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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 20, Number 9 September 2021 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

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

Able Greenspan's Bookshelf

Next Job, Best Job
Rob Barnett
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21, New York, NY 10018-2522
9780806541488, $27.00, HC, 272pp

Synopsis: In "Next Job, Best Job: A Headhunter's 11 Strategies to Get Hired Now", Rob Barnett draws upon his years of experience and expertise as an innovator, a two-time entrepreneur, and a senior executive with five decades inside legendary media companies. As an advisor to thousands of job seekers and company heads, he is uniquely positioned to disrupt the job search industry. His inclusive platform is a life-saving escape hatch during the darkest hours of unemployment and an expert guide to the work you deserve.

"Next Job, Best Job: A Headhunter's 11 Strategies to Get Hired Now" covers everything from the essentials of a modern job search to ageism, ghosting, navigating LinkedIn and Zoom, and mastering the voodoo of social media. It presents a wealth of new strategies to replace ancient and dysfunctional job search rules that lead nowhere.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Next Job, Best Job: A Headhunter's 11 Strategies to Get Hired Now" is a complete and comprehensive DIY guide for securing gainful and desired employment in these economically uncertain and unstable times. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Jobs/Careers collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Next Job, Best Job: A Headhunter's 11 Strategies to Get Hired Now" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.77).

Rebel Ideas: The Power of Diverse Thinking
Matthew Syed
Flatiron Books
9781250769923, $28.99 hc / $14.99 Kindle, Hardcover

Synopsis: Ideas are everywhere, but those with the greatest problem-solving, business-transforming, and life-changing potential are often hard to identify. Even when we recognize good ideas, applying them to everyday obstacles - whether in the workplace, our homes, or our civic institutions - can seem insurmountable. According to Matthew Syed, it doesn't have to be this way.

In Rebel Ideas, Syed argues that our brainpower as individuals isn't enough. To tackle problems from climate change to economic decline, we'll need to employ the power of "cognitive diversity." Drawing on psychology, genetics, and beyond, Syed uses real-world scenarios including the failings of the CIA before 9/11 and a communication disaster at the peak of Mount Everest to introduce us to the true power of thinking differently.

Rebel Ideas will strengthen any kind of team, while including advice on how, as individuals, we can embrace the potential of an "outsider mind-set" as our greatest asset.

Critique: Part psychology, part philosophy, and part self-help guide, Rebel Ideas: The Power of Diverse Thinking is a critical assessment of how diversifying cognition - learning how to think differently, and remain open to new perspectives and ideas - can aid in problem-solving in personal situations, in the business world, and in social institutions facing tremendous challenges. Written to be thoroughly accessible to lay readers and expert scholars alike, Rebel Ideas is an invaluable resource especially for addressing "greater scope" problems. For example, Rebel Ideas presents the dilemma of "knowledge clustering". "By selecting graduates in a meritocratic way, organizations can find themselves gravitating toward clone-like teams. This is not to dismiss meritocracy. It is merely to point out that collective intelligence requires both ability and diversity." It should be noted for personal reading lists that Rebel Ideas is also available in a Kindle edition ($14.99).

Editorial Note: Matthew Syed is the Sunday Times bestselling author of Black Box Thinking, Bounce, and The Greatest. He writes an award-winning newspaper column in The Times and is the host of the hugely successful BBC podcast Flintoff, Savage and the Ping Pong Guy.

Able Greenspan

Diane Donovan's Bookshelf

The Body on the Bed
Leonard Krishtalka
Anamcara Press, LLC
9781941237663 $21.99 print / $9.99 Kindle

On April 28, 1871, Mary Fanning discovers the body of her neighbor, who has been poisoned in bed. As she becomes the first female reporter for the Kansas Daily Tribune in an effort that leads to a meteoric rise in political involvements, The Body on the Bed becomes an engrossing blend of detective story and social commentary that follows Mary into not just into a murder investigation, but a sea change.

Readers who expect a whodunit will find this story much more multifaceted as it explores one woman's evolution into becoming a powerful, conscientious force in Lawrence, Kansas.

More so than most mysteries, Leonard Krishtalka identifies the foundations of this intriguing piece, which hold firm roots in reality, providing a succinct explanation of what makes this particular tale so compelling: "The events...took place during 1871 - 1872 in Lawrence and Garnett, Kansas. The facts were derived from newspaper accounts and historical and legal documents, excerpts of which are quoted verbatim for authenticity, or rephrased for dramatic effect. The fiction weaves the facts together through narrative and conversation. Similarly, most of the characters in this novel were real, although literary license has sculpted their individual personas and appearance."

This overlay of true crime and real-world biographical history elevates the entire story to a much more complex, intriguing level than fiction alone could have achieved.

Another note is that the main character is spunky and forthright, taking advantage of plenty of opportunities to educate her fellow man (and woman) about changing social norms: "Will you have that drink now, Miss Fanning?" He motioned to the bar. "I have news. It ... uh ... it would interest you." "Thank you, Mr. Furguson. It's not 'Miss' but 'Mrs.' - Mrs. Apitz, to be exact, as you will learn when I take the stand. The English language denies women a simple salutation that is independent of marital status. Much like the government denies us the vote. Men are 'Mr.' - married or not. Plus they have the vote. Why don't you write an editorial about this egregious inequality for your newspaper. Then I'll buy you a drink."

From the 1800s judicial system and its processes to Mary's discovery of a plot that challenges not only her investigative skills and determination, but her struggles for women's independence, The Body on the Bed incorporates so many elements of social inspection that to call it a detective story alone would be to do it a grave injustice.

Because it is also complex and involving, however, many a mystery and detective reader, especially those who enjoy historical backdrops and strong female protagonists, will find The Body on the Bed thoroughly engrossing. From its literary prose which is both astute and compelling writing to Krishtalka's phrasing and ability to craft an atmospheric read, it's filled with surprises and twists right up to its unexpected ending, which proves that a woman can do anything...even if this is not necessarily a good thing.

Shopping Can Be Deadly
Charlotte Stuart
Walrus Publishing
9781940442426 $16.95

Shopping Can Be Deadly is the third book in the 'Discount Detective Mystery' series and revolves around widow and single mom Cameron Chandler, who works for Penny-wise Investigations as a detective. This is no ordinary PI agency. It bills itself as a 'discount' operation, is located in a mall between a candle shop and a notions store, and sports the catchy motto "Vigilance You Can Afford."

Her job becomes harder when a mall shooting leads to her rescue by Gary, who confesses he was the target of the shooters, engaged in a secret operation gone awry.

Cameron agrees to take on his case and finds herself in over her head as she navigates a treacherous series of encounters that places her family in jeopardy, as well.

As a black dog, Operation Cell Phone, and other circumstances introduce complexity into a job that was supposed to be straightforward, Cameron questions her career choice and its ultimate impact on her life: "Not that I blamed my mother for being concerned about me being a single mom and having a job that brought a fair amount of uncertainty and disruption as well as intermittent danger into our lives. Although I was happier than I'd been in a long time and loved my job, I frequently questioned whether it was right to put my family at risk to satisfy the Nancy Drew fantasies of my childhood. I was all too aware that there are consequences for every choice made, for good and for bad decisions."

Introspective considerations like these pair nicely with the action and tension created by her latest challenging case, making Cameron's world three-dimensional, believable, and compelling. Mystery readers who like believable female PIs whose lives are rooted in real-world conundrums beyond the investigative process itself will be delighted by Shopping Can Be Deadly's multifaceted approach.

Whether fielding family concerns or interpersonal connections outside the home, Cameron is adept at considering the options, her reactions, and her responsibilities: " makes me really angry. Bondo is so . . . so . . ." "Arrogant? Smarmy? Deceitful? Rude? Overbearing? Am I coming close?" PW asked. "All of the above." "If you let every man you meet who fits these labels get to you, you will spend a lot of time angry." She sounded half-serious, like she had been there. "You've made your point. I will let it go." Hearing the truth doesn't always help when you're angry, but intellectually I knew it was time to move on."

This mystery is particularly intriguing not just because of its nonstop series of confrontations and threats, but because its main character takes the time to consider and wonder about her choices, options, and their ultimate effects on those around her.

Readers who like stories that evolve to embrace international affairs, yet remain thoroughly grounded in strong characters whose lives remain at the forefront of their decision-making processes, will relish the adventure and intrigue of a P.I. who faces personal and political conundrums as well as investigative challenges.

Performing Murder
Joseph LeValley
Book Press Publishing
9781947305335 $27.95 Hardcover/$8.99 ebook

A movie production comes to the small rural Iowa town of Orney, bringing with it a large cast of Hollywood actors, producers, and cameras. The town's excitement builds, in Performing Murder; but the shoot turns lethal when a dead body is discovered floating in the country club swimming pool, further challenging the community with unwelcome change.

Tony Harrington (a writer for the Orney Town Crier, one of the smallest daily newspapers in the Midwest) was one of the community members most excited about the production. Ironically, a loved one becomes a murder suspect, and Tony is drawn to investigate. After all, it was he who is at least partially responsible for Hollywood's choice of Orney as a shoot location.

What he uncovers is a hornet's nest of secrets and issues that go far beyond perp and victim to strike at the heart of a town Tony had thought staid and straightforward, introducing questions and threats that rock the foundations of his world.

Joseph LeValley does an outstanding job of involving readers in this blossoming mystery, from the opening racy scenes in which a lovemaking couple stumble upon the body in the pool to Tony's love for his small town and his well-meaning efforts to see it (and his career as a newspaper reporter) prosper.

Tony has stars in his eyes about all the possibilities, at first, but events quickly turn into something more sinister. LeValley brings both the intrigue and Tony's maturity process to life in a series of encounters that challenge Tony and readers to uncover the underlying influences for not just murder, but choosing evil over good.

Tony's coming of age and relationships are nicely described. They grow and change during the course of his interactions, lending the whodunit component a perfect combination of intrigue and psychological depth. This will especially delight suspense story readers seeking more than a simple investigative procedural alone.

Even when Tony's guesses prove correct, the case is not resolved. Instead, it takes another twist of danger that places Tony in the position of being responsible for another's life or death.

From the undercurrents and forces that affect this small town from within and outside to Tony's growth process of becoming more savvy and effective, LeValley creates a compelling read, in Performing Murder, that captivates on many different levels.

Combative to Collaborative
Teresa Harlow
Promethean Publishing
9781736761144 $14.99 Paper/$9.99 ebook

Combative to Collaborative: The Co-Parenting Code is recommended reading for any stepparent, divorced parent, or blended family member looking for guidelines and concrete steps for co-parenting success. It outlines pitfalls and processes that will help avoid typical issues and resolve common problems. Its code of conduct will help dissolve the differences between parenting styles and approaches in parents who harbor personal and ideological differences over how parenting should ideally work.

One shared goal of parents is that they want to do the best for their children. Starting from this common ground, Teresa Harlow surveys what "the best" looks like from different angles, focusing on how parenting relationships change these objectives.

Anecdotes from her experiences and those of other co-parents illustrate the difficult move from adversaries to partners, pinpointing revised approaches that ultimately resulted in success stories.

These specific examples outline not only interpersonal obstacles, but challenges that come from a child's other support systems (such as school), showing how they may be structured towards only live-in parents: "Some parents are more comfortable being in complete control and shut the other parent out intentionally from information about their child's education. Some avoid these communications for fear they will turn negative, accusative, or just plain uncomfortable. Others simply don't think about it. Schools are beginning to recognize that all parents do not live together and are doing more to accommodate the needs of parents and children living in two homes. Some school systems now provide communication to both parents. But this is not always the case."

Discussions include co-parenting ideological challenges and the mechanics of assuring that blended families and extended families receive their due 'child times' even at major holidays. They acknowledge the special juggling acts that occur at these times.

Blended families and co-parents face a host of obstacles to smooth interactions and cooperative thinking, but with the aid of the practical considerations and creative techniques in Combative to Collaborative, many of these obstacles can be acknowledged and conflicts short-circuited. The reasoned collaborative recommendations not only support the children, but both sides of their families and extended relations.

Readers motivated to improve interactions and make better choices must add Combative to Collaborative to their arsenal of positive change!

The Experience Maker
Dan Gingiss
Morgan James Publishing
9781631954580, $26.95 Hardcover; $17.95 Paper; $9.99 ebook

The Experience Maker: How to Create Remarkable Experiences That Your Customers Can't Wait to Share is recommended reading for any salesperson or marketer who wants to reach customers on more than a financial level. It shows how to go above and beyond most sales routines to create and transmit an experienced-based form of success.

Why should a salesperson or marketer consider this above other tried-and-true methods? Because traditional approaches aren't working as well as they used to. Customers are seeking an experience, not the pitter patter of trite sales approaches, and those who can create a positive experience stand to make many more sales, references, and repeat customers than those who employ a lower-key effort.

The question then becomes: how to create such a milieu? That's where The Experience Maker comes in.

Chapters focus on facets outlined in the sterling Foreword that is written by Ann Handley introducing Dan Gingiss and his approach: "What if we thought more systematically about creating consistently remarkable experiences that matter for our customers? What if we looked more intentionally at creating extraordinary moments they can't forget? What if we didn't practice messaging karaoke - singing the same song everyone else sings, mimicking the same words in the same voice - but instead found new and creative and witty approaches that reflect our true identity?"

They provide not ethereal interpretations of what constitutes a compelling experience, but contrasts between different kinds of experiences: "Remembering that the definition of customer experience includes every single interaction a customer has with a brand, we must consider how every experience looks when shared. This can range from digital imagery in an advertisement to almost any element of a physical experience."

Descriptions focus on how to stand out in the best possible way through every approach and representation of a company's product or service: "...with every part of your company's experience, you have to ask yourself if you want it shared on social media. This is not just about being afraid of what people might say, it's about how you design it so people want to share the experience."

Making the move from traditional to experience-emphasizing approaches will be no easy task for existing companies and businesspeople. The effort represents a transformation on the most fundamental levels - a challenge which is not ignored by Gingiss; but embraced.

The juxtaposition of old and new methods, the methodology of incorporating them into existing business structures and plans, and the nuts and bolts of crafting an experience to reflect a vivid, flexible, changing company is outlined in many specific admonitions and case history examples that take the guesswork out of the theory's application process.

Any business collection and many an entrepreneur, business manager, or owner will want to take a look at The Experience Maker. Like its basic premise, it's a standout in the crowd of business transformation titles already on the market, serving as a powerful example of not only what is possible, but how to get there.

Lisa Towles
Indies United Publishing House, LLC
9781644563342 $12.99 paper/$3.99 ebook

In Ninety-Five, Zak Skinner is a college student bent on exposing a dangerous scheme - one that initially seems to involve a campus crime, but quickly evolves to a savvy crime ring that uses the dark web.

As the story opens with Zak's first-person observation of this scam in action, readers receive a fast-paced opening that talks of new beginnings and a frat environment that leads to a dangerous confrontation, even though Zak reflects that he is "New to campus, barely social, not wealthy. What attributes would be of value to them?"

Not only is this not the fresh start Zak and his mother had in mind by moving him from NYU to the University of Chicago, but it holds an immediate, different threat that brings with it the coordinates of an even greater danger.

Thriller readers will appreciate the time taken to describe both the college environment and Zak's encounter with a bigger picture of danger.

As the story evolves to where he is ambushed and separated from his support systems, Zak is continually challenged to track down the truth - even if it means he will be pursued by powerful adversaries, and even if this means he has made the leap from concerned citizen and savvy college student to radical activist.

Zak's social, political, and investigative transformation is a powerful part of this thriller. It enhances the suspense element as Zak walks a thin and challenging line that leads straight into a potential murder investigation.

As Zak and his only trusted friend Pat Riley field an increasing number of threats and possibilities, they move from their college milieu into an adult world replete with different kinds of challenges.

Lisa Towles excels in keeping the action fast-paced, but always firmly rooted in Zak's expanding abilities, perceptions, and social and political savvy. Her depiction of the college environment and the move into adulthood are especially astute and realistic, embracing all the technological toys of modern times and the attitudes of those who wield them with power and purpose.

The underlying psychological encounters that motivate and drive the characters are very well done: "His outlandish creation myth, however, of being the vast force behind the whole operation, lacked credibility considering how desperate he looked asking me for the receipts. He was pleading with me, vulnerable almost, friendless in his tower of control, trying to appeal to my sense of compassion. Sorry, fresh out."

The result is a well-written romp through college and adult underworlds alike. Ninety-Five's ability to follow Zak through a series of puzzles that challenge his survival skills and his determination, as well as his problem-solving abilities and alliances, makes for a story hard to put down. Ninety-Five is a standout in the genre of new adult thriller reads.

Lawrence P. O'Brien
9781777815509 $17.99

Novel readers who look for vivid historical tales of Ireland will find Clochán a powerful story set during the Irish Rebellion of 1798, where child Kevin Neal loses everyone he loves to a war that continues to roar through his world, changing everything.

As an orphaned survivor, Kevin is determined to face the beasts that appeared to him in a battle scene, in his dreams, and among the shadows of the dead that keep falling. Kevin's attempt to keep Anastasia (Anty) Kelly safe is made difficult as he tries to deal with the superstition, lawlessness, corruption, and sectarian violence in a restless, threatened countryside.

More so than most historical novels about this era, Lawrence P. O'Brien cultivates an ability to bring the early 1800s to life through Kevin's eyes as he evolves from child to man. The focus on postwar experiences, ongoing struggles, and elusive promises keeps him alive and engaged as friendships form, break, and are lost, providing life to the period and enhancing a compelling saga.

Kevin's journey takes him full circle in unexpected ways as he embraces a mystery and a mission, manages to survive both, and acquires a newfound purpose. Readers seeing through his eyes absorb the milieu of the times, politics, and the impact of war and tragedy in the Irish south-east.

Clochán's ability to capture a singular experience and expand its circle of encounters and to take in the changed worlds, perceptions, and objectives of a range of intersecting characters reflects a vivid story, indeed.

Despite the Devil
Shawna James
Drummond Martin Publishing
9781777257835, $17.95 Paper/$22.95 Hardcover/$20.00 Audio/$3.99 ebook

Despite the Devil is the first book of the They Loved collection and is a fine romance about meeting the perfect man, only to discover that he comes with baggage.

Co-worker Andrew, the new sports teacher, attracts fellow teacher Stephanie; first physically and then with a demeanor she finds appealing: "Stephanie gazed at Andrew's clean-shaven, long and slender face. His dark green eyes were captivating. His brown hair was neatly combed to the side. His eyebrows were thick and kind of joined in the middle, and his nose looked even sharper from the angle at which Stephanie was now looking at him. Girl, he's handsome!' Stephanie thought, And that accent!' There they stood, both having embarrassed themselves by saying foolish things and not wanting to say anymore."

As the story (and the relationship) unfold, Stephanie must consider whether Andrew's appeal is worth the trouble he introduces to her world.

Shawna James does a fine job of juxtaposing passion and practical everyday living with the circumstances of a blended family that makes romance not a straightforward, linear production, but something more complex.

Even after commitment, Stephanie finds that threats from the past and financial difficulties introduce stress into her vision of 'happily ever after'. It's not enough to always belay that feeling, but the conflicts that evolve challenge not just Stephanie but her new family as they struggle to get back on their feet.

The realistic life details of Despite the Devil makes for a story that is a notch above more staid or predictable romances. Both Andrew and Stephanie struggle with past, present, and future, but the positivity that each harbors for the outcome of their relationship and newfound family unit is always a part of the bigger picture.

James presents these challenges in a satisfyingly meaningful way that will keep readers engaged in the story and interested in the outcome of Stephanie's pursuit of love and life.

This lends to a special brand of romance that builds on relationships, revelations, and a fun, idyllic life that embraces movement and change on more than one level.

Romance readers seeking the passion of love married to the practicality of evolution will welcome Despite the Devil 's special blend of romance, intrigue, and family life.

Pickleball Patsy And Her Lucky Pickle
Gerrie Lewis
Independently Published
9781648710841 $15.00 book/$2.99 ebook

Pickleball Patsy And Her Lucky Pickle tells of a girl who loves to play pickleball. But, before every game, she sucks on a sour pickle that she deems lucky, and which (she thinks) assures her of a winning streak. One day, she loses her lucky pickle. Can she ever win again, without her ace in the hole?

Randy Jennings provides vivid, compelling illustrations that nicely accept Gerrie Lewis's story of a girl who thinks her skills come from luck. Even though her mother tries to tell her that she doesn't need luck to win, Patsy is convinced that she can't play without it.

Her idea is backed by a losing streak that began when luck went missing. Can Patsy regain her winning approach to pickleball on her own terms?

Gerrie Lewis provides young picture book readers with a vivid story about winning strategies, belief systems, problem-solving, friendship, and creative approaches to adversity.

Much to her credit, Lewis tailors Pickleball Patsy And Her Lucky Pickle to go in an unexpected direction right up to the conclusion, which involves a surprise twist neither young readers and read-aloud parents will see coming.

It's a fine story of determination that considers different viewpoints and ways of winning in life, and will delight adults who want to teach kids about positivity and perseverance.

Good Morning to Everyone Except Men Who Name Their Dogs Zeus
Lannie Stabile
Privately Published
9781838220617 $12.99

Good Morning to Everyone Except Men Who Name Their Dogs Zeus offers poems powered by a damning view of patriarchal attitudes in man and nature alike. It is a startlingly crisp free verse collection that will draw poetry readers attracted to social and political inspection.
Symbols and circumstances of masculinity (such as a dog named Zeus), oppression, manipulation, and assault blend Greek mythological references with modern-day social struggle in poems which are hard-hitting.

The fact that these observations pull no punches is evident from the very start in poems such as "Leda," which contrasts male and female pursuits and perspectives in all manner of beast: "If you've ever seen swans fuck,/you'd know/it's a folded napkin in a dither,/while a second lays flat, soiled,/praying for dinner to end./The male tops the female/in a freshwater body./She must float them both."

The illusion of an attractive countenance which turns brutal to reveal its true self, the terrible darkness of an alluring date with a stranger that turns deadly in "Her Worst-Case Scenario," and the perseverance against all documented in "These Boots Are Made for Trauma" in which the narrator acknowledges the suffering of a life which tries to confirm to social norms that are damaging ("...there is a certain/suicide/to the rhythm/of rubber slapping/the cheeks of a street on which a boy/first wore me out/But let's keep going") makes for angry, painful, hard-hitting reflections of male-female interactions gone awry.

This is not a meal recommended for every poetry consumer to imbibe. Its powerful connections to emotions in the face of suicide and sexual assault and its poignant, angry response to the status quo and reinforcements that not only foster but subliminally encourage such scenarios may be hard to digest, for some.

For others, Good Morning to Everyone Except Men Who Name Their Dogs Zeus gives voice to the pain of oppression in a way that validates and acknowledges the underlying currents of rebellion and survival alike: "When I said I recently learned how to cry,/I meant my emotions tried to drown me/in my own fucking sea/I was not born a social animal,/and I've never learned to talk to boats or fish or sirens/Anything that might carry me to the shore/So, here I am, choking on a petty memory,/as the tide rushes down my throat..."

Compelling, powerful, and revealing of emotions too often buried beneath the tides of conformity, Good Morning to Everyone Except Men Who Name Their Dogs Zeus is a poetic cry for help and recognition that offers fellow sufferers the opportunity to confront the rapists who change everything - starting with acknowledging their trauma: "When I said the future looked brighter,/I meant I've been combusting all along,/hurling toward an angry star..."

