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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 15, Number 4 April 2015 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Ann's Bookshelf Bethany's Bookshelf
Buhle's Bookshelf Burroughs' Bookshelf Carson's Bookshelf
Gail's Bookshelf Gary's Bookshelf Gloria's Bookshelf
Gorden's Bookshelf Julie's Bookshelf Karyn's Bookshelf
Kelly's Bookshelf Linda's Bookshelf Logan's Bookshelf
Margaret's Bookshelf Mason's Bookshelf Peggy's Bookshelf
Susan's Bookshelf Suzie's Bookshelf Theodore's Bookshelf

Reviewer's Choice

Like Cleopatra
Anne Malin Ringwalt
Dancing Girl Press
410 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60605
Printed Without ISBN, $7.00

Brendan Perry

What role do myths play in your conception of yourself? If your answer is anything less than "a lot," Anne Malin Ringwalt's "Like Cleopatra" just might make you reconsider. In a daunting first project, Ringwalt explores a cultural limbo, a tug-of-war in the psyche between the past and present, the sacred and the obscene. In order to discover something about what it means to be a young woman now, in the 21st century, she looks to women of the past and the echoes of their circumstances and cultures that still impact young women today.

Anne Malin Ringwalt is a Racine, Wisconsin native, a graduate of Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan, and current student at Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts. She is a singer-songwriter, who frequently performs and whose music is available online. She volunteers as an assistant at Black Ocean Press. In 2013, she was a US Presidential Scholar in the Arts Semi-Finalist, and in 2014, she was included in the Editors' List of the Aldroit Prizes for Prose.

The 2014 chapbook "Like Cleopatra" the poet's first published chapbook, engages with themes from christianity, the ancient world, and human sexuality. In the title alone, Ringwalt reveals two of those themes to her readers, Cleopatra was both an important ruler in ancient Egypt and a woman renowned for her physical beauty.

These themes are daunting in their scope, but she brings to them a surprising intimacy with recurring use of the first person. There are religion and canonical myth, but religion and canonical myth as they relates to the personal experiences of the writer. Throughout the book, she is grappling with sexuality, religion, and the ancient world as they apply to her, and inviting the reader to grapple alongside her. She examines the influences these factors exert on her and the places they occupy in her mind. More than that, she considers how these factors might affect other women.

All of the poems in the book are titled by Roman numerals, connecting the reader again to the classical world, and suggesting that all of the poems are meant to flow together, that each poem is a piece of the greater whole she was trying to construct with "Like Cleopatra." The chapbook is not a collection of poems, but a cohesive whole, orbiting around the central questions and concerns of the writer. Ringwalt establishes contrasts right from the beginning which she brings back throughout the book. One of these contrasts is that between the world of Christianity and our modern sexual culture.

Ringwalt brings this problematic pairing together in the poem "XVI." when she sets Christian figures in a context of rich sexual imagery:

Nuns worldwide bending under the weight of teens undressed
Nuns singing THE HOUR OF DEATH
Monks, delighted by an uncovered breast

In this poem the figures who are responsible for maintaining chaste lifestyles and upholding the faith in their communities are presented as faltering, giving in to sexual desire. With the image of the "nuns bending under the weight of teens undressed" there is perhaps the included implication that religion is crumbling under the power of sexual liberalization. Ringwalt turns the scene apocalyptic when she presents the image "Nuns singing THE HOUR OF DEATH" Ringwalt shows us an apocalypse that comes with the disintegration of the moral fiber of the church, as well as the revelation of a disintegration that began long ago: "On judgment day the nuns, monks and/popes will mark in tallies/the times they've touched themselves," Here she is referencing a record of transgressions against religious code that officials in the church have already committed, have been committing. A tally implies something that happens more than just once or twice, a tally implies that the sexual indulgences of the priests were not deviations which were corrected, they were recurrent.

The driving force behind painting nuns and priests as sexual beings who indulge in their desires is not entirely cynical. Ringwalt is not simply trying to paint these religious figures as hypocrites, she is making them like herself. Throughout the chapbook, Ringwalt makes references to what might be her own sexual encounters, such as in "VII." in which she writes "Your hand rising up the back/of my thigh" By bringing sexuality to nuns and priests, figures who are often austere, Ringwalt humanizes them, she makes them more relatable to herself, and certainly to many readers. She seems to suggest that sexuality permeates everything. Attempts to distance oneself from the sexual drive are useless, because even God, the creator of all things, is sexual.

Simply by mentioning members of the Christian clergy and sex together, Ringwalt is calling to the mind of the reader the taboos that Christianity places on many sexual relations. But the world she describes in "XVI." is one in which sexuality permeates every aspect of religion. Not only are clergy members sexual, God himself is described as a sexual being:

while God, spreading his legs, relentlessly moans:
Sing in me, Muse, and tell me the story
of the black earth and the ripened fruit

By describing God as spreading his legs and moaning, she is clearly sexualizing God, but it's more than just that, God himself is calling on the power of the Muse. God is asking for something of someone else. While spreading his legs and moaning, God is trying to recall the dark earth and the ripened fruit are, images with clear associations to female fertility and sexuality. The sexual desires of God are not like those of his human workers on Earth, the priests, who are tantalized by women's breasts. God's objects of sexual desire are broader, god desires the earth itself, desires fertility in the broadest sense. He asks the Muse, a female goddess from ancient Greek mythology, to help him recall images of what is commonly referred to as "Mother Earth." When combined with his sexual physical actions, it seems that God here is gaining sexual pleasure from fantasizing. Just as with the priests, this sexualization of God doesn't serve as a jab at him. It is an attempt to relate to God. God who is never depicted as having sexual desire in the Bible is now engaging in the very human act of sexual fantasization.

The reference to the Muse is Ringwalt bringing the reader back to the context of the ancient Mediterranean world. She does this throughout "Like Cleopatra." She inserts references to ancient myths and figures where we might not expect them. The God of which she had been writing in the Catholic context of nuns, priests and the pope is suddenly calling for a goddess from ancient Greek mythology to help him. Another example of this is the beginning of "VII.," where she writes "I am lily of the valley, Cleopatra and/ Britney Spears in the 90s." In just two lines, Ringwalt takes us from a flower associated with the Virgin Mary, to a woman known for her position of power in the ancient world and legendary beauty, to a pop star from the 90's. The reader is then compelled to consider the similarities between the three. What are they doing in a list together? For one, they are all well-known women who have been defined along sexual lines. Ringwalt is mixing various portrayals of women that she has encountered in her life, and comparing herself to them as well as comparing each of them to the others. These are not personal, but popular figures, most people will know of them, which makes her poetry more accessible for everyone. While often being very personal, Ringwalt is sure never to do so in a way that could make a reader feel excluded or alienated. She is simultaneously deeply personal and accessible.

Ringwalt's chapbook deals heavily with the female sexuality: her experiences with it, and how it has been mythologized. At times she seems to be trying to cast aside the myths of female sexuality. She pokes fun at the idea of female sexual purity, for example. But she also reveals the degree to which some of those myths may linger in the mind to be considered. In "VII." when describing an intimate encounter in which a partner touched her thigh, she writes, "For this is conquest at its finest." Here she is referencing the concept that a relationship between a man and woman is a relationship between the conqueror and the conquered, that heterosexual sex is the act of the woman giving in to the desire of the man rather than being desirous and taking action to satisfy her desire. This concept is problematic at best, but it permeates our culture. Ringwalt is highlighting the struggle of a woman who takes authority in her sexual life, but who nonetheless struggles with the resurgence into her mind of old myths which society has ingrained into her.

The poet handles struggles that can affect anyone: heartbreak, dependence on a partner, and bitterness, but she always clarifies her purpose, always makes it clear in her language and the things she is referencing that she is writing about the experiences of a woman, the experiences that she knows best. By being more specific, she eliminates the liability of writing about something like heartbreak to become vague and cliche. She brings novelty to the well-worn paths of love with carefully selected and retold memories from her own romantic experiences, even the smallest ones. In "IV," she writes about about a crush she shared with a boy on a middle school class trip:

Also a friend and I bought mood rings for $2 at a Tom Sawyer boat ride gift-shop
Dinner at an Italian chain and my mood ring was purple (love, it meant)
The boy said if he had one it'd be purple too

Minor details like the price of the mood rings and the type of chain restaurant at wish she and her classmates ate enrich the stories for the reader, and immerse them in her memory, a critical feature for such a reflective work to have. In showing how romance and intimacy occur so innocently in children, she reinforces the idea that they are imbedded in our nature, unable to be repressed. Her specificity in language also prevents her from straying too far from the focus of the poem, which is the experience of a reflective young woman constructing her emotional and sexual identity, it keeps the poem anchored to her life and prevents forays into lofty poetry which alienates readers.

One interesting way in which she appeals to the interests and domain knowledge of many different kinds of readers is in the way she chooses the women she writes about. When choosing particular women to write about or gain inspiration from, Ringwalt doesn't seem to discriminate. In her friends and her family, she finds women just as worthy of being written about as the great Cleopatra. She brings Britney Spears into her poetry even though she might be viewed by some as trashy and irrelevant, having nothing to offer to any conversation about womanhood. As a pop star, she is disposable. She was replaced by new generations of entertainers, and is fading away more and more each day. She certainly won't go on to be talked about over the course of millennia like the Virgin Mary or Cleopatra. But Ringwalt finds her worthy of mention. Perhaps she chose to bring up Britney Spears for just that woman, to prove that she is not disposed of, that she has left an impression on someone's memory, and is important in that right even if society at large doesn't view it that way. This establishes that Ringwalt aims to be inclusive of all women in her poetry.

Ringwalt, in drawing from her own life, and describing emotional struggles and sexual encounters candidly and tactfully, invites readers to identify with her. She lays it all out on the table, and in making herself vulnerable; she makes it easier for readers to be vulnerable. She challenges the reader to bring as much personal emotion to their reading of her poetry as she does to her writing of it. In her first chapbook publication, she does not seem at all shy. This sort of intimate relationship between writer and reader makes for an enriching and welcoming reading experience.

Throughout "Like Cleopatra," Ringwalt displays her great ability to craft language in a variety of ways. From goofy - if sacrilegious - jumps in association like in the line "Jesus, Palm Sunday, Jesus on an ass" to strange and memorable images like, "The bell-mouth spillways: vaginal and Homeric," Ringwalt makes it clear that she can construct poetry uniquely and masterfully. Her background in songwriting shines through when her poetry is read aloud; it is clear that she is deliberate and skilled in choosing the sonic combinations of the words she uses.

Ringwalt also establishes herself as one who can use a variety of tones in her poetry to different effects. She is comfortable with writing poetry, and it shows. There are poems that are mostly humorous, and poems that are mostly grave. Her expressions of sadness will certainly leave an impact on viewers. She has not fallen into the trap of taking herself too seriously, and thus restricting her emotional scope. There is never a dull moment with this chapbook, Ringwalt is constantly changing the emotional direction of her poetry, experimenting with it, in a way that keeps the reader stimulated and paying attention. But "Like Cleopatra" doesn't suffer as a concept as a result. That is, even with great emotional variety, there is still a sense of coherence. It remains clear that she has deliberately arranged her poems to create "Like Cleopatra."

Ringwalt doesn't just experiment with her tone. "Like Cleopatra" includes illustrations to enhance the reading experiencing and bring context to what she is referencing with her words. The reader who might not be at all experienced with Cleopatra or the legends surrounding her is invited to look at a painting of her. Ringwalt includes a graphic of a drain to aid in the reader's visualization of her description of a particular part in the drain, the spillway. Thus, in her very first poetry chapbook, she is already bold enough to experiment with mixing media. She is not afraid to push outside of the boundaries of written poetry. This too, serves as an example of the struggle between past and present: Ringwalt masterfully uses poetic devices established in generations past, and simultaneously employs a tactic at the forefront of progression into new and different poetry.

"Like Cleopatra" is an impressive and ambitious first work. Not only does Ringwalt display her mastery of crafting poems and imbuing them with deep personal meaning, she has managed already to write a collection of poems which is socially conscious, and addresses societal problems. This displays that she has artistic maturity and a knowledge of the different aims of writing poetry. Its brief length and low cost make this chapbook an accessible introduction to the poet's work for anyone. With such talent and propensity to push the limits of poetry, one can only hope that Ringwalt will publish more material soon.

Figs & Pomegranates & Special Cheeses: A Love Story
Mona Gustafson Affinito
Privately Published
9780692257883, $12.95

Kevin Peter, Reviewer

"If the married life possess love and virtue, these will be both its duty and reward" - Thiruvalluvar

Author Mona Gustafson Affinito's latest book 'Figs & Pomegranates & Special Cheeses: A Love Story' retells the story of biblical Job from the point of view of his wife. Enter a mystical and exotic land of great happenings as Mrs. Job a.k.a. Dara takes you behind the scenes in a unique first person narrative. We follow her journey from childhood to adulthood as she tackles varied themes of friendship, love and faith in her life. This is not just the story of Job's wife; it is a story about a woman who showed unparalleled courage in the face of multitudes of change that rocked her life. It's an inspiring story that encourages you to have faith in your own core beliefs and values.

Diving deep into biblical times and the lives of its inhabitants, author Mona comes up with a highly detailed and descriptive narration of an extraordinary story. Christian or otherwise, everyone's bound to have heard the story of Job and his tryst with God because of the story's wide appeal and relevance in popular culture. While Mrs. Job gets only a fleeting mention in the bible, this historical fiction puts her at the center of the action and tells the story from her point of view. From the time of her betrothal and subsequent marriage ceremony, Dara loved Job and stayed with him through thick and thin.

This novel's basic premise of presenting this lone woman as a fallible and yet living and breathing soul in a patriarchal society deserves much appreciation. It is a well researched book but at the same time the narration doesn't get lost in the details. Even though the characters in this novel are your favorite immortalized ones from the bible, here we get to see them in a different and unique setting. Speaking about the setting, it is one of those things that go unnoticed while reading a book. Story writers simply narrate a story while story-tellers manage to take readers straight into the world of the characters they create. Mona lets them tell their own story; it is they who compel the plot to move forward and not the other way around.

There is an appropriately titled section called 'story behind the story' at the end of this book. It is akin to a director's commentary on your favorite movie's DVD. But here it's an author who opens up about her craft and her book. It is a must read if you are a bibliophile or even someone who wants to know more about the inner workings of a writer's mind.

Mona Gustafson Affinito's passionately created portrait on the lives of Dara and Job appeals at so many different levels. It is intrinsically humane in its approach and turns out to be an inspiring read that you will keep coming back to.

The World Rushed In: The California Gold Rush Experience
J.S. Holliday
Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, N.Y., N.Y. 10020
9780671255374, $9.99 (Kindle), 559pp,

Paul Binford, Reviewer

In January, 1848, a carpenter named James Marshall picked up a few gold nuggets out of the American River, near what is now Sacramento. The news of the discovery soon spread across the United States and attracted upwards of 100,000 adventurers of all sorts, some of whom wrote letters home. Of all the letter writers, very few kept writing from the start to finish of their gold rush ordeal. William Swain, a farmer from upstate New York, was one of those.

In the spring of 1948, J.S. Holliday managed to get the letters written by Swain from his only surviving daughter, Sara. Holliday turned those letters into a remarkable book not only of Swain's adventures, but of the background and anecdotal stories of the epochal event that shaped California before it was even a state.

One must sympathize with John Sutter, a Swiss immigrant, citizen of Mexico, who'd received a land grant of 50,000 acres. His dream was to found a new city, based on agriculture, which he would have called New Helvetia were it not for Marshall's discovery. Soon enough all his hands deserted his project and strayed along the banks of the rivers, picking up gold as they went along.

It really was that easy, at first. The press and politicians back in the states trumpeted the news with some extra flair. President Polk even announced it in Congress, saying that the reports of "...the abundance of gold in that territory..." were authentic.

William Swain joined the throng heading west. The best route was overland through Nebraska along the Platte River. He left his home with three others on April 11, 1849 on a journey that would take seven months before he reached the gold fields. At times, there were so many wagons that the trail spread across the prairie for "several miles." This was the easy part. From Fort Laramie, Wyoming, the trail rose upland. There were bottlenecks, mountain passes and river crossings.

One of the remarkable aspects of it all is the spontaneous nature of capitalism, at the time completely unfettered by any sort of government regulations. Very soon after the rush started, there were dozens of merchants in Independence, Missouri, selling anything and everything needed, what they called "California fixings," to the emigrants. Once the wagons reached the river crossings, far into the wilderness, there were already ferry boats charging a pretty hefty sum to carry the wagons across. Individuals made it their business to traverse the trail back and forth, carrying letters at a dollar each to the nearest post office. In California, that would be in San Francisco, where letters were brought to the mining camps by these unofficial postmen. The cities of Sacramento and S.F. literally sprang up overnight, with docks and warehouses, shops selling everything from shovels to fresh produce, which was mainly imported from Hawaii. There were the hustlers; independent ladies of the night, gamblers, along with brigands and highwaymen. The currency was gold dust, and the merchants carried away more gold than the miners.

It also allowed for abuse of the Indians, some of whom were outright murdered just for being Indian. Not to mention the damage to the natural environment of California. Forests were felled, rivers were dammed so their course could be diverted and rocky riverbeds were exposed. Towards the end, hydraulic mining was introduced, which leveled entire mountainsides in search of the mother lode.

The life of the miner was more often than not a miserable one. William writes: "...I tell you this mining among the mountains is a dog's life. A man has to make a jackass of himself packing loads over mountains that God never designed man to climb, a barbarian by foregoing all the comforts of civilized life, and a heathen by depriving himself of all the communication with men away from his immediate circle." By the time Swain had arrived, the easy pickings were gone and finding it required "robust labor and hard tugging and lifting to separate the gold from the rock." He also writes of miners who, after only a few weeks work, admitted that "...if there had been a vessel lying upon the Feather River bound for New Orleans, there was not one of us who would not rather have stepped on board than to have gone one step farther in search of gold...Almost every man we meet who has been in the mines is wishing himself out of this country."

Swain opted for the sea voyage back home, which began with a passage to either Panama or Nicaragua. Overland, the worry was of bandits and shysters, then the passage to New York. Swain kept the letters going, which is why Holliday chose him as the main source. His last letter is dated January 31, 1851, posted in New York.

J.S. Holliday began working on what he ended up calling "the book" almost as soon as he discovered Swain's letters in 1948. The book was finally published in 1981, you can do the math. He graduated from University of California, Berkeley, after which he worked as a researcher and director of several historical museums and societies, including the founding director of the Oakland Museum. He died in 2006 at his home in Carmel, California.

As to the title, it was indeed a case of the world rushing in. Holliday wrote in his epilogue: "Year after year the emigration continued via the year-round Panama and Nicaragua routes and the summer overland trails. The lure of California gold remained so great throughout the 1850's that more than 30,000 men and a few thousand women from the British Isles, Germany and France sailed around Cape Horn to San Francisco. From Asia, an estimated 25,000 Chinese landed by the end of 1852. California and its gold caused the first worldwide mass migration."

Chase of Choices
Dr.Hari Parameshwar
Leadstart Publishing Pvt Ltd.
Regus Business Centre
Level 1, Trade Centre
Bandra Kurla Complex
Bandra (East), Mumbai - 400 051 India
List Price : Rs.190

Deepa.T.P., Reviewer
Assistant Professor
Department of computer Science and Engineering
Acharya Institute of Technology
Acharya Dr.Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan Road
Soldevanahalli, Bangalore-560107 INDIA

This book is a story of many who are victims of divorce and searching for their "soulmate." Wanting to rebuild their lives, they took help of matrimonial sites. Author tells the story through main character Raj having two kids, Kini and kittu . During his search on website, Raj comes across 4 female characters-Anjali, Olivia, Meenu and Priya (guest appearance) who are sailing on the same boat. Author, in the whole story, brings to light how each one of them has to face different types of challenges during the journey from breakup and towards rebuilding his or her life.

My most favorite characters are Kini, Kittu, Anjali and of course Raj. Especially Kini's curious questions and a few funny answers made me smile. I was remembering those conversations of Kini with Raj and was smiling even at my workplace. Few of my colleagues enquired about it, and my narration created curiosity among them too. Now, they too started reading the book. But, it made me to cry too. Because, with some of the narrations in the book, I could relate them to my own experiences. Almost being "female version of Raj"(may not be in a few instances)I could really sense those deeper feelings, like Raj's fear about taking care of Kini who is getting into adolescence. Kids are the innocent victims of so-called "breakups." I felt pity, when I imagined how kids have to make themselves prepared to face such 'surprises'.

Not smile and cry alone, it made me to guess a possible choice for Raj. However, It created too much of confusions when it took a twist towards Olivia. Later, I realized that I kept reading this book from 5p.m to 4a.m for two days to finish it ( I think I never dedicated this much time even for my research work...hahahah...).I was thinking about Raj's possible choice in my classroom also. Kudos to Author's effort, which made readers to get, involved so much in it.

My other observations about this book are - Character Raj's determination, constant support to his kids, his true feelings, his craving for love and his trust in others. The way he was involving his kids in his decisions by asking their opinions (in a clever way) is the right example of parenting new generation kids. Furthermore, I liked the way author has narrated how Raj controlled his anger, anxiety, and emotions during times of breach of his trust, his way of responding to situations and his alertness. Both negativity and positivity of each character were expressed in a very dignified manner. Narration of Livy's beauty is so adorable.

Those "nuggets" mentioned at the end of each chapter are too precious.

From the time I started the book, and until I was complete, this book had become an inseparable companion to me. Now I have started reading it for a second time!!!

At the end, one thing I want to highlight is "finally whatever it befalls,,the wheel of life must keep moving......"

"The Wheel of life, wheel of learning, wheel of experiencing, continues revolving, on its predefined path, propounding more choices." (The last line of the book).

My heartily Thanks to Author for presenting such a wonderful gift to readers.

Ann's Bookshelf

Don't Let Him Know
Sandip Roy, editor
Bloomsbury Press
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 315, New York, NY 10010
9781620408988, $25.00, 256pp,

After the death of her husband, Avinash, in India, Romola Mitra has come to live in California with her son, Amit, and his American wife, June. Shortly after her arrival, Amit, trying to bridge the gap between them caused by distance and time, brings his mother a fragment of a letter which he found in an old address book of hers amongst books he had brought with him to America.

Only the last page of the letter is there, but it is clearly a love letter, signed by 'Sumit', a friend of his father's. Romola is shocked that she had so carelessly kept this letter from her past. "That was a long time ago", she tells Amit, and deflects his queries. But the fact that she had never shown this letter to her husband is not the only secret which she keeps. And this book is full of secrets, some dark and dangerous, others linked to childhood memories or secret desires, or simply secret longings, like Romola's wish to be free of some of the traditional restrictions of Indian widowhood.

Sandip Roy is a good story-teller and several chapters from this book have been published as stand-alone stories. Each chapter offers a glimpse of some part of the lives of Romola, Avinash, Sumit and their families, and each offers a vignette in which they experience deaths, childhood errors and puzzlement, youthful explorations and passions, sudden dramatic (and traumatic) mid-life adventures, adaptation and widowhood. Some chapters are set in America, some in India.

