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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 18, Number 10 October 2019 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

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

Able Greenspan's Bookshelf

Writing for the Cut
Greg Loftin
Michael Wiese Productions
12400 Ventura Blvd., #1111, Studio City, CA 91604
9781615933006, $26.95, PB, 190pp,

Synopsis: Editing is what makes a movie a movie. Consulting with master film editors including Walter Murch, Juliette Welfling, Eddie Hamilton, and Anne V. Coates (whose insights and wisdom anchor the book), author Greg Loftin engagingly, smartly details the storytelling nuances and tricks screenwriters can learn from their film-editor peers in "Writing for the Cut: Shaping Your Script for Cinema".

Cutting-room veterans have long maintained that visual juxtaposition fuels film storytelling. Over-lapped images spark fresh ideas in the minds of viewers, encouraging them to become active partners in your storytelling and discover your story for themselves.

In later chapters, "Writing for the Cut" shows how aspiring screenwriter can bring his or her stories closer to the screen by writing not only with text, but with images and sounds. The screenwriter is taken deep into the edit suite to learn the secrets of the sizzle reel.

Critique: The ideal introduction to screenwriting for film or television, "Writing for the Cut: Shaping Your Script for Cinema" is unreservedly endorsed and recommended for personal, professional, community, film school, college, and university library collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of film students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Writing for the Cut: Shaping Your Script for Cinema" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $23.74).

Editorial Note: Greg Loftin is a professional screenwriter. He wrote and directed his first feature film in 2007, the award-winning urban western Saxon. He is also course leader of the very first undergraduate program in film editing and postproduction in the UK. His world-class program of master classes has attracted visiting mas-ter editors such as Walter Murch (Apocalypse Now, The Godfather), Paul Machliss (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Baby Driver), Tom Rolf (Taxi Driver, Heat), Mick Audsley (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Murder on the Orient Express), and Lisa Gunning (Nowhere Boy, Seven Psychopaths). Writing for the Cut is the result of a practice-based PhD that the University of Exeter awarded Loftin in 2016.

Sherlock Holmes and the Christmas Demon
James Lovegrove
Titan Books
9781785658020, $19.99, HC, 384pp,

Synopsis: It is 1890, and in the days before Christmas Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson are visited at Baker Street by a new client. Eve Allerthorpe (the eldest daughter of a grand but somewhat eccentric Yorkshire-based dynasty) is greatly distressed, as she believes she is being haunted by a demonic Christmas spirit.

Her late mother told her terrifying tales of the sinister Black Thurrick, and Eve is sure that she has seen the creature from her bedroom window. What is more, she has begun to receive mysterious parcels of birch twigs, the Black Thurrick's calling card!

Eve stands to inherit a fortune if she is sound in mind, but it seems that something (or someone) is threatening her sanity. Holmes and Watson travel to the Allerthorpe family seat at Fellscar Keep to investigate, but soon discover that there is more to the case than at first appeared. There is another spirit haunting the family, and when a member of the household is found dead, the companions realize that no one is beyond suspicion.

Critique: A compelling and inherently fascinating addition to the growing cannon of Sherlock Holmes stories by fans and admirers of the world's greatest fictional detective, "Sherlock Holmes and the Christmas Demon" is a 'must read' and will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to community library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists of all dedicated Sherlock Holmes enthusiasts that "Sherlock Holmes and the Christmas Demon" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

Truths and Lies in the Middle East
Eric Rouleau
American University in Cairo Press
420 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10018-2729
9789774169069, $34.95, HC, 320pp,

Synopsis: Eric Rouleau (1 July 1926, Cairo, Egypt - 25 February 2015, Uzès, France) was one of the most celebrated journalists of his generation, a status he owed to his extraordinary career, which began when Hubert Beuve-Mery, director of Le Monde, charged him with covering the Near and Middle East.

In 1963, Rouleau was invited by Gamal Abd al-Nasser to interview him in Cairo, a move which was not lost on the young Rouleau -- going through him, a young Egyptian Jew who had been exiled from Egypt in late 1951, shortly before the Free Officers coup, was a means to renew diplomatic ties with de Gaulle's France. This exclusive interview, which immediately made headlines around the world, propelled Rouleau into the center of the region's conflicts for two decades.

Writing between Cairo and Jerusalem, Rouleau was a chief witness to the wars of 1967 and 1973, narrating their events from behind the scenes. He was to meet all the major players, including Nasser, Levi Ashkol, Moshe Dayan, Golda Meir, Yasser Arafat, Ariel Sharon, and Anwar Sadat, painting striking portraits of each. More than a memoir, "Truths and Lies in the Middle East: Memoirs of a Veteran Journalist, 1952 - 2012" presents a history, lived from the inside, of the Israel - Palestine conflict.

Critique: Ably translated into English for an American readership by Martin Makison, "Truths and Lies in the Middle East: Memoirs of a Veteran Journalist, 1952 - 2012" is an extraordinary account of an extraordinary life lived out in extraordinary times. While unreservedly and especially recommended for both community and academic library biography and journalism collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Truths and Lies in the Middle East" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $20.50).

Stress-Free Navigation: Electronic and Traditional
Duncan Wells
Adlard Coles Nautical
c/o Bloomsbury Press
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 315, New York, NY 10010
9781472962348, $25.00, PB, 160pp,

Synopsis: All boaters, whether under sail or under power, need to be able to navigate safely on the water--both to keep themselves and their crew out of trouble and to avoid endangering others. Yet navigation has often been presented almost as a black art -- complicated, full of tricky math, and with alien concepts to get your head around.

As with his previous books on the subject of sailing and motorboating in an accessible, manageable fashion, in "Stress-Free Navigation: Electronic and Traditional" Duncan Wells now turns his attention to fundamental skills of navigation. He makes concepts easy to understand and the practice of navigation perfectly achievable for all -- with a minimum stress.

"Stress-Free Navigation: Electronic and Traditional" covers the basic introductory elements clearly and simply for novices, and progresses through more advanced techniques for experienced navigators, so that there is something for everyone, whatever their skill level. Diagrams, quick-reference tables and flowcharts, explanatory step-by-step photographs, box features, top tips and QR codes (giving access to explanatory videos) are all features that have been much appreciated by readers of Duncan's other top-selling titles for amateur boaters and pleasure sailors.

Critique: Profusely illustrated throughout, "Stress-Free Navigation: Electronic and Traditional" is an ideal and comprehensive instructional guide and manual that is impressively 'user friendly' in its organization and presentation. While unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library collections, it should be noted that "Stress-Free Navigation: Electronic and Traditional" is also available in a digital book and audio/video format (Kindle, $22.50).

Editorial Note: Duncan Wells is an RYA instructor and sailing school principal. He has written for many leading boating magazines in the UK and US. He is the author of the bestselling Stress-Free Sailing and Stress-Free Motorboating (both also published by Adlard Coles Nautical), which have helped countless sailors and motorboaters learn helpful boat handling and berthing techniques.

Able Greenspan

Diane Donovan's Bookshelf

A Fray of Furies
Andre van Wyck
Independently Published
9781089293477 $6.00 (eBook) $11.00 (paperback)

A Fray of Furies, the second book in The Waking Worlds series, sets the back story so perfectly, no prior familiarity with book one (A Clatter of Chains) is needed. Newcomers can appreciate book two as a stand-alone fantasy adventure.

The prologue is set in the distant past. It opens with war-like siblings, founding the perfect colony to rebuild their naval nation, following the devastation of the Fall.

Thell, and its threats, should be half a world away. They discover the danger has trailed after them. Nobody had thought to watch for monsters among them. But one (or more) has slipped past.

The colony grows into the present-day Heli Empire, spanning several continents and thousands of years. Chapter One introduces the woodswoman who must confront Thell's legacy: the deadly, shape-shifting krin, that hunt the Hillmen territories.

(It should be noted that, despite being a coming-of-age story, A Fray of Furies is recommended for adults and mature teens. Graphic descriptions of gore and death, though appropriate to the setting, precludes recommendation for younger readers.)

The characters are motivated by desperation as often as by sacred duty. A host of thieves, assassins, witches, priests, and madmen add their own special interests. The story line is complex, fast-paced, and remarkably astute in observing how disparate forces vie, veer and overlap.

A Fray of Furies provides an absorbing (and challenging) read for mature fantasy fans. Shifting perspectives and in-depth atmospheres offer an intricacy not found in the majority of similar works or leisurely reads.

Author Andre van Wyck intersects past and present with convincing political and survival interests. Each engrossing encounter adds to an overall game of cat-and-mouse, playing out on the personal, societal, or (possibly) planetary level.

Unintended heroes rise and impossible beings come into power. Straddling the unseen front line, it seems only Kassika Blackwater perceives the "...wolf at humanity's throat, hidden in sheep skin. With [her charge] neither the wolf nor even the sheep, but the skin. A patchwork quilt, stitched from scraps of victim's lives."

Van Wyck's evocative descriptions, multifaceted settings, complex characters, and ability to inject wry humor sets A Fray of Furies apart from staid, predictable stories. This multifarious creation is a sterling example of high(est) fantasy. Very highly recommended for mature teens and adult fantasy fans.

Off-Ramp to the Void
A.G. Russo
Red Skye Press
9780990710240 $2.99 Kindle

Off-Ramp to the Void presents seven short stories of seven women who have been betrayed in different ways, and who struggle with loss of love and anger in manners that emphasize survival and change.

The title story features a young, resourceful protagonist, Dominique, who has been trained by her parents all her life for an inevitable disaster that separates them. Left on her own, she instigates their carefully-rehearsed survival, only to find that she must call upon further skills to create a new life.

In the course of absorbing this short story's progression, readers receive a powerful portrait of a savvy girl whose path diverges from a carefully-formed game plan, who must then call upon her own resources to survive.

In 'It Wasn't Supposed to Happen This Way', Becky is an average girl. To her, this situation is unacceptable. So, in high school, she devises a plan that will lead her to not live her mother's life of drudgery and lack of self (it would help to become a nurse and marry a doctor, for one thing).

But as Becky's plans change and she moves into a motherhood and life that she questions ("The truth was, she didn't care for motherhood. She found her children too needy..."), she discovers that fate has led her full-circle from her childhood ambitions.

A.G. Russo's short stories excel in twists of plot and conclusions that leave readers not hanging, but thinking. These works stand out for their strong characters: portraits of girls and women who live their lives with purpose and confront adversity with intelligent consideration, and who often face circumstances that force them onto unpredictable paths of change.

All respond in different ways, which keeps these short stories connected by a common theme of inner strength and female power, each differing in theme and perspective.

This fine collection is especially recommended for women who want to absorb stories of challenge, change, and creative problem-solving from characters who confront their challenges to lead better, albeit revised lives.

East of Lincoln
Harlin Hailey
Independently Published
9781090683281 $15.95 Paper

Richard Jenkins was once a successful California real estate agent. Now, he's not. He was raised middle-class, with many opportunities; but now he is 'invisible' and finds himself on the wrong end of history, faced with unprecedented decisions that hold moral implications and consequences. What happens when old routines no longer work? Chaos.

East of Lincoln follows the first-person reflections of a man who finds himself middle-aged and at a crossroads in his life. As he tells his story of the end of the world as he's known it, murder, redemption, and his experiences with the Artist and Bales, his tone and presentation capture a gritty series of revelations and truths that open eyes and minds.

How can Richard rebuild his life and thrive in a world turned upside down? His hard-hitting grasp of events is captured in succinct, involving descriptions that keep readers immersed and sympathetic: "What do you do when your whole world has been rocked? When your life is stuck between a skateboard and the end of times? Do you start picking up dog shit for eight bucks an hour? Fuck no. You start drinking."

It's the end of the reign of the white man, and Richard and his growing group stand in the crosshairs of revolution as they contemplate their next moves and uncertain futures.

In many ways, East of Lincoln captures a microcosm of current events. Richard is 'everyman' in modern-day America, and his experiences mirror many lives as he observes these downward spirals and their impact not only on his world, but American communities in general: "I knew what was happening. I'd seen it before in my line of work. The new owners were going to bleed us out. One by one. We'd either move by choice, at their request, with some form of payment (bribe), or we'd stay and fight. But whatever route we chose, the outcome would be the same. We would be gone from our apartments. It was just a matter of time. And like I said earlier, when you lose your apartment, you lose your community. That's because you can never afford to buy back in. It was happening all up and down the California coast. I'd never seen anything like it. The gentrification - this great consolidation of wealth. Wall Street speculators and international money were gobbling up older buildings at record prices and knocking them down and erecting smaller, luxury housing units, literally transforming cities overnight. The poor were thrown out like street dogs, left to fend for themselves. From San Francisco to San Diego, the great displacement was underway."

How can such changes be fought? Richard finds a way, and his choices and their consequences makes for thoroughly engrossing reading as readers find themselves caught in a vortex of social change and one man's challenges.

East of Lincoln embraces themes of survival, art, magic, friendship, change, and moral and ethical dilemmas. The added dose of critical inspection of Southern California culture ("Los Angeles doesn't care who you are, what you are, or how long you've lived here. She will always sell you out to the highest bidder. That's just the way it is.") makes it a particularly powerful, hard-hitting recommendation for California fiction readers.

ChoirMaster: A Mister Puss Mystery
Michael Craft
Questover Press
Hardcover: 9780578523309 $24.95
Paperback: 9780578523750 $14.95
Kindle: B07V5ZK8SH $ 4.95

ChoirMaster: A Mister Puss Mystery adds the second book to a new series that began with FlabberGassed and pairs a talking cat's tale with a crisis that circles around marriage, faith, and a troubled Wisconsin church. It combines the thwarted romances of a Peyton Place-type atmosphere with murder.

Abyssinian cat Mister Puss is at the center of these events, lending a paw to his human guardian Mary Questman's life and communicating with her via telepathy. Mister Puss is already a seasoned feline investigator, but events challenge human and cat alike as St. Alban's new rector, Joyce Hibbard, taps Mary to help her church move forward.

The story isn't told from Mary's viewpoint or by Mister Puss alone, however. The narration moves between perspectives and incorporates different character perceptions and experiences, creating a fluid, multifaceted production. The changing perspectives provide a delightful opportunity to view events not just through Mary's eyes, but through others who encounter Mary and her cat, as in this scene dealing with leash training: "Now, now, Mister Puss," said Mary, "let's not make such a racket." She stooped to pick up the gadget and tried to reel him in toward her heel, but the cat would have none of it. He plopped down on his side as she dragged him across the slick floor to her jaunty yellow Ferragamo pumps."

From investments gone awry and the financial and political influences on building a new church versus restoring the old one to a shocking death and its ramifications, ChoirMaster operates on many levels to provide an intriguing, fast-paced story.

Michael Craft takes time to stop and smell the roses (or, in this case, to add atmospheric observations), and this is yet another strength to a story that provides a "you are there" feel rather than just documenting events: "The grounds were looking perfect at that time of year, with the summer annuals in riotous full bloom. The golf course, built in the 1920s before the wide availability of heavy earthmoving equipment, was designed to the natural contours of the land, punctuated by rocky outcroppings that had been left by a prehistoric glacier. Immaculate fairways, groomed and green, extended off toward the gentle hills as Glee drove the winding entryway beneath a canopy of oaks. Sapphire splotches of the noontide sky peeked through a matrix of leaves and dappled the windshield with dancing, pristine sunbeams."

Readers looking for a murder mystery that goes beyond a whodunit to probe the hearts, minds, and lives of small town residents will relish the realistic setting, diverse characters, and quirky cat profiled in ChoirMaster. It's a mystery that continues to build upon the Mister Puss character as a satisfying series addition while standing nicely alone on its own four paws.

Dear Hubby of Mine: Home Front Wives in World War II
Diane Phelps Budden
Red Rock Mountain Press
9780578557601 $17.99

Dear Hubby of Mine: Home Front Wives in World War II is a true story based on loving letters between Diane Phelps Budden's parents during the war. What might have been a singular publishing of these works expands into broader horizons because it's been enhanced by her research done at U.S. National Archives, military libraries, and other sources to provide background for these intimate mailed discussions.

The romantic story Budden uncovers is further strengthened by the fact that her parents led long lives with strong memories of events which allowed her to not only become interested in their lives, as an adult, but to question them about the past.

From immigrant experiences during the conflict to changing womens' roles because of war, these letters serve as a basis for closely examining one of the biggest pushes for social change to occur in U.S. history.

It should also be noted that while the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II will be celebrated in 2020, most participants of that era have since passed, making works like these letters some of the only eyewitness legacies of the times - and thus making their publication and discussion even more important.

The heartfelt contents of these letters ("Darling Dearest: All day long I waited for tonight. The later it got the more nervous I got thinking maybe you couldn't get through. The thought of hearing your voice in the evening made me so peppy all day. I just worked and worked, thinking the harder I worked the faster the time will pass, and soon evening will come.") is nicely juxtaposed with the facts Budden uncovers ("Once the war started the shortage of suitable fabrics for clothing was challenging, especially when rationing of textiles began. Ready-to-wear clothes had gained acceptance but were costly to purchase. Like other women, Irma reused - make do or reuse was the slogan - dress fabrics for her own clothes and for the children.").

Part of the challenge of writing successfully lies in the author's ability to breathe new life into the story. Dear Hubby of Mine does what too few World War II titles achieve: it blends personal experience with broader social examination, it pairs researched history with examples from everyday lives, and it captures both the certainties and uncertainties of relationships conducted on the battlefields of the heart: "Dearest Lou: How are you? There is much fighting going on there. I'm pretty sure you must be in the midst of it. I wasn't prepared this time for the Bull going out. I only received six letters in all this period. It seems you could have written more. In the last [letters] there was a check in each. Of course, you may have written some that can't be passed [by censors] until you are back again. Or maybe you didn't just bother writing. Which is it?").

The result is a remarkably poignant, educational observational piece that is rich in emotions and background insights ("For the four million or more home front war wives, the stress of being separated from their husbands were magnified by the challenges of managing household and family responsibilities in the face of shortages and rationing. For most wives, this was the first time they had the role of head of household, and at younger ages, since many were newlyweds. Raised among immigrant families, Irma didn't expect any assistance from community resources, and didn't know how to access them anyhow."): a powerful example of how history should be anything but dry and uninvolved.

Under Diane Phelps Budden's hand, her parents' experiences and love comes to life with hard-earned lessons for others who may be struggling with separation, social change, and the demands of being war wives and husbands committed to both country and each other.

No World War II, feminist, or social history collection should be without this vibrant, enlightening survey that seamlessly puts the personal touch back into social, political, and military issues.

Dear Hubby of Mine is not just the story of one husband and wife. It's a snapshot of the experiences of a nation under siege on the battlefields of social change.

The Illuminating Occurrence of Maxine Porter
Glenn Seerup
Kindle Direct Publishing
9781099883309 $15.99 Paper/$4.99 ebook

Hayden Carlisle is in his early 20s when he begins a job as a designer at The Plush Porcupine, a small Chicago toy design studio - but he's not the only new arrival to enter the shop and possibly change its downward trajectory.

Maxine Porter provides a major impetus for positive change, bringing with her an intense energy that nobody can quite define. Does she have genuine precognition and business savvy, or is something else lending to her ability to pull The Plush Porcupine - and Hayden - into new realms of possibility and success?

Hayden initially enters this job with a few ambitions (" hard enough to be a respected employee for at least one year, be personable enough that my coworkers talk to me, and force myself to find at least one good quality about everybody so I don't dread each moment of being there.")

As he experiences investor meetings that pick apart and question new product designs and dutifully chronicles a fateful turning point for the company in a journal replete with astute observations and mystery, perspectives shift between Hayden, Walter, and others who find themselves on a remarkable journey indeed.

These changing viewpoints are clearly documented in chapters which move between Hayden's journal reflections, third-person views of company owner Walter Keeler's first success (and possibly his first failure, as well), and the experiences of fellow designers Marty and Scott. A fine blend of mystery and business insight keeps readers engaged not just in business processes, but in personality clashes.

The Illuminating Occurrence of Maxine Porter is a revealing, absorbing, engrossing story of budding relationships in the business and social design world. It ventures into unexpected territory by juxtaposing the personalities, dreams, and extraordinary abilities of more than just the powerful figurehead, Maxine Porter. The result is a fine survey of social awkwardness, business success, and the pressures upon owners and workers alike to re-brand a small company, among other topics.

