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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 14, Number 10 October 2015 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

Cowper's Bookshelf Donovan's Bookshelf Dunford's Bookshelf
Greenspan's Bookshelf Helen's Bookshelf Klausner's Bookshelf
Lorraine's Bookshelf Micah's Bookshelf Richard's Bookshelf
Shirley's Bookshelf Taylor's Bookshelf Vogel's Bookshelf

Cowper's Bookshelf

The Hard to Catch Mercy
William Baldwin
University of South Carolina Press
718 Devine Street, Columbia, SC 29208
9781611175219, $19.95, 360pp,

Synopsis: This newly published paperback edition of William Baldwin's novel "The Hard to Catch Mercy", originally published in 1993 and winner of the Lillian Smith Award makes his extraordinary novel available to a whole new generation of appreciative readers. Including a new introduction by the author, "The Hard to Catch Mercy" is a story involving issues of religion, race, and coming-of-age in the post-Civil War South, when the lines between these issues were not always clear. Set in fictional Cedar Point, a small southern community in the early 1900s, "The Hard to Catch Mercy" is told through the eyes of a young boy, Willie T., who is forced to confront the changing world around him. Including a cast of incredibly outlandish characters, Baldwin's novel is a wild, darkly comic tale rich with trick mules, Christian voodoo, fire, brimstone, first love, death, and the end of the world as Willie T. knows it.

Critique: "The Hard to Catch Mercy" is a thoroughly compelling and absorbing read from beginning to end and very highly recommended for community and academic library Literary Fiction collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "The Hard to Catch Mercy" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Revelations of the Ruby Crystal
BarbaraHand Clow
Bear & Company
Inner Traditions International, Ltd.
One Park Street, Rochester, VT 05767
9781591431978, $26.00, 464pp,

Synopsis: Set in Rome in 2012, "Revelations of the Ruby Crystal" is the story of Sarah Adamson, a beautiful young Catholic graduate student from Boston studying at the Vatican Library for her thesis on the first Christian heretic, Marcion of Pontus. She is being courted by two utterly different men: Simon Appel, a descendent of the kabbalist Isaac Luria who covers Vatican affairs for the New York Times, and Armando Pierleoni, the heir to an ancient Italian aristocratic family with strong ties to the Vatican. After a terrible encounter with the dark side at a castle in Tuscany, Sarah is given a ring set with a ruby crystal, a powerful stone that was once the third eye of an ancient Buddha statue in Nepal.

With the mystic ring on her finger, Sarah's visionary abilities are ignited. She remembers her past life as the Sibyl of Cumae, a Roman oracle whose powers are now being channeled by the Vatican to maintain world control. As Sarah's research and visions reveal the cause of evil in the Church and Simon's reporting exposes the depth of the sexual abuse scandals surrounding the Vatican, the two form an alliance with an ex-lover of both Simon and Armando, Claudia, who describes secret priestly power rituals going on in Vatican City.

As the heightened energies of the winter solstice of 2012 arrive and 2013 dawns, will Simon and Sarah be able to harness their divine powers for transformation? Will the Vatican seek new direction as it elects a new pope? Revealing the very nature of how evil gets into the world, "Revelations of the Ruby Crystal" is a novel of romance, mystery, heresy, and spirituality that uncovers the esoteric foundations for the emergence of a golden new age.

Critique: Impressively well written from beginning to end, "Revelations of the Ruby Crystal" is a thoroughly engaging and unfailingly entertaining read. Usually a writer of metaphysically oriented literature, this is Barbara Hand Chow's successful debut as a novelist and showcases her exceptional skills and abilities at deftly crafted fiction. "Revelations of the Ruby Crystal" is very highly recommended for community library General Fiction collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Revelations of the Ruby Crystal" is also available in a Kindle edition ($12.99).

The Silver Locket
Sophia Bar-Lev
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781508845546, $14.95, 272pp,

Synopsis: War was raging in Europe and the Pacific, but in a small town in New England, two young women were waging their own personal battles. Thrown together by sheer happenstance, their lives will be entwined for decades to come. And a baby girl will grow up, the product of a secret that must not be told -- ever! Or will it? Can beauty arise out of ashes? Can anything good emerge from brutal beginnings? Adopting a child is not for the weak at heart. Being adopted isn't either.

Critique: A thoroughly absorbing read from beginning to end, "The Silver Locket" is unfailingly entertaining and a deftly constructed novel that showcases the rather impressive storytelling talents of its author, Sophia Bar-Lev. Very highly recommended for community library General Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Silver Locket" is also available in a Kindle edition ($5.99).

The Romantic Ballet in England
Ivor Guest
Dance Books
c/o Princeton Book Company
614 Route 130, Highstown, NJ 08520
9781852731700, $40.00, 204pp,

Synopsis: In the development of ballet the Romantic period was a golden age which has passed into theatrical legend and has provided many an inspiration for later generations of choreographers and dancers. Of the many centers of ballet activity in those fruitful years, London made a contribution of exceptional importance. At Her Majesty's Theatre during the 1840s, the greatest choreographic genius of his day, Jules Perrot, produced an incredible series of masterpieces in which the brightest stars of an unprecedented galaxy of ballerinas were featured, not only individually but (and here London was to be unique) dancing alongside one another. This, the most glorious achievement of the Romantic ballet, provides the highlight of "The Romantic Ballet in England", Ivor Guest's classic study which also describes the developments which led up to it and the sad decline that shortly afterwards overtook ballet with almost dramatic suddenness. From an exhaustive examination of contemporary accounts and memoirs, Ivor Guest brings to life the personalities of the ballet scene of that time including Lumley the impresario; the great Perrot himself; international stars such as Taglioni and Elssler, Cerrito and Carlotta Grisi; and the English dancers of more modest renown, of whom the most promising was the ill-fated Clara Webster. A reissue of a classic work and a companion to the same author's "The Romantic Ballet in Paris", "The Romantic Ballet in England" is the story of an important period in ballet history and of those who played their part in it.

Critique: Ivor Guest began his research into the history of ballet over sixty years ago, and has published more than thirty books on the subject. In "The Romantic Ballet in England" he draws from his years of research and expertise to provide a critically important contribution to our understanding of the history of ballet in general, and the contributions to ballet from and by the British. Simply stated, "The Romantic Ballet in England" is to be considered a core addition to personal, professional and academic library Ballet History reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

Why, God?: Suffering Through Cancer into Faith
Margaret Carlisle Cupit & Edward Henderson
Resource Publications, Inc.
c/o Wipf & Stock Publishers
5369 Camden Avenue #260, San Jose, CA 95124
9781625644787, $20.00, 172pp,

Synopsis: "Why, God?: Suffering Through Cancer into Faith" is the true story of a nineteen-year-old chemistry major at Rhodes College who is selected to spend the summer after her freshman year doing research at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Instead, she finds herself a patient there, fighting a life-threatening form of pediatric cancer and suffering through a year of aggressive chemotherapy and surgery. Refusing to believe what many tell her-that the cancer was all part of "God's plan" - she finds solace in journaling and begins a discussion with her grandfather, a university professor specializing in philosophy of religion. Through her experiences and writing about them, the student discovers that she may be a person of faith after all -- just not in the way she expected. Her grandfather has selected and arranged the journal entries and their faith conversation and has commented on them in order to bring out the spiritual dimensions of her experience. He learns from his granddaughter that faith comes more through experience than through ideas. The coauthors hope "Why God?" will help other sufferers recognize the presence of a loving God in the midst of pain, uncertainty and death.

Critique: Simply stated, "Why, God?: Suffering Through Cancer into Faith" should be read by anyone who has ever had to deal with a life-threatening illness. As inspired and it is inspiring, "Why God?" is a deftly crafted and candidly personal story that is absolutely engaging from beginning to end and a very highly recommended addition to both community and academic library collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Why God?" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Young Originals
Rebecca Jumper Matheson
Texas Tech University Press
PO Box 41037, Lubbock, TX 79409-1037
9780896729247, $37.95, 240pp,

Synopsis: In the early 1940s, American designer Emily Wilkens went beyond her previous experience in children's wear to create costumes for two teenage characters in a Broadway play. Recognizing the growing importance of the teenager in American culture, she soon launched Emily Wilkens Young Originals, the first designer label specializing in upscale, fashionable clothing for teenage girls. Within the space of a few years, Wilkens skyrocketed from obscurity to national recognition, yet even today many fashion insiders would not recognize her name. In "Young Originals: Emily Wilkens and the Teen Sophisticate", fashion historian Rebecca Jumper Matheson explores intertwining stories of female agency through the history of Wilkens and her teenage clientele. Wilkens retained both artistic and business control over her label in an era when most American ready-to-wear designers were anonymous employees of manufacturers. Wilkens parleyed her relative youth into a big-sister image which, like her dresses themselves, allowed her to mediate between the concerns of her teenage clients and their parents. Contrary to popular wisdom, Wilkens's designs declared that even a teenager could be fashionable. In doing so, Wilkens laid the foundation for the seismic shift that would occur later in the twentieth century, when youth became the fashionable ideal. "Young Originals" traces Wilkens's career from fashion illustrator in the 1930s to spa and beauty expert in the 1980s, emphasizing her consistent ideal of healthy, youthful beauty.

Critique: Impressively researched and exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Young Originals: Emily Wilkens and the Teen Sophisticate", by Rebecca Jumper Matheson (a former research assistant at The Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and who has taught at the Fashion Institute of Technology) is an amazingly informed and informative account of a fashion designer and beauty expert with an enormous impact on what would be called the Baby Boomer generation. An inherently fascinating and informative read from beginning to end, "Young Originals" is very highly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as community and academic library 20th Century American Fashion reference collections and supplemental studies lists.

Sam Gayton, author
Alice Ratterre, illustrator
Peachtree Publishers, Ltd.
1700 Chattahoochee Avenue, Atlanta, GA 30318-2112
9781561458066, $16.95, 264pp.,

Synopsis: Have you heard of the tale that's short and tall? There's an island in the world where everything is small! She is a girl three inches tall with eyes like drops of dew. Her clothes are cut from handkerchiefs and stitched with spider silk. For half her life, she has been trapped in a birdcage while her giant kidnapper sits beside her, writing in a leather-bound book the size of a house. Her name is Lily, and tonight she is escaping. She is going home to a place called Lilliput. Inspired by Gulliver's Travels, "Lilliput" is an exhilarating adventure filled with cunning escape plans, evil clock makers, and talkative parrots. Thoroughly entertained readers of all ages will join Lily as she travels through 18th century London over rooftops, down chimneys, and into chocolate shops on a journey to find the one place in the world where she belongs -- home.

Critique: Certain to be a modern classic and enhanced with the occasional black-and-white illustrations of Alice Ratterre, "Lilliput" by Sam Gayton is an exceptionally entertaining tale that will hold the rapt attention of its readers from beginning to end. Very highly recommended for personal reading lists, "Lilliput" would be an enduringly popular addition to community library collections.

The Hummingbird
Kati Hiekkapelto
Arcadia Books
c/o Dufour Editions, Inc.
PO Box 7, Chester Springs, PA 19425-0007
9781909807563, $21.00, 364pp,

Synopsis: Anna Fekete, who fled the Yugoslavian wars as a child, starts working as a criminal investigator in a northern Finnish coastal town, with her new partner, Esko, who doesn't bother hiding his racist prejudices. Anna's work as a criminal investigator barely gets off the ground before she is thrust into a high-profile, seemingly unsolvable case that has riveted the nation. A young woman has been killed on a running trail, and a pendant depicting an Aztec god has been found in her possession. Another murder soon follows. All signs point to a serial killer, but can Anna catch the Hummingbird before he - or she - strikes again?

Critique: Exceptionally well written and deftly crafted with a profusion of unexpected twists and turns, "The Hummingbird" is a terrific read from beginning to end. It is especially impressive that "The Hummingbird" is Finnish author Kati Hiekkapelto's debut venture as a novelist and is ably translated into English by David Hackston. Simply stated, "The Hummingbird" is enthusiastically recommended for community library Mystery/Suspense collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Hummingbird" is also available in a Kindle edition ($7.89).

Kati Hiekkapelto is a special needs teacher by training. She lives on an old farm on the island of Hailuoto in Northern Finland. This is her first novel. Translated from the Finnish by David Hackston.

Through Waters Deep
Sarah Sundin
c/o Baker Publishing Group
PO Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516-6287
9780800723422, $14.99, 384pp,

Synopsis: It is 1941 and America teeters on the brink of war. Outgoing naval officer Ensign Jim Avery escorts British convoys across the North Atlantic in a brand-new destroyer, the USS Atwood. Back on shore, Boston Navy Yard secretary Mary Stirling does her work quietly and efficiently, happy to be out of the limelight. Yet, despite her reserved nature, she never could back down from a challenge. When evidence of sabotage on the Atwood is found, Jim and Mary must work together to uncover the culprit. A bewildering maze of suspects emerges, and Mary is dismayed to find that even someone close to her is under suspicion. With the increasing pressure, Jim and Mary find that many new challenges and dangers await them.

Critique: Fully entertaining from beginning to end, "Through Waters Deep" is a deftly crafted novel that is a completely absorbing read with unexpected twists and turns. The latest installment in Revell's 'Waves of Freedom' series, "Through Waters Deep" is very highly recommended for community library General Fiction and Romance Fiction collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Through Waters Deep" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.30).

Hierarchy From Love
Julie Holbrook
Five Star Publications Inc.
PO Box 6698, Chandler, AZ 85246-6698
9781589852280, $16.95, 282pp,

Synopsis: "Hierarchy from Love: Divine Guidance for a Soul-Driven Planet" by Julie Holbrook is a powerful expression of the author's knowledge that love must triumph over fear to restore and rebalance the Earth and human lives. Written to encourage a reconnection to divine truths, it outlines the critical issues facing the nature and nurture of life on our planet, exploring contemporary challenges to evoke deeper meaning and ignite necessary successful changes. Earth, asserts Holbrook, is a dynamic, living entity designed to support everything in nature equally. It can remain so only if cared for in the way God intended. Sadly, the Earth is crying out in every aspect of human life and throughout the realm of nature that it is suffering and is no longer in balance. From increasingly erratic and devastating weather patterns to breaches in human trust and security, the obstacles facing the world are connected, and they come from the same source -- the energy of fear. Thankfully, Earth can be restored to become once again abundant and sustainable through a countering, empowering energy force.

Critique: A metaphysical tour-de-force, "Hierarchy from Love: Divine Guidance for a Soul-Driven Planet" is an exceptionally well written and an inherently fascinating study. Insightful, informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Hierarchy From Love" is strongly recommended for community library collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Hierarchy From Love" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Cats Galore: A Compendium of Cultured Cats
Susan Herbert
Thames & Hudson, Inc.
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110-0017
9780500239360, $24.95, 320pp,

Synopsis: An irresistible volume featuring illustrations of famous dramatis personae?with a feline twist, "Cats Galore: A Compendium of Cultured Cats" by Susan Herbert answers the question of what happens when a cat becomes the subject of da Vinci's Mona Lisa or takes the starring role in Hamlet or Lawrence of Arabia? Susan Herbert's feline interpretations of famous images from Western culture have charmed and amused readers for decades. "Cats Galore" brings together illustrations from the affectionately envisioned Pre-Raphaelite Cats, Shakespeare Cats, Movie Cats, and Opera Cats -- as well as other delightful images of cats cast in scenes from art, theater, and film. "Cats Galore" is divided into three sections: Cats in Art, Cats on Stage, and Cats in the Movies. "Cats Galore" is the ultimate compendium for cat-loving culture buffs and cultured pet owners alike. Works by Degas and van Gogh retain their distinctive styles in spite of the furry faces; cats shine in Much Ado About Nothing and The Barber of Seville; and a bushy-tailed James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause stares at the camera with the iconic cigarette in his mouth.

Critique: A compendium of 326 full color illustrations, "Cats Galore: A Compendium of Cultured Cats" is a pure pleasure for cat lovers to simply browse through again, and again, and again. "Cats Galore" is very highly recommended for, and would prove to an enduringly popular addition to, personal, community, and academic library collections.

Transforming Health Care Scheduling and Access
Institute of Medicine of the National Academies
National Academies Press
500 Fifth Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001
9780309339193, $48.00, 154pp,

Synopsis: According to contributors to "Transforming Health Care Scheduling And Access: Getting To Now", long waits for treatment are a function of the disjointed manner in which most health systems have evolved to accommodate the needs and the desires of doctors and administrators, rather than those of patients. The result is a health care system that deploys its most valuable resource (highly trained personnel) inefficiently, leading to an unnecessary imbalance between the demand for appointments and the supply of open appointments. This study makes the case that by using the techniques of systems engineering, new approaches to management, and increased patient and family involvement, the current health care system can move forward to one with greater focus on the preferences of patients to provide convenient, efficient, and excellent health care without the need for costly investment. "Transforming Health Care Scheduling and Access" identifies best practices for making significant improvements in access and system-level change. This report makes recommendations for principles and practices to improve access by promoting efficient scheduling. This study will be a valuable resource for practitioners to progress toward a more patient-focused "How can we help you today?" culture.

Critique: Collaboratively compiled and co-edited by Gary Kaplan, Marianne Hamilton Lopez, and J. Michael McGinnis, "Transforming Health Care Scheduling And Access: Getting To Now" is an impressive collaborative effort and enhanced with the inclusion of a fifteen page list of References, and three Appendixes -- including a complete list of the membership of the Committee on Optimizing Scheduling in Health Care. As informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Transforming Health Care Scheduling And Access: Getting To Now" is a critically important addition to health care facilities and academic libraries Health/Medicine reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Transforming Health Care Scheduling And Access: Getting To Now" is also available in a Kindle edition ($38.99).

Even You
Marilyn Oser
Mill City Press
322 First Avenue N, Suite 500, Minneapolis, MN 55401
9781634135467, $15.95, 270pp,

Synopsis: Impetuous is not a word you'd use to describe Claire Bramany. But when an accident in Brooklyn in 1995 takes the life of her lover, Jessie Friedman, Claire's world implodes. While cleaning out Jessie's desk, Claire finds journals that tell long-buried secrets of Jessie's western girlhood. Jessie's account of Tulsa in 1944 appears innocent and playful, at first. Jessie's days are peopled with quirky characters--especially Uncle Jimmy, an honest-to-goodness hero back from war-torn Europe. He's Jessie's favorite, until he makes his move on his nine-year-old niece. No secrets. Secrets kill. This was the promise Claire and Jessie had made to each other. But Claire never heard of any Uncle Jimmy, much less any sexual violation. Shattered, yearning to reconnect with the Jessie she thought she knew, Claire heads out to Oklahoma. Are the journals true? If so, has Claire any other course than to avenge Jimmy's hideous crimes...?

Critique: An inherently riveting read from beginning to end, "Even You" clearly establishes author Marilyn Oser as a particularly gifted novelist. Solidly entertaining from first page to last, "Even You" is very highly recommended for community library General Fiction collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Even You" is also available in a Kindle edition ($7.99).

Free Your Mind: A Meditation Guide to Freedom and Happiness
Ajay Kappor
Divine Arts Media
c/o Michael Wiese Productions
12400 Ventura Blvd., #1111, Studio City, CA 91604
9781611250398, $16.95, 228pp,

Synopsis: Ajay Kapoor was born in New Delhi and followed the teachings of Ramakrishna before developing his own meditation style called Z Meditation. In 1995, he founded Z Meditation Center in Dharamsala, India. He offers silent meditation retreats to students from around the world. Kapoor's "Free Your Mind: A Meditation Guide to Freedom and Happiness" is not just another meditation manual, but a practical and effective guide to working with greed, hatred, ignorance, pride, doubt, and agitation. It provides a straightforward, logical, step-by-step strategy to transforming our responses to challenging life events and everyday situations into unconditioned peace, liberation, and happiness. Ajay Kapoor has successfully converted ancient teachings to the benefit of contemporary readers by entering the Western mind through the door of science. "Free Your Mind" is an accessible guide for anyone who is curious about harnessing the energy of the inner mind and using it to build mental and emotional wellness.

Critique: Impressively well written, exceptionally well organized, and eloquently presented, "Free Your Mind: A Meditation Guide to Freedom and Happiness" is very highly recommended for community and academic library Self-Help/Self-Improvement as well as Meditation Instructional Studies collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Free Your Mind: A Meditation Guide to Freedom and Happiness" is also available in a Kindle edition ($11.99).

A Life on Hold: Living with Schizophrenia
Josie Mendez-Negrete
University of New Mexico Press
1 University of New Mexico, Albuquerque NM 87131-0001
9780826340566, $24.95, 296pp,

Synopsis: Josie Mendez-Negrete is a sociologist who teaches Mexican American studies in the Department of Bicultural-Bilingual Studies at the University of Texas at San Antonio. For more than twenty years Josie Mendez-Negrete has endured the emotional journey of watching her son Tito struggle with schizophrenia. "A Life on Hold: Living with Schizophrenia" is her powerful account and the first memoir by a Mexican American author to share the devastation and hope a family experiences in dealing with this mental illness. Mendez-Negrete depicts the evolution of the disease from her perspective as a parent and by relating Tito's own narrative, illuminating the inadequacies of the US mental health system and the added burdens of addiction and blame. Through the author, Tito paints a vivid picture of his lived experiences and everyday traumas to show how his life and the lives of his loved ones have been impacted by mental illness.

Critique: A truly extraordinary account, "A Life on Hold: Living with Schizophrenia" is an absolutely absorbing read from beginning to end. Candid, informative, intensely personal, detailed, and deftly written, "A Life on Hold: Living with Schizophrenia" is very highly recommended for both community and academic library American Biography, Chicano Studies, and Psychology/Psychiatry collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "A Life on Hold: Living with Schizophrenia" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Mary Cowper

Donovan's Bookshelf

Full Recovery
Brian McAlister
MacSimum Publishing Company
9780982394823, $19.95

Plenty of recovery-oriented books discuss the basics of how to get sober, but few take the next step: how to live a meaningful life once sobriety is achieved. One might think that this would be the easier part of the equation: actually, it's not, and Full Recovery demonstrates that in fact many 'recoveries' from substance abuse don't complete the process to achieve real resolution.

If this all sounds idealistic, be advised that author Brian McAlister has achieved extraordinary, real-life results from his Full Recovery Wellness Center in New Jersey, which holds a powerful record of long-term recovery from addictions largely because its programs focus on helping addicts with all aspects of their lives, from jobs and relationships to finances and fitness. Most similar-sounding programs focus on psychological insights and approaches and leave out some of the social factors that can differentiate a full recovery from one who is perpetually on the road to success without ever quite arriving at the goal.

Chapters offer a blend of psychological insight, philosophical and spiritual reflection, and specific tips on where the recovery process can bog down and what to do about it.

Thus, readers will find in Full Recovery discussions of such seemingly-disparate topics as how to handle and mitigate fears, how to question long-held beliefs for their ongoing effectiveness, how to use gratitude to shift one's reality and how to perceive and choose a life-affirming project to cement one's long-term success, and how to differentiate between solving problems and manipulating environment.

Each chapter offers another brick in the foundation leading to full recovery, and each chapter juxtaposes ideals with specifics from the author's experiences and those around him: "When I go home at night, I sit in my hot tub and totally relax. Nine times out of ten, the answer to my challenge reveals itself in that setting. How does that happen? I believe it's because when I am totally relaxed and at peace, my awareness expands. I am not talking to myself or keeping my own counsel. I am meditating and listening for the answer."

Also included are keys on how the author arrived at all this wisdom ("I had come to the conclusion that by following suggestions from sober people, I was staying sober, too. I began to wonder, then, whether the same process would work in other areas of my life, such as finances.") and how one concept or choice in one area of life (such as psychological insight) translates, often neatly, to other areas (such as financial security).

There's no magic key to Full Recovery; but its particular brand of magic lies in its ability to lead semi-recovered addicts down the road of creating connections between more positive choices, habits and perspectives and integrating them into an overall life-affirming program reinforcing lasting changes.

Want to break heroin addiction? Alcoholism? Traits that continually lead to poor choices? Full Recovery documents this process more clearly and completely than competing titles on the market and is a top recommendation for any who have begun the process and need to take the next step.

The Sensitives
D.O. Thomson
D. O. Thomson, Publisher
ASIN: B010NZFU5G $2.99 Kindle $18.00 Paperback

A man sits in the dark in 2078 Mississippi because systems have failed - and without electricity, thousands are dying. Are terrorists responsible for the massive system failure? It turns out that aliens are the bigger problem: having discovered that Earth is the perfect place to grow the universe's most potent drug, they have determined that the human population must be controlled and used; and only the Sensitives, a group endowed with special evolutionary abilities, can stop them.

The Sensitives begins as an apocalypse survival piece but actually is so much more. Against the backdrop of failed systems and massive deaths comes a confrontation between forces of Earth and other worlds: forces that have already faced the proliferation of Jihadists and dirty bomb attacks, and which now face ever-complex situations.

The Sensitives is a work that alternates between personal protagonist experiences and paranormal abilities which influence a struggle for survival. The back-and-forth subplots between Jihadists, aliens, and the group of Sensitives who are honing their skills for an unexpected battle makes for a series of diverse encounters that doesn't follow the standard progression of a sci-fi or a thriller, but incorporates the best elements of each genre.

As a result, the story evolves in intriguing ways and will prove absorbing to readers who like alien involvements, paranormal activities, and sci-fi stories of survival.

Running from the Mirror: A Memoir
Howard Shulman
Sandra Jonas Publishing
PO Box 20892, Boulder, CO 80308
9780985581534 $14.95

Those who enjoy memoirs about people who have overcome the most dire of circumstances will be moved by Running from the Mirror. A particularly inspiring read, the book chronicles the devastating events the author experienced as a newborn and how they set the stage for the rest of his life: "Three days after his birth, a perfect baby, the carrier of his young parents' dreams and ambitions, became what some would call a monster. Like ants on honey, a bacterial infection consumed his face, and as quickly as his face disappeared, so did his mother and father. The newborn his parents had been prepared to take home and raise as their beloved son was no longer the child they had the courage to claim. I was that baby."

His face and his parents gone, Howard Shulman is turned over to the state, becoming a ward of New Jersey for the next eighteen years. During that time, he undergoes nearly a hundred operations to try to reconstruct enough of his face to allow him to survive - just barely.

Add the psychological trauma of abandonment to the physical devastation of a staph infection and you have a situation that would seem unsurvivable in so many ways - yet Shulman is a survivor, and his memoir depicts the process of reconstructing not just a face, but a life.

Shulman endures years of physical and psychological torture before finding solace in friendships, outdoor adventures, and his foster family. Though life always seems uncertain, he meets these uncertainties with a resourcefulness and determination to survive: "I felt I was always in limbo, on the brink of something calamitous. Life seemed precarious, and without hope of adoption, which was never a realistic option because of the astronomical cost of my treatments, I remained a ward of the state."

From homelessness and risky business schemes to breakups, nightclub ownership, and a search for answers from his past, Running from the Mirror is vivid and engrossing from start to finish. As much as Shulman is influenced by his physical appearance and his childhood traumas, he is also driven by an inner resolve to create a better life for himself.

So if it's a memoir of family, overcoming anger, evolving friendships, and confronting fate that is desired, this book delivers it all, using one-two punches that will keep readers engaged straight to the end.

Christina Waymreen
Seaway Press
ISBN: 0996013229
ISBN-13: 978099601322-2
Prepublication Manuscript: ETA: October 2015

SouthWyck, book one of a four part series called The Villages Of Wyck, is a delightful teen fantasy read and is set in a magical town where Kar Homely eagerly awaits the biggest day of his life: the day when he will dip his finger into a magic urn and discover what his magical ability will be.

There seem to be a number of barriers to this event for him, however, including the secret his parents have kept of his true birth origins, the efforts of bullies to thwart his dreams, and a stunning upset in the process which leads him on quite a different journey than has been the routine for years in the magic-infused town of SouthWyck, where everyone has a special ability.

The first thing to note about SouthWyck is Christina Waymreen's ability to infuse her story with the sights, sounds, and psyche of the entire town. From mouth-watering descriptions of foods to hair-raising and believable confrontations with town bullies to the emergence of a truth that affects not just Kar's life, but the accepted routines and ultimate existence of the entire town, action is swift and changing.

Characters are well portrayed and believable, events are only slightly predictable (that Kar's special day will take an unexpected turn) yet still engrossing, and the twists and turns presented from the point of Kar's disastrous coming of age to a journey that confronts a growing evil makes for engrossing read that teens will find hard to put down.

An interest in magic-infused fantasy is required for appreciation of the story. Teens with such interests will find much to like in the evolving character of Kar and his exploits, and will enjoy a story that's perfectly tailored for ages 12-14 - a refreshing approach, given that so many teen fantasies, in trying to reach into adult circles, make their plots too complex for the very age group they seek to include.

The Apothecary
Marshall Chamberlain
The Grace Publishing Group
428 Childers St. #24550, Pensacola, FL 32534
ISBN: 9780692447963 $25.99 pbk / $5.99

There are thrillers and then there are 'techno-thrillers'. The Apothecary is the latter, even though the word conjures up the image of old magic and old potions. Readers with an interest in science gone awry are the audience of techno-thrillers, which often rely on scientific disasters or the injection of political power struggles into the scientific process or discovery - and this is where The Apothecary gets really interesting.

In its world, a stressed project director of a top-secret nanotechnology experiment vanishes, along with test products that can affect human behavior. When murders begin to occur, all pointing to the vanished scientist and his secret government project, that's when the 'thriller' part enters, blending healthy doses of murder mystery, high-level thinking, and pending disaster.

The process is complicated: no doubt about it. The Apothecary's plot offers many satisfying twists and turns that will leave more casual mystery readers in the dust, but will delight those who enjoy a cat-and-mouse game between an elusive and dangerous adversary and a political process that can't control its own experiments.

An emotionally disturbed scientist, with the clever savvy of a predator, pairs with demented insights that lend meaning and understanding to his twisted character motivations (something too often left out of techno-thrillers): "Fantasies often overwhelmed his attention, sometimes for several minutes at a time. A reoccurring and distracting picture would form in his mind...of a knight bringing greater good to mankind, a savior for the addictions of the weak, accompanied by a feeling of virtuosity."

Street deals and drugs, fiascos and undercover labs, subterfuge, break-ins, high technology, and a story line that rises to the top of the political food chain to involve the President of the United States: these are all hallmark precursors of simmering catastrophe that work on many levels (psychological suspense paired with mystery, intrigue, and political confrontation) to immerse readers in a gripping thriller read that's satisfyingly hard to put down.

The Mercy
Barbara DeShong
Barbara DeShong, Publisher
9780692492123 $14.95

The Mercy, Volume One of the 'Jessica LaFave Mysteries' series, provides a powerful account of suicide in a family of professional therapists - but none of this is indicated in the opening lines, which take place at a horse show where police are involved in a drug bust. While its setting's not the usual opener for a story about suicide, it does set the tone for a mystery that includes a best friend with uncommon abilities ("Camilla has powers. She says she can see the woman I used to be still inside me. I'd have to take her word on that."), an unexpected death, and a series of psychologically gripping encounters that appear to lead in one direction, then twist to take an opposite path.

The first thing to note about The Mercy is its powerful images and psychological insights: "I am a trespasser, a stowaway on the Queen Mary of elite sports." There are no staid and dull perceptions, here: using a healthy dose of metaphor tinged with wry humor, events unfold in a lusty tale from the perspective of a psychologist who finds herself in over her head when murder strikes too close to home.

It's difficult to claim that a genre mystery is truly original: with so many reads permeating this market and so much of them predictable, the presence of something truly remarkable and different is a breath of fresh air.

The Mercy is this breath, lacing and entwining its readers with a complex spider web of events that ultimately questions who is the real victim, and centers around a journey that takes the protagonist over the border and into other worlds, entirely.

So go ahead: imbibe of The Mercy for what it is: a beacon of originality in a genre replete with predictability - and one that adds a heavy dose of psychological insight to its story of friendships, murder, and choices gone awry.

Does madness always show? The Mercy answers this with exquisite precision in a fast-paced read recommended for genre fans and those who usually prefer the thriller format (the latter will find its psychological depth and self-analysis the perfect touches, here.)

