possibilities make this coverage a standout that no restaurateur should be without: "As consumer interactions become increasingly digital, the rules of the game change. No longer is the brand primarily about a restaurant's location, its ambience, or its servers. Instead, the brand is now about a restaurant's authentic voice online, its frictionless ease of use, and its ability to target, serve, and retain relevant customer segments. A word of caution here: some restaurateurs say, "We're already there!" believing that possessing a website or an app makes them a virtual restaurant. Nothing could be further from the truth. A brand may offer online ordering and delivery fulfillment, but still be a far cry from being a virtual brand. Being digitally native requires designing everything - from consumer experience to operating model - based on digital interaction being the only interaction a consumer has with your restaurant. Think of it this way: if a guest never walked through your door - if you had no door to walk through - what would they experience, feel about, know about your brand?"

Anyone interested in food service in this new milieu would do well to consult Delivering the Digital Restaurant. It should be not just in culinary collections, but in any business library holding as an essential key to adapting to the modern world while maintaining a culinary image that is both strong and flexible in the face of digital and Covid challenges alike. It is very, very highly recommended as an essential guide.

JD Hyobel
Independently Published
9781919641225, $5.99 Kindle
9781919641201 $16.99 Paperback p/B09DBPV1NN

Shekhins: Uncovering the Universalism of John's Vision is a scholarly consideration of belief which was actually sparked by atheistic critic Christopher Hitchens. Hitchens presented points that ultimately shook Hyobel's religious convictions and led him to more closely examine the foundations of his beliefs. Had Hyobel not encountered Hitchens' criticism, Shekhins might not have been written to offer a close inspection of the Book of Revelation and its tenets.

As he probes the visionary and prophetic aspects of this Biblical book and its concluding journey, Hyobel considers science's issues with the visions of John, giving a nod to the scientific process that holds issue with them while adopting the middle ground in his study: "As much as ghost or spirit sightings cannot be verified, neither can they be dismissed. And such will be our stance in this book regarding visions: as much as science cannot verify visions, neither can it totally disprove them. I, for this reason, gave John of Patmos the benefit of the doubt, neither rejecting nor fully embracing his vision."

By adopting this unconventional approach, Hyobel is able to intersect religion with science and philosophy in a manner that will reach beyond Christian audiences alone - ideally, into the worlds of skeptics and scientific-backed processes that embrace a wider world of religious belief. The Book of Revelation itself, Hyobel repeatedly points out, mirrors this approach by placing no singular religion at the center of its events.

Hyobel himself adopts a critical tone in his scholarly process, considering some of the major issues that emerge from an in-depth study of Revelation: "I outlined four main obstacles that stall us from interpreting the Book of Revelation, three of which we shall tackle in this chapter. The first is the apparent paradox of our discovery on the vision's character usage: if the vision depicts spiritual forces as angels and non-angels, why does the vision, for simplicity, not employ only one set of characters?...

The second obstacle that also hinders us from soundly interpreting Revelation concerns the potential of spiritual forces...The third obstacle is quite crucial to the identification of characters in Revelation. This relates to the creators of spiritual forces: what or who creates them?...

The fourth obstacle, which we shall deliberate in separate chapters, concerns on "God" and "Satan" as they manifest in Revelation. Because we say that the characters in the Book of Revelation are spiritual forces without volition, must this view also apply to "God" and "Satan"?..."

These and other issues receive astute analysis that invites readers to more closely examine not only the stories of Revelation and the visions of John, but ways they are interpreted, and the underlying conflicts that emerged between various Christian factions as they considered Revelation's meaning.

Hoybel is also realistic about the obstacles involved in accepting the Universalist perspective which, at times, does not adequately address conventional thinking about Revelation.

Hoybel's admits that readers of this analytical process may not always agree: "Regardless of what people may think, I firmly stand by our analytical handling of the vision of John. We did not, I believe, unnecessarily cross any line just to come up with a perspective because I, for one, detest such fallacious purpose. We primarily aimed to envisage faith-ideals in the Revelation, relentlessly verifying the legitimacy of most mainstream beliefs resolutely attached to Revelation. In such endeavor, we emerged with a number of intriguing insights, which a person may find either very elucidating, purely speculative or plainly outrageous. But, however one may find these, I stand by them."

With its well-researched attention to detail and Biblical studies and its reference-backed approach to Biblical interpretation, Shekhins will most likely appeal to academics and scholars. But the book can likewise attract students of Biblical history and people engaged in faith discussions, both of which will find the discourse both well-researched and accessible.

The result is a unique examination that presents a new hermeneutical platform for considering Revelation, John, and Biblical representations. It is essential reading for not just Christians, but anyone studying the Bible's last book, no matter what their religious background.

The Demon in Disguise
Ashley Elliot with Michael J. Coffino
9781646634309, $26.95 Hardcover, $18.95 Paper, $7.99 Kindle

The Demon in Disguise: Murder, Kidnapping, and the Banty Rooster belongs in any collection strong in true crime stories. It brings to life Ashley Elliot's experiences when her father was murdered and her mother kidnapped.

Where other books often address such crimes from an outside investigative reporter's perspective, The Demon in Disguise stands out in coming from a crime victim's point of view, and turns a critical eye on the justice system's failings.

Perhaps the most important reason for pursuing this victim's experience above others is this perspective. It's also the reason why some more personally involved with the case might question the need for this book.

Elliot's own acknowledgement of these attitudes and why the reason for making her experience public supersedes any sense of decorum or the idea that recovery involves moving on and forgetting presents perhaps the most powerful case for not doing either, and for reading her book: "There will be people who won't be happy I have written this book. Some will say what's done is done. The criminal justice system ran its course, straight to the hallowed courtroom of the Arkansas Supreme Court. Move on, girl. Others won't want the dirty laundry of yesteryear aired. Let bygones be bygones. Some family members may roll their eyes and lament - there I go again, stirring up shit, reminiscent of my wilder days. Time to grow up. I've heard it all before. When I pressed prosecutors to do their job, people told me, "you need to let this go." I was warned I risked unleashing a hornets' nest best left undisturbed and less harmful. I paid them little or no heed. I wanted the justice system to do what it was set up to do."

She provides not only justification for making these events known to a broader audience, but for the book's inclusion in criminology and legal justice collections as an example of justice processes gone awry.

As her story unfolds, readers receive a powerful, years-long probe into a mob-style execution that had no witnesses and no resolution that morphs into a kidnapping case when Elliot's mother then vanishes.

Her struggles with the legal system and her insights and investigations, which traverse not just state boundaries but differing legal systems, includes involving, specific descriptions: "I have no legal training, but even I can see the fundamental distinction between a kidnapping that occurred in two states (Utah and Nevada) - which might compel one jurisdiction to defer to another on a kidnapping charge - and other wrongs that occurred solely in one jurisdiction (Utah)."

The juxtaposition of a victim's search for truth and justice and her struggles with not just one but competing legal systems and their perceptions of the pursuit and identification of justice provides food for thought beyond her experience alone, offering debate material that legal students should find engrossing.

Her story of how judges treat victims in the courtroom is also eye-opening: "More interesting - to no one probably but me - was the Court allowed Trey to stay in the courtroom when his testimony concluded. Not me, however. I had to stay in the conference room. While I appreciated the judge didn't want another outburst from me, I also felt I had an absolute right to remain. So what if I lost it on the stand? I was confident it wasn't the first time a victim let loose some tears in a criminal trial. I had rallied and knew I could hold it together now that I was a mere spectator. They never gave me the chance and, as far as I was concerned, that was flat-out wrong."

Those who fear that publication of The Demon in Disguise will stir up a hornet's nest should know that, if all goes well, it should - and will.

Ashley Elliot's story deserves far greater attention than being regulated to true crime collections alone. It should not only be in law libraries, but used in classrooms as debate material on a variety of subjects raised during the course of her eye-opening story.

Katie, Bar the Door
Ruth Hull Chatlien
Amika Press
9781937484934, $17.95 Paper, $5.95 ebook


It's rare that the title of a book proves original and compelling in and of itself, but Katie, Bar the Door is such a creation. It will appeal to readers of modern women's fiction with its astute story of Katie Thompson, a first-person story which captives not only by its title, but in its first few lines: "I felt as though I were being driven to a sentencing, not my wedding."

Katie harbors big dreams for her future which do not embrace the conventional paths others around her believe she should follow.

In the opening lines of her story, she and Ritchie have eloped, and are to be married without benefit of ceremony. The couple has known each other since childhood. Forbidden from embarking on this relationship by a strict mother who caught them necking, Katie's taken the step into sexuality, and is the driving force behind insisting that they now marry.

The reason, however, isn't for love. It's because of lack of options: "Even if I got to a phone and reached my mother, I wasn't sure she'd take me back. She had forbidden my relationship with Ritchie over a year ago after she caught us necking and told me that, in God's eyes, I was as guilty as if I'd slept with him. Defying her low opinion of me, I had clung stubbornly to my virginity until we ran away, surrendering it then only because of the promise that I'd be Mrs. Richard Pelletier in the morning - and because Ritchie's rage at being asked to wait one more day was too menacing to defy. Now that the deed was done, according to the stringent doctrines of my mother and my church, my only chance to redeem myself was to marry the partner of my lust."

As Katie faces domestic violence, being a runaway from her family and faith, and reviews dead-end roads and future options, readers journey alongside her as she faces a series of men who become bosses, lovers, and potential protectors, unified in their desire to control her in some way.

Even her professor, Dr. Peter Taylor, becomes entangled in Katie's life and dreams as she moves from a history student in his class to something more.

Katie rewrote a history paper when she realized that her facts and sources were outdated. Can she rewrite her life?

Ruth Hull Chatlien crafts a vivid story of abuse, growth, repression, and changing perceptions and attitudes as she documents a young woman's journey to self-empowerment and self-realization.

As the story moves full circle to embrace the relationships between mother and daughter and generations of belief, readers receive an engrossing examination of how past memories and experiences transform into future changes and new possibilities.

Katie, Bar the Door takes no simple paths in exploring these revelations. It provides many twists and surprises that will delight readers interested in a moving story of a young woman's dreams, misconceptions, and growth. It will appeal to those interested in emotional trauma, recovery, and transformation, as well as in evocative women's fictional writings.

Unsettled Disruption
Juana-Catalina Rodriguez
Koehler Books
9781646634422, $25.95 Hardcover, $17.95 Paper, $7.99 Kindle

Unsettled Disruption: Step-by-Step Guide for Harnessing the Evolving Path of Purpose-Driven Innovation is a treatise on global marketing, economy, and business. It represents one of the first books to consider the revised process of doing business on a global scale, post-pandemic.

Many business books center on encouraging innovative processes in traditional business environments, but Juana-Catalina Rodriguez's focus on the concept and applications of "disruptive innovation" sets her book apart from most others in the business world.

Another difference lies not only in how she creates her framework for change, but in her exploration of real-world, proven processes that already work within this framework.

Successful brands are held up as examples and models of a transformation processes that will offer much food for thought to businesses that base their own approaches on traditional, time-tested models without innovative thinking: "IKEA became the world's largest furniture retailer with 445 stores worldwide and 41.3 billion Euros global revenue in 2019 due to unique value delivery and customer engagement. Most incumbent businesses may hesitate to transition to an IKEA-like model. They still fear pushing away customers who are unwilling to take on tasks traditionally defined as a supplier's responsibilities."

As 'disruptors' are identified and their methodology analyzed, Juana-Catalina Rodriguez provides engrossing insights into what works, what does not, and the impact of disruptive approaches on conventional operations: "New generation disruptors succeed by first identifying an unsolved customer problem and then conducting an in-depth analysis of ways to stream the value chain and redefine the business models using modern technologies that others haven't utilized effectively. The innovative use of technologies and unconventional strategies crushes the incumbents as new disruptors target their mainstream customers even quicker than ever. Often incumbents try to avoid disruption and focus on sustaining what they already have. However, they fail to identify the job-to-be-done...for incumbents to survive the deadly disruptors, they have to focus more on the industry's unattended sectors instead of flooding resources to create the digital versions of their analog selves, as we have seen in many sectors. In the next chapter, we will review some examples of incumbents that failed to handle disruptive innovation."

While Unsettled Disruption certainly would have held appeal pre-Covid, its contentions, business review, and global perspectives hold special messages and insights post-Covid as disruptive techniques take center stage and demonstrate the flexibility to adapt to quickly-changing conditions.

The result is a global marketing guide that offers solid alternatives, different perspectives, and new options for those struggling with the current environment and outdated models of business success.

Unsettled Disruption deserves a spot in any serious global business collection as a spot-on guide to changing the business game in a sustainable, purposeful manner.

The High-Performing Real Estate Team
Brian Icenhower
9781119801856 $28.00

The High-Performing Real Estate Team: 5 Keys to Dramatically Increasing Production and Commissions should be in any real estate library, as well as in the hands of sales teams who would work together to improve sales results. It outlines a set of best practices that result in the best bottom lines for agents and offices alike.

Brian Icehower's background as a real estate coach lends to an approach that covers both group dynamics and team operations and individual sales processes. Chapters address both as they cover the nuts and bolts of understanding what differentiates a high-performing team from an ordinary sales force.

Subjects range from focusing on metrics and building a pipeline of success to understanding what activities can be delegated to improve sales, fostering an office atmosphere of growth and accountability, and using behavioral models to help teams understand their individual differences to sync up with bigger-picture sales results. Icehower provides lessons that will resonate with any office and team seeking more than ordinary results.

He addresses the needs and perceptions and leaders and members alike, during this process: "Real estate team leaders must keep giving team members those positive nudges, much like a parent would. Leaders must expect, going in, that team members are going to struggle with a lot of things. They are not going to always hit their numbers. Leaders should be surprised if they do hit their numbers! It's all about shifting the context of the dashboard (which we will dive into in Part 4 of this book) and reframing the way we look at our team members. Our context must shift to that of a loving parent/child relationship. All team members must take this to heart, too. This is not just advice for the team leader. As you know, with growth comes more opportunity for leadership positions on a real estate team. All team members should be trained to have this mindset because it may apply to them as they grow with the team."

His result formula for success works only if a real estate office and its agents are committed to the team ideal for achievement, and work together to make this an overall goal.

There's no mystery, here, on how to achieve this. The High-Performing Real Estate Team provides the tools needed to move attitudes and processes from the everyday to the pinnacle of sales success, addressing perspectives, performance, and new possibilities for revised individual and group dynamics.

No real estate collection should be without it.

Thieves of Paris
Helen Schwartz
Independently Published
9798527353198 $10.99 Paper/$9.99 ebook

Thieves of Paris is a historical suspense story that takes place during World War II. Ex-thief and soldier Max St Denis flees the Nazi invasion of France, only to find that his new job relies on his thievery skills for success.

Tasked with saving valuable paintings from the Nazis, including a piece especially dear to his heart, Max seems to fail in his endeavor - which only makes him all the more determined to eventually succeed against all odds.

As he faces smugglers, romantic possibilities, and challenges posed not only by his thieving expertise but a host of opportunistic fellow French citizens who hone their own skills for disparate purposes, Max moves through a world of expert thieves, forgers, and special interests that both dovetail with and attempt to thwart his purposes: "She had a point, that I had no right to jeopardize others with my obsession. But I couldn't get it out of my mind that, with her help substituting the copy, my chances were very good and discovery was unlikely."

Thieves of Paris is no simple story. It fosters satisfying twists and turns of plot, perception, and good and bad participants alike as war turns everything on end for everybody.