To bill The Illuminating Occurrence of Maxine Porter a 'business novel', however, would be to limit its audience too strictly. There's a great deal of interplay between characters of various ages and experience levels, creating a psychological depth and insight rare in business novels which, tend to focus on company advancement processes alone: "It always amazes me how different people think. Scott seems to take a single grand idea, mold it, tweak it, and build on it until he gets to a final concept, whereas I like to throw a bunch of random thoughts down and analyze them to pick which attributes to draw from each. Scott seemed confused when I put out my multiple sketches. He rightfully thinks of me as a young kid and not the successful creative designer that he is. He obviously thought that this process would go like the other things, where he would come up with the idea and I would develop the details."

This novel deserves a wider audience.

The Illuminating Occurrence of Maxine Porter will delight those seeking a multifaceted story of personal, professional, and business changes. It follows a young man's new entry into the workforce and his path to success, which is sparked by a relatively short encounter with a very extraordinary, visionary individual who changes his life.

The Illuminating Occurrence of Maxine Porter comes full circle in examining definitions of that success, and will prove engaging, surprising, and hard to put down as its characters and company dilemmas both come to life.

It's OK to be Different
Sharon Purtill
Dunhill Clare Publishing
Hardcover: 9780073410440 $17.99
Paper: 9780973410457 $ 9.99
Digital (mobi) for Kindle: 9780973410471 $2.99 US
Digital (epub): 9780973410464 $2.99 US

It's OK to be Different receives warm, cheerful illustrations by Sujata Saha and will attract young picture book readers with both colorful drawings and a simple survey that maintains that everybody is different, reinforcing the idea, using light rhyme, that uniqueness is a good quality to cultivate.

People hold different interests and enjoy diverse activities. As Sharon Purtill explores these contrasting styles, interests, and enjoyments, she moves into physical and racial disparities, employing the same tone of acceptance that encourages kids to view these variations as something to relish, in turn. Kids learn to not just identify these differences, but to understand that diversity is a big plus.

Parents seeking read-alouds that educate kids about diversity and acceptance will find It's OK to be Different holds the perfect lesson of choice. Warm, happy, colorful, and attractive, it delivers its message using a joyful tone that helps kids not only accept, but celebrate their unique attributes, appearances, and talents.

The Librarian at the End of the World
Mark Miller
Montag Press
9781940233642 $16.95

The Librarian at the End of the World presents a satirical romp across America, and is a recommended pick for readers who want to take the iconic Jack Kerouac classic On the Road one step further into absurdity. (Indeed, The Librarian at the End of the World combines the travelogue of Kerouac and the absurdity of Ken Kesey.)

The journey is undertaken by champion speedbather Ramdas Bingaman and his equally oddball wife Colletta, who turn a projected vacation into a rollicking odyssey of escape and revenge.

It's difficult to immediately categorize The Librarian at the End of the World because so many elements are present and intersect at the very beginning, all using copious and non-stop levels of ironic observation and spoofs. Everything readers might anticipate from the novel by its title (either the story of a staid librarian, or an apocalyptic piece about survival) is turned on end from its introductory lines, which refute any idea that the story will be either dry or easily anticipated: "If you are going to rise to the top of your field at a young age, as I have, you have to own a closet full of suits because dressing well will balance out your otherwise youthful demeanor. People in my line of work don't take you seriously unless they suspect you are capable of destroying them, their families, and their legacies. You probably don't think of librarians in this light, but I assure you it is true. Librarians are fucking fierce. If you must know, I, Ramdas Bingaman, was never properly educated as a librarian, but that has never kept me from knowing all I need to know to help a patron in need."

Mark Miller cultivates a first-personal observation tone rooted in give-and-take, playing on words and expectations with a deft confidence that leads readers on a journey of anticipation, frustration, revelation, and satisfying surprises throughout.

The protagonist initially hides in a classroom and builds his reputation by being conservative in his actions, but a league of speedbathers and other circumstances lead him to regain his initiative with grand schemes even involving cheese pilfering ("I slip in the basement, find his refrigerator, and slice off a really thick slab of Lagoon with a View Bleu, though hopefully not enough for it to be missed, unless he already weighed the block of cheese, which I'm sure he has. Do I feel bad? Luring him back to his house with promises of a great fortune in exchange for his special cheese? Not at all. I am stronger, smarter, and more resourceful than my peers and auction competitors. I deserve to be rewarded, and if Ayn Rand were still alive we would have had the hottest sex two rapacious narcissists with delusions of grandeur could have. The universe owes me everything, and I owe it nothing in return. Besides which, if I am going to completely satisfy six Amazonian strap-on fem doms, I am fucking aye right gonna keep all the money. Besides, from what I can tell, I'm not making a dime in residuals."). The Librarian at the End of the World is at once gritty, hilarious, raunchy, ironic, iconic, and as socially challenging as any classic travelogue of the 1960s.

Embedded within the trappings of wine and cheese events and compulsions to win recognition is a story of an insidious plan that may be either fabricated or real, depending on the protagonist's current state of mind.

Novel readers looking for a lively romp across America's prized standards and social circles that's married to an iconic, quirky character's search for ", life, death, and the end of the world", will find The Librarian at the End of the World to be social satire at its best, ultimately questioning life's purpose and coming up with a surprising conclusion about the end of everything.

Make Love Better
Jan Dworkin, PhD
Belly Song Press
9781733901109 $18.95 Paper, $14.99 Kindle

Make Love Better: How to Own Your Story, Connect with Your Partner, and Deepen Your Relationship Practice is more than just another addition to the self-help relationship improvement shelf. It comes from a therapist whose decades of work includes cross-cultural and international experiences. This background allows for an unusual blend of approaches.

Dr. Dworkin's personal story and case studies form the foundation of an examination that focuses on common conflicts stemming from issues of race, gender, and class. These are subjects all too frequently omitted in favor of psychological profiles and background, yet are often key influencers in relationship issues and power dynamics.

From the trickiness of language nuances in interpersonal communications to practices to calm the nervous system and discussions of how the brain is wired to connect (which can have unexpected consequences, as in Dworkin's relationship, in which "We were entangled, but not necessarily in sync."), Make Love Better isn't about better sexual intimacy alone (as a reader might expect). It delves into the mechanics of making better connections and fostering intimacy on an emotional level. Readers receive a self-help guide that empowers them to rewrite their own life story and objectives.

From clarifying confusing experiences to techniques for improving new and old relationships alike, addressing common patterns, sources of conflict, and pathways towards resolution, Make Love Better offers a wide-ranging approach to deeper intimacy and relationships. It is highly recommended for those who would do the exercises and embark on a journey that begins with self-examination.

The Umbrella Men
Keith Carter
Neem Tree Press
9781911107057 (hardback) $20.99
9781911107101 (paperback) $14.99
9781911107118 (e-book) $ 9.99

The Umbrella Men is witty business novel writing at its best and chronicles the dilemmas faced by Peter Mount, the Chief Executive of a London-based rare-earth mining company who encounters angst and conflict when the actions of Oregon environmentalists backfire and ripple through global financial and political communities. The book gives an excellent and entertaining insight into the global financial crisis as it unfolds.

Peter holds a very astute opinion of the realities of the banking environment in which he operates: "The new characters on the scene at Royal Bank of Scotland seemed perfectly comfortable with their own sort of legal interpretation, without troubling to get it blessed by someone actually qualified in the law. They had all the qualifications they needed right there on the team - Richard Videur was Emeritus Professor of Client Maltreatment, Judd had an MA in Borrower Intimidation and Slight was studying at the Open University for a degree in Advanced Commercial Bullying."

He juggles conflicting concerns in both business and personal circles, and understands that the green tech revolution still depends on the basic rare-earth materials his company is involved in extracting, and all the environmental contradictions that involves.

As personal and corporate greed in himself and those around him are exposed, Peter finds he's in a whirlwind of change he can't always manipulate. As Simple Lies, Complicated Truths, and other influences on permits, expansion goals, and financial dreams come to light, everything changes for all the characters playing on different stages around the world.

The Umbrella Men is a novel that operates on many different levels, but one of its strengths is an ability to create a variety of characters to capture personal, political, and business dilemmas in their lives. This creates, in effect, a global community that interacts on unexpected levels - and individuals who sometimes unconsciously thwart their own stated ambitions.

As the story moves around the world (a progression clearly outlined by subject headings that document place and time to avoid confusion), readers will find The Umbrella Men a delightful novel that holds unexpected personal insights as characters who move in their own circles begin to interconnect in unanticipated ways.

Readers seeking a global corporate adventure story that holds many different angles will find The Umbrella Men satisfyingly multifaceted: a strong story of business savvy, intrigue, and discussions of rare-earth materials and their place in human endeavors.

Panic River
Elliott Foster
Calumet Editions
9781950743070 $16.99

Everything is connected, in life. When human relationships fall apart, these connections may become frayed, but often they are not entirely gone.

Corey Fischer, a gay man on the cusp of his 40s, stands to lose all connections in his life, from his family, which has disowned him because of his sexuality, to his chosen husband Nick, who has betrayed his trust. His artistic pursuits do not hold the promise they once did, either, and this is one of the reasons Nick, who has been largely supporting them, has grown distant and disappointed.

In many ways, Panic River is the quintessential story of middle-age revelations and angst; but it also presents an edgy exploration of the impact of an inheritance which changes everything and exposes the darker underside of a much-changed relationship.

Middle age is a gray area where youthful perceptions and enthusiasm are traded for rude awakenings, powerful realizations about dreams and realities, and both evolving and disintegrating bonds between families, lovers, and life itself.

Corey perfectly reflects this process as he struggles with family secrets and a huge challenge to everything he's built and believed in, including himself. This draws readers to the edge of the roots of growth and realization as patterns of old arguments from his childhood come to permeate vastly changed connections as an adult.

A deer hunting trip and incident becomes the pivot point of this process. Readers will be riveted to a story that seems to move towards inevitable disaster, only to pull back and become a saga of transformative possibilities and a new life.

Like the river, Panic River ebbs and flows as truths are slowly and often reluctantly uncovered and Corey pulls apart the ties that bind until threads are left raw, hanging, and seemingly disrupted forever. One wonders what can be rebuilt from such disaster, but just as new truths emerge, so the phoenix of possibility rises from the ashes of destruction.

Elliott Foster excels at creating a hard-hitting story that begins softly, with a life on the verge of big changes, and then moves into the protagonist's ability to accept illusion and, finally, reality. This forces him - and readers - to understand not only the pull and power of past influences, but their ability to craft and warp present-day reality.

Panic River is no cursory romp through challenging circumstances. Foster takes time to build exquisite descriptions that link events to Corey's own physical and psychic vulnerability, as in the emotional grab and challenge of a successful hunt: "He tried looking away, but couldn't help seeing Nick stab the jagged edge of a large knife into the deer's protruding rib cage. An audible burst of air gushed from the slit, the final remnant of life held deep within the buck's chest. Corey gasped a moment later, sucking into his lungs the same air he imagined that the deer had just expelled. And then he held it inside, willing himself not to exhale for as long as he could muster. He finally released one steady stream of exasperation - the air, the tension, the regret. He hadn't been the one to pull the trigger but felt just as bad as if he had."

Under Foster's hand, these ties that bind re-form decades later, juxtaposing angst and loss with new promise.

Everything is connected, in life.

Novel readers who choose Panic River for its theme of a middle-aged gay man facing his demons and much-changed circumstances will uncover the roots of these connections and will learn how they evolve. They will find Panic River a powerfully evocative, thought-provoking consideration of how life moves on, how freedoms evaporate and re-form, and how one man makes difficult choices that bring him full circle in an unexpected way.

The Proto Project
Bryan R. Johnson
Candy Wrapper Inc.
9781940556062 $5.99 ebook
9781940556079 $18.99 hc
9781940556055 $9.99 pbk

The Proto Project: A Sci-Fi Adventure of the Mind is recommended reading for grades 3 and up and tells of young Jason Pascal's entanglement with Proto, his scientist mother's expensive AI invention. The problems don't just stem from Proto's existence, though, but from his disappearance.

The Proto Project opens with Jason's excitement over a field trip that promises cupcakes and intrigue. In the past, he's considered science and scientists relatively dull; but this time his mother has created something that could save and change the world. Nonetheless, Jason is more excited about the food trucks than her world-changing announcement, until intrigue enters the picture.

Young readers are treated to a sci-fi story of an AI that opens like a science read, but quickly evolves into a mystery. As Jason's mother is threatened and his group of friends join him to get to the bottom of not just Proto's existence and disappearance but the concurrent vanishing of citizens around them, the fast-paced story moves through science and social issues alike.

In the course of solving a host of problems and confronting a virtual army of trouble, Jason and Proto come to better understand what it means to make mistakes, learn from them, and evolve into being more human: "Proto glowed a faint blue, which looked even sadder than his happier blue. "I should have been smart enough not to make such an error."

"No," Jason said. "Search your recordings. I'm sure Mom has told you at least once that you must learn from bad stuff that happens. Rise to the challenge. That's just life, Proto." "Life? I don't know what that is," Proto said. "I'm not a living thing. Do you know what I am, Jason? I am a complete and utter mistake. Please continue the mission without me."

Spiced with a satisfying blend of mystery, science, and social inspection, The Proto Project excels in crafting a fast-paced story of how proactive AIs, savvy children, and adults investigate their rapidly-changing new world with an attention to revealing trade secrets. As they embark on world-changing choices and action, the efforts of one young man who becomes involved in a new formula to enhance humanity's future changes everything. (It should also be noted that the open-ended conclusion satisfyingly ends The Proto Project, but paves the way for more adventures.)

Under the Cottonwood Tree
Paul Meyer & Carlos Meyer
North Fourth Publications
9781733773003 $19.99

Under the Cottonwood Tree: El Susto de la Curandera is a unique young reader's graphic novel story notable for many exceptional features.

First is its lovely, full-color illustrations by Margaret Hardy and Jasey Crowl, which go beyond capturing action to imbed a sense of the New Mexican landscape that forms the backdrop for this exciting adventure.

Unlike too many graphic novels, these drawings are vividly rendered, unique in their composition and appeal, and add a lively and rich visual element to a story that excels in exploring Southwestern mythology, magic, and transformative experiences.

Elementary to middle grader readers and beyond will also find accessible and intriguing the addition of Spanish words throughout the dialogue, and events which capture the entwined cultural influences that is New Mexico ("Hermano, why don't you ever believe me?").

Under Paul Meyer & Carlos Meyer's pen, the story of a young boy's sudden transformation comes to life, powered by sterling visuals by Hardy and Crowl which capture not only their confrontation with an evil force, but daily activities; whether it's the homey act of making fried bean and cheese tacos or facing a battle with giant tree monsters.

As Cindy, Amadeo, and others traverse not just a strange change but an unfamiliar world, readers are treated to an exceptional graphic novel that began in 1980, when a young Paul Meyer had a dream about a talking calf and older brother Carlos wrote a short story based on the dream and was subsequently printed by the first publishing house to surface from the Chicano movement of the Sixties; Quinto Sol. Their early efforts evolved into this expanded graphic novel.

Too many graphic novels hold similar-looking illustrations and formula writing. Under the Cottonwood Tree: El Susto de la Curandera represents something unique in the graphic novel world: an original, unpredictable, beautifully drawn story that stands out from the crowd, will appeal to Latino and multicultural audiences alike, and is steeped in the flavors and culture of New Mexico.

It's a winner that deserves an award in and of itself and is a standout among graphic novels, no matter what age group is being targeted.

28 Best Games & Songs for Early Childhood Gym
Cameron Edelman
Absolute Author Publishing House
9781951028039 $9.99 Paper

28 Best Games & Songs for Early Childhood Gym provides 14 structured games and songs suitable for early childhood gym, summer camps, or outdoors activities. It is a highly recommended guide packed with tips for improving early childhood educational and health goals.

Cameron Edelman's part-time job teaching sports classes, a dying educational pursuit, evolved to a passion for teaching creative movement to 3 to 6-year-olds: an age group the typical gym approach doesn't tend to reach. The evolution of these games and songs reflect Edelman's hours of research uncovering activities appropriate for this age group, then modifying them further.

Under another hand, this could have ended the process, but Edelman did more than gather researched activities. He field-tested them, putting together lesson plans based on these efforts, and "...found out what games and activities were a hit with the children and which ones I probably should not try again. I learned to quickly change things up if a game was not working and how to keep the children engaged..."

It's this final piece of a process that involved testing, adjusting, or creatively adding to the games he located that makes 28 Best Games & Songs for Early Childhood Gym a standout in the field of early education.

Game set-up, equipment, and instructions are accompanied by color diagrams to make the effort crystal clear, while variations on the theme give early childhood gym and outdoors teachers plenty of options for adding to or expanding upon each game.

As an additional reason for purchase, it should be noted that all proceeds from the sales of 28 Best Games & Songs for Early Childhood Gym go to Lurie Children's Hospital.

28 Best Games & Songs for Early Childhood Gym is simply outstanding: an early education reference that should not be missed by any teacher looking to creatively expand the exercise and engagement options of the very young.

On Wings of a Lion
Susan Wakeford Angard
Tudor House
9781733898409 $13.99 Paper/$7.99 Kindle

Thriller, romance, and historical fiction readers are in for a treat with On Wings of a Lion because Susan Wakeford Angard traverses these genres with an authoritative attention to detail, creating a sweeping drama that promises high-octane action right from its opening lines: "It's no use!" yelled Hans. "Strike it again!" Anthony Evans shouted, steadying a crowbar wedged against the rear door jam of the barricaded Sohbe Emrooz newspaper building. His helicopter pilot Hans raised an ax high and slammed it into a rear door bolted from the outside, a SAVAK trademark."

In 1978, an assignment brings Hollywood film director Kathryn Whitney to Iran, a nation on the cusp of revolution, to shoot some lucrative TV commercials at the ruins of Persepolis. A chance meeting with Sir Anthony Evans, a dashing half-British, half-Persian playboy photographer, does not promise romance at first, but he grows on her.

Also growing is the sense of danger and deadly forces as the two become caught up in something greater than either professional photo shoots or personal attraction, because Iran explodes and drags both individuals into its struggle.

Kathryn discovers Anthony is actually not what he appears to be, and she must make some difficult choices about her alliances, her friendships, and her life.

It's important to note that On Wings of a Lion is populated by a diverse range of characters who all have special stakes in Iran's political events. These goals are worth murdering for, they're worthy of betrayal, and they even merit the sacrifice of a nation.

From the hidden purposes and pursuits of Anthony's cousin Mirdad Ajani to General Houdin's clashes with Anthony and his own mission in this changing world, Susan Wakeford Angard weaves intrigue into her historical novel that incorporates Iranian culture and politics into descriptions of personal pursuits for glory and riches.

Her juxtaposition of very different characters and their concerns is exquisitely done partially because of the growth process she explores between Kathryn and Anthony, which lead to revelations on many different levels. Anthony has long tried to assume responsibility for everything around him. When his friends are murdered in their homes, can he just fly back to Britain and pretend nothing happened, leaving responsibility and passion behind?

In the wake of the Iranian revolution and the interactions of secret police and clever adversaries, Kathryn and Anthony become swept up not only in each other, but in circumstances far greater than either their individual or shared pursuits. Mysterious crown jewels, betrayal, threats to love and life - what could be more compelling?

Perhaps its strikingly realistic feel is derived from Angard's personal familiarity with her subject. On Wings of a Lion is based on her experiences while in Iran, and on incidents related to her by Iranians with whom she met and filmed.

On Wings of a Lion's ability to capture Iranian culture, politics, and society and place these facets against the backdrop of two very different, strong characters who struggle with themselves and each other places this novel a cut above most historical novels, romances, or thriller stories.

Readers of these genres will be exceptionally pleased at the story's depth, background, and evocative phrases, which engage and educate readers about Iran's peoples and culture.

Cracked Mirror Clear Reflection: Shatter an Illusion of Perfection
Julie Barbera
Inspireu2Action Inc.
9781733955003 $2.99 Kindle

Cracked Mirror Clear Reflection: Shatter an Illusion of Perfection is about freedom and illusion: the illusion of striving to be perfect in God's eye, and the freedom to be gained when this effort is cast aside. It's especially recommended reading for perfectionists who may otherwise spend their lives in pursuit of an ever-elusive goal that actually thwarts happiness, connections to God, and real living.