Roy grew up in India and spent many years in America before returning to Calcutta. He knows the culture and traditions of both countries well, but Don't Let Him Know is more complex than most novels in the popular 'Asian family adapts to American life' genre. With great sensitivity, insight and humour, Roy explores complex issues of sexuality, love, class, gender, family duty, guilt and loss of face. He does so in a way which has meaning not just in present-day life in India but in everyday life everywhere. And he does so by creating characters we grow to like and understand.

Surprisingly, since Roy has been writing and broadcasting successfully for so long, this is his first published novel. Unsurprisingly, to those who follow his popular blogs for the Huffington Post or have listened to him on National Public Radio's Morning Edition (one of the most listened-to radio programmes in the US), this novel is a pleasure to read.

A Theft: My Con Man
Hanif Kureishi, editor
9780571323197, A$9.99, 44 pages

"The con man is the one who has the passport to your hopes, who touched the G-spot of your wishes".

Anyone who has had experience with a con man can understand this. The problem becomes an obsession and, just as Hanif Kureishi describes, it begins to rule your life and threaten your sanity.

As in a love affair, common sense plays no part. There is, as Kureishi says, a Freudian aspect to this - we undervalue reality and overvalue the desired object. In Kureishi's case, the desired object was the return of his entire savings, which his seemingly respectable and reliable accountant had stolen from him. And the focus of his love/hate was this accountant, Jeff Chandler, as he calls him.

Kureishi writes compellingly of the power of his delusion. The way in which he continued to believe this man. The way he liked him and felt sorry for his misfortunes. And the seemingly common power of hope over false belief. "Delusions are two-a-penny", he writes, but it takes a special kind of absurd commitment, akin to that of religious fanatics, to believe the plausible lies of a con man. What was there, he wondered, in his own psyche which had made him vulnerable?

Eventually the glamour started to wear off and Kureishi began to question his own sanity. Writing it out was his method of coming to terms with reality and abandoning false hopes: A way of stealing something back and creating something fresh and new from the whole experience. But still, giving up his addiction to Chandler proved difficult. Partly, it seems, because he had felt sorry for this man who seemed bowed down by his own personal and financial difficulties, but, fascinatingly, not by the pain and ruin he was causing to others.

Kureishi's creative self-therapy has involved examining his own background. He considers his 'training' in self-delusion, which he attributes to family dynamics and to growing up in 1960s South London amongst "spivs and wide boys", youngsters forming bands, and chancers who always believed something good was bound to turn up. He looks at his own weaknesses, refers to our common fascination with crime and transgression, and finds excuses for Chandler then later repudiates them. It is clear that his love-hate relationship with the man is not completely vanquished.

This is a very short book, hardly more than a pamphlet, and it really is just an elaboration of the random thoughts he first began to jot down in an attempt to make sense of his obsession. There is a certain incoherence to these thoughts and an unfinished feeling to some of his observations, yet however misguided his view of Chandler as a true representative of our present financial world, the story Kureishi tells and the way he tells it is fascinating and thought-provoking.

Ann Skea, Reviewer

Bethany's Bookshelf

Winning the Money Game in College
Steven C. Roberts
Rosebud Publications
98 N Main St #222, Clearfield, UT 84015
c/o Brigham Distributing
110 South 800 West, Brigham City, UT 84302
9780990314707 $24.95

Unlike most other types of loans, student loans cannot be discharged through bankruptcy, so the best way to escape student debt is to refrain from incurring it. Winning the Money Game in College Book 1: Finance is a solid guide to pursuing debt-free higher education. Chapters discuss how to efficiently apply for scholarships, solicit one's employer (or parents' employers) to pay for school, get paid to do homework (by landing the right kind of job), avoid credit card debt, and much more. "Credit card companies target students; avoid credit card offers that come in the mail or can be found at a booth on campus. These cards have some of the fewest advantages, highest penalties, and highest interest rates." As the cost of earning a degree continues to soar, Winning the Money Game in College should be required reading for every high school graduate looking to further their education and/or career training.

Poetry for the Rest of Us series
Hammer and Horn Productions
589 Burts Pit Rd., Florence, MA 01062
$14.95 each

Michael Goldman skillfully translates and reads aloud CD audiobooks of contemporary poetry from Danish authors in the "Poetry for the Rest of Us" series. "Benny Andersen" (1 CD, 78 min.) is filled with poems that question the riddle of modern life, and is the first English translation in 20 years of works by world-class lyricist Benny Andersen, who still performs to sold-out audiences in Denmark. "Knud Sorensen" (1 CD, 69 min.) gathers the writings of land surveyor Sorensen, who witnessed firsthand the widespread encroach of industry, automation, and suburban development upon interdependent farming communities. Sorensen's vivid witness of the toll that changing times has taken upon man and his relationship to nature have earned him the 2014 Great Prize of the Danish Academy, the highest literary award given in Denmark. Both are superb choices for connoisseurs of multicultural poetry, worthy of the highest recommendation.

Real Solutions Weight Loss Workbook, second edition
Toni Piechota, MS, MPH, RDN
Eat Right Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
120 South Riverside Plaza, Suite 2000
Chicago, Illinois 60606-6995
9780880914864 $20.00

Now in an updated second edition, Real Solutions Weight Loss Workbook is a flat-spined, consumable resource for improving one's health, diet, and fitness. The accessible text teaches readers the basics of weight loss, getting started with a regimen of physical activity, how to keep food records, and strategies for staying track. "Measure the distance around your upper arms, hips, neck, and thighs [weekly]. As you start exercising, you may add muscle while you lose fat. Because muscle is denser than fat, 1 pound of muscle takes up less space than 1 pound of fat. Therefore, your measurements will shrink and your pants may fit looser, even if the scale doesn't show much of a change. You can also track blood sugar (glucose) and blood pressure levels as additional indicators of progress." A "user-friendly" tool for implementing and keeping track of positive lifestyle changes, Real Solutions Weight Loss Workbook is enthusiastically recommended.

The SuperWoman's Guide to Super Fulfillment
Jaime Kulaga, Ph.D.
Pier 99 Publishing
8710 W. Hillsborough Ave., Suite 133, Tampa, FL 33615
9780692283424 $12.95

The SuperWoman's Guide to Super Fulfillment lives up to its title as a self-help guide to juggling the responsibilities of career, relationship, family, paying the bills, and more. Chapters address how to prioritize the most important aspects of one's life, take care of one's own needs without feeling guilty, boost self-confidence and decision-making skills, and more. "The real way to 'get back' at someone is to channel your anger into something you love and do it! You will be so consumed with life that you'll be better able to put into perspective what really matters to you. If you are angry because you think someone is making your life miserable, it's only because you are letting them." A practical-minded book filled with "common sense", life-empowering advice, The SuperWoman's Guide to Super Fulfillment is highly recommended.

The Oklahoma Gamblin' Man
Gary Rex Tanner, author
Daisy Tanner, illustrator
Two Little Frogs Publishing
9780989218658 $21.50

Also available as a Kindle ebook, The Oklahoma Gamblin' Man is the biography of a man of the Greatest Generation, spanning the years before World War I to the Roaring 20's, the Great Depression's bootlegger and gangster era, World War II, and the rise of California as a powerful national economy. The saga of this fearless, colorful, and quick-thinking man is enriched with original watercolor paintings and songs, as well as vintage photography; all the songs are freely available on the website A life story that reads like an adventure novel, The Oklahoma Gamblin' Man is highly recommended.

A Dance in the Woods
Janet K. Brennan
Casa de Snapdragon
c/o Karen Villanueva Author Services
9781937240486 $15.95

A Dance in the Woods: A Mother's Insight is the true-life memoir of author and mother Janet Brennan seeking to come to terms with the loss of her daughter. When her husband is posted to Italy, Brennan must abruptly move and adjust to life in a strange new land. Yet her surroundings also possess indefinable healing power, as she journeys between her own memories and the comfort of the dark woods. She observes an old woman talking to her husband at his gravesite, listens to the practice music of a shed band, and experiences the mysterious, vibrant power of nature. A Dance in the Woods is a cathartic story of heartbreak, hope, and love, highly recommended.

Susan Bethany

Buhle's Bookshelf

Chasing Arizona
Ken Lamberton
University of Arizona Press
355 South Euclid Avenue, Suite 103, Tucson, AZ 85719-6654
9780816528929, $19.95, 384pp,

Synopsis: In the pages of "Chasing Arizona: One Man's Yearlong Obsession with the Grand Canyon State", author Ken Lamberton takes readers on a year long, twenty-thousand-mile joyride across Arizona during its centennial, racking up more than two hundred points of interest along the way. Lamberton chases the four corners of Arizona, attempts every county, every reservation, and every national monument and state park, from the smallest community to the largest city. He drives his Kia Rio through the longest tunnels and across the highest suspension bridges, hikes the hottest deserts, and climbs the tallest mountain, all while visiting the people, places, and treasures that make Arizona great. In the vivid, lyrical, often humorous prose the author is known for, each destination weaves together stories of history, nature, and people, along with entertaining side adventures and excursions. Maps and forty-four of the author's detailed pencil drawings illustrate the journey. "Chasing Arizona" is unlike any book of its kind. It is an adventure story, a tale of Arizona, a road-warrior narrative. It is a quest to see and experience as much of Arizona as possible. Through intimate portrayals of people and place, readers deeply experience the Grand Canyon State and at the same time celebrate what makes Arizona a wonderful place to visit and live.

Critique: Impressively well written, organized and presented, "Chasing Arizona: One Man's Yearlong Obsession with the Grand Canyon State" is as informed and informative a read as it is engaging and entertaining. A seminal travelogue that reads as smoothly as any adventure novel, "Chasing Arizona: One Man's Yearlong Obsession with the Grand Canyon State" is very highly recommend for personal reading lists and community library collections. It should be noted that "Chasing Arizona: One Man's Yearlong Obsession with the Grand Canyon State" is also available in a Kindle edition ($15.99).

JD: A Novel
Mark Merlis
Terrace Books
c/o University of Wisconsin Press
1930 Monroe Street, Third Floor, Madison, WI 53711-2059
9780299303501, $26.95, 272pp,

Synopsis: Jonathan Ascher, an acclaimed 1960s radical writer and cultural hero, has been dead for thirty years. When a would-be biographer approaches Ascher's widow Martha, she delves for the first time into her husband's papers and all the secrets that come tumbling out of them. She finds journals that begin as a wisecracking chronicle of life at the fringes of the New York literary scene, then recount Ascher's sexual adventures in the pre-Stonewall gay underground and the social upheavals that led to his famous book "JD." As Martha reads on, she finds herself in a long-distance conversation with her dead husband, fighting with him again about their rocky marriage and learning about the unseen tragedy in her own apartment that ended with the destruction of their son, Mickey. Mickey comes to life in the space between Jonathan and Martha's conflicting portraits of him, while Martha and the biographer tangle over the continued relevance of Jonathan's politics and his unfulfilled vision of a nation remade. Martha learns about herself, finally, through her confrontation with a man who will not let her go, even in death.

Critique: A truly impressive work of literary fiction, "JD" documents author Mark Merlis as an extraordinary novelist able to deftly craft a complex plot and populated it with a roster of inherently fascinating characters and memorable events. The result is an entertaining and engaging read that will linger in the mind long after the book is finished and set back upon the shelf. "JD" is very highly recommended for both community and academic library Literary Fiction collections.

A Biography of the Spirit
John C. Haughey
Orbis Books
Box 302, Maryknoll NY 10545-0302
9781626981225, $25.00, 224pp,

Synopsis: "A Biography of the Spirit" offers an astonishing revelation of the beauty, might, subtlety, simplicity, and love that infuses everything, from a trillion bacteria around us we cannot see to uncountable stars above us to billions of living things at the bottom of the sea to a singular bird on our windowsill. Noted theologian John C. Haughey looks at the natural world through the prism of science and discloses the nature of a God who breathes in all things and contains all things and is more than all things. "A Biography of the Spirit" takes the form of a diary in which each day Haughey beholds something in nature or thinks about something he has learned in the sciences and examines them in the light of faith. The result is a spirituality that opens our minds to the breathtaking beauty of the universe and breaks open our hearts to the transcendent Beauty of the Lord and Giver of Life. "A Biography of the Spirit" blends the poetic vision of a Hopkins with the scientific discovery of a Hawking to bring us a theological tour de force.

Critique: A prolific author, Fr. John Haughey, S.J., currently coordinates Woodstock's Catholic Higher Education Project and is involved with the Arrupe Program in Social Ethics for Business. "A Biography of the Spirit" is very highly recommended reading for all members of the Christian community be they pastoral or laity. Beautifully written, informative, thoughtful, thought-provoking, and occasionally inspiring, "A Biography of the Spirit" will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community, academic, and seminary Christian Studies collections. It should be noted that "A Biography of the Spirit" is also available in a Kindle edition ($10.67).

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

The Four Intelligences of the Business Mind
Valeh Nazemoff
Apress Media LLC
233 Spring Street, New York, NY 10013
The Cadence Group
9781430261636, $34.99, 136pp,

Synopsis: In "The Four Intelligences of the Business Mind: How to Rewire Your Brain and Your Business for Success" strategic business technology advisor Valeh Nazemoff offers four different but interrelated types of intelligence essential to today's executive: financial, customer, data, and mastermind intelligence. Knowledge of these transformational intelligences will benefit anyone from individual leaders up through entire organizations. By approaching analysis, strategy mapping, and decision-making with the calm, positive, and proactive methodology detailed in "The Four Intelligences of the Business Mind", executives and decision makers will feel confident in addressing the challenges posed by constantly evolving business environments. Thinking according to the four transformational intelligences will become second nature, resulting in individual and organizational change. "The Four Intelligences of the Business Mind" will enable the reader to: Understand and harness the power of the four business transformational intelligences; Encourage adaptation of these transformational intelligences by employees and organizations through modeling and team exercises; Gain confidence that the data received each day is accurate and useful; Recognize data patterns and act on them in ways that will optimize business performance.

Critique: Impressively organized and presented, "The Four Intelligences of the Business Mind" will prove to be an invaluable and instructive reference for anyone charged with a managerial responsibility within a business, academic, or governmental organization. Thoroughly 'reader friendly' throughout, "The Four Intelligences of the Business Mind" should be a part of every professional, corporate, academic, governmental, and community library Management Studies reference collection and supplemental reading list.

Presidents, Congress, and the Public Schools
Jack Jennings
Harvard Education Press
8 Story Street, 1st floor, Cambridge, MA 02138
9781612507965, $35.00, 264pp,

Synopsis: April 2015 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the landmark legislation that has provided the foundation of federal education policy in the United States. In "Presidents, Congress, and the Public Schools: The Politics of Education Reform", longtime policy analyst Jack Jennings examines the evolution of federal education policy and outlines a bold and controversial vision for its future. Jennings brings an insider's knowledge to this account, offering a vivid analysis of federal efforts in the education arena and revealing some of the factors that shaped their enactment. His rich descriptions and lively anecdotes provide pointed lessons about the partisan climate that stymies much federal policy making today. After assessing the impact of Title I and NCLB, and exploring the variety of ways that the federal government has intervened in education, Jennings sets forth an ambitious agenda for reframing education as a federal civil right and ensuring that every child has the opportunity to learn.

Critique: Jack Jennings is the founder and former CEO of the Center on Education Policy. Prior to that, he served for twenty-seven years as a subcommittee staff director and then as general counsel for the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor. In "Presidents, Congress, and the Public Schools" he applies his many years of experience and expertise to provide an especially impressive and informative treatise that is deftly organized into four major sections: Equity and the Origins of ESEA); Standards, Testing, and Accountability; Other Federal Policies and a Summary; Fresh Thinking about the Federal Role in Education. Enhanced with the inclusion of an Appendix (Chronology of Major Events, 1948-2013); two pages of Notes; and a comprehensive Index, "Presidents, Congress, and the Public Schools" is critically important reading and a highly recommended addition to personal, professional, NGO, governmental, and academic library Contemporary Education Policy reference collections and supplemental reading lists.

Homes Down East
Earle G. Shettleworth, Jr., et al.
Tilbury House, Publishers
12 Starr Street, Thomaston, ME 04861
9780884483496, $39.95, 240pp,

Synopsis: Between the Civil War and World War I, the Maine coast drew thousands of summer visitors every year. By the 1880s, some of the more affluent visitors decided to build their own cottages. From 1885 to 1905, Scientific American Building Monthly published floor plans, photographs, and descriptions of hundreds of homes. These inspired architects, builders, and clients. Fifty of those featured homes were in Maine, and in "Homes Down East; Classic Maine Coastal Cottages and Town Houses", the team of Earle G. Shettleworth Jr.; Christopher Glass; and Scott T. Hanson have tracked fifty-five of them down in order to share them with an appreciative contemporary readership.

Critique: Beautifully and profusely illustrated throughout with the photography of David J. Clough, "Homes Down East; Classic Maine Coastal Cottages and Town Houses" is an impressive architectural survey complete with floor plans and informative commentaries. A fascinating tour-de-force, "Homes Down East; Classic Maine Coastal Cottages and Town Houses" is very highly recommended for professional and academic library Architectural Studies reference collections. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Homes Down East; Classic Maine Coastal Cottages and Town Houses" is especially commended to the attention of non-specialist general readers with an interest in Main cottage and town house architecture.

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

Building Outdoor Kitchens For Every Budget
Steve Cory & Diane Slavik
Creative Homeowner
c/o Fox Chapel Publishing Company
1970 Broad Street N., East Petersburg, PA 17520
9781580115377, $19.99, 208pp,

Synopsis: Incorporating lots of design ideas, plenty of dream kitchens for inspiration, step-by-step instruction, and clear how-to photographs, "Building Outdoor Kitchens for Every Budget" shows budget-conscious homeowners how they can bring attractive and functional outdoor kitchens within their reach. "Building Outdoor Kitchens For Every Budget" includes more than 300 photographs and plenty of DIY-friendly projects, which look and act like expensive professional projects at a fraction of the price. It shows readers how to build lightweight "masonry" counters using steel studs and concrete backboard and offers alternatives to high-end appliances to save money. Also included are accessories and amenities to affordably customize an outdoor kitchen: fire pits, a variety of adobe/clay ovens, pergolas, awnings, TV and stereo equipment, mosquito abatement, misters and heaters, fireplaces, pizza ovens, and standup "churrasco" grills.

Critique: Extraordinarily well written, organized and presented, "Building Outdoor Kitchens For Every Budget" is especially commended to the attention of do-it-yourself enthusiasts seeking to update and upgrade their outdoor kitchen facilities. It is also an ideal 'browse' for anyone seeking to create an outdoor kitchen from scratch. Thoroughly 'user friendly' in design and content, "Building Outdoor Kitchens For Every Budget" would prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community library remodeling and renovation instructional reference collections.

The Milwaukee Mafia
Gavin Schmitt
Barricade Books
2037 Lemoine Ave., Suite 362, Fort Lee, NJ 07024
9780962303265, $16.95, 288pp,

Synopsis: Milwaukee's Sicilian underworld is something few people speak about in polite company, and even fewer people speak about with any authority. Everyone in Milwaukee has a friend of a friend who knows something, but they only have one piece of a giant puzzle. The secret society known as the Milwaukee Mafia has done an excellent job of keeping its murders, members and mishaps out of books. Until now. From the time Vito Guardalabene arrived from Italy in the early 1900s, until the days the Mob controlled the Teamsters union, Milwaukee was a city of murder and mayhem. In "The Milwaukee Mafia: Mobsters in the Heartland", author Gavin Schmitt relies on previously unseen police reports, FBI investigative notes, coroner's records, newspaper articles, family lore and more to bring to light an era of Milwaukee's history that has been largely undocumented and shrouded in myth.

Critique: The Milwaukee crime family or Balistrieri crime family is an American Mafia crime family based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The crime family was considered a branch of the Chicago Outfit. The family's most influential boss was Frank "Mr. Big" Balistrieri, who was greatly involved in the Las Vegas skimming casinos. Today, the crime family is nearly extinct, since Balistrieri died in 1993, and the Chicago Outfit gaining control over some of the illegal rackets in the area. "The Milwaukee Mafia: Mobsters in the Heartland" is a terrific read and author Gavin Schmitt is to be commended for the thoroughly of his research and the accuracy of his reporting. Also available in a Kindle edition ($8.49), "The Milwaukee Mafia: Mobsters in the Heartland" is very highly recommended for community and academic library Criminology collections and to the attention of non-specialist general readers with an interest in the history of organized crime in the midwest.

Foreign Aid and the Legacy of Harry S. Truman
Raymond H. Geselbracht
Truman State University Press
100 East Normal Street, Kirksville, MO 63501-4221
9781612481227, $34.95, 344pp,

Synopsis: President Harry S. Truman believed that if he were remembered for anything, it would be for his foreign aid programs. Despite the fragmented appearance of the Truman administration's various foreign aid programs, they were all inspired by a clear policy: "to assist free peoples to work out their own destinies in their own way." From the Marshall Plan to the Truman Doctrine to the Point Four program, "Foreign Aid and the Legacy of Harry S. Truman" explores Truman's legacy in institutionalizing foreign aid as a feature of American diplomacy. The work of Truman's programs was completed before he left office, but his idea that the United States should assist underdeveloped or developing countries to build up their economies shaped United States foreign policy for the next sixty years.

Critique: Compiled and edited by Raymond H. Geselbracht (Special Assistant to the Director at the Harry S. Truman Library), "Foreign Aid and the Legacy of Harry S. Truman" an informative introduction and nine erudite scholarly articles ranging from Louis A. Pcard and Zachary A. Karazsia's 'The Truman Administration's Foreign Aid Legacy: From the Cold War to the War on Terrorism', to David Ekbladh's 'Harry S. Truman, Development Aid, and American Foreign Policy', to 'The Truman Administration's Foreign Aid Programs: Excerpts from Harry S. Truman Memoirs' edited by Raymond H. Geselbracht. Enhanced with the inclusion of an appendix (President Truman's Messages, Statements, Speeches, and New Conferences Relating to Foreign Aid', a list of contributors, and a comprehensive index, "Foreign Aid and the Legacy of Harry S. Truman" is a seminal and highly recommended contribution that should be acquired for academic library 20th Century American Political History collections in general, and Harry S. Truman Administration supplemental studies reading lists in particular. It should be noted that "Foreign Aid and the Legacy of Harry S. Truman" is also available in a Kindle edition ($27.99).

Michael J. Carson

Gail's Bookshelf

But I'm NOT a Wicked Stepmother!: Secrets of Successful Blended Families
Kathi Lip & Carol Boley
Focus on the Family
c/o Tyndale Publishing
351 Executive Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188
9781589978010, $14.99,

"Blended," formerly a word more associated with recipes than families, today describes ex-mom and dads with children who remarry with the expectation of "becoming one big happy family." They often don't understand their new family may be a minefield of disappointments, unmet expectations and jealousy when their unrealistic expectations meet the "reality of step-family" living.

