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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 19, Number 9 September 2020 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

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

Able Greenspan's Bookshelf

Abraham Lincoln: A Western Legacy
Richard W. Etulain
South Dakota Historical Society Press
900 Governors Drive, Pierre, SC 57501-2217
9781941813324, $14.95, PB, 198pp

Synopsis: Best remembered as the man who carried the United States through a civil war and emancipated four million slaves, Abraham Lincoln has been the subject of nearly seventeen thousand books. While historians have chronicled his life and presidency, they rarely go beyond his assassination by John Wilkes Booth on 14 April 1865 to look at his legacy in the American West.

"Abraham Lincoln: A Western Legacy" by Richard W. Etulain reveals how the sixteenth president shaped the country beyond the Mississippi River. Having grown up on the frontier and taken part in its political development, Lincoln often turned his attention westward after becoming president. By overseeing policies such as the Homestead Act and the Pacific Railroad Act and making key political appointments, Lincoln opened American Indian lands to settlers who forever changed the landscape and laid the foundation for the region s modern politics and identity.

Author and historian Richard Etulain focuses on Lincoln s role in remaking the West while providing a concise overview of his life. He also advances Lincoln scholarship by looking at efforts to memorialize the president in the decades following his assassination.

Etulain's original research, including his use of correspondence between local figures such as Senator Peter Norbeck and historian Doane Robinson, provides unique insight into the discussions that led to Lincoln's immortalization on a mountain in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

"Abraham Lincoln: A Western Legacy" is the first book in the Mount Rushmore Subseries of the South Dakota Biography Series highlighting the presidents depicted on the national memorial and other figures connected with its history.

Critique: Impressively informative and a work of meticulous and original scholarship, "Abraham Lincoln: A Western Legacy" is an extraordinary contribution to the growing library of Lincoln Studies and an unreservedly recommended addition to the personal reading lists of students, academia, and Abraham Lincoln history buffs. Simply stated, "Abraham Lincoln: A Western Legacy" should be a part of every community and college/university library 19th Century American History collection.

Editorial Note: Richard W. Etulain is an award-winning historian specializing in the history of the American West. After earning his doctorate, he spent nearly forty years teaching at Idaho State University and the University of New Mexico before devoting his time to writing. Etulain has authored and edited over fifty volumes, including "Lincoln and Oregon Country Politics in the Civil War Era" and "Lincoln Looks West: From Mississippi to the Pacific".

Hello Darkness, My Old Friend
Sanford D. Greenberg
Post Hill Press
9781642934977, $27.00, HC, 240pp

Synopsis: It's a bitterly cold February in 1961, and Sandy Greenberg lies in a hospital bed in Detroit, newly blind. A junior at Columbia University from a Jewish family that struggled to stay above the poverty line, Sandy had just started to see the world open up to him. Now, instead of his plans for a bright future (Harvard Law and politics) Sandy faces a new reality, one defined by a cane or a companion dog, menial work, and a cautious path through life.

But that's not how this story ends.

In the depth of his new darkness, Sandy faces a choice -- either play it "safe" by staying in his native Buffalo or return to Columbia to pursue his dreams. With the loving devotion of his girlfriend (and now wife) Sue and the selflessness of best friends Art Garfunkel and Jerry Speyer, Sandy endures unimaginable adversity while forging a life of exceptional achievement.

From his time in the White House working for President Lyndon B. Johnson to his graduate studies at Harvard and Oxford under luminaries such as Archibald Cox, Sir Arthur Goodhart, and Samuel Huntington, and through the guidance of his invaluable mentor David Rockefeller, Sandy fills his life and the lives of those around him with a radiant light of philanthropy, art, innovation and entrepreneurship.

Critique: Enhanced with the inclusion of an informative Introduction by musician Art Garfunkel, a Foreword by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and a Final Word by essayist, teacher, environmental activist and inventor Margaret Atwood, "Hello Darkness, My Old Friend: How Daring Dreams and Unyielding Friendship Turned One Man's Blindness into an Extraordinary Vision for Life" is the extraordinary biography/memoir of an extraordinary man and unreservedly recommended for both community and college/university library Contemporary American Biography collections. Inspired and inspiring, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Hello Darkness, My Old Friend: How Daring Dreams and Unyielding Friendship Turned One Man's Blindness into an Extraordinary Vision for Life" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Able Greenspan

Diane Donovan's Bookshelf

1 for All
Sean McCollum
Brattle Publishing Group
9780990587231, $TBA, Paperback
9780997290240, $TBA, Ebook

1 for All: A Basketball Story About the Meaning of Team lives up to its subtitle's promise with a powerful focus on middle-schoolers ages 13-14 whose captain and top player began with high hopes for the season, only to see his team repeatedly fail on the court.

They face their biggest rival with a chance to get back on track...but only if they can come together to do something different. And star J.J. confronts losing not only his team, but his identity and other potentials for success.

Young readers of 1 for All who hold a prior affection for basketball will find this story vividly captures the dilemmas, successes, and failures of the game. Even more importantly, it captures the backroom politics, struggles, and approaches of teammates and coaches alike as it outlines J.J.'s dilemma and evolving determination to support his teammates: "J.J. stepped forward. "You should leave now," J.J. said. He felt confident for the first time in a long time. He knew he was doing the right thing. Big Mark glowered down on J.J. "Who do you think..." J.J. didn't flinch, his words flowing out in a stream. "Leave, or we're done, and things get messy real fast. Principal Dell sees that video, and it'll be online by tomorrow morning. Belcher Motors has a website, yeah?"

Scoreboard illustrations, tense descriptions of interactions and games, and traps in playing and personality clashes make for a vivid story of how a struggling team finally comes together, with a number of surprising influences spicing the story.

Sean McCollum pays special attention to interactions and politics between players on and off the court as he draws the tale of winners, losers, and the evolution of the Musketeers' style and newfound objectives. These realistic, pointed examples of changing directions will enlighten and engross middle schoolers who will find motivation and insight into not just the game, but the special abilities of players who contributes to it, but need a bigger picture vision of roads towards success.

The result is a middle-grade read that is realistic, vivid, and captures the strategies, challenges, and dilemmas of players, managers, and those involved in building basketball dreams.

The Last Passenger Train - A Rail Journey Across Canada
Robert M. Goldstein
Rivendell Publishing Northwest
9780976328858, $15.00
9780976328865, $8.99, Ebook

The Last Passenger Train - A Rail Journey Across Canada joins other outdoor odysseys undertaken by Robert M. Goldstein and opens with an iconic 'temple', the Union Train Station in Toronto, Canada, home of the last transcontinental train in the country.

Goldstein is in the nearly-deserted station an hour before he is to board. This affords him the time to describe its beauty in detail, leading readers into the world of his rail journey before he even gets on the train.

Part of the compelling pleasure of reading The Last Passenger Train lies in its ability to present a "you are there" feel to the journey, making at-home readers feel like they, too, are undertaking Goldstein's rail excursion. His ability to describe the sights, smells, and sounds of every facet of the trip makes The Last Passenger Train a wonderful armchair read: "At 9:00 p.m., the Great Hall is nearly deserted, seemingly occupied only by our echoing footsteps and the thrum of roller bags from a handful of potential passengers in the vast chamber, now dimly lit and looking more like a mausoleum than a train station."

The other piece of this equation of attraction lies in the story's personal touches. Goldstein includes the kinds of social and interpersonal interactions which are the hallmarks of a journey. These lend additional emotional draw to his account: "Where are we? I grab the map from the little holder by the side of my bunk. Have we reached Rupert's Land? Mindy rolls her eyes. After 40 years of friendship and a year of marriage, she knows me well. I need to know where I am. I attribute this to a genetically programmed instinct that clicks in when I am traveling, particularly on a train, though the phenomenon also occurs in cars and, with the advent of seat-back viewing screens, on airplanes. On a train, one must have a timetable and a map. Without these indispensable tools of the control freak, I become merely a Nervous Nellie, furtively glancing about, not sure where I am."

As he views the passing, changing countryside from the train window and remarks on the sights, sounds, and politics of Canada, readers are drawn into a story that is thought-provoking as much as observational. It's refreshing to read a train journey that begins with the ride and moves into the kinds of reflective changes that take place in the traveler as he moves through his environment. Too many pieces focus on the journey and destination over the inner reflections and changes that travel brings.

Rail buffs and fans of Canadian subjects will be the most logical readers of this travelogue, but anyone interested in journeys, changes, and relationships alike will find The Last Passenger Train moves beyond documenting a single travel experience to reflect on broader issues. The result is a compelling rail journey that readers are invited to experience along with the author. All aboard!

Emergency Powers
James McCrone
Hernes Road Books
9780999137727, $12.99

Emergency Powers presents another Imogen Trager mystery, and has the FBI agent thwarted by impossible circumstances stemming from her prior snafus. Readers of Imogen's other books (the one preceding Emergency Powers, in particular) will find this story picks up with a bang as a current case which stymies her is overshadowed by President Diane Richmond's death in office.

Is Imogen's conundrum starting all over? In many ways, it never stopped because it was never resolved, and this death is only one portent of a terrible future that only Imogen can change.

Imogen once gave up on a conspiracy investigation, but it's evident that the danger still exists. Mistakes of the past looms over her present-day efforts as murder after murder take place while she struggles to follow leads that are mercurial.

To add to the conflict, an adversary needs her protection. And she's still not sure she can trust him.

From rare friends in the press and offers of help from unexpected places to violent confrontations and gun battles, hidden agendas, and the long-term effects of living in fear for a prolonged period of time, Imogen isn't the only one who makes sacrifices for her job and love of country in this riveting thriller.

James McCrone excels in crafting the unexpected, not just for Imogen, but in the lives and deaths of those surrounding her. His ability to portray a heroine who makes both good and bad decisions, struggles to get her personal life and professional career back on track, and faces the ultimate sacrifice as a result of her decisions is well-done, providing many action-packed and unexpected moments throughout.

The injection of social and political ramifications of FBI involvements in both the criminal and political process in America is exceptionally well portrayed, as is Imogen's continuing recovery and adversities, which tend to solve one problem while leading into another puzzle.

Readers who enjoyed FBI agent Imogen's previous character and adventures will find Emergency Powers a fine conclusion from the prior dilemmas, providing an opportunity for everyone to do the right thing while licking their wounds. It also leaves the door ajar for more. It's a hard-hitting political investigative thriller that is absorbing and thoroughly engrossing.

Kid Lit: An Introduction to Literary Criticism
Tom Durwood
Empire Studies Press
9781952520013, $19.00, Ebook
9781952520044, $29.00, Paperback

Kid Lit: An Introduction to Literary Criticism comes from a long-time English teacher whose focus is on capturing the narratives of daily life. It is recommended not just for fellow teachers, but for anyone who appreciates the written word and the creative effort involved in bringing it to life.

Kid Lit surveys the major devices of storytelling - story structure, class, gender, symbolism, trauma and Orientalism - using children's narratives as a more accessible, familiar structure for understanding how they operate.

Tom Durwood advocates developing a critical literary eye and provides his readers with the toolkit to do so. From underlying messages on class, politics, gender, and race inherent in various children's literary works (from Tarzan to John Christopher's classic alien invasion Tripod series) to creating strong characters and subplots, Durwood covers the basic elements of good writing and effective communication.

Ideally, Kid Lit will be read by would-be creative writers, because many of its basic critical components are essential reading and reminders to aspiring authors who may have forgotten some of the basics of creating not just acceptable, but compelling writing: "The achievement of great fiction is to create a character which the reader believes in, and wants to know about. What makes for a memorable character in fiction? Why do you remember and want to keep reading about Katniss Everdeen, or Sherlock Holmes, or (in your case, Dawsey) Pikachu? What does a writer do to lend depth and likeability to a character?"

The foundations of producing memorable, exceptional works - and identifying these qualities in literary and leisure writing alike - forms a series of lessons that help all ages understand the basics of superior language choices.

As Durwood advances through various children's literary examples, contrasting approaches and passages from both classic and modern works, readers gain an education in not just writing, but reading with a more critical eye to understanding why a story either works or does not.

Blank pages and questions are provided in this workbook for reader self-analysis, illustrations abound, and references and examples are included in an extensive, impressive index that makes cross-referencing a snap.

Author and educator Todd Whitaker has written a Foreword to Kid Lit: An Introduction to Literary Criticism in which he concludes: "This is literary criticism at its least formal and most lively."

Critical thinking is a skill best honed at an early age. Durwood provides all the tools necessary for developing this skill, promoting solid children's literature in the process. He has created an appealing, accessible, educational survey in a format all ages can readily enjoy, in the lively, thought-provoking Kid Lit.

The Illustrated Boatman's Daughter
Tom Durwood
Empire Studies Press
9781952520006, $12.00, Ebook
9781952520020, $19.00, Paperback

The Illustrated Boatman's Daughter features original illustrations by rising young artists Serena Malyon, Niklas Frostgard, Oliver Ryan, and others, bringing to life this young adult historical novella of a feisty Egyptian girl who becomes the pivot point in a whirlwind of political strife and swashbuckling action.

Readers who enjoy epic stories of adventure and confrontations on many levels will find The Illustrated Boatman's Daughter a vivid story of the Suez Canal, Egyptian culture and history, and a young protagonist who sees her world change and assumes an active role in directing its ultimate outcome.

Sixteen-year-old Salima is the Boatman's daughter who keeps the barges operating safely while dreaming of an education and a better world for herself. She's saving money for her ultimate goal in life.

As Egypt and its waters face changes from foreign influences and domestic strife, Salima confronts treachery, kidnapping, and the rising tides of struggle: "It's the Germans," said the Tunisian calmly as he reloaded both rifles. "They seek to use their influence with the Turks, and turn Egypt against England. Chavi just wants your business," he added, with a hard chuckle."

Young adults receive a solid dose of historical insights on the changing relationships between Egypt and the world and the power of its unique waterways as they follow Salima's efforts to solve a mystery and expose the truth against overwhelming odds.

Author Fatima Sharafeddine notes in her Foreword: "The richness of the layers of Tom's novel is compelling... what better way to educate the youth about historical events that shaped our past and cast their influence on our present."

Tom Durwood's characterization is superb. He cultivates a compelling, personal touch that encourages young readers to develop concern and care for Salima's courage and struggles as they learn about the politics and social milieu of her world through her eyes.

This powers a story steeped in action and insight alike, the driving force being a female protagonist who has ambitions beyond her role in her father's business or the circumstances that Egyptian culture has handed her.

Everything is changing, and Salima is determined to take charge of her own destiny. This compelling story comes to life in a fine blend of written word and lovely, diverse illustrations throughout.

The Illustrated Boatman's Daughter is a novelette that's highly recommended for young adult readers seeking a strong female protagonist whose heart confronts a whirlwind of changes that will ultimately affect her future and her dreams.

Divinity's Twilight: Rebirth
Christopher Russell
Morgan James Publishing
9781642798876, $19.95 Paper, $9.99 Kindle

Divinity's Twilight: Rebirth opens as all good epic fantasy should - with black and white maps of the areas under discussion, helping readers orient themselves to this new world. It then moves to a rather extensive prologue which sets the scene for the story, importing much background history about what changed when the world burned and warrior Darmatus Aurelian helped his brother kill their despot older brother, who changed everything. Sarcon's final attempt to destroy the world was only thwarted because his two brothers gave their lives to stop it.

Fast forward 697 years after this epic battle, where war is still being waged in much the same manner. The seven races of Lozaria have learned to carry on the fight without the gods that created this eternal conflict.

Imagine a war that goes on for some 700 years, fought by participants who employ high-tech battle devices while forgetting the origins of the struggle. Imagine ironic twists in revised relationships between the sexes; the richness of the Church of Light in contrast with the poverty of Sewertown, where none of the "shared" wealth seems to trickle down; and the rise of a deadly power believed to be vanquished through sacrifice at the Battle of Har'muth. This force threatens a new world bereft of the warriors that once had the savvy to defeat it.

Even as a lesson from the Void teaches that "...destruction will always be a part of anything that has been and all that will be", with catastrophe the end of result of a divided world, characters who are descendants of past heroes defy their destiny and the past to create new ideals and powerful changes in the world.

Like Tolkein's classic 'Lord of the Rings' series, Christopher Russell creates a complex, epic fantasy and world which is rich in detail, strong characterization, and a heroic quest that leads a myriad of players into uncharted waters. Though they have a history to follow, each finds their journey and destiny diverges from past paths of resolution, demanding from them many altered reactions and values. Each individual holds a key to changing the world.

Combat scenes, struggles, and rescue efforts and survival permeate a story that is multifaceted and engrossing.

Divinity's Twilight: Rebirth presents a traditional phoenix-from-ashes rise with a difference: its juxtaposition of faith and magic, clashes between difference races, fluid gender roles, and crucibles who change those who come through them makes for a story steeped in social, psychological, and religious inspection alike.

From how pacifists become soldiers to cycles of violence sparked by unusual circumstances, Divinity's Twilight: Rebirth is a true epic. Its complex world and its influences will leave readers intrigued and engaged in mysteries and miracles that leave the door open for further adventures.

Fans of epic fantasy who look for world-building tales will find Divinity's Twilight: Rebirth a compelling read that begins midway in an already-extensive history, but carries its story with a powerful surge of description, action, and intrigue.

The Well Spouse: My Journey of Love, Resilience, and Alzheimer's
JoAnn Wingfield
J. Wingfield, LLC
9781734775426, $18.95, $3.99 ebook

The Well Spouse: My Journey of Love, Resilience, and Alzheimer's is highly recommended reading for both caregivers, friends, and family members of people with Alzheimer's or other chronicle illness, and adults and seniors in general. It's an intimate, whimsical, and yet powerful story of the author's 9 years of progressively challenging care for a husband diagnosed with Alzheimer's.

The Well Spouse asks the hard question of how a 'well spouse' survives being a caregiver and partner to someone with such a devastating, deteriorating condition, and it provides a retrospective review of events that especially challenged and changed the author's life. JoAnn Wingfield hopes that families, caregivers, and spouses similarly challenged will find nuggets of wisdom in her story that will help them on their own paths to support a loved one. And she wishes that her story will heighten society's awareness of the struggles of family caregivers - particularly the spousal caregiver.

One notable feature to this story is that it alternates between first-person memories and the third person, using poetic, lyrical description to capture the interactions and challenges that Alzheimer's introduces into the relationship: "People are not able to choose their own birth and, for the most part, not able to choose their own death, she thought, but I will choose how to love and how to live, regardless of what's happening in my life. That is exactly what I will do! She searched for his soul, for a sign of recognition and the assurance of his love. She felt a flicker of it, or did she? But it was hard to catch, it was hard to be certain, and it slipped away into obscurity just as quickly as it sparkled in the darkness, before she could catch it, before she could be certain."

There are also many cultural revelations, where JoAnn Wingfield's Chinese heritage injects perceptions of solutions and problems that are different from Western thinking. These descriptions offer thought-provoking insights into how methods of problem-solving are influenced by cultural perspective: "After the incident at the luau in Hawaii when the man had yelled at me for allowing Clyde to go into the men's room because he urinated on the floor, I told Joy, woefully, that although Clyde was still physically healthy and active, I could no longer take him out because of his confusion about using a public restroom. "Why don't you take him to the women's room?" she suggested. "Most people wouldn't mind. I know I wouldn't." In the eyes of Chinese people, Westerners are open-minded - maybe too open-minded, in matters of gender propriety. In China, at least during the time I was growing up, there were expectations for how boys and girls should behave according to their clearly defined gender roles: no boys wanted to play rubber band skipping, which was played only by girls, and no girls wanted to play soccer. Clothing should not be too revealing - definitely no cleavage showing, please! My Chinese mind had not allowed me to think in such a deviant way until now: if I didn't want to give up all normal activities, if I didn't want to stop going to places with Clyde, if I didn't want to be confined within the high walls of the big-and-beautiful house, I needed to have the courage to break the gender segregation of public restrooms."

These elements expand the approach and theme of this story of an Alzheimer's patient, his spouse, and social and cultural encounters beyond most caregiving books. It provides additional dimensions of challenge and understanding that enlarge the special circumstances and considerations of managing an Alzheimer's spouse's care.

The philosophical and ethical considerations of this process are particularly striking: "This war was so much more personal, with no possibility of winning, and with no prophecy of its ending. As Clyde's protector, guardian, and well spouse, the one who continued to be in love with him, I wanted to shield him from further sufferings, I wanted to take him away from the world of afflictions, and I wanted to end his misery. Nature, or God, did not let us choose our birth, but it is we human beings who have given away our right to choose our own destiny, the ultimate destiny of death. I wished for an enlightened world where people could be allowed, and afforded the means, to leave this world without prolonged agony and with dignity."

Black and white photos of the couple enhance a different kind of caregiving story that is highly recommended reading for mixed culture relationships and well spouses who face the challenges of caring for a loved one.

The Gravity Thief
Nancy Kunhardt Lodge
Wilwahren Press
9780996088589, $14.99, Softcover
9780996088596, $21.99, Hardcover
9781735224107, $3.99, Kindle

The third book in the Lucy Nightingale series for middle grades is illustrated by Christopher Hilaire, who provides lovely, full-page color drawings complimenting Lucy's latest adventure.

Lucy hears a ghost child crying behind a wall only by accident, when she lingers behind during a museum field trip gone awry as a class visit dovetails with the aftermath of an art theft.

Her investigation reveals a form of evidence the police missed, uncovering a mystery that she is charged with solving with her special abilities, along with cohort and best friend Sam, who has joined her in forming S.L.A.R.P (Sam and Lucy's Anomalies Research Project) to identify and investigate puzzling phenomenon.

As the two friends contemplate the addition of Tommy, whose father is involved in the latest secret, the investigation becomes one of evolving conundrums. The children are tasked with a mission to identify the evil mastermind who stole the Vermeer painting with the purpose not of making money, but taking secret geometric shapes out of the painting's windows to build a dangerous machine.

As they confront the idea of gravitons and a plot to suck the universe into a black hole, the children widen their probe to embrace not just the unlikely, but the impossible. Lucy journeys other places to encounter Wilbur in a crescendo of lovely descriptions that keep readers involved and engrossed: "A swarm of tiny, glinting mirrors whirled around her, spinning a blinking web of light. The photons whirled faster and faster, lifting her up and up until finally, they reached the frozen surface of Phorxys. They burned a hole in the ice, lifted Lucy out of the water, and vanished in a trail of glittering light."

Kids receive a healthy dose of scientific possibilities wound into a thoroughly engrossing plot every bit as involving as the old-time Danny Dunn adventures, and as just investigative as the classic Encyclopedia Brown: "Sam composed himself. "Mycroft Goat invented the Copenhagen Interpretation of particle interaction: Quantum particles exist in all possible states at once."

Readers who are prior fans of Lucy's adventures in The Crystal Navigator and Mona Lisa's Ghost, as well as newcomers to her extraordinary abilities and adventures, will find The Gravity Thief alluring and thoroughly engrossing reading. It's highly recommended for middle graders, who will appreciate the peppering of colorful visual embellishments in a fast-paced blend of intrigue and sci-fi.

Dana McSwain
Webb House Publishing
9781735286044, $29.99 Paper, $7.99 Kindle



Horror readers will welcome Roseneath for its engrossing story of slowly-building horror surrounding Georgia Pritchard, who discovers a dead child in the attic of her new dream house, but can't confide in her husband...because she's uncertain about what he is turning into.

The story opens with an archangel who mourns both a death and his inability to build his heart's desire - a family. He knows that Lucifer has conjured a new form of evil, and that the death of this mysterious, beautiful child he holds has altered his destiny, as a result.

Decades of solitude pass in the deserted house Roseneath before the archangel returns to find that his brother Lucifer has been at work in it once again, leaving behind a malignant, growing force that threatens to re-enact the horror that happened at Roseneath so long ago.

Fast forward to Georgia's world. She is pregnant, and feels shackled by its connection to an entity she has come to hate in the body of her husband Nathan. Meanwhile, he puzzles over her nightmares and increasing distance: "Their embrace was a cruel mimicry of the casual possession that years of marriage had forged. Instead of the familiar entanglement, their limbs now seemed at war with each other. Each night, he tried desperately to hold her together, all the while her unconscious body seemed determined to fly apart. His hands searched in vain for the latch on the cruel snare that held her, but her pain was a relentless, vicious animal devouring her one small piece at a time. Each night ended as it began - a maddening, Sisyphean endeavor. Nathan didn't sleep anymore, not in their home, not in their bed."

As the story unfolds from different perspectives, the horror grows with a satisfyingly slow build that evolves from compellingly different descriptions of the same events.

One might expect events to come solely from Georgia's viewpoint, but Nathan's perspective is nicely wound into the story line. This is an outstanding approach that adds details into the evolving horror that stems not just from his choices and actions, but his thoughts: "You're just trying to do what's best. There's no harm in that. And it's not a lie, not really. A lie of omission, not much of a sin at all. And of course she'd understand. This is how you give her everything she ever wanted, isn't it?"

The juxtaposition of these two very different experiences creates an exquisite interplay that heightens tension, adds complexity to the horror component, and draws in readers with an approach that proves hard to put down: "I guess when you decide to rule in hell, can't be too picky about the help." The horde drew back against the wall, surged up it, cowered on the ceiling like a colony of bats. His name froze in her mouth, a primal, prey instinct warned her to hide it away, tuck it deep inside where the thing across the room couldn't find it, couldn't tarnish it. It wasn't until the moment he turned and caught sight of her, that Georgia realized how gracefully, how consummately Nathan had worn his own skin. How the body without the man was just an unrecognizable shell, that his soul had filled that precious frame to bursting and without it was little more than a stranger."