When Christian life coach Julie Barbera lost her voice and turned to writing as the "paintbrush of expression," she discovered a renewed commitment to God and faith which forms one of the foundations of Cracked Mirror Clear Reflection: "In search of a tool to replace my voice's paintbrush, I found eyes to see and ears to hear. More aware, I noticed a blunt pencil in the box. I turned to God and asked, "Why is this pencil so dull?" He responded, "That is the pencil I have been using to write on your heart. I have had to press hard to get your attention." At that moment, I exchanged my paintbrush for a pen. God and I began to write in unison."

Barbera realized that one result of losing her voice was an enhanced ability to listen to her heart and the messages of God. Her voice returned, but her focus was forever altered. Her journey is recounted in a story that blends memoir with spiritual life purpose messages that will resonate with Christian readers.

Readers shouldn't expect a linear production, here. Barbera daydreams, reflects on memories, and draws connections between experience and growth-inducing realization, as in this conclusion from her son's award ceremony: "External awards, while gratifying, lead to a temporary sense of accomplishment. Inner strength builds the courage to stand, even when the world says sit down."

As she tries to fit in with groups and struggles with God's and life's purpose, Barbera narrates her experiences with a marriage between heartfelt emotion with deep insights: "Life had to have a deeper meaning. I would never be satisfied with just fitting in. I was determined to find a purpose. There had to be more. I tried so hard to fit in that I failed to stand out. Perhaps I wasn't meant to fit in. Maybe I was supposed to stand out. If I wanted to stand out, I needed the courage to step out."

Some of the most poignant, higher-impact of these realizations are lifted from the text and illustrated with a black and white line drawing of a lighthouse and a shore, emphasizing their importance.

Readers should be aware that a spiritual overlay is present throughout. This is just one of the enlightening strengths of a Christian read that gently admonishes how to achieve better grace and understanding. Barbera writes with a welcoming hand that allows readers to enter her world with understanding: one which chooses educating over admonishment: "Your views of yourself, the world and others are highly dependent on the lenses that you put on. Glasses of judgment cloud the view. You may need to lay them on the stand and replace them with lenses of grace."

Cracked Mirror Clear Reflection: Shatter an Illusion of Perfection is about not just perfection, but about achieving a deeper connection with God and life through a process that encourages growth, sharing, risk-taking and transformation over judgment and resisting change. It's a road map for achievement that encourages readers to embrace a personal development process strongly rooted in God's will and the effort of uncovering a personal life purpose. Christian readers will find Cracked Mirror Clear Reflection both inspirational and surprisingly easy to understand.

Cohesion Culture
Dr. Troy Hall
Koehler Books
210 - 60th Street, Virginia Beach, VA 23451
9781633939295, $24.95 Hardcover, $16.95 Paper, $7.99 Kindle

The real challenge facing businesses doesn't lie in attracting great employers, but in retaining them long-term. Cohesion Culture: Proven Principles to Retain Your Top Talent addresses this problem and offers many solutions, creating a blueprint for company leaders whose goal is to "...create workspace environments where all employees have a sense of belonging, feel valued, and make a commitment to organizational success."

This idea may sound simple and familiar, but statistical evidence shows that most organizations aren't paying enough attention to retention. Over sixty percent of employees in any given occupation are actively seeking another job!

Cohesion Culture discusses employer performance and responsibility in creating an attractive work environment that leads to job satisfaction on more than one level.

Six chapters discuss values, effective leadership and its direct connection to transformative principles, how trust is cultivated and maintained in the workplace, and how an organization can adopt the principles outlined in Cohesion Culture to support talent retention.

Dr. Troy notes that "...building a Cohesion Culture that works with people who want to be part of it requires a lot of relational underpinning."

Business leaders seeking to be more effective in crafting an environment of empowerment, value, responsibility, and satisfaction will find Cohesion Culture advocates making the kinds of changes that lead to the ultimate goal - talent retention and a stronger competitive force fueled by workers who aren't always casting about for better opportunities because the real opportunities lie in their existing workplace.

The Four Trials of Henry Ford
Gregory R. Piche
Open Books
9781948598248 $19.95 Paper/$9.99 ebook

The Four Trials of Henry Ford is a highly recommended pick for any collection strong in American, legal, or transportation history, focusing on the litigation process at the turn of the 20th century. In this era, Ford was not a giant company, but a man whose development efforts threatened the existing Seldon patent on the automobile. But this wasn't the only litigation Henry faced in the course of developing his Ford brand.

The Dodge brothers also brought suit for shareholder oppression after they initially manufactured Ford's mechanical car parts, while Ford sued the Chicago Times for libel.

These are just a few examples of the litigious history of Ford covered in The Four Trials of Henry Ford, which provides more than just legal insights into the man and his company, but traces the evolution of both as Henry Ford's brand took off.

Perhaps most fascinating of all are the insights into a process which involved Ford, shareholders, reporters, and publishers in a series of legal battles whose outcomes ultimately shaped the fate of not only Ford, but other companies of his times.

Even readers not versed or interested in legal processes will find the social, political, economic, and psychological descriptions of these battles to be vivid, exciting, powerful insights: "Henry Ford established his own personal news bureau in Mt. Clemens to provide copy concerning the trial to small town newspapers all over the country. It was an effort to combat the influence of the Tribune with large urban daily newspapers, which tended to identify with the Tribune. Both sides smothered the town with private detectives trying to dig up dirt on potential jurors and witnesses that might be called. Ford agents spread rumors in the community that the Ford Motor Company planned to open a new plant in Macomb County to employ thousands of workers. No stone was left unturned by either side in an effort to obtain an edge in the litigation."

Gregory R. Piche's wide-ranging examination of these four major trials, their outcomes, and their lasting impact creates a spirited survey that will appeal to a diverse audience of historians, transportation buffs, legal beagles, and general-interest readers. It's thoroughly engrossing reading offering many insights and thought-provoking moments.

Piche's added inclusion of the biographies of individuals involved in Ford's operations rounds out the book's historical and technical details with lively surveys that read with the descriptive force of fiction: "Sapiro was an intense presence with dark brown eyes and a zealous, passionate demeanor. He presented a compelling story. His father had died in a train/wagon accident when he was young, and because his mother was unable to support him, Sapiro grew up in an orphanage in San Francisco. He was ambitious and smart. He trained early to become a rabbi at the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1908 and later gained a master's degree in history. Still later, he studied law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law, where he graduated at the top of his class in 1911. While giving his class's commencement address, he attracted the attention of progressive California Governor Hiram Johnson, who had an interest in agricultural reform."

While it might initially seem that The Four Trials of Henry Ford is a specialty item, it in fact is a strong recommendation for all kinds of readers, who will find Piche's attention to footnoted, well-researched facts backed by a talent for description. He captures the Ford story in an account that's atmospheric, compelling, and hard to put down.

Wedding at Walden Pond
Vivien Mayfair
Bramble House Books
Small Print: 9781733226172 $13.99
Large Print : 9781733226165 $17.95
ebook: 9781733226189 $2.99

Available from Amazon; Barnes and Noble; Kobo; Scribd; Apple Store

Harvest season in Vermont's picturesque small town of Snowdrop Valley brings more changes with it than Fall colors as Mirabelle Martine faces the loss of her beloved bakery and bookstore. One thing she can do to save her business is design a literary harvest-season book festival. Another path is to accept the otherwise-unwelcome attentions of an unknown horror bookstore owner who tells his visiting, meddling mother that they are engaged, in exchange for his help.

One desperate fib leads to another and Mirabelle discovers that matters of the heart aren't as easy as falling in love and living happily forever after. In between the quest to save her bakery and please her father, there is angst, growth, discovery, and a gray area in which she finds herself pitted against not only business challenges, but romantic conundrums with a stranger as they try to help one another achieve their goals.

Vivien Mayfair's creation of Snowdrop Valley isn't new, and prior romance readers who choose her latest will be happy to see this quintessential small town return. The backdrop of autumn, one of New England's most famous and pictorial seasons, is very nicely done in this book, as are the touches of Vermont culture and personalities that stem from Mayfair's personal familiarity with and affection for New England.

Mirabelle and Zeph aren't singular characters in search of love, either: they are also on a quest for uncovering the truths in their own separate life journeys, and this effort on both sides sets Wedding at Walden Pond apart from the usual romance read. Mirabelle and Zeph are contrasting individuals in their own right, and so their different journeys nicely compliment their conjoined fates.

As a white lie and simple ruse become complex even to the one who conceived them ("Why was Mirabelle playing along? All he wanted was to visit with his mom, then get her back on that plane. Mirabelle's playing along only meant it would be that much harder to break the news. It's one thing for Drozah to fib, but for all three of them to carry on a ruse?

Not right. He detected the hope in his mom's voice, unable to remember hearing her speak with so much enthusiasm since the time he told her he was going into graduate school."), a sense of humor, good clean fun, and a story line steeped in possibility and New England flavors emerges.

Sweet romance and cozy novel readers interested in a gentle tale of tangled lives, entwined fates, and growing passion will relish the fine feel of small-town America that Mayfair cultivates in one of her best romance stories yet.

Anne Marie Lutz
Hydra Publications
9781948374170 $14.99

Fantasy story Taylenor's vivid opening is reminiscent of Vonda McIntyre's Dreamsnake story about a healer...but without the snakes: "Jaena knew as soon as she set foot in the village that a gifted child lived there. She opened up her senses and cast wide. Taylen lay over the place like a layer of mist floating over fields on a damp morning. Her first thought was to run away." This talented priestess also journeys to villages, to bless births and sing the souls of the departed to her goddess, until one day she stumbles upon a boy with the rare gift of taylen, which is linked to a fatal illness.

The best of intentions often go awry, as they do here when Jaena thinks she is helping save young Wiel by taking him to a safe city, only to discover she's delivered him to the very force that threatens him: the Mage Defender, who actually steals magic from children.

She's studied to be a priest for years, and has long known her duty and where her loyalties lay - until now.

Taylenor's ability to create a magical world, infuse it with the strong personality of protagonist Jaena, and draw readers into a series of disastrous realizations that lead the formerly faithful Jaena to question everything ("The sky spun. Her whole world was not what she thought it had been, and her part in it was far different from what she had thought.") lends to an evocative tale that is nearly impossible to put down, once begun.

As old Mage Herrein, threats from Easterners, and the betrayal of longtime guide Mother Thara each affect Jaena's journey, readers are drawn into a world that feels realistic, believable, and compelling.

Much as the renowned Vonda McIntyre achieved a superior blend of individual challenge and angst and broader social commentary in Dreamsnake, so Anne Marie Lutz's Taylenor holds a similar yet different kind of draw - one that successfully crafts a world of magic, tests it with forces of loyalty and betrayal, and includes considerations of the real tests of power and heritage: "With no taylen to give her more than ordinary ability, would her people still follow her? What was the power of centuries of worship and Ark-amne's personality worth?"

Lutz's ability to create a magical dilemma that forces her characters to think about set life purposes and ultimate journeys makes this fantasy tale more than just another quest story. Taylenor holds a resolve and power that makes for a thoroughly engrossing, often satisfyingly unpredictable read in which true friends come together to expose hidden enemies.

A Killer Carnival
Jeanette de Beauvoir
Homeport Press
9780999245187 $12.99 pbk
9780999245194 $4.99 ebook

A Killer Carnival: A Provincetown Mystery is the fourth book in the Sydney Riley series and is set in a colorful town planning for its equally colorful annual Carnival Parade. Sydney's nose for trouble is awakened when her boyfriend's police officer sister shows up and begins making inquiries.

Jeanette de Beauvoir's wry sense of humor and ability to capture immediate attention is evident from the very first sentences, which are revealing and fun: "By the time the float exploded, we were all far enough away that it was only ear-splittingly loud rather than lethal. I guess one has to be grateful for the small things in life. Like... well, life. I don't usually spend a lot of time around objects that explode, so the experience was a new one."

Readers are immersed in the mystery of an exploding float and murder attempt that grabs reader interest even before relationships, mystery, and investigative premises are introduced. These subplots flush out the setting and circumstances that make A Killer Carnival so realistically engrossing.

Provincetown is flagrantly outrageous, and so is Sydney's course as she faces criminals, life-changing circumstances, and insights that lead her to make some realizations about her choices and progress in the world.

De Beauvoir does an outstanding job of creating suspense, capturing a vivid personality's unique narrative style, and crafting a mystery from the story's first few lines, but she doesn't leave newcomers in the lurch over Sydney's background. This is presented after the gripping opener, which makes for an irresistible addition to the story's introduction ("How is it that stories begin? "It all started when...").

Newcomers and prior Sydney fans thus receive a tale accessible to all, powered with a compelling observational style that does more than just narrate a mystery, placing readers squarely in Provincetown's atmosphere: "P'town being P'town, a lot of the floats feature loud music and scantily clad well-oiled impossibly handsome young men dancing suggestively to a throbbing bass beat. Our float, I'd liked to think, was somewhat more subtle. Apparently not subtle enough. Or maybe I just don't have a handle on subtlety anymore. I live in one of the least subtle places in the world, a town aggressively in your face about everything, a town with swagger to spare. I'd like to add that, technically speaking, none of this was my fault."

By now, it should be evident that readers who choose A Killer Carnival are in for a rare treat. It's an explosive (literally) combination of intrigue, suspense, and psychological insight set in an atmospheric, colorful locale that benefits from the author's personal familiarity with P-town's eccentrics and sometimes-questionable characters.

Packed with motive and heart-stopping moments and spiced by Sydney's irreverent wit and sense of humor, A Killer Carnival is mystery writing at its finest. It's especially recommended for prior readers, but is quite accessible to newcomers seeking superior stories, memorable characters, and fast-paced action.

The Salvation Project
Joe Rothstein
Opus Self-Publishing Services/Politics & Prose
9781624292378 $29.50 Hardcover

The Salvation Project is a stand-alone sequel to Joe Rothstein's The Latina President, and opens with the atmospheric description of an odd meeting between a Muslim imam and businessman Javier Carmona, who doesn't know the reason why he's being called in. An important deal with huge potential profits, a business arrangement between Turkey and Mexico, and a tricky imam's manipulation of matters to enlist Javier's help in helping him take control of the U.S. is the opening salvo in a story packed with tension, high-octane action, and a threat couched as a desperate effort to save humanity, called The Salvation Project.

From the start, Rothstein excels in an approach that blends a logical progression of political and personal special interests with a story that feels firmly rooted in international perceptions and modern times. One can easily imagine such a project, such a purpose, and such an arrangement between religious ideology and business interests, and this is the first spark that makes The Salvation Project a compelling read.

The second strength (demonstrated soon into the plot) is Rothstein's exploration of the evolution of a conspiracy that holds its roots in the shared political and business frustrations and associations of two different cultures. This is further advanced by the political changes experienced by President Tennyson, who enters the office with ideals and perceptions quickly changed and challenged by circumstances beyond her experience.

From changing political dynamics and Congressional hostility that evolves from successful conspiracy operations which redirect President Tennyson's approach to love triangles, poisonings, political and social set-ups to a murder that reaches into the conspirators' top circles, The Salvation Project is replete with satisfying twists and turns that lead in unexpected directions.

It should be cautioned that readers anticipating a linear, simple suspense or thriller piece may find Rothstein's story more complex than they'd anticipated. But that's a bonus for a story that rests on no simple scenarios, whether it be a flawed President's campaign, a conspiracy to change the course of U.S. political processes, murderous associations, or an unexpected romance that evolves from abused trust.

Be forewarned: there's a lot of juicy action to digest here...and just when it seems like a tidy ending will evolve, yet another unexpected twist emerges.

Readers seeking thought-provoking political intrigue that operates on both domestic and international soils will relish the approach of The Salvation Project, which embraces elections, murder, and conspiracy at the highest levels of office and the heart.

A Boomer's Tale
Darryl Nyznyk
Cross Dove Publishing
9781733585606 $18.99

Jack Darrow is a lawyer in his 50s who is experiencing a mid-life crisis - the realization that he's not really done much with and in his life. A Boomer's Tale documents the results of a camping trip made in an effort to regain this life purpose, but diverts from any anticipated tale of self-realization by injecting a time travel element into the plot as Jack is transported to a world in which he is a hero some thirty years younger, living his ideals.

Or, are they?

It turns out that Jack's transformative experience is his introduction to new revelations about not only his ideals and dreams, but his real life purpose. This only comes clear as he lives out his alternate persona in the style he'd envisioned and aimed for in his former life.

Speaking of which...what is happening to the former Jack? The door on that world appears closed; but can it open again?

By couching the story of a baby boomer's mid-life crisis with a psychologically and spiritually transformative event, Darryl Nyznyk crafts an account that will appeal to different audiences on many levels.

Obviously, there's the strong story of a life confronted and changed; but within that scenario is the powerful examination of the different roles of a hero, and forms that heroism might take. These offer unexpected glimpses into how individuals impact other lives.

As events and chapters at first swing between the 'other time and place' and the life-threatening real world Jack is more familiar with, readers are treated to a vivid series of battles, difficult confrontations, the impacts of knowledge and revenge, and Jack's evolving struggle to help both his lord and damsels in distress.

What could have been limited to a fantasy adventure becomes a reflective study in growth and mindful living as Jack learns some hard lessons from his newly heroic lifestyle.

Part fantasy, part middle-age crisis story, and filled with gripping encounters and clashes with self and the world, A Boomer's Tale offers a thought-provokingly different kind of adventure/self-improvement story. It will keep readers engrossed and thinking long after the tale's epic conclusion, which links not only disparate worlds, but newly healed hearts.

No Good Deed: A Sam Dawson Mystery
Steven W. Horn
Granite Peak Press
9780999124819 (cloth) $29.00
9780999124871 (paper) $17.95
9780999124895 (ebook) $ 4.99

No Good Deed adds to the Sam Dawson series and follows the photographer/historian's latest attempt to unravel a mystery of the past. This latest revolves around a dead teacher who knew the truth about a boy's fatal shooting a century before, and who reaches out from beyond the grave to compel Sam to help solve the mystery once and for all.

One delightful aspect of No Good Deed is that it isn't about a singular mystery, but the entanglements and process of Sam Dawson's life as he struggles with romance, a long-dead legacy, and political impacts he never expected. He's an expert in locating lost graves, not in matters of heart and political process, but his expertise is dragging him into affairs that begin with good intentions and push him into puzzling conundrums.

No Good Deed holds the signature combination of strong characters and well-developed tension which made the other Sam Dawson books appealing, but adds a new level of intrigue and discovery to expand the dimensions of Sam's experiences and test his decision-making process.

At every turn, there's intrigue and tension; from the opener which indicates vindication is in the wind for a wrongful death to Sam's encounter with Cricket, ranching history, health care costs, and links between cemeteries and graves and present-day politics.

The subplots and tense revelations that challenge and change Sam's life drive a hard-hitting mystery that takes history and personalizes it, from a great grandmother's possible lie to the lasting, far-reaching impact of bad decisions and deadly outcomes.

Sam's interactions with his daughter, a potential love, and the past all spice an engrossing mystery recommended for all ages, from advanced high schoolers and new adults to adult genre readers who will appreciate the added touch of history and romance injected into a vivid story of discovery.

Clarkston's Curse
Ann Margaret Johns
Ann J Downey, Publisher
9780999345702 $14.99 Paper/$9.99 Kindle

When murders and mayhem struck a peaceful rural small town community that Ann Johns' parents escaped to from urban Detroit, young Ann did what many do, to cope: filed all her memories in a mental folder and locked them away for decades.

Clarkston's Curse: One Child's Quest to Explain the Series of Tragedies in Her Hometown unlocks that folder, takes out these files, and recreates the traumatic experiences that changed not only her life, but the lives of forty families in rural Clarkston, Michigan.

Her examination represents a powerful recreation of not just the events of one small town, but the atmosphere of growing up in 1960s and 70s America in a time and place that served as a microcosmic example of the escalation of violence in this nation.

Narrated in the first person from the viewpoint of young Ann Johns, homespun events such as pie on the porch with grandma and the family tragedy of a lost pregnancy intersect with broader social issues and community challenges as murder rears its head not once or twice, but repeatedly, hacking away at the idyllic perceptions of childhood in a small rural town.