"There's something about these step-situations that makes a sane person act in some not-so-sane ways," writes co-authors Carol Boley and Kathi Lipp in their March 2 release, But I'm NOT a Wicked Stepmother! from Tyndale House Publishers

Kathi Lipp, step-mom, author and podcast host of So Here's the Thing with Kathi Lipp joins with former news reporter, feature writer, and stop-mom, Carol Boley to pen an important, much-needed, "go-to" book that reveals their "secrets of successful blended families." They write with the voice of experience about the challenges of "conflicting parenting styles, threatened ex-spouses, role confusion, power struggles, jealousy, custody battles" and more.

In the chapter titled, "It's Not (All) Abut the Kids," Kathi writes, "It's not about trying's about trusting harder." It's about believing God has a plan and purpose for your life, your husbands life and the lives of the children in your care. In other words, she writes, "It's about your (the step-parent's) relationship with God."

Carol focuses on words of encouragement in another chapter, "Say This, Not That" where she endorses Proverbs 18:21's wise words, "the tongue has the power of life and death." Besides many specific examples of affirming words and phrases, she includes nine words never to use, Scriptures for daily self-affirmation and words for compromise, encouragement and appreciation.

She also features a handy chart with examples of what to say and not say when feelings run high, such as:

Stepchild: "You're not my real mom!"

Don't say, "Praise God!"

Instead say: "You're right."

Kathi and Carol capture a realistic view of step motherhood that appreciates the emotional baggage and scars that make blended marriages difficult. Their practical illustrations and suggestions from experts, other step moms and their own experiences include personal experiences with specific suggestions for "house rules, group texts and household calendars."

They both admit "the step-mom thing is hard," yet they write, "Don't panic, stay focused on God and His Book of Instructions," because "God is greater than your problems."

If you're a step parent dealing with anger, guilt and transition issues who is sometimes treated like a "step-monster," But I'm NOT a Wicked Stepmother! belongs on your book shelf. Although the humorous title targets step-moms, Kathi and Carol's excellent advice applies to any stepparent relationship, father, mother or child and I recommend it as a ten star read!

The celebration of Easter and Passover reminds believers of Christ's love and the price he paid to grant the gift of eternal life, never more important than in these days of growing global Christian persecution and anti-Semitism.

This Easter falls in the midst of a rare Blood Moons Tetrad made up of lunar and solar eclipses that fall on Jewish feast days, only the fourth time in 500 years. "The Rabbinic tradition identifies a lunar eclipse as a bad omen for Israel. They interpret a red moon to mean a sword is coming for the whole world..." which seems possible if you listen to the news.

WND Faith reports, "Just as Noah did in ancient times, world-renowned evangelist Billy Graham is sounding the alarm that the Second Coming is "near" and signs of the end of the age are "converging now for the first time since Jesus made those predictions."

Easter is a perfect time to draw close to Christ, recognize who He is, what He has done and renew your personal relationship with Him. The reviews below relate how to do that.

Mission Accomplished: A Two-Week Family Easter Devotional
Scott James and A.E. Macha
New Growth Publishing
PO Box 4485, Greensboro, NC 27404
9781939946577, $13.99,

Scott James, pediatric surgeon and devoted father wrote this fourteen day devotional, Mission Accomplished with families in mind. The first week begins with Palm Sunday and ends with "The Dark Day in Between," with Jesus in the tomb. The second week, "when Jesus' rescue mission seems to have failed," focuses on death's defeat and Christ's resurrection. His conversations with the disciples and the "marching orders" Christ gave to the disciples to spread His message to the world, what we know as the "Great Commission."

Devotions begin with scripture to be read aloud or together with featured suggestions to "Think About It." Question and answer prompts in "Talk About It" relate to youngsters experiences and encourage discussion, followed by a brief prayer time. Devotions take ten to twenty minutes and end with either a familiar hymn or another family activity. I've never seen such a useful, biblically sound, simply written family devotional before and highly recommend it.

Daily Light: Morning and Evening Devotional
Thomas Nelson
P.O. Box 141000, Nashville, Tennessee 37214
9781400322572, $18.99,

If you feel spiritually thirsty for God's word, Daily Light: Morning and Evening Devotional is a perfect choice to begin and end your day with. Each gold edged page contains "Scripture only" without commentary. The assorted Bible verses build one upon the other to reinforce that days reading with scripture references listed below the reading.

From January to December, more than one hundred topics provide a nuanced cross-section of what the Bible has to say on a particular subject. Each devotional reading sets a tone of hope to begin the day with and provides a sense of peace at day's end.

The devotions are an excellent choice any time of year, but never more so than around Easter which arrives on April 5 this year, along with the third of the mysterious Blood Moons.

It Is Finished: Finding Lasting Victory Over Sin
David Wilkerson
Chosen Books
11400 Hampshire South, Bloomington, Minnesota 55438
9780800795498, $13.99,

It is Finished by David Wilkerson, author of The Cross and the Switchblade and founder of World Challenge, Inc. "is composed of messages Wilkerson preached" at New York City's Times Square Church.

After a lifetime of ministry Wilkerson had gained a "fresh" understanding of the absolute freedom found in God's New Covenant that enables believers to break "free from the power of sin..." with the help of the Holy Spirit.

He writes, it's not about "works," we can't get to heaven by doing good works, instead it's about what Christ did on the cross, the price He paid to break the bondage of sin in our lives, which makes this devotional a perfect choice for Easter.

More than Devotion: Remembering His Word, Applying It to Our Lives
Judy Salisbury
Deep River Books
PO Box 310, Sisters, Oregon, 97730
9781940269382, $15.99,

Judy Salisbury, writer, speaker and firefighter, teaches God is the same "yesterday, today and forever" in her unique fifty day devotional, More Than Devotion. She uses a similar format as she did in her previous book, The Conversation: An Intimate Journal of the Emmaus Encounter only this time the devotional encompasses the "50 days from Passover to Pentecost."

Her valuable insights connect Old Testament teachings with New Testament teachings to lead readers into times of "personal growth, revelation and spiritual maturity." She takes the pattern from the second chapter of Acts where the Apostles were told to wait for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit after Christ's crucifixion in what we know as Pentecost. Salisbury writes, that's "when both Jew and Gentile were united into one dynamic body."

The devotions primary theme concerns "remembrance" something Salisbury considers an important "divine command," a concept she hopes readers will accept as they "read through the devotions." Remembering what God has done in our own lives and in the lives of people and events throughout the Old and New Testament builds and stretches our faith.

Devotions begin with scripture, then something to remember or consider, followed by a brief anecdote, related readings from the Old and New Testaments, then conclude with a thematic Bible verse. Salisbury also includes ample space to record personal thoughts and practical application in "My Task/Challenge" and "My Outcomes/Results."

For example, the first devotion is about rainbows and promises or making vows we can't keep. The rainbow is the reminder that God, who always keeps His promises, will never flood the world again. However, we sometimes promise things we can't or don't do. When that happens we need to "confess it to the Lord." Then learn from "Solomon's wise advice - It is better you should not vow at all."

Another reading focuses on peace and the "Joy of Fellowship" with warnings about critical attitudes and "faultfinding." Another concerns stress and the inability to sleep because of fear and worry. In this one, Salisbury uses the example of Daniel in the lion's den and the Apostle Peter in jail for us to follow. Both lay down and slept, trusting the Lord in spite of perilous circumstances.

"More than Devotion" encourages readers to study, reflect and pursue intimacy with Jesus, further enhanced with examples of practical application of scripture to everyday life. This book is a perfect choice for the Lenten season, but also for any time of year for any who are spiritually thirsty.

Gail Welborn

Gary's Bookshelf

The Synopsis Treasury
Christopher Sirmons Haviland
WordFire Press
c/o WordFire Inc
PO Box 1840, Monument CO 80132
9781614732851, $19.99,

At conventions like Oasis, and Spooky Horror Empire, the question at panel discussions is asked "How do you break into the business of writing?" Christopher Sirmons Haviland has answered it and more with his collection "The Synopsis Treasury." For over ten years Haviland collected the letters between editors and writers about their works and now presents them here for the first time in this anthology. Among the names are Robert Heinlein, H. G. Wells, Andre Norton, Joe Haldeman, Jack Williamson, Ben Bova, Frank Herbert, Kevin Anderson, Connie Willis, Terry Brooks, Piers Anthony, and Michael Bishop are some of the writers included in this collection. Some of the writers have been editors themselves like Ben Bova, Jack Williamson and Kevin Anderson but it is the letters between the writers and the editors that make the collection so interesting to read. Two of them are Frank Herbert and Damon Knight about works by Herbert that include "Dune," or Robert Heinlein and Fred Pohl who also became an sf writer, on Heinlein's many short stories and novels. With all of the correspondences you see the friendships between author and editor that developed over the years as well how different works took shape. "The Synopsis Treasury" is a groundbreaking collection that any fan of science fiction or any budding writer can not afford to miss.

The Greatest Communicator
Dick Wirthlin with Wynton C. Hall
John Wiley & Sons Inc
1111 River Street, Hoboken, NJ 07030
9780471736486, $14.95,

Ronald Reagan has become one of the Republican party's legendary figures through the years. His campaigns of 1980 and 1984 are both memorable for many reasons. "The Greatest Communicator: What Ronald Reagan Taught Me about Politic, Leadership, and Life" depicts a multi level man and president by someone who worked with him for so many years. Wirthlin goes behind the scenes of the two campaigns, Oval office meetings, his long relationship with Ronald Reagan from governor of California to after his presidency are just a few of the things he covers. Wirthlin was a witness to the primary where Regan announced he had paid for the microphone, the lead up to his memorable remark to Walter Mondale in their debate, the day the president was shot and how he handled the situation, and the sense of humor Regan had throughout his life. The book is touching when Wirthlin met with Reagan different times during the presidents' last years where he had Alzheimer's. Wirthlin also reveals things he learned from Ronald Reagan and how he was affected when Reagan passed away. The insight Wirthlin gives as a person who worked with Ronald Reagan as well as a personal friend for so many years makes "The Greatest Communicator" so much more interesting to read.

Lights Camera Lupus
Amanda Rupley
Indigo River Publishing Inc
3West Garden Street, Pensacola, Fl 32502
9780990485728, $14.95,

Amanda Rupley has been involved in the entertainment business in many different aspects. Her book "Lights Camera Lupus" shows some of the things she has been a part of through the years but it is also the story of a woman who learns she has the disease Lupus. There are over 100 autoimmune diseases and Lupus is one of them. Rupley tells how she found out she had the disease and the ways she has learned to deal with it. For some time she had no answers until she was lucky to find a doctor who was familiar with the symptoms of Lupus that Rupley was showing. From then on things changed as she learned as much as she could about Lupus on the internet and organizations that deal with the disease. Unlike other sufferers who have written books about the disease she does not describe it as a wolf waiting to attack its prey, she just treats it for much of the book as if it is something she can beat. She does though have a support group of her husband and family as well as her faith in God that has helped her along. "Lights Camera Lupus" ends on a more positive note. Even though you have something that could be classified as a negative you can still do anything you want to if you just have to have the mindset to do it.

Robert Mrazek
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451468727, $9.99,

"Valhalla" is the first of a series that roars off the page from the very beginning. An expedition team in Greenland gets more than they bargained for when they discover Viking crewmen five hundred feet below the World War II plane they originally found. Now several world governments as well as international business men are trying to stop the team from revealing their find. There is plenty of action for any fan of techno thrillers as well as action adventure by a master of the genre. "Valhalla" would make a great action packed film.

Vanishing Acts
Phillip Margolin and Ami Margolin Rome
c/o Harper Collins
95 Broadway, New York, NY 100007
9780061885563, $16.99,

"Vanishing Acts" is the first of hopefully many books written by this father and daughter. It is also the first time Phillip Margolin has authored a book in the YA genre. Junior high student Madison Kincaid has an interesting life outside of school. She helps out in her father's law practice. Because of her interest in the law she becomes involved in solving the case of the teacher she had in second grade who is missing. It is suspected there was foul play according to all of the circumstantial evidence the police have. Madison suspects something else happened and she is determined to find her former teacher alive and well. "Vanishing Acts" is a fast paced interesting novel that is sure to delight the millions of Phillip Margolin fans.

Bad Taste in Boys
Carrie Harris
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
9780385739689, $17.99,

"Bad Taste in Boys" is the first of a series of YA horror novels of the character Kate Grable. High school student Kate Grable dreams of one day being a doctor so she helps out the football team with first aid. She works with the team and stumbles on the fact that the coach is giving the athletes something that she thinks are steroids. She learns instead that something is happening, turning the football players into zombies. As she delves further she realizes there are other students who are also turning into zombies. What she has to do is find a way to stop it from continuing. The story unfolds at a fast pace with interesting characters and shows among other things problems young adults have in high school. Any fan of horror should enjoy "Bad Taste in Boys."

Powered On The Sounds I Choose to Hear & the Noise I Don't
Sarah Churman
Indigo River Publishing Inc
3West Garden Street, Pensacola, Fl 32502
9780985603359, $14.95,

From birth to age 29 Sarah Churman was legally deaf. Then she learned of a new process of medical technology that enables people to hear. Many may remember when her implants were turned on because the media was there to witness the event. She tells her remarkable story in "Powered On The Sounds I Choose to Hear & the Noise I Don't'" from the obstacles she had to overcome to her discovery that there was hope that she would one day hear. She shows how cruel other children can be, bullying she had to endure, how she became skilled at reading lips and sign language, how unkind other adults could be and the challenges she faced fitting into society with a handicap. Through faith in God, her husband and his family she was able to persevere and overcome her deficiency. She became a media sensation and talks about the many shows she has been on to tell her story as well how she hopes her story can help others. "Powered On The Sounds I Choose To Hear & the Noise I Don't" is an inspirational narrative that shows that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

The Adventures of Billy Butler Billy The Astronaut
Dave Goodenough Illustrated by Ira V. Gates
Indigo River Publishing Inc
3West Garden Street, Pensacola, Fl 32502
9780986049347, $9.99,

"The Adventures of Billy Butler Billy The Astronaut" makes you believe that Mars is inhabited. As the novel opens Billy has a minor accident with his bicycle that appears worse than it really is, he has fights with his older brother and has only a few friends. He later learns of a contest to decorate a float with an outer space theme in the annual parade where first place is a trip to the space center in Texas. He imagines that he is an astronaut on a flight to Mars where he meets the beings of that planet and he has a series of adventures while he is there. He later establishes that it was all a dream and works hard to win first prize in the contest. The writing is fast paced with many interesting characters as Billy's imagination creates the series of events he becomes involved in. "The Adventures of Billy Butler Billy The Astronaut" is hopefully the first of many tales of young Billy Butler.

Animal Motions
Written by Melisa Pilgrim Illustrated by Ira V. Gates
Indigo River Publishing Inc
3West Garden Street, Pensacola, Fl 32502
9780985603397, 129.95,

Melisa Pilgrim in her book "Animal Motions" answers the question "what do humans and animals have in common." Through the artwork of Ira V. Gates and her prose she shows kids how certain exercises they can do are similar to different animals. She shows hand motions to swim like a fish, how to stand tall like a giraffe, swing your arms like an elephant's trunk, running in place like trotting horse, and on all fours like a cat or dog are some of the types of ways she teaches kids to be more healthy. "Animal Motions" is beneficial for both kids and adults.

How the Grandmas and Grandpas Saved Christmas Again Book II
Richard J. Gausselin
Outskirts Press Inc
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781478738992, $20.95,

"How the Grandmas and Grandpas Saved Christmas Again Book II" should have been a fun book for kids and adults to read and enjoy but there are several problems starting with introducing the book in February instead of closer to the holiday, then the character of Santa Claus is several times referred to as an elf which puts him in the class of just another worker and later he and several of his team go to a convention to find things to buy to have for his one night adventure They go undercover with names that clearly would tell anyone who they are. Another problem is the writing at times is above reading many kids levels. "How the Grandmas and Grandpas Saved Christmas Again Book II. does not have the charm of other children's titles that are about the Christmas holiday and should not even be considered.

Gary Roen

Gloria's Bookshelf

One Kick
Chelsea Cain
Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781476749785, $25.99, 306 pp.

Having loved this author's earlier series featuring Det. Archie Sheridan/Gretchen Lowell, I couldn't wait to read this book, the first in a new series, and I have to say it did not disappoint. Much as those earlier books, this one is not for the faint of heart, I must add. But it is terrific.

The protagonist is Kit ("Kick") Lannigan, a victim of child abduction/pedophilia, rescued ten years earlier when she was eleven years old in a slam-bang opening. She now obsesses over the rescue of other abducted children. A recent and mysterious ally in this quest is John Bishop, who appears in her life without much explanation other than that he was a former weapons dealer, and knows people in high and influential places. Kick, however, soon comes to think of him as "clearly some sort of unreliable psychopath."

Obviously still suffering from PTSD, among other things Kick keeps a list of self-destructive behavior she needed to work out, which she keeps in a "worry book" that is always with her. She has nothing but contempt for those, like her biological mother, who feed off her situation, having already written a book and made several TV appearances

The author, inspired by the horrific real-life tales of women like Elizabeth Smart and Jaycee Dugard, this fictionalized story of the horrors inflicted on such children induces true schadenfreude, where one is afraid to read further, but at the same time cannot turn the pages quickly enough. The one word used most often in the reviews of this novel is "compelling," and I cannot disagree.

Kick is truly lethal, trained as a marksman, lock picker, escape artist and bomb maker, has mastered martial arts, boxing and knife throwing. She prides herself in knowing four ways to kill someone with a jacket and "knew 573 ways to take someone to the ground with her left hand alone." When two youngsters are abducted in the same Washington State area within a three-week period, Kick, with Bishop's assistance, vows to find and rescue them before they are sold or killed, two of the likelier outcomes. The title derives from a Bruce Lee quote: "I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who practiced one kick 10,000 times."

Highly recommended.

William Lashner
Thomas & Mercer
c/o Amazon Publishing
276 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10001
9781477822838, $14.95, 416 pp

Victor Carl returns in the eighth entry in this series, with which for some reason I had no familiarity until this novel. But I certainly plan to read anything this author writes in future: it is simply terrific, and was a complete change of pace for this reviewer.

Carl is an attorney; well, more accurately he is a lawyer-with-actual-clients wannabe. As he states in this first-person narrative, one day "a political opportunity had fallen into my lap and I was running with it. Suddenly I had impressive people to impress and impressive places to go to, including a formal ball that would be packed with everyone who was anyone in Philadelphia politics. A rental tux would no longer do." And he is on an expense account to boot.

It seems he has just become a bagman. And the opening scene is at a black-tie Governor's Ball, a place where "all about the room were little electromagnetic fields of power and money." Before the evening is over, however, he is escorted out of the affair by a couple of cops, taking him to the scene where a young woman has been brutally murdered, a woman with whom Victor had met only hours earlier to give her what is only the first of huge bags full of money, in service of a local Congressman, one with a seat on the House Ways and Means Committee, with whom she had been involved. And this is only the first of similar transactions, and the first where a woman is killed.

To say that the writing is pithy is not to do it justice. But beyond that, I defy the reader not to smile and nod with recognition throughout this book I know I did, frequently! Nominally a mystery, with murders to be solved, the book is filled with humor and recognizable portraits of politics and politicians, corruption, sex, all those things that make up our society, today and for years past. Besides the iconic protagonist, there is a determined cop and a political reporter for the Philadelphia Daily News, in addition to a regular group of old-time bagmen to round out the cast, with a terrific conclusion to it all. The novel is highly recommended.

I Can See in the Dark
Karin Fossum
Translated from the Norwegian by James Anderson
c/o Houghton Mifflin
222 Berkeley St., Boston, MA 02166
9780544483989, $14.95, 224 pp

This was the first of two new standalone novels from the author of the wonderful Inspector Sejer series by this author, and bears many similarities to "The Murder of Harriet Krohn," published by Houghton Mifflin in November of last year: They can both be described as psychological thrillers, and both feature a man who is at least somewhat disturbed, who each in a fit of rage commits murder. The point of view in each is that of the killer, who to my mind could not be termed a "protagonist." The distinction is that in the present novel, I could find no sympathy for that person.

Riktor has worked as a nurse for over 17 years. Now in his 40's, he works at Lokka Nursing Home, 'looking after' (in his fashion) mostly very aged people almost completely unable to care for themselves in any sense of the term. 'His fashion' being that he frequently flushes their meds down the toilet, switches medications from one patient to another, and finds the mattress a good place into which to empty syringes, among other relatively minor forms of abuse. He lives with pain, sleeps little, describes his life as "barren" and "austere," and it certainly is that. He speaks of his "quirks and fancies, my outbursts and attentions. Within me lurks an evil little devil who occasionally asserts himself. He's impossible to avoid, because sometimes the temptation is too great. I'd never have believed it of Riktor, people would say in all their ignorant innocence, if they knew the truth about me and the things I'm capable of. I can see right through people. I can see what's concealed in their innermost, shadowy recesses. And when it comes to evil, I can believe anything of anybody" and sees himself as being "someone on the outside of everything, a paltry observer of life." And, of course, he can see in the dark.

At nearly the halfway point in the tale, and not long after the murder occurs, a police inspector appears at Riktor's door. Not Inspector Sejer in this instance, but one no less tenacious and capable, and the battle of wits begins. At first, it seems as though the plot has taken an entirely different tangent. But ultimately not quite so much, in the hands of this very capable author. This book may not be for everyone, the early parts are rather depressing, but less so as the book continues. Another character says to Riktor as the book gets nearer to its conclusion, "Right tends to triumph in the end." And the novel as a whole did as well, and is recommended.

Paw and Order
Spencer Quinn
Atria Books
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781476703404, $25.00/29.99 CA$, 304 pp

Chet and Bernie return in the seventh and newest book in the series, each book in which I have loved, despite the fact that I usually avoid books with talking animals. But this particular four-legged private investigator, Chet the Dog, and Bernie Little, his partner in the Little Detective Agency, defies the expected rules of the genre. "Chet the Jet," as he thinks of himself (and he is, after all, the narrator) is as usual the perfect foil for Bernie, who Chet often reminds us is "the smartest human in the room," and here provides invaluable assistance to Bernie once again.

Bernie and Chet got together when the latter flunked out of K9 school on his very last day there, and they have made a great team ever since. Their last case took them to the Louisiana bayou, and on a whim Bernie decides to go back to their home in the Valley in Arizona by way of Washington, D.C., where his girlfriend, journalist Suzie Sanchez, is now living and working for the Washington Post. To quote from the flyleaf, it seems that Suzie is working on a big story she can't even talk about to Bernie, and when her source, a mysterious Brit with possible intelligence connections, runs into trouble of the worst kind, Bernie suddenly finds himself under arrest. The fact that he was a decorated war vet who saw action in Iraq, including Fallujah, retiring with the rank of Captain, and was a lieutenant with the Valley PD, stands him in good stead, as is the fact that he now holds a private investigator's license (one of his frenemies on the local force even getting him one valid in their current jurisdiction).

