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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 16, Number 10 October 2017 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

Cowper's Bookshelf Donovan's Bookshelf Dunford's Bookshelf
Gary's Bookshelf Gloria's Bookshelf Gorden's Bookshelf
Greenspan's Bookshelf Helen's Bookshelf Laurel's Bookshelf
Lorraine's Bookshelf Micah's Bookshelf Richard's Bookshelf
Taylor's Bookshelf Theodore's Bookshelf Vogel's Bookshelf

Cowper's Bookshelf

The Many Lives of Catwoman
Tim Hanley
Chicago Review Press
814 North Franklin Street, Chicago, IL 60610
9781613738450 $18.99 pbk / $9.99 Kindle

Synopsis: For more than 75 years, Catwoman has forged her own path in a clear-cut world of stalwart heroes, diabolical villains and damsels in distress. Sometimes a thief, sometimes a vigilante, sometimes neither and sometimes both, the mercurial Catwoman gleefully defies classification. Her relentless independence across comic books, television and film appearances set her apart from the rest of the superhero world. When female characters were limited to little more than romantic roles, Catwoman used her feminine wiles to manipulate Batman and escape justice at every turn. When male villains dominated Gotham on the small screen, Catwoman entered the mix and outshone them all. When female-led comics were few and far between, Catwoman headlined her own series for over 20 years.

True to her nature, Catwoman stole the show everywhere she appeared, regardless of the medium. But her unique path had its downsides as well. Her existence on the periphery of the superhero world made her expendable, and she was prone to lengthy absences. Her villainous origins also made her susceptible to sexualized and degrading depictions from her primarily male creators in ways that most conventional heroines didn't face. Exploring the many incarnations of this cultural icon offers a new perspective on the superhero genre and showcases the fierce resiliency that has made Catwoman a fan favorite for decades.

Critique: Comic book historian Tim Hanley examines the storied history and ongoing legacy of a popular favorite comic book character in The Many Lives of Catwoman: The Felonious History of a Feline Fatale. Source notes, a bibliography, and an index enhance this scrutiny worthy of a literary scholar - or a devoted comic book connoisseur! The Many Lives of Catwoman is a "must-read" for Catwoman fans, highly recommended. It should be noted for personal reading lists that The Many Lives of Catwoman is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Advances in Contemplative Psychotherapy
Joseph Loizzo, Miles Neale, Emily J. Wolf
711 - 3rd Avenue, Floor 8, New York, NY 10017-9209
9781138182394, $170.00, HC, 280pp,

Synopsis: The collaborative work of Joseph Loizzo (who is a contemplative psychotherapist, Buddhist scholar, and author with over four decades' experience integrating Indo-Tibetan mind science and healing arts into modern neuropsychology, psychotherapy, and clinical research); Miles Neale (the Assistant Director of the Nalanda Institute for Contemplative Science, co-developer of the Nalanda Institute's Certificate Program in Contemplative Psychotherapy, and Clinical Instructor of Psychology at Weill Cornell Medical College); and clinical psychologist Emily J. Wolf (who is an Instructor of Psychology at Weill Cornell Medical College), "Advances in Contemplative Psychotherapy: Accelerating Healing and Transformation" is a comprehensive textbook that offers mental health professionals of all disciplines and orientations the most comprehensive and rigorous introduction to the state of the art and science in integrating mindfulness, compassion, and embodiment techniques. "Advances in Contemplative Psychotherapy" brings together clinicians and thinkers of unprecedented caliber, featuring some of the most eminent pioneers in a rapidly growing field. The array of contributors represents the full spectrum of disciplines whose converging advances are driving today's promising confluence of psychotherapy with contemplative science. "Advances in Contemplative Psychotherapy" expands the dialogue and integration among neuroscience, contemplative psychology, and psychotherapy to include the first full treatment of second- and third-generation contemplative therapies, based on advanced meditation techniques of compassion training and role-modeled embodiment.

Critique: "Advances in Contemplative Psychotherapy" offers the most profound and synoptic overview to date of one of the most intriguing and promising fields in psychotherapy today. While unreservedly recommended for professional and academic library Contemporary Psychology collections and supplemental studies lists, it should be noted for students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Advances in Contemplative Psychotherapy" is also available in a paperback edition (9781138182400, $49.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $39.41).

The Day the Whistle Blew
Marilyn Nesbit Wood
High Plains Press
PO Box 123, Glendo, WY 82213
9781937147082 $19.95

Synopsis: In the 1940s coal camp of Stansbury, Wyoming, life revolved around the underground mine, community, and family. In many ways, it was the idyllic model town Union Pacific Coal had built it to be. Families had homes with indoor plumbing, children enjoyed friendship and freedom, and the men had a steady income.

But demand for coal waned, and then one day unexpectedly the whistle blew and Wood s life turned upside down. Wood writes honestly and compellingly about mines and miners, coal camp kids, miners wives, company towns, letting go, and acceptance.

Critique: The Day the Whistle Blew: The Life & Death of the Stansbury Coal Camp is the true-life memoir of the rise and fall of Stansbury, a 1940s coal town, as penned by Marilyn Wood, the daughter of a minor. She witnessed firsthand the birth and death of Stansbury, as dictated by the demand for coal. A handful of vintage black-and-white photographs illustrate this vivid tale of close-knit family and community in a bygone era, highly recommended for both personal reading lists and public library collections.

Enriching Our Vision of Reality
Alister McGrath
Templeton Press
300 Conshohocken State Road, Suite 670, West Conshohocken, PA 19428
9781599475349, $14.95, PB, 208pp,

Synopsis: "Enriching Our Vision of Reality: Theology and the Natural Sciences in Dialogue" by Alister McGrath (Andreas Idreos Professor of Science and Religion at Oxford University, and director of the Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion) will hold a very special appeal and value for scientists who hold an interest in theology, as well as Christians and theologians who are aware of the importance of the natural sciences.

A scene-setting chapter explores the importance of the human quest for intelligibility. The focus then moves to three leading figures who have stimulated discussion about the relationship between science and theology in recent years: Charles Coulson, an Oxford professor of theoretical chemistry who was also a prominent Methodist lay preacher; Thomas F. Torrance, perhaps the finest British theologian of the twentieth-century; and John Polkinghorne, a theoretical physicist and theologian.

The final section of "Enriching Our Vision of Reality" features six "parallel conversations" between science and theology, which lay the groundwork for the kind of enriched vision of reality. Here, readers will be inspired to enjoy individual aspects of nature while seeking to interpret them in the light of deeper revelations about our gloriously strange universe.

Critique: As thoughtful and thought-provoking as it is inspired and inspiring, "Enriching Our Vision of Reality: Theology and the Natural Sciences in Dialogue" is an extraordinarily informed and informative read from beginning to end. One of those impressively memorable studies that will be of equal interest to scientists and theologians, "Enriching Our Vision of Reality" is very highly recommended for seminary, church, community, and academic library Christian Studies collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of academicians, seminary students, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Enriching Our Vision of Reality" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

Gratitude Keeper
Maxine McLean, MD
Balboa Press
c/o Hay House, Inc.
PO Box 5100, Carlsbad, CA 92018-5100
9781504378215, $40.95, PB, 120pp,

Synopsis: Giving gratitude is a virtue as old as the human race itself and taught to every child by every parent in every generation. Our ancestors have recorded this basic human value in writings and teachings extolling the benefits and the healing values of practicing gratitude throughout every age and in every culture. With the right perspective, gratitude is absolutely at the core of successful living.

In "Gratitude Keeper: A Year of Inspiration, One Day at a Time", author Dr. Maxine McLean offers a thoroughly 'user friendly' resource for tracking gratitude daily, a practice she believes can transform lives in a powerful way.

"Gratitude Keeper" provides inspirational strategies for addressing the common human tendency of thinking negatively. "Gratitude Keeper" assists in creating a chronicle of positive vibrations and serves to enlighten your journey.

In addition, Dr. McLean has partnered with villagers from developing countries, and the gratitude project provides sustainable income to families worldwide and contributes to building water wells. Filled with personal life stories, inspirational quotes, lessons learned, affirmations, breath work, and meditations, "Gratitude Keeper" will guide you on your personal journey and helps to reboot your mind, invigorate your spirit, and better your health.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, inherently engaging, inspired and inspiring, impressively 'real world' practical in organization and presentation, "Gratitude Keeper" is unreservedly recommended as a permanent addition to Self-Help/Self-Improvement personal reading lists

The Kilroys List
The Kilroys
Theatre Communications Group
520 Eighth Avenue, 24th floor, New York, NY 10018-4156
9781559365352, $15.95 pbk / $9.99 Kindle, 288pp,

Synopsis: The Kilroys are a group of playwrights and producers in Los Angeles, California, who advocate for the visibility of women playwrights in theatre. Founded in 2013, the Kilroys are named after the iconic graffiti tag "Kilroy Was Here" that was first left by WWII soldiers in unexpected places, a playfully subversive way of making their presence known. The members of The Kilroys include Zakiyyah Alexander, Bekah Brunstetter, Sheila Callaghan, Carla Ching, Annah Feinberg, Sarah Gubbins, Laura Jacqmin, Joy Meads, Kelly Miller, Meg Miroshnik, Daria Polatin, Tanya Saracho, and Marisa Wegrzyn.

As a group they have collaborated to produce "The Kilroys List". Not just another compendium of monologues, this is a new collection that embodies the mission of the Kilroys and is comprised of ninety-nine monologues, each one from a different play off "The List" from 2014 and 2015, and featuring the most unproduced (or under-produced), yet highest-recommended, plays by women throughout the United States.

The individual monologues selected for this simply outstanding volume serve to highlight and showcase the talents of these female and transgender writers in a wide array of pieces that vary in genre, style, and gender.

Critique: The Kilroys List is a choice pick for browsing to sample the works of lesser-known femaile playwrights, or for practice to hone one's acting skills. A unique and impressive collection of monologues and theatrical scenes, ideal for performers of all experience levels to utilize in refining their craft, "The Kilroys List" is unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community theatre, community library, and academic library Theatre/Cinema/TV collections and supplemental studies lists. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Kilroys List" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Mary Cowper

Donovan's Bookshelf

Who Controls America?
Mark Mullen
Privately Published
9780692876947 $9.99 Kindle, $11.95 Print

Who Controls America? is a political, social and economic history of the often-hidden influencers on American political processes, pairing brief reviews of how the federal banking system works with closer inspections of how Wall Street banks control not only business, but politics, in America.

As chapters carefully construct connections between banking processes and political influence, readers are treated to a discussion of not just how banks rule Washington but, more importantly, what can be done about it.

Each chapter of information concludes with a section questioning 'how do we get control,' and here's where the real meat of the title lies: in actionable reviews of processes backed by historical experience and political and economic savvy.

Take, for example, the chapter on education, which points out that a population educated enough to employ critical thinking processes is a threat to power. What's best for the future of America? Surprisingly, it may not lie in the ideal of college educations for all: "Still think college for all is a good idea? Universities are currently failing a majority of their graduates. Why would we want to grow the number of young people with college debt and a degree that does not provide graduates with the skills they need to move into the workforce?"

Instead, the solution may lay in better preparations for economic success that link education to real-world achievements and takes elite and political control away from the process. Solutions recommended by the author range from deferred tuition with zero percent interest loans, eliminating course requirements not related to a field of study, to focusing on ONLY reading skills from kindergarten to grade 3, and revitalizing trade school programs.

Each chapter is packed with statistics, and each presents keys to making the kinds of changes at the local and political level that eliminate controllers from American society. "What we think, what we are taught, what we are paid for our work, when and where we go to war, and who wins political office have all been staged by men and women we have never heard of." It's time for a change. Mark Mullen's blueprint pinpoints problems across various sectors of society and, more importantly, offers a foundation for making these changes.

Who Controls America? is very highly recommended for social issues, political, economic, and American history collections and classes alike.

Facing the Dragon
Philip Derrick
Sunnyslope Press
9780999120200, ebook $2.99, Print $12.99,

One doesn't expect a story about war to begin when a family picks up a hitchhiker on the way to visiting Carlsbad Caverns, but Facing the Dragon excels in surprises, and the unusual lead-in to a military story about murder is only one of the unusual devices Philip Derrick employs as he reveals a very different kind of Vietnam experience.

In 1970, Jim is a high school freshman worrying about classes and tests. Mere days later, he's involved in murders, escapes his past, and finds himself in Vietnam, impersonating a U.S. Army paratrooper. An effort to find a killer results in his inadvertent involvement in the war and in a series of encounters destined to change his life forever.

Facing the Dragon combines a murder mystery with a military encounter and a coming-of-age story like no other. From a missing family report and a boy who would be considered a suspect (were he not considered 'vanished', along with his family) to graphic descriptions of the 'in country' milieu ("The repetitive days gave me time to acclimate to the combat environment. I was comfortable, or at least used to, sleeping and shitting outdoors, getting eaten by mosquitos, bitten by ants, having my blood sucked by leeches and being insulted by lizards. I was used to humping the countryside with ninety pounds of gear in my pack."), Facing the Dragon is a gripping page-turner filled with unexpected angles and an approach that belays its easy identification as a coming-of age-saga, a murder story, or a Vietnam novel.

The result is a gripping, very highly recommended tale that holds many surprises for protagonist and readers alike ("I would have been shocked except I'd already learned life isn't always fair."), ultimately creating a powerful series of lessons that involves Jim and his readers in the roller coaster ride of his life.

Multi-faceted and often startling in its directions, there's no book quite like Facing the Dragon.

The King's Champion
Xina Marie Uhl
XC Publishing
9781930805903, $2.99

The King's Champion represents Book 1 in a sword and sorcery fantasy series that revolves around seventeen-year-old Lance, who dreamed of participating in epic battles until the loveliest girl in the village turned her eyes upon him. His initial dreams seem to have gone by the wayside until savvy village elders send him on a mission to find his calling in life, leading him to the king's court, an unanticipated friendship with a prince, and a conspiracy that involves not only their blossoming friendship, but the fate of the entire kingdom.

The King's Champion's plot may feel familiar, but it's anything but predictable. The first special thing to note about this story is an undercurrent of wry observational humor that stems from a first-person protagonist who offers witty inspections of his world from the very first sentence: "Take it from me. Adventuring all by yourself sounds better than it really is. First, there's the hunger. Just how many rutabagas and strips of dried pork can you carry? Not more than a week's worth. Hunting and gathering may yield a scraggly bunny or two and a few handfuls of raisins shriveled and dried on the vine, but that's nowhere near enough. Then, there's the confusion. I lost the trail several times despite the map Father had scratched out on a deer hide back in my village. I hardly need to mention the general discomfort of sore feet, attacking chiggers, rancid waterholes, and the disturbingly close howls of wild beasts as I tried to sleep."

It's this sense of fun, combined with a fast-paced series of adventures, which constantly place Lance in dangerous situations, lends a surreal atmosphere to the story, and leads readers to become more than casually involved in the outcome of his quest.

As readers pursue the saga, it's evident that the initial thread of humor doesn't vanish under any circumstances; even when the captured Lance attempts escape ("With my hands tied behind my back, I couldn't mount a horse, so I did the next best thing. I ran. Well, all right. I lumbered and staggered in something approximating a run."). But all is not fun and games in The King's Champion, because Lance is also undertaking the serious mission of discovering what manner of man constitutes the kind of king he can respect and follow; and these discoveries, set against the backdrop of action and a dangerous journey, make for a compelling read.

So, while the plot may appear to be a familiar fantasy like many others (protagonist embarks on quest and encounters a situation that threatens his life and his kingdom), the proof of a superior production lies in how the story line, character development, and action are handled. These are all powerfully and creatively depicted in a story packed with satisfying twists, wry humor throughout, and the coming of age of a young man just beginning to realize his strengths and weaknesses.

Young adult through adult readers will relish this original, lively story.

Dark Network
James McCrone
Hernes Road Books
9780692797846, $12.99

Dark Network is the second 'Imogen Trager' suspense story, combining political intrigue and conspiracy investigations with a feisty heroine whose work swirls around a scenario that seems all too familiar: the possibility of determined criminal elements thwarting the Presidency of the U.S.

In the prior book, Faithless Elector, Imogen succeeded in preventing an Electoral College conspiracy; but this was only the beginning of her mission to save American political institutions. Here she joins forces with an FBI network specialist only to discover that there's a tangled web of conspiracy still in action, ready to attack and direct a country currently without a president.

Charged with keeping her composure in the face of unprecedented events and challenges, Imogen faces reporters, criminals, cyber attacks and political strife with a measured determination to keep her investigation on track and legitimate, fielding too many dangers in the process; from murder to corruption.

As she crosses the line between the need for action and her own morals and beliefs ("Imogen stared at the table top, wondering which Constitutional right she would be complicit in violating today. But just as quickly came a flash of anger. Deptford was engaged in a dark, murderous network conspiring to subvert the electoral process, and corrupt the Constitution. Now he wanted it to protect him?"), she begins to feel she's facing a juggernaut that nothing can stop: "Imogen, watching the proceedings and doing the same vote calculations as Calder, also felt the insanity of it all. If the goal of the conspiracy had been to undermine Americans' faith in their electoral system, everything was going to plan. She looked down at her laptop. That destabilization had started with Illinois."

It's difficult to envision a more timely political thriller than Dark Network. Having a murder mystery tied into events that attack and displace the American election process only adds fuel to the fire of Imogen's interactions, promising that thriller and murder mystery readers alike will find her reactions, goals, and efforts exciting, realistic, and hard to predict.

The ultimate question becomes not how she will solve a wide-ranging cyber-conspiracy embedded in the fabric of the American political system, but what kind of America will remain, if she is successful.

Gripping and unpredictable, Dark Network could not have appeared at a better time. Its concepts and interplays often seem to represent the daily news in its scope and shocking revelations, making this story highly recommended for political thriller readers and mystery fans alike.

The Weight
Hubert Crouch
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781548323967, $9.99,

Christine Connors is perfectly disguised, as she embarks on her latest shady deal. Her father is a well-known Texas prosecutor who joins her with a dubious determination to keep all the family skeletons firmly in the closet. When they encounter a woman equally determined to expose these secrets, all hell breaks loose both in the courtroom and in private life as Cal and Christine struggle to keep the lid on scandal and their lives out of the public arena.

From murder to trade secrets and dubious associations, The Weight traverses a world fraught with danger and deadly encounters, bringing readers along for a ride that takes Cal, a "man with answers to everything," into a world he is less prepared to challenge.

Readers of The Weight should be enthusiasts of the legal thriller genre prepared for a romp through exposes which move in and out of the courtroom. The legal drama is realistic and involving, tension is well crafted, characters nicely drawn, and the story line spiced with engaging dialogue and encounters. Added insights about shadowy ethics are very well done ("You may have one opinion and another expert an entirely different opinion. That doesn't mean one of you is right and the other is wrong. You just see things differently. There is nothing unethical or illegal about that. Think about what I've said and let me know how you come out.") and successfully involve readers on more than an "action story" level as the account of Cal's schemes and efforts to unravel them enters into the ethical realm of the difference between questionable and moral behavior.

From jury proceedings to legal profession interactions and associations, The Weight is a stellar account of a legal process gone awry and the seemingly impossible odds of fixing it, either inside or outside the courtroom. Its tension and unexpected twists will have readers on the edges of their seats right up to a conclusion which is both satisfying and startling.

The Weight is especially recommended for fans of John Grisham who like their courtroom dramas laced with surprise confrontations and their cases satisfyingly complex.

A Brush with the Beast
Richard Sones
Privately Published
9780692891612, $17.73,

A Brush with the Beast is a Christian fiction piece steeped in moral, ethical and religious insights, and follows powerful characters who make decisions that alter their lives.

IT executive Nick is both ambitious and saddled with relentless chronic pain, a condition which drives him into the arms and dubious ethics of The Order, who promises him both physical and emotional relief. There his weaknesses are exploited as he learns the seeming rewards of blackmail and embarks on an upward trajectory with a newfound goal: to rule the world.

Contrast this conversion from lower-level ambitions and a painful life with that of ex-con Sarah, who finds herself in a small Texas town with little future. She, too, is lured by promises of riches and recovery, and her downfall follows a path that takes her from a nowhere life to choices that both introduce her to God and attracts the Beast who would use her situation to further his evil plans.

Add to this mix the hopes, dreams, and certainty of a young, angry Palestinian whose shattered life comes to reflect the purposes of the Beast in a different way. All three individuals are on a course that changes not only their own lives, but those of others. (Interestingly enough, each character already has riches, pre-Beast: they just can't perceive them.)

Nick's early ambitions have earned him success, wealth, and a reputation as a genius. His physical and psychic ills are somewhat of a mystery. Desperate attempts to use this wealth to achieve relief have only resulted in a spiraling feeling of being out of control: "Though the pain was gone today, he knew that it might return tomorrow. He felt increasingly powerless over his fate."

Sarah's situation is similar in its underlying results, but also different; for hers is a long history of isolation, rejection, poverty and abuse. She also harbors big dreams - but they are only vague ambitions, in the beginning: "She only made minimum wage and rarely was allowed to work a full week, but she promised herself frequently that she would get her GED and get a degree in something."

She, too, comes face to face with a Pandora's Box that she doesn't know if she should even touch. And once it's opened to reveal an all-encompassing darkness, how do either of these individuals find the light again?

This quandary is at the heart of a story of struggle, belief, pain and redemption that Christian readers will find absorbing and compelling. A terrorist's perspective and actions add an action-packed thriller element to the story of two individuals who struggle to find their way, creating an absorbing, revealing plot replete with adventure and spiritual reflection.

The result is a story that is filled with as many changes as the characters experience in their journeys; all of which carry them (and readers) relentlessly towards greater decisions than individual pursuits. From business to politics, America to Russia, these journeys offer engrossing perspectives and swift action in a novel highly recommended for Christians seeking a combination of thought-provoking ethical and spiritual insights paired with well-done action; all tempered by the Lord's help.

Wrightsville Beach: The Luminous Island
Ray McAllister
John F. Blair / Beach Glass Books
9780998788111, $22.95

The 10th anniversary edition's release of Wrightsville Beach: The Luminous Island represents in milestone in several notable ways. First, the reissue itself has been physically expanded: it's 35 percent larger, doubling the number of images to approximately 150 and increasing the size of others, it includes a new afterword by author Ray McAllister, and it includes a new foreword by book editor Ben Steelman of the Wilmington Star-News, a major voice in North Carolina literature.

These changes will make this new edition of special interest to collections and readers who have shopworn older copies and who will find this not only offers a sturdy replacement, but added value.

The second thing to note is that Wrightsville Beach captures the landscape, evolutionary process, historical importance, and lives on an island which enjoys one of the largest populations of any island along the North Carolina coast.

This process is significant because development began late, and so the area retained much of its beach cottage/small town vacationer atmosphere right up to modern times.

As chapters trace the forces that affected and changed the island, from hurricanes to entertainment and cultural transformations and challenges to lifestyles, they pair vintage black and white images with candid assessments of these experiences: "It takes work to keep a paradise a paradise these days."

It also takes work to adequately capture the process of retaining a paradise in the face of change: much research has gone into the preservation process, with materials coming from archival records and libraries, the author's own collection, and even museums of natural sciences.

The result is a wide-ranging survey of all the disparate forces that have shaped Wrightsville Beach and made it what it is today.

Why should non-North Carolina collections be interested? Because the microcosm of this community's experience and evolution holds lessons not only for understanding the region, but the pressures and places of small town America as a whole, making this a powerful recommendation for any library strong in regional Americana.

When You Close Your Eyes
Roxanne D. Howard
The Wild Rose Press
ISBN Print: 9781509223602 $TBA
ISBN Digital: 9781509223619 $5.99


Barnes and Noble:



The Wild Rose Press:

London fiancee Lark Braithwaite should be dreaming of her beloved and their new life together - not some sultry Irish stranger. But in reality, her betrothed, Charles, is already controlling and less desirable than the stranger in her erotic dreams: a fact that puts the damper on her marriage ideals.

When You Close Your Eyes traces the evolution of her mysterious dreams and how they juxtapose with the difficult realities in her life, bringing her to a slow, simmering reality that what she's experiencing with Charles is less than she might hope for.