By adopting her younger persona's observational style and presenting her vivid memories as in-the-moment experiences, Johns draws readers into this atmosphere more thoroughly than any third person examination could have created. Her account touches on issues of different kinds of violence; the effects of death and news reports about it on children; religious lessons about death; and a child's questions about her role in affecting the world around her ("Do you think it could be possible that I am the curse, Grandma?" "People don't get cursed, Annie. They get possessed. And you are hardly possessed.").

Each facet is thoroughly immersed in a child's perspective, logic, and ability to cope with the very adult and life-ending issues faced by a community, exploring reactions to events which adults around her have difficulty understanding or explaining to a child.

The result is a powerful story of an entire community's repeated and ongoing confrontations with loss and how that translates to and, years later, impacts the next generation.

Superb in its logic, memories, and unfolding drama, Clarkston's Curse captures the personal angle through a child's-eye view of modern America's social struggles with violence. It should be in any collection strong in American history, culture, social issues, and children's psychology.

Paying the Rent
Dick Eiden
Lymer & Hart/Garden Oak Press
9781732375352 $17.95

Paying the Rent: Adventures of a Left Coast Activist Lawyer from the Turbulent '60s to the Era of Donald Trump: A Memoir follows the retired lawyer author's cross-country journeys as an activist, neatly capturing events and legal challenges from a perspective most memoirs about the 1960s don't touch.

It's a chronicle of American civil rights history, activism, and how Dick Eiden joined a legal movement to support political wars on the home front. It surveys not just Eiden's personal evolution, but the rise of his political consciousness and how he used his profession to help advance his ideals, from the Native American struggle for rights to modern immigrant issues.

It's Eiden's professional perspective, combined with his Leftist political leanings, which makes Paying the Rent such a unique presentation. Stories of 1960s activism, social change, and personal transformation abound; but rarely are they wrapped in the perspective of a blossoming lawyer who discovers his purpose through linking his professional world to the social revolutions happening around him.

As Eiden traverses a rapidly-changing landscape of social and legal challenges to freedom, he operates at the cusp of social change in this country, using his legal prowess to confront and battle challenges to freedom. Paying the Rent further documents the mercurial world of legal efforts from the perspective of an individual whose personal and professional life is also constantly in flux: "Life was good in the Santa Barbara Legal Collective where I learned so much about law, political organizing and life. We all felt a spirit of purpose and camaraderie, and an optimism about how we could help change the world. The Selective Service cases kept me busy and brought good income into the collective, but those cases were drying up."

As Eiden traverses the world and encounters issues beyond America's borders, he gains additional knowledge of struggles that reinforce his Marxist ideals and their importance: "No matter what country we were in, we spoke the same language of the international proletariat Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Mao. It was great for me to be around political people like them. At home, I spent much of my time talking to people about our inconsequential cultural and consumer things. We did not immerse ourselves in world issues 24/7 like these exiles."

Readers interested in stories of the '60s might choose this book expecting another American-centric focus, but it should be cautioned that this is no singular rehash of either an individual life or American ideals alone. It's a world-hopping survey of the social and legal presence of leftist ideology in other countries, as well as domestically.

The result is a 1960s memoir with a big difference: a focus on social activism and personal responsibility that follows how one lawyer pushes the boundaries of his profession so that it reflects his growth and his ethical, moral, and legal ideals.

This wide-ranging approach weaves a sense of adventure and transformation into his memoir, creating in a story hard to put down, packed with thought-provoking moments. This makes it a draw for not just legal beagles and 1960s American history readers, but to anyone interested in the political and cultural undercurrents of American society in its fight for values, dreams, and civil liberties.

The 'Armchair' Gambler
Ronald K. Evans
Amazon Digital Services
ASIN: B07VHBCF84 $3.99 Kindle

The 'Armchair' Gambler: How You Can Profit From Casinos - And Have Fun - A Systematic Way To Win - Observations From A Former Casino Dealer comes from a professional who offers candid, complete insights on not only how the gambling system works, but how to devise a strategy that, despite the odds, results in more wins through a systematic change in bet selection procedures.

This is no light coverage intended for the occasional gambler; but an in-depth survey of the gambling industry's methods, house edges, and words of wisdom from Ronald K. Evans' own gambling and extensive research into odds, strategies, and the lessons of volatility and fluctuations in the process.

The first thing to know about The 'Armchair' Gambler is that it focuses on traditional casino table gambling and doesn't include poker or slots. These table games employ various systems that readers will come to better understand as chapters closely examines processes. The book features a new, recommended method requiring not in-depth professional attention, but a regular casino gambling background and interest, attracting gamblers who enjoy making fairly frequent forays to the casino table.

From a plan to tackle bet selection and seeming randomness to the pros and cons of various competing gambling systems, Evans combines a seasoned hand with well-researched strategy that even casual betters will easily comprehend.

Tables and charts, data from authoritative sources such as Berkeley University, and clear tips on what to look for when analyzing a casino's system offer not a singular method, but approaches that encourage patrons to customize and define their own winning analyses.

From deviations from the mean and casino drawdowns to handling losses with an eye to larger wins later, The 'Armchair' Gambler clearly outlines its strategy, discusses the pros and cons of various analytical approaches, and is the item of choice for anyone who harbors more than a casual interest in gambling. It's a top pick for anyone who seeks better and deeper understanding of the casino process in order to up their odds of success.

Layla's Love
Ava Bleu
Persuasion Media, LLC
ASIN: B07WHR8WPM $2.99

Layla's Love adds the second book to the Ivyhurst romance series and follows the changing life of the busy owner of Ohio pizzeria Layla's Gourmet Pizza Shop, whose focus is on business success, not love - until customer Raymond walks in the door.

Readers receive an excellent recap of Layla's fiery personality, her role as a successful, hard-working African American businesswoman in the revitalized, gentrified small town of New Ivyhurst, and a lifestyle that has little room for love.

As her friends and co-workers encourage Layla Smith to take chance and make room in her life for love, she discovers that the biggest barrier to romance isn't finding the right guy or opportunity, but herself: "I think that is what finally broke through my resistance and fear and doubt. Luke was right. It wasn't life or death, it was just a date. Just a date with a man I wouldn't mind getting busy with."

Layla's Love eschews the usual complexity of too many romance novels in favor of a simple format, a short presentation (which especially lends to its recommendation for busy readers who want a quick, uplifting story), and an approach that builds the image of a successful African-American community and powerful female protagonist.

The resolute intentions of a woman who must overcome her greatest challenge to opening her heart (her own psyche; not her business's demands) makes for a hard-hitting yet fun read that delivers its revelations with clear impact and meaning unsaddled by overly complicated undercurrents: "I was a business owner and an independent woman. I could chase down a man if I darn well wanted to."

As humor, politics, social involvements, and media attention permeate the story, Layla is blindsided by more than just the possibilities of love.

It's surprising to note the many social inspections that are wound into this relatively simple story, but Ava Bleu's approach simply excels in creating succinct, hard-hitting, yet direct descriptions and experiences that enhance her story without adding too many overly-complex subplots.

The result is a romance that's also a reflection of community issues and social change. Layla's Love is a read that juxtaposes levity and serious issues but, in only 25K words, creates a novella steeped in heartbreak, social inspection, and new possibilities to brighten a romance reader's day and heart.

Bloodborne Awakened
Tracey Laviolette
Mentha Press
Hardcover: 9781937629588 $TBA
Paper: 9781937629601 $TBA

The 'Borne of Blood' saga opens with Bloodborne Awakened in which 16-year-old Jessie Connelly is traumatized after witnessing a vicious attack on her classmate at school. Her parents send her out of town to her grandmother's house for the summer to help her recover, but recovery isn't the focus or end of the story. It's only the beginning. Jessie meets Jacob and faces not just a camping expedition gone awry, but the truth about different creatures and worlds that operate behind the scenes to affect humanity.

Young adult to adult fantasy and horror readers will find Bloodborne Awakened an intense, gripping story powered not just by a typical story of good and evil, personal destiny, or the presence of other creatures who are hidden from human society, but a refreshingly vivid young personality who observes and captures the challenges in her normal life.

Jessie's voice, paired with Tracey Laviolette's exquisitely metaphorical, atmospheric descriptions, drive this story from its very first passages: "The clock's pendulum created such a soothing, yet so eloquently familiar sound - a reminder that time moved on in a eurythmic direction. Just as the gears of the clock continued ticking in constant motion, so did the days of our lives - at least until the end came. The sound was almost poetic - yet, ironically, did life continued after death? Newton's second law, which described the changes that a force can produce on a body in motion, stated that the time rate of change of the momentum of a body is equal in both magnitude and direction to the force imposed on it. The energy of a body is like the product's mass and velocity, and the force applied to a body can change the magnitude of the momentum, or its direction, or both. If this applied to my life, then a force would have to be strong enough to change the momentum and direction of my life. At that moment, my thoughts rambled on to what type of power would change my life's path. I stared at the clock for a long moment, absorbed by the hypnotic sound, as each of my main muscle groups loosened their tense embrace. Perhaps the idea of me meeting a person or force that was my equal to change my life was a bit whack."

Jesse holds her secret revelations close because otherwise, those who operate in the normal world (parents, counselors, and professionals) would surely consider her insane. Yet, she pours out her heart and reactions in this powerful production that explores her discoveries about the Bloodborne world and its legacy; her startling role in it (even though she feels powerless at times); and her evolving relationship with Jacob, who is "every girl's dream".

As dragons and demons are confronted by a band of brave, intrepid, and inexperienced young folk, readers are treated to an epic story seasoned with a dash of comic relief at unexpected junctures of the adventure: "Kyle stood tall, rolled his shoulders, then twirled the staff around and locked it underneath his arm. I must say I had gotten a bit distracted with those muscles, but what was a girl to think anyway when a guy showed up wearing a muscle shirt and green army fatigues?"

Jessie forms new bonds with her Bloodkin, but discovers that the survival of everything and everyone she loves rests squarely on her shoulders. She's charged with assuming her new role as an Awakened Dragonborne whose very existence creates a paradigm-changing impact on two very different worlds.

Readers will find themselves on edge as Jessie comes to realize the world isn't as she expected it to be, and that many things she's been taught are wrong. Most of all, Jessie's journey leads her to discover the personal purpose and meaning of her life. She brings other young adults into this realization through adventures that offer as much insights about personal growth processes as they do fast-paced action and confrontations.

Young adult fantasy readers will welcome Bloodborne Awakened's unique combination of coming-of-age and quest story. Its wound into engrossing descriptions and atmospheric settings designed to keep readers thoroughly engrossed to the satisfying end, which sets the stage for another story without the frustration of the usual cliff-hanger approach to series titles.

More, please!

9 Lively Cat Tales and Other Pet Poems
Jeffry Glover
Poems for Pleasure Press
9781948854009 $22.99 hc
9781948854016 $14.99 pbk
9781948854030 $4.99 ebook

9 Lively Cat Tales and Other Pet Poems comes from the winner of a Robert Frost Foundation National Poetry award and combines Jeffry Glover's experience as an author and educator in a collection replete with feisty tales of catitude, fanciful pet troubles, and life lessons.

Other collections of stories and poetry provide a particular focus on felines and pets. Glover's wide-ranging survey is designed to capture the diverse attractions and challenges of the kitty, using lessons, tales, and stories to deliver insights about cats who are not akin to each other in personality.

There's a logical progression to the chapters and poems, which move from domestic to wild cats and then to dogs. Each topic receives nine sets of rhyming poems of nine poems each, in keeping with a cat's nine lives.

Additionally, there's a whimsical air to many of the cat personality descriptions, which delve into the realm of fantasy as they probe kitty possibilities and impossibilities alike, as in the math-oriented rhyming 'Tale of the Perspicacious Cat', who is a surprising math savant: "He could calculate pi,/Count the stars in the sky,/And trees in a wood;/Indeed understood/Calculus, too,/Which he liked to pursue,/And never grew weary/Of using set theory."

No cat is left out of this appraisal, from the alley cat ("I've seen them feast in garbage cans;/Their tastes are far from fussy./While rodents figure in their plans,/Of these they're fond--they must be,/And every one they catch for dinner/

Makes people grateful they have been there.") to a consideration of 'Why the Lynx Isn't Famous': "The lynx is not a cat with fame/Due perhaps to its strange name,/And unlike lions with shorter mane,/All reasons fame it can't obtain."

The combination of whimsy, feline insights, and varied, rollicking poetic structures will make 9 Lively Cat Tales and Other Pet Poems appealing not just to young readers absorbing poetry and its relevance for the first time; but to all ages who harbor an affection for rhyme, felines, and fascinating observations of pets and their quirky importance to human lives.

Spooky and the Gargoyle
Teresa Traver
Thousand Acre Wood Books
9780578566979 $17.99 print/$7.99 ebook

Spooky and the Gargoyle is a fun picture book Halloween recommendation that excels in lovely, colorful, whimsical drawings by Ariana Dahlenburg. It tells of a fearful little white kitten who is even afraid of her own shadow. And the old Maxwell place that is her new home holds a LOT of them!

Bravery is a real issue for Spooky, but when she summons the courage to touch a big stone gargoyle who guards the house, she is not encouraged by the frozen monster's desire to be left alone. But she keeps coming back anyway, because they share a love of watching the world, and through her small acts of courage, she gets to know the huge, reclusive Eben, who is always 'too busy' to chat.

As an unlikely friendship forms between the formidable gargoyle and a kitty who is frightened of everything, something changes for Spooky, giving her the courage to not only make a friend, but confront true danger when it threatens her buddy.

Spooky and the Gargoyle might disappoint young readers looking for a truly spooky ghost-style haunt story, but it will delight youngsters and parents who absorb the underlying messages about courage, friendship, and how to find both when the world seems frightening.

So, while Spooky and the Gargoyle might seem a Halloween-oriented choice, it actually holds attraction and lessons year-round. It's a top recommendation for parents and caretakers of their own young 'spooky' personalities, who want to provide some basic illustrations of not just what courage is, but how to cultivate it.

The Trap
Andrea Steele
Mouse Hole Press
9780578557403 $19.95 hc / $14.95 pbk / $5.95 ebook

The Trap opens with a brief prologue set in Tübingen, Germany in 1920, where a child confides a family secret to a friend. Then fast forward to the same setting in 1995, when sociopath Egan challenges his parents' morals and lives. Now move to the same year, different place, in Harford, Connecticut. Alana Eastwood finds herself on a flight to Germany after she loses her job, when her grandfather, Kirk, suddenly collapses.

An unopened letter she finds in a trunk poses a mystery she can't ignore, but holds few clues for resolving what sounds like an important dilemma. Alana has had indications from an early age that she is clairvoyant, and this talent, combined with her relationship with her grandfather and her connections to and appreciation for Germany, are what power her drive to uncover a close-held truth that's been generations in the keeping.

Alana has rarely spoken of her dreams, but the events in Germany force her to confront her psychic ability and even broach the most important one of all: one that called into question the validity of her grandfather's identity in her life. And before she can, there is no longer an option to clarify this mystery - or any other.

Alana's psychic ability does not overpower the storyline; it believably melds in with the investigation to unravel the mystery and deaths that occur fifty years apart.

The Trap winds German and American history into a satisfyingly complex novel of intrigue and discovery as Alana probes her own abilities, family heritage, and the secret that threatens her identity and life.

Between Albert and Helga's dilemma in handling a dangerous son who might be better off dead to Alana's search for answers from the past that threaten her future.

The Trap weaves a gripping story powered not by a singular dilemma or mystery, but by the interconnected lives of various characters past and present.

German history and culture are injected into and reflected into the plot's setting and characters, creating a strong backdrop for the investigation and action that offers many insights into German affairs, from the lingering aftermath of World War II to the evolution of a deadly killer and his parents' struggles as they face him and a dangerous choice.

As Alana investigates her mysterious letter and discovers it holds a deadly secret, she also finds out that those who might solve her mystery are politically dangerous in their own right: "Alana interjected, "I have an old letter that we wanted to show him. It concerns something that happened during World War II. Professor Altmeyer said Herr Schmidt had the expertise help us." "Expertise? The guy is a Nazi! He has a whole group of Nazis writing propaganda outta some big freakin' mansion in the country. They all think it's a secret, but everyone knows what they are up to." Stefan spoke with anxiety in his voice. "All history majors have to take Schmidt's classes because nobody else teaches them. But it's appalling that we have to even talk to him."

From neo-Nazis and terrorism's rise to an Israeli agent who tails Alana and the evolving importance of Alana's own ability, which may be the key to saving lives, Andrea Steele crafts an important survey of various mysteries and traps that deepen and become more complex and impossible for the characters to handle as the story line evolves.

Steele excels in exploring logical progressions of power, political purpose, and individual dilemma, arriving at intersections where all three facets coalesce in surprising ways. As the trap tightens, the story becomes one of a compelling treasure hunt.

The result is a powerful saga of Hitler's ability to reach into modern times through a family mystery that becomes a world-changing paradigm, documenting a young woman's awakening ability to change everything through her insights and actions.

Historical fiction tempered with mystery doesn't get much better than this!

Paul Martin Midden
Whittmann Blair
9780985922382 $TBA

Just a year ago, Riley Cotswald was a published, successful, up-and-coming young author with the world at her fingertips. With her first book, all Riley had to do was type and the powerful words flowed. Now she's at an impasse over her new characters Adam and Suzanne, who are also stuck in their relationship and life. It all feels too close to home.

And with that, everything changes.

Riley is a work of art in many ways, not the least of which is Paul Martin Midden's ability to get under the skin of surface connections and patterns to probe not just Riley's characters and writing, but how it mirrors her own relationship with her estranged husband Cameron and the undercurrents of her life.

Serious Riley has long viewed her perpetually happy husband as a mystery, because his reactions to life are the opposite of hers: "What she was thirsting for the most was elusive. In her real life, she was the one who sat around wanting to speak the obvious truth to Cameron, who seemed eternally tone deaf about anything but his natural inclination toward happiness. It came so easy to him; it drove her crazy. Riley never quite grasped the root or the nature of his sunny disposition. Why was he so impossibly happy? He smiled a lot; he was seldom nonplussed; he put a good spin on everything. On those rare occasions when he absolutely could not avoid his emotions, as when he was watching a tear jerker or heard about the death of a friend or a national tragedy, he would shed a tear or two, but very briefly and, if it lasted more than a couple seconds, apologetically. Riley had never seen anything like it. And then he would return to his preternaturally happy default state."

He drove her crazy; but she's writing this story to help herself, despite the elusive nature of clarity and resolution. And so Riley persists in self-examination through creative writing, trying to kill two birds with one stone by meeting the demands of her publisher and her therapist.

During this effort, Riley considers the goal of peace of mind and the barriers of her own expectations from life, facing an increasingly stormy relationship with Cameron, who finds his own frustrated reactions to his estranged wife to be both alien and threatening.

As Riley's alter ego in the fictional Suzanne juxtaposes with her own life choices and confusion, readers receive a story that moves back and forth between Riley, Cameron, Adam, and Suzanne to reveal moments of enlightenment, shock and grief, fresh starts with new opportunities, and backward slides alike.

Midden excels at crafting a story that carefully juxtaposes fantasy and reality. As Jennifer's friendship with Riley takes a new turn and youthful introvert Edward enters Riley's life, the complexity she seeks from her fictional story becomes part of her own life.

At each step of Riley's blossoming and struggles, readers are drawn not just to her story, but the mirror of her writing, presented in italics for easy comprehension. Midden's ability to both separate and connect these two characters and their lives makes for an engrossing approach that keeps readers on their toes.

Tragedy and grief coalesce in this story, but Riley seeks to find the courage to confront the discourse in her own life. Readers drawn into this unusual story of self-exploration, growth, and revelation will find the psychology astute and thought-provoking and the focus on a nearly-divorced couple's individual and relationship struggles to be well done and compelling.

Riley is highly recommended for readers who like their stories multifaceted and psychologically compelling. This audience will find it filled with unexpected revelations and an approach that makes it hard to put down right up to its unexpected concluding lessons about failure, success, and life's meaning and choices.

Warrior Rising
J. L. Nicely
Braintree Press
9781732101029 $15.00 pbk
9781732101036 $4.99 ebook

Warrior Rising is the second book in the Womara series, complimenting the prior Unconquered Warrior with a continuing story that will especially be appreciated by prior fans who enjoyed Nicely's sweeping epic of this woman's world.