Who is in control? Everyone thinks they are, while, in reality, there are a host of special interests (and subplots) at play in Thieves of Paris.

With its roots based firmly in reality (Nazi art theft and the unfolding danger to Jews during their occupation of France), Thieves of Paris excels in blending the trappings of a suspense thriller with the historical realities of the times. This creates an engrossing series of cat-and-mouse interplays that will especially delight mystery readers interested in World War II backdrops.

The action is ongoing, the characterization and moves of Max and those around him well described and intriguing, and the story proves hard to put down. Its special focus on those trying to live their lives and do damage control in the face of simmering threats and controversies that reach into France's art world and culture makes for an engrossing story, indeed.

Styled for Murder
Nancy J. Cohen
Orange Grove Press
9781952886225, $14.99 Print, $4.99 ebook

It's not every day that a hair stylist is called upon to solve a murder, much less one stemming from a frantic call by a mother who finds a body in her shower. In Styled for Murder, Marla Vail once again finds her talents for styling and sleuthing come into play in just such a scenario.

A project manager foreman who was widely disliked in town is the victim, but the problem goes beyond too many perp possibilities as Marla uncovers clues separate from police investigations which are moving towards fingering her stepfather as the prime suspect.

As family and town secrets move to the foreground, Marla discovers increasing conflicts between family, business obligations, and her problem: "How could she keep up with everything? Add one more item, and her life would topple over. She could barely manage as it was to get all her tasks done."

A host of possibilities emerges, and Marla discovers that her penchant for sleuthing and uncovering trouble is also a focus on connecting the dots in unusual ways: "Unable to stay idle, Marla put away a few developers that other stylists had taken down from the shelves and not replaced."

Once again, Nancy J. Cohen brings to life not just a murder investigation, but the community at large's intersection with the hair stylist environment: "Marla sectioned off pieces of her hair with large clips. "All dads are afraid to lose their little girls," she said with a sympathetic smile. "My stepdaughter, Brianna, is a senior in high school. She's been accepted at Boston University. My husband is still coming to terms with her leaving. Tell me, is there anyone else in your family?"

It's a pleasure to see a sleuthing story evolve where the protagonist is just as vested in her business, family, and community interactions as she is in her investigation, which embraces all three concerns.

Cohen's ability to bring these disparate facets to life in a story that moves between personal concerns and social and community change, weaving the "perfect murder" scenario into these interplays, makes Styled for Murder an intriguing read that returns the Bad Hair Days amateur sleuth to prior fans while making her accessible to new readers.

The mix of family, social, and mystery concerns are nicely balanced. This makes for a cozy mystery powered by Marla's special blend of savvy and perceptions as a home remodel project goes seriously awry, posing dangers to Marla and possible perps alike: "If she wasn't guilty, was she in danger?"

The Fortune Cookie Writer
Nina Navisky
28 Leaves Press
9781737697213, $15.99 print, $3.99 ebook

The Fortune Cookie Writer is a novel about love, loss, and a family recovering from the fallout of divorce. It opens with an herbal description that is unusually compelling: "My mailbox reeks of oregano. Three parts oregano to one part rosemary and basil, to be exact. I realize this as I unlock the narrow metal door, and suddenly Mom's ulterior motive in offering to get my mail on Friday is clear. For a split second, her protective herbal blend, bound in a makeshift cheesecloth sachet and secured with a garbage bag tie, teeters on the ledge. But then, it succumbs to the weight of the mail resting on top of it and bursts. The contents of my mailbox tumble down in an avalanche of herbs, letters, and catalogs."

From the start, Nina Navisky couches events with an overlay of light humor that delights: "'Basil, rosemary, yarrow, juniper, and anise. That must smell lovely.' 'I'm sure it does. You know what else smells great? Febreze. But that doesn't mean it's a 'spiritual protectant against harmful forces.' "

Marissa is working three jobs and is heavily in debt after her unexpected divorce. With Owen to look after, added to her own family's support, Marissa retains purpose and emotional ties while still feeling overwhelmed by life.

New age spirituality, explorations into chakras and the hidden virtues of the dead, and intrigue entwine as Marissa uncovers the truth about neighbor (and a man she barely knew) Bernie Klein's combination-lock case, safety rules that lead to death, and a mother's postal antics gone awry. These events permeate a story rich in herbal and ritual references, recovery processes on many sides, and ghosts of the past.

As old photos and the mysterious case present Marissa with a mystery she must solve, she also works through her own obstacles to healing, success, and moving on.

Nina Navisky writes with a warm hand that leads readers into thought-provoking moments. These juxtapose nicely with the balanced mystery, interpersonal relationships, and evolution of Marissa's world, even adding a touch of philosophy into the mix: "That's the meaning of 'life cycle.' It goes round and round in a circle, because even when there's an ending for one living thing, it's the beginning for another."

The theme of endings and new beginnings runs through The Fortune Cookie Writer. Marissa's probe of Jewish and new age traditions and their relevance to her circumstances keeps the story fast-paced and revealing. Readers are thus treated to a warm story of evolution that traverses life's changes. It is especially strong at depicting relationships between children and adults and the kinds of life explanations designed to solve puzzles that can't be explained: "'But in the worksheets the life cycle is a circle. And circles go round and round and don't end. But I don't get that, because when you die, doesn't everything stop?' 'That's a hard one to answer. The truth is that no one knows what happens. That's another reason grown-ups don't like to talk about it. We want to be able to give kids all of the answers.'"

With its delicate probe into circles of life, restarts, and processes of discovery, The Fortune Cookie Writer will delight women who look for psychologically astute stories firmly based in life changes and methods of coping.

The novel's multifaceted approach offers a warmth and evocative presentation that women will find understandable and involving.

Pep the Galapagos Tortoise
Jose Simbana and Ellen Griffiths
Redwood Publishing
9781952106934 $16.95

Pep the Galapagos Tortoise tells of a shy little tortoise who seems an unlikely hero of his island family and friends. But children ages three to eight receive a surprise as Pep confronts island invaders to save his home.

Jose Simbana and Ellen Griffiths provide a delightful picture book saga that receives intriguing illustrations by Jenna Riggs as it pairs Galapagos Islands natural history facts with a fictional story of how one young tortoise can make a difference.

The idea is to pair this message about individual strength with facts about the islands' natural world. There's also a component of real-world threat described as invaders attempt to steal the tortoises from their island home.

There is a wealth of information about various Galapagos creatures in the back of the book that support young geography and natural history learners with maps and animal facts.

The underlying message of how one shy individual can make a difference through some creative thinking, friendships, and problem-solving activism is just as valuable as the real-world Galapagos exploration portrait, and will delight read-aloud parents and independent readers, as well.

Mr. Roses
House of Roses
9780999567647, $14.99

Advanced elementary to middle grade readers interested in a story of action and adventure will find Bonez a fine leisure read choice. It explores friendship, achievement, and what happens when a "wild card," a good guy, and a cool guy find that their interests lead them to compete in the activity they all love: skating.

One note about Bonez is that it presents a different, more succinct format to its dialogue and interactions than many written for this age group.

Thus, its descriptive language and dialogue are both presented and punctuated differently: "We open up the story with Quigz in a laughter. Then a slap to his back from Essie right after. Quigz - Hey, what was that for? I'm just trying to get Bonez to man up. He just needs to be smooth and be like, hey Peep what's up."

This jovial mix of street lingo, slapstick humor, and metaphor create an inviting alternative to traditional methods of description and dialogue, inviting kids to partake of the flavor of action sparked by an attention to rhyme - albeit not presented in the usual verse structure.

As Bonez, Essie, Peep, and Quigz interact with each other and their peers, lessons about good intentions, slowing down to let feelings and relationships develop, and facing the world with revised approaches imparts gentle lessons to ages 8 and older: "Bonez and Peep had a moment where they both felt whole. Life slowed down for a minute; it felt like everything was in their control."

Spiced with compelling black and white drawings by Amber L. Luecke, the lessons learned by these young characters are outlined in admonitions about the value of hard work, positive thinking and focus, and staying true to yourself, among many others.

The result is a story that embraces with action, warms the heart with friendship encounters, and imparts the basics of better living through examples that are intriguing and filled with action.

A workbook of puzzles and activities at the end reinforces the story's lessons.

"The search for purpose and meaning in life is everyone's true goal." Bonez provides young people with keys on how to reach for better living as it demonstrates how to work out problems in life with an eye to options that lead to a superior future.

Grigor, the Competitive Tyrannosaur who Roared and Roared
Alanna Goldstein
Phil Wohlrab, Publisher
9780578947303 $11.33

Picture books about dinosaurs are a dime a dozen, and those that cover achievement and boasting abound. But, pair the two subjects and add the full-page, colorful drawings by Phil Wohlrab for an even more attractive experience that young readers and their read-aloud parents will find particularly engrossing.

Grigor is a little Tyrannosaur who is overly competitive. In fact, he's not happy unless he's the best in everything he does. And, he usually is.

The problem is...Grigor can play sports, but he's not a good sport. In fact, he's a sore loser.

And whenever he loses, he roars in anger and despair.

As readers move through Grigor's reactions to not being the best and not winning all the time, adults will have much opportunity to reinforce the story's gentle lessons on adversity, attitude, and handling failure gracefully.

Grigor over-reacts to many things, but his tendency to roar begins to put off even fellow supportive players.

These insights into how attitude affects friendships, team efforts, and ultimately success are transmitted through fun illustrations that get the point across as they follow the various scenarios in which Grigor expresses his disappointment in his team and in himself.

Read-aloud parents looking to instill examples of good and bad sportsmanship will find the appealing drawings and Grigor's dino dilemma to be just the ticket for some pointed discussions.

Chasing Time
Thomas Reilly
World Castle Publishing, LLC
9781955086806, $10.99 Paper, $3.99 Kindle

Who has not wanted to predict or change the future, at some point in life? And who has had the tools to do so? In the sci-fi story Chasing Time, retired history professor Tony Lucas must return to the magic of his youth to find just that key...and when he does, his decisions on how to employ it change everything.

Readers who expect a traditional opener will find this story's roots begin in Rome in AD 52, where merchant Lucius Fabius Antonius harbors an obsession with time and future prediction that is strengthened by a knack that has served him well throughout his life.

It also leads him to a risky business venture that brings the olive oil merchant into new realms of possibility when mysterious forces affect his business and the pursuit of something impossible.

Fast forward to 1965, when Anthony Lucas, also obsessed with time and blessed with an uncommon knack, finds a strange souvenir that changes everything for him.

Time is fluid in this story as he moves away from youthful discoveries and pursuits, only to remember them again when his wife is diagnosed with a terminal illness that he becomes determined to change.

As Ann's health challenge threaten to overcome the very key that could contribute to her survival, Tony faces pressures on many fronts: "During the next few days, Tony became so preoccupied with the detailed planning of Ann's care that he had little time to think about the ancient key or a potential miracle cure for ALS. Whenever such thoughts did enter his mind, he pushed them away and sadly reasoned that there really wasn't much more he could do to unravel the clues from the 2025 newspaper article."

Thomas Reilly does a fine job of spinning a time-travel yarn that comes with its own charge of exploring last chances for survival, however extraordinary they may be.

His protagonist struggles with death, a mystery, new possibilities, and time running out for business, health, and personal transformation alike.

Between stumbling upon an unbelievable story and the pressure to share it to make a difference, Tony finds himself going out on a limb in more than one way as he navigates special interests and personal objectives against the backdrop of a discovery that could change the world.

From how events in the future are interpreted (or disbelieved) by present-day players to how Tony navigates moral and ethical conundrums in the course of pursuing answers and cures, Chasing Time is as much about chasing after hope as it is about creating new opportunities with future knowledge in hand.

Readers who enjoy medical conundrums, time-travel experiences, and fantasy that pairs well with realism elements will find Chasing Time a heartfelt, compelling story that both joins and stands out in the time-travel genre.

Primeval Waters
William Burke
Severed Press
9781922551993 $11.99 Paper, $4.99 Kindle

Primeval Waters represents horror/thriller adventure writing at its best. It tells of an Amazon River expedition through hell when Dr. Micah Clark, his nine-year-old daughter Faye, and his assistant Catalina Abril are kidnapped and forced to traverse an environmentally altered Amazon jungle.

So, what's Dr. Clark doing in the jungle? What makes him famous - filming his reality adventure TV series Meteor Micah, the Outdoor Exploration Network's top show, which searches out exotic destinations, creates gripping survival challenges, and blends science with pop speculation about aliens and ancient mysteries: "Network executives had christened him a modern day "Marlboro Man" - a ruggedly handsome intellectual who appealed to everyday viewers, especially ones who wore tin foil hats."

He's investigating The Anomaly, an ancient meteorite long buried in a lakebed. The discovery defies ready identification, leading him into a field survey that goes awry from prehistoric threats.

The very ingredients which have made his series a success now contribute to an extraordinary foray into unprecedented dangers. Dr. Clark becomes convinced that an extraordinary alien intelligence is behind the new threats, using them as camouflage to hide secrets about the meteorite, which promises the world clean energy, but harbors other abilities that might not prove so beneficial.

As a paramilitary operation, jungle Queen Caveira, and other forces struggle for the same treasure, Dr. Clark is drawn into a series of confrontations that defy not only his scientific knowledge and its process, but his ability to survive.

Readers seeking an Indiana Jones-type story with nonstop action will be especially pleased at the dilemmas and struggles that happen back-to-back, and at the vivid descriptions William Burke presents as he explores these action-packed encounters: "The snake slammed straight down, using the front half of its body like an axe, crushing the boat. Both serpent and boat vanished beneath the water. A moment later, the snake resurfaced, a man clenched in its jaws. It turned to focus on its next prey - the yacht. Batista stared into its emerald-green eyes, his heartbeat pounding in his ears. That silence was shattered by machine gun fire. One of the gunboats came in fast, front machine guns blazing. Unfortunately, Batista's yacht was also in the line of fire. Batista hit the deck while keying his walkie talkie, shouting, "You idiots are shooting at us!"

William Burke adds not only a host of special interests, but a variety of different threats to an adventure packed with unexpected twists and turns. Pirates, kidnappers, ancient monsters and cannibals, oh my!

Fans of nautical horror and sci-fi scenarios will find these encounters make for edge-of-your-seat reading that grips with an introductory mystery and doesn't let go.

The overlay of real-world Amazon nature and extraordinary events and influences blends two disparate environments with descriptions that are taunt and grippingly realistic: "Micah sank into a deep but remarkably clear pool. He was about to kick his way up when he saw something silhouetted against the sunlit surface. It was a fish, at least six feet long, with a tapered snout. Another equally large creature swam by, intentionally bumping him. Micah thought, Bull sharks, while fighting the panic welling inside. Amazon River bull sharks were as vicious as great whites - genuine man-eaters."

The result is a thriller/horror/adventure mix that will attract a wide audience, from fans of William Hope Hodgson's special brand of horror to Indiana Jones adventure story readers who just can't get enough of this kind of special blend of fantasy and action.

Please Don't Tell Cooper That Jack is a Rabbit
Michelle Lander Feinberg
SDP Publishing
9781736199039, $19.99 Hardcover, $13.95 Paper

Picture book readers ages 2-8, and adults who choose this story for read-aloud, will find Please Don't Tell Cooper That Jack is a Rabbit a winning story about a rescue dog who decides to make his escape from his beloved home when he spies something irresistible outside the fenced yard: a rabbit.