As a busy businesswoman, Lark doesn't have time to make her dreams a priority until something changes, and suddenly she's called home to Oregon to attend her father's funeral; there to meet the elusive, passionate man in those dreams, handsome stranger Niall O'Hagan, in person.

Though it should be mentioned that When You Close Your Eyes is filled with graphic sexual scenes, these are part of a greater plot's appeal; not the heart of the story. Forced to confront family relationships and issues of the past, evidence of long-distance infidelity, and the rising need not only for a special, different kind of lover but the kind of lasting relationship that forces her to be more open and honest overall, Lark discovers that everything is changing in her life.

When You Close Your Eyes employs a combination of sexual power and emotional growth to fuel its special brand of intimacy and revelation, following Lark's progression and growth not only sexually and emotionally, but as a more engaged, active participant in life.

Opening her heart to Niall involves more than being exceptionally candid - it requires the kind of maturity Lark never experienced with Charles, and comes with a new set of decisions. Her journey brings readers along for a heady ride into these revised possibilities, creating a story that is high-powered on more than one level.

Sexually erotic, emotionally compelling, and spiced with evolving passion, When You Close Your Eyes is recommended reading for anyone who likes their romance stories steamy and powerful.

Hungry Wolves
Alex Siegel
Amazon Digital Services LLC
ASIN: B073ZQ1S3P, $2.99, Kindle,

Hungry Wolves is the sequel to a new Alex Siegel series begun in The Devil's Pets and continues the investigations and adventures of the Paranormal Enforcement Administration, a crack team charged with hunting down supernatural threats to humans and eliminating them.

This time the quarry is a renegade pack of werewolves in Chicago who are suspected when a mass gravesite of half-eaten remains smacks of their involvement.

Enforcement leader Stony has seen too many gory images to be impressed by these remains, and his professional detachment has been replaced by a weary sadness tempered with a keen, savvy instinct for crime-solving, whether the perp be from Earth or Hell. In this case he's not examining a mass grave but a load of leftovers and as his search reviews the werewolf's curse and history, his investigation into their forced cannibalism and stormy nature leads him into a clash that exceeds even the reputation of werewolves as fearsome adversaries.

Stony's team is extraordinary in more than one way: each harbors a special power. Stony can make his skin hard enough to stop a bullet. Miasma can exhale a volatile gas. Veronica has an unerring ear for discerning truth from lie, and Diana can turn into a panther. An ordinary agent seeking to join this elite super-force would seem to have no place in its fold, but new addition and overseer/chauffeur Bryce has a role to play that becomes apparent as the game evolves.

The force has battled vampires, warlocks, zombies and more - but this confrontation requires a degree of control challenging for many of the participants who are used to high-octane, almost instinctive responses to dangerous situations.

As Siegel's story unfolds, readers are treated to a combination of detective investigation and supernatural story more than lightly tinged with issues of ethics, morals, and choice. How does Stony's goal of living a more peaceful life juxtapose with his latest mission as "...the guy they bring in when supernatural asses need to be kicked."?

As unholy alliances between supernatural forces build and Stony's group faces the challenge of being on good behavior in contrast to some of their own stormy past history, readers receive solid descriptions of their psychic and spiritual struggles - legacies from the Devil himself - and leading a life that requires special focus and solid interpersonal relationships on both professional and personal levels.

One reason why Hungry Wolves and its predecessor work so well is that while its action is swift and supernatural elements compelling, it also includes a healthy dose of psychological and philosophical reflection tempered by occasional dashes of wry observational humor. All these elements coalesce into a powerful story holding many twists and turns, which is satisfyingly engaging right up to its unexpected conclusion. The tale ultimately embraces high technology, the purposes of man and demon alike, and those who would tap the wolves within them for more control than ever before.

All this creates a multi-faceted, engaging read that includes thought-provoking elements going beyond the usual supernatural fiction thriller approach, neatly setting Hungry Wolves apart from standard genre reads and making for a top recommendation for audiences looking for a powerful cocktail of spiritual, psychological and social insights.

Summer of Salvia
Jason Cole
Privately Published
Hardback ISBN: 9781945604331, $29.99,
Ebook ISBN: 9781945604225, $9.99,

Summer of Salvia: Exploring Nature's Most Powerful Hallucinogen and The Fabric Of Existence follows author Jason Cole into a drug-filled, changed world the summer of 2009, when he smoked Salvia divinorum, a powerful, naturally-occurring hallucinogen - but it offers an important difference in contrast to other memoirs about drug experiences.

It questions whether the revelations experienced 'under the influence' where truly illusionary or whether the drug penetrated an illusion of reality itself: "Rather than dismiss my salvia trip as a hallucination, salvia has forced me to consider dismissing my life as a hallucination - a mirage that salvia temporarily allowed me to see through."

Unlike other stories of drug-filled periods of time, these experiences led Jason Cole on a search for enlightenment and knowledge from various disciplines, from science and philosophy to religion, adding a healthy dose of history into the mix which, again, separates his account from most others and lends a scholarly perspective to the story of hallucinogenic drug experiences and the lasting changes they bring to one's life and perspective.

From summer concerts, sex, drugs, and alcohol to drug deals and bigger pictures gained from the salvia experience, Cole candidly relates his descent into "enjoying drugs and alcohol too much" which led him into a full-blown preoccupation salvia over other things in his life.

As far as the experience itself, the most powerful points of this story lie in personal and specific insights into the drug's lasting effects on his perceptions of the world and his place in it: "When I say that salvia divinorum made it impossible for me to trust reality, to trust my senses, I mean it. I'm not completely certain what's real anymore. As I sat there, feeling like I was tripping out again, I thought that maybe the trip was finally ending and I was awakening to a reality more terrifying than I could fathom."

The risks are clearly outlined, the drug's effects are compellingly described, and readers gain a much better knowledge of how salvia impacts Cole's life: "When I first took Salvia divinorum, all I really knew about it was that it produced hallucinations, and that those hallucinations only lasted for five to ten minutes. I had no idea how intense those hallucinations would be, or that the drug was also a dissociative. I didn't realize it would cause me to literally question the reality of my life every single day, eight years after I took it and counting."

The result is more than the usual memoir of a descent into a lifestyle and choices that lead to drug use and the effects of hallucinogens, but a powerfully written survey that considers the drug's ability to induce similar types of experiences in different users ("Sure, LSD causes people to reach similar conclusions about, say, the interconnectedness of humanity or the existence of other dimensions that we can't perceive with our everyday senses. But to my knowledge, no other drug (with the possible exception of DMT), regularly engenders such strikingly similar hallucinations to such a narrow degree.").

Summer of Salvia is enlightening, powerful, and compelling' - a 'must read' for anyone seeking more than just a memoir of hallucinogenic drug use, but a probe of how chemicals can alter perceptions of reality itself and can last far beyond initial use.

The Nubivagants
Ethan Furman
Stone Mountain Publishing
P.O. Box 150430, Ogden, Utah 84415
9780692835395, $14.95, PB, 192pp

Matthew Mitchell is only eleven years old; but he's certain he's about to die. Keep in mind that Matthew, though young, has faced an uncertain future from birth, because he floats in defiance of gravity; and raising a floating child is a challenge.

His parents have learned to keep his unusual ability hidden. Like any new parents, they knew their child was extraordinary; but just how special remains to be seen as Matthew grows and his ability changes with him. The older he gets, the higher he levitates; and the more of a challenge it becomes keeping this floating secret from all but his concerned physician (they don't want to frighten people or attract unwanted attention).

When the doctor's brilliant friend becomes privy to their secret and scientific genius enters the picture, Matthew is put into gravity booties to keep him anchored to the planet. Better ways for him to cope with his strange, unique ability evolve, and better scenarios for his future are developed; but as the wry Ethan Furman notes: "The best-case scenario would be for Dr. Bell to discover the cause of the floating and, in turn, find a way to cure it and make Matthew just like every other gravity-obeying boy in the world. But that is an awfully tall order. If you go around expecting the best-case scenario to happen in every situation, you're setting yourself up for an awful lot of disappointment, I'm afraid."

What transpires will challenge everything his parents and physician have struggled for and will change not only the quality of his life, but life itself.

The Nubivagants may seem an odd, complex-sounding title, but it assumes the feel of some of the old-fashioned Danny Dunn science mysteries in a fun story that advanced elementary to early middle school readers will appreciate.

As Matthew's journey takes him literally out of this world, far from home and parents and into peer relationships, his growth and maturity become part of the process of his struggle with his odd power, involving young readers in many conflicts of interest and special challenges that go beyond feeling rooted in community, family, or even the planet itself.

Unique and well-developed, The Nubivagants offers a fast-paced and unpredictable leisure read that belays its confusing-sounding title and makes for an engrossing story of a young boy finding his place in the world in a recommended read kids will find satisfyingly different.

The Fountain of Youth
Steve Shear
The Wild Rose Press
Print ISBN 9781509213894 $15.99
Digital ISBN 9781509213900 $4.99

It's rare that romance novels include more than surface passions, and even less common that they embrace issues of dementia, moral and ethical questions, medical conundrums, or the struggles of Alzheimer's patients. Mix all these issues with love and you have a strange blend, indeed.

But one of the special features of The Fountain of Youth lies in its ability to deftly weave all these seemingly-disparate threads into a unified, precise, memorable story line, making it a top recommendation for not just romance readers, but anyone interested in issues of aging, changed capabilities, and the impact a small thing (such as quiz book) can have in one's life.

In this case, narrator Robert Glickman is determined to defy a family history of dementia and his seemingly-inevitable decline by using a quiz book to test his facilities so he can do something about any decline before it really takes hold. In the meantime, he also lives life in Youth Fountain Senior Living Facility (termed "The Fountain of Youth" by its residents - an aptly named old folks' home, where he has an apartment), holds an infatuation with a retired therapist, faces a neurotic and mentally declining sister, confronts a possible hiding Nazi, and interacts with a host of characters who each struggle with their own uncertain lives.

The characters who inhabit The Fountain of Youth are somewhat reminiscent to those in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, minus much of the insanity. They are quirky, obstinate, sometimes defiant personalities who have their own perspectives of their pasts, presents and futures; yet are somewhat to fully cognizant of the fact that the Fountain offers anything but youth or longevity - only a relatively safe haven at the end of the long road of life.

As events and lives unfold, the unexpected happens: Robert's gruff, observational voice becomes a compelling chronicler of the process of facing not only imminent mortality, but the decline of one's connections to life itself. What opens as and seems like an observational piece about an increasingly limited world and abilities becomes a special window into the hearts, minds, and ethical issues facing the aging and those around them at the end of life.

Who has power and control over one's life? What happens when circumstance limits, then takes away, not only abilities, but personalities? The psychological depth belays any possible description of The Fountain of Youth as a romance novel. While many a reader may pick up the story for this element, most will be delightfully surprised at the depth offered by the evolving story, the quirky and fun personalities revealed behind the closed doors of an elderly facility, and especially the story's important message about the right to live - and die - on one's own terms.

What begins as a seeming romance or institutional probe becomes something much more: a compelling, engrossing story fueled by the passions, perspectives, and worries of Robert as he seeks to take back power in his world, keep his promises, and exert control over his own destiny and the quandaries life and death poses. It's very highly recommended for audiences seeking depth and insights from fictional stories.

Dark Web Rising
Eugene T Schurter
Amazon Digital Services
9780997252200 (pbk), $11.95
9780997252217 (e-bk), $0.99

Imagine a day like any other. Except that it's not. Imagine a young hacker who succeeds in reaching his biggest dream - to hack the American government. The only problem is: his dream has turned into a nightmare. Then imagine his life on the run through a changed world where rumors of the Dark Web come alive to haunt him; and where a dark undercurrent powers a dangerous political force.

In today's world, darknets are networks which use the Internet but require specific software, configurations or authorization to access. They are secret and hidden networks running in sub-layers beneath what is well known.

Stewart's project opens this world to him, closes the door firmly behind him after he enters it, and creates a series of episodes that leads him and his team on a frantic run through government operations, internet espionage, underground hackers, and strange transmissions that even a coding expert like Stewart can't quite fathom.

Discovery is nothing without purpose - and Stewart is about to uncover not only his own motivations; but those of others.

The characters are young adult computer whizzes, but Dark Web Rising's scope and depth makes it quite accessible to adult audiences who relish stories of computer hacking, intrigue, and special interests that intersect in an under-the-radar secret world about to explode into what is above-board and well-known.

To its credit, the espionage and action is tempered by doses of philosophical and ethical inspections throughout as the characters make decisions and participate in a deadly 'game': "I know what can happen, what the risks are, and what I could lose. My friend, you must understand, when I say I have nothing to lose, it is because I have everything to lose. If I do not act, if I turn away now when the game may finally become more than just a game, then I lose the one thing I care about the most, the entire reason behind my life. My wealth, businesses, even my name can be taken away but not my ideals, they can only be taken if I chose to give them up."

The story's near-future setting and familiar-sounding political special interests is part of a draw that deftly injects a strange sense of familiarity into a sci-fi story about a future world and a hacker's dilemma.

The result is a vivid read packed with computer science, human special interests, intrigue, a winding cat-and-mouse game, and the scenario of a dark underworld to the Internet which reaches out to immerse not only its characters, but its readers.

Monarch X-Ing
Pecki Sherman Witonsky
SeaGrove Press
9780989560955, $14.95, PB, 58pp,

Monarch X-Ing is a butterfly picture book like few others because it not only focuses on one type of butterfly (the monarch), but its relationship to milkweed - a plant which is popularly viewed as a pesky weed worthy only of eradication from one's garden.

Students in an elementary school will learn about monarch history, biology and conservation in a book filled with bright, full-page color photos. These supplement pages packed with detail about the butterflies with an exploration of students at Cape May Elementary, who learn about gardens and fields especially made for butterflies.

There's a lot of detail here, along with a seasonal arrangement that follows both the milkweed's cycles and the butterfly's reliance on them.

Kids with good reading skills or parents who assist in this project will find plenty of well-researched natural history details that pair well with an ecological message. The color close-up details of butterflies and plants are particularly notable and well-done, making the whole production a top recommendation for any student or classroom interested in how a successful Monarch program was created by kids in Cape May, New Jersey; and how its results can be replicated elsewhere.

Samantha Meets Some Two-Legs
Virginia Strong Newlin & Pecki Sherman Witonsky
SeaGrove Press
9780989560986, $9.95, PB, 34pp,

Samantha Meets Some Two-Legs features lovely color drawings by Gary Undercuffler and a picture book story that requires good reading skills from grades 2-3 as it describes a playful sea lion, Samantha, who journeys with dolphin friends brave enough to meet some children ("two-legs"), who interact with them.

Samantha is not sure she wants to meet humans. She's heard spooky stories of how two-legs like to capture and cage sea lions. But as she comes to learn they won't hurt her (the human mother is a vet who runs a marine rescue center nearby), Samantha finds that their friendship evolves into something more important when trouble strikes.

A gentle story of animal and human interactions, play, and the plight of a sea lion who has gotten into Florida's waters makes for a fun story that also discusses the effects of climate change on animals.

How animals play and learn and how different species interact is engagingly presented in a story that holds wider ramifications than fun alone, making it a recommendation for any elementary-level collection that would add stories about sea life, changing sea environments, and climate's impacts upon all.

Portrait of Young Genius
Joel L. Schiff
Vernon Press
1000 N West Street, Suite 1200, Wilmington, DE 19801
9781622731718, $85.00, HC, 304pp,

Marie Bashkirtseff was no ordinary 19th century woman. Her aristocratic Ukrainian family moved to Paris, where she was privately tutored and blossomed into a young woman who spoke many languages, played numerous musical instruments, and longed for a stage career, but turned her hand to painting. She soon began exhibiting her work at the notable annual Paris Salon, the premier venue for artists.

As if this weren't enough, she was also a philosopher and writer, and her journal of some 20,000 pages has been pared down here to supplement Joel L. Schiff's survey of her amazing artistic prowess in Portrait of Young Genius: The Mind and Art of Marie Bashkirtseff.

With such a palette of genius to choose from as far as what to profile, it must have been a real challenge to adequately represent Marie Bashkirtseff's many abilities in the confines of a single book. How many others dream of founding an art school for women (just one limitation of her sex that she railed against) in the 1800s, for just one example?

One doesn't expect fierce rivalries to enter the portrait of a woman of these times, but this, too, reflects Marie's abilities, fiery personality, and determination, fueling a biography that traces more than her genius alone and placing it in historical, social, and psychological perspective.

Given these disparate facets, it would have been impossible to adequately represent Marie's world through standard biographical third-person exploration; which is why Schiff adopts an unusual mode of presentation: he begins with the usual biographical survey of her life, but then allows her own voice to speak in a second section which profiles a single journal excerpt (in English translation from the original French) on each left-hand page, juxtaposed with one of her art pieces on its facing page. (It should also be noted that vintage photos and illustrations pepper the rest of the survey, as well, adding visual emphasis to an outstanding woman's world.)

While Portrait of Young Genius will undoubtedly find a place in artists' collections, it would be a shame to see its audience limited to artists alone. Women's history holdings, especially those strong in biographical portraits of extraordinary individuals whose stories have largely been lost over time, will find Portrait of Young Genius a 'must have' addition, not only capturing this young woman's life, but synthesizing its meaning with a sense of her times and the limitations imposed upon women.

Portrait of Young Genius is very, very highly recommended for its multi-faceted approach and wide-ranging discussions, designed to keep readers immersed to the end and involved in the life of a woman they likely have never heard of before, but will come to intimately know and deeply admire.

Ninth Grade Blues
Bruce Ingram
Secant Publishing
P.O. Box 79, Salisbury, MD 21803
9781944962340, $12.95 PB, $4.99 Kindle, 236pp,

Ninth Grade Blues takes an unusual approach for a young adult piece, in that points of view change between four characters, keeping readers on their toes as they absorb the story of four students experiencing their freshman year at high school.

Each student expects something very different from high school, and each provides a story that contrasts well with and provides a different experience than the others.

For shy Luke, a hard-working poor boy who is mediocre at almost everything in his life, high school is the place when he discovers hidden talents in more than one area. His polar opposite is Marcus, who plays varsity sports and is on the fast track for a college scholarship, with almost too many choices in life - certainly too many to allow high school studies to interfere.

Mia is also college-bound, and is dedicated to achievement even as her Mexican-American parents try to look for a suitable mate for her, directing her abilities towards home and family instead of higher learning. And Elly, also a top student, wants what Mia is trying not to become tied to so early in life - a home and family, despite her blossoming intellectual skills.

Each finds that high school challenges them socially and intellectually, and seeming-set trajectories in their lives actually are up for question, changed by the ups and downs of their educational year.

More so than most stories about high school (and perhaps this is because of the constantly-shifting perspectives) this story outlines the maturity process like few others, doing a great job of illustrating how ninth graders face some of the most unpredictable growth spurts not just physically, but mentally.

Ninth Grade Blues keeps readers on their toes because each individual evolves nicely beyond their ideas of what their future will be. Nothing is set in stone. And neither are the stories in Ninth Grade Blues, recommended for anyone who would understand or recall what ninth grade is all about.

The Rifling
Charles McRaven
Secant Publishing
P.O. Box 79, Salisbury, MD 21803
9781944962371, $16.95 PB, $4.99 Kindle, 402pp,

Adam is a gunsmith in George Washington's army in the Revolutionary War when he loses his family not to war, but to gang violence. Broken, he leaves Pennsylvania and becomes a blacksmith in Tennessee, and it takes him ten years of recovery before he's able to set aside his involvement with guns for a new profession. This doesn't last long before he meets John Cabell, who secretly commissions him to build a technologically advanced rifle like none have seen before.

Fast forward two centuries, where a descendant uncovers this legacy and a manuscript that eerily parallels two lives, past and present, as it details family secrets, love, and the evolution of a weapon that changed the world.

The Rifling is historical fiction like few others because it creates a disparate story fueled by new territories, explorations of place and self, and the intricate story of a rifle's creation and its effects on not only the immediate world, but the future.

Its characters are well-done and compelling, romantic elements add compelling realism to the evolution of the plot, and the precise descriptions of weaponry creation, testing, and the politics and conflicts that run through lives are all nicely developed and woven into a plot that thickens and quickens.

The result is an engrossing story that successfully pairs historical perspectives with realistic, involving characters and their lives, making for a tale hard to put down.

The Great Snapping Turtle Adventure
Susan Yaruta-Young
Secant Publishing
P.O. Box 79, Salisbury, MD 21803
9780990938057, $11.95 PB, $3.49 Kindle, 154pp,

The Great Snapping Turtle Adventure's title doesn't adequately reveal the wonderful read in store for young teens. Though billed as a mystery, it's actually a powerful ghost story - and young teens with affection for ghosts will find this a compelling story indeed.

It begins when Fred takes his stepsons Max and Charles to an island for a day of crabbing. While this doesn't seem to portend much of an adventure, it turns into one when a strange old woman gives them a giant snapping turtle to sell, and when they stumble over her hidden grave and realize they may have just interacted with a ghost.

Every little town may have its own ghost and haunting story, but Max and Charles didn't expect their own encounter or the mystery it brings up, which leads them on a chase through a small Eastern Shore water community and into the heart of both local environmental issues and a problem that tests two young detectives.

Middle school readers will find the Maryland seaside setting, the challenges the two boys face, and both the mystery and the ramifications of the changing world around them to be thoroughly engrossing; a fine early introduction to the genres of mystery and environmental fiction.

Who's Been Stealing Grandpa's Fish?
Susan Yaruta-Young
Secant Publishing
P.O. Box 79, Salisbury, MD 21803
9781944962401, $11.95, PB, 144pp,

Fans of Max and Charles will enjoy several more books in an evolving series, with Who's Been Stealing Grandpa's Fish? introducing another adventure when Charles and Max decide to visit their grandfather for breakfast, only to find a mystery surrounding his missing pet fish.

While a pet fish may not seem cause for high adventure, the pleasure in Susan Yaruta-Young's approach lies in her ability to craft the surrounding characters and scenery so well that readers are drawn into the playful, wildlife-filled environment as much as the unfolding mystery.

Charles and Max interact well with their world, observing nature, playing on a rope swing, and more. It should also be noted that chapter headings are particularly compelling in their makeup ('No! Not the Attic! Anything but the Attic!') and add interest to the story line, which includes solid, realistic interactions with adults and nature alike (and that's why the subtitle bills it a "Max and Charles Nature Adventure").

It's unusual to see a focus on nature and the environment woven into the wider context of a mystery structure, but Who's Been Stealing Grandpa's Fish? does an outstanding job of creating a story that is compellingly realistic and absorbing, recommended for advanced elementary to early middle school readers.

Only the Wild Goose Knows
Susan Yaruta-Young
Secant Publishing
P.O. Box 79, Salisbury, MD 21803
9781944962395, $11.95, PB, 136pp,

By now, it should be evident that the Max and Charles Nature Adventure stories are ongoing, with Only the Wild Goose Knows another addition to a series that combines environmental experiences with an underlying mystery.

Here, Max and Charles are on a getaway with their stepfather Fred, undertaking a journey that leads them through communities on the Eastern Shore of Maryland for Veteran's Day weekend as they explore historical sites and visit friends.

An underlying purpose is to locate a new home for a wild Canada goose who was rescued and raised by their grandparents. The one thing not on the itinerary was adventure; but advanced elementary to early middle grade readers will discover this in abundance as a journey through Maryland's counties leads to shared meals, experiences with grandparents, and even spooky stories that could turn out to be true.

As with the others in the series, the realistic environmental encounters and descriptions nicely compliments the action described throughout. Another 'plus' to this evolving series is that readers need have no prior familiarity with the other books in order to immediately grasp the characters, setting, and atmosphere of these stand-alone pieces. They're nicely interconnected and yet hold no prerequisites for enjoyment.

The dual focus on nature and mystery bring youngsters into the fold of environmental appreciation and adventuremaking for an engrossing, involving saga.

When Will It Happen?
Susan Yaruta-Young
Secant Publishing
P.O. Box 79, Salisbury, MD 21803
9781944962203, $11.95, PB, 150pp,

Twelve-year-old Max and nine-year-old Charles are vacationing on an island that poses a welcoming cabin and a strange riddle they are immediately charged with solving. When Will It Happen? is a mystery that draws these youngsters into the world around them as it introduces a mysterious girl from the island.