Seanna, a scout for the Womara, is heading home after crossing the treacherous mountain pass to reunite with a king. She has saved James' life, gaining his favor and now his love. She returns with a treaty between their realms and will stand before the new alliance of clans who could hold the fate of her clan's future.

Even as her love for James grows, she questions how to bridge the divide of their two different worlds, and treachery arises again to threaten the course of her life.

Warrior Rising follows Seanna's foray into political realms and battles of heart and mind. From the new alliance's obstructions to building a trading port and the growing strength of James and Seanna's formidable partnership, Warrior Rising expands the Womara's world with a carefully constructed story of strategic unions, powerful alliances, and the deepening relationships of the Womara women

Readers who appreciated the setting created in Unconquered Warrior will enjoy the many new dimensions explored in this sequel, which enlarges upon not just James and Seanna's growing relationship, and its uncertainties, but perspectives into the mind of the villain Lord Orman, a character you love to hate.

The result is a sweeping epic that is as rooted in political developments as it is romance and personal quests. It is a tale that will delight fantasy fans who like their characters strong and adept, but vulnerable. The story promises more books in the series and is highly recommended for epic fantasy readers who seek stories of powerful women and their continued fight for independence.

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

Gary Roen's Bookshelf

P. J. Dodge
Page Publishing
9781640274075, $14.99

"Why" reminded me of the movie Article 99, where there were abuses of the VA system. The film covered veteran's medical care in the hospital. "Why" takes on the administrative portion. Both reveal abuse of the system that should not be ignored. 15 veterans from all branches of service and different wars, join together for one last battle, to right a wrong of the VA. Their campaign is for all veterans who have had benefits cut while higher ups have stolen funds from the system. Now they feel they have nothing to lose so they form into a unit to take on the administrative offices in one last hurrah. "Why" is a gripping 'what if' scenario that should focus on ways to fix the VA.

Skin Game
Stuart Woods and Parnell Hall
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780735219168, $28.00,

Teddy Fay is back in action in "Skin Game." Fay will have to do everything he can to stay alive while trying to expose a mole of the CIA. He must also expose a sinister plot before it can be put into play. Fay has always been one of the most fascinating characters of Stuart Woods and "Skin Game" is one of the best suspenseful tales of Woods long list of titles. Fans of Woods and Parnell Hall, will not be disappointed with "Skin Game."

Murder Is My Business
Brett Halliday
Hard Case Crime
9780843963281, $9.95,

Growing up I read a number of series including James Bond, Mike Hammer, and Michael Shayne. I am happy to say that "Murder Is My Business" is better than ever because, back then I had a very different perspective, from now. The story is filled with great characters, writing and a great description of the time period the story takes place in. If you have never read a Michael Shayne now is the time to discover him in "Murder Is My Business.

The 18th Abduction
James Patterson & Maxine Paetro
Little Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
9780316420266, $29.00

Normally this series has incredible page turning suspenseful complicated plots. Sadly "The 18th Abduction" moves along at a snail's pace with too many convoluted plotlines that do not hold interest. Part of the reason is that it concentrates more so on Joe case and not enough on Lindsay's and her relationship with the Women's Murder Club. "The 18th Abduction" is by far the most disappointing story of the series. Hopefully the next one "The 19th Christmas" will return to a more rapid paced tale.

Trust Me
Hank Phillippi Ryan
Forge Books
c/o Tor/Forge Books
9780765393098, $9.99,

"Trust Me" is Ryan's first stand-alone novel, and it's a doozey. Mercer Hennessey a journalist, is contacted by a publisher, to do a book on a true crime of a mother, accused of the death of her own child. Mercer is able to follow the court proceedings from the luxury of her own home as she taps into the daily internet transmissions. Her book takes a drastic turn, when the jury acquits the mother. Now Mercer contacts the woman directly, telling her the book will be her story in her own words. She moves in with Mercer. As they form a relationship, Mercer believes the woman is guilty as she also begins to see that her life was not all she thought it was. "Trust Me" is a wild twisting and turning story, that moves along at a break neck pace filled with fascinating characters. As I read "Trust Me" I saw so many similarities of the Casey Anthony case of a mother acquitted of the death of her own child. It also surprised me how many times author Ryan brought that case into the narrative. "Trust Me" is a complicated story that is for anyone looking for a new author of suspense to discover.

The First Lady
James Patterson & Brendan Dubois
Grand Central
c/o Hachette Book Group
9781538714911, $15.99

James Patterson and Brendan Dubois deliver a fantastic page turner with "The First Lady." The President of the United States is caught in an affair with a woman on a trip to Georgia. The First Lady finds out but is not at the White House when The President returns. He is unable to confront her as well because she suddenly disappears. The Secret Service is made a scapegoat by a chief of staff who has other ideas on how to approach the matter. Agent Sally Grissom is determined to find the First Lady even though someone at every turn complicates her task. "The First Lady" is filled with twists and turns of plot that ends with a very satisfying conclusion.

A Little Bit Sideways: A Collection of Humorous Essays
Victoria Landis
9781973797203, $15.99,

The rules are different in Florida and Victoria Landis shows in many ways why that is true even today in her collection of essays in "A Little Bit Sideways." The pieces are witty tidbits on many topics including how to raise children today, different aspects of food, the importance of chocolate, are just a few things she exposes. In these tough times we need something to make us laugh and "A Little Bit Sideways" does so in generous doses.

Arrivederci, Crocodile See You Later Alligator
Begun by Fred Marcellino and completed by Eric Puybaret
Simon & Schuster
9781534404014, $17.99,

Fred Marcellino began "Arrivederci, Crocodile See You Later Alligator" the sequel to "I Crocodile" but died before completion. He had most of the book done before his death. Eric Puybaret was brought in to finish the work, that is now published for the first time anywhere. The story is a fun excursion through the city of Venice, Italy with some very fascinating characters for all of us to enjoy. "Arrivederci, Crocodile See You Later Alligator" is a crowning achievement to the master children's author most noted for his classic Puss In Boots novel.

Spencer's New Pet
Jessie Sima
Simon & Schuster
9781534418776, $17.99,

Spencer is a little boy, who has a unique perspective on man's best friend in "Spencer's New Pet." The artwork and story combine to show that you should not worry what other people think, to enjoy yourself. People of all ages can enjoy "Spencer's New Pet" for its many underlying premises, of how to be happy in this world.

The Fisherman & the Whale
Jessica Lanan
Simon & Schuster
9781534415744, $17.99,

"The Fisherman & the Whale" is brilliantly told of a whale caught in a fishing net and the humans who save its life. The artwork tells the tale while there are underlying messages for all of us to learn about the oceans around us. "The Fisherman & the Whale" shows there are still some of us who care about the environment and want to save it for others to enjoy.

Gary Roen
Senior Reviewer

Helen Dumont's Bookshelf

The Preacher's Wife
Kate Bowler
Princeton University Press
41 William Street, Princeton, NJ 08540
9780691179612, $29.95, HC, 368pp,

Synopsis: Since the 1970s, an important new figure has appeared on the center stage of American evangelicalism -- the celebrity preacher's wife. Although most evangelical traditions bar women from ordained ministry, many women have carved out unofficial positions of power in their husbands' spiritual empires or their own ministries. The biggest stars (such as Beth Moore, Joyce Meyer, and Victoria Osteen) write bestselling books, grab high ratings on Christian television, and even preach.

"The Preacher's Wife: The Precarious Power of Evangelical Women Celebrities" is an engaging and informative study in which Kate Bowler (an acclaimed historian of religion and the author of the bestselling memoir "Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I've Loved"), offers a sympathetic and revealing portrait of megachurch women celebrities, showing how they must balance the demands of celebrity culture and conservative, male-dominated faiths.

Whether standing alone or next to their husbands, the leading women of megaministry play many parts: the preacher, the homemaker, the talent, the counselor, and the beauty. Boxed in by the high expectations of modern Christian womanhood, they follow and occasionally subvert the visible and invisible rules that govern the lives of evangelical women, earning handsome rewards or incurring harsh penalties. They must be pretty, but not immodest; exemplary, but not fake; vulnerable to sin, but not deviant. And black celebrity preachers' wives carry a special burden of respectability. But despite their influence and wealth, these women are denied the most important symbol of spiritual power -- the pulpit.

The story of women who most often started off as somebody's wife and ended up as everyone's almost-pastor, "The Preacher's Wife" is a compelling account of women's search for spiritual authority in the age of celebrity.

Critique: An inherently fascinating and impressively informative read from cover to cover, "The Preacher's Wife: The Precarious Power of Evangelical Women Celebrities" is an extraordinary, unique, and unreservedly recommended addition to community and academic library collections. Enhanced for academia with the inclusion of a Glossary of Important Terms, forty-six pages of Notes, and a nine page Index, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Preacher's Wife" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $28.45).

Spinster Kang
Zoe S. Roy
Inanna Publications
9781771336055, $22.95, PB, 240pp,

Synopsis: Thirty-two-year-old Kang is a new immigrant in Toronto. Having an older sister who was raped and suffers from the ensuing stigma in China, Kang is determined to remain a spinster and struggles with her fear and distrust of men. But Kang's story is not a hard luck story. She is an intelligent woman and a successful immigrant.

Kang deals with the perplexities of a different culture by maintaining a sense of curiosity, an enjoyment of learning about the new culture, and by finding humour rather than the humiliation that so often characterizes descriptions of immigrant experience. Kang rooms with Tania, a Russian immigrant, and learns that many years earlier, Tania was in love with a Chinese medical student at Moscow University who was abruptly returned to China for having had a relationship with her.

Kang's own father once studied at that university but has never talked about it since he was forced to leave Moscow and then was branded a rightist during the Chinese Anti-Rightist Campaign. Since then her father has been dispatched to work and live in Kunming, a city far away from Beijing. Could the paths of her father and Tania have ever crossed?

Curious about her father's past, Kang decides to pay a visit to Moscow, accompanied by Brian, Tania's nephew, a charming engineer who wants to explore his Russian Jewish roots. Spending time with Brian helps Kang to see how much her sister's tragedy has shadowed her life. When Brian suddenly shows symptoms of schizophrenia, Kang must decide whether to throw her spinster's hat away or end her relationship with Brian.

Critique: A deftly scripted novel by an author with a genuine flair for originality, as well as a distinctively reader engaging narrative storytelling style, "Spinster Kang" by Zoe S. Roy is unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Contemporary Literary Fiction collections and the personal reading lists of anyone with an interest in feminist issues, women's studies, Asian studies, and the overcoming of love and life's many travails.

Cooking for a Beautiful Woman
Larry Levine
Archway Publishing
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781480864610, $37.95, HC, 334pp,

Synopsis: They were singers and secretaries, classmates and teachers, actresses and attorneys, mothers, daughters, granddaughters, friends, lovers, and mentors. They were strong, intelligent, independent and witty. Together and separately they wove a tapestry of smiles and tears and inspired the warm, funny, tender, and sweet stories that fill the pages of Larry Levine's "Cooking for a Beautiful Woman: The Tastes and Tales of a Wonderful Life", which is part memoir and part cookbook.

Levine is the editor and publisher of the online food magazine, as well as a home cook who has created more than thirty thousand meals in his lifetime. In "Cooking for a Beautiful Woman" he tells nostalgic and true tales about the women he has known and offers delectable recipes including traditional Jewish and Romanian dishes, memorable meals culled from the menus of restaurants on the Sunset Strip and Las Vegas Strip, and dishes from a broad variety of cultures.

There are recipes for "Jewish penicillin" (also known as chicken soup), Romanian eggplant salad, barbeque ribs, eggs creole, Irish stew, baked spaghetti with garden sauce, biscuit tortoni, and scores of others.

"Cooking for a Beautiful Woman" shares fascinating stories and tasty recipes that offer a glimpse into a man's lifetime and the special women who touched his heart.

Critique: A unique and inherently fascinating read that is laced throughout with palate pleasing, appetite satisfying recipes, "Cooking for a Beautiful Woman: The Tastes and Tales of a Wonderful Life" would be equally appropriate and recommended for community library Contemporary American Biography collections, as well as personal and community library cookbook shelves. Indeed, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Cooking for a Beautiful Woman" is also available in a paperback edition (9781480864603, $20.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99).

Eating for Pregnancy, third edition
Catherine Jones & Rose Ann Hudson
Lifelong Books
c/o Hachette Book Group
1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104
9780738285108, $18.99, PB, 416pp,

Synopsis: Collaboratively written by the team of Catherine Jones (cofounder and CEO of Werbie, LLC, a startup connecting women and technology that is developing an FDA-approved mobile health software system) and Rose Ann Hudson, RD, LD, (who is a perinatal nutritionist and registered dietitian, and who counsels both high-risk patients and those with healthy pregnancies), "Eating for Pregnancy: Your Essential Month-by-Month Nutrition Guide and Cookbook" is the ultimate no-nonsense nutrition guide and cookbook for moms-to-be.

Every pregnant woman understands that what she eats and drinks affects the baby growing within her. Yet many of them don't have the time or energy to ensure they're always eating right. The guide walks readers through pregnancy month-by-month to cover developmental highlights, body changes, and nutritional needs of the mother and baby.

Now in a fully updated and expanded third edition, each chapter comprising "Eating for Pregnancy" shares delicious, healthful recipes that put a special emphasis on the nutrients that mother and baby need that month, during preconception, the nine months of pregnancy, and the postpartum period. Each of the 150 recipes highlights the essential nutrients for mom and growing baby, and provides handy nutritional breakdowns and complete meal ideas.

This new third edition includes: 25 brand-new recipes and updated classics, with more quick and easy dishes, more vegan and vegetarian recipes and variations, and more gluten-free options; The most up-to-date information on supplements, nutrient sources, environmental concerns, and high-risk pregnancies; Guidance for mothers with diabetes or gestational diabetes, including low-carb meal plans, recipe variations, and dining-out strategies.

Critique: Impressively comprehensive, thoughtfully informative, exceptionally 'user friendly' in organization, and deftly well presented throughout, "Eating for Pregnancy: Your Essential Month-by-Month Nutrition Guide and Cookbook" is an ideal gift for anyone expecting a child and will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Eating for Pregnancy" is also available in a digital book format (eTextbook, $12.99).

Test of Faith
Bonnie S. Hirst
She Writes Press
9781631525940, $16.95, PB, 192pp,

Synopsis: Bonnie S. Hirst is a woman of faith who has always believed that everything in life works out for the best. So, when her daughter, Lacey, is accused of a terrible crime, although Bonnie is devastated, she is also convinced that God will protect her family from harm. He always has, after all. But when her prayers are not answered and Lacey is sentenced to life in prison, Bonnie questions every aspect of her existence: her beliefs, her role as a mother, and the purpose behind the events that are tearing her family apart.

As Bonnie and her family navigate the complicated labyrinth of the legal system, she struggles with the duality of presenting a facade of being okay on the outside and screaming for air on the inside. Finally, she is guided to ask for help (a concept previously foreign to her) and is rewarded with a bubble of friends who surround her and her family with love.

Poignant, hopeful, and ultimately uplifting, "Test of Faith: Surviving My Daughter's Life Sentence" is the story of one mother's spiritual journey of awareness -- and her discovery that even when your life seems to have radically veered off course, there are always blessings to be found, if you can just keep your heart open enough to receive them.

Critique: Deeply personal, heart-breaking but ultimately inspiring story, "Test of Faith: Surviving My Daughter's Life Sentence" is an extraordinary and deftly presented account that is an inherently compelling read from cover to cover. While unreservedly recommended for community and academic library Contemporary American Biography collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Test of Faith" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99).

Walking Gone Wild
Dami Roelse
Fuze Publishing
9780999808924, $14.99, PB, 224pp,

Synopsis: "Walking Gone Wild: How to Lose Your Age on the Trail" is a fact-filled book about walking, hiking and backpacking by Dami Roelse and how women 50-plus can re-invigorate their life and health as they age. Showcasing true stories of real women who discovered a new model of aging with vitality, grace, and a deep connection to life, "Walking Gone Wild" provides the how-to of overcoming obstacles to developing a walking lifestyle. Individual chapters will deftly guide older women to outfit, train, and prepare to thrive walking the road ahead.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Walking Gone Wild" is an extraordinary, thoroughly effective, impressively 'user friendly', inspired and inspiring addition to personal and community library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections for women. It should be noted that "Walking Gone Wild" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.99).

Editorial Note: Dami Roelse was born and raised in Holland. She immigrated to the USA in 1973 after a year of travel through the Middle East and Asia with her belongings in a backpack. In the US, she settled on the West Coast and lived a country life. Dami lost her heart to the grandness of nature on treks in the Swiss Alps, the Himalayas, and eventually the place she now calls home, Southern Oregon. After raising a family, and a career in mental health with high risk youth, Dami has turned to writing and finds creative inspiration while walking, hiking and backpacking. Dami is passionate about helping women change their car mindset and become walking women.

Essential Caregiving Guide
Godrey Harris & Jacqueline Njuki
The Americas Group
9780935047905, $15.95, PB, 68pp,

Synopsis: "The Essential Caregiving Guide" breaks down the various aspects of caregiving (medications, exercise, grooming, communications, costs, reporting, etc.) and provides easy-to-use forms to track these activities over time. Some 17 forms are included, and photocopying is encouraged. Some forms need be completed only once, while others will go through several iterations during the caregiving process.

For example, one form titled Essential Medical Data consolidates all the information caregivers and their managers need, including the names and contact information for various physicians and specialists as well as a list of allergies, cautions, medications and the like. Once completed, it needs only occasional updates and can be provided to everyone involved in the caregiving process.

Critique: An ideal, comprehensive, and thoroughly 'user friendly' record keeping system for any family member or professional caregiver, the "Essential Caregiving Guide" is unreservedly endorsed and recommended for individual or institutional setting.

Naturalistic Developmental Behavioral Interventions for Autism Spectrum Disorder
Yvonne Bruinsma, et al.
Brookes Publishing Company
PO Box 10624, Baltimore, MD 21285-0624
9781681252049, $74.95, PB, 464pp,

Synopsis: Rooted in both ABA and developmental theory, Naturalistic Developmental Behavioral Interventions (NDBI) are some of today's most effective, evidence-based, and widely used interventions for autism spectrum disorder. Prepare tomorrow's autism professionals for success in the field with "Naturalistic Developmental Behavioral Interventions for Autism Spectrum Disorder", a graduate-level textbook and the first comprehensive introduction to the principles and practices of NDBI.

Future professionals will start with a clear and detailed overview of NDBI, examining how these approaches use natural environments and personal interests to motivate the child and bring about lasting improvements in skills and behavior. Then they'll explore the foundational principles of NDBI, take an in-depth look at the most successful NDBI models, and learn how to use specific NDBI strategies to improve child outcomes.

Critique: Exceptionally well organized and presented, "Naturalistic Developmental Behavioral Interventions for Autism Spectrum Disorder" is an ideal curriculum textbook and unreservedly commended to the attention of professionals working with autistic children and adults. While unreservedly recommended as a core addition to college and university library Autism collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, caregivers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Naturalistic Developmental Behavioral Interventions for Autism Spectrum Disorder" is also available in a digital book format (eTextbook, $74.95).

Helen Dumont

John Taylor's Bookshelf

Animals and the Environment in Turkish Culture
Kim Fortuny
I. B. Tauris Publishers
c/o Bloomsbury Press
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 315, New York, NY 10010
9781788318181, $115.00, HC, 200pp,

Synopsis: Landscape and animals have been fundamental elements of Turkish culture from the Ottomans to the present day. "Animals and the Environment in Turkish Culture: Ecocriticism and Transnational Literature" by Professor Kim Fortuny examines representations of and attitudes toward land and animals in selected Turkish literary texts and cultural contexts.

Informed by global debates in ecocriticism, ecopoetics and animal studies, Professor Fortuny explores literary and arts activism, as well as environmental interventions in the Turkish cultural sphere in light of ongoing ecological degradation in Turkey. Writers from the Turkish canon such as Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar and Nâzim Hikmet are explored alongside American and English texts to reveal common transnational environmental and ecological concerns across these distinct literary cultures.

Analyzing works of Turkish literature within the emerging field of ecocriticism, "Animals and the Environment in Turkish Culture" is an interdisciplinary work that will be of enduring interest to scholars of Turkish and comparative literature and animal studies and ecocriticism across the humanities.