A fun rhyme follows Cooper's escape and efforts to catch the bunny ("Don't get me wrong, his intentions are kind./It's making a buddy that he has on his mind."). As pursued and pursuer race through town, causing havoc all around them, they discover their shared passion indicates that a new friend has been found.

Anna Mosca's lovely, colorful illustrations capture the whimsy and messages of Michelle Lander Feinberg's story about an unusual interspecies friendship.

Kids receive a warm story of "...connections made where differences had been" in a tale that covers similarities, differences, the elements of friendship and relationships, and the process of being a "true pal."

Parents who choose this story for read-aloud will find it offers many opportunities for discussions on how to view and accept differences while building meaningful relationships.

From information on pet adoption to discussions of diversity, acceptance, and overcoming obstacles, Please Don't Tell Cooper That Jack is a Rabbit embraces many themes that lend to opportunities for enlightenment for the very young.

Searching for Eden
Keith Madsen
Black Widow Books
9781737203773, $5.99 ebook

Searching for Eden is a novel that chronicles Evan Jordan's search for answers and a mythical place after his teenage daughter dies of cancer.

Evan is not only crushed. He's angry: "Becoming a father should be labeled like a cigarette pack!" That's what Evan Jordan blurted to the first person he saw as he stormed out of the hospital, fists clenched. "I'm serious!" he said to an old man who was being wheeled in, hooked up to oxygen. "'WARNING: Care too much for a child and it will kill you!' They should put it right on the birth certificate. Or how about, 'WARNING: There are 10,000 things that can kill your child and you can't do a damn thing about half of them!' How about that one?"

His pain and anger drive him to questionable choices and the search for a mythical garden of perfection, and he embarks on a journey that leads him to encounter all manner of spiritual belief systems and people as he travels through the Middle East.

Many of these characters are given a depth and psychological examination that moves beyond a focus on one man's mission alone. This is one of the strengths of Searching for Eden's diverse perspectives: "Feeling rejected by BehnAm, Afsaneh had indeed gone searching for Carmen, but couldn't find her anywhere. She returned to her tent, where her aloneness at least seemed appropriate. She lay down and tried to nap, but her spirit was still in turmoil. As a woman in Iran, she had often felt unimportant, as if she didn't belong, but she believed this place would be different. She tossed around on her cot for a while, and then got up and paced."

From traversing war zones to ancient archaeological digs and mysterious findings, Jordan's search for answers and resolution leads to an adventure that operates on many different levels, embracing action, spirituality, life's meaning and purpose, and military and political threats alike.

Keith Madsen excels in beginning with the microcosm of individual experience and blossoming events and encounters to the macrocosm of social unrest and political issues. He injects social and spiritual inspections into the story that keep readers involved and guessing about outcomes.

The myriad of complex subplots that evolve are easy to understand and thought-provoking in their religious inspections. Jordon's journey assumes a fuller flavor as it evolves: "If you are looking for a place where 14-year old girls will never die, then you won't find such a place in Iran, or anywhere on the planet. But if you are looking for a place where you can come to some understanding about your own fear and hurt, a place where you can discover where humanity took a wrong turn, and ended up distrusting and fearful, then perhaps this is the place you should be."

Searching for Eden is highly recommended reading for anyone interested in stories about grief, recovery, spiritual inspection, and journeys that embrace world events and special interests, unfolding to reveal treasures of action and perspective alike.

After Meat
Karthik Sekar, PhD
Independently Published
9780578944302, $30.00 Hardcover, $18.00 Paper, $9.99 ebook

After Meat: The Case for an Amazing, Meat-Free World is a study in ethics, values, and science. It makes a case for the unsustainability of using animals for food, clothing, and various other human purposes.

Unlike most similar-sounding books which focus on the moral and ethical issues of humane animal treatment, Dr. Sekar uses science (specifically, physics and biology) to make his case against how humanity currently views and uses animals.

More than simply arguing against such approaches, however, Dr. Sekar identifies alternatives which make more sense on many different levels, juxtaposing his own quest for better products and alternatives to animal use with scientific inquiries into processes and products which are both sustainable and an improvement on many different levels.

His ideas represent "the donkey cart giving way to the Tesla Model S," combining reasoned arguments and insights with footnoted references that document the scientific foundations of his thinking: "...there is nothing special about animal protein versus non-animal protein for our health. If anything, limiting ourselves to only animal protein will prove disadvantageous in the long run. We can imagine a future where the fermentation-based protein is tailored and customizable."

His futuristic extrapolations of how non-animal uses can benefit not just the planet and human health, but business and production circles promotes the common sense of making informed decisions that lead to healthier, better choices on many different levels.

This brand of scientific assessment makes After Meat a standout in animal rights literature. Where other treatises are largely idealistic or philosophical in their arguments, this combination of scientific and economic rationales, backed by footnoted references and facts, makes for a production whose futuristic vision is not just possible, but makes more sense than current standards.

Any collection strong in sustainable choices and social transformation needs to include After Meat in its holdings as an outstanding example of science-based future possibilities that outline how government and citizens can make fundamental changes work.

Gallant: The Call of the Trail
Claire Eckard
Mill City Press
9781662826146, $17.99 Paper, $8.99 Kindle

Gallant: The Call of the Trail is recommended for horse-crazy teens who enjoy stories of girl/horse bonds and adversity. It tells of Gallant and Gracie, who are separated by an accident when Gallant is five. Each pursues similar courses of interest in the horse world in a story that centers on not the usual racing scenario, but endurance riding.

Another difference that sets Gallant apart from other horse stories is chapter titles that are revealing and intriguing. "How Was She Supposed to Say Goodbye," "We Won't Risk You Being Hurt Again," and "I Think That Maybe I Did a Terrible Thing" are a few examples of chapters that serve as captivating introductions to their stories.

Another draw is a shifting point of view that covers Gallant's perceptions and feelings as well as Gracie's: "Gallant wanted to tell them his fear was valid. He had been hurt before, but he realized they probably didn't care. They just saw him as a big baby who knew nothing and feared everything."

As Gallant and Gracie evolve separately and learn to become winners once more, the story pursues their independent learning processes, other relationships, and the irony of their life directions as each absorbs the kinds of lessons that will ultimately lead them to meet up in the future.

Exceptional black and white drawings by Phylicia Mann pepper the story and bring horse and girl to life. The specifics of endurance riding training add to the story line and are especially notable because relatively few horse stories depict anything other than the horse racing world.

As Gracie plots to reunite with Gallant and finds out that her parents have been keeping a secret from her about his whereabouts and ownership, she seeks to make her dreams come true against all odds.

Claire Eckard's focus on horse, girl, and how each evolves and grow makes for a thoroughly engrossing story. Especially compelling are the moments in which Gallant begins to understand truths about cruelty and beauty in the world and those in it, whether they be animals or humans: "He was turning something beautiful into something demeaning. He couldn't understand how Flash could be so handsome on the outside and so ugly on the inside."

While Gallant is about Gracie and Gallant's efforts to reconnect, and their independent lives, it's also about how each learn to cope without one another, and with the forces that influence their lives.

Teens are in for a treat with a horse story that embraces psychological and horse training milieus that other horse tales for teens don't begin to touch. Collections catering to this audience will appreciate the story's special focuses and added attractions.

Marcela's Army
Daphne Birkmyer
Atmosphere Press
9781639880300, $19.99 Paper, $7.99 Kindle

Book 2 of the Comfrey, Wyoming series, Marcela's Army, continues the story of the Crow twins and opens with a house afire in 1983 Comfrey, in which a family perishes.

There is one survivor. Vera's vantage point from a tall tree gave her a birds-eye view of the fire's terrible impact.

As this story of adoption, recovery, and the lives of survivor Vera, Heidi Crow, and her twins Marcela and Amadeus evolves, the impact of events, coincidences, changed circumstances and growth lead families to join in unusual ways to survive and change.

Betrayal, redemption, and broken families who find in each other newfound purpose and connection are probed in an engrossing story that opens with tragedy, then progresses through the lives and influences of a small Wyoming community.

As the tale moves from Vera to Marcela, Heidi, and Amadeus, Vera's growth as a potter and her artistic success blend into Marcela's special challenges to unite very different paths.

Marcela, too, is gifted with clay; but she also struggles with an unusual charge to grow into her true self. It will take family and a village to support her during these endeavors.

Daphne Birkmyer presents a multifaceted story of several young people faced with life-changing events and decisions that challenge their abilities, interests, and roles in their community.

Her warm juxtaposition of families transformed by these events and her story of how responses become more educated and transformations come to be accepted makes for thought-provoking reading that many will find unexpected.

Marcela's Army is not your traditional tale of small town life and concerns. It's a gripping story of tragedies that resonate through personal worlds to change all the people involved.

A family who lives in fear of their deepest secret being found and exposed finds new ways to trust and love in a gripping saga that will leave readers thinking about contemporary family issues and growth in an entirely unexpected new way.

Collections strong in stories of survival and family ties will find Marcela's Army an outstanding addition that stands out from many as guardian Heidi oversees the Crow twins' evolution.

God 4.0
Robert Ornstein with Sally M. Ornstein
Malor Books
9781949358995, $24.99 Paper, $14.99 Kindle

God 4.0: On the Nature of Higher Consciousness and the Experience Called God is recommended for psychology and spirituality collections alike, and considers the intersection between the two as it probes different notions of God and higher consciousness.

Intrinsic to this discussion are reflections on the nature of personal reality and perception. These demonstrate how ideas of transcendence and belief have, in modern times, moved to re-evaluating the connections between science and spirituality.

Ideally, for a smooth continuation of Robert Ornstein's theme, his prior The Evolution of Consciousness should be read first, because it sets the stage for God 4.0, which expands the discussion from its original foundations.

God 4.0 is the third and last book in Ornstein's trilogy. It can be read first, or readers may wish to take the full journey by starting with The Psychology of Consciousness, his groundbreaking classic study introducing the two modes of consciousness of the left and right hemispheres of the brain. The second book in the trilogy, The Evolution of Consciousness, provides a critical understanding of how the brain evolved. The three books together represent a fundamental reconsideration of ancient religious and spiritual traditions in the light of advances in brain science and psychology, exploring the potential and relevance of this knowledge to contemporary needs, and to our shared future.

New scientific findings across a range of disciplines contribute answers to sociological puzzles about how the concept of and search for transcendence has affected humankind. Even more importantly, they lay a foundation of scientific inquiry for God 4.0 which endeavors to explain and explore the shift in consciousness which many call "seeing God."

Ornstein strives for a "unified theory" that links scientific and spiritual disciplines to create a new structure with which to view this process of transcendence and discovery. His goal is to foster new avenues of thought from these modern revelations - ones that lend to a "new spiritual literacy."

As chapters reveal this history, readers are treated to a discourse that considers not just science and religion, but life's purpose.

As with many scholarly presentations, God 4.0 is heavily footnoted with supporting studies and reference materials. Unlike most academic research, however, the lively tone of historical, social, scientific, and religious inspection is quite accessible to lay readers as Ornstein points out fallacies and truths in thinking, through the ages: "It must be acknowledged that the doctrines of all of the Abrahamic religions - Judaism, Christianity and Islam - hold that there was one Creation, in which God "created" everything. But these dicta were produced a millennium or more before the last 600 years of science and have not been revised. They were never intended to be taken literally."

This quote illustrates an important prerequisite for the complete enjoyment of God 4.0. Readers should be flexible in their belief systems, whether they stem from religious or scientific foundations, and should be willing to reconsider long-held assumptions about religious truths and what constitutes reality.

Those with such an attribute, who look for a science-based overview of history, principles, tools, and processes of thought and belief, will find God 4.0 not just worthy reading, but a study which ideally lends to discussion group debates and consideration.

Religion, science, psychology, and historical collections will find this study of social rules and laws both ancient and modern to be revealing and unique.

Deep in the Forest
Lynda McDaniel
Lynda McDaniel Books
9781734637151, $4.99 ebook
9781734637144, $14.95 Print DJ

"Am I dead?" I whispered in the cold, dark emptiness surrounding me...As I pulled the covers up, I could just make out the sound of someone breathing deeply. I couldn't tell where that was coming from - this room or somewhere nearby? I didn't want to wake it, afraid what that might unleash. I had no idea how I got there, just that I had been in England, away from my home and my family. My head ached real bad, and I needed to take a leak even worse. But I laid there quiet-like, afraid for my life. If I still had one."

Deep in the Forest is the fifth book in McDaniel's Appalachian Mountain Mysteries, and provides mystery readers with an involving story that opens with a bang. After this gripping opener, Abit Bradshaw's story moves backwards to nine days earlier to fill in details of his family life with Fiona and the magical pulls of home and kin.

How thirty-six-year-old Abit moves from this life to one in which he holds no memory of his present circumstances makes for a gripping story as he heads into a "long battle" that moves back and forth in time.

Juxtaposed with Abit's perspective and tale is the story of Della Kincaid (whom he has known since he was fifteen) and Nigel Steadman, an Englishman who moved to the U.S. and became Della's good friend before fleeing back to England. He's also been an ongoing source of trouble for Abit and Della, dragging them into a series of escapades.

As Nigel, Della and Abit face a mole in their midst, a stakeout gone awry, and people who exist in the "deep forest" of complex interactions and trouble, readers receive a solid dose of British atmosphere as they sojourn through pubs, mysteries, and danger.

Unlike the other books in this series, the British Isles focus provides a satisfying difference, challenging the characters with a new milieu. As travels expose underlying prejudices and social differences, each character grows beyond their roots and experiences as they confront the "deep forest" both outside and within themselves.

Mystery fans who enjoyed the prior books will welcome this departure in physical place, and Lynda McDaniel's ongoing ability to present realistic characters who operate against the backdrop of a challenging mystery. Her ability to weave psychological perspectives and changes into the bigger picture of a series of mistakes that lead each character to question their abilities and sense of purpose creates a story that is thought-provoking on more than the mystery level alone.

Deep in the Forest deserves a spot in any mystery collection, irregardless of whether the prior books in the series are familiar or not. It stands well alone, and as a nice addition to the prior adventures.

Beatriz M. Robles
Authors Press
9781643145174, $12.99 Paperback, $19.99 Hardcover, $3.99 E-book

Artwords melds art and literature in a manner designed to appeal to both art and literary audiences, and comes from an artist and writer who captures the visual impact of pairing poetry with art.

Envisioning the written word as an art form is nothing new; but Beatriz M. Robles elevates it to new levels as she presents calligrams (word images), redactive ("found") poetry, and color photos and artworks that blend words into the art form itself.

Of necessity, Artwords requires a fine eye to both visual and verbal cues in order to prove accessible. In other words, this is not your usual poetry/art collection, but a representation in which each form supports the other and operates within the realm of the visual and written world.

As words and images wrap and embrace, readers are not only treated to an exercise in perception, but an exploration of how words can form visual images that translate on different levels, as writing becomes art itself.

The intersection between prose, poetry, and art in Artwords offers many surprises. It also serves to challenge conventional thinking, whether about art, photography, or written language.

Readers interested in alternatives to traditional style, form, and representation will find Artwords more than just visually appealing. It's a compelling work that defies easy categorization as either literature or art - and, thus, belongs in the collections of both.

Coach, Run, Win
Ken Sayles
Morgan James Publishing
9781631956133, $16.95 DQY

Coach, Run, Win: A Comprehensive Guide to Coaching High School Cross Country, Running Fast, and Winning Championships comes from a coach who shares his training methods for creating fast runners out of high school students. His focus goes beyond the usual coaching how-to model, however, to address the specifics of fostering fast, winning young runners.