As the truth about Roseneath and Nathan and Georgia's different roles in the house develops, readers will be surprised and delighted by the twists and turns Dana McSwain cultivates. These are the hallmarks of a solid literary horror page-turner that makes Roseneath a highly recommended pick for horror story readers looking for exceptional works based on more than just heart-stopping surprises and supernatural encounters.

Steadfast: Frances Perkins, Champion of Workers' Rights
Jennifer J. Merz
Jennuine Books
9780578679136, $18.99

Steadfast: Frances Perkins, Champion of Workers' Rights features hand-crafted, cut paper illustrations in a moving picture book biography of a woman who witnessed the devastating Triangle Factory Fire of 1911. She made it her life mission to advocate for workers' rights, as a result.

Frances Perkins became the first woman ever to serve in a U.S. Presidential Cabinet, becoming the Secretary of Labor and creating programs that, even today, help protect worker rights and safety.

Ages 6-9 with good reading skills will find this book an important blend of American history and social inspection that uses Frances Perkins' life and times to document not only worker suffering in the early 1900s, but the changing role of women in politics and social issues.

Perkins led the battle on many fronts. Steadfast's inviting study of the times and her actions encourages young people to not just understand her life, but the active role she chose in battling seemingly impossible injustices through the male-dominated government system.

Readers interested in picture book biographies of strong women who made a difference will find Steadfast an important reference, suitable for reports.

The Jellies and the Crunchers
Matt Bell
Covenant Books
978646708543, $13.95

The Jellies and the Crunchers is a picture book story (illustrations not seen by this reviewer) of a town that holds two very different types of people: 'jellies' (who only eat sticky jelly) and 'crunchers' (who will only consume crunchy crackers). Kids who hold preferences for specific textures and foods will immediately relate to the story before it even gets off the ground...but, there's more to recommend this book than flavor and texture alone.

Although the jellies and crunchers are a disparate group of people, there's one problem: "The Jellies think that the Crunchers are messy and loud. The Crunchers think the Jellies are messy and gooey. And they don't get along so well."

These groups have very different habits, shop in different stores for their different food obsessions, and remain separate: "Throughout the history of the town, a Jelly has never been in a crunchy cracker shop and a Cruncher has never been in a Jelly shop."

The townspeople do come together in the square to eat...but the two groups remain apart, and this is where a problem evolves, as the jellies create sticky messes and the crunchers contribute crumbles to the problem. Both sides point at the other's habits as being the culprit.

Even the Mayor, who is supposed to be fair, has chosen a side. How can the town come together?

Matt Bell creates a fun, winning story with a message that will especially delight read-aloud parents looking for stories about adversity, differences, and unity. The strong social issue and community focus, couched in a delightfully whimsical approach to differences and perceptions, makes The Jellies and the Crunchers a special winner that is widely and highly recommended for parent read-aloud and educator pursuit alike.

The Ottoman Excursion
Tim Pelkey
SDP Publishing
9781734240252, $17.95 pbk / $4.99 Kindle

The Ottoman Excursion laces four modern-day timelines together in a historical story that at first seems a disparate set of very different lives, but quickly evolves to center on the wide-ranging conspiracy that links them.

An American doctor who participates in a disaster relief team, a Russian major in charge of a program to recover plutonium from old nuclear warheads, a Turkish researcher tasked with finding an impossible cure, and a young jihadist whose goal is to move the caliphate to glory become immersed in political and medical matters.

Themes of conflict, ideals, and ethical, moral, and spiritual behaviors embed the plot with a thick layer of philosophical and deep considerations of the long-held oaths of warriors passionate about their cause, along with others who stand unknowingly in the crosshairs of death.

The blend of historical thriller with medical mystery is well done and fast-paced. Tim Pelkey takes the time to develop each of these very different characters, leading them through confrontation, love, danger, and changing minds and hearts. Readers become engrossed not in a single perspective of conflict, but in the entwined destinies and observations of each person and their experience.

Even research that culminates in a predictable disaster doesn't prove the end of something, but the beginning - as Mehmet discovers when disaster moves him forward.

Readers need have no prior familiarity with or even interest in Middle Eastern affairs in general or Turkish history in particular in order to find The Ottoman Excursion compelling and easily understandable.

Tim Pelkey juxtaposes an attention to historical and political detail and a fast-paced series of encounters with death and confrontations with long-held ideals. This approach keeps readers engrossed and guessing throughout the action-packed adventure.

The result is a captivating dance through danger and mystery that's highly recommended for readers of intrigue, international affairs, political thrillers, and conspiracy stories alike.

All That Lingers
Irene Wittig
Independently Published
9798623796721, $16.00 Paper, $8.99 Kindle

All That Lingers captures Viennese history from 1934 through World War II and beyond, and is recommended reading for those who enjoy Jewish and World War II historical fiction and experiences captured from different lives and viewpoints.

Irene Wittig's family memories of displacement during the war are one of the facets that makes this story compellingly realistic. The juxtaposition of personal experience and political disaster is nicely narrated from the start, and is one of the themes that flows through the story line as each of three characters builds a different life from what is handed to him or her from the outside world: "Unaware that trouble was only days away, Emma was happier than she'd ever been. Once she might have described the early morning emptiness of their street as gloomy. Now she delighted in the dawn dancing silently on the cobblestones. The howling winter wind at the window would have frightened her. Now she greeted its icy arms around her and laughed. Even the scent of steaming bleach filling their small apartment every morning was comforting in its familiarity."

From the initial signs of trouble in spreading political violence and social unrest that changes the family's world, to individuals caught up in fighting that leads them from a world of comfort to struggling for survival on different levels, Wittig's story captures the Nazi occupation and its aftermath. It cultivates an astute eye in showing how everyday people and families make choices and survive their consequences.

The characters, their motivations, and their impulses are well developed and designed to draw readers in, from Emma's initial delight with her life and comfort to the unraveling of all that is familiar among family and friends. There is a wide cast of characters, both main and supporting. This lends diverse perspectives and experiences into the mix, to explore Viennese society and culture on many different levels.

How do three friends and their families survive unthinkable adversity? How do they reassemble the pieces of their world after war ends? As neighbors and friends transform to become something alien and feared; now, more than ever, Americans will readily find much to recognize in this story of the past. There are also many cautions to absorb about choices and their lasting ramifications as they impact not just families, but future political and social structures.

The attention to detail and strong psychological insights makes All That Lingers persuasive reading even for those who may have relatively little familiarity with Viennese culture or history. The plot provides the historical backdrop necessary to bring those experiences to life, and is highly recommended for readers of Jewish experience, World War II history, and family survival stories.

Murder Ballad Blues: A Mystery Novel
Lynda McDaniel
9781734637137 $ 4.99, Ebook
9781734637120 $14.95

Abit Bradshaw is running for his life from the man he and the FBI were chasing in the prologue (set in Kentucky in 2005) of Murder Ballad Blues. As his past, present, and future spin before his desperate mind after he stumbles upon his prey and is hunted in turn, Abit's story moves to seven months prior, in North Carolina. Here, a series of mysterious deaths in the mountains involve the FBI and bring him into contact with former crime reporter Della, whose latest fraud investigation turns up some unusual connections she didn't expect.

Abit has a theory, but the FBI won't listen to him. More are slated to die unless he can not only gain a professional audience, but solve the crime wave that threatens a community.

The heart of Murder Ballad Blues lies in its connections to bluegrass music, which unexpectedly holds the key to solving the murders. Music is a family affair. Abit's wife Fiona plays fiddle and sings, and their son is also taking up the instrument and joining in. The connections between safety and family, musicians, and musical culture are all explored in the course of a stealthy, steadily-building murder investigation that draws in multiple characters, each with their own special abilities and focus.

Another plus to the approach of this Appalachian-rooted murder mystery is Lynda McDaniel's choice to alternate perspectives between Della and Abit. These changing experiences and observations are clearly identified in chapter headings, and lend a fine tone of revelation and discovery that highlight both the similarities and the differences between Della and Abit's approaches to problem-solving in general and life itself.

Their shared mission includes collective danger as Della deals with whistleblower Deep Pocket, plays a dangerous game with his mysterious communiques (he doesn't know about her FBI connection), and faces a confrontation with Abit before the murderer strikes again.

The emotional components of each character are thoroughly explored as they fight anger, loneliness, loss, and helpless feelings in the course of their choices. The characters come alive not because of the mystery's overlay, but because McDaniel takes the time to explore the wellsprings of their pasts and their reactions to adversity. What lends faith and encouragement in the face of devastation; and what influences create the type of 'justice' that ties into a killer's logical process and mindset? These and other questions place these events above and beyond a simple 'whodunnit' mystery.

Readers looking for a murder mystery strongly centered in regional culture, the different lives and focus of two equally powerful investigators, and a puzzle that draws them into far more than a singular investigation will relish this story's superior tension. Its sense of place and people in a cat-and-mouse game that unfolds over the course of a riveting mystery is designed to keep readers on their toes and guessing about the outcome to the end.

On With the Butter!
Heidi Herman
Hekla Publishing LLC
9781947233034, $16.99

On With the Butter! Spread More Living onto Everyday Life presents an inspirational admonition to make the most of each day. While this may seem to mirror many, many other motivational books already on the market, Heidi Herman cultivates an ability to do more than provide encouraging words, but includes the tools needed to develop and support this attitude.

The title of this book comes from the author's Icelandic mother and an old Icelandic expression that means "carry on," "keep doing what you're doing," "forge ahead," or "keep moving." Herman absorbed this message and its practical applications at an early age, and pinpoints the crux of the issue, for others less familiar with these teachings: "We're reminded to take advantage of the days we're given, but how exactly do we do that?" Exactly how it's done is the focus of her book.

As chapters survey this philosophical attitude and how to learn its applications, readers receive a remarkably astute probe of methods to living a better life. One example of this process stems from recognizing opportunities in life and "just saying yes" to them. From cultivating the kinds of spontaneity and surprises that translate to added joy in living (because "welcoming unplanned adventures is good therapy for us") to volunteering for work you're passionate about, these offer concrete strategies rather than ethereal ideals alone.

This means that potential readers of On with the Butter! need to be prepared to do more than absorb the underlying messages in this book. They need to be ready to act on them.

From locating the life coaches who can help re-inject a playful, spontaneous, creative spirit into one's life ("If you're out of practice and need some help, spend time with playful people. Children are especially good at playing.") to the inspirational timeline of growth sparked by a year that Herman dubbed "the "Never Too Old" year" (in which her family and her mother purposely embarked on shared new experiences together), On with the Butter! is packed with methods for making the most of life. The message is all the more powerful for the fact that the author's mother formulated it after recovering from a stroke at age 92, documenting some 93 new activities experienced between her 93rd and 94th birthdays.

It's highly recommended reading for proactive, engaged readers who would grasp these lessons with both hands and apply them to expand their own worlds and opportunities.

A Wife in Bangkok
Iris Mitlin Lav
She Writes Press
9781631527074, $16.95 Paper/$9.49 Kindle

A Wife in Bangkok is a novel about a journey made by a wife with traditional values, who moves with her husband from their comfortable Oklahoma home to Thailand when his company sends him overseas.

Battling culture shock, depression, and the growing realization that her life choices are not what she would have made had she a choice in the matter, Crystal has hardly any options, fewer connections, and feels increasingly trapped.

Bangkok isn't all about adversity. It holds a special kind of beauty and life lessons she wouldn't have absorbed in the safety of her American home. Still, as she struggles with issues of security and danger in her new environment, deals with servants and help she's expected to manage and interact with, and increasingly sees that her marriage is broken and in trouble, Crystal is forced to make adjustments she never could have imagined years ago.

The growth process she experiences by being an American wife transplanted to the alien culture and conditions of Bangkok makes for a mesmerizing story that follows the logical progression of her evolution with an astute attention to detail and psychological development.

Iris Mitlin Lav's story excels in its survey not only of Crystal's emotional condition and growth, but in its portrait of the Thai people and their world. Readers absorb a depth of discussion surprising for the usual novel, which imparts much information about Thai lifestyles and culture.

Its added focus on Crystal's evolution and the process whereby she heals, makes new decisions, and cultivates new opportunities is icing on the cake of understanding, on many different levels. While this may seem complex, the story is also involving and hard to put down.

The passionate descriptions of how Crystal and her family interact in their new world, forming revised purposes and ideals for their future, are creatively, evocatively crafted through descriptions that tug at the heart: "The Carrol family launched their kratongs to join the others. Even Brian was taken by the display and helped the children float theirs.

Crystal certainly needed the water god to float her own troubles away. She formed a prayer in her heart. Please, may I find a better way to live here. Please, may the problems between Brian and me go away."

Readers looking for stories about female psyches, development, growth, and change will relish the inroads into independence and positive choices that are cultivated and explored in A Wife in Bangkok.

Sincerely Speaking Spiritually
Joseph S. Spence Sr.
WestBow Press
c/o Thomas Nelson Publishers
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9781973683919, $11.95 Paper, $3.99 Kindle, $28.95 Hardcover

Sincerely Speaking Spiritually is a discourse blending inspirational poetry with Christian observations of religion and life. These invite readers to achieve breakthroughs in spiritual thinking and enjoy enlightened, heightened perceptions of God's word.

By using the poetic form to impart these words of wisdom and reflection, Joseph S. Spence Sr., an award-winning poet and professional military veteran, offers insights and experiences that capture the dynamics of spiritual inspection through various poetic devices and powerful descriptions.

Take the entreaty of 'We Are Still Standing', for one example of this strength. Its free verse admonition is a passionate reminder of the power of faith to believe in the concept and shared beliefs of all who are God's people: "Anchored in His foundation/Standing on a solid landing/Trusting always in His grace." This short piece charts the foundations of faith that unites and solidifies Christians.

The uplifting 'Merry Christmas Greetings to You' offers a greeting card of seasonal inspiration and hope that solidifies and celebrates the season: "Though some days may be bleak and dark,/Your ship will come for you to embark./We belong to a family with special love./May God's blessings descend on you from above." The added author note at the end, as well as the poem's wide-ranging conclusion, indicates that other faiths are embraced in his celebration, which is directed to "all of God's people."

As readers enjoy the easily-understandable poems and their messages of hope, inspiration, and solidarity, they will come to realize that their connections move beyond Christian focus and into the worlds of everyone holds faith in God.

This unifying effort and message is highly recommended for Christians, but reaches out to any with faith, who will find the positive message of shared love and belief to be especially inspirational during times of plague and divisiveness. The literary, spiritual, and social impact of Sincerely Speaking Spiritually makes it a recommendation for any spiritual reader, and collections appealing to them.

Missing Peace
N. K. Holt
HMG Press
9780578697314, $16.99 Paper, $4.95 Kindle

Janey McKay never expected to be the target of terrorists...not in her staid life in a small town in Iowa. But when her soldier brother finds a strange rosary during his service in Iraq that sets off a global conflict, she finds her world changed in Missing Peace, a powerful thriller about family life and belief.

N. K. Holt does an outstanding job of depicting the life of a woman inexperienced in global issues and threats. Centered by her religion, her family, and her love for her brother's best friend, Janey has never experienced personal threat and faith-challenging circumstances on this level.

She is ill prepared to tackle a world that includes visits by FBI agents, Middle Eastern radical group operations on her home turf, and the unexpected results of a rosary website she was involved in building. As the fatwa against her world continues to change her views and challenges her ability to survive, tests of faith and love stream through the story of a woman whose seemingly innocuous choices change everything.

Holt's blend of thriller and personal struggles is well balanced. Readers who choose Missing Peace for its global thriller components will be well satisfied with its action and twists and turns; while others who turn to the story because of its insights on faith and family transitions will be equally impressed by the character development and moral and ethical conundrums which are raised in the course of an action-packed scenario.

Holt takes time to explore family connections and experiences and Janey's newfound mission to fulfill the mysterious rosary's promise of peace as she develops the kinds of strengths that allow her to confront enemies of this process while preserving everything she personally loves.

This dynamic creates an absorbing, winning story that proves hard to put down. Missing Peace is especially highly recommended for readers of faith-based stories who look for a blend of action and spiritual and emotional enlightenment.

Jenny Goodnight
Killarney Traynor
Original Thirteen Publications
9781735113906, $15.00 Paperback
B08DP3FZMR, $3.99 Ebook



Jenny Goodnight tells of a tired missionary woman who becomes drawn into a town conflict between fiery newspaper reporter Uncle Matthew and the powerful founding family of the town of Legacy.

It doesn't help her case, when murder results, that she's an assertive woman known for packing a pistol and confronting violence, herself. When she becomes a suspect in the murder, Jenny is drawn into the investigation to save herself from hanging. Like her investigative uncle, she discovers even more layers to the town's politics and underlying connections, the more she pulls at the strings of possibilities and strange associations.

Killarney Traynor creates an involving, clever, assertive protagonist in the character of Jenny Goodnight. The plot follows her special form of frontier justice and confrontation beyond the confines of the usual Western female protagonist.

Jenny's uncle wants to reject her inclination to rescue him even as she uncovers truths about his relationship with Underwood and the secret that is being held over his head. More importantly, Jenny herself finds that her own future and capacity to survive and live in this town depends on her ability to unravel a very strange and deadly truth indeed.

From a missing letter to another act of violence that hits too close to home, Jenny perseveres against all odds, drawing readers into a Western scenario in which her strengths spill over into other lives to create new possibilities not just for Jenny, but those around her.

Another big plus to the story is the atmospheric descriptions that create strong images of countryside and purposes: "I followed him down the narrow path. The sun was descending, shafts of light gilding the rugged dark pines and bringing out the burnt orange of the landscape. We rode maybe half a mile under the arbor, then the trees gave way and the valley opened up before us. A low, squat building, weather-beaten and in need of work, was situated on the open plain, a barn just behind it. Beyond these, a creek wended its way through a corridor of earth-clutching trees. There were more trees staked out in an irregular pattern on the far side of the house. Cattle lowed from somewhere, and Danaher's nag whinnied in the paddock. It was a sweet piece of land, capable of supporting a small family, and I wondered if that would have suited the lovely Helen, had she not caught the eye of an Evans."

Readers who like blends of Western and mystery themes, powered by an exceptionally astute female protagonist, will relish the intrigue, atmosphere, and confrontational changes in Jenny Goodnight, which is highly recommended reading for Western novel fans looking for more than the usual male-centric focus.

Bittersweet Memories: The Life Story of an Immigrant Daughter
Barbara H. Long
Book Baby Publishers
9781543975871, $16.99 Paper, $4.99 Kindle

Bittersweet Memories: The Life Story of an Immigrant Daughter will appeal to memoir readers with a particular interest in immigrant family histories. It tells the author's story, who, as the young daughter of a German scientist, immigrated to America only to find the land of opportunity rife with challenges that ranged from isolation, divorce, and mental illness.

The family left their home after the fall of the Third Reich in 1946, but as they faced prejudice in America, many of the same shadows of threat emerged, as in a law against immigrants owning dogs, which led to their beloved family pet being taken to the pound when neighbors reported them. Her scientist father came to America under the auspices of the US Military Government. He had never joined the Nazi party, but this didn't protect his family from community reactions to the presence of Germans in town, as Germans became suspect and despised.

From their initial experiences in America to the struggles that evolved as they settled in, experiencing conflicts both within and outside the family, readers will be engrossed by Barbara Long's survey of the challenges of daily life and difficult living situations, as well as social interactions that belayed the promise of a positive life in a new home. The true story relays how she follows her intuitions and their influence, from childhood through adulthood. It is in the way she went on from events that defined the times, to what influenced her attitudes, ideas, and abilities.

The author's approach is thus wider-ranging than many personal stories, which tend to focus on either childhood or present-day experiences. The result encourages a fuller appreciation of not just social experience, but the mental impact and challenges of war times and immigrant roots. Bittersweet Memories is a powerful memoir that draws readers into not just Long's life, but the lasting impacts of immigrant choices and experience as she traverses her mother's mental illness and the destiny of other family members. Anyone who reads her book will find it both revealing, and well-written.

Healthcare Heroes
Mary Choy, PharmD, BCGP, FASHP
Michele B. Kaufman, PharmD, BCGP
Sigel Press
9781905941315, $27.99

Healthcare Heroes: The Medical Careers Guide is the first book to gather the experiences of almost thirty different kinds of healthcare professionals, who reveal how to follow in their footsteps in a given career. Unlike more singular productions which focus on one healthcare objective, this offers students a rare opportunity to contrast these different choices for a better fit between skills, work environment, and alternative options that students and parents may not know about.

Healthcare Heroes is written by two board-certified clinical pharmacists who are academicians that explore the process of adopting academic and internship paths that lead to specialized careers.

From Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist to Medical Imaging Technologist, Biomedical Engineer, Osteopathic Physician, and Dentist or Vet, Healthcare Heroes covers quite a wide range of career options that fall under the 'healthcare' umbrella. Each profession receives a clear overview, including educational requirements, responsibilities and requirements, career outlook, and a concluding list of similar careers that students can check out to expand their options.

With its wide-ranging and clear presentation, Healthcare Heroes is highly recommended reading...a 'must have' educational reference for high school career guidance collections, adults who want to help any teen, or for adults looking to enter a healthcare profession.

Sorcerer's Prayer: Sacred Idol
Luigi N. Spring
Independently Published
9798655997721, $9.99

Sorcerer's Prayer: Sacred Idol blends a detective's probe of a murder mystery with supernatural overtones in the first book of a series.

The Judge (Keoni) is an immortal man who was disfigured. He uses his immortality to wreck vengeance on the descendants of the woman who ruined his eternal life. He cultivates a computer hacker's skills to track them down, then murders them in one of the few actions he enjoys, these days.

The rituals involved in his actions lead homicide detective Joe Adams to tap the skills of Hawaiian anthropology professor Dr. Kawika Kinimaka-Ka'ahalewai, a researcher of nearly forty who never expected that his specialty in Hawaiian lore would be of interest in a modern murder case involving ceremonial rituals.

In true Hawaiian family style, a circle of authors, including his Aunty, become involved and contribute some of the clues to locating this dangerous "judge". But they are missing the biggest clue of all - one which changes the game from a serial murder's pursuits to a dangerous immortal's driving purpose in life.

The story is steeped in Hawaiian culture and focuses on the professor's inadvertent exploration of a career far from the library or the researcher's desk, after the grief of losing his wife. Detective work leaves him "feeling frazzled" but also attracts him with a new job title. The lure of problem-solving, using his specialty to contribute to something more than a research paper, is a welcome distraction from his grief and gives him unexpected directions that challenge him to apply his knowledge in new ways.

Luigi N. Spring's story excels in unexpected twists and turns. Although the reader well knows The Judge's background, motivations, and modus operandi, the characters trying to solve this homicide are continually puzzled and thwarted in their inspections. Their usual approaches to life and career are themselves challenged as they draw ever closer to The Judge and the dangerous truth not just about his identity and operations, but the possibilities of life itself.

The Hawaiian language, atmosphere, and culture are fine backdrops to the murder mystery and will especially appeal to readers with any degree of knowledge about Hawaii, as well as many newcomers who will absorb that culture here.

Every day is an amazing adventure that leads Kawika further from his grief and staid life, even into the possibilities of romance. An Indiana Jones-style series of encounters keeps the action fast-paced and evolving.

Readers looking for an engrossing murder mystery with a difference will find the Hawaiian backdrop, circumstances surrounding The Judge's ritual murder spree, and characters of those who would stop him make for thoroughly engrossing reading that's hard to put down. It leaves the door open for further adventures while providing a pause and satisfying conclusion to the action in Sacred Idol.

Bird in Hand
Nikki Stern
Ruthenia Press
9780999548745, $14.99
9780999548752, $3.99 Ebook

Prior fans of law officer Samantha Tate's adventures will welcome another story with Bird in Hand, while newcomers will find her latest adventure both accessible and absorbing.

Arley Fitchett is a treasure hunter. He envisions himself as "...a mix of Indiana Jones and Sherlock Holmes with a lot of truffle-sniffing pig thrown in." Arley's latest discovery would "upend history and rattle the art world." Told to stop the hunt for this particular best treasure of all, Arley resists the notion, even though it's attracted some dangerous people indeed. It's his last and worst decision.

When Lieutenant Samantha Tate is called to Indian Point Road to a murder scene, she has little idea that it will change her life, challenging her in ways the past has never done before.

As with Nikki Stern's other explorations of protagonist Sam, there's an emotional undercurrent to her investigations that continues to reveal layers of Sam's psyche, motivations, and approaches to life, which are wound into the daily activities of her job: ""Did he have any close friends?" "I couldn't say. He's been around for a while, but like I said, he traveled." He paused. "It's like everyone knew him, but maybe no one did."

(I know that feeling), Sam thought."

Stern's ability to bring out the depths and life of Sam's background and perspective, injecting them into a murder mystery that thwarts even Sam's savvy abilities to solve problems and gain answers from murky waters, creates a story that is as much about Sam's evolution as it is about finding a killer.

As Sam faces cartel bosses and questions of trust, a cold case that comes to new life, and complicated homicide cases that challenge her new home and world, readers are given outstanding inspections of her ongoing struggles to rise above her problems: "Everything informs my life. That doesn't mean I'm suffering from the loss any more than anyone else would. But something about that day bothers me. I mean beyond the trauma. I missed something. A clue, something I registered but can't recall that would explain, well, everything."

Inspections of motivation thus move beyond the crime scene and into Sam's continuing attempts to resolve traumas of the past and the demands of her loved ones in the present and future.