Critique: A seminal and original work of meticulous scholarship, expertly organized and presented, and enhanced for academia with the inclusion of a nine-page Bibliography, twelve pages of Notes, and a five page Index, "Animals and the Environment in Turkish Culture: Ecocriticism and Transnational Literature" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to college and university library collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Animals and the Environment in Turkish Culture: Ecocriticism and Transnational Literature" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $93.87).

Editorial Note: Kim Fortuny is Associate Professor of English at Bogazici University in Istanbul, Turkey. Her previous books include American Writers in Istanbul: Melville, Twain, Hemingway, Dos Passos, Bowles, Algren, Baldwin, (Syracuse University Press, 2009) and Elizabeth Bishop: The Art of Travel (University Press of Colorado, 2003). She has published articles in peer-reviewed journals such as Middle Eastern Literatures, Journal of Turkish Literature, Textual Practice and Nineteenth-Century Contexts.

Esoterism as Principle and as Way
Frithjof Schuon, author
Harry Oldmeadow, editor
World Wisdom
1501 East Hillside Drive, Bloomington, IN 47401
9781936597642, $19.95, PB, 328pp,

Synopsis: Frithjof Schuon (18 June, 1907 - 5 May, 1998), also known as Isa Nur ad-Din 'Ahmad in Arabic after his conversion to Islam, was an author of German ancestry born in Basel, Switzerland. He was a spiritual master, philosopher, and metaphysician inspired by the Hindu philosophy of Advaita Vedanta and Sufism and the author of numerous books on religion and spirituality. He was also a poet and a painter. (Wikipedia)

Frithjof Schuon's perspective of pure esoterism focuses on the inward and universal dimension of religion, also referred to as the sophia perennis ("perennial wisdom"). His works provide invaluable keys to understanding the formal contradictions between the world's religions as well as their transcendent unity. In "Esoterism as Principle and as Way: A New Translation with Selected Letters" readers will discover the essential truth that lies at the heart of the world's religions, as well as the role of prayer, virtue, and beauty in the spiritual life.

Deftly edited by Harry Oldmeadow, this revised edition of Schuon's writings on esoterism features a fully revised translation from the French original as well as over 60 pages of new material, including previously unpublished selections from the author's letters and other private writings, an editor's preface, editor's notes, a glossary of foreign terms and phrases, an index, and biographical notes.

Critique: Thoughtful and thought-provoking, insightful and astutely reasoned, this new and expanded edition of "Esoterism as Principle and as Way: A New Translation with Selected Letters" is an unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library Religion & Philosophy collections in general, and Frithjof Schuon supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

Breathe: A Letter to My Sons
Imani Perry
Beacon Press
24 Farnsworth Street, Boston, MA 02210
9780807076552, $18.00, HC, 184pp,

Synopsis: Emotionally raw and deeply reflective, Imani Perry issues an unflinching challenge to society to see Black children as deserving of humanity. She admits fear and frustration for her African American sons in a society that is increasingly racist and at times seems irredeemable. However, as a mother, feminist, writer, and intellectual, Perry offers an unfettered expression of love (finding beauty and possibility in life) and she exhorts her children and their peers to find the courage to chart their own paths and find steady footing and inspiration in Black tradition.

Perry draws upon the ideas of figures such as James Baldwin, W. E. B. DuBois, Emily Dickinson, Toni Morrison, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Ida B. Wells. She shares vulnerabilities and insight from her own life and from encounters in places as varied as the West Side of Chicago; Birmingham, Alabama; and New England prep schools.

With original art for the cover by Ekua Holmes, "Breathe: A Letter To My Sons" offers a broader meditation on race, gender, and the meaning of a life well lived and is also an unforgettable lesson in Black resistance and resilience.

Critique: Thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Breathe: A Letter To My Sons" is an extraordinary, unique, and ultimately inspiring read that is an unreservedly recommended addition to personal, community, and academic library collections. It should be noted that "Breathe: A Letter To My Sons" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Dreamscape Media, 9781974984213, $24.99, CD).

John Taylor

Laurel Johnson's Bookshelf

Kerouac: The Last Quarter Century
Gerald Nicosia
Noodlebrain Press
9780578401409, 24.95, 192 pages

When asked what "beat" signified to the Beat Generation, Jack Kerouac replied, "Beat down, beat up, all tired out." Kerouac died in 1969 and I couldn't help but wonder while reading this book what his answer would be today. As a writer and human being, he told the truth as he saw it and memorialized in his work the down and out souls of society. How would Kerouac feel today, fifty years after his death, knowing the efforts of a lifetime had been taken from him? In Kerouac - The Last Quarter Century, author Nicosia presents a personal, touching, disturbing record of the years since Kerouac's death.

Kerouac was a flawed man with a dark side, but despite his frailties he remained clear-eyed about his literary legacy. He meticulously archived his work in filing cabinets to provide easy access for scholars in the future. Paintings, drawings, notes, writings, poetry, all things Kerouac were kept in files for future reference. He was planning to divorce his wife, Stella Sampas Kerouac, and did not want her or her family to inherit his work so his will left everything to his mother.. Kerouac's death precipitated a maelstrom of greed, dishonesty and shocking betrayal that continues to this day.

When Kerouac's mother died, her will left everything to Stella Sampas and her family. Quietly, without publicity, the Sampas family began selling off Kerouac's work piecemeal to buyers from around the world. By the time his blood relatives - daughter Jan Kerouac and nephew Paul Blake - discovered what was happening, many of Kerouac's writings had already been sold. Despite being terminally ill with end stage kidney disease, Jan Kerouac tried to fight in court to preserve what was left of her father's legacy. She proved her grandmother's will had been forged, but too late. She died before anything resembling justice could be served.

For nearly half a century Gerald Nicosia has researched, studied and written about Kerouac's life and times. He's been passionate about Kerouac's writing and cultural impact and supportive of the beat icon's direct descendents as they searched for justice and truth. As his reward for such loyalty he's been blacklisted, systematically slandered and censored while struggling to keep Kerouac's legacy alive. His exceptional Kerouac biography, Memory Babe, has been arbitrarily removed from print because he tells the truth and won't be silenced. Still, he perseveres. Highly recommended to Kerouac fans, scholars or those curious about his legacy.

Laurel Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Mary Cowper's Bookshelf

Digital Hand Lettering and Modern Calligraphy
Shelly Kim
Quarry Books
c/o Quarto Publishing Group USA
400 First Avenue North, Suite 400, Minneapolis, MN 55401-1722
9781631597206, $24.99, PB, 144pp,

Synopsis: In "Digital Hand Lettering and Modern Calligraphy", Shelly Kim (who is a popular Instagram lettering artist and workshop instructor) offers lettering enthusiasts at all levels of experience a step-by-step course that shows how to develop and adapt traditional lettering skills and techniques to a variety of digital platforms.

"Digital Hand Lettering and Modern Calligraphy" is organized into four major sections: Lettering Essentials (The basics of lettering and modern calligraphy, along with guidance for embellishing and designing quotes); Digitizing Your Lettering (Options for scanning, photographing, and creating a digital lettering file); Lettering on a Tablet (A hands-on guide to working on the iPad with the Apple Pencil and the Procreate app, from an overview of common functions and how to create a simple lettering brush to making shapes and patterns, choosing colors, creating gradients, glitter, and foil effects, and combining Procreate and Adobe Sketch); Projects & Inspiration (DIY projects that show you how to achieve with digital lettering what you can't with traditional techniques).

Of special note are the stunning gallery pieces from Karin Newport of @ipadlettering and Myriam of @halfapx.

Critique: The perfect instruction manual and guide for bringing lettering and calligraphy into the digital age, "Digital Hand Lettering and Modern Calligraphy" is unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library collections.

Editorial Note: Shelly Kim, creator of the popular Instagram lettering account @lettersbyshells, is a self-taught modern brush calligrapher who hosts in-person workshops throughout the U.S. on digital lettering, brush lettering, and watercolor lettering. She also offers entertaining and inspiring tutorials on YouTube and Facebook (both accounts: Letters By Shells) and is the author of two step-by-step technique card gift sets, Learn to Create Modern Calligraphy Lettering and Learn to Create Art Deco Lettering. Shelly has also collaborated with a wide range of creative companies, including Apple, at their Today Apple event, where she shared her artwork and story; Adobe Student, for their Spark Stories Sweepstakes; and with such crafts manufacturers as Tombow, Ranger Ink, and Prima Marketing. Shelly and her work have been featured on CBS News, Art Insider, and

The Queen Next Door
Linda Solomon
Wayne State University Press
4809 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, MI 48201-1309
9780814347287, $34.99, HC, 224pp,

Synopsis: "Aretha was private. I respected this and she trusted me." Linda Solomon met Aretha Franklin in 1983 when she was just beginning her career as a photojournalist and newspaper columnist. Franklin's brother and business manager arranged for Solomon to capture the singer's major career events-just as she was coming back home to Detroit from California -- while Franklin requested that Solomon document everything else. Everything. And she did just that. What developed over these years of photographing birthday and Christmas parties in her home, annual celebrity galas, private backstage moments during national awards ceremonies, photo shoots with the iconic pink Cadillac, and more was a friendship between two women who grew to enjoy and respect one another.

"The Queen Next Door: Aretha Franklin, An Intimate Portrait" is a kind of pictorial biography full of firsts as Solomon was invited not only to capture historical events in Aretha's music career showcasing Detroit but to join in with the Franklin family's most intimate and cherished moments in her beloved hometown.

From performance rehearsals with James Brown to off-camera shenanigans while filming a music video with the Rolling Stones, from her first television special to her first time performing with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, to her last performance with her sisters at her father's church and her son's college graduation celebration.

In an informative Afterword, Sabrina Vonne' Owens (who is Franklin's niece) honors her aunt, a woman who was an overwhelming supporter of civil rights, women's rights, and fundraising campaigns that helped to benefit her hometown.

There was a time in her career-when Franklin was more in demand than ever before-when she insisted that if someone wanted her to perform, they had to come to Detroit. During this time all of her major concerts, national television specials, music videos, and commercials would happen in Detroit. Aretha Franklin showed her respect for the people in the city who championed her from the very beginning when she started singing as a young girl in the church choir.

Critique: A unique and inherently fascinating visual tribute to one of America's greatest vocal talents of her day, "The Queen Next Door: Aretha Franklin, An Intimate Portrait" is an extraordinary, coffee-table sized volume (8.5 x 0.8 x 11 inches) that should be considered a 'must' for the legions of Aretha Franklin fans, and would prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to personal, community and academic library collections.

Mr Waffles Loves Design
Lisa S. Roberts
Canoe Tree Press
9780578464831, $24.95, HC, 96pp,

Synopsis: When noted design collector and published author Lisa S. Roberts discovered her new shelter cat climbing, jumping, rubbing and sleeping on her contemporary furniture and products, rather than freaking out, she began snapping photos. This became the inspiration for "Mr Waffles Loves Design", a whimsical and lavishly illustrated book.

Mr. Waffles, a sleek black Burmese cat, offsets the bright colorful designs by world-famous architects and designers. Each spread includes original photography of cat and design, a brief informative description, and a humorous observation or comment by critic Mr. Waffles. This feline doesn't just see a chair; he sees a potential scratching post, lap or jungle gym. His curiosity amuses throughout as he tips over trashcans, sniffs toilet brushes, poses in chairs, plays chess, and sits on top of a circular bookshelf.

"Mr Waffles Loves Design" traces the inspiration behind many iconic designs such as the Bouroullec brothers Vegetal chair inspired by tree branches and Patricia Urquiola's Antibodi chair that looks like a bed of flowers. Other designers look to the universe for inspiration with pieces like Michele de Lucchi's First Chair that resembles the solar system or Moon Chair by Tokujin Yoshioka that has the iridescent quality of the moon. Some designers incorporate a playful element. Naoto Fukasawa's Plus Minus Zero humidifier resembles a glazed doughnut and Byron Glaser and Sandra Higashi created Zolo, a child/adult toy that looks like Mr. Potato Head on steroids.

Design just got a whole lot more entertaining with Mr. Waffles leading the way!

Critique: A delight to simply browse through, "Mr Waffles Loves Design" will have a very special appeal to students of design in general, and anyone who has had a feline companion of their own in particular. The visuals are impressive and the commentary thoughtful and thought-provoking. A unique and extraordinary little volume, "Mr Waffles Loves Design" is unreservedly recommended for personal, community, and academic library collections.

Nerves of Steel
Tammie Jo Shults
Thomas Nelson Publishers
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9780785228318, $26.99, HC, 288pp,

Synopsis: Tammie Jo Shults has spent her entire life loving the skies. Though the odds were against her, she became one of the few female fighter pilots in the Navy. In 1994, after serving her country honorably for eight years, Tammie Jo left the Navy and joined Southwest Airlines in the early 1990's.

On April 17, 2018, Tammie Jo was called to service once again. Twenty minutes into a routine domestic flight, Captain Shults was faced with the unthinkable -- a catastrophic engine failure in the Boeing 737 had caused an explosion that punctured hydraulic lines and severed fuel lines, tearing away sections of the plane, puncturing a window, and taking a woman's life.

Captain Shults and her first officer, Darren Ellisor, struggled to stabilize the aircraft. Drawing deeply from her well of experience, Tammie Jo was able to wrestle the severely damaged 737 safely to the ground -- saving the lives of all 148 people on board.

Critique: An inherently fascinating life story, "Nerves of Steel: How I Followed My Dreams, Earned My Wings, and Faced My Greatest Challenge" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to both community and academic library Contemporary American Biography collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Nerves of Steel" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Brilliance Audio, 9781799724315, $26.99, CD).

Couples That Work
Jennifer Petriglieri
Harvard Business Review Press
60 Harvard Way, Boston, MA 02163
9781633697249, $30.00, HC, 272pp,

Synopsis: The majority of couples today are dual-career couples. As anyone who's part of such a relationship knows, this presents big challenges: trying to raise kids and achieve career goals while caring for and supporting your partner can seem impossible. Yet most advice for dual-career couples fails, framing the challenges as a zero-sum game in which one partner's gain is the other's loss and solutions feel like sacrifices or unsatisfactory trade-offs.

"Couples That Work: How Dual-Career Couples Can Thrive in Love and Work" by Jennifer Petriglieri is different in that she rejects conventional, one-size-fits-all solutions and instead focuses on how dual-career couples can tackle and resolve the challenges they face throughout their lives--together. She identifies three key phases of exploration and personal growth in every couple's work-life journey, showing how partners must navigate these together to strengthen their bond.

Each phase is crystallized with a question: How can we make this work?

The first phase focuses on the logistics of combining two busy lives and often involves the demands of young children; What do we really want?

In the second phase, couples learn to navigate their midlife crises in ways that allow each partner to continue to feel happy and fulfilled.

Who are we now? With careers winding down and kids grown up, this last phase offers new freedoms--and uncertainties.

Based on a five-year research project, "Couples That Work" includes interviews with couples from over thirty countries -- from executives to entrepreneurs and from twenty-something newlyweds to dual-career grandparents.

Filled with vivid real-life stories, keen insights, and engaging exercises, "Couples That Work" will help couples develop their own unique answers to that most pressing question: How can we successfully combine love and work?

Critique: Thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation, "Couples That Work: How Dual-Career Couples Can Thrive in Love and Work" is an extraordinary study and one that is unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Couples That Work" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $17.49).

Editorial Note: Jennifer Petriglieri is an Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior at INSEAD, where she directs the Management Acceleration Program and the Women Leaders Program. She was included among the world's "40 Best Business School Professors Under 40" by Poets & Quants. Her work on dual-career couples has been featured on the Harvard Business Review podcast Women at Work, as well as in HBR articles and on She can be found at:

Cat Call
Kristen J. Sollee
Weiser Publishers
c/o Red Wheel/Weiser/Conari
65 Parker Street, Suite 7, Newburyport, MA 01950
9781578636624, $16.95, PB, 224pp,

Synopsis: In metaphysical lore the cat is a sensual shapeshifter. A hearth keeper, aloof, tail aloft, stalking vermin. A satanic accomplice. A beloved familiar. In the broader popular culture a cat is a social media darling. A euphemism for reproductive parts. An epithet for the weak. A knitted (and contested) hat on millions of marchers, fists in the air, pink pointed ears poking skyward. Cats and cat references are ubiquitous in art, pop culture, politics, and the occult, and throughout history, they have most often been coded female.

From the "crazy cat lady" unbowed by patriarchal prescriptions to the coveted sex kitten to the dreadful crone and her yowling compatriot, feminine feline archetypes reveal the ways in which women have been revered and reviled around the world -- in Greek and Egyptian mythology, the European witch trials, Japanese folklore, and contemporary film.

By combining historical research, pop culture, art analyses, and original interviews, "Cat Call: Reclaiming the Feral Feminine" deftly explores the cat and its indivisible connection to femininity and teases out how this connection can help us better understand the relationship between myth, history, magic, womanhood in the digital age, and our beloved, clawed companions.

Critique: An exceptionally well written and inherently fascinating read from cover to cover, "Cat Call: Reclaiming the Feral Feminine" by Kristen J. Sollee is a 'must' for everyone who has a feline companion of their own. Impressively informative and unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Cat Call: Reclaiming the Feral Feminine" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

Editorial Note: Kristen J. Sollee is a writer, curator, and educator exploring the intersections of art, sex, and occulture. She is the founding editrix of Slutist, a sex positive feminist website (, and lectures at The New School and across the US and Europe. Sollee's signature college course, "The Legacy of the Witch" follows the witch through history, pop culture, and politics. Her critically-acclaimed book inspired by the course, Witches, Sluts, Feminists: Conjuring the Sex Positive, was published in 2017. Her personal web site can be found at

Being You: A Girl's Guide to Mindfulness
Catharine Hannay
Prufrock Press
PO Box 8813, Waco, TX 76714-8813
9781618218834, $17.95, PB, 150pp,

Synopsis: Catharine Hannay is the founder of and writes for the Center for Adolescent Studies blog. She has taught for 20 years and holds master's degrees in teaching and communications. Her mission is to help teens and teachers become the best possible version of themselves through practicing mindfulness and compassion.

In "Being You: A Girl's Guide to Mindfulness" she draws upon her years of experience and expertise to help adolescent girls who are feeling stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed within themselves. As a teen girl under a lot of pressure, Catharine's message is that mindfulness can help -- and "Being You" explores mindfulness as a simple but powerful way to center oneself and tap into one's own inner wisdom and strength.

"Being You": is packed with activities to help you figure out what you really want and who you really are; Helps you navigate the pressures of home, school, and the confusing world of frenemies and social media; features inspiring stories of young women who use mindfulness in the visual and performing arts, creative writing, sports, and STEM; includes a wide range of practices and perspectives; and includes information about how scientists study the mind and the brain.

"Being You: A Girl's Guide to Mindfulness" also shows the many different ways mindfulness is practiced around the world. Most importantly, the reader can try it herself and find that practicing mindfulness can help anyone feel happier and less stressed as they grow into the woman they want to become.

Critique: Essentially an instructional guide and manual, "Being You: A Girl's Guide to Mindfulness" is exceptionally well written, organized and presented -- making it an ideal and unreservedly recommended addition to the personal reading lists of teenage girls, as well as highschool and community library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections.

Mary Cowper

Micah Andrew's Bookshelf

Scientifica Historica
Brian Clegg
Ivy Press
c/o Quarto Publishing Group USA
400 First Avenue North, Suite 400, Minneapolis, MN 55401-1722
9781782408789, $35.00, HC, 272pp,

An illustrated, essay-based review of those books that marked the development of science from ancient civilizations to the new millennium, "Scientifica Historica" by Brian Clegg is deftly divided into five eras and explores the leading scientific pioneers, discoveries and books within them: Ancient World (which looks at the beginnings of language, plus the first ever scientific documents produced and translated); Renaissance in Print (which explores the effects of the invention of the printing press and the exploration of the seas and skies); Modern Classical (which surveys the nineteenth century and the development of science as a profession); Post-Classical (which dissects the twentieth century and the introduction of relativity, quantum theory and genetics); The Next Generation (which reviews the period from 1980 to the modern day, showing how science has become accessible to the general public.

Of special note is an informative introduction to the history and development of writing and books in general, and a list of the 150 greatest science books published.

From carvings and scrolls to glossy bound tomes, "Scientifica Historica" beautifully illustrates the evolution of scientific communication to the world. By recounting the history of science via its key works (those books written by the keenest minds our world has known) "Scientifica Historica" reflects the physical results of brilliant thought manifested in titles that literally changed the course of knowledge.