From developing a championship mindset and dealing with school administration, parents, and booster clubs to fostering leadership qualities in winning runners, Ken Sayles provides all the nuts and bolts needed to understand various aspects of the coaching process.

Its focus on cross-country training methods, paired with Sayles' own track record of producing consistent award-winning results from his coaching efforts, creates a book that should be on the desks of any high school track coach who want to move beyond ordinary processes into extraordinary achievements.

From individualized, season-long training routines to self-examination documentation which embraces visualization techniques, the survey pairs case studies of students with discussions of challenges to positive reinforcement directions. During the process, Coach, Run, Win addresses common obstacles to success and shows how to overcome them on many different levels.

From the criteria for varsity letters to school rules, standards of excellence, and setting expectations for behaviors both on and off campus, Sayles leaves no stone unturned in his outline of the processes of producing high achievers in the world of cross-country racing.

Other coaching books are far more singular in approach and recommendation. One of the outstanding features of Coach, Run, Win lies in its multifaceted considerations of not just physical routine, but the politics of school and parent management and requirements and the process of fostering mental acuity in winning runners.

This wide-ranging coverage of all the influences on coaching winners should be on the radars (and in the collections) of any coach who wants to go above and beyond the usual routines and guidance effort, whether they're handling teams or individuals determined to succeed.

The Valley Spirit
Stephen C. Altschuler
Sacajawea Press
9798540963251 $14.95 Paper, $0.99 Kindle

The Valley Spirit: Living a Tao-inspired Life is recommended for new age readers interested in meditation and transformative techniques. It provides a guide to Tao and Buddhist thinking that can lead readers towards becoming more engaged in and sensitive about the world.

From new ways of asking good questions to make their answers better and more relevant to positive change, to considerations of the foundations of estrangement, alienation, and roots, The Valley Spirit addresses a far-ranging series of considerations affecting the process of personal transformation.

Issues of what should be taken literally or figuratively and the differences between the two, the task of handling conditioning to become more engaged in the moment, and sidestepping the split between mind and body that leads to physical and mental challenges alike are all tackled in this Buddhist-based approach to life.

Many books have promoted this approach, but often neglect to cover the process of just how to achieve this state of mind. In contrast, The Valley Spirit focuses on how to arrive at this place, using the author's own brand of nature and social inspection as a foundation for walking in the footsteps of his journey towards a better perspective and outcome.

Moving from the lessons learned from practicing Tai Chi forms to how conditioning presents barriers to moving into different mindsets, Altschuler provides observations and keys that allow for movement between conventional and transformational thinking, focusing on finding balance points at different junctures. This fosters forward momentum.

Connections between Gaia, achievement, and the importance of finding answers in direct experience draw important links between Tai Chi and meditative processes, and growth-oriented transformation.

The Valley Spirit is a process-oriented book that gently guides readers on their own path of self-discovery. It is highly recommended for new age, self-help, and spirituality collections alike.

Rosemary Nichols
Atmosphere Press
9781639889969, $18.99

Historical fiction readers who enjoy stories of Civil War experience will find Stolen the first volume in a family saga that brings to life many under-covered aspects of the war's events and impact. These include the kidnapping of students who are to be sold into slavery in the period of time approaching the Civil War, as the South is seceding, and is the subject of Stolen.

When cousins Hannah and Carl vanish in Cleveland, it takes months to uncover where they are and why they disappeared.

A close family determined to find them embarks on a rescue mission that leads them deep into the heart of a South unfriendly to Northerners, and into the politics and growing threat of the Civil War looming on the horizon.

Rosemary Nichols strives for more than historical accuracy in her story. She recreates the sights, smells, and sense of the culture and politics of the 1860s through evocative descriptions that bring the era to life: "'We can have staterooms on the Natchez. It is a well known steamboat and has a captain, Thomas Leathers, with a fine record for safety. The Natchez carries the federal mail. They will stop at the landing for Sarah's plantation sometime

Saturday.' He continued emphatically. 'We need to get out of this city. The citizens have gone mad. Only this afternoon I learned of another attack on a businessman from Philadelphia. He was fortunate not to be killed. And he had done nothing, merely seek to transact business in a whirlwind.'"

All is not a whirlwind of conflict, in this story. Nichols strives to equally and accurately represent Northern and Southern viewpoints and culture in a manner that explains and depicts both camps to allow for better reader understanding of the ordinary man's perceptions and interests.

From family member interactions to floods, the rising tides of social and political unrest, and the positivity which concurrently runs through family and communities alike, Nichols strives for a Civil War depiction that is fair and balanced: "With Caleb's positive attitude general through the people, what could the Magnolia Ridge community expect but success?"

This approach also sets Stolen apart from other Civil War battleground-oriented, conflict-focused approaches as it recreates not a singular vision, but the many positive and negative influences on individuals and communities during these times.

The focus on family ties, sympathetic contrasts in the atmosphere and differing approaches of Northerners and Southerners, and depiction of a journey that challenges all makes for an engrossing introduction to a series that goes far beyond the usual Civil War story. Stolen captures the nuances of history and perspective that provide a fresh view of events, motivations, and interactions between family and community.

Civil War collections and historical fiction readers will find Stolen thought-provoking and unexpected on many different levels. It stands apart from the usual Civil War analysis by personalizing all lives, on both sides, making for a top recommendation that stands out from the crowd in many ways.

Murder in Second Position
Lori Robbins
Level Best Books
9781685120214, $16.95 Paper, $5.99 ebook

Murder in Second Position represents the second book in the ballet mystery series, providing cozy mystery readers with a satisfying blend of intrigue, humor, and ballet experiences.

Ballerina Leah Siderova faces many new challenges in this story, from the involvement of her stepmother in her ballet company to the influence of ballet director Pavel Baron, a man who is "pure poison." Leah finds, one fateful February day, that she must once again engage in an investigation both within and outside of the ballet milieu.

Lori Robbins draws readers into these dovetailing worlds from the opening lines of the story: "I belong onstage. Not in an interrogation room at Manhattan's Twentieth Precinct. And yet, for the second time in less than a year, that's where I had a starring role. As part of my official statement, I'd like to go on the record to confirm this simple fact: When dancers say, "ballet can be murder," they're speaking metaphorically. Most of the time. More to the point, if I were going to kill someone, it would have been Savannah Collier."

From chilly New York City rehearsal days to stormy interpersonal relationships experienced by Leah, her friend Olivia, and others, Robbins brings to life both the intrigue and the ballet world's many challenges.

As astutely as the action plays out, Robbins doesn't neglect a dash of ironic wit that laces the story with personality and fun: "I took a few deep breaths, wishing my practice tutu wasn't quite so tight. Tragic swan queens had no business gaining weight, and I was self-conscious about recent dietary indiscretions regarding salted caramel chocolates."

The references to the strict rules that ballerinas must follow throughout their careers appear throughout the story, lending it a realistic, insightful feel: "Still painful to me was the memory of watching a rehearsal director chastise a ballerina for gaining weight. She had dazzled audiences in her role of the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker, and as a young student, I idolized her. The year I joined the company, the rehearsal director began publicly referring to this red-haired dancer as Plumpkin. He wasn't the only one. The former critic of The New York Times was especially brutal, speculating on the exact number of pounds the poor woman had gained. It was a cautionary tale I never forgot. One day you're on top, and the next you're teaching kindergarten classes at Dolly Dinkle's School of Ballet."

As she probes the many people around her who are keeping secrets for different reasons, Leah moves ever closer to the one secret that almost kills her. Only a last-minute costume change saved her. It may not do so again.

The mystery component is just as lively as the dance company descriptions and the performances themselves. Robbins brings all to life with a style that performs deftly and artistically, and this will attract both dance-oriented readers and those with little experience with the world of ballet.

The result is an engrossing murder mystery that operates on many different levels to bring readers on a rollicking ride through death, achievement, and ballet politics alike as a murderous rampage threatens more than just one life.

Let's Say Jack Kennedy Killed the Girl
William F. Crandell
Hawkshaw Press
9781734091861, $14.99 Softcover, $24.95 Hardcover

Let's Say Jack Kennedy Killed the Girl is the first book in the Jack Griffin Detective Series, and is recommended for hard-boiled detective fiction readers who appreciate mysteries set in the politics of the past, and which reflect and interpret history in an inviting, thought-provoking manner.

Like all exceptional reads, it opens with a compelling image: "Jack Kennedy and I had nothing in common when we met but our first names, the Purple Heart, and the hots for Betty Dyson."

Thirty-four-year-old ex-Army P.I. Jack Griffin meets politician Jack Kennedy and acknowledges their very different lives, which come together when the aforementioned Betty Dyson drags them both into a murder.

Under William F. Crandell's hand, the politics and atmosphere of D.C. come to life as events unfold against the backdrop of turbulent times. All remain firmly grounded in Griffin's experience and observations, which lends this story a personal touch that goes beyond a murder investigation alone: "Every man my age in America seemed to be getting married, fathering half a dozen kids and buying a bungalow on the G.I. Bill at the edge of some town. I lived alone in a two-room apartment in Washington - three if the bathroom counted. I dated a lot of women and had fun with them 'til they found their calendars full of evenings with more typical men, guys who didn't sit up nights guarding their hearts. My empty private life felt like a guilty secret."

This attention to personal detail and experience does more than add to the milieu of politics, culture, and Jack Kennedy's involvements. It adds a subset of experience and emotion that will attract even readers not usually interested in either P.I. mysteries or historical fiction.

As the story unfolds, Griffin struggles to keep young Congressman Kennedy from being identified as the perp in a terrible murder. The overwhelming evidence against Kennedy, including six solid witnesses who place him at the scene of the crime, seems insurmountable, but wealth and position work together to keep the wolves at bay as Griffin does his job.

The candid, wry observations of this milieu as seen from the first-person experiences of Griffin combine with historical backdrops to bring the story to life in many different ways.

Satisfying twists and turns will intrigue mystery readers who might not see some of them coming, while newcomers to the genre will find the emotional inspections of both Griffin and Kennedy drive the plot with connections that make the story hard to put down beyond the mystery it presents.

The result is a compelling tale highly recommended for a wider audience than the usual P.I. enthusiast alone. Between Let's Say Jack Kennedy Killed the Girl's catchy title and intriguing personalities, it should reach into novel and historical fiction reader circles alike, with vivid, unique brand of action and political and psychological interplays that make for a heck of a story.

Great Discoveries in Psychiatry
Ronald Chase
Logos Verlag (Berlin)
9783832553470, 34.00 Euro

Great Discoveries in Psychiatry presents a history of the discipline through various discoveries, but it is anything but the anticipated staid survey. Ronald Chase provides a chronological inspection of the major changes that formed psychiatry over the years, embracing the sometimes long processes that led up to these changes.

Chase's different approach is most notable in the perspective sections and chapter headings. Thus, the first chapter, "Kindness," reveals the foundations of psychiatry in a growing concern for the mental health of one's fellow citizens. It concludes: "Everyone would agree that kindness is better than humiliation and brutality, but kindness is not simply a matter of ethics. It actually improved the mental health of patients, and this fact alone forever changed the practice of psychiatry."

Footnoted references to reports, studies, history, and other studies, as well as vintage black and white photos, support Chase's survey.

Many of his connections between the evolution of psychiatry and social issues are intriguing: "Despite all the damaging evidence, the exact nature of Asperger's involvement in Nazi activities remains uncertain. He did not join the National Socialist party, and he never admitted to knowingly committing the horrible crimes of which he has been accused. Since he would have put his career in jeopardy if he had not cooperated with the Nazis, one could say that autistic psychopathy was an invention born of necessity, and everything else flowed from the same imperative."

Readers should expect a healthy dose of science as well as history. Perhaps most notable, however, is the attention to details of the various kinds of social, political, and scientific influences that led to discoveries that furthered the discipline. These are presented using lively language and unexpected associations that encourage readers to think not just about psychiatry's evolution as a discipline, but also the diverse paths to discovery and change.

Chase's ability to cultivate a winning, lively tone in a study that could all too easily have been dry and fact-laden instead of fact-inspired sets Great Discoveries in Psychiatry apart from other histories. It deserves a place as a foundation read in not just mental health collections, but for general-interest readers who will find its special blend of scholarship and investigative insights just the right formula for an accessible, inviting read.

The Visionary Brand
Bryan Smeltzer
LiquidMind Press
9781737188100, $24.99 Hardcover, $5.99 ebook< br>
The Visionary Brand: The Success Formula Behind the Worlds Most Visionary Brands belongs in any business collection focused on branding success, and makes a case for fostering a visionary, market-driving force that achieves through innovation and inspiration.

From product visions and engagement choices to creating a disruptive, different brand that stands out from the crowd, Bryan Smeltzer provides a series of admonitions that cover the processes of a successful formula for transformation and change.

Common business book approaches such as discussions of positioning and market-driven processes thus receive a unique approach that turns tradition on end to look at new results and how to achieve, foster, and promote different forms of vision and success.

Smeltzer adopts a problem-solving approach in his discussions that draws on many real-world examples from the start. One example is his survey of how Oakley, a successful eyewear brand, was missing the boat on expanding their vision to related products.

That there are no easy answers to pursing this vision is supported in the Oakley example that introduces The Visionary Brand, where "Oakley's little problem became a much bigger problem - one that would alienate some of their core community and drive the entire brand culture in a different direction. Both category authenticity and channel distribution would quickly become problems whereas they hadn't been before. Oakley began to lose its cultural direction, as well as those loyal brand ambassadors who stuck with the brand through its evolution over the decades. They had loved and embraced the brand for what it was, not what it was becoming."

What went wrong? As their success story becomes one that threatens to crash and burn, Smeltzer follows the process whereby the company changed in a different direction before all was lost.

This and other examples explore visions gone awry as well as those which reached for the sky and found the stars, providing compelling insights that business readers and innovators alike will find both thought-provoking and inspirational.

What makes for "a truly visionary brand as opposed to one that loses its way" lies at the heart of these discussions, which encourage visionary thinkers to not just identify visionary qualities and pursuits, but understand what leads to success and what threatens failure.

Smeltzer's three decades in business lend a practical, real-world side to his theories and visions. These help fellow business visionaries understand the foundations of identifying what elements are involved in a successful visionary brand.

From pricing and promoting revolutionary products to integrating a product strategy that embraces short- and long-term visions, Smeltzer's approach offers business thinkers new ways of branding and envisioning their goals.

Business collections will find his book specific and filled with opportunities that visionary thinkers will find enlightening and inspirational, grounded in the nuts and bolts of real-world experience.

Sunshine Chief
Eric Peterson
Huckleberry House
9781736983409, $16.95

Sunshine Chief is the sequel to Eric Peterson's second novel The Dining Car. It tells of food writer and traveler Horace Button, whose trip to Tucson involves him in investigating a crime others are not certain has actually been committed.

Sound intriguing? The mystery menu is spiced by witty observations and relationships, whether of family or associates who become caught up in various dilemmas around him.

The story is narrated from the perspective of Horace's friend Jack, who has known Horace for a year and a half.

From Horace's penchant for purchasing train cars and traveling by rail to a wayward niece who joins them for the journey, and the unexpected murder of Chef Jean-Claude, the story picks up action and intrigue along the trip that keeps it fast-paced and unexpected.

Who might have wanted the chef dead? How can the precocious Jane and Florabelle help solve a crime?

As Jack battles with his wife as well as the girls and Horace, he evolves revised perceptions of a number of relationships and their changing attractions: "At that moment I saw her at her worst: this self-righteous, uneducated, insular chef, this headstrong woman with a past that didn't seem to exist."