Stern excels at creating a satisfyingly complex, emotional undercurrent that runs through the greater murder mystery. Bird in Hand will have prior Sam fans and newcomers thoroughly engrossed, all the way to the unexpected end.

What's Not Said
Valerie Taylor
She Writes Press
9781631527456, $16.95 Paperback

What's Not Said will appeal to urban women who like fun stories of cityscapes and interpersonal relationships. It follows Kassie O'Callaghan's plan to divorce her abusive husband and move in with a younger man. But his claim of suffering from chronic kidney disease temporarily stymies her until she discovers the truth, making her escape plot all the more important. Or, so it seems.

What's Not Said is about deceit and lies in marriage, secret lives and vows of fidelity and loyalty, and the kinds of decisions an older, long-time wife faces during the process of exploring new options and justifying old habits.

As Kassie takes several unexpected turns, each revelation bringing its own decision and life-changing choice, readers follow the trajectory of a self-admitted perfectionist who is used to doing the right thing even when that approach is unclear.

Husband Mike, too, is facing changes as he examines the future of his life, both in sickness and in health, and muses on his new options and restrictions: "Did he have a choice? Not a good one anyway. So Mike, outnumbered and defeated, grabbed the TV remote, clicked on Andrea

Mitchell, and ate his lunch; one bland spoonful aft er another. Not half bad. Not half good, either. Is this what I have to look forward to the rest of my life? Good grief. Soon, Mike surrendered his mood to sleep. At last."

Mike has always been immersed in image and success. When Kassie discovers his big stash of hidden money, the marital game changes for both of them. Kassie is a neat freak used to order and control in her life. Can she grasp something that is spiraling out of the zone of familiarity she's built with Mike over the years?

Things are changing. With aging and new restrictions as new possibilities, Mike and Kassie make their decisions, discoveries, and field the obstacles of health and aging. Readers will find in their story an absorbing tale of mistakes, looming divorce, love, and the kinds of concessions demanded by health changes and a revised form of affection.

There are ethical conundrums, illicit associations within and outside of the family structure, discussions of organ donor challenges, and a mother and daughter's secrets, which impact across generations. "What if..." is one of the major threads connecting Kassie's life with those around her as she explores these new possibilities and strangely altered realities.

Female readers who look for "chick-lit" about mature women facing changes in their lives and loves will find What's Not Said develops good characters and realistic scenarios, creating encounters that keep the action nicely paced and the characters believable and appealing.

It's a fine marital examination that covers changing scenarios, ideals of loyalty and love, and the drive of each main character to find something more meaningful and important than they've experienced in the past. What's Not Said is highly recommended for women who look for not just stories of marital relationships, but the unexpected revelations that revolve around life purpose and the immortality of love.

Perfection and Other Illusive Things
J. Mercer
Bare Ink
9781732133297, $12.99
9781734888300, $4.99 Ebook

Perfection and Other Illusive Things is recommended for young adult girls who look for slice of life stories. In protagonist Eden's case, she awakens one morning to realize that her changed appearance results in revised personality, as well. She's always been strong and independent, but mostly because she's been standing behind her strong and independent best friend. Besides, the crush in her life, Hawk, has always been drawn to his delicate, ethereal best friend. While Eden doesn't want to change just for a boy, the truth is that she's sick of being who she's supposed to be.

Eden's character, motivations, evolving personality and abilities, and the conundrums her choices bring are clear and appealing: "Girls like me did what they were supposed to, that's what I'd come to realize. Not what they wanted. Girls like Ivy did what they wanted, and, it seemed to me, seldom what they were supposed to. There had to be a happy medium. There had to be an in-between."

More so than most, Mercer captures in a nutshell the restless urges of a "good girl" who has achieved many of her goals and leads an admirable life, but still dreams of something more: "I had everything a girl like me should want: stellar grades, early admission to my third-choice college, a solid spot on the volleyball team, the most loyal best friend, the sweetest little brother, a mom who loved me, et cetera.

It wasn't that I didn't want those things; obviously, they were very nice things. It was just I wanted things outside that box too. Things Billie didn't understand. Things my mom wouldn't understand. Or Wes. Obviously, because he thought I should want him. So if I didn't want the things a girl like me should want, then maybe I wasn't really that girl anymore."

As Eden explores who she would be if circumstances changed, and takes a more active role in re-inventing herself when they do, teens who embark on the ride through her life will be pulled into the many possibilities Eden explores in thinking about "...the girl I was supposed to be."

Imagine waking up one morning to find that everything is changed; demanding new values, reactions, goals, and visions from you. It's a physical change that only she can see, apparently...but it, in turn, transforms everything.

As Eden explores her new life, readers will relish the possibilities and differences she experiences in her journey. The many ways she considers and changes her approach to life are fascinating: "The whole point of all this magic (that might not really be magic) was that I wanted to try out someone else. If I didn't actually want to drink, I at least wanted to know what it felt like. I also didn't want Javi and Nat to keep things from me anymore. They were coming, and we were drinking, and then they'd understand I wasn't the prissy, judgmental friend they'd assumed me to be."

From a party in which her friends abandon her to a different kind of relationship with Hawk, newfound conflicts with her mother, and actions which threaten her scholarship opportunities and future, readers receive a thoroughly engrossing story of magic, transformation, and responsibility that will keep them engaged and reading to the end.

J. Mercer has done more than craft a coming-of-age story. Perfection and Other Illusive Things is a blend of magical realism and self-examination that will prove an entertaining and thought-provoking key to identifying life values and the unexpected results of taking risks. It's highly recommended reading for teens.

Summer of L.U.C.K.
Laura Segal Stegman
INtense Publications
9781947796577, $28.99 Hardcover
9781947796560, $16.99 Paperback
9781947796584, $4.99 Ebook

Summer of L.U.C.K. presents three unlikely heroes who meet at a summer camp to form an unusual bond. All struggle with different physical incarnations of emotional stress. Darby stutters, Justin is mute as a response to grief, and Naz is just learning English. Isolated by their different responses to life, they are brought together in an unexpected way when a magical calliope allows them to connect via telepathy.

Suddenly, their barriers to companionship and life fall away. And when they do, they encounter a ghost who presents them with a magical mission that involves embracing and overcoming their limitations in order to develop more powerful voices and control over their lives.

Summer of L.U.C.K. combines magical adventures reminiscent of Jane Langton's classic A Diamond in the Window with the eerie carnival atmosphere of Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes - but for middle-grade readers.

Like both of these classics, these young protagonists are challenged to overcome the innate restrictions that keep them from experiencing life in favor of accepting themselves and developing supportive friendships that lead to purposeful actions.

Especially notable is how the lessons they absorb from their magical encounters translate to handling everyday problems in a life that used to stymie them: "Hey," he said, grasping her shoulders. "Think of all that happened at Mr. Usher's. Stuff we never could have imagined. This could work out that way too. Remember how he said to try things we don't think we can do?"

The evolving fantasy adventure's connections to real-world problem-solving strategies are part of what make these characters and their lives so thoroughly engrossing, realistic, and charming.

Middle grade readers who appreciate interlinked stories of underdogs who succeed against all odds, with a little help from an unexpected adventure, will relish this blend of camping saga and fantasy, which offers important messages about developing friendship, courage, and perseverance.

Summer of L.U.C.K. is a compelling read that will attract even reluctant young readers, creating characters whose dilemmas stem from internal conflict as much as external challenges. The blend of fantasy, intrigue, and psychological growth is well done, making Summer of L.U.C.K. highly recommended reading that stands out from the crowd.

The Trials of Uwe
Steven L. Masia
Dorrance Publishing Company
585 Alpha Drive, Suite 103, Pittsburgh, PA 15238
9781644261682, $25.00

The Trials of Uwe: Parts I, II, and III will reach young adult sci-fi readers looking for a strong sense of nonstop action in their stories. It follows the adventure of young wizard Uwe, who has spent his short life training for his profession, only to find his efforts lacking.

At age 18, he's an orphan. His parents were killed fighting the self-proclaimed 'savior of the universe, the Evilore, who uses the magic in the souls of living creatures to destroy and reconstruct the universe time and again.

Even though his great-great-great-great-grandfather, a wizard named Edam, has successfully thwarted the Evilore, perishing in the process but passing to Uwe the legacy of their wizardly ways, Uwe still finds himself lacking in ability. It takes an evil wizard with his own plans for takeover to help Uwe change.

There's a deep, satisfying philosophical aspect to the story as it unwinds, which sets it apart from the ordinary action-oriented sci-fi fantasy: "Uwe spoke. "We have done the dragons a great disservice. In trying to protect ourselves from you and potential enslavement by you, we have instead enslaved you. My control over the dragons is more unjust then what you had in store for us." His drive to rectify his mistakes and his ethical conundrums makes for intriguing reading as the wanna-be hero finds himself trying to act in a morally correct manner even as he identifies evil and fights it both in himself and in the world.

It should be cautioned that there are many subplots and takeaways, here; from an evolving love between Uwe and Amanill to a quest that sometimes mirrors the Evilore's purposes: "He had accomplished what the Evilore had only dreamed of performing. He had gone too far; and there would be a price to pay."

Young adults used to gaming choices and action-packed twists and turns may find these further injections of ethical dilemmas and subplots a challenge, but these successfully contribute to a story that, like any superior read, is greater than its individual parts and pieces.

A more singular focus might have made the story more accessible to a wider audience. However, The Trials of Uwe: Parts I, II, and III challenges its young readers to absorb more than just a singular epic adventure. This is one of its strengths...and the reason why The Trials of Uwe: Parts I, II, and III is recommended reading for young adults looking for more than an adventure fantasy story alone.

DAWGS: A True Story of Lost Animals and the Kids Who Rescued Them
Diane Trull with Meredith Wargo
Citadel Press
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21, New York, NY 10018-2522
9780806540344, $15.95


Barnes & Noble:

DAWGS: A True Story of Lost Animals and the Kids Who Rescued Them is an inspirational series of first-person stories about lost animals, kids, and building a rescue center. It is recommended reading for dog lovers and young readers alike, who will learn important lessons about how kids can make a difference.

Elementary-school teacher Diane Trull's fourth-grade reading class saw a photo of a cardboard box containing homeless puppies. The students decided to rescue them - a purpose that blossomed into a mission beyond a single attempt, birthing the Dalhart Animal Wellness Group and Sanctuary (DAWGS).

As the students and their teacher create a sense of community awareness about stray dogs and face an out-of-control problem as rescue volume escalates, readers are treated to more than a story of kids involved in animal welfare in a saga of a rescue center which faced eviction and many challenges to its existence.

From ethical issues surrounding animal euthanasia and preservation to the political conundrum of support versus tolerance, this story embraces all kinds of challenges to animal management. The story will reach a wide age range, from middle school grades to adults interested in animal rescue and the daily challenges of maintaining a rescue center.

Black and white and color photos abound in a tale that is inspirational, heartwarming, and educational. DAWGS is a key acquisition for anyone concerned about animal shelters, rescue operations, and the nuts and bolts of daily challenges to operating them successfully.

Not So Done
Charles Levin
Independently Published
9781735210803, $16.99 Paper, $4.99 Kindle

Not So Done blends time travel with an international thriller to produce a read attractive to fans of sci-fi and espionage alike. Charles Levin does a fine job of exploring the murky intersection between science and global issues as he portrays Sam Sunborn, Rich Little, Michelle Hadar, and Renata Fermi's struggles to contain disaster.

From an explosion of victims of the futuristic crime of bodyjacking (stealing bodies and implanting minds in them) to virtual character Sam's involvement in the abuse of technology that has spawned a crime wave of criminal kidnappers, Not So Done opens with a bang of murder, deception, and virtual living. Levin evolves a steady stream of technological chatter to engage and enthrall science-minded readers interested in a blend of hard science and edgy writing.

The fact that author Levin has a degree in philosophy and 23 years of experience in tech lends to a unique approach that blends these disciplines in a compelling, realistic manner. Indeed, he points out from the beginning that all the technology, science, organizations, and global challenges covered in his fictional story are actually based on today's reality and possibilities. It's a frighteningly realistic scenario that evolves as Sam confronts his role in fostering a form of virtual reality that is literally a killer achievement.

In this story, Sam faces a deadly force in an international terrorist who joins with American white supremacists to pose a technological threat like no other. Time is literally not on his side as Sam pursues the scientific, social, and political conundrums and dangerous moves that threaten the world he's played a major role in creating.

From hackers, engineers, and classified information to decoding routines that challenge even the most brilliant minds, Not So Done not only spins a good yarn, but keeps its action fast-paced by moving between character viewpoints. Like a good puzzle, each changing perspective adds a piece to the bigger questions evolving the story line.

The switches between first and third person narration will keep readers on their toes, but there's seldom any question about whose point of view is being explored. Levin's ability to provide a seamless interface during the course of telling his story makes for a tale that is replete in attention-grabbing detail and changes, yet logical and entirely smooth in its revelations and mercurial viewpoints.

The dialogue is nicely crafted, and time is taken to provide background details on individual psyches and environmental influences. Thus, Not So Done's forays through software glitches, international threats, and political intrigue are all well done and smoothly engrossing.

Readers looking for a fast-paced thriller which takes its time to develop multiple characters, a solid science foundation for its action, and a concept that places terrorist attempts on a different level than most non-science stories will relish Not So Done for its well-spun, page-turning roller coaster of action and possibility. It's very highly recommended reading for techno-thriller readers who want their science as solid as the social and political intrigue.

The Alternative History Of The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire
M.D. Missaiel
Ill at Ease Press, LLC
9781734953800, $16.99 Paperback
9781734953824, $5.99 Ebook

Saul Brutus has just returned from a trip to an alternate history scenario in The Alternative History Of The Decline And Fall Of The Roman in which the Roman Empire didn't fall, but survived to change the present world in unexpected ways.

Plenty of alternate history sci-fi stories tackle similar-sounding scenarios and possibilities, but what sets M.D. Missaiel's story apart from the usual focus is the premise that, because of this possibility, human society has advanced some 1,000 years beyond what Saul is familiar with. This segues directly into modern-day choices and events made by leaders, governments, and societies, giving readers philosophical and historical food for thought beyond Saul's adventures alone.

As the story unfolds, this analogous universe imparts a satisfying sense of familiarity to Americans who will see many parallel similarities between Roman society on the brink of disaster and American society at this point in time.

The author explicitly states his intention and the basic principle and objective of the book up-front in the introductory Author's Note stating, "The fall of Rome halted democracy, humanism, and science for centuries throughout the civilized world, and the fall of America could likewise end democracy and prosperity throughout the globalized world." However, to avoid bias and starting to cross-compare before the story even begins, I recommend the readers read the Author's note after experiencing the action of the book, thus cementing the conclusion of the premise of the book.

As Saul explores and explains the world he was transported to inside the Mayflower as the politics of the present-day world move along, readers receive a fine juxtaposition of events that make it hard not to instinctively compare the political and social scenarios of the two societies.

Missaiel takes the time to not only describe these journeys to this parallel universe, but the protagonist's approaches to handling the ironies and challenges of this unexpected form of travel: "I was part compelled by social and personal decorum not to abandon this strange man's conversation, and I was part curious to discover more of that new world, adventure, and identity, so I decided to keep up the pretense of this new identity and accompany him. Curious as I was, I would proceed with caution because while I was growing comfortable in this hyper-advanced world, it was still unfamiliar, and I still wanted to come home."

As Saul journeys to other societies in this much-changed world, only mildly interested in returning home at some point, readers receive a series of political encounters that are astute, thought-provoking, and fantastical at the same time.

As a 7-day exploration and mission to affect these places comes to life, this story will resonate especially strongly with leisure readers who like blends of social inspection, history, and futuristic possibilities. To be clear, The Alternative History Of The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire is more than a sci-fi alternate history, but provides an opportunity to absorb political scenarios, 'what if' possibilities, and a sense of how choice and direction can ultimately change the course of the world's evolution beyond a given society's rise or fall.

The author's line drawings open each new seven-day chapter with intriguing visual embellishments.

Readers with a particular and special interest in translating political and social events with an eye to understanding their intrinsic history-making opportunities will appreciate this highly recommended cautionary tale of conversion and newfound passion. The Alternative History Of The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire offers an important message wound into the adventure component: "History is critical, but what is more of note is our present choices that will shape history, and I resolve to rectify my own choices and do my part to fight on the right side of history, and I will start by encouraging the lot of you to do likewise."

Suzy Spitfire and the Snake Eyes of Venus
Joe Canzano
Happy Joe Control
9780990636588, $3.99 ebook, $10.99 Paper

Besides its intriguing title, Suzy Spitfire and the Snake Eyes of Venus offers a different approach to blending sexuality with sci-fi, and will delight readers looking for something different as feisty, edgy Suzy Spitfire travels to Venus in search of a serial murderer.

As its title implies, this is a ribald romp through life that embraces sex, street language, and an aggressive look at life that pulls no punches. Joe Canzano does a fine job of incorporating all these elements into a story that doesn't just use sex and foul language for shock effect, but blends in just the right amount of both to create a realistic backdrop for this intriguing blend of investigative mystery and sci-fi.

Suzy Spitfire lives up to her name as she searches for a new start, faces the fact that a guy is screwing up her opportunities, and hops around the universe facing unexpected challenges to her newfound mission.

Its dialogue is nicely presented and compelling, reinforcing Suzy's brash character and approach to life: "Aren't you going to come out and say hello?" he said. "We're all friends here." "Maybe later. I need to take a shower first." "Don't worry about it. I like a dirty girl." Suzy laughed. "People tend to think I'm dirtier than I am."

From rapidly changing concepts of friends and enemies and plots and plans, rallies, and shootings to a "good soldier" who commits murder as part of his job, Suzy's encounters swirl in a cloud of fast-paced, involving action designed to keep readers on their toes as Suzy navigates The Snake Eyes gang war, a violent revolution, and dangerous situations.

Suzy Spitfire and the Snake Eyes of Venus more than lives up to its title's promise of an unusual, compelling adventure. The blend of sci-fi with an investigative crime piece will have readers on edge and wondering about relationships, outcomes, and the motivations of various characters.

The mix of sarcastic life perspectives, edgy responses to adversity, and Suzy's own style of tender helpfulness and bawdy responses to life creates a highly recommended, fast-paced sci-fi thriller hard to put down and impossible to predict.

Cry from an Unknown Grave
Joseph LeValley
Book Press Publishing
9781947305106, $29.95, Hardcover

Cry from an Unknown Grave will reach readers of crime mystery stories with the second novel series about a small-town Iowa newspaper reporter who gets involved in stories almost too big for him to handle

Tony Harrington delves into the wild world of human trafficking when a late-night call from a desperate teen leads him and his colleague, journalist Madeline Mueller, to probe a dangerous story of enslavement and murder.

The bodies are indicative of a bigger program in trafficking, with more victims and the perps at large. When the FBI becomes involved, Tony and Madeline find themselves moving beyond their roles as reporters, embarking on an investigation that benefits from their ability to ferret out the truth, however dangerous it may be.

Joseph LeValley's ability to take the real-life scenarios and challenges of human trafficking operations and turn them into a murder mystery probe translates to an approach that blends real-world social, ethical, and moral issues with a fictional study in problem-solving at a level above and beyond the usual reporter's milieu.

Tony participates in the rescue of Glenda and Camila, only to learn that their kidnappers represent the tip of the iceberg. The authorities working on the case are less than enthusiastic about the participation of two admitted amateurs who venture into dangerous territory without adequate preparation: "Tony was struggling to placate Davis, who was beyond angry at Tony's irrational decision to enter the motel before the authorities arrived. Davis pointed out Tony had been unarmed, with no decent intelligence about what he would find inside. "And," Davis growled, unwilling to let it go, "you dragged your best friend in there with you. You both could have been killed. Christ, Tony, I thought you were smarter than this. I wouldn't have given you the location if I'd known you'd be this foolish."

As Tony stands in the crosshairs of danger between police and perps, his ability to grow, adapt, and perceive and solve dangerous situations blossoms. This growth process is nicely documented in a series of twists and turns that lead readers through the very real issues and scenarios of human sex trafficking that are undercurrents in modern society.

Cry from an Unknown Grave is a murder mystery with a social message that will keep readers not just guessing, but involved and thinking. Its attention to probing the psychology of different characters and their motivations and approaches creates an especially strong dialogue and series of encounters that will prove not just entertaining, but involving to the end.

It's highly recommended reading for crime and detective fans who like their stories embedded in social issues and character growth.

Brenda's Wish
Jackie Haley
Book Press Publishing
9781947305168, $24.95, Hardcover

Brenda's Wish: A True Story of Faith, Family and the Testament of Love is a posthumous memoir of wife and mother Brenda Schmitz, who wrote to a local radio station in the last months of her life, as she was dying of ovarian cancer, and asked a friend to deliver a letter to her husband after he'd found a new wife to help raise their children. The radio station was entreated to help her husband move into this new life.

What evolved was a wish like none other, explored in a story that surveys the lasting legacy of a spiritual woman who made sure her family was cared for in every way she could, even after her demise.

Her story reads like fiction, recreating her thoughts, encounters with friends and family, and the purposeful formation of her final wish in a manner that comes to life via use of the third person.

Although most of the story follows the usual progression through her diagnosis and treatments, it also adds insights into family impact, reactions, and the choices that diagnosis brings: "Brenda saw David look down. She could feel his sadness. He was not ready to tell her goodbye either. It made her feel a twinge of anger. She grabbed his blue collared shirt and pulled him over until he was inches from her face. "Don't you dare think that I gave up on us and the family. I didn't quit!"

The focus is as much on the ravages of cancer on an entire family as it is on Brenda's physical challenges after a Stage 4 ovarian cancer diagnosis, and the many new choices she's forced to make that will affect the course of her family's grief and evolution.

As husband David reflects on Brenda's approach, his resentments, acceptance, and celebrations are all incorporated into how he chooses to live and raise his family after she's gone: "David was certain he turned out to be a great kid because of her. It made him sad that Max wouldn't have her guidance growing up. Max was stuck with David's guidance alone. A little anger boiled up in his head and he quickly shoved the thought away. He couldn't be mad today. They were celebrating her life and she was very particular about how today should go. She had planned everything herself."

Brenda's wishes for their continuing life, health, and happiness without her is a gift not just to David, but is thanks to author Jackie Haley, who was tapped by David to tell this family's story.

Brenda's Wish: A True Story of Faith, Family and the Testament of Love is inspirational reading celebrating not one life, but life itself. Its recommended reading for anyone who would learn yet another strategy for end of life goals and lessons and love's lasting legacy.

Ruffing It
Greg Trine
Malamute Press
9781733958974, $TBA, Hardcover
9781733958981, $8.99 Paperback / $2.99 Kindle

Ruffing It will reach readers ages 8-12 and centers on the dilemma of 10-year-old Charlie Fogalman, who is changed into a dog when a magic spell goes awry. How can a $3.00 mail-order magic wand change everything? When its power becomes all too real.

The first strength to note about this zany story is its sense of humor as Charlie's first-person observations cultivate a wry comedic overlay to events: "Of all the schools in Last Chance Gulch, I got stuck at Anacapa Elementary. And of the four fifth-grade classes at Anacapa, I got stuck with Mr. Crans for a teacher. I was pretty sure he was a Russian spy, or maybe some kind of mafia hitman. He had that look like he was getting ready to inflict pain on someone. And he was always telling us to keep our traps shut. Usually my trap obeyed. But not now. Not when my best friend had a magic wand and wanted to use it and wanted me to tell him how. How often do you get a chance like that?"

The goal of turning a sister into a frog ("A sister covered with warts was a fabulous idea, I had to admit, but would it work?") turns into a dilemma a little less fun for Charlie, who finds his prior concerns about bullies and dangerous teachers pales in comparison. Or, is it another opportunity to investigate, in dog form, things he could not have uncovered as a human boy?

Greg Trine's story is whimsical, unexpected in its twists and turns, and thoroughly delightful. It will involve kids in a series of odd and unpredictable episodes as Charlie tests newfound capabilities, eludes a dogcatcher, and somehow falls awry of a bully gang of dogs equal in power to any bullies he ever faced as a human.

The blend of investigative drama, a boy's life as a dog, a touch of magic, and even social commentary creates a romp through a different kind of life that changes all the rules Charlie knows: "Sure enough, it was dry under that bridge, and there was a man there, sitting in front of a fire, poking at a can of something in the flames. "Hey there, little fella," he said. I moved forward slowly. After all, this was a stranger. Hadn't I been taught all my life not to talk to them? The human version of myself had - this was true - but did dogs have to follow the same rules? Here was a guy trying to stay dry, just like me."

Kids ages 8-12 will appreciate the different paths Charlie is forced to take to survive his new condition as he struggles to return to a life he once took for granted and learns new things about the world. Ruffing It is highly recommended for kids with a sense of humor and an interest in magical stories of canine adventure.

Did You Say Pasghetti? Dusty and Danny Tackle Dyslexia
Tammy Fortune
Independently Published
9781734694901, $9.95 Paper, $14.72 Hardcover, $2.99 Kindle

Did You Say Pasghetti? Dusty and Danny Tackle Dyslexia tells young picture book readers that "Everyone needs to find the special way that their brain learns best" and advocates learning, kindness, and different approaches to fostering both. It follows Danny and his best friend Dusty the dog in a humorous examination of not just the process of struggling with learning, but the associated emotional trials that accompany it.

The story is narrated from dog Dusty's perspective as he tries to help his beloved human. Danny likes school at first, but he faces what seems like many different obstacles to success, from not remembering words and rhyming words to mixing up letters, reading aloud too slowly, and not understanding math problems.