Critique: Beautifully and profusely illustrated throughout, "Scientifica Historica: How the world's great science books chart the history of knowledge" is a impressively unique, exceptionally thought-provoking, extraordinarily informative, expertly organized, and inherently fascinating addition to personal, professional, community, college, and university library collections.

Reconnecting to the Earth
Aaron Hoopes
Ozark Mountain Publishing, Inc.
PO Box 754, Huntsville, AR 72740
9781940265728, $13.00, PB, 112pp,

Synopsis: "Reconnecting to the Earth: Reclaiming Our Relationship to Nature and Ourselves" by Aaron Hoopes is a wake up call for anyone who is feeling that there is something not quite right with our world. Our all-consuming industrial civilization has led us down a destructive path that has compromised our soil, food, water, and atmosphere.

While it seems our modern society does not need or want to connect to the natural world, there is a deep fundamental sustenance that comes from being nourished and inspired by nature.

"Reconnecting to the Earth" is a kind of guidebook for those who have begun to comprehend the extent to which we have damaged the Earth and have started to recognize the consequences for ourselves, for our society, and for all of life as we know it. It is a tool to help us remember that we are not separate from the Earth.

"Reconnecting to the Earth" also offers concrete suggestions to assist in reestablishing our relationship to nature and offers respite to those overwhelmed by a society that has lost the ability to recognize the harm that is being done to our world by providing a framework for changing our way of relating to the natural world. It enables us to reconnect with not only the Earth, but ourselves as well. It is a path that leads away from the darkness of the economic, social, moral and environmental crises that are upon us and leads towards something more deeply spiritual and fulfilling.

Critique: A clarion manifesto and testimony to what our ecological problems are and 'real world' practical approaches to resolving them before climate change decimates the human population (along with the extinction of thousands of species we share the planet with), "Reconnecting to the Earth: Reclaiming Our Relationship to Nature and Ourselves" is a critically important and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Reconnecting to the Earth" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Take It Lying Down
Jim Linnell
Paul Dry Books
1700 Sansom Street, Suite 700, Philadelphia, PA 19103-5214
9781589881358, $16.95, PB, 200pp,

Synopsis: Jim Linnell is a writer, teacher, and director. He is also Professor Emeritus in the Department of Theatre & Dance at the University of New Mexico and former Dean of the College of Fine Arts there. He is the author of Walking on Fire: The Shaping Force of Emotion in Writing Drama. His work has been performed in the U.S. and abroad in Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, and Israel. Professor Linnell also helped establish the MFA degree in Dramatic Writing at the University of New Mexico and an annual festival of new plays that now bears his name.

Six months shy of retirement and on a family vacation in Mexico, Professor Linnell stepped off the porch of a rented guest house and quite literally broke his neck. He was medevacked to his hometown hospital in Albuquerque and from there to a spinal cord injury hospital in Denver, where he learned he might have to live the rest of his life as a quadriplegic.

How does a person absorb such news?

His doctors prognoses is that Professor Linnell's injury is incomplete: He has a two-year window for improvement. After three months of rehabilitation at the hospital, he and his wife, Jennifer, return to their home with an armada of equipment for his therapy, a heavy dose of anxiety about how they will manage together, and many unanswerable questions: Will Professor Linnell get better? What kind of future will they have? Can they move past denial to accept the possibility that he may remain a quadriplegic?

Critique: "Take It Lying Down: Finding My Feet After a Spinal Cord Injury" is Professor Linnell's detailed chronicle of healing against all odds. A deeply personal as well as an intense love story and a narrative of a young man's journey from Maine to New Mexico and adulthood, this deftly written memoir and personal history is an extraordinary read from beginning to end. While unreservedly recommended for community library Contemporary American Biography collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Take It Lying Down" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Tips Lawyers Wish You Knew
Ann D. Zeigler
Rio Grande Books
925 Salamanca NW, Los Ranchos, NM 87107
9781943681426, $17.95, PB, 158pp,

Synopsis: Do you know which courthouse to go to? What is evidence, really? Are you sure you remember all the accident details perfectly? Certificate of service? What's the difference between a summons and a subpoena? Is a grand jury just bigger than a regular one? As a juror, do you really need to listen to everything every witness says, or will the lawyers tell you what it means?

"Tips Lawyers Wish You Knew: Going It Alone at the Courthouse" by attorney Ann D. Zeigler is guide for the non-specialist general reader on all aspects of how the court system works. It also covers such simple things as how you should dress and act in court.

Critique: Exceptionally well organized and presented, "Tips Lawyers Wish You Knew will prove to be an invaluable and thoroughly 'reader friendly' resource in helping non-lawyers (whether they are plaintiffs, defendants, witnesses, or jurors) avoid being their own worst enemy or becoming "a fool as a client" at the courthouse. While unreservedly recommended for community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Tips Lawyers Wish You Knew" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

Micah Andrew

Michael Dunford's Bookshelf

Savage Ecology
Jairus Victor Grove
Duke University Press
905 W. Main St., Suite 18B, Durham, NC 27701
9781478004219, $104.95, HC, 368pp,

Synopsis: Jairus Victor Grove (Associate Professor of Political Science and Director of the Hawai'i Research Center for Future Studies at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa) contends that we live in a world made by war.

In "Savage Ecology: War and Geopolitics at the End of the World", Professor Grove offers an ecological theory of geopolitics that argues that contemporary global crises are better understood when considered within the larger history of international politics.

Infusing international relations with the theoretical interventions of fields ranging from new materialism to political theory, Grove shows how political violence is the principal force behind climate change, mass extinction, slavery, genocide, extractive capitalism, and other catastrophes.

Professor Grove analyzes a variety of subjects (from improvised explosive devices and drones to artificial intelligence and brain science) to outline how geopolitics is the violent pursuit of a way of living that comes at the expense of others.

Pointing out that much of the damage being done to the earth and its inhabitants stems from colonialism, Professor Grove suggests that the Anthropocene may be better described by the term Eurocene. The key to changing the planet's trajectory, Professor Grove proposes, begins by acknowledging both the earth-shaping force of geopolitical violence and the demands apocalypses make for fashioning new ways of living.

Critique: An impressively informative and instructively presented work of meticulous scholarship, "In "Savage Ecology: War and Geopolitics at the End of the World" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and academic library Contemporary Environmental Issues collections in general, and political theory and warfare supplemental studies lists in particular. Enhanced with the inclusion of a twenty-four page Bibliography, thirty-two pages of Notes, and a five page Index, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, environmental activists, governmental policy makers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Savage Ecology" is also available in a paperback edition (9781478004844, $28.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.99).

Ripley's Believe It or Not! 100 Best BIONS
Ripley's Believe It or Not!, compiler
Ripley Publishing
c/o Ripley Entertainment Inc.
9781609912192, $24.95, PB, 224pp,

Synopsis: Ripley's Believe It or Not! is globally renowned as the authority on the weird, the eccentric, and the amazing. Ripley's Believe It or Not! provides entertaining books for children of all ages which educates and informs them in a humorous style. The Ripley brand is known around the world as a trend-setting source of family-friendly fun and excitement! Every day the researchers at Ripley's are busy digging up the craziest true stories and the most unbelievable facts.

Everyone is invited to celebrate 100 years of Ripley's Believe It or Not! with 100 of their best stories! Rediscover everything, from amazing people like famous half-man John Eck to unbelievable animals like Mike the headless chicken and absolutely incredible stories like the jockey who died while finishing first in a horse race and more. With spectacular photos and in-depth stories, everyone will find something old and something new to believe...or not!

Critique: With "Ripley's Believe It or Not! 100 Best BIONS" in handle, readers can sit back, relax, and enjoy 100 of the best unbelievable stories Ripley's has covered in their 100 year history! With expanded stories and amazing photos, this profusely illustrated volume is a must-have for every Ripley's fan and certain to be an enduringly popular addition to all community library collections!

Schofields Classic Cocktail Cabinet
Joe Schofield & Daniel Schofield
Kyle Books
c/o Octopus Publishing
236 Park Avenue, New York NY 10017
9780857837325, $19.99, HC, 224pp,

Synopsis: Internationally renowned mixologist Joe Schofield has worked at some of the best bars in the world, from the American Bar at The Savoy Hotel to the Tippling Club in Singapore. His reputation for creating superlative cocktails from classics to contemporary innovations, has led to numerous awards and much acclaim within the bartending industry.

"Schofields Classic Cocktail Cabinet" is comprised of 100 recipes for the creme de la creme of classic cocktails with the specific step-by-step details on how to make them using only the finest ingredients, including recommendations for the most suitable spirits, mixers and garnishes for each individual recipe.

Critique: Beautifully illustrated throughout with the color photography of Ed Schofield, and with timely sections on barware, beverage philosophies, glassware, ice, technique advice on everything from jigger spoons and shakers, to swizzle sticks and timings, "Schofields Classic Cocktail Cabinet" by the brothers Joe and Daniel Schofield is the ideal and thoroughly 'user friendly' cocktail instructional reference for personal, professional, and community library collections. It should be noted for aspiring (and practicing) bar tenders that "Schofields Classic Cocktail Cabinet" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

Tequila Made Me Do It
Cecilia Rios Murrieta, author
Ruby Taylor, illustrator
Andrews McMeel Publishing
1130 Walnut Street, Kansas City, MO 64106-2109
9781449499716, $16.99, HC, 144pp,

Synopsis: Mexico City native Cecilia Rios Murrieta, A.K.A. "La Nina del Mezcal," is recognized internationally for her achievements and expertise in Mexican spirits. Her passion for mezcal led her to establish one of the first blogs devoted to it: Cecilia was named one of Fortune magazine's "2016 Most Innovative Women in Food and Drink."

In "Tequila Made Me Do It: 60 Tantalizing Tequila and Mezcal Cocktails", Rios Murrieta introduces her readers to the history and versatility of spicy tequila and smoky mezcal. From the classic margarita and its hibiscus, Cadillac, and tamarind brethren to several less common elixirs, readers can choose among 60 delectable cocktail recipes that are fun to create, and even more fun to drink!

Critique: Colorfully illustrated, "Tequila Made Me Do It: 60 Tantalizing Tequila and Mezcal Cocktails" is impressively 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, making it an ideal and certain to be highly prized addition to personal, professional, and community library collections. It should be noted that "Tequila Made Me Do It" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Michael Dunford

Nancy Lorraine's Bookshelf

Songs in the Shade of the Cashew and Coconut Trees
Nathalie Soussana, song collector
Jean-Cristophe Hoarau, musical arranger
Judith Gueyfier, illustrator
The Secret Mountain
9782924774533, $16.95, HC, 52pp, Ages 5-7,

"Songs in the Shade of the Cashew and Coconut Trees: Lullabies and Nursery Rhymes From West Africa and the Caribbean" is a stunning book/CD collection of 23 folk lullabies and traditional songs from a melange of cultures of West Africa and the Caribbean communities. The book presents each song with its title plus country of origin in the original dialect followed by a brief English translation of the lullaby lyrics.

Vibrant colored illustrations accompany each song, adding to the richness of the cultural blendings. following the song lyrics is a color coded map of Africa and the Caribbean, with the source countries highlighted in different colors. There is a further introduction to the sources of the 23 songs, plus a list of the thirteen different languages and dialects used in the song lyrics by performers. these include Cape Verdean Creole, Guinea-bissau Creole, Haitian Creole, Jamaican Creole, Principense Creole, Dyula, Duala, Spanish, Fon (lingua Franca), Kongo, Lari, Mina, and Myene.

This is followed by translations of each of the 23 songs, presented first in their native dialect. Finally there is the magical CD with all its beautiful vocal/instrumental lullabies, over an hour of beautiful and inspirational music.

"Songs in the Shade of the Cashew and Coconut Trees" is haunting, evocative, rich, and sensuous, surrounding the reader/listener with calming wishes of mothers from many exotic places, for their precious children. The many musical artists who perform the songs are listed in full on the final page, and further music of this genre is available on a coded download site listed in the CD envelope enclosure.

Gilly and the Grateful Superhero
Ruth King, author
Alex Maradiaga, illustrations
9781483492209 $16.98 PB, $6.99 Kindle, 34pp,

Written in vibrant verse, filled with splashes of bright colors in every page of humor filled illustrations showing Gilly and his friend Bobbie encountering and overcoming daily challenges to a positive mood with bright affirmations of gratitude for daily blessings, "Gilly the Grateful Superhero: Teaching Kids of all Ages the Power of Gratitude" is an exciting, inspiring book to cheer on kids who have forgotten how very lucky they are.

When Bobbie complains about having to get up in the morning, Gilly tells him, "You just woke up this morning, and you want to stay in bed, but let's jump up together and shout 'Good morning world!' instead." Every little murmur of complaint from Bobbie is matched by an irresistible affirmation of thanks by Gilly that turns Bobbie's negative thoughts around. After a long day of school, play, meals and visits with family, bath time and bedtime, Gilly comforts Bobbie one last time when he doesn't want to go to sleep: "

Gilly helps Bobbie get tucked in and says, ' Wow, what a comfy bed! You are very uck to have this soft place to rest your head. With your fluffy blankets, you will sleep soundly, tucked in tight," 'I am so grateful for my bed. Thank you, Gilly, and good night!'" The next morning, when Bobbie wakes up, he shows a different attitude towards his day's beginning: "I'm so thankful for this morning and the brand new day that's here. I will give thanks for every moment, be happy, and have fun!" Gilly turns and flies awa, "My work with you is done!"

"Gilly the Grateful Superhero" finishes with four blank coloring pages with the heading: "My Name is ________ and I Am Grateful For:" "Gilly the Grateful Superhero" is a wonderful beginning gratitude workbook for kids of all ages.

Max's Box: Letting Go of Negative Feelings
Brian Wray, author
Shiloh Penfield, illustrator
Schiffer Publishing Ltd.
4880 Lower Valley Road, Atglen, PA 19310
9780764358043, $16.99, HC, 32pp,

Max's parents give him a very special gift: a tiny, magical box that will hold everything, from his toys to his feelings. Max learns, however, that feelings can't be put away as easily as toys. Each negative emotion he feels (anger, embarrassment, sadness, loneliness) gets added to the box, which grows and grows. Eventually it is so large that it keeps him from doing what he loves, like riding his bike and climbing trees. With some help from his friends and family, Max is able to turn the box into something beautiful and let it go.

A parents' guide explains how well-intentioned adults often encourage children, especially young boys, to ignore and "put away" their feelings instead of learning to fully live with them. "Max's Box: Letting Go of Negative Feelings" is simple but powerful picture book story not only teaches children ages 3-6 how to "control" their emotions but discourages suppressing them. The illustrations by Shiloh Penfield become more colorful and vibrant as Max moves out from his box's shadow.

While "Max's Box: Letting Go of Negative Feelings" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that it is also available in a paperback edition (9780764358791, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Brian has been writing professionally since 2003. He has written for Walt Disney Studios and earned both television-producing and writing credits. Inspired by the bottomless imagination of his daughters, Brian has placed his focus on storytelling for children. Shiloh's previous work includes Boy Zero for Caliber Comics, a guest artist spot on Red Knight published by Dead West Comics, and multiple independent projects. Located in Brooklyn, her calico cat "Maki" maintains quality control and ensures all pages are delivered on time! The impressively divers artwork of Shiloh Penfield is on display at

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Paul Vogel's Bookshelf

Meister Eckhart's Book of Secrets
Mark S. Burrows & Jon M. Sweeney
Hampton Roads Publishing Company
65 Parker St., Ste. 7, Newburyport, MA 01950
9781571748478, $16.95, PB, 240pp,

Synopsis: "Meister Eckhart's Book of Secrets" is a compact little book about soul freedom. It is about discovering the secret to all the things we most desire: contentment, meaning, peace of mind, and true freedom. This skillfully edited translation of selections from the writings of Meister Eckhart provides a roadmap to the spiritual life for contemporary seekers.

Eckhart takes us on a journey of discovery; a journey in which we learn to let go, relinquish our need to know everything, and lose those things that we think are important for a life of worth. And in the end he shows us that the true secret is this: to find yourself, you must lose yourself.

Here is a compilation of timeless wisdom from a medieval mystic who has influenced a wide range of spiritual teachers and mystics both inside and outside the Christian tradition. Erich Fromm, Arthur Schopenhauer, Dag Hammarskjold, Eckhart Tolle, Richard Rohr, D. T. Suzuki, Rudolf Steiner, and Matthew Fox have all credited Eckhart as being an important influence on their thought. In addition, his work has influenced the development of 20th-century American Buddhism and the Theosophical tradition.

"Meister Eckhart's Book of Secrets" is divided into five sections: Seeking the Light, Facing Darkness, Risking Love, Knowing Nothing, and Embracing Everything. "Meister Eckhart's Book of Secrets" leads readers on the path to an authentic spiritual life.

Critique: Impressively compiled and deftly edited for a contemporary readership, "Meister Eckhart's Book of Secrets: Meditations on Letting Go and Finding True Freedom" is unreservedly endorsed and recommended for personal, community, and academic library collections. It should be noted for students, academics, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Meister Eckhart's Book of Secrets" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

Editorial Note: Eckhart von Hochheim (c. 1260 - c. 1328), commonly known as Meister Eckhart was a German theologian, philosopher and mystic, born near Gotha, in the Landgraviate of Thuringia (now central Germany) in the Holy Roman Empire. Eckhart came into prominence during the Avignon Papacy, at a time of increased tensions between monastic orders, diocesan clergy, the Franciscan Order, and Eckhart's Dominican Order of Preachers. In later life, he was accused of heresy and brought up before the local Franciscan-led Inquisition, and tried as a heretic by Pope John XXII. He seems to have died before his verdict was received. He was well known for his work with pious lay groups such as the Friends of God and was succeeded by his more circumspect disciples John Tauler and Henry Suso. Since the 19th century, he has received renewed attention. He has acquired a status as a great mystic within contemporary popular spirituality, as well as considerable interest from scholars situating him within the medieval scholastic and philosophical tradition. (Wikipedia)

Ian Doescher & Jacopo della Quercia
Quirk Books
215 Church Street, Philadelphia PA 19106
9781683691600, $15.99, PB, 240pp,

Synopsis: No one thought that MacTrump (Lord of MacTrump Towers, Son of New York) would ascend to the highest position in the kingdom. Yet with the help of his unhappy but dutiful wife Lady MacTrump, his clever daughter Dame Desdivanka, and his coterie of advisers, MacTrump is comfortably ensconced in the White Hold as President of the United Fiefdoms, free to make proclamations to his subjects through his favorite messenger, McTweet.

The Democrati, mourning the loss of their cherished leader O'Bama, won't give up without a fight. They still remember the disastrous reign of George the Lesser, and they can see Putain's dark influence on MacTrump. Their greatest hope is MacMueller, tasked with investigating the plot that empowered MacTrump's rise to the throne.

As Desdivanka schemes to overthrow her father's councilors, and as Donnison and Ericson (trapped in their own Rosencrantz and Guildenstern-like storyline) prove useless to their father, MacTrump soon realizes he has no true allies. Will he be able to hold on to his throne? Only time will tell in this tragicomic tale of ambition, greed, and royal ineptitude.

Critique: Simply stated, "MacTrump: A Shakespearean Tragicomedy of the Trump Administration, Part I" by the team of Ian Doescher & Jacopo della Quercia is political satire at its very best. While "MacTrump" is very highly recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "MacTrump" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Historical Law-Tracts
James A. Harris, editor
Liberty Fund, Inc.
11301 N. Meridian Street, Carmel, IN 46032-4564
9780865976177, $24.00 HC, 392pp,

Synopsis: Historical Law-Tracts is one of the earliest contributions to the Scottish Enlightenment project of a historical science of society. Henry Home, Lord Kames (1696 - 1782), was an influential Scottish judge, a prolific man of letters, and one of the leading figures of the Enlightenment in Scotland, and his goal in this work is to show the study of law as a genuinely scientific inquiry and not a mere collection of facts for the lawyer to memorize.

He deployed a large range of ancient, medieval, and early-modern sources to trace the development of law and to explain that development in terms of interactions between principles of human nature and political, economic, and social circumstance. He applied this method in substantial and influential treatments of criminal law and the law of property and also to a diverse range of issues, specifically in Scots law.

