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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 17, Number 9 September 2018 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

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

Cowper's Bookshelf

Data and Teaching
Joseph P. McDonald, Nora M. Isacoff, and Dana Karin
Teachers College Press
9780807759073 $29.95 pbk / $28.45 Kindle

Synopsis: Drawing on their research in nine of New York City's most poverty impacted schools, the authors dive deep into school systems and routines, as well as into teachers' practices and students' experiences. They also zoom out to capture the larger currents that have made this school reform strategy so prominent today. Each chapter includes a discussion of a new direction that schools and teachers can take to ensure that data use in teaching actually spurs growth in learning. This resource extracts lessons from both chaotic and productive data implementation in order to inform practice and fulfill hopes for better schooling, richer teaching, and deeper learning.

Critique: Data and Teaching: Moving Beyond Magical Thinking to Effective Practice is a guide created especially for professionals and policymakers in the field of education working to improve underachieving schools. Chapters address what "data use" in teaching is, how to apply it in theory and practice, and why data use does not always meet expected goals. Research into nine of New York City's most poverty-impacted schools fuels the school reform strategies discussed at length, with a drive to use data implementation to promote better schooling and student learning. Highly recommended, especially for public and college library education shelves. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Data and Teaching is also available in a Kindle edition ($28.45).

Not at Risk
Menachem Gottesman, PhD with Leah Leslie Gottesman, M.A.
Menorah Books
c/o Koren Publishers Jerusalem Ltd.
PO Box 8531, New Milford, CT 06776-8531
9781940516745 $24.95

Synopsis: Jerusalem's Mercaz L'Mida Dati Learning Center ('Meled') has been transforming lives of youths and restoring families for over twenty years. Not At Risk tells its story in the words of its founders, and details groundbreaking educational work, sharing not only experiences and insights of faculty members and parents, but heartwarming, and at times deeply painful, personal stories of former students.

In addition to his professional experience in child development, Dr. Menachem Gottesman drew upon three main sources to create a healing educational environment for youth labeled 'at risk: A.S. Neill's philosophy of education, the therapeutic method developed by Dr. Milton H. Erickson, and the spiritual outlook of Rabbi Dr. Joseph B. Soloveitchik.

Not At Risk shares the secret of Meled's success. Open-minded educators, professionals working with adolescents, and concerned parents will find this book an invaluable resource.

Critique: Not at Risk: Education as a Work of Heart is an in-depth scrutiny of the Meled School of Jerusalem, an institution where teachers and faculty strive to help students who have been rejected by or expelled by other schools - or who just don't fit into the standard public education system. Its unique educational approach, which gives students a tremendous amount of control over what they choose to study, is cited as transforming lives for the better. Interviews with alumni, parents, and faculty intersperse this "must-read" especially for education professionals seeking to learn from Meled's success. Highly recommended.

The Gift of Recovery
Rebecca E. Williams, PhD & Julie S. Kraft, MA, LMFT
New Harbinger Press
5674 Shattuck Avenue, Oakland, CA 94609
9781684030705 $17.95 pbk / $9.99 Kindle

Synopsis: If you're recovering from addiction, The Gift of Recovery offers quick, in-the-moment tips and tricks to help you cope with daily stress and stay firmly on the path to wellness. With this gentle, easy-to-use guide, you'll learn how to navigate relationships, take time for self-care, and build a mindful, sustainable, and joyful recovery.

Deciding to get help for addiction is the first step toward recovery. But addiction recovery doesn't happen all at once - it's something that must be worked for, every day. Sometimes, it will be easy. When things are going well, you may not be tempted to give in to your cravings. But when life is stressful, you'll need strategies to help you cope.

Written by the authors of The Mindfulness Workbook for Addiction, this on-the-go mindfulness guide offers fifty-two powerful and effective meditations to help you manage the stress, depression, and strong emotions that can get in the way of a full and lasting recovery. You'll also find skills based in cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) to help you stay grounded, as well as links to online resources.

Deciding to overcome an addiction can feel like leaving a relationship. It's hard and sometimes lonely - but it is truly an act of courage. This book will help guide you as you continue making courageous steps toward peace, joy, and fulfillment.

Critique: The Gift of Recovery: 52 Mindful Ways to Live Joyfully Beyond Addiction offers meditations, skills, exercises and strategies created especially to aid recovering addicts. "Know your triggers and avoid them when you can. Be willing to move through them when you can't. Ride the wave of your cravings as smoothly as you can, and remember they are always temporary. Don't be afraid of cravings or any other feelings. Experience the deep wisdom of knowing that your feelings won't destroy you. Realize you are stronger than you know." Lists of resources and references round out this excellent, empathetic, and practical-minded guide, highly recommended for public library collections and as a supplemental aid to anyone striking out on their own journey to recovery. It should be noted for personal reading lists that The Gift of Recovery is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Apple in the Middle
Dawn Quigley
North Dakota State University Press
North Dakota State University
Dept. 2360, PO Box 6050, Fargo, ND 58108-6050
9781946163073, $25.95, HC, 264pp,

Synopsis: Apple Starkington turned her back on her Native American heritage the moment she was called a racial slur for someone of white and Indian descent, not that she really even knew how to be an Indian in the first place. Too bad the white world doesn't accept her either. And so begins her quirky habits to gain acceptance.

Apple's name, chosen by her Indian mother on her deathbed, has a double meaning: treasured apple of my eye, but also the negative connotation a person who is red, or Indian, on the outside, but white on the inside.

After her wealthy father gives her the boot one summer, Apple reluctantly agrees to visit her Native American relatives on the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation in northern North Dakota for the first time. Apple learns to deal with the culture shock of Indian customs and the Native Michif language, while she tries to find a connection to her dead mother. She also has to deal with a vengeful Indian man who loved her mother in high school but now hates Apple because her mom married a white man.

Bouncing in the middle of two cultures, Apple meets her Indian relatives, shatters Indian stereotypes, and learns what it means to find her place in a world divided by color.

Critique: The debut novel in the new North Dakota State University Press series 'Contemporary Voice of Indigenous Peoples', Dawn Quigley's "Apple in the Middle" is an extraordinary and deftly crafted read by a novelist with a genuine and original flair for character and narrative driven storytelling. An emotionally rewarding and memorably compelling read, "Apple in the Middle" is unreservedly recommended for school and community library collections for young readers ages 12 to 18.

Heaven Adjacent
Catherine Ryan Hyde
Lake Union Publishing
9781503900394, $14.95, PB, 332pp,

Synopsis: Roseanna Chaldecott spent her life as a high-powered lawyer in Manhattan. But when her best friend and law partner dies suddenly, something snaps. Unsure of her future, Roseanna heads upstate on one tank of gas and with no plans to return.

In the foothills of the Adirondacks, Roseanna discovers the perfect hideout in a ramshackle farm. Its seventy-six acres are rich with possibilities and full of surprises, including a mother and daughter squatting on the property. Although company is the last thing Roseanna wants, she reluctantly lets them stay.

Roseanna and the young girl begin sculpting junk found around the farm into zoo animals, drawing more newcomers - including her estranged son, Lance. He pleads with Roseanna to return to the city, but she's finally discovered where she belongs. It may not provide the solitude she originally sought, but her heart has found room for much more.

Critique: With a genuine flair for character and narrative driven storytelling by a master of the contemporary romance genre, author Catherine Ryan Hyde's latest novel, "Heaven Adjacent" is a deftly crafted and thoroughly entertaining read from beginning to end. While unreservedly recommended for community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Heaven Adjacent" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.99) and as a complete, unabridged audio book (Brilliance Audio, 978-1543678147, $14.99, MP3 CD). Wired (SBW - fiction)

Home Ice
Abdou Angie
ECW Press
2120 Queen Street East, Suite 200, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M4E 1E2
9781770414457, $17.95, PB, 240pp,

Synopsis: Over 570,000 people are registered in Hockey Canada and over 600,000 in Hockey USA. It's a national obsession. But what does that really mean when your child wants to play on a team?

As a former varsity athlete and university instructor teaching sport literature, novelist Angie Abdou is no stranger to sport obsession, but she finds herself conflicted when faced with the reality of the struggles, joys, and strains of having a child in amateur hockey.

In "Home Ice: Reflections of a Reluctant Hockey Mom", with equal parts humour and anguish, Abdou charts a full season of life as an Atom-level hockey mom, from summer hockey camp to the end-of-season tournament. Her revealing stories and careful research on issues such as cost, gender bias, concussion, and family pressures offer a compellingly honest and complex insider's view of parenting today's young athlete in a competitive and high-pressure culture.

Critique: A specialized memoir that is written with a genuinely authentic and inherently reader engaging narrative, "Home Ice" is an entertaining, yet thoughtful and thought-provoking read from beginning to end. While very highly recommended, especially for community library collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of all Hockey Moms and anyone else with an interest in the subject that "Home Ice" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.95).

Life Lessons from a Broken Heart
Selina Meade
Westbow Press
c/o Thomas Nelson Publishers
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9781512774955, $37.95, HC, 392pp,

Synopsis: Heartbreak comes in many shapes, sizes and reasons - from being cheated on, divorce, widowed, financial loss, unrequited love, abuse. The list is endless and unfortunately the pain can feel equally the same.

In the pages of "Life Lessons from a Broken Heart" and reflecting influences from today's popular culture and her personal faith, Selina Meade takes her readers on a journey of self-reflected life lessons drawn from her own personal heartbreak, as well as that of others.

Written to inspire, "Life Lessons from a Broken Heart" challenges us to think and be mindful about how we move forward into relationships. "Life Lessons from a Broken Heart" will cause us to stop, think and proceed with caution to help break from those patterns of the past and to minimize the injuries of unhealthy love attachments. Furthermore, we will be equipped to make positive changes and to determine those that qualify to own the manual and keys to our own heart.

Critique: Replete with insights and deftly written with a 'real world' practicality, "Life Lessons from a Broken Heart" is an extraordinary and deftly crafted read from beginning to end. A life-enhancing guide to creating successful personal relations with a significant other, and especially recommended to the attention of those who are engaged in a troubled relationship, "Life Lessons from a Broken Heart" is very highly recommended for community library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Life Lessons from a Broken Heart" is also available in a paperback edition (9781512774931, $24.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99).

Mary Cowper

Donovan's Bookshelf

Her Morning Shadow
Ron Semple
Top Hat Books
9781846944932 $TBA

Her Morning Shadow is set in the time of World War I and tells of a young Jewish Ukrainian immigrant to America who forms connections in this country just as the world is exploding overseas; but although the war and its changes form the backdrop for this story, it's the immigrant experience which powers the tale.

The story literally opens with the bang of real events as German saboteurs commit a terrorist act by planting a chemical bomb in a freight car loaded with ammunition at Black Tom on Jersey City's Hudson River waterfront. The descriptions are exquisitely relayed to readers ("Rounds began to cook off lighting up the sky and peppering the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island with shrapnel.") as events unfold and an America not yet involved in the war finds its commitment to neutrality shaken, lending Her Morning Shadow an introduction that's unexpectedly powered by real events in American history.

Private Ashansky ("Abie") is introduced in the next chapter: a Ukraine immigrant who ironically fled Russia, not wanting to get conscripted into the military's war, and who now finds himself defending his adopted country.

Nobody wants to die as a war is winding down. Millions are dead, millions more wounded, and Abie survives to see the Great War's conclusion even if everyone is too weary and battle-shocked to celebrate it.

But while Allied forces celebrate, many in other countries are devastated and suffering. Abie is tapped to continue his journeys beyond American shores, his fluent French deemed a useful skill to the military, in an effort that leads him on a personal mission as well: to locate missing fiancee Rachel Zeidman and bring her to his adopted home in America.

Personal quests, a world torn apart by war and struggling to piece itself back together, and a Jewish man trying to make his way through life, forging new connections and renewing old ones, makes for the engrossing story of an immigrant's journey which unexpectedly takes place far from American shores.

Add a murder investigation, social observations and prejudices, trials and tribulations, and a growing immersion of immigrant perspective into American culture newly redefined by different opportunities and connections and you have a hard-hitting story. Her Morning Shadow winds through military and civilian life, embracing the perspectives, special challenges, and hard-fought achievements of a community where 'family' is defined not just by one's blood relatives, but by the values and roots built from adversity, strife, and danger.

Fiction readers will appreciate the powerful focus on how a cobbled-together family seeks peace and will find much to appreciate in this survey of how Abie's world not only unwinds, but expands to embrace others.

Her Morning Shadow is very highly recommended, especially for readers of immigrant experience who want a better-rounded perspective than is offered by most novels on the subject.

The Whole of the Moon
Rush Leaming
9780999745618, $15.99, Paperback
9780999745601, $25.99, Hardback
9780999745625, $5.99, Ebook

When a group of idealistic and aspiring young Americans land in Zaire, Africa in 1988 on a mission to lend aid to those in need, they discover more than altruistic motivations at the heart of their mission in this prequel to Don't Go, Ramanya.

A year living in a village with no roads, no electricity, and no modern technology changes them. Their journey is narrated in a story that follows events that take these Americans from a high-tech society to an isolated bush existence and back again.

The Whole of the Moon deftly describes a social learning process that embraces disparate forms of change in a tale that opens with a visual bang of description: "There are certain people who sizzle and burn. Gabriel was one of them. I first noticed him sitting near the front of a twin-engine prop plane as we made our descent into Bukavu, Zaire, long before the wax on his own wings would begin to melt. Those tiny foam chairs could barely contain him; you can't wrap a seat belt around a pulsar."

This exquisite descriptive language flows through The Whole of the Moon like a prose poem, and is one of the reasons why the story line is much more compelling than any description of its plot could capture.

Another big 'plus' to the tale lies in its ability to juxtapose the puzzles and ironies of cross-cultural experiences with the fire of individual growth and perception. As Gabriel, Sheila, and others in the group change and the protagonist looks back on the events that led them to the present, readers embark on a soul-searching journey through not only deepest darkest Africa, but human hearts and minds.

Replete with events that move from Gabriel's life-threatening bout with malaria to his process of transformation, the story carries readers into a blend of international encounters and African cultural experience, sparkling with angst, agony, and emotional heartstrings that are tugged at every crossroads.

The result aptly demonstrates the difference between a singular story and a gripping emotional journey that grabs one's heart and doesn't let go. It cements that pull with poetic and lovely descriptions and psychological and social insights in an approach that makes The Whole of the Moon highly recommended for any novel reader looking for a compelling saga of tough love and transformative changes.

Michael Craft
Questover Press
9780692136119, $24.95, Hardcover
9780692135990, $14.95, Paperback
B07DP837VG, $4.95, Kindle

Book Trailer:

FlabberGassed introduces the new "Mister Puss" mystery series and opens with one of the most intriguing introductions seen in the mystery genre, deftly setting the tone using a minimum of words: "A weight-loss miracle. A dashing gay architect. A talking cat. What could possibly go wrong?"

When a wealthy widow, Mary Questman, adopts a stray cat that seems to speak to her, Mary's younger gay friend, Brody Norris, is concerned. When she decides to fund a bizarre weight-loss enterprise called FlabberGas, Brody's worry ramps up a notch. And when a clinic volunteer is murdered, Brody moves from concerned friend to amateur sleuth to discover the truth about Mister Puss, wisdom, and a winding investigation with murder at its core.

The first strength to note about FlabberGassed is its powerful attention to the sights, smells, and sounds of its environments. This is reflected in the beginning, from the compelling way in which widow Mary adopts her new charge: "His warm breath carried the smell of bacon, but deeper from his quivering body rose a potpourri of subtle, more exotic scents. Closing her eyes, Mary inhaled the sandy dryness of a vast desert - plus a trace of something very old and delicate, perhaps papyrus - and a pungent whiff of kyphi, the sacred temple perfume of once-great dynasties. Mary rubbed cheeks with the cat. She felt his nose climb her face until the fur of his chin touched the opening of her ear. His purr thundered. And soon, from the drone of his purr, other sounds arose. The rustle of reeds in a delta marsh. The ripple of a crocodile plying the great life-giving river. The hiss of an asp. And rising above it all - gibberish - Egyptian gibberish, the babble of an ancient marketplace."

As evidence mounts that Mister Puss really is speaking to Mary through his purrs, and is actually giving her good advice (such as changing her mind about being part of an experimental weight-loss procedure), tension mounts. And as Brody and his husband Marson become immersed in a dangerous investigation, trouble threatens them all.

FlabberGassed is especially strong in its portrait of deadly mischief, a new sleuth's challenge in recognizing clues as simple as fingerprints, the friendship between Mary and Brody and an uncommon cat, and too many possible suspects that attend the victim's funeral: "We all had our reasons for being there that day. Some truly mourned the loss of Jason, as their lives had been forever changed by his death. Others may not have felt the loss directly, but they were there to support and respect those who grieved. Still others may have had no connection to those touched by the tragedy, but they were drawn there by the news, as members of an affected community. Others, just curious onlookers. Plus, there was someone else. I was fairly certain that - for whatever perverse reason - Jason's killer was there among us. Perhaps the guilty one simply had to be there; if it was someone close to the deceased, by blood or by association, their absence would be deemed strange or even suspicious. But the guilty one may have had little or no connection to the victim, other than the crime itself, and may have been there that day for the sport of it, for the thrill of witnessing communal grief. And if so, what did that imply about the many nameless others in the crowd? Was each a potential killer?"

What is Brody to make of a talking cat that makes sassy observations about people, who may have actual clues about what going's on, but from a cat's perspective?

The blend of whimsical cat interactions with humans, amateur sleuth Brody's ability to change gears from architectural to police procedural concerns, and an attention to the details of his relationship with friends, husband, and community crafts an involving story that is especially strong in its depictions of how a temporary investigator is changed by pursuits far from his usual comfort zone.

Readers used to the usual progression of a murder mystery will find many exceptional twists in this story; from a feline character to a gay architect's involvement in a case

demanding skills that he fears he may not possess.
FlabberGassed is quirky, original, and a delightful read especially recommended for mystery fans who enjoy feline references in their story lines.