Sounding Out Semantics
R.J. Mott Jr.
Huge Jam Publishing
9781911249481 $25.95 Paper/$11.99 ebook

Sounding Out Semantics: The Limits of Philosophy is the fruit of years of research in semantics and philosophy. It provides a work of analytical philosophy that reviews the philosophies of language, mind, mathematics, epistemology and science, adding Mott's original theories to the mix.

Sounding Out Semantics is not the usual survey of Western philosophies, but represents a radical rebellion that maintains that much of what is considered philosophy, these days, simply is's platitudes and advice that come in the guise of philosophy, but lacks the backing and credentials to achieve this status.

In the pursuit of what constitutes real philosophy, language is key to the process. This is the focus of Sounding Out Semantics, which strives for clarity in a discipline that has become muddied and murky over the years.

College-level readers of linguistics or philosophy will find Mott's scholarly approach embraces the history and linguistic challenges of philosophy in a dual examination of both.

Mott includes a caveat at the start of his discussion which acknowledges the underlying difficulty in the analytical process and its choices: "All of linguistics is afflicted with terminological mayhem. Any survey of linguistics will find a total lack of terminological discipline. Hundreds of terms are used in a multitude of inconsistent ways. Even basic terms such as "statement", "syntax" and "language" are redefined regularly to fit the needs of theorists. Theoretical terms such as "productive" and "inflectional" appear to be even more flexible. Nevertheless, I will be using many of these terms without defining them. In reading the book you will learn why."

The linguistic odyssey is revealing, critical, and embraces history, usage, and accompanying pitfalls alike: "Studies consistently indicate that different frames of reference and spatiotemporal metaphors in various languages produce different thinking about time and space. There is no longer any doubt that the use of any language has effects in non-linguistic cognitive domains. The question now is: How much language affects non-linguistic thinking and behavior?"

From mathematical rules to social cognition from childhood upward, conditioning processes, perception, and usage (such as the word "certainty") is examined and supported by researched footnotes as Mott navigates scientific disciplines that support and lend to philosophical thinking.

Because Sounding Out Semantics: The Limits of Philosophy creates such a detailed and in-depth survey that crosses disciplines to challenge common perceptions and linguistic descriptions, it is especially highly recommended reading for college-level students of science, philosophy, and linguistics.

The intersection of these disciplines proves, in Sounding Out Semantics, key to the process of real comprehension - if not of philosophy, than the special challenge of its processes.

Darkness: A Collection of Stories
Dubhghlas Kraus
Graymalkin Publishing
9798513092001 $12.99 Paper/$3.99 ebook

Darkness: A Collection of Stories provides a literary collection of investigations into the darkness of mind, heart, and environment. It uses this focus to cast a light into understanding the wellsprings and incarnations of different forms of darkness.

After providing a definition of these darknesses, the stories shape themselves around it.

Take "Old Dog Old Man," for example. Here, Preston Taylor, an old man in pain who longs for the final darkness of relief from his physical body, considers the growing darkness he "fears, hates, and longs for," but agonizes over what will happen to Jake, his beloved eighteen-year-old dog, when death comes.

The ravages of age and loneliness have brought him to this point in time where "He closed his eyes, regretting the passage of years, and regretting that he hadn't done more with his life when he was healthy enough to do so. There were many things he should have done when he could have."

As he and Jake journey to a place they haven't visited in thirteen years, and memories which carry them into the past, readers receive a trip down memory lane and insights into the tragedies that have led Jake and Preston into isolation. The love of these memories and his dog help Preston explore a different form of darkness.

"Eleven-Fifteen" is another story of solitude and revelation that revolves around loner Tony Fegalli, who has "been alone his whole life."

The fact that he was adopted only lends to his feeling of that he doesn't really belong anywhere. How he is treated differently from his sisters only reinforces the idea that his life will be both difficult and isolated.

Charged with making his own way, Tony finds himself with "No one to invite him to a party or to watch television and share a pizza with. He was forty-eight years old with a lousy car, a lousy apartment and no job."

It feels like there's nothing he can control about his life or the many people who have demonstrated they haven't wanted him. But, there's one thing he can control.

Each story provides history, depth, and psychological inspection. Each offers a different glimpse into that special darkness that resides in heart and soul, its origins, and the choices of different characters that choose to finally confront it.

Readers of literary short fiction will find these stories well written, thought-provoking examinations of different roads to isolation and how final outcomes are chosen.

Darkness: A Collection of Stories is highly recommended for literature and psychology collections alike.

Havana Brown
Lynn-Steven Johanson
Level Best Books
9781953789587 $16.95 Book/$5.95 Kindle

Havana Brown is a prequel to Rose's Thorn, but no familiarity with the prior story is required in order to jump into the mystery and serial killer dilemma facing Detective Joe Erickson.

The murders are piling up, and the only clues to the perp's identity are cat hairs. Joe's inability to stop these murders keeps him up at night and stresses him to the point where his investigative abilities become questionable as the story unfolds.

Where are the boundaries between work and obsession? As Joe questions evidence and tracks down a killer, becoming involved with alluring Destiny at the same time, his efforts become akin to the plot of a bad television show as he faces possibilities of a faked death and a too-alive threat that may stem from a cold case.

Lynn-Steven Johanson builds a story that opens with a graphic description of the murderer's modus operandi. As a cat-and-mouse game evolves, readers receive perceptions from both the killer and the detective's perspectives, which keep the plot involving on different levels.

As they pursue a convoluted possibility that at first feels impossible and then begins to make more sense, Joe Erickson and his partner, Sam Renaldo, face the kind of probe every detective dreads: one with too many dead ends and impossibilities.

Johanson weaves the relationship with Destiny and its separate evolving emotional ties and conundrums into this fast-paced story, presenting scenarios which challenge Joe and Destiny's choices and future together: "She couldn't understand how her love for Joe could prove detrimental to his recovery. Wouldn't someone's love and support help a person recover rather than hinder it?"

Joe is a police detective who is pushing too hard on this case, and it all comes home to roost in unexpected twists and turns. These reveal the underlying psychological obstacles Joe faces in his own psyche, which thwart his ability to resolve both the case and his own emotional evolution.

This dual presentation of adversity and the perils of personal strength when facing over-thinking and overwork makes for a particularly compelling story as Johanson considers how even the most adept personality can experience PTSD and overload.

These story facets bring the police procedural portion to life in an unexpected way. While readers interested in a whodunit focus may find the psychological inspections a distraction, they do add to the overall strength of a story that goes beyond problem-solving to investigate matters of the heart.

Mystery and detective readers who like more than a casual dose of psychological inspection will find Havana Brown a powerful story outlining conflicts on many different levels, both within the psyche and between characters.

Back Cut
Ann Spiers
Black Heron Press
c/o Independent Publishers Group (dist.)
9781936364381 $16.00

Poetry readers who look for evocative and unique works rooted in a sense of place, time, and psychological interplays between different voices will find Back Cut an unusually astute collection.

Ann Spiers has attempted much in her short presentation. Incorporating all these facets of observation and interaction is no light feat, but as the rhythmic give-and-take of husband and wife (represented in poems which clearly outline the speaker in the title) unfolds, a delightful love story is revealed that stems from the foundations of experience and adversity.

"Methuselah's Beard" opens the saga from the wife's perspective as her husband splits cedar shakes and Old Man Sampson drives the effort and interaction between them.

The poem takes four parts to unfold. Each offers a gem of understanding as the story moves from the old man and his protegee to the wife's reflection on their relationship, her husband's penchant for drink, and the foundations of desire and love: "We buck down the road/I say Old Man Sampson knows what he is about/I hang my arm out the window/my fingers combing/the dismal light/we roll through woods/hung with Methuselah's Beard/a lichen/so proficient/it eats the air/I say I don't mind being here/the smell of cedar/holding me."

Each poem appears in various parts, like the acts of a play, unfolding flowers of experience and encounter with delicate precision and capturing a sense of place, purpose, love, and blossoming connections.

As the monologues evolve, it becomes evident that the husband is battling addiction and the wife struggles with a tendency to withdraw from the world. The couple's quiet delights and pain come to light in poetry that is compellingly and poignantly presented, holding foundations in the little daily acts of living, redemption, and love.

Often, these vignettes are filled with revelation about the inadvertent impact of actions each chooses: "She comes out on the porch/raises my rifle/for one shot/at the cursed crow/she never considers/I might step sideways/or cringe at the memory/of blood spraying/across the snow."

Back Cut is a collection that closely examines the entwined lives of a couple alienated in different ways from the world and possibly each other. The connections they build, the love and experience they bring into their interactions and the backdrop of the Pacific Northwest come to life in a portrait of quiet desperation and evolution that is particularly recommended for poetry readers who enjoy accounts of interpersonal relationships and growth.

Don't Get Caught
Jamie Stoudt
Beaver's Pond Press
939 Seventh Street West, St. Paul, MN 55102
9781643438122 $8.99 ebook; $23.99 hardcover

Legal thriller readers will find Don't Get Caught a powerful story made all the more intriguing by its roots in a real crime that occurred in the Midwest. Jamie Stoudt loosely bases this story on these events, fictionalizing the narrative for added dramatic impact.

Victor Driscoll is a respected Minnesota statesman who runs a truck leasing company. Narrated by his son, Victor's activities, business, and dubious actions are revealed with a wry tone of truth and insight: "His little business had more customers than he could count, but they all needed financing, and Dad claimed all bankers were bastards back in the seventies. He was well educated, a veteran, a great salesman, and everybody's friend. Unfortunately, he didn't know a damn thing about heavy trucks, so that first day of business at Minnesota On-Road Equipment Company (More-Co) was one step on the long and exciting journey toward its failure."

Respected in the community, Victor Driscoll is also a war hero. But his sons Kelly and Ryan become involved when evidence of fraud emerges to threaten everything Victor has built from the leasing business. The truths they discover about their father's activities and subterfuge will shake the community.

The sons, too, hold different goals in becoming involved in the investigation. Ryan only wants to exonerate his father, while Kelly wants the real truth to come to light. It seems unlikely that either can achieve their goal by hiring foul-mouthed, temperamental office manager/investigator Margaret Kratski and equally feisty, angry ex-Marine Donna Carlasccio to help them track down the truth and perps.

As the unlikely foursome embark on an adventure of expose and discovery, readers will find Don't Get Caught replete in moral and ethical conundrums, dubious business operations and concepts, and a sense of the times that brings the economic, social, and political milieu to life.

Vic Driscoll is playing a dangerous game, indeed. It's one that will ultimately threaten his reputation and his wealth, and which draws his sons into the future of More-Co Leasing in ways neither could have anticipated.

To call Don't Get Caught a legal thriller alone would be to do it an injustice. The political, social, and psychological twists and turns, spiced by irony and humor along the way, reach out to readers with more than just a foray into legal concerns.

Jamie Stoudt is especially skilled at portraying confrontations between characters which are action-packed, spicy, and wry: "The look Rhonda Jane gave me could weld steel, but once she figured out that a staredown might take the rest of the week, she gave it up. "I need to talk to my attorney...Rhonda Jane got out of the booth and stormed toward the kitchen and the back offices. The sheriff turned toward his lead deputy and said, loud enough for her to hear, "Lane, please follow Ms. Teske, and if she picks up anything other than her purse, give me a shout. If she heads to the ladies' room, follow her in. She can pee at home."

Stoudt's ability to capture moral, ethical, family, and interpersonal dilemmas against the backdrop of a bigger picture involving schemes and plots creates a thriller filled with satisfying twists and turns.

Don't Get Caught is fast-paced, nicely populated by intriguing characters, and filled with questions about motivation, good and bad intentions, and business interests gone awry.

Thriller readers are in for a treat.

The Red Fence
Ed Diamano
Mascot Books
9781645436263 $14.95

The Red Fence is a picture book story set in the town of Vanderloo, where "everyone, everywhere, has the same view."

Jenn Polk provides lively, whimsical character drawings with the look and feel of a Dr. Seuss classic as Ed Diamano employs a rollicking rhythm to explain and explore the town's creed, which "echoed far and near/That difference wasn't wanted here."

When the Bean family moves in, though, nothing is the same again. Their differences are brought home when they decide to paint their fence a (shocking) red, challenging the town's commitment to bland uniformity with a flagrant slash of color they can't ignore.

Efforts to change the fence back to a more-acceptable white not only fail ("The Bean family laughed, and they cried out with glee,/"You can't change our fence, so just let it be!/It doesn't affect you, so just let it go!/A little change is good, or didn't you know?"), but provoke a series of changes that horrify those who think that any change is bad.

Kids receive a fine message about diversity in the guise of a town's special challenges, and will readily understand the problem and its solution in a whimsical read that romps through a lesson about being different.

Parents who choose The Red Fence for read-aloud, as well as independent young readers who grasp the basic message of this story, will find it thought-provoking, lending to discussion and wisdom at a very early age.

The Imperial Orchid
Nicola Italia
Cresting Wave Publishing (A Five Birches imprint)
9781735413570 Paperback: $9.99/Kindle: $1.99

The Imperial Orchid is a historical romance recommended for readers who like their stories rooted in horticulture, history, and adventure. It is set in England at the end of the Victorian era, where an expedition is mounted to locate rare orchids from faraway Ceylon.

Frances Wakefield is a female illustrator and expert chosen for this largely male endeavor, selected by Lord Holloway himself, president of the Royal Horticultural Society in London, to make the journey.

When a stopoff in Egypt adds Lord Holloway's spoiled, obnoxious son to the roster, Frances problems begin to surface. And when they arrive at their destination only to find a competing group with an equal interest in the rare orchid is set on thwarting their mission, all hell (and love) break loose.

Nicola Italia adeptly captures the atmosphere, times, botanical interests, and interpersonal relationships to fuel a vivid story of adventure that operates on more than one level.

The Imperial Orchid is everything a historical romance reader will like, blending action and adventure into the romance and adding depth through factual backgrounds and history to keep the story alive and compelling.

Italia's attention to detail and description adds three-dimensional value to a plot that is as astute about describing romance as it is about contrasting a professional woman's goals with matters of the heart, as in this passage, where Frances prepares for her long journey around the world: "She remembered being underneath the bed, looking at him in the darkness, feeling a sense of closeness and intimacy that unnerved her. His words seemed to echo in her ears: I was alone with a lovely woman for ten minutes or more, and I didn't kiss her once. She felt uncomfortable recalling the conversation, remembering his hot eyes on her. She sat up suddenly, pulling the pins from her hair and letting the locks fall down her back. She had no time to dwell on frivolous thoughts when she had so many more important things to think about and plan."

Her encounters with an at-first unwanted potential romance are lively and include an undercurrent of humor in many of the passages: "When he dragged you into the broom closet," he said, emphasizing the words, "how did he pull you into his arms? Cautiously, not wanting to scare you, or more aggressive like this?" He pulled her tightly against him. She looked up into his handsome face, trying to keep her breathing normal. "I wonder if the London Zoo is missing any of their gorilla population?" she said, pushing her hands against his chest."

Whether describing the heart of passion or the heat of intrigue, suspense, and discovery, The Imperial Orchid is a vivid, moving story that romance and history readers will find energetic, with strong characters and an underlying subplot adding authenticity and spice to the interpersonal connections.

Messianic Reveal
Ethan T. Burroughs
Morgan James Publishing
9781631951459 $16.95

Messianic Reveal is a Clayton Haley action-packed political adventure that should be high on the reading lists of anyone who would absorb the history, culture, and politics of the clashes between Shia and Sunni forces in the Arab world.

Because these encounters are key to understanding much of what drives and challenges the historical and modern Middle East, this novel's backdrop and easy way of absorbing the personal impact of these conflicts is especially important.

Another facet to mention before the plot is revealed is that author Ethan T. Burroughs holds personal familiarity with the Middle East, having developed connections, friends, and personally lived and worked in the region. He bases his fiction on events which are either true or otherwise widely believed as being true in the Middle East.

Clayton Haley is fulfilling his consular duties when he meets a man he thinks could be connected to the 1979 Grand Mosque siege in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

When he investigates, he uncovers a host of political connections and a plot that moves from the Middle East through Europe to affect Western and Middle East interests alike.

The more that Clayton investigates, the more he learns of a convoluted history that underlies not just modern-day conflicts, but the special challenges of his own duties: "To understand current relations, you must know history, and if you don't mind me saying, you Americans aren't very good history students. I think you spend more time trying to make history than studying it."

His ignorance as well as his increasing cultural and political savvy place him in the heart of danger as Clayton comes to discover that evolving crimes hold dangerous impacts and implications beyond their singular enactment.

As hot missions, interrogations, threats, and a new assignment as a political officer challenge his growth, experience, and evolution on personal and political levels, readers gain a vivid insight into the complex mire of Middle East politics that is spiced by conspiracy in a story which becomes hard to put down.

Given the complexity of Middle East history and relationships, it's a real achievement to be able to describe all these undercurrents of controversy against a backdrop of so much information, yet tailor it in such a way that newcomers to these details still find them absorbing. This is an intrinsic part of why the thriller component plays out so strongly and smoothly.

Messianic Reveal is a powerfully-written, fact-backed suspense story that reviews the challenges of American diplomacy and perceptions, the realities of life in the Middle East, and the special assignments and conundrums of one man who finds himself caught in the middle of it all, acting as a pivot point in a series of extraordinary encounters.

Tales of the Public Domain
Champ Clark Vaughan
Independently Published
9798501618466 $15.00 Paper/$4.00 Kindle

While Tales of the Public Domain: A History of the United States General Land Office in Oregon will primarily appeal to Oregon collections, it would be a shame to limit its readership to that state alone.

In effect, Champ Clark Vaughan has crafted, in his history of Oregon's public land development, a geographic and cultural inspection which examines the evolution of public land laws and management systems, reviews the roles of the General Land Office (GLO), and embraces the social and cultural challenges of such issues as Indian rights and lands and settlement laws, in the process.

The fact that Oregon holds a diverse history in addressing all these issues, and that its various actions, acts, land status records, and public domain controversies mirror many facets of U.S. land management experience and issues means that the state can be held up as a microcosm of experience and history relevant to other state experiences, as well.

Champ Clark Vaughan's position as chief, Branch of Lands and Minerals Operations in the Bureau of Land Management Oregon-Washington State Office lends authority to his history, as does his background as a geographer and land law examiner.

These dual backgrounds in geography and land law create a powerful consideration of settlement issues over the decades that hold much food for thought and relevance to modern-day issues that arise from changing laws, values, and perceptions.

Anyone interested in the history of U.S. settlements, land management, and changing legal decisions and rights needs to place Tales of the Public Domain at the top of their reading list. Collections strong in references about Oregon history and public domain concepts in general will find it a worthy acquisition.

In Search of Love, Science, and God
Sadhan Majumder, Ph.D.
Independently Published
9798735256304 $12.95 Paper/$5.95 Kindle

In Search of Love, Science, and God: A Memoir by a Cancer Scientist comes from a professor of genetics at a major cancer center in the United States who has already published an extensive list of research materials.

His memoir offers something different: the opportunity to consider lessons from the microbiology lab as they apply to health, life, and the pursuit of happiness. It imparts these considerations in a sweeping examination of his life in India, his research studies, and his experiences navigating American culture and exciting new studies alike.

It should be stated that, first and foremost, In Search of Love, Science, and God is a memoir. As it follows Dr. Majumder's life experiences and the influences on his perspectives, the story surveys the successes and failures that honed his experience and expertise as well as the focus of his research: "I failed my qualifying exam. I had to rewrite the proposal and take the exam again. I passed on my second attempt. But I learned a valuable lesson for writing real grant proposals in my future life. The grant proposal needed to be very specific and focused. When I would be a grant reviewer for NIH, I saw so many grants rejected based on being "overambitious." Although I did not like the outcome on my first exam, the examiners made me a better scientist."

From what it means to be a scientist to how research contributes to broader goals and meaning in life, Majumder's story captures scientific, philosophical, and autobiographical processes and juxtaposes them for maximum impact: "I realize how my contribution to science so far is like a drop of water in a flowing river to which other scientists have contributed their drops. Perhaps one of the most significant changes in patient care I have witnessed, particularly in cancer, is a continuing shift in the treatment regimen, from single-molecule-based treatment for all to individualized treatment based on personalized molecular circuitry. I feel good about my contribution and hope others will go on to make even more far-reaching discoveries to help humankind. Science at its best always works that way."

This memoir will especially appeal to readers of scientific process, science and health professional memoirs, and accounts of how science dovetails with real-life challenges and choices, but it also contains humor and wry observation as well as a focus on overcoming adversity in all walks of life, from an initially unrequited love that he turns into a romantic connection to how he tackles racism and politics in the science world and his new milieu as an American immigrant.

Many of his research and scientific discoveries also link directly to personal discoveries and mirror controversies and obstacles in society. One example is how his first lab lesson ties in directly to COVID-19 events and challenges.

Another is how science connections to God in unexpected ways: "The precision with which our body, which on the average contains about 30 trillion cells, is formed from the one-cell embryo without making mistakes is simply stunning. This precision was accomplished because of billions of years of evolution - a process of making errors (mutations) in the genetic information, selecting the mutations that are most suitable for our survival and generating progeny, and passing this information on to the next generation. As I mentioned earlier, to me, God used evolution as a means to create us. Who we would become is a combination of the genetic gift of our earlier generations and the environment in which we grow up."

As Dr. Majumder weaves his growth as a scientist, professional, and American into bigger pictures of personal discovery and evolution, readers begin to realize the crux of this memoir's difference from most other stories of scientists or immigrants.

Dr. Majumder's ability to connect micro and macro worlds, from lab studies to behavioral traits that lead to not just rebellion or growth, but ultimately survival, draws direct links between science, human nature, and the process of discovery and transformation on many different levels.

Readers of health and science topics alike will find In Search of Love, Science, and God is both a personal and professional voyage into research avenues that link directly into improving as well as saving lives, and will find its philosophical and scientific inspections astute and revealing, all cemented by the backdrop of personal experience for added connection and attraction.

Annabelle McCormack
Independently Published
9781736809501 $16.99 Paper/$6.99 ebook

Windswept takes place during the British Gaza Campaign of World War I. It outlines the dilemmas faced by Ginger Whitman, a young woman of privilege who becomes a battlefield nurse to help the cause, only to find herself in quite a different role when a dying soldier gives her a coded message that could change the course of the war.

Charged with making sure the message gets into the right hands, Ginger doesn't know whom to trust as she navigates unfamiliar terrain in foreign countries. She must also decide whether to accept the help of the handsome British intelligence officer Major Noah Benson.

Is he a threat, or someone she can trust? As the story evolves, it feels akin to an Arabian version of Gone With the Wind, juxtaposing history with romance with a depth that few World War I novels achieve.

As Ginger explores a world of intrigue in which boldness and scandal underlie subterfuge and secrets, readers receive both an engrossing romance and a series of challenges as Ginger navigates completely unfamiliar terrain in different worlds.

Ginger is no dummy, and Annabelle McCormack successfully captures her feelings about her affair and the duty she has unwittingly accepted by being directly involved in the war.

The dialogue surrounding these events realistically captures her attractions and challenges: "A warm feeling spread through her. "You don't have to woo me now, Major. I'm more than a willing participant in this affair of ours." She cocked her head at him. "Are you really Irish?" He smiled. "Tá me." She raised a brow. He wrapped his arm around her more tightly. "I am." "But how is it you sound so English? And how many languages do you speak? In the desert you used both Arabic and Turkish - " Noah held her hand. "I don't want to talk about anything from the desert now."