This illustrates one device Eric Peterson employs to keep readers engaged and interested: the ability to turn anticipated reactions, relationships, and experiences upside down for a different perspective.

As Horace's position as Tucson's honorary chief of police causes conflicts in his business and with Jack, the intrigue and interpersonal relationships heat up and change over an arrest warrant scheme gone awry.

While mystery readers will delight in the evolution of conundrums which keep Jack, Horace, and the characters on their toes with wild goose chases, fiction readers who enjoy train escapades, Tucson community insights, and stories of strange justice and redemption will find the story absorbing and unique.

Sunshine Chief 's ability to appeal beyond the mystery crowd to audiences who relish memorable characters of all ages, and who love escapades and adventures, makes it a top recommendation for fiction collections looking for something different.

Still Points
Barry Lee Swanson
Boat House Productions
9781737285519, $18.03 Paper, $28.95 Hardcover

Still Points is set in 1940 in rural Illinois, where college grad Philip Zumwalt takes a job as a music teacher to save money for his goal of becoming a professional musician in Chicago.

His life is changed when he meets Elinor Robinson, embarks on a romance that threatens his dreams, then faces the rise of World War II, which demands his participation in an unexpected conflict.

As battle and love change his artistic dreams, Philip finds himself moving far from his life's passions and into uncharted waters that lead him to question what he's really fighting for.

One of the reasons why Still Points comes across as so captivating is because of its foundations in reality. Philip's journey is loosely based on actual diaries written by the real Philip Zumwalt during World War II, and so assumes an immediacy and inspection that comes to life under Barry Lee Swanson's hand: "I once was a fool for love and now I'm a fighting fool, he thought. Though he did not love everything, an impossibility that El had proposed, he loved many things: music, great literature, philosophy, and even, to some degree, religion. It went without saying that he loved his family and El. What confounded him was that now he had to add one more item to his list: combat. Strange. There was a certain exhilaration in cheating death. There was a certain pride he felt when taking down an enemy Zero, in defeating an adversary intent on dominating others. He believed in freedom, and now, he had to admit to himself, he actually loved something else - being a man of action."

Many of the letters presented in Still Point came from Swanson's imagination, but some are authentic or based on diary entries. The author's concluding notes provide insights and further research for history buffs looking for further real-world details.

These close inspections of belief, inspiration, and revised meanings and goals in life drive a story further enhanced by letters between Philip and his love El as they embark on the journey that brings them together and then drives them apart.

These reflect on far more than war alone, or even absence. They demonstrate the ongoing affection Philip harbors for literature and life itself, and combine with his maturity process to offer inspections steeped in poetic images: "When I think back to the moments we spent together, most of them could be defined like that, not just when we were dancing, but nearly every, single instance. The world stood still, El. It reminded me of acciaccatura, the musical term I taught you in band. Remember? A grace note, ornamental, a timeless note, a momentary pause, maybe even a moment of grace. It's there, and then it's gone. Time frozen in place."

From moments in time and memory that help the soul survive to the evolution of self in the face of separation and battle, Swanson crafts an engaging, memorable portrait of a young man who sacrifices the dreams of his life, only to grow and move forward in different ways.

The milieu of the Second World War and its psychological and social effects on all involved (whether in battle or waiting at home) is captured in a compelling saga of romance and growth that will keep readers engaged in the characters' process of preserving their love and dreams against all odds.

Still Points belongs in any historical fiction collection strong in World War II accounts.

Oliver and the Wishing Star
Jennifer Decker and Chrish Vindhy
Dandelion Books
9781737764403, $17.99 Hardcover, $11.99 Paper, $4.99 ebook

Oliver and the Wishing Star is a fun picture book which opens with Oliver's wish to go play instead of doing his homework. A savvy mother catches him before he goes out the door and insists that he forego swimming with his friend Finn in favor of walking the dog and then doing his homework.

It's simply unfair, Oliver thinks. So unfair, that he must be cursed. The curse lies in not living a carefree life like his dog, and in having to do all the work of a human.

What happens when he breaks the rules and wishes for a different life? Trouble.

Chrish Vindhy provides good-size, colorful, captivating illustrations that bring Oliver's dilemma and problems to life.

As Oliver searches for happiness, he slowly comes to realize its elusive nature and why he should feel gratitude for who he is and the creature comforts of his life.

Parents who choose Oliver and the Wishing Star as a read-aloud for the very young will find it a detailed story that holds an exciting adventure, a fantasy encounter, and a lesson.

The humor wound into this tale of a dog's life adds fun moments into a quasi-serious inspection of what it takes to recognize the good aspects of one's reality.

Dog-loving picture book readers are in for a treat.

Death Rules the Night
Rosemary and Larry Mild
Magic Island Literary Works
9780990547266, $14.95

Death Rules the Night will appeal to mystery readers who hold special affection for bookstores and detective stories. It tells of truck driver Tom Dwyer, whose life is derailed when fellow driver trainee Frank and he flee a hit-and-run accident that threatens their careers.

Readers who anticipate a fairly straightforward progression of events from here should be advised that Death Rules the Night chooses no easy or predictable paths. A myriad of characters are introduced, whose lives and choices feed into the main event.

Vintage bookstore owners Dan and Rivka Sherman pursue the mystery of a vanished book of Atkins family history, only to find it likely contains clues to a crime so insidious that the perp has taken pains to confiscate every known copy of the book.

As members of the Atkins family are introduced and people go missing, the mystery strengthens and only makes Dan more determined to get at the heart of the events that shake their community.

The Mystery Writers' Critique Group is also a big part of the community's process of problem-solving. They are an active membership whose approaches add experienced eyes that consider both mystery writing and town events: "Whenever attrition took its toll on membership, other writers, some seasoned authors, some wannabes, stepped in to take their place. Each left an inkling of their skills and wisdom at the long table and the others benefited. Each meeting brought story parts and bits to be read and criticism in the form of kindness to be dispensed, so that learning for all prevailed."

The blend of literary review and community inspection added to the growing mystery's components will delight mystery fans who like their stories multifaceted and unpredictable.

Rosemary and Larry Mild take the time to craft and intersect the lives of a number of individuals. Those who anticipate a more singular focus and coverage may at first find this broad cast of characters daunting, but as they all contribute to a bigger picture of intrigue, the story assumes a life that a more casual interplay of a few characters could not have matched.

Dialogue, too, is compelling and realistic: "Dan!" scolded Rivka, "I told you this blasted manuscript business was going to end up being dangerous - trouble we could have avoided. And now look what you've done. It involves poor Ivy, who shouldn't have to worry about anything like this. After all, she's getting married next week." "Hey, I know. There's no way I could have predicted the sneaky little bastard would take things this far. All I wanted was an explanation of why those books disappeared. I'm sorry."

Death Rules the Night's lively inspections of death, marriage, threats, and redemption makes it a standout especially recommended for mystery genre readers who like their stories realistic, engaging, and full of surprises as they move into the big secret Muddy Akins is determined to keep against all odds and prying town any cost.

The Jayhawker Cleveland
David Hann
Anamcara Press LLC
9781941237786, $28.99 Hardcover, $19.99 Paper, $9.99 Kindle

Young adults who enjoy historical stories set in 1800s America will find The Jayhawker Cleveland: Phantom Horseman of the Prairie holds all the elements of a compelling tale. It's based on newspaper reports of a notorious 1860s figure who liberated slaves and horses alike during the Kansas Missouri Border War.

Contrasts between the Free State of Kansas and the slave milieu of neighboring Missouri come to life in a saga that follows The Jayhawker (a.k.a. Charles Metz) as he assumes various personas and names and fosters causes in an era ruled by sickness and social clashes alike.

A stint in prison changes Metz's feelings about slavery, and his evolving new perspective comes to life: "Slaves are property," said Metz, "according to Missouri law. Like horses or wagons, and we have that pro-slaver Buchanan as president who uses the Army to enforce that law." "When I get out in a year or so," said Moore, "I plan to break that law. I'll head to Kansas and join the fight. We're little more than slaves in here, painting the prison walls or hired out to work for farmers across the river." "At least you have a date to look forward to for your freedom," said Metz. "Slaves have no future to look forward to. I didn't have much of an opinion, one way or another about the slavery question, but now that I am looking at three years behind bars I can better imagine their plight."

Young adults who follow this shifting perspective absorb not only the history and biography of this figure and his times, but the political participants in the process of a transformation that changed hearts and minds: "We're going to Missouri. We've all had enough of the slavers and border ruffians coming over here and terrifying peaceful settlers." Men cheered. Some waved pistols or big knives in the air as Jennison continued. "I, Charles Jennison, commissioned by Governor Robinson as Lieutenant Colonel, say that we do not care about your past political opinions. No man will be persecuted because he differs from us, but now, neutrality is ended. If you are patriots, you must fight. If you are traitors, you will be punished. The time for fighting has come. Every man who feeds, harbors, protects, or in any way gives aid and comfort to the enemies of the Union will be held responsible for his treason, with his life and property."

The story unfolds with much drama and historical information, but involves young people in issues ranging from political and legal decision-making to the story of how one man's versatility and changing presence influenced the outcome of slavery and freedom in two states.

The author's concluding notes provides exceptional insights into why he chose his subject, how he researched events, and the challenges of pursuing facts based on newspaper reports alone ("Hours of searching might produce a single paragraph, or nothing at all.").

While the result will educate and intrigue young readers of American history, it also provides discussion material and food for thought as it follows this vivid personality through his last ride.

The Cleveland legend comes to life under David Hann's hand. It is highly recommended reading for all ages...anyone that looks for research-based fiction on early legal, political, and social issues in 1800s America.

Final Chance
Van Fleisher
Independently Published
9781732083332 $9.99 pbk / $2.99 Kindle
Final Chance is the third book completing the Final trilogy, and is highly recommended for thriller readers - especially fans of the prior books which set the stage for this powerful conclusion.

The story opens with U.S. President Bo Sanders relaxing in Camp David under a protective forested dome that protects residents from the harsh environment outside. Under his leadership, the U.S. has fostered a doming project to stave off human extinction as the climate changed, and terrorists have been sent to prison, making the world a safer place.

Or, is it?

In short order, disaster strikes.

Leaving this futuristic setting, the story moves forty-six years back in time to 2020, where polarizing politics and disasters set the stage for what is to come.

The technique of presenting a disaster, then immediately moving away to set its roots may stymie those who want a linear production, but it succeeds in capturing reader interest from the start, then creating a backdrop of understanding against which future events evolve.

As a series of pandemics and concurrent environmental challenges emerge, readers will find this arena all too recognizable. It's the perfect place for better understanding the events which stem from these conflicts, making Final Chance a prophetic thriller in more ways than one.

Operating within this milieu of the turbulent 2020s is scientist Vijay Patel, whose work and character received center attention in Van Fleisher's previous stories.

In the past, Vijay, his business partner Alek, and their company VitalTech's brainchild (a watch that can predict the wearer's death date) morph to new levels as the device is fine-tuned to detect Coronavirus and becomes a key instrument in the battle against the always-evolving plagues.

Even though Vijay is out of the picture, his legacy lives on. The decisions surrounding the use of technology to mitigate environmental and politics issues in this futuristic society offers not just last chances, but final changes for the survival of humanity.

From investigations of political irregularities and threats to the pursuit of a deadly traitor who is far too close to the trusted offices that hold the fate of many in its hands, Fleisher excels in building a political and social inspection that feels realistic and familiar because its foundations lie in present-day experience.

Readers will not only find it easy to delve into the action and intrigue of Final Chance without benefit of its predecessors, but will find that its message and impact feel all too familiar.

As Vijay Patel's twenty-six-year-old daughter, Karima, assumes center stage and grapples with many legacies, the Patel family remains entwined in a social and political experiment that blends both high technology and gripping issues facing the world today.

Between the ethics of microchip tracking and murders contemplated when one's death date is known to the concurrent threats of climate change, political change, and pandemics, Final Chance embraces many moral and ethical conundrums as it surveys crimes, punishments, and new possibilities.

It takes a seasoned hand to incorporate all these questions and considerations into a gripping suspense story. Van Fleisher represents that talent.

Readers of Final Chance will find its special mix of familiar past and all-too-frightening future to be hard to put down. Seasoned with action and intrigue, these characters face questions modern man grapples with today, on a level that makes their choices and consequences anything but predictable.

Bobos Babes Adventures: A Magical Halloween
Karen M. Bobos
Bobos Babes, Ltd.
9781737437574, $17.99 Hardcover, $12.99 Paperback, $3.99 ebook

Bobos Babes Adventures: A Magical Halloween joins others in the Bobos Babes picture book series, inviting attention from young readers who enjoy stories of magical, close-knit families.

Halloween is being celebrated in the land of Harmony, and the Babes are all set for a good time.

As a rollicking rhyme follows the sisters through a world of talking ladybugs, costume challenges, and transformations that only Halloween could represent, young readers receive a lively and detailed story that focuses on fun, laughter, and shared experiences rather than scary encounters.

Parents, too, will find the rhyme and sisters' interactions lend to read-aloud enjoyment that offers a different take on Halloween celebrations.

As spells bring enjoyment and fun into their celebrations, all ages will relish the colorful, whimsical drawings by Jazinel Libranda that bring the lively sisters and their Halloween encounters to life.

Once again, the Bobos Babes feature fun-loving, sassy, joyful, and magical girls who embrace each other and new experiences as they enjoy an especially surprising holiday celebration that exceeds their expectations.

Adults who want to impart a sense of togetherness and shared fun beyond the usual focus on Halloween horror will welcome the opportunity to present youngsters with a more positive survey of Halloween's possibilities for enjoyment and interaction.

Bobos Babes Adventures: A Magical Halloween is a delightful adventure that will keep kids (and their read-aloud parents) smiling throughout.

Ghoul n' the Cape
Josh Malerman
Earthling Publications
9781736928424, $75.00

Josh Malerman's special brand of horror is evident in past writings which have embraced a wide range of themes, from the Netflix-adapted futuristic story of plague and monsters that is Bird Box to the specter of an occupied house in a lake.

This attention to unexpected, gripping descriptions continues in Ghoul n' the Cape, a horror tale that, like Bird Box, is difficult to categorize and impossible to predict.

The stories of a disparate group of characters whose lives intersect in the arena of the unexpected create a roller coaster of a novel which resides somewhere in the outer limits of horror, social and philosophical inspection, ghost story, and inspections of possible and impossible worlds.

More literary than the usual horror novel, more philosophical than the typical social inspection piece, and driven by Ghoul's insane romp across America that leads far from any type of home one can imagine, Ghoul n' the Cape is a work not for the faint of heart or entertainment-oriented reader alone.

Its observers aren't just adults; but teens who (as in Ray Bradbury's classic Something Wicked This Way Comes) fall into a carnival of myth and imagination that transforms everyday perception: "The shadows just wouldn't go away. Like he was wearing a cowboy hat. Like the brim of an invisible hat hid what they wanted to see and kept him hidden from a world which could not observe him fully in return. "Sheesh," the boy said. The mood had fallen off. Not so funny anymore. Truth was, the guy was a little scary. Rode as erect as a flag pole, gripped the reins like a racecar driver, egged the horse on with dirty boots. "More coffee?' the waitress asked. Her voice, sudden as it was, scared the couple-to-be, but neither took their eyes off the rider. And they didn't respond, either. They only stared. As dust rose around the hooves of the stoic beast, as the shadows increased, pooling upon the man's features just as he came level with the diner, so close to them both behind the glass."