As Danny's dyslexia problem is revealed, Dusty longs to help his beloved human companion solve his problems. But, how?

Kids with good reading skills will benefit from parental input and assistance as they absorb a lesson in self-confidence, ability, and different approaches to learning.

Pieter Els provides colorful drawings of boy and dog which bring these dilemmas and their relationship to life, while discussion questions presented after the story encourage conversations about not just dyslexia and learning abilities, but handling emotions that arise during the process of overcoming adversity.

Parents who want to teach kids more about learning disabilities, fostering an atmosphere of acceptance, problem-solving, and understanding will find Did You Say Pasghetti? just the ticket for an educational conversation, whether it's with a child newly diagnosed with learning challenges or a peer who needs to develop empathy.

Beyond Paris
Paul Alexander Casper
Infinity Publishing
9781499905526, $29.95 Paperback, $33.63 Hardcover, $9.99 Ebook

Just entering into the 1960s, author Paul Casper was experiencing childhood in America. Eleven years later, he is in a jail cell waiting for something to change his trajectory, having avoided catastrophe all those years ago, only to land in prison facing impossible plans for a prison break.

Beyond Paris is a wild romp through Casper's life as he embarks on world travels he never could have envisioned as a child. From a job in a major city to a vision of entrepreneurship that leads him to Afghanistan via the Orient Express to buy sheepskin coats, to import them to London to make a fortune, Casper keeps on dreaming and lands in challenging, impossible, and amazing circumstances that keep his footloose habits on the run.

Visiting some 20 counties in a 6-month period, Casper embarks on a road trip powered as much by dreams of opportunity as adversity and possibility. He meets crazy people, takes risks, seizes life with both hands, and provides a winning combination of philosophical reflection and life-changing travel experience in a lively memoir that captures the sights, sounds, and motivations of the road: "I lay awake for some time as I pondered the moment. Maybe not everyone would consider it a moment of life, but I was feeling it. Sleeping in a cave was an archetypal experience that had been shared by many before me, animals and men, whether primitive cave dwellers eons ago or my contemporaries. I was becoming a member of another type of fraternity, a fraternity of travelers. I realized I was changing. This wasn't happening overnight. But I was different."

As Casper confronts hopes, fears, adversity, and success in the course of an amazing life journey, readers are brought along for a more eye-opening ride through different cultures and experiences than Jack Kerouac's iconic On the Road, but with many of the same freewheeling flavors.

From Germany, Barcelona, and Paris to unexpected destinations around the world, Casper's ability to form quick friendships, make connections, and get himself in trouble and out again creates engrossing reading about modern exploration during the decades of the recent past.

His compelling blend of adventure and cultural observation lends to a vivid, fast-paced memory that's especially recommended for armchair travelers interested in escapades and adventure tempered by cultural and social insights, set against the backdrop of a bygone world.

More so than most travel memoirs, the vivid sense of discovery and edge-of-disasterous encounters is exceptionally well done.

Courting Anna: Women of Destiny
Cate Simon
Prairie Rose Publications
9781081299880, $12.00 Paper, $3.99 ebook

Courting Anna: Women of Destiny features the educated female lawyer Anna Harrison, who operates in the milieu of 1880s frontier Montana Territory. Her latest case, rejected by the only other lawyer in town, revolves around Jeremiah Brown and Edward Marcus, young men identified as actually being the notorious Tommy Slade and Johnny Nevada - outlaws with a bounty on their heads.

Anna takes their case and discovers that Jeremiah is trying to dodge the law until the statute of limitations on his crimes runs out. She also discovers an unexpected attraction to him that threatens not just her carefully cultivated and rare (for a woman) career, but her efforts on the side of law and justice.

Neither anticipated falling in love - much less with the enemy. But their evolving feelings challenges their roles and trajectories in life, and as Anna and her ward Sarah ride out on a strange adventure, these emotions are deftly portrayed as both external and internal challenges loom: "He could conceal that, however, and appear simply charming and glib, when he wanted. Anna wondered if perhaps that was the real man, and if she'd just been reading more into him than was really there. She wondered, but she kept thinking, despite herself, of moments when his insights, his thoughtfulness, came to the fore."

It's unusual to have a Western story feature a feisty, educated female protagonist with a career of her own and the moxy to confront the male world around her. Cate Simon does a fine job of weaving romance into broader considerations of women's independence, perceptions of changing personalities and perspectives, and courtroom and wilderness dramas alike.

This approach crafts a tale far more detailed than most Western historical stories. While its complexity may stymie readers who anticipated the usual formula production of either the romance or Western genre, it will delight those looking for strong female characters whose determination, observations, and achievements leave room for growth, challenge, and revised trajectories in life.

Anna's courtship isn't just a matter of setting aside her abilities or her goals, but involves becoming more open to new possibilities both within herself, as an accomplished frontier lawyer, and in others, who are working to turn their lives onto different paths.

The underlying story of her relationships and prejudices not just about men and criminals, but her fellow woman, are particularly well-drawn and compelling: "Anna might have passed Nellie dozens of times or even hundreds, but she'd never seen her - all she would have seen is one of those women. And a lady like she was didn't speak to those women. It was the way people looked through her on the street now, and she found herself feeling sympathy for the fallen sisterhood, for the first time. Many a formerly "respectable" woman in her own situation, without the annuity and the property her father had left her, or the too-generous insistence of Jonathan in adhering to the letter of their partnership and continuing to split their fees - now almost exclusively his fees - would have ended up as one of them."

The result is a highly recommended, unusual Western that will reach an audience that usually doesn't turn to or read the genre: women searching for a frontier story of a different nature, where a woman lawyer is charged with cross-examining her own emotions and prejudices.

The Wars Among the Paines
John M. Millar
Koehler Books
9781646630622, $26.95 paper, $39.95 Hardcover, $7.99 Kindle

The Wars Among the Paines is an epic story about the effects of wars on generations of the Paine family, and follows the family's evolution and changes through World Wars I and II, Korea, and Vietnam.

The lasting impact of each of these wars on the Paine clan and its trajectory is covered in a series of letters and first-person insights that start in 1975, with R. Treat Paine II's journey to visit a mother near death and a letter to his estranged sister. The Vietnam War divided them as ideals fractured family relationships, and his letter, sent on the eve of their mother's death, recaps events after 1968, when Vietnam politics drove them apart: "We both were certain of our convictions and our righteous paths to meet those convictions. In the end, you took the higher road and made the greater sacrifice for our country."

The note of intrigue about the Paine family's close-held secret, kept even from his wife all these years, begins in this letter: "I have never shared with my wife my past life in

Menschville and Vietnam. She believes that our mother is dead. I know I want her to go to Mother's funeral, but that means I will have to tell her our family history, a family that had everything and ended up with nothing. It is something I know I must do to be honest about my past. I am afraid that the fact that I have not told her about our family may imperil our happiness. She will either hate me or love me more. I am afraid to find out which."

This powerful opener to the story grabs reader attention from the start, but it's not the story's only strength. Equally notable is John M. Millar's ability to satisfyingly juxtapose the different wartime influences on politics and conflict with a family's hierarchy and evolution.

Buffeted by winds of change and conflict, the Paine family moves from generation to generation with a perspective and focus continually changed and challenged by the specter of each very different, yet somehow interconnected, war.

It's no easy task to intersect the routines of daily living (courtship, love, family connections) with the broader influence of social change over a period of many decades. Millar achieves this through first-person discussions and descriptions that move from as light a subject as an outline of school grades to the weightier topics of ethical, moral, and familial conundrums.

Each point and counterpoint brings with it another revelation that changes the epic Paine family's odyssey. Each involves readers in the different long-term impacts of these wars. And all contribute a powerful piece of understanding to the greater whole, slowly revealed in discussions that move through a brother's loss to cultural changes and the narrator's ability to adapt to these transitions: "We had never really discussed what it felt like to be Eurasian in a mostly white world. When we met, I sensed her loneliness here at Cornell. I think I could relate to it because I felt it when I enrolled here. The difference was that I was in the wine cellar with guys that looked like me. Then I joined SAE, where 100 more guys looked like me. I doubt that there was one other Eurasian woman in all of Cornell's 10,000+ students."

The result is a sweeping saga rooted not only in war and family history, but social change. Its inspections will appeal to historical novel readers who look for more of a psychological inspection of many lives over a period of time than a singular story of one war's lasting impact on one individual.

The Wars Among the Paines is highly recommended reading for its long-range forecasts of evolving social and family circles.

Becoming Okay (When You're Not Okay)
Bryan Bushman, PhD
9780692078259, $11.95

Becoming Okay (When You're Not Okay): A Step-By-Step Guide To Decrease Suffering And Develop Acceptance narrows its self-help focus to the subject of accepting life challenges and pain during the process of overcoming physical and mental anguish. It is a top recommendation for those who want to move past suffering.

Awareness and acceptance offers ways of making life better. Wallowing in and focusing on pain makes it worse. The steps to moving into awareness are outlined in chapters that examine not only how to cultivate acceptance, but the elements involved in this revised approach to life.

From metaphors for direction and the principles involved in these choices to understanding common self-imposed barriers to this process, Dr. Bushman is specific both in his admonitions and exercises: "It isn't that pragmatism or realism are always a problem, but the realism we embraced may have been a delusion in the service of avoiding. If I roll my eyes and think others who are idealistic are "quaint" or "naive", then I can spare myself potential pain. Too easily we surrender self-direction because we're too worried about self-disappointment. Instead, we accept stagnation, and then, strangely enough, become angry and confused when we become adrift and directionless."

Pain is an inevitable byproduct of life, but it doesn't have to be the primary force directing its progression. Even the title, Becoming Okay (When You're Not Okay), acknowledges that underlying pain is not to be ignored or rejected. Instead, it can be incorporated into the bigger purpose of moving away from being mired in negativity, moving into a life which incorporates pain while adding other approaches to solve problems and achieve a better state of mind.

These specific steps form a blueprint for success that will be appreciated by any reader who tends to wallow in pain while seeing no clear way out. They excel in exploring and explaining the difference between bigger-picture thinking and becoming bogged down by present-day pain, and crafting approaches that are especially recommended reading for proactive self-help and inspirational book readers who too commonly receive ethereal admonitions not backed up by actual step-by-step processes.

Dr. Bushman's exploration will be especially appreciated by those who know how limiting and narrow is the vision created by a painful state, and how valuable is a roadmap away from it, adding an extra dimension of possibility to alleviate suffering.

Blood on Their Hands
Bob Brink
TouchPoint Press
9781946920966, $17.99 Paper, $3.99 Kindle

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Hiram Garbuncle is not just any ordinary witness. He's a veteran defense attorney who stumbles into the beating of black man Alec Monceau during a routine traffic stop. It's obvious that the police are racist. Unfortunately, so is Ham. This specter of a racist attorney confronting both himself and the authorities is only one of the juxtapositions of irony that Blood on Their Hands excels in presenting, along with a wry sense of humor that makes the social inspection both involving and unexpected on many levels.

It's unusual to find a thriller that cultivates a 'hero' who has many issues, from prejudice to drinking. Hiram is forced to rise above his innate perceptions and tendency to be lazy by circumstances and friends that push him to be something better than he usually is.

From courtroom confrontations to the feelings and attitudes of those who testify and interact with Ham and his client Alec, Bob Brink juggles his story with strong characters with realistic faults; social circumstances that test everyone's beliefs, values, and approaches to life; and the wellsprings of lies and truths that reflect deeper issues both in individual lives and society as a whole.

Brink produces more than a legal drama as he moves from social issues of police corruption and racism to the efforts of a divorce lawyer forced to play a mostly relinquished criminal law role, which hits too close to his own prejudices, inherent laziness, and singular perceptions of right and wrong. Hiram's psychological and moral perception follows the growth and evolution of a man unlikely to change much of anything in his set life and routines - and that's the meat of what makes Blood on Their Hands a thoroughly engrossing standout from other crime, thriller, or courtroom dramas.

As Hiram Garbuncle finds himself in the unlikely position of battling police brutality and corruption, he changes. This process of confrontation, realization, and growth drives a story that keeps readers guessing about just how far Ham will go to both realize new abilities and purposes and form a revised vision of life and his place in it.

Astute, thought-provoking, involving, and growth-oriented, Blood on Their Hands excels in satisfying twists and turns designed to keep readers engaged on many levels, up to its satisfying conclusion.

Babies Bond
Phoebe Fox
Mamafox Books
9780996744546, $16.95

Babies Bond is embellished with colorful watercolor paintings by retired NBA star Jim Fox and line drawings by Rachel Luman. These enhance a gentle, lovely picture book of haiku poems describing various mammal babies and how they bond with their mothers through nursing.

From an ocean mother's "flippers that stroke the sea" while her calf nurses, to a hungry little hippo that "guzzles milk" underwater, Phoebe Fox provides a fine celebration of creatures that share this special bonding experience.

The diversity of selected animals, from manatees and hippos to possums, alpaca, giraffes, and kangaroos is to be commended, along with the terminology that helps even the youngest reader identify specific names for different animal babies ( 'joeys', 'crias', and 'calves').

'Did You Know?' facts at the end of the book provide added details about each featured animal and how they nurse, while a concluding bibliography of reading resources, for both natural history and breastfeeding, offers parents and children the opportunity to learn more.

Jim Fox's gorgeous paintings are as powerful as Phoebe Fox's gentle descriptions of each animal pair. Together, the two have created a gorgeous book, perfect for reading aloud to the very young, that encourages gentle contemplation of breastfeeding's special bond between babies and mothers.

I Know You By Heart
Angie Swetland
Cresting Wave Publishing
9780988904873, $14.95 Paper/$4.99 Kindle

I Know You by Heart: Navigating the Dementia Journey is more than just a chronicle of caregiving. It outlines the entire dementia experience, from first diagnosis to progressive challenges.

Why should there be yet another book about dementia and caregiving? Because Angie Swetland incorporates spiritual and other elements to her story that are rarely found in other caregiver accounts. But, most of all, it's applauded for its underlying tone, which is one of encouragement: "When our cognitive gifts are depleted, and our memories are gone, we are still wholly and substantially the unique creation we have been since the day we were born. Understanding this is the key to communication and respect for those who have dementia."

The challenge of a caregiver lies in supporting new forms of communication and respect under changed conditions. I Know You by Heart provides a navigator's roadmap to making the kinds of changes that keep life engaging and meaningful throughout the ever-changing challenge of dementia.

Highlighted sections identify key reflections, feelings, and points for greater understanding throughout the journey, using case histories and discussions: "These feelings may be present not only in Lewy body disease but also in other types of dementia. Frustrated when unable to find possessions they have misplaced, angry at their confusion, irritated by their own ability to remember, patients may lash out at others."

References to other books and literature holding additional insights link resources together for readers who want to study further: "Those who receive this diagnosis themselves are doubly devastated. How dreadful to know that those who need you daily will someday no longer be able to rely on you. Still Alice, a novel by Lisa Genova, explores young onset thoughtfully and compassionately."

From differences between physician approaches and patient experiences to changing relationships within families and with loved ones as those diagnosed with dementia must come to grips with the fact that they no longer are support providers, but need help themselves, I Know You by Heart details all the underlying psychological struggles that too many dementia stories miss.

It weaves these accounts into a larger spiritual overlay and a survey of how a caregiver can draw from overall history with a dementia sufferer to rebuild or create new connections based on past joys: "Ask yourself, what did your mom do

to help you when you were upset? If she sat you on her lap and sang to you, try a hug and music. If she made you a cup of cocoa, make some. These things mean comfort to her."

The specific tools for re-establishing connections that are positive and meaningful are all here, in a guide that addresses common obstacles and specific steps for overcoming them.

I Know You by Heart is highly recommended reading that should be tops on any caregiver's list.

Compassion Mandala
Pamela Logan
Hibiscus Books
9781735053806, $28.00 Paperback
9781735053813, $16.00 Ebook

Compassion Mandala: The Odyssey of an American Charity in Contemporary Tibet details fourteen years of the author's experiences in Tibet helping Tibetans overcome extreme poverty.

Pamela Logan formed a nonprofit group to lend humanitarian assistance to Tibetans under Chinese rule, which gave her a close vantage point from which to observe social change and the Tibetan struggle under Chinese authority.

Compassion Mandala is a blend of social inspection, memoir, and history. It covers the peoples of Tibet and how they have fared under China's rapid development, and should be required reading for anyone interested in the region's interactions in general and Tibetan history and culture in particular.

As chapters survey development challenges and document Logan's travels through the country, readers receive insights from a series of personal encounters that are vividly narrated and socially, psychologically, and spiritually revealing: "To me, bushido and Buddhism didn't seem far apart. As a martial artist, I sought to transcend my ego and face my fears through the practice of simulated combat, passing through a veil of fire into a place of joyous release.

Zen practitioners might compare that to satori, imperfectly translated as "enlightenment" or "liberation." Followers of Tibetan Buddhism seek to overcome mental obscurations, leading to an understanding of emptiness and the true nature of reality, a state of continuous bliss sometimes expressed with the same words: "enlightenment" and "liberation." In Tibet and other places that practice the Mahayana Buddhist tradition, practitioners seek liberation not for themselves, but for the sake of helping others."

Logan's personal observations of daily life in Tibet and revelations about the challenges Tibetans face are particularly insightful and specific: "Visiting nine schools in four counties, Griffin found that kids loved our Children's Fun Science series thanks to the cute pictures on every page, but the rest of the news was not good. Our second series, titled Window to Science, was being read at only two schools. At all the others, the books appeared untouched. When Linda asked why the books weren't useful, teachers seemed embarrassed and insisted that they were using them, even though the books appeared pristine. Griffin learned that the science books were gathering dust because primary school pupils could not read Tibetan well enough to make heads or tails of them."

The fundamentals of grassroots organizing, budgeting, providing effective assistance, and the problems of operating programs in other countries all contribute to a full-fledged discussion about the ideals of aid dissemination versus the practicalities experienced by aid workers on the ground. These notions are relevant to a broader discussion of the value of basic literacy and education in communities where hunger runs rampant.

Economic progress has a long way to go in Tibet, and Chinese oppression continues. Even though KhamAid's work has ended, this chronicle of ordinary people's relentless efforts to improve their lives offers hope and insight that go beyond a factual telling of Tibet's current conditions. Logan's memoir is a call to readers to become involved in their own compassionate efforts.

Compassion Mandala is a highly recommended, inspirational survey of how first one woman, then a group of committed individuals, made progress against overwhelming odds in a nation crushed by poverty and oppression. Compassion Mandala exposes Tibetan culture and people in a way that few other books achieve.

A Quiet Hero
Dwight Harshbarger
Mascot Books
9781643072760, $18.95 PB, $9.99 Kindle, 376pp

A Quiet Hero: A Novel of Resistance in WWII France reaches readers of World War II historical fiction with a powerful story of French patriots General Rene Carmille and his aide Miriam Dupre. They are aware that time is running out to thwart the Nazi plan to use the census of Jewish individuals to locate and eliminate them throughout the European countries they now control.

This is based on the true story of General Rene Carmille's efforts and achievements, and thus makes accessible to a wide audience the revealing story of a big business's connections to genocide, clarified in a prologue to the novel: "Throughout WWII, IBM and its subsidiaries maintained an uninterrupted and prosperous business with the Third Reich. The Third Reich's economic success and the success of the Reich's Final Solution rested on a foundation of slave labor and IBM technology."

Documentation supporting this history, including videos and source material, create a fitting introduction to an involving saga that opens with "My name is Miriam Meijer. I am twenty-seven years old. This morning I killed a man. A Gestapo agent put a Luger to my face - screamed he would kill me. I stabbed him. He died immediately. I fled to escape arrest. I killed the agent in self-defense. But it weighs heavily on me."

Dwight Harshbarger's ability to personalize history through the eyes, minds, and hearts of fictional characters provides an immediacy and compelling tone to this story. It will reach not only seasoned followers of World War II accounts, but those who don't typically pick up such reads.

Harshbarger's prose is reflective, poetic, and revealing as the story unfolds, injecting philosophical moments with metaphorical description that supports the underlying moral and ethical considerations of events and character choices: "The blade caught, reflected, a beam of light from the reading lamp at the end of the couch. I rotated the blade. It reflected the beam, like an ethereal presence, from wall to chair to ceiling. Like the soldier's pistol, the beam and the blade did the bidding of the hand that held it. I stared at the blade. What might I ask of it? Today, nothing. Tomorrow?"

This approach, too, sets the story apart from many other World War II explorations, adding literary embellishments to strengthen the history and social observations.

The result is a very different perspective on the times that blends ethical considerations with historical events for a full-faceted, involving, and thought-provoking read.

A Quiet Hero is highly recommended not just for World War II readers, but those who are interested in the interconnected subject of ethics and wartime events. These audiences will find the story, characters, premises, and strong female protagonist to be thoroughly engrossing.

The Second Coming of Eve, Abraham, Buddha, and Jesus
Robert W. North, PhD
The Way of the Soul Publishing
9780990779568, $19.95, Paperback / $8.49 Kindle

The Second Coming of Eve, Abraham, Buddha, and Jesus: Their Lost Way to Personal and Global Peace blends spirituality with inspirational quotes on how to lead a richer life will reach not just Christian, Jewish, and Buddhist readers, but those of other faiths as it traverses the connections between early religious figures and the social and spiritual challenges of modern times.

The foundation of the book is an allegorical analysis of the Garden of Eden section of Genesis. North's insights present us with a story that differs markedly from what we usually understand.

The book presents an intriguing formula to consider for resolving divisions between both religious and secular belief systems, promoting a synthesis of these approaches to life that outlines the basics of a singular 'way' promoted by Eve, Abraham, Buddha, and Jesus.

Author Robert North was in a Catholic Jesuit seminary for priests when he developed the idea that Jesus was as much a therapist as a religious leader: "Instead of preaching dogmas, Jesus used sayings and parables to teach people how to live a fulfilled life."

The Gospel of Thomas, Buddha, and the Bible form the foundation for the discussions that ensue. This interpretive discussion gives many thought-provoking analytical opportunities to people who may not have completely linked these teachings to everyday opportunities for not just spiritual awareness, but self-awakening.

But North doesn't stop with Biblical analysis. He connects these underlying messages of Jesus and others to daily life challenges in unusual, specific ways that take the Bible from lofty spiritual realms to everyday life struggles. He uses questions and answers, along with extensive Biblical references, to bring readers along on the journey of exploring this singular path to better understanding and living: "Do you think that our desire for deep, complete intimacy permeates the world's romantic songs and elaborate marriage ceremonies? My answer: Yes. We seem to soul-know that we are not alone and that someone loves us unconditionally. So, instead of going up on our mountain and empowering our third eye and ear to teach us how to possess intimacy with Spirit, we project our needs on another human who will never fulfill them."

When people are familiar with a particular, predictable way of religious interpretation, they may balk at considerations that refer to other spiritual approaches (such as acceptance of the third eye and ear common in Buddhist thought). Those whose minds are open to different, wider-ranging allegories and stories that link religious perspectives will find North's survey both challenging and satisfyingly direct.

The True Adventures of Gidon Lev: Rascal. Holocaust Survivor. Optimist.
Julie Gray
Independently Published
9781735249704, $16.95 Paper, $5.95 Kindle

The True Adventures of Gidon Lev: Rascal. Holocaust Survivor. Optimist. takes a different approach to exploring Jewish Holocaust history in following the effects of the Nazi concentration camp Terezin (Theresienstadt, near Prague) on the evolving life of Gidon Lev, who was a child when he was incarcerated.

Only 100 children survived out of the 15,000 imprisoned in the camp, making Lev one of the very few to emerge from its walls. But his story doesn't end there, because Gidon did more than simply survive his ordeal. He thrived, cultivated an optimistic outlook on the world, and experienced more adventures that involved him in two marriages, a late-life romance, and Israel's birth and meaning to the Jewish people.

Readers who pick up this story for its satisfying blend of Jewish history and biography will find Gidon Lev's story extraordinary not just because of the tenacity of its subject, but from his involvement in building a new life for himself and the Jewish people around him.

Author Julie Gray moved to Israel from Los Angeles in 2012, fleeing heartbreak and loss. Two months before her arrival, Gidon had lost his wife of forty years, which was a blow to his entire family. He determined to take the time to write a memoir of his life experiences, as a result, on the eve of his encounter with Gray, who saw this newfound project to fruition in this book.

Her introduction synthesizes the especially challenging role she assumed in translating Gidon's life for the world, placing it in proper perspective: "The Holocaust has not defined Gidon's life - he has not allowed it to - yet he found himself feeling responsible for conveying his experiences at the hands of the Nazis. Even so, he didn't want that terrible experience to be the focal point of his life story. For me, this was sometimes tricky to navigate. I felt responsible as a curator of Gidon's Holocaust testimony, as well as of his many other sometimes painful life experiences. I did not want to cause him or his family any more pain or grief than they had already endured."

The driving force of his life story is not your usual Holocaust history or autobiographical reflection, but a solidly positive, life-affirming perspective that is as much a celebration as a tribute.

Hard to imagine? The language of the story comes to life in unique ways, as in this example of Gidon's encounter in a very different kibbutz than he'd experienced before: "The members of the kibbutz welcomed us very warmly and went out of their way to make us feel at home there. There was not a single area of this kibbutz's life that did not need help, and we had all come to do just that. Whereas in Ha'Zorea everything was well established, organized, and order ruled supreme, here in Zikim, everything was, to put it mildly, fluid."