A Printer's Choice
W. L. Patenaude
Izzard Ink Publishing
9781642280067, $22.95, Softback
9781642280074, $27.95, Hardback
9781642280050 $7.99, eBook

A Printer's Choice is sci-fi set in 2088, when the first homicide of an ordinary laborer in space leads parish priest Father John Francis McClellan (also a retired US Marine Corps expert) to investigate a puzzling murder involving "high-defs" (artificially intelligent three-dimensional printers that built this new world).

There are many unexpected features and moments in this complex, absorbing blend of detective piece and futuristic examination of faith and technology. One of its most notable strengths lies in its multifaceted settings (both on Earth and in space) and detailed exploration of political and social turmoil against which murder plays only one part in a larger puzzle. Equally strong are its detailed discussions of the intersections of faith, morality, and ethical behaviors in an artificially manipulated world.

Military programming, revenge, and church influences on transformative processes are just a few of the subplots running through a story line that's especially potent in its inclusion of thought-provoking character insights: "As I grow older," Zheng continued, "and as every day I see the results of people's choices and failures - most especially my own, as you know - and as I deal with so much suffering in a world that was to have outlawed suffering, I'm more certain that the answers we seek do not come from any of us - not our actions or our intellect or our technologies. It comes from something greater. Otherwise it doesn't exist at all."

These philosophical, reflective pieces juxtapose church and political elements in a satisfying and original manner that bring to life the world and characters who move through A Printer's Choice. There are just enough connections to present-day situations to feel familiar; but enough futuristic trappings to come across as unique.

From powerful programmer and reprogrammer engineers to poor choices, temptations, pride, and an evolving truth about what Tanglao had been attempting, who had killed him, and why, A Printer's Choice walks a delicate line between a sci-fi thriller, a detective piece, and a survey of spiritual and moral challenges. All these facets are set against the backdrop of a society that has evolved into a world where engineers virtually recreate society and moral values.

Complex, action-packed and thought-provoking all at once, A Printer's Choice is a uniquely crafted piece that doesn't handily limit itself to a single genre, but spreads its message and vision across a broad spectrum to attract a diverse audience of readers who like their sci-fi intricate, original and compelling.

Skinny House
Julie Seely
Skinny House Press
c/o Skinny House Productions, LLC
9780996877701, $19.99, paperback
9780996877718, $9.99, ePub
9780996877725, $9.99, Mobi

Nathan Seely was one of the first African-American homebuilders in New York. In 1925 he established a successful business with his brother in Mamaroneck, building homes such as the Skinny House that still stands today. While Skinny House is a quiet tribute to his skills, until now, what has also remained silent is the full story behind this family's most notable member, and his history.

Readers might expect a family memoir that holds a singular value to primarily the family and perhaps to the regional geographic history involved; but what proves highly delightful is the fact that Nathan Seely's story is a vivid account that is not just about one man and one family's struggles; but represents a microcosm of the African-American experience as a whole.

Thus, it's appropriate to say that Skinny House belongs in a variety of collections; from regional New York, architectural history and memoir holdings to those strong in early civil rights issues.

Seely's granddaughter researched and documents the story of an iconic three-story, ten-foot-wide house known locally as the "Skinny House" built by her ambitious carpenter grandfather, who owned a successful construction business in the Roaring Twenties.

The Great Depression decimated Nathan Seely's business and life. Skinny House was constructed as a refuge for his family, but became so much more as generations of the Seely family moved from good times into poverty and back.

Loaded with family photos and vintage images, Skinny House is packed with astute and captivating observations not just about the social and economic challenges of the past, but the divisions in one family as they struggled to survive: "I am convinced the two men loved each other dearly, but they struggled to express their feelings, so they ended up resenting each other. I also believe there was a part of my father that was proud of Nathan's accomplishments, including building the Skinny House. However the Great Depression made reconciliation impossible because it roared through the country like a freight train and hijacked opportunities for forgiveness between fathers and sons that no amount of ransom would satisfy."

Readers who might have anticipated a narrow vision from this narrow little house's life history receive instead a sweeping saga of various social, economic, and family psychological issues that make for thoroughly engrossing, thought-provoking reading.

Skinny House is a testimony not only to a family's changes and survival strategies; but to the endurance of a dream and how its legacy was passed between generations. It's very highly recommended for a wide range of readers; from those concerned with African-American achievement and history to general-interest readers who simply enjoy engrossing family memoirs.

Living in the Zone
Sidney C. Walker
High Plains Publications
0962117781, $16.95, Paper, $9.99 Kindle/Audio

Living in the Zone: Engage the Unstoppable Power of the Intuitive Spirit comes from a sales training coach who moves beyond boardrooms and sales floors to apply the basics of his concepts to the bigger picture of living a better life. It is recommended reading for seekers with an interest in personal growth, but is different from any similar-sounding approach. Why? It addresses changing negativity in the world starting with the core of this kernel of angst, the ego/self.

Readers who look to self-improvement techniques to answer why they feel something is holding them back in life will find that Living in the Zone pinpoints a problem both difficult and theoretically easy to fix: one's own attitude, perceptions, and approaches to life. Other books might promote or insinuate that a timeline is involved in the process of self-evaluation and change; but because part of Sidney C. Walker's game plan involves intuition, there's no deadline for success in his approach.

Intuition takes time to tap into, time to process, and represents a kind of 'zone' that can't be forced. This is just one of the messages in Living in the Zone.

It should be cautioned that this isn't a scientifically-backed approach, as Walker himself points out in the first few paragraphs: "The information in this book is not scientifically proven. Everything presented comes from my own experience of more than three decades of coaching and personal research. Science is of indisputable value. But when it comes to philosophy, psychology, and transformation, our intuitive knowing is way beyond what we can prove scientifically, and I suspect that may always be the case."

This not only makes sense; but, actually is a big plus in a world where information not backed by scientific procedure and testing methods tends to be discarded. As a matter of course, such information tends to be of an intuitive nature.

Living in the Zone includes an unexpected spiritual component: "You could say that life on planet Earth was created as a game to play to give us something endlessly fascinating to do. Then there was another aspect added to our existence, which was internal guidance. We were guided by a Higher Power through our intuitive instincts and our conscience. Yes, we had control over the choices we made, but we were making choices toward what felt intuitively right, and we had a clear awareness of what our path was."

Readers who don't believe in a Higher Power or guiding light may find this skirts too closely into spiritual realms in a psychological examination of change; but in actuality, Living in the Zone is a discourse on transformation; and this process contains the prerequisite of a belief in intuitive faith in order to prove successful.

As chapters unfold, problems involved in shifting to a wider perspective are outlined with an attention to not only charting the course of change, but the obstacles to reaching beyond ego-centric forces to intuitive recognition, acceptance, and success. The 'how' aspect of such achievement is nicely addressed in Living in the Zone, in contrast with competing new age books which would focus on the 'why' and provide ideals and explanations without explicit follow-through.

Living in the Zone requires a slow, careful pursuit. It's not a race to the finish line; but an opportunity to reconsider goals, achievement, definitions of winning, and the power of intuition in the process of real change.

From effective approaches to keep the ego from judging and evaluating people and situations to avoiding the tendency to 'sell' to people in favor of a more intuitive, sharing approach to relationships, Living in the Zone provides a succinct roadmap to a new way of approaching life. This is highly recommended not just as a paradigm for change; but for its attention to the details involved in inviting transformation into one's world based on identifying, trusting, and acting upon something that's already present: one's own intuitive powers.

New age, self-help, and psychology readers alike will find Living in the Zone direct, accessible, packed with examples from Walker's own life and experiences, and satisfyingly specific in its instructions.

Walker's approach creates a survey of relationships that is highly personal in tone, in contrast with the usual psychology jargon infused into similar accounts of changing approaches to life. There is no comparison between the vivid transformative approach that is infused with personal experience in Living in the Zone and the more distant analytical tone cultivated in too many other reads.

There is no substitute for intuitive connections and understanding based on personal experience. Living in the Zone shines in its achievement, here, and stands out from the crowd of self-help and improvement books by cultivating a series of connections and examples that stem directly from life itself. It's especially highly recommended for readers who eschew typically dispassionate approaches in favor of a more passionate, personal consideration of intuition's possibilities and often-overlooked potentials.

Past & Present
Judy Penz Sheluk
Superior Shores Press
9780995000735, $14.99, Trade Paperback
9780995000742, $5.99, eBook

Past & Present adds Book 2 to the 'Marketville Mystery' series and returns Calamity (Callie) Barnstable to center stage. Prior readers of her adventures in Skeletons in the Attic will learn that these events take place a year later from when she originally inherited her house and finally solved the mystery of who murdered her mother thirty years ago.

Callie has decided to remain in Marketville permanently, and has opened her own PI business, Past & Present Investigations. She has a new partner and her first client: a woman who is also searching for clues in a 'cold case' involving a long-deceased great-grandmother and the perp who killed her.

As Callie follows clues in a case eerily similar to her own, she relies on both her recently-acquired skills and new revelations that arise from a past murder and a relative's present determination to solve it. What she didn't anticipate was that the case's similarities and ties to her own life will reach out to immerse her in a personal way that challenges her professional distance in the investigation.

Although Past & Present requires no prior familiarity in order to prove accessible, it's especially recommended for readers of Skeletons in the Attic, who will find the logical continuations and extensions of Callie's life and personality craft an ongoing saga that continues her personal, professional, and psychological growth process.

This audience will take pleasure in the blend of psychological and professional expansion that allows Callie to use her past experience and newfound investigative skills, adding more than a light touch of genealogical inspection based on real-life conundrums in researching the past: "When I'd researched my mother's disappearance, her marriage certificate had been a huge help, even listing the current addresses of the bride and groom. Not so with this one, which offered nothing more than the basic facts: names, date, place, along with the signatures of the witnesses and City Hall magistrate. Even the witnesses' names were a dead end. John J. Johnson and David P. Smith. There had to be a lot of Johnsons and Smiths out there."

Psychological realizations and self-inspection are an exquisite touch to the story and keep readers not only engaged, but completely cognizant of the forces that motivate families, murderers, and investigators alike: "Why would someone want to murder your father?" Because my dad had left me a letter in a safety deposit box, and the safety harness wasn't the only accident to happen to him at work. Because accepting it really was an unfortunate occupational accident meant I'd have to stop obsessing about his death and move on with that aspect of my life. Because I hated my grandfather and everything he stood for and as long as I could find a way to blame him, I could keep that hatred fueled."

It's this attention to detail that, like Skeletons in the Attic, sets Callie's blossoming (yet new) investigative prowess apart from other books in the mystery genre. It adds various subplots and detail to enliven its plot, educates readers, and injects realistic scenarios into a mystery packed with unexpected and satisfying twists and turns.

As the initial concept behind Past & Present Investigations evolves, so do all the characters who interact with Callie. Each makes discoveries about their present-day lives and their connections with the past. As Callie fills in the blanks to the past, she uncovers secrets she had never suspected.

The result is a tense, emotionally gripping, multifaceted mystery that serves both as a perfect continuation of Callie's life story and as a fine stand-alone read for newcomers. Filled with surprises and revelations, Past & Present is a gem in the mystery genre that should not remain hidden, but shines above and beyond the typical genre read with a spark of originality and compelling scenes that will keep readers engaged, educated, and looking for future cold cases for Callie to heat up with an investigation.

Astronomy & Natural History Connections from Darwin to Einstein
Barry Boyce
The Baryon Press
B07FMKTN3T, $9.99

Astronomy & Natural History Connections from Darwin to Einstein is a science course in a book, adopting the unusual approach of blending astronomy with natural history in a survey that successfully draws important connections between the two disciplines.

It's not only unusual to see the different disciplines thoroughly covered in a single volume; but the addition of scientist biographical sketches from classical Greek to modern times creates an approach that cements scientific developments with insights on individual pursuits and social history.

Astronomy & Natural History Connections covers basic principles but focuses on what thinkers such as Darwin did and did not say. Classroom discussion and individual study are more detailed than memorizing dates and theories, encouraging reflection on how ideas developed, were debated, and how they apply to lasting scientific pursuits, pinpointing moments that were epiphanies and breakthroughs in conventional thinking.

As the discussion weaves back and forth between astronomy and natural history, connections are created which solidify not only basic concepts, but points of disharmony and contention and how these were addressed, providing far more depth than the traditional linear presentation of either subject.

It should be warned that many casual and conventional lay impressions of scientific development, processes, and theory will be challenged during the course of Barry Boyce's associative process. Among these concepts is the contention that evolution is not necessarily an adaptive process; that 'species' is a term that should be questioned; and that migratory processes may be seen as only breeding strategy in a mix of options.

It should also be mentioned that Boyce's appeal to lay audiences is strengthened by his adoption of a chatty tone that clearly explains matters to lay readers: "A lot of information has been presented, and for some of you, a lot of the terminology may be new. The purpose, I assure, you was not to overwhelm or fry your chips; it was to make you feel more at ease with, and perhaps less than threatened by, biology and natural history. Scientists work in a formal, somewhat competitive world, and are obliged to use very technical language."

Concluding statements summarizing the important concepts of each chapter clarify the basics with material for classroom discussion or independent reader reflection.

The key descriptor of this piece lies in its "connections" portion. Astronomy & Natural History Connections doesn't just summarize major findings, but moves back and forth as it links the two subjects. This fluidity allows for an unexpectedly wide-ranging survey of the future challenges of science, such as the pros and cons of colonizing and terraforming Mars or the search for answers about galaxy expansion processes.

Most scientific discussions come from either teachers or scientific researchers. Barry Boyce was a graduate student in the neurosciences, but spent 30 years teaching natural history and astronomy on expedition voyages to the Galápagos Islands and the Antarctic, so his experience with worlds outside the traditional classroom or lab structures affords a different focus and lingo that nicely explain and exploring these worlds, employing a more engrossing, dramatic touch than most.

Readers seeking a treatise for self-study will be delighted by the book's accessibility and ability to turn technical discussions into understandable ideas, while teachers looking for a more 'user-friendly' volume emphasizing interdisciplinary approaches and research processes will delight in the special approach of Astronomy & Natural History Connections, a work highly recommended for laymen and science students alike.

Matthew Turner
The Mantle
9780998642314, $14.95

Sweden is a 1960s Vietnam War novel based on true events; but it should be noted that the story's progression is quite different from the usual military focus. It instead tells of a group of American deserters holed up in Japan who plot their escape overseas to Sweden.

Readers won't anticipate the appearance of hippie communes in Japan, the social issues revolving around Japanese peace activists who are involved with this group of Americans, and the challenges Flynn and his companions face as they navigate the strange ironies and inconsistencies of Japanese culture, assess opportunities for escape, and craft a fragile plan that depends on a series of unlikely circumstances to prove successful.

Also satisfyingly surprising is Matthew Turner's attention to navigating his characters through urban and rural Japanese communities alike as they trek into danger and face the unknown on many different levels.

As the characters of Harper, Masuda, Santiago, and Flynn interact with and learn from student peace activists and face condemnation for being deserters, they and their readers come to understand the nuances of not just events in Vietnam and their effects on all levels of military and civilian personnel, but their wide-ranging impact on Asia as a whole.

Aside from these bigger pictures, life tends to change and go on in those smaller communities that Turner explores with much attention to cultural descriptions. The microcosm of the hippie world which accepts the deserters and then returns to a semblance of normality is particularly well detailed ("It was testimony to the cohesiveness and purposefulness of the Tribe that they continued to function smoothly as a group despite the distractions caused by the presence of Masuda and the deserters. With the exception of Anala, who spent her free time either by Santiago's side or watching him from afar, the hippies seemed intent on going about their lives normally, varying their routines only to the extent necessary to enable the new arrivals to adjust, as when Pran had taught the three how to fish with spears. And adjust they did. As the days went by, Santiago, Roberts, and Sullivan slept in less, were less inclined to congregate around the kitchen before meal times, and showed more interest in participating in the yoga sessions and other group activities during their free time."), as is how these cultural influences, in turn, change the deserters' perspectives.

The social and political maneuvering around the search for these deserters nicely dovetails with their interactions and travels, creating a pointed yet steadily-moving story that takes the elusive goal and promise of the freedom of Sweden and contrasts it nicely with the subcultures and realities of 1960s-era Japan.

The result is a moving, multifaceted story that cements its plot with strong characterization, astute cultural insights and social inspection, and a backdrop that will seem both familiar to any regular reader of Vietnam novels and alien to those anticipating the usual military encounters.

It's rare to see social inspection so nicely wound into a Vietnam story line. Any collection strong in historical fiction will relish the different insights and approach of Sweden, a literary, historical piece that focuses on the student protests overseas during the mid-1960s which have received comparatively little depth and attention in the annals of Vietnam stories.

Devil's Den
Jeff Altabef
Evolved Publishing
9781622531388, $15.95, Paper, $3.95, eBook

Steven Cabbott has become used to seeing demons; but it's quite a different experience to be actively fighting them. Yet, this is what transpires when, after years of silence between Steven and his unrequited love Kate, she asks for his help in locating her kidnapped daughter Megan.

What seems to be a case for the police turns out to be much more complicated because Steven discovers that not only is his personal demon involved; but a cult intent on transforming Megan into something unworldly. If they succeed, she will be lost to Kate forever.

The events in Devil's Den proceed with the fast pace of a thriller, inject regular insights into Steven's supernatural encounters with demons in the past, and succeeds in crafting a story of intrigue and danger when an impossible rescue attempt draws Kate and Steven together despite the difficulties posed by Steven's personal demons.

Readers who enjoy an injection of the supernatural rather than a story based entirely on otherworldly forces will appreciate just the right blend of paranormal tension and intrigue that bring this thriller to life.

The unexpected twists and turns are well done, the story moves deftly from one man's psychological struggles to bigger-picture thinking about cults in society, and readers will especially relish the realistic characterization derived from a combination of fast-paced story line and attention to psychological motivation and detail.

The result is a vivid, winning tale of a former couple's confrontation with themselves, each other, and a wider-ranging threat that grabs the reader from the beginning and proves nearly impossible to put down. Thriller audiences will find Devil's Den more than a notch above others in the genre.

Home Ground
Don Gutteridge
Hidden Brook Press
9781927725580, $19.99

Home Ground comes from a Canadian author whose work is firmly rooted in a sense of place; whether he's using the poetic structure to inspect the manicured grounds of the Point (which is his childhood home), the lake where "where the sand sang in the sun/and thunder rang over its dune-dense immensity," or the beginning of changing habits and nature in one of Canada's long winters ("When Leckie's field iced/over after a thaw/and quick freeze, we skated/on glazed meadows/where once clover bloomed,/wild mustard throve/and larks buffeted the air").