Physical Literacy: 12 Steps Pledge Ambassadorship
Steven C. McCartney
Juvenile / Young Adult Health and Fitness
ISBN: 9781506164878 (SC), $15.99, 36 pages
B00N1YPZU2 (Kindle), $6.99 36 pages
ISBN: 978-0990681557 (HC) $21.99, 40 pages
Publication Date: February 26, 2015 Publisher: Healthy Lifestyle Changes, Inc.
Distributors: Amazon, Ingram, iTune, Google play, Nook, Overdrive

Physical Literacy: 12 Steps Pledge Ambassadorship promotes fitness, plain and simple, and provides a 12-step program of strategies using the latest scientific research to connect health and fitness objectives with a smarter workout design by building a lifestyle based on healthy behaviors rather than presenting a single program.

Where most other books provide 'quick fix' routines, Physical Literacy eliminates potential confusion by focusing on twelve topics about health and fitness. It presents a program aimed toward middle school readers in grades 6 and up, who receive a blend of full-page color and simple 'Idance' ideals for physical fitness that encourages active, regular leisure pursuits.

There's a lot of detail packed into a deceptively simple-looking picture book read: so much so that parental involvement is suggested not just to interpret the facts ("Physical literacy is best achieved by combining health and fitness objectives. Start with a food plan and action plan to ensure your success by stating your goals and chosen exercise, time and space (environment) to exercise, and determine how long you will stick to a plan.") but for adult enlightenment, as well.

Another plus: color photos of young adults performing break dancing and other dance routines accompany color drawings and short descriptions that illustrate each dancing step and its connection to overall health.

The inclusion of an 'Ambassador Certificate', glossary of terms, and a fitness chart a self-assessment quiz creates a fine collection of insights that use the metaphor of dance to transmit key information on how kids of all ages (into young adult and adult circles) can achieve better health by incorporating dance routines into a lifestyle of healthy, regular, and fun activity.

Stem Cell Battles: Proposition 71 and Beyond
Don C. Reed
World Scientific Publishing Co. Inc.
27 Warren Street, Suite 401-402, Hackensack, NJ 07601
9789814644013 $24.99 Paper/$49.00 Hardcover

Stem Cell Battles: Proposition 71 and Beyond offers the rare blend of science geared for lay readers, discussions of political struggles surrounding that science, and inspirational stories of those who suffer from chronic illness and who look to stem cell research for answers. As such, it's a highly recommended pick for any involved in stem cell concerns; whether it be from a scientist's perspective, a politician's viewpoint, or from a patient seeking relief.

So much has been in the news about stem cell battles that one might expect this book will be redundant; but in actuality the news reports have been widely scattered, are usually quite narrow in scope and approach, and fail to analyze all the concerns in one place.

Stem Cell Battles surveys progress already made, processes in the works, and lives changed as a result, with an eye to exposing innovative programs, sources of discomfort, and how international cooperation has gone hand in hand with stem cell research.

It's a war unlike any other: a war challenging religious beliefs and ethical, moral, health, and political concerns alike; and it comes from an author who has spent several decades raising funds for scientists and defending their freedom to research.

Its focus on California achievements, in particular, lends to a discussion that juxtaposes the personal (including the author's own struggle with cancer) with the political in a rare, wide-ranging discussion that no health collection should be without. Add insights into how ordinary people can help and you have a key acquisition not to be missed by readers with any degree of interest or curiosity in stem cell research's promises, controversies, and very human concerns; or by acquisition librarians who will appreciate its fresh, new perspective on the subject.

Nathaniel Hawthorne's Mr. Higginbotham's Catastrophe
Adapted by Jerome Tiller
ArtWrite Productions
1555 Gardena Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55432-5848
9781939846068 $8.99

Nathaniel Hawthorne's Mr. Higginbotham's Catastrophe is a classic story adapted for young readers ages 10-13. Lively, rich, black and white illustrations by Marc Johnson-Pencook inject new life into a classic writer's work.

The drier appearance and style of the original story translates well to larger print, full-page pen and ink drawings, and a paperback format that lends an unassuming, attractive air to this comical tale about a search for truth, and the conundrum a gossip-spreading peddler finds himself in when faced with the uncertain demise of Mr. Higginbotham.

All the elements that make 'classics' so challenging for younger audiences have been eliminated in this remake to create an enticing, involving final result. Tiller's efforts to update the look, style, and text arrangement succeed in making it attractive to young readers. He also succeeds in retaining the irony and humor of a story that is both entertaining and thought-provoking.

Ultimately, Nathaniel Hawthorne's Mr. Higginbotham's Catastrophe is a terrific example of how 'classic' writers' works can, with a little attention to format, illustration and design, be updated to appeal to modern young readers!

When Good Men Die: A Sam Dawson Mystery
Steven W. Horn
Granite Peak Press
P.O. Box 2597, Cheyenne, WY 82003
9780983589457 (cloth) $TBA
9780983589471 (paper) $TBA
9780983589495 (ebook) $TBA

When Good Men Die joins others in a mystery series begun in The Pumpkin Eater, and while prior familiarity with the character of Sam Dawson is recommended, it's not a requirement for readers who would quickly absorb the unusual investigative skills of Sam, a photographer by trade.

The first thing to note here is that Horn injects a wry comic sense into some of his interactions: a satisfyingly different way of bringing protagonists and plots to life: "Railroad ties. He's carrying railroad ties, new ones, one on each shoulder. Trapper!" Doc shouted. "Where's Trapper? William, fetch me the megaphone." "Just 'cause I'm a Negro and work for ya, don't mean I'm your boy. What do you say, boss?" Doc stared at him for a moment, unbelieving. "Please, damn it, fetch me the megaphone."

In peppering these moments throughout the story, characters assume three-dimensional quality, and readers receive both vivid descriptions and fun interludes to mitigate the tension of an investigation that immerses Sam in another conundrum: "Does she always smell this bad?" Aimee said without turning. "She smells like a pack of beagles."

Another device that sets When Good Men Die apart from other genre reads is the fact that it excels in blending dialogue with description, with maximum impact: "My dad worked very hard all his life. It seemed he had little time for anything but work. He didn't keep regular hours, always on call. He liked popcorn and beer, the Friday night fights, and Loretta Young. He didn't like anything in a cream sauce, organized religion, or Ed Sullivan."

The level of depth, understanding, and involvement make for a truly exquisite read as readers follow Sam into danger and back again. As readers come to care about Sam, Annie, Aimee, and the events that threaten to immerse them, they will enjoy a different kind of crime saga that questions impulse, intention, and the intersection between violence and aggression.

Changes are in the works for Sam; the nature of which are revealed in the course of a rollicking good read recommended for genre mystery readers and newcomers to the format alike. There's nothing 'formula' about this work: believable and surprisingly fun protagonists and dark moments juxtaposed with a dash of light humor make for an involving story many a novel reader will find satisfyingly filled with depth and vision: elements too often lacking in many mystery genre stories.

The Consummate Traitor
Bonnie Toews
Whistler House Publishing
c/o Signalman Publishing
17780 Ninth Line. Mount Albert, ON, Canada L0G 1M0
9781461015383, $13.68 softcover $4.45 e-format (Text to speech enabled)

Readers with a general affinity for historical fiction and a special interest in World War II spy novels will find all the elements of surprise, intrigue, and action are paired with a solid, believable story line in The Consummate Traitor, which is Book One in the 'Trilogy of Treason' series.

Think Ken Follett - but with more romance. Think John le Carre - but with better-developed spies. Take the backdrop of World War II and add emotion surrounding not just political events, but personalities facing betrayal, love, and turmoil at the highest levels of political and personal engagement. Some facets are more predictable than others: while some readers might consider it a little less suspenseful than expected, that's only because it stays truer to real life than most - which is, after all, not all about nonstop staccato action.

Perhaps it's because the story line is inspired by true events, or maybe it's because the unexpected inclusion of romance elevates it beyond the focus of the action thriller one might expect from the genre; but the inclusion of a female war correspondent's perspective blend with the author's delightful attention to capture the sights, smells and sounds of Europe ("Wafts of smoke drifted windward from the chimneys of cottages dappling the countryside. She sniffed and imagined bread baking inside their brick ovens. Her stomach gurgled. The thought of fresh bread smothered in creamy butter reminded her she had forgotten to eat."), with delightful results indeed.

Where similar-sounding coverages would lose these details (and human lives) in pursuit of nonstop action, The Consummate Traitor excels in an approach designed to bring people and times to life in vivid, colorful passages. The result is a tense, gripping saga always firmly centered in the believable realm of individual personalities and perceptions: a story not just for readers of thrillers, spy novels, and historical pieces; but one perfectly tuned to the nuances and directions of the heart.

Lucien and I
Danny Wynn
Bright Lights Big City Books
9780692399644 $2.95

Although its hand-drawn cartoon cover might indicate it's a children's title, Lucien and I is anything but a teen read, telling of 39-year-old record executive David, who is not living the kind of life he dreamed of in his youth. What will ultimately change the course of this dead-end life is Lucien, a worldly Englishman living with a sexy girlfriend.

As an odd (and tangled) relationship develops between the three of them, David discovers that the friendships he chooses will eventually change the course of his life forever, leading him on a roller coaster whirl through sexual exploration, friendship challenges, and even on an adventure to a remote locale far from his New York City home.

It's important to note that Lucien and I is all about evolution, uncertain relationships, and how a young man who is "a creature in search of exaltation" becomes introduced to and newly excited by the possibilities in his life. Readers who don't seek psychological introspection and accounts of challenging new experiences, or who are offended by sometimes-graphic sexual description, should look elsewhere; but those interested in the dynamics of relationships will find these descriptions pointed and interesting: "...yeah, it wasn't nice to provoke her, but it was funny to watch her try to control him through force of will while he pushed her buttons. She really didn't get him.

Who knows what goes on in the dynamic of any romantic couple?"

How does one who has formed a comfortable, safe life come to feel newly alive in the world? How do friendships with unusual people challenge and change this cocoon of predictability? And how does the fluidity of life reach one who stands on the cusp of reaching out for something more than he's created in 29 years of living?

Lucien and I is a rich, meditative piece recommended for audiences who enjoy a combination of psychological inspection and insights on how relationships come together and fall apart - and what transpires when they do.

In Search of Tom Candy
Dairl M. Johnson
Dairl M. Johnson, Publisher
9780989135917 $4.95

In Search of Tom Candy is historical fiction at its best; partially because it's quite specific about its fictional protagonist, one John Stanton, a young journalist in 1904 who is the son of a former secretary of war who worked under Abraham Lincoln. Stanton's proposed story about western pioneer Tom Candy does not go over well with his editor, so he resigns and goes on his own to investigate the facts surrounding Candy's legend - and in doing so, Stanton uncovers some puzzling facts about Candy and his own father that bring his report too close to home for comfort.

Three viewpoints are used in the course of the novel to bring events to life; but what is particularly notable is Johnson's ability to bring the atmosphere and feel of the times to life through each protagonist's separate observations: "...the smells...dear God, the smells. Urban transportation had grown exponentially in the last decade. Electric trains crisscrossed the city, and gasoline-powered automobiles chugged through the newly christened Times Square. There was even an underground train system getting ready to open toward the end of the year. Still, work animals were the main mode of transportation."

Why is John initially fascinated with the character of Candy? Because "...He's important because he was the first cattle driver to move a herd of longhorns from Texas to New York, fifty years ago. It was quite a feat. And he wasn't even American. He was an Englishman. And his assistants on the drive included a Mexican vaquero and a Cherokee Indian."

As if this wasn't enough to capture and keep his attention, his growing realizations about Candy's involvement in his own heritage makes for a series of engrossingly unpredictable revelations that bring conspiracies, hidden truths, and his father's political involvements into question.

From the roughshod atmosphere that is early New York to Candy's frontier world, Johnson is consistently adept at recreating the sounds, smells and ambiance of the times: "The two men watched the herd move for a while, a sea of rich brown and white brindle steers, their horns clacking against one another. Those that had gone in the pen first were already lined up at the troughs, getting their fill of water."

Atmospheric and replete with intrigue, and spiced with the social and political temperaments of its times, In Search of Tom Candy is a top recommendation for any enthusiast of historical fiction who like their characters to match settings through realistic portraits and insights from the past.

Another Girl Calls My Dad Daddy
Emma L. Price
ELP Books
P.O. Box 1506, Gardena, CA 90249
9780984165025 $9.95

Another Girl Calls My Dad Daddy holds a compelling cover of an older and a younger girl and the father who stands behind them and presents an intriguing theme for ages 8 and older, beginning with twelve-year-old Portia Maddox, who meets her older half-sister for the first time.

Portia is hopeful for a positive relationship because they share the same father and she has longed for a sibling; but Jasmine is not what she expected. Portia is so disappointed that she is afraid to share that she has Type 1 diabetes. Jasmine believes Portia has a better life than she and is more beloved by their father - and so Jasmine embarks on a series of efforts to make Portia's life miserable. It's young Portia who is wise enough to know that now she has to 'share' her father - but because Jasmine sees that Portia seems to be the apple of her father's eye, she quickly turns into a jealous, vindictive person. How can a positive relationship be forged from such adversity?

Emma L. Price excels at crafting realistic situations, unlike many similar-sounding stories. It's not a simple 'hate at first sight', for example: Jasmine and Portia's phone discussions and long-distance introductions have been warm and seem to hold much promise for the half-sisters getting along, even given that fifteen years went by before either knew about the other.

There are numerous young adult and pre-teen stories on the market about blended families, but most involve step-parents and only lightly touch upon sibling relationships. Even the title of this book strikes at the heart of the matter: sibling jealousy.

The complexity of family relationships may be explored through Portia's eyes and a first-person account, but equal attention is given to presenting Jasmine's impressions and rationale for her actions, making Another Girl Calls My Dad Daddy a compelling read for any interested in the rigors of blended family interactions.

Do Good Well
Alex Phakos
Hampshire United Publishing
9780996120630 $TBA

Do Good Well: The Three Williams Tour is the second work of the trilogy begun in At the Death; but those anticipating a smooth continuation of plot will find that Phakos excels in adding twists that, initially, make it seem like this is a stand-alone novel unconnected to its predecessor. It's only as events unfold that one senses that there is, indeed, a continuing theme to the saga that makes Do Good Well a satisfying, supportive continuation of concepts introduced in At the Death.

While the opening centers on a strange series of lottery ticket wins in Britain, the story quickly shifts to the Hampshire United Soccer Club, which is on a plane heading to Britain. What do the two events hold in common?

Plenty, as readers are about to find out. Even more so than the prior At the Death, Do Good Well is infused with descriptions of soccer, team interactions, and ultimate goals in life. It carries its introductory theme well into playoffs and team interactions - which means that a prior familiarity with At the Death, though not essential, certainly makes this follow up a gratifying read for those returning from the team's buildup in the first book.

Between the touch of mystery added to the story, the British culture and settings (which are delightfully portrayed), and team choices in how they will live their lives, Do Good Well provides a special treat as it rounds out and expands the world of a soccer playing team and their continuing life encounters and education.

What do King Arthur's ring, prior lives, and the philosophical examination of life well lived hold in common with soccer? Add a touch of angels and Satan, messages from divine sources, and the intrigue that comes with the gift of seeing events before they unfold and you have a vivid story powered as much by spiritual insights as by soccer descriptions. "With you it may take time. The time of several lifetimes perhaps, but in the end, even you will come to recognize that goodness will always triumph over evil."

The plays, strategies, and challenges particular to the sport of soccer will especially delight avid fans as well as those with a more casual familiarity with the sport.

In his second book of the trilogy, Phakos poses some intriguing, challenging concepts and follows through on delivering a sound, well-reasoned saga based on sports, spirituality, and choices for doing good well.

60 Driving Made Simple
Paul Burgett
PO Box 274, Hopkins, MN 55343
9781505881387 $12.99

60 Driving Made Simple came from the author's love of driving and his growing realization two things: patterns in how people drive under various conditions, and how these behaviors combine to offer greater insights not only into personal driving choices, but the overall culture and psychological atmosphere of the roadway.

His discovery and investigation into the history and culture of driving led directly to this book, which is not the anticipated discussion of how seniors can drive better, but a wider-ranging survey synthesizing some 15 years of driving observations and analysis.

Could anyone have produced such a book? Only if they spent those years with a specific purpose in mind: charting behaviors and collecting and documenting driving patterns. Most drivers aren't that methodical: Paul Burgett's focus is different and useful, and it doesn't just involve history or psychology: its intent is to help readers understand what's involved in operating a motor vehicle.

A dose of humor accompanies discussions that range from vehicle maintenance to understanding the step-by-step process of moving from being a non-driver (or a driver by chance) to being an informed motor vehicle operator. From learning to drive to purchasing a car, insuring it, maintaining it, and adopting safe practices, 60 Driving Made Simple is packed with advice, from developing a schedule that allows for road delays to using seatbelts properly and handling aggressive drivers ("Like a ship passing in the night, either let them pass you, or move around them quickly. Better to be well ahead of them, or well behind them, so that if they cause an accident you will have time to react. They are physically and emotionally dangerous to you due to their forceful tactics and confrontational behavior.")

While this collection of road-wise admonitions should be part of any driver's repertoire, its main audience will be the newer driver who should use 60 Driving Made Simple as a basic primer and game plan to develop 'best practices' as a driver.

Therefore, it's especially recommended as a basic gift for those just embarking on their life-long driving career.

Jeri Parker
Winter Beach Press
936 East 17th South, Salt Lake City, UT 84105
9780983629436 $15.00

Unmoored opens with a bang: "He was fascinated with fire all that week, my mother told me. Why didn't I know?" and while it sounds like a nonfiction autobiography, it's actually fiction - and that choice makes it all the more powerful a read, highly recommended for any who want a vividly-drawn, compelling saga revolving around the mysterious death of a tyrannical father.

Family sagas and adversity rarely offer something refreshingly new and different. The novel genre is replete with stories of angst paired with emotional and physical destruction. What sets Unmoored apart from these is its attention to ambiguity and uncertainty and the shifting tides of facts, feelings, and reality that ebb and flow through colorful, compelling descriptions: "Scraps of my father's life are being piled in a wet heap outside the window. I stand there seeing all of us flat and black and curled at the edges."

These insights are at once surreal, ethereal, and poignant, providing an immediacy often lacking in other novels and creating an atmosphere that is emotionally charged and precise in its connections between past and present: "If I start from what is clear, I can account for the basics. And I lay out the constellation of my life as I'd known it - what I'm sure of. I am Rennie who will follow the thread of the half-told tales. I am already beyond choice."

Few novels hold this ability to juxtapose events with the narrator's evolving life as she moves from roots and connections to romance and the results of her own choices: "I sat there reading those words, overwhelmed at the need to love him and the fervent need to never say goodbye again. And yes, overwhelmed at his sense of me. And I thought of all the layers in his answer in Reading Terminal fifteen years before when I asked him what he did. "What I do," he'd said. "If it could be enough."

From a sibling's descent into madness to an adopted son who is fated to follow the family's dysfunctional path, and the possibilities replete in new relationships outside the family structure, Unmoored is all about casting off and sailing away - and what happens when baggage is packed for the ride.

That it identifies this process in the landscape of one woman's uncertain examination of what makes life possible, different, or repetitive of past traumas makes for a highly recommended, compelling read that stands head and shoulders above any label of 'dysfunctional family novel' to embrace elements of self-discovery, mystery, romance, and interactions with the force that is life within and outside of us: "I sat on the bank and watched for a long time. "Don't look for fish, look for parts of fish," I could hear my father say. I watched the pattern the water made as it moved. Then a glinting appeared, almost like a sunspot, and disappeared, and the river returned to the pattern I'd memorized. "A big fish," I said. I watched his lie."

Razor King
T.W. Moore
ISBN: 9781310996566
ASIN: B00U1WOB48 $5.99

Amazon link:

Smashwords link:

Alaska in 2080 is a very different place than the frozen tundra of our times: the icebergs have almost completely melted, and the ice is being hacked away in search of something long-buried. In parts of the world (such as Australia) the ozone is completely depleted, and a small nuclear war has completed what mankind began - so, for its own safety, the world is being run by quantum computers, which have taken over and prove to be somewhat unstable.

This book isn't about climate change or computers gone awry, however: these are just the backdrops for an even stranger scenario in which organ harvesting has run amok and the 'Razor King' is terrorizing the night with his vicious harvesting.

It will take a madman, a genius, or a hero to stop him - and 'Captain Matagon' is all three, charged with bringing down The Razor King. It should be evident by now that The Razor King is not just another dystopian read: it adds elements of intrigue, mystery, and suspense that places it on the crossroads of three genres: science fiction, thriller, and mystery.

Another bonus: more than a dose of high-tech atmosphere ("A laser system that can tell by your breath if you have cancer. It identifies trace levels of compounds that may be signs of disease in a simple breath sample.") adds surprise and depth, while philosophical injections of perspectives on the human condition provides thought-provoking moments throughout ("Is it, Captain? Is it really your choice? Once truth is denied to human beings, freedom becomes an illusion. Truth and freedom either go together hand-in-hand or they perish together in misery.").

The Razor King could have collapsed under the weight of all these facets under a different hand; but the mark of a superior production is its ability to seamlessly draw all elements together in a smooth, gripping read, and T.W. Moore achieves this in a saga of DNA resurrection and the costs of being human, while leaving the door open for possible further variations on the original theme.

Thriller, sci-fi and mystery readers alike will find it realistic, compelling, and hard to put down.

The Burning Man
Solange Ritchie
Morgan James Publishing
4410 E Claiborne Square, Suite 334, Hampton VA 23666-2071
9781630475192 $19.95

The Burning Man is set in Orange County, California, in an upscale community where a lovely Mexican woman is mutilated and left for dead, prompting the attention of the Irvine Police Department and FBI pathologist Dr. Catherine Powers. This isn't a one-time event, but the work of a serial killer who threatens the community and who is labeled 'The Burning Man' when his work results in more and more bodies.

On the face of it, The Burning Man could be seen as just another formula story (female forensic investigator; serial killings that hit too close to home), but the test of the superiority of any saga lies not so much in its story line, but how the author carries it out - and for a debut novelist, a production like The Burning Man is proof of that higher level of writing.

The psychological suspense and fast-paced action are gripping; and if at times events seem to head pell-mell into one another like a train speeding towards disaster, Ritchie's ability to hold it all together with a twist, a subtle nuance, or a delightfully thought-provoking psychological focus on causes, effects, and choices in the matter keeps The Burning Man more than on track.

Readers who expect a more casual mystery may be stymied, at first, by the presence of such depth woven into the twists and turns of the plot: investigator Powers, for example, faces powerless moments in her own life and career, is driven to succeed as a mother and as a forensic investigator, and finds her family ties tested by a dangerous foe who has her on his radar.

No light or simple read, The Burning Man makes its readers think, requires them to hop on board for a vivid and unpredictable ride, and, in the end, promises (and delivers) a strong female protagonist whose complex life and issues are far beyond the usual one-dimensional investigator persona seen in similar genre thrillers. Yes, some threads are left unwoven - much as in life. This just means that The Burning Man might (or might not) lead to something more.

As it is, it's a powerful read and a top recommendation for mystery and thriller fans who like their stories fast-paced, multi-faceted, and hot and spicy with emotional connections and psychological depth.

An Unusual Island
D.L. Finn
9780996258234 $10.88

It feels like Janine's birthday couldn't get better: her parents have won a vacation to an island and the whole family gets to go have fun - which, unfortunately, includes a sightseeing boat ride (Janine isn't fond of boats: "Being on the boat reminded me of a bad kids' roller coaster ride - bumpy and boring."). The experience does nothing to improve her opinion when a storm arises and they are shipwrecked on an uncharted island, there to face the mystery of their lives.

Only eleven pages into the story, D.L. Finn paints the background, interests, and concerns of her protagonists and places them in a position of confronting powerful changes: off and running with a quick start, teen readers will find themselves plunged into adventure following a "stereotypical smart girl" who finds her comfortable world challenged in more ways than one.

The mystery of the island's hidden (but beneficial) presence is well done and the seemingly-calm acceptance of the protagonist is deftly explained just at a point where it starts to feel too pat and unreal: "Mom wasn't acting like Mom, who would have said something right away, and I wasn't acting like myself, either. It was like I had been in a trance while we were walking. Why weren't either one of us freaked out?").

In a rollicking journey that includes caves, possible pirate treasure, and references to baseball, bears, possible school pranks, and more, An Unusual Island is replete with twists and turns that skirt the supernatural and create the evocative saga of an island replete with danger.

With an adventure far beyond that of a shipwreck or treasure saga, teens will delight in a winding story line that requires only an interest in adventure and fantasy to prove an engrossing, compelling read, recommended for ages 9-16.

The Damnable Legacy
G. Elizabeth Kretchmer
Booktrope Editions
Print ISBN 9781620159651 $18.95
Epub ISBN 9781620159965 $4.99

It's rare to find a story line that is narrated from the afterlife and follows the reflections and circumstances of a minister's wife who has expired from terminal cancer, but who follows through (beyond death) with a plan to reunite a biological mother and her granddaughter. Such an endeavor involves faith, love, and interconnections between different worlds, and represents an exploration of the lasting ramifications of decisions and choices.

Thus, one prerequisite to enjoying The Damnable Legacy would be an interest in matters of the heart, an acceptance of afterlife possibilities, and a willingness to appreciate explorations that range from destiny and love to a narrator who has set the stage for a possible reunion and resolution, watching her plan evolve from another realm of consciousness.

In chapters that juxtapose a mountain-climbing adventurer with a distant granddaughter who repeatedly injures herself as she struggles with her uncertain home life and future, the narrator who pulls together both lives is an ethereal being whose efforts have set into motion circumstances to connect two broken lives. All this is well explained in the second chapter, after the presentation draws readers into these two disparate lives.

Another plus to this saga is that nothing is cut and dried. Protagonist Frankie, who struggles with her home life, and Lynn, addicted to climbing the highest mountains in the world except the one that looms largest in her heart, are joined by blood, biology, and unresolved troubles. In the course of learning about their different lives and observing the forces at work to bring them together, readers are treated to a series of revelations that are emotionally involving and revealing.

At times the observational status of the narrator slips itself into one life or the other - and this creates a satisfyingly different approach that adds a rich blurring of boundaries between the three dissimilar personalities: "Neither spoke until all the food had disappeared, and then Mrs. Farley, who must have been dying to barrage Frankie with a million questions, asked only a single one. "What are you looking for, darlin'?" She was so kind, and I was in such a daze from the pie, that I imagined it was I who was sitting across from her. I thought about how I would answer. What was I looking for? The ability to rest in peace? A way to let go of my life? Assurance that those I loved would be safe and happy? An answer to where I was and what my eternal future might bring? Something to believe in? But Frankie was more pragmatic. "A ride to Bend."

Engrossing, winning, and compelling, The Damnable Legacy uses poetic language, an unusual narrative approach, and compelling scenes to move between the beliefs, events, forces and choices that shape both Lynn and her granddaughter Frankie's lives, exploring how each is lost in different ways, and how they come together.

The result is a story that is hard to put down and which follows faith and how it withstands even the most adversarial of conditions to blossom from the storms of life, evoking connections and (ultimately) forgiveness.

Melody for Murder
Carolyn Marie Wilkins
Pen-L Publishing
9781942428183 $13.97

Melody for Murder is Book One of the 'Bertie Bigelow' series, and centers upon a recently widowed college choir director who accepts a date with a snobby judge, only to find that one of her most talented students is a suspect when he's found dead the next morning. This combination of events sends her on the most challenging journey since her husband's death, involving her in an investigation of her troubled student's life that leads to a circle of friends and their possible involvements in sordid affairs.

On the face of it, Melody for Murder is fairly straightforward: an amateur sleuth, a troubled student fingered for a crime she didn't commit, and an effort to find the real perp. But while it may sound like formula writing, its pleasure lies not just in plot, but how characters are developed and how events play out.

There's no satisfying mystery without well-developed protagonists that involve readers on an emotional level; no reason to keep reading unless the plot sparkles and thickens with satisfying twists and turns; and no better way to develop a scene than by choosing a protagonist whose life seems realistic, recognizable, and involving. Bertie is all these things: a nearly-forty professor involved in teaching college students, she's the least likely candidate for a murder investigation - and that's precisely what makes her so delightful.

As in life, readers encounter fun characters and annoying ones. The story line's ups and downs are always in keeping with realistic approaches that mirror life's ebb and flow. Its Chicago setting is vividly drawn and adds to the plot's development ("Located in a squat, concrete fortress at the epicenter of Chicago's impoverished South Side, Metro Community College was the last remaining cultural outlet in this once vibrant area."), and the characters are simply delightful individuals; often unexpected: "Several cartons of Heavenly Hot Sauce lay piled against the wall on the left.

Lining the right-hand wall were shelves containing oversized cans of condiments, industrial kitchen appliances, and sacks of flour. Smack in the middle of all this clutter, the Hot Sauce King sat smoking a cigar with his feet up at a small metal desk piled high with cookbooks."

In a genre replete with formula approaches and one-dimensional figures, Melody for Murder successfully stands out with its winding developments, vividly realistic moments, and the talents of a college professor turned sleuth who finds her good intentions repeatedly land her in the path of danger. It's highly recommended for any genre fan who wants fresh, lively writing and a protagonist who is neither beautiful nor a sleuthing genius - just a likeable, believable human being who finds herself involved in something outside her career and expectations.

Felicity and the Featherless Two-Foot
Loralee Evans
No ISBN, Publisher, $2.99
Prepublication Manuscript: ETA Fall 2015

Felicity is a little sparrow whose courage leads her to become an honorary fairy, flitting about in a world of fairies threatened only by "pea-poles" or "featherless two-foots". What makes Felicity seem fearless is that her fairy friends must not let their enemies see them - and Felicity has no such constraints. This lends to an openness about the featherless two-foots which in turn leads her to explore their world more openly than her fairy companions can do.

Felicity and the Featherless Two-Foot is a delightful, easy-to-read animal-and-magic based fantasy that focuses on a little bird's encounters with humans. Elementary-grade readers who love fantasy and animal stories will find many fun moments as Felicity observes these strangers and finds herself attracted to some of their accessories ("Granola tasted almost as good as beetle!") when a human camping trip attracts her attention.

Perhaps it's inevitable that her curiosity and openness to new experiences will land her in danger. Perhaps it's predictable that one of the 'peoples' will threaten the fairy world's secrets. And it's a compelling development in the story that Felicity's friendships will eventually cross worlds to lead her to take under her wing the most unlikely of characters with more than a small degree of compassion: "The poor little featherless two-foot! Of course, he'd taken Colin's stuff, and he was being a nitwit, causing everybody worry and problems. But still!"

It's this attention to understanding and empathy that elevates Felicity and the Featherless Two-Foot from being a children's fairy/animal story to a tale of positive attitudes towards life, new encounters, new creatures, and new opportunities. Dreams, imagination, and different worlds intersect in a positive and simple story that kids will find whimsical and delightfully fun.

In the Seraphim City
Eirik Moe Dahll-Larssøn
ISBN-13: 978-1512051179
$18.00 paperback, $2.99 digital

In the Seraphim City tells of a city experiencing uncontrolled growth and success - until it collapses upon itself to leave its creators, the Alchemists, despised for encouraging the city to grow beyond its optimum levels. Society is stratified in this broken hive, and only one man will prove able to bridge lives and worlds to heal a goliath that has grown unwieldy and no longer works.

That's the rough outline of the premise of In the Seraphim City: now for the meat. It's packed with a diverse range of protagonists; some of them compelling, others tertiary adjuncts to the action. And it's also packed with genre-crossing methods which inject a crime and mystery elements into what appears to be a straightforward sci-fi read about a dysfunctional future society.

Darkly compelling, In the Seraphim City presents its world through the eyes of one Theodore Donovan, perhaps the only individual able to truly grasp the nuances of his world. That this approach is honed through evocative, compelling descriptions that blend action with the sights, smells and sounds of another universe is testimony to Dahll-Larssøn's ability to create a story line that sings to its readers: "The wind around him broke out in song as it whipped past his ears, and the city rushed towards him and threatened to devour him as he clamoured to stay, to keep himself aloft. The bright lights of the surface vanished around him, the darkness of the underworld enveloped him, and even as the screeching wind stopped, the sound only grew louder. He grasped for the ancient walkways in the dark, the abandoned levels in between the lights of nature and the lights of industry, but none would reach him. The city laughed and opened its gaping maw with teeth of rotted steel, and he shut his eyes and yelled as it devoured him."

Power plays and villains who may have logical motivations for murder, possibilities of perps who are immersed in a corrupt political system, and larger questions of spiritual rationales for murder and manipulation: these are just a few of the devices employed to bring the story to life: "If he played smart, he'd be on top here already - and we'd all be dead or dying. I said, his following's based on faith. On believing in an immortal man, wiser and better than we are. To us, he's a killer and drug dealer. To them, he's... a deity. And you don't kill quietly in the name of God."