One special pleasure of this novel (and the others) is that Max and Charles are not too consumed by the puzzle to acknowledge and appreciate their environment. Descriptions embrace blueberry fields, hikes in the woods, encounters with nature, and beauty, which is acknowledged by the boys in the course of their explorations.

Too many novels about young people don't incorporate this sense of environmental recognition and experience. The fact that Max and Charles are aware enough to observe, acknowledge, and interact with not only people but the environments they move through adds an extra dimension of realistic ambiance and a depth to their story that most children's mysteries don't incorporate.

The result is a compelling story that is engrossing for more than the mysterious events that emerge: one highly recommended for youngsters just beginning to probe the mystery genre, and for adults making leisure read recommendations to kids, who seek a more fully developed story line than intrigue alone could provide.

The Girl with Stars in Her Hair
Alexes Razevich
Razor Street Publishing
9780996089241, $14.99, PB
B0743B7TJH, $ 3.99, Kindle

If the title alone doesn't grab teen readers, the story line will: in 1919 in Hermosa Beach, fourteen-year-old Cassie is facing the death of her father from a killer Spanish flu when a doctor unexpectedly visits with an unbelievable cure that leaves her father changed. Something is not right. A miracle has occurred - but some miracles can come with a price tag.

Fast forward to the same locale, in 1925. Cassie's four-year-old brother is kidnapped, and she undertakes a search to get him back - one that will take her to the boundaries of time, space, and supernatural influences.

As Cassie Goodlight faces not just the price of her father's recovery, but its potential impact on the future, she embarks on a paradigm-shifting journey that involves a shape-shifting being and a task that comes with a deadline.

Both she and her mother are part of the search for a 'gremhahn', armed with a secret compass and a 'finder' that can only help when they are physically close to their goal.

The first thing to note is that this is not a read that should be limited to young adults. Anyone who likes fantasy will find The Girl With Stars in Her Hair an engrossing read that captures not only the quest, but the flavor of 1920s America: "The band was launching into a Dixieland piece and I'd barely sipped my drink when a tuxedoed man with a pencil moustache jumped onto the stage and motioned the band silent with his hand. "Ladies and gentleman," he called in a loud voice. "I do apologize, but we've just been notified that some uninvited guests of the law enforcement type are on their way. If you would kindly exit." He swept his arm to indicate another man, who pulled a curtain aside to reveal a door. The door wasn't far from the bar. Moira swallowed down the last of her gin rickey, grabbed my hand, and with the rest of the crowd we sidled out of the building."

This historical note juxtaposes nicely with the story's fantasy elements as Cassie makes her way through the world as a new adult on an impossible mission.

The interludes that revolve around this world immerse readers with a realistic sense of place that captures the dance, music, and social atmosphere of the times as much as the underlying mystery and supernatural forces that work within it: "The band - a drummer, saxophone player, pianist, and a short man on a double bass that was bigger than he was - struck up an instrumental version of "I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate." I felt a touch at my elbow and turned to see a nice-looking man about my age mouth the word dance? I nodded, and followed him onto the dark wooden dance floor. I saw that his friend had taken Moira's hand and was leading her to the same place. A few couples were doing the Charleston, but my partner led me in a lively foxtrot. The tension of the past days, weeks, months, years fell away, swirled up and swept clean by the music and pure joy of dancing."

Levitation spells, seaside dangers, folk stories about the sea (which may be too true), and a growing number of friends who help Cassie along the way make for an engrossing story filled with twists and turns, powered by a delightfully strong protagonist whose heart's desire carries readers of all ages into an engrossing world that is familiar, yet strange, all in one.

The Girl with Stars in her Hair is highly recommended for any reader who looks for solid fantasies powered by realistic characters, semi-familiar settings in the real world, and a sense of purpose tempered by an evolving romance and powerful realizations about the world's shifting boundaries.

Katrina Shawver
Koehler Books
210 - 60th Street, Virginia Beach, VA 23451
Softcover, $19.95, 9781633935204
Hardcover, $29.95, 9781633935235
Ebook, $9.99, 9781633935211

Henry: A Polish Swimmer's True Story of Friendship From Auschwitz to America comes from a journalist who interviewed eighty-five-year-old Henry Zguda after receiving a phone tip, discovering that his memory contained a treasure trove of experiences about the Holocaust and his world which needed to be written down and exposed to a wider audience than just herself.

And so, she did - and Henry is the result: an unassuming title for what evolves into a momentous series of sharp recollections about tumultuous times. What began as a series of twice-weekly interviews soon became a growing friendship as Katrina Shawver endeavored to understand not only the mechanics of Henry's transformations and survival, but his ability to live in the modern world without bitterness and anger about the past.

These are lessons and examples that could be employed by any survivor, revealing stories and encounters backed by images and newspaper accounts which are reproduced in this book for maximum impact, much as the author experienced in the course of her conversations with Henry.

Lest one think this singular experience was somehow inconsequential, given the bigger picture, it should be pointed out that not only did Henry possess a huge collection of original documents and images, but his encounters with others during his experience, paired with his struggles as a former champion swimmer turned political prisoner, make for an unusual perspective unequalled in Holocaust survival chronicles.

Henry's original photos and some unique documents, such as his letters, form the foundation of this account; but many of the other photos and documents included were the result of Katrina Shawver's substantial research. They come from multiple museums and other sources, many not seen elsewhere. The historical background that's included adds significantly to the context and setting, something else that sets Henry apart from most Holocaust memoirs.

Underlying this survivor's encounters is a sense of not just how he survived, but how he later lived his life; developing principles that continued to guide him long after the Holocaust was over.

It's these facets that all coalesce to make for a unique series of stories that form a different kind of story: one that takes the macrocosm of the greater Holocaust experience, synthesizes it into one man's life and perspective, and adds an overlay of life values that reflect a powerful saga filled with personal moments, vividly recalled: "We had a little freedom, not much, but we could walk outside the barracks. The Germans just watched as we gather a little wood, or catch a few frogs. I met my two good friends there Yost Slagboom and Hubert Lapailles. We have the nice frog legs, we cooked them in a small iron oven, cooked with wood from the forest. We take the frog legs, put them in red-hot oven, they are very nice piece of meat. So, I survived the quarry; I was strong from the milk and frog legs and bread."

The treasure trove of documents and images, from vintage photos from the Buchenwald Memorial to Henry's letters (some 70 original photos and rare German documents) is just one more thing that sets Henry apart from any other survivor's story, making it a top 'must have' acquisition for any collection strong in Holocaust survival accounts. Henry is especially recommended for any holding strong in Polish community heritage, World War II history, and the world of competitive swimming.

The International Family Guide to US University Admissions
Jennifer Ann Aquino
John Wiley & Sons
c/o Wiley Professional Trade Group
111 River Street, Hoboken, NJ 07030-5774
9781119370987, $34.95 PB, $18.39 Kindle, 324pp,

At first glance, The International Family Guide to US University Admissions would seem to only duplicate information in similar books about getting into college; but it's important to note that this one comes with a big difference: it's the only title directed to foreign university applicants who need to understand everything from SAT scores and finances to international applications and student status. It thus adopts a different approach and perspective than books which assume a foundation of familiarity with the American college system and domestic processes.

Each chapter opens with a case history example, making it easy for foreigners to quickly relate to the different issues being explored from a candidate's viewpoint.

From documents and paperwork particular to visas and getting enrolled as an overseas student to assessing, long-distance, the cultural atmospheres of different campuses and considering how one's nationality will fit into the mix, The International Family Guide to US University Admissions includes many tips and perspectives not seen in any other college-bound guide.

International families receive not only the nuts and bolts of admission processes, but the tools which are key to understanding different colleges; contrasting their offerings, and considering ways in which their programs and approaches may or may not work for a particular student.

Perhaps this book could not have been written by a US educator - even one with an insider's savvy about the system. Living in Singapore, Jennifer Ann Aquino launched her own private educational consultancy for secondary students and their families, and her expertise and perspective represents her own brand of insider's knowledge not just about American colleges, but about the special concerns and options for foreigners considering them.

Packed with advice that transcends paperwork requirements ("The human process means it's not perfect. There's no science behind it and there's really no way, ever, to find out why you were accepted or why you were rejected. Commit now to letting this go. And, to control what you can control and leave the rest . . ."), this is the item of choice for any overseas family examining American universities.

Black Mesa: The Final Report
Jeff Shear
BigWhitePaper Publishing
9780997803143, $2.99, Kindle,

Black Mesa: The Final Report is high-octane thriller writing at its best, and literally starts with a bang - the explosion of a nuclear bomb that takes out the American government in 2009. It's actually a double whammy, because the attack that destroys DC leaves plague and fallout as its secondary effects. The attack on the nation's capital eliminates its highest levels and leaves lower-echelon folk such (as Senate Foreign Relations Committee investigator-turned-spy Jackson Guild) searching for answers ... answers that are mysteriously quashed as soon as they are discovered.

For the truth of what happened behind this deadly attack, Guild is forced to journey to America's nuclear heart, the secretive Los Alamos National Laboratory, carrying an attache case full of secrets; there to become involved with beautiful scientist Alessandra Almont, whose own investigation involves a new incarnation of nuclear weaponry that will make all prior bombs and efforts look diminutive in comparison.

Early on, Jackson has major concerns about the impact of the nation's pursuit of the truth: "The greater fear for me was how we would punish the nation that masterminded the bombing, because the answer would push the Pentagon to retaliate, goading awake the rough beast of nuclear war."

The destinies of Jackson and Alessandra are tied together because both paths lead to the implication of Modular Dog, a program to assassinate Russia's President Putin, who is believed to have ordered Washington's destruction. And that program will change everything, even if its participants are unwitting accomplices to what might become the end of the world.

Can a solution to end war forever change everything - and what are Jackson and Alessandra's moral and ethical choices as they are played as pawns in a greater game?

Few spy thrillers assume the epic proportions of Black Mesa: The Final Report. Part of the reason why this story is particularly compelling is its focus on the investigative aftermath of a nuclear attack which changes not only every American, but the goals of individual survivors.

Jeff Shear's particular brand of powerful characterization and an investigative thriller that embraces both short-term perspectives and bigger-picture thinking translates to a story that is emotionally involving and action-packed: a combination many strive for, but surprisingly few achieve.

With its twist on both its main characters and its objectives in identifying the perps involved in a devastating nuclear attack and a story line that goes beyond survival attempts, Black Mesa holds the ability to attract a wide range of readers. Audiences will range from those who enjoy political thrillers and international cat-and-mouse games to readers who look for strong characters and interpersonal relationships that snag and hold attention right up to the surprising conclusion, which ultimately questions acts of patriotism and the deadly traps they create.

Very, very highly recommended.

Coaching for Life
Paul Annacone
Irie Books
9781633843820, $19.99 Paper
9781515417088, $25.99, Hardcover, 194pp

At first glance, Coaching For Life: A Guide to Playing, Thinking and Being the Best You Can Be looks like a how-to guide for living well; but it moves well beyond self-help as it combines an autobiography of coach and author Paul Annacone's life with a discussion of how the rules and methods of tennis apply outside of the sports world. Anecdotes of players and moves are thus paired with best practices firmly rooted in real-world encounters.

As chapters provide game descriptions and focus on how to bring excellence into general life decisions and efforts, readers are given a formula for success for everything in life. The process-oriented focus moves between the playing court and the greater world, linking tennis in particular and sports in general to wisdom obtained from learning discipline and applying its rules to life.

Paul Annacone adds anecdotes and his personal encounters to illustrate these points, immersing readers in his life experience as well as his methods: "The variety of shots, slices and angles you see in a player like Roger is strategically important to his game. But not initially. Not even for him. The mechanics of tennis, the building blocks of skill, come first. Once those are understood, then it becomes easier to understand how to execute the arsenal of shots that are the signature of the skilled player. But how can we - in any endeavor - move forward in a direct and uncomplicated way? Well, to put it bluntly, the more variables we create for ourselves at the outset, the harder it is to execute our plan. Repetition and well-designed drills are the answer. Strategy? As I've been saying, it must come later. First the body needs to learn how to think on its own, and this can only happen when the primary skill-set - the tool box, so to say - is put in place. With proper physical mechanics, good habits grow and become basic reflexes. Once the body has memorized the drill, then the mind can add an overall strategic plan."

This is not to say that his coaching perspective is just an ethereal commentary on life. Tennis is the foundation of all; and black and white and color photos of players and teams supplement tennis-specific assessments of success that players will appreciate: "However, there have also been great tennis players who seem to lack what most textbooks portray as "classical form." These are players of very high quality who've handled pressure well due to the high level of shot repetition executed in practice after practice. Such players have their moves almost ingrained on the competitive match court. This repetition, combined with an incredible amount of focus and determination (and not to mention endurance), has helped these types of players develop tremendous self-confidence."

The result is thoroughly grounded in the sport but reaches out to athletes and general-interest readers alike, adding strong visuals to make it a top recommendation for sports and general-interest lifestyle collections alike.

The Eulogist
Jeffrey B. Burton
The Permanent Press
9781579625023, $29.95 HC, $9.99 Kindle, 360pp,

The Eulogist portrays the challenge faced by FBI Special Agent Drew Cady as he investigates the murder of U.S. senator Taylor Brockman, only to discover that the Virginia senator's death is linked not only to underworld operations, but to a deadly serial killer who has also killed a Baltimore junkie (leaving a similar typed eulogy note as a clue) in a plot that embraces drugs, a Mexican cartel, a breakthrough new medicine, and more.

As kidnappings, witnesses, investigations, and politics blow through Cady's world, he comes to realize that this case will be like no other, involving bribery and dangers that keep all potential witnesses shackled and his own efforts stymied.

Part of his challenge lies in an investigation that must continually probe behind public appearance to reveal underlying special interests and influences. Even Cady's investigative prowess seems no match for a mercurial situation that keeps expanding to involve more than individual purposes.

The Eulogist wraps a political thriller in the trappings of a murder mystery, then carries each beyond the borders of the U.S. in a manner designed to keep both Cady and his readers on their toes. The tension is well-done, the setting and progression of events is frighteningly realistic, and its cat-and-mouse games are nicely structured, whether they involve mystery men and bribes or villains well versed in taking advantage of legal systems.

The injection of Cady's thoughts throughout this third-person adventure is also well done, adding more than a light dose of personal reflection and insight into the investigative process and keeping readers involved not only in the mechanics of his work, but its psychological impact.

The result blends a political thriller with an investigative piece that does a fine job of adding enough unpredictable twists and turns to keep its readers guessing till the end, tempering the murder investigation with a solid foundation of psychological descriptions to encourage reader attraction to the characters and their dilemmas.

The Eulogist is very highly recommended as edge-of-your-seat reading for those who like their politics gritty and their murder mysteries compellingly complex.

Lady Knight
G. Rosemary Ludlow
Comwave Publishing House Inc.
Paperback 9780973687156, $12.95
E Book 9780973687163, $4.99

Preteen fantasy fans ages 8-12 years old will relish the third book in the Crystal Journals series even if they don't have prior familiarity with its predecessors, and will readily absorb the medieval setting and story of Susan, who is still coming into the powers bestowed upon her from a crystal she is given, because it's chosen her, at a flea market.

Uncertain of how her powers or the crystal works, Susan discovers (in previous books) that she is the Guardian of only one of four crystals, charged with the task of correcting unfairness in the world and helping others. Her timeslip adventures in the prior books are deftly summed up in a preface chapter that neatly and succinctly sets the stage for her medieval encounter in Lady Knight, so newcomers will be up and running quickly as Susan enters medieval Europe with too many candidates for her aid, including a runaway Lady and a group of young peasant children camping in a forest.

Susan really needs to learn more history. She has no idea of how these disparate forces will interact, and it takes a while to learn out medieval history, which may provide clues as to why she is there. The details about the real-world Children's Crusades of the times are neatly woven into this fantasy and successfully bring the era to life.

Popes, kings, crusades, and a daring plan are soon revealed: "He told us what the popes had promised the kings and their knights. Riding to the liberation of Jerusalem was a sacred duty, they said. These heroes, they said, were holy pilgrims and protected by God's hand. All their sins forgiven, all their afterlives blessed in the wonders of heaven. But they failed, Nicholas told us...Then Nicholas laid out his plan.

Innocent children would succeed where the mighty had failed. We would be the holy pilgrims and travel to Jerusalem."

What is Susan's place in this world, which seems to need her so much? As she comes to learn the political struggles in the Holy Roman Empire, the family struggles of rulers, and the fates of stalwart adventurers who sojourn into danger with her, Susan begins to realize that her task is far greater than she'd thought.

G. Rosemary Ludlow does a fine job of entwining the lives and perspectives of a host of characters surrounding Susan, from a royal runaway, Katerina, to Griswald, Jason, Watt, and others. Part of what helps cement these character developments is her concurrent attention to the sights, sounds, and smells of the times, brought to life in casual moments, such as a welcomed meal: "He held out a trencher to her. Chicken juice had seeped through the bread. Susan took a deep breath. It smelled wonderful. Sauteed onions, just the way her mum made them, lay on the bread under the chicken. She took her first bite of chicken. Wonderful."

While the meat of the story lies in the puzzle of Susan's role in this world and the experiences and intentions of those who surround her, it's these details that bring the story to life, supporting Susan's exploration of a history she knows too little about.

The result is an engrossing timeslip saga that will delight young fantasy enthusiasts of the genre and newcomers alike, who will find Susan a realistic, believable protagonist who continually faces challenges and overcomes obstacles in the year 1212, when "...thousands of children took to the roads of Europe, all travelling to free the Holy Land."

Grappling with Legacy
Sylvia Brown
Archway Publishing
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781480844179, $28.99 PB, $7.99 Kindle, 454pp,

Under different a hand, Grappling with Legacy: Rhode Island's Brown Family and the American Philanthropic Impulse could have limited its focus to a single family's history, adding it to the chronicles of genealogical studies holding specific interest primarily to other family members or local historians.

But Sylvia Brown's approach goes further as it picks a family compulsive about philanthropy and considers not only its evolution, but how the Browns of Rhode Island excelled in business and social good alike, maintaining that tradition for over three hundred years.

It thus quickly becomes evident that Grappling with Legacy holds a wider-ranging interest as it considers not just Brown family activities, but the bigger picture of the history of philanthropy in America, changing feelings about its actions and impacts, and how social issues weave into charitable giving and community support to change the nature and perception of giving.

Many family members ran complex, risky businesses in difficult times. Others became involved in changing political perspectives governing philanthropic efforts, participating in these processes as the nation veered from slavery and moved into arenas where ideals produced a conflict of interest; particularly when the abolition movement erupted in the early 1830s after lying dormant for some thirty years.

At each step of the way, connections are made between family bonds, philanthropic choices, and changing perceptions of social good and its impact.

The result is a powerful survey not just of the Brown Family's choices, but of the evolution of philanthropy in the country as a whole. Grappling with Legacy should be on the reading lists of any American history class regardless of their proximity to Rhode Island.

Jesus Loves You
Christine Topjian
Lighthouse Christian Publishing
754 Roxholly Walk, Buford, GA 30518
9781519489104, $6.95 PB, $0.99 Kindle, 26pp,

God's only son is watching, and his message is one of love. That's the foundation of Christian picture book Jesus Loves You, a primer for the very young that pairs a simple message with large-size, colorful drawings that could have been done by a child, appealing to young peers reading this story.

From the time young readers were babes in the womb (a time when "God was knitting you together") to the first day of school, a first class presentation, first date, first conflict with a parent, the milestones of childhood are linked to Jesus' love in a story that moves from childhood to adulthood to reinforce the simple idea that every step in life is accompanied by Jesus' help and love.

Kids receive confirmation that there is no step in life where Jesus is not 'there' beside them, bestowing love and support. Where other books would go into indicators or signs, Christine Topjian's message is far simpler - and thus, more acceptable to the very young: Jesus loves you. There could be no easier message than this, presented in a picture book that surveys one child's life and the major hurdles and successes it brings. It concludes with a final emphasis that will pave the way for dialogue between the very young and their read-aloud adults.

Jesus Loves You is highly recommended as a 'first primer' introduction to Jesus for the very young.

Raccoon Rescue
Christa M. Miller & Christian Barratt
Independently Published
Paperback ISBN: 9780994569073 $12.99
eBook ISBN: 9780994569097 $ 2.99

Christian Barratt provides the engaging drawings for Raccoon Rescue: Living Wild Side by Side, a chapter book primer for grades 3-5 which follows the life and challenges of a raccoon family. This family fishes streams, muses on the odd habits of "flat faces", and experiences the usual sibling rivalry when they encounter a young human child.

Raccoon and human habits are nicely contrasted as they observe the odd creature from a satisfyingly different perspective than kids may be used to ("No, we can't raise it," Mama said."Roxy is right. Not only aren't humans nocturnal, but they also don't hunt. Not like we do, anyway. And their mamas don't leave their babies behind any more than we do. That means she can't be far.")

Moments of levity are embedded into the story as the raccoons observe the odd habits of humans and make pointed remarks about their possible origins: "You always blame me for everything!" the shorter human screamed. Before long, the entire family was shouting. "See," Roxy snorted. "They do have rabies. The whole family. Listen to them snarling like wolves."

Kids with any familiarity with raccoons (and even urban dwellers who do not) will find these young raccoons both hilarious and thought-provoking as the wild/human encounter leads them to learn more. The juxtaposition of human and raccoon observations about each another provides a nice contrast in perspective as both 'wild' creatures observe habits odd to them, and interpret their causes.

Families separated, conflicts that surround them, and a rescue effort make for a story line that is adventurous and which reveals raccoon natural history and human intervention in nature's processes.

The fun drawings throughout make Raccoon Rescue the perfect next step for nature-loving readers who still enjoy pictures, but who are ready for the structure of a chapter book complete with plot and animal insights. This audience will love this gentle, fun tale of animals learning to get along both in the wild and with the puzzling humans around them. As an added bonus, the book is designed to be dyslexia-friendly, using the Dyslexie font to encourage its wide accessibility.

Never Retreat
Bonnie McCune
Imajin Books
Prepublication Review: ISBN TBA, Price TBA

A corporate retreat should be the last place where a single mother and an up-and-coming aggressive business manager would make a romantic connection, but Never Retreat demonstrates that high-stakes prizes and bonuses can attract disparate personalities from anywhere; especially when the big prize which only one can win results in a dangerous scenario where both might lose.

Corporate matters, investments in romance and the heart, and a locale and situation that takes two very different characters out of their familiar and powerful lives and sets them at odds with each other and their environment makes for a story line that will especially attract readers of women's fiction looking for something different.

The first thing to note about Bonnie McCune's approach is that her creation of these two feisty characters is specific and precise, cementing their personalities with dialogue and encounters that pinpoints psychological profiles, special interests, and approaches to life that cause them to both attract and clash: "Your stereotypes might help explain why you have a chip on your shoulder when it comes to me." He pushed again, wondering how much she'd take and truly wishing he could disarm her well-disguised hostility to reveal the dynamic, alluring woman deep below her work persona.

Evidently she'd had enough, for she said through gritted teeth, "Nope. Wrong. I have a chip on my shoulder because you assumed I wasn't a manager. As soon as you saw me, you asked me to get you coffee. And now that I've noticed you on your motorcycle pulling into the parking garage, because you ride a hog." "So you imagine I'm a wild and crazy guy. Beat people up on my off-hours. Binge drink and do drugs and women." "Certainly some validity to that." She turned and walked after Julia."

This sets the stage for events to come, juxtaposing business special interests and a surprising test that moves from corporate to outdoor environments, quickly turning into a match of skills in a survival effort that embraces more than business or social interests.

Few novels operate on such different levels, moving their characters to challenge not just each other, but their own perceptions and personal support routines.

Under less skilled hands the action might have wandered too far off-track, but McCune provides just the right blend of comic relief, interpersonal encounters, and outside environment changes to make her story a powerful blend of elements that moves readers along in logical and surprising progressions of plot. The elements of humor are a delightful surprise to what otherwise might be a serious story of love and growth: "Listen, buster," she said. "You're in the Wild West now, remember? I learned to throw a lariat at my father's knee." "You're pulling my leg." "Nope." He tossed back his head and hooted so hard he nearly fell over. "You never cease to amaze me. Throw a lasso." "Technically the line's a lariat. Lasso is a verb. Hand over the ropes."