As sections move through memories of Don Gutteridge's childhood observations of people and places, encounters with peers as they skate through the ethereal world of Canada's landscapes, and the process of growing up, falling in love, and appreciating new landscapes both natural and human, they form a progressive dance in which readers are moved by description and experience alike. It's as though a word painter captured a delicate butterfly for a single moment in time, forever preserving that moment under a lens of inspection that moves to examine the microcosmic level of life's fullest moments: "In your lemon-yellow dress/you stun the sun and the/fellow gazing at you/debouching from your Volksmobile/unfazed/and effortless in your element..."

Many a poet strives to do just the same; but Gutteridge's ability to succinctly capture the quickest of impressions, presenting it for close inspection before releasing it to the next dovetailing moment in life, creates a more powerful series of vignettes than most. Individually, they are seconds in time; together, they are a timeline of life's meaningful bullets, nicely preserved for all to reflect upon.

Many of the poems are inspired by and dedicated to various individuals who presumably moved through Gutteridge's life: a nice touch solidifying the impact of not only place but people in his life.

"Words and joy collide" indeed in this catch-and-release collection, which holds the singular ability to capture these moments of passion; but readers should also expect the unexpected. These aren't just light vignettes about sunshine, love, and nature. Sometimes the darkness is expressed in the most unusual of ways, as in 'Sinister', which seems to be a unique comment on the game of golf before it explodes into something more ominous and reflective. Even here, there is always the attention to twists of descriptor and word to inject the unexpected into seemingly the most ordinary of worlds: "My Uncle Tom and I/swung from the sinister side

and patrolled the Thames Valley/fairways in tight tandem,/and while I irritated my irons/with random rambunctions,/his wedge struck his ball/aloft and we watched it/in feathered flight as it/gravitated to the green..."

Individually, the works are clearly stand-alone slices of life; but when taken as a whole in Home Grown, they assume a richer, deeper inspection of life's movement, evolution, confrontations with truth, and nature's winding influence as it paints humanity's psyche.

Evocative, deeply descriptive, yet rooted in autobiography and a sense of self and place, Home Grown is highly recommended for enthusiasts of free verse who treasure exposes firmly rooted in everyday experience.

Death of Vultures
Susan Wingate
Roberts Press
c/o False Bay Books
9780989807876, $9.99, Kindle

Readers seeking a thriller mystery set in the San Juan Islands revolving around heroin addiction, drug cartels, and psychological suspense will find the Death of Vultures the sweeping saga of a woman who has already lost everything she loves, and has nothing more to lose.

Meg is on the move, both psychologically and physically. Her changes are well detailed and designed to draw in readers from the start ("You don't suddenly awaken as a wailing, angry, distant woman.") as she moves from the kind of woman she wants to be to the kind of woman she never imagined.

She's struggled with her daughter Lily's addiction for years, only to see it meet its inevitable fate. Her husband is gone, as well. Not quite a widow (although his departure leads her to feel like one; and to relate to the empty widows in her church), she no longer fits into any neat category in her life. All that's left is revenge; and it's a dish best served cold.

But Jay isn't out of her life just yet: he's involved in a dangerous game that draws Meg back into the world she feels so distant from, recharging her batteries of passion as she finds a new, albeit dangerous, purpose to her life.

Past and present in Meg's world are neatly juxtaposed in passages which move between memories and experiences in both worlds: "She sipped her coffee and stretched her legs to release a tension that had grown in them during the ride. All the cars rocked in rhythm with the ferry as it glided over the water. She remembered the words to an old lullaby she used to sing to Lily as an infant in her cradle, Rock-a-bye Baby, and how, in that tune, the bough had broken."

The first-person passages by daughter Lily which reflect on her life and her own changing perspectives provide excellent relief and additional embellishment for comprehending Meg's thought process, family connections, and progression.

Susan Wingate's ability to craft evocative phrases that pair swift action with psychological insight keep readers not just on edge over confrontations and challenges; but immersed in a series of realizations about everything from suicide and normalcy to another inevitable death. Surprises range from revelations about Lily's death to a hidden secret about Lee's involvement with Wes and its underlying influence on Lily's choices.

Meg's now set to do something about death and its impact on her life. Grief, guilt, and punishment for crimes walk closely together in an evolving story which brings both Meg and her readers on the brink of disaster as reconciliation and recovery remain elusive goals for many of the characters.

The result is a riveting, action-packed inspection of one woman's life gone awry as she sets out to rescue others only to come full-circle to discover her own strength and ability to survive.

Four Days to Trinity
Bill Mesce Jr.
Endeavour Media
B07FQH1RVH, $3.99

Henry Gilmore is the administrator of an assisted living facility that seems to grow more vibrant under his charge even as he feels that his job is pulling the life out of him. Reverend Owen Dawson is a preacher distributing illusions, dreams, and possibilities who harbors some unholy approaches to life, such as purchasing a gun and aspiring to make an adult movie. Four Days to Trinity tracks the good pastor's journey and the people he affects during his progress, introducing a host of small-town characters who, in their own ways, are quirky, funny, life-challenged, and themselves living on the edge in various ways.

The first thing to note about Four Days to Trinity is Bill Mesce Jr.'s attention to small-town people, politics, and atmosphere. Dawson's trajectory is closely followed by many who speculate that he's about to embark on some kind of vendetta.

The second notable aspect to this tale is its sense of humor, which winds into the story and between characters in the most unexpected of ways, overlaying the most serious of observations: "The blurt of a passing semi's horn drowned out her reply. "Was that you, love? I'd stay away from the empanadas from now on. At least say excuse me."

Long truck rides, extended discussions between characters, and close inspection of small-town lives take the time to build a myriad of scenarios and backgrounds that at first seem unrelated; but which serve to deepen the plot as the characters come and go, interact and drink together, and ultimately play important parts in the buildup to Dawson's actions.

As it turns out, nothing evolves from random chance alone. Each character has a part to play in Owen's ultimate choices, and what feels like a confusing mishmash of too many characters in the beginning soon comes to be a flurry of important influencers, atmospheres, observers and decision-makers that each contribute to the greater story of a good man's intentions gone awry.

Henry Gilmore didn't expect to find himself involved in a murder investigation, helping to eliminate possibilities. But he and others find themselves in over their heads as a journey that holds its roots in infidelity blossoms into something much more wide-ranging.

Four Days to Trinity is a progressive read that is complex, absorbing, and unexpected in many ways. It takes its time crafting relationship and atmospheres, injects purpose and meaning into a seemingly disparate set of experiences, and provides hard to put down as it deconstructs the threads of many lives and weaves them back together for an unexpected journey.

The result is whimsical, alluring, fun, and disturbing, all in one. Readers seeking an original, complex, yet rewarding story will relish Four Days to Trinity for its quirky cast of characters and the serious threat and offers of redemption that craft a truly evocative novel.

This Business of the Flesh
C. Kubasta
Apprentice House Press
9781627201872, $22.99, Casebound
9781627201889, $13.99, Paperback
9781627201896, $6.99, Ebook

This Business of the Flesh is a suicide story with a difference, because when Tracy's brother Aaron commits suicide, she inherits not only anguish but his three large dogs: two pit bulls and mastiff Stella. As she navigates the unfamiliar territory of dog ownership, it's intriguing to note that This Business of the Flesh is as much about dogs and their ability to challenge and heal as it is about Aaron's suicide and how mental illness is dealt with in a naturally-reserved family.

It's also about Tracy's evolution, because she has a history of not fulfilling her father's plans for her ("Tracy had begun disappointing her father when she'd majored in business and minored in communication, definitely a "practical choice," like the kids who didn't know they could dream bigger: a pre-major that necessitated graduate school and ensured more years of study, a hefty starting salary and the prestige of certain letters that automatically attach to a person's last name. She'd continued disappointing him when she'd decided not to go to graduate school and returned home.") and keeps her secrets close.

Can Tracy's adoption of her deceased brother's dogs heal not only herself, but her family?

Life in a small Wisconsin town holds both connections and alienation. Tracy has carefully honed her independence, sometimes against her parents' wishes, and has cultivated the kind of distance that too often belays close relationships.

Tracy's return from her brother's cabin with the dogs in tow provokes the need for introductory communications about fences, pit bulls, and changing relationships as she assures neighbors and friends that things won't be changing for the worse.

C. Kubasta is especially adept at describing psychological undercurrents as the story evolves and Tracy makes new discoveries about her brother when she visits his world ("... there would be Sam's stories about Aaron, stories of an Aaron she didn't know: the Aaron who helped him fell trees and clear a space for a new pole building; the Aaron who joined him and his hunting buddies for beers; the Aaron who could tell a great story, entertaining everyone; the Aaron who rescued the silver bitch from the roadside where she'd been dumped, her puppies drowned; the red bait dog and Stella, returned six times to the shelter, scheduled for euthanasia.")

Tracy finds her life undergoing many changes for the sake of the dogs. She makes new friends with lesbian couple Lucy and Carla, finds deeper connections with her old ones, and ultimately confronts the fact that she's spent too much time separating herself from her family roots in particular and life in general.

This Business of the Flesh is about flawed families, perceptions, and the pursuit of meaning in life. It's also about the politics of pit bulls, their presence in her life, and what happens when an old suitor returns to change everything she's rebuilt from her brother's death.

While any reader of women's fiction will relish Tracy's story of growth, it's the dog lover in general and pit bull enthusiast in particular who will find much to appreciate about the changing relationships between man and beast that's just one of the strengths of This Business of the Flesh, which is highly recommended for leisure readers interested in stories of recovery and pets.

MK Pachan
Friesen Press
9781525516627, $2.99, E-book
9781525516610, $18.99, Paperback
9781525516603, $34.49, Hardcover

Its detective Cam Clay's first day back on the job after a forced 'vacation', but crime doesn't take a holiday for any reason and so the very first investigation he's assigned to turns out to be especially heart-wrenching: the grisly murder of a mother and child in a suburban home.

Clay's job holds a heavy toll and the last case forced him to the edge of sanity, so this new case, which opens with a bang, challenges not only his problem-solving abilities, but his belief in how crime and punishment works. In the fifty-eight murder investigations he's participated in, this is the first in which he's discovered the bodies and made the call. Perhaps the small-town feel of Calgary and its relative safety just became a lot more complicated and threatening, but Clay feels completely overwhelmed after only his first day back.

As events unfold, it becomes evident that Revoked is study in complex human behavior. There's an obvious perp who has had a close relationship with the victim; there's an ex-con brother who was at the scene of the crime; and there's an evident trail that leads to a fairly straightforward conclusion. Or, is it?

MK Pachan is a master at creating deception, so readers who expect a cut-and-dry case will quickly come to find that the story takes an unexpected turn midstream as more begin to die: people who could have held clues to the case's resolution.

Signs of deceit and lying, therapy sessions for Clay that began at the request of his employer and evolve into something he can actually use, and the juxtaposition of Calgary's lovely scenery with its underlying streak of cruelty blend in a satisfying story that leads readers through hell and back again. From psychological agony to physical brutality, Revoked is a study in contrasts and challenges, creating a riveting story steeped in layers of complex interpersonal relationships.

As Clay edges closer to the truth, so his world teeters. Readers along for the ride will find that a tense detective cat-and-mouse game evolves which places Clay and everything he loves in the shadow of violence.

For a thoroughly engrossing whodunit balanced on step-by-step tightropes of tension, Revoked can't be beat and is highly recommended for detective story enthusiasts who like complex, multifaceted reads.

Because I'm Worth It
Linda Nielsen
Touchpoint Press
9781946920379, $17.99, Paper, $5.99, ebook

Because I'm Worth It outlines a clash between Skye Topple, who is engaged to the spoiled Southern belle who is his employer's daughter, and follows the convoluted puzzle of their stormy lives together as family, social, and business pressures collide.

Eccentric houses, spoiled people, and impressive perks may sound like they'll contribute to a story of self-centered behaviors; but the heart of Because I'm Worth It lies in its ability to depict the stormy encounters of two very different families whose values and approaches to life are based on different concepts, from Northern and Southern culture to ideas on how to get ahead and relate to people.

Many relationship explorations focus on husband and wife; but Because I'm Worth It adds in the dynamics between various family factions to expand one of its many themes: how disparate people do and don't work together after a union born from psychological and business benefits.

Also nicely detailed and realistically presented is the unique lifestyle of California's Big Sur residents, the country club atmosphere of the rich, and the clash between different layers of California culture. As different generations from wealth view payoffs, motivations, and goals from upper-class perspectives, readers are treated to a blend of humor and thought-provoking insights that pinpoint high society approaches to life.

The thread of humor, more than lightly cast upon the waters of lavish displays, is a welcome juxtaposition to the more serious events chronicled within and add some astute and pointed moments: "A photographer took pictures of the bride and groom in a gold gilded carriage as the guests added their approval with applause. Weddings were meant to be fun, and when the carriage was removed, the couple snuggled together on a board placed behind a one-sided plywood boat, painted white with gold trim. It was set up on an artificial lake with a scenic backdrop, and the people clapped again. When the lake scene was dismantled, a white horse materialized. It whinnied and tossed its head as Charles climbed on. His bride was handed to him with great care. The wire hoop of her gown spread around the front of the saddle like an organdy cloud that had slipped from the sky "I can't watch this nonsense anymore. Are all southern weddings this silly?" Evelyn's eyebrow arched, indicating her bad-temper. "No," Robert replied calmly. "I believe the von Campe's have confused their royal background with a fairy tale."

There were minor grammatical errors sprinkled throughout; but while this should be noted, the overall strength of the story and its delivery is not significantly affected.

How do unmarried Big Sur hippies coexist alongside the world of the wealthy? And how does Skye untangle himself from the web he's woven?

A fresh perspective on American classes and the ongoing clash between North and South culture makes for a lively story that readers of women's fiction will find fun and enlightening.

A Brothel, Beauty, & A Murderer!
Raymond Cook
Raymond Cook, Publisher
B01BXK5O1A, $4.99

A Brothel, Beauty, & A Murderer! is set in 1899 in Silverton, Colorado, where a fancy brothel caters to higher-class clientele than the average Gold Rush miner. Protagonist Annabelle flourishes under the Madame who runs this venerable establishment, with one of her repeat satisfied customers being rich businessman Greg.

When his wallet goes missing as he's leaving this establishment, Annabelle is high on the list of perps, and when she escapes his gunfire slaughter of revenge, he embarks on a vendetta to find and punish her.

It should be noted that A Brothel, Beauty, & A Murderer! contains steamy sexual descriptions. It crafts well-detailed historical background that informs readers about Colorado history, gold mining era culture, and the importance of saloons and prostitutes in this milieu, and provides a degree of complexity unanticipated from a novel that cautions it's recommended for ages 18 and older because of its many explicit scenes.

Readers anticipating a soft porn production alone should be advised that A Brothel, Beauty, & A Murderer! is much more, blending a historical novel, murder story, and cultural observation that winds hot sex into the overall mix of solid historical representation. The actual Blair House in this story was, historically, the most famous brothel in Colorado's history.

From precautions the girls take to prevent the diseases which would earn the brothel a bad reputation to how the Madame vetts her clientele ("My clients are wealthy, mine owners or businessmen. They dress sharp, are courteous, and respectful to me, and the women who pleasure them."), it should be noted that "explicit" refers to more than sexual description.

Chapters take their time to recreate the atmosphere, culture, politics and pursuits of Silverton at that point in its history. Readers are treated to a full-faceted account that documents a beautiful 24-year-old woman who loves sex, the circumstances that bring her into conflict with her job and place in a situation that could cost her life, and the background drama that leads up to the familiar scenario of a helpless woman tied to the train tracks.

Grammatical errors throughout could ideally have been addressed during a final proofread (Quote marks in successive paragraphs of a character's discourse are lacking, for one example; and errant commas appear in unexpected places), but, though notable, won't significantly mar the reading for all but the most editorially conscious, who may chafe at their regular appearance.

It should also be noted that descriptions are designed to be forthright, which may offend some when regular reference to the Madame is made as "the Jew". However, this is all in keeping with the story line, the times, and the atmosphere Raymond Cook creates, and falls under the caution that if readers are easily offended by explicit descriptions either of a sexual or cultural nature, they should look elsewhere.

Combining a Western setting and atmosphere with a vivid story of murder, sex, and strife would seem a common device in many stories; but Raymond Cook's ability to candidly review these facets with no filters creates an authenticity lacking in more sedate productions which would skirt explicit description in favor of decorum. Lovely color photos sprinkled throughout reinforce the setting and landscapes of Cook's story: another unusual, effective approach that lends to a standout production that belays a common 'Western novel' label, pushing it into the 'erotica' realm but with a more serious attention to historical detail than most.

Readers who want a healthy dose of graphic descriptions tempered by the drama and confrontation of a Gold Rush story will relish the slow burn of A Brothel, Beauty, & A Murderer!, which takes passion to a different level as it reveals a beautiful woman's dangerous game and the bounty hunter who becomes involved in an unexpected journey.

A Brothel, Beauty, & A Murderer! is recommended for its effective cross-genre blend of erotica and historical detail.

The Journal
Linda Lee Keenan
Linda Lee Publications
9780692134146, $14.95, Print
9780692141328, $2.99, ePUB

The Journal is described by the author as "A Novel of World War II from Berlin Then to Manhattan Now." It's a story that emphasizes the survival of love against all odds - even war - and tells of Julia Hamilton, a modern-day interior designer in Manhattan whose great-uncle joined the underground forces in Germany to save people from the Nazis. World War II's events seem distant from Julia's life despite her family's connections to the opposition, but Uncle Per wants Julia to understand these experiences, and a journal is the perfect place to capture them for posterity.