Readers seeking a blend of passionate romance, political inspection, and the challenges facing a feisty young woman who finds herself over her head in many ways will find Windswept does an excellent job of depicting matters of heart and loyalty alike.

As Ginger traverses the realm of wealthy families in Cairo and faces the fiancee of the man she's in love with, readers will welcome the complex interpersonal relationships that are woven into the story line.

Readers who like romance, Middle Eastern settings, and history, intrigue, and social inspection will find all these elements and more incorporated into the persona and whirlwind of action surrounding the spirited Ginger.

Its special blend of history and politics, suspense, action, and romance keep the narrative fast-paced and thoroughly engrossing, but Windswept is especially recommended for readers who look for more than the usual European backdrop that World War I novels are too typically centered in.

Andrew Pessin
Open Books
9781948598521 $17.95 Paper/$9.99 ebook

Nevergreen is an academic satire that primarily targets campus "cancel culture" and its excesses, as its title, a nod to the notorious 2017 controversy at Evergreen State College, suggests. But also it is a novel about irreverence, chance, and the perils of academia as a disillusioned middle-aged physician is tapped to offer a lecture about his peculiar art and medical knowledge lending to paintings of corpses and dissections.

The first indication that J. has entered a nefarious world rather than a simple college campus job is when his driver to the school invites him to choose directions at a fork in the road, then lets him know that "all ways lead to the asylum."

The funk J. has experienced in his life prior to this point is typical of middle age: "The truth was, of course, that there was nothing wrong with being a physician, and a reasonably successful one - even if he was losing faith in the contemporary practice of medicine, was painfully aware that every patient ended up deceased no matter how he treated them, and even more painfully aware that he had already crossed the hump of his own life and was very much on the descent. Yes, something was surely off lately, more than just lately. His gentle demeanor had developed rougher edges; his great capacity for compassion was declining; his once legendary sense of humor was becoming, how did Debra put it, more mythical."

But the fruits of his odd passion and interest, and the course of his life as he becomes a central point in a swirl of cancel controversy that assumes a dangerous overtone, create a story that is far more than the initially anticipated tale of a middle-age crisis.

Andrew Pessin injects into his character's experiences a newfound purpose as J. is shaken from his comfort zone to becomes mired in the campus's philosophical, political, and social controversies.

J.'s obsession with the medieval image of "Wound Man," a medical textbook figure illustrated with every type of bodily wound, dovetails with the mystery and threat surrounding the campus, his new life, and its choices.

Pessin excels in vivid descriptions of this life, which at times may be described as long 'run-on' sentences, but which impart the passion and color of J.'s evolving world: "If Wound Man now resembled J. so too did these agents of hatred, as they were all wearing the masks that Big Chief Corrie had had made from the photograph, the large masks with J.'s face on them with sinister slits cut for their eyes within the sinister shadows of his eyes in the photo, the masks handed to them as they were expelled into the environment, streamed into every hexant and beyond, hollering and whooping and signaling their V for virtue signs, their V for Wagner's "Valkyries" that was pumping all over from the campus speakers."

Pessin's ability to inject dark humor into this story of evolving intrigue and change, as well as his review of campus personalities, life, and social conflict, creates a literary examination that is engrossing, unexpected, and colorful in its evolution.

Readers looking for a novel that blends college life with an aging physician's stumble into an alien world that challenges his life and perceptions will find Nevergreen eerie, terrifying, and unexpectedly, darkly fun as it romps through J. and his wife Debra's world and turns everything upside down with new realizations.

Just My Luck
Lelia Coles & Rosilyn Seay
PicBooks Publishing
9780998557656 $12.99 Paper/$6.99 ebook

Just My Luck portrays Tina Brooks and her mother Antoinette, who have each been victims of circumstances, life events and just all-over bad luck.

As a young girl, Antionette (Twanie) became a victim of abuse, which led to single motherhood and the end of many dreams. Is daughter Tina destined to follow in her footsteps when Antoinette vanishes and leaves her thirteen-year-old daughter to fend for herself?

Thankfully, strangers come to the young girl's rescue. But later, as Tina navigates her changed world, she is faced with a co-worker's murder and secrets that affect her future, she finds that more than luck is involved in affecting the course of her life and her choices.

Sisters and authors Lelia Coles and Rosilyn Seay create a realistic, powerful account of women under siege in many ways; from both within and their own experiences and choices, and in the environments they move through.

As murder and intrigue threaten Tina's motel job and her personal well-being, readers are drawn into a story that operates as both a murder mystery and a social commentary piece: "Just like that, everything changed. We all agreed that the person who committed the awful crime was a threat to all of us, mostly me. The man from the bathroom had seen my face and he knew exactly where to start looking for me, even if I couldn't remember what he looked like."

Tina's versatility, survival instinct, and ability to absorb many changes in her situation create a powerful protagonist who does more than just survive adversity. She tackles it head-on with full knowledge that her heritage and its influences are affecting her future wellbeing and ability to move beyond her mother's world.

Readers will find this story compelling not just in how Tina and her group of friends tackles problems, but how she grows relationships, solves problems, and comprehends new situations that come with challenges - and opportunities - connected to the past.

Lelia Coles and Rosilyn Seay create a compelling story of a spunky, savvy young woman's coming of age. Her problems, solutions, and discoveries come with a charge to "go find herself." How Tina does so goes beyond expectations in a gripping story that fully embraces love, death, and a life that evolves to reach past adversity to new possibilities.

The portrait of this process will especially appeal to readers of women's contemporary fiction, urban fiction, and African American literature. But any reader will find, in Tina and her mother, role models for perseverance and flexibility.

For Victims Yours and Ours
Natalie Graszewicz & Dominik Socha
Sleepless Writers Ltd
9781527256668 49.99 Brit. pounds

When Natalie Graszewicz & Dominik Socha embarked on a mission to preserve knowledge of Anglo-Polish history and heritage in the UK, they uncovered a systematic, unlawful destruction of Anglo-Polish cultural and religious heritage in Fawley Court - one that embraced some 2,000 years of history during which London elites became powerful enough to rewrite the sagas of England's people and ethnic groups.

As British authorities breached English, European and international law in their pursuit of modifying the truth about the Anglo-Polish heritage, this resulted in the destruction of the heritage site that once had protection under international law.

Their investigation, campaign for justice, historical discoveries, and information about the economic and elitist rise of power and purpose in both the UK and the US contribute to a powerful scholarly examination that, at first glance, might seem to hold a narrowed scope primarily of interest to those of Polish heritage and UK residency.

But, soft: anyone interested in an interdisciplinary approach to major world issues surrounding historical representation, economic forces, and social activism needs to absorb the discoveries and their impact in For Victims Yours and Ours.

Its powerful testimony to the ongoing forces of repression, social and legal challenge, and historical representation that is changed to reflect the points of view of special interests and elite societies makes for thought-provoking reading relevant to all ethnic groups and social circles around the world.

More importantly, For Victims Yours and Ours offers a compelling look that draws in many facets, from science and technology to individuals and parties who have influence on the City of London, agreements between nations and peoples, the impact of terrorism on the world, and disturbing contrasts of differences between official reports and eyewitness experiences.

As it draws together an alternate history of influential forces on various peoples, this book expands to embrace the concerns of not just UK or Polish residents, but anyone interested in who really pulls the strings of influence behind the scenes: "Since its inception in 1913, U.S. FEDERAL RESERVE did not work for the benefit of the American people but a narrow group of corporate and banking Fraternity."

Poland's experience serves not just as a microcosm for understanding, but as a foundation for expanding knowledge of the hidden forces which have affected the currents and choices of nations, leaders, and groups.

This wide-ranging survey and history is highly recommended reading for college students who would consider the underlying origins of and influences upon historical precedent, decisions, and national experience.

Heavily footnoted, authoritatively referenced, and broad in its scope and information, For Victims Yours and Ours is no casual survey, but demands from its readers a scholarly, college-level educated awareness that is equally suitable for study, classroom debate, and social awareness development.

A River For Gemma
Debra Whiting Alexander
The Wild Rose Press
9781509234066 $18.99 paper/$5.99 ebook

In A River For Gemma, the small town of Sugar Creek, Oregon is home to twenty-six-year-old Gemma Porter, who has long ago been assigned the label of being intellectually disabled.

This designation has affected parts of her life; but not her grandmother's love. Her warm relationship with her grandmother leads Gemma to want to be a mother herself, to pass on this Porter legacy.

But what she doesn't know can thwart her dreams, and as she discovers a hidden secret of the past which rears as a threat to her future happiness and ambitions, readers become drawn into a story replete with insights about Gemma's real abilities.

Debra Whiting Alexander writes with a passionate, descriptive hand that exudes color and she defies pat categorization of her characters, instead celebrating their strengths: "...the world would not accept the truth about Gemma Porter - even though it radiated from her like Creator's flaming medallion in the sky. Yet the truth was simple. Gemma had different abilities, not "disabilities." And it was Gemma who sparked a chain of miracles that year."

Her blend of candid assessment and embrace of the miracles and surprises that lie in relationships, ambitions, and potential is a breath of fresh air in the family relationship novel genre, offering readers a tangible sense of place and person through descriptions that wrap themselves around the smells, tastes, and perceptions of the characters.

Gemma is portrayed not as a dependent adult/child, but an independent young woman who holds a job, has her own apartment, and holds emotional and empathetic abilities that more than make up for any intellectual deficiency.

From her lifelong friendships with local Native Americans and others to encounters with the spirits of the dead and living and truths that reach out from beyond the grave to shake up her worldview, Gemma's perspective is nicely supplemented by other characters that revolve around and affect her world.

As mothers' hearts past, present, and possible future are revealed and tested, A River For Gemma becomes a sterling story of love, threats, and a grandfather's dying wish that drives the confrontations which Gemma and her grandmother face from too-familiar local forces.

A River For Gemma blends action, intrigue, and suspense into its family saga. It's an exceptional presentation of how Gemma navigates and sees her world and belays any notion that intellectual challenges translate to deficiencies in emotional maturity and the ability to make good decisions and lead an effective, loving life.

This facet, especially, makes A River For Gemma recommended as inspirational reading for a wide audience.

I Would Tell You If I Could
David Sylvester
The Troy Book Makers
B084KJY74G $4.99 Kindle

I Would Tell You If I Could: and Other Stories is a debut literary collection of short works that focus on characters of all ages poised the cusp of change.

Each person navigates changed circumstances and tries to re-envision and better understand their lives and how they arrived at this point. Each very different life holds an opportunity for doing things differently or perceiving things in a new way.

Take the opening "The Ghost of Frankie Greengrass," for example. The first-person narrator, Pete, is "sitting at the bar in Doyle's Tavern drinking Miller drafts with Frankie Greengrass, trying to pretend that thirty years hasn't really passed."

It's hard to pretend when the tavern is filled with the ghosts of yesteryear, but Frankie isn't a spirit. Not yet. And the narrator acknowledges that he hasn't lived in this area since college; after which, the ravages of time have changed everything.

As readers absorb Pete's nostalgic consideration of relationships past and gone and the self-loathing that invites these ghosts of the past to take hold in his life, they receive a sketch of Pete's life and a series of interactions with Frankie that stretch the boundaries of past and present connections.

The ever-present ghosts wait in the wings as Pete ties up loose ends and solidified family duties, and carries out his future options.

With succinct and evocative prose, Mr. Sylvester portrays the nuances that influence Pete as he moves into this changing world.

Consider, in contrast, "Richie's Girl," which depicts a dance between Kathi (Richie's girl) and the narrator. The year is 1974; and booze, cigarettes, and drugs are the cultural crutches of the times.

The narrator has known Kathi for five years, but Richie has claim to her because he's older and has a car. Kathi never paid much attention to the narrator...until tonight, after she breaks up with Richie.

Frankie Greengrass returns to this story to make an appearance that portends that they are in the waning years of best friendship - a "...relationship that by its nature must be consigned to the attic of nostalgia."

As the Doyle's Tavern crowd of irregulars, regulars, and friends heats up, a decision is made to act in a way that will change forever old friendships in one night.

The New York milieu of some of these pieces and people and the shifting tides of their relationships to each other and their self-perception permeate stories that are thought-provoking slices of life incorporating the elements of personal change and interpersonal connection.

The interconnected settings, characters, and messages capture the thin line between familiar routines and unfamiliar responses to changed circumstances and times.

Throughout these stories, Mr. Sylvester creates a series of questions about how characters let go of the past and move in new directions.

The psychological depth, social introspection, and lives of quiet desperation will especially attract readers who like their short literary works to resonate with the pulse of everyday life challenges through short reads that impart much food for thought.

Carolyn V. Hamilton
Swift House Press
9780990966449 $17.95 Paper/$0.99 Kindle

Implosion combines mystery with humor in an unusual story especially recommended for genre mystery readers who want more than a simple whodunit tale.

It tells of the Desert Palace, an aging Las Vegas once-lofty casino slated for demolition, and the mystery of stolen money that might still be hidden there.

Journalist Nedra Dean has an eye for intrigue and a nose for trouble. What she doesn't have is a scoop that will make her feel like a million dollars.

And she's not the only one who's after the dough - and the truth.

Carolyn V. Hamilton fosters charm from the start through a host of fun characters, from Desert Palace Hotel & Casino owner Foxy Craig to Juniper Johnson, an efficient secretary charged with not only smoothing her boss' world, but maintaining his artificial jellyfish aquarium.

It's been eleven years since six million dollars vanished during a robbery. Foxy has long been obsessed with the building's layout and possibilities for recovering the loot, but with its impending sale and implosion, these possibilities are about to come to an end.

Or, will they?

From cocktail waitress Linda Mayo and her fifty-two-year-old boyfriend KingBob Berenson's involvement in highly-placed drug clientele to changing relationships and feelings ("Lately she'd had the thought that he reminded her of a slinkie - not real useful, but it would be fun to watch him tumble down the stairs."), Hamilton's story traverses all kinds of colorful characters from disparate walks of life who each have their eye on an elusive prize...and, now, a limited timeline for getting it.

From Russians and a "caviar picture" to Nedra's unexpected success with a caviar-plane-bust story, Hamilton creates intrigue, subterfuge, and mystery as she surveys betrayal, lust, mafia influences, and greed against the backdrop of a hotel's demise.

Readers who enjoy blends of whimsical description, intriguing dilemmas, and the addition of a flesh-eating curse added to the action for good measure will find Implosion replete with satisfying twists and turns. This will delight mystery fans with laugh-out-loud encounters that inject unexpected, sometimes-black humor into the mix for a fresh taste of originality and surprise.

Embargo on Hope
Justin Doyle
Atmosphere Press
9781637528167 $16.99 Paper/$9.99 ebook

Embargo on Hope is recommended for teen sci-fi readers who look for stories replete with action and social inspection.

On the planet Vastire, the choices of a father fall upon the shoulders of his son. Sixteen-year-old Darynn Mark faces poverty as an aftermath of the revolution his father incited, which resulted in the P.A. embargo on their planet.

An alien ship manages to reach Darynn with a message: finish his father's work, and the poverty-inducing embargo might be ended.

Darynn is an astute observer of his world and is more than cognizant of the social and political forces that have conspired to bring them to this juncture: "The P.A. wanted to help slum-rats like Pavlar and me, since we have about the same rights as sheep, but those bureaucratic idiots didn't realize that an embargo would just mean things would get worse for the Olan-Har."

This level of political savvy will delight older teens who look for more insights and depth than the usual sci-fi adventure quest contains. It reflects many familiar situations of poverty in which forces that would help actually add to the dilemma.

In a dog-eat-dog world, Darynn understands that his choices, like his father's, may affect and change not only the status quo, but his own life and those around him.

Charged with a mission that leads him to confront spies, monsters, vampires, and more, Darynn confronts his heritage and lessons in the course of learning more about his abilities and the complexity of his task: "Were you a good friend of his, Mr. Viln?" Fyra asked. "If Kawto wasn't around, he'd come to me for advice or to rant. We worked together on a few missions, too. He was a rare man - both skilled and disciplined. It's hard to find men like that." I'm neither of those things. At least, according to Kaylaa. She was probably right though. But was that my fault? Maybe I should have inherited those traits. Or maybe he would've taught them to me, had he been around longer."

Justin Doyle's ability to juxtapose political and social inspection with personal growth and revelations creates a gifted story that is exceptionally compelling.

He accompanies Darynn's first-person insights and observations with notes by Polek Viln and others, who solidify objectives on different sides, and adds inspections of the underlying motivations of fighting forces and a son who both admires his father and struggles with his insanity.

Embargo on Hope is about more than a social and political struggle. It's about a son's legacy and ability to grow into his powers and make a difference in his world's future, and the Olan-Har caste's lives, joys, and who is ultimately responsible for their condition.

Young adult sci-fi readers who enjoy more than a light social inspection are in for a treat.

The Unzoned Gods: Moon
Teri Hitt
Soul Secret Service
9781493672868 $7.99

The Unzoned Gods: Moon is the first book in the Unzoned Gods series, and will appeal to sci-fi fans that enjoy ethereal works written in unusual forms - in this case, as a freestyle script (as if for a play). It holds several differences from the typical sci-fi story.

For one, main character G's dialogue is written in regular type, and her internal dialog in italics. The narrator is one of twelve psychic empaths asked to go to the moon for a consciousness project, receiving the invitation and contact phone number in a dream state.

Calling the number results in information about the proposal given by an agent from the Skylark Project, raising more questions than it answers. How did they access G's dreams? What's really happening on the moon?

Readers used to the verbosity of the sci-fi genre may be surprised at only 88 pages to the story, but Teri Hitt winds a lot of action, detail, and insights into these pages by making the most of every word, description, and character.

Another surprise is the depth and variety of scenarios covered in the a short production. There's the Haarp technology patent, for example: a method for altering the Earth's atmosphere, ionosphere, and/or magnetosphere. It may also be used for mind control. The planetary modification threat and promise is intriguing and portends psychic as well as physical changes.

Messages and revelations identified as "incoming" are highlighted in black background pages to reflect insights that come from a being from another dimension.

Black and white photos and drawings also pepper the story, accenting its progression with visuals.

There's nothing quite like The Unzoned Gods: Moon in print. At once a play, the story of a communique from another dimension, an experiential adventure surrounding a group of psychic empaths charged with an unusual mission from a dubious project, and a spiritual and psychological probe, the story is challenging, exciting, inviting, and thought-provoking, all in one.

If sci-fi readers don't think that extraordinary concepts, encounters, and mind-bending scenarios can be packed into a book under a hundred pages long, they should pick up The Unzoned Gods: Moon as evidence that this can be done.

Teri Hitt demonstrates, with a creative format and lively interactions, that anything is possible. Under her pen, the extraordinary comes to life.

This compelling read is especially highly recommended for literary sci-fi fans and those who like stories of inter-dimensional travel and psychic challenges. The thriller elements woven into the tale keep it riveting and unexpected.

The Final Yen
R. Sebastian Bennett
Milford House Press/Sunbury Press
9781620068700 $16.95

There are some professional invitations you can't say no to. And when you do say yes, there are dire consequences that embrace many different levels of threat.

In Tokyo, in 1989, a young American businessman is framed for a crime he didn't commit, and is threatened with imprisonment. Nobody will help him. The witnesses to this supposed crime were his friends.

The Final Yen documents his flight from Japan and his interactions with its culture; but more importantly, this is a survey of Japanese culture and business community that lends many insights into not just Japanese society, but the interactions between men and women within and outside of that world.

R. Sebastian Bennett excels in injecting many insights about Eastern and Western interactions and perceptions throughout the story, from the start: "All Japanese businessmen drank Scotch, just like they all used chopsticks to eat their sticky rice. Ono leaned forward. "It is good business to drink together," he said..."We are all Tokyo businessmen, and we need to drink." Ono's words were a little slurred, but I understood his real point. He was trying to minimize our differences, to group us all together in a set like dominoes. In a way, it was touching."

From contrasts between Western and Eastern perceptions of beauty and propriety to the types of interactions that present challenges to Westerners doing business in Japan, Bennett creates a powerful story packed with insights and descriptions: "I clasped my hands together in front of me in an attempt to show how cooperative I intended to be, how innocent I was, and how much I ought to be released. I tried not to think about the statistic that in Japan, 99% of all accused individuals were eventually found guilty..."

Social reflection and business philosophy blend in a powerful story surrounding a mystery, a challenge, and a set of seemingly casual circumstances that quickly become puzzling and dangerous to the protagonist. A subtle but notable touch of underlying humor marks many of the interactions.

Bennett excels at weaving action into many of his insights about not just the culture but the sights, sounds, and experience that is Japan: "I had tried to optimize Tokyo transportation, but I had failed. Maybe I just tried too hard. Or was this my karmic punishment for being a shikan, a train pervert, if that's what I was? I couldn't think clearly anymore. All I knew was that my head was throbbing. It hurt like hell. And I just wanted to sleep."

This approach, which juxtaposes intrigue, action, and cultural inspection, brings The Final Yen to life in a gripping story that will delight a wide audience, from thriller and mystery readers to those who appreciate the added depth of intellectual inspection and cross-cultural encounters.

The Final Yen is a compelling story recommended for business readers, those interested in stories set in Japan, readers who want to absorb East/West incongruities and etiquette, and suspense readers who just want a fine, vividly portrayed read that embraces a sense of place and purpose.

Awakening Your Soul's Truth
Anya Goode
Liminal Phoenix Media
9781737291701 $20.99 Paper/$9.99 Kindle

Awakening Your Soul's Truth is a spiritual self-help guide highly recommended for new age, spirituality, and alternative health collections alike. It comes from an energy healer and spiritual teacher with over twenty years of spiritual, healing, and teaching activities to her name, and requires no prior familiarity with new age or spiritual concepts in order to prove accessible.

Anya Goode does all the legwork in introducing these concepts for audiences unfamiliar with energetic intuitive healing or spiritual development.

Chapters introduce these efforts with a historical overview of belief systems, charting how they developed and their basic tenets and contrasting different types of belief before moving to belief's connection to the healing process, discussing how emotion plays a big part in choice, action, and consequences both on a physical and a spiritual realm.

Ideally, readers will be prepared to do the work that is proposed later in the read, after this setup covers basic concepts and their applications. This is where self-help proves a powerful and necessary component for effecting real change and measurable results on many different levels.

These later chapters embrace passion and perception as they entwine the results of rising consciousness: "One day our masks come off, our consciousness shifts, and we become aware of the truth, our truth. We become aware that we are all kin, and that when we fight to defeat each other, we eventually become defeated ourselves as well. When our masks come off, we grieve the unconscious life we have lived and the errors we have made as a result of living life through the mask, through our cloaks. We grieve with the knowledge that so many continue to fight the battle of belief unconsciously as we once did. And then we forgive."

Goode doesn't promise that this will be an easy or intuitive process. She often uses examples of her clients and her own self-inspections to cement the fruits of this process, emphasizing that the undertaking, while vastly rewarding, is no simple procedure: "I had many clients in the past who had suffered sexual abuse. I remember watching the healing process unfold, thinking how lucky I was that it wasn't me who had to experience that. It is truly amazing how the mind and body can protect us. The memories that came back to me, that I had to remember and relive to release, replayed in my mind and body as visceral flashbacks over the course of weeks. The beliefs formed through that trauma took many months to work my way through. Luckily, I knew through my work and experience as an energy healer exactly how to heal the trauma from such tragic events, yet it was still an excruciating full-time job."