Fans of sci-fi, fantasy and mystery shouldn't anticipate the usual genre read, with so much going on: indeed, its complexity isn't recommended for the 'light reader' who just wants casual entertainment; but for enthusiasts of stories that challenge the mind and invite reflection, even injecting a dose of romance into the bigger picture of a City and its individuals challenged by the very status quo they've created and lived by.

Werewolf Nights
Mari Hamill
Dog Ear Publishing
9781457525742 $16.95 Paperback $2.99 Kindle
Barnes & Noble:

Catherine is a widowed bakery owner left with grief and business concerns, but her life's about to get a lot more complicated when her leisure passion for werewolf lore begins to threaten her life by becoming reality, and when she decides to try her hand at acting - in her ripe, inexperienced thirties.

There would seem to be no room for romance in her life, even though it's lacking - but when Catherine falls for her sexy co-star, things get even more complicated and events force her to examine whether the werewolf legends could be real.

Despite the complicated-sounding circumstances surrounding Catherine's life, readers should expect a light leisure read here: a plot embracing mystery, supernatural forces, romance, and entertainment alike. A prior interest in these devices and genres will attract the right kind of reader who enjoys genre-crossing productions that foregoe complex psychological drama in favor of plain adventure and intrigue.

It's hard to present 'something for everyone' - usually an author falls short on romance, mystery, or supernatural elements - but the pleasure of a light summer read such as Werewolf Nights is that it's easy on the eye and mind - and perfect for a beach take-along or a quick, engrossing leisure pursuit.

There's a premise establishing uncertain, tense historic relationships between werewolves and humans ("Humans who feared becoming dinner hunted Gamel and Ymma's descendants with or without justification. The sight of one human carcass would trigger the massacre of dozens of man-wolves. To protect themselves, the werewolves formed an alliance called the Yellowtoothed Clan."), there's a passionate protagonist who is willing to take risks even in her thirties, there's the special challenge of falling in love with someone who is in the midst of changing ("Greg touched his face, sensing something was wrong. Catherine hadn't recognized him as Charles. He looked into one of the new mirrors. He was transforming. Sharp features molded his face, almost animallike although not completely. Oh God! Whatever was happening to him had to be dealt with. He needed answers.").

Readers who expect a complex, introspective plot should know this won't be the case from the fun cover presenting a nymph at the stove with a werewolf looming in back of her. With its light tone, absorbing action, and a protagonist who is satisfyingly straightforward, Werewolf Nights succeeds in providing what many leisure readers desire with an entertaining story that's perfect for a hot summer's vacation night of engrossing reading.

Nightscape: Cynopolis
David W. Edwards
Imperiad Entertainment
6472 SE Nathan Ct., Hillsboro, OR 97123
9780989748735 $14.99 USD for trade paperback, $5.99 for e-book

Nightscape: Cynopolis is the newest addition to the Nightscape series and is urban horror fiction at its best, promising prior fans and newcomers alike a read that is marked by elements of supernatural fiction, thriller writing, and high-tech threats.

It's not a challenge to imagine a setting in which a 'thought virus' is released that turns an urban city's dogs into feral, supernatural threats. The response to this threat weakens civilization's structures and quickly turns into a battle for survival as city residents fall prey to the creatures and a military blockade of the city alike.

Readers should anticipate a healthy dose of noir atmosphere that injects a gritty, urban feel to setting, dialogue, and encounters: "More fuckin drunk tank shit," Rollie said. "Better check they got a room." Rollie heaved himself out of the car and headed for the drunk. The headlights pointed up the suspect's shirt. 'One Love' my ass, Rollie thought, fingering the snap on his nightstick."

This urban dialogue is an intrinsic part of Nightscape: Cynopolis and serves to capture the stark characters and contrasts of the city even before the supernatural threat becomes a prevalent force in the thriller's evolution, so readers should be prepared for a good deal of realistic, engrossing conversation: "Fuck. I know what he's sparkin on. He got a bad fuckin habit a crackin on the one thing you do wrong, not recognizin the hunnerd things you do right. That's on my heart hard. I made some bad decisions with women in my past, but I made em wit the conscience I knew they wasn't good." Neither his eyes nor lips betrayed his bone-deep shame for what he'd done to his first baby-mama Arleen."

The characters are tested in a variety of ways. They face physical, mental and spiritual trials. Some challenges involve high-tech restraints. One character is forcibly infected with "explosive nanites" that will detonate if he attempts to harm or flee from his captor.

This book is for those who appreciate hard-hitting back-and-forth dialogue, have an interest in survival horror, and enjoy gritty urban thrillers. Issues of safety and danger permeate a charged, winding storyline filled with earthly and cosmic threats, including alien gods.

It all seems quite a bit to toss into one mix, but Nightscape: Cynopolis does a fine job of exploring and explaining its numerous facets in the course of presenting a rollicking, action-packed thriller/fantasy read highly recommended for any who enjoy survivalist sagas with a supernatural twist.

Smart People? Smarter Animals
Robert S. Swiatek
Robert S. Swiatek, Publisher
9781634525541 $19.95

Pop culture, music references and natural history is admittedly an unusual blend rarely married in a nonfiction account, but Smart People? Smarter Animals is about intelligent creatures and is written with a young audience in mind, and it blends these facets well in an approach that opens with an account of a honey badger, a creature that's been receiving a good amount of attention.

The animal stories here name each creature under inspection (the honey badger is 'Stoffel', for example) and they adopt a chatty tone that belays the usual dryness of science, making for an appealing fiction-like survey of facts especially recommended for advanced elementary to middle-grade readers. Some examples of this tone: "As you can see, a honey badger is carnivorous and has few predators. He's one tough dude." and "Photographing Stoffel is a challenge since he's always on the go, probably a type A. Honey badgers and humans seem to keep their distance, the former figuring the woman with the camera has a gun hidden somewhere."

To further the feel of a chatty conversation, references are also made within the chapters to popular media representations of each animal, related animals and the researchers who have studied them, and TV shows and websites which offer further information. Yes, all this could have appeared in a more 'scholarly' approach using footnotes and bibliography (indeed, a section of 'References' is included at the end); but by also presenting many of them as part of its chatty text, readers receive at-a-glance options that fit neatly into the course of discussion rather than appearing isolated at the end of the book.

While some adult readers might eschew this more casual tone and approach ("...getting back to pronghorn, maybe they are jocks, but can they pass the entrance exam? From what I've written, you can see that they're smart and athletic but come on; they certainly won't get a diploma or even be on the Rams taxi squad."), the result is a natural history that reads with the lively jumps and cultural references of fiction, making it a reference for young readers and many an adult alike: those who like wildlife, pop culture, and an unusual mix of the two that holds the potential for couching its natural history facts in a lively treatment that's anything but dry.

Volcano Island
William Graham
BookSurge Publishing/Audible Audiobook
9781419615788 $6.08

The prologue of Volcano Island is set in 850 AD in Iceland, and sets the stage with a lovely narrative voice by Mary Allwright as it tells of a Catholic monk sailor who is cold and wet, having sailed for several weeks from Ireland to discover a land that voice in his head has directed him to find. His sojourn is relentless and he's on his last legs when he finally lands in a rugged, icy world.

When the monk encounters a strange, tall stranger on the island, he discovers he's landed on Volcano Island, inhabited by a tribe that values its privacy. (One incongruity comes to mind: how does a monk from Ireland understand the language of a tribal man on another continent?)

Fast forward from this isolated monk's journey and life of solitude and peace to ten-year-old Rolf Arneson from Minnesota, who visits Iceland and finds a world replete with rugged adventure, an Icelandic girl (Frieda), and a threat that might consume both their worlds. He's dreamed of volcanoes while in Minnesota - but not the danger he finds; while Frieda's world is replete with folklore, history, and a giant black mass that looms over her world, known simply as 'the black volcano'.

By Volcano Island's third chapter, Iceland comes alive - before Rolf even arrives - the setting well developed between the monk's discovery and the contemporary young girl Frieda's heritage. William Graham devotes several important chapters to setting the sights, scenes, and sounds of Iceland: in a key to an evocative listen that builds high adventure, from Rolf's plunge into a dangerous sea to his tour of geothermal areas and his growing realization that Volcano Island holds something more than rugged beauty.

One might expect a winning adventure around a volcano's threat from the title; but which is equally compelling - and less anticipated - is an attention to detail that brings Iceland's environment and communities to life. As the story proceeds, Graham's inclusion of these details creates exquisite mental visuals that enhance the building tension: an especially important device in an audio listen.

While Volcano Island's focus on young protagonists would seem to limit its audience to teens and pre-teens, many an adult with an interest in Iceland will find it a compelling listen, as well; driven by its focus on a rugged land too rarely used as a backdrop to anything but fantasy sagas. With its ability to build a powerfully realistic setting and then add in protagonists who discover this world, each other, and their place in surviving what is to come, all paired with a clear, evocative narrator, Volcano Island's audio adventure should be well received not just by young listeners, but by all ages.

Beautiful Hero
Jenny Lau
No Publisher, ISBN, $TBA
Prepublication Manuscript: ETA Spring 2016

Beautiful Hero: How We Survived The Khmer Rouge tells how a family of eight with six children (ranging in age from six months to thirteen years old) made it through hell and back again, and narrows survival skills down to the most basic of needs: water and food. There have been other autobiographical accounts of life under the Khmer Rouge; but Beautiful Hero departs from most in its focus on one woman's courage (the author's mother) and how this literally made the difference between life and death for her entire family.

Sagas of family survival are typically thought-provoking, evocative, and compelling. In this case, they also assume a gritty, close examination of the life of a woman whose name translates to 'beautiful hero' in Chinese, and whose destiny seemed predetermined: "In retrospect it seems as though her sole purpose was to save us from the hell of the Khmer Rouge." Few lives can claim to hold such a clear purpose: Meiyeng's ability to solve problems and survive under impossible circumstances came from a steely fortitude developed in early childhood and fostered by life's slings and arrows as an adult.

Readers shouldn't expect just psychological inspection, but should anticipate a read that pulls no punches: Lau's writing paints vivid pictures as it documents the trials and challenges of staying alive under these conditions: "Today wasn't the first time I found a clump of cow dung and dead leeches floating in my soup. My stomach soured." And thus Beautiful Hero becomes not one matriarch's biography, but a record of the entire family's experiences and how each family member reacted to and survived these soul- and body-wrenching encounters.

Not everyone emerges a survivor - and those left behind are also left to struggle with their reasons for going on: "Within twenty-four hours, he had lost his entire world. It was in this desolate wilderness he contemplated ending his life. He wanted to hang himself; it would be so easy to end it here, but according to Buddhism, suicide was condemned as an act of cowardice, the most unforgivable of all sins."

Every American should read this saga, which documents an ultimate journey to America and the costs involved in getting there. It's a story that is evocative, gripping, and challenging, all at once; and it's one that leads the reader to better understand the promises and delivery of a kind of freedom that many countries never experience.

Chronicle of the Guardians: Emergence
Lewis Keating
Amazon Digital Services
ASIN: B00Y90WQXQ $0.99

Book one of the Chronicle of the Guardians series sets the stage for a military sci-fi read and opens with a general's strategic planning session for a top-secret operation against a 20-foot-tall troll who seems immune to anything they can throw at it. The team's violent defeat is being monitored and it seems only the Guardians - a group that hasn't been called upon for centuries - can defeat these formidable super-opponents.

But if a team is destroyed in minutes, how can one individual hope to stand against such an enemy? Particularly such a young adult as Danny, who only wants to work, get money, and enjoy his life. Saving the world is the last thing on his mind: he's still recovering from his parents' deaths, and he's keeping his world as hassle-free as possible by working a menial job and paying his rent. All this is about to change; and given the forces at work on all sides around him, his hidden abilities are about to be put to the test in a confrontation that will decide the fate of humanity itself.

Chronicle of the Guardians: Emergence does an excellent job of juxtaposing Danny's choices and inclinations with the bigger picture of facing an invasion of a myriad of creatures, from trolls to chimeras. At every turn, Danny is tested; and through these tests and struggles he'll come upon a cave, spells, and keys to his role as a Guardian with powers he must learn to control if he's to be an effective force in the world.

"Magic kills. Be respectful of the power you wield." With this and other life lessons injected into the saga, a story of personal and species survival becomes supercharged with insights on purpose, choice, and the responsibilities involved in honing supernatural abilities.

The result is an action-packed fantasy/thriller that moves neatly beyond the usual constraints of either genre to present a solid read recommended for those who want entertaining coming-of-age fantasies and nonstop confrontations paired with insights on a young man's higher purpose in life. Recommended for fantasy and thriller audiences alike, Emergence pairs an Indiana Jones-type approach to discovery with a Star Wars-style series of battles and wraps them all neatly within the greater philosophical story of a young man's growth into and acknowledgment of his special abilities and the responsibilities that come with them.

The Nun's Dowry
Alan Thompson
W & B Publishers
9001 Ridge Hill St. Kernersville, NC 27284
Paperback: ISBN 9781942981039 $17.99
Ebook: ISBN 9781942981008 $3.99

First of all, it should be mentioned that this complex novel adopts changing perspectives and narrators to impart its story; and while that device could have proved confusing under lesser hands, Alan Thompson's approach succeeds in creating a winning saga that examines not just one nun's world, but a number of other lives that orbit around her.

1912 New Orleans comes to life first, in this approach, blending a historical novel's attention to details of the times with a hard-hitting account of the burdens of faith, broken promises, and uncertain beginnings. Fast forward to Baton Rouge in 1965 after this introduction, where a man faces the morning aftermath of failed virtue and his decision to marry Sarah: the logical conclusion in a sequence of events that have tied them together.

Embedded within this series of events is an encounter with a soon-to-be nun and a monastery he didn't even know existed: a discovery that leads him to live two lives: one on an inevitable, predictable course and the other spent trying to convince a beautiful young woman to alter the spiritual convictions that are leading her away from the world and into a future of isolated devotion.

The certainty of conviction is woven wonderfully throughout the changing perspectives in The Nun's Dowry, which keeps readers engaged not only in the protagonists' different lives, but in their philosophies and spiritual approaches to understanding and dealing with their worlds: "How do you square the existence of your God with the world we actually live in?"

Readers receive a winding, compelling story line that travels through Louisiana and views events through a number of different eyes. Devotion comes from different angles in this approach ("Although Dominique's life was monastic he didn't live in a monastery, and the outside world seeped in.") and is tested by the betrayals of parents and lovers, and the twisting relationships that chance and history introduce to each protagonist ("For a single, futile moment she had ignored her own weakness, and hated the man responsible for her inability to love the man who loved her.").

Readers who anticipate that The Nun's Dowry will be solely about religious orders and relationships within them will be pleased to find this a complex, multi-faceted novel that embraces history, philosophy, and the influences that lead down a darker road of violence and murder.

It's difficult to capture all the nuances of the story without revealing too many of its twists and turns: suffice it to say that The Nun's Dowry offers more than a diversity of perspectives and lives: it is a novel of intersections and complicated relationships both within and outside the monastery, and is recommended for readers who like their stories well detailed, winding, and filled with food for thought.

The Millennial Reincarnations
Daniel M. Harrison
Publick Media Publishing
9781513603766 $18.00

New age, spirituality and philosophy readers alike will find in The Millennial Reincarnations a different kind of message, delivered with a different style: a novel that reads like a cinematic widescreen production designed to capture immediate attention and explore the reasons why individuals are on the planet. If all this sounds heady - it is.

The Millennial Reincarnations is especially recommended for seekers who would absorb all this information in the form of a narrative that closely examines mind, heart, and soul in the height of millennial times (the late 1990s to the mid-2000s).

A series of experiences by people around the world serve as focal points in this sweeping (even epic) examination of universal connections, transition points, and connections that succeeds in embracing a wide, seemingly-disparate perspective.

One way that The Millennial Reincarnations achieves this goal while remaining accessible and lively is through sparkling, compelling dialogue that doesn't just explain or lecture, but reaches out and grabs readers: "This is what a power struggle looks like; and you are leaving one, which is why you see it and feel it now...Now take the pressure off the turbo and slide the cruise function along the bottom; the trick is to try and kind of glide within the space you see ahead - just let yourself stay there suspended for a moment and hang out the stabbing pain you feel for that's not something we want to take back with us at all ... ... that pain, by the way, is the pain of a consciousness determined to condemn its own species to death for its own personal gain. It's a pre-Millennial force dragging at your back wings ..."

Why are we here? What are the forces that dictate life choices? How can Millennials become the first generation to let loose the ties that bind to embrace an ideology and approach to life that lends to taking wing and making most of one's presence on the planet?

It's Daniel M. Harrison's high-octane, compelling language that creates the path to help this generation perceive and understand these new opportunities; his approach that captures the connections between individual lives and greater purpose through a series of fictional vignettes; and his compelling vision of a reincarnated generation raised on new technology with the possibilities for new responses and vision unprecedented in human history that makes this such a stand-out discussion.

The fact that all this is couched in a fictional format makes it compellingly accessible despite these complex overtones: "Most of us are not really here for the money anymore, the same way most suburbanites aren't in the picket-fence walls of a three square meter garden for the lifestyle; we're here either because we entered a block with a one-way revolving door and there's no way out ... or we're just in it for the ride."

Be forewarned: The Millennial Reincarnations isn't the kind of novel you'll want to tear through, no matter how gripping its language or approach. It's best digested in bits and pieces (there's so much to consider and learn) and it's a sparkling revolution of words that holds the potential to not just entertain Millennials, but help them transform the world.

All that's required of its readers is an interest in psychology, spirituality, and the processes of choice and change. The Millennial Reincarnations (like its predecessor Butterflies: The Strange Metamorphosis of Fact & Fiction In Today's World) is a category unto itself and a standout in the mundane world of novels with canned plots and one-dimensional approaches.

There's nothing predictable or tired about The Millennial Reincarnations. It screams its message of faith, opportunity, and how individuals change worlds, and it's a gripping and unique account that turns the novel format upside down and imbibes it with an intense message aimed right at the Millennial generation.

The Misses Bronte's Establishment
Amy Wolf
9781515160281 $13.75

What does the spoiled rich daughter of a knight in mid-Victorian England have to do with Emily and Charlotte Bronte in The Misses Bronte's Establishment? Plenty: and if it's a stretch to imagine that Maria's situation holds connections to these more famous sisters, it's not a stretch to see the parallels between her life experiences and the journeys of Emily, Anne and Charlotte, who are her tutors in this take-off on literary characters.

Readers should ideally have some relatively recent familiarity with at least Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre (and the backgrounds of the Bronte sisters) in order to appreciate this winding story which takes their lives a step further in introducing a feisty new young protagonist who mirrors her mentors' footsteps in romance but adds a dash of detective work and unexpected humor into the mix.

This audience will be better able to appreciate all of the allusions and approaches Amy Wolf utilizes to bring Maria and her Victorian times to life in a world centered on the Bronte sisters and their perspectives and further adventures. From Christmas in 1843 to a wedding, the adventure twists and turns down the alleys and byways of England with exquisite observations of class, romance, and the trappings of Victorian society: "Once I would have been ravenous to devour news of Society, but now, I was not quite sure how to digest this meal. Of course, I longed to attend the events that Isabelle limned with such fever; but a new, contrary flavor rose to sour my palette: some might call it Distaste. Balls, opera, finery: what use were they to me now? I lived amongst a people who spurned such pleasures - who clung almost like Quakers to their plain manner of living."

This is not to say that The Misses Bronte's Establishment is intended as a bastion of literary achievement riding on the coat strings of the Brontes: its primary audience will be historical romance readers who will relish its setting and the attentions of Maria in deciphering the puzzles of romance in her life and those of her mentors. So, to anticipate that this novel should assume the complexity and proportions of a literary classic is unfair to its true intention: to use the background and characters of the Bronte sisters to spin its own unique, individual romantic yarn that creates a dilemma around a character who finds herself out of familiar territory as she moves from London society to the backwaters of the English countryside.

Readers seeking a vivid love story with more than a bow to the classics and the ability to stand out in a genre filled with one-dimensional historical romance characters, and who seek a light, engrossing leisure read incorporating all these elements rather than a demanding, heady piece of literature, will relish The Misses Bronte's Establishment for its many strengths and its ability to provide a rollicking romp through Victorian principles and society.

A Deadly Gamble
Pat Mullan
Athry House
9780983865247 $12.95

It's an unusual scenario to have a hunter also be prey, and at first this seems a challenging turnaround of events - but the logic of a man left to die who survives to gain revenge another day is impeccable, and makes A Deadly Gamble a riveting thriller that evolves from a Las Vegas deal gone awry to a story of revenge and conflict.

Add in the global banking system and its uses and abuses, and an international focus, and you have a story line that sizzles with excitement and which begins in Miami, where a forthcoming marriage of the daughter of a prominent Paraguayan family is halted when deceit is uncovered on the groom's part by the bride's protective brothers who send him packing.

At every turn in the story there's fuel from the banking process, which injects itself into high-stakes stories of confrontation, deception, revenge, and big money. A heartbroken bride pursues her dream in a process that will reach across the world to involve banker Jim Sharkey, a Manhattan businessman whose obsession with his career has ended his family. Drifting towards ruin, he becomes involved in a theft that could lead him away from a dead-end job into a world of wealth. But the theft of funds in the millions is stolen from that prominent Paraguayan family. And they want blood.

As mystery and thriller readers move into a cat-and-mouse game of plots, subplots, confrontations and struggle, they will appreciate Pat Mullan's ongoing ability to paint a bright path of progress, only to diverge from that path at the last minute in a three-sixty degree turn of events which succeeds in adding different nuances and protagonists.

From Vegas and back again, Sharkey's involvement with legal and illegal maneuvers and protagonists who aren't what they seem creates a fluid, ever-changing plot which sweeps readers along on a flowing ride through a series of encounters based on a big company's secret involvements with Paraguayan crime lords.

Will Jim move from near-poverty to better circles, or will his ambitions result in a deadly gamble that will ultimately end his life? It should be cautioned that this is no simple story line. Readers who enjoy ever-changing twists and turns of story will find it engrossing and satisfyingly complex: a perfect saga for puzzle enthusiasts who might assume Jim's eventual success, but not how the surprising route to it ultimately takes place.

The Cat and Cayenne
Claudie Hebert
Amazon Digital Services
ASIN: B011N9PVOG $3.99

Anne Cavel isn't your ordinary protagonist: she runs a shop and is an artist in the French Quarter, and she has just run into her ex-boyfriend after 10 years of recovering from a bad breakup and the death of her mother, who was eaten by a Louisiana alligator. At this point in her life there are too many romantic possibilities: what's a single Louisiana girl to do?

Well, it is New Orleans - and it seems a visit to a Voodoo Queen is in order to help her navigate the uncertain lines of potential lovers of the future and losses of the past - but when Anne consults one, she's given no clear answers and winds up with even more questions about the direction of her life, loves, and sexual inclinations.

The Cat and Cayenne lives up to its promising title in adding in spice and feline attractions, among others. Anne lives in the modern world, so the story is replete with references to musician Fiona Apple, classical music ringtones, smoking pot, and 'fluid sexuality', all of which contribute to a three-dimensional protagonist who uses and moves contemporary New Orleans. It's satisfyingly realistic, for example, to read references to mansions and voodoo consultants that are offset by, say, croissants, cafes, and sexual experiences.

The latter descriptions are just one facet of The Cat and Cayenne used to spice up the story; so if descriptions of sexual experiences are offensive, readers should look elsewhere: "Every person deserves a chandelier to look up at during oral sex. Louisiana governor Huey P. Long once promised a chicken in every pot, if I ruled the world, I'd put a chandelier over every bed." Anne's experiences are described in living color, along with such irreverent observations that often take the form of wry cultural and personal humor.

One of the most delightful aspects of the story is its ability to create a believable, compelling protagonist in the form of Anne: one that drives her romp through what has become of her life. Are men bad for her? Can Anne love a woman sexually but still want a man? Is there a God or real goodness in the world, and does this spirit manifest itself in her cat, Rock Star? And why are many conditioned to shun faith?

The cat, the girl, and the process of healing and finding direction in life are all embedded with a spiritual, reflective feel unusual in a tale which revolves around a single, drifting woman who explores her sexuality and path in life. Claudie Hebert's ability to keep all this on track with a spicy, fun protagonist who is not just believable, but compelling, makes The Cat and Cayenne an engrossing, lovely read packed with unexpected moments; especially recommended for readers of 'chic fiction' and contemporary women's novels. Five stars, hands down!

Seven Viking Days
Lee Cuesta
Infinity Publishing
1094 New DeHaven Street, Suite 100, West Conshohocken, PA 19428
LCCN: 2015937660
ISBN: 9781495805844 $34.95

Seven Viking Days offers up Viking tales of Thor and others in a hardcover, full-color children's picture book that gathers these tales together and adds vibrant details about Viking lives and history.

It would have been all too easy to just present Viking folklore alone; but the added value of this approach is that it tailors its stories to reveal Viking lives and society and thus takes the folktale format a step further by creating a lively history.

Mia Hocking's lovely illustrations create a collage of images and backgrounds to accompany text that will lend to both parental read-aloud and leisure enjoyment by kids with basic reading skills who have moved beyond the one- or two-line elementary picture book format.

From the origins of Tuesday in 'Tiu's Day' to how other days of the week and Scandinavian roots are still present in modern culture, Seven Viking Days uses repetition, icons for the days, discussions of days' names and their roots in legend and story, and more.

The result is a gorgeous presentation of Viking vignettes that will interest adults as well as children.

The Bad Girl
L. Donsky-Levine
Steel Wheel Publishing
ISBN: 9780996678704 $8.99 paperback; $2.99 eBook
Prepublication manuscript: ETA Fall 2015

What could bring a young woman to fall into the world of selling herself in the sordid sex industry trade; and what could lead to her escape from a downward spiral of failure in her young adult life? This is just one theme explored in The Bad Girl, which explores family influence, poverty, and resilience in twenty-something Riley's life.

It's not unusual for authors to provide a third-party perspective on events to move beyond a protagonist's viewpoint; but in this case said observer takes the form of purebred Samson, the self-proclaimed King of four cats which 'the Girl' keeps in her New York City apartment. Because she's saved him from certain death, Samson loves her - and thus he observes the evolution of her life with more than an interest in her can-opening abilities, which provides a satisfying set of riveting insights that juxtapose well with Riley's personal reflections on her experiences.

Vietnam Vet Fitz Darcy has come back from hell, himself, and is one of the lucky ones to survive psychologically intact, albeit with a glaring reminder of his service. Fully mindful of this luck, he relishes the constant reminder of how far he's come - and he also reaches out to others who may or may not be on the rocky road to recovery. One of those he observes is Riley, on her way to work in the sex emporium - and eventually the two disparate souls are brought together as they stand out from "a world full of callous and bullshit people" and as Riley faces a sudden challenge to one of the few jobs she's been able to do to survive - and to the only home she's been able to build for herself.

What opens as a focus on a New York girl's life blossoms into an absorbing page-turner as Riley continues to battle the heritage of an absent mother and an uncertain adult world where survival shares a place alongside the thin edge of violence. 1971 was a year of many social changes, and Riley's choices reflect this atmosphere as she emerges from a dark cocoon of isolation and abuse into a world where kindness is not only uncertain, but rare.

That all this is presented in a gripping short novella format is testimony to the sterling precision of a writer who makes every word and experience count. Under such a hand, a little over 120 pages of material springs to compelling life.

Riley does what she has to do to survive, and the author's ability to capture how she does this (in one case, by humming songs to accompany her sex work and deflect from the sordid physical realities of her job) brings not just Riley's world to life (that would have been easy), but exposes what's in her heart.

The Bad Girl documents Riley's survival efforts and, in the process, steeps its characters in an inner city Manhattan culture that reaches out to grab and shake the reader's world, as well. Is one's path in life set and unchanged by one's choices, dreams, and desires? Do bad things happen because a sufferer is inherently bad herself: is it karma, and does she deserve her trials in life? And does being 'damaged goods' mean that she doesn't deserve a good man - such as Fitz - when she finds him?

The kindness shown to her by an old man who runs an animal shelter, who shares with her an affection for animals; the feisty independence Riley displays as she eschews the help and benevolence of others in favor of cultivating self-reliance, and her struggle to take care of herself and her beloved animals makes for a riveting story line indeed that that embraces concepts of self-discovery and recovery and a skillfully explores an elusive happiness that could be just around Riley's corner.

Pepper this approach with all kinds of interesting characters, and you have a well-seasoned, highly recommended novella perfect for fans of superbly-crafted short works!

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

Dunford's Bookshelf

Shakespeare No More
Tony Hays
Perseverance Press
c/o Daniel & Daniel, Publishers
PO Box 2790, McKinleyville, CA 95519
9781564745668, $16.95, 232pp,

Synopsis: It's April 1616, and William Shakespeare is mortally ill, felled, they say, by a fever. But when he calls his estranged friend Constable Simon Saddler to his bedside, Shakespeare tells him that his illness is no fever, but poison. When the poet dies just days later, Saddler feels compelled to investigate his old friend's death to discover, not just who murdered him, but how a man who was once as close as a brother was moved to cuckold Simon and split their friendship apart. The trail is long, but before it's over, Simon finds himself wrapped up in two murders, and a conspiracy that reaches to the king's own doorstep.

Critique: A deftly crafted mystery set in the Jacobean era of England, "Shakespeare No More" by Tony Hays is a riveting read from beginning to end. A mystery lover's delight with an impressive adherence to historical detail, "Shakespeare No More" is very highly recommended for community library Historical Fiction and Mystery/Suspense Fiction collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Shakespeare No More" is also available in a Kindle edition ($14.57).

Chasing Justice
H. Terrell Griffin
Oceanview Publishing
595 Bay Isles Road, 120-G, Longboat Key, FL 34228
9781608091416, $27.95, 384pp,

Synopsis: Matt Royal is going back to the courtroom. He has agreed to defend his good friend and wife of Longboat Key's Police Chief. Abby Lester has been charged with the murder of Nate Bannister, an unlikeable, shady character. He was found shot to death in his downtown Sarasota condo and the evidence points to Abby as the killer. Matt cannot refuse Abby's pleas for help, despite having retired from the practice of law several years earlier. Now, he must face a hotshot prosecuting attorney with a record of twenty-two wins and zero losses in murder trials. As he begins to investigate, Matt finds that nothing is what it seems. Police, politicians, academics, real estate moguls and other powerful forces are tied together in a cauldron of issues that Matt must untangle to get at the truth. Can he rekindle his legal skills and outwit the prosecution pitted against him? Matt knows he must, as the life of his friend hangs in the balance.

Critique: "Chasing Justice" is the seventh and latest addition to H. Terrell Griffin's outstanding Matt Royal series. A riveting and deftly crafted read from beginning to end, "Chasing Justice" is very highly recommended for community library Mystery/Suspense collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Chasing Justice" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Torah Mysteries Illuminated
Thomas Furst
Urim Publications
c/o Lambda Publishers
527 Empire Boulevard, Brooklyn, New York 11225
9789655241945, $26.95, 255pp,

Synopsis: "Torah Mysteries Illuminated: Intriguing Insights into the Essence of Major Torah Topics of Contemporary Relevance" is a collection of intriguing insights relating to Jewish law and tradition. Thomas Furst articulates an original approach to fundamental questions and teachings in Judaism, including the hidden essence of Shabbat, the striking significance of the Seder night, marital harmony, the immense importance of the mitzvah of inviting guests, the overriding importance of Israel, as well as other topics of contemporary relevance. "Torah Mysteries Illuminated" provides clear and profound insights into crucial issues of Jewish law and life in ways that animate the Torah's wise teachings.

Critique: As informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Torah Mysteries Illuminated: Intriguing Insights into the Essence of Major Torah Topics of Contemporary Relevance" is impressively well written, exceptionally well organized, and deftly present. Of special note is the Thomas Furst's chapter on "The Torah's Highly Sensitive Standard of Charity". Simply stated, "Torah Mysteries Illuminated" very highly recommended for scholars and non-specialist readers alike, and should be a part of every personal, community synagogue, community library, and academic library Judaic Studies reference collection and supplemental studies reading list.