The ensuing plot revolves around a US Presidential candidate who is a former US Army General, campaign managers, consultants, sleeper spies, unmanned drones: in short, some of the very same story lines which one sees in the newspapers and in new tv shows nearly every day. Along the way there is a murder (the deed that led to Bernie's short-lived arrest). In their usual dogged manner (no pun really intended), Bernie and Chet manage to get to the bottom of things, with no further loss of life, and his relationship with Suzie happily resolved. As with each new entry in this delightful series, "Paw and Order" is a pleasure to read, and is recommended.

The Long Way Home
Louise Penny
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781250022066, $27.99/29.99 CA$, 384 pp

This is the tenth novel by Louise Penny, and the newest in the Chief Inspector Gamache series. It takes place eight months after the events in the prior novel, the equally wonderful "How the Light Gets In," and finds Gamache, now in his late fifties, newly retired from his position as head of homicide for the Surete du Quebec, having had enough of murder and killers and anxious to "at long last, rest in peace in the little village in the valley." That, of course, being the village of Three Pines, "so small and obscure it doesn't appear on any map," where he has found a peaceful and worry/anxiety-free existence.

All the other beloved villagers are also present: Myrna, a "large black woman" who had been a practicing psychologist and runs the local bookstore; "demented, drunken, delusional" Ruth Zardo, an eccentric, award-winning poet, and Rosa, her beloved pet duck; Gabri and Olivier, the lovers who run the bistro and the B&B; JeanGuy Beauvoir, formerly Gamache's second-in-command and now his son-in-law. But this time out, the plot centers around Clara Morrow, one of the closest friends that Gamache and his wife, Reine-Marie, had in the small village.

Clara is a brilliant artist and portraitist, married to Peter Morrow, a celebrated artist in his own right but now overshadowed by his wife's growing fame and respect. One gains insight into the world of art in these pages, and sees that beauty truly lies in the eyes of the beholder, whether in art or one's surroundings, and presents art in its many nuances, to a far greater degree than I remember in the earlier series entries.

One morning Clara tells Gamache that her husband, from whom she had separated one year prior, has gone missing. The strain in their marriage had caused them to agree to have no contact for a year, and then to reunite on the anniversary of that date. Gamache, aided by JeanGuy, Myrna, Ruth, and Clara herself, embark on a quest to find Peter, taking them to the far reaches of Canada, to places where "time had its own rules." The writing is poetic prose at its best, and, as well as the ubiquitous "lump in the throat" that one finds throughout the book, is completely captivating.

Highly recommended.

The Red Road
Denise Mina
Back Bay Books
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park, Ave., NY, NY 10017
97803161885100, $15.00, 320 pp

In her third book featuring DI Alex Morrow, Denise Mina has her usual protagonist almost take a back seat to Rose Wilson, introduced to readers on the first page as a fourteen-year-old prostitute ("looking sixteen, feeling twelve"), a resident of a care home,. Her pimp is Samuel McCaig (known as "Sammy the Perv" for obvious reasons), who also resides in the care home, and the only one in Rose's life who takes any interest in her, as unwholesome as that interest may be. Those opening pages encompass much tragedy in the course of one evening: The death of Princess Diana in Paris and, on a much more personal level, and within a short time of each other, the almost unintentional deaths by stabbing of Sammy and of "Pinkie" Brown, resident of yet another local care home, immediately after he had handed the murder weapon, a bloody knife, to Rose to "hold," thereby accomplishing his reason for giving it to her: placing her fingerprints on it. Fingerprints become the central obsession in the novel.

The Red Road of the title refers to the newest crime scene assigned to DI Morrow: the death of a 25yearold Pakistani man. For those unfamiliar with the series, Alex Morrow is seen by her colleagues as "problematic: her background, her attitude, her brother;" she has a husband she loves, twin one-year-old boys she adores, and a half-brother who is a "famous local heavy." Unlike many of those same colleagues, she goes about her job determined to "do the right thing."

The opening scene described above takes place in 1997, the first in a series of flashbacks which are juxtaposed with the present in nearly alternating chapters over the first half of the book. That fact, combined with varying points of view, proved somewhat disorienting to this reader, but all is made clear before too long. Rose was arrested for and convicted of murder in 1997. She pleaded guilty, served her time, and is now 29 years old, working as a nanny to the three grandchildren in the household of the attorney who was appointed to represent her and who had immediately taken a very personal interest in her. Corruption, money laundering, and arms dealing all come into play in the course of the book.

The novel is engrossing, despite the problems I had with it in the early going, will only add to the author's growing reputation, and is recommended.

A Few Drops of Blood
Jan Merete Weiss
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616955341 $15.95, 304 pp.

Venice has Donna Leon and her Commissario Guido Brunetti, and now Naples has Jan Merete Weiss and her Captain Natalia Monte of the Carabinieri. The author brings fully to life the historic beauty of the city, as well as its rampant poverty and nearly total control by the Napolitan version of the American mafia and its Gotti crime family: the clans of the Camorra, in particular the Scavullo family.

One of two personal problems Natalia is dealing with, or not, arises from the fact that her closest childhood friends, two women with whom she still has ties, were and each still is a cammorista. One of two things prohibited by the Carabinieri, the other being that she has become romantically involved with her partner, now taking a leave of absence. She has now been assigned a new partner, a rookie just transferred from Palermo, where she was their first Sicilian female officer.

In the opening pages, Natalia is assigned a murder case: The naked bodies of two young men have been discovered in a gruesome pose atop an enormous sculptured horse in a magnificent garden of the elderly Contessa Antonella Maria Cavazza. The men, identified as a gossip columnist and a senior curator at the Museo Archeologico, had been shot to death, the small gauge shotgun being "the traditional execution weapon of the rural mafia, a stubby weapon for hunting small game and two-legged mammals." It soon becomes apparent that the men had been lovers. The investigation leads to many suspects, and a variety of possible motives.

This is the second novel to feature Capt. Monte, who had been promoted from the art squad to major crime investigation, with a degree in law from the officers' school in Rome, whose career had been bright before being compromised by her choice of companions. Her former partner comes back into her life, jeopardizing both of them. She was after all his superior. Now nearing forty, she longs for a 'normal' private life. But as the body count rises, that must be her priority.

A beautifully written novel, including glimpses into the history of the area during and after the war and a solid murder mystery at its core, it is recommended.

Don't Look Back
Gregg Hurwitz
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312626839, $26.99, 383 pp.

The title derives from words spoken by a mysterious figure at the heart of this book, an exhortation not to be taken lightly. When the warning is ignored, in the early pages of the novel, it is the last mistake made by the woman to whom it is spoken. The man is lethal in a nearly unbelievable way, well-trained in jihadi tactics, and intent on only one thing: That no one must see him, no one must endanger his hard-won invisibility.

Our protagonist, Eve Hardaway, single mother of an adored 14yearold boy, has taken a rafting and hiking trip in the mountains of Oaxaca, in Southern Mexico. Having come upon the fatal encounter referenced above, she is plunged into the most threatening and dire of situations, both nature-made and manmade, exhibiting incredible bravery. The man hunting her, having seen her observing his murderous actions, has almost inhuman expertise in all things offensive and defensive. Eve is facing unimaginable odds and a relentless adversary. In fact, that last adjective describes the book as a whole, for it too is relentless. So much so that I kept finding myself wanting to put the book down, but could not bring myself to do so. The author's descriptions of the jungle and its inhabitants, human and otherwise, are very well wrought. There are occasional chapters from the pov of Eve's adversary, giving the reader a glimpse into the mind and heart of a man who is basically, in addition to and despite being a devoutly religious man, a homicidal terrorist.

The book spans about one week, but the scenes that play out sometimes seem endless. Eve is one of a group of seven, of varying ages and greater or lesser abilities under these threatening circumstances, and they each find their bravery and loyalty to one another tested. At some point they see the reality of the situation: "Us vs. nature. Us vs. him." Which just about sums it up.

Despite some reservations, the novel is recommended.

Lee Child
c/o Bantam Dell
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780804178747, $28.00/32 CA$, 353 pp.

This is the 20th book in the Jack Reacher series and, no surprise, it is just as terrific as one would expect. Reacher at this point is a retired military cop. But as he soon discovers, "you can leave the army, but the army doesn't leave you. Not always. Not completely." As I seem to remember from "The Godfather," they always pull you back in. In this case, Reacher is sought by two Generals (one now a Brigadier General) who he had known in the Army and who he is sure feel are owed a favor by him, to assist in a new mission, working for the CIA and the State Department, one that has arisen following an attempt on the life of no less a personage than the President of France, attending a very public event in the heart of Paris. Reacher is seen as the perfect man for the job, and predictable in his response to the summons. But predictable is something of which one would think Reacher would never be accused. Except, perhaps, in this instance, and they'd be right.

Reacher is seen is the man for the job not only because of his attributes - brilliant, with admirable reserves of intelligence and strengths (both mental and physical, at 6' 5" and 250 pounds), but also because he has a history with the man they believe is behind the attempted assassination, John Kott, a world-class marksman/sniper gone bad. Kott is one of the few Americans of which they are aware who could attempt a shot that was very nearly successful at a distance calculated to be three-quarters of a mile. The said history being that Reacher is the man who put him in prison, from which, after serving fifteen years, he was released one year earlier. And Reacher et al soon discover that for Kott this is a very personal matter - he has apparently become obsessed with Reacher, and with killing him. His higher priority, though, seems to be an upcoming summit of the G8 nations. When his attempt at killing Reacher costs another man his life, it becomes personal for Reacher as well. What follows includes some gasp-inducing scenes.

The book is replete with the clever lines and low-key humor, mixed in with occasional violence, for which the author is well-known, along with very human emotions from a man who is nonetheless nothing if not reliably lethal. The military generals refer to him as Sherlock Homeless, traveling as he does with everything he needs, nothing he doesn't (the former being a very small group). He still abides by his golden rules, the first of which is "eat when you can," followed closely by "hope for the best, plan for the worst." The book is trademark Lee Child/Jack Reacher, very high praise indeed, and the novel is highly recommended.

Don't Ever Look Back
Daniel Friedman
St. Martin's Griffin, 175 Fifth Ave.
NY, NY 10010
9781250060983, $15.99/18.50 CA$, 288 pp.

This book is the second by Daniel Friedman featuring Baruch "Buck" Schatz, an 88-year-old Jewish ex-cop from Memphis, Tennessee, self-described as "grumpy more for sport than out of necessity" but more recently as "a crippled retiree living in a rest home." He has had to sell his house and move with his wife of 65 years into an "Assisted Life-Style Community for Older Adults" after having been shot and severely beaten in the first book, "Don't Ever Get Old." During his 35 years as a cop he had shot thirty-one men and beaten an equally impressive number, but was "famously incorruptible." He still carries a blackjack, which he named "Discretion," and as he says, he "exercised my Discretion liberally."

He still carries the scars, physically and mentally, of his days in Auschwitz as a child, of his father's murder when a young boy, and his son's death seven years ago. Also returning here is Buck's grandson, a law school grad named William Tecumseh Schatz, whose nickname is Tequila (apparently a frat thing) - the last name of course being pronounced "Shots." (Of his grandson, Buck says "Maybe because he was family, I disliked him less than most other people.") The tale takes place in 2009, but is equal parts flashbacks to 1965, a time when racism and anti-Semitism were endemic, and when the seeds of the events taking place in 2009 were sown. A lot of history from that earlier time, much of it unfamiliar to this reader, is included. The intricate plot spins out after Buck receives a visit from an old nemesis, who offers him what appears to be a bribe, which Buck of course refuses. But more importantly, it appears that the man intends to rob a local bank. And Buck can't allow that to happen, not in his town. The events that follow are alternately shocking and very, very funny.

Interspersed from time to time are brief passages from Buck's notebook of "Things I Don't Want to Forget" (primary among which is a reminder that "paranoia is the first symptom of dementia in the elderly," important for him to remember since paranoia seems to be recurring with worrisome frequency). These are often more like ruminations than part of any story, but they are intrinsic to knowledge of the man, as well as occasional historical details. As Buck says, "you just write down the stuff you want to remember, leave out the rest of it, and keep pushing yourself forward on a walker or in a wheelchair or with anything that can keep you moving."

The author does not shy away from the occasional difficult and wrenching truths. As was the first book in what one hopes is a series, this novel is alternately laugh-out-loud funny, often poignant, frequently touching, and with a totally unexpected ending, the book is recommended.

Gloria Feit

Gorden's Bookshelf

Secret of the Thorns
Tom Haase
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
B00D0OP95E, $0.99, 312 pages
print ISBN: 9781490404172

Unlike many contemporary action/adventure tales based on historical events and documents, Secret of Thorns actually has the action/adventure take place under real world constraints. Travel and investigations occur within time frames that are possible. Even the bad guys have only real world abilities to follow and attack the protagonists and not the near supernatural abilities and weaponry many authors give them. This makes a refreshing change from the wild fantasy populating much of this genre. The one big drawback with the story is that the heroes never learn that if the bad guys found them once they will shortly find them again. The blissful unawareness of the heroes forgetting to check if they are being followed after multiple attempts on their lives is a bit frustrating.

Bridget Donavan and her brother Scott are historians and archeologists. Scott has been called in to authenticate a find of historical documents King John of Poland acquired after he broke the Moslem siege of Vienna in 1683. Scott discovers a trove of documents from the Catholic Church lost when the Moslems invaded Spain and a direct copy of the original Koran. He calls his sister to help him translate and verify the information he has found. But the news of the discoveries can't be held secret and soon groups from the Catholic Church and Iran are sent to retrieve the documents and artifacts using all the force they need including murder. The siblings soon discover that ancient artifacts hint there are more treasures to be found. On the run from the malevolent forces arrayed against them, they run from Poland and halfway around the world looking for and solving ancient clues and dodging death.

Secret of the Thorns is a refreshingly plausible historic action/adventure suspense. The characters are unique and the action nonstop. The plot is light action which makes the tale a good vacation read. It is a nice midrange novel in the genre and an easy recommendation with its low price.

Wolf and Iron
Gordon R. Dickson
Start Science Fiction
c/o Start Publishing LLC
375 Hudson Street, Floor 12, New York, NY 10014
B00GS9FLK6 price: $8.49 468 pages

Wolf and Iron is one of the best collapse of civilization novels. It doesn't create improbable scenarios about the cause or aftermath of a civilization collapse and it is written by a grandmaster of the SF genre. In the story, civilization doesn't collapse with a cataclysm but with a whimper. Different parts of society fragments and become so self-centered that national, state and even local governments can no longer function -- something that can be seen around us today.

JeeBee had been a researcher working at a think tank examining society. His equations indicated that modern society was on the verge of collapse into another Iron Age. He never quite believed it until society collapsed around him. He escapes the Michigan town he is living in seconds ahead of a mob wanting to kill him. He has saved his research hoping that someday in the future it could be used to prevent another collapse and takes off on an electric bicycle and on foot across country to his brother's ranch in Montana. He hopes to find safety there. But what he finds on his travels is chaos and death.

At a small settlement in the Dakotas his supplies are taken but he escapes with a new rifle and a wolf that had been kept captive by the woman running the settlement. JeeBee and the wolf form a partnership as they continue his journey to Montana...

The collapse of society is a common topic in the science fiction fantasy genre. Too many times the writers push the envelope thinking the more spectacular the events the better the tale. Dickson shows that extremes are not needed. What it takes are details that feel possible and characters that that are logical and who the reader can connect with. Wolf and Iron is one of the best end or the world tales. Anyone wanting to read this type of novel needs to look for this book.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

Julie's Bookshelf

Yin Xiuzhen
Yin Xiuzhen, artist
Eungie Joo, author
Lu Jingjing & Zhang Xiyuan, editors
Phaidon Press
Regent's Wharf, All Saints Street, London, England, N1 9PA
9780714867489, $49.95, 160pp,

Synopsis: One of the most popular Chinese artists exhibiting internationally, and the first female Chinese artist to be exhibited at The Museum of Modern Art in New York, Yin Xiuzhen (born 1963) is one of the most intriguing artistic chroniclers of modern life in China, and of the massive changes its economic boom has wrought upon the urban landscape. Perhaps her best known work is her Portable City series, for which she reconstructs world cities inside suitcases, using clothing recycled from residents of the city. Conjuring both fairy tales and thrift stores, these pieces originated in Xiuzhen's witnessing the urban transformations of her native Beijing. Fabric and recycled clothing are recurrent materials throughout her sculptures. This substantial, 308-page catalogue is the first broad retrospective of her work to date, with 300 color illustrations and numerous reviews and interviews.

Critique: "Yin Xiuzhen" superbly showcases the breath and scope of this extraordinary artists work with flawlessly reproduced full color images enhanced with informed and informative commentaries. A truly impressive coffee-table style volume, "Yin Xiuzhen" is very highly recommended for community and academic library Art History collections in general, and Contemporary Chinese Artists supplemental studies reading lists in particular. It should be noted that "Yin Xiuzhen" is also available in a hardcover edition (Blue Kingfisher Limited, 9789881506481, $60.00).

A City That Sings: Cincinnati's Choral Tradition 1800-2012
Catherine Roma, et al.
Orange Frazer Press
PO Box 214, Wilmington, OH 45177
9781933197913, $34.95, 256pp,

Synopsis: A City That Sings: Cincinnati s Choral Tradition 1800-2012, is the first full-length chronicle of the Queen City's contributions to choral music. It is a story of church choirs and community choruses, of concert halls and lavish festivals, of education and performance. But most of all it is about the everyday people who gave their souls and voices to found and continue a choral tradition. The four authors, Catherine Roma, Craig Doolin, Karin Pendle, and Frank Pendle dedicate this book to thousands of Cincinnati singers of all musical and ethnic backgrounds who have raised their voices in song over the past two centuries to create the rich tradition detailed within these covers.

Critique: Beautifully and profusely illustrated, exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "A City That Sings: Cincinnati's Choral Tradition 1800-2012" is as enjoyable a read as it is informed and informative. Very highly recommended for non-specialist general readers with an interest in choral music, "A City That Sings: Cincinnati's Choral Tradition 1800-2012" could well serve as a template for other municipal choral music group histories and is a valued addition for academic library American Music History collections.

Small Victories
Dave H. Williams
David R. Godine, Publisher
PO Box 450, Jaffrey, NH 03452
9781567925296, $40.00, 400pp,

Synopsis: For more than four decades, Dave Williams and his wife Reba White formed what is certainly the most comprehensive and adventurous treasury of American prints ever assembled by private collectors. In the 6,000 prints they personally selected, they cover both familiar and totally unknown ground. What stands out about their collection is not the expected holdings of iconic images by artists known to anyone even remotely familiar with the field, but their sustained effort to break new ground, to include artists and entire schools of art that have been unknown to-or routinely ignored by-both academics and fellow collectors. Here, in force, are the regionalists who worked on the shores of Cape Cod and northern California, in Dallas and Charleston, SC, as well as the Ashcan School of New York, Hayter's Atelier 17, and countless other small ateliers and workshops well off the beaten paths and often unknown and unseen. Here are the hundreds of WPA artists, supported by the federal government during the Great Depression, who worked, often anonymously, in smaller cities and undocumented workshops, and here as well are the masterpieces of Bellows and Homer, Lewis and Sloan-all illustrated and treated with due respect. But the real value is the light shed on lesser known connections, venues, personalities, and visionaries. Who remembers the bounty of prints created by African Americans in the 1930s-40s? What did the Americans learn from (and give to) the artists of the Mexican revolution-Rivera, Orozco, and Siqueiros? What influence did the Vorticists exert on American printmakers? How were the WPA policies able to introduce so many artists to printmaking? By structuring "Small Victories" primarily as a memoir, a personal story, the Williamses' collection is presented as an adventure, a unique look into this populist corner of the duplicated image, of its reflection of and impact on popular culture, and into the nature of collecting in general.

Critique: Profusely illustrated with both color and black-and-white images, "Small Victories" is a seminal work enhanced with the inclusion of extensive indices and bibliography, making it and impressively informed and informative original print reference book. As 'reader friendly' as it is diversely encompassing, "Small Victories" is a critically important and strongly recommended addition to community and academic library Art History reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

Paint Like The Masters
Parramon Editorial Team
250 Wireless Boulevard, Hauppauge, NY 11788
9781438005492, $24.99, 144pp,

Synopsis: Copying the works of the great painting masters is not a simple exercise in mimicry. It is a formative practice for artists of all levels who desire to make progress in the medium. It is also a valuable tool for art history lovers and students who wish to increase their knowledge of the techniques used in historic paintings. The trade secrets of the great masters are uncovered in "Paint Like The Masters: An excellent way to learn from those who have much to teach ", an exhaustive study of 14 of the world's most famous paintings. Both amateur and experienced artists will find hundreds of instructional images, detailed explanations, and additional hints and tips that will enable them to make successful copies or interpretations of classic works of art. Inside three comprehensive sections cover: Learning to Paint by Copying--observing and understanding the techniques, raw materials, and tools used by the great masters; Imitating Technique--step-by-step instructions for recreating classics by Monet, Degas, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Vemeer, and others; Exploring patinas and finishes--special attention is given to the pigments the masters worked with and finding contemporary equivalents to achieve the illusion of age. An exciting augmented reality feature allows readers to dive even deeper into the lessons. Using a smartphone, computer, or tablet, readers can scan and print the original paintings, watch videos demonstrating technique, and access further examples of similar styles. An ideal reference for anyone who wishes to reproduce distinct pictorial styles or gain a deeper understanding of great paintings.

Critique: Superbly illustrated throughout and thoroughly 'user friendly' from beginning to end, "Paint Like The Masters: An excellent way to learn from those who have much to teach" is a complete course of instruction that is very strongly and enthusiastically recommended to art students -- and will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to academic and community library Art Studies instructional reference collections.

Readings in Wood: What the Forest Taught Me
John Leland
University of South Carolina Press
718 Devine Street, Columbia, SC 29208
9781611174588, $19.95, 120pp,

Synopsis: In the pages of "Readings in Wood: What the Forest Taught Me", nature writer John Leland offers a collection of twenty-seven short, poetic essays that marry science and the humanities as the author seeks meaning in trees. "Readings in Wood" is an investigation of trees and forests and also of wood as a material that people have found essential in the creation of society and culture. Leland views with wit and erudition the natural world and the curious place of human beings as saviors and destroyers of this world. At once personal memoir, natural history, and cultural criticism, "Readings in Wood" reflects Leland's idiosyncratic vision. In one essay Leland asks the trees, "Do you, like us, rejoice in sunny days, dance with the wind, and blush to have your sexual desires known by prurient passersby? Why, like us, do you torture yourselves reaching for a heaven beyond your grasp? Why twist yourselves so that your grain becomes a record of your grief? What mystic patterns of science, math, and religion hide in your whirls of leaf and branch?" As vast as a forest, topics range from tree grain and leaf shape to economic theories, mathematics, and engineering. "Readings in Wood" is a hybrid testament of science, faith, superstition, and disbelief learned from sitting on tree trunks and peering at leaves and fungi. Leland hopes others will join him in nature's classroom.