As the worlds of 2015 Manhattan and 1940 Berlin are juxtaposed and explored, readers receive a thought-provoking contrast in experiences and perceptions that captures Uncle Per's encounters with ordinary citizens both for and against the Nazis ("I could not decide how to respond. She was obviously pro-Hitler and I was in Berlin to protect Sweden from Hitler.") and contrasts them with Julia's own journaling efforts and her increasing understanding of the past: "Until then, her journal writing was conducted without her conscious mind being present. Every other time she'd written what Uncle Per had told her, she had not comprehended it until the next day after resting. That night there was a change. She was acutely aware on all levels of what her uncle was saying while he was telling his story. Did that mean that she was in both places at once - in Manhattan in 2015 and in Berlin in 1940?"

As Julia writes of her uncle's experiences, she becomes immersed in not only his life, times, and challenges; but in the notion that there is more than a transient connection between events of the past and her life.

The contrast between Uncle Per's stories and experiences and Julia's world is nicely done, using italics to separate these two identities and their accounts. This maintains clarity, separating each character so that readers don't become lost.

Another plus is that the story takes many unexpected turns, venturing into areas of loss, heartbreak, love, and broken hearts as well as missions realized and thwarted.

Over time, Julia comes to not just understand her uncle, but becomes immersed in his experiences, choices, and the social, political and military struggles of Berlin during the war.

Astute in its observations, vivid in its representations, and nicely balanced in its journeys between past and present worlds, The Journal is especially recommended for readers of historical fiction, thrillers, and history's mysteries who will find the combination of intrigue, sacrifice, and evolving romance nicely done and thought-provoking, adopting an unusual perspective that sets the story apart from other World War II novels.

Trimmed to Death
Nancy J. Cohen
Orange Grove Press
9780998531762 $14.99
9780998531755, $4.99, Ebook

Amazon Print:
Amazon Kindle:

Trimmed to Death is the 15th book in the cozy mystery 'The Bad Hair Day' series that profiles hairstylist/sleuth Marla Vail. One would think that, with such a long-standing series of adventures behind her, any newcomer to Marla's world would at least need some degree of prior familiarity with the series, but no such expertise is required in order to delve into the world of South Florida and Marla's endeavors to succeed.

In this latest story, Marla has entered a local charity bake-off contest at a Fall festival, and stumbles upon the dead body of fellow contestant Francine while she awaits the results. This sets off a chain of events in which Marla uncovers a host of food-related possible perps who each would have had a stake in Francine's demise.

As Marla plans her own benefit to support a local historical museum, the threat of repeat deaths looms over her promotion plans for her salon and the community.

One reason why Nancy J. Cohen is an award-winning cozy mystery author is that her stories are packed with personality, upbeat scenarios, and the solid pairing of a murder mystery with broader community entanglements. In this story, Marla isn't just a sole proprietor operating independent of her world: she's thoroughly connected to the community through her salon and work.

Descriptions are thus nicely crafted and filled with atmosphere and detail that bring Marla's world to life, sometimes with a touch of ironic observation, as when she and her companion venture into an eclectic restaurant during the course of their investigations and have to confront a decidedly sophisticated menu that challenges their taste buds: "I don't see anything here that I like. You didn't tell me the menu was this eclectic." Marla took a look. Crawfish cocktail, conch fritters, gator bites, deviled crabs. Those didn't appeal to her, either. "How about the guacamole?" she asked in a less than enthusiastic tone. It wouldn't be her appetizer of choice. "The dip comes with pita bread. And what's this pawpaw martini?" Dalton asked. "Some kind of fruit drink, maybe? We could always get a salad to start." "That seems like the best bet. I wouldn't want the sunray salad. That's got oranges and onions and cream cheese balls. Ugh."

As for the investigation itself, it's filled with the kind of realistic flavor that cements the idea that Marla and her fellow partners in non-crime are not professionals, but informed amateurs: "Marla drew a stool over to the counter, sat on the vinyl seat, and unwrapped her sandwich. After taking a few bites, she said, "We have some promising leads, but nobody stands out as the main suspect." "Who do you have so far? In the mystery novel I just finished, the guilty party was the business partner."

From fundraiser activity, culinary insights, and probes into Marla's logic to recipes and romance which pepper the story line and embellish its twists and turns, readers who want a cozy mystery filled with atmosphere, intrigue, and adventure should settle a chair by the fire for a good evening's read.

Trimmed to Death is a delicious story to savor primarily because the focus on Marla and her community is so realistically and compellingly done that readers will relish the final results and the path that leads Marla and her detective hubby Dalton to move from the concerns of the Cut 'N Dye Salon and Day Spa to probing Francine's life and the motives of who would want to murder her.

Almost Heaven
Carroll Green
Love Your Neighbor Publishing
9780692066492, $22.00

Almost Heaven It Was Not Even Close - A Legacy Of Love offers slice-of-life vignettes about Carroll Green's world and the people in it in the unincorporated community of Bishop and beyond from the 1940s to modern times. It surveys his early years, Carroll Green's stint in the Marines, his family's growth and expansion, and the social, political and psychological forces that divide, then reunite communities and families.

Plenty of memoirs focus on individual experiences; but few tie them to greater social movements, issues, and forces as adeptly as Almost Heaven.

This intention is stated in the introductory pages ("Through it all, I have seen what this country is and is not: The claim to greatness and the failure to achieve it. The promise of opportunity and the bigotry that litters the path to it. The hate and greed that pervade society's institutions and the determination to maintain the status quo, ensure an upward climb to achieve and succeed. It is always good to know from whence one came. Some start ahead of the line, some at the line, yet others from behind the line. It is only after arrival can one measure the distance traveled and prog-ress attained. Progress by any measure, we trust."), and Green keeps to this blueprint of action in the course of linking his life experiences and events to bigger-picture thinking.

Vintage black and white photos throughout lend visual embellishment as readers follow Green's journey through Bishop, a community changed by civil rights efforts, and comments on forces of corporate and religious oppression that continue to operate in modern times: "The unsung heroes - Uncle Buddy, Mr. Colin, Mr. Lambright, Cousins Carl and Shirley, the village elders and their forefathers - waged intense activism and fought diligent-ly to ensure that those of us who came later, would face a some-what diminished form of white supremacy. To a huge degree they were successful. We learned very early on in our lives, that the fallacies and contradictions of white supremacy, Jim Crow and separatism are fostered by the state and corporate America, and endorsed by the American church. It is quite ironic that one of the earliest civil rights movements began in a house of worship and has become perhaps the most enduring of efforts to end the subjugation of people of color in this country."

These kinds of observations juxtapose nicely with Green's heritage, the major people who influenced his life (both through their personal interactions in it and by their social and political efforts), and the forces he encounters that influence his own successes and failures, which are candidly outlined in his story.

At no point does the narration lag or become self-serving. Even more importantly, Green draws important connections between key decisions in his life and points where they failed others: "Youthful decisions can be tantamount to disaster. My decision to serve my country over serving my son proved to be a fatal flaw in his development. Serving in Beirut, Lebanon; Subic Bay, Philippines; and Chu Lai, Vietnam proved be a disservice to Tyrone. His formative years were the times he needed me most. The prolonged delay in assuming my parental responsibilities simply made a very bad situation worse. He was a troubled child having been exposed to wrongdoing and misdeeds at a very young age. Wrongdoing unfortunately, became the norm for him."

These clear insights, paired with experiences, life lessons, and observations of both his own efforts and those of others in his community, elevate Carroll Green's story to more than just a singular experience. It reflects the kinds of perceptions, choices, consequences and behaviors that lead to important social changes, for better or for worse, and this all contributes to a superior autobiography that is riveting, revealing, and thought-provoking.

No civil rights, social issues, or memoir collection should be without Green's story, which affords much insight into raising a family and becoming an active member of a changing community.

Beware of Redemption
Patrick K. Jaynes PhD and Darlien C. Breeze
Publisher: TBA
Website/Ordering Link: TBA

Beware of Redemption is Book Two in the Beware series, and blends sci-fi with political thriller elements to create a fast-paced story.

Book One was not read by this reviewer, and the authors do urge readers to partake of the book in series; but an excellent prologue sums up the background explored in the first book and sets the stage nicely for events in Beware of Redemption, which swirl around aliens operating secretly on Earth, the first contact situation humanity faces, and the responses of political leaders around the world to these unusual alien visitors.

It should be noted that Beware of Redemption holds a series of subplots, investigations, intrigue, and plots among nations that lends a feel to the story somewhat between James Bond, Indiana Jones, and Sherlock Holmes. Action is nicely woven into the story and reveals conspiracies and plots, creating a winding account with astute insights into special interests, processes of adaptation, and the changes knowledge brings to all involved: "According to Peter, Ionlin comes off as logical and fairly non-violent. If he's correct, maybe the group living among us for all these years has adopted some of our aggression.?" "Stuart followed her thought line. "People certainly socialize in such a manner. Peaceful people, exposed to enough violence, certainly can become more aggressive."

From lives devoted to justice and prejudice against aliens to the disconnect between individual perceptions, purposes, and government special interests, Beware of Redemption offers a complex set of insights not for the faint-hearted or quick leisure reader, but for those who like their stories well-detailed, intriguing, multifaceted, and filled with food for thought.

Too many series titles don't link well to one another, or are really one book artificially divided. Beware of Redemption invites newcomers to begin at the beginning with the prior book's details, then provides a solid continuation.

Riveting and revealing, Beware of Redemption will engross and enlighten with intriguing considerations of the opportunities and dangers Earth faces.

Sci-fi fans who appreciate elements of romance, political action, and investigative intrigue woven into their storylines will appreciate the many paths Beware of Redemption takes in the course of presenting a thought-provoking story of a president's connections with alien special interests.

Pysanky Promise
Cathy Witbeck
Calico Barn Books
9781732262621, $12.50, Paper
9781732262607, $23.95, Hardcover
9781732262614, $7.50, eBook

Pysanky Promise refers to Ukrainian Easter eggs called pysanky. Here, both the eggs and the culture come to life in a delightfully embellished picture book story of Alena, who usually loves Spring rituals surrounding making pysanky, but discovers that this year, her grandmother is unusually sad.

Good reading skills are required for this fine story of a grandmother who finds her lifelong tradition of making pysanky for the holidays is challenged by the medicine that makes her too shaky to create these delicate eggs. Even more important, she feels she's missed the opportunity to teach her young granddaughter how to carry on the tradition.

Alena decides to surprise her grandmother, but first she must learn the history of the pysanky tradition.

Exquisitely embellished, colorful panels follow the step-by-step process and history, couching it with Alena's impressions, experiences, and thoughts to keep young readers interested. The borders of each illustration have pysanky symbols which are explained at the conclusion of the story.

It's hard to imagine a more effective, colorful, or inviting survey of the subject for young readers. Pysanky Promise is simply delightful, unique, and highly recommended for any picture book collection strong in holiday traditions, multicultural readers, or evocative stories that conclude with facts, website resources, and real information.

Three Women and the River
William Harry Harding
Garden Oak Press
9781732375307, $24.95

After Nov 11th, 2018:

Three Women and the River or The Englishman Who Forgot His Own Name tells the vivid story of World War I in Europe and an aspiring writer who finds himself caught up not in the throes of literary achievement, but in the struggles and aftermath of war.

Reg Olcutt experiences a series of trials in Italy during his service, from surviving battle to being rescued by Gabriella, whose family tends to him until he is captured by the Germans and eventually returns to his homeland, England.

After taking a winding journey far from his literary passions, can Reg forget the woman who cared for him as he resumes some semblance of normal life at home after experiencing the horrors of war?

The theme of an ordinary citizen and boy turned soldier, exposed to a series of challenges to mental and physical survival, and returned to home and hearth where everything seems different is not an unusual one; but what is notable in Three Women and the River is how adept William Harry Harding is at weaving historical fact into fiction. He deftly recreates the social and political atmosphere of Reg's times as he encounters the literary and political contemporaries that challenge his thinking.

The love story subplot provides a gentle undercurrent of hope embellishing a situation which is often dire, as Reg faces a trial and accusation of desertion, with death the punishment for his actions in the field.

Three women enter and leave his life at different times, each holding keys to Reg's safety and happiness. As his journey from a small English farm to the wilds of Italy includes both redemption and romance, readers are treated to an epic swing through World War I that personalizes the milieu and experiences of the times.

Harding's ability to juxtapose bigger life experiences with Reg's return to environments that hold faded connections and new associations based on his trials makes for especially evocative passages that illustrate the changes war that brings to the world: "In the place Gabby's garden once stood, Reg found the pockmarked wheel hub that had served as a bird bath for her blue jay. Small green stalks grew out of it. He broke one off, breathed in the scent of licorice. Following the gentle slope above the flood plain, he walked toward the smoke, his mind flooded by memories he didn't know he had of approaches made on burning buildings in Flanders, where Germans hid or lay in wait."

From PTSD to ongoing survival challenges, Reg's experiences translate to a powerful and sweeping saga that captures the world's long journey towards peace and acceptance.

Any historical novel reader interested in World War I's lasting impact on Europe will find Reg's story a satisfying microcosm reflecting a greater story of the times.

Naveen Jain with John Schroeter
Moonshots Press
c/o John August Media, LLC
9780999736401, $28.00
9780999736418 (eBook) $TBA

Moonshots: Creating a World of Abundance comes from a billionaire entrepreneur who focuses on the types of disruptive innovations that can not only change human life, but improve it in various ways. It chronicles an approach to not just accepting this change, but cultivating its presence in everyday life.

The term "moonshot" in Naveen Jain's lingo is designed to be a one-word summation of the "super-entrepreneur" approach to innovation, which can be applied beyond business pursuits to technological advancements and everyday life.

Jain holds a specific idea of abundance that holds strong roots in lofty ideals ("This convergence - unprecedented in human history - will upend every notion we have about our civilization: how we live, where we live, how we work, how we get around, how we interact, even what we are. And all of these outcomes will be realized by the ushering in of a previously unknown kind of economy - an economy of abundance. An economy whose very basis lies in sharp contrast to everything that's being peddled to and simply taken for granted by a naïve public."), pairing these visions with practical insights on how these approaches can be incorporated into everyday choices.

From Flatland discussions to Dostoevsky, philosophy, and the roots of entrepreneurial thinking, Jain encourages the idea that bigger-picture thinking needn't come from a foundation of expertise alone: "I am not a rocket scientist, but that didn't keep me from founding Moon Express. Or Viome, with no credentials or training whatsoever in physiology, genetics, or healthcare. My status as a nonexpert has actually been my greatest asset as an entrepreneur. This is why I have never started two companies in the same industry, ever...Every company I have started was not only in a different industry from the last, but an industry that was completely new to me. My belief is that once you become competent in a particular domain, you can only improve it incrementally - you can never disrupt it. Disruption happens when someone who has no idea about your industry begins to challenge the very foundations of everything that the experts have taken for granted."

Thinking investors and entrepreneurs who want to move outside the box will find much encouragement in Jain's 'moonshot' approach, which supports the reason why the process is so accessible to non-technical readers: "Moonshots are possible only because audacious entrepreneurs are able to look at a problem from a perspective that the experts have never considered. Thinking in the abstract is something the industry expert can no longer do."

Much is involved in cultivating this approach. It should be cautioned that Moonshots is not a get-rich-quick scheme or blueprint for quick action, but a read to be digested slowly, savored over a period of time, and approached with the respect for complexity that it deserves.

Would-be entrepreneurs, investors, and individuals vested in bigger-scale perceptions of life's possibilities will find Moonshots a detailed survey not just of Jain's processes and success, but the types of thinking on disruptive innovation that lead to success on many different levels.

Moonshots should be in any collection strong in business, ideology, self-help, philosophy or technology. It's a highly recommended, decidedly hopeful probe of mankind's next possible stage of self-driven innovation and evolution.

Kick-Ass Kinda Girl
Kathi Koll
Ward Publishing
9781732364905, $16.00

Kick-Ass Kinda Girl is an inspirational memoir documenting author Kathi Koll's challenges and achievements, presenting a blueprint on not just surviving life's slings and arrows, but finding joy despite adversity. As Koll describes from her colorful life adventures: "...there really is a rainbow of happiness around each challenge." Uncovering that rainbow under clouds of contention is the task outlined in a vivid story that embraces all kinds of adventures as it follows Koll's experiences.

Anyone who has faced illness and caregiving will especially appreciate Koll's journey as she faces her husband Don's debilitating stroke and assesses the only thing she can control about these events: her response to them.

From her mother's cancer to her father's alcoholism, world travels, and a robber/kidnapper in France, a sense of eternal optimism about life transfers its lessons to Kathi, giving her the strength and courage to approach life from a different perspective.

Kathi entertained friends before, during, and after Don's demise. She kept their lives full and also kept alive the memories of a man "always on the go" and the promise of recreating a life without him.

Readers of books about caregiving, survival, and being a widow will find a remarkable energy within Kick-Ass Kinda Girl that belays the usual focus on mourning and picking up pieces to instead follow a passion for seeing the good about life even during the throes of grief.

The result isn't just a memoir by and about a "kick-ass" girl: it's a lesson plan others can use to find their own rainbows behind the clouds, and represents a standout in the literature surrounding grief, recovery, and illness.

A World Worth Seeing
Brian Nelson
Outskirts Press Inc.
9781478789949, $14.95

A World Worth Seeing recounts the experiences of Brian Nelson, who has visited over 190 countries on seven continents over the years. Here he documents these journeys using a step-by-step series of descriptions to tell how he traveled the world. From time to time, reflections are added on the lessons learned about how to travel and absorb cross-cultural differences.

A World Worth Seeing separates chapters by regions visited and often includes thought-provoking insights not to be seen in the usual travelogue: "Honestly, the world I have gotten to know is much better than the media gives it credit for. They preach a world of war, hate, and crime. If the world was nice, people would long to see it, but if it's evil, it must be better where you're at."

Another difference between A World Worth Seeing and other travel stories is the wealth of sharp, nicely-composed travel photos that pepper Nelson's story. These lend a visual component to his narration, bringing landscapes to life and nicely embellishing observations as vivid as a different view of the classic statues of Easter Island.

Nelson adopts a "you are here" feel to his descriptions, so readers also receive specifics on how he navigates customs and foreign cultures, the challenge of arranging airfare and tours, and how he travels these strange worlds. His story is not just about inviting readers to see the world through his eyes, but covers the nuts and bolts of exactly how he made travel arrangements.

One might wish for more insights on how traveling through and observing these places resulted in insights about other cultures and life; but this isn't the ultimate purpose of A World Worth Seeing. It's a "come along with me" travel resource for wanna-be world travelers that follows Nelson through foreign lands and outlines his journeys between them.