The Boundaries of Desire
Eric Berkowitz
Counterpoint Press
1919 Fifth Street, Berkeley, CA 94710-1916
9781619025295, $28.00, 304pp,

Synopsis: The act of reproduction, and its variants, never change much, but our ideas about the meaning of human sexual conduct are in constant flux. Switch a decade, cross a border, or traverse class lines and the harmless pleasures of one group become the gravest crimes in another. Combining meticulous research and lively storytelling, "The Boundaries of Desire: A Century of Good Sex, Bad Laws, and Changing Identities" traces the fast-moving 'blood sport' of sex law over the past century, and challenges our most cherished notions about family, power, gender, and identity. Starting when courts censored birth control information as pornography and let men rape their wives, and continuing through the "sexual revolution" and into the present day (when rape, gay rights, sex trafficking, and sex on the internet saturate the news), author Eric Berkowitz shows how the law has remained out of synch with the convulsive changes in sexual morality. By focusing on the stories of real people, Berkowitz adds a compelling human element to what might otherwise be faceless legal battles. The law is made by people, after all, and nothing sparks intolerance (on the left and right) more than sex. Ultimately, "The Boundaries of Desire" shows the emptiness of sanctimonious condemnation, and argues that sexual questions are too subtle and volatile for simple, catch-all solutions.

Critique: Impressively well written, exceptionally informed and informative, and as thoughtful as it is thought-provoking, "The Boundaries of Desire: A Century of Good Sex, Bad Laws, and Changing Identities" is commended to the attention of academic and the non-specialist reader alike. While very strongly recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Boundaries of Desire" is also available in a paperback edition (9781619027466, $16.95) and in a Kindle format ($15.12).

Police Auditing: Standards and Applications, second edition
Allan Y. Jiao
Charles C. Thomas, Publisher
2600 South First Street, Springfield, IL 62704
9780398090753, $39.95, 220pp,

Synopsis: Police auditing merits the attention of both practitioners and academicians for two primary reasons. First, police auditing meets the need of police administrators to know about the economy, efficiency, and effectiveness of their organization and operations. Second, it provides an important mechanism for the public and its elected officials to fulfill their oversight responsibilities. "Police Auditing: Standards and Applications" provides a comprehensive examination of theories, standards, procedures, applications, and evaluations of police audits to allow the reader to obtain a detailed understanding of different aspects and types of police audits and apply the principles of auditing and data collection to various police programs. "Police Auditing: Standards and Applications" is readable for different audiences as it provides a review of police auditing along with discussions of planned change and incorporates standards and procedures in police auditing into social scientific research process and methods. "Police Auditing: Standards and Applications" is aimed at three distinct readerships. First, it provides police executives and managers with a timely and necessary understanding of police auditing as they conduct budget reviews and organizational diagnoses. Second, it serves as a valuable source of information for auditors and researchers who are either charged with the responsibility to perform police audits directly or engaged in evaluating audited police programs. Third, students in criminal justice programs will benefit from this book in courses that address research methods and police accountability issues.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, informatively comprehensive, accessibly organized, and deftly presented in a newly updated and expanded second edition, "Police Auditing: Standards and Applications" is an ideal addition to police academy, professional law enforcement agency, and academic library Police Administration reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

Islam versus Civilization
Richard Hobbs
COLDOC Publishing
PO Box 50682, Sparks, Nevada, 89435-0682
9781515140061, $24.95, 300pp,

Synopsis: The West has grown old, lethargic, materialistic, and with little or no leadership. It is faced with a rejuvenated and resurgent Islam, the brainwashed Cult of Muhammad. The goal of this totalitarian ideology operating behind a facade of religion has not changed in 1,400 years. Radical Muslims still believe it is their divine mission to establish, by force if necessary, a worldwide caliphate of this 7th Century subjecting men and women to fear and obey through the imposition of the Law of Muhammad (Sharia) on all people. It is late but Western civilization must recognize that it is in the great war of the 21st Century for survival. The barbarians are at the gates - and some are already inside!

Critique: Every night the atrocities committed by such Islamic terrorist groups such as Al-Queda, ISIS, and Boco Karan are the stuff of the evening news. As 9-11 confirmed and subsequent events have amply demonstrated, the American homeland is not immune to Islamic terrorist attacks. Simply stated, "Islam versus Civilization: The Great War of the 21st Century" is critically important reading for not just the general public, but every governmental politician and office hold in the federal administration, the congress, and all 50 state legislatures. A critically important acquisition for community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Islam versus Civilization" is also available in a Kindle edition ($8.00).

Michael Dunford

Greenspan's Bookshelf

Collector of Secrets
Richard Goodfellow
Polis Books
1201 Hudson Street, #211S, Hoboken, NJ 07030
9781940610337, $25.95, 368pp.,

Synopsis: Max Travers is an English teacher in Japan. When his manipulative boss begins swindling the unsuspecting parents of his students, Max must retrieve his passport to return home. Max sneaks into her office only to stumble upon a burglary-in-progress. Max barely escapes, but accidentally takes a strange diary bound in leather and embossed with a strange seal. Little does Max know that this diary has been hidden for over half a century, and its secrets could topple some of Japan's most powerful people and rewrite the history of the royal family. Max soon finds himself on the run from everyone from tattooed Yakuza to the Japanese police and a mysterious American who has ties in the highest places, all willing to kill for the diary's secrets. With his and girlfriend's lives in the balance, Max must decipher the diary's secrets in a richly detailed and ambitious thriller that covers everything from World War II to Watergate.

Critique: A deftly crafted novel of riveting suspense from beginning to end, "Collector of Secrets" is all the more remarkable considering that it is author Richard Goodfellow debut novel. Solidly entertaining from first page to last, "Collector of Secrets" is very highly recommended for community library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Collector of Secrets" is also available in a paperback edition (9781940610832, $16.00) and in a Kindle format ($8.79).

Winner Take None
Greg Comer
Barking Rain Press
c/o BRP Publishing Group
PO Box 822674, Vancouver, WA 98682
9781941295526, $14.95, 264pp,

Synopsis: Can a 14-year-old orphan out-con a heartless bunch of rustlers, hustlers and railroad thugs? When Deuter Seebea loses his family and only friend on the way to Oregon in 1879, he has no place to go, and nobody to turn to. He flees his friend's murderer and ends up in Railstop, a shantytown in Montana Territory that's populated by ne'er-do-wells, shady ladies, and a maniacal cat named MaryBelle. Deuter quickly learns the hard way that if he wants something done, he'll have to do it himself - and watch his own back. He soon discovers that the conniving residents built Railstop directly in the path of the approaching FI&R Railroad line for the sole purpose of extorting a windfall settlement. When the payoff finally comes, however, it's every man, woman, and cat for themselves in a ruthless (and hilarious) quest for wealth, glory, and hootch whiskey. Winner take all, or winner take none, Deuter is willing to fight and scheme for his unfair share of the spoils.

Critique: Solidly written and a first class entertainment from beginning to end, Greg Comer's "Winner Take None" is a deftly crafted novel that showcases the author's impressive talents as an original and skilled storyteller. "Winner Take None" is very highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library collections. It should be noted that "Winner Take None" is also available in a Kindle edition ($2.99).

The Inconvenience of the Wings
Silas Dent Zobal
Writers Institute
Susquehanna University, Selinsgrove, PA, 17870
9781942515012, $15.00, 178pp,

Synopsis: The stories comprising Silas Dent Zobal's "The Inconvenience of the Wings" inhabit a imaginative landscape so expansive in conception that it permeates the border between the natural and the supernatural, showing us that what seems beyond our ken is as much a part of the human experience as the tactile ground on which we tread. The situation of a ghostly mother spelling out hints and instructions to her suspicious son in "The Inconvenience of the Wings" is balanced by sharp observations of nature, as in, "A whippoorwill, hunting mosquitoes by the pond, gave the cry that gave the bird its name." The macabre rendering of a man's consciousness trapped by a stroke in his inert body in "The Language of Men Who Speak of What They Do Not Understand" is set against precise natural descriptions, such as, "Birch trees creak under the wind's pressure; a chorus of hounds begin to howl and keen." In "Outlaw," a group of feckless friends attempts to rob a gas station and causes an explosion worthy of a Quentin Tarantino scene, yet the description juxtaposes violence with a poetic evocation of nature: "The red maple leaves lifted skyward. Bloodgouts and furstrips and flesh hung among the branches. Then the wet sound of body parts falling....I pointed toward the blackened Japanese maples and what once had been my dog." Trapped in a vacation cabin by a blizzard, some friends solve the problem of finding one of their company dead by placing her body in the freezing barn, necessitating the digging of a passage which is described in strangely beautiful language: "We shoveled. Wind harried the snow in horizontal gusts. We channeled between the house and the barn: the snow even with my navel, the sky a vertiginous swirl, the air scented of cold."

Critique: Impressively well written, organized and presented, "The Inconvenience of the Wings" is an outstanding short story anthology and marks author Silas Dent Zobal as an imaginative writer and a master of the short story format. Simply stated, "The Inconvenience of the Wings" is highly recommended to the attention of short story enthusiasts and would prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community and academic library Literary Fiction collections.

Teamster Politics, second edition
Farrell Dobbs
Pathfinder Press
PO Box 162767, Atlanta, GA 30321-2767
9781604880458, $19.00, 345pp,

Synopsis: Farrell Dobbs, was a central leader with respect to the labor battles and debates recorded in "Teamster Politics", which tells the story of how in the 1930s the leadership of Teamsters Local 544 in Minneapolis fought to lead workers across the Midwest onto an independent working-class political course. "Teamster Politics" covers a number of issues including: How they organized the unemployed and truck owner-operators into fighting union auxiliaries; How they deployed a Union Defense Guard to stop the fascist Silver Shirts; How they campaigned for workers to break politically from the bosses and organize a labor party based on the unions; How they mobilized labor opposition to U.S. imperialism's entry into World War II. This newly published second edition includes special 20-page photo section, featuring many photographs from the Northwest Organizer newspaper of Teamsters Local 544.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, impressively organized and presented, and enhanced with the inclusion of a section of period photos, "Teamster Politics" is very highly recommended for both community and academic library 20th Century Political Science and American Labor History reference collections and supplemental studies lists in general, and to the attention of non-specialists general readers with an interest in the history of the Teamsters Union in particular.

Venturing Inward
Hugh Lynn Cayce
A.R.E. Press
215 - 67th Street, Virginia Beach, VA 23451-2061
9780876048306, $15.95, 208pp,

Synopsis: Hugh Lynn Cayce (1907-1982) was the eldest son of Edgar Cacye and eventually took over his father's foundation (The Association for Research and Enlightenment). In "Venturing Inward: Safe and Unsafe Ways to Explore the Unconscious Mind" Hugh Cayce answers questions and explores methods to safely explore the unconscious mind and develop psychically and spiritually while warning against some methods that are deemed dangerous. All manner of exploration are included from hypnosis and mediumship to ESP experimentation and using dreams for guidance. Additional reports on possession, automatic writing, Ouija board dangers, and more are also included.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, impressively organized and presented, "Venturing Inward: Safe and Unsafe Ways to Explore the Unconscious Mind" is informative, insightful, thoughtful and thought-provoking. An inherently fascinating read from beginning to end, "Venturing Inward" is very highly recommended for community and academic library Metaphysical Studies reference collections and supplemental studies lists. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Venturing" is also available in a Kindle edition ($15.95).

Aubrey's Brief Lives
John Aubrey, author
Oliver Lawson Dick, editor
Nonpareil Books
c/o David R. Godine, Publisher
PO Box 450, Jaffrey, NH 03452
9781567920635, $20.95, 408pp,

Synopsis: John Aubrey (1626-1697) was the Bystander of his age, a hanger-on and hanger-out at great houses, a country gentleman of lively intellectual curiosity and unsteady character who left not a book to history but a random, sprawling collection of notes, anecdotes, scribbles and morsels of gossip that have been looted and quoted by scholars ever since. In the pages of "Aubrey's Brief Lives" the whole ferment of the Elizabethan age and the vigor of the century that followed come alive in "brief portraits" that have been looted by scholars for centuries. Here are Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Thomas More, Shakespeare, Milton, Marvell, and countless others, who in these pages become not abstract names from a history book, but flesh and blood characters. Brief Lives was written by John Aubrey (1626-1697), who is accounted to be the greatest gossip columnist of the seventeenth century. A hanger-on among the rich and famous, he left posterity a sprawling collection of notes, anecdotes, and morsels of gossip that the editor has cleverly sutured together into a series of unforgettable portraits. These men-flawed, vain, ambitious, vulnerable-are more alive and kicking in these pages, miraculously edited by Oliver Dick, than in any formal history.

Critique: Reading "Aubrey's Brief Lives" is like sitting in a 17th Century ale house and listening into the gossip of the day about the doings of both ordinary folk and the gentry alike. This reprint edition of a "time lost classic" is very strongly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as both community and academic library 17th Century Biography & History reference collections and supplemental studies lists.

Able Greenspan

Helen's Bookshelf

Romaine Brooks: A Life
Cassandra Langer
University of Wisconsin Press
1930 Monroe Street, Third Floor, Madison, WI 53711-2059
9780299298609, $26.95, 168pp,

Synopsis: The artistic achievements of Romaine Brooks (1874 - 1970), both as a major expatriate American painter and as a formative innovator in the decorative arts, have long been overshadowed by her fifty-year relationship with writer Natalie Barney and a reputation as a fiercely independent, aloof heiress who associated with fascists in the 1930s. In "Romaine Brooks: A Life", art historian, critic, and appraiser Cassandra Langer provides a richer, deeper portrait of Brooks's aesthetics and experimentation as an artist - and of her entire life, from her chaotic, traumatic childhood to the enigmatic decades after World War II, when she produced very little art. "Romaine Brooks: A Life" is a provocative, lively biography takes aim at many myths about Brooks and her friends, lovers, and the subjects of her portraits, revealing a woman of wit and passion who overcame enormous personal and societal challenges to become an extraordinary artist and create a life on her own terms. "Romaine Brooks: A Life" introduces much fresh information from Langer's decades of research on Brooks and establishes this groundbreaking artist's centrality to feminism and contemporary sexual politics as well as to visual culture.

Critique: Exceptionally well researched, impressively written, deftly organized and accessibly presented, "Romaine Brooks: A Life" will prove to ben an enduringly popular addition to academic library Art History reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists. Informed and informative, "Romaine Brooks: A Life" is very highly recommended for the personal reading lists of both scholars and non-specialist general reading with an interest in the life and work of Romaine Brooks.

Prison Life in Popular Culture
Dawn K. Cecil
Lynne Rienner Publishers
1800 30th Street, Suite 314, Boulder, CO 80301
9781626372795, $58.00, 235pp,

Synopsis: Through the centuries, prisons were closed institutions, full of secrets and shrouded in mystery. But modern media culture has opened the gates. In "Prison Life in Popular Culture: From The Big House to Orange Is the New Black", Dawn Cecil (Associate Professor of Criminology at the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg) deftly explores decades of popular culture ranging from Golden Age Hollywood films, to YouTube videos, from newspapers to beer labels, hip-hop music, and children's books in order to reveal how prison imagery shapes our understanding of who commits crimes, why, and how the criminal justice system should respond to them.

Critique: A seminal work of original scholarship, "Prison Life in Popular Culture: From The Big House to Orange Is the New Black" is deftly organized into ten informative chapters: History of Prisons and Prison Imagery; Prisons in Headlines, Prisons in Unexpected Places; The Big House on the Big Screen; Televised Prison Dramas; Early Prison Documentaries; Modern Prison Documentaries; Women Behind Bars; Gendered Realities; Murder, Comedy, and Beyond; Popular Culture's Legacy. Enhanced with the inclusion of a list of Tables and Figures; a twenty-four page Bibliography; and a six page Index, "Prison Life in Popular Culture" is impressively well written, organized and presented, making it fully accessible to both scholarship and the non-specialist general reader with an interest in the history and portrayal of prisons and penitentiaries as reflected in American popular culture. "Prison Life in Popular Culture" is a strongly urged addition to both community and academic library reference collections.

The Grandparent Economy
Lori K. Bitter
Paramount Market Publishing, Inc.
950 Danby Road, Suite 136, Ithaca, NY 14850
9781941688380, $34.95, 152pp,

Synopsis: Consumer behavior is much more difficult to predict as consumers age. This confounds younger brand managers and CMOs who move to brands with older consumer markets. They bring all of their marketing genius from their last job and are gob smacked when those strategies for younger consumers do not work. With over 100 million older consumers searching for products and services that meet the needs of their increasingly complex lives, engaging marketing and advertising campaigns are vital. Consider that: 43% of grandparents purchase clothing for grandchildren, spending an average of almost $1,000 annually; With $400 billion in spending on goods and services, people 55+ are outspending younger consumers two to one online.; Tablet penetration has grown from 35% to 41% and grandparents now account for 25% of mobile transactions.

Boomer grandparents provide care for older adults and young children, equating to billions of dollars in savings as elders age in place and adult children rely on them for all types of care. Boomer grandparents also fund education, they pay for insurance and they may very well be sacrificing their own retirement to do so. These grandparents are working longer than any previous generation of older adults as they help to fund the lives of at least three generations. "The Grandparent Economy: How Baby Boomers Are Bridging the Generation Gap" is an easy-to-read book that will shatter many of perceptions which, in the past, have diverted marketers' attention from one of the biggest marketing opportunities ever. Learn what really matters in the lives of today's grandparents from the generation raised on sex, drugs, and rock and roll.

Critique: Impressively well written, exceptionally well organized, and deftly presented, "The Grandparent Economy: How Baby Boomers Are Bridging the Generation Gap" is packed from cover to cover with pertinent, accessible, reliable, and practical information that will benefit anyone having a corporate or entrepreneurial interest in marketing goods and services to an older generation of consumers. Very highly recommended for community, corporate, and academic library Business Studies reference collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Grandparent Economy: How Baby Boomers Are Bridging the Generation Gap" is also available in a Kindle edition ($24.95).

Be Your Own Brand of Sexy
Susan L. Edleman, MD
Options Press
PO Box 150, Palo Alto, CA 94302
9781942343226, $22.95, 264pp,

Synopsis: In "Be Your Own Brand of Sexy: A New Sexual Revolution for Women", psychiatrist Susan L. Edelman unlocks the mystery of why women don't get what they want from men and changes the dating game. She shows women how to reclaim their power by learning what works best for them instead of what they're programmed to believe is "normal" by our culture. Today's dating culture is a minefield. With tricky dos and don'ts and endless conflicting strategies, women are more confused than ever. You could be hurting yourself and not even know it, but Dr. Edelman says it's not your fault. Twenty-nine years of listening to the deepest secrets of patients has given Dr. Edelman a provocative and practical perspective that will question everything you think you knew. She says dating doesn't have to be filled with angst and disappointment anymore. Dr. Edelman will give you the tools to date on your own terms, enjoy the process, and find happiness. Yes, all that is possible with Dr. Edelman's transformative method. Join the revolution. Be your own Brand of Sexy.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, deftly organized and impressively presented, "Be Your Own Brand of Sexy: A New Sexual Revolution for Women" is as informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking. Of special note is the practical and insightful commentary and advice given on contemporary dating. Thoroughly 'reader friendly', and very highly recommended for both community and academic library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Be Your Own Brand of Sexy: A New Sexual Revolution for Women" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.89).

The Art of Hair
Rubi Jones
Weldon Owen, Inc.
415 Jackson Street, San Francisco, CA 94111
9781616288013, $16.95, 144pp,

Synopsis: As far back as recorded human history goes, hairstyling has been a timeless way for women to create something unique and express themselves. Whether you wash it and run out the door, combine looks like edgy cornrows with disheveled waves or defy gravity with a sky-high '60s beehive, your easy-to-follow guide to hair is here. With nearly 50 diverse styles and tips for every type of hair length and texture, "The Art of Hair: The Ultimate DIY Guide to Braids, Buns, Curls and More" is the definitive guide to do-it-yourself hairstyling instruction guide for women of all ages, styles and hair types. From the basics like hair 101 and frizz-free blowout instructions to sections dedicated to ponytails, buns and chignons, braids, twists and rolls, and curls, "The Art of Hair" has you and your hair covered. Step-by-step, illustrated guides accompany each lavishly photographed look, ensuring that every style is accessible for every hair type. Having styled hair for world-renowned brands in cities from New York to Paris, Rubi Jones is well versed in general hair care, simple techniques, extravagant hairstyles and everything in between. Whether you have naturally have thin, pin-straight short hair or long, thick layers of curls, Rubi gives you the tools your need to complete any hairstyle. Learn her tricks, infuse these looks with your signature style and become your own favorite stylist with "The Art of Hair".

Critique: Practical, comprehensive, and thoroughly 'user friendly', "The Art of Hair: The Ultimate DIY Guide to Braids, Buns, Curls and More" will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to personal, professional, and community library hair styling instructional reference collections. It should be noted that "The Art of Hair" is also available in a Kindle edition ($3.49).

Murder on the Iditarod Trail
Sue Henry
Grove Press
c/o Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
154 West 14th Street, 12th Floor, New York, NY 10011
9780802123398, $14.00, 246pp,

Synopsis: "Murder on the Iditarod Trail" is a gripping mystery set during Alaska's world-famous Iditarod: a grueling eleven-hundred-mile dogsled race across hazardous Arctic terrain. It is an arduous sport, but not a deadly one. But suddenly the top Iditarod contestants are dying in bizarre ways: first a veteran musher smashes into a tree, then competitors begin turning up dead, with each murder more brutal than the last. State trooper Alex Jensen begins a homicide investigation, determined to track down the killer before more blood stains the pristine Alaskan snow. Meanwhile, Jessie Arnold, Alaska's premier female musher, has a shot at winning for the first time. But as her position in the race improves, so do her chances of being the killer's next target. As the mushers thread their way through the treacherous trails, Jessie and Jensen are drawn deep into the frozen heart of the perilous wild: where nature can kill as easily as a bullet and only the Arctic night can hear your final screams.

Critique: A superbly crafted mystery replete with unexpended twists and turns, "Murder on the Iditarod Trail" clearly denotes author Sue Henry as a master of the mystery/suspense novel and flair for keeping a reader's total and rapt attention from first page to last. Very highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library collections.

The Origin Speaks
Guy Steven Needler
Ozark Mountain Publishing, Inc.
PO Box 754, Huntsville, AR 72740
9781940265100, $22.50, 395pp,

Synopsis: Have you ever thought about who or what God is or who the co-creators are? Or even, what is beyond God? What if God was indeed finite and that there was a much bigger "infinite" being, one that created God and the co-creators? In "The Origin Speaks: The Direct Dialogue with the Ultimate Creator" by Guy Steven Needler the reader is taken beyond the author's two volume "Beyond the Source" books to a direct dialogue with the ultimate creator, the "all there is", the "absolute", The "Origin".

Critique: It should be noted that Guy Steven Needler was initially trained as a mechanical engineer and quickly progressed to being a chartered electrical and electronics engineer. However, throughout this earthly training he was always aware of the greater reality around him, catching glimpses of the worlds of spirit. "The Origin Speaks: The Direct Dialogue with the Ultimate Creator" is impressively well written, organized, and thoroughly 'reader friendly' in both content and commentary, making it very highly recommended for personal and community library Metaphysical Studies reading lists.

In Search of the Luminous Heart
Victoria Rivera McKinley
O Books
c/o John Hunt Publishing, Ltd.
Laurel House, Station Approach, Alresford, Hants, SO24 9JH, UK
9781782798996, $29.95, 326pp,

Synopsis: "In Search of the Luminous Heart: From the Mountains of Naranjito, Puerto Rico to the Mountains of Crestone, Colorado" begins with her family's origins as tenant farmers in the mountains of Puerto Rico at the turn of the nineteenth century, as Victoria Rivera Mckinley leads her readers through dramatic and painful events, which in spite of psychological explanations, add up to experiences that are much larger. Against a historical backdrop of Puerto Rico's changing culture, "In Search of the Luminous Heart" shows how a family of ten children survive and learn to look out for one another. "In Search of the Luminous Heart" is a success story, but not simply because the author leaves Puerto Rico and becomes a psychotherapist in America. Rivera McKinley offers an extraordinary perspective that finds truth in how each person lives experience in his or her own way. Her own journey ends in the Rocky Mountains, where Buddhist teachings offer her a spiritual and philosophical framework with which to understand her life. "In Search of the Luminous Heart" is a deep and unusual look at adversity and belies terms like "dysfunctional" for family. Here, generosity of spirit is the key to survival. The family endures by using intelligence, compassion, and accepting lives that have the real taste of tears, blood, songs, and prayers.

Critique: An absolutely absorbing read from first page to last, "In Search of the Luminous Heart: From the Mountains of Naranjito, Puerto Rico to the Mountains of Crestone, Colorado" is an exceptionally well written memoir that is as informative and thoughtful as it is inherently fascinating and ultimately inspiring. Very highly recommended for community and academic library biography collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "In Search of the Luminous Heart" is also available in a Kindle edition ($18.99).

The Shamanic Handbook of Sacred Tools and Ceremonies
Barbara Meiklejohn-Free & Flavia Kate Peters
Moon Books
c/o National Book Network
4501 Forbes Boulevard, Suite 200, Lanham, MD 20706
9781785350801, $16.95, 153pp,

Synopsis: The collaborative work of Barbara Meiklejohn-Free (arguably the UK's best loved and hardest working 'Wisdom Keeper', teacher, advocate and protector of the great Earth-Centered traditions) and Flavia Kate Peters ( author, speaker, therapist, singer and a natural mystic who connects with the ancient deities of the Celtic British Isles), "The Shamanic Handbook of Sacred Tools and Ceremonies" is the perfect companion instructional guide and manual for all budding and well-practiced shamans, wise men and women who partake in sacred ceremonial, ritual and healing work. "The Shamanic Handbook of Sacred Tools and Ceremonies" also serves as an excellent introduction into the practical side of earth-centered traditions. As you begin your path as a Shaman, of the 'One who knows', your journey will be one of remembrance as you connect with the oldest and most holistic traditions of the ancestors.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The Shamanic Handbook of Sacred Tools and Ceremonies" is thoroughly 'user friendly' from beginning to end. Informed and informative, "The Shamanic Handbook of Sacred Tools and Ceremonies" is enthusiastically recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library Metaphysical Studies reference collections and supplemental reading lists. It should be noted that "The Shamanic Handbook of Sacred Tools and Ceremonies" is also available in a Kindle edition ($7.99).

Gourmands and Gluttons
Carlnita P. Greene
Peter Lang International Academic Publishers
Moosstrasse 1, PO Box 350, CH-2542 Pieterien, Switzerland
9781433122248, $89.95, 156pp,

Synopsis: From 'supersizing' fast food meals to compulsive hoarding, Americans are living in an age of excess. Whether it is cars or housing, American culture is being driven by the old adage that 'bigger is better'. Yet, although we often overlook it, nowhere is this rhetoric of excess more on display than within our food discourses. While many would argue that the gourmand vanished from society at the end of the 19th century, "Gourmands and Gluttons: The Rhetoric of Food Excess" by Carlnita P. Greene (a faculty member in the School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon) contends that both the gourmand and its counterpart, the glutton, have moved beyond their historic roots to become cultural personae found throughout contemporary media and popular culture. Utilizing texts ranging from the Slow Food Movement to 'food porn' as a cornucopia of visual fantasies, "Gourmands and Gluttons" maintains that today the gourmand and the glutton have come to epitomize a rhetoric of excess far beyond the realm of food.

Critique: Exceptionally well written and fully accessible in content and commentary, "Gourmands and Gluttons" is enhanced for both academic and non-specialist general readers with an interest in American Food Culture with the inclusion of fourteen pages of Notes, a sixteen page Bibliography, and a thirteen page Index. An original and seminal work of extraordinary and impressively presented scholarship, "Gourmands and Gluttons: The Rhetoric of Food Excess" is a unique and very highly recommended addition to academic library Popular Culture reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

My Old Dog
Laura T. Coffey
New World Library
14 Pamaron Way, Novato, CA 94949
9781608683406, $24.95, 256pp,

Synopsis: While generally calm, easy, and already house-trained, dogs abandoned by their owners often represent the highest-risk population at shelters. Enhanced with the gorgeous, joyful photographs of Lori Fusaro, "My Old Dog: Rescued Pets with Remarkable Second Acts" by Laura T. Coffey is comprised of sweet, funny, true tales of "old dogs learning new tricks," "My Old Dog: Rescued Pets with Remarkable Second Acts" illustrates and demonstrates that adopting a senior canine can be even more rewarding than choosing a younger dog. Readers will be introduced to endearing elders like Marnie, the irresistible shih tzu who has posed for selfies with Tina Fey, James Franco, and Betty White; Remy, a soulful nine-year-old dog adopted by elderly nuns; George Clooney's cocker spaniel, Einstein; and Bretagne, the last known surviving search dog from Ground Zero. They may be slower moving and a tad less exuberant than puppies, but these pooches prove that adopting a senior brings immeasurable joy, earnest devotion, and unconditional love.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, beautifully illustrated, deftly organized, and effectively presented, "My Old Dog: Rescued Pets with Remarkable Second Acts" is a very highly recommended addition to community library Pets & Wildlife collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "My Old Dog: Rescued Pets with Remarkable Second Acts" is also available in a Kindle edition ($16.26).

Seventy Images of Grace in the Epistles
Norma Cook Everist
Cascade Books
c/o Wipf and Stock Publishers
199 West 8th Avenue, Suite 3, Eugene, OR 97401-2960
9781625647399, $24.00, 212pp,

Synopsis: How can faith speak directly to people's real lives? How can conversation around Scripture make ''all the difference'' in the arenas of one's daily world? People who have heard the Bible many times (or for the first time) want to know in the terms and images of their life situation. ''When my world seems to be shaking all around me, why doesn't it help to hear 'You are forgiven'?'' And further, ''What can I say to someone who feels totally alienated from God?'' "Seventy Images of Grace in the Epistles" will help people make connections and empower them for their ministries in daily life. "Seventy Images of Grace in the Epistles" presents an interplay of stories of people's actual lives and Epistle images of grace. Readers will begin to recognize the depth of the human predicament and the power of the gospel, thereby becoming equipped for Christian discipleship and vocation, not from duty or guilt, but from freedom. ''Guides for Engagement'' will help readers turn the book into a learning event.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, deftly organized and effectively presented, "Seventy Images of Grace in the Epistles" by Norma Cook Everist (Professor of Church and Ministry at Wartburg Theological Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa, and a Pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) is as thoughtful and thought-provoking as it is inspired and inspiring. Very highly recommended reading for all members of the Christian community regardless of their denominational affiliation, it should be noted that "Seventy Images of Grace in the Epistles" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Adirondack Paper Girl
Jean Arleen Breed
Alva Press
216 Hooker Avenue, Poughkeepsie, NY 12603-3324
9781938729072, $9.99, 82pp,

Synopsis: "Adirondack Paper Girl is the tender and dignified autobiography of, Jean Arleen Breed, as she grew up in the Lake Champlain area of the Adirondack Mountains in New York State. Written as an anthology of autobiographic poems, "Adirondack Paper Girl" depicts Breed's life as the daughter of a miner forced by hard times to move his family from village to village. When they eventually settle in Port Henry, Breed becomes a paper girl delivering the news to people in all walks of life, many of whom become her friends.

Critique: Impressively well written, uniquely organized, and deftly presented, "Adirondack Paper Girl" is a memorable and unusual memoir that is a thoroughly absorbing read from beginning to end. Very highly recommended for community and academic library American Biography collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Adirondack Paper Girl" is also available in a Kindle edition (9781938729089, $4.99) and in an ePDF format (9781938729096, $4.99).

The Last Word: A Treasury of Women's Quotes
Carolyn Warner
Five Star Publications Inc.
PO Box 6698, Chandler, AZ 85246-6698
9781589852730, $19.95, 390pp,

Synopsis: With more than 2,000 timeless quotes by women, representing everyone from Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots to pop megastar Madonna, "The Last Word: A Treasury of Women's Quotes" is superbly organized and presented reference resource for women looking for inspiration, kinship and a way to meaningfully connect with audiences of one to one million. "The Last Word: A Treasury of Women's Quotes" is a valuable resource to anyone seeking to be heard with respect to any speaking occasion from an informal get-together to the most formal of speaking engagements. Whether a novice or seasoned public speaker desiring to enrich a presentation, or a person seeking to be understood and acknowledged by colleagues and authority figures, readers of "The Last Word" will find quips and citations they need to achieve success -- and then some. In addition to entries sorted under 40 topics ranging from attitude, humor and leadership to politics, vision and work, and a biographical index of the women quoted, "The Last Word" offers invaluable speaking tips about establishing a common bond, evoking emotion and action, interjecting humor, reinforcing salient points, validating audiences, discovering your own style, exuding confidence and much more.