The True Adventures of Gidon Lev is very much a collaborative effort, as author Gray adds historical background, cultural insights, and reflections to support Lev's quotes and memories, so that non-Jewish readers can readily understand the underlying influence and meaning of his experience.

It's a pleasure to read a Holocaust story that is a standout not just because it serves as another important invitation to remember and understand the atrocities of the past, but a lesson on how to celebrate the present and reform the future. Given the repressive forces at work in these times, we need the lessons cultivated in The True Adventures of Gidon Lev: Rascal. Holocaust Survivor. Optimist. now, more than ever.

This is a highly recommended memoir that rises above and beyond politics, Middle East history, or autobiography alike to reveal the path one man took to move beyond an incredibly difficult childhood of cruelty and oppression.

You Got This!
Linda Bjork
Independently Published
9798643592846, $12.95 Paper, $6.99 Kindle

You Got This!: An Action Plan To Calm Worry, Fear, Anxiety, And Stress provides self-help readers with a concrete course of action based on cognitive behavioral therapy techniques to reduce stress and anxiety - and in these times, it's a much-needed approach.

This step-by-step approach divides the day between morning, evening, and daily action steps. Linking the many elements of the action plan to a typical day's encounters melds action to experience, making for a far more accessible, easily digestible method of learning new ways than most.

The account opens with personal moments of crisis and challenge and then surveys the emotions and reactions associated with each situation. It lists cognitive disorders and questions for self-examination to achieve a more balanced perception of life, advocates absorbing and repeating positive affirmations to change conditioning and destructive patterns of reaction to adversity and stress, and it includes visualization exercises to reinforce these revised approaches to daily life.

Readers who want to cool down and foster a calmer perspective about life will find these stress-reducing techniques and revised insights on how to handle adversity and worries to be specific, useful, and adaptable to just about any situation, large or small.

The series of empowering routines, carefully crafted for all-day applications, provides a solution-based plan of action that encourages creativity, adaptation, self-examination, and change. This will ultimately move readers from specific problem-solving approaches to revising one's overall tendency to worry and build stress over life's challenges.

Readers who tend to be hampered by their own thought processes and reactions will especially welcome this action guide to fostering different attitudes that will serve them better, overall, than the inclination to build stress through worrying.

Readers don't have to have any prior knowledge of cognitive behavioral therapy techniques and philosophy to appreciate and find accessible the specific routines and tools in the highly recommended You Got This! All that's required is the willingness to put changes into place through exercises and reflective work.

Coronavirus & COVID-19: What It Is, How to Avoid It, How to Survive It
Peter Kent
Peter Kent Consulting, LLC
B08C5K6YYW $4.69

Undoubtedly, some of the information presented here about COVID-19 will be obsolete as time goes by, requiring an updated edition; but today, in the throes of a pandemic, many a reader will want to consult Coronavirus & COVID-19: What It Is, How to Avoid It, How to Survive It for a specific overview of the subject that puts, in one place, the latest knowledge about the virus.

Sure, there's been plenty of media coverage on coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, and COVID-19, and pandemics. But they hold so much conflicting information and approaches that the average reader is likely confused. That's why having details in a less dramatic book form is necessarily at this point, and is essential reading for anyone concerned about COVID-19.

The book opens with a basic definition and history of COVID-19's roots and birth, reviewing facts, refuting misinformation, and discussing the possibilities of illness and how to survive infection.

The introduction reviews different virus names and defines them in a history of their appearance. Specific mention of distinctions between them that often miss journalistic reporting offer invaluable keys to understanding. Next, comes a review of virus biology in general and their history in affecting the human race, before chapters turn to the heart of the matter - why coronavirus is different, and what readers can do to avoid or survive it.

Color photos accompany illustrations of the virus, its carriers, and what is known as well (as what remains unknown) about COVID-19.

From mortality rates and comparisons to the flu to healthcare system limitations, how much virus is needed for infection, using public restrooms and cleaning habits, and homemade hand sanitizers, Coronavirus & COVID-19 covers and assesses all possibilities and dispels many myths.

Much of the information has already been updated since the book's initial writing began, while website links to research and facts are included, which hopefully will provide further lasting references that will be updated as the situation changes.

There's a lot of information about COVID-19 in the daily news, but readers who want it all in one place, with a clarifying overlay of information that make it easy to understand, should place Coronavirus & COVID-19: What It Is, How to Avoid It, How to Survive It at the top on their reading list.

Its clear, information-backed details explain everything from the very simple process of effective hand-washing to how to survive an infection. Essential reading for modern times.

God*s Will
Matthew John Echan
9781938480577, $15.99 Paperback, $0.99 ebook

California teen Sam Snyder has been told he's going to his godfather's house in Missouri for a visit, but he's actually being sent to a Baptist reform school for wayward children, more like a prison camp, complete with fences and abusive overseers.

As he faces repressive brutality, God-driven admonitions and sermons, newfound love, and threats to his safety and health, Sam joins forces with others hatching a dangerous escape plan and comes to question his own connections with God and the contrast between Biblical teaching and the reality of his situation.

Matthew John Echan uses the first person to capture Sam's observations, feelings, and experiences. This lends a personal touch to the story (which is based on true experience), involving teen to adult readers in a saga that contrasts questions of faith with issues of brainwashing.

The inclusion of fellow students on both sides of the equation who either embrace and accept the program or reject its brutality is nicely done: "I wasn't too happy when

I first got here either. All I can tell you is your mom is just trying to help you, and whether you like this place or not, you gotta try to find something good in it."

As Sam learns to call his keepers 'Mama' and 'Papa' and accept some of their teachings, he begins to sift through those which are truly God's will versus something different. He maintains his drive for freedom as the rules and structure changes and he cultivates a taste of possibilities: "It hit me as I lifted my hand and waved back why my stomach was all bubbled up in knots and crap. I was actually sitting on a bus, about to leave Mount Zion for the first time since my moms had dropped me off. Victory didn't really count, cause it was just another campus down the road. This was different. This was out of the SHU and into genpop. The land of the living. The real world. The other side of the rock covering the hole we were living in. Out in the woods, where anything was possible. Freedom was so close I could taste it like a nine volt on my tongue."

From hard lessons on how to quit cussing to Mount Zion's dangerous environment and possibilities alike, Echan creates a believable character in a rebellious young man who struggles to find his way in a world his "moms" has committed him to.

Once these methods and results of religious brainwashing are revealed, readers are encouraged to consider the difference between teaching faith and brainwashing efforts. This fosters a deeper consideration of God's will as Sam and his peers make decisions beyond escape that move into tackling repression.

Author Matthew John Echan is a board-certified behavior analyst and education consultant for emotionally disturbed children and individuals with developmental disabilities. This lends more emotional depth and psychological insights into Sam's story than might be expected, creating a compelling story of survival, faith, and religion used for both good and evil.

God*s Will is a thought-provoking story of good intentions gone awry and a bad boy's efforts to right some serious wrongs. It will captivate readers with a special consideration of 'bad boy' Sam's ability to perceive and do the right thing under impossible, repressive conditions that operate under the guise of a good approach to a better life. God*s Will is highly recommended for its thought-provoking considerations of morals, ethics, and faith.

Harrison Waits
Missy Hagen
Cresting Wave Publishing
9780988904880, $14.95

Young Harrison may be waiting from the time he gets up in the morning, in Missy Hagen's fun picture book story, but that doesn't mean he's inactive.

While he waits, Harrison lives his life, hanging out in a wheelbarrow heaped with hay, watering plants, having breakfast and lunch, and playing. While it's clear that he's waiting for something, Harrison is also interacting with the world. This message about an approach to life holds even more value today than it did only six months ago.

Although what Harrison waits for has nothing to do with COVID or restrictions, it does illustrate the possibilities involved in building a life not just around anticipation, but meaningful activities undertaken during the process of waiting.

Missy Hagen's realistic, fun drawings are excellent accents to a story that holds more meaning than she probably intended originally, in a story not just about waiting for something coveted, but how to wait more effectively.

Death of a Zen Master
Cornelia Feye
Konstellation Press
9781734642131, $12.00

Death of a Zen Master is a mystery set in a remote Zen monastery and opens with the first-person experiences of protagonist Greg as he begins his regulated day. He is at this Zen retreat as penance for cheating on his wife Vega with a one-night stand, and it's only a two-week stay...a stay about to evolve into something totally unexpected.

As the early dawn unfolds, however, something disrupts the calm routine of the day. It's a tragedy all too familiar to the narrator: "This is the kind of stuff I have to deal with in my normal life. I just didn't expect it here."

Surprises unfold from the beginning, from the identity of the Zen Master whom he hasn't seen until the murder to the identity of a murderer who surely must reside among the residents at the monastery, since it is remote and largely inaccessible to the outside world.

Readers might expect the protagonist's lesson in peace will segue into a murder probe, but the references to Zen meditation and experience don't end with the killing: "I don't actually have a feeling, just an awareness of myself in connection with everything around me. It's crystal clear. I'm the observer of my thoughts, and I'm also the thinker. I'm totally engaged, and simultaneously completely still and receptive. It's the sweet spot, where I'm in the moment, instead of rushing through it onto the next thought, the next sensation."

This attention to spiritual detail juxtaposes nicely with the elements of a murder mystery investigation as Greg is forced to evolve on several different levels to handle adversities which feel both familiar and alien at the same time.

It's intriguing to see his personal evolution in the course of the story, even when a near-confrontation in a forest evolves into an appreciation for nature and quiet: "The sun warms my back. I smell the pine scent of the forest around me. Freedom. Take this, Abbess Clarita. Freedom is not always in the mind - it is in putting one foot in front of the other on a trail in nature."

From a murder to a hidden Buddha and the involvement of a ring of perps who all have motivation to kill, Greg faces multiple challenges, from regaining his wife's trust and considering the lasting impact of cause and effect to facing death himself, revising his perception of his impact upon and movements in the world.

Zen ideas and experiences run side by side with Greg's murder investigation and intrigue, creating a satisfyingly revealing story that operates on more than one level. It will especially intrigue readers with any degree of prior interest in Zen Buddhist perception, who will find the premise of a murder and a peaceful monastery's disruption to be thoroughly engrossing reading.

Death of a Zen Master is highly recommended reading for murder mystery fans looking for more spiritual and psychological evolution in their main protagonist than is usually proffered in the typical 'whodunnit'.

FoodSutra: A Memoir of the Foods of India
Shalabh Prasad
Independently Published
9781838065102 $29.99 Hardback
9781838065119 $TBA Paperback
9781838065126 $7.99, eBook

Foodsutra: A Memoir of the Foods of India celebrates India's unique regional cuisines and departs from the usual Indian cookbook by profiling India's regional flavors and how they differ. This means that the book's organization is different, featuring destinations, specialties, and a subtitle that connects Indian culture and cuisine, as in the chapter on 'Mumbai: Food That Inspires Bollywood Masala Films' or 'Goa: Konkan and Portuguese Simmered Together.' There are no pages of recipes here, but plenty of discussion about how food is created, paired, and seasoned according to regional influences, differences, and tastes.

Readers learn a good deal about India's culture and geography; not just the origins of its classic recipes. This helps those relatively unfamiliar with the country gain a basic working knowledge of India's culinary history, an essential ingredient in helping define, utilize, and understand not just recipes, but India's food traditions as a whole, from their history to their modern incarnations.

Many Indian cookbooks are published each year. Most offer some of this information in only the briefest of introductions to each recipe. Foodsutra presents the opportunity for a deeper understanding and celebration of Indian cuisine than most of its competitors.

From its color photos throughout to discussions of how dishes are spiced and served, accompanying Shalabh Prasad's travelogue of his journeys through the country and its foods, readers receive much more than a cookbook. Prasad's ability to tackle familiar dishes and deconstruct their culinary and cultural roots is simply outstanding. His approach presumes a basic interest in Indian cuisine, but not an in-depth knowledge - though at least a basic familiarity with some of its classic dishes will add appreciation for Foodsutra's unique approach.

Foodsutra is an essential guide to understanding how Indian cuisine differs - sometimes radically - from region to region. Its discussions of modern twists, common misconceptions (such as confusing the chilla flatbread with its cousin the dosa), and cultural and food differences makes for a choice that should be required reading before any Indian cookbook is chosen.

Robert P. Louden
Publisher: TBA
Website/Ordering Link: TBA

Generations opens in 1961, when the hope of a new era is fostered, and views life through the eyes of twenty-something Dan Taggart, who find himself changing politically in a way that departs from his family's established views after the election of John F. Kennedy.

The world is looking for a change, including that affecting racism and racial relationships. Those on both sides of the issue are anticipating a different world after Kennedy's election.

As events build to 1963 Birmingham and threaten to explode, a host of characters are introduced who hold different perspectives on the future of America and their changing place in it.

Robert P. Louden does an outstanding job introducing a myriad of observers of this process. He doesn't rest with a single perspective or even several, but blossoms the story into a number of lives, cultural influences, and political processes. These coalesce to focus on radical events that drive the 60s changes that turn America's values and trajectory on end.

From the rise of Hollywood and its political prowess to the death of Kennedy and the progression of drug culture from ghettos into mainstream American lives, Louden captures the social, political, and family influences of the times using succinct vignettes of individuals changed from their set courses in life and their perspectives of the future.

The result is a story that is firmly grounded in real people and events and flavored by ten years of vast changes, from promise and progress to events that stymie positive perceptions of the future.

All this is strengthened by a variety of characters, viewpoints, and experiences that consider the foundations of historic revolutionary change.

From Joe Jackson's ideal of equality before Martin Luther King Jr. is murdered and the shooting that will change his life to finding revised ways to live, Generations does more than trace the evolution of an era from 1961 to 1968. It points out the special circumstances which changed America and the world over a period of several decades.

Its lesson in social and political evolution will prove especially hard-hitting in today's milieu. Generations is highly recommended reading for those who look for accessible lessons on how to survive tumultuous changes.

Expert Giver: No Strings Attached
Jason Cazes
Expert Giver LLC
9780578211794, $27.95 Hardcover, $16.95 Paper, $2.99 Kindle, $13.97 Audible

Expert Giver: No Strings Attached is a spiritual self-help guide to attaining happiness and joy from life by fostering giving and forgiveness, and stems from Jason Cazes's vision of how to create groups of people who support this objective.

Our beliefs shape our reality, as do our actions. These are often a matter of choice, which can be made from both faith and concrete intention. Rarely are these approaches to better living and spiritual understanding given the specific courses of action and game plans outlined in this book.

Chapters tackle some lofty ideas and ideals, from explaining God and conscience, to the foundations of truth and common perceptions and misconceptions that lead to conflict between people and within the world.

There are many intriguing revelations here that refute common notions, such as the contention that happiness is not a choice, but is a "byproduct and the result of actions of giving to others unconditionally." It is an indirect choice, and a consequence of an approach to life that can be cultivated but not self-centered.

As Cazes explores this and other links between choice, behavior, faith, giving, and end results of changed perceptions of life's meaning and purpose, readers receive a concrete set of insights on how they may achieve this byproduct through something not rigidly controlled, but incorporated into a lifestyle attitude.

Bliss, joy, and happiness do not come from self-gratification, which seems to be the common idea in modern times, but from the peace and goodwill of unconditional giving.

As Cazes explores how this approach can be nurtured to fruition, blending spiritual reflection with psychological and philosophical insights, Expert Giver: No Strings Attached becomes a road map to a different worldview that is centered not on self, but on others.

It's a much-needed paradigm for world change and positive approaches to life, surveying the different ways of identifying lies and excuses and the path forward that moves from healing to effective spiritual living. From the author's experience with miracles to examples of this process throughout different walks of life, Expert Giver creates a benchmark for success that includes the vision and possibilities of interconnected Expert Giver Groups.

Self-help and spirituality readers looking for a solid course of improvement and contemplative growth will find Expert Giver an uplifting guide that tackles common misperceptions and the process of evolving to become a better person, both socially and spiritually.

Observation of the Moment
Owen Bryan Jr.
Owen Bryan Jr., Publisher
9781734543223, $12.99 Paperback
9781734543216 $2.99 Ebook

Observation Of The Moment: Analyzing Moments In Everyday Life Into Poetry comes from a poet and motivational speaker who captures his life experiences in verses that are written reflections of the far and immediate past. As he ponders these moments and their emotional responses, he creates a series of remembrances that traces the lasting results of life experience and their translation to spiritual, moral, ethical and psychological achievement: "Entering the valley of the shadows of death/In this journey, I find myself/Stumbling into the crevices of hopelessness/My mind jaded; drifting into an abyss of misery/I ponder on the brevity of life/I look up... And I speak to God,/"Looking at life, it seems all I know is losing/Will I be able to win one time?/The feeling of winning seems foreign to me"/I hear no answer.../But I continue pushing onward..."

Poets interested in this special blend of spiritual and psychological growth will appreciate the perspectives captured in these musings. The works move through a typical life's slings and arrows, whether they come from relationship, home, or work environments: "Did I update that excel spreadsheet, LAST WEEK?!"/With little to feed the employee's yearning/For excitement and adventure, outside of work/This employee seeks it during the working hours/As the day unfolds/Drama, negative energy, and a toxic environment/Can start and end with whom/But instead chooses to instigate and prolong the drama..."

Readers who like free verse firmly rooted in changing life moments will be the best audience for Owen Bryan Jr.'s writings. This audience will appreciate the poet's intention to capture the moments that serve as pivot points to changed perspectives; they'll find the writing itself to be clear and reflective; and they'll appreciate the attention to detail that translates revelations to revised life purposes.

The poet's references to literary or cultural inspiration that led to a particular poem's creation helps readers understand their context: "On my visit back to Jamaica in June of 2019, I sat in on a church service being held at my grandparents' house. In the service, one of the themes the pastor spoke about was remaining faithful to God through the ups and the downs. "Peace be still" was a common phrase used in that discourse."

The blend of inspiration and poetic prowess is well done and places Owen Bryan Jr.'s works in a category accessible to non-poets and everyday readers, as well as poetry enthusiasts looking for works firmly rooted in life experience and motivational experience.

It Gives You Strength
Philip Raymond Brown
Canoe Tree Press
9781735281209 $24.99, Hardcover
9781735281216 $15.99, Paperback
9781735281223 $3.99, Ebook
9781735281230 $19.99, Audio

It Gives You Strength blends elements of sci-fi, historical fiction about World War I, and mystery as it presents alien anthropologist Tashan Zho, who is sent back in time to 1926 to take over the body of a dying man during a rescue mission. Unfortunately, that man was an alcoholic, and so his memory files are 'corrupted' and Zho's knowledge of his mission becomes murky.

Zho only remembers one sentence of his mandate: to find one Mike Kelly. But when he does, he discovers that Kelly leads a criminal gang of World War I veterans battling mobster Jack "Legs" Diamond for control of the lucrative Canada/New York rum-running market. And he's forced to become a member of that gang.

The story opens with a stealth drone's reflections on her mission when she's newly activated after she's waited for centuries in limbo between Venus and Earth.

Zho's future is linked to the fate of mankind, unbeknownst to the humans who both befriend and use him, and even to himself. The rescue mission involves saving a young alien who has been sent to the Craig Colony as an epileptic - a colony which the aliens interpret as being a prison camp. As Costello's memory of his true mission returns, he also faces challenges in penetrating the Colony and preventing the invasion of Earth.

Philip Raymond Brown cultivates a wry sense of humor and social inspection that are unexpected in sci-fi writings. As Zho/Costello faces skeptical doctors in the Colony and finds his own future challenged, readers are given close inspection of a real historical setting and the logic of its purpose: "The doctor looked at his watch. "Look at the time! I have to get to my next appointment. I hope that your current attitude improves over the next ninety days. Otherwise, when I write my report for the judge, you will likely be with us a much longer time," Harrison cautioned. "But don't worry. A few of our patients begin to show improvement after two or three years." "Two or three years?" Costello asked...Zho considered the irony of his situation. Outside the colony, he had lived freely as a bootlegger, regularly committing crimes and consorting with gangsters. Yet he was now effectively incarcerated by a New York State Court for the "crime" of having a seizure in public. He decided that the only actual medical advice that Dr. Harrison had given him was to rest."

From human rights issues to an alien's widening perception of the strange world he's landed in, and the seeming impossibility of the rescue mission he's charged with undertaking, readers receive a surprising blend of real history and fantasy. These offer unusual inspections of gangster activity in the 1920s, perceptions of miracles when galaxy-class starships are actually involved, and disputes that lead Zho to question the real purpose of his mission.

The story is a mashup of investigative, social history, and sci-fi genres that will attract readers from all three areas with a highly satisfying, recommended blend of action and confrontation.

SUB-LEBRITY*: The Queer Life of a Show-Biz Footnote
Leon Acord
Larilee Entertainment, Publisher
9798622243110, $13.99

SUB-LEBRITY*: The Queer Life of a Show-Biz Footnote will reach readers of LBGTQ memoirs and entertainment industry insider reports alike, presenting a ribald romp through the show-biz industry and the 'very out' queer life of actor Leon Acord: "To this day, my husband Laurence still believes I could someday become famous. I love him for that, even if I have plenty of reasons to disagree with him. I'm on the dark side of my 50s. I'm wildly outspoken politically. I was never the most "fuckable" guy in the room, even when I was younger. I'm super gay and way out.

Laurence also swears I am not "obviously" gay. Alas, he may be the only person on this planet who believes this. Because I've been told otherwise. A lot."

From his childhood growing up in rural Indiana as an obviously gay child to his foray into the entertainment industry and his public activism and battles with fellow actors and actresses, there is nothing subtle or coy about SUB-LEBRITY*. Its special brand of wry life observations, insights into queer community and culture, and Acord's own proclivity for trouble means that his accounts can be racy, offensive (to some), forthright, and satisfyingly political in its unique form of social and personal commentary, all in one.

Those who don't want this kind of exploration and inspection of gay culture should look elsewhere. But for readers who appreciate the juxtaposition of descriptions of strenuous shooting scenes and acting work with links between entertainment's value in connecting audiences with life experiences, Acord captures many challenging moments. One example is his participation in a hard-hitting play after 9/11 broke: "It was a powerful reminder of theatre's ability to bring us together, to help us heal, in the absolute worst of times. Especially in the absolute worst of times. And how theatre alone, unlike TV or film, can create unique, impossible-to-recreate moments of genuine emotion and connec-tion between audience and actors. We weren't just crying at Aoise's beautiful prose or Jayson's skillful delivery. We were sharing, as one, our shock, our despair, our hope, in that breathtaking moment. I bet nobody in that theatre ever forgot it. I know I won't."

The specifics about actor choices and the politics and personalities involved in setting scenes and interpreting scripts will especially delight aspiring playwrights and actors: "Also in season three: we find Ross, sitting dressed in an empty tub on Thanksgiving, crying about the state of his disintegrating marriage. But in camera rehearsal, David played the scene angry instead of sad. "Uh, David - "

"Ross has been moping for two seasons," David explained. "He'd be pissed off by now." "You're absolutely right!" So that's how we shot it. You want actors to serve as "custodians" of the characters they're playing, who don't just "go along to get along." And when they are as good as Pevs, it's worth the occasional awkward conversation."

As SUB-LEBRITY* follows Acord's jobs and evolving career and life, it draws readers into new worlds on more than one level, always spicing its writing with flamboyant descriptions that are notable for their engrossing observations and personal flair.

The notes on LBGTQ culture are fitting adjuncts to this personal and political exploration of life and the entertainment world.

"Eventually, we are all just footnotes" to life itself. This concept unfolds newfound rules, options, and guidelines to living life to the fullest, and is described in its myriad of forms in SUB-LEBRITY*. The book is especially highly recommended for aspiring performing arts participants who receive not only specific insights into how the industry operates, but how personalities and politics become part of the process, impacting actors, viewers, and the community as a whole.

Poisoned Jungle
James Ballard
9781646631148, $19.95 Paper, $29.95 Hardcover, $7.99 Kindle

Andy Parks is a Vietnam War medic who has survived his tour of duty - but not without deep psychological wounds from the death and destruction he's personally been a part of. Returning home to demonstrators after this killing has stolen part of his soul is a process that author James Ballard, himself a former Vietnam War medic, is all too familiar with.

This personal familiarity lends a somber, realistic tone to Ballard's story of survivor's guilt, which opens in 1969 in Vietnam's Mekong Delta. Ballard excels in capturing hard-hitting descriptions of the Vietnam experience, from slogging through impossibly dense, humid, death-filled jungles to making ethical decisions that are anything but straightforward: "Andy had long since grown accustomed to seeing dead bodies in the war zone. Once he had injected a dying Viet Cong soldier with enough morphine to hasten a less painful entry into death, then worried what he would do if one of his platoon members needed it. There were always decisions to be made in the Nam."

Many Vietnam stories focus on the physical and psychological challenges of surviving such an environment. Too few delve deeply into the contrast between before and after, where the protagonist faces different kinds of struggles and decision-making processes which become lifelong nightmares.

Andy's experiences serves to emphasize that the return home, for soldiers who survive, is just the beginning of a process that affects not only the soldier, but his family, friends, and generations to come: "It was like saying goodbye to a doomed man. Even if he survived the war, Andy knew young Avery would suffer and bring it home with him."

From the lasting impact of Agent Orange and the death that awaits them when they are "safe" at home in the U.S. to the effects of poverty, racism, and war on soldiers who find themselves in tough situations with few options and no respect for their term of service, James Ballard's story of psychological and physical survival is riveting, whether it's set in-country or in the USA.

Andy's final reconciliation of his experience and, most importantly, its cost and aftermath lends a philosophical, reflective tone to this story of adversity and uncertain healing: "...the survivors were like the Mekong itself, branching into ever-changing tributaries and waterways moving towards the expanse of the sea to join with the rest of humanity."