From illusions about her past which needed to be realized, remembered, confronted, and shattered to effect real healing to handling different forms of anxiety and understanding how emotion, trauma, and belief intersect at different levels of healing, readers receive a template for identifying and working through their own past experiences.

Awakening Your Soul's Truth comes with the prerequisite of an inquiring mind willing to do the work to understand the roots of anguish and effect real change.

Self-help, spiritual, new age, and health collections interested in specific techniques for arriving at and embracing new truths and lasting change from the effort will find Awakening Your Soul's Truth just the ticket to begin an intensive, fruitful process.

The Zodiac Revisited Volume 1: The Facts of the Case
Michael F. Cole
Twin Prime Publishing
9780996394307 $16.95 Hardcover/$10.95 paper/$4.99 Kindle

Anyone who resided in the San Francisco Bay Area in the late 60s through early 70s well recalls the atmosphere of terror a mysterious serial killer fostered as he instigated a murder spree, taunting investigators through anonymous letters to newspapers.

One might believe that in 2021 this case is more than cold and closed, but The Zodiac Revisited Volume 1: The Facts of the Case reawakens events, reconsiders clues, and reevaluates the lingering questions of the Zodiac's identity and motivations. It is highly recommended reading for true crime readers looking for a different angle on the subject.

Michael F. Cole's revisit occurs at a point in the far future where the hope for justice is almost certainly gone. What remains is a quest for lasting closure by identifying the Zodiac once and for all and pulling together the pieces of the puzzle surrounding his elusive persona.

The Zodiac Revisited begins with a powerful introduction which outlines why the Zodiac mystery remains one of the most compelling serial killer cases in American history. Cole reviews the killer's actions, as so many coverages before him have done - but what stands out is the ciphers Zodiac gave to the newspapers as clues - puzzles which stymied law enforcement and cryptologists alike. One puzzle was only solved in December 2020, and two remain unsolved.

Ciphers and the Zodiac's real identity weren't the only lingering questions on this case. The Zodiac boasted of some 37 murders over his spree; yet law enforcement could only account for five of his victims. Were the others figments of his imagination, portents of his future goals, or real victims so cleverly disguised or hidden that they could not be credited to him?

Few new clues have emerged since the last swirl of excitement in 1978. Investigators amassed an impressive mountain of evidence that led nowhere, including over twenty pages of writings the killer contributed himself over the life of his crimes. Much is known, but little is understood - and that's where The Zodiac Revisited shines.

Cole recreates the Zodiac's entire story, from his logical starting point in Vallejo and Benicia to each of the murders, including reproductions of the Zodiac letters which followed.

Crime story readers will be particularly delighted by the meticulous sifting of clues which publishes images of letters, documents, and other key evidence that allow readers to look at everything the investigators developed or had access to.

Considerations of each murder and its clues and challenges are specific and intricately detailed, complete with footnoted references: "Police initiated a thorough review of all the details that had been published about Cheri's murder. Although multiple accounts had mentioned that the distributor coil and condenser had been torn out, no reports had included any mention of the perpetrator pulling out the middle wire of the distributor - which was, in fact, true. Though police publicly allowed for the possibility that the letter may have been written by someone other than the murderer, the reality was that they knew the author and the killer were one and the same. The Chief of Police would later privately describe his conclusion on the matter by saying: "There is no doubt that the person who wrote the confession letter is our homicide suspect." As of the writing of this book, the murder of Cheri Jo Bates remains unsolved."

Cole's ability to capture the drama surrounding the Zodiac's era (including the Bay Area culture and residents) through stories of the murders and the terror they sparked brings this story to life; but it's Cole's attention to detail that sets this history apart from any other Zodiac consideration (and, there are more than a few).

Rich with insights about the quagmire of legal, social, psychological, and political challenges The Zodiac's modus operandi uniquely presented to the community at large, it's hard to put down this true crime story, which blends elements of a thriller into a meticulous historical probe that leaves no stones unturned.

Volume One of this three-part investigation is a huge draw. The conclusion of this segment paves the way for more in a compelling manner that makes it hard not to want to know what happens next: "Many had reached the point where they would be happy with the story of the Zodiac simply going away. To a large extent, that's exactly what happened."

The Zodiac may have gone away, but Cole's book certainly won't vanish in the reader's mind any time soon.

Trick or Treat
Antoinette Corley-Newman
Summit Street Books
9781638775850 $24.99

Trick or Treat: The Story of the Switch Witch and How She Came to Be is a picture book that portrays how the witch and warlock children of Transylvania use October 31st to haunt the nearby town, and is a whimsical, delightful take on Halloween that read-aloud parents will find fun.

Abigail, the smallest of the witches, wonders why they are limited to mortal sweet treats only during Halloween festivities. Why can't they enjoy them year-round?

When Abigail observes the rare treats are being passed around by mortal children after the holiday, her wise mother lets her know that only on October 31st can the witches and warlocks of their town safely mingle with mortals, because everyone is in costume and nobody will notice their true forms.

As Abigail continues to observe not just sweets but games, sleepovers, and other pleasures the local children enjoy, she gets a brilliant idea for the upcoming Halloween celebrations...something that will solve her problem with a different approach to the holiday.

Kids who enjoy stories about Halloween's rituals will delight in the clever solution Abigail conjures up to solve her problem of too few sweets and too little Halloween time.

The surprise twist will also delight parents, while the large-size, colorful illustrations throughout by Noor Alshalabi add a whimsical tone to the story that make it a perfect read-aloud choice for the very young and parents who choose not to associate Halloween with scary stories.

Trick or Treat: The Story of the Switch Witch and How She Came to Be is about problem-solving at its best, and is delightfully original.

Forged in the Fallout
Ben Green
Loamseed Press
9781734821819 $14.99 Paper/$4.99 ebook

Forged in the Fallout challenges pat categorization in a satisfying manner. At once a coming-of-age dystopian fantasy story that embraces magic and intrigue alike, "action-packed" seems too mild a term to describe the riveting, charged scenes throughout a story that open with a bang: "Conflict is a stone wedged between my shoulders. I'm at eighty feet, leaning from a sandstone cliff on the western edge of our family property, my hands braced in a gap. It's mid-October in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Red-orange trees glitter on display. The sun is a neon half circle on the horizon, throwing the forest into shadows and dappled patches of light. But I only have a few minutes to soak up the sunset, feel the cool wind on my face, the grit of the rock against my fingertips. I wanna freeze this moment, catch it in a bottle like a firefly. This is everything simple about the world."

Fourteen-year-old Clayson Spangler, the narrator, is his father's caregiver. He also falls privy to a family secret about their true heritage, the presence of another world that lies beneath their own under the Rocky Mountains, and the real truth about his mother's absence.

All this propels him on a journey that leads in unexpected directions from the usual quest theme as his father goes on the lam and his mother faces trial for treason. Clayson himself is charged with entering a previously unidentified world of magic to form new relationships and ferret out the truth behind the wall of secrets that has kept him from a big part of his life.

The reason why Ben Green's production is self-described as "genre-bending" lies in the author's ability to weave a multitude of facets into his adventure - so much so, that the story remains accessible, creative, and challenging all at once.

Part of what lends depth to the action, adventure, and thriller components is Green's careful inclusion of psychological depth and detail that brings Clayson's experiences and dilemmas to life: "This place under the mountains is my new home, but I don't want it to be. Living here in Tungsten City - it's what Dad wants. But I don't know what I want. There's always been the safety of the cliff near the cabin to work out my thoughts. Now I have only a hollowed-out room in a mountain of stone. In the silence of the vault, everything catches up with me."

As he makes some odd new friends, faces powerful forces, and considers the impact of his choices on not just his life but everyone around him, Clayson is forced to acknowledge a host of issues that keep him on edge and second guessing his own decisions: "I hate this plan," I say. Rugnus raises an eyebrow. "I don't really like it either, but it's your plan." "I know. I hate it."

From unexpected, wild twists and turns of plot to Clayson's evolving sense of place and purpose in two very different worlds, the Kingdom of Rimduum and its people come to life with adventures and action that keep all ages on edge and looking for more.

Deep under the layers of reality and this world lays another world, Rimduum, which goes far beneath the surface of everything familiar. Clayson "stands on the wall

between creation and destruction" in both worlds. His experience both changes everything and paves the way for more with a conclusion that is satisfying and open-ended at the same time.

While teens may choose this title for its coming of age qualities, adults will find Forged in the Fallout equally compelling. The genre bend lies in Green's crafting of a story that will cross interest levels, from sci-fi and fantasy enthusiasts to readers of young adult fiction, coming of age stories, action and thriller tales, and mystery enthusiasts happy to accept more than a light dose of fantasy in their stories.

Love Has No Limits
Armine Papouchian
Light Network
9781735664811 $15.99

Love Has No Limits is an Armenian memoir charting a powerful journey that began when sixteen-year-old Armine fell in love, but had to leave that love behind when her parents decided to immigrate to the United States.

What her parents saw as new opportunities translated only to grief and loss for the teen, who did not view America in the same way.

As events that began in 1963 blossomed to newfound determination, choices, and repeated challenges to finding lasting happiness, Armine kept the connections between herself and Alex alive in hopes of a better future outcome, and overcame many obstacles in the course of realizing her dream.

Before that time came, Armine cultivated new dreams and romances, compromising on cultural differences not just in her relationship with Americans, but fellow immigrants born in other countries.

As she and Alex both marry others but somehow stay connected through those who know them both, their lives and experiences broaden, in their different countries.

Although she keeps making mistakes, Armine's resilience, and the life experiences based on her choices, contribute to an upward trajectory that keeps readers engaged and interested in her growth processes.

Armine Papouchian narrates a story that holds no linear progression, no simple answers, and many insights about immigrant experiences, choices, and love.

Readers who like true romance stories as well as accounts of perseverance and learning will find much to appreciate as Papouchian's life evolves.

At once a romance, a story of personal revelation and learning, and an immigrant's account of creating a sense of place and family in a new environment, Love Has No Limits will appeal to memoir readers looking for strong writing, stories of love, and accounts of survival on many different levels: "Somehow, I knew I was going to be OK and just as before, life would move on and although it had only been seven months, it felt like I was at a better place and I no longer wondered how I was going to survive another loss. I had learned that the pain from loss never diminishes but your life around it grows so that the pain occupies a small place. I needed to once again refocus on what I had rather than what I had lost and make a conscious effort to be in the present moment, appreciate the present moment and what was around me and how my not-so-desirable experiences were helping me grow in ways that I would otherwise never have had the opportunity to."

Why did she write about her journey? Papouchian says it best: "I knew I needed to continue to grow as a person. I knew I had to think way beyond myself. Everyone had a story and I wanted my story to inspire others."

Inspire, she does!

No Rules: A Memoir
Sharon Dukett
She Writes Press
9781631528569 $16.95

Author Sharon Dukett came of age during the 1970s, and No Rules: A Memoir captures this era in a series of memories that begin in January, 1971 in Connecticut. Here, readers receive the specter of a sixteen-year-old girl dressing to run away to California, to join the hippies.

As the older Eddie, sister Anne, and Sharon embark on a cross-country journey, readers receive a compelling story of escape motivated by the author's desire "not to drown" in her parents' misery.

The child of immigrant parents, Dukett describes how she was raised "as though we were living in England." Her mother's determination to raise better-behaved children than the usual American child resulted in rules and guidelines that deviated from the neighborhood kids and Dukett's peers.

When young, she assumes her mother knows best. As she grows older, she rebels. Her sojourn into a counterculture world in search of an elusive happiness her parents never seemed to incorporate into their home environment offers many thought-provoking moments as readers follow Dukett into a world of drugs, sex, and the rise of women's liberation.

As the story moves from California back East to Boston and Provincetown, the narrator considers the many people she meets and her search for an elusive love which leads her to question her relationship with perfectionist Ernie.

As commune life introduces her to other couples and raises possibilities of yet another kind of future, Dukett brings readers into not just counterculture worlds and thinking, but the origins of belief, conviction, and lifestyle changes influenced by both parental teaching and a search for self.

She excels at contrasting these outer and inner influences and the quandaries she faces between her idealism and the reality of her choices.

These features strengthen a memoir that is a portrait in opposing values systems and forces, growth, and interpersonal relationships during an era in which social norms were being tested.

What losses lead Dukett and her friends to reconsider the trajectory of their lives? As she charts the influences that lead to revelation and change, readers will find her story of the 1960s and 1970s (and, particularly, the kinds of social changes that guide her own search for love and self-identity) to be particularly compelling reading.

Readers seeking a memoir that embraces personal, social, and cultural change and epitomizes the atmosphere of these times will find No Rules an intriguing examination of power, control, influence, and evolution. Its ability to capture the process of questioning and growth and the logical and illogical deductions that emerge during this process is particularly well done, and will lend to discussion as well as insights about the times.

In the Palace of the Great King
Julie Ash
Verbum Bonum Books
9780578942575 $24.99

In the Palace of the Great King is subtitled "a Catholic novel." What does this mean? It means that Julie Ash has embedded within her story a sense of religion and culture that sets it into the category of astute religious reading as it explores prayers, parishioners, priests, and the meanings and contradictions of Catholic influence on ordinary peoples' lives.

Ash provides thoughtful inspections of these lives as she introduces devout characters who reflect the rituals and beliefs of the modern Catholic Church while considering its impact and influence: "Priests and bishops never talk about Hell anymore, she reflected. It didn't seem to fit with the modern idea of a loving, forgiving God. But many of the saints had had powerful, life-changing visions of Hell and Purgatory. Mother Bonaventure hadn't heard of any modern saints reporting visions of Jesus saying, "No, my child, you don't understand. When I said to fear the one who could send body and soul to Hell, I was only speaking metaphorically." Until then, she intended to go right on praying for God's mercy on the dying and the salvation - the saving - of souls. No need for a Savior if there is nothing to be saved from, she thought."

From dwindling numbers of young people choosing to enter the priesthood to radical assaults upon the Church in the 1960s and 70s, Mother Bonaventure faces vocation problems and challenges, changes after forty years of devotion and a sense of place and purpose, and interacts with contemporary families who hold different ideas of Catholicism's relevance in their lives.

These issues are brought to the forefront by Char and Tia, the main characters, who come to the monastery from very different backgrounds and experience, defying cultural norms and familial expectations. Each girl struggles with issues of identity and belonging - Tia is biracial and growing up in a single-parent home with a special needs brother, while Char experiences social awkwardness and isolation despite having privileged parents.

Catholic readers, in particular, will consider Julie Ash's novel to be thought-provoking as it presents the Catholic Church's milieu with a contemporary twist that embraces adult and childrens' perceptions alike. One example is how Char's friend Celia maintains that the movie E.T. is actually an allegory for the story of Jesus.

As readers absorb the characters and lives presented in In the Palace of the Great King, they receive lessons in how Christian and Catholic beliefs are embedded in and reflect all kinds of lives, at all levels of society.

Daily life challenges experienced by the girls and their families reflect the presence and evolution of spirituality and belief in everyday circumstances and experiences.

From descriptions of parishes and threats to their existence to metaphysical spiritual beings and dimensions of influence that emerge, Julie Ash crafts an iconic tale of demons, angels, beliefs, and the reality of what it means to give one's life to God. This will delight Christian readers in general and Catholic audiences in particular.

The blend of contemporary perspectives and dilemmas and struggles between good and evil forces within church, self, and spiritual realms is nicely done, contrasting monastery life with everyday experiences and perceptions in a satisfyingly religious inspection.

As It Should Be
Shawna James
Drummond Martin Publishing
9781777257859 $17.95

Canadian couple Andrew and Stephanie think they've found their dream home in Norway, but their dreams turn into nightmares, forcing them to return to Canada where further trouble awaits them.

As Shawna James unfolds the story of a couple that manages to maintain their positive view of the world against many odds, readers gain an enlightening story of how attitude plays into events to change their outcomes and reinforce relationships.

The ongoing love between Andrew and Stephanie is not shaken but is strengthened by these adversities. Their family connections are strong and, though tested, prove equally resilient as James crafts a story of redirected money and romance that holds many satisfying twists.

Love is a big part of this story, but so is the ability to be resilient and proactive in the face of the unexpected. Andrew and Stephanie tackle problems head on and protect their family and each other, yet still hold an engaging trust that things will work out. As they navigate all these changes, their purposes and life only gets stronger. This provides readers with a positive perspective that comes full circle; from love, into love.

The blend of romance, intrigue, and conundrums that test this love form the foundation of a vivid story set against the backdrop of Canadian culture.

As It Should Be will please literary female readers who look for Canadian and Scandinavian settings, stories that revolve around intrigue, romance, family, and social and legal challenges that lead to new friendships, relationships, and strife.

It's recommended for romance readers and literary collections alike - but especially for women who look for good, clean reading that juxtaposes action with thought-provoking discussions of intention, choice, and consequence.

Kiss My Mike
Mike Talplacido
Independently Published
9798517600318 $15.99 Paper/$8.99 ebook

Kiss My Mike is the memoir of a Filipino immigrant to America who navigates not only a new country, but the challenge of being young, gay, and both enthralled by America, yet rooted in his native country.

Mike Talplacido was only ten when he became fascinated with American culture in the Philippines in 1989. As the memoir opens, this attraction blends into daily family life through an exploration of meaningful family interactions, Catholic religious foundations, and the culture and foods of the Philippines.

Three years later, the narrator receives his first clue that he might be gay, with summertime sexual experiences revealing new possibilities about his psyche, preferences, and life. The cultural expectations and milieu that enters into these early encounters is especially well done: "Culturally, the expectation in the Philippines was that boys would eventually marry girls. If not, they would end up being a priest. So even though Paul touched me, it meant nothing as I was still on track with fulfilling my destiny of one day marrying a girl."

As Mike grows and evolves, so do his interests and his blossoming sexuality, which leans more and more towards homosexuality despite social pressures and norms.

As he enters high school and questions whether or not he's gay, readers receive inspections that reflect a dual interest in pop culture and both sexes. Mike discusses courtship norms in the Philippines, explores his changing self and world, and embarks on a journey that eventually leads him to come out to his family.

It should be cautioned, at this point, that the sexual encounters are quite graphically portrayed. Readers who seek more circumspect accounts should look elsewhere; but those who want no punches pulled will find these descriptions part of the candor Talplacido cultivates in narrating his story.

The coming out portion of this story feels familiar, resonating with so many similar accounts: "I wasn't sure what to expect when I came out to my family. I knew in my gut that I wanted to do it. Partly because I felt like I was no longer sharing my life with them. I felt like there was a part of me that was hidden, and it was affecting our relationship as it felt everything else was simply becoming too superficial and that our connections were not growing. On my phone calls with my family, they often asked me about my work, and about my health, and then about other random basic stuff that, quite frankly, never had any depth."

Readers who seek memoirs about gay life and immigrant experience which embrace a sense of family and change will find Kiss My Mike to be frank, honest, revealing, and focused on all kinds of evolving relationships.

It dovetails well with other memoirs, and is recommended for any collection strong in LBGTQ stories and social and family connections.

Stephan Besik
Artiplex Publications
9781733136525 $3.99

Readers of near-future sci-fi who enjoy short stories of technological and social change will find Lightship an intriguing collection of ideas that explore technology gone awry. Its themes and insights make Lightship a recommendation for adult audiences and mature teens, but this audience will find the juxtaposition of social issues, science, and politics to be intriguing.

The title story, "Lightship," revolves around the notion of a solar-powered spaceship which Kevin Lee outlines in his dissertation. His proposal involves him in an effort that challenges technological development, immersing him in a project that commercializes and politicizes space in a dangerous way.

The issues raised in this story will keep readers thinking beyond its examination of the commercialization of the moon and special interests in space.

Five years in the making, Lightship's insights on military, social, and political special interests are complex and revealing.

"The Old Man," the second story in the quartet, tells of Bob, who "is no youngster." His relatively unique medical situation has not attracted the interest of the forces that can resolve it.

Bad times have come and gone, recovery is well on the way, and new possibilities are opening up in space. For all that is positive, there are thought-provoking changes taking place on the heels of famines and accidents which have largely eliminated old people from the world.

As Bob reflects on the Water Wars, the Cyclone Decades, and the environmental changes which have led to him being one of the few older survivors, he considers what it means to enjoy longevity in such a changed world, with so many missing connections.

Bob needs a big change. Space travel offers something completely different. But is this the kind of change he needs?

Each story excels in juxtaposing the human condition with the human race's endeavors to reach beyond its planetary natal birthplace. Each does a fine job of portraying characters that stand at pivot points of change, interspersing dialogue and other characters into the picture to cement technological, moral, and ethical challenges with considerations of everyday lives.

Stephan Besik's collection of four hard-hitting stories isn't for those who want sci-fi action alone; but is highly recommended for the literary reader who looks for psychological and social inspections against the backdrop of humanity's reach for new meanings and ventures in space.

This audience will find these four thought-provoking stories compelling, creative, and unique reading - standouts in the genre.

Mind Trap
Matt Cost
Encircle Publications
9781645992721, $27.99 Hardcover/$17.99 Paper/$4.99 ebook

Mind Trap returns investigator Clay Wolfe and his partner Baylee Baker to mystery fans who enjoyed his prior appearance. This time, he's investigating a missing daughter, violent attacks, and events leading up to Leap Day which portend disaster.

The prologue begins a month prior, as a woman bares every secret of her shameful past to twelve Disciples, who sit in judgment of her as part of a ritual to allow her to belong to their cult. Thirty-six hours of confession lead to what she thinks is the promise of enlightenment, but instead is the portent of horrors to come.

Chapter 1 introduces Clay Wolfe's first sign of events that swirl around mother Martha Abbott, who has vanished along with her daughter, and the Port Essex world that Clay must probe in order to find them.

As facts emerge about Martha's emotional abuse by her husband Doug, her decision to leave the material world behind and bring daughter Jenna along for the ride, and the evolving lure and danger that comes from Marduk and his high priestesses, the mystery grows around the community's people and their own hidden lives.

Matt Cost creates a fine story that revolves around the cult's tightening trip and the conundrums its members and outsiders face in dealing with its lure, and Clay's challenges in uncovering its members, motivations, and threat.

A variety of characters come and go (some are murdered) in the course of Martha's pursuit and Clay's attempts to stop the slaughters, but the real strength of this story lies in unexpected expressions of motivations not just of the killers, but Clay's moral and ethical purposes: "We got a nice town, Crystal. I don't like what's been happening. Sometimes you just got to do what's right." "I'm just yanking your chain to get you to say some fucking lame shit like that," Crystal said, her voice warm with affection. "I know we got to do this. But, Jesus, that is some pure Mr. Rogers bullshit that just tumbled out of your mouth." She left the doorway and went to her desk out of sight. Clay's face colored, not helped by Baylee's poorly suppressed chuckles. "What are you laughing at?" he asked. "I can picture you in a red button-down sweater and tie," she said. "All of us, at some time or other, need help. Whether we're giving or receiving help, each one of us has something valuable to bring to this world. That's one of the things that connects us as neighbors - in our own way, each one of us is a giver and a receiver."

One doesn't expect inspiration from Mr. Rogers, nor the undercurrent of humor that runs through character interactions to inject comic relief into serious challenges: "I love Mr. Rogers. If I were you, I'd take it as a compliment." "I'm more the Eddie Murphy version, don't you think?" "Yeah, you're real ghetto, as long as the hood has a twenty-four-hour dry cleaner," Baylee said."