One of Kames's principal objectives was to expose and discredit the continuing influence of feudal principles in eighteenth-century Scots law and, as such, Historical Law-Tracts can be read as a manifesto for a modern, commercial, Scotland. The work found an international readership as well, especially in America, where it was read as an object lesson in understanding the role of law in a free society.

In Historical Law-Tracts, Kames combined the natural law framework that underlies his Essays on the Principles of Morality and Natural Religion with the "conjectural," or philosophical, approach to history that would receive its fullest treatment in his Sketches of the History of Man to offer a history of law as a history of the progress of mankind from savage to civil society.

The Liberty Fund edition (edited and with an Introduction by James A. Harris) supplements Kames's original text with a new introduction providing historical context and biographical information, expansion of Kames's footnotes to explain the often rather obscure system of reference used in the book, translation of the Latin passages, and explanatory annotations relating to important changes that Kames made to the text, including variant readings from earlier editions.

Critique: Now brought back into print for a new generation of appreciative readers, this Liberty Fund edition of "Historical Law-Tracts" is unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Natural Law & Enlightenment Classics collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Historical Law-Tracts" is also available in a paperback edition (9780865976184, $14.50).

Editorial Note: James A. Harris is Professor of the History of Philosophy at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland. He is the author of Hume: An Intellectual Biography and Of Liberty and Necessity: The Free Will Debate in Eighteenth-Century British Philosophy. He is the editor of the Liberty Fund edition of Kames's Sketches of the History of Man.

Paul T. Vogel

Richard Blake's Bookshelf

Life & Power - The Holy Spirits Ministry in the New Testament
Bob Yandian
Harrison House Publishers
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9781680312225, $9.99, 116 pages

The Ever-Present Role of the Holy Spirit in Our Lives

Bob Yandian's book "The Life & Power - The Holy Spirits Ministry in the New Testament" describes the role of the Holy Spirit's ministry in the Old and New Testaments. Bob focuses on the significant changes that took place on the day of Pentecost. When He came down to empower the believers and to begin the work, Christ promised the disciples before His ascension.

Bob Yandian, pastor, author, and Bible teacher has been training individuals for the ministry for over 40 years equipping Christians through Missions organizations around the world with an emphasis on the benefits of the Holy Spirit's ever-present role of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Although the content is written with the Pentecostal and Charismatic reader in mind, I can highly recommend "Life & Power," to anyone eager to "recognize the supernatural alive in us."

Although the content is written with the Pentecostal and Charismatic reader in mind, I can highly recommend "Life & Power" anyone eager to readers "recognizes the supernatural alive in us."

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

The Will of God - the Key to Your Success
Rick Renner
Harrison House Publishers
9781680312346, $16.99, 250 Pages

God's Plan, Power, Protection, and Provision

Author, Rick Renner's purpose for writing "The Will of God - the Key to Your Success" is to help the reader discover God's plan and to fully align themselves with God's design and purpose.

Throughout the book, Rick uses the Apostle Paul's life journey as an example of pursuing God's designed destiny and life purpose. I have been reminded of ways that God has been there for me He provided guidance to follow his plan, and the power, protection, and provision to carry me through the process.

I found the Think about It questions and activation exercises at the end of each chapter consistently revealed to me how the fingerprint of God has left a mark on my life since childhood. I gleaned new lessons from incidents in the life of Paul that help me recognize how God has led me to be in the right place and at the right time.

I can highly recommend "The Will of God - the Key to Your Success" to anyone seeking to know the will of God for their life.

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

Be Healed - Secrets to Divine Healing in the Model of Jesus
Connie Hunter - Urban
Destiny Image Publishers Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
97807568448412, $16.99, 2019, 254 Pages

Healing, Freedom, Renewal, Deliverance, Encouragement

A quick review of the table of contents and I was hooked. I knew I was going to have my spirit renewed along with a new sense of freedom, encouragement, and healing.

I have not been disappointed.

Each chapter of Connie Hunter Urban's book "Be Healed -

Secrets to Divine Healing in the Model of Jesus" follows a natural progression.

Connie includes:

A Personal Story to illustrate the principle or lesson to be covered in the chapter

An example from the life and ministry of Jesus. These examples illustrate a miracle of healing or another miraculous incident with specific lessons that validate the importance of the event.

A conclusion using a personal experience, which exemplifies and demonstrates a modern-day application on the subject of deliverance. These experiences may include blocks to healing, deliverance, relationship, or other topics.

The questions to ponder included in each chapter are directly related to the material and become a self-test for discovering retention, understanding, and personal application. Answers are included in the Appendix. This academic approach is evidence that "Be Healed - Secrets to Divine Healing in the Model of Jesus" is in fact, a valid reason for considering the book as "The Master's Course on Miraculous Healing."

I can heartily recommend "Be Healed" because of the Incredible content, fast moving narrative and relevance for every Christian's life and ministry.

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

The Resting Place
Bill Johnson
Destiny Image Publishing, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768448238, $14.99, 236 pages

Become a Resting Place for God's Presence and Power

In his new book "The Resting Place," bestselling author and internationally respected pastor Bill Johnson shares the importance of walking in the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit by positioning yourself as resting a place for God.

Key Lessons I learned:

The Passion and Presence of God in Prayer
The Importance of Waiting on the Lord with an "Unflinching Spirit
The Challenge and Need to Live Immersed in the Presence of God

I enjoyed reading the awe inspiriting stories revealing the spirit behind the power of the ministry of D. L. Moody, Charles Finney, William Seymour, John C. Lake, Kathryn Kuhlman, and others.

The content included in this book has been gleaned from Johnson's earlier writings, selected and excerpted to become the substance of "The Resting Place." Bill has a unique way of communicating insight to his readers with clarity, transparency, and challenge to become a resting place for the presence of God.

The format, content, and size of "the Resting Place" make this an excellent book for daily devotional reading, alone or with someone, and will make an excellent book for gift giving for those special occasions.

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

Increase Your Personal Productivity - Your Guide to Intentional Living & Doing More of What You Enjoy
John Martin
Sound Wisdom
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9781640950634, $15.99, 152 Pages

Personal Success, Motivational, Inspirational

John Martin's Increase Your Personal Productivity - Your Guide to Intentional Living & Doing More of What You Enjoy" came to me was well-timed timed. I am highly motived to pursue every tip, formula, useful initiative, resource tool, and suggested a structure to become intentional about increasing my productivity and doing more of what I enjoy doing.

I find myself stressed, easily distracted, and unable to focus as a result of starting too many projects at once. I have been reminded of the importance of recognizing my physical limitations, and of creating and maintaining a healthy lifestyle of diet, exercise, and attitude.

I am already putting into practice a personalized, workable, and repeat-able goal a system, overcoming the inhabitation of being a perfectionist, all of which will unlock my level of productivity.

I can highly recommend John Martin's book "Increase Your Personal Productivity" anyone looking for motivation, inspiration, and personal success.

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

Seeing the Invisible: 90 Days of Experiencing the Passion, Presence, and Purpose of God
Don Nori Sr. & Thom Gardner
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA, 17257
9787684427248, $18.99, 286 pages

"Seeing the Invisible" is a hands-on interactive approach for me adaptable for my morning devotions; inspiring me to experience the "passion, presence, and purpose of God."

Devotional, Prayer, Challenging, Life-Changing, Inspirational

The format of the book includes an inspirational reading, further evidence, some reflective observations, and an opportunity to respond by using a daily journal. I especially enjoy each of these features. I am challenged by the thought-provoking insight and positive evidence which fills the pages of "seeing the invisible" with 90 daily devotionals.

These devotionals are timely, relevant, and essential.

I plan to complete the 90 days and then repeat the process. I know I will grow in my passion, experience God's presence, and daily discover His plan for me - each new day.

This beautiful hardback book is an excellent gift suggestion for family and friends of all ages. I can highly recommend "Seeing the Invisible" for your devotional reading.

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

The Field Guide to Extraordinary Communication and Connection
Rachel Doyle
Sound Wisdom
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9781640950788, $15.99, 136 Pages

Business Communication, Business Etiquette, Personal Success

Rachael Doyle's book "The Field Guide to Extraordinary Communication and Connection" is chock-full with the keys to connecting and communicating in meaningful ways.

The cost of too many meetings, unclear objectives, and the lack of team communications are astounding. Rachel introduces pointers on the best channels of excellent communication.

From One-on-One communication, online networking, telephone contacts, and business meetings, readers will learn the importance of communication and connecting in positive and effective ways.

From good manners, respect, discipline, effective planning, and creating or becoming an active team member of employees who feel informed and connected.

The content is divided into eleven fast-moving chapters; each focused on a single subject, a specific communication issue.

If you think a picture is worth 1,000 words, take a good look at and heed the powerful lesson from the illustration opening each chapter. Common sense reminders formatted, in an organized natural progression, become extraordinary new tools, often overlooked in business today.

I can highly recommend Rachel Doyle's "The Field Guide to Extraordinary Communication and Connection."

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

A Sure Foundation - Building Your Life on the Unshakable Truth of God's Word
Andrew Wommack
Harrison House Publishers
978168032409, $15.99, 220 Pages

Critical Foundational Teaching on the Integrity of God's Word

In his book "A Sure Foundation" Andrew Wommack takes the reader on a journey of Discovery. A trip which will:

Strengthen your faith

Deepen your relationship with God

Experience real spiritual growth and a greater fruitfulness in your Christian life

Andrew uses personal experiences, examples from scripture, and the lives of other To powerfully illustrate the integrity of the Word of God. He follows these illustrations with pointed personal questions to help, you, the reader make sure you have the right attitude toward the Word.

"A Sure Foundation - Building Your Life on the Unshakable Truth of God's Word is an import book for every believer; profound foundational truths presented in easy to understand terms.

Womack's vision and passion are to impact as many as possible with the Gospel message. Through his books, The Gospel Truth radio and television programs, and the Charis Bible College ministries, Wommack can impact populations around the world.

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

Unshakeable Hope - Joyful Expectation in Every Season
Derek Prince
Destiny Image Books
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
978076848450, $14.95, 134 pages

Hope Based on Faith - A Quest for Hope

Hope Based on Faith - A Quest for Hope" introduces the reader to the Biblical teaching on hope based faith. You will receive an attitude of confident expectation as the Lord releases a measure of faith and hope.

The chapters end with a profound soul searching question, a prayer, an imploration for hope, and an advance prayer of thanksgiving for the answer.
Prince's writing is Holy Spirit anointed - key verses direct from the Scriptures on the theme of hope takes on a new depth of meaning. The book is compact in size but dynamic in impact; a book you will want to read with an open heart, at a time when you have time to meditate. You will want to be alert for the Spirit's promptings.

Highly recommended

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

The Sound of Freedom
Jenny Weaver
Destiny Image Publications
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
978076844976, $12.99, 104 Pages

Spiritual Warfare, Worship, Freedom

"The Sound of Freedom" is Jenny Weaver's story. Jenny begins with her childhood spiritual search and an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. She shares a dream and a beautiful vision of Jesus.

Tormented by school mates and abused by parents, Jenny turned to dark obsessions, including self-inflicted harm to her body. Jenny's is a gripping story of drug addiction, abandonment, and rejection. Jenny tells of her darkest addictions, the torment of loneliness, homelessness, and deep depression. She relates the life lessons she learned on her road to freedom. Using select Scriptures, Jenny describes how her life change happened, the role of prayer, encounters with God. She introduces suggested prayers for entering into God's presence, and select scriptures with declarations for claiming His promises.

Jenny's writing infused with power. In fast-moving chapters, she tells of a miraculous answer to prayer, her road to recovery, and new beginnings.

She tells how she was healed in areas of: brokenness, unforgiveness, and bitterness, and of her surrender to the Lord, and deliverance by the Holy Spirit.

Jenny never forgot her visit with Jesus and the vision of a life of serving him. She shares how she found freedom and restoration through surrender to God's call on her life. Paramount among these changes was the discovery of her gift of composing prophetic worship songs. Today Jenny's calling as a true worshipper is to lead people in prophetic, spontaneous, praise worship.

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

The Strangest Secret
Earl Nightingale
Sound Wisdom
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9781640951068, $19.95, 2019, 112 Pages

Worthy Ideals, Actualization, Purpose Driven, Achievement

Earl Nightingale spent a lifetime researching human motivation to formulate practical guidelines for attaining personal, professional, and financial success. His book "The Strangest Secret" is the result.

Nightingale challenges the reader to consider these statements:

Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal.

Instead of competing, all we have to do is create.

Plant your goal in your mind's eye as having already achieved this goal.

Life should be an exciting adventure. It should never be a bore. A man should live fully, be alive.

These statements are only a few of the insights and thought-provoking concepts Nightingale develops within the pages "The Strangest Secret."

I have committed to implementing Nightingale's 30 Day Challenge, beginning with goal making, habit formation, and putting the secret success formula into action in my life

"The Strangest Secret" is a book I will keep on hand for ready reference and frequent review.

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

Be Amazing or Go Home: Seven Customer Service Habits That Create Confidence with Everyone
Shep Hyken
Sound Wisdom
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9781640951495, $15.99, 230 Pages

Consumer Behavior, Marketing, Customer Focus

In his book "Be Amazing or Go Home: Seven Customer Service Habits That Create Confidence with Everyone" Shep Hyken presents a creed for creating customer service habits that benefit everyone. The book is filled with stories from his experiences and relevant case studies that demonstrate the impact of "being amazing." Each chapter creates a sense of surprise and wonder - pretty amazing.

I found the "Key Take Away" section featured at the end of each section extremely helpful and worth of imprinting indelibly in all relationships, customer and personal.

Shep's writing is authentic, genuine, and highly motivating.

"Be Amazing or Go Home: Seven Customer Service Habits That Create Confidence with Everyone" is highly endorsed by CEOs, sales and marketing executive, leaders in industry, professional speakers, and business managers at every level.

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

Carrying the Presence - How to Bring the Kingdom of God to Anyone, Anywhere
Ryan Bruss
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768448634, $16.99, 184 pages

Challenge, Promise, Inspiration, Application

In his book "Carrying the Presence: How to Bring the Kingdom of God to Anyone, Anywhere" Ryan Bruss shares his passion: "How to bring the kingdom of God to anyone, anywhere." Ryan is fervent about sharing his vision for ministry, to help his reader "see the world around them in a different light, to see that every person has value, worth, a calling, a destiny, and a purpose in God." Ryan also wants to encourage and teach others to share the love of Jesus with others regardless of their status in life.

Through Biblical examples and stories of ministry opportunities, Ryan illustrates how God works through the Holy Spirit in us to be bold in our witness of the love of Jesus and to carry the message of His presence "to anyone, anywhere."

Each chapter is filled with challenge, promise, inspiration, and important personal applications.

Ryan's is passionate about revival. God has enabled him to minister internationally, and to see the power of God at work in evangelism, miraculous healing, and deliverance - from house churches to open air meetings. Ryan also works with a group of believers, pastoring a house church in Charlotte, North Carolina.

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

Expect God: What to Do When Your Problem is Hiding Your Promise
Rachel Shafter
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768448290, $15.99, 174 Pages

God's Presence amid Every Pain

"Expect God: What to Do When Your Problem is Hiding Your Promise" is Rachel Shafter's story, a testimony of learning to trust God, of waiting expectantly, and waiting in confidence. Rachel tells of her five miscarriages, and of adopting a "special needs" child and the resulting devastation of ongoing critical medical treatments. She describes exciting God encounters when God made His presence known in her darkest hours, amid every pain.

Rachel's writing is intensely moving, challenging, and profoundly thought-provoking. Transparent and open Rachel opens her heart to the reader, sharing incidents where she felt vulnerable, alone, and trapped. She tells of the ways God orchestrated unexpected blessing throughout painful periods of testing.

Page after page, chapter after chapter Rachel relates the lessons she learned from God's faithful intervention, through dreams, prophetic declarations, dreams, and supernatural encounters.

Author, Worship Leader, Song Writer and Blogger, Rachel, her husband Mark and four children live in Ohio.

"Expect God" is must reading for every family member touched by the challenges and devastation that face the shared experiences of a child born with "special needs" or an unexpected traumatic accident or illness. Rachel addresses the question, "What to Do When Your Problem is Hiding Your Promise."

Restoring Praise and Worship to the Church
Rodrigo Zablah
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
978076848764, $17.99, 236 pages

Worship, Liturgy, and Praise

Rodrigo Zablah has compiled a new edition of "Restoring Praise & Worship to the Church" introducing a fresh understanding and insight to worship leaders and individual worshipers.

The book is divided into five parts

Part One describes "The Zion Heart," "The Song of the Lord," and "Singing the Scriptures."

Part Two introduces God's Plan for Praise and Worship.

Part Three outlines God's Purpose for Praise and Worship.

Part Four explains God's Design for Praise and Worship.

Part Five emphasizes God's Desire for Praise and Worship.

The Psalms of David reflect Zion's heart. Praise, singing, and rejoicing are all present in those who have a Zion's heart. John Eckhardt and Kevin Leal illustrate how we can emulate the heart of David; leading the reader to experience new levels of worship from the heart.

Rodrigo reminds worship leaders that worship brings freedom. The presence of God rests in the Zion heart. Rodrigo foresees a new movement of revival ignited by God through a new generation ready to receive the manifestation of His glory.

Bob Sorge brought new light on the full purpose of worship within the church service.

As I join others in church on Sunday. I want to worship and minister to the Lord. I want to minister to others, to experience God's presence and to be sensitive to His voice.

I want to emphasize the importance of this book for worship leaders and Individual worshipers, eager to experience the power of true worship. I highly recommend Restoring Praise & Worship to church leaders and worshippers of all denominations.

Richard R. Blake
Senior Reviewer

S.A. Gorden's Bookshelf

The Mute of Pendywick Place: Book 1
Alydia Rackham
Amazon Digital Services LLC
B071WKCTP3, $3.99, ebook, 149 pages
9781535294010, paper

I seldom give a 'not' recommended review to a book but with The Mute of Pendywick Place in ebook format I am forced to. First the story is well written with excellent characters and storyline. There are a few problems with minor logic holes in the plotline but the rest of the well-paced tale make those holes forgivable. Where the real problems come in is with translating the word processor file to etext. The text might look great and be easily readable in the paper copy of the story but the software translating the text to ebook format is filled with problems. There is no indent or line spacing with the paragraphs. The chapter headings and formatting can't be understood. In a few places, paragraphs are randomly chunked into lines consisting of a few words each. Since the story is a suspense mystery, the time the reader is forced to try to decode the poorly formatted text is a major distraction. The final straw for me was finding out that the book didn't have an end. It just stopped with nothing resolved.

I usually ignore the formatting and minor syntax problems with self-published books. These types of problems happen when there isn't a full publishing staff proofing and editing a book. But I draw the line when the problems are enough to frequently force the reader out of the story and into decoding mode.

The paper copy of The Mute of Pendywick Place might eliminate all of these problems and someone might fix the etext in the future but the ebook has been out for at least two years so the formatting problems might not be repaired any time soon. This is unfortunate because the story (that I was able to find under the terrible formatting) was good -- it just wasn't worth the frustration required to decode it.

A Murder of Crows: Sean O'Brien series Book 8
Tom Lowe
Kingsbridge Entertainment
Amazon Digital Services LLC
B01N8QKDKZ, $2.99, ebook, 440 pages
9781537255675, paper

A Murder of Crows is a well written murder mystery with a touch of the supernatural. There are many ways to describe authors. One of the ways I do this is by classifying their writing as either storyteller or wordsmith. A storyteller, as the name implies, focuses on telling a story while a wordsmith paints scenes with words. Lowe does both. He paints beautiful detailed scenes while still pushing a solid storyline. For my personal taste, he focuses a few sentences too much of wordsmith but the whole story is worth the extra few sentences here and there.

Joe Billie is suspected of murdering and scalping a man. He calls his friend Sean O'Brien for help. The evidence of Joe's guilt seems overwhelming. Sean knows Joe doesn't have it in him to murder the man so Sean knows he is being framed. When he starts looking into the case, he finds links between the Seminole gaming industry and the mob. He soon finds himself in a tangle of family secrets and mob assassins.

A Murder of Crows is an easy recommendation. It is a very well written mystery that is so well written that people who normally don't read mysteries will still enjoy it.

S.A. Gorden, Senior Reviewer

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

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