From high-stakes maneuvers to issues of respecting women's independence, Des and Raye's story embraces corporate and personal growth alike, moving neatly beyond the personal perspectives of either to create a conjoined, powerful story of changed managerial approaches to boardroom and bedroom alike.

The real impact of the retreat, its underlying purposes, and the additional challenges introduced by Mother Nature wind up a powerful story fueled by two characters whose emotionally and professionally charged interactions will keep readers involved and guessing to the end.

Code Blue
Marissa Slaven
Moon Willow Press
9781927685273, $14.95,

Rising oceans, a vastly changed environment, and people who struggle to survive in this new world are not unusual; but what is notably different in Code Blue is a survival account of this changed world as seen through the eyes of a teen who lives behind a barbed-wire fence that stretches some 28,000 miles, designed to either protect or barricade those within (she's not quite sure which applies).

Marissa Slaven's striking observational style captures Tic's world and deftly contrasts it with our own: "Looking at it from here, if you didn't know any better, it looks like hundreds of seagulls are standing on the water, walking around on it and building nests, but really they are on the roof of a submerged building. It's a big roof, almost one million square feet. It's the roof of what was once the largest shopping mall in New England. I know from watching old videos that it would have been a place where teenagers like me would have met, shopped, eaten, gossiped, hooked up, broken other words spent a lot of time."

The visual images of what exists now, compared to their original appearance and purposes, are simply stunning, and are part of what captures reader attention and makes this future world seem so familiar and so alien, all at once.

Another important note is that the economic impact of the Change is also covered - and in intimate terms that reveals lifestyle impact; not the usual dispassionate survey of appearances. Perhaps this is because of Marissa Slaven's use of the first person, which imparts a "you are here" tone to her coverage and thoroughly immerses readers in Tic's much-changed world and its routines.

Dystopian fiction comes and goes, and too many assume the trappings of formula productions; but the test of any superior story line lies in its ability to draw readers with powerful characterization and associations that lend to a reader's emotional connections with events as they unfold. Code Blue holds a special ability to juxtapose both the bigger ecological picture with the microcosm of a young adult's personal challenges as she moves through this world.

Add the mystery of Tic's father's research, her determination to assume his task of tackling global climate change by continuing his work as they strive to stave off the effects of rising waters, and new clues about his project that hold frightening impacts for her own studies and ideals and you have a young adult story that should reach well into adult dystopian fiction reader circles as it leads to a critical moment in a complex situation: a tipping point that will change her family, her dreams, and her teetering world.

Code Blue is very, very highly recommended as a blend of sci-fi, eco-thriller, and coming of age story that's hard to put down, filled with satisfying twists, turns, and even unexpected intrigue.

Sojourn of Jake
Douglas M. Hoy
Publisher: TBA
Price: TBA
Website/Ordering Link: TBA

Sojourn of Jake opens with Jake newly on the road in search of his beckoning destiny - an event that is threatened by limited time and a sense of urgency that negates any vision of carefree discovery. His dog Angel accompanies him on this journey down memory lane to places perhaps best left nearly forgotten or not completely remembered: "Yes, the world was much different than in every respect than now. During those years of Ike and just at the beginning of JFK and Camelot all seemed safe and serene. I suppose it was, with all of its post card appearances. But things do happen. Events, on almost every block, can take place completely un-noticed to the casual observer. But unsavory can happen, things do happen. A young boy was not sure why, or indeed if what had happened, was even wrong. Times and social standards change; guilt, shame, always remain. These feelings stayed to become my constants. The darkened thoughts and memories are still there, waiting, possibly to change my fate, to remind me of things you can never forget. Try as I might, run as fast and far as I can, no amount of laughter can ever change the lingering, whispering, voices of events best forgotten."

Where is Jake heading; and how is his journey viewed by an outsider, as he lets Mandi into his life and outlines some of the hurdles and obstacles he's faced which seem to be still ahead of him as he nears the end of the road? His reflections are nicely described, with a sad, philosophical, observational tone letting both Mandi and the reader into his past, present and future: "Sadly, now, I sense the thread of my life growing short for me at a very hurried rate. This seems to heighten by all my general questions from my best forgotten past. I am beginning to feel the only certain truth which may come to light for me now is there is no truth, no true answer. If those answers came forth they would only make way to more uncertainty of more questions setting in motion a non ending spiral of thoughts and emotions. There have been decades for me to be haunted, hindered, decades to keep the unsavory truth unto myself, my hidden personal thoughts. So these ghosts are up me to handle if I am ever to find any peace."

From encounters with long-time friends that change their lives to his continued connections with Mandi even after they part, Jake faces what he needs to; from the darkness in his mind and memories to a last-ditch attempt to rid himself of the demons he's carried around for decades.

His plans are "written in the sand" and are as mercurial as the relationships he revisits, the new ones he forms, and the specter of past, present, and future which leads him to review not only past challenges, but past happiness.

Sojourn of Jake is a life journey in more ways than one. Physically and psychologically, Jake is facing some of the biggest changes in his world. Accompanied by his faithful dog Angel, he leads readers through bygone times, hopes and dreams, and an ongoing desire to travel an unpredictable road.

Fans of Kerouac's On the Road and other road trips of self-discovery and Americana will relish the tone and insights surrounding Jake and his journey, and will find Sojourn of Jake a poignant, involving tale.

The Mother I Imagined, the Mom I Knew
Paul Alan Fahey
Mindprints Literary Press
9780999209219 (print) $14.99
9780999209226 (e-book) Price:TBA
Website/Ordering Link: TBA

The Mother I Imagined, the Mom I Knew blends a memoir format with fiction and poetry for an unusual multi-faceted discussion that carries readers through Paul Alan Fahey's life and his relationship with his mother, creating a fine testimony to single mothers raising sons on their own.

Fahey's mother died when he was almost fifty: an event that affected his life and led him into therapy, where he started a journal reflecting on his relationship with her and his memories of her life. These entries turned into vignettes, short fictional pieces, and insights surrounding the realities of the mother he knew and the mother figure he envisioned.

Perhaps of necessity, the structure of The Mother I Imagined, the Mom I Knew is a 'hybrid' creation that changes formats and perspectives in the course of its journey. As the story unwinds, starting in the 1950s when mother and son led a 'gypsy' life roaming the San Francisco peninsula as drifters, to how he came out to his mother as a gay man, her reaction ("I know," she said, "and I don't approve." She got up and walked over to me with a slightly inebriated gait. I felt her lips brush my cheek, heard a whispered "I love you, that's all that matters..."), and how he pieced together his mother's past from her stories, journals, and insights ("Mother told me stories mostly to entertain me, but also to take the edge off my nomadic childhood. Monday nights might have found us in a motel room with kitchenette, and a free continental breakfast, and then Wednesday we'd be in a furnished studio apartment. I never knew where we'd end up."), this story is filled with not just lifestyle and personality insights, but the evolving relationship of mother and son against the backdrop of cultural changes in the San Francisco Bay Area from the 1950s through the eighties and nineties.

The result is a vivid memoir of a mother's love and a freewheeling lifestyle that held both poignant and challenging moments, telling and how the author pulled together all the disparate strings of his and his mother's life to create a memoir that addresses both the realities and ideals of their world. Perhaps Fahy himself best sums up his own story: "Just memories about a woman and her son making the best of a miserable situation ... and managing to find humor and love in those moments."

Intimate, vivid, and engrossing, The Mother I Imagined, the Mom I Knew is a memoir not to be missed by anyone who wants a road trip through an author's world and his mother's tenacity, and is highly recommended for any with a special attraction to coming-of-age stories set against the backdrop of the Bay Area.

Turn out the Light
John A. Brennan
Local Gems Press
9781946157652, $15.00,

In 1968, author John A. Brennan, a political and economic 'refugee' from Ireland, arrived in London as young man on the cusp of change. His only traveling companion was a carpenter's toolbox and a head full of dreams.

Why should readers care about a memoir that charts this individual's journey? Because it is a microcosm of social sentiments and changes of the times; and with its lyrical and impressive language, it traces the atmosphere and possibilities of both individuals and societies: "What struck me first about London was its size, it seemed enormous and daunting but thankfully this feeling soon passed when I began to look closer at my surroundings. Everyone was decked out in brightly hued shirts, dresses and pants and music was playing everywhere. People were happy and smiling, such a contrast from my hometown where a war was brewing and which would last for 30 years. Carnaby street and the King's road were where it was happening; the mini skirt had just made its debut and all the girls wore them. I had arrived just as the summer of peace and love began and found that it was all about the music. In truth, the music saved me, literally. If I had stayed in Ireland I feel sure that I would have been caught up in the mayhem and violence as many of my contemporaries were. As I said, the music was my savior."

This juxtaposition of personal perspective with bigger-picture thinking is firmly rooted in music and British culture in a slice-of-life vignette powerfully rooted in music, which uses the forms of black and white rock musician photos, letters from a fan, and poetry (and a series of letters addressed to particular musicians who made a powerful impact on his life, covering this impact and thanking them) to create a multi-faceted, involving chronicle.

Think of some of the biggest names in popular music history, from Bob Marley and young George Harrison to Janis Joplin and Brian Jones. Think of the impact these figures made on the world around them. Then turn to John A. Brennan's Turn Out the Light and its many nuggets of wisdom for a powerful tribute that follows each musician's achievements, impact, and place in Brennan's life. Take, as one example, his letter to Jimi Hendrix: "I had the honor of seeing you in London in January 1969, that magical year. I worked as a set carpenter at the BBC recording studios West London, in those heady days of the late sixties. You were there to record some of your "BBC Sessions" tracks. I was in your presence for perhaps five minutes, even though we never spoke, it was long enough to fall in love with you and your musical genius and become a life-long fan."

Many of these writings also incorporate powerful reflections on not only what was, but what could have been; as in the powerful concluding line in Jimi's piece: "Just imagine if you had gone to Vietnam, where would we be musically today."

Turn Out the Light celebrates bygone musical times, the lasting impact of popular music on listener lives, and the rise of an unprecedented musical renaissance that changed not only Brennan's life, but the world around him. Fans of popular, contemporary music history will find Turn Out the Light a music memoir like no other.

Alison Brodie
Amazon Digital Publishing
ISBN: 9780995456846, $3.99, Kindle

Ordering Links:

Zenka is a Hungarian dancer who devotes herself to a London mob boss when he saves her life - an unusual association, to say the least; especially since the last thing Jack Murray is seeking is a petite but stubborn woman tenaciously determined to return a favor.

But Jack has other things on his mind, too: namely the discovery of a son he didn't know he had - a young man who is a wimp; who is being bullied on several fronts. Between Zenka and the newfound demands of this unknown son, Jack's between a rock and a hard place; especially since he never asked for these kinds of changes to his life and his position in it.

Nobody can ignore Zenka Valentina Varga - not Jack and certainly not the reader, who receives feisty introductions to her personality, her world, and her reasons for insisting that her new role in life is to become Jack's guardian angel.

As perspectives pivot between Zenka, Jack, newfound son Nicholas, and others, readers receive a multi-faceted viewpoint of the personalities, perspectives, and very different lives of all three, and those who are part of their worlds.

Each character has something to offer the other and has strong reasons for changing their world and those in it. Alison Brodie takes the time to fully develop not only their viewpoints but their logic and actions, resulting in a winning series of personalities that drive the story line whether one is reading about Nicholas' challenges, the interruptions to Jack's role as mob boss, or Zenka's newfound relationship with both father and son.

Dialogue is realistic and convincing as worlds collide and falsehoods spread: "'Ah, Penelope, have you met our cleaner? She's Hungarian.'

He couldn't say her name; it would sound too personal. "Cleaner" sounded efficient. A necessity.

'Cleaner?' Penelope's voice hummed with disbelief.

Nicholas nodded vigorously. 'Yes, we've been hard at it. I mean-' he corrected himself quickly. 'We've been spring cleaning. You won't recognize Jason's room, my G-o-d!' Nicholas knew his laugh was shrill and unconvincing. 'We thought we'd have to call in Porton Down, until Zen-' he corrected himself, 'until we got ourselves a cleaner.' He saw Zenka's bewilderment and felt the shame course through his body. He was such a coward he couldn't even own-up to knowing her."

Jack has everything to lose as these relationships evolve. Nicholas has everything to gain. And Zenka, their shared connection, just made life a bit more complicated.

Spicy, replete with London lingo (which is nicely defined in the beginning) and personalities, and liberally laced with humor and irony, Zenka is a feisty, involving read that is made all the more powerful for the hot-blooded Hungarian passion running through its pages.

Readers of intrigue, family relationships, and women's fiction will find its brand of thriller, fun, and unusual interpersonal connections to be just the right recipe for a riveting read.

Murder in the Second Pew
K.P. Gresham
Publisher: TBA
Paperback ISBN: 9780006700269, $14.99
E-Book ISBN: 9780996700276, $ 4.99
Website/ordering Link: TBA

Murder in the Second Pew is a Pastor Matt Hayden mystery that follows the retired cop/newfound pastor's cases; because sometimes a cop just can't let go of his true profession, even when his participation in a Witness Protection program leads him to take spiritual vows.

No prior familiarity with Pastor Hayden's first appearance (in The Preacher's First Murder) is required in order to readily absorb the background and perspective of this unusual investigator. From the very first sentence, Pastor Hayden's personality and experience are clear: "Hearing the gunshots, Pastor Matt Hayden hit the floor behind his office desk with the reflexes of the cop he'd once been. My God. Have they found me? He slanted a glance at the two women?the matrons of the Altar Guild, no less?staring at him from their chairs across from his desk, mouths agape."

The second strength of Murder in the Second Pew is K.P. Gresham's ability to inject powerful descriptive language into her story line, whether with character dialogue or setting: "She'll wrap herself around you like a sweet-potato vine, then slap you into next Wednesday when you get interested," Zach said angrily, but when Chelsea returned with the iced tea, his look turned lecherous."

Character's psyches, places, and dialogue are firmly rooted in a story that swirls around Matt's attempts to both solve crime and keep his real identity a secret, even though his methods and approaches are anything but those of a man of the cloth, leading to his real background coming under unwanted scrutiny: "We both know you've been somethin' other than a preacher in the past. The way you put together the murders last January, the questions you asked, the methodology you followed - it's clear you've been trained in keepin' the law." Matt knew that witness protection policy would dictate that he deny it, but he remained silent."

As religious questions, political issues, and dead bodies task Matt with impossible puzzles and attempts to keep his secrets, readers are treated to Texas atmosphere and an investigation that holds unexpected consequences for all involved.

Murder in the Second Pew's ability to attract newcomers and prior fans of Pastor Matt Hayden alike with its unique blend of religious, psychological, and investigative perspectives makes it one of the best new mystery series on the market. Well-done and involving, the story offers many satisfying twists right up to the conclusion, which paves the way for more.

War Poet: The Life Of Alan Seeger And His Rendezvous With Death
Michael Hill
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781973794967, $14.95,

War Poet: The Life Of Alan Seeger And His Rendezvous With Death offers the biography of an American poet killed during World War I in 1916. Never heard of Alan Seeger? Readers may likely recall the title of his classic poem ("I Have a Rendezvous with Death") more than his name; but Michael Hill's story should correct this, placing Alan Seeger's importance firmly back in the minds of those who recall this classic poem but otherwise know relatively little of his life.

In many ways, War Poet is as much a chronicle of military heroism as it is about literary prowess. Seeger's single effort elevated him to the status of a war poet whose observation was unparalleled in military or literary circles; but this wasn't the only thing he did with his life.

The story embraces his world, drawing on new archival material to offer a more well-rounded account than any prior reference, drawing together all the existing information to provide a complete portrait of the man and his influences and personality before, during, and after the war: "When not with Lippmann or Reed in the cafes of Harvard Square, Seeger would withdraw for hours or days at a time, taking refuge in the solitude of his room or the library, devoting long hours to his true passion: poetry. Although his journey as a poet had finally begun, these early days at Harvard were mostly a time of loneliness, frustration, and an almost daily "tearing up [of] verses, unseen by friends."

From Cambridge honors, where he survived the "Jaws Of Harvard," to a synthesis of his battlefield writings and memoirs that captures his moment-by-moment observations ("The smell of pine branches packed in the dirt shelter above his head briefly reminded him of home and the "Christmas odors in American houses decorated with green things for the holidays." But the ever-present smell of gun powder from German artillery shells "quickly kills the holiday reminder," he scribbled in his journal."), War Poet achieves what too few biographies accomplish: introduces an atmosphere of immediacy and inspection based on the subject's writings, weaving them into an overall story that brings all facets of his world to life.

Black and white vintage photos peppered throughout complete the personal impact of a chronicle that is gently bittersweet as it captures the life force of the poet who penned these immortal words: "... I've a rendezvous with Death/At midnight in some flaming town,/When Spring trips north again this year,/And I to my pledge word am true,/I shall not fail that rendezvous."

It's hard to imagine a better tribute to Alan Seeger's life and times than War Poet, which places that single literary milestone in solid perspective to his life and times. Very, very highly recommended, War Poet should not be limited to biography or military history collections alone, but should be assigned reading in any literary class studying poetry and life connections.

Yeshua's Loom: A Tapestry of Cats
C. L. Francisco, PhD
9781974308606,$12.98 PB, $5.99 Kindle

The fifth volume in the Yeshua's Cats saga adds to the story of Paul the Apostle (begun in The Cats of Rekem), expanding the Biblical perceptions of its times through the unusual vantage point of sentient cat observers.

In Yeshua's Loom, the young weaver whom Yeshua healed in Yeshua's Cat embarks on journeys of her own, described by alternating cat narrators who find their own hearts (and those of their keepers) expanding as a result of Biblical events that unfold as one of the key elements in this cat-perspective survey of Biblical times.

While this reviewer seldom recommends that newcomers begin a series at any point beyond its opener, it should be noted that this fifth volume stands as well on its own as it does as an addition to the series, filling out events surrounding Biblical figures while creating new subplots and stories that all readers will relish.

One of the elements that will drive readers (even those who are not avid Christians) to this series in general and Yeshua's Loom in particular is C.L. Francisco's ability to bring to life a cat's perspective and the feelings, sights, and sounds of the times: "I sighed again and closed my eyes. The son of Earth had explained what it meant for a cat to bond with a human. At the very least he expected me to stay by Aeliana's side. But more than that, I knew he was depending on me to help her find her way in this new life so far from the hills of Galilee....So I was stuck. No way out. I closed my ears to the crashing fury of the sea and let my mind sink into the nowhere place, where all beasts go when life spins out of control and no more choices remain."

These evocative, lyrical descriptions permeate the story as it follows the sometimes-puzzling choices humans make from the observations of sometimes-wiser cats who follow in their footsteps.

Journeys and confrontations, spiritual and social changes, and cats who share in the adventure make for a story that excels in cat's-eye viewpoints of Biblical matters which are exquisitely portrayed, right down to reunions, joyful encounters, and celebrations: "Then, as we rounded a last corner, the fog swirled away and a storm of emotion broke loose, filled with many glad cries of greeting: my mate's friend was the fabled Wind on Water, ben Adamah's companion cat. The human female beside her turned out to be Maryam of Magdala, who had helped Aeliana settle in with Tirzah in Acco. A strange man emerged from the assembly's depths to close the door on our noisy reunion, but I suspect Chariton and I were the only ones to notice. We stood to one side, a stolid male island awash in a sea of female enthusiasm."

Under another hand, having three different cats as narrator/observers could have been confusing; but chapter headings clearly follow changing cat viewpoints while visionary dreams, tragedy, and struggles to heal follow the experiences of Aeliana, who evolves to become Lydia, a seller of purple and a biblical character from the book of Acts, who offers Paul unique wisdom destined to change the future of Christianity.

One might believe, from such descriptions, that the audience for Yeshua's Loom will be limited to Christian followers or prior series readers; but this would be a shame. Its unique perspective, blends of philosophy and religious inspection, and astute observations of the puzzles of human faith, encounters, and dreams make it an attraction certain to grab any who seek thought-provoking accounts of Biblical times.

Yeshua's Loom adds to the series in a powerful story that is very highly recommended to all readers who like historical events narrated from different perspectives; particularly those who would discover portions of Biblical history and people who do not usually receive close inspection.

Terminal Secret
Mark Gilleo
2020 Press, LLC
9780999047200, $14.99 paper/$4.99 Kindle

Terminal Secret starts out with an intriguing statement that makes thriller readers want to continue, right from the start: "It's always easier to break the law wearing a tuxedo." Said guy in the tuxedo has just scaled a security fence. His latest case involves a congressman's wife who is justifiably afraid for her life - but not for the reasons she states.

Readers receive something different in Terminal Secret's investigative process, however, because this is not just a detective story (or two), but is woven into a political arena as an attorney's murder involves a P.I., a detective, and the evolution of two seemingly different cases drawn together by many connections.

From drugs and mysterious deaths with no clear motive to two different investigators who find themselves a team, this story starts out with intrigue and keeps getting more complex and engrossing.

What do medical records have to do with murders? Plenty, as events reveal a subplot that goes beyond murder and into some truly intriguing avenues involving payoffs, secrets, trials, and business relationships with drug cartels; all revolving around the pivot point of the terminally ill.

The plot is lively and filled with many unexpected twists and turns, the investigations are absorbing, and the characters well-written. The entire structure is designed to keep readers on their toes as events unfold, making for an engrossing story from beginning to end.

Terminal Secret is recommended reading for readers who enjoy a dash of Robin Cook-style medical ethics puzzles woven into a larger tale of intrigue and murder.

Oswald the Lucky Rabbit
David A. Bossert
Disney Editions
125 West End Avenue, New York, NY 10023
9781484780374, $40.00,

Oswald the Lucky Rabbit: The Search for the Lost Disney Cartoons presents a history of the origins of the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio and the hit they had in 1927 with Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, whose history has, surprisingly, been 'lost' until now.

Basically, if it weren't for Oswald, Disney may not have evolved to become the powerhouse it is today - but that journey was anything but linear. It involved Oswald's initial rejection, his eventual acceptance, and how Disney lost the contract to their first major character; only regaining the twenty-six Walt Disney created Oswald cartoons (and returning Oswald to his proper place in Disney history) six decades later.

Oswald's happy-go-lucky demeanor and his clever ability to come out on top of any situation predated Mickey's evolution and reflected creator Walt Disney's approach to life itself.

So how did Walt's first major animated success result not only in losing the contract, but in Oswald's journey into animation obscurity for so many years? Disney fans will quickly come to realize this story isn't just about Oswald's evolutionary process, but about Walt Disney's own evolution as he furthered his animation efforts and created the foundations of what was to become his more famous Mickey Mouse character.

From legends and realities to common animation practices of the day and how cartoons are 'lost' over time, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit packs in visual embellishments, from animation frames to vintage photos, in its efforts to trace Oswald's history through copyright synopsis, surviving film documents, and episode reviews.

Packed with illustration as it is, readers almost don't need the rare vintage Oswald film in order to enjoy this recreation of historical record that offers such in-depth discussion about Oswald's adventures and evolution.

Recommended for Disney fans, prior Oswald enthusiasts, and animation history readers alike, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit: The Search for the Lost Disney Cartoons fills in many blanks and offers specifics about animation processes, legalese, and the process of researching and recapturing lost cartoons, and is a 'must' for any collection strong in Disney characters and history.

The American Pearl
Peter Gilboy
Book Baby

Quintyn is a government worker on his honeymoon when he discovers that a fellow soldier left missing in Vietnam during the fall of Saigon may be alive, living in Laos, and struggling to return home. The decisions he's forced to make from this revelation change his life and world in The American Pearl, a hard-hitting novel of the ongoing aftermath of military service and its impact on a middle-aged, Afro-American, ex-soldier's life.

Patricia's ordeal and struggles to not just survive but to return home dovetail with Quintyn's ongoing, troubled world in a story that is hard-hitting, absorbing, and hard to put down.

Consider its opening: a black man is running along a public beach. His frantic movements portend danger in a description that succinctly embraces racism and perceived threats ("Follow me now: In a moment the man will be in front of you, still grimacing and holding his side. You'll freeze then. Your world will shrink to the merest fraction. Just this man. He's closer now. Looming even larger. The man notices you and seems to stagger toward you. He seems to scowl at you. Danger bells go off in your head - he's violent, a gangbanger, has a gun, probably been shot."), but the heart of the story - his betrayal - lies not in the society he currently moves in, but in the actions of his government.