As the cult drives to gain the ultimate reward (Heaven) heighten the sense of urgency and danger, Cost excels in juxtaposing swift action with psychological and spiritual manipulation. Scenarios engross readers with accounts of cult methodology, mind games, and the wellsprings of strength that Clay must tap in order to overcome a charismatic leader and smitten believers.

Mind Trap's contrast between investigative motivations, cult processes, and the method by which an ordinary but psychologically damaged housewife turns killer makes for an absorbing read. It's not only filled with twists and turns that will delight murder mystery fans, but adds psychological insights that will attract readers who look for depth in their stories.

It's a top recommendation for prior fans, but stands nicely alone for newcomers. Mind Trap deserves a spot in any collection strong in murder mystery writing.

Children of Violence
Luke Gherardi
Independently Published
9781098321192 $12.95 Paper/$4.99 ebook

Readers of coming of age stories will find the contrast between four very different young adults in the novella Children of Violence to be absorbing and especially enlightening.

Each young person has their own cross to bear, from a parent who is a cult member to the son of an addict rearing his younger brother virtually alone, a girl whose father is connected to the mafia, and the son of an alcoholic killer.

The story opens with a big bang: "We robbed a bank. A fucking goddamn bank. Brilliant...It was a strange moment in time. Something I think about every day. The one wrong decision in my life that spiraled into the hell of my existence today."

This is only one of the pivot points that mark what each young person's life has evolved into; but these children of violence absorb and reflect their upbringing in very different ways. And therein lays the strength of their stories, which makes this novella more than just a predictable survey of the end results of adversity.

Gracie got her fearlessness from her father. It's a quality which will serve her well in her efforts to move beyond her gangster father's decisions, which make her family well off for life until he goes to work for Mr. Kearsey to become a hired killer.

Gracie's astute observation of this process and its impact on their family is nicely done, offering deeper reflections than those about conflict alone: "When you live with people long enough, you know there's some things about them that they never show the outside world. Some things stay in their hearts behind closed doors, yet define their being at all times."

As her perceptions evolve from that of a child to an adult's considerations, Gracie's move towards adulthood takes a different course.

The same goes for each of these young characters, who evolve a sense of purpose, place, and personality that diverts from their parents.

Luke Gherardi pulls no punches in his candid stories. There are violent confrontations, cursing, and threats that assail the characters and their readers. His is a world of cruelty, survival tactics, and discovery.

Each child is charged with taking their parents' worlds and realities and surviving it physically, mentally, and emotionally. Each cultivates imperfect decisions based on the information they have and the environments they were raised in. And each solves their problem in a very different way.

Gherardi's thought-provoking stories are portraits of violence, survival tactics, and family influence that direct how these concepts of survival plays out.

The juxtaposition of very different young adults caught up in a cycle that demands unique responses and choices that result in different consequences creates as much a social issues examination as a contrast in coming of age. All these elements make Children of Violence highly recommended for socially conscious readers unafraid of stepping into the milieu of kids facing the results of poor adult choices and challenging lifestyles.

Racing with Aloha
Fred Haywood
Morgan James Publishing
9781631953712 $14.95

Racing with Aloha: An Inspiring Journey from Humble Barefoot Maui Boy to Champion in the Water will delight readers who love memoirs steeped in the atmosphere of Hawaii and the culture of surfing. It deserves a spot in any collection where sports and Hawaiian culture are a strength.

First, it should be noted there are some fifteen pages of accolades preceding the story, plus a foreword by a fellow windsurfing competitor and fitness leader Laird Hamilton, who outlines why readers unfamiliar with Haywood or windsurfing should find this memoir appealing. A note by Mike Waltze comments on Maui's rise to become the Mecca of windsurfing.

While normally such volume would be less than desirable at the start of a book, each testimony offers more than praise, adding further insights into author Fred Haywood's personality, background, and experience that, together, serve as a fine introduction to his book.

Almost thirty pages into the book, Haywood's voice finally comes to light. Its deceptively mild start disguises a powerful current to his story: "I had just set the windsurfing world speed record in 1983, breaking the thirty-knot barrier in Weymouth, England, but that's not how I made my name in the sport. My fame came on a day when I was surfing alone, thanks to an eccentric and very wealthy fellow windsurfer and cover photographer for such magazines as Vogue and Life, who showed up to watch me after everyone else had left the beach for the day."

As the memoir unfolds, readers receive a contrast between Hawaiian culture and life and Western attitudes and perceptions, whether it's about education and language or sports: "I'm bilingual. I speak English and Hawaiian pidgin. So just put me through bonehead English. I'll be out of your hair in four years." Another pause. Then, the dean laughed. And I laughed. Then I got serious. I assured him I intended to improve my verbal skills. I explained that my whole future was at stake, and I knew it. It was the reason I had left Maui to swim for Santa Clara. I wanted to attend Stanford. It was my ticket off the plantation."

Haywood meets each of the challenges that change his world, from real estate ventures to encounters with sharks and ill winds that blow him into danger on the seas.

How he came to set world records and ride the biggest wave in the world makes for invigorating "you are here" reading that will delight avid surfers and armchair enthusiasts alike.

To view Racing with Aloha as a memoir alone would be to do it a disservice. Haywood's exploration of surfing, Hawaiian culture, and how his own life unfolds creates a multifaceted read recommended not just for memoir readers, but anyone with an interest in Hawaii and surfing culture.

Goodnight Star, Whoever You Are
Jodi Meltzer
Mascot Books
9781645438977 $16.99

Goodnight Star, Whoever You Are is an inviting picture book discussion about overcoming grief and loss after a loved one dies; but it's also about the bigger picture of finding meaning and ongoing love from that loss.

As a mother and child are driving home at night from a wonderful beach day, the child notices that a star seems to be following them.

The mother provides a solid scientific explanation, then offers her own idea - one that goes beyond science to enter into the realm of recovery and new possibilities in a star "...all full of magic and promise and light. It made the dark night seem so bright."

The gentle reminder that love is timeless and never dies is reinforced as the child considers her wisdom and finds comfort in the possibility that those lost are always within.

Jody King Camarra provides simple, engaging illustrations that kids will relate to. The colorful drawings are fine compliments to a story that gives just enough ideas to encourage a dialogue about grief, death, and loss between adults and children.

This is a satisfying difference from some picture books which attempt to fill in all blanks about these subjects. The open-ended inspirational idea encourages broad conversations between adults and children, making Goodnight Star, Whoever You Are an uplifting beginning for discussions that sets the stage for a positive, creative viewpoint using a metaphor about lasting love beyond death.

Any collection strong in picture books that open the door for emotional insights will find Goodnight Star, Whoever You Are a welcome addition that's very highly recommended.

The Reunion
Gary Wells
Independently Published
9781736475713 $14.99 paper/$7.99 ebook

The Reunion: Coming of Age in the Age of Aquarius is a historical novel that will especially appeal to readers enamored of the 1960s. It revolves around memory savant Nick Taylor, who (sometimes unfortunately) can't forget anything he's experienced in life. His trip down memory lane emerges full force when he decides to attend the 50th reunion of the Class of 1969; there to confront his coming of age experiences and the legacy of growing up in the 1960s.

The first thing that catches the eye is the chapter titles. The descriptions each are compelling, whimsical, and a portent of the tone Gary Wells cultivates in this romp through the past: "The Mighty Quinn" -- Nick talks to his best friend from high school and college - a ski coach in the West - who finally arrives. He's as extroverted as Nick is introverted. They still give each other crap, but never crap on each other. You want to keep friends like that. They're hard to find."

Another strength to this story that keeps it lively and involving is the attention to dialogue and interactions which also preserve a sense of humor and fun throughout: "Would you like some Clorets?" Bren fished in her purse. "Anytime someone suggests Clorets," I said as we drove, "I make it a habit to accept. I always figure there's a reason for the offer." We both laughed. That was about as smooth as I could be. After all, if I tried to woo a girl by saying, "Come with me to the Casbah," it was likely to come out as, "Come with me to the Cash Bar."

As Nick selects memories to explore and considers what sparks some over others, readers come to know not just his life story and relationships with family and friends, but the major influences of the times.

Much in the way of Proust, songs and other stimulations provoke the emergence of memories that bring the sights, smells, and sensations of the times to life.

Everyone harbors their own memories of this era, which often are softened or misinterpreted over time. Nick's power lies in a recall that defies these modern interpretations to reveal the truth of what really was experienced. And it's not always a welcome revelation to others - or himself: "Tracks of My Tears" by Johnny Rivers. Are there tracks of my tears? Ha, no. They flow way too wide on my face to leave tracks. More like four-lane highways. I drove down back roads, on a shortcut learned from my dad, one day that summer singing THAT song at the top of my lungs."

Readers who join Nick on this walk down memory lane will discover a serious inspection couched within the guise of wry humor that considers choices, consequences, and the lasting impact of the 1960s.

More so than most novels set in this era, The Reunion captures not just a sense of the times, but uses the vantage point of decades later to consider what was important then, and how it translates to and affects life today.

Anyone with a special interest in the 1960s will find The Reunion an unexpected journey that re-evaluates the best and worst years of American history and the protagonist's life.

All the Whys of Delilah's Demise
Neve Maslakovic
Cosmic Tea Press
9781736697917 $14.99 Paperback/ $4.99 ebook

All the Whys of Delilah's Demise blends a dystopian thriller with an investigative mystery, and will draw from sci-fi and suspense audiences alike as it probes New Seattle resident Delilah's fall from a balcony and the suspicion that falls upon nineteen-year-old Scottie as being involved in her demise.

Before the accident, Scottie was a new intern at New Seattle's Social Agency, charged with being the liaison with Delilah. Before the last morning of Delilah's life, Scottie had just decided she wanted to be more visible. But, not this way.

Cece is a neural mesh embedded in Scottie's brain that acts as her personal assistant, but becomes much more than a communication chip, accessing a knowledge databank after Delilah's death.

As Scottie tracks down the real perp and opens a can of worms in the process of her investigation, readers are carried into a future world where threats evolve from unusual places.

Scottie's story embraces her relationship with Dax, one of her PALs ("Permanent Allies in Life, a link more formal than friend but less binding than family"), covering Cece's evolving importance in guiding her away from trouble as she skirts the threats of disaster that come from the Code Enforcement Office and other sources.

Neve Maslakovic's story is a standout not just because of its smooth marriage between dystopian sci-fi and murder mystery, but because of the many social inspections that are woven into the story. As an unlikely hero who develops a People List of others who may be similarly targeted, Scottie explores her own motivations and life in the course of becoming increasingly involved in a dangerous effort to uncover the truth.

All the Whys of Delilah's Demise is about more than why Delilah died. It's about a new adult's interactions with technological enhancements, her search for self, her probe of illusions, memories, perceptions, and her ability to think independently.

What will it take to find home, love, and safety in a manipulated world? Scottie's journey to find out reaches into the reader's heart as she considers what it means to be a controlled, automated product of society versus a thinking, free young woman surrounded by family and friends who truly love her.

All the Whys of Delilah's Demise is a thought-provoking story that marries high technology, social inspection, mystery, and dystopian sci-fi under one cover in a seamless manner to keep a wide audience guessing about the outcome.

One Afternoon in April
Pete KJ
Kindle Direct Publishing
9781732563322 $1.99

One Afternoon in April is a literary novel about racial interactions and opens with an unusual encounter between a white older woman ("WOW") and a Black woman who owns an alpaca.

Thirty-nine-year-old Eugenia ("Genie") Mitchell is hiking a trail in April, with her alpaca Evan in an effort to clear her head when an unexpected clash between her and the WOW involves witness Max, a "cute young Asian dude" who rides a mountain bike and who observes that Genie is a very different kind of person, from her colorful clothing to her choice of pet.

The time is post-Coronavirus, where people are emerging from hiding to re-enter a changed world. Unfortunately, some things haven't changed, and the confrontation which ensues from this chance encounter wraps three very different individuals in a dance of changing perspectives, purposes, and prejudice.

As Max, Genie, and Amy find their lives coalescing in unexpected new ways, travel opens up as their possibilities grow. Ties to the past become less solid; from the one-year anniversary of the death of Amy's husband (for which she will never forgive herself) to Genie and Max's ability to move between countries again, embarking on new discoveries.

Amy's decision to pursue justice for the perceived threat Genie's alpaca poses, and the moral and ethical conundrums that play out both in court and outside of the law, make for involving reading as the characters pursue different desires for revised lives, post-Corona.

Pete KJ crafts a memorable story that embraces these changing perceptions, challenged lives, and the dreams and destinies of all three characters. As Genie dodges one bullet only to find that she faces more strife, the lives of all three grow, change, and become interconnected in unexpected ways.

The changing points of view are wonderfully done, allowing for a full-faceted feel of each character's purposes, past, and perceptions. Their contrasts in approaches to life, grief, and recovery are nicely portrayed and promote depth in a saga of how lives change under duress.

Readers looking for a story of racial interactions and post-Coronavirus transformations will find One Afternoon in April an excellent story of adversity, recovery, and the processes and encounters which challenge and change hearts and minds. It's a literary novel replete in social and psychological interplays and inspections, designed to keep readers thinking about the roots of prejudice, love, and change.

The Vice Chairman's Doctrine
Ian Domowitz
Independently Published
9798529442296 $9.99

The Vice Chairman's Doctrine: A Guide to Rocking the Top in Industry 4.0 comes from a former public company Vice Chairman and CEO who offers a different business take than in most books. His focus on transformative business experiences, the wellsprings of creativity and flexibility that lead to success, and the stories that back these experiences set this business book apart from almost every other discussion on the market.

For one thing, Domowitz does not use a single company for his corporate examples. Instead, he weaves the perspectives, knowledge, and power of leadership and change into each different story to provide not just business lessons, but emotional connections to events and growth experiences.

Another strength lies in its addition of dramatic flourishes to capture audience attention. Much like fiction, these references may be otherworldly or emotional draws. But, with the best acuity of nonfiction, Domowitz supports them with real-world incidents, examples, and facts to educate and transform business readers.

Those who anticipate and even look for staid accounts filled with facts and supporting diagrams may be stymied by this approach. The Vice Chairman's Doctrine is a manifesto of change not recommended for business leaders who base their corporations, decisions, and lives on statistical references alone.

It's an invitation to embrace a new form of corporate identity, and excels in reframing the business perspective through a clear doctrine that defines approaches to this process: "The Vice Chairman's product is the company itself. Common priorities of innovation, branding, and culture are refashioned through unorthodox lenses. The glass is ground through process, and three factories occupy the Vice Chair's attention. They are design thinking, the AGIL system of societal action, and the psychology of cognitive appraisal."

The strategies employed to craft and reframe a winning game are clear and are based on many different frameworks: "In order to understand why tit for tat (TFT) is a solution to our second problem of contingent rewards, ask: why did the strategy do so well in comparison to others? Academics have complex answers to this question, but mine are relatively simple. TFT is a strategy which can be implemented in games with repeated moves or in a series of similar games. This is a requirement in both marriage and business."

Business readers used to a "one size fits all" approach to success will welcome the flexibility advocated in Domowitz's approach. By considering bigger-picture thinking, leaders are challenged to incorporate many ideas that promote and change not just the concept of doing business, but their own roles in the transformative experience: "Influence the influencers. The culture of the firm may be oriented towards maintaining client relationships but is nevertheless sensitive to changes in the clients' environment. The intrapreneur attempts to demonstrate those changes, even if they are latent. Once the advertised change is bought as a concept, change management in behalf of the client becomes the sale. Pattern maintenance now includes change management. Cultural differences are mitigated in pursuit of a common objective: make the client happy. The phrase could define the culture itself."

Of course, the key to successfully absorbing this book lies in an acceptance of the concept of "change management." Everything else falls into place in chapters that discuss and promote how this happens. It's that simple to absorb - and that radical to instigate under traditional corporate settings.

Business leaders interested in innovative concepts and creative envisioning of traditional approaches to goal attainment, adaptation, and change will welcome the stories and examples packed in an inspirational survey of many new possibilities and visions of success.

Naked Ink: Diary of a Smalltown Boy Vol. 1
Tobias Maxwell
Libero Printemps Books
9781627878791 $21.95

Naked Ink: Diary of a Smalltown Boy Vol. 1 should be in any collection strong in LGBTQ issues, and provides a multifaceted autobiography which embraces many subjects. It comes from a struggling wannabe actor and art model whose pursuit of sex and fame in the early 1980s led to confronting his trauma as a teen and realizing its lasting impact on his life choices.

Volume 1 covers the years 1978 and 1979 in New York City, where Maxwell charts the process of moving on from his past and his preoccupation with sexual fantasy.

The diary format by which he chronicles each day's reflections, achievements, and challenges follows Maxwell's determination to remain positive about his future against all odds. It also captures the immediacy of opportunities that come with creating and assessing personal connections and interactions.

As Maxwell navigates his dream of acting and his core beliefs of what it means to be part of a couple and to form meaningful, committed relationships, readers get a close inspection of a young man who not only kept a journal of everyday experiences, but paired these entries with commentary about their underlying belief systems: "It says something of my egotistical, myopic view of the world that I didn't consider the fact that someone else was more suited for the part. That someone else may very well have been more talented. Obviously, my emotional responses suggest that these two ideas crossed my mind all the time as I lost out to others, but to survive you had to do psychological jujitsu. Tell yourself you were as good as the next, better than some, and lacking compared to others. The trick was thinking you were worthy, if not even great, at the time of your audition."

Would-be actors new to the process of auditioning and the success and failures in the industry will be particularly attracted to the manner in which Maxwell perseveres, while LBGTQ audiences will likely find familiar this young man's professional and personal growth process as he searches for his role on and off stage.

As he embraces the pain and joy of new loves and revisits old ones, readers will find this first volume of Naked Ink thoroughly engrossing, both for its personal reflections and for its interpersonal approaches to life.

Naked Ink: Diary of a Smalltown Boy Vol. 2
Tobias Maxwell
Libero Printemps Books
9781627878807 $21.95

Readers of the first volume of this two-book memoir will be intrigued with Naked Ink: Diary of a Smalltown Boy Vol. 2, that covers the years 1980 to '82, as Maxwell moved "from no to yes, seemingly overnight" and becomes involved in a committed love relationship.

Again - the chronological order of diary entries paired with contemporary commentary on his state of mind and contents affords a detailed review of life both at the time of the events and in hindsight; an approach that shows an evolving wisdom.

From getting married to getting mugged and progressing in the art modeling business while navigating life in New York City, Volume II continues the growth-oriented examination as the author embraces life-changing experiences and reflects upon them.

The developing maturity Maxwell demonstrates between these two volumes of diary/journal entries is more than evident, allowing readers to absorb the influences of a life on the cusp as Maxwell and Coo move forward as a couple.

The road trip they embarked upon represents a momentous change in perspective, place, and ambition as Maxwell continued to expand his boundaries in unexpected ways, bringing readers along for the ride.
LBGTQ readers seeking an in-depth analysis filled with reflections on growth and sexuality will find this book and its companion thought-provoking reading.

John J. Spearman
Independently Published
9798524729644 $8.99

Historical mystery readers will find FitzDuncan is set in medieval times and tells of P.I. Casimir FitzDuncan, whose latest case revolves around a woman seeking to escape an oppressive marriage contract with man who holds a reputation for abuse.

After their initial meeting, she is kidnapped, prompting FitzDuncan to embark on both a mission to recover her and an effort to clear his own reputation, called into question since he was the last person to see her.

When the story opens, however, it's FitzDuncan who has been abducted, awakening in prison with a knot on his head and his quasi-friend Sir Oliver (Ollie) grilling him about the whereabouts of Miss Julienne Traval.

One satisfying feature of this story is that FitzDuncan operates on both sides of the law. Neither good nor bad guy entirely, his reputation for both brings with it a murky set of objectives and influences that cause many to doubt his word and intentions.

Despite his ancestry (he's the eldest son of Duncan Barry, Earl of the Eastern March), FitzDuncan goes his own way and has developed a wry sense of propriety and impropriety that often lands him in trouble as well as lending him a reputation for fact-finding savvy.

Both get him into dire straits in this story, which excels in presenting a flawed hero who doesn't always make the right choices.

As the tale progresses, John J. Spearman deftly juxtaposes history, fiction, and P.I. investigative tactics in a multifaceted story designed to please a diverse audience, whether they originate from historical interests or choose the story for its investigative mystery components.

It's no light task to represent medieval politics, culture, and people in such a way that all come to life; especially for readers who may be unversed in this era. Spearman accomplishes both while viewing events from the first-person perspective of FitzDuncan, which lends a personal and immediate tone to the world around him and his choices.

As the mystery evolves, a surprise is embedded when FitzDuncan discovers that the target of the kidnapper isn't actually obvious at all.

From the political conundrums he faces on who to trust and who is dangerous to his pursuit of a dangerous force steeped in deadly rituals, FitzDuncan interacts with royalty and dark forces alike.

His pursuit of a questionable truth and elusive justice is especially well written in the first person and presented through his encounters with friends, superiors, and those who confront him: "I thought quickly. "Your Majesty, I have prayed that you would listen to what I have to say with an open mind. Your willingness to dismiss your son from our meeting gives me hope that you will. I must also beg for your patience since it will take time for me to explain to you what I know. As for my innocence or guilt, I requested the King's Justice. That will be for you to decide."

Spearman does more than provide mystery readers with a detailed investigative probe. By setting his character in medieval times and thoroughly immersing him in the politics and processes of this era, he brings history to life, personalizing it with a first-person observational style that requires no prior familiarity with history in order to prove accessible.

The only prerequisite to enjoying this story is an interest in problem-solving and a rollicking good read that romps through cultural norms and politics, turning them on end as FitzDuncan struggles to arrive at the truth even as his beliefs get in the way of reality.

History and mystery collections alike should select the well-detailed FitzDuncan as a crossover title appealing to a broader audience than either genre alone.

Black Rocks and Rainbows
Susan C. Riford, Author
Suzanne Ford, Narrator
Suzanne Ford and Blackstone Publishing
9781665059275 $29.95 CD/$20.19 Audiobook

Black Rocks and Rainbows: The True Adventures of Henry Opukahaia, the Hawaiian Boy Who Changed History is the perfect example of how a story can come alive in audio in a vivid manner that print cannot quite match.

One reason for this attribute here is narrator Suzanne Ford's performance. Cultivating a compelling, clear, smooth and evocative voice is no light feat; especially when it applies to an entire book.

From the opening moments of the story, punctuated by Hawaiian musical embellishments, to Ford's dramatic style, which brings to life fifteen-year-old island boy Henry Opukahia's 1800s adventure on a ship bound for America, the audio shines with spirited, captivating descriptions.

Young adult to adult listeners will find this style of learning history inviting. It's hard to press the 'pause' button as Henry faces pirates, the white foreigners that enter his world, and his own destiny in enacting changes that ultimately lead to his role as a scholar, writing down Hawaii's language for the first time.

Ford's ability to bring all this to life through a focus on such atmosphere as the "dark, shifting sea" and "the air was still and steaming hot" is wonderful. Dramatic moments are conveyed in a low, sultry, hushed voice that captures the atmosphere of early Hawaii's environment.

As the circumstances surrounding Henry's birth, life, and journey are narrated, readers of all ages will enjoy audio embellishments which bring the times and Henry's special challenges, as well as early Hawaiian culture, to life.