Readers with a sense of wanderlust who intend to travel the world will find World Worth Seeing an excellent, inspirational guide to crafting their own world journeys.

Sunlight 24
Merritt Graves
Privately Published
9781949272048 $TBA

Ethan and Dorian live in a future where access to the nano-implant and genetic protocol Revision has drawn lines not only between the rich who can afford it and the poor who cannot, but the opportunities in life which stem from it. These opportunities extend beyond college and work and into relationships.

Denied these opportunities, these poor characters do the one thing they can achieve without it: robbing houses, a surprisingly satisfying endeavor that allows them to save up for the coveted self-enhancement program and achieve many of their dreams.

But what began as a dream turns into a nightmare as they realize that their goal is in hand, but is sparking a series of changes that revises not only opportunities, but their very personalities.

Dorian wants to step away and reassess, but he's caught in a deadly trap that seems to lead far from his original persona and dreams, and he seems to have no easy way out of the ambition that has become an irresolvable dilemma.

Dorian has always been a deeper thinker than his peers, often flummoxing them with observations supported by facts: "Here's the thing: If the world was working, I would gladly just shut up. But it's not. One percent of people own everything, and three quarters of the rest are too distracted by the link and VR to realize or care that they're being fucked." His social observations aren't always welcomed ("...they want to be told they can keep doing exactly what they're already doing - playing more games and taking more drugs. Everyone knows that something doesn't feel right, but they're too entertained to figure out why." "Saying that won't motivate them, and if it does, it'll be the destructive kind," said Chris. "When you start giving up on the world, the world starts giving up on you."), but they are astute, and when he decides to take control of his own future and defy the boundaries and promise of Revision, real changes begin to ripple into everything around him.

In many ways, Sunlight 24 mirrors the present-day world, between separate opportunities in rich and poor worlds, the promise of an ever-elusive revised state of mind for some, and the collective costs of mental preoccupation and obsession. Readers concerned about present-day social structures will find the familiar backdrop in Sunlight 24, and its extrapolation into the future, to be frightening.

It's this basis in modern events that makes the story line so vivid, believable, and thought-provoking, with its anti-hero characters fighting for something that often eludes modern-day democratic societies.

The intricate, winding nature of Dorian's choice is cemented by strong characterization and interactions through different strata of society, making Sunlight 24 the kind of read that lingers in the mind far after its conclusion, which revolves around trust, action, and world-changing games made not from the top levels of society, but from an activist who hovers somewhere in between.

Sci-fi readers interested in high tech, social and political issues, and individual struggle will relish the setting and unusual paths Sunlight 24 takes in its vivid journey through a society hell-bent on recreating itself based on its own visions of what it should be, against all odds and costs.

Chroma Crossing Chronicles: Blood Moon
S. Yurvati
9780692622100, $12.99 pbk / $2.99 Kindle

Chroma Crossing Chronicles: Blood Moon is the perfect example of fantasy writing at its best. It's also a love story juxtaposing overseer gods and their whimsies with the life of Candy, a city girl who inherits a house in Savannah that comes complete with promises for her artistic endeavors and barriers from the stepmother and disturbed son who reside in that house.

As S. Yurvati expands the story, readers come to realize this is not about love, games and control by The Gods, or even blossoming sexual adventure (although all these elements are included as part of the plot). It's about a young woman whose inheritance changes the course of her life and allows her to tap unrealized artistic dreams and create a new life in a historic city she doesn't really understand.

In many ways, Blood Moon defies genre categorization. Is it a romance? It doesn't feature the usual approach to love and the kind of laser focus a romance story alone provides. A fantasy? There are artistic and historical backdrops set in the real world that defy the often-singular focus on fantastic elements in a standard fantasy read. A tale of intrigue and survival? Certainly all these elements are part of the whole; but to pick out any one and say that this is the overriding power of the story would be to do a disservice to a multifaceted read which keeps reads involved, intrigued, and happily challenged by a myriad of subplots and characters.

Blood Moon is anything but formula writing, and the very things that makes its nature elusive is the strength that sets it apart from most fantasy, romance, or other genre productions.

As the plot flipflops and expands, readers will note that the points of view change, as well. All are nicely delineated by chapter headings which keep readers from becoming lost as perspectives juxtapose with changing events.

It should be noted that language and sexual descriptions are often graphic; but always in keeping with the plot's evolution. Readers who avoid such explicit descriptions should likely look elsewhere; but they'll be missing a special story whose strength lies as much in its artistic vision as in its explorations of changing relationships and their impact on the world.

The result is billed as a fantasy/romance but in actuality supersedes either description and actually defies formula categorization. Suffice it to say that readers of fantasy, romance, intrigue, and women's fiction who enjoy artistic explorations, descriptions of sometimes-disturbing personalities, and the backdrop of a colorless world splashed with one woman's colorful passion will find much to like in the complex Blood Moon. It excels in many surprising twists and turns as Candy and Thorne face their flaws, weaknesses, dreams, and a danger that ventures into paranormal realms. A final caution: Blood Moon concludes with a light cliff-hanger, inviting readers to look for more books down the line.

The Foundry: Dianis, A World in Turmoil
Frank Dravis
Six Factors Publishing, LLC
9781976911583, $2.99, Kindle, $12.89, Paper

Ordering links:

The Foundry launches a new series that centers on cultural anthropologist Chief Inspector Achelous Forushen and his struggle with the galaxy-wide mining conglomerate Nordarken Mining, which would plumb the riches of the primitive world Dianis. Originally charged with protecting this world, Forushen is reassigned far away under suspicious circumstances and thus finds his loyalties and mission sorely tested.

An extensive cast of characters list at the story's beginning is ample warning that The Foundry's world and people are complicated and many. Readers anticipating either a political or military sci-fi tale with clear boundaries and simple events will soon discover this crafts a complex scenario that builds not just a world, but a universe.

In much the manner of Lois McMaster Bujold, Frank Dravis creates an adventure that is multifaceted, sweeping, and complicated. Readers of Bujold are just one audience likely to appreciate the unusually well-detailed approach that allows for a sociologist and an anthropologist's perspective of peoples, planets, and events as well as evolving political issues of citizen rights, Federation processes, and plots to exploit other worlds.

The politics and purposes of these different characters and groups fold nicely into an overall saga that embraces not just greed but efforts to subjugate and control people, belief systems, and high-tech investigative processes.

The dilemmas of various characters are closely examined ("The whole escapade demonstrates two things. First, any determined corsair with resources can breach and elude the surveillance system. With the right equipment, intel, and planning they could do it virtually undetected. All they need to do is search long and hard enough, and they will find the holes. If we leave Dianis, dismantle the thin solar surveillance network, the planet will be wide open to exploitation."), while a desperate investigation and search to uncover the truth blends nicely into issues of genocide and greed.

The result is especially astute in revealing that the people caught between various factions have their own lives and perspectives that differ from those battling both on their behalf and against each other. Strong characterization and subplots and probes of motives and approaches to managing worlds create the feel of an investigative piece combined with an epic world-changing perspective. The focus on a man who leads a double life makes for a thrillingly complicated story worth all the hours that will undoubtedly be put into understanding its many subplots and perspectives.

Sci-fi readers who like their worlds complex will relish the many thought-provoking surprises that makes The Foundry a standout in the genre of epic, galaxy-building stories.

The Secret Observations of Liliana Joo
SC McQueen
SC McQueen, Publisher
B07FMD8532, $2.99 Kindle

To Liliana Joo, the world is filled with "delicious, delightful secrets - or, as she liked to call them, "fresh, edible meat." This translates to a set of surprisingly mature observations from a fifteen-year-old savvy not only about the source of secrets, but how they can be used.

Liliana is an Asian high school student who is cheerful, dramatic, and used to relative easy achievements; so when her junior year introduces unexpected challenges, she must adjust both her personality and her techniques to remedy problems, even if it means employing other talents to get where she needs to go.

There's more taking place in her life than challenging academics, however. Her mother's remarriage and the price of her teetering world cost her much as her obsession with secrets turns into a newfound appreciation for lovers' trusts and the challenge of discovery.

The death of her father in a car crash when she was thirteen was the first time the mask of her life began to crack. As Lily feels that her persona and its foundations are moving into shaky secret-driven areas, she understands that much ties her to past that she fears to examine too closely.

From scandals and scoops to gay porn and disturbing teachers, Liliana is both dramatic about the process and determined to make her world better. She views life as a theater of people spontaneously interacting and acting roles. As she writes her observations about this life, readers are treated to a romp through drama, interpersonal connections, and a teen's secret desire to get her two male teachers together in a steamy tryst.

In some ways, The Secret Observations of Liliana Joo is a bit like the Harriet the Spy story, but for older readers; holding more depth and maturity in its observation process. This pairs with a sexual component to reinforce the notion that The Secret Observations of Liliana Joo is not so much for teen readers, despite its protagonist's age, as for new adults who look for engrossing, surprising coming-of-age accounts.

Issues of lies and dishonesty, observation versus manipulation, Asian culture and a teen's flair for drama, and peer assessments of Liliana's world ("Liliana...has these moments of sincerity that surprise me. She seems like she's built this little facade so thickly that she can't be honest anymore, but in those rare moments, she seems herself. Like her honest self. She's not some character she plays on a stage and she's not some person she made up...") combine to create a complex tale in which an astute observer of life loses herself in her own creations.

The Secret Observations of Liliana Joo is an engrossing, revealing probe of Asian teen culture, the boundaries of propriety, and a young girl's search for answers. It crafts a multifaceted story of breakdowns, peer and teacher relationships, and challenges that change Liliana's life and lead her to grow and fail accordingly.

Will Liliana's meddling improve life? The Secret Observations of Liliana Joo's embrace of Asian culture and a fangirl's foundations weaves diary entries with observations to keep the saga vivid and unexpected right up to the end.

Dickensen Academy
Christine Grabowski
The Wild Rose Press Inc.
9781509221233, $16.00
9781509221240, $5.99, Digital

Dickensen Academy is a young adult paranormal story that holds the power to reach out and grab not only protagonist Autumn Mattison, but her readers, as it opens with her first impression of one of the big dreams of her life, and a looming puzzle. Autumn's first day at the exclusive Dicksensen Academy introduces a bizarre secret that none of the new students sees just yet.

Besides her impression of the physical academy's setting, Autumn experiences a secondary certainty: somehow, she's been on this campus before. But, that's impossible. Or, is it?

As she tries out for cross-country and seeks to expand her horizons, 15-year-old Autumn seems on the brink of achieving much, but she keeps feeling something is wrong; especially when one of her courses turns from a predictable study to incorporating Dream Management into its curriculum, leading students on a discussion that introduces Autumn to some uncomfortable realizations: "My theory: the school used these unforgettable dreams to convince us to accept."
As the 'why' behind the 'how' becomes more and more apparent, Autumn and her classmates face some of the biggest decisions of their lives. From her struggles with her parents over her grades and objectives at Dickensen to persistent nightmares and dreams that spill into daily reality, the events, people, and secrets at Dickensen are about to take over.

Amidst all this, Autumn is finding herself and discovering the true strengths of attending Dickensen: "The school's culture seemed made for people like me. I was becoming who I was supposed to be because I didn't have to hide my true self."

Young adults who enjoy boarding school stories, paranormal encounters, and stories of growth of a teen who receives lessons on romance, mistakes, and special abilities will find much to like about Dickensen Academy, an institution which specializes in making dreams come true in more than one way.

Autumn's first-person character is nicely done and inviting, and the world of Dickensen with all of its conundrums and confusion comes to life through her eyes, making for a story that is hard to put down.

The Light in His Soul
Rebecca Schaper with Gerald Everett Jones
GreyHawk Media
9780999277140, $28.00

There are plenty of biographies and autobiographies about schizophrenia in the family on mental health bookshelves, but The Light in His Soul: Lessons from My Brother's Schizophrenia stands out from most with its story of a brother who goes missing for twenty years, only to return homeless, broke, and suffering from schizophrenia.

This sent sister Rebecca Schaper on a 14-year odyssey to care for her adult brother, and as they faced the trials of paranoid schizophrenia together, lessons were learned in both mental health and sibling relationships. Thankfully, these lessons make up this combination of memoir and mental health primer by a woman who learned much from her brother's experiences and her own interactions with him.

If this story sounds familiar to those who have long studied mental health family experiences, that's because it recaps the story of a 2012 award-winning documentary film, "A Sister's Call," and adds further details on the film's perspectives as Schaper reviews the process of not just dealing with her brother's condition, but returning him into the family.

Think 'schizophrenia' and the common attitude is that it's a disease to be managed, controlled, subjugated, and drugged into submission. Schaper's attitude and perspective is refreshingly different. Her writing doesn't distance and analyze issues, but introduces readers to the feeling and perspective of one afflicted with schizophrenia as we see Call interact with daily life: "Understand - and this might be difficult for you to take in at this point - you know you can't trust your judgment. You seldom know whether your perceptions are real or hallucinatory. And yet you are intelligent enough to know that there's a difference. From moment to moment, you don't trust yourself. You don't trust your judgment about whether you're sane or ill."

Belief, endurance, and finding an underlying joy and purpose in even the most cruel of adversities lies at the heart of The Light in His Soul. Where other memoirs and similar-sounding accounts focus on darkness and survival against all odds, Schaper's story takes the extra step to uncover riches, understanding, learning experiences and life-affirming joy against all odds; and this is what makes The Light in His Soul a unique story worth pursuing.

Black and white family photos pepper the account, but include headings that are not your usual identification of scenes or people alone; such as a childhood photo of Call that mentions that mother and son both suffered from schizophrenia.

This book is as much about the author's self-inspection as it is about helping her brother, and this too is a fine piece of the family puzzle that lends to warmth, insight, and revelation: "Today, I feel it was the shared pain of abuse that drew Call and me together in support and healing of each other. It was a powerful, underlying, subconscious bond. He and I never discussed this, but I felt it was recognized and acknowledged between us. I heard him. I felt him. I would find the best way to help him, as I wanted to be helped."

Fueled by reflection, family photos, inspection of the roots of and reactions to mental conditions and family interactions, and tips on incorporating mental health and illness into daily living, The Light in His Soul perhaps inadvertently serves as a blueprint for not just survival, but positive acceptance and healthier living with mental illness.

It's a title designed to not just capture a singular life or experience, but to expand awareness of the experience of interacting with a family member with schizophrenia who inherits a legacy of abuse and mental illness, but who is still loved, respected, and treasured as part of that family.

Families in similar circumstances will want to take away a big piece of Schaper's positivity to apply to their own unique situations.

Shadow of Murder
Trisha Sugarek
Writer at Play
9781722482282, $7.99

Book 8 in the 'World of Murder' series more than does justice to its companions as it creates both a stand-alone read that requires no prior familiarity with the series, yet dovetails nicely with the emotion-packed approaches and mystery themes of its predecessors.

Homicide detective Stella Garcia and her partner Sergeant Detective Jack O'Roarke are again challenged by murder, with Jack's new marriage serving as a quiet opening success to events which quickly turn into hair-raising circumstances based on a true crime.

A deadly and gruesome mass shooting of Indian women and children in a family-run store, the killer's desire to destroy a lovely young woman who neither wanted nor knew him, and a just-returned newlywed's immersion into a world of murder. Unrequited love steeps the story line with a passion and drive that makes it feel true to life and hard to put down.

Forensic profiling has done a good job of identifying the pattern of the deaths; but now it's up to Garcia and O'Roarke to put together the pieces in a case that leads them to not only identify the perp, but understand what happened and why.

The latter charge is what readers are also tasked with in a story line that moves back and forth across time and events to build its case for how events arrived at such a shocking crescendo of violence.

What keeps Shadow of Murder thought-provoking and absorbing is not the 'whodunnit' piece; but the 'why', which goes into revealing detail about the psychology of a killer's motivations and psyche.

Readers looking for a gripping short murder story which is more psychologically charged than most will appreciate this murder mystery, which pairs a gripping saga with insights that compel reflection long after the case is solved.

The Little Labradoodle: Puppy Pickup Day
April M. Cox
Little Labradoodle Publishing, LLC
9781732456624, $TBA

Eight engaging labradoodle puppies wake up to greet the day in April M. Cox's engaging picture book story of a special day when all the puppies expect to get a new home.

They are fed, groomed, and play, but one little pup, smaller than his siblings, is rejected. As the rollicking rhyme follows the fun and games, young readers can't help but be concerned about one little outcast who falls off the puppy slide, is too small to play tag, and gets lost too easily.

As the countdown begins, teaching numbers to young animal lovers, the last little puppy begins to wonder if getting a new home is something else he's going to miss out on. He's become lost (on Puppy Pickup Day, no less), but his friendly nature leads to help from unexpected places, and after his siblings are picked by new families, he discovers something important about courage and finding his place in the world even though he's a runt who can't do what his siblings enjoy.

A variety of messages are wound into this fun-loving story of a little puppy's adventure: counting, colorful fun, lessons on friendship and helping, and embracing new experiences. Illustrator Len Smith's oversized, colorful panels are a huge draw to an equally-strong, uplifting story line that will delight young picture book readers and their read-aloud parents. He's a former Disney & Hanna-Barbara illustrator, and so his background is perfect for translating the story into large-sized, exceptionally colorful characters designed to provide eye-catching excitement and action to enhance the story's visual appeal. Each panel is packed with not just vivid colors and playful action, but emotion as the little puppy moves through his choices and considers his options. Not only the puppy's emotions are involved: readers will find their heartstrings similarly pulled as the story visually 'pops' with excitement.

Antebellum Struggles
Dickie Erman
Independently Published
B07DFQLL8Q, $2.99, Ebook
1981051457, $9.99, Paperback

Antebellum Struggles: A Story of Love, Lust, Pain & Freedom in the Deep South opens in the summer of 1852, and tells of Amana, a Caribbean-born girl newly elevated to the status of 'house slave' in antebellum New Orleans.

Collette, in contrast, is a Southern belle who has little to do with the slaves that keep her world functioning. Immersed in her own life and achievements, Collette is a devoted wife and homemaker who lost her first child and spent two years grieving.