Many of the devices of Bird Box and Malerman's previous writings return to haunt readers with considerations of sight, perception, and different interpretations of reality. As the Cape and Ghoul make their cross-country journey, each explores the limits of their transformations, abilities, and interactions with the world: "The Cape knew he couldn't Sway the trooper, not from this distance, and certainly not with the mind alone. He had a way with words, maybe. Often, he didn't even think he had that. What he really had was a personality people seemed to believe. Some called it calming, though the Cape rarely felt calm himself. Recently he'd felt quite the opposite. Fleeing his post was not an easy thing to do and required a brazen bravery heretofore unknown to himself."

As Ghoul and the Cape make their way across America, witches, ghouls, and journeys coalesce.

Malerman's unique descriptive abilities lend sharp angles into the story, which are delightfully creative and unexpected: "He looked back, once, and wished he hadn't. The thing was in the left eye again, licking what looked like the edge of a knife, a bright knife, so bright that, when Marcel turned back toward deck, he couldn't see properly, couldn't see much at all, didn't even know that he'd crossed the threshold, had left the statue's head, and had joined the pilgrim in the abyss of a cruel and limitless sky."

Ghoul n' the Cape offers a thought-provoking story that crosses the threshold of imagination and surreal life. It will demand of its readers a slow reading and attention to detail because, like a cake that visually appears one way yet tastes quite different, its ability to melt in the mouth depends on its reader's ability to take things slow.

The blend of literary, horror, and philosophical inspection is exquisite, making Ghoul n' the Cape a top recommendation that defies neat categorization or quick interpretation.

Much like Bird Box, it's a specialty read that will attract a wide audience of intellectual readers who look for extraordinary, thought-provoking stories that live outside the box.

Badges of Honor
John M. Hinck, PhD, compiler
Bookpress Publishing
9781947305359, $TBA

Badges of Honor: Stories of the Head, Heart, and Hand is compiled by an Assistant Professor of Leadership for the USAF's Air University, and gathers examples of leaders, decision-making processes, and how to cultivate strength and honor during the process. It should be given to any aspiring leader in any discipline, as it presents powerful examples of fellow leaders who cultivated not just a process, but a perspective about what highly effective leadership means.

The collection begins with the note that these contributors write their own chapters and reflections. This diverse set of experiences and voices adds to a survey that takes no singular route in explaining and exploring examples of leadership, but follows the process of how these individuals rose under and overcame different circumstances to stand out from the crowd.

The book is constructed so that readers can begin anywhere within it, to receive snippets of wisdom. This gives even the busiest reader or shortest attention span an accessible gathering of influential writings.

Badges of Honor opens, appropriately, by reinforcing the notion that the reader, too, can write about their own leadership experience and inspiration, presenting a reinforcing discussion by Martha J. Sasnett, "Everyone Has A Story." When Martha took command of 42d Force Support Squadron in January 2015, she admitted she had her work cut out for her.

How she met these challenges and cultivated a special brand of leadership with a squadron already demoralized and suspicious of any senior leader makes for eye-opening insights into the process of fostering shared objectives even when a group seemingly eschews guidance.

Issues of guidance and decision-making undergo inspection in a very different way in "God Plants a Garden" by Demetrius N. Booth, who explores family and religious connections, and the challenge of loving without condition and despite all odds.

Each story comes from a very different world. Each shines with examples of honor, value, struggle, and achievement, and each provides another light that points out the various ways in which true leadership is cultivated. Leadership rests on not only a solid game plan, but thoughtful, flexible approaches to life and others.

The inclusion of experiences from all walks of life and between disparate people proves that leaders need not be associated with business or military circles alone, nor even come from a shared foundation of educational expertise.

Leaders emerge from the hearts and minds of thoughtful, responsive, savvy individuals. And, as the book encourages, the reader can be one of them.

That's why it's important that Badges of Honor not be limited to military, business, or self-help shelves alone, but should appear as a choice for discussion groups or anyone strong in understanding how honor and leadership are built, and how they walk hand in hand to lead self and others to better lives and understanding.

Misplaced Your Body?
J Ward Anderson
Telemachus Press
9781956867039, $2.99 ebook

When Jane Roberts channeled the spiritual entity Seth in her metaphysical inspections, she operated entirely in the nonfiction realm as Seth imparted philosophical and spiritual insights about the meaning of life, death, and afterlives.

Misplaced Your Body? No Problem, Replacements Are Free adopts a different tactic in presenting a novella that comes from an intriguing premise: that the spirit Mr. Samoa Jens is collaborating with J Ward Anderson to produce a "recording of many of my observations and philosophical ponderings gathered during my lives on Earth."

A wry sense of humor about the process evolves as Anderson mentions that "A change of font seemed to be the best way to distinguish my experiences from Mr. Jen's slightly condescending, occasionally long-winded philosophical meanderings on a wide range of subjects, all of which, surprisingly, directly relate to our bodily existence on this planet."

During this discourse, the observations and interactions between both entities assume a higher level of witty satirical inspection that will especially delight fiction readers who look for a high degree of fun in their stories. This interactive pushme/pulley of literary allusion offers amusing insights that belay a potential for serious contemplation alone, running wit and wisdom alongside one another for maximum effect: "Before we explore my history with words, I'd like to say that the above blunt, rude comments from Mr. Jens could be skating the edge of what one might consider to be 'an amiable manner' mentioned in the prior chapter. If not, then be prepared. He can be difficult to predict."

It's unusual to see this blend of serious inspection and witty supportive responses, much less in the format of fiction. Anderson's ability to bring to life and make accessible Mr. Jens's reflections on the nature of the universe, awareness, and alien encounters alongside a myriad of related subjects will appeal to a wide audience interested in a different form of literary inspection that takes the form of a dialogue between two entities.

It should be noted that, in addition to a sense of humor and appreciation for literary and philosophical reflection, readers need to harbor few present notions of propriety or religious certainty. These audiences may find offensive some of the light-hearted representations of human history: "At first glance, you might envision Ms. Karma as always being there, forever watching over your shoulder, taking turns with Mr. Conscience to somehow keep humans on the right side of HIS 'best practices' decrees about fornication, theft, and the like. You know, those Ten Commandment thingies Moses was all in a tizzy about, because, as he tells it, those lousy Pharaoh turds had no compunctions whatsoever when it came to the Pharaoh's Jewish property: killin', rapin' and doing all sorts of vile and nasty things to Mo's folks. This pissed old Mo off, and rightly so. As such, he got in a pow-wow with the Big Chief upstairs and they cooked up these ten rules. And from then on earth was a dull (but more civilized) place."

Those who look for unique inspections into the "mountains the truths" that challenge both the mind and its ability to adapt to alternate visions of spiritual beings and religious exercises will find absolutely delightful the reflections in Misplaced Your Body?

It deserves a spot in any collection where satire - and social inspection - intersect with spiritual and philosophical speculations.

Fatal Depth
Timothy S. Johnston
Fitzhenry & Whiteside, Ltd.
1554555574, $21.95

Fatal Depth: The Rise of Oceania is nautical thriller cli-fi reading at its best, and joins two others in navigating a flooded, collapsed world in the 2100s in which political clashes take place at sea.

In 2128, over ten million now populate the ocean floor in twenty-nine cities. The struggle for independence against the United States and tensions with China foster an environment of war and conflict fostered by new technology and alliances that crumble.

Set in 2130 AD, Fatal Depth details this ongoing struggle. It opens with an alarm that alerts USSF Lieutenant

Cathy Lentz (of the United States Submarine Fleet) of a threatening presence just off the shores of the eastern United States coast.

For three years, she's monitored the screens for incoming subs in Norfolk, Virginia while longing to be back under the water in a sub. Now the impossible is happening, bringing with it a tsunami of physical and mental proportions as everything she knows about sub technology is turned on end.

The new warship is a game-changer. It challenges not only the U.S. but Truman McClusky, Mayor of Trieste City, located underwater off Florida's coast, to embark on a new form of espionage and defense, as a result.

Military sci-fi readers who enjoy tense action from the start, strong characters who react to and analyze their environments, and portraits of determined captains on all sides of the rising crisis will appreciate Timothy S. Johnston's attention to nonstop action and detail.

He explores the motivations, perceptions, and political and social climates of all sides and the major characters who drive this story: "Captain Ivan Arkady Ventinov stood on the bridge of his warsub, the largest ever put to sea in the oceans - on the surface or below - and felt enormous pride surge through his body. His entire history had led him to this point in his career. Born to government officials, raised in Moscow and socialized around aristocrats and politicians his entire life, he had had a meteoric rise in the Russian Submarine Fleet."

These details weave nicely into an unpredictable plot filled with social and political twists and turns as the survivors of a changing environment once again find their lives at risk.

It's also strengthened by the change from a third-person introduction of disaster to first-person reactions and experiences that neatly set the stage for both overall insights and personal "you are there" action: "Hopefully we'd be adding enough mass to the pile so that when the reaction really started to go critical, there would be enough uranium in the molten corium to cause an impressive meltdown. China Syndrome. Only this one would go up."

Another big plus is that the action is laced with emotional responses, which brings the setting and situations to life: "The thrum of the sound pulses echoed through the hull. Johnny, my best friend and former partner in Trieste City Intelligence, was sitting in the co-pilot chair to my right, and he glanced at me. "It still doesn't feel safe," he muttered.

"You know it works." "It's new on this ship." I grunted. He was right. But the sound pulses that were radiating out from the blunt bow of SC-1 were sending compression waves away from the sub, and we powered into the lower pressure tunnel that they created."

Exquisite in its combination of futuristic vision, military maneuvering on all sides, conundrums facing survivors who keep encountering new situations, and political struggles that affect all communities above and below the tides of change, Fatal Depth: The Rise of Oceania is both a powerful addition to the series and a fine stand-alone read accessible to newcomers who may not have prior experience with this setting. Maps, a timeline, and succinct description paint all the background necessary to thoroughly enjoy this thriller, which should be on the shelves of any library strong in nautical cli-fi or science fiction powered by political and military clashes.

Joseph T. Humphrey
Pen Publishing, L.L.C.
9781955729024, $5.99 ebook

As his thoughts drift in a classroom, Henry hears screaming. It's coming from outside. It's a terrible sound the teacher also hears, but nobody is in the corridors when he checks. It's a sound he tries to forget, because after all, he's only seventeen, and "...the scream was somebody else's concern. He'd spent a long time steeling himself against the craziness of high school life and didn't need this."

When he's dragged out of his complacency and forced outside his comfort zone, only his friend Charley, a girl who struggles with her own past trauma, is beside him to help.

Henry is already struggling ("The emotional yanking was paralyzing. He was being drawn and quartered by all the sudden claims on his life."), but the screaming girl brings with her a different reality filled with dangerous creatures and even more puzzles than he faces from his regular life.

Joseph T. Humphrey shifts the point of view from Henry's world to Charley's perceptions, moving the story along in a fast but understandable series of events that challenge them both in new ways.

Charley's drive to flee into solitude, to get away from these creates and everything else, mirrors Henry's preoccupations, but in a different manner. This satisfying contrast between personas, perceptions, and objectives creates a fine adventure as the truth about Henry's parents, their flight, and their choices come to light.

The Nekura are not only after Henry and his family: their powers will change the world, and only the broken Henry and Charley may stand in the way of disaster. Another threat arises as Charley realizes her parents may already know of the creatures and have a vested interest in this battle.

Although the age of the characters will mean much of the audience for Branded will be young adult, this blend of fantasy and supernatural thriller will also reach into adult circles with action and inspections that are unexpected and descriptive: "The grumbling volcano shook. Small rocks vibrated loose and fell into crevices in the ground. Charley had a hard time maintaining her footing on the crumbling surface beneath her. The heat was becoming intense."

From beasts such as the gladiatorial Bludgeon that can call forth volcanoes to the onus on Henry to be something he is not (brave and bold) in order to save Charley and his world, Humphrey crafts an excellent, fast-moving thriller that forges new paths in the realm of supernatural fantasy thrillers, melding three genres into an inspection that is vividly presented and filled with satisfying twists and turns.

YA fantasy readers seeking nonstop action and the twists and questions of a thriller, as well as many an adult seeking a compelling crossover read, will find Branded hard to put down from beginning to end. It's a highly recommended pick for young adult into adult fantasy and thriller readers alike.

Life After Lockdown
Edited by Carol Burmeister, Rene DeLoss, Ruth Prystash, and Rebecca Silva
AAPC Publishing
9781956110036, $19.95 Paper/$9.99 ebook

Life After Lockdown: Resetting Perceptions of Autism not only stands out from the surge of Covid-subject books on the market today, but promises to remain in that position in the future. This is because its focus - covering the psychological impact of Covid's quarantine on those on the autism spectrum - finally gives voice to the experiences and perceptions of those already struggling with sensory integration dysfunction.

Life After Lockdown is recommended for teachers of children with disabilities, caregivers, and parents alike. It takes a post-pandemic approach to re-integrating kids on the spectrum into daily revised lives, addressing a myriad of concerns specific to this group such as anxiety, social challenges, reconnecting school and home life in a newly non-virtual environment, and being adults on the spectrum in the new age of Covid.

As chapters reveal the reboot experience, they cover coping methods and special concerns from the eyes of educators, those on the spectrum, and community members alike.

The pandemic has added new levels of unpredictability, uncertainty, anxiety, and fear to all lives; but those on the spectrum face special challenges that are outlined in this book. These concerns are addressed by 40 well-known professionals and individuals with ASD who are in the perfect position to enlighten readers about these issues.

It's hard to neatly peg the wide-ranging value of Life After Lockdown. If readers turn to it as a self-help guide, it does fit that category. If those outside the spectrum consult it for guidelines to rebuilding skills lost during the pandemic, it also fits that bill. But, most of all, it's the diversity of the shared experiences about pandemic living for this specific group that rounds out the advice and gives this book a personal edge that can't be beat.

Lives already shaped by autism were further touched by the pandemic in different ways, and in ways different from those not on the spectrum. Their experiences deserve a voice...and receive one in Life After Lockdown: "We older autistic adults need to recognize our age AND our autism. We need to be gentle with ourselves, especially with a major undertaking like re-emerging after a pandemic."

Especially notable are the conclusions to each contribution which outline the contributions concerns and excitement about life after lockdown. In the above narrative, Wilma contributes: "As we enter life after lockdown, I am most concerned about . . .remembering how to interact with people in person. As we enter life after lockdown, I am most excited about . . .being able to walk around anywhere and celebrate our beautiful world."

It's hard to be passionate, inspirational, and practical all at once, but Life After Lockdown's attention to capturing a range of experiences and advice from those on the spectrum who have and are coping with lockdown illustrates these qualities in a way that will educate, enlighten, and delight a broad audience.

It should be in every collection strong in psychology, ASD issues, or the social and community impact of Covid.

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

Gary Roen's Bookshelf

Nanny Needed
Georgina Cross
c/o Penguin Random House
9780593355992, $17.00 pbk, $11.99

"Nanny Needed" is a complicated narrative that is much more than a good suspense novel. The saying "If it seems too good to be true, then it probably is, is definitely true with "Nanny Needed. Sarah Larsen and her finance who both wait table in the same restaurant, are struggling to make ends meet. The nanny add she answers appears, to be the perfect fit to solve all of their financial woes. "Nanny Needed" races along with tight writing, believable characters of a family grieving the death of a loved one.