Stories directed to ages 12 and older rarely captivate adult audiences, but Ford's reading allows those with relatively little familiarity with Hawaiian history and culture to absorb both in an accessible, enlightening, engrossing manner.

Henry does more than grow from his experiences. He develops talents that lead him into a key role in capturing and preserving Hawaiian culture for his people and for mainlanders, as well. The politics and history of Hawaii's relationship with the mainland is nicely captured within Henry's experiences.

The written version which will be available in the near future reflects an attention towards a youthful audience; but the audio expands these spectators through its ability to reflect the compelling drama of the written word.

Black Rocks and Rainbows is the perfect example of why audio and written word may be equally inviting to different audiences. In this case, both contribute a delightful sense of place and perspective to a historical drama that is highly recommended for young readers in book form and a wider range of listeners in audio.

The audio can be enjoyed now, while readers await the publication of the written version down the line!

Capitol Murder
Mike Brogan
Lighthouse Publishing
9781733803731 $10.95

Capitol Murder is a political suspense thriller centered on a big-ticket healthcare contract that results in special interests who will murder high officials to keep the bill from passing Congress.

Madison Parker's advertising agency has won the healthcare account that stands to gain from a positive vote, but she becomes involved in a murder investigation when members of Congress begin to die. One of these deaths is her best friend Ellie's father.

Someone needs to probe these killings. Although the FBI is on the case, Madison and Ellie have personal stakes in its outcome and join their investigation, only to face personal danger as a too-lucrative contract threatens some 5,000 independent healthcare plans which face demise if healthcare coverage is provided to all Americans.

While the mystery drives an involving plot, the real meat of Capital Murder lies in its social and political inspections of who tends to gain and lose in the healthcare industry in behind-the-scenes manipulations and maneuvers.

The Guardian emerges, in this story, as a force to contend with, overseeing these special interest groups and protecting them with a heavy hand.

Mike Brogan is adept at capturing the political atmosphere of Washington D.C. More than a murder story alone, the injection of Congressional processes, the influence of special interest forces, and Ellie's evolving pivotal role in the fate of the entire U.S. healthcare industry makes for enlightening, compelling reading that probes interpersonal relationships and political interests alike.

The tension is well drawn and continuous throughout, but it's the juxtaposition of personal and special interests with US Congress actions and objectives which lends a realistic feel to the murder mystery as it unfolds.

Capitol Murder is political murder mystery writing at its best. It is highly recommended reading for those who seek far more than a whodunit, but a close probe of how special interests go beyond the call of democracy in their efforts to support wealth-producing programs at the expense of the American people's health and welfare.

Dead Code
Glenda Carroll
Indies United Publishing House, LLC
9781644563786 $14.99 Paper/$4.99 ebook

Dead Code is the third mystery in the Trisha Carson series set in the San Francisco Bay area, and will delight readers familiar with the area as Trisha confronts yet another challenge.

The story opens with a very realistic scenario: Trisha has been convinced by her sister to embark on open water swimming in a beautiful Napa lake in order to lose a few pounds.

For anyone else, such a venture might be challenged only by swimsuit sizes. For Trisha, it's also an exercise in confronting her fears; for not long ago, she was forced to swim in a very similar environment to escape a psychotic murderer.

Entering a lake again calls forth PTSD memories that resurface, but there's more going on here than recovery from trauma. Trisha also unearths a puzzle that continues to grow even as she vanquishes one black cloud, only to confront another.

As the story unfolds, Glenda Carroll creates a powerful portrait of not just another murder mystery, but an investigator still recovering from the last one.

Carroll takes the time to craft family backgrounds steeped in Bay Area culture and interpersonal relationships: "I lived in Earl's house now. A well-known architect constructed the beautiful estate in Kentfield north of the Golden Gate Bridge, on the edge of La Cruz Canyon. Earl had been my father's friend for years and Dad lives there, too. Last year, I moved out of my sister's extra bedroom in San Rafael when I found out she was expecting the plump little guy passed out in the stroller next to me."

These lend a realistic tone and absorbing backdrop to Trisha's experiences and lead old fans and newcomers to her adventures to appreciate her history, connections, and the meaning of the new paths she attempts to forge in her life.

These, in turn, contribute a solid foundation to the mystery that embraces her and causes her to return to many prior scenes of trauma in the course of her investigation. The contrasts between past experience and present-day mandates are very nicely juxtaposed: "I hadn't been out to China Camp since the summer before, when Shari Granter's body washed up on the shore. Sheri and Lena grew up together and spent afternoons in pools all around the county. Her death was deemed a murder. It shocked everyone. I'd spent a lot of hours driving back and forth on the winding road to the popular state park on the edge of San Pablo Bay trying to figure out who had done it and why. This time, driving there didn't have the same fierce sense of purpose. I wanted to talk to my dad about the missing/not-missing Tyler, even though I'd promised I wouldn't. But really, I just wanted to see him."

As in life, there is little straightforward as the story unfolds; either in Trisha's family relationships or in the mystery which hits too close to home.

As she falls into danger due to Earl's choices, high-tech houses and AI technology enter the picture to provide intriguing components that elevate Dead Code beyond the usual whodunit approaches.

From hackers to missing friends, Trisha follows a convoluted path. Even genre-savvy readers will find themselves surprised by the unexpected twists and turns the story takes.

Dead Code is not your usual murder mystery. With its satisfying psychological and technological backdrops, its portrait of PTSD recovery as new dilemmas continue to evoke bad memories and challenge Trisha's abilities to solve problems, and its consideration of a woman who doesn't know if she loves swimming, investigating, or high-tech problem solving, the story is multifaceted and complex. It lingers in the mind long after Trisha arrives at solutions that open doors to new problems and opportunities alike.

The Silent Agreement
Wil Shelton
WilPower Integrated Marketing
9781736861301 $19.95

Every business and social issues library should contain a copy of The Silent Agreement: An Illusion of Inclusion in Black Corporate America. The survey is that unique - and that central to formulating a better understanding of the fight for inclusion and diversity in the workplace, and how that struggle is more an effort to change mindsets and preconceptions than it is about instigating rules and methods to promote equality.

The strength of Wil Shelton's approach in The Silent Agreement lies in the nature of the subject and especially how he approaches it, in that a degree of discomfort will take place on the part of even (perhaps especially?) liberal-minded readers and Black businesspeople who believe they are already enlightened about diversity to some degree.

Shelton comes out punching from the very first chapter (the book is filled with boxing connections from the author's dual background as an athlete): "Black executives inadvertently make silent agreements to be content with less, to not fight for what they deserve, and to fully support the demands of the corporate administration even when those demands conflict with their own community, culture, and conscious. Those who comply with these unwritten contracts with corporate America almost always find out the hard way that the other side hasn't signed."

With several adept strokes, Shelton jabs at concepts of what inclusion, getting ahead, and the illusion of equality really mean in the business environment, attacking the "facades of conformity" that lead Black business folk to blend in and compromise when they should be actively fighting.

Part of this battle lies in the ability to recognize the forces that encourage silence, acquiescence, and the status quo. These may be reinforced not just by corporate structures and business environment, but by minority groups who participate in them and serve as silent partners to oppression. Shelton's survey of how white corporate leaders and structures knock out true Black achievement, status, and opportunity is backed by a blend of facts and astute analysis.

From the methodology in sports and business worlds which are committed to creating the illusion of diversity without truly promoting its foundations in effective ways, to how individuals fall into the trap of participating in these illusions, Shelton proves hard-hitting facts, backing them up with examples from real life experience: "The NFL is a prime example. While the institution continues to uphold racism in its practices, it needs Black talent to compete, so it creates token positions for Black executives to appear as a diverse organization. Unfortunately, those positions are few and far between."

Shelton does more than offer critical analysis and perspectives. He ties them into social situations ("The pandemic, the racial tension, and the economy have all affected each other as a seemingly deplorable trifecta that has led American businesses to consider getting more Black faces into C-suite positions versus repeating age-old practices with simple-minded views of race, sex, and leadership. Unfortunately, not enough corporations have made the jump. Most have just given lip service and grabbed a few Black actors for "photo ops.") and also identifies and celebrates companies which have made and succeeded in real efforts to be truly inclusive, such as Netflix.

The Silent Agreement covers more than the tactics of illusion. Its discussion embraces real-world scenarios and how enlightened, empowered companies, leaders, and workers can make headway against engrained corporate standards and prejudices to achieve true change through a variety of approaches, from mentorship to understanding the roots of success, defeat, and how to foster credibility and authority in the workplace and life.

No business or social issues collection should be without this book, which is especially recommended for classroom and group discussion, both in school and in the workplace.

Against the Glass
Linda Habib
Feme Press
9781737556008 $16.99 Paper/$3.99 ebook

Against the Glass is a medical novel set in 1983 in New York City, where Dr. Candace Madeleine has just opened her fertility clinic. It feels like she's been holding her breath towards this moment for years. She's overcome a host of obstacles and years of setbacks to arrive at this moment, but remains shaken by the possibility that her goal of fostering fertility will inevitably lead to some disappointments in some clients.

Rewind to the past that led to this moment of uncertain (to her mind) success, where Candace's story unfolds.

She's just another nineteen-year-old involved with a flighty football star who leaves her pregnant. When an abortion results in infertility, Candace becomes motivated to put her interest in science to better use, overcoming many pressures, both personal and social, to succeed in a medical field dominated by men.

From confrontations with misogynists and fellow students to a cruel professor determined to break her resolve, Candace faces many challenges beyond intellectual ability alone, that test her path forward into the medical field.

Young women who choose Against the Glass for its exploration of a woman's path to success may be surprised at the extent of the blatant prejudice and misogyny Candace faces during her journey. While these are realistically portrayed (and, indeed, created barriers to success to some of the first women of their professions), they are rarely talked about in much detail today, aside from casual references.

Linda Habib's stark presentation of situations that seem incredible on the surface is actually a realistic representation of how it felt to be an ambitious young woman hitting a glass ceiling not just in the business world, but in school and science communities.

Habib's ability to bring all this to life and yet follow the wellsprings of Candace's determination to succeed against all odds - including doubts in her own heart - drive a story line that is explicit and hard-hitting. Perhaps this will feel artificially powerful to some readers, but so little has been written about the many physical and social barriers of these times that, in this case, the novel's tendency to bludgeon readers with shocking events and emotional impact is not just acceptable, but necessary.

Against the Glass is highly recommended because, in order to understand the present, it's essential that the decisions and impact of decades past are fully understood. New adult readers fresh to these experiences and social atmospheres will find Against the Glass hard-hitting, enlightening, and revealing.

Self-Help Sucks
Tony A. Blankenship
Mason Jar Publishing
9781736774601 $14.95

Fans of self-help and self-improvement guides should prepare for a surprise, because Tony A. Blankenship maintains that most of these admonitions don't solve problems - because they don't adequately address them.

The roots of improvement lie in both connections to a Higher Power and using the resources and help of supportive individuals to foster the process of recovery.

If this sounds familiar, it's because it's modeled on Alcoholic Anonymous's 12-Step program - with a slightly different focus.

Here, the objective is to identify and promote a healthy lifestyle. Blankenship, having himself been in the position of consulting many of these promising yet "fluffy" contentions of self-help effectiveness, here provides meditations, exercise, and prayer to reinforce the standards of healthy daily living that he outlines as a blueprint to success.

Where other books might promote vision boards, affirmations, chants, rituals, and various forms of self-inspection, Blankenship maintains that "without the help of a Higher Power and the support of others, we will not be able to change ourselves."

Self-Help Sucks, in contrast to most others, provides a spiritual approach that moves step-by-step in connecting these spiritual reflections to processes that enhance their understanding: "There are so many ways for each of us to approach this step. For example, it was important to me to use my own words and terminology to convey what I wanted. Some people may want to go to a church, go into a room, sit at an altar, or just be in their house at their kitchen table. Go where it feels right for you, where you feel the most connected. You can also go outside for a walk in nature. Go to the woods, the river, the lake, mountains, parks, grassy fields, or even just around your neighborhood. Just go. Turn off your phone, turn off your music, and start to walk at a gentle pace. This is not meant as exercise; it's a pleasant stroll. As you begin your walk, say a prayer or, if you wish, an earnest request to open your heart and your mind and lay aside everything you think so you can have a new experience. Walk for thirty minutes. At the end of thirty minutes, stop, sit down, take a breath, take another breath. Look around you."

With each of the simple six-step instructions, Blankenship links intention and new possibilities with concrete, world-redefining moves that are backed not just by self-inspection, but a broader view of giving back responsibly to those who have influenced a better path: "Once I admitted that I cannot do things on my own, I had to find a Power by which I could live who could give me the strength to do what was needed. Part of forming the relationship necessary to that Power requires clearing away what has blocked me from it and finding the things that connect me to it. The thing that has consistently kept me connected is being of service to others."

Because these reflections on and admonitions for self-help are firmly rooted in a spiritual and social component, Blankenship is able to effectively guide readers without the pomp and fluffy promises of self-help guides that are more ethereal, but lacking in practical applications.

It of course is a requirement that the reader come to believe in a Higher Power...ideally, before pursuing this guide. Those who already have such a basic foundation of belief will find that its advice supports and builds upon this spiritual wellspring.

Twelve-step followers who believe this book just repeats the better-known AA guidelines will be pleased to note that it expands upon these, into areas more concretely defined and outlined for easier, more productive absorption. Strong interpersonal and religious connections are key to this process.

The result isn't just another self-help guide (because most of those do suck). It's a blueprint for how to choose, identify, and live a healthier, more productive lifestyle overall, and is highly recommended for those who have delved into the self-help book world before and found it sadly lacking.

Because Blankenship has spent much time and money following these barren paths to promised, elusive success, he's in the perfect position to both acknowledge their failings and point to a better approach.

Shall We Dance?
Susan K. Hagen
Antrim House Books
9781943826834 $17.00

Shall We Dance? Poems of Desire and Meditation comes from a poet who has 40 years of teaching medieval literature. This background allows her to craft especially artistic reflections strongly rooted in poetic tradition and form: something the typical free-verse presentation too often eschews.

Many of these reflections stem from literary experience, as in "After Reading Hafiz." Many of these poems will benefit from a literature-savvy reader: "Herbert tried. And Donne knew the body/was kin to the spirit,/but prayed to be battered rather than beloved."

But one needs no literary background in order to appreciate the reflections on desire and gratitude embedded in many of these pieces: "In the gray of morning just before the/orange-red rising of the sun,/I put a flame to incense,/breathe gently on the ember glow,/watch bluish smoke rise,/a spiraling image of gratefulness/and supplication,/dispersing into air."

As environment, desire, and life themes coalesce, Hagen ultimately celebrates the spirit reflected in nature with lyrical works that sometimes contain a surprise twist, as in "True Subjunctive."

Each poem reflects "the difference between tourist and pilgrim." The fine lines explored here traverse human nature and contemplate interactions with the natural world.

Hagen's works also reflect her professional familiarity with the works of Rumi and Hafiz's mystical poetic styles of observation. This will especially appeal to readers already familiar with these poets and their special blend of spiritual and nature observation.

Poetry collections seeking modern works rooted in literary approaches of the past will find Shall We Dance? a fine celebratory collection.

Gay Escort and Client to Best Friends for Life: A True Story
Alexander Brilee
Independently Published
9780578958798 $24.50 Hardcover

LBGTQ readers interested in memoirs of love, friendship, and growth will find Alexander Brilee's Gay Escort and Client to Best Friends for Life: A True Story embraces the full flavors of experience of gay lifestyle and friendship story. It's a read especially recommended for those who look for the added touch of different perspectives - a rare format for a memoir to take.

Brian and Lee's long friendship defied the norms in many ways; not the least of which was the unspoken rule (applicable to escorts and clients alike) that "The advice that you will find on the web for someone thinking of calling an escort is that you should never call an escort if you're looking for a friend. An escort should not think of a client as a friend."

The big question that remains is: "Is it possible then to go from an escort-client relationship to a relationship of best friends and for that new relationship to last?"

If Brian and Lee's experience is any indicator, the answer is a resounding "yes," and their memoir tells of this transformation and how it happened.

As readers absorb the world of gay escorts and their clients, those whose experience lies outside this milieu learn much about the escort business and its possibilities and unwritten rules.

From Lee's struggle with a dyslexia he didn't know he had until it was diagnosed when he reached adulthood and his entry into escorting to resolve his ongoing financial issues to how he was initially controlled by older man Patrick, who made sure his contacts consisted of unattractive men, the story winds through Lee's experience and then Brian's life.

Each receives equal attention as Brilee surveys how they entered into the escort world from different backgrounds and expectations, their encounters with each other, and the elements that would build an unexpectedly long-lasting friendship.

Also included in the story is the background of Britain, the ravages of AIDS and its social and psychological effects on the gay community, and shared experiences in travel and social encounters which were initially tempered by caution: "It was difficult at first for Lee to believe that Brian was someone he could trust, someone who really loved him and would always care about him."

One might expect a romance with such connections, but another special note to the story is that Brian and Lee are loving best friends. This operates outside of a love relationship and raises questions of identifying partners and best friends separately, and how a best friend can exist alongside and within a partnership or marriage relationship.

Gay Escort and Client to Best Friends for Life ultimately considers the roles and influences on connections between friends, what makes for a long-term friendship, and how that differs from a love relationship.

These questions and more, set against the backdrop of evolving friendships, relationships, and experiences, make Gay Escort and Client to Best Friends for Life a standout not only in LBGTQ literature; but for anyone interested in how close relationships are maintained, evolve, and grow against all odds.

It should be noted that Alexander Brilee is a pseudonym for the two authors of this dual memoir. It was written together by Brian and Lee, which are pseudonyms used throughout.

Any library strong in memoirs, LBGTQ literature, or probes of friendships and lifelong connections will want to add Gay Escort and Client to Best Friends for Life to their collection.

Root of All Evil
Ayura Ayira
BroadwayDern Publishing
B09BJWV7YY Price: Tokens unlock episodes
ROOT OF ALL EVIL Kindle Vella (

"Sometimes the only response to unspeakable cruelty is cruelty."

In Root of All Evil, a child groomed to be a soldier grows up to become a ruthless political leader in a story that offers not just a compelling vision of how evil is cultivated, but what happens when the roots of childhood expand into adult pursuits.

Zayani Ada is rich and renowned for her wealth and beauty. But it's a flawed heritage on many fronts, because under the mask of achievement is the countenance of cruelty.

The story opens with a heart-stopping account of childhood betrayal on a level that goes far beyond playground spats and into the adult world of murder. Chinasa is charged with a strange form of mercy killing involving her best friend.

This introductory scenario is a far cry from Chapter 1, where Chinasa (Zayani, now) is at a rich cocktail party where she's identified by a stranger as being a "world changer." Little does he (or she) know how prophetic these words will prove.

Ayura Ayira creates a powerfully compelling saga that traces a young woman's evolutionary process, moral and ethical challenges, and her effects on the world around her.

From her brutal village roots that she still hasn't completely come to terms with, during which she watched her family die and formed connections with their executioner in order to survive, to her conviction that something is wrong with her psyche and perspective as a result of unresolved trauma, Zayani navigates her new world facing many choices about exactly how she'll come to terms with past and present.

In her role as Madam First Lady, Zayani negotiates the reconstruction of a country torn by tribal strife and ongoing hatred, yet harbors within her a thirst for revenge as well as nation-building which are at odds with one another.

"Why fight a ghost?" Because it continues to haunt.

Speaking of 'haunt', Ayira crafts a truly haunting social, political, and psychological inspection that embraces many realities of many nations.

Her juxtaposition of emotions and political responses, her central figure of a girl who grows up to both reflect and deflect the circumstances of her troubled and violent life, and her ability to capture succinct descriptions of environment and inner turmoil are powerfully written.

Readers interested in a compelling story of a strong woman who both rises above her circumstances and embraces some of these roots of evil in unusual ways makes for a thought-provoking story that is hard to put down.

Anything but a light read, Root of All Evil challenges the reader's heart and mind with emotional and political changes that keeps the story fast-paced, action-packed, and thoroughly engrossing to the end.

Shooting Star
Sasscer Hill
Misterio Press, LLC
9781947287228 $13.99 Paperback

Shooting Star is Book 5 in the Nikki Latrelle thriller series, and opens not with a murder, but with the thrill of a filming session: "The movie camera's dark eye unnerved me. Like a hungry bird of prey, it swept after me as I raced the horse down Santa Anita's backstretch." This unusual introduction to a mystery thriller is the first indication that Sasscer Hill's story belies the usual formula production in favor of an original and creative approach to capturing and maintaining attention and building tension.

Horses, stunt acts, and filming are only part of the story that revolves around Nikki's latest task: to watch over and protect the horses being used to film a movie at Santa Anita Racetrack. Complicating her assignment is the fact that it comes from an ex-lover, while a sexy Hollywood actor has focused his attention on her, and an assassin on the set has targeted the cameraman standing right next to her.

This kicks Nikki's sleuthing abilities into high gear as her initial charge to protect the horses extends into an effort to protect everyone on the set from a deadly killer who has more in mind than a random shooting.

Mystery readers who enjoy horses, Hollywood, and dangerous confrontations alike will find Nikki a savvy sleuth who faces the blade of a knife, the whisper of a sniper's shot, and the tension of movie-making efforts with equal courage despite any reservations about her roles: "A radio hooked to Pinky's belt clicked on. When a male voice said, "Ten minutes," I felt like a herd of tiny wild horses was galloping in my stomach."

Hill's descriptions of the filming process, its politics and people, and Nikki's changing role as a protector and sleuth to a widening number of people creates a fast pace that also embraces roots in atmospheric description, from the California backdrop to new love actor Jamie's infatuation with her.

The focus on her budding romance, developing dangers and threats, and bigger pictures makes for a story that is more than a wrap. It's an engaging probe of the Hollywood film industry and a feisty female sleuth's determination to save what she loves - including her independent spirit - that will keep readers coming back for more as the story grows.

As with the Dick Francis mysteries, horses are an intrinsic part of the plot. Unlike Francis, Hill cultivates an emotional and psychological depth that keeps readers completely engaged through Nikki's first-person perspective and reflections of her life and its latest challenges.

Mystery readers who want more than a light dose of thriller elements added for exquisite tension are in for a real treat in a story that should be added to any mystery collection.

Ameya Pandit
Independently Published
9781737104506 $6.99

Ameya Pandit's debut collection Impressions: Short Letters symbolize his thoughts throughout a span of years, and represents a search for life meanings through an examination of memories and world experience.

If this sounds like heady reading, be advised that the short pieces in Impressions cultivate a tone and inspection that is meant to linger in the mind without challenging the reader's ability to easily absorb their messages.

Take "On Childhood," for example - the opening piece in the collection. Pandit's memories and reflections of youth are presented in a series of vignettes, some of which may be accused of being run-on sentences unless the reader absorbs that these stream-of-thought associations are actually connected jigsaw pieces of impressions that, when linked together, form a uniform evolutionary experience: "I hear an anthem, I see the march of the troops, there is a show of strength, of stature; this is the anthem of a nation, a nation celebrating the continuance of a new era, the birth of its freedom; then after a while as the celebrations wind down, I hear a cry, a cry of a new life, one who may be a few months old; this I say is also an anthem, perhaps a far superior one, one that our ears invariably tune in to; one that needs no salute, no flag, no armor; one that lives in all yet unique to each, and one that a child speaks well before he knows his nation or his God; even the brave soldier lends his hand to protect such a one, for this anthem transcends every other, this is the anthem of life, the anthem of our humanity."