Critique: A consistently fascinating read from beginning to end, "Readings in Wood: What the Forest Taught Me" is by turns informative, thoughtful, inspiring, and innately entertaining. Very highly recommended for community and academic library Literary Studies collections, for personal reading lists it should be noted that "Readings in Wood: What the Forest Taught Me" is also available in a Kindle edition ($10.96).

Poem Central
Shirley McPhillips
Stenhouse Publishers
480 Congress Street, Portland, ME 04101-3451
9781571109637, $22.00, 320pp,

Synopsis: In "Poem Central: Word Journeys with Readers and Writers", by academician and poet Shirley McPhillips is specifically designed to provide an understanding of the central role poetry can play in the personal lives of teachers and their studies, as well as in the academic life of the classroom. Drawing upon people of different ages and walks of life, "Poem Central" introduces professional poets, teachers, and students who are actively engaged in reading and making poems. Their stories and their work show us the power of poems to illuminate the ordinary, to nurture, inspire and stand alongside us for the journey.
Divided into three main parts (weaving poetry into our lives and our classrooms, reading poems, and writing poems), "Poem Central" is structured in short sections that are easy to read and dip into. Each section has a specific focus, provides background knowledge, shows poets at work, highlights information on crafting, defines poetic terms, features finished work, includes classroom examples, and lists additional resources.

Critique: A poetry appreciation class under a single cover, "Poem Central: Word Journeys with Readers and Writers" is an extraordinary textbook that can ably serve as a primary curriculum text or as a poetry curriculum supplement. In form and format, the paperback edition is very highly recommended for both community and academic library collections. For personal reading lists and for non-specialist general readers outside of a classroom setting who would like to become more knowledgeable on the subject of poetry, it should be noted that "Poem Central: Word Journeys with Readers and Writers" is also available in a Kindle edition ($14.99).

Larry Swartz
Pembroke Publishers Limited
c/o Stenhouse Publishers
480 Congress Street, Portland, ME 04101-3451
9781551383002, $24.00, 160pp,

Synopsis: Now in a completely updated fourth edition, "Dramathemes, 4th edition: Classroom Literacy that Will Excite, Surprise, and Stimulate Learning" by academician Larry Swartz showcases simple, engaging classroom strategies for exploring literacy in new, innovative ways. Literacy sources are at the root of Dramathemes which encompasses picture books, novels, poetry, scripts and photographs into effective classroom instruction. Compelling strategies throughout the book are designed to enrich interactive possibilities amongst learners in the language arts classroom. By reading, writing, and talking both in role and out of role, students can develop and share their responses, their stories, and their ideas. This newly expanded edition of "Dramathemes" digs deeply into the riches of the past three editions and considers the experiences of language arts teachers who have used all versions of the book for almost three decades. Full of engaging new ideas, "Dramathemes" includes many new sources and carefully chosen strategies for exploring with students such issues as identity, poverty, diversity, bullying, and immigration. An ideal resource for busy teachers who want to put drama into literacy programs and literacy into dramatic programs.

Critique: Larry Swartz has explored literature-based learning with students and teachers for more than 30 years in North America, England, New Zealand, and China. As a classroom teacher, consultant, and instructor with OISE/University of Toronto, Canada, he has inspired colleagues and children alike to learn in new and exciting ways. This latest edition of a true education classic is thoroughly 'teacher friendly' and an invaluable curriculum supplemental resource -- especially in light of the new Common Core literacy standards.

Elder Northfield's Home
A. Jennie Bartlett, author
Nicole Tonkovich, editor
University of Nebraska Press
233 North 8th Street, Lincoln, Nebraska, 68588-0255
9780803271845, $30.00, 364pp,

Synopsis: The practice of plural marriage, commonly known as polygamy, stirred intense controversy in post-bellum America until 1890, when the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints first officially abolished the practice. "Elder Northfield's Home: or, Sacrificed on the Mormon Altar", originally published by A. Jennie Bartlett in 1882, is both a staunchly anti-polygamy novel and a call for the sentimental repatriation of polygamy's victims. Her book traces the fate of a virtuous and educated English immigrant woman, Marion Wescott, who marries a Mormon elder, Henry Northfield. Shocked when her husband violates his promise not to take a second wife, Marion attempts to flee during the night, toddler son in her arms and pulling her worldly possessions in his toy wagon. She returns to her husband, however, and the balance of the novel traces the effects of polygamy on Marion, Henry, and their children; their eventual rejection of plural marriage; and their return to a normal and healthy family structure.

Critique: A 'time lost classic' brought back into print for a new generation of appreciative readers, "Elder Northfield's Home: or, Sacrificed on the Mormon Altar" is enhanced for a contemporary readership with an informed and informative introduction by Nicole Tonkovich who provides an historical context for the novel along with comments on key primary documents that provide additional insight into how the Mormon practice of plural marriage (polygamy) was viewed by 19th century American society in general. A part of the University of Nebraska Press outstanding 'Legacies of Nineteenth-Century American Women Writers' series, "Elder Northfield's Home" is highly commended for both community and academic library 19th Century American Literature collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Elder Northfield's Home" is also available in a Kindle edition ($16.67).

What To Do To Retire Successfully
Martin B. Goldstein
New Horizon Press
PO Box 669, Far Hills, NJ 07931
9780882824864, $15.95, 240pp,

Synopsis: "What to Do to Retire Successfully: Navigating Psychological, Financial and Lifestyle Hurdles" is an enlightening blend of actual retirement scenarios intermingled with healthy, practical advice from respected neuropsychiatrist Martin B. Goldstein, who is a fellow retiree with a wonderfully optimistic glass-half-full philosophy on living a fulfilling retirement life. Dr. Goldstein taps into his financial and psychiatric background as he explores the potential pitfalls of life after career's end, while providing helpful, proven solutions for a feasible and effective adjustment into retirement. He also analyzes how a range of personality types cope with retirement and suggests necessary modifications, as well as probes the unique problems of those forced into early retirement. He addresses financial issues with specific formulas for maintaining standard of living, steps for saving and investing, and tips for handling retirement resources. The lifestyle sections cover creating a dynamic plan for retirement living, the importance of setting up routines, keeping your mind engaged, daily exercise, and making the necessary preparations for a successful transition into retirement living.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "What to Do to Retire Successfully: Navigating Psychological, Financial and Lifestyle Hurdles" should be considered "must" reading for the millions of baby boomers who are now reaching retirement age. There is so much more to a successful retirement than financial security -- although that is a bedrock criteria. Then there are the millions of soon-to-be retirees who lost their financial retirement resources with the onslaught of the Great Recession. Plus the inevitable demands that the normal aging process inflicts upon us all. "What to Do to Retire Successfully: Navigating Psychological, Financial and Lifestyle Hurdles" should be a part of every community library collection and the personal reading list for every man and woman 55 and over.

Hidden Kerry
Breda Joy
Mercier Press
c/o Dufour Editions, Inc.
PO Box 7, Chester Springs, PA 19425-0007
9781781172209, $31.00, 253pp,

Synopsis: The magnetism of Kerry lies as much in its people as its landscape. "Hidden Kerry: The Keys to the Kingdom takes the reader along the less-traveled paths of the kingdom and is peopled with a varied cast of characters with colorful stories. Open the covers and readers will lose themselves in the story of Lord Kenmare's forgotten mansion, which hosted royal visits until it was consumed by fire in 1913. Readers will also meet vibrant characters, such as Lily of the Valley: Lily van Ooost, the Flemish artist who made her home in the Black Valley where she embarked on wildly creative textile projects. As well as this "Hidden Kerry" will tell readers where to find the county's unknown natural beauty spots concealed just minutes off the beaten track.

Critique: A fascinating regional history from beginning to end the is enhanced with the inclusion of a Bibliography, "Hidden Kerry: The Keys to the Kingdom" is as entertaining as it is informative. Very highly recommended for community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Hidden Kerry: The Keys to the Kingdom" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Julie Summers

Karyn's Bookshelf

Beetle Boy
Margaret Willey, author
Carolrhoda Books/Lerner Publishing Group
241 First Ave. North
Minneapolis, MN 55401
9781467726399, $17.95

A decade after being exploited by his father as a child prodigy author, an 18-year-old must confront the past that he has tried to forget.

When he was seven, Charlie's father made him put to paper his estranged mother's bedtime stories about a happy, eyeglasses-wearing beetle. Soon, he became a sensation, touring the school and writers' conference circuits, being forced to wear a beetle costume, and selling books to pay his family's rent.

And he hated it. Every minute. Especially his father's never-fulfilled promises that the book income would be their ticket to a better life, the thing that lifted the two of them and Charlie's troubled younger brother away from financial ruin and their miserable, soon-to-be condemned apartment.

Now, pushed by his new girlfriend who wants to know more about his family and doesn't understand the extent of its brokenness, Charlie is having reoccurring nightmares about an attacking, life-sized beetle. Before those can dissipate, he must decide what to keep and what to discard from his past, with some surprising results.

Darkly introspective and often funny in a raw, biting way, Beetle Boy's strong cast of characters include Mrs. M., a washed-up author and mother figure who both protects Charlie and challenges him to face, head-on, the difficult people and situations in his life. His girlfriend, Clara, is memorably penned as a normal, optimistic young woman, from a loving family, who chronically fails to grasp that Charlie's demons are not as easily vanquished as she would like.

Beetle Boy is a young adult story about prying open old wounds and wading into their wreckage, and the doors that open only after you've taken that excruciating step. Unflinchingly honest and painful, in a good way.

Anna's Heaven
Stian Hole, author
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers
2140 Oak Industrial Dr. NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49505
9780802854414, $17.00

A grieving father and young daughter envision God, heaven, and what the afterlife might be like, in this beautiful picture book that searches for splendor amid sadness.

Anna and her father are headed for a church service, on what is never said out loud but what is quite clearly implied to be the day of her mother's funeral.

As they put off the inevitable for a few moments, sorrowful thoughts are softened by sweet memories and by their pondering about what life might be like "on the other side of the mirror."
Imagination takes hold and, jumping together through a hole in the sky, they explore what heaven might offer. There might be simple pleasures. "I think you can take your socks off whenever you please," Anna's father says.

Maybe her mother is happily working in God's garden. Or enjoying cup of coffee with other departed loved ones. Maybe God likes to read books. Maybe he has his own, huge library.
When at last they must return to earth, the day seems a little more surmountable.
Exquisitely illustrated, excruciatingly sad, yet inspiring. A simple story about those left behind, taking the first steps toward finding their way.

Karyn L. Saemann, Reviewer

Kelly's Bookshelf

The Anatomy of Dreams
Chloe Benjamin
Atria Paperback
c/o Simon & Schuster, Inc.
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781476761169, $15.00,

Having just turned the final page of Chloe Benjamin's stunning debut novel, The Anatomy of Dreams, I find myself utterly befuddled that such an intelligent and original work could make its way into the world without much beyond a glimmer of notice. It's certainly possible that I've been lulled by the cold, gray days of another Midwestern winter; but, apparently, I'm not the only one. While designating us host to some of the most compelling scenes, this literary treasure has yet to show up on the radar of those who call the Atwood neighborhood of Madison home.

When the studious Sylvie Patterson falls for Gabe Lennox during senior year of boarding school, she is both intrigued by and at her wit's end with his unique mix of insatiable curiosity, devil-may-care attitude and burgeoning interest in the work of their dynamic headmaster, Dr. Adrian Keller. Despite his occasionally odd behavior, she seeks comfort in their newfound closeness, placing more trust in him than she does herself, until he suddenly and inexplicably disappears from her life. Turning up years later, Gabe appeals to Sylvie's heart as a means of persuading her to join him in Martha's Vineyard, onto Fort Bragg and later Madison to assist Keller with his research, an experimental study that utilizes lucid dreaming techniques to bring those with severe sleep disorders face-to-face with their subconscious so that they might heal from past trauma and reconcile their dream world with waking life.

Although Sylvie is at times uneasy with the way participants are brought into the study and ultimately left to deal on their own with the fallout of having accessed their subconscious, it is upon witnessing the terror of a seven-year-old boy as he strains against the straps of the laboratory bed and learning of a murder perpetrated by a former participant that Sylvie begins to more actively question Keller's ethics. Given her absolute trust in Gabe and default loyalty to Keller, she carries on with business as usual; yet, what is revealed as she searches for the missing file of Participant 111 does little to allay her fears. Gleaning a greater understanding of the dynamics at play within Keller's study, she begins to wish that there were some things she had never come to know.

For all of the intrigue surrounding the nature of Keller's research and its questionable methodology, I found the interactions among Sylvie, Gabe and their next-door neighbors, Thomas and Janna, to be most fascinating, next to the exquisite blurring of lines between sleep and wakefulness. Rapt as my attention remained, it's probably not surprising that my own dream life evolved, becoming incredibly vivid and uncharacteristically captivating.

The Anatomy of Dreams delivers virtually everything one might seek within a work of literary fiction, including complex characters and a plotline that is all but predictable. In fact, the foreshadowing of events was so subtle yet so brilliantly executed that I found a second readthrough to be as satisfying as the first. However, beyond Ms. Benjamin's accessible style, impressive use of literary device and ability to provide a most believable and well-supported narrative, what truly resonates is the way in which she brings us face-to-face with our humanness, not only the potential for betrayal that lurks within those we trust, but the capacities that lie within a shadow all our own.

No Mud, No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering
Thich Nhat Hanh
Parallax Press
PO Box 7355, Berkeley, CA 94707
9781937006853, $14.95,

From the burgundy cord encircling my neck hangs the pendant I most treasure. It is cast in pewter, boasting the words "No Mud, No Lotus," etched in Thich Nhat Hanh's legendary script. This gift from my son serves as a daily reminder of our shared resilience and one simple yet profound truth: Without its roots firmly planted in the muck, no lotus would grow. Indeed, there is no joy without suffering; without darkness, there would be no light.

The words that appear on my pendant also grace the cover of Thich Nhat Hanh's recent release, which serves as a guidebook for the transformation of suffering into compassion, understanding and lasting happiness through the practice of mindfulness. Those who are familiar with Thay's teachings are unlikely to encounter anything they've not seen before; however, the book offers itself as inspiration for renewing one's commitment to suffering well and remaining fully present for the suffering of others.

The material is organized in a manner that flows nicely from one aspect of the teaching to the next; and, as one might expect, Thay's explanations are written clearly and understandably while retaining the depth of the lesson presented. I especially enjoyed the incorporation of several teaching stories and found the suggested exercises to be of value as they pertain to the practical application of techniques specific to mindful suffering.

With Thay recently emerging from a coma following the severe brain hemorrhage he sustained in November of 2014, his students and followers around the globe have been given a powerful lesson in impermanence. Reminded how fortunate we are to learn from one of the greatest spiritual minds of our time, many are approaching No Mud, No Lotus with an enhanced appreciation and touching upon a heightened sense of gratitude for Thay's words and our unprecedented access to them.

Kelly Bodoh

Linda's Bookshelf

Alvin York
Douglas V. Mastriano
University Press of Kentucky
663 Limestone Street, Lexington, KY 40508
9780813145198, $34.95, 328 pages

I'm convinced Americans yearn to remember, honor and celebrate our heroes. Congressional Medal of Honor winner Sergeant Alvin C. York is one whose exceptional valor and personal conduct has been verified and burnished brightly nearly a century on. "Alvin York, a New Biography of the Hero of the Argonne" by Douglas V. Mastriano is a personal favorite book this year and one that I highly recommend for its exemplary writing and scholarship. Colonel Mastriano, a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan with a PhD in history from the University of New Brunswick, currently serves on the faculty of the US ARMY War College, is the recipient of the Norwich University 2015 William E. Colby Award presented annually to a debut author. University Press of Kentucky is the laudable publisher of this fascinating biography, the exemplary product of twenty years of field research at the battle site and in US, French and German Archives. The author also benefitted from interviews with Sgt. York's three surviving children and hometown residents who knew him.

Decades before dedicated warrior Chris Kyle completed four tours in Iraq tallying a record score of enemy kills to become known as "American Sniper", a reluctant soldier named Alvin C. York from Pall Mall, Tennessee, a remote rural community near the Kentucky border, became one of the best known heroes of World War I. At 31 years of age not only was he older than most fellow soldiers but he was a reluctant soldier who had applied and been rejected for status as a "Conscientious Objector" not once but four times. His small, independent Christian church was not recognized by the determining body. At the time, Conscientious Objectors were not exempt from conscription but would have remained stateside to serve non-combat support work. Ultimately, after much debate about Bible teachings, soul-searching and personal prayer, York became convinced he was meant to enlist and God would keep him safe. On October 8, 1918, his convictions and mettle were put to the ultimate test as his battalion was assigned the task of taking out a hillside nest of German machine guns. After their commander and five other soldiers were killed and three wounded, Corporal York assumed command and left the remaining seven men to guard the fallen as he made his perilous way uphill. Remarkably, as he stated, "Guided by a higher power," Alvin York emerged unscathed having killed 19 or 20 (accounts differ) German soldiers in the taking of the machine gun nest and capture of 4 German officers and 128 of their men who surrendered to him. York and the seven privates marched the 132 German prisoners back to American lines. Alvin C. York was swiftly promoted to Sergeant and received the Distinguished Service Cross, later upgraded to Congressional Medal of Honor presented to him by General John J. "Blackjack" Pershing. He received nearly 50 decorations and honors from various allied governments and was feted in New York City upon his postwar return to the United States. Sgt. York was inundated with offers to capitalize on his wartime accomplishments and sudden fame with initial endorsements and opportunities totaling more than $250,000, the staggering equivalent of nearly $4 million in today's dollar value. He declined the offers, eager to resume a private life and to marry his Tennessee sweetheart. He devoted his life to building schools and to bettering his community.

If your familiarity, like mine, with Sgt. York is of flickering images of tall and handsome Gary Cooper in the classic film of the same name, you are in for a treat with this biography. I was charmed by the revelation that the real Mrs. York objected to the pre-marital onscreen stolen kiss depicted as she would not have permitted such a libertine action. Author Mastriano confirms York's extraordinary feats of heroism through rigorous scholarship, modern ballistics tests and lengthy on-site archaeological research that identified the place on the French battle site where Alvin York's heroic action took place. He also led the planning and construction of a five kilometer long, monument and marker lined historic trail in the Meuse-Argonne Forest. Details can be found on his website: An extensive bibliography is a welcome inclusion in "Alvin York: A New Biography of the Hero of the Argonne". As the centenary of United States involvement in World War I nears, this biography recalls a true military hero who continues to inspire. We need more men like Alvin York who selflessly and courageously acted to ensure the safety of the men in his command by putting his own life at risk during the heat of battle and in the celebratory aftermath, refused to trade his heroism for personal enrichment. We also need more historians like Colonel Mastriano who has not embellished York's actions but has definitively proven his wartime record and confirmed his personal valor.

Big Shots: Rock Legends and Hollywood Icons
Harvey Kubernik & Kenneth Kubernik
Insight Editions
PO Box 3088, San Rafael, CA 94912
9781608872404, $75.00, 272 pages

"Big Shots: Rock Legends & Hollywood Icons: The Photography of Guy Webster" was written by brothers and frequent collaborators Harvey and Kenneth Kubernik with an insightful foreword by Beach Boys co-founder and primary songwriter Brian Wilson. This oversized edition is a glorious celebration of some of renowned music and celebrity photographer Guy Webster's most iconic images of the 1960's and 1970's. One of his first assignments was the innovative cover of The Mamas and The Papas first album. Webster's creative genius rapidly propelled him to become one of most in-demand photographers of the hip, youth and counterculture capturing images of the Rolling Stones on their first US Tour, Simon and Garfunkel, Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and The Beach Boys. Fifty years after they launched the California surfing sounds, the circle was unbroken, as he returned to shoot their Golden Anniversary Tour. Besides the now legendary musicians and rock legends, Webster photographed and sometimes befriended many diverse actors such as Jack Nicholson, Rock Hudson, Harry Dean Stanton as well as some of the most beautiful actresses and models of the era like Natalie Wood, Rita Hayworth, Nico, Raquel Welch, Olivia Hussey, Barbra Streisand and hundreds of other stars and celebrities as well as Presidents Reagan and Clinton. His work graced album covers, publicity shots, billboards and hundreds of magazines worldwide.

This L.A. native grew up in the rarified atmosphere of the Beverly Hills highlands, the elder scion of an entertainment industry giant, Paul Webster, who was a three-time Academy Award-winning lyricist. The close-knit community included neighbors such as Fred Astaire, Ira and Lenore Gershwin, Marx Brothers Groucho, Chico and Harpo and the Edgar Bergen Family. As a child played with the seven children of Dean Martin and walked to school with Candice Bergen. Top composers like Sammy Cahn came to the house to play piano and work out songs with his father. Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughn were frequent visitors. Eschewing the other family tradition of a degree from Yale and a seat on the New York Stock Exchange, Guy Webster attended Whittier College before being drafted into the Army in 1961. Three months before his enlistment ended, he was given the assignment to be a photographer and immersed himself into an unknown field. Contrary to his father's objections and without his financial support, he enrolled at the Art Center in Pasadena, California (now, Art Center College of Design). Within two years he had purchased his first home and was out-earning his father.

Webster has written, "There was no handbook to navigating the sixties", but fortunately for his subjects immortalized by the lens of his ubiquitous Nikons, there was a witness with a keen, creative eye. Much like the oft-quoted adage that real estate worth is determined by "location, location, location", memorable photography is served by the same advantage. "Big Shots: Rock Legends & Hollywood Icons" is a gorgeous blend of stunning photography and astute commentary about the sessions, the "beautiful people" who were the subjects and the era by a man whose work is legendary. The Kubernik brothers are fine authors, music journalists and in Harvey's case, a record producer, who have notably also co-authored or co-produced "Canyon of Dreams: The Magic and Music of Laurel Canyon" and "A Perfect Haze: The Illustrated History of the Monterey International Pop Festival" as well as individually authored books. The biographical material and insights of Guy Webster set this beautifully conceived and elegantly printed coffee table tome apart from many other art books.

Mick and Keith: Never Stop (ibooks Author Edition)
Rona Elliot
NBC Publishing
30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10111
a division of NBCUniversal Media, LLC, specializing in eBooks
ASIN: B009L40WLS, $9.99, 142 pages, print length

Cultural Eyewitness Rona Elliot considers herself to be "Karmically" blessed and ahead of her time

In a semblance of 'life imitating art', this book reviewer resumed a conversation and friendship with Rona Elliot that began in the mid-1970's which paused for three decades as our lives diverged. Through a mutual friend, we reconnected recently by email and telephone to reminisce and catch up on milestone events. Rona is a renowned veteran of radio, television and newspaper whose career has spanned more than four decades. She has been an eyewitness to the birth, zenith and continuum of rock and roll music and a noted Cultural Historian whose vast personal archives including research, videos, over 5000 photographs and memorabilia that are her designated legacy for the Cleveland Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum.