Poisoned Jungle is a hard-hitting, powerful story not for the faint of heart, but for those who would gain realistic, engrossing insights on how a soldier or medic can reconcile Vietnam experiences with the return home and the psychological, social, and medical challenges that continue to send ripples through the veteran's life.

It's a thought-provoking read from start to finish as Andy finds his way through more than one jungle and struggles to find renewed meaning in his life as a Vietnam survivor.

Poisoned Jungle is highly recommended for new generations, who will receive a heart-stopping story of adversity, inhumanity, and social reflection.

Let Them Eat Pancakes
Craig Carlson
Pegasus Books
9781643134406, $27.95 Hardcover, $18.99 Kindle

Foodies interested in a journey through France that embraces culture and culinary facets alike will relish the armchair read Let Them Eat Pancakes: One Man's Personal Revolution in the City of Light, a memoir of restauranteur Craig Carlson's decision to open an American-style diner in Paris.

Chefs familiar with the rigors of running a restaurant, and who know the statistics on how many fail, will be surprised to learn that Carlson had no experience running a restaurant anywhere in the world. He'd never even owned his own business, let alone successfully navigated the business, social, and culinary milieu of France. All these elements would seem a recipe for disaster, but one of the joys of Let Them Eat Pancakes lies in its unexpected success story as Carlson navigates this strange new world and turns adversity into achievement.

Part of the sweet appeal of this narrative lies in Carlson's descriptions of not just his life and perspective, but the approaches of his customers and employees: "Then there was the group of female students from the nearby Sorbonne.

They met at the diner once a week for their "Pancake Club." They would film themselves for social media, hamming it up as they drenched their pancakes with maple syrup. Not satisfied with their performance, they would do take after take. By the tenth take, I had to look away as all of my profit margin drip drip dripped out of the now empty syrup container. Lastly, there was Savannah, my waitress from Mississippi. A blond bombshell with a deep Southern drawl, she'd startle French customers half to death with her big, booming voice. "How y'all doin' today?" she'd say. "Can I get you a dessert? Or are you sweet enough already?"

From surface appearances in the dining room of Breakfast in America to behind-the-scenes probes of relationships and the special challenges of handling French employees, the story is ribald, fun, and culturally intriguing: "...since I was in France, I couldn't just fire her - even with her guilty-as-hell photos. Instead, I'd have to put a dossier together, which could take months, if not years before a verdict was reached - which 90% of the time ended up favoring the employee. On top of my server woes, I was also on the verge of losing another cook. A couple days earlier, right in the middle of the lunch rush, Fikadu put his spatula down and said, "I want what Kyle has." It took me a moment to figure out what he was talking about. Kyle, a fellow cook at the diner, had just started a year's worth of paid leave after siring his second child. "Oh . . . do you mean paternity leave?" I asked, putting two and two together. "Yes, that." "Well, Fikadu, to get paternity leave, you have to have a child first." "But doesn't your girlfriend live in London?" I asked. Fikadu nodded. I chuckled slightly as I stated what I thought was the obvious. "Well, I'm pretty sure to get French paternity leave, your child has to be born in France." Just to be safe, I called my accountant. She was my first resource when it came to all questions involving France's complicated labor laws. "Looks like your cook is more on top of the latest developments than we are," she said. After consulting the government's website, my accountant discovered that a new law had just been passed with very little fanfare. Not only did Fikadu not have to live in the same country as his baby in order to get paternity leave; he didn't have to be the biological father, either."

Readers gain a great deal of information about running a business in France and navigating its many unique cultural, social, and business relationships in the process. This is something most culinary explorations omit in favor of a food focus alone.

It's one of the many strengths unique to Carlson's story, making it a delicious standout in culinary, travel, or business literature. From Carlson's desire to give his customers American fare to his incorporation of French values and cuisine during the process of running and evolving the diner concept, this is a compelling, fun, and thought-provoking read which is lively and hard to put down. Let Them Eat Pancakes is especially recommended for Francophiles, foodies, and anyone interested in the culture and challenges of fostering a French lifestyle and business pursuit.

How to Become Extremely Wealthy
James Elleyby
Lulu Publishing Services
9781684740383, $59.00 Hardcover / $24.99 Paperback / $9.99 Kindle

How to Become Extremely Wealthy sounds like it will parrot so many other 'how to get rich' books already on the market, but anyone who chooses it will find that James Elleyby cultivates a different interpretation of and approach to wealth that embraces a unique perspective.

It's a lesson in gratitude and positive attitude, eschewing the usual focus on money matters alone to document the presence of wealth in all kinds of endeavors and approaches to life.

The logic is impeccably explained from the start: it's difficult to accumulate wealth if the correct mindset is lacking. Elleyby maintains that a wealth builder first needs to tackle one of the more challenging, less-addressed jobs on the list: revising one's mindset to "...deliberately readjust your thought process, if you are to order and manage and attract the other dollars unto you." This approach involves appreciating what one has before building financial and personal goals for the future.

As chapters unfold, Elleyby winds a basic ethical and moral perspective into the effort of gaining more wealth, connecting the pursuit of money to the pursuit of happiness in a richer, more concrete manner than one would expect from a book with this title.

It's a brilliant move, drawing the financial and business planner in with the promise of 'extreme wealth', then adding insights on life satisfaction, gratitude, giving, and generosity into the mix of advice on making more money.

Ellerby states that " one owns money. We are only managers of its flow" and he also maintains that "It's very easy to bring in lots of money...It was designed to flow freely and casually. You must cultivate the right mindset regarding money-flow."

All the tools are here for understanding, cultivating, and living that ideal, which embraces money-making on far more than a singular level.

While business readers may pick up the book anticipating a guide to investments or financial planning, they'll receive so much more. Its winning promise to not only make more, but do better with what you've got, is highly recommended for those who would accept lessons on more mindful living, along with concrete advice on handling not just money itself, but the concept of making and using it wisely.

Darkness Drops Again
Melissa E. Manning
9781735049311, $11.99 Paper, $5.99 Kindle

Darkness Drops Again opens with the tenacity of thirty-nine-year-old attorney Maeve Shaw, who has risen above her dysfunctional childhood to build a successful career and fine family. Or, so she thinks.

When chinks show up in that family structure and challenge the foundations of how she's steadily built her adult life, Maeve feels attacked on two personal areas: home, and a new case at work that requires Maeve to defend a mother accused of killing her opioid-addicted daughter. It's a case that brings up bad memories and childhood experiences.

Flashbacks to her past juxtapose with her routines as a mother and criminal trial proceedings which blend past and present in challenging new ways.

Melissa E. Manning uses the first person to provide a sense of immediacy and insight to Maeve's observations, experiences, and reactions. This does a fine job of solidifying her character and exploring the logic of her responses to new challenges in her carefully ordered life.

Maeve has developed techniques to mitigate the stress and trigger points of daily life, but finds that these pale against the strength of some of new, foundation-shaking events that leave her on edge and in pain. Discussions of these techniques add a realistic, compelling note to the events that demand different reactions and test familiar survival routines.

Manning's attention to psychological detail elevates the story from its murder mystery/courtroom thriller foundations to add a fuller flavor than most in the genre. It invites women, especially, to explore the depths of Maeve's combined determination and vulnerability.

From witness strategies to changing relationships with family and coworkers, Maeve's journey provides a satisfying blend of courtroom drama, mystery, and growth. Darkness Drops Again is highly recommended reading for women who like their female protagonists both strong and vulnerable, who are challenged with adapting their lives even when choices of the past seem set in stone and successful.

Dad's Little Book of Wisdom
Mark Fennell
Raab & Co.
9781735249001, $19.95 Paper, $9.99 Kindle

Dad's Little Book of Wisdom: Earn More, Achieve More, and Live a Good Life gathers life advice from a father who passes on the wisdom he wished he had as a young man. It is recommended reading for anyone who would absorb the lessons of yesteryear from those older and wiser.

Written as a book of advice to the next generation, Dad's Little Book of Wisdom blends a chatty tone with memories and vignettes that embrace topics ranging from financial savvy to cultivating persistence in setting and reaching goals and incorporating long-term planning into short-term experience: "If you dedicate four hours a day toward a vital skill for five days a week, that's twenty hours a week. If you maintain that for fifty weeks a year, you will reach 10,000 hours in ten years. This is why mastery doesn't happen overnight but after a sustained effort."

Parents, grandparents, and adults who regularly interact with young people will find Dad's Little Book of Wisdom not just the perfect gift book, but a point of discussion for many topics that can open up new avenues of wisdom and connection between generations.

There's a healthy degree of business acumen within the advice - it's not all about ethics, morals, or setting goals; and can be very specific, such as the section about encouraging a collaborative atmosphere: "I've found it helps to craft a simple agenda and issue it days in advance of the meeting, ideally as part of the meeting invitation. This helps all attendees know what to be prepared to discuss and what prep work they should do in advance. If there will be new people, I use introductions at the beginning to set the stage for the meeting. At the end, I make sure we determine the next actions. Everyone has put in their valuable time. Make sure something comes from that investment!"

As far as the ideal age range of the reader, think the thirty-something professional or the twenty-something just getting a handle on adult responsibilities and approaches. The insights in this sage presentation aren't limited to a ten-year age range, but hold potential for educating several generations who are at pivot points in their careers and personal lives.

From college to finances and entering and excelling in the business world, these examples and tried-and-tested paths from personal experience prove invaluable not just because of their direction, but because they cover potential pitfalls and how to avoid them.

The sage voice of experience can save a lot of time and trouble. Dad's Little Book of Wisdom is highly recommended for any young person open to learning from the past to forge more efficient success in their present and future. It's motivational reading at its best.

Everything is a Little Bit Alright
Daniel Hertz
Shanti Arts Publishing
9781951651299, $17.95, Softcover
9781951651305, $5.95, Ebook

Everything Is a Little Bit Alright: Yoga, Meditation, and a Dog Named Roy is spiritual memoir writing at its best, blending a travelogue with a self-assessment that opens in an unexpected place: in Panama, where Daniel Hertz faces a confrontation with authorities.

Hertz's companion got them out of a potentially dangerous robbery and he attended a meditation session to try to recover from the event. These different approaches to recovering from "the canal event" set the tone for a survey which, more than most, links everyday life challenges and events to spiritual and psychological recovery techniques.

If Everything Is a Little Bit Alright sounds more wide-ranging than most similar-sounding life stories, that's because Hertz employs a unique voice while capturing these events and linking them to spiritual growth.

As his story evolves, readers are treated to a special approach that succinctly juxtaposes the practice of meditation with revised perspectives on life: "The robbery is still heavy in my mind and heart. When something like this happens, you feel violated and disappointed in humanity." I could feel myself holding back a tear. "No matter how long you study and practice, you are always a student with a lot to learn," I said. "At least now I have some techniques and strategies to use to deal with it. I don't feel quite as helpless to the whim of whatever the wind blows my way."

Perhaps this best captures the crux of the matter. As Hertz hones new techniques for addressing, viewing, and impacting his life and those around him, he shares these evolutionary processes with the reader. Because they also are well grounded in life events, adventures, and experiences, they assume a validity and solidity missing in too many spiritual or autobiographical memoirs.

Hertz isn't fixated on creating a self-help game plan others can follow so much as exploring what worked for him, and why. Given this perspective, readers can more easily absorb the basics of connections between meditation and mindful practices and their revised effects on reactions to life.

This is no casual exploration. Hertz delves deeply into meditation, journeying to its wellspring of information (India) to spend a month in a mountain shrine, where he meets a swami who arranges a marriage for him. This juxtaposes with over thirty years as a Minneapolis public school teacher, and nearly as many spent as a student and teacher at the Meditation Center in Minneapolis.

The result is an outstanding survey of healing, resolution, and a revised approach to life that holds many takeaways for readers also on the journey to explore and expand their possibilities. Everything Is a Little Bit Alright is highly recommended reading for those who would learn the approaches and impact of meditation on building a better life.

Shades of the Deep Blue Sea
Jack Woodville London
Vire Press, LLC
9780982120705, $4.99 ebook, $16.95 paperback

Shades of the Deep Blue Sea is a historical romance set on a Pacific island during World War II. It explores the lives and evolving mystery and connections surrounding two sailors, Bart and Olafson, and a girl, Saya, who navigate the tumultuous waters of change and love.

One doesn't expect the opening scene of a boat crossing the Pacific to enter the war, harboring a would-be murderer and a potential victim who is equally determined to survive the passage, but Jack Woodville London opens his story with a captivating diary entry of soldiers and sailors, adversity, and combat encounters on more than one level. These descriptions add further layers of confrontation to a saga that holds many flavors of change.

From a counterfeit order scam and Smith and Gretel's discoveries to war, slavery, the actions of Suzy the spy (which land her in prison) and war heroes who survive Japanese internment camps, Shades of the Deep Blue Sea creates a satisfying blend of military and social engagement that injects moral and ethical dilemmas into its wide-ranging story of confrontation and survival.

As readers absorb the mystery surrounding Sullivan's disappearance and court proceedings which seek to uncover the truth, they receive an engaging inspection of promises, journeys, and one man's vision of the future, which is realized in unexpected ways.

Shades of the Deep Blue Sea cultivates many different angles, from war history to romance to prisoner treatment, cannibalism, and survival against all odds. It isn't a singular military or social inspection, but combines elements of each against the backdrop of a love story.

Shades of the Deep Blue Sea is highly recommended reading for anyone seeking a multifaceted romp through World War II.

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

Gary Roen's Bookshelf

The Bookseller's Secret
Jeff Boyle
Bold Venture
9798613115294, $14.95

For me the opening of "The Bookseller's Secret" where a man launches a used bookstore in a small Florida community was the hook to continue through the beautifully told story. One of his customers thinks she has encountered him once before in a different place and so long ago but is not sure. "The bookseller's Secret" is also a town's fight to save the beach land from development into high rise condos. "The Bookseller's Secret" is a beautifully crafted, multi layered novel filled with pleasing characters in underlying conflicts against a breathtaking area of Florida. "The Bookseller's Secret" is perfect reading for people stuck at home looking for an enjoyable experience to take them away from the Covid19 pandemic.

Early Thursday
Linda S. Cunningham
Book Baby
9781098304805, $15.99,

"Early Thursday" began as a southern laid-back story comparable to other classic literature of the region, but drops the ball with an illogical ending. It strings the reader along jumping around with no sensible reason for doing so. Narrator Walt LaCour opens the work in the present then traces his life back to June 1957 the year of Hurricane Audrey in Louisianian. The tale has enticing characters as well as the events leading to the major storm and its aftermath. The plot picks up 9 years later as Walt is in college. It is there that "Early Thursday" takes a bizarre twist that changes the whole yarn. Fiction or nonfiction must contain three elements to make it readable, a beginning, middle, and an end. Sadly "Early Thursday" leaves the reader asking "where did that come from?"

Ali's Portal
Saylor Storm
Storm Productions
9780578691008, $13.99,

"Ali's Portal" is very different from the usual fare of exciting suspense novels by Saylor Storm. Instead readers are treated to a superb character driven narrative of a life that is not everything it seems. Ali has a sales job where she frequently conducts business in China. As such she frequently flies out an air terminal waiting for connecting flights. As "Ali's Portal" opens she waits in a bar at an airport where she begins a friendship with a bartender who makes a special drink that enlightens her to gazing into her world to come to a surprising conclusion. "Ali's Portal" is filled with masterful writing, stimulating characters, and motivating conflicts to a final satisfying finale sure to please any reader.

Give Me Libertycon
Edited by Christopher Woodss & T.K.F. Weisskoph
Baen Books
9781982124649, $16.00,

Under normal circumstances a science fiction convention takes place somewhere in the country every weekend. Until "Give me Libertycon" there had never been a book devoted to one convention The hook is how it ties into Libertycon in many different ways including some of the people connected to the convention as characters in stories while there are also discussions of panels and different events of the wonderful celebration of science fiction. "Give Me Liberty is a gem of a tribute to one of the finest yearly celebrations by some of the greatest writers in the genre that should not be missed by any fan.

The Big Book of Modern Fantasy
Edited by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer
c/o Penguin Random House LLC
9780525563860, $25.00,

"The Big Book of Modern Fantasy" is a collection that has everything fantasy fans are looking for. Stephen King, George R. R. Martin, Ursula K. Le Guin, and a wide range of other talented authors grace the pages of one of the finest compilations of short stories anywhere. Gathered together for the first time they celebrate the many different aspects of Fantasy Fiction guaranteed to please any reader. "The Big Book of Modern Fantasy" is the most complete assemblage of works in the field.

Too Much And Never Enough: How My Family Created The World's Most Dangerous Man
Mary L. Trump P.H. D.
Simon & Schuster
9781982141462, $28.00,

There are so many books about President Donald Trump but "Too Much And Never Enough: How My Family Created The World's Most Dangerous Man" is the best no holds bared expose of the man who holds the office of president by someone in his own family. She depicts a man who is very much like a magician, a person who is not as smart as he appears while not being such a great businessman as perceived. She also talks about how Donald had someone else take his SAT entrance exams into college, he is a person who has to be the center of attention while tearing down anyone who does not do or say what he wants. Mary L. Trump whose expertise in psychology gives a professional scary assessment of him that bears out based on the way he has dealt with Covid19, Black Lives Matter, the present economy and relations with other world nations.

Saved By A Book
Kelli P. Coats, author
Hand drawn illustrations by Kelli P. Coats
Graphic Illustrations by Rebecca Sherrick
Creations by Kelli
97986227470, $9.99,

"Saved By A Book" is a kid's story that so many adults can relate to as well as being a teaching tool parents can utilize for their children. Five-year-old Kiki's first day of Kindergarten has been a highlight of her young life until she is actually there, then some kind of fear mechanism kicks in and she begins to experience a problem until something takes over and shifts her perspective is one of the brilliantly told storylines in "Saved By A Book." For anyone who loves to read there are several other aspects, a person never outgrows that make "Saved By A Book" so adorably enjoyable.

Franky The Fearless Flamingo
Wanda Luthaman, author
Mara Reitsrna, illustrator
9781734009934, $6.99,

The Franky tales have always been delightful fare for all ages and the newest installment "Franky The Fearless Flamingo" delivers another rousing fun one with underlying premises to all ages. Franky happens to be around when a big mean crab decides to play around with a young turtle. Franky steps into protect the youngster by steering the meanie into a new direction.
"Franky The Fearless Flamingo" is also the longest so far and a nice addition to the arc of Franky stories

The Adventures of Tara & Pep Pep: A New Puppy Book One
Wanda L. Roberts
Independently Published
9798649936781, $9.99,

"A New Puppy Book One" is more than a beautiful tale of humans and animal encounter each other for the first time. It's also filled with many different activities for kids to spend many hours enjoying while learning life lessons. A dad and his son are out riding bicycles when the find a little charming puppy apparently left by someone to fend for itself. It takes only a few moments for them to decide what to do with the lovely canine. Dog owners will love "A New Puppy Book One" and be able to relate to the events in the first of a series.

Jill Biden with Kathleen Krull, authors
Amy June Bates, illustrator
Simon & Schuster
9781534480537, $19.99,

Jill Biden takes readers back into the life of Joe Biden one of the men running for president of the United States. For the first time we see a different side of Biden from his childhood that was filled with many hurdles to overcome as well as life learned lessons that he has never forgotten. Though geared to children, "Joey" is a very enlightening title on our possible next president.

Gary Roen
Senior Reviewer

Helen Dumont's Bookshelf

Clarissa P. Green
Granville Island Publishing
9781989467244, $17.95, PB, 208pp

Synopsis: Pivotal events in Clarissa P. Green's childhood altered the trajectory of her family relationships, personal life and career. Within the course of one year, her youngest sister passed away within seven months of her birth, and both her father and grandmother suffered near-fatal heart-attacks. In the 1950s, silence was considered an appropriate response to tragedy. Green writes, "my parents believed the right way to handle misfortune was to 'turn the page.' This meant they didn't talk with their children about our sister's death or any of the other awful events around that time. It's taken me most of my life to understand how this crisis changed my family so profoundly, how it shaped my future." It took a move from New York to Florida to bring the family back together.

In her twenties, Green was drawn to study the ins and outs of family crisis. In graduate school, and then as a professor in Vancouver, British Columbia, Green began to help grieving families regain balance -- comforting the parents of premature newborns and helping families whose wives or mothers were diagnosed with life-threatening illness. Her support of these families led to a decades-long career in clinical therapy, working with aging parents and their mid-life children.

An award-winning teacher and advocate for the power of a learner's personal connections in making theory and research meaningful, Green listened to her clients stories. As the storyteller of her own family, in Grownupedness Green weaves together her personal experiences alongside those of her clients -- in humorous and touching detail -- to make her deep understandings of family and aging available to all.

In Part I, Green explores what it means to be an "elderly young girl," breaks down the anatomy of a crisis, and shows how the influence of past trauma stays with us as we age. Part II dives deeply into Green's own personal experiences as she shares with the reader the challenges of supporting loved ones as they and their partners face growing old, illness and end of life. In Part III, Green delves into what she has learned as a daughter, a sibling, a wife, a mother, a teacher and a therapist.

Coupled with stories and lessons learned from her clients and family, she brings together stories and advice on difficult conversations -- finance, dementia, touch, independence -- and shares with vulnerability how she herself navigated the changing relationships with her own adult sons. Finding humor in difficult situations, Green manages to find humanity in experiences that are simultaneously personal and yet universal.

Critique: An inherently fascinating, exceptionally informative, especially thoughtful and though-provoking, "Grownupedness" is an extraordinary and ultimately inspiring read from beginning to end. While unreservedly recommended for both community and collge/university library Aging & Grief/Bereavement Management collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Grownupedness" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

Editorial Note: Clarissa P. Green has spent her life exploring and teaching how family relationships are changed by aging, illness and death. In her decades-long career as a therapist, Green has helped families reconfigure their relationships and conceptions of self in the face of trauma and aging. An associate professor emerita at the University of British Columbia, Green's continuing-studies programs, The Widowed Journey and The Mid-Life Daughters' Workshop, ran for more than a decade. Green was a founder of what is now the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, and she has received numerous teaching awards, including the Killam Teaching Prize from UBC and the 3M National Teaching Award. Green's belief that personal experience is necessary for learning and growth developed naturally alongside a lifelong passion for storytelling. Green's numerous works have been published in anthologies, Geist magazine, and The Fieldstone Review.

Blessed to be Me: Celebrate the Stories of Your Life
Jean Alfieri
Independently Published
9780999129395, 17.95, PB, 111pp

Synopsis: Written and created by Jean Alfieri to specially assist the reader to tune out the chaos and tune in to their favorite memories, "Blessed to be Me: Celebrate the Stories of Your Life" is for people who have lived enough to recognize they have some kick-ass stories to tell.

Featuring more than a dozen prompts or story-starters that will make capturing the fondest of memories fun and easy, "Blessed to be Me: Celebrate the Stories of Your Life" will help the reader to enjoy not only a look back but encouragement on them on their journey ahead with inspiring quotes, coloring pages and plenty of space to simply doodle and dream.

Critique: Expertly organized and presented, "Blessed to be Me: Celebrate the Stories of Your Life" is an ideal tool to jump-start a written storytelling event and create a memorable body of life stories for private consumption or sharing with friends and family. A source of pleasurable and constructive ways to spend time, it should be noted for personal use that "Blessed to be Me: Celebrate the Stories of Your Life" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.95).

The Big Quiet: One Woman's Horseback Ride Home
Lisa D. Stewart
9781734247749, $19.99, PB, 306pp

Synopsis: At 54, Lisa Stewart set out to regain the fearless girl she once had been, riding her horse, Chief, 500 miles home. Hot, homeless, and horseback, she snapped back into every original cell. On an extraordinary home going horseback expedition from Kansas City to Bates and Vernon Counties in Missouri, Lisa exhausted herself, faced her past, trusted strangers, and stayed in the middle of her frightened horse to document modern rural America, the people, animals, and land.

Critique: A unique and inherently fascinating memoir, "The Big Quiet: One Woman's Horseback Ride Home" will prove to be an immediately welcome and enduringly popular addition to both community and college/university library Contemporary American Biography collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of all dedicated horse lovers and dedicated travelogue fans that "The Big Quiet: One Woman's Horseback Ride Home" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Lisa D. Stewart is a commercial writer in Prairie Village, Kansas, who writes magazine articles, feasibility studies, business plans, grants, and marketing content. Between 1984 and 1999, she and her former husband created and grew Ortho-Flex Saddle Company, after a three thousand-mile horse-back trip that taught them about the relationship between saddles and the biomechanics of the horse. The couple produced and sold patented saddles and tack in more than thirty countries. She has published more than one hundred articles on the topic of saddle fit.

Coming Full Circle: When the Diagnosis is Terminal
Susan Capurso
Independently Published
9798635050019, $19.99, PB, 319pp

Synopsis: The end of life is the conclusion a life long journey on a road we will all travel. As each day passes conditions change at a steady pace.

Everyone who enters this last milestone, needs as much support and guidance as possible. "Coming Full Circle: When the Diagnosis is Terminal" by End of Life Doula Susan Capruso offers a person with a terminal diagnosis 100 tools, tips and ideas to make a difference during the end of life.

"Coming Full Circle" brings to you a full spectrum of different projects and ideas to implement that will will help you find the closure you need. Avoid the pain and confusion of not knowing what to do next or how to go about doing it. Review, reflect and make purposeful decisions on what you want to happen.