This is just one example of the form these reflections cultivates: a blend of metaphor, meaning, and memory that serve as testimonies to the rhythms and sequences of life.

As readers progress through the collection, it's evident that Pandit's works are diverse, philosophical, and reflective in nature. They hold the ability to link individual experience with the broader historical backdrop that is the human condition.

Presented in the short forms they are, these impressions serve up digestible thoughts cemented by real-world contacts that make them particularly accessible to either busy readers or those with short attention spans: "Every feeling of happiness, every celebration of victory, every excitement of a journey, and even every moment of joy comes to an end in due course. These rules apply to one and all, to every life, as history repeats, civilizations rise and fall, species come and go, to make way for what is new in form but carries much the same in spirit - the spirit of nature herself."

Perhaps there was no better time to publish Impressions than now, when the Twitter generation and others look for meaning in succinct, brief form rather than in "longhand."

With its focus on a variety of topics, from music and the arts to poetic metaphors of life experience and growth, Impressions is an item of choice for a variety of readers. It will reach literature enthusiasts and philosophy students as well as those who look for beautiful expressions that use the mechanism of language to translate the thoughts and experiences of life into a meaningful draw that illustrates both the "power of the pen" and the ability to assemble "worthy thoughts" that lend to discussion and life celebration alike.

As debut collections go, Impressions is a clear literary winner.

Holding Fast
Susan Cole
White Bird Publications
9781633635371 $18.99 print; $7.99 Digital

Any woman who has ever bought into a partner's dream and embarked on a life-changing journey because of this decision will recognize themselves in Susan Cole's memoir Holding Fast. On the surface, it's a memoir about sailing. In reality, it's a foray into not just adventure, but loss, as a young family embarks on a trip that not only challenges conventional notions, but Cole's own trajectory in life.

From the start, sailing was her husband John's dream - not hers. Having a child only solidified their different visions of the future, so when it came time for his to be brought to life, Susan was not exactly on board: "Kate told her class the next day that she was sailing to the Caribbean and snorkeling, and she wasn't going to school anymore. Her teacher, a sailor, was thrilled for her and asked her to write the class about her adventures. She promised they would write back. I wish it had been that simple for me. I did not want to go. John would tease me and say, 'I'll have to drag you out kicking and screaming, clinging to the garden.' I imagined myself red-faced and shrieking, my fingers black with dirt, while John yanked my legs and Kate stared open-mouthed."

Cole brings the adventure component to life as their little boat sails through waters uncharted in her experience: "In over twenty years of sailing, I had been frightened before: on a friend's sailboat when the mast split in half and swung menacingly over the deck, or on an ill-fated drunken attempt to tow Phaedrus when the tow-boat capsized, throwing John and me into the cold water of Long Island Sound, or on Block Island when Phaedrus went aground in the channel and in our zeal to free the boat, John broke his hand on a spinning winch. But none of those occurrences took place in the middle of the night out in the stormy Atlantic with our young daughter aboard. The other times, we were near the shore, and in Block Island, we went aground in front of the Coast Guard station. Now, if we tumbled into the water, we were on our own."

Those who harbor similar dreams of sailing off into the sunset receive a realistic portrait of both the positives and the negatives of doing so, while women who have followed a partner's dreams receive a healthy dose of reality as Cole navigates not only uncharted waters, but the special challenge of keeping her family safe in an uncertain environment.

From solo encounters with Hurricane Mitch, possibly stranded off-boat in a tropical paradise battered by uncertainty and winds, to a health crisis which brings with it unexpected reliance on the survival tactics the family honed on their little boat, readers are treated to a thoroughly absorbing story that embraces different facets of confronting life's unexpected moments.

Cole's ability to bring her memoir full circle from a sailing adventure and adjustments the family must make to a struggle with personal adversity links the two subjects in a satisfying, unique manner: "When we had sailed in New England, we often ran into fogbanks, seeping gray mists that hardened into sheets with blue sky right up to the edge. When I recognized a telltale gray wall on the water, my stomach clenched, and fear would take over. I begged John to turn the boat around. But he sent me forward to keep a lookout and on we would go. He took our bearings every few minutes, so we kept our course. Once we were in the fog and could see immediately around us, the fear abated. Moving forward cautiously was a template for facing danger."

The result is a vivid story of survival and adaptation that operates on many different levels, promising to attract not just readers of true-life adventure, but those who want stories of endurance and moving forward.

As Cole ultimately did, just say "yes" to this enlightening, moving story, which is highly recommended reading not just for memoir enthusiasts, but for those interested in stories of adventure, family, and survival.

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

Gary Roen's Bookshelf

Not All Who Wander Need Be Lost
Lisa Skinner
Independently Published
9780996818803, $12.95 pbk, $2.99 Kindle

Good things come in small packages is so true with "Not All Who Wander Need Be Lost." Author Skinner divulges so much about the related diseases of Dementia and Alzheimer's and how patients should be treated. There are valuable tips and suggestions throughout that are informative and helpful. For example, when the afflicted sees the individual in front of them as one they knew long ago. Instead of correcting them, just play along to control the situation. There are other things like seeing self in a mirror, not knowing who it is. A solution is to eliminate the object causing the confusion. "Not All Who Wander Need Be Lost" is a groundbreaking work that should be read by families going through the ordeal of a loved one in Dementia or Alzheimer's to get a better understanding on how to deal with each situation that may occur.

Schizophrenia Your Guide To Surviving And Thriving
Lori Rochat
NEOMediaWorks Publishing LLC
979868964471, $9.95 pbk, $4.99 Kindle

"Schizophrenia Your Guide To Surviving And Thriving" sheds new light on a commonly misunderstood syndrome that so many people deal with every day Utilizing her own personal situation and those of others Rochat dispels the myths of Schizophrenia to reveal it is a disruption of the thought process of the brain. Through her own journey to disclose a person can live a full life when certain aspects happen like a professional medical person the patient trusts, the right medication, proper diet and other variables to achieve the goal of maintaining a more normal life. A falsehood brilliantly ousted is to go to a mall and see if you can tell who of the shoppers is a Schizophrenia person. "Schizophrenia Your Guide To Surviving And Thriving." is another short work that packs so much great information for more people to understand Schizophrenia.

101 + Tips On Writing Fiction
Prudy Taylor Board and Ruth Harman Berge
Create Space
9781547174638, $16.95 No Kindle

"101 + Tips On Writing Fiction" combines the talents of two experts to help writers clear the way to get published. Topics of interest are writers block and how to solve it, the many stages of editing, characters and how to create great ones, conflicts to be resolved, learning where and how to promote your works and yourself are just a few discussed. "101 + Tips On Writing Fiction" combines solid established techniques with more recent that are sound, logical, and easy to follow, to achieve the goals of publishing without having to go to class.

I'll Get Back To You
Sam George
Post Hill Press
9781642937190, $18.00 pbk, $9.99 Kindle

Many books deal with the misuse of technology but "I'll Get Back To You" delves much further into abuse than any so far. Author George uses example after example of how there is too much reliance on the cell phone that results in unneeded stressful situations people create for themselves. When someone does not return a text, email, call or any other form of communication people begin to perceive many ridiculous conclusions that can have disastrous effects. Along with all of the circumstances there are conclusions on how to resolve them to a satisfying ending. "I'll Get Back To You" is a pioneering approach to tackling the issue of how we as a society handle better the technology we have come to rely on.

The Division Of Light And Power
Dennis J. Kucinich
Finney Avenue Books LLC
9781638772347, $34.99 pbk, $18.99 Kindle

Power companies in the country have a lot of control on governments in many ways. "The Division Of Light And Power" exposes the city of Cleveland Ohio how through the eyes of one man who fought electric providers tooth and nail throughout his time in city government as councilman, clerk of courts and mayor. Kucinich's writing flows like a suspenseful novel but is all true, of the underhanded deals one corrupt business had over many public officials. Kucinich unlike many of them, refused to go along with it to fight for the consumer to make it better for everyone. Kucinich an American Patriot details in "The Division Of Light And Power" how one person can still make a difference.

So You Want To Start A Non Profit? Let's Do Some Homework First!
Dr. Shanta Barton-Stubbs
Under Construction Empowerment Services, LLC
9780997329728, $9.99 pbk No Kindle

"So You Want To Start A Non Profit? Let's Do Some Homework First!" is a cautionary book that helps people avoid mistakes when setting up a nonprofit organization. The author gives tips and suggestions in simple to follow instructions to avoid problems "So You Want To Start A Non Profit? Let's Do Some Homework First!" is a great source for anyone thinking about setting up a nonprofit business

Run Book One
John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, L. Fury, and Nate Powell
9781496722386, $24.99 HC, $9.99 Kindle

John Lewis always known as a fighter for people's rights throughout his life, unfortunately, lost his battle with cancer last year. "Run Book One" celebrates a portion of his long career of marches and protest for others and is told by Lewis himself in the graphic novel artform. "Run Book One" should be read by those who think everything is fine in this country.

The Swashbuckler's Odyssey
Susann Elizabeth Richards
Independently Published
9798637862849 $9.99 pbk $2.99 Kindle

Once again author Susann Elizabeth Richards tells a rousing sea adventure with her novel "The Swashbuckler's Odyssey" A woman named Shannon and her boyfriend Daniel down in the Bahamas enjoying the area when tragedy strikes as Shannon disappears without a trace. Now Daniel must determine what happened to her. Richards masterfully propels the suspenseful plot as well as well fleshed out characters to a great ending "The Swashbucklers' Odyssey" is high seas adventure by a virtuoso crafter of rollicking good fun

Sword Stone Table: Old Legends, New Voices
Edited by Swapna Krishna & Jenn Northington
Vintage Books
9780593081891, $17.00 pbk, $11.99 Kindle

Tales of Arthur and the knights of the round table have for so long been popular in fiction and "Sword Stone Table: Old Legends, New Voices" is a welcome addition to the long line of titles. Different from others the editors have broken the series of short stories into three sections. Those are past, present, and future. The authors take different aspects of the folklore to tell new and wonderful tales that are sure to pleas many different types of readers. There are fantasy, science fiction and horror stories that are by modern masters of short fiction that are a lot of new voices in multiple genres. "Sword Stone Table: Old Legends, New Voices" celebrates the long-ago era with new and wonderful tales of speculative fiction that capture the essence of Arthur.

U.P. Reader Short Stories Humor History Memoir Poetry And More
c/o Modern History Press
9780593081891, $17.95 pbk, $5.99 Kindle

Michigan has a wealth of talent as evidenced in the "U. P. Reader Short Stories Humor History Memoir Poetry And More". Several of the writings are horror in the fold of master Stephen King by many up-and-coming writers while the others are in all genres as well as nonfiction and free verse pieces. "U.P. Reader" is a series and this latest one is a gem of quality works by different gifted wordsmiths for all ages to enjoy.

Gary Roen
Senior Reviewer

Helen Dumont's Bookshelf

Eat, Drink & Be Wary: Cautionary Tales
Kathy Biehl
9th House
9781736432105, $24.95, HC, 208pp

Synopsis: Food and drink do a lot more than address physical need. They play a central role in our emotional and social existence. They serve as currency for hospitality, love, and affection, as a security blanket and plug for psychic wounds, and as a touchstone for times that have slipped into memory. They provide an excuse for people to sit together and share a meal, a round or two, and, often, the experience of connection.

Cognoscenti have long laid claim to this turf. They got a lot of company (and competition) in the late 20th century, when food and drink escalated into the stuff of entertainment, foodie and cocktail cultures, multiple TV networks, and intellectual superiority.

Writer and critic Kathy Biehl wandered through this terrain as it morphed and reported her findings to all manner of publications, in print and online. The joys, quirks, and questionable behavior that she observed fill the pages of "Eat, Drink & Be Wary: Cautionary Tales", a kaleidoscopic collection of her award-winning commentary and diaristic reports From Houston's burgeoning culinary landscape to late-night revelry in Britain and Barcelona to a Hell's Kitchen TV studio, it captures a way of life we take for granted no longer, when people freely gathered at tables and counters, shared food, raised glasses, and partook of drama and laughter and magic.

Critique: An inherently fascinating, impressively informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking collection of observation and experience based commentaries, "Eat, Drink & Be Wary: Cautionary Tales" is an extraordinary, unique, and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library Culinary & Gastronomy collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Eat, Drink & Be Wary: Cautionary Tales" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781736432112, $17.95).

A Rebellious Woman
Claire J. Griffin
Brandylane Publishers, Inc.
9781951565473 $20.95 pbk / $4.99 Kindle

Synopsis: A Rebellious Woman is based on the life story of Belle Boyd (1844-1900), whose coming of age coincided with the opening shots of the Civil War. Debutante, teenaged spy, seductress, actress, divorcee, cross-dresser, and self-promoter, she carried a pistol and wasn't afraid to use it. In a century when a woman was meant to be nothing more than a well-behaved wife and mother, Belle Boyd stands out as a scandalous woman of history defying all the rules.

Critique: A Rebellious Woman is a historical novel based on the true-life story of a fiercely independent woman, Belle Boyd (1844-1900). In an era when girls and women were expected to be subservient, she was a spy for the Confederacy; she carried a pistol and used it to fatally shoot a Union soldier who had cursed at her mother. After the war, she was married three times, outliving her first husband and divorcing the second. A Rebellious Woman brings her complex story to vivid life, and is a thoroughly captivating page-turner from cover to cover. Highly recommended! It should be noted for personal reading lists that A Rebellious Woman is also available in a Kindle edition ($4.99).

Peanut Butter and Dragon Wings
Shari Zook
Herald Press
9781513807706 $16.99 pbk / $9.99 Kindle

Synopsis: Longing for permission to be real about your own needs and struggles? Permission granted.

As good Christian moms, we're not supposed to ask for much. Jesus meets all our needs and we're the light of the world to everybody else, right? Wrong.

Shari Zook appeared to be an overachieving supermom who deftly supported her pastor-husband and their congregation, homeschooled their children, and cared for foster children through the ups and downs of placements. But inside, her world was growing increasingly desperate as she struggled with the grief of miscarriage, parenting a difficult child, and spiraling depression.

In her darkest hour, Zook let go of her need to appear super-human and reached out to receive God's unfolding grace. With humor and artistry, Peanut Butter and Dragon Wings gives us permission to step out from behind the appearance of rose-filtered perfection and embrace the authenticity of honest need and human limitations. In the book's twelve chapters you'll find twelve practical ways to reach for a faith that includes doubt, and holiness that includes failure.

Critique: A heartfelt, candid, deeply spiritual book written by a Christian mother, for Christian mothers, Peanut Butter and Dragon Wings: A Mother's Search for Grace is a heartfelt testimony about the both the great and the small challenges of daily life. As author Shari Zook explains in the introduction, "This is not a book about self-care. This is a book about receiving the care that surrounds you." Zook tells of surviving the toll of a miscarriage, parenting a difficult child, and mounting depression. Above all, Peanut Butter and Dragon Wings is about releasing the need to appear perfect, and embracing God's grace. Highly recommended. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Peanut Butter and Dragon Wings is also available in a Kindle edition ($16.99).

The Scent of Empires: Chanel No. 5 and Red Moscow
Karl Schlogel, author
Jessica Spengler, translator
c/o John Wiley and Sons (dist.)
9781509546596, $25.00, HC, 220pp

Synopsis: Can a drop of perfume tell the story of the twentieth century? Can a smell bear the traces of history? What can we learn about the history of the twentieth century by examining the fate of perfumes? In the pages of "The Scent of Empires: Chanel No. 5 and Red Moscow", Karl Schlogel (Professor of Eastern European History at the European University Viadrina in Frankfurt) unravels the interconnected histories of two of the world's most celebrated perfumes.

In tsarist Russia, two French perfumers (Ernest Beaux and Auguste Michel) developed related fragrances honoring Catherine the Great for the 300th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty. During the Russian Revolution and Civil War, Beaux fled Russia and took the formula for his perfume with him to France, where he sought to adapt it to his new French circumstances. He presented Coco Chanel with a series of ten fragrance samples in his laboratory and, after smelling each, she chose number five - the scent that would later go by the name Chanel No. 5.

Meanwhile, as the perfume industry was being revived in Soviet Russia, Auguste Michel used his original fragrance to create Red Moscow for the tenth anniversary of the Revolution. Piecing together the intertwined histories of these two famous perfumes, which shared a common origin, Professor Schlogel tells a surprising story of power, intrigue and betrayal that offers an altogether unique perspective on the turbulent events and high politics of the twentieth century.

Critique: A brilliant and impressively informative account of perfume and politics in twentieth-century Europe, "The Scent of Empires: Chanel No. 5 and Red Moscow" will be of interest to readers with an interest in the history and culture of grooming and style. While very highly recommended, especially for community, college, and university library collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and the non-specialist general reader with an interest in the subject that ""The Scent of Empires: Chanel No. 5 and Red Moscow" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $20.00).

The Real Valkyrie
Nancy Marie Brown
St. Martin's Press
9781250200846, $29.99, HC, 336pp

Synopsis: In 2017, DNA tests revealed to the collective shock of many scholars that a Viking warrior in a high-status grave in Birka, Sweden was actually a woman. "The Real Valkyrie: The Hidden History of Viking Warrior Women" by Nancy Marie Brown deftly weaves together archaeology, history, and literature to imagine the life and times of the 'Shield Maiden', showing that Viking women had more power and agency than historians have imagined.

Brown uses science to link the Birka warrior, whom she names Hervor, to Viking trading towns and to their great trade route east to Byzantium and beyond. She imagines her life intersecting with larger-than-life but real women, including Queen Gunnhild Mother-of-Kings, the Viking leader known as The Red Girl, and Queen Olga of Kyiv. Hervor's short, dramatic life shows that much of what we have taken as truth about women in the Viking Age is based not on data, but on nineteenth-century Victorian biases.

Rather than restricted to holding the household keys, Viking women in history, law, saga, poetry, and myth carried weapons. These women brag, "As heroes we were widely known -- with keen spears we cut blood from bone." "The Real Valkyrie" offers the reader a compelling narrative in which Brown brings the world of those valkyries and shield-maids vividly to life.

Critique: Enhanced for academia with the inclusion of illustrations, a six page Further Reading bibliography, twenty-two pages of Notes, and a nine page Index, "The Real Valkyrie: The Hidden History of Viking Warrior Women" is an inherently fascinating and fully absorbing read throughout. With meticulous attention to historical detail combined with a compelling narrative writing style, "The Real Valkyrie" will be of immense interest to both academics and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject. While unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Viking History collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Real Valkyrie" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99).

Helen Dumont

John Taylor's Bookshelf

Flux: 8 Superpowers for Thriving in Constant Change
April Rinne
Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.
1333 Broadway, Suite 1000, Oakland CA, 94612
9781523093595, $26.95, HC, 216pp

Synopsis: Being adaptable and flexible have always been hallmarks of effective leadership and a fulfilling life. But in a world of so much (and faster-paced) change, and an ever-faster pace of change, flexibility and resilience can be stretched to their breaking points. The quest becomes how to find calm and lasting meaning in the midst of enduring chaos.

A world in flux calls for a new mindset, one that treats constant change and uncertainty as a feature, not a bug. "Flux: 8 Superpowers for Thriving in Constant Change" by April Rinne helps readers open this mindset (a flux mindset) and develop eight "flux superpowers" that flip conventional ideas about leadership, success, and well-being on their heads. They empower people to see change in new ways, craft new responses, and ultimately reshape their relationship to change from the inside out.

Rinne defines these eight flux superpowers: Run slower; See what's invisible; Get lost; Start with trust: Know your "enough"; Create your portfolio career; Be all the more human (and serve other humans); Let go of the future.

Whether readers are sizing up their career, reassessing their values, designing a product, building an organization, trying to inspire their colleagues, or simply showing up more fully in the world, enjoying a flux mindset and activating their flux superpowers will keep readers grounded even when the ground is too often shifting beneath them.

Critique: Impressively informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Flux: 8 Superpowers for Thriving in Constant Change" is an extraordinary, innovative, yet 'real world' practical and instructive guide that is especially and unreservedly recommended for community, corporate, college, and university library Business Motivational Management & Leadership collections and supplemental curriculum studies. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of MBA students, academia, corporate executives, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Flux: 8 Superpowers for Thriving in Constant Change" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99).

Editorial Note: April Rinne is a public speaker, investor, and adventurer whose work and travels in more than one hundred countries have given her a front-row seat to a world in flux. She is one of the fifty leading female futurists in the world, a Harvard Law School graduate, a Young Global Leader at the World Economic Forum, and a Fulbright Scholar. Rinne is also a trusted advisor to well-known startups, companies, financial institutions, nonprofits, and governments worldwide.

The Total FilmMaker
Jerry Lewis
Michael Wiese Productions
9781615933204 $28.85 pbk / $27.41 Kindle

Synopsis: This new 50th anniversary edition of the classic 1971 book The Total FilmMaker is now being released by the Jerry Lewis Estate and Michael Wiese Productions with all-new, never-before-seen photos of Jerry on set and with his family and friends, and a new foreword by Leonard Maltin. The Total FilmMaker was originally written and based on over 480 hours of Jerry's guest lecture series at USC Film School in 1966, where his then-students included aspiring young filmmakers Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. From script to postproduction, it covers the complete arc of filmmaking as taught by one of the first and most original writer/director/producer/actors in Hollywood.

Critique: Now in a new fiftieth anniversary edition, The Total FilmMaker revamps a 1971 classic based upon Jerry Lewis' guest lecture series at the USC Film School in 1966. Black-and-white photographs, hand written script notes, and storyboards enhance this educational primer for aspiring filmmakers, which will also appeal to cinema connoisseurs. The Total FilmMaker is a "must-have" for public and college library Theatre/Cinema shelves, highly recommended. It should be noted for personal reading lists that The Total FilmMaker is also available in a Kindle edition ($27.41).

John Taylor

Laurel Johnson's Bookshelf

The Real Presence
Ron Singer
Adelaide Books
9781954351455, $19.60 paperback, 234 pages

The Real Presence is a novel written in follow up to Singer's Uhuru Revisited: Interviews with Pro-Democracy Leaders. Through the fictional voices of two African Igbo siblings and their American friend, Singer shares more of Africa's struggles from his personal experience in the 1960s Peace Corps. I know very little about Africa and found myself enthralled by these three protagonists and their memories.

Lydia is a Nigerian woman who works hard to educate herself and find meaningful work to benefit herself and others. Jerry is her brother, an epidemiologist who attends medical school in both Africa and the UK. Bob Shepard is an American college student who befriends Jerry and later serves in the Peace Corps in Nigeria. Through their memories, from childhood to old age, readers experience Africa in ways intimate, touching and heart breaking.

In vivid detail, Jerry and Lydia share memories of their schooling, daily activities, lifestyle, and oral history of tribes and clans. Jerry, Lydia and Bob discuss religion and theological issues from Christianity to juju. Through the lens of passing time, readers learn how Nigeria, a once powerful African nation, crumbled: through political crises and wars; xenophobic and corrupt politicians; public health crises; tribal and cultural differences; oppressed minorities; starving children; separated families; and the horrors of the Biafran war. Bob progresses from student to friend to journalist and special education teacher as Jerry transforms from a naive young medical student to renowned epidemiologist investigating mutated antibiotic resistant pathogens. I found Lydia's memories to be most intense and poignant because of her single minded focus on goals, honesty and compassion for humanity.