Amana's arrival in the house sparks jealousy and resentment in Collette, who struggles with her own close-held secret and a life that at times feels out of control despite its rich outer appearance.
In many ways, Antebellum Struggles is not just a study in the contrast of lives, but in the differences between hearts, minds, perceptions, and choices. Amana and Collette represent obvious disparities in this environment; but escaped field slave Tabari, the back-and-forth maneuvers between Collette and her husband the Colonel, and the always-scheming Doctor's self-serving approaches to life add more characters and insights into the methods and motivations of people living in the South in the late 1800s.

Realistic characters, dialogue, and setting lend an aura of authenticity to the evolving story, which also delves nicely into the rationale behind and the structure fueling America's slave system: "Strong men were more valuable than weaker women. Child bearing women more valuable than most men. Gender, age, strength. They were all considered in calculating their value to the plantation. Submission to their master's dominance was crucial. Rebellion, in any form, would threaten the entire business enterprise, and thus given zero tolerance. Any hint of revolt, escape, or disrespect needed to be immediately eradicated, like a plague."

From those who would harbor runaway slaves to Amana's lingering nightmares about the voyage that brought her to New Orleans, Antebellum Struggles isn't about a singular character's struggles; but about the entire era's sentiments, structure, and moral and ethical tribulations.

Readers seeking a historical piece well steeped in its times and multifaceted in its approach to various social stratas and their perceptions will relish Antebellum Struggles for its involving and clear survey of what it means to be a slave or free in the South of the 1800s.

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

Dunford's Bookshelf

Social Security Offset Penalties
Jeanette A. Wicks
Cactus Valley LLC
9780998698649, $34.50, PB, 300pp,

Synopsis: "Social Security Offset Penalties" was written by Jeanette A. Wicks (who is an SEC Registered Investment Advisor) specifically for those who will pay offset penalties such as School Teachers (the largest group); State College Professors; Librarians; Police & Fire Departments; City & State Employees working in the Water Department, Sewer ,Street and Road crews; Bus Drivers; Janitors; School Lunch Workers; Secretaries; City and State park personnel including Rangers and Office workers; as well as all temporary and part-time workers in any civil service job.

That's because anyone who has ever worked in a civil service position in the 28 states with offset penalties with a private pension plan, will lose from 50% to 100% of their social security benefits if they took a lump sum one-time payout or will receive a monthly pension when retired.

The purpose of "Social Security Offset Penalties" is to give members of these groups the information they will need about the three different Social Security offset penalties. Readers will learn how each one will affect them; why they are unfair, and how to file an appeal for free.

"Social Security Offset Penalties" also covers: The POMS WEP, GPO and DE regulations; How to file a waiver against overpayment penalties; How offset penalties are calculated; The 28 states with pensions subject to offsets; Workers who will have offset penalties or be exempt; How the "modified" life table doubles penalties. How it is possible to lose all social security benefits; Why a married spouse may pay two offset penalties; and how to contact members of the Senate, House of Representatives, a State Pension Agency, The White House, and even the President for help.

Critique: Impressively informative, notably comprehensive, expertly organized and accessibly presented, "Social Security Offset Penalties" is one of those specialized instructional reference manuals that should be in every community library collection in every village, town and city in the country. Simply and emphatically stated, "Social Security Offset Penalties" should be considered mandatory reading for every governmental employee (including teachers) who is approaching retirement and depending on a Social Security check for their post-retirement income.

Mike the Bike - Again
Ted Macauley
Veloce Publishing Ltd.
9781787113138, $25.00, PB, 112pp,

Synopsis: In June 1978, eleven years after he quit Grand Prix motorcycle racing, Mike Hailwood returned to the Isle of Man TT races, probably the most prestigious and certainly the most demanding road race in the world. On a privately entered V-twin Ducati he won the Formula One race, beating the works Hondas of Phil Read and the late John Williams, and breaking the lap and race records.

It may have seemed a fluke; it certainly was a fairy-tale - until 1979. Fifth in the Formula One race, despite losing top gear and his battery, first in the Senior, and second by only 3.4 seconds in the Classic - probably the finest and closest-fought race the Island has ever seen. Hailwood proved, if anyone doubted, that he was still the greatest motorcycle racer of all time.

"Mike the Bike - Again" is deftly written by his manager and friend, Ted Macauley, and is the account of his dramatic comeback, from the original wild idea to his final race. More than this, though, it is a study of a remarkable man in a remarkable world, and of the races, the machines, and the men.

Critique: Impressively informative and nicely illustrated with both B/W and Color photos, "Mike the Bike - Again" is a 'must read' for tall dedicated motorcycle racing fans and will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to both community and academic library collections.

Michael Dunford

Gary's Bookshelf

The Truth Lies… a Florida saga
Cindy Foley
c/o 4900 LaCross Road, North Charleston SC 29406
9781502439499, $13.25,

The year is 1861 in Manatee, Florida where Cecil Fairburn's prized horse Crombie is shot and killed by Jess Turner. This one event begins a feud that will affect generations of descendants far into the next century. So, begins "The Truth Lies…a Florida saga" a novel that is also a depiction of the history of the "Sunshine State." The author shows how Florida changed from one of the foremost centers of cattle production to a major tourist attraction mecca. Filled with fascinating characters against the backdrop of a western motif the story races along through the years to conclude in 1985 in Central Florida. Foley is a master story teller and let's hope she has more things in store in the future. "The Truth Lies a Florida saga" is for anyone who wants to read a gritty character driven as well as historically accurate tale that will keep the pages turning until the very last.

Selected Stories: Fantasy
Kevin J. Anderson
WordFire Press
c/o WordFire Inc
PO Box 1840, Monument CO 80132
c/o Baen Books (dist.)
9781614756958, $19.99 pbk / $5.99 Kindle,

Kevin J. Anderson shows why he is one of the most popular authors in the field of science fiction and fantasy with "Selected Stories: Fantasy" The previous volume was his "Selected Stories: Science Fiction." Like that one this second installment pulls together many of his writings together in one collection for the first time. The pieces are fast reading with interesting situations that will take readers into all type of worlds with satisfying conclusions. Some like "Time Zone" are short but pack so much in so few pages. Another nice thing with both is how he lets readers know many behind the scenes revelations about each story. "Selected Stories: Fantasy" is a great way for readers to get familiar with this author.

Avatar Dreams
Edited by Kevin J. Anderson and Mike Resnick
Foreword by Ray Kurzweil
Scientific Editor Dr. Harry Kloor
WordFire Press
c/o WordFire Inc
PO Box 1840, Monument CO 80132
c/o Baen Books (dist.)
9781614755982, $16.99 pbk / $6.99 Kindle,

Robotic fiction has always been a part of science fiction, "Avatar Dreams" takes the idea to new levels in stories by many of the best writers in the field today. Many are different from what readers are used to because they are the merging of humans with robots depicting a very possible future of mankind. Some of the authors are Jody Lyn Nye, Mike Resnick, Kevin J. Anderson, Josh Vogt, and Key Kenyon are some of talented story tellers who abound "Avatar Dreams" that is a wonderful collection of where we are possibly headed.

The Time Keeper
Mitch Albom
Hachette Book Group
9781401322786, $24.99,

Albom who is the author of the well know title "Tuesdays With Morrie" takes readers into a new realm with "The Time Keeper." A man is banished to a cave after creating the first clock by God. A wealthy businessman finds out he has a short time to live and a young girl wants to end her life. These are several of the story lines that fill "The Time Keeper" At first read I wondered why should I pursue this book, but after careful consideration I was hooked by the different writing style that to me, was reminiscent of a Richard Brautigan or Kurt Vonnegut. "The Time Keeper" is an engaging wonderful story that will tweak readers interest to the very end.

Written by Bob Smeets
Art by Mike Smeets
Edited by Andrea Molinari
Caliber Comics
c/o Caliber Entertainment LLC
9781635299632, $18.99,

Father and son collaborate talents to tell the chilling tale in the graphic novel "Weirdsdale." Marla Galloway is on a quest to locate her sister Alice who goes missing after having a procedure of cosmetic surgery. Marla who is a law enforcement officer tracks the clues to her sisters last location of a country club and health spa named Weirdsdale. Her senses tell her something is not right from the first moments she encounters workers of the place. Later she has to protect herself from the bizarre characters she encounters as she delves into what happened to her sibling. "Weirdsdale" is an edgy page turning thriller in the realm of "X Files" and "Twin Peaks" that is a satisfying endeavor into the realm of comics.

Chuck Jones A Flurry OF Drawings
Hugh Kenner
University of California Press
97805220087972, $34.00,

Somewhere in the world the work of Chuck Jones and the other contributors to the Warner Brothers cartoons play on services everyday but what do many of us know about the creators? Hugh Kenner delves into one of the forces behind the creations in "Chuck Jones A Flurry of Drawings." He exposes the competition between Disney Studios and Warner Brothers, who many of the people are behind the works, and stories of how many of the characters came into being. "Chuck Jones A Flurry of Drawings" is a fast paced well written story that is for anyone who loves the work of the Warner Brothers animation studios. A note of warning is in order here, "Chuck Jones A Flurry of Drawings" is hard to find but if readers use Google they can still purchase a copy. I was lucky enough to find mine at a thrift store for a fantastic price.

A Girl's Guide to Becoming Happily Unsingle
Kimi Ayers
Taylor and Seale Publishing
3408 S. Atlantic Ave Unit 139, Daytona Beach Shores, Fl 32118
9781943789245, $13.95

Kimi Ayers uses her own experiences of finding true love to help others find happiness in "A Girl's Guide to Becoming Happily Unsingle." She discusses different types of dating the people frequently use, places to meet another person, ways to stay safe while still trying to find the soul mate, what makes a good relationship are just a few of the things covered. Unlike many in the field of relationships Ayers provides many easy to use tips on finding the right person that is not written by someone who is a therapist. Even the title portion "Happily Unsingle' should attract people because of its clever witty use of language.

A Salute To Our Veterans: Vignettes of Those Who Made The Difference 1939 - 2000
Irene J. Dumas
Trafford Publishing
9781412071307, $15.50,

"A Salute To Our Veterans" deals with many different wars our veterans have been a part of from W.W. II to Desert Storm/Desert Shield. Dumas even includes someone from the British Royal Navy. Many of the stories are told by the veteran himself or herself about their time in the military and if relevant actual combat experience. Others are told by the author who reveals a lot about the people who make the world a safer place to live. The only complaint is that the publisher should have done a better job of editing to make to flow of the writing much easier to read. Even with that problem "A Salute To Our Veterans" is a wonderful tribute to the many men and women who get very little recognition for what many take for granted.

Eddie, That's Spaghetti! A Story About Being a Dog
Christa Blaney, author
Mark Wayne Adams, illustrator
SYP Kids
c/o SYP Publishing LLC
978159160705, $18.99,

Eddie Wallaby believes everything is fare game for snacking including shoes, books, kid's homework and anything else that is not nailed down. Of course, Eddie is a dog who is just doing what canines naturally do. The story is a fun filled tale showing us all what can happen if an animal is not trained in the proper education of food. With the artwork of Mark Wayne Adams, the book is enhanced as the story unfolds. "Eddie, That's Spaghetti!" is millions of dog lovers to enjoy the antics of Eddie.

Snow Pony and the Seven Miniature Ponies
Written by Christian Trimer
Illustrated by Jessie Sima
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781481462686, $17.99,

Snow Pony is a very caring soul who strays away from the farm on an adventure because of another pony who is jealous. Snow Pony meets some interesting characters including seven small ponies who help find a way back to his home. There are many subtle lessons in this wonderful story of two ponies who have different agendas. "Snow Pony and the Seven Miniature Ponies" is an interesting story that is for any age to enjoy.

Gary Roen
Senior Reviewer

Gloria's Bookshelf

I Laughed When I Wrote It: 518 Of My Funniest Tweets
Alan Zoldan
9780744323795, $9.00, 123 pp., Trade Paperback

If ever there was a more important time to read this book by Alan Zoldan, I don't know, nor can I imagine, when it was/could be!

I can only speak for myself of course, but if I ever needed the laughs that this book provides, it is now! At a time when reading the morning newspapers, or watching the news on tv, was more depressing than it is now, I can't imagine when that time was! Mr. Zoldan has, in providing us with "518 of [his] Funniest Tweets," given us just the break fro today's reality that we [although again I can only speak for myself] need desperately! The author wrote the book after 7 years and 895 tweets, and his selection is excellent!

I guess the only way I can back this up, and illustrate the author's sense of humor, is to give you a few examples. The sections are headed Laughing at Myself, Cultural Quips, Random Observation, One Liners, and Rated "R" for Raunchy, which starts off with a line from Woody Allen: "Don't knock masturbation. It's sex with someone you love." Some of the other things included in this section: "My wife and I were happy for 22 years - and then we met;" "I really don't believe in meaningless sex. I mean, at the very least, it means that you've had sex;" "Just once I'd like to relapse at a Sex Addicts Anonymous meeting;" …Protected sex is way too expensive. Not everyone can afford a bodyguard you know;" . . . "I never got into Twitter for the fame, money, or sex - which, as things are turning out, is just as well." Among the one-liners: "After all is said and done, there is usually much more said than done . . . The results of my friend's IQ test were negative . . . My wife keeps complaining I never listen to her . . . or something like that . . . If I agreed with you, we'd both be wrong . . . Change is inevitable - - except from a vending machine .. . The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on my list . . . I think someone stopped the payment on my reality check . . . Is there another word for synonym?" I'll stop the quotes now, because I'm sure you've already decided to go out and buy the book - good thinking!

As per the notes that the publisher has included at the end of the book, headed "About the Author," the latter "believes that this is the book America needs at this time." Truer words were never written! Highly recommended.

I'm Keith Hernandez: A Memoir
Keith Hernandez
Little Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group
1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104
9780316395731, $28.00/36.50 CA$, Hardcover, 327 pp.

Full disclosure: A Die-hard Mets fan, I have had full-season tickets for 32 years, and attend an average of 75 games each season. I have also been an avid fan of Keith Hernandez, formerly the Mets first baseman and currently a member of the broadcast team that announces each Mets game, and the author of this wonderful memoir. So I cannot lay claim to impartiality. That said, this book is every bit as terrific as were/are the talents of its author. When a book begins with the words "I Love Baseball," what else can it be to its readers, most if not all of whom feel the same emotion?

To say that the book is replete with statistics and historical recreations of wonderful moments in the sport would be an understatement. But that is all to the good! To quote the author: "I want to talk about my development as a baseball player and how it got me to the major leagues; I want to talk about how I gained the confidence to thrive in the bigs despite a grueling haul; and, finally, I want to talk about how my development as a young player affects how I see the game today from my seat in the broadcast booth." And he does all of that, and more! As he also says: "I want to get to the core of my baseball story." And he does just that, and more.

The tale begins in 1972, when Keith Hernandez "was getting ready to go to my first spring training." I should state here that the biggest influences on this young man - 18 years old at this point in time, were, and always continued to be, his father (a former professional baseball player), and his brother Gary (the starting first baseman for the University of California Golden Bears baseball team), to both of whom he pays tribute throughout the book, deservedly. His Dad is a first-generation American, his parents having emigrated from Spain via the Pacific, arriving in San Francisco in 1916. His father "broke all kinds of school records, leading his team to a championship game at Seals Stadium, Mission Hgh School, was named MVP, and was christened by the city as the next big star to come out of the Bay Area.' Keith had been signed by the St. Louis Cardinals minor league team, whose spring training complex was in St. Petersburg, picked in the 42nd round of the June 1971 amateur draft, one of the 500 players taking part in the spring training games, with a mind-set of "baseball superstar or bust." At age 18 he played in the Florida State League in 1972 "Some execs, scouts, and coaches clamed that young Keith Hernandez was the beset defensive first basement - at any level - they'd come across in quite some time." He talks about Pacifica, in 1961, when he was 7 and Gary 9, both trying out for Little League. We then jump to the time after the 1972 season in St. Pete, when he was "itching to get back home to San Francisco." But unexpectedly he joined the Tulsa Oilers, the Cardinals' AAA team, at his father's insistence.

The author's prominence in his chosen field of endeavor is indisputable. He earned more Gold Glove Awards (11) than any first baseman in baseball history. Since 2000, he has served as an analyst on Mets telecasts for the SNY, WPIX and MSG networks, and is a member of the Fox Sports MLB postseason studio team. Personally he and Gary Cohen are the absolute best in the business, and if I ever have to miss a game, at least I make sure I always have his play-by-play in close proximity. His book is reflective of all of that brilliance, and it is highly recommended.

Gloria Feit
Senior Reviewer

Gorden's Bookshelf

The Accidental Demon Slayer
Angie Fox
Amazon Digital Services LLC
B00AWU8WO4, $0.99, ebook, 314 pages
9781939661128, $TBA paper

The Accidental Demon Slayer is a light funny paranormal action adventure. The absurdity of the characters and situations in the tale make it a fun read. It is easy for a story with this many extreme characters to go too far but Fox succeeds in balancing the absurdity with enough relatable characteristics in the personas she has created in her tale so they are relatable to the reader. This is an underappreciated skill of good comedic writing.

Lizzie Brown's perfectly planned day collapses when the Grandmother she has never known shows up and a demon appears on her toilet bowl. She escapes the life and death struggle in her bathroom to find out that her Grandmother is a witch and she is a demon slayer. She just has hours, possibly days, to get ready to fight a demon trying to escape from the second level of hell and she has no idea on how to kill a demon. Her Grandmother packs her on the back of a pink Harley to run a gauntlet of demons from her now demon possessed home to a hidden coven of witches for help in the upcoming battle.

The Accidental Demon Slayer is an adult paranormal action adventure that is an easy recommendation. It is pure fun. The very few places, where Fox pushes the extreme storytelling too far, are hidden behind the solid comedic narration. There is no reason why anyone interested in this genre not to purchase this book.

Spinward Fringe Broadcast 0: Origins
Randolph Lalonde
Amazon Digital Services LLC
B004EPYUXA, $2.99, ebook, 376 pages
9780986594250, $TBA paper

Spinward Fringe Origins is the first three books in a SF space opera series. It has the pace and feel of the classic pulp SF stories from half a century ago. The collection would be a great reading experience for any contemporary reader of SF except for Lalonde's tendency to end every chapter and book in a massive cliff hanger. The best writers from the classic pulp era knew how to write a satisfying ending while still goading the reader to buy the next book.