It is possible to accept your diagnosis with the grace and love you deserve. You can feel more connected and navigate a plan to strengthen your relationships today and after you're gone.

"Coming Full Circle" is exactly what the title says. A refreshing and eye opening approach to the end of life. With 100 profound ways for you to do this, you can can choose the strategies that are right for you now, wherever you may be on your own individual timeline.

Critique: Continuing where the legendary Elizabeth Kubler-Ross left off in her landmark publication "On Death and Dying: What the Dying Have to Teach Doctors, Nurses, Clergy and Their Own Families" (2014), Susan Capurso's "Coming Full Circle: When the Diagnosis is Terminal" is as thoughtfully insightful as it is impressively inspiring and is unreservedly recommended reading for anyone facing a terminal diagnosis -- as well as their family and friends wanting to support them in any way they can. While especially and unreservedly recommended for both community and college/university library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Coming Full Circle: When the Diagnosis is Terminal" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.79).

What Magick May Not Alter: Poems of Tallulah & Vidalia
J. C. Reilly
Madville Publishing
9781948692304, $18.95, PB, 188pp

Synopsis: "What Magick May Not Alter: Poems of Tallulah & Vidalia" by J. C. Reilly is a layered Southern fantasy told in a series of narrative poems and is a unique literary event that includes such elements of 'real world' issues such as the prevalence of the KKK, sexual assault, manslaughter, alcoholism, and complex family dynamics. J. C. Reilly's poetic narrative style deftly moves the plot into emotionally treacherous and painfully real places.

Twin sisters Lulah and Vi anchor this story of a magically gifted family and is set in early nineteen-hundreds Louisiana. The choice to tell this story in verse sets it apart, making it feel like a spell book or a manifesto at times. Emotion sings through it clear and strong.

Critique: Inherently fascinating and unique, "What Magick May Not Alter: Poems of Tallulah & Vidalia" is an extraordinary and memorable verse based novel and showcases author J. C. Reilly's truly impressive poetic and narrative storytelling skills. While especially and unreservedly recommended for both community and college/university library Literary Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "What Magick May Not Alter: Poems of Tallulah & Vidalia" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Please Believe Me
Shirley Aumack
Robert D. Reed Publishers
PO Box 1992, Bandon, OR 97411
9781944297626, $14.95, PB, 178pp

Synopsis: When as a little girl Shirley Aumack quietly confronted her father asking him to stop sexually abusing her she got this tirade from her father: "No one cares what I do to you. I don't love you, no one loves you, and no one will EVER love you."

How does a little girl ever heal from this? Compounding the pain of this horrific, inhumane message and the sexual abuse starting when she was eight years old was having a mother who was emotionally vacant. Shirley Aumack never received any affection from her, never heard the words, "I love you" or any such affirming messages. She never attempted to tell her mother about the abuse and never found anyone to confide in who would believe her.

It is common for people who have endured such hellish abuse to overcompensate their feelings of low self-worth by excelling at everything they do. And Shirley is no exception. Throughout her life, she has excelled at everything -- academically, professionally, personally as a mother, wife, friend, and in every role she has impressively had love as her guiding force.

Critique: An inherently compelling and impressively candid memoir, "Please Believe Me: Finding My Voice and Surviving Childhood Sexual Abuse" is an ultimately inspiring account and one that deserves to be a part of every community and college/university library Contemporary American Biography collection. Of special interest to sexual abuse survivors, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Please Believe Me: Finding My Voice and Surviving Childhood Sexual Abuse" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

Editorial Note: Shirley Aumack has been in Who's Who in American Women since 1993, Who's Who in Finance and Industry since 1996, and an Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award recipient since 2019.

The Ultimate Guide to Self-Healing Techniques
Laura Di Franco
Brave Healer Productions
9781733073882, $22.00, PB, 232pp

Synopsis: "The Ultimate Guide to Self-Healing Techniques" by Laura Di Franco is comprise of twenty-five effective holistic and wellness pain relief secrets that traditional medical doctors do not share with their patients.

Where most self-treatment books concentrate on only one modality, "The Ultimate Guide to Self-Healing Techniques" is a powerful toolkit based on contributions made by more than two dozen practitioners and healers who have made their lives about helping ordinary people to thrive spiritually and physically.

Critique: Thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation, and also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99), "The Ultimate Guide to Self-Healing Techniques" is an extraordinarily informative and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library Holistic Medicine collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. Of special note and of particular relevance is the Ultimate Guide to Self-Healing Community on Facebook at:

Helen Dumont

John Taylor's Bookshelf

The Rogue to Nowhere: The Book of Travels
Jason Christopher
Rare Bird Books
9781644281291, $24.00, HC, 128pp

Synopsis: Jason Christopher (born January 20, 1971) is an American bass guitarist. He is also the bass guitar player for Corey Taylor, and formerly the bass guitar player for Prong, Ministry, Stone Sour and Sebastian Bach.

Christopher also subs on bass for The Royal Machines, a supergroup featuring Dave Navarro and Billy Morrison, and was a founding member of New Dead Radio and the punk rock group Black President with guitarists Greg Hetson and Charlie Paulson, singer Christian Martucci, and drummer Roy Mayorga.

Christopher played bass guitar during 2011 for the band Stone Sour, including the band's Avalanche tour and their appearance at Rock In Rio. Christopher is also the backing acoustic guitar player and singer for Corey Taylor (lead singer for Slipknot and Stone Sour) and the bass guitar player for his solo band. He played bass guitar on one track of Taylor's Ronnie James Dio: This Is Your Life tribute album.

Christopher toured with Sebastian Bach from 2012 to 2014, joining them at Rock in Rio 2013. He also performed on their DVD Abacholypse Now. Christopher has also played with Dave Navarro, Jerry Cantrell, Scott Ian, Ace Frehley and Dave Lombardo.

Christopher sang background vocals on the 2015 Prong covers album Songs from the Black Hole and appears on the album X (No Absolutes). (Wikipedia)

Christopher wrote "The Rogue To Nowhere" for his fans who ever want something so bad that they, like himself, would leave everything behind to get it. "The Rogue To Nowhere" is the story of just that -- and the first of a three-part series based on his adventures as a hired gun in the music business that has played with very influential artists including Ministry, Prong, Corey Taylor, Stone Sour, Sebastian Bach, and so many others.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, this combination of autobiography and memoir is a 'must read' for the legions of Jason Christopher fans and is unreservedly recommended for both community and college/university library Contemporary American Biography and Contemporary American Music collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Rogue To Nowhere" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.49).

You Would Have Told Me Not To: Stories
Christopher Coake
Delphinium Books
9781883285906, $24.95, HC, 240pp

Synopsis: "You Would Have Told Me Not To: Stories" by Christopher Coake is comprised of six short stories and one novella, each being germane to the #Metoo movement for gender equality and justice.

Collectively, they examine the fallout from failed relationships between men and women, relationships that have crumbled under the weight of betrayal, misplaced hopes, illness -- and in particular, from masculinity at its most toxic and misguided.

A man in his mid-thirties receives a call from a woman he barely knew who informs him that a girl he bedded and dumped in high school has died of cancer. Another man who had an affair and left a woman without any warning finds himself working on a demolition job with a younger man who might be their son. Another man, obese for years, is left by his wife, loses weight and, drunk with the power of being finally fit, disastrously tries to reconnect with his former spouse.

And in the title story of the collection, a woman summoned to the bedside of her son who has suffered a gunshot wound must finally come to terms with the serial infidelities of her charming ex-husband.

These fictions ask very contemporary questions: how do ex-spouses learn to live again in proximity to one another; how do we make peace with our bodies and their own worst impulses; how do we learn to turn and face, full-on, the worst mistakes of our younger selves?

Critique: An inherently fascinating as they are deftly scripted, thoughtful and thought-provoking, "You Would Have Told Me Not To: Stories" is one of those memorable collections that will linger in the mind and memory long after the book itself is finished and set back upon the shelf. While especially and unreservedly recommended for both community and college/university library Contemporary Literary Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "You Would Have Told Me Not To: Stories" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $17.99).

Editorial Note: Christopher Coake is the author of the novel You Came Back (2012) and the story collection We're in Trouble (2005), which won the PEN/Robert Bingham Fellowship for a first work of fiction. In 2007 he was named one of Granta's Best Young American Novelists. His short fiction has been anthologized in collections such as Best American Mystery Stories 2004; The Best American Noir of the Century; and Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories; and has been published in numerous literary journals. A native of Indiana, Coake received his MFA in fiction from the Ohio State University. He is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Nevada, Reno, where he directs the MFA program in creative writing.

The Great Shift: Encountering God in Biblical Times
James L. Kugel
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
3 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10016
9780544520554, $30.00, HC, 496pp

Synopsis: Why does the Bible depict a world in which humans, with surprising regularity, encounter the divine in such incidences as wrestling an angel, addressing a burning bush, issuing forth prophecy -- all without any choice in the matter? These stories spoke very differently to their original audience than they do to us, and they reflect a radically distinct understanding of reality and the human mind.

Yet over the course of the thousand-year Biblical Era, encounters with God changed dramatically. As Professor James L. Kugel argues, this transition allows us to glimpse a massive shift in human experience -- the emergence of the modern, Western sense of self.

"The Great Shift: Encountering God in Biblical Times" is a landmark work in which Professor Kugel fuses revelatory close readings of ancient texts with modern scholarship from a range of fields, including neuroscience, anthropology, psychology, and archaeology, to explain the origins of belief, worship, and the sense of self, and the changing nature of God through history.

"The Great Shift" tells the story of a revolution in human consciousness and the enchantment of everyday life -- and will make believers and seekers think differently not just about the Bible, but about the entire history of the human imagination.

Critique: A seminal work of dedicated and meticulous research, "The Great Shift: Encountering God in Biblical Times" is an extraordinary contribution to community and college/university library Jewish Theology, Christian Bible History & Culture, and the Sociology of Religion and supplemental curriculum studies. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, seminary students, clergy (both rabbinical and Christian), as well as the non-specialist general reader with an interest in the subject that "The Great Shift: Encountering God in Biblical Times" is also readily available in a paperback edition (Mariner Books, 9781328505927, $17.99), in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99), and as a complete and unabridged audio book (HighBridge Audio, 9781681687223, $44.99, CD).

Editorial Note: Currently residing in Tel Aviv, Israel, James L. Kugel is the Starr Professor Emeritus of Hebrew Literature at Harvard University. Kugel is a specialist in the Hebrew Bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls. He is also the author of thirteen books, including "The Bible As It Was", which won the Grawemeyer Prize in Religion in 2001, and "How to Read the Bible", which was awarded the National Jewish Book Award for the best book of 2007.

John Taylor

Mary Cowper's Bookshelf

You Just Have to Love Me
Heidi Rome
Independently Published
9798609882097, $19.95, PB, 156pp

Synopsis: Being the mom of an autistic child of any age is tough. We worry so much about what to DO that we forget the real question is who we parents need to BE on the autism journey. In the pages of "You Just Have to Love Me: Mothering Instructions From My Autistic Child", Heidi Rome shares the life-changing conversation she had with her nonverbal, autistic child that revealed her true role as his mom and guide.

The title phrase "You just have to love me" is taken from a direct conversation with Heidi's nonverbal son Ethan. Now, in this inherently inspiring volume Heidi candidly shares these insights to help other autism moms step out of painful isolation and into purposeful community, moving heroically through obstacles to plan, advocate and create a hopeful, joyful future for an autistic child.

With "You Just Have to Love Me: Mothering Instructions From My Autistic Child" Heidi is honoring the Mom experience on the autism journey. She is determined to keep Mom strong and nourished, mind and spirit, with all she needs to get her kid's needs met -- and not lose herself and her own life in the process. Heidi has packaged all the love, wisdom and compassion she has acquired and is now sharing that support and power with all other moms of autistic kids of any age.

Critique: Simply stated, "You Just Have to Love Me: Mothering Instructions From My Autistic Child" should be considered mandatory reading by any and all parents of autistic children. As thoughtful and thought-provoking as it is inspired and inspiring, "You Just Have to Love Me: Mothering Instructions From My Autistic Child" is thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation, making it an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to both community and college/university library Autism & Parenting collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "You Just Have to Love Me: Mothering Instructions From My Autistic Child" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.97).

Editorial Note: Heidi Rome, MBA, is the Autism Mom Coach and founder of Moms Spectrum Oasis. As mom to Ethan and his remarkable older brother, Eric, her guidance is for all moms who have children with any difficulty, not only autism

The Understudy
Ellen Tovatt Leary
Hansen Publishing Group
9781601823441, $16.00, PB, 255pp

Synopsis: "The Understudy" by Ellen Tovatt Leary is the story of Nina Landau, an aspiring actress who is living in New York City in the early '70s and trying hard to make it on Broadway. "The Understudy" follows her from her Broadway audition nerves to her eventual success on stage. Along the way "The Understudy" reveals what goes on backstage during a Broadway show, how actors deal with the mistakes that occasionally occur and how exciting it is to be at an opening night party at Sardi's! Nina experiences thrilling triumphs as well as crushing setbacks and, in a true Broadway theatrical tradition, has a passionate love affair with her leading man.

Critique: A wonderfully entertaining read from first page to last, "The Understudy" by author Ellen Tovatt Leary also provides inherently fascinating descriptive insights and background elements that will have a very special appeal for readers with an interest in Broadway theatrical productions and the ordinary lives of extraordinary performers. While very highly recommended, especially for both community and college/university library Contemporary Literary Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Understudy" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.99).

Reflections: A Story of Hope, Healing, Facing Fears, and Finding Purpose
Brian Hobbs & Fia Hobbs
Morgan James Publishing
9781642797060, $14.95, PB, 170pp

Synopsis: Reflections is a gripping and deeply personal story that is deftly written from two perspectives: Brian Hobbs, a songwriter with a terminal cancer diagnosis with months to live, and Fia Hobbs, his caregiving wife as well as his therapist.

They share with readers their journey through hope, despair, and finally to peace and acceptance. During Brian's illness, he wrote down his thoughts and feelings in a blog that became a huge inspiration for people to let go of their own fears and to find purpose in their own lives. Reflections is a continuation of Brian's blog and helps to inspire readers to make them realize what matters in life as they follow his last months.

Critique: Impressively candid, remarkably insightful, exceptionally thoughtful, and an inherently riveting read from beginning to end, "Reflections: A Story of Hope, Healing, Facing Fears, and Finding Purpose" is a unique and extraordinary kind of blended memoir and one that is especially and unreservedly recommended for both community and college/university library Contemporary American Biography collections, as well as Cancer, Mental & Spiritual Healing, and Personal Transformation Self-Help themed reading lists. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Reflections: A Story of Hope, Healing, Facing Fears, and Finding Purpose" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99).

Editorial Note: Currently residing in Stockholm, Sweden, Fia Hobbs is an international speaker and expert on stress management integrating body, mind, and spirit with 30 years of experience. She is a counseling therapist specializing in cancer wellness. She is also the founder of a Swedish nonprofit organization called Fonden Cancerfriskvård, Foundation for Cancer Wellness. Fia has been featured in Swedish newspapers and magazines numerous times throughout her career.

The Grit Factor
Shannon Huffman Polson
Harvard Business Review Press
60 Harvard Way, Boston, MA 02163
9781633697263, $28.00, HC, 240pp

Synopsis: At age nineteen, Shannon Huffman Polson became the youngest woman ever to climb Denali, the highest mountain in North America. She went on to reach the summits of Mt. Rainier and Mt. Kilimanjaro and spent more than a decade traveling the world. Yet it was during her experience serving as one of the Army's first female attack helicopter pilots, and eventually leading an Apache flight platoon on deployment to Bosnia-Herzegovina, that she learned the lessons of leadership that forever changed her life.

Where did these insights come from? From her own crucibles of experience -- and from other women. In writing "The Grit Factor: Courage, Resilience, and Leadership in the Most Male-Dominated Organization in the World", Polson made it her mission to connect with an elite pack of tough, impressive female iconoclasts who shared with her their candid stories of combat and career. This slate of decorated leaders includes Heather Penney, one of the first female F-16 pilots, who was put on a suicide mission for 9/11; General Ann Dunwoody, the first female four-star general in the Army; Amy McGrath, the first female Marine to fly the F/A-18 in combat and a 2020 candidate for the US Senate - and dozens of other unstoppable women who got there first, including Polson herself.

These women led at the highest levels in the most complicated, challenging, and male-dominated organization in the world. Now, in the post - #MeToo era, when positive role models of women leading are needed as never before, Polson brings these voices together, sharing her own life lessons and theirs with storytelling flair, keen insight, and incisive analysis of current research.

With its gripping narrative and relatable takeaways, "The Grit Factor" is both inspiring and pragmatic, a book that will energize and enlighten current and aspiring leaders everywhere -- whether male or female.

Critique: For anyone of any gender or age who would like to know what it takes for women to succeed in a male-dominated society or occupation, they need to give a close and careful reading to Shannon Polson's "The Grit Factor: Courage, Resilience, and Leadership in the Most Male-Dominated Organization in the World". An inspired and inspiring true life biography that reads with all the emotional impact of a novel, "The Grit Factor: Courage, Resilience, and Leadership in the Most Male-Dominated Organization in the World" will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to any and all community and collge/university library American Biography collections in general and Women in Business/Self-Help Self-Improvement reading lists. It should be noted for students, academicians, female business executives, women's rights activists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that ""The Grit Factor: Courage, Resilience, and Leadership in the Most Male-Dominated Organization in the World" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.99).

Unbound: A Tale of Love and Betrayal in Shanghai
Dina Gu Brumfield
Greenleaf Book Group Press
PO Box 91869, Austin, TX 78709
9781626347144, $22.95, HC, 416pp

Synopsis: "Unbound: A Tale of Love and Betrayal in Shanghai" by Dina Gu Brumfield is a sweeping, multigenerational story of two iron-willed women, a grandmother and granddaughter, "Unbound" is also a richly textured, turbulent portrait of the city of Shanghai in the twentieth century -- a place where everyone must fight to carve out a place for themselves amid political upheaval and the turmoil of war.

Mini Pao lives with her sister and parents in a pre-war Shanghai divided among foreign occupiers and Chinese citizens, a city known as the ''Paris of the East'' with its contrast of vibrant night life and repressive social mores. Already considered an old maid at twenty-three, Mini boldly rejects the path set out for her as she struggles to provide for her family and reckons with her desire for romance and autonomy. Mini's story of love, betrayal, and determination unfolds in the Western-style cafes, open-air markets, and jazz-soaked nightclubs of Shanghai -- the same city where, decades later, her granddaughter Ting embarks on her own journey toward independence.

Ting Lee has grown up behind an iron curtain in a time of scarcity, humility, and forced-sameness in accordance with the strictures of Chairman Mao's cultural revolution. As a result, Ting's imagination burns with curiosity about fashion, America, and most of all, her long-lost grandmother Mini's glamorous past and mysterious present. As her thirst for knowledge about the world beyond 1970s Shanghai grows, Ting is driven to uncover her family's tragic past and face the difficult truth of what the future holds for her if she remains in China.

Critique: A deftly woven and inherently fascinating study of the intergenerational human condition, "Unbound: A Tale of Love and Betrayal in Shanghai" is a truly extraordinary novel by an author with an undeniable set of narrative driven storytelling skills, the kind that readily engage and then hold the reader's rapt attention from first page to last. While especially and unreservedly recommended for both community and college/university library Contemporary Literary Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Unbound: A Tale of Love and Betrayal in Shanghai" is also easily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.69).

Surviving Hiroshima: A Young Woman's Story
Anthony Drago & Douglas Wellman
Boutique of Quality Books
9781608082360, $16.95, PB, 296pp

Synopsis: From Russian nobility, the Palchikoff family barely escaped death at the hands of Bolshevik revolutionaries until their father, a White Russian officer, hijacked a ship to take them to safety in Hiroshima. Safety was short lived. Kaleria Palchikoff's father, a talented musician, established a new life for the family, but the outbreak of World War II created a cloud of suspicion that led to his imprisonment and years of deprivation for his family.

On August 6, 1945, then 22-year-old Kaleria Palchikoff was doing pre-breakfast chores when a blinding flash lit the sky over Hiroshima, Japan. A moment later, everything went black as the house collapsed on her and her family. Their world, and everyone else's, changed as the first atomic bomb was detonated over a city.

After the bombing, trapped in the center of previously unimagined devastation, Kaleria summoned her strength to come to the aid of bomb victims, treating the never-before seen effects of radiation. Fluent in English, Kaleria was soon recruited to work with Gen. Douglas MacArthur's occupation forces in a number of secretarial positions until the family found a new life in the United States.

"Surviving Hiroshima: A Young Woman's Story" by the team of Anthony Drago (Kaleria Palchikoff's son) and Douglas Wellman is heavily based on quotes from Kaleria's memoirs written immediately after World War II, and transcripts of United States Army Air Force interviews with her.

Critique: An absolutely fascinating and deftly crafted true life biography that reads with all the drama of a well penned novel, "Surviving Hiroshima: A Young Woman's Story" is a deftly crafted and riveting read from beginning to end. While especially and unreservedly recommended for both community and college/university library WWII Biographies and Historical Japan Biographies collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Surviving Hiroshima: A Young Woman's Story" is readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.49).

Editorial Note: Anthony "Tony" Drago and the son of Kaleria Palchikoff is a former Public Safety Officer who spent his twenty-five year career serving the community of Sunnyvale, California as both a firefighter and police officer. Douglas Wellman was a television producer-director for 35 years, as well as the assistant dean of the University of Southern California School of Cinematic arts.

Mary Cowper

Micah Andrew's Bookshelf

The Jewish Question: A Marxist Interpretation
Abram Leon
Pathfinder Press
PO Box 162767, Atlanta, GA 30321-2767
9781604881165, $17.00, PB, 372pp

Synopsis: During the opening years of the 21st century, anti-Semitic venom and incidents of violent assault on Jews have once again begun to spread across the country and around the world. This is not an historical aberration. These incidents are fueled by today s capitalist crises and the fracturing of the post World War II imperialist order described in recent decades as globalization.

At every turning point in history from antiquity through feudalism, to capitalism's rise and the imperialist death throes of the past century Jews have been targets of persecution. Including the genocide cold-bloodedly touted by Hitler as the Final Solution.

Why is Jew-hatred still raising its ugly head? What are its class roots? Why is there no solution to the Jewish question under capitalism, just as there is no solution to other problems before humanity, without revolutionary struggles that transform us as we fight to transform our world?

Abram Leon was killed in October 1944, at age 26, in the Nazi gas chambers at Auschwitz. He left us "The Jewish Question: A Marxist Interpretation" to help future generations answer those questions.

Critique: This newly published fourth edition includes new introduction by Dave Prince, 32 pages of photos and illustrations, 7 pages of maps, a glossary, expanded index and revised translation, making it an ideal and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, community, and college/university library Judaic Studies, Holocaust Studies, and Anti-Semitism Studies collections and supplemental curriculum reading lists.

Real Estate Investing QuickStart Guide
Symon He, MBA
Clydebank Media LLC
9781945051777, $34.99, HC, 314pp

Synopsis: "Real Estate Investing QuickStart Guide: The Simplified Beginner's Guide to Successfully Securing Financing, Closing Your First Deal, and Building Wealth Through Real Estate" by licensed real estate broker and consultant Symon He is specifically intended for the non-specialist general reader who is seeking to create passive income, build real long-term wealth, and achieve financial freedom all through real estate investing.

Real estate investing, often considered the number one creator of lasting wealth in today's economy can be started with significantly less money, less time, and less expertise than most people imagine. as "Real Estate Investing QuickStart Guide" lays out the simplest, most practical and most straightforward path for new investors eager to ink their first deals and start their journey to building a real estate empire. Indeed, "Real Estate Investing QuickStart Guide" will show the reader that anyone can get started once they are armed with the knowledge contained in this book.

Critique: Expertly written, impressively well organized, thoroughly 'user friendly' in presentaton, "Real Estate Investing QuickStart Guide: The Simplified Beginner's Guide to Successfully Securing Financing, Closing Your First Deal, and Building Wealth Through Real Estate" is the ideal DIY instructional guide and manual for the the complete novice to the world of real estate investing, as well as anyone else who is looking to create real, lasting wealth through real estate investing, including experienced real estate investors seeking to expand their portfolios and learn new way to create wealth through real estate, as well as anyone who has struggled to find success in the past only to be discouraged by complicated books or expensive real estate programs and seminars. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community and college/university library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that the "Real Estate Investing QuickStart Guide" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781945051562, $24.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Symon He is a co-founder of, a leading online educational destination for all things Airbnb hosting and short-term rentals. His training programs have been featured by prominent third-party partners, including a previous joint venture with Symon is also a best-selling instructor of real estate and business courses, with over 300,000 students worldwide as of July 2020. Previously, Symon worked in several corporate real estate and finance roles at large private and Fortune 80 companies, including at a private equity investment firm covering a wide range of commercial real estate acquisitions in the western USA. He has a California real estate broker's license and writes regularly on his personal blog at

Micah Andrew

Michael Dunford's Bookshelf

Rational Tax Reform
Jim Hartung
Authority Publishing
9781949642315, $19.99, PB, 128pp

Synopsis: America's tax system is a mess and our political system is broken. "Rational Tax Reform: Using the Systems Engineering Process to Fix America's Broken Tax System" by Jim Hartung is a groundbreaking remedial study in which an expert systems engineer shows how to fix both using systems engineering, the process engineers use to develop complex products such as aircraft and spacecraft.