Critique: This newly updated and expanded 2015 edition of "The Last Word: A Treasury of Women's Quotes" is enthusiastically recommended as a core addition to both community and academic library reference collections. It should be noted for personal reference collections that "The Last Word: A Treasury of Women's Quotes" is also now available in a Kindle edition ($2.99).

Helen Dumont

Klausner's Bookshelf

First Comes Love
Karen Wiesner
Lulu Publishing
3101 Hillsborough Street, Raleigh, NC 27607-5436
9781304898197, $16.99,

In Peaceful, Wisconsin, young teens Chad Feldmann and Winnie McBride have sex. She becomes pregnant and gives birth to a baby girl. To avoid the errors that most kids having kids do, Chad insists they remain celibate until they graduate and marry. Three years later, after the couple completes high school, they wed and raise their child Kally.

Winnie feels resentment towards her husband and daughter as she sacrificed much for them to become a family. As she works two jobs and takes care of little Kally, her disappointment is further fueled when Chad uses his college fund that his family banked for him to pursue his dreams. Chad knows he made foolish mistakes out of love and his constant fear his soulmate would leave him; but his recent actions to insure he can care for his two beloved females instead may fulfill his nightmarish prophecy.

The fourth fabulous Friendship Heirlooms series (see Forever And All That Jazz) star two wonderful protagonists as Chad and Winnie have love, a baby and marriage in that order, but apparently also a dying relationship. With a strong support cast (a trademark of Ms. Wiesner as for instance this lead couple were in the Family Heirlooms Series drama Glass Angels), fans will relish the return to Peaceful although what appears to be the end of a marriage.

The Rise of the Automated Aristocrats
Mark Hodder
c/o Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2197
9781633880528, $18.00,

After a journey to 2202 on the Orpheus, Sir Richard Burton, Algernon Swinburne and other survivors return to Victorian London knowing they must conceal what they learned. However, crisscrossing through time leaves Sir Richard and his poet friend mentally confused; which they make worse when inadvertently they place consciousness into mechanized servants and compounded by one of their Orpheus allies selling out to the enemy.

As the gentlemen automatons attack humans, London has become a hellish nightmare. Extremely depressed Burton gives up without a fight because he recognizes that their travel into the future and back was to prevent the unintended consequences they instead caused. On the other hand ever optimistic Swinburne insists they need to try again and again if necessary to rectify what happened.

The sixth Burton and Swinburne steampunk Victorian (see The Return of the Discontinued Man and The Secret of Abdu El Yezdi) is a blistering finish to an awesome alternate historical series. Fast-paced with non-stop action, the climatic Rise of the Automated Aristocrats uses the yin and yang friendship recurring theme to great use in this fabulous fable.

The Art of Mad Max: Fury Road
Abbie Bernstein
Titan Books
144 Southwark Street, London SE1 OUP, UK
9781783298167, $39.95,

Targeting fans of the post-apocalyptic movie and filled with so much detail this is not a quick read; but worth the time as this picturesque, incredibly complete book is one of the best companion pieces in recent years. Fans will savor the location photos, paintings, sketches and other drawings, and architectural and vehicle designs, etc. that bring to life the originality and resourcefulness of the production crew. Besides the usual appearances of the leads; the audience also obtains a glimpse of secondary and even tertiary characters, and desolate, usually deadly locales. The arsenal is as impressive as the look at the characters and locations. As expected in a Mad Max Road Warrior thriller, the various vehicles steal the show with kudos to the designers who succeeded in protecting the actors and stunt-performers while also insuring functionality and screen intensity. Adding to this terrific tie-in is a short look back to the original 1980s Mad Max movies.

Koko The Mighty
Kieran Shea
Titan Books
144 Southwark Street, London SE1 OUP, UK
9781781168646, $14.95,

Though the VIP who issued the Ultimate Sanction Eliminator bounty on retired mercenary Koko Martsellar died (see Koko Takes a Holiday) it remains legally in place. Still smarting over her last failed encounter with Koko, obsessed bounty hunter Jackie Wire arrives in the Sixty Islands to collect the fee. Wire assaults Saloon Island owned by Koko and managed by the latter's lover former sky-cop Jeddiah Flynn. At a time when helpless Jeddiah suffers from a life threatening cut to his leg, Koko enables them to escape. At the same time SI security Britch extorts money from an irate but helpless Wire.

During a horrific storm Koko, using a stolen vessel, barely manages to get them to a free zone where Sebastian and Dr. Corelle conduct experiments on willing supporters. Realizing she has no choice as her lover needs medical attention or will die, Koko struggles to behave herself. She becomes concerned when people vanish and recalls a teen die trying to escape the island fortress when they initially crashed here. Meanwhile Wire knows where she took refuge and plots a robotic army attack; while their island hosts plan to test their experimental drug on perfect specimen Jedidiah but also remove Koko from their island paradise.

The second Koko twenty-sixth century science fiction is an exhilarating action-packed drama that cleverly uses a somewhat disguised Pacific Oceania islands as a wonderful backdrop. Although over the top due to obsessed villains like the wired hunter and the mad scientists; readers will enjoy Koko's outrageously entertaining escapades at a time when the heroine learns more about the tethering dangers of loving relationships (sans Flynn, Koko the Mighty is Koko the mighty invincible).

The Death House
Sarah Pinborough
Titan Books
144 Southwark Street, London SE1 OUP, UK
9781783298037, $14.95,

Anyone under the age of eighteen who tests positive is removed to prevent a pandemic among the young. Like most of his mates, Toby welcomes the physical because he gets a day off; but is unprepared when authorities remove him from his family and banned from corresponding with them.

Toby's new home is on a remote island where he meets other exiled defectives like Louis and Will in Dorm 4 of "Death House". The students discuss what they heard about the disease; each new comment frightens everyone in the room even the oldest and top dog Toby; though unlike his classmates he hides his fears. They constantly "inspect" one another for any symptom. Besides the 24/7 dread of the disease and protecting the weak from Jake the bully, depressed Toby struggles with tedium as the norm; emphasized by silent nurses led by the martinet Matron; teachers who demonstrate they do not care; and performing chores that mostly is busy work. The arrival of jovial Clara lifts resentful Toby's spirit.

This is a tremendous character study; summed up brilliantly by Toby as a "Lord of the Flies" community worsened by insensible adults allegedly monitoring the children. The key is that every child is portrayed uniquely; with each using different defense mechanisms to cope. The lack of disease detail including understanding the need for Typhoid Mary isolation and the odd adult behavior strengthen the storyline as the audience sees the impact of how scared the children are of this unknown contagion in which death allegedly lurks around every corner, under beds and in closets.

The Moreau Quartet: Volume 1
S. Andrew Swann
Daw Books, Inc.
c/o Penguin Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780756411251, $8.99,

"Forests of the Night." Homo sapiens genetic engineering created two subspecies: Moreaus and Frankensteins. By 2053, Nohar Rajastan knows he is lower than the Franks who socially rank beneath his fellow Moreaus because his state executed father led his Special Forces tiger unit rebellion. The son of a terrorist can only be self-employed doing crappy private investigations rejected by everyone else. Trying to collect his fee at a dive, Nohar escapes with his life, a warning and no commission leaving behind three dead in Ohio (homage to Neil Young). A Frank hires Nohar to learn who killed a Pink, Congressman Binder's campaign manager Daryl Johnson. The case turns ugly when law enforcement and the drug selling gang who killed his previous deadbeat client target Nohar.

"Fearful Symmetries." Over a decade and half later Nohar gave up sleuthing, his human wife and the Midwest to reside in rural California as part of a program to remove Moreaus from the cities; while his no longer deep yellow Bengal stripes inform him death is coming soon. A Los Angeles attorney represents a client willing to pay him 50K to find a missing Moreau, Manuel, who vanished over a week ago. Nohar insists he is retired until assassins arrive to kill him.

This omnibus is out of publication order as these 1990s releases are the first and fourth novels with the middle two (see Emperors of the Twilight and Specters of the Dawn) to follow in Vol 2. These are fabulous futuristic hard-boiled urban fantasies with deep looks at racism and genetic engineering. Nohar remains a sensational lead working the Asphalt Jungle (nod to John Huston, director) in which survival of the deadliest is the universal law

The Complete Arrow's Trilogy
Mercedes Lackey
Daw Books
c/o Penguin Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780756411190, $18.00

"Arrow's Queen." When Talia saves a Companion, she is rewarded by becoming a royal herald in training in Valdemar. The apprentice soon finds evidence of a planned treacherous coup culminating with the assassination of Queen Selenay. Encouraged by Companion Rolan, Talia uses her unpolished empathy talent to try to keep the ruler safe.

"Arrow's Flight." In Valdemar, Talia has come a long way from being a runaway as she reached the rank of Herald though she has one remaining test before she officially becomes Queen Selenay's protector. Accompanied by Kris the Herald, Talia begins her final eighteen-month field ordeal. Still insecure and doubting she can control her empathy skill; Talia must reach inside to find the confidence to control her talent before she turns into a danger to the kingdom and the queen she vows to defend.

"Arrow's Fall." Having successfully completed her training, Talia returns to the court as the Queen's Own Herald only to find seditious acts to manipulate Selenay's heir Elspeth. Her inquiry into court intrigue is interrupted when the monarch sends Talia to determine whether Elspeth should marry Prince Ancar.

The reprint of the thrilling late 1980s first Herald of Valdemar trilogy opens with two coming of age tales and a save the queen third entry. Although three decades have passed and many more Valdemar entries released since, Talia passes the test of time as she remains a terrific heroine starring in those first electrifying epic fantasies.

Jacey Bedford
Daw Books
c/o Penguin Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780756410179, $7.99

Implanted at birth with psi enhancing technology to enable techies to locate valuable resources for mega-corps, Cara Carlinni the Telepath and Ben Benjamin the Navigator did the unimaginable when they saved thousands of people instead of handing over the platinum find to the galaxy-spanning business entities. Giants like Alphacorp and the Trust need to make an example of this rebellious pair to other psi-techies; preferably dead but at least on trial for major crimes like terrorism and murder.

The hunted felons and their surviving allies hide on Crossways Station where they plan a brief respite before sailing the Solar Wind in search of 30,000 lost in space settlers. However the pair also know that once they leave Crossways they will be in the crosshairs of those wanting to collect the dead or alive bounty.

The second Psi-Tech thriller is a tremendous, timely science fiction tale starring courageous David and Davidette battling against Goliath. The keys to this action-packed space opera are the Bedford galaxy (with heroes, villains, fence-sitters and innocent victims) that comes across as real and the psi-technology seems genuine. Although it behooves the audience to have read Empire of Dust to better understand why Ben and especially Cara went rogue, Jacey Bedford authors a terrific tale with apparently more to follow.

The Twice and Future Caesar: A Novel of the U.S.S. Merrimack
R.M. Meluch
Daw Books
c/o Penguin Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780756408961, $24.95

In 2448, the cold war between the rival Empire of Rome and the United States of America continues in spite of a recent heated combat that led to a terrible defeat by the former and the removal of Caesar Romulus from the throne on the home-world Palatine by Caesar Numa (See Strength and Honor). The new Roman leader regroups his depleted assets with plans to deploy his secret weapon, a patterner, against the USA with thoughts of attacking the enemy's mother planet Earth.

Loyal supporters enable Romulus to escape. Though proving to be a talented patterner, Romulus has one mission: free his Queen Claudia so she can reign at his side. To achieve his obsession, Romulus targets a temporal disaster threatening existence in the Myriad cluster; at the same time Admiral John Farragut takes command of U.S.S. Merrimack.

The sixth tour of the warship U.S.S. Merrimack (see The Ninth Circle and The Sagittarius Command) is a fantastic military science fiction; as the war between the two human cultures remains heated while an internal conflict further complicates the already fragile galaxy. Timely, R.M. Meluch continues her overarching theme that war is the waste of foolish politicians who send the young (but not their own offspring) to die on remote worlds; as represented by psychopath Romulus who would not blink in destroying time and space with or without Claudia alongside him.

Frozen in Amber
Phyllis Ames
Daw Books
c/o Penguin Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780756407803, $7.99

Ever since that fatal death when she still was young and joyful, attorney Amber Treganis chooses human over wercougar though the full moon still causes her conversion. In spite of her efforts to control the beast, Amber wakes up feeling ill, suffering a thigh injury and surrounded by apparently hunters.

Encouraged by Eunice the drama queen who insists she needs her as second chair, Amber goes to work only nothing seems right there especially after her immediate supervisor shockingly quits for no apparent reason. When Amber returns home, she finds her house filled with dangerous snares as if someone hunts her as game. Bewildered by the radical changes to her previously structured humanity life, astonished Amber cannot understand why her leg has not healed. She turns to attractive WerEagle Adler Schnee for help.

Urban fantasy legal thriller readers will relish the three dimensional Ames mythology as well as the wer communities employed in professional positions like law and medicine; even with a Cecil De Mille size cast needing a scorecard of the good, the bad and the deadly. The issue is the protagonist; Amber's bumbling, fumbling actions a la Inspector Clouseau (sans humor) will mystify the subgenre audience as she behaves at times like a naive adolescent in heat failing to learn from her mistakes rather than a polished adult lawyer.

The Total Emasculation of the White Man
David Valentine Bernard
Strebor Books
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781593095802, $16.00,

University of Georgia medical student Ed Binkowski knows he sucks at school and is worse at relationships; just ask his New Jersey mom, his former girlfriend Antoinette and his roommate Jones. Instead all he wants to do is write short stories on subjects like his bi-talented penis that can urinate and masturbate.

A man wearing a tie wakes up in a car in the woods. He is confused as to how he got there and even who he is; the vehicle contains no clues. Walking he reaches a house where he picks up an envelope from the floor and drives a nearby car until he comes across a man sexing with a dominatrix. She encourages him to open the envelope; he learns he is Felix Higginbottom on God's mission and she is Cassiopeia the angel sent by the Lord to help him.

Former New York college professor turned Atlanta househusband Arlo Rasmussen puts his five-month old baby to sleep. Bored by affluent suburban life, Arlo fears he has gone insane when his infant's teddy bear becomes alive as if demonically possessed. Other males also face horrors only seen in a throwaway D movie.

The Total Emasculation of the White Man is an intriguing Monty Pythonesque dark satirical thriller. Keeping the audience guessing between outrageously humorous quasi-related vignettes and an even more outrageous grand hellish scheme, the storyline grips the reader who prefers "And Now for Something Completely Different". However the final fifth of this urban fantasy loses its superb sardonic sting as David Valentine Bernard turns professorial with full disclosure as to what and why "...went down to Georgia" (Charlie Daniels Band).

Through Waters Deep
Sarah Sundin
c/o Baker Publishing Group
PO Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516-6287
9780800723422, $14.99,

In March 1941 just before the destroyer's maiden voyage the USS Atwood, US Navy civilian Mary Stirling insures ample supplies on board that everyone at sea takes for granted unless they lack them. Assigned to the Atwood, Ensign Jim Avery arrives at the shipyard. Childhood friends, Mary and Jim are happy to see each other.

Evidence surfaces that a saboteur has imperiled the Atwood just before it is to escort British naval vessels across the perilous Atlantic filled with U-boats. When she learns the identity of the FBI's prime suspect, using her secretarial position as a springboard, Mary assists the Feds on their inquiry whether they want her help or not. Her efforts pull Jim into the investigation. As they work together, Mary knows her teen crush is now an adult love, but believes Jim is not for her; Jim realizes he really likes the effective, quiet Mary, but fears destroying their friendship just before he sails away.

The first Waves of Freedom is a tense WWII inspirational romantic military suspense. The storyline starts leisurely-paced as Sarah Sundin introduces the audience to the prime cast and setting (months before Pearl Harbor); but quickly turns into a fast-paced exhilarating thriller with the hunt for a saboteur (mindful of Hitchcock's movie with the same title) while deadly German U-boats prowl the North Atlantic to destroy the Anglo supply lines.

Clear By Fire
Joshua Hood
Touchstone Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781501105715, $26.00,

Anvil, the darkest American ops unit, performs the ugliest of missions; most of which are illegal under USA and international law. In an Afghan village, even though he knows they're innocent, contain no useful info re a local Taliban cell and face certain death once his squad leaves; Anvil team leader Colonel Barnes orders the assassinations of the "uncooperative". Almost all of his subordinates salute their boss and perform their duty; only Kane objects and refuses to participate.

Believing no solider declines a mission for any reason, Barnes orders Decklin to kill Kane. While Kane flees to safety, Barnes accuses him of a village massacre. His team has orders to kill the mass murderer. At the same time, the mess in Afghanistan causes issues for national security adviser Cage just before his approval to deploy Operation Lion; releasing nerve gas in Damascus that will lead to a regional war.

With a nod to Lee Child's Jack Reacher, the first Search and Destroy thriller is 200-proof action from start to finish. The key cast is underdeveloped and somewhat interchangeable in spite of gender or ethics as the hero, his only friend, a female task force unit chief, and the villains share the same (and only) mantra: blow them up before they blow you up. Still Joshua Hood provides an adrenaline-charged opening act in which no one will look at a lighter in the same way.

The Blue
Lucy Clarke
Touchstone Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781501116735, $24.99,

Eight months since she last saw her best friend, Lana Lowe fears Kitty Berry died in the tragedy; as she anxiously waits for news of her buddy's fate, search and rescue crews look for the Blue. Lana thinks back to when she and her BFF played pin the tail on a spinning globe that led to them to leave England for the Philippines.

They soon met several adults sailing the Pacific on the 50-ft yacht the Blue and are invited to join them. Captain Aaron explained there are a few rules that he insisted everyone abide by. The sea voyage proved perfect until relationships began to change and nerves frayed culminating with one of the adventurers apparently falling overboard and vanishing into the ocean. Lana feared their paradise was a false fantasy. Feeling alone as Kitty scoffed at her concerns, Lana disembarked in New Zealand, no longer best friends. Now she prays Kitty somehow lives.

The Blue is an exhilarating sea voyage thriller that deploys flashbacks to tell the tale of when Lana was part of the crew sailing in close quarters that lead eventually from harmony to discord. Character driven, readers will feel we sit next to Lana learning the news including revelations about the squabbling sailors seemingly lost at sea.

Evergreen Falls
Kimberley Freeman
Touchstone Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781476799902, $16.00,

In 2014 in Australia's Blue Mountains, thirty year old virgin Lauren Beck muses that if she had been sexually active, less protected by her dominating Mum in Tasmania, or even held a job before this one; she would be able to talk with handsome Danish architect Tomas Lindegaard. Instead the coffee shop waitress knows she sounds like an idiot when she speaks to Tomas who leads the renovation of Evergreen Spa. Still Tomas escorts Lauren though the rundown hotel where she finds a package of old letters and begins to read them.

In 1926 SHB sends love letters to a woman the author obviously loves. Wanting to know more about the mysterious young lady and envious of how much SHB cherishes her especially since she wishes Tomas would equally covet her; Lauren seeks the identity of such adulation. Having lost her position in Sydney, but needing money to care for her sick mom, Violet Armstrong ecstatically accepts a waitress job at the exclusive Evergreen Spa. There she meets affluent siblings Sam and Flora Honeychurch-Blacks.

Rotating perspective between two similar women over eight decades apart, Evergreen Falls is a fascinating character study that looks deeply at forbidden love caused by social class differences. Each lead female chooses a path, but also shares in common looking back and wondering about "The Road Not Taken" (Frost). Although the dual subplots follow the anticipated respective courses, Kimberley Freeman writes an intense Australian drama.

Dante's Dilemma
Lynne Raimondo
Seventh Street Books
c/o Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228
9781633880429, $15.95,

Chicago police arrest Rachel Lazarus for the murder and mutilation of her husband University of Chicago Sociology Professor Gunther Westlake who died in his home by one of his prized chef knives. Confessing to mariticide, Rachel claims Battered Woman Syndrome after insisting she suffered years of spousal abuse.

His antagonistic new boss assigns legally-blind psychologist Dr. Dante Mark Angelotti to assist the recently elected State Attorney for Cook County Linda O'Malley. He will testify as an expert after he finishes the evaluation of the accused started by the late Dr. Bradley Stephens, who died in a hit-and-run. Struggling to understand Stephen's' confusing final notes, Mark finds Rachel's history similar to his own past. In spite of the defense attorney being his former girlfriend and the prosecutor treating him as a hostile expert, Mark's testimony is the final nail in Rachel's conviction. Still with Rachel's daughter missing and learning of an identical murder, Mark wonders if the convicted protects someone else with her confession. Also turning paranoid re his predecessor's demise and attacks on him; Mark wonders if his boss or O'Malley wants to insure Rachel takes the fall at the cost of Angelotti's reputation and perhaps much more.

With a nod to Illinois bipartisan patronage politics, the third Dante legal thriller (see Dante's Wood and Dante's Poison) is an exhilarating twisting tale especially when the storyline focuses on the law as it pertains to PTSD. Angelotti's non-professional life is a mixed bag as his childhood relationship growing up with a widower father shines a light on his personal and legal feelings re PTSD; while the protagonist's custody fight detracts from the excellent case.

The Silver Locket
Sophia Bar-Lev
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781508845546, $14.95,

While her husband Danny serves in France, in 1942 Boston twenty-one years old Rosalie Lapkin struggles with hours of labor until Dr. Fischer performs a C-section. However, instead of a healthy newborn, Dr. Fischer informs Rosalie that her daughter didn't make it.

While her husband Joe works for his uncle in New Mexico; in the same hospital, choosing not to nurse her newborn, Sarah Rosenfeld feeds her healthy baby girl Dorothy. Sarah and Rosalie become friends. No one knows that she gave birth in the hospital; so sadly Sarah gives her "Dorothy" to Rosalie to raise as Rebecca Sarah with only Rabbi Lowenstein's wife and very few others aware of the adoption.

Rosalie's cousin Josh arrives from California just before Rosalie learns that Danny is MIA. At the same time Sarah moves to Pasadena to be with Joe who has a new job there. As the years pass, Rosalie, accompanied by her new husband and her daughter, migrates west even as she wonders if it is time to give the precious Silver Locket to her beloved Rebecca at her high school graduation.

This is a captivating historical due to a strong ensemble cast who bring to life the long term effects of heart-wrenching decisions made out of love that occur during a crisis like a war. Readers will appreciate Sophia Bar-Lev's enjoyable two decade saga; as a tearful mom doing what she believes is best for her offspring impacts two families.

A Crucible of Souls
Mitchell Hogan
Harper Voyager
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062407245, $25.99,

Though he did his best to protect his loved ones from the bad men; in his last dying breaths Aldrich knows he failed to keep safe his mate Iselle and their child Nerissa. Realizing Aldich died to give them time to escape, Iselle quickly concludes they cannot; she tells Nerissa to run like the wind while she delays their enemy so her offspring can get away.

Years later, the Sorcery Guild recognizes Caldan possesses a very rare high level crafting talent not seen in anyone's lifetime. Though not their usual student, nonetheless the orphan becomes an apprentice. As he learns the hard way to fight; Caldan remains obsessively steadfast to learn the truth re his family, especially why they were brutally murdered. Others, not inclined to train him, but rather use him have become aware of his existence.

The first Sorcery Ascendant Sequence is a thrilling coming of age epic fantasy with several additional subplots starring other key cast. Although the main storyline goes totally as expected and the protagonist seems initially overly trusting "Sweet and Innocent" (Donny Osmond), this is a fine opening act.

Chuck Wendig
Harper Voyager
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062351555, $25.99,

In Midland, North Carolina Mr. Government abetted by two local football players grabs computer nerd Chance Dalton. Hackers DeAndre Mitchell in Sausalito, Aleena Kattan in New York City, Reagan Stolper in Pittsburgh and Wade Earthman in Collban, Colorado are also kidnapped. Enigmatic Typhon gives the five abductees a choice: work on his Top Secret NSA program or go to jail for several years without connectivity.

Though the quintet comes from vastly different reasons for hacking, each shares in common a big distrust of the government especially NSA; an even bigger wariness towards one another; and their biggest suspicion towards their handler. Typhon assigns each with what appears to be separate hacking tasks, but the five begin seeing mission linkage; they realize failure to team up will eventually lead to their expendability either in instant death or longer term deadly rendition. To have any chance of surviving after their usefulness ends, the frightened five seek an edge so investigate Typhon.

Even with easily guessing what major event will happen next and dealing with a cast rivaling a Cecil B. DeMille movie; Zer0es is an awesome action-packed thriller that never gives the reader a respite from start to finish. The fearful flawed five struggle between personal desires and group need to learn the truth; while Typhon for the most part remains a conundrum in spite of the hackers' efforts. Suspense fans will want to join the quintet on this wild ride.

Killing Pretty
Richard Kadrey
Harper Voyager
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062373106, $25.99

At the video store where he works Nephilim James "Sandman Slim" Stark ironically prays for a purebred human case like following a cheating spouse after some of his more recent encounters with Old Gods and a fragment of a God, and a gig as Lucifer. Many of the survivors of his inquiries want him dead after partaking in the immense pleasure of an eternity of torturing him. Slim also struggles with the physically changed Candy who insists she is Chihiro.

His P.I. boss Julie Sola prefers using the Los Angeles-based private investigator's special talent as a hybrid human-angel on special inquiries. Someone with extraordinary skills dumps Death inside the body of a mortal before removing the human host's heart; leaving the man and Death dead. Now no one dies; so Sola assigns Stark to find and capture Death's killer with a prayer that this culprit can return order (meaning death to the human masses) to the universe.

The seventh Sandman Slim irreverent amusing urban fantasy (see The Getaway God, Kill City Blues and Devil Said Bang) is a much less perilous affair (for Slim) than usual as this time the existence of the universe is not at stake though order on a Malthus level is. Fast-paced as always, Stark and his allies (once again very loose definition as he believes the word team contains the letter I since he does not play well with others) hunt for a predator in this low-key entry.

The Toy Taker
Luke Delaney
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062219503, $7.99

In London an unwanted visitor stealthily enters homes and abducts small children. None of the victim's family hear any noises or are there any signs of a stranger breaking into their abode. The latest kidnapped child is four years old George Bridgeman who if not rescued soon will be dead.

With immense pressure on New Scotland Yard, the brass reassigns Detective Investigator Sean Corrigan and his team to the Special Investigation Unit with one case: end this ghost's reign of terror. Still somewhat recovering from his last harrowing inquiry (see The Keeper), Corrigan hates the armchair detectives watching and criticizing every move he and his subordinates make. Adding to his trepidations of failure, Corrigan fears he lost his talent to get inside the head of a psychopath though he desperately tries before the next snatch occurs.

The third awesome DI Sean Corrigan British police procedural (see Cold Killing) is a tense whodunit as the adept (at abduction) adversary proves a worthy antagonist for the hero and his subordinates. The cast (especially family members and the desk jockey top management) adds layers to this electrifying thriller; but this cat and mouse mystery belongs to the title character and the DI pursuing him or her.

The Sword Of The South
David Weber
Baen Books
PO Box 1188, Wake Forest NC 27588
9781476780849, $27.00,

In spite of the courage in the face of certain death displayed by the races of man, the great wizard and Last Lord of the Council of Ottovar, Wencit of Rum realizes his Light allies are losing the millennium war to protect Norfressa from dark sorcery. Meanwhile on a stormy night in the Northern Empire of the Axe port Belhaden, a stranger enters a tavern owned by married couple, the Hradani Bahzell Bahnakson and the Sothoii human Leanna Bowmaster. Though he has no money or memory of whom he is Bahzell welcomes him.

While the amnesiac's sits with a drink, Wencit comes to the bar. As Bahzell has learned firsthand wizards tend to conceal important information from adults of races they perceive as children; he quickly assumes Wencit knows who this Kenhodan is. The enemy assaults the bar, but the owners, the wizard, Blanchrach and their patrons successfully defend it. Wencit persuades Bahzell and Kenhodan to begin a final quest to snatch victory from certain defeat. As her father leaves, young Gwynna's hybrid powers manifest.

Although years have passed in Bahzell's realm (three years in publishing terms), readers will welcome the hero and his allies for what appears to be the final battle in the War God saga (see War Maid's Choice, Wind Rider's Oath, Oath of Swords and The War God's Own). Filled with non-stop action and especially fantastic battle scenes, series fans will enjoy the beginning of the end (I think) though the storyline at times reads more like intriguing vignettes rather than an epic fantasy.

1636: The Cardinal Virtues
Eric Flint and Walter H Hunt
PO Box 1188, Wake Forest NC 27588
9781476780610, $26.00

In the summer of 1635 in Paris, King Louis still waits for a child he and his French subjects can call heir, but in spite of two decades of an alliance marriage to the daughter of Spain's King Philip III, Queen Aña Maria Mauricia, no baby has been born. The monarch in waiting remains his brother Gaston d'Orleans.

Cardinal Richelieu deploys a scheme to allow him to maintain his position of power. His efforts succeed in impregnating her royal highness. To keep the Queen safe, Richelieu hides her from those Frenchmen like d'Orleans and foreign governments who prefer the current ruler goes to his grave without siring the next king. As a civil war seems imminent in divided France, outside interests take sides.

The nineteenth Ring of Fire alternate history focuses on France, which has been a major but never prime locale in the long running saga. The cast is solid though overwhelmingly abundant even with the Grantville crowd limited; while readers learn more about recurring characters like Richelieu and d'Orleans. The storyline contains plenty of escapades and for the most part moves quickly forward; but never climaxes as The Cardinal Virtues is the appetizer for at least the next entry.

His Father's Eyes
David B. Coe
PO Box 1188, Wake Forest NC 27588
9781476780627, $25.00

Former Phoenix cop Justis Fearsson turned private investigator is a Weremyste, one who wields magic except when the moon is full and his logical mind turned to mush. Currently he investigates the murder of seemingly invincible runemyst Cahors and apparently related ritual homicides. At the same time his former partner PPD Detective Kona needs his help at the airport with a plane carrying a corpse and a bomb.

A swarm of dark sorcerers have camped in the nearby desert. Though he wants to know what they plot because it can't be good, Fearsson also prefers to keep his distance. However their assault on his beloved Billie Castle the reporter and his dad force the Weremyste into action even as the nearing of the full moon concerns him; but unaware that he is their intended target.

The second Case Files of Justis Fearsson (see Spell Blind) is an electrifying urban (and desert) fantasy private investigator thriller. With realistic settings (in the city and beyond) and a hard boiled sleuthing mage working within the Coe magic physics system, His Father's Eyes is an enchanting mystery.

Soldiers Out Of Time
Steve White
PO Box 1188, Wake Forest NC 27588
9781476780726, $15.00

In spite of the major find, their enemy Transhumanist's data chip, at Richmond during the end of the American Civil War, Temporal Regulation Authority Commander Jason Thanou knows this is not a time to rest and pat each other on the back. Instead, Thanou accepts the technological breakthrough is significant, but also believes the TRA must increase exponentially their efforts to take the time wars to their underground adversaries; whose strategic planning to turn humanity into deities and obedient monstrosities involves centuries not years.

While TRA operatives diligently pursue their foes seemingly everywhere in the galaxy and throughout time, Thanou and his team also uncover a terrifying Transhumanist's BHAG that deployed the Observer Effect five centuries ago on a Goldilocks planet, astronomically HC-4 9701 III, but locally named Zirandkhu. The fruition of their brilliant scheme becomes apparent in the 24th century. After stopping in Zirandkhu, Thanou leads his unit to the British Indian Empire on earth during the Gaslight Era before heading back into space to once again confront their adversary.

Overall the fifth Jason Thanou Temporal Regulatory Authority science fiction (see Blood of Heroes, Sunset of the Gods, Pirates of the Timestream and Ghosts of Time) is a great twisting time travel thriller anchored by real persona. Thanou and his squad are heroic in their efforts to prevent a devious, intense campaign from succeeding; which only makes the Tranhumanists' deviant and violent behavior towards civilians feel unnecessary and obligatory seemingly only to paint them as 100 percent evil.

The Hunter Returns
David Drake and Jim Kjelgaard
PO Box 1188, Wake Forest NC 27588
9781476780559, $9.99

Worried about the recent shortage of his tribe's prime meat source bison and aware that the probable cause is the hunters' overkill by a fiery mass pushing off cliffs, Hawk the Chief Spear Maker notices by accident a strange phenomenon. Following up on his observation, he violates the tribe's law on weapon-making when he creates a flexible device that shoots spears with greater velocity than a human can toss one. When feral dogs attack the tribe; one breaks through the perimeter of hunters before mangling Willow's thigh. Women batter it to death; but five members die from the wild dogs' assault.