"Mick and Keith: Never Stop: My Conversations with the Rolling Stones", NBC Publishing, was released in October, 2012 exclusively in enhanced eBook format. It's a look back at the celebrated and astonishingly lucrative Steel Wheels tour which Rona covered extensively as NBC's Music Correspondent. "Mick and Keith: Never Stop" was conceived as an interactive, digitally based deeply personal experience for fans with rare, unseen photos taken by the author, interview videos, ticket stubs and memorabilia at an affordable price. It was inspired by the deluxe, exclusive limited edition two volume boxed set "The Woodstock Experience", priced at $1,000 per volume she had worked to produce.

Rona was the first anchor hired for VH1 Television, and the first Music Correspondent for The Today Show; a whirlwind decade of world travel to interview and cover stories of the world's most celebrated rock performers with conversations that focused on the musician's creative process and motivation. She additionally provided commentary for three seasons of American Idol. The list of performers she has interviewed reads like a "who's who" of legends. Rona has also interviewed Holocaust survivors for the USC Shoah Foundation. She currently serves as a consultant for the Grammy Living Legend Foundation and the Grammy Award shows. She has been married for over 30 years and has three sons.

Q. What are some of the key events you've witnessed as a fan or through your work?

A. I was in the audience when Bob Dylan first plugged in his guitar at the Newport Folk Festival; worked the two-day Miami Pop Festival; and was on-site for four months in community and public relations for the Woodstock Festival in 1969 and didn't really see many performances since I was working the entire time. Both Band Aid and the Live Aid concerts; the Amnesty Concert series, as well as having been there for antiwar and transformational events of our generation.

Q. How is it that you were there?

A. I feel I have been karmically blessed to be a" Generational Eyewitness" and want to be able to put what I have seen and done into context of the greater group experience and spiritual experience. From the first concerts I saw as a teenager, I had a camera and notepad with me and was ready to ask questions. I've been a preservationist and archivist all my life.

Q. How long have you been a Rolling Stones fan?

A. I have the $5.00 ticket stub from the first Rolling Stones concert in 1965 when I couldn't get anyone to go with me and went alone. I've seen The Stones dozens of times since; 3 times so far for the 50th Anniversary Tour but don't ask what I paid to stand in the pit in Brooklyn!

Q. What sets The Stones apart?

A. They are and remain the greatest rock and roll band. From the beginning, Beatles music made you feel good; the Rolling Stones music made you feel. Their music created a physical and sexual reality. A Rolling Stone concert is all about live performance; it's an immersion experience best shared with other people.

Q. What have been the most memorable tours?

A. The current tour is outstanding but the never-to-be-equaled experience for me was standing next to Vaclav Havel, then President of Czechoslovakia, in a stadium filled with thousands of fans who had never seen a rock concert during the 1989 Steel Wheels Tour.

Q. What is the legacy of our generation and the significance of rock and roll?

A. The musical, social, cultural, and spiritual experience for our time and generation was defined by social activism. I was fortunate to have known so many spiritual leaders from Alan Watts, Werner Erhard, Bucky Fuller, and the Dalai Lama. We have an obligation, duty and challenge is to use the education and personal experiences for a transformational purpose.

Q. How soon do you think consumers will embrace enhanced eBook technology?

A. In 3-5 years what is now cutting edge (in enhanced eBook publishing) will be more commonplace, widely accepted; hardware and software modifications made to accommodate what is already available in online ads and journalism for less expense. "Mick and Keith: Never Stop: My Conversations with The Rolling Stones" was ahead of its time.

Q. Any final words on music and life?

A. It's fabulous!

Linda Hitchcock, Reviewer
Member of National Book Critics Circle

Logan's Bookshelf

Flickering Empire
Michael Glover Smith & Adam Selzer
Wallflower Press
c/o Columbia University Press
61 West 62nd Street, New York, NY 10023-7015
9780231174497, $25.00, 240pp,

Synopsis: "Flickering Empire: How Chicago Invented the U.S. Film Industry" tells the fascinating yet little-known story of how Chicago served as the unlikely capital of American film production in the years before the rise of Hollywood (1907-1913). As entertaining as it is informative, "Flickering Empire" straddles the worlds of academic and popular nonfiction in its vivid illustration of the rise and fall of the major Chicago movie studios in the mid-silent era (principally Essanay and Selig Polyscope). Colorful, larger-than-life historical figures, including Thomas Edison, Charlie Chaplin, Oscar Micheaux, and Orson Welles, are major players in the narrative -- in addition to important though forgotten industry titans, such as "Colonel" William Selig, George Spoor, and Gilbert "Broncho Billy" Anderson.

Critique: Occasionally illustrated with black-and-white period photography, "Flickering Empire: How Chicago Invented the U.S. Film Industry" is a fascinating read from beginning to end. An exceptionally well written and accurately detailed history, "Flickering Empire: How Chicago Invented the U.S. Film Industry" is a "must" for academic library Cinematic History reference collections. Also available in both a hardcover edition (9780231174480, $75.00) and a Kindle edition ($14.74), "Flickering Empire" is also commended to the attention of non-specialist general readers with an interest in early movie making in the years prior to Hollywood's dominance in the cinematic industry.

A Peaceable Economy
Edward Dommen
World Council of Churches Publications
Bob Todd Publicity
9782825416396, $7.00, 172pp,

Synopsis: The same dynamic drives all kinds of economies and wars: it is cumulative causation, along the lines of "Those who have will receive more and they will have more than enough; but as for those who don't have, even the little they have will be taken away from them". Violence is rooted in the workings of both economies and war. The purpose of war is to compel others to do our will, and it is the outcome of many kinds of economic activities. War and economies are intimately related. The key to an alternative vision is the injunction, "Love your neighbor as yourself ". However, while sermons are easy, there is no conclusive evidence that humanity has made moral progress over time. The struggle for a peaceable economy must be ceaseless, repeated again and again, to counterbalance the inertia of cumulative causation. "A Peaceable Economy" is a rethinking of the foundational elements of economics, taking a critical look at the basic assumptions about economic life. "A Peaceable Economy" offers a hopeful vision of economic possibilities rooted in peace, while critiquing the affinities between economics and war.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented by Edward Dommen (a Quaker and specialist in Economic Ethics), "A Peaceable Economy" will prove to be extraordinarily useful reading for students of economics as well as non-specialist general readers interested in economic issues from a Christian perspective.

Tears Of Innocence
Bill Rapp
Five Star Books
10 Water Street, Suite 310, Waterville, ME 04901
9781432830113, $25.95, 251pp,

Synopsis: In the autumn of 1945 Karl Baier‚ a young American military officer‚ arrives in a devastated Berlin‚ the once mighty capital of the Third Reich. His assignment: to hunt down‚ debrief‚ and‚ in some cases‚ resettle German scientists who helped build the German war machine. He is not alone‚ however‚ as America's allies during the war have become competitors in the search for Germany's scientific and industrial elite. Baier soon finds himself romantically involved with a local woman whose husband disappeared on the eastern front‚ a woman whose husband shares Baier's name. The young American agrees to help find news of her husband's fate‚ which she uses to draw him into a story of deceit‚ romance‚ and missing treasure. Soon Baier becomes the hunted as much as the hunter. Baier's quest takes him from the ruins of Berlin to Greece‚ Bavaria‚ and Lisbon‚ the heart of European espionage and main escape route during the war‚ as he searches for answers to a mystery that stretches back into the German occupation‚ the chaotic final days of the war‚ and into an uncertain future. Baier will have to learn who his true friends are‚ whom he can trust‚ and whether it is safe to love a woman whose history he can only begin to understand. "Tears of Innocence" is a fast-paced thriller set in a time when Karl Baier and his country must face up to the challenges of their new role in an uncertain postwar world.

Critique: A superbly crafted novel featuring a deftly written and fully engaging story replete with unexpected plot twists and turns, "Tears Of Innocence" is an impressive work of fiction that successfully evokes a genuine feel for what live was like in the aftermath of the Third Reich collapse. Exceptionally well written, "Tears Of Innocence" is very highly recommended for community library General Fiction collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Tears Of Innocence" is also available in a Kindle edition ($3.19).

Carl Logan

Margaret's Bookshelf

Home For Dinner
Anne K. Fishel
Amacom Books
1601 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780814433706, $16.00, 240pp,

Synopsis: Sports, activities, long hours, and commutes -- with so much to do, dinner has been bumped to the back burner. But research shows that family dinners offer more than just nutrition. Studies have tied shared meals to increased resiliency and self-esteem in children, higher academic achievement, a healthier relationship to food, and even reduced risk of substance abuse and eating disorders. "Home for Dinner: Mixing Food, Fun, and Conversation for a Happier Family and Healthier Kids" makes a passionate and informed plea to put mealtime back at the center of family life and supplies compelling evidence and realistic tips for getting even the busiest of families back to the table. Chock full of stories, new research, recipes, and friendly advice, the book explains how to: Whip up quick, healthy, and tasty dinners; get kids to lend a hand (without any grief); adapt meals to the needs of everyone - from toddlers to teens; inspire picky eaters to explore new foods; keep dinnertime conversation stimulating; add an element of fun; reduce tension at the table; explore other cultures and spark curiosity about the world. Mealtime is a place to unwind and reconnect, far from the pressures of school and work.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Home for Dinner: Mixing Food, Fun, and Conversation for a Happier Family and Healthier Kids" is as informed and informative and it is thoughtful and occasionally inspiring. Showcasing family dinners as a transformative and engaging event that will forge familial bonds that will last a life time. Also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99), "Home for Dinner: Mixing Food, Fun, and Conversation for a Happier Family and Healthier Kids" is very strongly recommended for personal, family, and community library Parenting Studies instructional reference collections and supplemental reading lists.

Speak of the Devil / The Obstinate Murderer
Elisabeth Sanxay Holding
Stark House Press
1315 H Street, Eureka, CA 95501
9781933586717, $17.95, 220pp,

Synopsis: Stark House Press is a premier publisher of 'time lost' classics of mystery, suspense, and hard-boiled detective novels. Two classic novels of suspense from Elisabeth Sanxay Holding (the author of The Blank Wall) under one cover features "Speak of the Devil" a story of murder at a Caribbean resort hotel. "The Obstinate Murder" is about an aging alcoholic who is called in to solve a murder that hasn't happened yet!

Critique: The late Elisabeth Sanxay Holding (1889 - 1955) was an American novelist and short story writer who primarily wrote detective novels in the hard-boiled school of detective fiction. From 1929 through 1954, she wrote eighteen detective novels, which sold well and earned her significant praise for her style and character development. Her series character for these novels was Lieutenant Levy. Holding also wrote numerous short stories for popular magazines of the day. "Speak of the Devil / The Obstinate Murderer" is the perfect introduction of Elisabeth Sanxay Holding to a whole new generation of appreciative fans of the genre and would prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community library collections.

The Artful Year
Jean Van't Hul
Roost Books
c/o Shambhala Publications, Inc.
300 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, MA 02115-4544
9781611801491, $24.95, 288pp,

Synopsis: "The Artful Year: Celebrating the Seasons and Holidays with Crafts and Recipes" by Jean Van't Hul is specifically written, organized and presented to facilitate celebrating the seasons and holidays by embracing creative activities engaged in together as a family. It is a compendium of fun ways to decorate, prepare for, and learn about the holidays we celebrate. In "The Artful Year", are a wealth of art activities, crafts, recipes, and more, each designed to help make each season special. By doing so, families will create memories and mementos, develop creative growth in children and parents, all while having lots of fun! Included are: Arts and crafts, using the materials, colors, and themes of the season; Decorations to make as a family; Favorite seasonal recipes that are fun for children to help make (and eat); Ideas for celebrating the holidays together; Suggested reading lists of children's picture books about the seasons and holidays.

Critique: Featuring more than 175 individual and thoroughly 'user friendly' family oriented activities, "The Artful Year: Celebrating the Seasons and Holidays with Crafts and Recipes" is profusely illustrated in full color. Organized seasonally as a fun and active resource for crafting and celebrating around the year, "The Artful Year: Celebrating the Seasons and Holidays with Crafts and Recipes" is especially recommended for family and community library collections.

An Officer and a Gentlewoman
Heloise Goodley
Charnwood Large Print
c/o Ulverscroft Large Print (USA), Inc.
PO Box 1230, West Seneca, NY 14224-1230
9781444822359, $35.50, 368pp,

Synopsis: When Heloise Goodley ditched her City job and decided to attend officer training at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, she had no prior military experience. On her arrival she was a complete novice: she'd never fired a rifle; she couldn't march; she couldn't make her bed; she couldn't even shine her shoes. "An Officer And A Gentlewoman: The Making Of A Female British Army Officer" charts Goodley's absorbing journey through Sandhurst and her eventual posting to Afghanistan. This impressive autobiography provides insights into the array of bizarre military behaviors and customs at this esoteric and hidden institution. With wit and sensitivity, Goodley details her experiences as a cadet and the painful transition from civilian to soldier. Moreover, she rejects lazy preconceptions and sheds new light on what has hitherto been a bastion of maleness - the British Army.

Critique: Candid, articulate, erudite, exceptionally well written, organized and presented, ""An Officer And A Gentlewoman: The Making Of A Female British Army Officer" is an extraordinary military memoir and should be a part of every community and academic library 20th Century Military History & Biography collection. This large print edition is thoroughly 'reader friendly' throughout.

Best Lesbian Erotica
Laura Antoniou
Cleis Press
2246 Sixth Street, Berkeley, CA 94710-2219
9781627780919, $16.95, 232pp,

Synopsis: "Best Lesbian Erotica" showcases outstanding lesbian erotica short stories 2015 . Knowledgeably compiled by Laura Antoniou this anthology of twenty stories will not only entertain, but inspire a desire for immediate intimacy with a loved one!.

Critique: Each of these individual stories is an erotic gem. Taken altogether they constitute a veritable treasure chest of adult entertainment for the sophisticated reader. For a mature readership only, it should be noted that "Best Lesbian Erotica" is also available in a Kindle edition ($10.49).

A Sudden Sun
Trudy J. Morgan-Cole
Breakwater Books Limited
100 Water Street, St. Johns, NL, Canada, A1C 6E6
1550815598, $19.95, 396pp,

Synopsis: When a devastating fire sweeps through St. John's, Newfoundland, in the summer of 1892, nineteen-year-old Lily Hunt hopes it's the beginning of a new life that will transform her from a dutiful daughter to a crusader, a suffragist, and a woman in love. Twenty years later, Lily's daughter Grace is deeply immersed in campaigning for women to have the vote. When Grace learns of her mother's involvement in the suffrage cause, the Lily she discovers bears little resemblance to the mother who raised her. Grace sets out on a quest to discover what changed Lily, and why she wants to hide her past. "A Sudden Sun" plunges into the world of two Newfoundland women at the turn of a new century, exploring the timeless and tangled bonds between mother and daughter.

Critique: Clearly, "A Sudden Sun" impressively demonstrates author Trudy J. Morgan-Cole's complete mastery of the historical novel with her meticulous attention to background detail, her deftly crafted and complex story, and her creation of truly memorable characters. Extraordinarily entertaining form beginning to end, "A Sudden Sun" is especially recommended for community library Historical Fiction collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "A Sudden Sun" is available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

As Country As It Gets: As Country As It Gets
Cas Roberts
Amazon Digital Publishing
Word Slinger Publicity
B00R9ZBIA0, $4.95 Kindle,

Synopsis: Take a journey with Cas as he shares his personal experiences and memories through his stories of a preserved way of life where it is, "As Country as it Gets", an era where his Appalachian heritage and upbringing lifestyle is preserved for many generations to see through his work. The old world way of life, with wild ginseng hunting, mule logging, horses, mules and wagon riding, professional coon hunting, and yes, even the fine art of moonshiner is also a part of his heritage.

Critique: "As Country As It Gets: As Country As It Gets: Short stories from Appalachia" is a compilation of fourteen short stories that are a pleasant (and often nostalgic) read. Clearly Cas Roberts has a natural born gift for storytelling -- and one that will leave his enthusiastic readers looking forward to any of his future works. Very highly recommended and enjoyable reading!

Yell Less, Love More
Sheila McCraith
Fair Winds Press
c/o Quarto Publishing Group USA
400 First Avenue North, Suite 400, Minneapolis, MN 55401-1722
Dalyn Miller Public Relations
9781592336333, $21.99, 208pp,

Synopsis: The Rhino: A naturally calm animal that charges when provoked. The Orange Rhino is a person that parents their children with warmth and determination and who doesn't charge with words when angry, impatient, or simply in a bad mood. Do you often find yourself losing your cool and yelling at your kids? It happens to us all, but it doesn't have to. With Yell Less, Love More you'll learn practical, simple solutions to keep you focused on loving more and yelling less, no matter what the circumstance. It is possible to change and enjoy a calmer life because of it! Take the Orange Rhino 30-day challenge to yell less. In this guidebook to happier parenting, author Sheila McCraith shares daily thoughts, tips, and motivational personal stories to help you toss out the screams and welcome in the peace. Whether you have one child or twenty (or one you still yell at who is twenty), strengthen your relationships and maybe even laugh a little more--by taking the challenge today.

Critique: "Yell Less, Love More: How the Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids - and How You Can Too!: A 30-Day Guide That Includes: - 100 Alternatives to ... Steps to Follow - Honest Stories to Inspire" is a thoroughly 'user friendly' month long instructional guide that will significantly help even the most novice of parents to improve the quality and range of their parenting skills. A particularly helpful chapter ten nicely summarizes key points: The 10 Orange Rhino Revelations about Yelling; Top 10 Benefits of Being an Orange Rhino; Top 10 Alternatives to Yelling; Frequently Asked Questions and Answers. Very highly recommended for personal, family, and community library Parenting Studies instructional reference collections, it should be noted that "Yell Less, Love More" is also available in a Kindle edition ($10.99).

North of the Tension Line
J. F. Riordan
Beaufort Books
27 West 20th Street, Suite 1102, New York, NY 10011
9780825307348, $24.95, 478pp,

Synopsis: Fiona Campbell is a newcomer to tiny Ephraim, Wisconsin. Populated with artists and summer tourists, Ephraim has just enough going on to satisfy her city tastes. But she is fascinated and repelled by the furthest tip of Door County peninsula, Washington Island, utterly removed from the hubbub of modern life. Fiona's visits there leave her refreshed in spirit, but convinced that only lunatics and hermits could survive a winter in its frigid isolation. In a moment of weakness, Fiona is goaded into accepting a dare that she cannot survive the winter on the island in a decrepit, old house. Armed with some very fine single malt scotch and a copy of Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, Fiona sets out to win the dare, and discovers that small town life is not nearly as dull as she had foreseen. Abandoning the things she has always thought important, she encounters the vicious politics of small town life, a ruthless neighbor, persistent animals, a haunted ferry captain, and the peculiar spiritual renewal of life north of the tension line.

Critique: One of the qualities necessary for a successful novelist is the ability to deftly craft an engaging story populated by memorable characters and unexpected twists and turns to an ultimately satisfying conclusion. In "North of the Tension Line", author J. F. Riordan amply demonstrates just such a talent. Fully engaging from beginning to end, "North of the Tension Line" is a terrific read and certain to be an enduringly popular addition to community library General Fiction collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "North of the Tension Line" is also available in a Kindle edition ($12.99).

What Are We Doing On Earth For Christ's Sake?
Richard Leonard, SJ
Paulist Press
997 MacArthur Boulevard, Mahwah, NJ 07430
9780809149025, $14.95, 184pp,

Synopsis: In "What Are We Doing On Earth for Christ's Sake?", Richard Leonard (a Jesuit of the Australian Province and director of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting) invites Christians to revisit their faith in the midst of the contemporary world and its challenges. Rather than ignoring the world around us or creating one that is removed from reality, the book encourages the need for honest dialogue, stresses the importance of religious experience, but most importantly, urges the practice of genuine actions for Christ's sake.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "What Are We Doing On Earth For Christ's Sake?" is as thoughtful and thought-provoking as it is inspired and inspiring. Simply stated, "What Are We Doing On Earth For Christ's Sake?" is a deeply rewarding read and highly recommended for all members of the Christian community regardless of their denominational affiliation.

The Irish Hand
Timothy O'Neill
Cork University Press
c/o Stylus Publishing, Inc.
22883 Quicksilver Drive, Sterling, VA 20166-2012
9781782050926, $57.95, 246pp,

Synopsis: Compiled with commentary by calligraphy expert Timothy O'Neill, "The Irish Hand: Scribes and Their Manuscripts From the Earliest Times" presents an illustrated anthology and exemplar of Irish calligraphy over ten centuries. This Cork University Press edition has been substantially revised since the first edition published by Dolmen Press in 1984. "The Irish Hand" is arranged in two parts. The first is an anthology of high-quality full-page color photographic plates of the thirty most celebrated Irish manuscripts, with a commentary analyzing the contents and history of each manuscript and with notes on their scripts and the scribes. The second part examines the historical evolution of Irish script (the Irish hand), tracing that tradition to our own time.

Critique: An impressive work of seminal scholarship that is exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The Irish Hand: Scribes and Their Manuscripts From the Earliest Times" is a critically important and very highly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library Calligraphy Studies reference collections in general, and Irish Calligraphy supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

Margaret Lane

Mason's Bookshelf

The Tyranny of the Meritocracy
Lani Guinier
Beacon Press
24 Farnsworth Street, Boston, MA 02210
9780807006276, $24.95, 176pp,

Synopsis: Goaded on by a contemporary culture that establishes value through ranking and sorting, universities assess applicants using the vocabulary of private, highly individualized merit. As a result of private merit standards and ever-increasing tuitions, our colleges and universities increasingly are failing in their mission to provide educational opportunity and to prepare students for productive and engaged citizenship. To reclaim higher education as a cornerstone of democracy, "The Tyranny of the Meritocracy: Democratizing Higher Education in America" argues that institutions of higher learning must focus on admitting and educating a class of students who will be critical thinkers, active citizens, and publicly spirited leaders. ""The Tyranny of the Meritocracy" presents a plan for considering "democratic merit," a system that measures the success of higher education not by the personal qualities of the students who enter but by the work and service performed by the graduates who leave. ""The Tyranny of the Meritocracy" offers vivid examples of communities that have developed effective learning strategies based not on an individual's "merit" but on the collaborative strength of a group, learning and working together, supporting members, and evolving into powerful collectives. Examples are taken from across the country and include a wide range of approaches, each innovative and effective. Ultimately, ""The Tyranny of the Meritocracy" argues for reformation, not only of the very premises of admissions practices but of the shape of higher education itself.