Systems engineering is a nonpartisan process that considers the needs of all stakeholders and uses facts and data to optimize a product or system. It seeks to balance opposing interests, conflicting objectives, and many constraints.

"Rational Tax Reform" shows, step-by-step, just how systems engineering can be used to optimize social, economic, and political systems, using tax reform as an example as it shows how to: Balance the federal budget, fund universal health care, and restore Social Security to financial health without increasing the burden on taxpayers; Simplify the tax code and makes it fairer by eliminating all itemized deductions and most tax credits, tax preferences, and loopholes; Stimulate economic growth by decreasing tax rates and replacing the corporate income tax with a more efficient value-added tax; Include features to control government spending, address climate change, reduce political corruption, improve the education system, and increase infrastructure investment.

The proposed tax reform is only one example of many possible alternatives -- yet it clearly illustrates how systems engineering could enable rational, enlightened, and nonpartisan tax reform.

Additionally, "Rational Tax Reform" also describes how systems engineering can be used to address other problems in addition to tax reform. Systems engineering can be used by anyone to address any problem, but it is most useful for addressing complex problems where the best solution is not obvious.

Critique: A clear voice of taxation sanity in the present wilderness of fake tax reforms put forth by special interest groups and a plutocracy satisfied with the current and growing income inequalities so patently revealed by the current Covid-19 pandemic and the consequential economic depressiion, "Rational Tax Reform: Using the Systems Engineering Process to Fix America's Broken Tax System" needs to have as wide a readership as possible. While especially and unreservedly recommended for both community and college/university library collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, political activists, governmental tax policy makers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Rational Tax Reform: Using the Systems Engineering Process to Fix America's Broken Tax System" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.99).

Editorial Note: Jim Hartung has nearly forty years' experience as a systems engineer, manager, and executive in the aerospace and energy industries -- primarily at Boeing, United Technologies, and Rockwell International. As a result, he understands how all these companies apply systems engineering to complex challenges. His website ( provides additional information regarding tax reform and the use of systems engineering to address societal problems.

A World Free from Nuclear Weapons
Drew Christiansen, S.J. & Carole Sargent, editors
Georgetown University Press
3240 Prospect Street, NW, Washington, DC 20007
9781626168039, $99.95, HC, 184pp

Synopsis: On November 10, 2017, Pope Francis became the first pontiff in the nuclear era to take a complete stand against nuclear weapons, even as a form of deterrence. At a Vatican conference of leaders in the field of disarmament, he made it clear that the possession of the bomb itself was immoral. "A World Free from Nuclear Weapons: The Vatican Conference on Disarmament" presents the pope's address and original testimony from Nobel Peace Prize laureates, religious leaders, diplomats, and civil society activists.

These luminaries, which include the pope and a Hiroshima survivor, make the moral case against possessing, manufacturing, and deploying nuclear arms. Drew Christiansen, a member of the Holy See delegation to the 2017 United Nations conference that negotiated the Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, helps readers to understand this conference in its historical context.

"A World Free from Nuclear Weapons" is a critical companion for scholars of modern Catholicism, moral theology, and peace studies, as well as policymakers working on effective disarmament. It shows how the Church's revised position presents an opportunity for global leaders to connect disarmament to larger movements for peace, pointing toward future action.

Critique: Effectively compiled and edited by the team of Drew Christiansen and Carole Sargent, "A World Free from Nuclear Weapons: The Vatican Conference on Disarmament" is an extraordinary work that should be considered essential reading by all members of the Catholic community in general, and anyone concerned with the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the world today. While especially recommended for community and college/university library Christian Theology & Nuclear Proliferation collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of seminary students, clergy, academia, governmental policy makers, political activists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "A World Free from Nuclear Weapons: The Vatican Conference on Disarmament" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781626168046, $24.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $23.70).

The Drone Age
Michael J. Boyle
Oxford University Press
198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016-4314
9780190635862, $29.95, HC, 400pp

Synopsis: A drone is an unmanned aircraft or ship that is guided by remote control or onboard computers. In "The Drone Age: How Drone Technology Will Change War and Peace", Professor Michael J. Boyle addresses some of the biggest questions surrounding the impact of drones on our world today and the risks that we might face tomorrow.

Will drones produce a safer world because they reduce risk to pilots, or will the prospect of clean, remote warfare lead governments to engage in more conflicts? Will drones begin to replace humans on the battlefield? Will they empower soldiers and peacekeepers to act more precisely and humanely in crisis zones? How will terrorist organizations turn this technology back on the governments that fight them? And how are drones enhancing surveillance capabilities, both at war and at home?

As advanced drones come into the hands of new actors in the form of foreign governments, local law enforcement, terrorist organizations, humanitarian organizations, and even UN peacekeepers, it is even more important to understand what kind of world they might produce. "The Drone Age" explores how the unique features of drone technology are altering the decision-making processes of governments and non-state actors alike by transforming their risk calculations and expanding their capacities both on and off the battlefield. By changing what these actors are willing and ready to do, drones are quietly transforming the dynamics of wars, humanitarian crises, and peacekeeping missions while generating new risks to security and privacy.

An essential guide to a potentially disruptive force in modern world politics, "The Drone Age" shows how the innovative use of drone technology will become central to the ways that governments and non-state actors compete for power and influence in the future.

Critique: A seminal work of impressively thoughtful and thought-provoking scholarship, "The Drone Age: How Drone Technology Will Change War and Peace" is an extraordinary, timely, and unreservedly recommended addition to both community and college/university library Drone Technology collections and supplemental curriculum studies. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, governmental policy makers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Drone Age: How Drone Technology Will Change War and Peace" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $19.99).

Editorial Note: Michael J. Boyle is an Associate Professor and Chair of Political Science at La Salle University. He is also a Senior Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI) in Philadelphia. His previous books include "Violence after War: Explaining Instability in Post-Conflict States", "Legal and Ethical Implications of Drone Warfare", and "Non-Western Responses to Terrorism".

Michael Dunford

Nancy Lorraine's Bookshelf

The Falcon Always Wings Twice
Donna Andrews, author
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Publishing Group
120 Broadway, New York, NY 10271
9781250193001, $26.99 HC, $13.99 Kindle, 312 pages

"The Falcon Always Wings Twice" is the latest title in the hugely successful Meg Langslow mystery series by Donna Andrews.

The action is scored among a beloved cast of a doughty female blacksmith/ detective (Meg), cranky grandmother/founder of artisan mountain crafts barn aka Biscuit Mountain and matron of the clan (Cordelia), a kooky zoophile/avian expert grandfather, and numerous other family members too numerous to describe team up to solve a mystery murder of an actor hired to perform at the week long Renaissance Fair.

As with all previous titles in this series, rollicking humor punctuated with outrageous use of puns and "period" language flows effortlessly through an exciting narrative with plot twists, clues, surprises, and satisfying action aplenty.

Meg's famous retinue of friends and family is expanded by one killer in the usual motley crew and more than one red herring will be unmasked before Meg gets to the bottom of this mystery's mixed punch bowl. The falcons are a part of the whole mystery, and a wonderful pun lies at the base of this thoroughly enjoyable, wacky murder mystery. For setting, humor, consistent character development, obscure knowledge, overcoming impossible obstacles, and sheer creativity, "The Falcon Always Wings Twice" can't be beat.

In this case, it's the Game that is the thing!

A Walk Along the Beach
Debbie Macomber, author
Ballantine Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
9780399181368, $27.00 HC, $13.99 Kindle, Audio CD $30.89, 310 pages

"A Walk Along the Beach" is a loving, sensitive exploration of the relationships between two sisters and a brother and father, plus the other people they love. Love is tested by time and by mortality in this unflinching portrayal of human reactions to death and grief. Sisters Harper and Willa Lakey have faced many ordeals together, from the death of their mother, Harper's life threatening illness, and Willa's challenge to become caretaker and nurturer to her family and to an entire community of Oceanside in the operating of her coffee shop, Bean.

There is also the matter of Sean O'Malley, the loveable freelance photographer who falls in love with Willa, but presents an inconsistency of presence that she is uncomfortable accepting. The author is a master of presenting and persisting in exploring two sides of every plot angle. For those who have experienced life, love, loss, and hesitant renewal, Macomber offers a realistic message of hope, framed in the back and forths, up and downs, and in and outs of life.

What does it mean to survive a loss? What does it mean to risk loving again? "A Walk Along the Beach" has moments of both deep despair and great healing and hope. Readers will continue enmeshed and entranced in the story of Willa and Harper and Sean, and all the members of their near community of friends and family.

The Devil's Bones
Carolyn Haines
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Publishing Group
9781250257864, $26.99 HC, $13.99 Kindle, 352 pages

Twenty-first title in a successful Southern cozy mystery series, "The Devil's Bones" is full of Mississippi charm, sweet friendship as well as spicy love interest, historic mystery and even a protective ghostly presence straight out of older tales, and dark, thrilling mystery with a recurring vengeful murderess at the core.

When Sarah Booth Delaney and her friends Cece and the newly pregnant Tinkie decide to enjoy a celebratory ladies' retreat at the new Bexley B&B in Lucedale, Mississippi, all goes well at first. However, at an Easter sunrise service at the magical Palestinian Gardens, a miniature Holy Lands including Jerusalem, an unexpected exhibit of a dead body is found at the Mount of Olives. This appears to be one Perry Slay, a local lawyer unbeloved for his underhanded dealings.

A plethora of suspects confounds the law, and it falls to famed sleuth Sarah Booth Delaney (and canine assistants Brutus and Sweetie Pie) and her lover, the handsome Coleman to help untangle the truth about the murderer responsible for a growing pile of bodies. Complicating the story is a haunting threatening presence known as Gertrude, a woman who has sworn to kill Sarah for imagined past wrongs.

All plots are tied together in the real setting of as actual Mississippi wonder, the miniature Holy Land known as Palestinian Gardens. Will Sarah Booth manage to put unlikely clues together with the help of her friends, save her dear, pregnant friend Tinkie, and keep her long love interest (Coleman) in the process? Even a few cloaked hints from a ghostly beneficial entity known as Jitty do not come amiss at the end.

Only Sarah Booth can rise to all this complex mystery and mayhem, and readers will be excited to discover the last pages' denouement even while becoming even further enchanted and hooked on this fabulous Southern cozy mystery series.

Peachy Scream
Anna Gerard, author
Crooked Lane Books
34 West 27th Street, Floor 10, New York, NY 10001
9781643853062, $26.99 HC, $12.99 Kindle, $19.99 Audio CD, 307 pages

The second title in the Georgia B & B series, "Peachy Scream" by Anna Gerard takes cozy mystery fans on a magical mystery tour of a touring Shakespeare festival troupe staying at the elegant Queen Anne bed and breakfast home in Cymbeline, Georgia, hosted by owner and part time sleuth Nina Fleet, and her trusty canine companion, Matilda.

Part of the chaos results from Nina's unexpected encounter with an old nemesis, Harry Westcott, former contender for the rightful ownership of the B & B, and present director of the guest Shakespeare performer's troupe staying with Nina. Nothing good could be expected to result from this, but when a shocking death of the troupe's lead actor is discovered, Nina's amateur sleuthing skills are called for in spades.

Fortunately she has the assistance of her Australian Shepherd, Matilda, as well as the local sheriff, and eventually, even Harry. Just when too many suspects crowd the whole production, Nina accumulates a thespian plan to reveal the true threat or killer. Mattie (Matilda) assists Nina with her canine skills of observation and character judgment, and a fine Shakespearean plot twist in the amateur production sheds a clarifying light on the motives and actions of the real killer.

In a turnabout ending, Nina takes pity on Harry, who has been dealt a blow by production glitches, and invites him to stay temporarily in her tower room in exchange for ceasing with his legal actions to contest her rightful ownership of the B & B.

Mattie lets her know she reserves judgment on this decision, but the ending is generally positive, as well as peach- flavored and scented, and readers will crave the next exciting volume of the Georgia B & B cozy mystery series.

Very highly recommended for community library Myster/Suspense collections and the personal reading lists of any and all dedicated mystery buffs, "Peachy Scream" is delightful reading, entertaining and exciting with a dash of humor to add fun to the mix of culture, Southern charm, and deadly doings.

Of Mutts and Men: A Chet & Bernie Mystery
Spencer Quinn, author
c/o Tor/Forge
120 Broadway, New York, NY 10271
9781250297693, $26.99 HC, $13.99 Kindle, 299 pages

"Of Mutts and Men" is the latest in the popular and successful Chet & Bernie mystery series, which is narrated by Chet who is a dog and "the most lovable narrator in all of crime fiction."

Chet assists Bernie Little, the P. I. in solving a violent death of a hydrologist, Wendell Nero. Although police seem to dismiss the death as a random robbery gone wrong, Chet and Bernie follow slim clues to investigate further, endangering themselves to prevent the murder from being pinned on an innocent man. As usual, Chet's sensitive nose and other canine senses help Bernie to detect the web of deceit surrounding the case, and to protect his master when the going got tricky and/or life threatening.

Told from the viewpoint of an intelligent, faithful and loyal dog, "Of Mutts and Men" has more than its share of spots of humor, since the canine viewpoint sometimes misses verbal clues and puns, but never misses the known sensory (olfactory) input for accuracy of feedback. The crime partners share a value of helping a failing local vintner who is being tricked into selling his land by a water deceit or a no-water deceit that is masterful trickery.

Together, Bernie and Chet make a formidable team for crime solution, following crooks big and small through dazzling twists and turns and plot reversals to reveal the naked truth. "Of Mutts and Men" is among the best of animal fiction and team mysteries.

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Paul Vogel's Bookshelf

Legacies of the Manhattan Project
Michael Mays, editor
Washington State University Press
PO Box 645910, Pullman, WA 99164-5910
9780874223750, $32.95, PB, 269pp

Synopsis: At the Hanford History Project's March 2017 "Legacies of the Manhattan Project at 75 Years" conference, professionals from a broad range of backgrounds that included working scientists, government employees, retired health physicists, downwinders, representatives from community groups, impassioned lay people, as well as scholars working in different academic fields, who attended and gave presentations.

Covering topics from print journalism, activism, nuclear testing, and science and education to health physics, environmental cleanup, and atomic kitsch, their essays (along with newly commissioned research) comprise "Legacies of the Manhattan Project: Reflections on 75 Years of a Nuclear World" deepen our understanding of familiar matters and illuminate historical corners and crevices unexplored by earlier academic generations. By illuminating facets of the Manhattan Project's continuing impact, they demonstrate that the past lives on.

Critique: Expertly compiled and expertly edited by Michael Mays (who is Professor of English and the Founding Director of the Hanford History Project and editor for Washington State University Press's Hanford Histories book series), "Legacies of the Manhattan Project: Reflections on 75 Years of a Nuclear World" is enhanced for academia with a complete listing of the contributors and their credential, as well as a four page Index. A seminal work of collective scholarship, "Legacies of the Manhattan Project" is especially recommended for personal, professional, community and college/univesity library Nuclear Weapons & Warfare collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

The Organ Thieves
Chip Jones
Gallery Books / Jeter Publishing
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl, New York, NY 10020
9781982107529, $28.00, HC, 400pp

Synopsis: In 1968, Bruce Tucker, a black man, went into Virginia's top research hospital with a head injury, only to have his heart taken out of his body and put into the chest of a white businessman.

Now, in "The Organ Thieves: The Shocking Story of the First Heart Transplant in the Segregated South", journalist Chip Jones exposes the horrifying inequality surrounding Tucker's death and how he was used as a human guinea pig without his family's permission or knowledge. The circumstances surrounding his death reflect the long legacy of mistreating African Americans that began more than a century before with cadaver harvesting and worse. It culminated in efforts to win the heart transplant race in the late 1960s.

Featuring years of research and fresh reporting, "The Organ Thieves" is a groundbreaking story that resonates now more than ever, when issues of race and healthcare are the stuff of headlines and horror stories.

Critique: A timely reveal of the dark racist underbelly of modern medicine that is exemplified by such acts as the syphilis experiments on Black men and this more current example of organ theft, "The Organ Thieves" is especially useful in revealing to White American just why, in this age of pandemic, Black Americans hold the medical establish in a state of mistrust. A critically important and impressively detailed history, "The Organ Thieves" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community and college/university library 20th Century American Medical History collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, racial justice advocates, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Organ Thieves" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9781797108322, $44.99, CD).

The Cocktail Dictionary
Henry Jeffreys
Mitchell Beazley
c/o Octopus Books
236 Park Avenue, New York NY 10017
9781784726638, $19.99, HC, 224pp

Synopsis: A cocktail is an alcoholic mixed drink, which is either a combination of spirits, or one or more spirits mixed with other ingredients such as fruit juice, flavored syrup, or cream. There are various types of cocktails, based on the number and kind of ingredients added. The origins of the cocktail are debated. (Wikipedia)

A comprehensive compendium of step-by-step cocktail recipes suitable for all occasions, "The Cocktail Dictionary: An A-Z of cocktail recipes, from Daiquiri and Negroni to Martini and Spritz" by Henry Jeffreys will enable even the most novice of cocktail makers to successfully navigate the bewildering world of cocktails.

Comprised of more than 100 drinks and covering everything from the Old Fashioned, Martini, Margarita and Daiquiri to key cocktail techniques such as muddling, shaking, stirring and the perfect ice, "The Cocktail Dictionary" is fully complete as it offers insightful introductions on the fascinating stories behind each drink, making it the discerning and essential drinker's guide to the art of sipping a truly memorable cocktail.

Critique: Very nicely illustrated in color throughout, "The Cocktail Dictionary" is impressively informative, exceptionally 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, and unhesitatingly recommended as a core reference for personal, professional, community, and college/university library collections. It should be noted that "The Cocktail Dictionary" is readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

Editorial Note: Henry Jeffreys is a drinks expert and award-winning author. His writing has appeared in the Guardian, the Daily Telegraph, BBC Good Food and the Spectator, and he was the Features Editor at spirits specialists Master of Malt.

Paul T. Vogel

Richard Blake's Bookshelf

The Prophetic Warrior - Operating in Your True Prophetic Authority
Emma Stark
Destiny Image Publishers
9780768451719, $16.99, 2020, 284 pages

Prophetic Authority, Prayer, Living in the Realm of the Spirit

The Prophetic Warriordivided into three sections: Faith, War, and Prophecy.

Expect to see a change in your spiritual life as you read, and reread Stark's inspired revelations and the stories of miracles, signs, and miracles happening today.

Emma Stark helps the reader:

Operate in your prophetic authority

Recognize our authority in Christ

Introduces fresh revelation

Encourages through interactive assignments

Includes patterns for prayers

Introduces unique blessings

Each chapter contains kingdom truths, compelling stories, and equipping tools needed for experiencing a new boldness, for stepping out in faith and authority.

If you're serious about operating in the prophetic "The Prophetic Warrior" is the book you need for step by step instructions on how you can become a prophetic warrior.

Emma takes the reader on an anointed contagious faith-building journey that leads to a fresh revelation of who you are as a child of the King.

Stark writes with a unique style and a new fresh and exciting approach.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Fully Staffed -The Definitive Guide to Finding & Keeping Great Employees in the Worst Labor Market Ever
Eric Chester
Sound Wisdom
9781640951129, $27.95, 2020, 300 pages

Finding and Keeping Great Employees

Eric Chester's "Fully Staffed -The Definitive Guide to Finding & Keeping Great Employees in

The Worst Labor Market Ever" is timely, in light of today's low unemployment rate and the post-pandemic marketplace when laid off and furloughed employees are seeking employment.

Chester divided the book into three parts. Part One introduces the topic of Surviving the Shortage.

Part Two addresses Finding Great Employees. And Part Three concludes with Keeping Great Employees.

Eric's writing is well organized, fast-moving, and designed for implementation. Be sure to watch for the incredible Tips and Tactics section at the end of most chapters. I was captivated by Eric's writing style, illustrations, stories, and practical instruction.

Eric Chester is recognized as a prominent leader in recruiting, training, managing, and motivating in the evolving workforce.

"Fully Staffed -The Definitive Guide to Finding & Keeping Great Employees in the Worst Labor Market Ever" is endorsed by highly respected employers in business and industry.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Sweet Success
David K. Sweet PH.D
Sound Wisdom
978164051914, $15.99. 2020, 224 pages

Sales, Selling, Excellence, and Enjoyment

As I read David K. Sweet's book "Sweet Success," I entered into an exciting adventure to expanding the arête in my life. I discovered a new sense of abundant life and further enjoyment in the learning process. I received new insights into my reading habits, how fiction and now fiction "cross-pollinate," and how history expands our insight and encompasses all fields.

The sixty chapters of the book cover thought-provoking topics for contemplation in various areas of life. I especially enjoyed the chapters on Writing and Reading, Memory and Dreams, Parenting and Politics, Childhood and Eulogies, and Memory and Dreams.

The "Sweet Success" assignments at the end of each chapter guide the reader into contemplation, encouraging self-motivation for moving forward with a core value of excellence.

As a result of one of these "Sweet Success" exercises, I followed David's suggestion and have started my own "Common-Place Book" (CB) I already recognize deeper insights and changes in my approach to self-created daily pressures.

David Sweet is known for his "Sweet Success" series of books, and his poetry. He is an executive coach, and entrepreneur, and a runaholic.

"Sweet Success" is written for those seriously seeking the enjoyment resulting from finding abundant life.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes. The expressions expressed are my own

Hannah and the Beanstalk
Carlie Terradez
Illustrated by Butch Hartman
Harrison House Publishers
978168035011, $16.99. 2020, 36 pages

Early Reader Inspirational, A story of a Child's Unwavering Faith

The faith of a young child, miraculous healing, and Hannah's humongous faith all add up to an incredible story of the power of faith. Carlie Terradez, author and veteran cartoonist Butch Hartman, combines their artistic gifts in Hannah's Story, a true story of faith.

Hartman's illustrations depict the awe and amazement of the joy, curiosity, wonder, and joy and the incredible depth of a child's faith. Carlie's word pictures and narrative are both descriptive and simple enough for a young child to understand, and read for themselves with only a minimum of help.

I am looking forward to sharing Hannah and the Beanstalk with my grand-children, Jack, Fisher, and Jemma.

My passion for young childhood education added to my enjoyment of the value of true stories of faith for kids. I was reminded of my faith journey of childhood and my own story of overcoming illness and experiencing healing, planting seeds, and watching for growth.
I am looking forward to more Harrison House books designed especially illustrating childlike faith.

The Lightnings of God - How to Be a Transmitter for the Power of God
Joe Oden
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
9780768453553, $16.99, 2020, 196 pages

Spiritual Growth, Prayer, Spiritual Awakening

A Call to the Prophetic

"The Lightnings of God - How to Be a Transmitter for the Power of God" describes the fantastic Ministry of Evangelist Joe Oden. From the Table of contents to the powerful prayers ending each chapter of the book, I have read, reread, these prayers, instructions, and insights.

My spiritual eyes have been opened to the exciting times on God's timetable and the opportunity we have to be a part of ministering today. I am incorporating these powerful insights and prayers into my daily walk with God.

Oden's writing is timely, written in as easy to follow writing style, that captures his heartfelt passion, which motivates the reader to take action, seek His direction, and pursue the call to become an Evangelist.

The book is highly endorsed by highly respected Evangelists and Denominational Leaders.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Richard R. Blake
Senior Reviewer

S.A. Gorden's Bookshelf

An Invitation to Murder: Lady Katherine Regency Mysteries Book 1
Leighann Dobbs
Leighann Dobbs Publishing Services LLC
B073QV3MB2, $3.99, ebook, 2017, 354 pages
9781946944528, paper

An Invitation to Murder is a Regency period cozy mystery. It seems to have accurate historical details about murders at high society parties in the period where travel was slow and difficult so the parties would last days. The narration is particularly slow and the murderer is obvious chapters before the heroine recognizes who it is.

Someone has murdered young women at two pervious society parties where young eligible women try to attract the attention of marriageable men. Katherine uses a job as a matchmaker to get invited to the next party so she can search for the killer. Her novice attempts at investigation make her a target for the killer.

An Invitation to Murder is an adequate cozy with a solid historical setting but it is very slow with an easy to unravel mystery. There is nothing amiss with the tale other than the plodding plotline. If it is on sale, you might want to try the story. If you have read other books by Dobbs, you might want to try the tale as well but the cozy doesn't stand well on its own merits.

The Samurai Cipher
Ernest Dempsey
Enclave Publishing Services LLC
B01E6GA07G, $4.99, ebook, 2016, 292 pages
9781944647087, $14.99 paper

The Samurai Cipher is a solid action thriller with a touch of history. Generally the story is balanced with a smooth narration. Unfortunately the plot has one big problem. The protagonists are written as trained skilled operatives. And the problem is that they keep falling for the same trap -- the bad guys let them find the clue and then capture them. This happening once is possible. Twice with so-called skill operatives is a remote possibility but this happens four times in the story. This plot problem is so glaring it becomes a big distraction.

Sean Wyatt and his friend Tommy Schultz have been solving historical mysteries under dangerous situations for years. When a young Japanese woman asks for help in finding the most famous samurai sword ever made Tommy talks Sean into going to Japan with him. The woman's uncle has just been murdered by the Yakuza. He has left her a clue in a riddle to where the sword might be hidden. On the run from the Yakuza they have to follow the riddles to the sword and stay alive.

The Samurai Cipher is a well balance historical mystery thriller. Because of its plot problem it isn't the best in the genre. It is solid enough that if you are just interested in a soft escapist read it works. Real mystery buffs will have a problem with the story. For those new to this genre, it is a good first story.

S.A. Gorden, Senior Reviewer

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

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