The leaders exile Hawk for his unintended violation of the law and Willow for her crippling injury. As the outcasts struggle to survive in a world filled with predators, their tribe also faces starvation due to a scarcity of meat. The only source of sustenance is the women gathering fruits and vegetables. Their only hope of survival resides with accepting Hawk and his weapons modernizations.

This reprint of David Drake's 1990 expansion of Jim Kjelgaard's young adult classic (see Fire Hunter) showcases the talents of both writers. The remake keeps the Mr. Kjelgaard's original content of two outcasts' survival struggle in a deadly wilderness filled with prehistoric monsters; but adds Mr. Drake's what happens to the tribe they left behind during hard times made more difficult without their visionary arms-maker. Although my trade paperback copy lacks the awesome art by incredible Charles R. Knight (well worth visits to the Museum of Natural History in New York to see his prehistoric drawings), The Hunter Returns passes the test of time as the novel remains a wonderful thriller.

The Bones Will Speak
Carrie Stuart Parks
Thomas Nelson Publishers
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9781401690458, $15.99,

In Montana, single mom Gwen Marcey mentally struggles with her recovery from breast cancer; her recent divorce that left their daughter Aynslee with her; and her termination by Ravalli County due to budget cuts and lack of contract work. Those alone place her stress level in the troposphere, but her Great Pyrenees Winston while digging up the lawn uncovers a female skull. She notifies Ravalli County Sheriff Dave Moore while, accompanied by Winston, follows a bloody trail to a rundown farmhouse where the unemployed forensics artist and her dog find severely tortured Missoula kidnap victim Mattie Banks. Though injured by the killer running him over, Winston keeps the girl safe until Dave arrives.

Missoula PD claims jurisdiction encouraged by in-house forensic artist Wes Bailor. Told to stay out of their investigation, Dave complies to focus more on a local supremacist plan to honor Hitler; Gwen refuses because when she first saw the victim she thought she saw her child lying in the farmhouse; Aynslee and Mattie could be sisters. Soon the Missoula Police inquiry, the Ravalli County Sheriff's white supremacist furor, and the plight of the two girls converge with Gwen and the killer as the foci.

The second Gwen Marcey forensic investigation (see A Cry From The Dust) is a tense Big Sky thriller that hooks the audience from the very early encounter in which Gwen and Winston meet Mattie. Loaded with action throughout, but especially a harrowing climatic confrontation, and a frightening motive by a diabolical brilliant lunatic, fans will appreciate this electrifying drama.

The Z Murders
J. Jefferson Farjeon
British Library Crime Classics
c/o Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781464204913, $12.95,

Riding the rails to foggy London, Richard Temperley increasingly becomes frustrated and angry at an elderly loud mouth when he is awake and even louder snorer disturbing the passengers. Thus when his train arrives at atmospherically depressing Euston Station, Temperley feels relief as he assumes no more of this boor. Since his flat is rented out for another week and not wanting to wake up his sister's household at 5 AM, Temperley checks into a hotel just across from the station. To his chagrin, the irritant John Amble goes there too. Ample falls asleep in an armchair, but someone fires a shot through a window into his heart.

Police Detective Inspector James leads the investigation. He finds a red metallic token shaped like the letter Z near the victim. Like others at the hotel, James also questions Temperley, who conceals from the DI that a woman he earlier noticed vanished. Though he cannot explain why even to himself, Temperley searches for the missing female.

Mindful of the 1959 Hitchcock film North by Northwest, this reprint of a thrilling 1932 suspense grips the audience from start to finish. Although filled with too much happenchance, J. Jefferson Farjeon (see recently republished Thirteen Guests) provides a fun "historical" amateur sleuth starring foggy London, a bungling hero, a femme fatale damsel in distress and a diligent killer.

Dark Places: A Red River Mystery
Reavis Z. Wortham
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781464204241, $26.95

In 1967 Center Springs, Texas, bored fourteen year old Pepper Parker persuades Cale Westlake to run away with her and join the Flower Children on the road to California. At the same time her slightly older "twin" cousin Top Parker struggles with being a local misfit.

On a deadly night someone kills two businessmen and a hit and run leaves a farmer dead. Instead of investigating the three homicides, Constable Ned Parker travels Route 66 to bring home his daughter Pepper and her companion. Leading the murder inquiries, Sheriff Cody Parker hires Anna Sloan as a deputy to work the cases. Her honed instincts lead Anna to the killers; but her gut fails to keep her safe from these predators on their Dark Places home turf.

The fifth Red River historical mystery (see The Right Side Of Wrong and Vengeance Is Mine) is a terrific suspense thriller that transports grateful fans to 1967 small-town Texas and Route 66. The Parker brood has their hands filled between corralling the runaways, and capturing a vehicular homicide killer and the businessmen murderers. Aptly named Dark Places, this is a superb period piece.

Never Look Down: A Cal Claxton Oregon Mystery
Warren C. Easley
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781464204661, $26.95

Former Los Angeles prosecutor Cal Claxton enjoys his pro bono work offering legal aid out of his Old Town office to Portland, Oregon's poorest. Someone shoots and murders Claudia Borrego, the fiancee of Cal's landlord, Hernando "Nando" Mendoza in the early predawn hours. High school student and spray paint tagger Kelly "K209" Spence witnesses the homicide from her perch four stories above the crime scene. Noticing Kelly high above, the killer fires at her, but she escapes.

Realizing a graffiti artist probably saw the homicide; the cops, feeling for his grieving friend Nando Cal, and a bloody predator search for K209. Trusting no one especially after the person she turned to is mutilated; staying above the fray Kelly eludes the police, the lawyer and the psychopath until desperate she turns to the least likely to betray her: Cal.

The third Cal Claxton Oregon mystery (see Dead Float) returns the hero to Portland's street artist world (see Matters of Doubt) in which another young tagger (to the delight of the audience) affirms WC Fields' mantra: "Never work with animals or children" as they own the story. Fast-paced with twin senses of pending doom and deadly confrontation, readers will adore spunky Kelly as she deploys her mountain-climbing skills in an urban jungle to stay alive.

The Dungeon House: A Lake District Mystery
Martin Edwards
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781464203206, $26.95

Two decades ago in coastal Cumbria, affluent Malcolm and Lysette Whiteley host their annual gala for friends and family at Dungeon House. Instead of joy at their party, Malcom is disheartened from his business in trouble and irate at Lysette's not very discrete affairs. Her demand for a divorce sends intoxicated Malcom over the edge; he ponders whether to include their sixteen year old daughter in his murder-suicide.

Three years ago, fourteen years old Lily Elstone vanished while riding her bike. That case turned cold until yesterday; fifteen years old Shona Whiteley failed to arrive at a friend's sleepover. Cumbria Cold Case Review consultant (and retired cop) Les Bryant briefs Detective Chief Inspector Hannah Scarlett and Detective Chief Maggie Eyre on the key link between the two teen disappearances: Lily's father Gray was the accountant to Shona's infamous great Uncle Malcolm.

The seventh Lake District police procedural (see The Frozen Shroud, The Serpent Pool and The Hanging Wood) is a fabulous investigation that deftly ties together a twenty-year old horrible tragedy, a cold case disappearance and a missing person's inquiry. Filled with terse suspense as Scarlett fears time is running out for Shona, Martin Edwards writes a terrific mystery anchored by a deep cast desperately searching for the missing teen.

Thirteen Guests
J. Jefferson Farjeon
British Library Crime Classics
c/o Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781464204890, $12.95

Two passengers leave the 3:28 train at the Flensham Station. When one of them John Foss twists his ankle stepping onto the platform, the other thirtyish widow Nadine Leveridge comes to his aid. After a quick stop at a doctor, with help from servants she takes him to the nearby estate of Conservative politician Lord Aveling and his wife where she attends a weekend country party along with eleven other invitees and with Foss making it unlucky Thirteen Guests.

The gala turns ugly when someone angrily smudges a painting of the Honourable Anne Aveling whose artist Pratt is at the event. This is followed by the discovery of an unknown person's corpse, a botched stag hunt, the killing of a family dog and the murder of a guest. Police Detective Inspector Kendall leads the investigation. He finds no one grieves in the slightest over the human homicides, but the host family mourns deeply the loss of their canine. The DI is taken aback when some of the guests snidely respond to his questions with sarcasm.

This reprint of a 1936 leisurely-paced British Country House police procedural contains an engaging mystery due to a fascinating scandalous cast whose interplay makes for a droll insightful cozy. J. Jefferson Farjeon wrote an intriguing still relevant period piece as the acceptance of de facto racism and social caste strata remain timely with the need for the Gay Rights and Black Lives Matter movements, and the 1% control of the economic-political complex.

Robert Tanenbaum
Gallery Books
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781476793160, $27.00,

In Manhattan, raging Nazi fanatic Lars Forsling holds thirteen year old Jewish-Italian twins Zak and Giancarlo Karp, and elderly Goldie Sobelman prisoners. Deranged Forsling blames the siblings' father New York District Attorney Butch Karp for the death of his mom, who burned to death while smoking in bed; and also rants about their dark-skinned mother Ciampi the cop.

At the same time a nasty argument over the value of charter schools rage; as supporters claim it gives opportunities to those who have none; while opponents insist it is a phony gimmick to provide further advantages for those who do not need them. An explosion kills three supporters including NYS legislature Rose Dubitsky. After NYPD Detective Marlene Ciampi and others investigate the assassinations; Karp takes to trial the prime suspect.

The twenty-seventh Karp-Ciampi novel (see Tragic and Fatal Conceit) is the best entry in years since both fast-paced subplots come across as electrifying yet personal (the boys' discussions re Bar Mitzvahs and reaching third base are priceless) and the debate over charter schools discerning. In spite of Forsling's fanatic lunacy being over the top of the Freedom Tower and the storyline straighter than the Bonneville Salt Flats, Trap is a terrific taut thriller.

Golden Earrings
Belinda Alexandra
Gallery Books
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781476790336, $16.00,

In 1975 France, estranged from her father Paloma lives with her Spanish grandmother Evelina while matriculating at the Paris Opera Ballet School. Paloma stays focused on her goal until she fails to gain a ballet spot due to her anger at a bias selectee hurting her audition. When she receives golden earrings that remind her of her ignored heritage in Spain, Paloma begins to search her Spanish roots before the ascendancy of the recently deceased Franco.

Her efforts lead to fascinating la Rusa; who in the 1930s was considered one of the greatest flamenco dancers ever; but at the top of her fame committed suicide. To her shock, Paloma finds several people including her secretive grandmother rejoiced when la Rusa killed herself after being accused of betraying affluent Evelina and her family. Hoping the truth will set her free, the more Paloma learns the more astonished she becomes; while obsessing over what really happened decades ago that impact her today.

This exciting epic historical focuses on Spain just before and during the 1930s Civil War and 1970s Paris (though there are other eras like 1909 Barcelona). Ironically though Paloma and Evelina are ostensibly the stars, la Rusa owns the entertaining storyline past and even years after her death in the 1975 present. The storyline starts slowly to enable readers to meet the players; once in first gear, the mystery and Spain's mid twentieth century history make for an insightful engaging drama.

Tough Love
Lori Foster
Harlequin HQN
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373788484, $7.99,

"Tough Love." Vanity Baker knows what she wants is MMA light-heavyweight Stack "The Wolf" Hannigan. However, she also realizes to become his permanent she-wolf, Vanity has to overcome his aversion to commitment. Hoping he will make a move, Vanity remained patient only outrageously flirting with her secret love for a few months. When that strategy fails, she persuades him to accept a casual deal: if he escorts her to a family wedding, she will have no string sex with him. Though the lessons learned growing up as part of a disturbed dysfunctional family prove difficult to overcome, Stack needs to convince Vanity he wants more than a friends with benefits relationship.

"Back to Buckhorn." Pet groomer Zoey Hodge left Buckhorn, Kentucky the first chance she had with no plans of returning except for short visits to see her mom. When her mom becomes very ill, Zoey comes home to help her recover. Firefighter Garrett Hudson loved Zoey's wit in high school, but desires her even more now. His mission is to persuade her that they belong together forever.

The third Ultimate (see No Limits and Holding Strong) is an enjoyable contemporary due to the fascinating protagonists plotting their respective next steps though ignoring a serious discussion when one is desperately needed. Series fans will relish the first print copy of this pleasant Buckhorn e-book prequel even if the stars' love overcomes their tsuris rather abruptly.

Bad News Cowboy
Maisey Yates
Harlequin HQN
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373788538, $7.99

"Bad News Cowboy." In Copper Ridge, Oregon, Kate Garrett loves horses and playing cards especially with her brothers Eli (see Part Time Cowboy) and Connor (see Brokedown Cowboy), and their best friend Jack Monaghan. Although she knows Jack extremely well to avoid flirting with this womanizer's fire, Kate is attracted to him. She convinces a reluctant Jack to mentor her on the art of romance. Jack's problem changes from avoidance to wanting to be the kid sister's only beau.

"Shoulda Been a Cowboy." After being away from Copper Ridge for a decade and a half, Jake Caldwell comes home following the death of his estranged father. Coffee shop owner Cassie Ventimiglia tutored Jake in high school, but concealed how much she wanted this bad boy. Now he is her landlord, but her puppy love feelings still remain only more hopelessly adult. Jake never told her how much her support meant to him and how much he adores her now, but plans to leave anyway.

The third Copper Ridge Garret romance is a fantastic contemporary as two support players prove they can deliver a wonderful romance. Shoulda Been a Cowboy is the first hard copy printing of a delightful Copper Ridge e-book prequel.

One Breathless Night
Jo Leigh
Harlequin Blaze
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373798643, $5.0

"One Breathless Night" by Jo Leigh. At a 007 New Year's Eve party, Boston schoolteacher Jenna Delaney in horrid disbelief watches her long time fiance kiss someone else at midnight. Also observing the lip locks is storm chaser Rick Sinclair whose girlfriend is the other party. Stunned, Jenna and Rick turn to each other for solace that leads to a geographical distant relationship though neither expects anything to come of it.

"Hard Knocks" by Lori Foster. In Japan suffering a cut that required stitches and costs him an SBC main event fight, Gage "Savage" Ringer returns home to heal and further his relationship with Harper Gates. In love with Gage, Harper assumes he did not miss her while overseas. Still she decides a fling can't hurt too badly.

The main event is an enjoyable Three Wicked Nights contemporary starring two likable rebounders though the storyline drags at times. The SBC support romance is a paper copy reprint of an interesting SBC Ultimate (see Holding Strong and Tough Love) e-novella.

The Rancher's Surprise Son
Christine Wenger
Harlequin Special Edition
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373659128, $5.50

In Arizona, although she knows her affluent rancher parents would go into a rage over her visiting the neighboring Double M spread, Laura Duke asks thirteen year old Cindy Masters to watch her young toddler Johnny. While the two females chat, Cindy's brother Cody comes home after spending over three years in prison for killing his abusive stepfather Hank Lindy stunningly driven by Duke Ranch foreman Slim Gonzales. Slim explains to Laura that following a visit from Cody's mother Georgianna, her father arranged for the felon's release.

As Slim drives Cody to see Laura's dad, he tells his passenger that she married someone at college; but it didn't last long though she had a child with this stranger. Hurt that his beloved failed to wait for him and obviously lost faith in him, she turned to someone else. Cody is further stunned when he recognizes the eyes of the almost four years old staring at him.

The fourth Gold Buckle Cowboys romance (see The Cowboy Code, How to Lasso a Cowboy, and Lassoed into Marriage) is an entertaining contemporary due to the wonderful West Side Story couple and a deep bench. Although the final unnecessary denouement seems over the top of the Rincon Mountains, Christine Wenger authors a pleasant family drama.

Sentinels: Leopard Enchanted
Doranna Durgin
Harlequin Nocturne
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373009503, $5.75

Atium Core assigns agent Ana Dikau to conduct surveillance of snow leopard shifter Ian Scott. Brainwashed all her life that the enemy Sentinel shifters are evil and with a chance to finally prove her worth, Ana looks forward to mission success. Her superiors further direct her to seduce Scott so that she can plant an amulet to harm him and his Southwest friends and allies.

Frustrated as he struggles to find a way to protect shifters from the Atium Core's latest weapon, harmful amulets, Ian wonders if the woman he just met could provide him the answer. As Ana diligently performs her undercover duty, she struggles with the kindness and caring Ian and others show to her. Ana must choose between the shifter (and his associates) she loves and respects, and the group she spent her life with being mistreated and scorned as a second class citizen.

The latest Sentinels romantic fantasy (see Alpha Rising) is a magnificent entry due to the Atium mole finding those she is to destroy behave nothing like the violent miscreants she had learned about for years. Series fans will wonder whether a few weeks of compassion and thoughtfulness can overcome decades of indoctrination started when Ana was an infant.

Playing With Fire
Rachel Lee
Harlequin Romantic Suspense
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373279296, $5.50

Arson investigator Charity Atkins arrives in Conard City, Wyoming to help the local fire department with their rash of deliberately set fires. Feeling like a displaced urbanite in the small town, Charity seeks Fire Chief Wayne Camden only to find him when he rushes out of a burning building carrying a baby.

Desperate before someone dies in one of these blazes, Wayne welcomes Charity; as he knows his town needs her skills and experience. As they team up to end the reign of terror, the arsonist also welcomes Charity though he has different plans for her. As the fire chief and the arson investigator fall in love, the single dad struggles with his distrust of women after his wife deserted him.

The tenth Conard County: The Next Generation romantic suspense (see Undercover Hunter) is an action-packed, fast-paced thriller. The protagonists are a fantastic pairing as love and courage flourish; while the clever villain hides in plain sight although the original motive for the fires seems over the top of the Grand Tetons.

Time For Love
Melinda Curtis
Harlequin Heartwarming
Harlequin Digital Sales Corp
$4.99 Kindle

Using college as a ticket to escape, teenager Kathy Harris fled Harmony Valley, California. Away only short time, a pregnancy sent Kathy back to this remote Sonoma Valley hellhole. She became an alcoholic, which cost her, the trust of her now five-year old son Zach. Now clean, she works for veterinarian Dr. Gage Janero (see One Perfect Year) who also hires "miracle worker" horse whisperer Dylan O'Brian, son of an alcoholic, to work with the animals.

Kathy's brother Flynn (see Summer Kisses) worries about his sister's sobriety; so he hires Dylan, who needs the money, to keep his sib sober but must never tell her. Dylan knows good deeds sometimes lead to punishment like when he opens his Redemption Ranch to help recovering alcoholics only to have his ex-wife use that as a tool to gain custody of their eight-year old child Truman. As Kathy and Dylan fall in love, he needs to tell her the truth, but doubts that will set him free in the way he wants.

The latest Harmony Valley romance (see Season of Change) is a leisurely-paced family drama that looks closely at the impact of alcoholism on loved ones. Working with seemingly dangerous horses augments a heartwarming contemporary.

Seduced by the Moon
Linda Thomas-Sundstrom
Harlequin Nocturne
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373009510, $5.75

Following the accidental death of her father, Skylar Donovan leaves Miami to clean out his Colorado mountain cabin. Since sleeping in her late dad's favorite vacation spot; for the last four nights Skylar dreams of werewolves but especially focused on one hunk.

Her "dream guy" Colorado Forest Ranger Gavin Harris arrives to warn her of recent animal killings and to suggest she stay in town. Rejecting the official findings in her dad's death, Skylar refuses to leave until she learns what happened to her father. Gavin wishes she would heed his cautionary advice because this werewolf cannot be distracted by his desire for the Floridian while he hunts the beast who changed him before this predator harms others especially this female he already cherishes.

The third Linda Thomas-Sundstrom's Wolf Moon paranormal romance (see Wolf Hunter and Wolf Born) stars two fabulous protagonists and a remarkably vile antagonist in a tense thriller. The triangle consisting of love and death make for a magnificent Rocky Mountain contemporary romantic fantasy.

Texas Rebels: Falcon
Linda Warren
Harlequin American
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373755783, $5.50

Over seventeen years ago, Leah Rebel gave birth to a daughter Eden. However, her husband Falcon noticed his wife was not the same. Three months after their child was born, Leah leaves behind a note with no warm salutations explaining she needs time. In the present single dad Falcon reflects on he waited long enough for his spouse to come home to her family and that he never could explain to Eden why her mom abandoned her and him.

Thus Falcon is stunned when Leah arrives at the ranch with one request: to meet Eden, but also promises to disappear forever afterward. Though he wants to loath her and resents her desertion, Falcon feels like a fool because he still loves her. He also thinks Leah has been dishonest about why she left and where she has been since she vanished. Even his argument that Eden needs her mom fails to sway her to stay in touch. Falcon vows to learn what frightens his wife that she ran away once and looks ready to bolt again.

Though over the top, the second Texas Rebels ranch romance (see Egan) is a suspenseful, entertaining second chance at family. The single dad and his teenage daughter are pleasing characters, but the enigmatic runaway makes for a fascinating drama.

Thrill Me
Susan Mallery
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373788989, $7.99

Ten years ago, Maya Farlow ended her engagement to Del Mitchell because of her relationship doubts and anxieties in spite of her love for him. She left Fool's Gold, California to attend college, breaking two hearts.

Mayor Marsha hires Maya to be the town's communications chief. Her biggest problem is controlling local cable superstars Eddie and Gladys until Madam Mayor assigns her to work with celebrity extreme sports guru Del on creating promotional videos based on the theme that Fool's Gold is "The Destination for Romance". Working together, Maya and Del know they still love one another, but both remain reluctant to risk rejection.

Even as several key support characters act as expected (not surprising after twenty books), the final romance in the latest Fool's Gold trilogy (see Kiss Me and Hold Me) is a delightful contemporary that also seems to act as a bridge to start a new series starring the hero's siblings. This is a wonderful second chance at love romance predominantly because Maya and Del have matured and changed since their failed first time.

Her Second-Chance Family
Holly Jacobs
Harlequin SuperRomance
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373609239, $6.75

In Western Pennsylvania, every Saturday for the past month, teenager Willow Jones arrives at the home of Sawyer Williams offering to mow his lawn as a means to balance her karma after the police caught her trying to steal items from his home. Unlike the three previous visits, this time Sawyer accepts Willow's offer though he distrusts her. Sitting in the driver's seat observing the interplay, Willow's foster mom Audrey Smith feels good about the banker giving her ward a chance to make amends.

A "green" architect Audrey understands second, third and ninth chances; a decade ago she and her high school BFFs were in a car accident that left a mom dead and her friendships over. Audrey became a foster mother to the victim's son Clinton and his buddy Bea. Willow joined their family soon after her arrest, but refuses to divulge her partners in the break-in. As Audrey works her upbeat magic on everyone but herself; she and Sawyer fall in love. However, a successful B&E theft has Sawyer doubting Willow at the cost of his relationship with Audrey.

Once again placing her family drama in the Erie, Pennsylvania area (see the Valley Ridge romances), Holly Jacobs authors an inspiring optimistic contemporary. The three kids (especially Old Soul Willow) steal the show by grounding their Mary Poppins-Pollyanna paragon foster mom. Character-driven, this bubbly drama makes an argument that love and forgiving instead of DNA defines a functional caring family.

A Royal Baby Surprise
Cat Schield
Harlequin Desire
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373734061, $5.25

Though part of the Sherdana Royals, Nic Alessandro has lived in America for the past decade; as he pursues his dream of the private sector exploring space. His excitement turns to horror when the rocket exploded leaving a Griffin Project teammate dead. Blaming himself, Nic leaves the States, and his best friend and girlfriend Professor Brooke Davis behind.

Carrying their child, Brooke follows her beloved to a Greek isle where he stews in guilt before returning home and wearing the mantle of Prince Nic. Although he wants her, he also warns her they can never be permanent as she is unacceptable to be a royal wife. Taking a pregnant pause, Brooke wonders whether to conceal their unborn from Prince Nic even as he brings her to the Sherdana palace for a royal welcoming.

The second Sherdana Royals is a delightful contemporary as love and a baby on the way may not be enough to overcome tradition, especially when Nic's mom the queen rejects the American (his sister and sister-in-law warmly welcome Brooke). Though Brooke's dilemma whether to tell or not to tell does not reach the angst level faced by Lady Olivia Darcy in the opening act (see Royal Heirs Required), A Royal Baby Surprise is a pleasant romance.

Hired By The Brooding Billionaire
Kandy Shepherd
Harlequin Romance
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373743506, $5.99

In Sydney, following complaints by his wealthy neighbors about his rundown estate, reclusive billionaire widower Declan Grant hires horticulturist Shelley Fairhill to fix his mansion's neglected jungle that used to be a garden. Declan makes it clear to his temporary gardener that once she finishes the job, she is to leave so he peacefully can return to mourning the deaths of his wife and baby as he has for the last two years.

Upbeat Shelley ignores her client's insistence that he wants to be alone. Her constant cheerfulness inspires his return to his vocation as he begins creating his first video game since his loved ones died. As they slowly fall in love, panicking Declan allows a minor setback to end their relationship.

This tender second chance (at life and love) contemporary is a warm gradually percolating tale in which the romance cleverly mirrors the blossoming of the flowers in the garden. The storyline is summed up fascinatingly by Declan who considers Shelley as an Australian Pollyanna princess in his newest fantasy game.

Kiss Me
Susan Mallery
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373780129, $7.99

In Fool's Gold, California Zane Nicholson raises his rebellious teenage half-brother Chase. Unlike Zane who relishes his hermitic existence, Chase loathes life on his older sibling's ranch. Always seeking a ticket out of Hicksville, Chase finds a means to fund his robotics. He sells a cattle drive reality "show" to fools. Zane rages at his irresponsible younger brother as he is the sucker forced to keep safe paying customers, whose only knowledge of cattle come from eating.

Flighty Phoebe Kitzke is suspended from work for crossing a professional line even if her motive and intentions were out of kindness. Her BFF Maya persuades her to come with her to Fool's Gold where her stepbrothers host a cattle drive spectacular. Filled with ire, Zane has polar opposite reactions to Pollyanna Phoebe who holds chats with animals (including his cattle). Her always rah-rah optimism drives him crazy, but not as much as his desire for her.

The nineteenth Fool's Gold contemporary (see Hold Me) is at its best during the cattle drive as two paragons of virtue (and psychological issues) fall in love. The lead couple making a match of it in near record time seems doubtful; as per his siblings Zane keeps a standard of conduct unattainable by anyone except perhaps Mother Teresa; while Phoebe is all shoot from the heart with apparently no social awareness of crossing taboos. Still Susan Mallory authors a delightful tale as armchair readers will relish this cattle drive romance.

The Hotter You Burn
Gena Showalter
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373779697, $7.99

In Strawberry Valley, Oklahoma, former teen bully Harlow Glass struggles to survive as she secretly lives in a tent on the ranch her family once owned and as the pariah she has no prospects for obtaining a job. Hungry and expecting no one home; Harlow sneaks into her former house now owned by Beck Ockley and his two foster care brothers (Jase Hollister and Lincoln West) to steal food.

However, Beck catches her inside his house. Although a womanizer who trusts no one except his "siblings"; Beck recognizes a lonely kindred spirit in Harlow. As they begin a tryst, Harlow soon realizes she wants more from this man she loves. However, Beck cannot commit to her or any female even at the same he irrationally fears her leaving him

The latest Original Heartbreakers Sooner romance (see e-novella: The One You Want) is a pleasant contemporary that besides the main plot also updates the readers on what is happening to other key townsfolk. The lead couple's relationship seems similar to that of Jase and Brook Lynn Dillon (see The Closer You Come), especially Beck's behavior; while Harlow tries climbing out of a deep crater with or without her beloved giving her an uplifting hand although I wonder why she stays in a "Town Without Pity".

Black Canyon Conspiracy
Cindi Myers
Harlequin Intrigue
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373698578, $5.50

Billionaire Richard Prentice held former TV news reporter Lauren Starling captive for six weeks. After DEA agent and Ranger Brigade operative Marco Cruz rescued her; Richard successfully spun the tale that Lauren was a guest who wanted to stay and made up her fantasy of being his prisoner.

Marco knows the truth and fears that obsessed Prentice through some untraceable goon will come after Lauren. He vows to protect her, but also believes ultimately the only way to keep her safe is to prove Prentice kidnapped her. As the bodyguard and the damsel in distress fall in love, danger comes from unexpected sources, but diligent Marco remains adamant about Lauren's safety and his gut belief that though obfuscated all roads lead back to Prentice.

The latest Ranger Brigade romantic intrigue (see Colorado Bodyguard, Lawman Protection and The Guardian) is an engaging thriller starring a likable lead couple who series fans already adore and a diabolical affluent villain who readers already detest. Although over the top of Castle Peak, Black Canyon Conspiracy is a tense suspense.

Tiffany Tumbles
Kristine Grayson
WMG Publishing
PO Box 269, Lincoln City, OR 97367
9781561466306, $14.99,

Tiffany VanDerHoven knows how fickle her father is when he fired the Fates; promoted her and her half-sisters (Crystal and Brittany) to replace them; and in turn canned the interims. No longer residents of Mt. Olympus, thanks to the intervention with their father Zeus by Los Angeles-based Dr. Megan; each sibling resides in the United States with their moms and without their left behind magic. Whereas Tiffany lives in Eugene with her mother Serena the Oregon University Professor of Greek and Mediterranean Studies; Crystal is in Manhattan; and Brittany exiled to some unheard of place with the unlikely name of Superior, Wisconsin.

Fearing she will not adapt without magic or her support sisters, Tiffany panics over attending Central HS as her knowledge of this vicious subculture comes from teen movies. Serena explains to the principal that her daughter's father had custody for fifteen years and home schooled her overseas. On her first day Tiffany meets Josh and Jenna. No one else thankfully talks to her; as she tumbles her way through mortal adaptation and liking Josh in spite of her dad's program to end true love. Meanwhile Dearest Daddy asks Tiffany to come home even if it is only during school vacations; while the Fates struggle to understand why she left.

An offshoot of the charming Fates "fractured fairy tales" (nod to Jay Ward), the first Interim Fates teen contemporary is a breezy humorous satire about fitting in by an outsider who fell from the top of the Pantheon to the bottom of an American high school. Summed up by Serena explaining to her daughter the magic of aspirin, fans of the original series and young adults will appreciate Tiffany's firsthand account of being Clueless.

Be My Valentino
Sandra D. Bricker
Abingdon Press
PO Box 801, Nashville, TN 37202
9781426711619, $14.99,

When Jessie Stanton's husband Jack disappeared along with all their assets, she hired the only private investigator in Malibu that she could afford Danny Callahan to learn what the hell happened to her perfect fairy tale happily ever after life. Accepting she didn't know Jack, Jessie learns her spouse was not legally her husband and he was a con artist fleecing people (see On a Ring and a Prayer).

Though feeling beaten, she starts Adornments encouraged by Danny; who feels he owes Jessie as he recognizes her as his muse who reinvigorated him by example to get off the sands and back to work. When Jack returns, he brings a second tsunami with him; since the FBI investigates his financial transactions extending by "marital" default into hers. Though she likes Danny a lot and believes he reciprocates her deep feelings, Jessie has given up on loving relationships with males even expanding her doubts to include the Lord. While her Louisiana grandfather prays for her; Jessie settles for being just friends (without benefits) with her Danny; even dressing him in formal ware for his undercover assignment.

The second Jessie Stanton tale is a fascinating Christian drama as the heroine, in spite of two devout religious males in her life, feels like a female Job with her not-husband being her serpent. Grandpa's back story and Danny's clandestine gig add depth to an appealing storyline. Though Be My Valentino comes across somewhat as a middle transitional book, readers will cherish the unsinkable Jessie.

A Window Opens
Elisabeth Egan
Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781501105432, $26.00,

Alice Pearse loves her life as a New Jerseyite wife, mother of three, dutiful daughter, year round dog walker, eternal children's book fan, reading club member and part-time You magazine editor. Her perfect world collapses when her husband Nicholas angrily tosses a laptop at the Manhattan legal firm where he works after failing to make partner.

Nicholas tries to put a positive spin to his unemployable situation in which no reputable firm will hire him after his "terrible twos" temper tandem when he explains to astonished, shocked Alice he always wanted to open his own practice, which he plans to do in the suburbs. Realizing she needs full employment to pay the bills while her spouse struggles with his start-up, Alice catches a break when Genevieve Andrews hires at chic Scroll bookselling. Initially her life looks even better than before her husband's infantile meltdown, but her perfect job proves hellish instead and her mate turns increasingly to alcohol to numb his failures.

This witty, mirthful middle class satire mocks the American dream especially skewering the super suburban soccer-grizzly mom perception and the SCOTUS concept that as Mitt Romney states: "corporations are people". Although the pacing somewhat decelerates late in this fabulous family drama; since going full time employment while remaining full time (including on call) at home Alice (and her fans) feels like she fell through the rabbit hole.