L. Ron Hubbard Writers Of The Future Volume 37
Edited by David Farland
Galaxy Press
9781619867017, $15.95 pbk, $9.99 Kindle

The 37th Volume of "Writers Of The Future" continues the trend setting series with new wonderful stories and art by capable newcomers on their way to bigger and better things. Like other installments there are several tales or commentaries by established authors Orson Scott Card and John M. Campbell, Jody Lynn Nye, as well as Hubbard himself. The yarns and art here, from some of the newest crop of genre writers who can only go up in their careers. "Writers of the Future" maintains an open door for emerging talent into the field of science fiction fantasy that has contributed more talent than any other source to the genre.

Safe Harbor
Gerhardt Roberts
Roberts Ink
9780999439821, $9.9 pbk $0.00 Kindle

"Safe Harbor" tells the story of what was taking place in Nazi Germany as Hitler's regime began its assault on the country and the rest of the world. It also is a love story of the characters of Eric and Nessa. Perfect substance for a great story but there are several things that detract from the enjoyment of the narrative. Often there are situations placed with no real bearing on the course of the yarn, too many of the character's name similarity that creates confusion as well as cover and title should be a hint to the reader of what lays in store. Both imply this is a book dealing with something at sea when really, it's something completely different. The formatting is difficult at times throughout the work. Still "Safe Harbor" shows the destruction of one nation and the effect on its people as well is a cautionary tale for us to learn from.

The Mistress of Illusions
Mike Resnick
c/o Penguin Random House
9780756413880, $9.99 pbk/$8.99 Kindle

Mike Resnick was for so long one of the top writers in the science fiction genre. "The Mistress of Illusions" is the second beautifully written tale of the "Dreamscape Trilogy" that confirms why his works were so popular. Often when an author dies their last writings disappoint. "The Mistress of Illusions" is a joyful further excursion into the worlds begun in "The Master of Dreams" that is Resnick at the top of his game. "The Mistress of Illusions" is exquisite prose for any fantasy, or science fan to devour

No Good
John Hope
Create Space Independent Publishing
9781499662719, $9.95 pbk/$0.00 Kindle

"No Good" reveals a more southern tone of the city of Sanford Florida back in the 1940's. 12-year-old Johnny "No Good" learns he has an adopted brother. Grudgingly, he does what he has to for his parent's benefit, but is not so accepting until a bit later. when certain things are revealed of who the male really is. Filling the complicated plot are a murderer at large and racism that abounds a laid-back society. "No Good" races along with fast paced prose, memorable well fleshed out characters set against the backdrop of a small town that is reminiscent of Mark Twain.

The Origin of Names, Words and Everything in Between Volume II
Patrick Foote
Mango Publishing
9781642506815, $15.95 pbk/$9.99 Kindle

Every so often people talk about where things come from, at different types of events. Patrick Foote takes readers on an excursion to learn the origins of different words. We find they come from diverse cultures all across the universe for so many centuries. There are also many divergent religious connotations that have been obscure until now." The Origin of Names, Words and Everything in Between" is perfect reading for anyone who loves to accumulate their trivia knowledge.

Becoming EVE my journey from ultra-orthodox rabbi to transgender woman
Abby Chava Stein
Seal Press
c/o Hachette Book Group
9781580059169, $28.00 HC $4.99 Kindle< br>
I saw the author in an interview and wanted to know more about her remarkable story detailed in "Becoming Eve" The beginning is that Abby started out life as a boy in an orthodox Jewish family destined to be a rabbi, but there were several things Abby could not accept choosing to challenge many established practices including the changing from a male to female. "Becoming Eve" reveals a lot of secrets of the orthodox wing of Judaism while also an enlightening passage of one person's journey to a fulfilling life regardless of what other people think.

Almost Ticked Off A Survival Story A Love Story A Memoir
Ann-Marie Magne
Mountain Brother Press
9781733966504, $15.95 HC/ $0.00 Kindle

We believe we have the best health care of any nation in the world. What if medical professionals are stumped on a cause for a person's illness. That scenario is presented overwhelmingly well in "Almost Ticked Off" where the authors husband was the patient whose health abruptly plummeted requiring transport to the nearest hospital. For a period of time and many different situations he somehow was able to hold on as many in the field of medicine theorized the cause of his afflictions. "Almost Ticked Off" is a powerful statement of love, faith and a medical field of professionals racing to find the cause of one person's hospital journey.

King of Ragtime The Story of Scott Joplin
Stephen Costanza
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
c/o Simon & Schuster
9781534410367, $17.99 HC, $10.99 Kindle

We have heard the music of Scott Joplin, but what have we ever know about the man synonymous with the Ragtime form of music. Stephen Costanza sheds new light on the famous composer Scott Joplin, how as a boy he dreamed of making music, some of the influences that spawned him to continue on his journey to become one of the most famous names in music. But "King of Ragtime "also details how, being black affected the way people treated him even though his music was so well accepted. "King of Ragtime The Story of Scott Joplin" is a multi-layered expose of some to the best and worst things about the United States for all of us to learn from

Beautifully Me
Nabela Noor, author
Nabi H. Ali, illustrator
Simon & Schuster
9781534485877, $17.99 HC / $10.99 Kindle

So often we have seen for so many years that we have to look, act, and be a certain type of person. "Beautifully Me" takes a different position to let kids know be happy with yourself no matter what you look like, your size and know you can be anything you want to be. Through the character of Zubi who worries about herself until she does a lot of soul searching to realize that people will just have to accept her as she is. "Beautifully Me" is a simple approach that has so much more to teach all of us to be comfortable with the person we are.

Gary Roen
Senior Reviewer

Helen Dumont's Bookshelf

Accidental Grace: Selected Poems & Prose
Ann Slayton
Dryad Press
9781928755548, $17.95, PB, 96pp

Synopsis: In lovely little volume of poetry and prose that is ably translated into English by Andrea Lingenfelter, Ann Slayton's "Accidental Grace" takes on wide-ranging subjects, sometimes imagining herself into an array of voices (rarely does she write in first-person) among them, the historical Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672), "We Have from the First Been Singers," Hester Prynne's young daughter Pearl, "The Spell," even Henry Moore's great sculpture, "Reclining Figures at Lincoln Center."

In "Western Primitive," frontier photographer Ben Wittick poses Geronimo, Chief Strange Horse, and Calamity Jane in his studio: "'Calamity,' he says, 'I don't know what Wild Bill / sees in you. I hear they call you / the White Devil of the Yellowstone. / Now show me what the damned creature looks like. / And hold it.'"

With a bold clarity, the tone of these poems is characterized by a precision of detail and cadenced rhythms as they move between meditative explorations and social satire in works such as "Nothing Again Is Happening," "Partly Mozart, Mostly Turkey Club," and "Everyone Was a Real One but Gertrude:" "Alice and I sat in the shadows / of the salon drinking tea / and talking hats with Fernande / while from the hive that Gertrude / made with Ernest and Pablo and / a heap of Persian rugs."

Critique: A consummate wordsmith, Ann Slayton's verse is eloquent, resonant, and memorable. "Accidental Grace: Selected Poems & Prose" is an inherently interesting volume that is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, college, and university library Contemporary Poetry collections.

Editorial Note: Ann Slayton is the author of two chapbooks, The Music Beginning Here and Catching the Light. She has been engaged in writing and editing in her public affairs work at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and in community arts projects. One of the founders of the Washington Women's Arts Center, she organized and presented exhibitions, workshops, discussions, and readings. Her poems and essays have been published in literary/arts journals, among them, Ms Magazine, Southern Poetry Review, Poet Lore, Washington Review, and in several anthologies.

The Inner Work of Age: Shifting from Role to Soul
Connie Zweig
Park Street Press
c/o Inner Traditions International, Ltd.
One Park Street, Rochester, VT 05767
9781644113400, $19.99, PB, 416pp

Synopsis: "The Inner Work of Age: Shifting from Role to Soul" by Connie Zweig is a DIY instrucitonal guide and manual for working through the inner obstacles of late life and embracing the spiritual gifts of aging.

"The Inner Work of Age" offers shadow-work and many diverse spiritual practices to help you break through denial to awareness, move from self-rejection to self-acceptance, repair the past to be fully present, and allow mortality to be a teacher. It also reveals how to use inner work to uncover and explore the unconscious denial and resistance that erupts around key thresholds of later life.

"The Inner Work of Age" features personal interviews with prominent Elders, including Ken Wilber, Krishna Das, Fr. Thomas Keating, Anna Douglas, James Hollis, Rabbi Rami Shapiro, Ashton Applewhite, Roshi Wendy Nakao, Roger Walsh, and Stanislav Grof.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The Inner Work of Age: Shifting from Role to Soul" by Connie Zweig is an inherently interesting, thoughtful and thought-provoking read from cover to cover. Thoroughly 'reader friendly' in tone and commentary style, "The Inner Work of Age: Shifting from Role to Soul" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, university, and senior citizen center library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Inner Work of Age: Shifting from Role to Soul" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.99).

Editorial Note: Connie Zweig, Ph.D., is a retired psychotherapist, former executive editor at Jeremy P. Tarcher Publishing, former columnist for Esquire magazine, and contributor to the LA Times. Known as the Shadow Expert, she is also the coauthor of Meeting the Shadow and Romancing the Shadow and author of Meeting the Shadow of Spirituality, as well as a novel, A Moth to the Flame: The Life of the Sufi Poet Rumi.

Workman Publishing Company
225 Varick Street, New York, NY 10014-4381

The Workman Publishing Company has produced two table top jigsaw puzzles.

"Where the Crawdads Sing 1000-Piece Puzzle" (9781523515158, $19.95) is based on the Delia Owens novel "Where the Crawdads Sing". Now immerse her fans can go even further into the breathtakingly beautiful world of "Where the Crawdads Sing" including the waterways, the wetlands, the birds and animals, and the light, and that amazing light as they, piece by piece, and image by image, recreate this magical corner of North Carolina's Outer Banks that the Marsh Girl calls home. "Where the Crawdads Sing 1000-Piece Puzzle" comes with: 1,000 interlocking pieces; A Mini-poster (9 3/8" 6 3/4 ") for reference or framing. The completed puzzle size is 26 3/8" x 18 7/8".

"Book Nerd 1,000-Piece Puzzle" (9781523515127, $19.95) is a jigsaw puzzle just for book lovers! You know you're a book nerd because you never once thought the movie was better. Your favorite mug says "I'd rather be reading." You have a minimum of five books on your nightstand, and your favorite activity is browsing the shelves of your local bookstore -- a joy you can now relish, piece by piece, in this love letter of a puzzle to your personal passion. "Book Nerd 1,000-Piece Puzzle" comes with: 1,000 interlocking pieces; A Mini-poster (9 3 8" 63 4") for reference or framing. The completed puzzle size is 26 3 8" 18 7 8".

Both of these two new puzzles are a jigsaw puzzle player's sheer delight and highly recommended for personal, family, and community library recreational collections.

Helen Dumont

John Taylor's Bookshelf

Emerson's Nature and the Artists
Tyler Green
Prestel Publishing
9783791378695, $25.00, HC, 144pp

Synopsis: Widely considered to be the foundational text of the American landscape tradition, Ralph Waldo Emerson's Nature urges Americans to value and immerse themselves in their country's landscape, to build American culture from America's nature. Nearly two centuries after the original publication of the essay Nature by Emerson, "Emerson's Nature and the Artists: Idea as Landscape, Landscape as Idea" is an impressive and detailed study by critic and historian Tyler Green who brings together a selection of artistic works in dialog with Emerson's text for the first time.

Green also offers his own fascinating take on Nature through new research into how the essay was informed by Emerson's experiences of art and, in turn, how it informed American art well into the twentieth century. The result is a unique melding of essay, art, and ideas that will draw new readers to Emerson's writings, while also introducing a fresh perspective on a critical contribution to the American canon and showing what impact Emerson's text still has for the US to this day.

Critique: Gorgeously illustrated in full color throughout, and unreservedly recommended as an essential addition to community, college, and university library collections, "Emerson's Nature and the Artists: Idea as Landscape, Landscape as Idea" by Tyler Green is an inherently fascinating, memorable, thoughtful and thought provoking read that must be considered essential reading for all students of Ralph Waldo Emerson's life and works.

Editorial Note: Tyler Green is an historian, art critic and the producer/host of the Modern Art Notes podcast. His most recent book is Carleton Watkins: Making the West American, which was awarded the 2019 California Book Awards gold medal for contribution to publishing.

John Taylor

Mary Cowper's Bookshelf

Sourdough Culture
Eric Pallant
Agate Publishing
1328 Greenleaf Street, Evanston, IL 60202
9781572843011, $29.00, HC, 320pp

Synopsis: Sourdough bread is commonly made by the fermentation of dough, using naturally occurring lactobacillaceae and yeast. The lactic acid (produced by itself) gives it a more sour taste and improved keeping qualities.

Sourdough bread fueled the labor that built the Egyptian pyramids. The Roman Empire distributed free sourdough loaves to its citizens to maintain political stability. More recently, amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, sourdough bread baking became a global phenomenon as people contended with being confined to their homes and sought distractions from their fear, uncertainty, and grief. In "Sourdough Culture: A History of Bread Making from Ancient to Modern Bakers", environmental science professor Eric Pallant shows how throughout history, sourdough bread baking has always been about survival.

"Sourdough Culture" presents the history and rudimentary science of sourdough bread baking from its discovery more than six thousand years ago to its still-recent displacement by the innovation of dough-mixing machines and fast-acting yeast. Pallant traces the tradition of sourdough across continents, from its origins in the Middle East's Fertile Crescent to Europe and then around the world. Pallant also explains how sourdough fed some of history's most significant figures, such as Plato, Pliny the Elder, Louis Pasteur, Marie Antoinette, Martin Luther, and Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, and introduces the lesser-known (but equally important) individuals who relied on sourdough bread for sustenance: ancient Roman bakers, medieval housewives, Gold Rush miners, and the many, many others who have produced daily sourdough bread in anonymity.

Each chapter of "Sourdough Culture" is accompanied by a selection from Pallant's own favorite sourdough bread recipes, which span millennia and traverse continents, and highlight an array of approaches, traditions, and methods to sourdough bread baking. "Sourdough Culture" is a rich, informative, engaging read, especially for bakers -- whether skilled or just beginners. More importantly, it tells the important and dynamic story of the bread that has fed the world.

Critique: A model of culinary history, "Sourdough Culture: A History of Bread Making from Ancient to Modern Bakers" is an extraordinary study that is as inherently fascinating as it is informed and informative. While an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, family, and community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Sourdough Culture: A History of Bread Making from Ancient to Modern Bakers" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99).

Editorial Note: More information on Eric Pallant and his sourdough cultures, including a map of bakers around the world using Cripple Creek sourdough, can be found on his website at He lives in Meadville, Pennsylvania, with his wife, a cat he did not expect, and three active sourdough starters.

Don't Bring Your Vibrator to Rehab
Pam Gaslow
9780578950044 $12.99 pbk / $8.99 Kindle

Synopsis: Don't Bring Your Vibrator to Rehab is an emotionally frenzied memoir that reveals the terrifying and lonely world of addiction. After almost a decade of sobriety, Pam Gaslow relapsed into a life of dependency on marijuana, which nearly destroyed her. She recounts a devastating downward spiral that shattered her at forty-five years old. From bongs to pipes to flavored vape pens, she drifted and then dove into a two-year-long stoned void: a protracted journey to nowhere. Gaslow was the twenty-four-hour defunct addict living without purpose and barely able to function. And while she was aware that pot wouldn't kill her, she couldn't feel more dead inside.