Jonas Valent and his friends have hacked into the Freeground station's military battle simulators. Their gaming has outdone the very best of Freegound's military. Freeground is in a war of attrition with most of the other human populated worlds and is losing. When Valent and his fellow gamers are discovered they are given a choice -- jail or the command of a privateer with the mission of finding technology and friends to help Freeground stay independent. Valent and his gaming friends take up the challenge and immediately run into a massive corporate battle fleet invading a trading partner of Freeground. Through luck and the unconventional skills of this group of gamer misfits their ship survives the first encounter. But their survival has made enemies and those enemies won't stop.

Spinward Fringe Origins is a fun book with a great mix of action and would be an easy recommendation except that each story doesn't end. If you can handle the disappointment of not finding out what happens after the next cliff hanger, you will enjoy the tales. But Lalonde's tendency to not complete the story and leave you hanging is enough of a problem that the recommendation is conditional.

S.A. Gorden, Senior Reviewer

Greenspan's Bookshelf

Brad Steiger & Sherry Hansen Steiger
Visible Ink Press
43311 Joy Road, #414, Canton, MI 48187-2075
9781578596201, $19.95, PB, 384pp,

Synopsis: Bringing forth the spirits, touching on near-death experiences and parallel universes, and presenting the full range of ghostly manifestations, "Haunted: Malevolent Ghosts, Night Terrors, and Threatening Phantoms" pulls back the curtains on the hidden and frightening world of supernatural spirits, malevolent phantoms, menacing beings, paranormal encounters, spectral apparitions, threatening poltergeists, and sinister hauntings.

In the pages of "Haunted", Brad Steiger (with the assistance of Sherry Hansen Steiger) shares true accounts of ghostly encounters in the ancient world; horrors and hauntings in the forests and fields; possessed houses and homes; night terrors, poltergeists, and malevolent spirits; speaking to spirits; near-death experiences and out-of-body visits; visitations from dead loved ones; and much, much more.

"Haunted" is features nearly 300 hair-raising tales found everywhere, including: The devil rider of Chisholm Hollow; The ghosts of Sandy's Restaurant, Ventura, CA; The exorcism of Joan Crawford's former house; A ghostly encounter at Beverly Hill's Greystone Mansion; How to identify a poltergeist; Shamanic spirit guides; The medium Daniel Dunglas's Home and his clients Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Mark Twain, Napoleon III, the Empress Eugenie, Tolstoy, and other notables; The Bell Witch legend; and The Jersey Devil that haunts the Pine Barrens

Building on his decades of research into the paranormal, mystical, and supernatural, "Haunted" brings the history, theories, and influences of these mysterious visitors to life. Tracing the perplexing and lasting effects of these ghostly beings, "Haunted" looks at the scars left and the fallout on the people who've lived through a host of alarming, horrifying and horrifyingly events.

Critique: An inherently fascinating read that is as impressively informative as it is expertly organized and presented. While "Haunted: Malevolent Ghosts, Night Terrors, and Threatening Phantoms" is highly recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that it is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $18.95).

Teamster Bureaucracy
Farrell Dobbs
Pathfinder Press
PO Box 162767, Atlanta, GA 30321-2767
9781604881011, $19.00, PB, 440pp,

Synopsis: "Teamster Bureaucracy" by American Trotskyist and a leader of the communist movement in America, a trade unionist, a politician, and an historian Farrell Dobs (July 25, 1907 - October 31, 1983) is the story of how the class-struggle Teamsters leadership in the Upper Midwest organized to fight union busting, racism, and colonial oppression, as they opposed the mobilization of labor behind U.S. imperialist war aims in World War II.

"Teamster Bureaucracy" also covers how Washington, backed by top AFL, CIO, and Teamsters officials, acted to gag class-conscious workers.

Brought back into print for a new generation of appreciative readers by Pathfinder Press, "Teamster Bureaucracy" is the last of four books by Farrell Dobbs on the 1930s strikes, organizing drives, and political campaigns that transformed the Teamsters union in Minnesota and much of the Midwest into a fighting industrial union movement.

Critique: A critically important, thoughtful and thought-provoking study of a specific aspect of the history of the America labor movement, "Teamster Bureaucracy" unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

Able Greenspan

Helen's Bookshelf

Battles of the Sexes
Joe Malone & Sarah Achelpohl Harris
Morgan James Publishing
11815 Fountain Way, Suite 300, Newport News, VA 23606-4448
9781683508779, $17.95, PB, 262pp,

Synopsis: In the 21st century, it is no longer just the battles of the sexes, but individual battles of the sexes that pose challenges to how men and women relate to each other.

The collaborative work of "Battles of the Sexes: Raising Sexual IQ to Lower Sexual Conflict and Empower Lasting Love" young adult health experts Joe Malone and Sarah Achelpohl Harris, is specifically intended to help men and women understand their own sexual nature, as well that of the opposite sex, and develop sexual empathy for each other.

"Battles of the Sexes" provides insight into the mismatch both sexes endure between our rapidly changing culture and our inherited nature and the resulting battles both genders fight. Cutting-edge, yet understandable science is used to illustrate things like the effect of women's menstrual cycles and the chemical and visual laws of attraction.

Malone and Harris also lays out what motivates the genders inside relationships, particularly men and their relationship with women and women and their relationship with food, in a way that encourages sexual empathy.

"Battles of the Sexes" illuminates how couples can recognize chemical dangers to their bonds and gives singles valuable insights for dating, empowering loving, lasting, committed romance between men and women that will benefit not only individuals, but also our entire species.

Critique: Impressively informative, expertly written, accessibly organized and presented, "Battles of the Sexes: Raising Sexual IQ to Lower Sexual Conflict and Empower Lasting Love" is unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Human Sexuality collections and supplemental studies lists. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Battles of the Sexes" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Labyrinth: Your Path to Self-Discovery
Tony Christie
Llewellyn Publications
2143 Wooddale Drive, Woodbury, MN 55125
9780738756615, $21.99, PB, 312pp,

Synopsis: In Greek mythology, the Labyrinth was an elaborate, confusing structure specifically designed and built by the legendary artificer Daedalus for King Minos of Crete at Knossos.

The labyrinth has come down to us as a metaphysical enigma, a seemingly ordinary symbol that has the power to open the gateway to profound self-discovery. Within its coils and turns, secret wisdom is revealed that has the potential to help humanity on its journey toward spiritual advancement.

Tony Christie designs and builds labyrinths all over the world, and gives talks and workshops on using the labyrinth as a tool for personal and spiritual growth. He is the creator of the Labyrinth Wisdom Cards and a healing modality called Melchizedek Labyrinth Healing.

In "Labyrinth: Your Path to Self-Discovery", Christie shares new information and powerful techniques for exploring the labyrinth as a source of wonder, wisdom, healing, and enlightenment.

Readers will discover how to work with labyrinths to quiet your mind and gain insights and answers for the questions that matter most to you. Use the labyrinth as a safe container for letting go of your troubles and finding that peaceful place within yourself. Learn about the fascinating connections between the labyrinth and tarot, alchemy, crop circles, and the cosmos.

With the right guidance and intention, every step taken in a labyrinth can bring greater understanding of life's purpose on a personal sacred journey.

Critique: An inherently fascinating and impressively informative study by an erudite master of the subject, Tony Christie's "Labyrinth: Your Path to Self-Discovery" is exceptionally well written, organized and presented, making it an ideal and highly recommended addition to the personal reading lists of metaphysical studies students and community library Healing/Prayer/Meditation collections. It should be noted that "Labyrinth: Your Path to Self-Discovery" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.19).

Climate Justice
Mary Robinson
Bloomsbury Press
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 315, New York, NY 10010
9781632869289, $26.00, HC, 176pp,

Synopsis: Mary Robinson is president of the Mary Robinson Foundation-Climate Justice. She served in two capacities as the United Nations Secretary-General's Special Envoy on Climate Change. She is the former President of Ireland and United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and is now a member of The Elders and the Club of Madrid. In 2009, she was awarded the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Holding her first grandchild in her arms in 2003, Mary Robinson was struck by the uncertainty of the world he had been born into. Before his fiftieth birthday, he would share the planet with more than nine billion people--people battling for food, water, and shelter in an increasingly volatile climate. The faceless, shadowy menace of climate change had become, in an instant, deeply personal.

Mary Robinson's mission would lead her all over the world, from Malawi to Mongolia, and to a heartening revelation: that an irrepressible driving force in the battle for climate justice could be found at the grassroots level, mainly among women, many of them mothers and grandmothers like herself. From Sharon Hanshaw, the Mississippi matriarch whose campaign began in her East Biloxi hair salon and culminated in her speaking at the United Nations, to Constance Okollet, a small farmer who transformed the fortunes of her ailing community in rural Uganda, Robinson met with ordinary people whose resilience and ingenuity had already unlocked extraordinary change.

Critique: Exceptionally informative and impressively organized and presented, "Climate Justice: Hope, Resilience, and the Fight for a Sustainable Future" is an erudite and documented manifesto with respect to a critically important and universal humanitarian issue. While a critically important and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library Contemporary Environmental Issues collections and supplemental studies lists, it should be noted for students, academia, environmental activists, government environmental policy makers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the issue that "Climate Justice" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $18.20).

What Is Love
Pauli Rose Libsohn
Page Publishing Inc.
101 Tyrellan Avenue Suite 100 New York, NY 10309
9781641387002, $22.95, PB, 182pp,

Synopsis: "What Is Love" is an account of the life, love, poetry and insights of a especially gifted mother by her daughter.

As Pauli Rose Libsohn writes in her introduction:

For the first time, to my knowledge, my mother was able to put into English, the components of what is love. It was her uncommon brilliance that produced "Immortal Kisses - Confessions Of a Poet," and its companion "Songs Of You - A Postscript," books of poetic jewels that I refer to as "written gold." Penned by her loving hand, she wrote with passion, and a depth of emotion that could only have evolved from my mother's extraordinary thought process, naturally evolving from her inordinate intellect into an accomplished work of art. Sparked by her imagination, and fueled by her unquenchable desire to write, my mother's creative powers advanced to extraordinary heights. But not only did she write, she was also telling the story of her love affair with my father from the moment they met, until the day of the inevitable.

Throughout the years, my mother never once divulged the meanings behind her poems - and I always believed them to be "just" gorgeous and romantic - poetry that swept me away. I never realized that there were stories behind them and meanings beneath them. Eventually in her own way, my mother revealed to me the various people in her life who left indelible marks, and about some of whom she wrote.

Additionally, her wondrous romance with nature developed and grew into a finely tuned visual tapestry at our extraordinary home in Brookville, Long Island. It was here, along with my father, she considered to be the center of her heart - reminiscent of "The Weirs," - my parents' famed, fairytale cottage on New Hampshire's Lake Winnipesaukee, where they spent the first week of their sixty year marriage. And so this, our magical and resplendent home, became my mother's "Paradise," having a life-time effect on her psyche - identical to that oft-mentioned and fabled honeymoon, producing her love affair with all of nature's bounty.

In view of all of this, I knew I had to sit down and write a memoir about my mother's life, as I recall her telling me, so that her poetry would be explained, along with her motivation behind her writing - that was love, and that love was my father David. He was her "raison d'etre."

Critique: A deftly crafted, inherently fascinating, thoroughly compelling, and arguably inspiring study of a brilliantly accomplished and capable woman, "What Is Love" will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to community and academic library Contemporary American Biography collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "What Is Love" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Sexual Harassment of Women
Engineering, and Medicine National Academies of Sciences
National Academies Press
500 Fifth Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001
9780309470872, $55.00, PB, 312pp,

Synopsis: Over the last few decades, research, activity, and funding has been devoted to improving the recruitment, retention, and advancement of women in the fields of science, engineering, and medicine. In recent years the diversity of those participating in these fields, particularly the participation of women, has improved and there are significantly more women entering careers and studying science, engineering, and medicine than ever before. However, as women increasingly enter these fields they face biases and barriers and it is not surprising that sexual harassment is one of these barriers.

Over thirty years the incidence of sexual harassment in different industries has held steady, yet now more women are in the workforce and in academia, and in the fields of science, engineering, and medicine (as students and faculty) and so more women are experiencing sexual harassment as they work and learn. Over the last several years, revelations of the sexual harassment experienced by women in the workplace and in academic settings have raised urgent questions about the specific impact of this discriminatory behavior on women and the extent to which it is limiting their careers.

"Sexual Harassment of Women: Climate, Culture, and Consequences in Academic Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine" explores the influence of sexual harassment in academia on the career advancement of women in the scientific, technical, and medical workforce. This report reviews the research on the extent to which women in the fields of science, engineering, and medicine are victimized by sexual harassment and examines the existing information on the extent to which sexual harassment in academia negatively impacts the recruitment, retention, and advancement of women pursuing scientific, engineering, technical, and medical careers. It also identifies and analyzes the policies, strategies and practices that have been the most successful in preventing and addressing sexual harassment in these settings.

Critique: A compendium of impeccable scholarship by a roster of contributors that are experts in their fields of study, "Sexual Harassment of Women: Climate, Culture, and Consequences in Academic Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine" begins with an informative introduction and is then presented in six thematic sections: Sexual Harassment Research; Sexual Harassment in Academic Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; Job and Health outcomes of Sexual harassment and How Women Respond to Sexual harassment; Legal and Policy Mechanisms for Addressing Sexual Harassment; Changing the Culture and Climate in Higher Education; and Findings, Conclusions, and Recommendations.

Enhanced for academia with a twenty-two page listing of Resources, and four Appendices: Committee Biographical Information; Committee Meeting and Workshop Agendas; Study of Sexual Harassment in Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; Consultant Report on the University of Texas System Campus Climate Survey, "Sexual Harassment of Women" is unreservedly recommended as a core addition to government, college, and university library Contemporary Women's Issues collections and supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Sexual Harassment of Women" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $44.99).

Helen Dumont

Lorraine's Bookshelf

Tata and the Big Bad Bull
Juleus Ghunta, author
Ann-Catherine Loo, illustrator
P.O. Box 7321, Fairfax Station, VA 22039
9780999237243, $10.99,

Written in musical verse, "Tata and the Big Bad Bull" is a West Indies morality tale, with more than one kernel of wisdom about human and animal relationships and interaction. A brave boy named Tata lives with his poor grandmother in an old house near Pellken Stream. A big blue bus takes Tata and other children to Pellken school, but the bus fare is not free for children. Tata's Grandmother tells him she cannot afford to pay his bus fare to go to school, and this makes Tata very sad, for he loves going to school. Tata decides to try to walk through a pasture where the Big Bad Bull lives to get to school, and his grandmother encourages him. Many scary adventures with the big, bad bull await Tata, but he perseveres in trying to discover why the bull is so angry. What he finds is a solution that pleases both Beppo, the Bull and the disgruntled villagers who blame Eugene Owl for stealing Beppo's basket of needles and thread. Tata persuades the crowd to give Owl a second chance to apologise and make things right. Beppo Bull goes happily back to making costumes and he always lets Tata walk through his pasture. The colorful illustrations present animals as large, almost human creatures, and contain clues and context to the secrets of the story. All the musical verse is full of cheer and specific images of common island life, as in the following: "The blue bus goes, in sun or rain, from Pellken Square across peppers' Plain, under Beehive Tunnel, over Crocodile Pool, up Zigzag Hill to Pellken School." "Tata and the Big Bad Bull" is an island wisdom tale with messages of compassion for all.

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Micah's Bookshelf

Czech Refugees in Cold War Canada
Jan Raska
University of Manitoba Press
301 St. John's College, Winnipeg, MB, Canada, R3T 2M5
9780887558276, $31.95, PB, 240pp,

Synopsis: During the Cold War, more than 36,000 individuals entering Canada claimed Czechoslovakia as their country of citizenship. A defining characteristic of this migration of predominantly political refugees was the prevalence of anti-communist and democratic values.

Diplomats, industrialists, politicians, professionals, workers, and students fled to the West in search of freedom, security, and economic opportunity. "Czech Refugees in Cold War Canada" by Jan Raska (who is an historian with the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21, Halifax) explores how these newcomers joined or formed ethnocultural organizations to help in their attempts to affect developments in Czechoslovakia and Canadian foreign policy towards their homeland.

Canadian authorities further legitimized the Czech refugees' anti-communist agenda and increased their influence in Czechoslovak institutions. In turn, these organizations supported Canada's Cold War agenda of securing the state from communist infiltration.

Ultimately, an adherence to anti-communism, the promotion of Canadian citizenship, and the cultivation of a Czechoslovak ethnocultural heritage accelerated Czech refugees' socioeconomic and political integration in Cold War Canada. By analyzing oral histories, government files, ethnic newspapers, and community archival records, Raska reveals how Czech refugees secured admission as desirable immigrants and navigated existing social, cultural, and political norms in Cold War Canada.

Critique: An impressively researched, deftly written, and exceptionally well presented study, "Czech Refugees in Cold War Canada" is enhanced for academia with the inclusion of a two page list of Abbreviations; forty-eight pages of Notes; a fourteen page Bibliography, and an eight page Index. An extraordinary work of impeccable scholarship, "Czech Refugees in Cold War Canada" is unreservedly recommended for college and university library 20th Century Canadian History collections.

North American Pirates and Their Lost Treasure
W. C. Jameson
August House
3500 Piedmont Road NE, Suite 310, Atlanta, GA 30305
9781941460474, $14.95, PB, 292pp,

Synopsis: With the publication of "North American Pirates and Their Lost Treasure", expert and experienced treasure hunter, W.C. Jameson introduces an intriguing collection of pirate tales featuring swashbuckling cutthroats, lost buried treasures, and sunken ships. Pirate stories have long been enshrouded with a sense of mystery and danger. Pop culture has romanticized the risky exploits of pirates to the point that they often seem more like super-heroes from an action movie, than outlaws who terrorized shipping lanes and seaports along the Atlantic Coast.

But similar to rustlers and gunslingers in the old west, pirates were truly the outlaws of the high seas. Instead of riding horses, they sailed ships. Instead of preying on trains, isolated ranches or small town banks, they attacked merchant ships and coastal communities. In the process they sometimes accumulated an astounding measure of wealth in the form of precious stones, priceless jewels, gold and silver coins along with other valuables.