Come Away With Me
Karma Brown
Mira Books
c/o Harlequin
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780778318323, $14.95,

In a festive mood on Christmas Eve, Chicago newlyweds Tegan and Gabe Lawson look forward to the birth of their first child. Gabe loses control of their car while driving over black ice. Their unborn dies in the ensuing accident leaving extremely depressed Tegan blaming her husband for their loss.

Feeling guilty about their baby's death; Gabe also worries about his beloved wife who threatens to end their marriage. Believing reconnecting somewhat would ease their anguish and desperate to help his wife and himself; Gabe suggests they draw three locations from their "jar of spontaneity". Tegan wants to tell him to drop dead, but reluctantly agrees to visit Hawaii, Italy and Thailand.

Come Away with Me is a fresh look at the impact on survivors from a personal tragedy. The couple begins their journey stalled in the earlier phases of grief; as Karma Brown makes a profound argument that mourning a loss is customized and though a person moves on one never fully heals because you never fully forget. This is a powerful emotional family drama.

Cold Hearts
Sharon Sala
c/o Harlequin
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780778318309, $7.99

In Mystic, West Virginia, Melissa Sherman takes her car to Paul Jackson's garage for repair. Paul muses to himself that he always liked Lissa who was his son Mack's high school girlfriend; thus he stays open late to repair her vehicle. After troubling auto parts dealer Freddie Miller to stay open so that he can get what he needs to do the job; Paul finishes the repair at eleven that evening. Before he steps away from beneath the hydraulic lifted car; a friend enters the garage. The newcomer releases the lift dumping Lissa's car onto Paul.

Mack comes home for his father's funeral, but is stunned to learn that Lissa's car killed him and that the lift was not broken; someone murdered his dad. The police focus on a 1980 DUI tragedy as the motive since Paul is the second recent homicide victim (see Wild Hearts) with ties to that three-decade old vehicular accident. At the same time, Mack and Lissa turn to each other for solace while each looks back to the miscarriage that ended their relationship.

The second entertaining Secrets And Lies romantic suspense uses the same theme as its predecessor: a modern day homicide police procedural tied to a cold case vehicular death and a contemporary second chance romance. The storyline starts somewhat slow; but once the cast is set, rotating viewpoints between several players accelerates the plot into a tense hyperspeed mystery.

Wildest Dreams
Robyn Carr
c/o Harlequin
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780778317494, $8.99

In Thunder Point, Oregon, single Vietnamese-American mom Lin Su Simmons works long hours as a nurse caring for ALS sufferer Winnie Banks; while she also raises her ailing teenage son Charlie. Moving next door to the Simmons is world traveling triathlete champion and Neighborhood Club franchise manager Blake Smiley. He became an endurance runner as a means of surviving a nasty neighborhood while a child.

Blake likes the mom and son next door and both feel the same way about him. As Blake falls in love with both Simmons, they reciprocate. However, Lin Su becomes angry and upset, even cursing in Vietnamese, and more protective of her child when she learns of the secret her new neighbor (and former love interest) and her son concealed from her.

The ninth Thunder Point Oregonian romance (see One Wish and A New Hope) is an interesting family relationship drama that refreshingly focuses on an adopted Amerasian and those she loves. Lin Su owns the storyline, but realistically is unsympathetic due to her understandably rigid, judgmental personality.

A Little Bit Country
Debbie Macomber and Raeanne Thayne
c/o Harlequin
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780778318255, $7.99

"A Little Bit Country" by Debbie Macomber. Librarian and published author Rorie Campbell drives from San Francisco to Seattle to attend a writer's conference. On a remote county road in Oregon, her car breaks down. Stranded with no nearby motel vacancy, Clay Franklin invites Rorie to stay at his ranch while her vehicle is repaired. Several days together leads to an attraction that shakes both of them up as he has a nice fiancee and she has a boyfriend back home.

"Blackberry Summer" by RaeAnne Thayne. In Hope's Crossing, Colorado, single mom of two kids (Macy and Owen), a dog (Chester) and a pain in the butt mom (Ruth), Claire Bradford owns struggling String Fever beads shop. She loves her town with the only blight being her ex Jeff with his new wife Holly. Someone broke in to her shop in a robbery and also vandalized it by knocking the beads all over the floor and destroying the customized wedding dress of the mayor's daughter. New Police Chief Riley McKnight arrives at Claire's shop to investigate the fourth store robbery. When he was in high school he had a crush on her that has continued secretly over the years even today.

The 1990 reprint of A Little Bit Country is an appealing country bumpkin-sophisticated urban romance that relies too much on happenchance. The 2011 reprint of Blackberry Summer is an engaging police procedural romance due to the super supporting townsfolk. Though I have doubts these novels belong together, these are two fine tales.

Feels Like Family
Sherryl Woods
c/o Harlequin
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780778318408, $14.95

In Serenity, South Carolina, she muses that perhaps it is seeing the happiness of her two best friends (see Maddie in Stealing Home and Dana Sue in A Slice Of Heaven) but divorce attorney Helen Decatur suddenly feels alone. Her work always was enough, but now at forty two years old that reaction formation defense mechanism no longer works especially since her biological clock has abruptly set off alarms. She decides to have a child, but has no one in her life to sire the infant.

If she was to choose, Helen would select pastry chef Erik Whitney as the father of her offspring. The attraction between them is palpable as her buddies can sense it as well but he seems to ignore his feelings. She begins a scheme to seduce the chef, but when she falls in love she realizes she wants to raise a family with him; Erik has personal reasons from his past to reject the love she offers that he so dearly craves.

This reprint of the 2007 third Sweet Magnolias tale is an enjoyable contemporary as series fans will delight in the often amusing witty repartee between Helen and Erik; who both have serious issues that surface while their relationship simmers before boiling. The story line is entertaining due to the antics of the lead couple encouraged by Helen's BFFs and their beloved mates.

Starlight on Willow Lake
Susan Wiggs
c/o Harlequin
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780778317951, $24.95

In Avalon, New York, single mom of two young daughters (diabetic Ruby and older Cara) Faith McCallum struggles with insuring food is on the table. Filled with despair, Faith feels she finally got a break when the Bellamy family hires her as an in-house caretaker for Alice; whose husband died in the skiing accident that left her an acrimonious paraplegic whose anger has driven off several health care employees and household staff.

Knowing she cannot run from this chance to better the lives of her children, Faith faces Alice's rage head on while encouraging her charge to not just accept her paralysis but to live again. Alice's son Mason arrives at the mansion to insure a smooth transition so that he could avoid this place he detests and return to his preferable geographical electronic checkbook support to his mother and the Bellamy brood. Whereas Faith's courage re Alice deserts her when she meets Mason; he keeps rationalizing why he has not fled Avalon for Broadway.

The eleventh Lakeshore Chronicles contemporary (see Candlelight Christmas and Return to Willow Lake) is a highly emotional family drama. The cast is three dimensional especially caused by the dysfunctional dynamics of ire and angst. The romance serves as an impetus into a profound look at the negative impacts of loss and anguish, and the healing of love and compassion.

Keeper's Reach
Carla Neggers
c/o Harlequin
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780778317524, $24.95

FBI agent Emma Sharpe is excited over a weekend retreat at the Sisters of the Joyful Heart in Heron's Cove, Maine; as this was home when she was a nun. However, instead of staying at her former abode, Emma decides to remain at the Rock Point home of her fiance FBI agent Colin Donovan.

When Emma fails to arrive at his home and does not respond to his increasingly frantic calls, Colin fears the worst. At the same time Emma's disappearance frightens Colin; his brother Mike's former military comrades in arms come to Maine to recruit him to join their Cooper Global Security company. Among them, Mike's former lover Naomi "magnet for trouble" MacBride explains she just arrived from England where she tracked the same art thief Emma pursued. The siblings agree that all this coincidence adds up to Emma in trouble.

The fifth Sharpe and Donovan FBI romantic suspense (see Harbor Island and Heron's Cove) is an exciting action-packed thriller as the Donovan siblings and friends search for the missing loved one and those who dare abducted her. Carla Neggers authors an awesome search, rescue and destroy storyline enhanced by a kick butt second chance romance.

The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach
Pam Jenoff
c/o Harlequin
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780778317548, $14.95

In 1941 Italy a frightened Momma fears for the lives of her daughter Adelia, her husband and herself; as the Fascists target Jews. She places Adelia on a ship bound to Gibraltar where her child will catch a boat heading to Philadelphia. In the States, her family fails to arrive on time; even as the immigration officer insists children must be met by an adult. Uncle Meyer and Aunt Bess get there late but in time to bring their niece to their Chelsea Beach home to live with them.

The next door Irish-Catholic Connally family, especially the four sons, greet her as a friend. Adelia is attracted to the oldest Charlie, but he enlists; while heartbroken she becomes a translator in DC. Stunned when Charlie arrives and leaves her, she heads to London to escape her grief. Working for a newspaper, she likes her boss Teddy until Charlie arrives again.

Moving from war-torn Poland (see The Winter Guest, The Kommandant's Girl and The Diplomat's Daughter) to the States and London, Pam Jenoff provides another tremendous WWII drama that leaves readers believing we traveled to the 1940s. Through the eyes of the forced to mature rather quickly heroine, The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach is a powerful timely (after the Bush era Iraq and the present Iran drumbeats) historical as we witness the cost of hostilities on young civilians and families.

The Ones We Trust
Kimberly Belle
c/o Harlequin
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780778317869, $14.95

Three years ago, reporter Abigail Wolff met Maria Duncan just outside Baltimore. Maria gave the journalist proof that her boss Chelsea Vogel, a strident antigay activist, is a false prophetess. Abigail exposes the thirty-something mom and American Society for Truth CEO. Not long after her public humiliation, Chelsea commits suicide. Feeling guilt, Abigail quits journalism.

Infamous for his drunken performance on TV at the funeral of his war hero brother Zach; Gabe Armstrong, supported by their mother, wants the truth be told as to what happened to his sibling in Afghanistan. A PTSD-induced hermit, Gabe leaves Abigail with a note that outlines what he believes happened in Theater. She talks with her father, a retired general, who Abigail senses surprisingly proves not very forthcoming. Not long after that paternal chat, Abigail investigates only to find the military also close-mouthed. Attracted to Gabe and an obsession to learn what occurred to Zach, Abigail keeps digging.

The key to this profound thriller is the military suspense mystery supersedes the seemingly required romance. The cast is fully developed with a deep bench adding layers to a story that in some ways will remind the audience of the late NFL player Pat Tillman.

The Color of Light
Emilie Richards
c/o Harlequin
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780778318248, $24.95

In Asheville, North Carolina, Charlotte Hale gave her fortune to four women with the stipulation they use her money to help women in need. The beneficiaries created Goddesses Anonymous as they began assisting others. One of the recipients, Church of the Covenant Minister Analiese Wagner might have married someone else who since died, but always loved forbidden Father Isaiah Colburn.

Analiese meets the homeless Fowler family of four from Ohio in need of shelter, food and medicine (especially for the diabetic mom). She places them in the church parish house. However, angry council members believe she needed their permission and give her two weeks to find a more suitable abode even as Christmas will soon arrive. The reaction of her church leaders upset Analiese who cannot believe they would harm a family in need due to a power grab. She wonders if she should forget pastoring and return to journalism even as the love of her life Father Isiah has returned to see her while at the crossroads between remaining a priest and becoming a loving husband.

The fourth Goddesses Anonymous drama (see Mountain Away, Somewhere Between Luck and Trust, No River Too Wide) is an interesting inspirational in which the Fowlers (particularly young teen Shiloh) steal the show; as they personalize the Depression (to them it is not a recession). Reverend Ana feels overwhelmed, depressed and considers quitting, but still believes in the Lord and good deeds. The Father Isaiah subplot augments the tale of the minister drowning under diverse pressure, but refusing to give up the good fight.

Pretty Baby
Mary Kubica
c/o Harlequin
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780778317708, $24.95

In Chicago, Chris Wood and his tweener daughter Zoe know his wife, her mom Heidi is a fanatic when it comes to helping the impoverished and the illiterate; many who fall into both categories. Chris and Zoe accept Heidi's tirades as well as her working diligently at a not-for-profit though mostly they ignore her outbursts.

However, neither her husband nor her child expected Heidi to bring into their home, homeless teenager Willow Greer and her four-month old baby Ruby. Ignoring her spouse and her daughter, Heidi obsesses on caring for Willow and Ruby. Meanwhile, a concerned Chris looks into Willow's past as he fears his wife may have brought a dangerous serpent to live with them.

With a superb cast that comes alive by rotating perspective between the three members of the Wood family and Willow, Pretty Baby is a profound psychological thriller that provides a captivating look at how differently (theory of relativity) each sees the newcomers and in turn Willow sees her benefactors. Flashbacks to traumas enhance a taut twisting drama.

The Forgotten
Heather Graham
c/o Harlequin
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780778317890, $7.99

In South Florida, fortyish Maria Gomez mourns deeply the loss of her husband of twenty-five years Miguel. Her family worries about her seemingly inability to connect with anyone or do anything. However her kin never anticipated her murder even if Miguel was involved with the Barillo syndicate.

Brett Cody leads the investigation into the homicide of the grieving widow. He focuses his inquiry on the mob since Miguel's finger was found in a dolphin tank at Sea Life. New Floridian and Sea Life employee Lara Mayhew (see The Silenced) assists Brett as her skill with dolphins may enable them to find other body parts in the nearby bay. However when zombies attack those they loved when they were human (similar to The Strain), the FBI sends the Krewe to help on the case.

The latest Krewe of Hunters urban fantasy romantic police procedural (see The Betrayed, The Cursed and The Hexed) is a likable entry as Heather Graham adroitly deploys zombies and dolphins. The cast except for the dolphins and the heroine (only for those who read her support role in The Silenced) are underdeveloped. Still this is a refreshing entry since the leads are not Krewe, but deal with the paranormal and their love like seasoned hunters.

A Wedding On Primrose Street
Sheila Roberts
c/o Harlequin
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780778318156, $7.99

In Icicle Falls, Washington wedding planner Anne Richardson believes the Primrose Haus is the ideal location for her daughter Laney's upcoming nuptials. However, there is one big obstacle for the mother of the bride to host the event there; Laney insists on Las Vegas. Positive that her daughter would fall in love with Icicle Falls and Primrose Haus like she has and agree to the wedding she did not have; Anne convinces her stubborn offspring to spend a weekend with her in the picturesque Pacific Northwest town. Laney acquiesces to a couple days just to shut up politely her obstinate mom.

Septuagenarian Primrose Haus owner Roberta Gilbert has adult children issues too. Her depressed daughter Daphne wants a job working for her mom. However, Roberta knows that serial divorced Daphne is not the paragon of a happily married person; whereas additionally the business requires calm and order instead of what the queen of chaos theory.

The latest Life in Icicle Falls' contemporary (see The Lodge On Holly Road, The Tea Shop On Lavender Lane and The Cottage On Juniper Ridge) is a fine family drama that looks deeply at the relationship between a mother and her adult daughter. The leisurely-paced storyline is enhanced by the moms' memories of their ties with their moms. Series fans will want to attend A Wedding On Primrose Street.

The Calamity Janes: Lauren
Sherryl Woods
c/o Harlequin
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780778317883, $7.99

Only twenty-eight, Hollywood romantic comedy movie superstar Lauren Winters has had a string of critically acclaimed box office smash hits, but feels her Southern California life as shallow especially after two failed marriages and a rejection of a face lift. She misses her family ranch (though sold by her parents at her encouragement) and her Calamity Janes' girlfriends (Gina, Emma, Cassie and Karen); so she rushes home to Winding River, Wyoming whenever she can, which recently has been frequent.

In return for room and board, Karen and her husband Grady hire Lauren to work with fractious horses like Midnight; as she is incredible with skittish steeds. New ranch wrangler Wade Owens almost has a heart attack when he spots Lauren rubbing dangerous Midnight though he admits to himself he also is jealous. Unaware who she is except as a friend of his boss, Wade and Lauren fall in love. Nevertheless, her movie fame and particularly her wealth proves an impediment; since raised by a single mom and ignored by his wealthy, married and cheating father, Wade loathes the money gentry.

The fifth Calamity Janes contemporary (see the recent reprints of the first four romances originally published approximately fifteen years ago) is an engaging tale of love not being enough to overcome the emotional trauma and bias Wade has towards the 1%; as the adult is the child. Readers will relish Lauren's storyline in spite of its predictability mostly because of Wade's bone marrow deep distrust as well as a chance to catch up with the four other Janes.

Harriet Klausner
Senior Reviewer

Lorraine's Bookshelf

Rise Again Songbook: A Group Singing Songbook
Peter Blood & Annie Patterson, authors
Johanna Halbeisen & Joe Offer, associate editors
Preface by Pete Seeger & Foreword by Billy Bragg
Annie Patterson, Meghan Merker & Mona Shiber, illustrators
Hal Leonard Corp.
7777 W. Bluemound Rd., P.O. Box 13819, Milwaukee, WI 53213
9781480331891, $27.50,,

"Rise Again Songbook" is a treasure chest of words and chords for over 1200 well known traditional or folk songs. The songbook contains lyrics, chords, strum notations, and sources for tunes as well as access to lead sheets through the song database on Songs are arranged in chapters by song genre or subject matter. Within each chapter, songs are arranged alphabetically by title. Chapters include Ballads & Old Songs, Blues, Freedom, Friendship & Community, Jazz & Awing, Love, Old Timey & Bluegrass, Peace, Pub Songs, Seas & Sailors, Travelin', Work, and more. In addition there is an Artist Index, a Cultures Index, and a titles index. "Rise Again Songbook" is a user friendly collection that appeals to a wide musical palate, with a mission of motivating all kinds of people to get together and sing, building bonds of humanity. For guitarists, a handy Chord Chart is printed on the back inside cover for all the chords used in the songbook. Its spiral bound format is sturdy. practical and durable. "Rise Again" is a fabulous group singing songbook for folk and other group singers to enjoy and use heavily.

How To Play the Ukulele for the Complete Ignoramus
Ted Parrish and Wayne Erbsen, authors
Native Ground Books & Music
109 Bell Rd., Asheville, NC 28805
9781883206987, $22.95,

"How To Play the Ukulele for the Complete Ignoramus" is a spiral-bound instruction book of 104 pages with CD which presents a compact program of ukulele instruction, chording, strumming, tuning, reading, and playing popular, simple ukulele songs. Over 72 pages of ukulele songs are included, with over forty popular songs, also included on the CD. A simple song chart system is demonstrated and explained so that students need not be able to read standard music notation to play the ukulele songs. Shaded sidebars add helpful hints to players like: "Ancient Secrets to Practicing & Playing Music: Tap your foot. Count out loud while you strum. Practice slowly (page 20)." Some of the song titles include Aura Lee, Shortenin' Bread, Man of Constant Sorrow, Home on the Range, On Top of Old Smokey, and many more. A short history of the ukulele and other helpful introductory information precedes the song sheets, and pages are illustrated throughout with black and white photos and drawings. "How To Play the Ukulele for the Complete Ignoramus!" is a fun self instructional manual for teens and adults to begin learning to perform on this beloved popular instrument.

Voice Studies: Critical Approaches to Process, Performance and Experience
Konstantinos Thomaidis and Ben MacPherson, editors
711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9781138809345, $47.95,

"Voice Studies" is a unique collection of interdisciplinary presentations or approaches to the processes of writing and teaching voice, vocal performance in theatre, art, music, recordings, and lament or work traditions of different cultures, and more. An experiment in multiple different approaches to uses of voice, "Voice Studies" attempts to explore new definitions to answer the primary question: What is voice studies? Contributors of serious article chapters include 'Femi Adedeji, Paul Barker, Yvon Bonenfant, George Burrows, Marios Charziprokopiou, Lyn Darnley, Piersandra Di Matteo, Nina Sun Eidsheim, /Ella Finer, Jaroslaw Fret, Paivi Jarvio, Pamela Karantonis, Mikhail Karikis, Tim Kjeldsen, Johanna Linsley, Ben McPherson, Tara McAllister-Viel, Jan Mrazek, Nori Neumark, Diana Van Lancker Sidtis, Amanda Smallbone, and Konstantinos Thomaidis. The scope and net of "Voice Studies" is deliberately wide ranging across different culures' use of choral/vocal performance, specific Alexandrian Technique influenced voice training, artistic performances of vocal works both spoken and sung, the examination of voice from varying viewpoints of composer, listener, and eavesdropper, and voice technology and mobile apps. An international flavor pervades the collection, with examples of voice in the Javanese shadow puppet theatre, voice in Australian sound art, lamenting with others in Greece or Brazil, performance of underwater singing, choral performance in Kentish mines in "Sounds From Beneath," and much more. In a collection of studies or essays, "Voice Studies" presents new information from voice training from the Alexander Technique, operatic and extended voices in early baroque and contemporary underwater singing, voices across cultures, voice, embodiment and gender in Robertson's 1798 production of "Phantsmagoria," Cathy Berberian's radio show and Romeo Castellucci's theatre, perceptions of voice as a composer, listener, or eavesdropper, and voice technology and mobile apps. Essays are structured into five sections - Part I, Introducing Voice Studies, Part II, Voice in Training and Process, Part III, Voice In Performance, Part IV, Voice in Experience and Documentation, and Part V, A Polyphonic Conclusion, which explores definitions of voice studies. Part V, 'What is Voice Studies?' offers a series of different observations by nine of the major contributing authors, which constitutes the polyphonic conclusion. Initial or seminal statements from these various authors range from "I have always sung in choirs... (George Burrows, p. 204)" to "...voice studies should serve as a ... call to the imagination for those ... working across the broader area of voice. Rather than ask what it is, I wish to suggest an adjustment that focuses on what voice studies could become (Amanda Smallbone, p. 210)." For cutting- edge, varietal or blended approaches to sung or spoken voice studies, the offerings of "Voice Studies" are unreplicated, exciting and unique, challenging the reader to further explore and develop this ancient area of art, performance, and expression.

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Micah's Bookshelf

A Genius at His Trade
Stan Grayson
Tilbury House, Publishers
12 Starr Street, Thomaston, ME 04861
9780884484622, $49.95, 304pp,

Synopsis: "A Genius at His Trade: C. Raymond Hunt and His Remarkable Boats" by Stan Grayson is the story of a supremely gifted sailor who became one of the 20th century's most innovative designers of both sail- and powerboats. Today, the name C. Raymond Hunt remains synonymous with some of the most popular boats ever created. They include the classic Concordia yawls and sloops, the deep-V powerboat, the original Boston Whaler, the pioneering 1960 Miami-Nassau race-winner Moppie, and the production Bertram 25 and 31 Sportfishermen, among others. Those who sailed with Ray Hunt never forgot his special touch on the helm or his uncanny ability to predict wind behavior. Designers still marvel at his new ideas for sailboats in a variety of competitive classes, and for powerboats. While the original 13-foot Boston Whaler pioneered a new market for versatile, safe, small boats, the deep-V hull revolutionized expectations of speed and seaworthiness. Illustrated with images from the Fortier Collection, the Rosenfeld Collection, Beken of Cowes, the Hart Nautical Museum, and other top sources, "A Genius at His Trade" not only presents the story of Hunt's boats but also explores the man himself. This biography of the most versatile yacht designer of the 20th century is long overdue.

Critique: Impressively well written, exceptionally well organized, deftly presented, and profusely illustrated with black-and-white photography and reproduced blue-prints, "A Genius at His Trade: C. Raymond Hunt and His Remarkable Boats" is as inherently fascinating as it is informed and informative. Having a special appeal for nautical enthusiasts, "A Genius at His Trade" is very highly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as an enduringly popular addition to community and academic library American Biography collections.

Hunting with Eagles: In the Realm of the Mongolian Kazakhs
Palani Mohan
Merrell Publishers
8755 Lookout Mountain Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90046
9781858946436, $50.00, 128pp,

Synopsis: Palani Mohan is an award winning photographer whose work has been featured in many international publications, including National Geographic, Stern, Geo, the New York Times, Time and Newsweek. In "Hunting with Eagles: In the Realm of the Mongolian Kazakhs" which comprises an introductory essay and 90 dramatic duotone images, Mohan explains how the burkitshis are slowing dying out. Rather than endure the brutal winters, their children choose to move to the capital, Ulan Bator, for a better way of life. There are also fewer golden eagles in the Altai Mountains. Although the 'Golden Eagle Festival' takes place every October to showcase the ancient art of hunting with eagles, attracting tourists from across the world, there are only between 50 and 60 'true' hunters left. "Hunting with Eagles: In the Realm of the Mongolian Kazakhs" is therefore a timely, important visual record of these proud men and their magnificent eagles in a remote, unforgiving part of the planet.

Critique: An impressively magnificent collection showcasing black-and-white photos, "Hunting with Eagles: In the Realm of the Mongolian Kazakhs" is a pure pleasure to simply browse through and would prove to be an enduringly popular and informative addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library Photography Studies collections.

The New Sorrows of Young W
Ulrich Plenzdorf
Pushkin Press
9781782270942, $16.00, 160pp,

Synopsis: Edgar Wibeau, seventeen years old, has died on Christmas Eve in an unfortunate accident involving electricity. His father, who left the family when Edgard was five, interrogates those close to him, to find out what exactly happened - and who his son really was. Helpfully for the reader, Edgar himself punctuates the father's conversations with his mother, best friend Willi, and Charlie, the woman with whom Edgar was unhappily in love, to give us his version of events from beyond the grave. Originally conceived as a screenplay, Ulrich Plenzdorf's modern classic was first published in East Germany in 1973. A satire about the cultural and social limits of the GDR, it has long been a set text in German schools, and its critical and popular success remains unabated.

Critique: Now ably translated into English by Romy Fursland and available for an appreciative American readership, "The New Sorrows of Young W" by Ulrich Plenzdorf is a truly extraordinary and very highly recommended addition to community and academic library Literary Fiction collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "The New Sorrows of Young W" is also available in a Kindle edition ($10.73).

The Bleeding Door
Todd Cook
Koehler Books
210 60th Street, Virginia Beach, VA 23451
9781633931213, $16.95, 270pp,

Synopsis: In 1799, a teenage boy is found dead in his dormitory room at Bethel Academy, a Methodist school located on the remote frontier of central Kentucky. Though the boy died violently, his death was witnessed by no one. Some 70 years later, another young man, one of southern Appalachia's most feared and despised feudists, is likewise found dead inside a deserted millhouse under mysterious circumstances. Though the two deaths would seem to have little in common given the years and distance separating the two young men, they are indeed very much connected. Linking these two tragic figures are a succession of frontier preachers, a troubled Shaker village, and isolated mountain communities terrorized by witches, ghost "haynts," and deadly clan feuds.

Critique: Original, entertaining, and an absolutely absorbing read from beginning to end, "The Bleeding Door" is very highly recommended for community library General Fiction collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "The Bleeding Door" is also available in a Kindle edition ($5.39).

Treachery In Tibet
John Wilcox
Magna Large Print
c/o Ulverscroft Large Print (USA), Inc.
PO Box 1230, West Seneca, NY 14224-1230
9780750541176, $35.50, 384pp,

Synopsis: In 1903 the British Empire has reached its probable apogee: so much of the world map is colored red and the sun never set on its boundaries. But Lord Curzon, the ambitious Viceroy of India, has different views. Tibet, the mountainous region on the Raj's borders, irritates him: the Dalai Lama never replies to his letters and border disputes multiply. He decides to invade and recruits Simon Fonthill, veteran of so many of 'Queen Victoria's Little Wars,' to lead 2000 men over the ice-bound Himalayan passes to Lhasa. Fonthill sets out on another expedition with his wife Alice, reporting for the Morning Post, and his old comrade, '352' Jenkins. It is machine guns against muskets as the cruel and brave monks, fighting on their own terrain among the clouds, oppose the invasion. When Alice is captured, treachery is revealed, and Fonthill and Jenkins must gallop to her aid in their most arduous and thrilling adventure yet

Critique: A riveting and entertaining read from beginning to end, "Treachery In Tibet" showcases an impressive storytelling talent on the part of its author, John Wilcox. This large print edition is especially recommended for community library collections and personal reading lists for action/adventure enthusiasts.

Welcome to the Oglala Nation
Akim D. Reinhardt, editor
University of Nebraska Press
233 North 8th Street, Lincoln, Nebraska, 68588-0255
9780803268463, $60.00, 306pp,

Synopsis: Popular culture largely perceives the tragedy at Wounded Knee in 1890 as the end of Native American resistance in the West, and for many years historians viewed this event as the end of Indian history altogether. The Dawes Act of 1887 and the reservation system dramatically changed daily life and political dynamics, particularly for the Oglala Lakotas. "Welcome to the Oglala Nation: A Documentary Reader in Oglala Lakota Political History", compiled with commentary and deftly edited by Akim D. Reinhardt (Associate Professor of History at Towson University, Baltimore County, Maryland) demonstrates that the twentieth century continued to be politically dynamic. Even today, as life continues for the Oglalas on the Pine Ridge Reservation in southwestern South Dakota, politics remain an integral component of the Lakota past and future. Professor Reinhardt charts the political history of the Oglala Lakota people from the fifteenth century to the present with this edited collection of primary documents, a historical narrative, and a contemporary bibliographic essay. Throughout the twentieth century, residents on Pine Ridge and other reservations confronted, resisted, and adapted to the continuing effects of U.S. colonialism. During the modern reservation era, reservation councils, grassroots and national political movements, courtroom victories and losses, and cultural battles have shaped indigenous populations. Both a documentary reader and a Lakota history, "Welcome to the Oglala Nation" is an indispensable volume on Lakota politics.

Critique: An outstanding historical reference resource, "Welcome to the Oglala Nation: A Documentary Reader in Oglala Lakota Political History" must be considered an essential and core addition to academic library Native American Studies collections in general, and Lakota History supplemental studies lists in particular. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Welcome to the Oglala Nation: A Documentary Reader in Oglala Lakota Political History" is also available in a Kindle edition ($57.00).

Immigration, Ethnicity, and Class in American Writing, 1830-1860
Leonardo Buonomo
Fairleigh Dickinson University Press
285 Madison Avenue, Madison, NJ 07940
9781611476521, $70.00, 212pp,

Synopsis: "Immigration, Ethnicity, and Class in American Writing, 1830-1860: Reading the Stranger" by Leonardo Buonomo (Associate Professor of American literature at the University of Trieste, Italy) examines the close relationship between the portrayal of foreigners and the delineation of culture and identity in antebellum American writing. Both literary and historical in its approach, this study shows how, in a period marked by extensive immigration, heated debates on national and racial traits, during a flowering in American letters, encouraged responses from American authors to outsiders that not only contain precious insights into nineteenth-century America's self-construction but also serve to illuminate our own time's multicultural societies. The authors under consideration are alternately canonical (Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Henry David Thoreau, James Fenimore Cooper), recently rediscovered (Caroline M. Kirkland), or simply neglected (T. S. Arthur). The texts analyzed cover such different genres as diaries, letters, newspapers, manuals, novels, stories, and poems.

Critique: An inherently impressive body of seminal scholarship deftly organized into four major chapters, "Immigration, Ethnicity, and Class in American Writing, 1830-1860: Reading the Stranger" is further enhanced with the inclusion of a Prologue, Introduction, Epilogue, Bibliography, a succinct author biography, and a fifteen page Index. A remarkably informative and exceptionally insightful work, "Immigration, Ethnicity, and Class in American Writing, 1830-1860: Reading the Stranger" is very highly recommended for both community and academic library 19th Century American Literature reference collections and supplemental studies lists. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Immigration, Ethnicity, and Class in American Writing, 1830-1860: Reading the Stranger" is also available in a paperback edition (9781611478679, $39.99) and in a Kindle format ($27.99).

By What is Sure to Follow
Donald N. Burton
Hellgate Press
9781555717629, $21.95, 217pp,

Synopsis: Ex-Marine Force Recon Luke Sims is a veteran of two wars: Vietnam and the one inside his head. He's spent the last fourteen years attending self-help group sessions at a local Veterans' Center to help him be normal, to cope with the memories and trauma of his tour of duty. On the outside he seems fine. But looks can deceive and it's not long before Luke goes to war with his incredible skill set against his inner demons and the depth of his pain is at last revealed-with deadly consequences. Based on real in-country legendary events of uncommon valor, unbelievable luck and supreme dedication to brethren, "By What Is Sure To Follow" dramatically follows one veteran's path, chronicling unknown exploits into North Vietnam during the early years of the Vietnam War. With stark realism, it reveals the potentially devastating aftereffects of Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder (PTSD) on those who go to war and painfully decries the failure of a nation to protect and heal its warriors when they come home broken.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, impressively organized and deftly presented, "By What is Sure to Follow" is a riveting read from beginning to end and clearly documents author Donald N. Burton as an unusually talented novelist. Very highly recommended for community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "By What is Sure to Follow" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.95).