At times hilarious and harrowing, Gaslow paints a raw portrait of a woman held hostage by her substance abuse. Eventually becoming sick from marijuana toxicity, she finally finds the courage to seek treatment. Her journey via rehab from an entirely checked-out, lethargic, hopeless, and suicidally depressed pothead to a sober woman with clarity and gratitude is told with honesty, intelligence, wit, and a remarkable degree of self-deprecating humor.

Critique: Don't Bring Your Vibrator to Rehab is the biography of a middle-aged woman's struggle to rise above dependence on marijuana. Even though marijuana was unlikely to kill her from a direct overdose, its toxicity overwhelmed her life in other ways. Dependence on the drug drained her energy, exacerbated her depression to thoughts of suicide, and robbed her of the will to function normally. Her journey to sobriety is recounted with honest candor and witty, self-critical humor. Don't Bring Your Vibrator to Rehab is as absorbing as it is insightful, noteworthy in its firsthand testimony of the harm that recreational marijuana use can bring, and highly recommended. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Don't Bring Your Vibrator to Rehab is also available in a Kindle edition ($8.99).

Murphys Don't Quit
Colleen Murphy
Morgan James Publishing
9781631955174 $17.95 hc / $8.49 Kindle

Synopsis: Murphys Don't Quit is a story of hope and resilience as one family rallies together during a tragedy.

Colleen Murphys' daughter, Lauren, suffered severe brain damage after a tragic accident. Lauren remained in the hospital unidentified for several hours, she was not expected to survive. This story is a raw, honest account of the pitfalls and challenges a family faces while navigating life through brain injury.

Murphys Don't Quit shows how one family combined a never-give-up attitude with faith, hope, and love. Throughout the chapters, readers see not just the highs, but the heartbreaking lows. Due to the family's Irish wit, humor often diffuses the devastating subject matter. Through the many grueling hours of therapy and by visiting specialists all over the country, Lauren was able to find her way back to a life filled with purpose and is now a highly sought after inspirational public speaker.

Critique: Murphys Don't Quit is the inspirational true story of the bonds of family, and the determination to overcome hardship. Author Colleen Murphy suffered one of the most devastating terrors a mother can experience when she learned that her daughter Lauren had suffered severe brain damage from a terrible accident. At first, Lauren was not expected to survive. She pulled through, yet the effects of the brain injury were devastating, and posed a severe challenge. Murphys Don't Quit tells of difficult therapy, travel to visit specialists all over the nation, and the pitfalls as well as the small successes on the long and difficult road to recovery. Candid and inspirational, Murphys Don't Quit is an emotionally uplifting read and highly recommended. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Murphys Don't Quite is also available in a Kindle edition ($8.49).

The Reluctant Queen
Lin Wilder
Wilder Books
9780578991238 $17.95 pbk / $9.99 Kindle

Synopsis: The story of the orphaned Jewish girl who saves the Jewish nation from extinction is the stuff of fantasy and legend.

Did such a person exist? Could an anonymous girl have been selected to be wife of the ancient Persian king of kings?

The author of the award-winning I, Claudia and My Name is Saul ancient novels returns with the story of Esther. Wilder's skills at blending historical fact with vividly imagined, well-founded characters have become her trademark. The Reluctant Queen is guaranteed to captivate both her loyal fans and eager newcomers, right down to its last riveting page.

Critique: The Reluctant Queen: The Story of Esther is a historical novel based upon the biblical story of Esther, a Jewish girl who became the wife of a king, and risked her life to save her people from massacre. Award-winning author Lin Wilder brings history to unforgettably vivid life, from the perspective of an intelligent, courageous, and compassionate woman. The Reluctant Queen is highly recommended for both personal and public library Historical Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that The Reluctant Queen is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Mary Cowper

Micah Andrew's Bookshelf

Blue Eyes, Brown Eyes
Stephen G. Bloom
University of California Press
155 Grand Avenue, Suite 400, Oakland, CA 94612-3758
9780520382268, $27.95, HC, 312pp

Synopsis: The day after Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination in 1968, Jane Elliott, a schoolteacher in rural Iowa, introduced to her all-white third-grade class a shocking experiment to demonstrate the scorching impact of racism. Elliott separated students into two groups. She instructed the brown-eyed children to heckle and berate the blue-eyed students, even to start fights with them. Without telling the children the experiment's purpose, Elliott demonstrated how easy it was to create abhorrent racist behavior based on students' eye color, not skin color. As a result, Elliott would go on to appear on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show, followed by a stormy White House conference, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and thousands of media events and diversity-training sessions worldwide, during which she employed the provocative experiment to induce racism. Was the experiment benign? Or was it a cruel, self-serving exercise in sadism? Did it work?

"Blue Eyes, Brown Eyes: A Cautionary Tale of Race and Brutality " by Stephen G. Bloom is a meticulously researched book that details for the first time Jane Elliott's jagged rise to stardom. It is an unflinching assessment of the incendiary experiment forever associated with Elliott, even though she was not the first to try it out.

"Blue Eyes, Brown Eyes" offers an intimate portrait of the insular community where Elliott grew up and conducted the experiment on the town's children for more than a decade. The searing story is a cautionary tale that examines power and privilege in and out of the classroom. It also documents small-town White America's reflex reaction to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1970s and 1980s, as well as the subsequent meteoric rise of diversity training that flourishes today.

All the while, "Blue Eyes, Brown Eyes" reveals the struggles that tormented a determined and righteous woman, today referred to as the "Mother of Diversity Training," who was driven against all odds to succeed.

Critique: Timely and timeless, "Blue Eyes, Brown Eyes: A Cautionary Tale of Race and Brutality" is a unique, informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking read that must be considered in this era of the Black Lives Matter movement and the increasing successful political movements to suppress the non-white voter, to be a critically important addition to community, college, and university library Contemporary Social Issues collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for individual students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Blue Eyes, Brown Eyes: A Cautionary Tale of Race and Brutality" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $19.99).

Editorial Note: The Professor of Journalism at the University of Iowa, Stephen G. Bloom is also an award-winning journalist and author of five nonfiction books: The Audacity of Inez Burns, Tears of Mermaids, The Oxford Project, Inside the Writer's Mind, and Postville.

Micah Andrew

Michael Dunford's Bookshelf

A Maya Universe in Stone
Stephen Houston, editor
Getty Publications
1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 500, Los Angeles, CA 90049-1682
9781606067444, $50.00, HC, 192pp

Synopsis: In 1950, Dana Lamb, an explorer of some notoriety, stumbled on a Maya ruin in the tropical forests of northern Guatemala. Lamb failed to record the location of the site he called Laxtunich, turning his find into the mystery at the center of "A Maya Universe in Stone", edited by Stephen Houston (Dupee Family Professor of Social Sciences at Brown University).

The lintels Lamb discovered there, long since looted, are probably of a set with two others that are among the masterworks of Maya sculpture from the Classic period. Using fieldwork, physical evidence, and Lamb's expedition notes, "A Maya Universe in Stone" identifies a small area with archaeological sites where the carvings were likely produced.

Remarkably, the vividly colored lintels, replete with dynastic and cosmic information, can be assigned to a carver, Mayuy, who sculpted his name on two of them. To an extent nearly unique in ancient America, Mayuy can be studied over time as his style developed and his artistic ambition grew. An in-depth analysis of Laxtunich Lintel 1 examines how Mayuy grafted celestial, seasonal, and divine identities onto a local magnate and his overlord from the kingdom of Yaxchilan, Mexico.

"A Maya Universe in Stone" contextualizes the lintels and points the way to their reprovenancing and, as an ultimate aim, repatriation to Guatemala.

Critique: An impressively informative combination of archeology and art, "A Maya Universe in Stone" is a critically important and significant contribution to the study of Pre-Columbian Mayan culture. Comprised of four major and illustrated essays and especially recommended for personal, professional, community, college, and university library collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists, "A Maya Universe in Stone" is further enhanced with the inclusion of References, a listing of contributors, a listing of illustration credits, and an index.

Michael Dunford

Nancy Lorraine's Bookshelf

Own Your Period: A Fact-Filled Guide to Period Positivity
Chella Quint, author
Giovana Medeiros, illustrator
Quarto Publishing
c/o Quarto Publishing Group USA
100 Cummings Center, Suite 265D, Beverly, MA 01915
9780711256644, $14.95, PB, 95 pages

"Own Your Period: A Fact-Filled Guide to Period Positivity" is an empowering, educational book for both people who have periods and people who don't, because all people began life inside a uterus, and it's right to be interested in how it all works!

Menstruation is an important milestone and deserves to be celebrated and planned and prepared for. Colorful illustrations represent body parts like the vulva, the ovaries, the uterus the brain and more. Throughout, the emphasis of "Own Your Period" is a concept called Period Positivity. This concept teaches that periods are not something taboo, to be ashamed of, or to be secretive about. Talking out loud about periods can help reverse and challenge cultural negativity associated with periods and menstruation. Attitudes are beginning to change and at some near time, we hope that menstrual shaming will be a thing of the past.

In efforts to slay superstition and blast myths, readers are educated and encouraged to talk about the facts of their period experiences. Activists have pushed to make menstrual products and advertising "more ethical and less taboo." Learning how to talk about periods, navigate periods at school, and become a savvy consumer of period support products are all part of the period positivity message.

On pages 88 and 89 there is a 20 part period Positive Pledge. One interesting part is # 3 "Find out how to use sustainable menstrual products and aim to cut single-use plastics out of your menstruation management. Then tell people why you are doing that."

In sum, "Own Your Period" is a great introduction to the experience of Period Positivity for people who menstruate, and for people who are alive because their mothers menstruated. It is an excellent fact and fun-filled guide to learning to live with your period.

While very highly recommended for family, elementary school, middle school, and community library collections for children ages 9-12, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Own Your Period" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.20).

Mango, Mambo, and Murder
Raquel V. Reyes
Crooked Lane Books
34 West 27th Street, Floor 10, New York, NY 10001
9781643857848, $26.99, HC, 325 pages

"Mango, Mambo, and Murder" is a spicy new installment of the Caribbean cozy mystery series with an Hispanic flavor. Complete with recipes for Chicken Fricassee Cuban Style, Picadillo de Pavo, and Saint-Tropez Sangria, this action packed mystery dazzles eager readers with heroine Miriam Quinones-Smith's exciting forays into Miami's Coral Shores latest murder amidst an exciting Caribbean cooking show's debut and dawning success.

Filled with bilingual English/Spanish dialogue and cultural enrichment asides, "Mango, Mambo, and Murder" explores a world where a Cuban-Gringo marriage can survive slings and arrows of marital misfortunes and misunderstandings. It projects a strong image of a Cuban mother choosing to raise her dual-culture son with knowledge of both languages and backgrounds for his heritage, despite strong social pressure from a dominant culture mother in law.

From the name of a newly adopted cat (Camo) to the delicious recipes for Cuban /Caribbean cuisine, "Mango, Mambo, and Murder" entrances, delights, and excites readers to keep turning pages. Kudos to the author of this fabulous, fun, enticing new cozy mystery series. Readers will clamor for more installments.

Very highly recommended for community library Mystery/Suspense collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Mango, Mambo, and Murder" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.99).

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Paul Vogel's Bookshelf

The Traits of Powerful People
Voltis Press
9781735375823 $14.99 pbk / $7.99 Kindle

Synopsis: Power lifts the mood. It motivates us to take charge and liberates us to be our authentic selves. It means wealth, ability, choice, fame, influence, dominance, authority, rank, and prestige. Powerlessness depresses the mood. It stifles the self by making it subservient to other people's wills. It is at the core of many social ills - from poverty to anxiety, workplace problems to marital discord. The lack of power can damage our health, both mental and physical, and even shorten our lives.

We all want power, admittedly or not. Power is everywhere, and there is no avoiding the power game. Even altruism and morality, which we commonly associate with selflessness and care, are often used to gain an edge in the pursuit of power. From the playground to high school and college life to the workplace, people seem to spontaneously converge on who the winners and losers of the unspoken popularity contest are. Do humans have an innate ability to perceive status cues in themselves and others? If so, what are those cues? Are powerful people biologically different from the powerless? Are there inborn traits that confer an advantage in the pursuit of power? Can certain behaviors modulate our genetic traits to make us more likely to gain power?

If you have ever yearned to feel more in control of your life, obtain the power to determine your own fate, and be happier, healthier, and more productive, Talzoya explains the science behind dominance motivation and the rules of power play in our everyday lives. This book is a must-read to understand how power really works, so that you can live life on your own terms, get people to do what you want them to do, and have an impact in the world.

Critique: Written in plain terms thoroughly accessible to readers of all backgrounds, The Traits of Powerful People examines traits that powerful people have, and explores the science behind power, control, and domination that affects everyday life. Are the aspects that powerful people share due to inherent biology, or learned behavior? How can understanding the dynamics of power be used to improve security, status, and quality of life? The Traits of Powerful People is as fascinating as it is insightful, and highly recommended. It should be noted for personal reading lists that The Traits of Powerful People is also available in a Kindle edition ($7.99).

Editor's Note: Talzoya is a nuclear physicist by education and the author of Of Lovers, Lonely Hearts, and the Psychotic Spell Called Falling in Love, as well as numerous scientific publications. The Traits of Powerful People combines the wisdom of modern science and inspiration from the lives of contemporary and historical masters of the power game to craft a compelling theory of how the pursuit of power shapes civilization and defines our lives.

Paul T. Vogel

S.A. Gorden's Bookshelf

In Dog We Trust: A Golden Retriever Mystery
Neil S. Plakcy
Samwise Books
9781456503055 $10.99
B003BVIWYQ, $3.99, 277 pages

In Dog We Trust is a cozy mystery that can be frustrating for the reader. Many of the clues are a little obvious and the main protagonist keeps making easily avoidable mistakes. The saving grace of the story is the fun relationship that grows between the protagonist and the golden retriever.

Steve has inherited his father's home. He is on parole after being convicted of computer hacking. With his conviction, he is having problems earning enough money to live on. He has temporary teaching job at a local college and is trying to develop a business plan bidding on editing jobs for clients that are posted on the Internet.

During his regular walks around the neighborhood, he hears shots and sees a black SUV speeding past. Rochester, his neighbor's golden retriever, rushes to him and leads him to the body of Caroline, Rochester's owner. Steve, who is not a dog person, inherits Rochester and the mystery of who killed Caroline and why?

In Dog We Trust is an easy light cozy read. People who enjoy more detailed mysteries will find the fun story too simple. The key to the tale is the slapstick style relationship between Steve and Rochester. Rochester, in typical dog fashion, is the real detective in the story with Steve as his sidekick.

A Body On The Beach (The Rejoiner Book 1)
P.F. Ford
Independently published
9798650574385 $9.99
B0872BMLGX, $9.99 ebook, 268 pages

A Body On The Beach is a fun cozy style police procedural mystery. The characters are well developed and interesting. You know the characters will be interesting when one of the main protagonists is named Norman Norman. The pace is well balanced and the who-done-it mystery is worth waiting to the end to find out.

Detective Sergeant Norman Norman's retirement isn't working out. He made too many waves as a detective and was pushed into early retirement. He is asked to come back and help train a group of misfit cops who have been pushed into a small Welsh precinct on the coast. Before he can even report for duty, a body is found on the shore and he and the new DI (who was also forced to move to the coast) start the investigation. They prod their misfits into a working investigative team.

A Body On The Beach is a great find for readers who enjoy the procedural mystery. It is an easy read with twists and fun characters. It is solid enough to attract readers from other genres. It is an easy recommendation for anyone who enjoys a mystery.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

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

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