Critique: Academician Lani Guinier (in 1998, the first woman of color appointed to a tenured professorship at the Harvard Law School) writes from an informed and informative perspective that will fully engage the reader in "The Tyranny of the Meritocracy: Democratizing Higher Education in America". Eight illustrative chapters are deftly organized into two major sections: The Problem; The Solutions. Enhanced with the inclusion of eleven pages of Notes, and a twenty page Index, "The Tyranny of the Meritocracy: Democratizing Higher Education in America" is exceptionally well presented and a work of impressively thoughtful and thought-provoking scholarship from beginning to end. Very highly recommended for academic library Education Studies reference collections and supplemental reading lists, it should be noted that "The Tyranny of the Meritocracy: Democratizing Higher Education in America" is also available in a Kindle edition ($14.72).

Unlocking the Mysteries of Cataloging: A Workbook of Examples
Elizabeth Haynes, Joanna F. Fountain, Michele Zwierski
Libraries Unlimited
PO Box 1911, Santa Barbara, CA 93116-1911
9781610695695, $50.00, 270pp,

Synopsis: Now in a fully updated second edition, "Unlocking the Mysteries of Cataloging: A Workbook of Examples" has a straightforward goal: to help expand and improve the effectiveness of library catalogs. It is designed to supplement existing textbooks by providing exercises in AACR2r and RDA description, classification, subject analysis, and MARC protocols. Particular attention is given to problems that may arise when cataloging books as well as multimedia combinations, 3-D items, toys, natural objects, maps, printed and performed music, bilingual materials, and electronic files. Through the exercises, librarians and library science students will better understand the overall process of cataloging an item and making a record, the application of RDA in producing records, the steps for cataloging new media, and the differences in records using RDA or AACR2r. To enhance the exercises, "Unlocking the Mysteries of Cataloging: A Workbook of Examples" incorporates photographs of real materials and offers questions for consideration. There is also a companion website with enlargeable color graphics. The site provides complete answer records and additional indexes for instructors to use in selecting examples for specific elements in the record. For students, new or advanced, selected MARC answer records are included, as are special lists, forms, and indexes leading to the tools any cataloger will need.

Critique: Impressively well constructed, organized, profusely illustrated and presented, "Unlocking the Mysteries of Cataloging: A Workbook of Examples" is very highly recommended for academic "Library Science" reference collections, curriculum supplements, and supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted that "Unlocking the Mysteries of Cataloging: A Workbook of Examples" is also available in a Kindle edition ($40.00).

Handbook of Research in Education Finance and Policy
Helen F. Ladd & Margaret E. Goertz, editors
711 - 3rd Avenue, Floor 8, New York, NY 10017-9209
9780415838023, $119.00, 692pp,

Synopsis: "The Handbook of Research in Education Finance and Policy" traces the evolution of the field from its initial focus on school inputs and revenue sources used to finance these inputs, to a focus on educational outcomes and the larger policies used to achieve them. Chapters show how decision making in school finance inevitably interacts with decisions about governance, accountability, equity, privatization, and other areas of education policy. Because a full understanding of important contemporary issues requires inputs from a variety of perspectives, the Handbook draws on contributors from a number of disciplines. Although many of the chapters cover complex, state-of-the-art empirical research, the authors explain key concepts in language that non-specialists can understand. This comprehensive, balanced, and accessible resource provides a wealth of factual information, data, and wisdom to help educators improve the quality of education in the United States.

Critique: Now in an fully updated and significantly expanded second edition, the "Handbook of Research in Education Finance and Policy" features new information on teacher evaluation, alternatives to traditional public schooling, and cost-benefit analysis. Collaboratively compiled and co-edited by academicians Helen F. Ladd (Susan B. King Professor of Public Policy Studies and Professor of Economics, Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University) and Margaret E. Goertz (Senior Researcher at the Consortium for Policy Research in Education), "Handbook of Research in Education Finance and Policy" features thirty-six scholarly articles deftly organized into six major sections: Perspectives on Education Finance and Policy; Making Money Matter; Promoting Equity and Adequacy; Changing Patterns of Governance and Finance; Educational Markets and Decentralization; Race, SES, and Achievement Gaps. A critically important and essential addition to academic library Economics reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists, it should be noted that "Handbook of Research in Education Finance and Policy" is also available in a hardcover edition (9780415838016, $295.00) and a Kindle edition ($95.96).

Cultural Heritage Information Access and Management
Ian Ruthven & G. G. Chowdhury
Facet Publishing
7 Ridgmount Street, London, England, WC1E 7AE
9780838913475, $110.00, 360pp,

Synopsis: Recent developments in the ICT, web and mobile technologies have significantly boosted research and development activities aimed at the creation and management of digital cultural heritage resources. Managing digital cultural heritage involves a number of challenges ranging from the digitization of cultural heritage objects and artifacts to various knowledge organization challenges that include metadata, indexing and retrieval, and various user and social challenges such as information seeking and retrieval in the context of cultural heritage, digital divide and social inclusion, social and legal policy issues, and moreover long term access and sustainability issues . Beginning with an overview of different information management issues and challenges associated with cultural heritage information, "Cultural Heritage Information Access and Management" provides an account of research in digital cultural heritage focusing particularly on the knowledge organization, access, users and arising social challenges.

Critique: Collaboratively compiled and co-edited by Ian Ruthven (Professor of Information Seeking and Retrieval, Department of Computer and Information Sciences, University of Strathclyde) and G. G. Chowdhury (Professor of Information Science, Northumbria University, Newcastle), "Cultural Heritage Information Access and Management" is comprised of eleven impressively informed and informative articles by lead researchers in the history and impact of digitally transmitted and preserved information upon our cultural legacies. "Cultural Heritage Information Access and Management" is a critically important and seminal contribution to academic library reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists with respect to digital libraries, digital humanities and digital culture.

Death in Eden
Paul Heald
Yucca Publishing
c/o Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.
307 West 36th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10018
9781631580086, $14.95, 344pp,

Synopsis: Desperate to complete the last chapter of his law thesis on workplace dynamics for women to secure his tenure, Professor Stanley Hopkins stumbles on an old close college friend, Donald Johansson, who has plenty of female employees. The problem is that Donald is a porn video king. Taking his wife to California's seedy city of Burbank to help with taping interviews (and to protect his reputation with the university, not to mention his marriage), Stanley realizes he is in way over his head the moment a leading porn star is brutally killed in Donald's office during a party. Donald is arrested and pleads with Stanley to play legal detective. Stanley's problems are compounded, as playing detective for a porn king puts him on thin ice with the university trustees, gets him in hot water with the police, dangles temptation in front of him, and puts his marriage at serious risk. As he solicits the help of eager porn stars and scrabbles for clues to help defend his old friend, Stanley feels the walls closing in on him more and more each minute.

Critique: Laced with black humor and cliff-hanger plot twists and turns, "Death In Eden" is a superbly crafted mystery and denoted author Paul Heald's undeniable talents as an original storyteller. A solid entertainment from beginning to end, "Death in Eden" is highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library Mystery/Suspense collections. It should be noted that "Death in Eden" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99) and as an audible book download ($14.95).

Jack Mason

Peggy's Bookshelf

The Scallywag Solution
Trevor Newland
Mosaic Press
1252 Speers Road, Oakville, Ontario L6L 5N9
9780889629905, $9.99, 64 pages,

The Scallywags are four motley crew members on board Captain Dashing Dante's ship. Gassy Jack the Cook's specialty is stew. Actually that's all he cooks. Peggy Leg mops the deck, though there's no visible evidence of this anywhere. Lazy-Eyed Liam keeps up with the laundry. From the looks of the captain and the crew, his job is the easiest. And Roger the Tailor can sew up a storm - literally. Dashing Dante is a preening peacock of a captain who demands endless chores from the Scallywags. No matter how hard they work he is never satisfied. Until one day the infamous Blackbeard and his ship of pirates attack. When Captain Dashing and the rest of the crew abandon ship, it's up to the Scallywags to save the day.

Cartoon illustrations in shades of brown and blue-green set the tone for this high seas fracas. Newland has a knack for creating exaggerated facial features and contorted torsos that add a delicious layer of visual humor to the story. "The Scallywag Solution" is a rollicking pirate adventure that will delight young scallywags everywhere.

Please, Mr. Panda
Steve Antony
Scholastic Press
557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012
9780545788922, $16.99, 32 pages,

Chubby Mr. Panda has a tray of frosted doughnuts to share. Yet one by one, every black and white critter strikes out in the doughnut department. With each failed attempt, Mr. Panda's expression gets grumpier and grumpier. What seems to be the problem here? Mr. Panda is completely bowled over until one clever lemur comes up with those magic words. The real punchline in this story is the reason why Mr. Panda is so generous with his doughnuts. The parade of fuzzy black and white animals against a textured gray background makes the candy-colored doughnuts look all the more scrumptious. "Please, Mr. Panda" is a simple story with an amusing twist on manners.

Peggy Tibbetts, Reviewer

Susan's Bookshelf

Service Before Self
Tegon Maus
Tirgearr Publishing
Language: English
ASIN: B00SU4OOC8, $4.92, 154 Pages

Genre: Fiction

When Toby Grant starts his first day as a service technician at Handy Dandy Services, in San Bernardino he has no idea what his first week will be like, but full of expectation that first day he is partnered with very experienced Ryan Burnell.

Ryan makes no bones about his reluctance in having to wet nurse Toby and refuses to use his name, calling him 'Newbie' instead, and continually reminds him of the company slogan 'Service Before Self.

However, his partner's reluctance is nothing compared to the colorful characters Toby meets on the job, so to speak.

From eccentric waste billionaires and very flirtatious women, to unbelievable roach problems and ghosts in the attic, Toby's numerous adventures in this book will make you laugh repeatedly, however, be aware some will also make your skin crawl. And, all the while poor Toby has to follow the deadpan instructions both gestures and verbal of the reluctant Ryan and do his bidding at a flick of a coin.

However, Toby soon discovers that the Ryan he knows today is a very different character from the man he was a few years before. Back then he was involved in the dangerous worlds of drugs and murder, and, his previous partner was stabbed 27 times.

Ryan certainly has some dark secrets and soon his past is about resurface....

This story is not only a very funny, if cringe worthy insight into the working day of company representatives, and what sometimes they see when entering other people's homes; but also an extremely gripping thriller in parts as Ryan is pulled back, yet again, into the world of drugs he left behind five years previously.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading every page of this story and would happily recommend it as a brilliantly entertaining book.

Can You Hear The Music?
Sandra Farris
Publisher: Sandra Farris
Language: English
ASIN: B0079OG342, $7.86, 204 Pages

Genre: Fiction

Set in the early 1900's, this is a truly heart-warming story about Corey James, a young girl whose parents die in a car crash and she is taken to live with her Uncle George and Aunt Lizzie who she does not know.

The dominating Aunt Lizzie dislikes Corey and abuses her, both mentally and physically, even her husband is afraid of her!

After a failed escape, where she is caught by her wicked aunt, Corey cuts off her hair and pretends to be a boy, very convincingly. She is befriended by a stranger called Andy who takes her under his wing and teaches her how to survive honestly.

This is an amazing story following the adventure which is Corey's life. It is a wonderful book which takes us on a rollercoaster of emotions as we watch this young girl grow-up and fall in love.

Available from Amazon

Circus Elephant: Realizing How Powerful You Truly Are
John Holley Jr.
Language: English
B00JYHY7YA, $3.03, 60 Pages

Genre: Self-Help

What an intriguing title, I thought, and then I started to read...

Coach and author John Holley Jr. delivers his inspirational message through a unique and totally captivating story, that of the life and training of a circus Elephant.

How strange, I hear you say, yes, but it works so well. The messages the book contains are explained clearly and so interesting that it held my attention right from the start.

Whatever your goal, whether you want to take control of your life, emotions, body, finances, or in your relationships this book gives you the power to succeed. It contains well written advice, a wealth of inspirational stories, and examples of people throughout history who have turned the tide on themselves, sometimes against incredible odds.

The author has given you the power and inspiration you need and armed with this book, the rest is up to you.

Available from Amazon:

Many thanks.

Susan Keefe, Reviewer

Suzie's Bookshelf

Libellus de Numeros (Magicae Mathematica)
Jim West
CreateSpace Independent Publishing
9781502834911, $14.99, 382 pages

It is Alex's first day at middle school. Her father drives her there, and then breaks the news that his job will take him out of town once again. Alex had hoped that he would keep his promise to stay home more with the move to this new location. She understands he is vital to his work, but selfishly she wants to have him more involved in her life.

At school, Alex encounters a group of bullies picking on a blind boy. She refuses to stand by and allow this to happen. She makes a courageous effort to stand up to the group, but unfortunately they outnumber her. She finds that they are able to overpower her and manage to stuff her in a closet. When she hits her head, her world suddenly goes black.

When she awakes she meets a man named Achimedes, she learns that he is a wizard. The world she has been projected into is a one where Latin and math are used for magical purposes. She is unsure how she got there, or how she is going to get back to her family. Achimedes knows he is her best bet for survival, and decides to take her under his care.

Alex finds the new world she is a part of overflows with evil and corruption. She finds herself entangled in life threatening situations. Will she be strong enough to survive the danger that threatens her existence?

Move over Harry Potter, there is a new magical figure that is about to take you place and her name is Alex! I was so impressed with the depth of character and setting this young adult novel presented. Having read all of the Harry Potter books, I recognized how appealing Alex being a girl, would appeal to a huge young adult female population. I applaud Jim West for his courage to write such a strong character as Alex. I predict after reading this book there will be many young ladies who have a greater appreciation for math and science. Though LIBELLUS DE NUMEROS a strong foundation has been laid to provide the perfect structure required to build an unforgettable series, I look forward to see what new adventures Alex finds herself in future novels.

The Blind Cupid (Blind Cupid Series Book 1)
Karyn Gerrard
Decadent Publishing Company, LLC
PO Box 407, Klawock, AK 99925
B00ANEKKOE, $1.99,

At the young age of ten, Desmond Glover found himself an orphan and was cast out into the streets to fend for himself. He was found by a man who introduced him to prostitution. He forced him to sell his body in order to survive.

Years later, Desmond found a kinder mistress who owned The Blind Cupid. She recognized that as handsome as Desmond's was she could make a fortune off of him servicing spinsters. She took the upmost care in training him in the art of seduction.

Over the years, Desmond has learned to distance himself from what he does to earn money. He sees each client as a faceless person that requires his sexual talents. He blocks each one of them out of his memory after his work is completed.

When Anne Sommers learns her friend hired a paid escort to give her one night of pleasure she decides she also wants to experience being loved in someone's arms, even if it requires her to pay him for his service. She knows it is unlikely with her age she will ever find someone willing to accept her for the woman that she has grown into.

When Desmond arrives, he is puzzled at his instant feelings for Anne. Never in his career has he allowed himself to have any emotions about his clients. He can see that Anne is different than his usual clients. When he allows himself to kiss Anne, he knows that he cannot live without her.

Alas, when the time comes that Desmond must leave will he be able to turn his back on the feelings he found with Anne? Can he forget the tenderness and acceptance he found in her arms to return to a life when emotions are not allowed?

THE BLIND CUPID is an exceptional historical romance. The characters fly off the page and find a place deep into your heart. The emotions each one exhibit is superior. THE BLIND CUPID is a wonderful series. Each one of the books can be read out of order, but it helps to start with the first book to get the full impact of all the struggles that occurred that brought them to THE BLIND CUPID

The Vixen and the Vet
Kathy Regnery
Amazon Digital Services
B00L19SVQ4, $3.99, Contemporary Romance

In Afghanistan, Asher Lee was injured by an Improvised explosive device (IED). The right side of his face suffered extensive damage, and he lost his right arm and now walks with a limp. He returned to his hometown to hide away from the world.

Savannah Carmichael was once a successful Journalist who worked for a prestigious New York newspaper. She lost her position when she trusted in the wrong person; now she is trying to revive her career. When an offer comes to her from the Phoenix Sun, she knows she will do anything to land this position.

Savannah editor requests she do a human interest story. She sets her subject on the towns forgotten Veteran, Asher Lee. She puts all of her Southern Charm in convincing Asher to allow her to interview him.

At first Asher is reluctant to agree to expose himself to the public eye, but he cannot seem to forget the beauty Savannah possesses. He sees the connection to Savannah as the first outside connection he has allowed near him since his injury.

When Savannah receives Asher's call to tell her he accepts her offer she is thrilled. As the days go by she learns there is more to Asher Lee than meets the eye. Beneath the war torn exterior he projects, there is a man starved for human attention.

Savannah brings a light to Asher's dark world. Her presence has him wishing for things he never dreamed possible. With her acceptance, will he find that he is willing to see what the world has to offer?

THE VIXEN AND THE VET is an outstanding romance! I cannot begin to tell you how impressed I was with Asher and Savannah. This tale is a beautiful Beauty and the Beast theme that is assured to touch ones heart. I highly recommend any book that Kathy Regnery writes for she has the unique writing style that instantaneous captures her reader's attention.

SEALED With a Kiss: Heroes With Heart
Various Authors
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
B00ICC4CH0, $2.99

If you are looking for a way to spend an entire month caught up in the offerings of some of the best Award Winning romance authors, than look no further than SEALED WITH A KISS: HEROES WITH A HEART. This one book will take you by storm as it provides an ultimate thrill ride of some of the hottest heroes this read/reviewer has ever experienced.

CODE OF SILENCE by Marliss Melton:

Ophelia Delnnocent is a successful reporter; when she learns that she is pregnant, she knows that her life is about to change. She keeps the fact hidden from her Navy Seal husband Vinny; instead she stays focused on exposing a Pennsylvania Lieutenant governor. When she finds herself caught in a web of danger, will she be able to escape with her life and her unborn babe?

SEAL MY DESTINY by Sharon Hamilton:

Navy Seal Luke Paulsen comes back to his hometown after a horrific tour of duty. He knows that no woman deserves to be shackled to this troubled soul. When he meets a lady that refuses to allow him to wallow in his own self-pity, will she be strong enough to break him out of his dark existence?

HOLDING ON by Stephanie Tyler:

FBI Agent, Jamie Michaels finds herself on the verge of giving birth. She finds herself alone to give birth to her unborn child, since her Navy Seal husband is deployed overseas. Chris Waldron' has been able to escape the most difficult missions. He is intent that he will find a way to make it home to his wife and child. Will he be successful in carrying out his ultimate mission for his family?

WARRIOR by Gennita Low:

Navy Seal Lucas Branson never anticipated finding Kit Ling Harrison in a war torn country. Kit has been assigned as a reporter that is interviewing victims of the war. Together they find a love neither one anticipated, will it be strong enough to survive the uncertainty each day brings?

SEAL'S DESIRE by Elle James:

Navy Seal Remy LaDue's is back from her deployment. She finds herself caught up in an undercover operation that involves posing as a stripper. NCIS agent Mitchell Sanders is unaware that Remy is undercover and finds her in the lounge. Together the two join forces to help solve a human trafficking organization.


Joe Flynn is a former Navy Seal K9 handler. He is haunted by the day that he lost his trusted canine in the ravages of war. Even though he doesn't have anything to do with animals, it seems these injured creatures find a way to his door. He enlists the help of Willow James with each one that he finds. Willow knows that Joe is haunted by something in his past; she is determined to help him find peace. Will she succeed in healing a war weary soldier?

BREAKING FREE by Teresa Reasor

When Zoe Weaver discovers her brother Brett was attacked and left for dead she joins forces with Lieutenant Adam 'Hawk' Yazzie to find the person responsible for his injuries. As the two embark into dangerous territory, a love emerges; will it be strong enough to withstand the danger that surrounds them?

MUTINY'S BOUNTY by Delilah Devlin:

Lace McElhannon has always been a thrill seeker. When she meets adrenaline packed ex-SEAL Dex Haygood she knows she in for an adventure of a lifetime. Dex is used to having assignments that involve protecting ships from Somali pirates, his newest assignment protecting Lace seems like a piece of cake. Unbeknownst to him his life this mission is one of the most dangerous he has ever been involved in. Will he be successful in protecting Lace?

Cast Away: For These Reasons: Economic Jihad
Jo M. Sekimonyo
Venus Flytrap Press
PO Box 390780, Cambridge, MA 02139
9780990867425, $3.99, 264pp,

"Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe." -Frederick Douglass

CAST AWAY: FOR THESE REASONS: ECONOMIC JIHAD takes a bold approach to educate the reader on how poverty is quickly becoming a worldwide problem. Often in society, we get busy with our everyday lives and forget the horrors that are taking place in our own country and across the world.

Through the author's words, he has traveled the continent to see firsthand the devastation that is taking place on this earth. He uses vivid and powerful words to show the reader how bad society has become. Through his stories, there was one that hit home and had turned into a life changing experience for this reader. It involved what is going on the clothing industry in Bangladesh. From this revelation, I will never be able to purchase another garment that is manufactured in that country.

Jo M. Sekimonyo can be best described as a realist, a philosopher of socioeconomic inequality, a humanitarian, and a person that is not afraid to speak his own mind. Through CAST AWAY: FOR THESE REASONS: ECONOMIC JIHAD he challenges mankind to wake up and realize that evil exists and is taking place right around them. Unless we wake up and change the way we are living our lives our existence is one that is danger of being destroyed.

To say that this book gave me a reality check in the world's most pressing problems is an understatement. Once I started reading, I was unable to put it down, after I finished reading the last page, I kept thinking back to all that the author had explained. I recommend this book to anyone who wishes to take an in-depth look at the devastation that is quickly consuming this nation. I can guarantee that after you finish with this book you will have gained a fresh perspective on life. This book has the thought provoking enrichment that allows a person to see the world with new eyes of self-awareness.

Suzie Housley

Theodore's Bookshelf

The Butcher
Jennifer Hillier
Pocket Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10002
9781476734231, $7.99, Paperback, 401 pp,

A series of murders take place in the Pacific Northwest with the same MO: the victims, mostly young girls, have been raped, tortured and their left hands chopped off. Finally, a task force headed by Captain Edward Shank (who later becomes chief of police) captures a man the call the Butcher, shooting him when he resists arrest.

Now years later, similar murders appear, setting the stage for an eerie story involving Shank, his successful restaurateur grandson, Matthew, and Matt's girlfriend, Samantha ("Sam"), who is in the midst of writing a book on The Butcher and her theory that he killed her mother, despite the fact the her death occurred two years after the death of the supposed killer.

The novel is a thriller of the first order, fast-paced and with lots of clues to keep the reader involved. But these hints don't give away the unforeseen conclusion. One cavil: There are some mushy love scenes which slow down the narrative and can be skipped. Nonetheless, the novel is recommended.

Stone Cold
C.J. Box
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780425272824, $9.99, Paperback, 416 pp.,

The 14th Joe Pickett novel is quite different from preceding entries in the series. It is less involved with the environment, which, though never completely ignored, one has become accustomed to in plots involving the Wyoming game warden, but filled with action and violence. It begins when the governor enlists Joe to secretly scout what is believed to be a criminal enterprise in the northern part of the state where a rich stranger has set himself up as the lord and master of the area, buying everything in sight up and having virtually the entire population in his figurative debt.

Joe is not supposed to get involved, but merely gather information, setting the stage for the FBI to make a case. Of course, that never keeps Joe from an active role. An added dilemma: Joe's good friend Nate appears to be involved with the bad guys. A second subsidiary plot line involves Joe's daughter Sheridan, who is a Resident Assistant at the university residence and provides an offbeat finale.