Micah Andrew

Richard's Bookshelf

Beyond Engagement
Brady G. Wilson
BPS Books
9781772360172, $18.99, 172 pages,

Managing Energy Rather than Engagement - A Personal Development Tool

The subtitle highlighted on the front cover "A Brain-Based Approach That Blends the Engagement Managers Want with the Energy Employees Need" and the strong endorsements by influential industry leaders highlighted on the back cover immediately piqued my attention and interest.

The reader books user friendly format, independent and clearly defined chapter themes, and the forceful approach of the author allow the reader the option of reading the book sequentially or by choosing chapters of interest that meet a specific immediate need or personal interest.

Each of the ten chapters opens with three questions:

What's the brain science?
How does this show up at work?
Why does it matter?

My interest was piqued by many of Wilson's observations and expressions. The concepts focused creative energy and the power of conversation as an innovative tool for improving employee performance and business results.

Chapters include a case study and an energy management question designed to open a dialog between you and your leaders.

"Beyond Management" is a book you will want to put into the hands of every member of your management team. The book is an excellent equipping tool. The ten leadership principles are innovative, practical, and infused with ideas for humanizing the workplace.

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

Pass It On
Jim Burns and Jeremy Lee
David C. Cook
c/o Cook Communications
4050 Lee Vance View, Colorado Springs, Colorado 80918
9781434709073, $15.99, 246 pages,

A Strategic Blueprint for Passing on Your Faith to Your Children

"Pass It On - Building a Legacy of Faith for Your Children through Practical and Memorable Experiences" is divided into three parts and provides guidelines and suggestions for:

1. setting up a program for "building a legacy of faith for your children through practical and memorable experiences.

2. Providing rites of passages for individual sons and daughters for each of their thirteen years in school, kindergarten through their senior year of high school.

3. Encouraging finishing strong and crossing the finish line.

Each chapter parallels the child's age or year in school and includes suggested rite of passage projects or themes for laying a foundation of faith. Age appropriate topics from generosity, friendship, preparing for adolescence, and intimacy are included. These suggestions are creative and doable; the authors also encourage the reader to add to the list or to improvise the details.

I found the suggestions dealing specifically with what you need to know about your child at each age: physically, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually, especially helpful and practical.

"Pass it On" is written for parents. It is an important resource and can be of benefit to family counselors, student leaders, (professional and lay). The book is highly endorsed by youth educators, pastors, and student ministry leaders.

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

Richard R. Blake, Senior Reviewer

Shirley's Bookshelf

The Amazing Adventures of Ellie The Elephant: Ellie Goes Back To School
Marci and Elle Fair
Pacochel Press
9780996363501, $8.99, 31pp,

This is a adorable story dealing with care and fears for a young one. Sometimes we forget that they also have feelings and worries and this book is a good reminder. Using an adorable animal to tell the tale will open up the heart of young and old alike as you read through this story. The pictures are great and really help to bring the story to life. I liked this book a lot and am happy to recommend it to you.

Ten Healthy Teas
Valerie Lull
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 S. Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432784935, $8.95 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 52pp,

This is the second book I have reviewed for author Valerie B. Lull and I have yet to be disappointed. In this read we learn about ten spices that most of us have in our home already. We learn what is good and safe about them and when to not use them. I knew about the benefits of some of them but really learned a whole lot more reading this book. There is a lot to know and you must be careful while using spices, which I didn't realize, and also a lot to be thankful for. You know knowledge definitely does bring goodness to you, and this book really opens the door to the does and don'ts which I found excellent. I love this book you even get some recipes. It's pack full of knowledge that we all need to know. I'm very happy to recommend it to you. Wonderful read, copy given for a honest review. Enjoy!

Not Your Mother Goose
Topher Goggin
CRD Press
PO Box 488, Alma MI 48801
9780990964407, $19.95 PB, $7.95 Kindle, 68pp,

OK here we go, first of all this is not The Mother Goose Stories that you may remember years ago, no way, but yet it did make me giggle. That is probably not different to say, but each story in this book was definitely different, not always in a naughty way, just different. I admit I did get some giggles. Actually this author really let his imagination free and shared that with you. Hum, is this how he saw these fairy tales as a child? Hum! Actually I get some giggles out of this and liked how he presented some of these stories, added some things that maybe had I thought about those as a child I would have wanted to know, but maybe not. A different book and that's always good for a change. Have fun, enjoy reading it.

Smile & Succeed For Teens
Kirt Manecke
Solid Press LLC
PO Box 145, Milford, MI 48381
9780985076214, $9.95 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 131 pp,

I have several teenage granddaughters and I was trilled to receive this book to review especially after I read it. First this book is very well written, not boring it has some really cute pictures to help bring what is being said more in light. What is that? Wisdom! That would be the word that I would use for this book, Great Wisdom. Our author takes the reader through man scenarios that they would encounter while holding down a job. Example, "How should you greet a customer? How should you answer a question if you don't know the answer? How should you answer the phone? And the list goes on. Our author does a great job and leaves very little out. It isn't at all a boring read, but chuck full of wisdom and delivered in a catching way. Reading and applying what is read will definitely give the reader, young or old a hands up at whatever job, or even in school projects that they are trying to accomplish. I think this book is great and I am very happy to recommend it to you. Very helpful and very well written.

The Devil In Jerusalem
Naomi Ragen
St Martins Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781250043139, $19.95, 310pgs,

Daniella is our main character in this read. A beautiful girl grown into a beautiful woman who finds herself in Israel trying to serve the Lord but being thrown into a horror that will never end. This is a story about Religion gone wrong, and those who use the Holy Word of God to hurt and become consumer of a persons very soul. It is an intense story, taking you down sorrow, horror, abuse of women and children all in the Name of God. It both awakened me and made me sad because I know the love of God and how ugly and evil the path these people were lead are was of the Devil himself. Shocking, sad, but a real eye opener and warning of what is out there. Excellent writing skills and a story that you will not soon forget.

The Power of A Praying Woman
Stormie Omartian
Day Spring Publishing
PO Box 1010, Siloam Springs, AR 72761
1594493987, $6.99, 110pp,

This is a lovely book of devotions that any Christian Woman would cherish and use daily. Each day there is a Scripture to read and apply to your life, a gentle reminder of whose we are and how we can brighten the world with our Christian walk. It is very uplifting and a great reminder of who we are re presenting in this world. I love this book and enjoy it's message.

Ten Spices for Health and Longevity
Valerie Lull
Amazon Digital Services
BO11ETAKM, $2.99, 51pgs,

This is the second book I have reviewed for author Valerie B. Lull and I have yet to be disappointed. In this read we learn about ten spices that most of us have in our home already. We learn what is good and safe about them and when to not use them. I knew about the benefits of some of them but really learned a whole lot more reading this book. There is a lot to be careful while using spices, which I didn't know and also a lot to be thankful for. You know knowledge definitely does bring goodness to you, and this book really opens the door to the does and don'ts which I found excellent. I love this book you even get some recipes. It's pack full of knowledge that we all need to know. I'm very happy to recommend it to you. Wonderful read, copy given for a honest review. Enjoy!

Farmer David The Dunster Show
Stuart Crane
Illustrated by Zack McLoughlin
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781478748335, $26.95, Pages 91,

It is time for the Dunster Show in this delightful English village of Dunster. Excitement fills the air as Farmers bring their different animals, such as the Cos, the Rooster and others, ready to win or lose the many competitions. Lots of things to do for fun as well as onlookers and owners. Excitement fills the air as the day moves along and through this read you are able to share in the fun and share the outcome of different events.

This is a really nice read showing true events, sharing fun times with animals and people alike and having a giggle along the way. I love the illustrations, the people and animals truly looked like they would walk out of the pages at any time. Helped to bring the tale front and center. I think both young and old will truly enjoy this read, great book to share with your children. Very well done and I'm happy to recommend it to you.

Oliver and Jumpy, Stories 25-27 (Oliver and Jumpy, the Cat Series, Book 9)
Three Stories In Set
Werner Stejskal
Amazon Digital Services
B00PV9Y8HG, $TBA, 37 pages, Kindle,

Stealing: Oliver is having problems with someone stealing from him. OH No! When he finds out who is doing it he asks the wise old Owl what he should do. Getting his advice Oliver settled the problem and got his items back. This is a cute story showing children that stealing is never something they should do. Illustrations are great, clear and bring the story to life. Very cute, I especially love the Owl, he's a smart one, with good advice. Nicely done.

Desert Travel: This certainly was a adventure for Oliver as he got to travel the desert, ride on camels and get a feel of the terrible heat, especially when they were stuck for a while. Will they ever get out of the desert? Very well written definitely giving the young one a good idea of what desert travel would be like. Excellent pictures that brought the story alive. Very well done, enjoyable, and children get to meet Oliver's sister. Happy to meet her, nice ending.

Ghosts at Halloween: This is the last story in the three some and probably my favorite because I love to see little ones dress up for the big night. It was very cute and creative and had a good story line. Look out you might just met some real Ghosts in this tale, beware. Very well done, illustrations are great. Children will definitely enjoy.

Shirley Priscilla Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Taylor's Bookshelf

Peter Schlesinger
Hilton Als & Peter Schlesinger
c/o Distributed Art Publishers
155 Sixth Avenue, 2nd floor, New York, NY 10013-1507
9788862084369, $50.00, 176pp,

Synopsis: Peter Schlesinger was born and raised in California. His sculptures and paintings have been exhibited widely and are in the collections of the Parrish Art Museum, The Farnsworth Museum, and Manchester Gallery of Art, England. The photographs of artist Peter Schlesinger are a visual diary of an extraordinary life that has intersected with some of the brightest names in the worlds of art, fashion and society. Schlesinger's remarkable journey began in 1966 when as an 18-year-old student at UCLA he met the artist David Hockney. The two moved to London, where Schlesinger was introduced to the city's fashionable bohemian society. There, as well as on trips, Schlesinger met and photographed some of the great personalities of the day, including Cecil Beaton, Paloma Picasso, Grace Coddington, Tina Chow, Christopher Isherwood and Manolo Blahnik, to name just a few. This beautifully produced book presents an overview of 30 years of photographic work from Schlesinger's archives. In addition to intimate portraits, it includes Schlesinger's evocative still lifes, which convey the romance, humor and elegance of their time. "Peter Schlesinger: A Photographic Memory 1968-1989" is the first monograph to present the full range of Schlesinger's photographic work.

Critique: An inherently fascinating and fully absorbing read from beginning to end, "Peter Schlesinger: A Photographic Memory 1968-1989" is both informative and insightful, giving a complete, comprehensive, and vividly imaged showcase on the man and his art. "Peter Schlesinger: A Photographic Memory 1968-1989" will prove to be an enduringly popular and valued addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library Photography History reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

Loosing Control: Becoming a Pastor Leader with Influence
Ronald D. Anderson
Resource Publications
c/o Wipf & Stock
5369 Camden Avenue #260, San Jose, CA 95124
9781498219327, $29.00, 256pp,

Synopsis: Pastoral leaders of congregations want to foster change but how is rarely obvious. Some pursue top-down approaches while others think bottom-up. Either approach assumes some control by the leader, but effective leadership of change needs more than control; it requires influencing the ongoing change that is naturally occurring. In the organizational literature this matter is understood in terms of systems and more specifically complex adaptive systems or self-organizing systems. This literature has important insights for church leaders when viewed in tandem with biblical principles. "Loosing Control: Becoming a Pastor Leader with Influence" presents these concepts within the story of a mid-career pastor who is frustrated by his complacent congregation and is seeking a new way forward. Information on complex adaptive systems is presented in the context of the story of his interactions with a church consultant, a seminary professor, some published materials and an ongoing seminar conducted by the consultant. The pastor's engaging issue is whether change in a church is best pursued top-down or bottom-up. Within this context, self-organizing change becomes the central focus of the book and eventually is distinguished from both top-down and bottom-up initiatives. The focus is understanding the connection between such change and biblical principles.

Critique: As informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Loosing Control: Becoming a Pastor Leader with Influence" by Ronald D. Anderson (Professor of Education Emeritus at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and Executive Presbyter of the Presbytery of Pueblo) is a practical and enduringly useful addition to personal, professional, church, community, and academic library Christian Leadership reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Loosing Control" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

The Complete Infidel's Guide to ISIS
Robert Spencer
Regnery Publishing, Inc.
300 New Jersey Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20001
9781621574538, $19.99, 384pp,

Synopsis: ISIS rocketed onto the world stage seemingly out of nowhere, beheading American hostages, bulldozing international borders, routing the American-trained Iraqi Army, carving out a new state that rules eight million people and a territory larger than the United Kingdom. But who are they? Where did ISIS come from, and how did they rise to power in so little time? What is driving them - and how can they be stopped? In "The Complete Infidel's Guide to ISIS", Robert Spencer (Director of Jihad Watch, a program of the David Horowitz Freedom Center) reveals the blood-drenched history and inner workings of the Islamic State including its military conquests, how it is financing its expansion, and the ideology that is driving its success. As Spencer reveals, the Islamic State has taken the first steps on the path to becoming a serious world power. Steps that Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda dreamed of but were afraid to take. "The Complete Infidel's Guide to ISIS" is an up-to-date reference for all there is to know about ISIS and just how "infidels" can stop its reign of terror.

Critique: Informed and informative, "The Complete Infidel's Guide to ISIS" is impressively well researched, written, organized and presented. Ideal for both scholars and the non-specialist general reader with an interest in ISAS, "The Complete Infidel's Guide to ISIS" is a very highly recommended and essential addition to both community and academic library Islamic Studies and Middle Eastern Political Science reference collections and supplemental studies lists. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "The Complete Infidel's Guide to ISIS" is also available in a Kindle edition ($10.99).

The Chickamauga Campaign - Glory or the Grave
David A. Powell
Savas Beatie
PO Box 4527, El Dorado Hills, CA 95762
9781611212020, $39.95, 768pp,

Synopsis: "The Chickamauga Campaign?Glory or the Grave: The Breakthrough, Union Collapse, and the Retreat to Chattanooga, September 20-23, 1863" by David Powell is the second volume in the author's projected three-volume study of this overlooked and largely misunderstood campaign of the American Civil War. According to soldier rumor, Chickamauga in Cherokee meant "River of Death." The name lived up to that grim sobriquet in September 1863 when the Union Army of the Cumberland and Confederate Army of Tennessee waged a sprawling bloody combat along the banks of West Chickamauga Creek. This installment of Powell's tour-de-force depicts the final day of battle, when the Confederate army attacked and broke through the Union lines, triggering a massive rout, an incredible defensive stand atop Snodgrass Hill, and a confused retreat and pursuit into Chattanooga. Powell presents all of this with clarity and precision by weaving nearly 2,000 primary accounts with his own cogent analysis. The result is a rich and deep portrait of the fighting and command relationships on a scale never before attempted or accomplished.

Critique: Impressively well researched, exceptionally well written, deftly organized and presented, "The Chickamauga Campaign?Glory or the Grave" is enhanced with the inclusion of a fifty-nine page Index. A model of Civil War military history, "The Chickamauga Campaign?Glory or the Grave" is an inherently absorbing and remarkably informed and informative read which is recommended to both scholars and non-specialist general readers with an interest the American Civil War and one of its most pivotal episodes. An absolute "must" for community and academic library American Civil War History collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

The Savvy Music Teacher
David Cutler
Oxford University Press
198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016-4314
9780190200817, $99.00, 414pp,

Synopsis: In the pages of "The Savvy Music Teacher: Blueprint for Maximizing Income & Impact", David Culter (who serves as the University of South Carolina's Director of Music Entrepreneurship) answers the question of whether or not it is possible to have a music teaching career that is meaningful, artistically fulfilling, and financially self-supporting? "The Savvy Music Teacher" unveils a clear, realistic, dollar-for-dollar blueprint for earning a steady income as a music teacher, increasing impact and income simultaneously. "serves as the University of South Carolina's Director of Music Entrepreneurship" is a comprehensive resource that reveals an entrepreneurial process with lessons that cannot be found anywhere else and are not usually a part of any academic music department's curriculum. Armed with Cutler's expert guidance, readers will learn to develop: A thriving studio with an important curriculum; Multiple income/impact streams; Innovation strategies for every aspect of business and art; Powerhouse marketing; Time management skills; Financial literacy and independence; and an inspired career outlook.

Critique: Simply stated, "The Savvy Music Teacher: Blueprint for Maximizing Income & Impact" is an information packed, thoroughly 'reader friendly', and essential instructional guide for independent music teachers of all levels, as well as those who are employed by established studios, as well as the music performance graduates who so often become studio teachers. "The Savvy Music Teacher" is a very strongly recommended addition to both community and academic library reference collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "The Savvy Music Teacher" is also available in a paperback edition (978-0190200824, $29.95) and in a Kindle format ($19.99).

Johnny Dollar
Tony Masero
Linford Western Library
c/o Ulverscroft Large Print (USA), Inc.
PO Box 1230, West Seneca, NY 14224-1230
9781444820317, $20.99, 360pp,

Synopsis: Although he was born John Cable, they called him Johnny Dollar. An orphan child raised by a preacher and destined to run foul of the law it's bloody murder that keeps Johnny running, with trouble on his tail. Riding shotgun into Julesville, he finds a pretty schoolteacher set to win his love. But in the shadows, the Hellblazing Gang, with his two brothers as founding members, are waiting, determined to steal something a sight more valuable than a man's heart. The gang holds a secret which is part of Johnny's past and the key to his future, and to gain his freedom Johnny Dollar has to pay a murderous price, one which is delivered in hot lead instead of greenbacks.

Critique: Tony Masero has deftly crafted a riveting action/adventure western novel that will hold his reader's complete attention from beginning to end. Very highly recommended for community library Large Print western fiction collections, "Johnny Dollar" is a terrifically entertaining read from first page to last.

What You Must Know About Food and Supplements for Optimal Vision Care
Jeffrey Anshel, O.D.
Square One Publishers
115 Herricks Road, Garden City Park, NY 11040
9780757004100, $16.95, 192pp,

Synopsis: As children, we were told to eat our carrots if we wanted good eyesight. Carrots contain beta-carotene, which the body can convert into vitamin A which is a necessary nutrient for optimal vision. For most of us, that's where our knowledge of vitamins and eye health stops. Over the last twenty years, many studies have demonstrated that certain foods and natural supplements can play a major role in the treatment of eye problems. "What You Must Know About Food and Supplements for Optimal Vision Care: Ocular Nutrition Handbook" is a new, concise guide to these powerful substances. This information packed volume is deftly divided into three parts. Part One is an overview of nutritional principles. This section explores the function of nutrients that benefit not only the visual system but also the entire body. Part Two provides a list of common eye disorders and includes a brief discussion of each condition, supplying handy charts that detail the nutritional, herbal, and homeopathic treatments that may be used to alleviate each disorder. Part Three offers further guidance by presenting dietary approaches to eye health and providing important information on the interaction of various foods and medications. There is so much you can do to support eye health through good food and wisely chosen supplements. In this helpful and easy-to-use resource, Dr. Anshel provides you with a wealth of information on the most effective natural products and foods available to promote optimal vision.

Critique: Jeffrey Anshel, OD received his Bachelor of Science in Visual Science and his Doctorate of Optometry from the Illinois College of Optometry. While in the US Navy, he established the Navy's first vision therapy center located in San Diego, California. Upon his return to civilian life, Dr. Anshel went into private practice, offering his patients alternative therapies as part of their vision care. Today, in addition to his practice, Dr. Anshel is president of Corporate Vision Consulting and is the founder and president of the Ocular Nutrition Society. With "What You Must Know About Food and Supplements for Optimal Vision Care: Ocular Nutrition Handbook" provides a thoroughly 'reader friendly' instructional guide that is solidly grounded in medical science and completely accessible for the non-specialist general reader. "What You Must Know About Food and Supplements for Optimal Vision Care: Ocular Nutrition Handbook" is very highly recommended for both community and academic library Health/Medicine reference collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "What You Must Know About Food and Supplements for Optimal Vision Care: Ocular Nutrition Handbook" is also available in a Kindle edition ($11.10).

John Taylor

Vogel's Bookshelf

Divided: The Perils of Our Growing Inequality
David Cay Johnston, editor
The New Press
126 Wall Street, floor 31, New York, NY 10005-4007
9781595589231, $25.95, 352pp,

Synopsis: Compiled and edited by investigative journalist and Pulitzer Prize winner David Cay Johnston, "Divided: The Perils of Our Growing Inequality " is a compilation of the writings of leading scholars, activists, and journalists (including Elizabeth Warren, President Barack Obama, Joseph E. Stiglitz, Paul Krugman, and Barbara Ehrenreich) to provide an illuminating, multifaceted look at one of the most pressing economic and social issues facing America today -- income inequality. Most Americans, in inflation-adjusted terms, are now back to the average income of 1966. Shockingly, from 2009 to 2011 a third of all the increased income in a land of 300 million people went to just 30,000 of them, while the bottom 90 percent saw their income fall. Yet in this most unequal of developed nations, every aspect of inequality remains hotly contested and poorly understood. Exploring areas as diverse as education, justice, health care, social mobility, and political representation, "Divided: The Perils of Our Growing Inequality " is an essential informational resource for anyone who cares about the economic, social, and political future of America and compelling evidence that inequality can be ignored no longer.

Critique: Simply stated, "Divided: The Perils of Our Growing Inequality" should be considered as an essential, indispensable, fundamentally necessary addition to both community and academic library Social Issues reference collections in general, and Income Inequality supplemental studies reading lists in particular. For personal reading lists it must be noted that "Divided: The Perils of Our Growing Inequality" is also available in a paperback edition (9781620970850, $18.95) and in a Kindle edition ($10.99).

Floating Palaces of the Great Lakes
Joel Stone
University of Michigan Press
839 Greene Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48104-3209
9780472071753, $65.00, 296pp,

Synopsis: Through much of the nineteenth century, steam-powered ships provided one of the most reliable and comfortable transportation options in the United States, becoming a critical partner in railroad expansion and the heart of a thriving recreation industry. The aesthetic, structural, and commercial peak of the steamboat era occurred on the Great Lakes, where palatial ships created memories and livelihoods for millions while carrying passengers between the region's major industrial ports of Chicago, Milwaukee, Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo, and Toronto. By the mid-twentieth century, the industry was in steep decline, and today North America's rich and entertaining steamboat heritage has been largely forgotten. In "Floating Palaces of the Great Lakes: A History of Passenger Steamships on the Inland Seas", Joel Stone (Senior Curator for the Detroit Historical Society) revisits this important era of maritime history, packed with elegance and adventure, politics and wealth, triumph and tragedy. "Floating Palaces of the Great Lakes" is the story of Great Lakes travelers and the beautiful floating palaces they engendered will engage historians and history buffs alike, as well as genealogists, regionalists, and researchers.

Critique: An deftly crafted and unique history, "Floating Palaces of the Great Lakes: A History of Passenger Steamships on the Inland Seas" is as impressively well written as it is extraordinarily informative. Very highly recommended for both community and academic library American History collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Floating Palaces of the Great Lakes" is also available in a paperback edition (9780472051755, $26.95) and in a Kindle format ($25.60).

Orphan: The Quest to Save Children with Rare Genetic Disorders
Philip R. Reilly
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press
500 Sunnyside Boulevard, Woodbury NY 11797-2924
9781621821373, $29.00, 408pp,

Synopsis: "Orphan: The Quest to Save Children with Rare Genetic Disorders" is about the struggle to save the lives of children who, because of an unlucky roll of the genetic dice, are born with any one of several thousand rare genetic disorders. Many are burdened with diseases that carry mysterious names, some of which you can read about for the first time in this book, along with compelling stories about the physicians, scientists, and parents who have taken them on. The diseases include phenylketonuria, sickle cell anemia, dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa, X-linked hypohidrotic ectodermal dysplasia, and Friedreich's ataxia-just a few of the more than 1000 genetic disorders that are well-described and many more that are not. Many manifest in infancy. Some show up in mid-childhood, others later in childhood, and still others among adults. They touch almost every extended family. "Orphan" is more than a another study about disease and research, rather it gives voice to thousands of people who, all too often, have endured terrible illnesses, bravely faced arduous clinical trials, and, sometimes, have gained victories, almost always in silence. "Orphan" recounts extraordinary breakthroughs and hopes for the future. Many of the disorders that will end our lives are in some part genetically influenced.

Critique: As informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Orphan: The Quest to Save Children with Rare Genetic Disorders" is very highly recommended for professionals and non-specialist readers alike. A critically important work, "Orphan" is strongly recommended for community and academic library "Health & Medicine" collections in general, and Child Genetic Disorder supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

Politics and Literature at the Turn of the Millennium
Michael Keren
University of Calgary Press
2500 University Drive, N.W., Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2N 1N4
9781552387993, $34.95, 288pp,

Synopsis: "Politics and Literature at the Turn of the Millennium" by Michael Keren (Professor in the Department of Communication, Media, and Film at the University of Calgary) shows how important insights about genocide, poverty, state violence, world terrorism, the clash of civilizations, and other phenomena haunting the world at the turn of the millennium can be derived from contemporary novels. Professor Keren demonstrates ways in which fictional literature can provide new perspectives on the complexities and contingencies of contemporary politics. His fresh readings of well-known novels will be valuable to political scientists as well as anyone interested in current affairs who reads fiction but is not always aware of its power to provide enlightenment on world issues. Novels cited and studied as examples include those by Jose Saramago, Cormac McCarthy, Anosh Irani, John le Carre, and Yann Martel, among others.

Critique: A seminal work of original scholarship, "Politics and Literature at the Turn of the Millennium" is deftly organized and presented in eleven succinct chapters. Of special note is 'A Canadian Alternative to the Clash of Civilizations: Yam Marrel's Life of Pi'. Enhanced with the inclusion of sixteen pages of Notes, a six page Bibliography, and a thirty-nine page Index, "Politics and Literature at the Turn of the Millennium"is a very strongly recommended and valued addition to academic library Literary Studies reference collections and to the attention of scholars and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the contemporary interconnections of literature and politics.

The Iguana Project
Dale Arden
Lulu Publishing
3101 Hillsborough Street, Raleigh, NC 27607-5436
9781483432700, 290pp,

Synopsis: Lawyer Patrick Bradaigh had it all-the perfect life, wealth, beautiful wife, and children-until he got involved with the mafia. By the time he realizes his mistake, it's too late. There is no going back, and he's been warned: if he makes a misstep, he'll be paying in blood. With the hopes of keeping his family safe, he starts compiling secret records of all the mafia's dirty dealings in his safe at home. Patrick's wife refuses to hand over the documents and ends up brutally murdered. Years pass before he sees his chance to exact revenge. While on vacation, he meets a marine biologist who explains she is conducting cutting edge research on iguanas for NASA. The iguana has the unique ability to stay underwater for an extraordinarily long time, and NASA hopes to harness a similar technique to send astronauts into deep space. Now, Patrick knows what he must do. Somehow, he must lure mafia members into seclusion, where he will induce iguana-like hibernation-indefinitely.

Critique: A riveting entertainment from first page to last, "The Iguana Project" is a deftly crafted read that clearly documents author Dale Arden's outstanding abilities as a novelist and will leave his enthusiastic readers looking eagerly toward his next foray into fiction. Very highly recommended and certain to be an enduringly popular addition to community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Iguana Project" is also available in a paperback edition (9781483432687, $19.99) and in a Kindle format ($8.99).

The Coward: Conscience On Trial
Tom Wall
Roundfire Books
John Hunt Publishing, Ltd.
Laurel House, Station Approach, Alresford, Hants, SO24 9JH, UK
9781782796169, $14.95, 226pp,

Synopsis: Frail and disillusioned, Bill Rowe languishes in a prison cell. As the Luftwaffe pass overhead, he relives his journey from a basement in Gateshead to a tribunal in London tasked with examining and judging that most private and intimate of things: conscience. But will he die a coward or will he find the strength to confront his past?

Critique: A finely crafted and impressively original novel, "The Coward: Conscience On Trial" showcases the truly extraordinary storytelling talents of author Tom Wall. A fully absorbing and deftly entertaining novel from beginning to end, "The Coward: Conscience On Trial" is very highly recommended for community library General Fiction collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "The Coward: Conscience On Trial" is also available in a Kindle edition ($7.99).

Prairie Bohemian: Frank Gay's Life in Music
Trevor W. Harrison
University of Alberta Press
Ring House 2, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, T6G 2E1
9781772120479, $24.95, 168pp,

Synopsis: Until his death in 1982, Edmonton luthier and composer Frank Gay built guitars for several famous musicians, including country stars including Johnny Cash, Don Gibson, Webb Pierce, and Hank Snow. He entranced listeners with his singular talent on guitar and lute, and was well known within the music industry. Very few recordings of his work exist, and the sparse accounts of his life and work raise more questions than they answer. In uncovering the story of this private yet charming and often troubled man, Trevor Harrison does a tremendous service to Canadian culture and western music history. Musicians and instrument makers, as well as those interested in western Canadian history or Edmonton's colorful past, will be fascinated by this biography of western Canadian luthier, musician, and guitar virtuoso Frank Gay.

Critique: A truly impressive body of research by Trevor W. Harrison (Professor of Sociology at the University of Lethbridge and Director of Parkland Institute) has resulted in an exceptionally well informed and informative biography of Frank Gay (1920-1982). Of special note is that Frank Gay was a personal friend of the author's parents and remembered by Harrison as an unforgettable character who often was a guest and who once sold his father a National steel guitar that still remains in the Harrison family. An extraordinary and enthusiastically recommended addition to community and academic library Canadian Biography and Canadian Music History reference collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Prairie Bohemian: Frank Gay's Life in Music" is also available in a Kindle edition ($19.99).

Three Paths to Glory
Dean Urdahl
North Star Press of St. Cloud
PO Box 451, St. Cloud, MN 56302-0451
9780878398034, $14.95, 320pp,

Synopsis: Three Paths to Glory is the fictional by history-based story of three regiments in the American Civil War: the 2nd and 5th Minnesota and the 1st Tennessee. It follows each of the regiments through the war through the eyes of men serving in them. Clinton Cilley, of the 2nd Minnesota will be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, Jimmy Dunn of the 5th fights bravely in the Indian wars and at the Battle of Nashville. Sam Davis of the 1st Tennessee is remembered as the "Boy Hero of the Confederacy" for his gallant and noble deeds. "Three Paths to Glory" follows their exploits through their respective regiments. The grime, grit and valor of service in this deciding point of American history is part of the story.

Critique: An exceptionally well written, impressively researched, and thoroughly absorbing read from beginning to end, "Three Paths to Glory" showcases author Dean Urdahl's extraordinary storytelling talent. Very highly recommended for community library Historical Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Three Paths to Glory" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Whispers and Shadows: A Naturalist's Memoir
Jerry Apps
Wisconsin Historical Society Press
816 State Street, Madison, WI 53575
9780870207099, $22.95, 141pp,

Synopsis: In these times of technological innovation and fast-paced electronic communication, we often take nature for granted or even consider it a hindrance to our human endeavors. In "Whispers and Shadows: A Naturalist's Memoir", rural historian and environmental writer Jerry Apps explores such topics as the human need for wilderness, rediscovering a sense of wonder, and his father's advice to "listen for the whispers" and "look in the shadows" to learn nature's deepest lessons. Combining his signature lively storytelling and careful observations of nature, Apps draws on a lifetime of experiences, from his earliest years growing up on a central Wisconsin farm to his current ventures as gardener, tree farmer, and steward of wetlands, prairies, and endangered Karner blue butterflies. He also takes inspiration from the writings of Aldo Leopold, Annie Dillard, Henry David Thoreau, Sigurd Olson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, John Muir, Barbara Kingsolver, Wendell Berry, Richard Louv, and Rachel Carson. With these eloquent essays, Jerry Apps reminds us to slow down, turn off technology, and allow our senses to reconnect us to the natural world.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, deftly organized, impressively presented, "Whispers and Shadows: A Naturalist's Memoir" is a superbly crafted series of absorbing essays that will linger in the mind and memory long after the book is finished and set back upon the shelf. Enthusiastically recommended as an enduringly popular addition to community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Whispers and Shadows: A Naturalist's Memoir" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Paul T. Vogel

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

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