This is the heart of a story that moves between two lives changed by war and its aftermath, which surveys issues of racism and betrayal from different vantage points ("Her liberator's lectures continued over the next weeks. Always the same. She could have repeated them from memory: How the American protesters at home - what he called 'the Second Front' - were helping bring peace to the world. How American workers are starving because of greedy capitalists. How blacks are enslaved and forced to work in cotton fields. How the puppet government of South Vietnam could not defeat the righteous cause of the North.")

Patricia's desperate journey through a rugged country brings to life both Vietnam and the often-alien landscape that is America's involvement in it, both overseas and at home. Peter Gilboy's language is lyrical and intensely descriptive, imparting a "you are there" feel whether he's speaking of Patricia's journey or Quintyn's angst: "She journeyed through two seasons of monsoons. She drank from giant leaves. She drank directly from the sky. She had heard that there were tigers and wild boar, and watched for glowing eyes in the dark, but so far had been able to avoid them. Or they had avoided her. She came across places where nothing grew, still pocked from the war. She did not pray, except once in a forest of trees that towered so high that she recalled a cathedral; she imagined that the trees were the stilts of God."

The lasting effects of American government decisions on both their lives is nicely portrayed, with alternating character viewpoints clearly identified in chapter headings, following a path that intersects their lives and leads Quintyn back into a world he thought he'd left behind.

Life's misfortunes has a way of haunting us - and so these two very different protagonists find their worlds in collision in a story that embraces politics, racism, war, redemption, betrayal, and even love, on many levels.

Readers of fiction about Vietnam and its aftermath will find The American Pearl engrossing, thought-provoking, and filled with action that makes it a different, highly recommended read.

Cute Poodles, Sweet Old Ladies, And Hugs: Veterinary Tales
P.J. Miller, B.V.M.& S., M.R.C.V.S.
Thirty8street Publishing
9780692902806, $8.06,

There is no lack of interest in veterinary experiences, among the reading public; a phenomenon that began with England's James Herriot's country vet stories and which continues to this day with the plethora of veterinary shows on television.

Cute Poodles, Sweet Old Ladies, And Hugs: Veterinary Tales joins the literature for pet enthusiasts who want to read about vet experiences with animals and those who want stories about especially challenging animal (and their human) health cases, and comes from a vet raised in New York City who trained in Scotland.

The dual focus on animals and owners makes for a fun read that includes wry and insightful comments not just on pet owner personalities, but the good and bad decisions they make during the course of caring for their animals.

It also follows the making of Dr. Miller's veterinary practice using the same wry observational style and lessons he gains from furry patients and human keepers alike, offering a strong contrast between educational theory and veterinary practice: "Some professors don't have the real-world experience and don't approach things practically. They have spent their careers in the world of academia. Instead, some vet students are taught to run tests and approach cases in ways that wouldn't work in general practice. At Edinburgh, we were taught, "This is the ideal way, but this is the way you are probably going to have to approach it in your practice."

This thread of insight is a constant that runs through Cute Poodles, Sweet Old Ladies, And Hugs: Veterinary Tales to set it apart from other veterinary story collections, educating readers not just about fun animal and owner personalities, but about the very real challenges and decision-making process vets face on a daily basis.

The dialogue between pet owner and vet is especially well-done and thought-provoking as it considers the boundaries of vet/patient experience and how sometimes these lines are crossed.

This collection is highly recommended for anyone who likes stories about animals, their human keepers, and the physicians who are charged with keeping everyone healthy, happy, and well-informed. Unlike stories designed to entertain, this collection educates and offers a professional vet's perspective of what constitutes good animal care on all sides - an invaluable and unique aspect that sets Cute Poodles, Sweet Old Ladies, And Hugs: Veterinary Tales apart from pet stories largely created for entertainment value.

Howl of the Lambergoon
Anthony Spaeth
MFT Press
9780997529821, $14.00,

Howl of the Lambergoon is Book 1 of Gad the Zig, and gives picture book readers a lively blend of rollicking rhyme and adventure as it recounts the story Gad ("In the Hebrides, in the olden days,/When Flatnose ruled the sea,/A servant boy called Gad the zig/Gathered clams by Loch Buie."), embellishing it with lovely colorful drawings by illustrator Marta Stawska.

It should be mentioned that Howl of the Lambergoon is no light-hearted romp, but a complex and well-developed story that follows Gad the Zig and his Shetland pony Lully through a lagoon where he encounters the dreadful "fork-tongued lambergoon."

As they make their way through a dark and dangerous forest tailed by the lambergoon, pony and boy flee for the safety of their master's house - but just as they reach sanctuary, it turns out that the goon holds a message for the boy, about pride. And what of Master Hoon, who has defied it and lived to tell the tale?

Between the complex, winding, 76-age picture book story and its fine rhymes, adult assistance for young readers is recommended. The nature of a story which revolves around confrontations with a monster would also make it a recommended pick not for the very young, but for older picture book readers likely to find the beast interesting and not intimidating and the series of encounters and tales to be engrossing rather than overly demanding.

Also be forewarned: there's blood and darkness involved in these encounters ("Lull was first to catch the scent - /The reeking of the dead./They found a cavern stained with blood/

Where the lambergoon had fed."), reinforcing that this is a pick not for the fearful youngster, but for older picture book readers able to absorb the subtle nuances of a vivid rhyme embracing a series of confrontations with horror that offers a truly surprising twist to its tale.

Highly recommended for its lovely drawings and original, unique turn of events, Howl of the Lambergoon is a powerful, enjoyable read many adults will find involving.

Eat Mesquite and More
Desert Harvesters
Chelsea Green Publishing Company
85 North Main Street, Suite 120, White River Junction, VT 05001
9780692938744, $34.95

At first glance, Eat Mesquite and More: A Cookbook for Sonoran Desert Foods and Living might seem a specialty cookbook for desert-residing readers only; but while its focus is specific to Sonoran Desert wild food usage, cooks, gardeners and landscapers, and urban designers alike will find much to relish about a cookbook that focuses on cultivating desert foods.

For one thing, it's loaded not only with new foods and flavors, but stories of the individuals and organizations fostering their cultivation and usage. This means that growing, harvesting, processing, and pairing flavors adds to what is more than a 'wild foods' or regional cookbook in a seasonal arrangement made all the more intriguing by its chapter separation by 'wet' versus 'dry' seasonal offerings.

Secondly, it comes with a manifesto that promotes sensitively to ecological systems and natural land processes; and this means a gardening and farming approach to these foods that results in as little impact to ecological systems as possible, from purposely 'planting rain' and capturing runoff and rain to not just looking for wild food sources, but replanting and replenishing them after harvest.

A cautionary note to this collection is that the majority of its readers will have never heard of such ingredients as mesquite, wild fruits, or cholla cactus buds; while a secondary note is that accessibility may be an issue for those far from this American Southwest region of bounty.

But it should also be mentioned that Eat Mesquite and More emphasizes its approach in its title, offering far more than a cookbook based on sometimes-inaccessible ingredients. It's actually a manifesto for trying new things, accepting new flavors, and above all, honing new approaches to gathering and using food from the land.

The recipes are a pleasing adjunct to such an approach, with creations such as Hackberry Milk, Prickly Pear Syrup & Jelly for pancakes, or Saguaro Seed Porridge with cholla seed buds adding a wealth of new things to try (over 170 recipes presented and gathered by desert dwellers on a mission to discuss desert food and its unique attributes).

Culinary, Southwest regional collections, and anyone interested in wild foods and land management will find the colorful Eat Mesquite and More a unique and exciting contribution to the literature of both wild food usage and ecological approaches to fragile land ecological management.

The Welcome Home Diner
Peggy Lampman
Lake Union Publishing
9781542047821, $14.95,

The Welcome Home Diner threads different stories under one cover as it tells of two cousins who join forces to buy a new house and renovate a diner in a depressed area of Detroit, driven by dreams of personal and community change.

The only problem is that their ideals and approaches may not sync with those of a concerned community who views outsiders and gentrification as threats to their way of life. But these aren't the only things at stake: they are forging new ties with their efforts and soon find these, too, are endangered, because what they view as building a 'welcome home' atmosphere for themselves and others becomes the pivot point of controversy.

One thing The Welcome Home Diner deftly points out as events evolve is that whether one is serving up soul food, revitalizing a relationship or personal life, or changing a community, there's a big difference between ideals and reality, even if there's a lot of hope attached to both.

From activist principles and culinary ideals and descriptions to long hours that challenge Addie and Sam's relationships, their saga is steeped in Michigan atmosphere, dreams and heritage, and brings to life a struggling community's concerns and psyche.

The Welcome Home Diner is about everything that creates a home, from cooking, sweat, and tears to how challenges are faced and relationships changed, broken, or mended. With its detailed descriptions of a community rising like a phoenix from the rubble of disaster, this story's ability to trace the concurrent rise of several forces in the city makes for an involving multicultural encounter.

At times, the diner owners seem part of their own community; at other times, they're outsiders. These forces are convincingly depicted in notes that juxtapose the perceptions of owners and diners: "Welcome Home brings back the happy times when I was a boy and made supper with my folks. What about you? What brings you to this kitchen?" Good, I think to myself. I've been straining to hear their conversation and they're closer to me now. I try making myself invisible, a grease mark on the wall. I rummage through our vast collection of recipes, intent on the pages, forearms pressed into the cool stainless table."

The warm descriptions and sensations that fill this story with evocative sensory images can also best be used to describe the heart of matters: "Pies are baking in the oven and the air is filled with their sweet and buttery fragrance." Chapters in The Welcome Home Diner are filled with sweetness. There's a perceptible crunch on one's lips as one partakes of these lives and these perspectives which bring a Michigan neighborhood to life like few other novels achieve.

Readers who like stories of activism, community change, and close but changing bonds will relish the depth in The Welcome Home Diner, which is far more than a culinary, small business or family relationship saga, but blossoms to embrace the entire microcosm of life representative in one struggling community's choices.

Recipes included.

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

Dunford's Bookshelf

Vengeance in Reverse
Mark R. Anspach
Michigan State University Press
1405 South Harrison Road, Suite 25, East Lansing, MI 48823-5245
9781611862386, $24.95, PB, 136pp,

Synopsis: How do humans stop fighting? Where do the gods of myth come from? What does it mean to go mad? In the pages of "Vengeance in Reverse: The Tangled Loops of Violence, Myth, and Madness", Mark R. Anspach (an American anthropologist and social theorist who is affiliated with the LIAS research team at the Institut Marcel Mauss, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris) tackles these and other conundrums as he draws on ethnography, literature, psychotherapy, and the theory of Rene Girard to explore some of the fundamental mechanisms of human interaction. Likening gift exchange to vengeance in reverse, the first part of "Vengeance in Reverse" outlines a fresh approach to reciprocity, while the second part traces the emergence of transcendence in collective myths and individual delusions. From the peacemaking rituals of pre-state societies to the paradoxical structure of consciousness, "Vengeance in Reverse" takes the reader on an intellectual journey that begins with the problem of how to deceive violence and ends with the riddle of how one can deceive oneself.

Critique: An impressively erudite and original study that is exceptionally thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Vengeance in Reverse" is an extraordinary and highly recommended addition to both community and academic library collections in general, and the supplemental studies reading lists of students in the disciplines of anthropology, psychology, and religious studies. It should be noted for governmental policy makers, political scientists, as well as academicians and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Vengeance in Reverse" is also available in a digital book form (Kindle, $18.14).

We Were Going to Win, or Die There
Roy H. Elrod
Fred H. Allison, editor
University of North Texas Press
1155 Union Circle #311336, Denton, TX 76203-5017
9781574416893 $29.95 hc / $23.67 Kindle

Synopsis: In 1940, native West Texan Roy H. Elrod joined the Marine Corps. A few years later his unit, the 8th Marine Regiment, went into the fight at Guadalcanal, where he commanded a platoon of 37 mm gunners. They endured Japanese attacks, malarial tropical weather, and starvation rations. His combat leadership earned him a Silver Star and a battlefield promotion. On D-Day at Tarawa his platoon waded their 37 mm cannons ashore, each weighing nearly 1,000 pounds, through half a mile of bullet-laced surf to get to an island where the killing never stopped. His was the only platoon to get its guns ashore and into action that first day. At Saipan, Elrod commanded a platoon of 75 mm halftracks, but he was riddled with shrapnel from an enemy artillery shell that took him out of the war. Fred H. Allison interviewed Elrod, drew upon wartime letters home, and provided annotations to the narrative of this young Marine infantry officer, a job that had an extremely low survival potential.

Critique: We Were Going to Win, or Die There: With the Marines at Guadalcanal, Tarawa, and Saipan is veteran Roy H. Elrod's testimony of service in the 8th Marine Ragiment, who battled at Guadalcanal during World War II. Elrod earned a Silver Star and a battlefield promotin through his leadership in combat, and survived the bloodbath that was D-Day at Tarawa. Edtor Fred H. Allison's annotations to Elrod's first-person testimony, including information drawn from wartime letters home, add an analytical perspective to this fascinating, true-life story of duty, service, and battles with a horrifically high mortality rate. Highly recommended, especially for public and college library Military History collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that We Were Going to Win, or Die There is also available in a Kindle edition ($23.67).

From the Klondike to Berlin
Michael Gates
Lost Moose
c/o Harbour Publishing
PO Box 219, Madeira Park, BC Canada V0N 2H0
9781550177763 $24.95 pbk / $13.93 Kindle

Synopsis: Nearly a thousand Yukoners, a quarter of the population, enlisted before the end of the Great War. They were lawyers, bankers, piano tuners, dockworkers and miners who became soldiers, nurses and snipers; brave men and women who traded the isolated beauty of the north for the muddy, crowded horror of the battlefields. Those who stayed home were no less important to the war's outcome--by March of 1916, the Dawson Daily News estimated that Yukoners had donated often and generously at a rate of $12 per capita compared to the dollar per person donated elsewhere in the country.

Historian Michael Gates tells us the stories of both those who left and those on the home front, including the adventures of Joe Boyle, who successfully escorted the Romanian crown jewels on a 1,300-kilometre journey through Russia in spite of robbers, ambushes, gunfire, explosions, fuel shortages and barricades. Gates also recounts the home-front efforts of Martha Black, who raised thousands of dollars and eventually travelled to Europe where she acted as an advocate for the Yukon boys. Stories of these heroes and many others are vividly recounted with impeccable research.

Critique: From the Klondike to Berlin: The Yukon in World War I is packed cover to cover with amazing, true-life stories of war heroes (and heroines!) from the rugged Yukon region. Expertly researched, yet thoroughly accessible to readers of all backgrounds, From the Klondike to Berlin makes history come alive. Notes, a bibliography, an index, and a handful of vintage black-and-white photographs round out this choice pick for public and college library World History collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that From the Klondike to Berlin is also available in a Kindle edition ($13.93).

The Merchant John Askin
Justin M. Carroll
Michigan State University Press
1405 South Harrison Road, Suite 25, East Lansing, MI 48823-5245
9781611862614 $39.95 pbk / $17.25 Kindle

Synopsis: John Askin, a Scots-Irish migrant to North America, built his fur trade between the years 1758 and 1781 in the Great Lakes region of North America. His experience serves as a vista from which to view important aspects of the British Empire in North America. The close interrelationship between trade and empire enabled Askin's economic triumphs but also made him vulnerable to the consequences of imperial conflicts and mismanagement. The ephemeral, contested nature of British authority during the 1760s and 1770s created openings for men like Askin to develop a trade of smuggling liquor or to challenge the Hudson's Bay Company's monopoly over the fur trade, and allowed them to boast in front of British officers of having the "Key of Canada" in their pockets. How British officials responded to and even sanctioned such activities demonstrates the vital importance of trade and empire working in concert. Askin's life's work speaks to the collusive nature of the British Empire - its vital need for the North American merchants, officials, and Indigenous communities to establish effective accommodating relationships, transgress boundaries (real or imagined), and reject certain regulations in order to achieve the empire's goals.

Critique: The Merchant John Askin: Furs and Empire at British Michilimackinac is an in-depth, scholarly biography of Canadian fur trader John Askin (1739-1815), a key figure in establishing British rule of Upper Canada. Expertly researched by author Justin M. Carroll (Assistant Professor of American History, Indiana University East), The Merchant John Askin is enhanced with extensive notes, a bibliography and an index. A riveting historical portrait as well as a nuanced exploration of how the 1700's British Empire was heavily invested in trade, The Merchant John Askin is highly recommended for public and college library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that The Merchant John Askin is also available in an Kindle edition ($17.25).

Michael Dunford

Gary's Bookshelf

Bring Her Home
David Bell
c/o Penguin Random House LLC
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399584442, $28.00,

From the first page "Bring Her Home" grabs the reader and never lets go. Bill Price's life has been filled with tragedy for the last two years. His wife died and now his daughter is missing with no clue of why or how she disappeared. As the novel unfolds Bill learns about himself and those around him as he searches for his daughter Summer. "Bring Her Home" is filled with twists and turns that move the story along to its final revealing ending. Bell is a master of suspense with well fleshed out characters and enough suspense to keep readers turning the pages until the end. "Bring Her Home" is a great read for any time of the year.

113 Minutes
James Patterson with Max DiLallo
Book Shots
Little Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group
1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104
9780316317184, $4.99,

Molly Rourke's son was killed and she knows who killed him. Now with the aid of her siblings she creates a way to get back at the person responsible for the death of her teenage son. I am not sure why the book is called 113 Minutes nor why each chapter is in minutes but that aside the story is filled with suspenseful moments that race along to the very end. Molly and her brothers do some criminal things but the reader is all for them to succeeded with their ultimate plan to seek revenge for their family member. The writing is fast paced with a story that holds interest to the last page. Patterson is very smart to do the Book Shots series to entice people to read more and "113 Minutes" is a sure to please thriller.

The Other Einstein
Marie Benedict
Source Books Landmark
c/o Source Books Inc
P.O.Box 4410 Naperville, Illinois 60567-4410
9781492647584, $16.99,

For so long we've only heard about Albert Einstein, his life and accomplishments. Author Marie Benedict in her novel "The Other Einstein" shines a light on Albert's first wife Mileva who had a very interesting life herself. She was the only woman to study physics at an elite school in Zurich. She was a very accomplished scientist to begin with and she was harassed by male counterparts throughout her career. The author also presents the possibility that Albert's theories were not his alone but a combination of her contributions that he then took full credit for knowing they were not completely his. The author has researched Mileva and makes a very convincing argument that she was the woman behind the man but unrecognized for her input to the concepts made by her husband. "The Other Einstein" reads like a well written novel but leaves readers with the question "how much of the philosophies of Albert were partially hers?"

Quick & Dirty
Stuart Woods
c/o Penguin Random House LLC
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780735217140, $28.00,

Stone Barrington is back in another thriller in "Quick & Dirty." The novel opens with a smashing beginning of a man with a sledge hammer then races along with a widow who is a murder suspect who involves herself with Stone. Along the way are some familiar characters that add to the mix of suspense that keeps the story exciting. "Quick & Dirty" is a new addition to one of Woods most popular characters.

The Cuban Affair
Nelson DeMille
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781501101724 $28.00,

Daniel "Mac" MacCormick an army veteran has retired to Key West Florida where he runs a fishing boat business. He is hired to do what seems a simple task. Go into Cuba and retrieve money that was buried there as Castro was taking over the country. The mission seems simple at first but gets complicated as the story unfolds. Part of the intrigue to "The Cuban Affair" is the description of modern day Cuba that is accurate from the authors own experience in the country because of the eased restrictions that were put in place by the Obama administration. DeMille takes the reader on a journey of exciting proportions that never lets up. "The Cuban Affair" is sure to please DeMille's millions of fans.

Stephen Colbert's Midnight Confessions
Stephen Colbert
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781501169007 $19.99,

Colbert's newest book is a gathering of funny statements made on The Late Show on CBS and people on the internet. Colbert makes fun of everything from drinking beer to cats and dogs in a witty set of statements that are guaranteed to make people laugh out loud. "Stephen Colbert's Midnight Confessions is a perfect gift title for any occasion.

Why Dinosaurs Matter
Kenneth Lacovara
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781501120114 $16.99,

Dinosaurs have always been of interest to us with books and movies like "Jurassic Park" and the others in the series. Now "Why Dinosaurs Matter" delves into the world of the creatures and exposes new ideas of why they are so important to us and what happened to end their existence on this planet. Some people will agree while others will think Kenneth Lacovara is off base in his assessment of why they are no longer living and some of the creatures today that are related to the dinosaurs. The work is enhanced by drawings that make his study more powerful. Anyone who likes to read about dinosaurs will enjoy "Why Dinosaurs Matter."

Clifton Chase and The Arrow of Light
Jaimie Engle
JME Books
c/o A Writer For Life
P.O. Box 411242, Melbourne, FL 32941
9781492756477, $14.95,

While competing with the class bully Ryan Rivales in an archery contest Clifton Chase is transported back in time to 1485 England where meets two princes who are also being bullied. In a series of adventures, he helps them and goes on a fascinating quest to correct a situation. Along the way are some interesting characters who assist that make the "Clifton Chase and The Arrow of Light" so much fun to read. Fans of "The Hobbit," "The Lord of the Rings," and "Harry Potter," should enjoy "Clifton Chase and The Arrow of Light" for the same kind of magical feel the story conveys. It would be great to see more exploits of Clifton Chase.

Theodore Boone The Scandal
John Grisham
Puffin Books
c/o Penguin Young Readers Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780147510198, $8.99,

"The Scandal" races along with a very satisfying ending. Theodore Boone is made aware by his friend April of a possible cheating scandal in the school system. They are faced with the dilemma of how to make the information public and remain anonymous. They find a way that creates a problem for several teachers who have changed test scores for students to raise levels for federal funding to their school. "The Scandal" is the sixth of the series and like the others, is another great legal thriller of John Grisham that is guaranteed to please fans of all ages.

The Taxi
Adriana Estrada
Lulu Publishing
3101 Hillsborough Street, Raleigh, NC 27607-5436
978105074585, $15.99, PB, 318pp,

Amaryllis a teenage girl has two parents who are not there for her as well as a bad life in high school where she is constantly made fun of by some of the popular kids. All that changes when her parents are found dead and she is the only suspect. Enter a yellow taxi and a driver that will change her life forever. The chauffeur offers her a new course but there are circumstances that go along with it. She must make a choice that will alter her life and those around her. The concept for "The Taxi" is interesting as the car and handler present to Amaryllis an evil option for her to take. There are several problems with "The Taxi" that detract from the pleasure of the novel. The work should have had a severe edit to fix the numerous setbacks that diminish the enjoyment of "The Taxi"

Gary Roen
Senior Reviewer

Gloria's Bookshelf

The Long Drop
Denise Mina
Little, Brown
c/o Hachette Book Group
Hachette Book Group
1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104
9780316380577, $26.00, Hardcover, 235 pp.,

From the publisher: William Watt's wife, daughter, and sister-in-law are dead, slaughtered in their own home in a brutal crime that scandalized Glasgow. Despite an ironclad alibi, police zero in on Watt as the primary suspect, but he maintains his innocence. Distraught and desperate to clear his name, Watts puts out a bounty for information that will lead him to the real killer. Peter Manuel claims he knows the truth that will absolve Watt and has information that only the killer would know. It won't come cheap. Manuel is an infamous career criminal, a degenerate liar who can't be trusted and will say or do anything to make a buck. But Manuel has something that Watts wants, which makes him the perfect target for Manuel's consummate con. Watts agrees to sit down with Manuel, and before they know it, one drink has turned into an epic, forgotten night of carousing across the city's bars and clubs that exposes the thin line between a yarn and the truth. The next time the unlikely pair meet is across the witness stand in court - - where Manuel is on trial for the murder of Watt's family. Manuel calls Watt to the stand to testify about the long, shady night they shared. And the shocking testimony that Manuel coaxes out of Watt threatens to expose the dark hearts of the guilty and the innocent. Based on true events, "The Long Drop" is an explosive, unsettling novel about guilt, innocence, and the power of a good story to hide the difference.