The action is non-stop, and the inclusion of more of Pickett's family in the story adds a touch of real human interest. The characters drawn are hard-nosed, and Joe's sense of righteousness comes across loud and clear. An excellent tale told with verve and clarity.


By Its Cover
Donna Leon
Grove Press
c/o Grove Atlantic
154 W. 14th St., 12th fl., NY, NY 10011
9780802123473, $15.00, Paperback, 288 pp.,

This Commisario Guido Brunetti mystery begins when he receives a telephone call from the director of a specialized library indicating some rare books have presumably been stolen. Moreover, others have been mutilated, maps and illustrations having been cut out of the volumes. From that point, the plot moves forward in a straight police procedural format.

The story allows the Commissario to shine, with his deep erudite knowledge of history and literature. And the author is given the opportunity to tackle yet another singular subject: the rare book industry, and its sideline of theft and greedy collectors. The obvious culprit is a man who had identified himself as an American professor who requested the books. And a former priest, who has been reading in the library for the past three years, is an apparent witness. Unfortunately, he is murdered before he can be questioned, complicating the investigation.

Brunetti is a Venetian, through and through. And the series is grounded in Venice, as he walks the streets and sails on the canals and lagoon as he pursues a solution to the crimes he investigates, providing a bona fide atmosphere for the series. While the novel is at the same high level of subtlety and sophistication as past entries, it lacks some of the attributes that have endeared readers to the series in the past. Lacking are Brunnetti's gourmet appetite, his wife's recipes for wonderful meals, the charming repartee over the dinner table between husband and wife and two children as precocious as their parents, the charm of Brunetti's home life, his relationship with his wife, daughter and son are always plusses in the books that make up this series. That said, the novel, as each of its predecessors, is recommended.

Queen of Hearts
Rhys Bowen
Berkley Prime Crime
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780425260364, $25.95, Hardcover, 295 pp,

Lady Georgiana Bannoch, granddaughter of Queen Victoria and cousin (of sorts) to King George, 35th in line to throne, actually is a penniless person trained in the royal manner with no place to go and nothing to do. She is the daughter of a well-known and often-married mother, Edwina, who invites Georgie to accompany her to America where she wishes to obtain a quickie divorce in Reno. Of course, along the way, they are diverted to Hollywood where a larger-than-life movie mogul named Cy Goldman induces Edwina to star in a period movie about Mary Tudor and the future Queen Elizabeth.

Needless to say, where Georgie is, mysteries and murders are sure to follow. The first mystery begins on the transatlantic ship when a jewel thief steals a valuable ruby from an Indian princess. Presumably the thief is well-known but as yet unidentified to Scotland Yard, and Darcy O'Mara, Georgie's love, is on the trail, enabling him to follow to the West Coast, where the rest of the story plays out, including the murder and its solution.

The Royal Spyness mysteries are always whimsically written and fun to read. This latest novel in the series is no less amusing and enjoyable, far from the noir genre but light and in places even comic, and is recommended.

Keep Quiet
Lisa Scottoline
St. Martin's Griffin
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781250010100, $15.99, Paperback, 384 pp,

The novel begins with Jake and his teenage son, Ryan, driving home late at night when they approach a dark empty road and the boy begs his father to allow him to drive. Against his better judgment and parental duty, he lets Ryan take the wheel despite the fact that it's contrary to the law for one with only a learner's permit to drive in the dark. Almost immediately, as the car turns a blind curve, he hits something which turns out to be a young girl, dressed in a black jogger's outfit. Jake rushes out of the car and attempts CPR, but the girl is dead.

Jake decides the ramifications for Ryan's future life would be too onerous, and they leave the scene of the accident. From this unlikely decision, after all the circumstances probably and logically would result in little if any legal penalties given the facts surrounding the event, the plot moves forward with a myriad of complications affecting Jake, Ryan and Pam, wife and mother, who is a judge sitting in a state appellate court.

The story is an interesting one, but is overtold, with numerous repetitions of one or another character being sorry and feeling dread. Supposedly, the tale poses the question: What would you do to protect your loved ones and family? Furthermore, the conclusion is as unbelievable as the original premise for the novel.

Ghost Month
Ed Lin
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616953263, $26.95, Hardcover, 336 pp.,

This novel is as complicated and inscrutable as the Chinese, and probably could have been split into two or three books. It is a detailed history if Taiwan, a deep look at the culture and its people from the original aborigines to its more recent takeover following the civil war on the mainland and the settlement of the forces led by Chiang Kaishek. Then it is a love story of sorts. And lastly, it is a mystery.

The story takes place during Ghost Month, a period in which the dead are commemorated. A haunting time. The plot tells of the love of Jingnan and Julia ever since they were toddlers and what happens to them when they grow up. They pledged themselves to marriage, but then left for the United States and college on separate coasts with no contact. When his parents died, he was forced to take over operation of the family food stall at a night market. She returns to Taipei only to be shot dead, and he undertakes to find out why and by whom.

While the writing is clear and concise, I found the various digressions overwhelming, making it hard for this reader to maintain any kind of pace. It might have been a better read if the novel had been simplified, omitting a lot of extraneous albeit interesting information of the peoples and history of the island. The book is recommended for those who enjoy such a deep and penetrating picture of Taiwan.

Fatal Conceit
Robert K. Tanenbaum
Gallery Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781451635584, $9.99, Paperback, 544 pp.,

The reader has to suspend disbelief in this latest Butch Karp saga just to enjoy the usual highlight of a Robert K. Tanenbaum novel: the courtroom trial. What leads up to this well-portrayed event is another matter, requiring a stretch of the imagination. It seems that the premise involves the President's national campaign manager and his national security advisor taking part in what might be termed a rogue operation leading to multiple coverups and even murder.

We meet the two men as they sit in an office watching in real time an attack on a State Department mission and a group of clandestine secret American agents that includes Butch's daughter, Lucy, by unknown elements in Chechnya. Fearful that the incident would have negative implications on the President's reelection a week before the election, the men choose to do nothing to assist the besieged Americans, even ordering an overhead drone to fire upon them to remove any possible witnesses. Enter a hero general, now Acting CIA Director, who decides he is going to testify before a Congressional committee on what really happened. So they arrange his death to look like suicide when they fail to blackmail him into toeing the party line.

There are other subplots including a maudlin love story, but these merely add up to providing more fodder for a potboiler. Needless to say, Butch hones in on the pair after obtaining reams of evidence sufficient to provide a well-conducted trial that as usual is the highlight of this author's novels. Customarily, one can count on the author to be meticulous where the legal aspects are concerned. However, in this story, we find Butch properly having the defendants arrested in D.C. with a local policeman on hand, but we next find them indicted and on trial in New York City, but no mention of extradition or its waiver. Oversight or just plainly ignored? The plot captures the imagination, but I found it hard to overlook some of the novel's more troubling aspects. But it is well-written and fun to read, so it is recommended.

Jon McGoran
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780765334718, $24.99, Hardcover, 384 pp.,

A three-day visit to Martha's Vineyard to visit an old friend who is working there, keeping track of bees needed to pollinate crops, turns out to be more than Philadelphia detective Doyle Carrick and his girlfriend, Nola, probably bargained for. They discover the bee population is fast disappearing and the cause is a mystery. Nola gets a job manually pollinating plants on a farm and Doyle ends up hanging around, then becoming embroiled in helping to solve the situation.

A lesser plot is the love interest: Doyle and Nola's hot-and-cold relationship; her association with the young, handsome employer, making Doyle jealous; and his relationship with a beautiful female scientist, raising an equal emotion in Nola. Of course, both these other characters play a vital role in the main plot.

The action is fast and furious, and the plot moves forward at a rapid pace. And to boot, there are additional facets to complicate the reader's progress, including high stakes corporate machinations. (And we probably learn more about bees and genetics than we ever wished.)


I've Got You Under My Skin
Mary Higgins Clark
Pocket Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781476749082, $7.99, Paperback, 400 pp,

I never realized how often Mary Higgins Clark used a song tune as a book title, until I started humming the eponymous Cole Porter song. What it has to do with the plot, however, is not so apparent to me. This is the story of two murders and how they somehow tie together. The first victim is the husband of Laurie Moran, a television producer; the other, the suffocation death of Betsy Powell, 20 years earlier, on the night of a gala party her wealthy husband gave for her daughter and three friends upon their graduation from college.

What links the two events is that Laurie conceives a TV series based on recreating unsolved murders and selects the Powell mystery for the pilot, inviting Mr. Powell and the four women to participate. The hope, of course, is that the guilty party will somehow blunder on camera and admit to committing the deed. Any suspense is created by the statement of Laurie's husband's murderer that he was first, to be followed by the killing of her and their young son.

One can almost feel the author plotting the novel, carefully constructing the tale building block by building block. It is so carefully put together that one can anticipate the next sentence. The book is typical of one written by this author, filled with descriptions of what the women are wearing, and the decor of the rooms and grounds where events take place. Not that these are negatives. The novel is certainly well-written and enjoyable, just not a whodunnit of a high order.

The Burning Room
Michael Connelly
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9781455524198, $16.00, March 17, 2015, Paperback, 400 pp.

Now, presumably, entering his final year as a detective, Harry Bosch is paired with Lucia Soto, a young Latina woman with no experience, on the theory he has the experience to mentor her and something would rub off. As it turns out, she not only has the same drive and commitment as the veteran, but also a private agenda which provides a second plot to the original cold case they are tasked to work on.

The first case is an unusual one: A man who was shot ten years before, the bullet lodging in his spine leaving him paralyzed, dies of blood poisoning, and the coroner rules it a homicide. So Harry and his partner not only have a cold case but a current murder to investigate. The second case is a personal obsession of Lucy, who as a child was the victim of a fire in which nine other children and their minder died. The case was assigned to another detective team, and Harry exhibits his maverick ways by acquiring jurisdiction with his unique methodology.

As a result, the novel proceeds with two police procedurals, for which the author is, perhaps, among the best writers of this kind. It is a little sad to think Harry is coming to the end of a long run. Or does Mr. Connolly have something else in mind for the venerable character (or his partner)? The Harry Bosch series has been one of police procedurals in the best sense of the term, and of the genre, and it would be disappointing to its loyal readers if it were to suddenly disappear.

As were its predecessor novels, "The Burning Room" also is highly recommended.

One of Us
Tawni O'Dell
Gallery Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781476755939, Paperback, 304 pp., $15.00
9781476755878, $25.00, Hardcover, 295 pp.,

I usually save opinion for the concluding paragraph, but this novel is so unusual that I can't resist beginning with an evaluation. To begin with, the story develops in a most unexpected manner, wending its way with all sorts of twists and turns. Initially, one would expect a story about small town life, the hardships of a coal miner's life, a small boy growing up and variations on the usual themes. It is all that and much more, written with simplicity and flair. And it's a crime story that is really different and surprising

Danny Doyle grew up in Lost Creek, PA, an Appalachian coal mining town, escaping to become a forensic psychologist of some renown. When he was five years old, his baby sister was found murdered and his mother convicted of the crime, serving 20 years in prison. And everyone believes she is crazy. Many years later, Danny returns to Lost Creek to see his 96yearold grandfather, Tommy, who had just returned from the hospital after a bout with pneumonia.

The author portrays the town, its inhabitants and the way of life from immigrant to victim of the coal mining interests with overwhelming detail and pathos. Danny's return sets the stage for a denouement the reader could not possibly envision and is worthy of the highest praise. Sometimes, a book is "just" a good read. This one is a very good read, and is heartily recommended.

The Disappeared
Kristina Ohlsson
Emily Bestler Books/Atria Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781476734019, $16.00, Paperback, 432 pp.,

Scandinavian crime novels have a lot in common. And "The Disappeared" certainly reflects most of these characteristics: A police procedural, lots of murders, an unusual plot and set in Stockholm (or some other Baltic city or country). The story begins with the discovery of the body of a female in a shallow grave, with her head and arms removed and sawed in half.

The novel is the third in a series featuring Fredrika Bergman and her fellow investigators as they investigate (more like bumbling along) in attempting to solve the case, which develops into a rarity in Scandinavian literature: serial murders (although there have been a few; Harry Hole, for instance, gained a reputation for solving them). Personal conflicts among the police personnel arise, complicating the investigation.

While the plot has the cops following lead after lead, many of which have little or no relevance, the author relates each with a great deal of what appears to be a lot of detail. And too often, the writing is repeated and repeated, slowing down the reader and encumbering the book. The novel could have used serious pruning. Nevertheless, the plot is quite interesting, and lends itself to an enjoyable read. Fredrika, in this instance, shows an ability to make giant leaps of logic, with little or no basis. More development and less verbiage could have been a better way to solve the crimes. That notwithstanding, the novel is recommended.

A Song for the Dying
Stuart MacBride
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780007344338, $14.99, Paperback, 544 pp.,

Ash Henderson, a former DI, is in jail after having been framed by his archenemy, Mrs. Kerrigan. He comes up for parole every six months, only to be turned down because she instigates a fight between him and two thugs. Then he is rescued by a Detective Superintendent heading a special squad investigating a perpetrator, now resurfaced after several years' hiatus, whose MO is that he cuts nurses' stomachs open and inserts a plastic doll simulating a pregnancy. The reason for his release: Ash came closest to capturing the man years before, but lost him in a crowded railroad station.

So much for the plot, which teams Ash once again with forensic psychologist Dr. Alice McDonald. The rest is basic fine writing and character description as the police fumble in an effort to find The Inside Man, and Ash and Alice go their own way following one idea or another while trying to avoid any damage to themselves or the victims now held by the perpetrator.

This is the second in the Ash Henderson series and, like the initial entry, is craftily written. Henderson is quite a character, not averse to seeking justice by his own means or constructing a scenario which results in the same end. Such outcomes include revenge, so the subplot involving Mrs. Kerrigan provides some unusual goingson. The whole mystery is tied together in a manner that leaves the reader's mind spinning as Ash brings each clue into focus.


We Are Not Ourselves
Matthew Thomas
Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781476756660, $28.00, Hardcover, 620 pp,

This family saga drags on for three generations (and over 600 pages) with less than interesting participants. The first family is comprised of Irish-Americans, with the stereotyped father a driver of a beer delivery truck and a reformed alcoholic mother, plus a daughter named Eileen who aspires to much greater of life's accomplishments than can be found in the Archie Bunkertype home in Woodside, Queens. Instead, Eileen has to settle for becoming a nurse and marrying Ed Leary, a professor at the Bronx Community College with no desire for advancement and content with being a highly competent teacher and researcher.

So Eileen has to fulfill her ambitions by encouraging (and failing) to push Ed ever onward and upward. Then she has to transfer these aspirations to her son, whom she pretentiously names Connell. She has big eyes, and wants more and more, finally after a long, arduous argument convincing Ed to move to a house in Bronxville from the three-family home they owned in Jackson Heights, appeasing her upward desires somewhat. And life goes on and on toward the inevitable denouement.

From the start, beginning with Eileen's father, the characters are wooden and unbelievable, especially Connell, as he progresses in life (the story takes place over four decades). Eileen's attitude toward her husband and marriage does not ring true. She is satisfied or not, one can't really know, despite the ending, which doesn't seem credible. And this is supposed to represent life faithfully.

Murder 101
Faye Kellerman
Harper, 195 Broadway, NY, NY 10007
9780062270191, $9.99, March 31, 2015. Paperback, 496 pp.

After 30 years with the LAPD, detective lieutenant Peter Decker takes retirement. And what does he do? He and his wife, Rina, move to a sleepy Hudson Valley village in upstate New York where he joins the local police department as a detective just to keep busy, on the theory that nothing ever happens there. Also, to be near their kids and grandkids in Brooklyn and Philadelphia. And after six months of rescuing cats from trees, it would appear that the assumption was correct. Wrong.

First off, there is a break-in at a mausoleum in the local cemetery where two of four Tiffany windows representing the four seasons were stolen, replaced with forgeries. Then a female art senior at a local college is found brutally murdered. Now Peter has something to dig his teeth into. Are the two crimes related? And when another murder of someone known to the coed occurs in a nearby suburb to Boston the plot thickens.

The novel is a straightforward summary of the ensuing investigation. There is little in the way of suspense, as the reader follows Peter and the others as they plod along. The conclusion is pretty far from what one would expect from what had preceded it. The book is smoothly written with some clever witticisms and cute characterizations to keep one's interest.

The Shadow Broker
Trace Conger
9781500966973, $12.95, Paperback, 288 pp.,

[This book is self-published, and can be ordered through Amazon, B&N or from the author,]

This novel serves to introduce Finn Harding, who lost his PI license and is reduced to scrounging for a living, dealing with less than savory persons to make ends meet. He lives on a houseboat on the Ohio River in Cincinnati, has an ex-wife and six-year-old daughter. Obviously, this book is the beginning of a series. Finn supposedly specializes in finding people who don't want to be found, since doing so doesn't require a license from the state.

One such assignment comes from a man named Bishop who operates an internet site that offers purloined data illegally obtained by his criminal partners. It involves identifying a blackmailer, who is demanding $50,000 per month of Bishop to not disclose how he hacked into the site and is able to give the FBI all the background needed to prosecute. Finn is able to name the blackmailer, but as a result finds himself in a more complicated situation, facing possible death at the hands of his clients.

Finn is an interesting protagonist, resourceful, energetic and calculating, although less than an upright citizen as events turn out. He knows the difference between right and wrong, but circumstances make it hard to be ethical when you have to cut corners to survive. It will be interesting to see what develops in the next novel in the series, "Scar Tissue."

Cold Betrayal
J.A. Jance
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781476745046, $25.99, Hardcover, 337 pp.,

This series is one of three that J.A. Jance writes, and it is interesting to see how Ali Reynolds has evolved as a character along the way, from TV anchor, sheriff's deputy and a questionable marriage to the newlywed wife of B. Simpson, and who gets deeply involved in contemporary situations. In this latest novel, two subjects, if not three, arise: polygamous cults, elderly persons being taken advantage of and, perhaps, the mistreatment of women. How's that for a mouthful?

It all starts a dozen years ago when a teenage mother takes her baby and runs away from a group called The Family in Colorado Springs, AZ, only to end up in the hospital barely alive. Sister Anselm is called to serve as her advocate, but both patients die from the apparent beatings they had endured. Then history seems to repeat itself, as a lone pregnant woman is hit by a car on a remote country road near Flagstaff and the Sister is again called to serve. As a result, Sister Anselm and Ali, who has been asked to help, are drawn into a situation that leads to a much more frightening scenario.

Meanwhile, Ali becomes involved with the plight of her daughter-in-law's grandmother, whose competency is being questioned. Apparently, one night the grandmother is awakened by her dog's barking to discover all the gas jets open and her home filled with gas. The police find no evidence of a break-in and conclude that she left them open. Consequently her son and his wife arrange for her to be examined by a doctor. Using the resources of B's high-tech security firm, Ali arranges for the house to be wired for secret surveillance and to audit the woman's bank accounts, from which about $60,000 has been fraudulently withdrawn.

The two plots are then used to take a look into cults and the abuse of women and the elderly. These are topics that lend themselves to an exciting page-turner, and the author certainly knows how to weave them into an electrifying finale.


Death Money
Henry Chang
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616955328, $14.95, Paperback, 224 pp.,

Detective Jack Wu once again is tapped to solve a case because he is of Chinese descent. When the body of an Asian man is seen embedded in the debris and ice of the Harlem River, he is called from his Chinatown precinct to take control of the case, which turns out to be one of murder.

The only problem is that the victim has no identification, and there isn't a clue to be found. So Wu follows the Chinese community through the city, north to The Bronx and its restaurants, gambling and sex dens, and south to Chinatown and its own fleshpots and gaming spots. And along the way, he learns a variety of secrets attempting to give justice to a man who was all but invisible.

This fourth novel in the series, as were its predecessors, is economically written, with especially short sentences, and a smattering of Chinese words and phrases to provide authenticity. This police procedural moves in logical progression across New York City, looking deeply at the Chinese culture and environment of New York's Lower East Side. Wu is an unusual investigator, applying the usual methodology of police investigation with the occult, an old woman who touches object obtained during the investigation and supplying him with clues. Maybe other protagonists should consider Ouija boards.

A very enjoyable read, and recommended.

High Stakes
John McEvoy
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. 1st Ave., Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781464202742, $24.95, Hardcover, 290 pp.,

(This book is also available in a trade paperback edition, ISBN 9781464202766 $14.95, a Large Type trade paperback edition, ISBN 9781464202759, $22.95, and in a Kindle edition, $8.99).

A four-pronged plot carries Jack Doyle along in this latest chapter in the series which is set in a thoroughbred racing milieu. Each of the story lines in some way is related to horse-racing, directly or tangentially.

One such theme involves a mysterious person euthanizing retired thoroughbreds donated to university veterinary schools. Doyle is enlisted by two FBI agents to help corner the culprit. Next is a contract on Doyle's life paid for by a wealthy man he helped convict and send to prison for insurance fraud involving murder of racehorses he owned. Then he takes action to prevent a multimillionaire computer wizard from intimidating an old couple into selling their promising racehorse. And, lastly, Doyle has to travel several times to Ireland on behalf of his bookmaker friend, Niall Hanratty, who has had several near-fatal accidents, and, finally a plot to kill him is uncovered.

All of these events take place over a few short summer months and, as in prior novels in the series, soak up the atmosphere of the racing scene. Although it probably is unfair to bring up the works of the Francises, pere et fils, who practically own the genre, McEvoy does portray the racing scene with accuracy and verve. And combining the life of the trainers, exercise guys and gals and the others who inhabit the racetracks, with first-rate mysteries, as he continues to do, is a strong plus.


Strange Shores
Arnaldur Indridason
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781250000408, $25.99, Hardcover, 296 pp.,

A recurring theme throughout all the previous novels in this series is the haunting feeling Inspector Erlendur has over the disappearance of his younger brother during a blizzard many years before. The boy was never found, and Erlendur and his parents moved away to Reykjavik. From time to time, Erlendur returns to the East Fjord area where he grew up and strides around the moors in an attempt to find some clue to his brother's assumed demise.

In this novel, we find Erlendur camping out in the derelict building where he grew up. Only this time, through a chance meeting on the moors he finds a clue and becomes involved in a quest not only to discover what happened to his brother, but also as to the disappearance of a young woman in 1942 under similar circumstances. It is apparently pretty common for such occurrences during snowstorms. Around the same tine, a group of British soldiers were lost in the wilderness, some found, others having died because of the severity of the elements.

All the novels in the series are so well-written that it is always a pleasure to read them. And "Strange Shores" is a masterpiece of psychological achievement, providing insight not only into Erlendur's psyche, but into all the characters playing a part in the plot. Erlendur is in some ways similar to other Scandinavian protagonists: dogged, persistent and unconventional in his approach to solving a mystery. However, he is a much more sympathetic person than others of his type.

Highly recommended.

Theodore Feit

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

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