Singer has surpassed himself with this worthy sequel to Uhuru Revisited. For any student of African history or reader who knows nothing about Africa's struggles, this book is a must read. It's an impressive novel and highly recommended.

Laurel Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Mary Cowper's Bookshelf

Demystifying Disability
Emily Ladau
c/o Crown/Random House Publishing Group
9781984858979, $16.00, PB, 176pp

Synopsis: People with disabilities are the world's largest minority, an estimated 15 percent of the global population. But many of us (disabled and non-disabled alike) don't know how to act, what to say, or how to be an ally to the disability community. "Demystifying Disability: What to Know, What to Say, and How to Be an Ally" by disability rights advocate, speaker, and writer Emily Ladau is a thoroughly 'reader friendly' handbook on the important disability issues you need to know about.

"Demystifying Disability" covers: How to appropriately think, talk, and ask about disability; Recognizing and avoiding ableism (discrimination toward disabled people); Practicing good disability etiquette; Ensuring accessibility becomes your standard practice, from everyday communication to planning special events; Appreciating disability history and identity; Identifying and speaking up about disability stereotypes in media.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, impressively comprehensive, deftly organized and presented, "Demystifying Disability" is an immensely practical, intersectional DIY guide for understanding and responding to disability as part of the human experience. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Parenting Hyperactive Children & Children with Disabilities instructional reference collections, it should be noted for personal Self-Help/Self-Improvement and Personal Transformation reading lists that "Demystifying Disabilities" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99).

Editorial Note: Emily Ladau is the editor in chief of the Rooted in Rights blog, a platform dedicated to amplifying authentic narratives of the intersectional disability experience. She also co-hosts The Accessible Stall, a podcast about disability issues. Ladau's writing has been published in outlets including the New York Times, HuffPost, CNN, Self, Salon, Vice, The Daily Beast, Variety, and Marie Claire Australia. Her work is also included in the Criptiques Anthology and About Us: Essays from the Disability Series of the New York Times. She has served as an expert source on disability issues for outlets including NPR, Vox, Washington Post, and Teen Vogue, and has been featured in a range of press outlets including Newsday, BuzzFeed, CBS News, and U.S. News & World Report.

Quote Acrostic Favorites: Volumes 9 & 10
Charles Preston, editor
AKA Associates Inc.
9781734048360, $9.95, PB (Volume 9)
9781734048377, $9.95, PB (Volume 10)

Synopsis: A premier publisher of word game books, AKA Associates has launched two new and outstanding titles in their acclaimed acrostic puzzle book series. Both volumes 9 & 10 of "Quote Acrostic Favorites" are deftly compiled by acrostic wizard Charles Preston and showcase a full 50 entertaining and intellectually challenging acrostic puzzles each -- giving hours and hours of pure word fun play for the acrostic enthusiast. And if totally stuck at any given point there is always the option of peeking in the back to get a hint.

Critique: Whether a complete novice or an experienced wordsmith of the first order, no dedicated wordsmith and DIY word puzzle fan will ever be disappointed with volume 9 (9781734048360, $9.95, PB) and volume 10 (9781734048377, $9.95, PB) of "Quote Acrostic Favorites".

Mount Rainier National Park: An Artist's Tour
Molly Hashimoto
Mountaineers Books
9781680513349, $17.95, HC, 136pp

Synopsis: In the pages of "Mount Rainier National Park: An Artist's Tour" Molly Hashimoto (who is also the author and illustrator of "Birds of the West and Colors of the West"), has created yet another beautiful look at the natural world in Mount Rainier National Park. When you experience such expansive beauty as is found at Mount Rainier, she says, "you want to tell everyone else about it, and for me, art is how I communicate my passion."

Featuring Hashimoto's more than 80 watercolor paintings and sketches, "Mount Rainier National Park: An Artist's Tour" follows along the national park's main road to offer an "artist's tour". Through evocative anecdotes, natural history, and park history, it explores the major visitor areas, natural wonders, popular landmarks, and park flora and fauna, including everyone's favorite, marmots! Her lush palette captures Rainier through the seasons and in all its glorious details, creating a keepsake for visitors and residents alike.

Critique: A beautiful, entertaining, thoughtful and thought-provoking little volume to simply browse through one informative and contemplative page at a time, "Mount Rainier National Park: An Artist's Tour" will prove to be an immediate and enduringly welcome addition to personal, professional, community, college, and university library Landscape/Seascape and Mountain Ecology collections in general, and Mount Rainer geography and ecology reading lists in particular.

Editorial Note: Molly Hashimoto teaches and leads plein air watercolor workshops around the West, including at the North Cascades Institute, Yellowstone Forever Institute, and Sitka Center for Art and Ecology. She maintains and informative website at

Jesus is Bigger Than Me: True Stories of His Miracles
Jared Kennedy, author
Trish Mahoney, illustrator
New Growth Press
1301 Carolina Street, #L101, Greensboro, NC 27401
9781645071969, $12.99, Board Book, 26pp

Synopsis: Jesus is bigger and more powerful than any superhero. He can turn water into wine, calm a stormy sea, give sight to the the blind, and even raise the dead. When Jesus is with us, God is with us. Author Jared Kennedy uses simple words and concepts to help toddlers and preschoolers understand that Jesus is powerful and good. He isn't just stronger than any superhero, he is God -- the King of the universe.

"Jesus is Bigger Than Me: True Stories of His Miracles" by author/storyteller Jared Kennedy and artist/illustrator Trish Mahoney is beautifully illustrated board book for ages three to five and the third in the Beginner's Gospel Story Book series from New Growth Press. Children will learn that Jesus is God through the story of his miracles and be encouraged to go to him for help because he cares for them.

The preschool-friendly pictures in Jesus Is Bigger Than Me will also help teach about shapes, colors, and counting. Children will be captivated by the bright, modern illustrations and the simple encouraging content will turn their hearts to Jesus.

Critique: Thoroughly 'kid friendly' in commentary, organization and presentation, "Jesus is Bigger Than Me: True Stories of His Miracles" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, and community library Christian Board Book collections.

Tengo un Dragon Dentro del Corazon: The Photographs of Carlota Guerrero
Carlota Geuerrero
Prestel Publishing
9783791387116, $50.00, HC, 192pp

Synopsis: Although her reputation exploded internationally in 2016 with her iconic portrait of Solange Knowles for the artist's album A Seat at the Table, self-taught photographer Carlota Guerrero has been producing work for more than a decade.

"Tengo un Dragon Dentro del Corazon: The Photographs of Carlota Guerrero" is the first book of her imagery and provides a record of Guerrero's evolving style and a compilation of her visual obsessions. It also features texts by some of her renowned collaborative partners as well as an introduction by the artist herself.

In turns dreamy and unflinching, Guerrero's work explores ideas of femininity and gender, nature and human connections, the female body, patterns, and the Golden Ratio. The monograph collects her early work, when she was just discovering her talents and her passion for photographing women in nature; stills from a performance piece that wowed at Art Basel Miami; a collaboration with poet Rupi Kaur; pictures from her project documenting the transgender community in Cuba, and more.

At once subversive and ethereal, classical and distinctly individual, Guerrero's photography signals a young artist increasingly at home in a chaotic world and poised to take on whatever comes next.

Critique: A visual joy to simply browse through on page at a time, "Tengo un Dragon Dentro del Corazon: The Photographs of Carlota Guerrero" is coffee-table style (8.75 x 1 x 12.13 inches) photographic compendium that fully showcases photographer Carlota Guerrero's artist eye when peering through the lens of a camera. Simply stated, "Tengo un Dragon Dentro del Corazon: The Photographs of Carlota Guerrero" is a celebration of the human form that will prove to be a memorably distinctive and unreservedly appreciated addition to personal, professional, college, and university library Contemporary Nude Photography collections.

Editorial Note: Currently residing in Barcelona, Spain, Carlota Guerrero collaborated with the singer-songwriter Solange Knowles on the artwork and art direction for the singer's acclaimed A Seat at the Table album and music videos, and with the poet Rupi Kaur for a live performance of Kaur's poems in New York. She has also worked with global brands such as Nike, Givenchy, and Dior, and has contributed to magazines including The New Yorker, Playboy, Vogue Spain, Numero, and FADER.

Mary Cowper

Micah Andrew's Bookshelf

Before the Pharaohs
Julian Maxwell Heath
Pen & Sword Books
c/o Casemate (US distribution)
9781526790415, $34.95, HC, 232pp

Synopsis: The remarkable archaeology of pharaonic Egypt continues to captivate countless people worldwide but evidence for Egypt's prehistoric or Stone Age past has been relatively neglected. This is perhaps understandable, as the archaeology of Stone Age Egypt often seems crude in comparison, and the number of works published on the subject is diminutive compared to those dealing with the revered ancient civilization that emerged in the Nile Valley some five thousand years ago.

However, although less spectacular, the numerous remnants of prehistoric life found throughout Egypt represent an important chapter in the story of humanity's distant past. They also cast compelling light on the shadowy Stone Age peoples who lived in the Nile Valley and surrounding deserts, long before the mighty monuments of the pharaohs ever existed.

"Before the Pharaohs: Exploring the Archaeology of Stone Age Egypt" by archaeologist and Egyptologist Julian Maxwell Heath examines the fascinating archaeology of stone Age Egypt, from its very beginnings, when early members of the human species arrived in Egypt from sub-Saharan Africa, to its end, when the impressive Naqada Culture emerged, setting in motion the processes that led to the formation of one of the world's greatest ancient civilizations.

Critique: Enhanced for academia with the inclusion of sixteen pages of Notes, a sixteen page Bibliography, and a five page Index, "Before the Pharaohs: Exploring the Archaeology of Stone Age Egypt" is an inherently fascinating, meticulously detailed, and impressively informative study that is exceptionally well organized and presented throughout. Deftly written, organized and presented, "Before the Pharaohs" will prove to be a unique and welcome addition to professional, community, college, and university library Egyptology & Archaeology collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academics, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Before the Pharaohs" is readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99).

Editorial Note: Julian Maxwell Heath is the author and illustrator of :Archaeological Hotspots Egypt: Unearthing the Past for Armchair Archaeologists"; "Stories from Ancient Egypt" (with Joyce Tyldesley); and "Warfare in Neolithic Europe". He has also worked on archaeological excavations in both Europe and Egypt, and has taught archaeological illustration at the University of Liverpool.

Bryant Park Press

Bryant Park Press, Inc. is a boutique publisher which specializes in publishing unique, entertaining and informative non-fiction and, under the imprint Block Island Books, fascinating fiction. Two of there newly published titles by Kenneth Foard McCallion should be considered essential reading for any American citizen wanting to understand how close we came to losing our free and fair election based democracy on January 6, 2021 in a threat that continues down to this very day.

"Profiles in Cowardice in the Trump Era" (9781737149217, $18.50, PB, 246pp) is about those men and women who lost their moral bearings in the maelstrom of the Trump administration and put their own self-interests and that of a rogue president over the higher duties to the U.S. Constitution, their oaths of office, their fellow citizens and their country. Candid, explicit, and with the same kind of inherently fascination that a multi-car pile up on a Freeway compels, "Profiles in Cowardice in the Trump Era" will hopefully help to keep their names in the country's consciousness, so that their infamy can serve as an example for generations to come. Simply stated, the men and women so clearly identified in "Profiles in Cowardice in the Trump Era" betrayed their country and put our constitutional republic in peril.

"Profiles in Courage in the Trump Era" (9781737149200, $18.50, PB, 252pp) is the story of how by the time that Donald Trump left after one term in the White House, America's democracy was perilously close to destruction. The United States government survived only through the effort of a few key Republican elected and appointed officials in federal, state, and local governments throughout the country. These loyal Americans courageously did the jobs that they had sworn to do, even in the face of intense political pressure, threats, and attempts at intimidation designed to undermine our democracy throughout the four years of the Trump presidency, and to ultimately hand Trump a second term in the White House even though he had lost the 2020 election. These are these are truly the Profiles in Courage of those who did what was right, often at a high personal and political cost. These individuals collectively stand as a legacy and inspiration to all of us for generations to come.

While both volumes are critically important, timely, needed, essential additions to community, college, and university library Contemporary Political Science collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of all Americans dedicated to the defense of our democracy and the American Constitution that both "Profiles in Cowardice in the Trump Era" and "Profiles in Courage in the Trump Era" are also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.99 each).

Editorial Note: Kenneth F. McCallion heads an accomplished team of civil litigation and human rights attorneys at McCallion & Associates LLP. He is a nationally recognized expert on constitutional law, especially the impeachment clause, and has significant expertise in the fields of civil RICO, criminal law, and the history of Treason and Espionage in U.S. history. McCallion spent the early part of his law career working as a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Department of Justice, handling high-profile organized crime prosecutions and working on major labor racketeering cases, including some investigations that dealt with labor racketeering involving the construction of Trump Tower and other major construction projects in the New York area. He also worked on numerous sensitive counterintelligence investigations involving Russian espionage in the U.S., coordination between and among U.S. Department of Justice and FBI agents with the CIA and U.S. State Department. McCallion received his B.A. from Yale and his J.D. from Fordham Law School. He is an Adjunct Professor at Cardozo Law School in New York and Fairfield University in Connecticut. In addition to Treason & Betrayal, previous publications include Shoreham and the Rise and Fall of Nuclear Power, and The Essential Guide to Donald Trump.

Micah Andrew

Michael Dunford's Bookshelf

From Arlington to Appomattox
Charles R. Knight
Savas Beatie
PO Box 4527, El Dorado Hills, CA 95762
9781611215021, $39.95, HC, 576pp

Synopsis: Lost in all of the military histories of the war, and even in most of the biographies of Robert E. Lee, is what the general was doing when he was out of history's "public" eye. We know Lee rode out to meet the survivors of Pickett's Charge and accept blame for the defeat, that he tried to lead the Texas Brigade in a counterattack to save the day at the Wilderness, and took a tearful ride from Wilmer McLean's house at Appomattox. But what of the other days? Where was Lee and what was he doing when the spotlight of history failed to illuminate him?

"From Arlington to Appomattox: Robert E. Lee's Civil War, Day by Day, 1861-1865" by Charles R. Knight focuses on where he was, who he was with, and what he was doing day by day which offers an entirely different appreciation for Lee. Readers will come away with a fresh sense of his struggles, both personal and professional, and discover many things about Lee for the first time using his own correspondence and papers from his family, his staff, his lieutenants, and the men of his army.

General Lee intended to write a history of the Army of Northern Virginia but died before he could complete his work. Based on hundreds of first-person accounts, "From Arlington to Appomattox" recreates, as far as such a thing is now possible, a Lee-centric study of what the man experienced on a daily basis. It is a tremendous contribution to the literature of the Civil War.

Critique: A uniquely informed and informative biography, "From Arlington to Appomattox: Robert E. Lee's Civil War, Day by Day, 1861-1865" is an essential and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library American Civil War History & Biography collections and supplemental studies curriculums. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, Civil War buffs, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "From Arlington to Appomattox: Robert E. Lee's Civil War, Day by Day, 1861-1865" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $17.99).

Editorial Note: Charles R. Knight is a former Historical Interpreter at New Market Battlefield State Historical Park, and currently serves as the curator of the Douglas MacArthur Memorial. Charlie has written articles for various Civil War and railroad publications, including Blue & Gray, Classic Trains, and NRHS Bulletin.

Michael Dunford

Paul Vogel's Bookshelf

We Shall Rise
John Ringo and Gary Poole
9781982125585, $25.00 hc / $9.99 Kindle

Synopsis: The world has been brought to its knees by the "zombie virus." Nations have fallen, cities have been overrun by the infected, and the human race has come perilously close to extinction. But with the first winter come and gone, the infected have been reduced to not much more than a background nuisance and survivors around the world are taking stock and vowing to rebuild and rise up stronger, better, and unafraid.

These all new stories from New York Times best-selling author John Ringo's "Black Tide Rising" series are written by:

Kevin J. Anderson
Brendon DuBois
Jody Lynn Nye
Michael Z. Williamson and Stephanie Osborn
Kacey Ezell
Mike Massa
Christoper L. Smith
Lydia Sherrer
Jason Cordova
Brian Trent
Patrick Vanner
Jamie Ibson

Critique: We Shall Rise is an anthology of all-new short stories by a wide variety of talented science fiction authors, all set in the zombie-apocalypse world of John Ringo's "Black Tide Rising" series. The stories are set after the human race has taken a step back from the brink of extinction; while the infected hordes animated by the zombie virus are still dangerous, their threat has been pushed to the background while survivors vow to rebuild their lives. An absolute "must-read" for zombie apocalypse enthusiasts in general and "Black Tide Rising" series connoisseurs in particular, We Shall Rise is sure to be a popular lending library pick. It should be noted for personal reading lists that We Shall Rise is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Editorial Note: John Ringo brings fighting to life. His science-based zombie apocalypse Black Tide Rising series includes Under a Graveyard Sky, To Sail a Darkling Sea, Islands of Rage and Hope, and Strands of Sorrow. A veteran of the 82nd Airborne, Ringo brings firsthand knowledge of military operations to his fiction.

Gary Poole has worked in the entertainment and publishing industry for his entire adult life. He's worked directly with John Ringo on over a dozen novels, and has adapted several of them into screenplays (all of which remain in development). When not working with Ringo, he is the managing editor of a successful alternative newsweekly in Tennessee and spent years on the radio as a talk show host and award-winning broadcast journalist.

David Weber and Richard Fox
9781982125400, $27.00 Hardcover

Synopsis: For more than fifty years, the Terran Federation and the Terran League have been killing one another. The death toll has climbed ever higher, year after year, with no end in sight. But the members of the Five Hundred, the social elite of the Republic's Heart Worlds, don't care.

Their star systems are light-years from any threat of attack. Their children are sheltered from the "mandatory service" that falls so heavily on the Fringe Worlds' backs. Their trade connections with the Rishathan Sphere bring them wealth and influence. And their contracts to build ships, fighters, missiles, and all the other sinews of war have made them the wealthiest human beings in the history of the galaxy.

Rear Admiral Terrence Murphy is a Heart Worlder. His family is part of the Five Hundred. His wife is the daughter of one of the Five Hundred's wealthiest, most powerful industrialists. His sons and his daughter can easily avoid military service, and political power is his for the taking. There is no end to how high he can rise in the Republic's power structure.

All he has to do is successfully complete a risk-free military "governorship" in the backwater Fringe System of New Dublin without rocking the boat. Without dredging up any lunatic Fringe conspiracy theories. Without undercutting the Five Hundred's stranglehold on wealth and power.

But the people sending him to New Dublin have miscalculated, because Terrence Murphy is a man who believes in honor. Who believes in duty - in common decency and responsibility. Who believes there are dark and dangerous secrets behind the facade of what "everyone knows."

Terrence Murphy intends to meet those responsibilities and unearth those secrets, and he doesn't much care what the Five Hundred want. He intends to put a stop to the killing. Wherever that takes him, he will go. Whatever that costs him, he will pay. And whatever that requires, he will do. Terrence Murphy is coming for whoever has orchestrated fifty-six years of bloodshed and slaughter, and Hell itself is coming with him.

Critique: Governor is a brand new military science fiction novel set in the universe of In Fury Born, one of David Weber's most celebrated works. The protagonist, Rear Admiral Terrence Murphy, has access to the near-unlimited power of an elite cabal, sheltered from the horrific death toll of an ongoing, genocidal war between the Terran Republic and the Terran League. Yet Terrence Murphy holds a drive far stronger than the lure of power. He cherishes honor, and he decided to stop the deadly war by any means necessary. Governor is an utterly riveting read from cover to cover, highly recommended especially for military science fiction enthusiasts and public library collections, and a "must-read" for enthusiasts of Weber's work, including the acclaimed "Honor Harrington" series.

Editorial Note: With more than eight million copies of his books in print and 30 titles on the New York Times bestseller list, David Weber is a science fiction powerhouse. In the vastly popular Honor Harrington series, the spirit of C.S. Forester's Horatio Hornblower and Patrick O'Brian's Master and Commander lives on - into the galactic future. Books in the Honor Harrington and Honorverse series have appeared on 21 bestseller lists, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and USA Today.

Richard Fox is a Nebula Award-nominated author and the winner of the 2017 Dragon Award for Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy novel. He is the author of The Ember War Saga, a military science fiction and space opera series, and other novels in the military history, thriller, and space opera genres.

Paul T. Vogel

S.A. Gorden's Bookshelf

The Warrior's Path
Louis L'Amour
Bantam Books
c/o Penguin Random House
9780553276909, $6.99, 1980, 226 pages

L'Amour is a much better storyteller than most readers reckon. In just a few lines, he can paint a scene with more details than most authors can do in pages of text. He does have a few weaknesses. Most of his heroes are underneath the same character. This highlights the few books where he explores different protagonists. He also occasionally slips with basic logistics. This logistics problem is basically caused by keeping the pace of the narrative moving. One of L'Amour's strengths is the accuracy of the locations and settings. Many times his historical details are more accurate than the average history textbook. This last skill is what makes The Warrior's Path stand out

The Warrior's Path takes place in early American Colonial times. It takes a stark look at the period's bigotry, racism, politics, slavery and greed. What makes the story excellent is that it doesn't preach about the topics but builds around these realities with a basic idealism that most individuals recognize and wish they could emulate.

Kin Sackett is hunting bear near his mountain cabin when a wounded Indian comes up the trail. He brings a message for his brother Yance. The younger sister of Yance's wife has been kidnapped along with another local girl up in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Yance's wife's family is asking him to find the missing girls.

Kin and Yance take off from their home in the mountains of Carolina to rescue the girls. The mission takes them up the Warrior's Path to the Bay Colony and down the coast. After tracking down the girls, the brothers split with Yance staying and Kin taking off to Jamaica. Kin is planning to confront the slavers, who have taken the girls to the pirate town of Port Royal, and stop them.

If you enjoy a good, fast paced, historical novel, you will love The Warrior's Path. Even if you lean more to the familiar Western novels the writing style and characters of any Louis L'Amour tale will connect with you. The great storytelling permits the reader to ignore the few logistical problems that sneak into the tale that were included to keep the narrative moving.

Dragons in the Stars: A Novel of the Star Rigger Universe
Jeffrey A. Carver
Starstream Publications
B00YR9YD9O, $4.99 ebook, 2015, 364 pages

Dragons in the Stars portrays itself as a blended science fiction/fantasy novel. It is actually a dragon fantasy the uses a SF looking hook to bring humans into a magical dragon world.

The troubled young star pilot Jael hires on with an unlicensed ship owner. She escapes from the scoundrel owner by piloting in the flux outside of real space. Piloting in the flux requires a semi-trance state where Jael can avoid her real life problems and past abuse. During her piloting she encounters a region of the flux where a new reality of dragons exists. Jael must come to terms with her own problems to save herself, her ship, her friends and the new reality she has found in the flux.

Dragons in the Stars is a solid dragon fantasy tale. The dragons here are more the benevolent wise type than the kill everything type. The SF portion is a set-up for the dragon fantasy. If you enjoy dragons, you should like this story. It is a harder recommendation for SF readers. Another genre niche that the tale fits in is a coming of age story of a troubled girl transforming herself into an adult.

S.A. Gorden, Senior Reviewer

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
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Oregon, WI 53575-1129
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