It won't be a spoiler to state that the eponymous "long drop" is a reference to the method of the hanging process which was still the sentence of choice in murder cases when this case occurred, although capital punishment has since been abolished. I am probably among the majority, at least in the U.S., when I confess ignorance of this crime, trial and the outcome thereof, so this True Crime novel was my first awareness of the apparent scandal that surrounded the case in the country where it took place. Manuel, 31 years old at the time, and his trial, become a sensation. The killer sought here "attacks women in the dark, hides in dusty attics, waiting for people to leave their homes so he can steal their mother's engagement ring, lies on pristine linen bedclothes with dirty boots on or drops food on precious rugs and grinds it in with the heel of his shoe, spoiling a modest home for spite; he drags women down embankments, scattering their shopping in puddles, telling their three-year-old son to shut the f*** up or he'll kill their mum." A rape charge against Manuel ends in a unanimous decision of Not Proven. But there are still 8 murder charges against him, including that of two 17-year-olod girls. The trial is recounted in very convincing form by the author, whose previous books I have found extraordinarily good. The chapters alternate between early December of 1957,and January of 1958, when the crimes occurred and May of 1958, when the trial takes place. The characters are very well-drawn, especially that of Manuel and his parents, as well is Laurence Dowdall, "Glasgow's foremost criminal lawyer. Another terrific novel from this author, and it is recommended.

How Will I Know You?
Jessica Treadway
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104
9781455554096, $26.00 Hardcover, $14.99 PB,

From the publisher: On a December day in upstate New York, the body of high school senior Joy Enright is found in the woods at the edge of a frozen pond. An autopsy reveals that her death was not simply a tragic accident - - the teenager's body shows unmistakable signs of murder. The discovery upends an otherwise quiet small town. As the investigation unfolds, four characters tell the story from widely divergent perspectives: Susanne, Joy's mother, tries to reconcile past betrayals with their painful consequences; Martin, a black artist, faces ostracism when blame is cast on him; Tom, a rescue diver, doubts both the police and his own perceptions; and the hopelessly awkward Harper, Joy's best friend, tries to figure out why Joy disappeared from Harper's life months before she actually went missing. As a web of deceit comes to light in a tiny community where there are few secrets, "How Will I Know You?" explores how easily boundaries can be breached and how seemingly small choices can escalate - - with fatal consequences.

In fascinating manner, the book's sections are separated into "Before;" "After;" quite near the end of the novel "During;" and, about a dozen pages before the final page, "After - - The Last," June 9, 2014. "Before" (initially May 14, 2009, then jumping to September 7th, then to October 22nd and then the 31st) and "After," initially December 7th, quite obviously, refer to the time periods before and after Joy's murder, on the 1st Sunday of December; "During" describing, in manner to keep the reader glued to the pages, the murder itself. The reader doesn't discover the significance of the book's title until nearly one-third of the way through the book: It was apparently Suzanne's question of her husband, Gil, before their first date.

Early on, in the pages after December 7th, and then again in the earlier time frames of May 14, 2009 and, later, October 22nd and 31st and later still, in the "After" pages, the tale is related for long stretches in first person by Martin Willett, the black man initially arrested in the case (At one point during these pages, in mid-November, he muses ". . . now that I've come to the end of it, I'm no closer to understanding what might have happened than I was when I began." Abut mid-way into the novel, p.o.v. is that of Tom, son-in-law of the [interim] police chief, Doug, thought of by many as "Tom Carbone, the dumb jock, married to [Alison,] a teacher," and the kindest way in which Doug thought of him. And towards the very end, in the "During" section, p.o.v. is that of Joy, most interestingly.

The characters presented in these pages are each very well-drawn, regardless of their generation or race. I found Martin most fascinating, as well as his art: I had never before even been aware of "hyperreal art" or the work of "high realists." The pages seemed to fly by, until one has reached the end and realize how perfectly the author has brought the suspenseful ale to its conclusion. The novel is, obviously, recommended.

Fox Hunter
Zoe Sharp
149 W. 37th St., 13th fl., NY, NY 10018
9781681774381, $25.95, Hardcover, 392 pp.,

From the publisher: Zoe Sharp's tough-as-nails Charlie Fox returns this summer in the latest thriller in this energetic series: "Fox Hunter," which finds the indomitable ex-special forces soldier on a mission into the Iraqi countryside to track down a missing comrade-in-arms. Special forces soldier-turned-bodyguard Charlotte "Charlie" Fox can never forget the men who put a brutal end to her military career, but a long time ago, she vowed she would not go looking for them. Now she doesn't have a choice. Her boss, Sean Meyer, is missing in Iraq, where one of those men was working as a private security contractor. When the man's butchered body is discovered, Charlie fears that Sean may be pursuing a twisted vendetta on her behalf. Charlie's "close protection" agency in New York needs this dealt with - - fast and quiet - - before everything they've worked for goes to ruins. They send Charlie to the Middle East with very specific instructions: Find Sean Meyer and stop him - - by whatever means necessary. At one time Charlie thought she knew Sean better than she knew herself, but it seems he's turned into a violent stranger. He was always ruthless, but is he capable of such savage acts of slaughter? As the trail grows ever bloodier, Charlie realizes that she is not the only one after Sean and, unless she can get to him first, the hunter may soon become the hunted.

In its early pages, this newest Charlie Fox novel describes a series of suspense-filled, exciting chase scenes, the initial outcome not a good one. We are allowed to see occasional displays of Charlie's vulnerability, especially apparent where Sean is concerned.

The only blurb on the front cover, from Lee Child, captures her completely: "If Jack Reacher were a woman, he'd be Charlie Fox." What more can - or needs to - be said?

Highly recommended.

Don't Let Go
Harlan Coben
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780525955115, $28.00, Hardcover, 400 pp.,

From the publisher: While many of #1 New York Times bestselling author Harlan Coben's domestic thrillers are set in his native New Jersey, very few - - if any - - have been based on real life legends. His latest standalone . . . was inspired by an urban myth Coben grew up with in his hometown - - one that he found out later was actually true. An idyllic suburb, his town was also home to a U.S. Army Nike missile control center with nuclear capabilities built during the Cold War. It's still there today now re-developed as an artist's colony. Coben brilliantly weaves the history of this property - - complete with barbed wire fences and official No-Trespassing signs - - into a compelling mystery. Some years ago, teenagers Leo and Diana were found on the town's railroad tracks, sending shock waves through their tight-knit community. Those who knew them best each feel responsible in some way, and for the next fifteen years their lives are shaped by the different narratives of the events leading up to that fateful night. Except none of them are right. And now the truth is about to come out. There are facts and then there are the narratives that people tell themselves. One of Harlan Coben's great talents is illuminating thee everyday truths of human nature - - through the lens of a twisty, compulsively readable thriller. What makes Don't Let Go thrilling is the lengths to which Coben's characters will go to preserve their version of what happened to Leo and Diana. What makes it powerful, is that it is driven by emotions - - grief, love, responsibility - things we all can relate to.

This newest novel by the author of the very popular - and deservedly so! - Myron Bolitar series, this is his latest standalone. (Although Myron does make an appearance - albeit a very brief one - in these pages.) Have no fear - it is vintage Coben! (Praise of the highest order, I might add!)

In the present day, although the shadow of those deaths 15 years in the past is always present, there is a killing of a cop on page 10 of the novel, although there is no immediate context for the killing, which is soon followed by two other deaths. The protagonist is Detectie Napoleon ("Nap") Dumas, whose twin brother, Leo, was one of the two killed on that long-ago night, having been hit by a train and died instantly. The entire book is a narrative by Nap to said brother, whose loss wasn't the only one Nap sustained that night - the "love of his life" - Maura, with whom he is still obsessed -- disappeared that same night, and he has never been able to trace her. (It should perhaps be noted that I suspect few other writers could pull this off - the narrative between the protagonist and his dead brother, that is.) His best friend and ally, Ellie, is along for the ride. Nap describes himself as "the rarest of creatures in suburban towns - - a straight, single, childless male" who tries "to come across as normal, boring, reliable. Non-threatening." His brother's death, along with that of Diana, the 17-year-old daughter of the police chief, has never been solved in any sense - was it a double suicide, accident, or murder?

The reader is kept in suspense, in Mr. Coben's trademark manner, throughout the book, until its stunning denouement.

(Confession: I didn't know this was based on historical fact until I read this outstanding novel!)

Highly recommended.

Gloria Feit
Senior Reviewer

Gorden's Bookshelf

Day of Reckoning
Raylan McCrae
Amazon Digital Services LLC
9781536936605, $2.99, Kindle, 286 pages,

Day of Reckoning is solid western by a contemporary author. It is a very sound read. There are only two weak points in the narration. The first is a modern day political discussion that is unnecessarily added to the story. The second is the creation of a gunslinger who never misses and is always faster in every situation. Westerns frequently depend on the speed and accuracy of a gunslinger but the repetitiveness of the action can make a story uneven.

Lucas Wade is the gunslinger sheriff of a Wyoming town during a range war between a group of wealthy cattle ranchers and everyone else. The ranchers bring in mercenaries and gunslingers for the war. Lucas has to stand between the two groups to bring peace to the range while avoiding getting killed in the process.

Day of Reckoning is a well written western with a touch more reality than most. The two misses in the narration are easy to ignore. Anyone interested in the western genre will enjoy the book. It is well enough written that it is even a recommendation for someone who hasn't read westerns before. The story is solid enough to cross genre lines.

Chase Baker and the Da Vinci Divinity
Vincent Zandri
Amazon Digital Services LLC
9781530070145, $3.99, Kindle, 169 pages,

Chase Baker and the Da Vinci Divinity is a bait and switch. It pretends to be a historical detective suspense but it turns out to be a science fiction fantasy.

Chase Baker picks up a beautiful girl on the streets of Florence where he is currently living. Partway through the night they are interrupted by thugs who kidnap him and bring him to a secret location. British intelligence is waiting for him and requests that he help find Da Vinci's cave before the Russians or Iranian intelligence can find it. Chase has stumbled into a historical mystery that could easily get him killed as murderous international operatives and spies are all searching for the amazing secrets hidden in Da Vinci's cave.

Chase Baker and the Da Vinci Divinity is a light action adventure with only a hint of substance. It is a solid weekend escape into a fantasy world but it doesn't deliver much more. It is recommended as such. Readers who want more mystery blended with historical tidbits should look elsewhere.

S.A. Gorden, Senior Reviewer

Greenspan's Bookshelf

Streamline Aluminum Trailers
Daniel Hall
CarTech Inc.
838 Lake Street South, Forest Lake, MN 55025
9781613252277, $29.95, PB, 176pp,

Synopsis: From the invention of the very first streamlined aluminum trailer in 1934, down to the most recent offerings from genre giant Airstream, nomadic Americans have always loved the look, style, and feel of these riveted wonders. Although many beautiful examples are on the road today, an equal number of trailers could use a little, or a lot of, TLC. Some of the just need a minor touch-up, some of them need modernizing and updating, and some of them need a flat-out full-bore restoration.

In "Streamline Aluminum Trailers: Restoration & Modification ", aluminum trailer repair expert Tony Martin guides you through the process from selecting the right project all the way to polishing your completed streamline aluminum trailer. Every aspect of restoring and modifying your project is addressed including frame, chassis, bodywork, plumbing, electrical, cabinets, appliances, etc. Much of this work is covered in step-by-step restoration photo sequences, giving you a visual guide to converting a road-side eyesore into the belle of the trailer park ball.

Critique: "Streamline Aluminum Trailers: Restoration & Modification" is a simply 'must-have' instruction guide and manual those currently living in one of these classic trailers at an RV park, or are restoring and modifying one for leisure use. It should be noted that there are numerous clubs and countless events scheduled around the gathering and appreciation of these timeless aluminum trailer beauties. This unique, profusely illustrated, and thoroughly 'user friendly' how-to repair instructional reference guide is unreservedly recommended for personal and community library collections. Simply stated, if you have an aluminum trailer of any vintage, you need a copy of Daniel Hall's "Streamline Aluminum Trailers: Restoration & Modification"!

As I Saw It
Marvin Scott
Beaufort Books
27 West 20th Street, Suite 1102, New York, NY 10011
9780825308420, $26.95, HC, 260pp,

Synopsis: Over a career spanning more than 50 years, veteran journalist Marvin Scott has seen it all. From international headlines to local heroes, the eleven-time Emmy Award - winner and member of the New York State Broadcasters Hall of Fame has covered the news with objectivity and integrity, bringing journalistic excellence to every level of reporting. Scott has interviewed six presidents, visited the front lines of war in the Middle East and Asia, and witnessed the rise of America's space program -- all in a day's work.

Now, in "As I Saw It: A Reporter's Intrepid Journey", Scott reflects on the stories that have stuck with him personally over the years, and the people who gave them life. Alongside marches with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and tense meetings with Yasser Arafat, Scott brings us Burt and Linda Pugach, the couple whose lifelong marriage was forged in deadly obsession; Abraham Zapruder, who shot history's most infamous piece of film; Charlie Walsh, the everyman hero who gave the banks a run for their money; and Stephanie Collado, the eleven-year-old girl who needed a heart and touched his.

Stories ranging political scandals to hauntings at Amityville, local tragedies, triumphs and absurdities find their place alongside accounts of crime and redemption, war and celebrity on a national scale -- all of which are told with Scott's signature passion and candor.

Critique: An inherently fascinating and unfailingly engaging read from beginning to end, "As I Saw It: A Reporter's Intrepid Journey" provides a uniquely informative and compelling perspective on the life and times of a professional reporter. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "As I Saw It" is unreservedly and wholeheartedly recommended for both community and academic library Contemporary American Biography collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "As I Saw It" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.99).

If Truth Be Told: The Politics of Public Ethnography
Didier Fassin, Editor
Duke University Press
905 W. Main St., Suite 18B, Durham, NC 27701
9780822369653, $99.95, HC, 368pp,

Synopsis: Ethnography is the systematic study of people and cultures. What happens when ethnographers go public via books, opinion papers, media interviews, court testimonies, policy recommendations, or advocacy activities? Calling for a consideration of this public moment as part and parcel of the research process, the contributors to "If Truth Be Told: The Politics of Public Ethnography" explore the challenges, difficulties, and stakes of having ethnographic research encounter various publics, ranging from journalists, legal experts, and policymakers to activist groups, local populations, and other scholars. The experiences they analyze include Didier Fassin's interventions on police and prison, Gabriella Coleman's multiple roles as intermediary between hackers and journalists, Kelly Gillespie's and Jonathan Benthall's experiences serving as expert witnesses, the impact of Manuela Ivone Cunha's and Vincent Dubois's work on public policies, and the vociferous attacks on the work of Unni Wikan and Nadia Abu El-Haj. With case studies from five continents, this collection signals the global impact of the questions that the publification of ethnography raises about the public sphere, the role of the academy, and the responsibilities of social scientists.

Critique: Knowledgeably compiled and deftly edited by Didier Fassin (James Wolfensohn Professor of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study, and Director of Studies at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales) "If Truth Be Told: The Politics of Public Ethnography" is a collective work of seminal scholarship that is enhanced with the inclusion of a four page listing of the contributors and their credentials, as well as a nine page Index. While unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Contemporary Anthropoligy, Media, and Political Science collections and supplemental studies lists, it should be noted for students and non-specialist general readers that "If Truth Be Told: The Politics of Public Ethnography" is also available in a paperback edition (9780822369776, $27.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.55).

Celestial Mechanics
William Least Heat-Moon
Three Rooms Press
561 Hudson Street, l #33, New York, NY 10014
9781941110560, $28.00, HC, 400pp,

Synopsis: When Silas Fortunato applies for an editorial position for the "spirituality" section of a local newspaper, he is asked to fill in a bubble sheet to mark his religion. The problem is, his beliefs don't fall within any of the categories. Silas believes that selflessness enlarges vision and that what a person should strive for is to be overcome by the beyond. He believes in honoring otherness and in giving questions credence over certainty. He calls himself a Cosmoterian because his goal is to make himself worthy of the majesty of Cosmos. Silas is a man driven by big ideas, but it is the everyday smallness that perpetually both intrigues and eludes him.

"Celestial Mechanics: A Tale For A Mid-Winter Night" by William least Heat-Moon is an emotional tale of haunted love in which Silas finds himself locked in a marriage descending toward darkness until the arrival of his sister-in-law and soon thereafter the appearance of a witching neighbor who may or may not be alive. In ways enigmatic, ghostly, and funny, the three women draw him into the equivocal nature of dreams and reality, their influences leading Silas on a journey toward what may be light and a new belonging to something vastly beyond himself.

Critique: It is interesting to note that in "Celestial Mechanics" novelist William Heat-Moon deftly draws upon nonfictional devices to create his fictional story -- one that successfully crosses traditional boundaries between the two categories. An erudite, sophisticated, inherently engaging, and unfailingly entertaining read from beginning to end, "Celestial Mechanics" is unreservedly recommended, especially for community and academic library Contemporary Literary Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Celestial Mechanics" is also available in a paperback edition (9781941110584, $19.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99).

Able Greenspan

Helen's Bookshelf

Trauma-Sensitive Schools for the Adolescent Years
Susan E. Craig
Teachers College Press
1234 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY 10027
9780807758250, $29.95, PB, 176pp,

Synopsis: Adolescence is a time of physical and emotional changes that can be uniquely susceptible to. The trauma-sensitive schools movement is the result of a confluence of forces that are changing how educators view students' academic and social problems, including the failure of zero tolerance policies to resolve issues of school safety, bullying, and academic failure, as well as a new understanding of adolescents' disruptive behavior.

"Trauma-Sensitive Schools for the Adolescent Years: Promoting Resiliency and Healing, 6-12" by independent school consultant Susan E. Craig is packed with 'real world' practical ideas for improving student achievement by implementing a trauma-sensitive approach to instruction.

Along with clear explanations of the role that childhood adversity and trauma play in determining academic success, readers will find dozens of concrete strategies to help them: View poor academic and social progress through a trauma-sensitive lens; Create a school climate that fosters safety and resiliency in vulnerable teenagers; Establish relationships with students that support their efforts to self-regulate; Design instruction that reflects the social nature of the brain; Work with the brain's neuroplasticity to increase adolescents' executive functioning; Reduce teacher attrition in high-risk schools by decreasing secondary traumatic stress; Influence educational reforms by aligning them with current research on childhood trauma and its effects on learning.

"Trauma-Sensitive Schools for the Adolescent Years: Promoting Resiliency and Healing, 6-12" provides an overview of the effects of three types of trauma on adolescent development: early childhood adversity, community violence, and systemic inequities. It links the effects of trauma on students' cognitive development to educational reform efforts. Author Susan Craig deftly integrates research on adolescents' neurodevelopment and current educational best practices -- and builds the capacity of education professionals to successfully manage the behavior of adolescents with symptoms of complex developmental trauma.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Trauma-Sensitive Schools for the Adolescent Years: Promoting Resiliency and Healing, 6-12" is impressively informative and should be considered critically important reading for all classroom teachers working in junior and senior high schools. An extraordinary contribution to the field, "Trauma-Sensitive Schools for the Adolescent Years: Promoting Resiliency and Healing, 6-12" is unreservedly recommended for college and university library Teacher Education collections in general, and Adolescent Special Needs supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

Embracing the End of Life
Patt Lind-Kyle
Llewellyn Publications
2143 Wooddale Drive, Woodbury, MN 55125
9780738753560, $22.99, PB, 384pp,

Synopsis: Death is simply one more aspect of being a human being, but in our culture, we've made it a taboo. As a result, most of us walk through life with conscious or unconscious fears that prevent us from experiencing true contentment. Embracing the End of Life invites you to lean into your beliefs and questions about death and dying, helping you release tense or fearful energy and awaken to a more vital life now.

Preparing mentally, emotionally, and spiritually for this inevitable transition provides improved clarity and strength. "Embracing the End of Life: A Journey Into Dying & Awakening" by author, teacher, therapist, speaker, and consultant Patt Lind-Kyle shares the idea of death as a journey of three steps -- Resistance, Letting Go, and Transcendence. With dozens of exercises, practices, and meditations, "Embracing the End of Life" helps you experience your truest, most expansive self. Exploring multiple aspects of life and death with everything ranging from chakras and the Enneagram, to living wills and health care directives, "Embracing the End of Life" is meant to help you unwind the challenge of death and discover the truth of your own path to inner freedom.

Critique: Impressively informed and informative, exceptionally well written, organized and presented, as thoughtful and thought-provoking as it is inspired and inspiring, "Embracing the End of Life" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Death & Dying collections and supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted for personal reading lists that ""Embracing the End of Life" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.49). Simply stated, for anyone with an interest in the subject of death and dying, there are two books that are a "must". The first one is that classic study, "Death: The Final Stage of Growth" by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and "Embracing the End of Life: A Journey Into Dying & Awakening" by Patt Lind-Kyle.

National Museum of Dance and Hall of Fame
Lisa Schlansker Kolosek
Excelsior Editions
c/o State University of New York Press
State University Plaza, Albany, NY 12246-0001
9781438467450, $44.95, HC, 276pp,

Synopsis: The only museum in the United States dedicated entirely to the art form of dance, the National Museum of Dance and Hall of Fame opened in June 1987, after a short preview season the summer before. This unique and special place celebrates its thirtieth anniversary in 2017. To commemorate this milestone, Lisa Schlansker Kolosek (a Research Associate at the National Museum of Dance and Hall of Fame) has created a rich pictorial history with the publication of "National Museum of Dance and Hall of Fame: Celebrating 30 Years" tracing not only the museum's remarkable evolution but the relevance of the museum to the city of Saratoga Springs, New York.

This is the story of the museum's origins, from its notable founders' grand idea to the selection and complete renovation of a historic 1920s bath house as its home. Combining a complete survey of exhibitions presented by the museum and the incredible history of the Hall of Fame, which recognizes dance luminaries across multiple genres, this book offers an in-depth look at the museum's expansive collection of costumes, visual art, and archival materials. "National Museum of Dance and Hall of Fame" also covers the history of the museum's Lewis A. Swyer Studios and School of the Arts, a leader in dance education.

Critique: Beautifully and profusely illustrated with more than four hundred photographs, "National Museum of Dance and Hall of Fame" is impressively informed and informative as it pays thoughtful and thought-provoking tribute to the immense impact and cultural influence of the National Museum of Dance and Hall of Fame. While unreservedly and enthusiastically recommended for personal, community, and academic library collections, it should be noted that the "National Museum of Dance and Hall of Fame" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $39.39).

Lessons from the Prairie
Melissa Francis
Weinstein Books
250 West 57th Street, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10107
9781602863064, $26.00, HC, 264pp,

Synopsis: "Lessons from the Prairie" is a self-help book by Melissa Francis (a child star of Little House series), revealing important life lessons that were inspired by her childhood while growing up on the set.

Melissa Francis was only eight years old when she won the role of a lifetime: playing Cassandra Cooper Ingalls on the world's most famous prime-time soap opera, Little House on the Prairie.

Now in "Lessons from the Prairie", she shares behind-the-scenes stories from the set, and lessons learned from the show's dynamic creator, Michael Landon, that have echoed throughout Melissa's adult life. With novel insights on hard work, making mistakes, and even spirituality, Francis shares inspirational and practical life lessons that will appeal both to her current TV fans, and fans of one of the most adored TV shows of all time.

Critique: An absolute 'must' for the legions of Little House on the Prairie fans, "Lessons from the Prairie: The Surprising Secrets to Happiness, Success, and (Sometimes Just) Survival I Learned on America's Favorite Show" is an extraordinary personal account that is as inherently fascinating as it is informative and ultimately inspiring. While highly recommended and certain to be an enduringly popular addition to community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Lessons from the Prairie" is also available in a paperback edition (9781602863170, $15.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.99).

Undercover Girl
Lisa E. Davis
Imagine Publishing
c/o Charlesbridge Publishing
85 Main Street, Watertown, MA 02472
9781623545222, $17.99, PB, 256pp,

Synopsis: At the height of the Red Scare, Angela Calomiris was a paid FBI informant inside the American Communist Party. As a Greenwich Village photographer, Calomiris spied on the New York Photo League, pioneers in documentary photography. While local Party officials may have had their suspicions about her sexuality, her apparent dedication to the cause won them over.

When Calomiris testified for the prosecution at the 1949 Smith Act trial of the Party's National Board, her identity as an informant (but not as a lesbian) was revealed. Her testimony sent eleven party leaders to prison and decimated the ranks of the Communist Party in the United States.