One thing is for sure, a pirate's life was almost too unpredictable and chaotic to fully comprehend: cursed caches of riches, cutthroats turned insane by their insatiable greed for riches, bloody battles at sea and long-lost buried treasure all play a prominent role in these tales. There are such familiar pirates like Blackbeard and Calico Jack, along with new faces like the Lafitte brothers who fenced stolen goods, as well as the infamous Mary Anne Townsend, a lady pirate who stood several inches taller than her crew, along with the notorious pirate captain, "Bloody" Tew.

Many pirates chose the dangerous life of a buccaneer over a harsh life of servitude that held little hope for advancement. The notion of living a life of freedom and adventure on the high seas along with the promise of accumulating incredible wealth was a captivating dream that appealed to many people who found themselves in desperate straits with few opportunities. Although the risks were high, the rewards often more than compensated for a life spent on the lam, evading the authorities.

Jameson's richly, detailed narratives transport readers to another time in our history when people were struggling to build a life in the "New World". With detailed accounts of each pirate's exploits, readers will find themselves deeply immersed in the settings and the colorful lifestyles and eccentric personalities of these unique characters.

Critique: One of the little known features of 18th century piracy was that pirate captains were elected to that position by their crews -- and could be deposed the same way. Almost all pirates would spend their hard won booty as fast as they could. Buried surplus treasures were essential the stuff of pirate legends and folklore. Speaking of which, "North American Pirates and Their Lost Treasure" is a wonderfully entertaining read from beginning to end, making it an ideal and unreservedly recommended addition to the personal reading lists of all dedicated pirate lore fans, as well as an enduringly popular addition to both community and academic library collections.

Micah Andrew

Richard's Bookshelf

The Lost Commandments
Sam Silverstein
Sound Wisdom
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9781640950122, $19.99, 2018, 154 pages

Guidelines for Purposeful Living

Sam Silverstein captured my full attention within the first page of "The Lost Commandments." I bonded immediately with the narrator and was soon accompanying him on his quest to discover the mystery behind the lost commandments. I was on an incredible journey in self-discovery, purpose, and fulfillment.

The adventure begins in a Washington University classroom in St. Louis, Missouri, next stop, on assignment in Tel Aviv, Israel. A strange repeat appearance of a weird message becomes even eerier when our professor meets a street vendor named Ayn - the contact's name to finding The Lost Commandments.

Silverstein's attention to detail has a unique way of transforming daily routine into an exciting adventure, always right on the edge of another discovery into the meaning of life.

Sam Silverstein has a passion for empowering people to become accountable for their personal lives, for transforming business practices, and for impacting leadership, throughout his career, as an entrepreneur, author, and speaker.

I am fast becoming an avid fan of Sam's writing and am already looking forward to a new adventure in self-discovery and life-long learning.

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

The Master-Key to Riches
Napoleon Hill
Sound Wisdom Books
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9781640950269, $27.95, 2018, 272 pages

Riches Measured in Liberty and Freedom, Relationships and Initiative, Free Enterprise, and Opportunity

Napoleon Hill's books have been impacting readers for over sixty years. A truly fantastic heritage. In this edition of "The Master-Key to Riches," the Napoleon Hill Foundation continue to publish Hill's works commissioned by Andrew Carnegie. In which Hill formulated the vital success principles used by Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and other great men, in industry.

It was quite a revelation to me to read the testimonials of the men who have established their place in history. Men in this category include endorsements by Former presidents, William H Taft and Woodrow Wilson; as well as men of vision like Alexander Graham Bell, E.M. Statler, Robert Dollar, and Luther Burbank.

Readers will find Napoleon Hill's principles are practical and sound; and when applied will open up their understanding of The Master Mind Principle, The Twelve Riches of Life, Applied Faith, and Self-Discipline.

"The Master Key to Riches" is a constant on the reference shelf of my library; a book worthy of re-reading often, applying its principles, daily; a book that should be on the reading list of every college and university student for generations to come.

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

Richard R. Blake
Senior Reviewer

Taylor's Bookshelf

A Cash-Free Society
Kai A. Olsen
Rowman & Littlefield
c/o Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group
4501 Forbes Blvd., Suite 200, Lanham, MD 20706
9781442227422, $30.00, HC, 166pp,

Synopsis: Information technology is changing the world through automation, by bypassing middlemen, and by digitization. We see dramatic effects today in the music industry, going from CDs to streaming, in newspapers, from paper to online, and in the banking industry, from branch offices to the Internet. One of the most fundamental changes is the replacement of physical cash, money and coins, by bits in a computer.

"A Cash-Free Society: Whether We Like It or Not" by Kai A. Olsen (who is a Professor at Molde University College; an Adjunct Professor at Department of Informatics at the University of Bergen; and an Adjunct Professor University of Pittsburgh) is about this dramatic change. It shows the advantages and disadvantages and discuss how we (consumers, businesses and the society) can prepare for a new world where cash is no longer king.

Banks are closing down branch offices and removing cash services. Customers wishing to withdraw money as cash are directed to ATMs. But the number of ATMs is declining. Mobile payments, either for paying bills or for person to person transactions will be the last nail in the coffin for cash.

These changes are fed by the overwhelming advantages, both for consumers and businesses, to electronic payments. In the countries that lead this transition to a digital economy, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark, nearly all transactions, both in volume and number, are digital. Today less than 3 percent of consumer payments are in cash in Norway. Though there are some disadvantages, there are clear benefits: cheaper transactions, less crime, simpler tax processing and it will become more difficult to operate in the black-market economy.

Critique: An original, detailed, informative, impressively presented, thoughtful and thought provoking study, "A Cash-Free Society: Whether We Like It or Not" is an essential and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library Contemporary Economics collections and supplemental studies lists. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "A Cash-Free Society" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $28.50).

Sword and Scimitar
Raymond Ibrahim
Da Capo Press
c/o Hachette Book Group
53 State Street, 9th Floor, Boston, MA 02109
9780306825552, $28.00, HC, 352pp,

The Christian West and Islamic world have clashed in a battle for supremacy since the mid-seventh century, when, according to Muslim tradition, the Roman emperor rejected Prophet Muhammad's order to abandon Christianity and convert to Islam, unleashing a centuries-long jihad on Christendom.

In "Sword and Scimitar: Fourteen Centuries of War between Islam and the West" by Raymond Ibrahim (who is an experienced scholar of the Middle East and Islam) chronicles the decisive battles that arose from this ages-old Islamic jihad, beginning with the first major Islamic attack on Christian land in 636, through the Muslim occupation of nearly three-quarters of Christendom which prompted the Crusades, followed by renewed Muslim conquests by Turks and Tatars, to the European colonization of the Muslim world in the 1800s, when Islam largely went on the retreat--until its reemergence in recent times. Using original sources in Arabic and Greek, preeminent historian Raymond Ibrahim describes each battle in vivid detail and explains how these wars and the larger historical currents of the age reflect the cultural fault lines between Islam and the West.

The majority of these landmark battles (including the battles of Yarmuk, Tours, Manzikert, the sieges at Constantinople and Vienna, and the crusades in Syria and Spain) are now forgotten or considered inconsequential. Yet today, as the West faces a resurgence of this enduring Islamic jihad, "Sword and Scimitar" provides the needed historical context to understand the current relationship between the West and the Islamic world -- and why the Islamic State is merely the latest chapter of an old history.

Critique: Impressively informative, "Sword and Scimitar: Fourteen Centuries of War between Islam and the West" is an exceptional work of outstanding scholarship that is so well written it reads more like a deftly crafted novel that a non-fiction history. Certain to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist readers with an interest in the subject that "Sword and Scimitar: Fourteen Centuries of War between Islam and the West" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $18.99).

John Taylor

Theodore's Bookshelf

The Woman in the Woods
John Connolly
Emily Bestler Books/Atria
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781501171925, $26.99/35.99 CA$, 481 pp.

The Charlie Parker series blends a traditional-thriller-mystery with elements of otherworldliness. This, the 16th novel in the series, as usual, does both. When a tree falls in the Maine woods exposing the remains of a woman, and her afterbirth, the Jewish lawyer Moxie Castin notes that a Star of David was carved on a nearby tree, leading him to retain private detective Charlie Parker to shadow the police investigation and discover what happened to the infant, since no baby was found buried near or with the mother.

So much for the traditional mystery. At the heart of the novel are the occult features, especially the baddie Quales, who does not hesitate to murder anyone with whom he comes into contact in his quest for a rare book of fairy tales supposedly with inserts needed to complete an atlas which would change the world by replacing the existing God with non-gods.

There probably is no other author like John Connolly. His novels offer complicated plots, well-drawn characters and make-believe to keep readers turning pages. His works, in addition to the Charlie Parker series, includes standalone novels, non-fiction and science fiction, as well as literature for children. Obviously, "Woman in the Woods" is highly recommended.

The Girl in the Ice: A Detective Erika Foster Novel
Robert Bryndza
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104
9781538713426, $12.99/16.99 CA$, Trade Paperback, 416 pp.

This debut novel introduces DCI Erika Foster, and is the start of a new series. The next novel in the series will be entitled "The Night Stalker." In "The Girl in the Ice," she is brought in from her previous post in Manchester, where she led a flawed operation which resulted in the deaths of several police, including her husband. Although she has yet to come to terms with her past, the detective superintendent believes her to still be an effective detective and places her in charge of the investigation of the murder of a prominent young woman from a well-to-do family.

The woman's body is found frozen in ice. Death was caused by strangulation. Foster's efforts are hampered by interference by the powerful father, a wealthy defense contractor, and police politics. She stands her ground, but suffers for her principles and supposed clues, while attention is focused by higher-ups on other possible "clues," which she feels are false.

Foster is a flawed character in need of growth. Her efforts seem to be haphazard and insubordinate, resulting in her being removed as SIO of the case. The novel progresses by fits and starts, and concludes with a denouement for which no basis is laid in the preceding chapters. However, it is a good read and can be [and is] recommended, only hoping that the sequel overcomes these stated objections.

Don't Eat Me
Colin Cotterill
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616959418, $26.95, Hardcover, 304 pp.

Dr. Siri Paiboun, the retired national Lao coroner, together with his wife and friends, manage to get themselves into all kinds of amusing situations while solving mysteries in this long-running series. The author, who lives in Thailand, takes advantage of the setting to spoof the Lao Communist government and bureaucracy.

When the skeleton of a young woman is found in a prominent location, the group finds itself mixed up with a corrupt judge, uncovering a horrible black market operation, and a murder mystery to solve. Meanwhile, Dr. Siri and his close friend, Civilai, have come into possession of a movie camera and tripod (which they don't know how to operate, much less turn on) and set out to film a Lao adaptation of War and Peace by writing a script.. This puts them in conflict with the Ministry of Culture, which writes its own script.

This is the 13th novel in the series, and is as amusing as its predecessors. However, this book introduces a serious subject: the mistreatment and trafficking of wild animals, the exposure of which leads to dire consequences for the newly appointed Chief Inspector of Police Phosy and Dr, Siri and his friends. Written at times with tongue-in-cheek, but always with sureness, the novel is recommended.

Desolation Mountain
William Kent Krueger
Atria Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781501147463, $26.00, Hardcover, 336 pp.

Stephen O'Connor, Cork O'Connor's young son, has always had visions presaging tragedies. This novel is based on one in which he sees an eagle shot from the sky and a menace he can't identify at his back. And then a plane carrying a U.S. Senator and her family crashes on Desolation Mountain. Cork and Stephen subsequently join others attempting to find survivors and clues.

Soon, some of the first responders go missing, and father and son begin to investigate. Then Cork inadvertently meets Bo Thorson, a character from a long ago novel, then a secret service agent, now a private investigator. They join forces, but soon Cork begins to doubt Bo's role. The area is overrun with representatives of various federal agencies and is cordoned off.

The plot centers on the meaning of the vision and solution of the cause of the crash. This is the 18th novel in the series, and provides, for the first time, a deeper look into Cork and Stephen's relationship. As is a constant in the series, it is well-written, and the descriptions of the North Country graphic and excellent.

Highly recommended.

How It Happened
Michael Koryta
Little, Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group
1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104
9780316293938, $27.00/35.00 CA$, Hardcover, 354 pp.

Inspired by an actual event in the author's hometown, this novel recounts the ups and downs in the life of Rob Barrett, an FBI specialist in interrogations, who is sent to a little town in Maine years after the disappearance of a man and two women. Barrett finally reaches a witness who confesses to having participated in the murder and disposal of the bodies of a man and a woman in a shallow lake. Unfortunately, when the lake is inspected, the bodies aren't there. Barrett insists he believes the confession, but the prevailing view is that it is unreliable because the confessor is a known liar and drug addict. Moreover, absence of the bodies where they're said to be is further proof.

Barrett is sent to a remote FBI office in the Midwest in disgrace, but the confession still haunts him. Eventually, he returns to Maine on his own nickel to find the truth, which, of course, is elusive. The story becomes more complex, as he investigates more deeply, and the scope widens.

Michael Koryta has written a gripping tale about a grisly murder and cover-ups and subterfuges to hide a variety of motivations as each layer of the story is unveiled. It is a novel describing perseverance and investigative skill. The novel has its origins in a murder investigation which the author covered for his hometown newspaper as a young reporter, and is recommended.

Dead Man Running
Steve Hamilton
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399574443, Hardcover, $26.00, 288 pp.

Alex McKnight has had a long rest: five years since he appeared in the last novel in this great series. And he needed it for this, the 11th novel in the series. It seems a tourist traveling in Europe remotely checks his home where he recently installed security cameras, and discovers an illegal entry. Moreover the intruder, Martin T. Livermore, is having sex on the marital bed. It turns out the female is dead.

Police capture the culprit, who refuses to speak to anyone but Alex McNight, who is thousands of miles away in the upper Michigan peninsula. He promises to lead McNight to his possible seventh victim, who may be alive. Alex accedes to the perp's wishes and, along with all kinds of law enforcement personnel, is led into a trap where only McNight and Livermore, who then escapes, survive. Thus begins a grueling chase to save the victim as well as capturing Livermore.
Actually Livermore, with his superior intellect, sets up a challenge for Alex, based on an obscure relationship between the two, unknown to McNight. The author maintains a steady tension throughout the novel, a characteristic for which he is famous. At the same time, the plot develops in countless deviations as Livermore keeps Alex on the run until the novel concludes in an unexpected fashion.


Theodore Feit
Senior Reviewer

Vogel's Bookshelf

The Moth Snowstorm: Nature and Joy
Michael McCarthy
New York Review of Books
435 Hudson Street, Suite 300, New York, NY 10014
9781681370408, $24.95, HC, 272pp,

Synopsis: The moth snowstorm, a phenomenon Michael McCarthy remembers from his boyhood when moths "would pack a car's headlight beams like snowflakes in a blizzard", is a distant memory. Wildlife is being lost, not only in the wholesale extinctions of species but also in the dwindling of those species that still exist.

"The Moth Snowstorm" is unlike any other book about climate change today; combining the personal with the polemical, it is a manifesto rooted in experience, a poignant memoir of the author's first love: nature. McCarthy traces his adoration of the natural world to when he was seven, when the discovery of butterflies and birds brought sudden joy to a boy whose mother had just been hospitalized and whose family life was deteriorating. He goes on to record in painful detail the rapid dissolution of nature's abundance in the intervening decades, and he proposes a radical solution to our current problem: that we each recognize in ourselves the capacity to love the natural world.

Arguing that neither sustainable development nor ecosystem services have provided adequate defense against pollution, habitat destruction, species degradation, and climate change, McCarthy asks us to consider nature as an intrinsic good and an emotional and spiritual resource, capable of inspiring joy, wonder, and even love. An award-winning environmental journalist, McCarthy presents a clear, well-documented picture of what he calls "the great thinning" around the world, while interweaving the story of his own early discovery of the wilderness and a childhood saved by nature. Drawing on the truths of poets, the studies of scientists, and the author's long experience in the field, "The Moth Snowstorm" is part elegy, part ode, and part argument, resulting in a passionate call to action.

Critique: Widely known for his award-winning writings on the environment, Michael McCarthy was formerly the environment correspondent for The Times (London) and later the environment editor at The Independent. He has been the recipient of the Specialist Writer of the Year Award in the British Press Awards, the Medal of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds for "outstanding services to conservation," and the Silver Medal of the Zoological Society of London.

An impressively thoughtful and thought-provoking writer, McCarthy's "The Moth Snowstorm" is an inherently engaging and impressively informative blend of personal memoir and environmental study that is especially and unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Moth Snowstorm" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99).

Studies on the Abuse and Decline of Reason
Bruce Caldwell, editor
Liberty Fund, Inc.
11301 N. Meridian Street, Carmel, IN 46032-4564
9780865979079, $14.50, PB, 331pp,

Synopsis: Friedrich August von Hayek (8 May 1899 - 23 March 1992) was an Austrian-British economist and philosopher best known for his defense of classical liberalism. Hayek shared the 1974 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences with Gunnar Myrdal.

Compiled and edited by Bruce Caldwell (Research Professor of Economics and the Director of the Center for the History of Political Economy at Duke University, and the current General Editor of The Collected Works of F. A. Hayek), "Studies on the Abuse and Decline of Reason: Text and Documents" includes: The essay Individualism: True and False; Scientism and the Study of Society which provides the case studies; Followed by two essays of intellectual history: The Counter-Revolution of Science (his study of the history of scientism in France) and Comte and Hegel.

Hayek did publish all the works found in this volume, but they had never been gathered in a single work as he originally conceived. As the editor of this volume, Professor Caldwell has provided translations where they were absent and has revised and corrected the text, -- and his informative introduction tells the story of Hayek s greatest unfinished piece of work.

Critique: Expertly organized and presented, ""Studies on the Abuse and Decline of Reason: Text and Documents" is a welcome contribution to 20th Century Economic Theory and F. A. Hayek supplemental studies reading lists. While very highly recommended for community, college, and university library 20th Century History of Economics 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 "Studies on the Abuse and Decline of Reason: Text and Documents" is also now available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.78).

Paul T. Vogel

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

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