The previously obscure and almost forgotten footnote in 20th Century American history,"Undercover Girl: The Lesbian Informant Who Helped the FBI Bring Down the Communist Party" by Lisa E. Davis is both a new chapter in Cold War history and an intimate look at the relationship between the FBI and one of its paid inform-ants. Ambitious and sometimes ruthless, Calomiris defied convention in her quest for celebrity at a time when same-sex attraction carried the threat of a prison sentence.

Critique: An inherently fascinating and informative read from beginning to end, "Undercover Girl: The Lesbian Informant Who Helped the FBI Bring Down the Communist Party" is a truly extraordinary account. Exceptionally well researched, written, organized and presented, "Undercover Girl" is unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Undercover Girl" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

Finding Family
Richard Hill
1254 Commerce Way, Sanger, CA 93657
9781945547393, $18.99, PB, 304pp,

Synopsis: "Finding Family: My Search for Roots and the Secrets in My DNA" is the highly suspenseful account of an adoptee trying to reclaim the biological family denied him by sealed birth records. This fascinating quest, including the author's landmark use of DNA testing, takes readers on an exhilarating roller-coaster ride and concludes with a twist that rivals anything Hollywood has to offer.

As if it were a deftly crafted mystery novel, "Finding Family" is the story of how Hill gathered the seemingly scant evidence surrounding the circumstances of his birth. As his resolve shores up, Hill also availed himself of the services and assistance of new friends, genealogists, the Internet, and the latest DNA tests in the new field of genetic genealogy. As he closes in on the truth of his ancestry, he is able to construct a living, breathing portrait of the young woman who was faced with the decision to forsake her rights to her child, and ultimately the man whose identity had remained hidden for decades.

"Finding Family" offers guidance, insight, and motivation for anyone engaged in a similar mission, from ways to obtain information to the many networks that can facilitate adoption searches. "Finding Family" also includes a detailed guide to DNA and genetic genealogy and how they can produce irrefutable results in determining genetic connections and help adoptees bypass sealed records and similar stumbling blocks.

Critique: Impressively informative, exceptionally well written, an inherently fascinating and compelling read from beginning to end, "Finding Family: My Search for Roots and the Secrets in My DNA" is an extraordinary account. While unreservedly recommended, especially for community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Finding Family" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Tantor Audio, 9781515968511, $24.99, MP3 CD).

Helen Dumont

Laurel's Bookshelf

Peep-O-Rama: Sins of the Go-Go Girls
Peter Marra
Hammer and Anvil Books
9781522025061, $14.99, paperback, 115 pages,

In 2002, the last peep palace on 42nd Street in New York City closed, eliminating sex shops from Times Square. Gone were the addicts, hustlers, and go-go girls who populated the iconic square. From his experiences in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, Marra shares raw, stark, noir visions that will haunt readers long after the words are read.

"raw and emotional / chanting a sound / invisible and raw torn." These few lines express perfectly the visions Marra shares in this book. He writes with an intensity that sparks equal parts of empathy and shock with every poem. As I read, the innocent and guilty melded into one unsettling vision of lost souls. The poet blended the beautiful and shocking so skillfully that I can't stop thinking about this book long after the last page was read.

Peep-O-Rama is for mature adult readers only. It gives readers an honest, unvarnished picture of a social, sexual and psychological aspect of life that few have seen first hand, and does so without judgment.

Laurel Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Lorraine's Bookshelf

Canons and Rounds for Piano Solo
Gail Smith et. al, composer, collector, editor
Mel Bay Publications
1734 Gilsinn Lane, Fenton, MO 63026
9780786698776, $12.99, PB,

"Canons and Rounds for Piano Solo" is a collection of canons and rounds that range in difficulty from easy to moderate. The collection includes popular and recognizable themes such as Tallis' Canon, Frere Jacques, Brethren We Have Met to Worship, Pachelbel's Canon in D, and many more canon selections by Kunz in 24 keys, both major and minor. Other featured composers include Clementi, Schumann, and J. S. Bach. "Canons and Rounds for Piano Solo" has something to interest beginning and intermediate pianists in the form of brief rounds and canons. Clear wide grand staffs and notation make note reading more accessible. This is an excellent selection of short but excellent piano solos appealing to pianists of a variety of levels. Also highly recommended are the following music titles for guitar and violin: "21st Century Chords for Guitar (9780786698004, $19.99)," by Steve Bloom, and "Practice for Performance for Violin (9780786698738, $14.99)," by June DeForest.

Edith Milton, author
Judith Oksner, illustrator
Bauhan Publishing LLC
P.O. Box 117, Peterborough, New Hampshire 03458
9780872332447, $16.00, PB, 56pp,

"Barking" is a delightful, creatively illustrated novelette about a pair of famous Cavalier King Charles Spaniels named Emily and Charlotte, appealing to both adults and discerning juvenile readers. Decorated with beautiful watercolor illustrations, "Barking" is a chapter novel written from a canine viewpoint, with much overflowing humor and good joy in all its pages. Charlotte and Emily belong to an elderly couple named Dude and Dearie, who all live together in a high rise apartment in New York City, which the dogs call the Palace. Charlotte and Emily have problems fitting in with the clientele both canine and human of the Palace. Emily especially gets into difficulties because she cannot stop her excited barking, on account of her barking genes (she spells it "jeans"). The dogs are subjected to many different efforts to force them to fit in with the non barking rules of the Palace, including reporting to the Official Barkstopper, Hermione. Under Hermione's supervision, Emily and Charlotte were introduced to Cinderella collars, which are really citronella collars, and they caused a great deal of discomfort and trouble. In the end, Emily and Charlotte managed to cause a great disturbance involving many other dogs, and got lots of newspaper coverage and a taste of brief fame, plus notoriety. There was so much associated damage to the incident that the two King Charles Cavalier spaniels ended up being expelled from the Palace apartment building with Dude and Dearie, and they found a new home with a woman named Brandy and parents Maude and Charlie, the grandchild and child of Dude and Dearie. Their new home is rural and exciting, with walks and trees and mountains in the distance. Every day is a new adventure for Emily and Charlotte, and they finally are accepted and appreciated for all their lovely qualities in exactly the right place for them. "Barking" is really a story about being true to yourself and finding your true center and purpose, even if you are a King Charles Cavalier spaniel. "Barking is a delightful reading adventure for all lovers of unusual canines and heroines everywhere.

The Suitcase: A Story About Giving
Jane G. Meyer, author
Chiara Pasqualotto, illustrator
Paraclete Press
30 Amberwood Pkwy., Ashland, OH 44805
9781612617763, $16.99 PB, $9.99 Kindle,

"The Suitcase" is a story about a boy named Thomas who had heard about the coming of Christ and the Kingdom of Heaven. One Sunday just before supper, Thomas amazed his family by appearing with a suitcase in his hand. His father, mother, two sisters, and dog Sparky were all mystified. Thomas announced he was packed and ready to go off to find the Kingdom of Heaven. His father gently asked if he could share the things he had packed for his journey, and he happily unpacked the suitcase with a crumpled list on top. Thomas unpacked the following items: a jar of applesauce and a spoon to feed the hungry, an extra jacket to share with a child who needed it, a coin purse full of his chore money for someone who was poor, an empty platter to serve food to the sick and hungry, a little book of prayers, a mustard seed to plant for faith, some tape to help quiet himself when he tended to talk to much, so he could remember to listen, a tablecloth to spread to help entertain angels, a bar of soap to keep clean, a hammer to build things with, a pearl and a trowel to dig up Hidden Treasure. When Thomas showed the things he had decided to pack, one thing became clear to his father, and to the rest of the family. Thomas really did have a clear understanding of the immediacy of the Kingdom of Heaven, and his faith was inspiring to the rest of the family. So instead of sitting down to their dinner as usual, the whole family went with Thomas to go out and find happy ways of sharing the Kingdom of Heaven right here on earth, sharing food and grace with others. The quiet tone of the story of "The Suitcase" helps build a picture of clear faith in goodness, and the importance of being good and caring with one another. "The Suitcase" can be a great resource for Sunday School teachers, kids, and nearly anyone. The faith context is Christian, with Biblical quotations, but the message is timeless and crosses cultures and lands. Beautiful paintings of the family and Thomas help underline the simple message of the inspiring presence of the Kingdom of Heaven in our everyday world, if we can learn to see with the eyes of a faithful child like Thomas.

Viento (Haga el Tiempo Que Haga!)
Carol Thompson, author/illustrator
Teresa Mlawer, translator
Child's Play
250 Minot Avenue, Auburn, ME 04210
9781846439773, $4.99,

"Viento" is an exciting, inviting board book for children ages 2-4 that celebrates the exuberance of the wind en espanol. "Viento" is filled with windy, ecstatic color illustrations of children experiencing the power and joy of wind, blowing hats, birds, insects, seeds and leaves. The illustrations describe and depict the poetic Spanish text, bridging the need for translation. After pages of blowing and sounding, the wind stills, dramatically, and a child's whirling leaf-colored pinwheel stops. "Viento" is a beautiful expression of the power of wind, designed to be experienced and enjoyed by young children. Further highly recommended titles in this outstanding Spanish language board books series for young children include the following: "Sol (9781846439803, $4.99)," "Lluvia (9781846439797, $4.99)," and "Nieve (9781846439780, $4.99)," all by Carol Thompson, author/illustrator, and translated by Teresa Mlawer.

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Micah's Bookshelf

Uprooting Racism
Paul Kivel
New Society Publishers
PO Box 189, Gabriola Island, BC, Canada, V0R 1X0
9780865718654, $24.99, PB, 448pp,

Synopsis: In 2016 Donald J. Trump, the president-elect of the United States, openly called for segregation and deportation based on race and religion. Meanwhile, inequalities in education, housing, health care, and the job market continue to prevail, while increased insecurity and fear have led to an epidemic of scapegoating and harassment of people of color.

Yet, recent polls show that only thirty-one percent of white people in the United States believe racism is a major societal problem; at the same time, resistance is strong, as highlighted by indigenous struggles for land and sovereignty and the Movement for Black Lives.

Completely revised and updated, this fourth edition of "Uprooting Racism: How White People Can Work for Racial Justice" by social justice educator, activist, and writer Paul Kivel offers a framework around neoliberalism and interpersonal, institutional, and cultural racism, along with stories of resistance and white solidarity.

"Uprooting Racism" provides practical tools and advice on how white people can work as allies for racial justice, engaging the reader through questions, exercises, and suggestions for action, and includes a wealth of information about specific cultural groups such as Muslims, people with mixed heritage, Native Americans, Jews, recent immigrants, Asian Americans, and Latino/as.

Critique: Impressively informed and informative, exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Uprooting Racism" continues to be an accessible, personal, supportive, and 'real world' practical guide is ideal for students, community activists, teachers, youth workers, and anyone who is interested in promoting and protecting diversity, multiculturalism, and social justice. While unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Uprooting Racism" is also available in a digital book format (eTextbook, $13.29).

Yesterday There Was Glory
Gerald Andrew Howell, author
Jeffrey L. Patrick, editor
University of North Texas Press
1155 Union Circle #311336, Denton, TX 76203-5017
9781574416930, $29.95, HC, 464pp,

Synopsis: In 1946, World War I veteran Gerald Howell finished a memoir of the experiences of his squad from the 39th Infantry Regiment, 4th Division, but never published it. Jeffrey Patrick (the librarian at Wilson's Creek National Battlefield in Republic, Missouri) discovered the memoir and edited it for publication, providing an introduction and annotations.

"Yesterday There Was Glory: With the 4th Division, A.E.F., in World War I" is an unpretentious account of men at war, from training camp to the occupation of Germany. In his memoir Howell includes graphic descriptions of the battlefield, of shell fire, gas attacks, and lice. "Between the attacks the men would lay in their wet holes and pray for relief. But no relief came," Howell remembers. He recalls much more than the horrors of combat, however, chronicling the diverse collection of heroes, professional warriors, shirkers, and braggarts that made up the American Expeditionary Forces.

Howell's account uniquely preserves the flavor of army life with conversations and banter in soldier language, including the uncensored doughboy profanity often heard but seldom recorded.

Critique: While very highly recommended for both community and academic library World War I military history collections and supplemental studies lists, it should be noted that this extraordinary and compelling memoir is also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $23.96).

A Lit Fuse: The Provocative Life of Harlan Ellison
Nat Segaloff, author
David G. Grubbs, editor
PO Box 809, Framingham, MA 01701
9781610373234, $35.00, 448pp,

Synopsis: In late 2011 Harlan Ellison the multi-award-winning writer of speculative fiction and famously litigious personality did two uncharacteristic things. First, he asked biographer Nat Segaloff if he d be interested in writing his life story. Second, he gave Segaloff full control. The result is the long-anticipated "A Lit Fuse: The Provocative Life of Harlan Ellison". The expansive biography, which is the first such project in which Ellison has permitted large portions of his varied works to appear, is published by NESFA Press.

Segaloff conducted exhaustive interviews with Ellison over the course of five years and also spoke with many of his friends and enemies in an effort to get inside the man and pin down the best-known Harlan stories. Their wide-ranging discussions cover his bullied boyhood, his storied marriages, his fabled lawsuits, and his compulsive writing process with more depth and detail than has ever before appeared in print. But it also delves deeply into the man s deeply held principles, his fears, and the demons that have driven him all of his 83 (so far) years. Friends, colleagues, and admirers such as Neil Gaiman, Patton Oswalt, Peter David, Robert Sawyer, Michael Scott, Edward Asner, Leonard Nimoy, Ed Bryant, Alan Brennert, Robert Silverberg, and many other notables add their voices.

Along the way the reader is treated to an analysis of the Connie Willis controversy, the infamous dead gopher story, allegedly pushing a fan down an elevator shaft, and the final word on The Last Dangerous Visions. What emerges is a rich portrait of a man who has spent his life doing battle with his times and himself, always challenging his readers to reach for a higher plane and goading himself to get them there.

Critique: An impressively informed and uniquely informative biography based on extensive personal interviews, "A Lit Fuse" is an unguarded, uncensored, unquiet, and dramatically personal tour of the life of Harlan Ellison -- and a 'must read' for the legions of Harlan Ellison fans. Of special note is the inclusion of four appendices (Harlan Ellison on Writing: A Conversation; Unproduced Teleplays, Screenplays, and Treatments; Awards; Interviews; a two page Selected Bibliography; and a fifteen page Index, "A Lit Fuse" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended to personal, community, and academic library Contemporary American Biography collections in general, and Harlan Ellison supplemental studies reading lists in a particular.

Aerial Dispersal of Pollen and Spores
Donald E. Aylor
APS Press
3340 Pilot Knob Road, St. Paul, MN 55121
9780890545423, $395.00, HC, 418pp,

Synopsis: The dispersal of pollen and spores by wind is central to some of the biggest challenges in agricultural science today, such as the spread of food-supply-threatening plant diseases; the rapid and widespread adoption of genetically modified (GM) plants in agriculture and their potential for pollen-mediated gene flow in the environment; and the presence and role of bioaerosols in cloud processes.

Drawing upon his more than 40 years of experience, research, and expertise as an aerobiologist, Donald E. Aylor's "Aerial Dispersal of Pollen and Spores" is a unique, valuable, and comprehensive reference covering the many complex factors and effects encompassing the movement of spores through the air. It synthesizes material scattered across the literature of multiple disciplines in one single place - and adds many insights through new research in this important area of study.

"Aerial Dispersal of Pollen and Spores" uniquely emphasizes the critical, interacting biophysical processes that control the dispersal of particles in the atmosphere. By shining a greater light on these biophysical processes, scientists will get many new and valuable perspectives that can be applied to their research and to understanding models behind the spread of pathogens and genetic material in the atmosphere.

"Aerial Dispersal of Pollen and Spores" will aptly serve as a valuable reference for researchers, graduate students, and advanced undergraduates in the fields of plant pathology, plant biology, meteorology, agronomy, and agricultural engineering. It is also well positioned as an important teaching resource across several disciplines, including plant pathology, botany, and aerobiology.

"Aerial Dispersal of Pollen and Spores" will hold notable importance for: Researchers and practitioners to evaluate the relative importance of nearby and faraway sources of inoculum: Breeders to assess outcrossing potential and pollen mediated gene flow (PMGF) in the environment; Botanists to evaluate physical characteristics of pollen and spores.; Plant biologists to access information typically assessable to physicists, leading to the undertaking of more quality interdisciplinary studies.

Aerial Dispersal of Pollen and Spores covers dozens of topics within the study of pollen and spore dispersal, such as the physical properties, forces, and processes affecting pollen and spores -- in motion and at rest; pollen and spore survival; infection and fertilization efficiency; wind and wind transport models; cross fertilization; pollen mediated gene flow; precision agriculture practices applied to aerially dispersed pathogens; infectious periods and opportunity for disease spread; aerial sampling, and more.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Aerial Dispersal of Pollen and Spores" also features lists of symbols, acronyms, and abbreviations, as well as a twenty page list of references, and a seventeen page index, making it an ideal and unreservedly recommended as a curriculum textbook, as well as a critically important addition to corporate, college, and university library Horticultural and Agricultural instructional reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

Micah Andrew

Richard's Bookshelf

The Shattering II - Breaking the Silence
Marsha Barth
Robert D. Reed Publishers
P. O. Box 1992, Bandon, Oregon, 97411
9781944297053, $16.95, 360 Pages,

A Memoir Written as a Novel - A Shattering Story of Child Sexual Abuse

In her book "The Shattering II - Breaking the Silence" Marsha Barth uses a fictional character, Julie, to relate her story of overcoming child sexual abuse.

Through Julie, Marsha, tells how she tried to bury the hurt, pain, and heartbreaking trauma of parental verbal, physical, and sexual abuse.

Marsha's writing is candid, open, realistic, and forthright. She helps the reader understand the devastation and intense traumatic sense of shame and hopelessness of the victim of abuse. Marsha tell how the aftermath of abuse shatters the spirit, robs its victims of self-worth, value and inadequacy, and an understanding of the meaning of true love. The social stigma and emotional scars of shame and guilt that follow are demeaning and unspeakable.

Marsha Barth is an inspirational speaker, author, and advocate for breaking the silence of the ongoing cycle of sexual abuse. She offers hope to victims in their quest for wholeness.

"The Shattering II" is a story with spiritual implication, an amazing story of a survivor of the hurt, pain, and brokenness of abuse, of her steadfast faith and her determination to overcome the hopelessness of a being victimized to claim victory, inner peace, and healing.

Deeply moving, clearly insightful, an important relevant message at a time when there are reportedly over 60,000,000 survivors of childhood sexual abuse, and countless other victims of rape, domestic abuse, and bullying.

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

Degree of Normal - A Woman's Journey Out of Childhood Abuse
Barbara Harkens
Robert Reed Publishers
P. O. Box 1992, Bandon, Oregon 97411
9781944297107, $16.95, 264 Pages,

Trauma Survival - Finding Redemption, Recovery, and Wholeness

Barbara Harken has chosen the platform of a psychological novel to relate her story of surviving childhood trauma, a story of abuse, rejection, and healing. Jocelyn Quint (the fictional Barbara) suddenly finds her defense mechanisms crumbling. Mounting trials follow the unexpected death of her mother.

A chance meeting with a fellow student, Alex Strumme, and the discovery of an unknown aunt, Paula, at her mother's funeral, gave Jocelyn a ray of hope, the first step in breaking down the walls of recovery, and the possibility of finding emotional healing through redemptive love and courage. Small steps forward, then, another relapse into the fear of trusting anyone, and taking back the identity image of shame, pain and unworthiness; a cycle, repeated, over and over again; a stark look into the dark side of the multifaceted power of PTSD over its victim.

Barbara's writing is punctuated with well-chosen descriptive phrases, gripping realism, and heartbreaking reality. Her story depicts the true picture of what dissociative identity disorder and PTSD is like from the point of view of the survivor. The book is designed to help these victims discover their own voice, their own strength, and their own pathway to healing and recovery.

Harkens has an ability to reach deeply into the soul of the reader and draw out an unknown sense of empathy for the hurting with understanding, the ability to listen without judging, and to listen with understanding, leading to self-discovery, and a personal sense of wholeness.

Barbara Harkens teaches writing at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa. This is her third novel

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

Cares Reflections For Nurses - Traducido al Espanol
Carrie M. Dameron
Nurses for Him
978098883620, $5.95, 118 pages

52 Inspirational Bible Study Devotionals - with a Passionate Cross Cultural Relevance

"Cares Reflections For Nurses - Traducido al Espanol" by Carrie M. Dameron contains 52 inspirational devotional studies. Each reading offers encouragement to nurses, to strengthen their faith and to pursue the call of God on their life to recognize nursing as a ministry to the sick, the disabled, and to the mentally ill.

A unique feature of the book is the bilingual translation with a cross cultural emphasis. The English language is featured on one side of the page and a Spanish translation on the opposite page; an interesting practical approach for cross cultural training.

The book is designed to equip Christina nurses to understand how to make spiritual applications in health care situations. Carrie offers practical instructions on to how to implement this concept into specific situations the readers are faced with on a daily basis in the lives of their patients and their families, as well as their colleagues.

Carrie has over 25 years as a professional nurse. She has served in the fields of acute care, home/hospice, and gerontology. She is currently teaching pre-licensure nursing students, and has a regular column in the Journal of Christian Nursing.

"Cares Reflections For Nurses - Traducido al Espanol" is spiritually and theologically significant, inspiring, insightful, filled with practical golden nuggets; an ideal resource for use in a professional classroom, in a one on one mentor relationship, a small group study, or as an individual Bible study devotional.

Counseling Under the Cross: How Martin Luther Applied the Gospel to Daily Life
Bob Kellemen
New Growth Press
P. O. Box 4485, Greensboro, SC 27404
9781945270215, $ 19.95, 246 pages,

Martin Luther -- Master Pastoral, Counselor

In his book "Counseling Under the Cross" Bob Kellemen draws from the well know biographers and the autobiographical writings of Martin Luther to describe and summarize Luther's agonizing personal search for finding peace with a holy God.

In his role as Founder and CEO of RPM Ministries Bob Kellemen, PHD focuses on Christ-centered churches, and church-based counseling centers, with comprehensive, compassionate, and a culturally-informed approach, equipping them for biblical counseling, and spiritual formation.

Kellemen's purpose in writing this book is to help the reader understand how Luther not only reformed theology but influenced a reformation in pastoral counseling. These changes have influenced Biblical contemporary pastoral counseling by instilling the value and relationship of God's Word to be compassionately ministered to spiritually, and emotionally suffering persons.

Kellemen's work is strong in presentation, unique in perspective, thorough in research, and careful in documentation. The extensive Bibliography is an excellent resource tool for pastoral counseling and recovery. The book is a rich resource tool for Christian historical research on the reformation, and theological study on grace, salvation, and the cross.

"Counseling Under the Cross" is endorsed by well-known university and seminary academic leaders, certified Biblical Counselors, and practicing theologians.

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

Richard R. Blake
Senior Reviewer

Taylor's Bookshelf

Nowherelands: An Atlas of Vanished Countries 1840-1975
Bjorn Berge
Thames & Hudson, Inc.
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110-0017
9780500519905, $24.95, HC, 240pp,

Synopsis: Enhanced with the inclusion of some 100 illustrations, "Nowherelands: An Atlas of Vanished Countries 1840-1975" is a compendium of stories about fifty countries, each of which once existed but have now have been erased from modern maps.

These are once independent countries that vastly varied in size and shape, location and longevity -- but they are united by one fact: all of them endured long enough to issue their own stamps.

Some of their names, such as Biafra or New Brunswick, will be relatively familiar. Others, such as Labuan, Tannu Tuva, and Inini, are far less recognizable. But all of these lost nations have stories to tell, whether they were as short- lived as Eastern Karelia, which lasted only a few weeks during the Soviet - Finnish War of 1922, or as long- lasting as the Orange Free State, a Boer Republic that celebrated fifty years as an independent state in the late 1800s.

Their broad spectrum reflects the entire history of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, with its ideologies, imperialism, waves of immigration, and conflicts both major and minor.

The motifs and symbols chosen for stamps have always served as a form of national self- presentation, an expression of the aims and ambitions of the ruling authorities. Drawing on fiction and eye- witness accounts as well as historical sources, Bjorn Berge's witty text casts an unconventional eye on these lesser- known nations.

Critique: Unique and very special, "Nowherelands: An Atlas of Vanished Countries 1840-1975" is a different kind of history book that will have an immense appeal for history buffs, postage stamp collectors, and political science students. Exceptionally well researched, written, organized and presented, "Nowherelands" is certain to be a extraordinary, unusual, and popular addition to both community and academic library World History collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

Pioneers in Forensic Science: Innovations and Issues in Practice
Kelly M. Pyrek
CRC Press
6000 NW Broken Sound Parkway NW, Suite 300, Boca Raton, FL 33487
9781498785297, $69.95, HC, 303pp,

Synopsis: Kelly M. Pyrek is an award-winning journalist who has served as editor of regional and national newspapers and magazines for more than 30 years. She holds established professional relationships with prominent members of the forensic science, legal and healthcare communities.

In "Pioneers in Forensic Science: Innovations and Issues in Practice" she draws upon her years of research, experience, and expertise to highlight the contributions of leading forensic science practitioners, iconic figures who have been integral in both establishing current scientific and medico-legal practices and innovative evidence collection, testing, and analysis methods.

The figures singled out range from such professionals as Henry Lee, Michael Baden, William Bass, Jay Siegel, and John Butler, to Cyril Wecht, Vincent Di Maio, Marcella Fierro, Barry Fisher, and so many more.

"Pioneers in Forensic Science" features previously unpublished interviews with these pioneers in the field, expressly undertaken for the purposes this study, examine the last 30 years (including past trends that have shaped the field), as well as current and emerging trends that have, and will shape, the future of forensic science.

Critique: Impressively informative, exceptionally well organized and presented, "Pioneers in Forensic Science: Innovations and Issues in Practice" is a seminal work of original scholarship and unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Pioneers in Forensic Science" is also available in a digital book format (eTextbook, $66.02).

Meade and Lee After Gettysburg
Jeffrey Wm. Hunt
Savas Beatie
PO Box 4527, El Dorado Hills, CA 95762
9781611213430, $29.95, HC, 312pp,

Synopsis: Contrary to popular belief, once Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia slipped across the swollen Potomac back to Virginia the Lincoln administration pressed George Meade to cross quickly in pursuit -- and he did. Rather than follow in Lee's wake, however, Meade moved south on the east side of the Blue Ridge Mountains in a cat-and-mouse game to outthink his enemy and capture the strategic gaps penetrating the high wooded terrain. Doing so would trap Lee in the northern reaches of the Shenandoah Valley and potentially bring about the decisive victory that had eluded Union arms north of the Potomac.

The two weeks that followed was a grand chess match with everything at stake - high drama filled with hard marching, cavalry charges, heavy skirmishing, and set-piece fighting that threatened to escalate into a major engagement with the potential to end the war in the Eastern Theater. Throughout, one thing remains clear: Union soldiers from private to general continued to fear the lethality of Lee's army.

Meade and Lee After Gettysburg, the first of three volumes on the campaigns waged between the two adversaries from July 14 through the end of 1863, relies on the Official Records, regimental histories, letters, newspapers, and other sources to provide a day-by-day account of this fascinating high-stakes affair. The vivid prose, coupled with original maps and outstanding photographs, offers a significant contribution to Civil War literature.

Thanks to "Meade and Lee After Gettysburg" by Jeffrey Hunt (Director of the Texas Military Forces Museum) these important two weeks (until now overshadowed by the battle of Gettysburg and almost completely ignored by writers of Civil War history) have finally gotten the attention they have long deserved.

Critique: A vitally important contribution to both community and academic library American Civil War history collections and supplemental studies reading lists, "Meade and Lee After Gettysburg: The Forgotten Final Stage of the Gettysburg Campaign, from Falling Waters to Culpeper Court House, July 14-31, 1863" is an extraordinary and impressive work of seminal scholarship. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of all dedicated Civil War buffs that "Meade and Lee After Gettysburg" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

The New World Order Book
Nick Redfern
Visible Ink Press
43311 Joy Road, #414, Canton, MI 48187-2075
9781578596157, $19.95, PB, 400pp,

Synopsis: We live in turbulent times with chronic economic disruptions, seemingly never ending wars and civil strife, suspected hidden and secret cabals, global elites mysterious symbols, missing money, ubiquitous surveillance, and the seemingly presence of microchips. Where is the world heading? Just who has control, and what are their goals?

While we are assured by our leaders that global treaties and international organizations such as the International Monetary Fund and United Nations are wholly benign and beneficial in nature, are they actually the foundation for an authoritarian world government? Are powerful cabals and front organizations orchestrating political and financial events in a nefarious attempt destroy individual nations and achieve world domination?

Uncovering more than 200 events, organizations, people, symbols, pop-cultural references, and other examples underlying suspicions of the looming New World Order, "The New World Order Book" by conspiracy theory and paranormal expert Nick Redfern reveals and uncovers the truth behind the disconcerting reasons for the rapidly expanding militarization of the police; the increase in doctors prescribing mood-changing drugs to the nation's children; the manipulative actions of the Illuminati and the Freemasons; population control; the surveillance of social media, emails, and phone calls; Project Blue Beam: an alleged, top secret program to create a faked alien invasion; the rise of a so-called Fourth Reich; the further expansion of the Patriot Act; suspicious deaths; "end times" scenarios; banking elites; and the microchipping and tracking of the human population; and so much more!

Critique: Informative, iconoclastic, comprehensive, exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The New World Order Book" is an extraordinary, thought-provoking, and inherently fascinating read from cover to cover. While very highly recommended, especially for community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The New World Order Book" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $18.95).

John Taylor

Theodore's Bookshelf

The Force
Don Winslow
William Morrow
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062664419, $27.99, Hardcover, 496 pp.,

"The Force" joins a long list of novels about dirty cops. It centers on the Manhattan North area and one task force of four detectives, led by Denny Malone. If the novel can be believed, every cop, from the lowliest patrolman up to the Commissioner, much less City Hall, is on the take. Based on that theory, the entire NYPD could be indicted under the RICO statute.

The plot is relatively simple: It traces Malone's career and how he succumbed to the level he did step by step. At the same time, the novel describes (many times repetitiously) police operations, dope deals and the usual platitudes. At least the descriptions of the Harlem area and its deprived people are colorful.

This lengthy novel could have used more editing. The author repeatedly attempts to reproduce what he thinks is New Yawkese language, but overdoes it with a heavy hand. The premise that a cop can be King of a New York area, as Malone is purported to be, is a bit far-fetched. For those seeking a thrill, this book can serve a purpose.

An Obvious Fact: A Longmire Mystery
Craig Johnson
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 100114
9780143109129, $16.00, Paperback, 317 pp.,

Sheriff Walt Longmire is one compulsive character. What starts off as an apparent hit-and-run accident in which a biker is fatally injured turns out to be anything but that. When he and his friend Henry Standing Bear visit Hubert, WY, scene of a week-long biker jamboree in which Henry seeks to repeat his one past win in a competition, Walt undertakes to investigate. And from that point all kinds of complications unfold. But Walt never loses sight of solving how and why the biker was killed.

Along the way the possibility arises that drugs or smuggled firearms are at the heart of the accident. But when Walt learns from the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents working undercover in one of the biker gangs that a secret plastic is being fabricated into pistols, it all comes together. And Walt's Under-Sheriff, Vic, drops in from her sojourn in Philadelphia to enliven events, especially competing in her first skeet competition (while also seeking her brother's killer, an event which took place in an earlier book in the series).

The author, well-known for capturing the surroundings where the series takes place, here turns his attention to the motorcycle scene, more than adequately describing the riders and the atmosphere of a wild week-long rally. But most important once again is how totally committed Walt is to finding the truth. This was the twelfth entry, and this one and the entire series is recommended.

Death by His Grace
Kwei Quartey
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616957087, $26.95, Hardcover, 253 pp.,

Authors are supposed to write things they know about. And that's what Kwei Quartey does. He bases his crime novels on a country he knows well: Ghana. A physician, he is the son of a black mother and a Ghanaian father. His descriptions of Accra, the capital, its heat and power outages, the street names and language are authentic.

This is the second Darko Dawson mystery. Dawson is a Chief Inspector with a built-in lie detector: he suffers from synesthesia, which usually manifests itself when he is confronted with a liar. The murder of his wife's cousin is the subject of the present investigation. A newlywed, the marriage soon soured when she proves unable to have a baby. Her husband leaves her, and his family accuses of her being a witch.

A multitude of suspects are found by Dawson, ranging from the husband and his mother and sister, to a mentally challenged man, a Bishop and his assistant, among others. This reader found the novel somewhat slow reading, and rather dry. Also, I am not sure the ending is satisfactory since it is unexplained how Dawson's partner suddenly shows up when she had not been informed of his plans. Other than these criticisms, the novel is recommended.

The Boy in the Earth
Fuminori Nakamura, author
Allison Markin Powell, translator
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616955946, $23.95, Hardcover, 160 pp.,

As the author writes in an afterward, he prefers to specialize in stories that "dive deep into the nature of society and humanity, stories that press on and attempt to reveal our true nature." And that is exactly what this book is about.

Basically the tale is a monologue by a twenty-something taxi driver, with an occasional interloping comment by his alcoholic girlfriend, recounting his life, from the abandonment by his parents to his current status. His early years were unstable, shuttled among various caretakers until he ended up in the hands of a distant relative who beat him constantly, creating for him what he believed to be the norm in life: pain, something that, to some extent, he craves even in adulthood. In his recounting of his present life, he provides flashes of the past.

This slim volume is unlike the author's previous four novels, which were crime thrillers. All, however, including "The Boy in the Earth," demonstrate his spare writing, with the prose cut to the bone. In all, he delves deeply into the psychology of his characters.


The Rat Catchers' Olympics
Colin Cotterill
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616958251, $26.95, Hardcover, 278 pp.,

The 1980 Olympics, boycotted by the United States and other major countries, provides Dr. Siri Paiborn, the retired Lao coroner, and his wife, Daeng, an opportunity for a trip to Moscow. Unfortunately the politically outspoken doctor is the last on the list to be selected as team doctor. But that doesn't stop him from finagling the assignment. The games give the Democratic People's Republic of Laos a chance to field their first-ever Olympic team, even if they have no chance to win an event.

The mystery to be solved involves a suspicion that one of the athletes is a ringer, and possibly an assassin. Thus begins a two-way long-distance investigation, with Dr. Siri and his team in Moscow and Inspector Phosy in Laos, attempting to identify the person. When one of the Lao athletes is falsely accused by Moscow police of a murder, he has to solve not one but two crimes.

All the while, Dr. Siri, his wife and friend, Comrade Civilai, head of the delegation, and others are enjoying the free drinks and hospitality of the Russian Government, which permits the author to inject much humor into the conversations. And the mystery is solved in a most ingenious manner.


The Devouring: A Billy Boyle World War II Mystery
James R. Benn
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616957735, $26.95, Hardcover, 306 pp.,

Switzerland has the reputation of being a neutral oasis in the middle of Europe, but if Billy Boyle's experience shortly after D-Day is any example it was anything but. In the latest installment of this fine series, Billy and his sidekick, Kaz, are being flown into the country to assist Allan Dulles and the OSS in an important mission, only to be shot down over southern Occupied France. As they make their way toward Switzerland on foot, they meet a Gypsy Nazi killing machine who helps them enter the country illegally.

Switzerland turns out to be teeming with spies, Nazis, profiteers from the war selling materiel to Germany, bankers turning their heads aside taking in gold stolen by the Nazis for a percentage and government officials supporting Germany. So instead of assisting Dulles in his efforts to prevent the ill-gotten loot the Nazis have accumulated from being used, perhaps, to fund a future war after their defeat in WWII, they become involved in other efforts as well.

As the author wrote to this reviewer in a private email: "Very odd thing about this book. When I started writing it in 2015, I never imagined the subject matter (abandoned refugees, corrupt businessmen who put profit before country, fascist militias, and lying politicians) in Switzerland 1944 would resonate with current events in 2017 (in my opinion, anyway). Sometimes it feels like history is on an endless loop." Or did someone else say the same thing in different words?

Another excellent addition to a great series, and highly recommended.

The Scarred Woman: A Department Q Novel
Jussi Adler-Olsen, author
William Frost, translator
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780525954958, $28.00, Hardcover, 470 pp.,

It's never a simple police procedural when Jussi Adler-Olsen writes another Department Q crime novel. This one begins with the discovery of a murdered elderly woman, and Detective Carl Morck, who heads the Danish group specializing in solving cold cases, remembers a similar case from years before. That is the start of a plot which develops into three other cases that Morck and his sidekick, Assad, believe are interrelated.

While all these developments keep Department Q busy, Rose, who does not perform her usual duties as a valued member of the team, struggles with psychological problems of her past. In and out of the hospital's psychiatry unit, Rose's problems, arising from verbal abuses constantly thrown at her by her father while growing up, may lead to her being committed. A substantial amount of space is devoted to Rose's back-story.

It is interesting to note that the plot revolves for the most part around female characters, although Carl and Assad, of course, play prominent roles. However, of the "bad" characters, no less than six are women, and but one male. As in past novels in the series, "The Scarred Woman" is filled with dark humor and tight plotting. In an excellent translation by William Frost, the humor is tempered by horrible events and Rose's plight.

Highly recommended.

Without Fear or Favor
Robert K. Tanenbaum
Gallery Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781476793221, $27.00, Hardcover, 373 pp.,

There are several authors who regularly write novels with interesting courtroom scenes, but none better than Robert K. Tanenbaum, because his protagonist is the district Attorney of New York County, perhaps the most prestigious post in the country, if you don't count the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, which basically covers the same territory. But each Butch Karp novel spends the first half setting up the plot so that the last half can feature the trial, drawing on the author's experience as an assistant DA in the office of the legendary Frank Hogan.

The plot of "Without Fear or Favor" is based on a combination of an occurrence that took place in Brooklyn, when a rookie Asian police officer shot and killed an unarmed teenager in a dark tenement stairway, and racial bigotry and polemics of black agitators against white cops, along the way, one such person preaching Black Liberation to kids that they should wage war on their enemy, the police.

As such, the novel is a murder mystery that isn't. There is no doubt who the killer is, and that's what the trial is all about, as Butch goes about tying one piece of evidence to the next until the mosaic is indisputable to the jury. Perhaps the courtroom maneuvering is not quite as exciting as others in the series, but is an example of fine craftsmanship. The reader can only feel sorry for the defense attorney, who is not a particularly likable character and pretty much of a stereotype, who has nothing to work with and fights a losing battle.


Song of the Lion
Anne Hillerman
William Morrow & Company
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
195 Broadway New York, New York 10007
9780062391919, $9.99, Paperback,

Anne Hillerman continues to demonstrate she is a solid author in her own right, albeit using the characters developed by her late father, Tony, in the series featuring Jim Chee, Bernadette Manuelito and Joe Leaphorn. And by expanding Bernie's role, she has added her own stamp on the series, which began in 1970, and in which this is her third novel.

The action begins when a bomb explodes, destroying a BMW belonging to a local hero who is mediating a hearing on a proposed resort on Navajo land adjacent to the Grand Canyon. A young man is killed while sitting in the car. The owner is playing in an alumni-student basketball game, and Jim Chee is assigned to be his bodyguard, driving him to the hearing and watching over him. The plot develops in unexpected ways and as it unfolds, Bernie gets to play a deeper role than that of a bystander. She takes over uncovering the real reason for the explosion, enlisting the assistance of Leaphorn, who still suffers from a bullet wound in his brain, but recalls an earlier incident, which helps Bernie resolve the case.

Common to the series are the descriptions of the arid Navajo country, the rituals, myths and customs of the people so well-done by Tony Hillerman and now continued on an equal footing by his daughter. Her plotting is similarly on a par with the series' founder. And by introducing an environmental issue in the plot, she has brought the series up to date, while maintaining the integrity of the basic story and its characters.


Don't Let Go
Harlan Coben
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780525955115, $28.00, Hardcover, 400 pp.,

Harlan Coben novels are known for the twists and turns the plots take, for their unexpected endings and his native New Jersey as a setting. And Don't Let Go doesn't break with this tradition. The title refers to how Napoleon "Nap" Dumas is haunted by his twin brother's death 15 years previously, and persistently keeps investigating until he learns the truth, seeking justice. Nap is a highly trained, respected detective and what sets him off after the deaths of his brother and girlfriend, Diana, a decade-and-a-half after the event is the murder of another Westfield, NJ, high school classmate, a policeman in Pennsylvania.

Noting the relationship of the three victims, Nap believes their deaths are linked to a previous Nike missile site near the high school. His theory is reinforced when another high school classmate is found castrated and hanging from a tree. All the dead were members of a high school group known as the Conspiracy Club. Meanwhile only two others of the group remain alive, including Nap's teenage girl friend, Maura, who he has never stopped loving, and another woman, both of whom are in hiding from what they believed were government agents who thought they witnessed something they shouldn't have that night.

The plot revolves around the original Nike installation, which was decommissioned during the early 1950's and subsequently operated under the umbrella of the Dept. of Agriculture. But what really took place there? As Nap works to uncover the facts he might not want to know, we learn more and more until, in typical fashion, Coben concludes the story in a completely unexpected manner.


Sulfur Springs
William Kent Krueger
Atria Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020, 212-698-7000
9781501147340, $26.00, Hardcover, 306 pp.,

One of the joys in reading a Cork O'Connor novel by William Kent Krueger are the graphic descriptions of his beloved North country of Minnesota, as well as his empathy for the natives. So, when Cork and his new wife of three months, Rainy Bisonette, are transported to the desert border between Arizona and Mexico, the question arises: Can the author match these qualities of the frigid north to the boiling south? Fear not: he same sensitive touch is applied to the arid geography with minute detail.

The reason the practically-newlyweds have to go south arises from a cryptic voice message left on Rainy's cell phone by Peter, her 29-year-old son from her first marriage, indicating he is in dire trouble. The couple immediately jumps on a plane and attempt to find him, which proves difficult in the extreme. When they get there they find themselves in a hornet's nest of evil. To begin with, the next morning their rented Jeep is blown up. Luckily, Cork started it remotely from a safe distance. Competing drug lords vie for dominance. Greedy inhabitants seek Peter for advantage; Border Control and other agents, both Federal and local, complicate Cork's task of finding Peter while Rainy is hidden by her ex-husband for her safety since the "bad guys" want to use her as a bargaining chip to entice Peter to surrender. Along with the drug cartels, the story depicts the difficulties of illegals crossing the border and the dessert, the coyotes, and other problems they face.

Meanwhile, Cork does what he does best: he follows whatever clues turn up. The plot is multi-faceted and told simply and well, as should be expected from this author. The story is told with compassion, the action unfolds powerfully with emotion.

Highly recommended.

Theodore Feit
Senior Reviewer

Vogel's Bookshelf

Welsh Yeomanry at War
Steven John
Pen & Sword
c/o Casemate
1940 Lawrence Road, Havertown, PA 19083
9781473833623, $34.95, HC, 192pp,

Synopsis: Soon after the outbreak of the Great War, following many years of part-time soldiering as cavalry troops on home defense duties, the members of various British Yeomanry regiments were asked to volunteer for overseas service.

In 1916, officered by well-known members of the landed gentry, two of the Welsh Yeomanry regiments, the Pembroke Yeomanry and the Glamorgan Yeomanry, were amongst many who embarked for foreign service for the first time ever in their history.

Spending the next twelve months in Egypt during the campaign against the Senussi tribesmen, the two regiments merged to form the 24th (Pembroke and Glamorgan Yeomanry) Battalion, Welsh Regiment, which joined the 74th (Yeomanry) Division to take part in the historic offensive into Palestine that ultimately led to the liberation of the Holy City of Jerusalem after 400 years of Ottoman rule.

In May 1918, after two years of hard campaigning in the Palestinian deserts, the 24th Welsh embarked for France with the rest of the 74th Division, joining the Allied forces in the victorious 100-day offensive against the Germans.

"Welsh Yeomanry at War: A History of the 24th (Pembroke and Glamorgan) Battalion The Welsh Regiment" by Steven John (inspired to write this military history by the death of his great uncle who was killed while serving with the battalion at Epehy in September 1918) sheds new light on the battalion's almost forgotten campaign in Palestine, which saw many of its troops killed and buried in the Holy Land, and also tells the enthralling story of its short but arduous period in France.

Critique: A masterpiece of exhaustive research, "Welsh Yeomanry at War: A History of the 24th (Pembroke and Glamorgan) Battalion The Welsh Regiment" is an impressively informative and exceptionally well written study. Featuring illustrations, three Appendices, a one page Select Bibliography, and a thirteen page Index, "Welsh Yeomanry at War" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to both community and academic library 20th Century Military History collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of military history buffs that "Welsh Yeomanry at War" is also available in a paperback edition (9781473867932, $14.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $20.03).

Firestorm: How Wildfire Will Shape Our Future
Edward Struzik
Island Press
2000 M Street NW Suite 650, Washington, DC 20036
9781610918183, $30.00, HC, 272pp,

Synopsis: For two months in the spring of 2016, the world watched as wildfire ravaged the Canadian town of Fort McMurray. Firefighters named the fire "the Beast." It acted like a mythical animal, alive with destructive energy, and they hoped never to see anything like it again. Yet it's not a stretch to imagine we will all soon live in a world in which fires like the Beast are commonplace. A glance at international headlines shows a remarkable increase in higher temperatures, stronger winds, and drier lands - a trifecta for igniting wildfires like we've rarely seen before.

This change is particularly noticeable in the northern forests of the United States and Canada. These forests require fire to maintain healthy ecosystems, but as the human population grows, and as changes in climate, animal and insect species, and disease cause further destabilization, wildfires have turned into a potentially uncontrollable threat to human lives and livelihoods.

Our understanding of the role fire plays in healthy forests has come a long way in the past century. Despite this, we are not prepared to deal with an escalation of fire during periods of intense drought and shorter winters, earlier springs, potentially more lightning strikes and hotter summers. There is too much fuel on the ground, too many people and assets to protect, and no plan in place to deal with these challenges.

In "Firestorm: How Wildfire Will Shape Our Future", journalist Edward Struzik visits scorched earth from Alaska to Maine, and introduces the scientists, firefighters, and resource managers making the case for a radically different approach to managing wildfire in the 21st century. Wildfires can no longer be treated as avoidable events because the risk and dangers are becoming too great and costly.

Critique: Every year wild fires consume staggering amounts of forest acreage, destroy numberless homes and businesses, create the loss of billions of dollars in values, and can occur in any state. It seems that California alone has caught fire every year for the past decade. That's why "Firestorm: How Wildfire Will Shape Our Future" is such an extraordinarily timely volume and one that should grace the shelves of every community and academic library in the country as a vital addition to their Science & Natural Disaster collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Firestorm: How Wildfire Will Shape Our Future" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.19).

The Ethics of Poker
Todd M. Furman
McFarland & Company
PO Box 611, Jefferson NC 28640
9781476664613, $29.95, PB, 244pp,

Synopsis: Poker players, poker home games, poker tournaments, and casino poker rooms are to be found in every major community in the country. While there are a great many 'how to' books on the game of poker in all its variations, "The Ethics of Poker" by Todd M. Furman (a Professor of Philosophy at McNeese State University, Lake Charles, Louisiana) is the first book to address ethical conduct issues of the game such as: Is it morally permissible to plunder a drunken player at the poker table?; In a game of bluffing, are all deceits acceptable?; Is it wrong to play against a pathological gambler?; Are there any real right and wrongs within poker other than violations of the rules?

"The Ethics of Poker" deftly explores the moral dimensions of playing poker for money in a detailed discussion of applied ethics. Among the topics included is the moral standing of bluffing; collusion versus "soft play"; the problem of players staked by backers (especially in 'high roller' cash games; and "Why Kant Kan't Play Poker".

Critique: An inherently fascinating, thoughtful and thought-provoking read from cover to cover, "The Ethics of Poker" should be considered a 'must read' for all dedicated poker buffs be they amateur or professional, engaging in kitchen table home games or nationally televised high stakes tournaments. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The Ethics of Poker" is unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Gaming & Ethics collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Ethics of Poker" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.99).

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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