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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 21, Number 4 April 2021 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Alex Phuong's Bookshelf Allan Jenkins' Bookshelf Ann Skea's Bookshelf
Carl Logan's Bookshelf Carolyn Wilhelm's Bookshelf Chris Patsilelis' Bookshelf
Christina Francine's Bookshelf Elan Kluger's Bookshelf Gregory Stephenson's Bookshelf
Israel Drazin's Bookshelf Jack Mason's Bookshelf John Burroughs' Bookshelf
Julie Summers' Bookshelf Margaret Lane's Bookshelf Mari Carlson's Bookshelf
Marj Charlier's Bookshelf Mark Walker's Bookshelf Mark Zvonkovic's Bookshelf
Michael Carson's Bookshelf Monika Kosman's Bookshelf Peter Blaisdell's Bookshelf
Robin Friedman's Bookshelf Suanne Schafer's Bookshelf Susan Bethany's Bookshelf
Susan Keefe's Bookshelf Suzie Housley's Bookshelf Willis Buhle's Bookshelf

Alex Phuong's Bookshelf

Outside from the Inside
Anne Whitehouse
Dos Madres Press
9781948017961, $18.29 Paperback, 122 pages

Poetry from the Inside Out

Creative writing oftentimes helps people express themselves. In fact, anyone could be an author if they decide to put their ideas onto written pages. Poetry is very subjective, especially during the modern era. Fortunately, some poetry collections can have a timeless sensibility even in the present moment. Anne Whitehouse's Outside from the Inside does just that.

Through four uniquely distinct sections, Anne Whitehouse beautifully explores biology, history, and psychology. Specifically, the first section entitled, "Tides of the Body" suggests that every living being has the ability to move vivaciously, but only through personal choice. In fact, the poem, "Requiem" is a touching tribute to Paul Berne. Specifically, the line, "You must help him to let go" (16) is very similar to the immensely popular song, "Let It Go" from the Disney animated feature film Frozen (2013). Furthermore, the poem "Reading and Writing" utilizes the brilliance of Virginia Woolf that reveals the power of reading and writing. In fact, the opening line, "Their boats tossed on the waves" (1) possibly alludes to Virginia Woolf's seminal classic The Waves. Furthermore, the poem itself advocates literacy, which is essentially in modern times because many are uneducated, unfortunately.

The second section combines literary devices with psychology to suggest that abstract thoughts might not necessarily be pure fantasy. The phrase that entitles this second portion, "It Wasn't an Hallucination," even implies that the unreal could actually be real. The poem that shares its title with Anne Whitehouse's entire collection, "Outside From the Inside," also reveals interconnections from the inside out. Specifically, the phrase, "space is supplied / by the imagination" (19-20) introduces the notion that anything that exists could simply be the result of sensation, perception, and imagination. There is also a warning, though, because sometimes the imaginary could actually be horrifying hallucinations.

Within the introduction of this profound poetry collection, Whitehouse references Bob Kaufman, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and dedicates the collection to readers and Paul Pines. Kaufman might not want people to remember him, but his legacy does live on within this poetry collection. It is depressing to know that some people do fade away over time. Fortunately, Anne Whitehouse has preserved Bob Kaufman, JFK, and Paul Pines through compelling and contemporary poetry. In fact, Anne Frank wanted her legacy endure after her death, and that happened after the publication of her diary. Therefore, writing is a way to preserve the past while striving towards a better future. This poetry collection from Anne Whitehouse is a testament to the entire world, and what it means to live in it. The real world might never be the same as it used to be, but that is actually a fundamental aspect within the confines of reality. Finally, poetry might evolve alongside the world, but the world is what it is, and poetry can still add beauty to the world even if it is simply a collection of written words. Remember these words - poetry involves much more than rhymes and rhythms, so play on!

Alex Andy Phuong

Allan Jenkins' Bookshelf

Baseball In Blue And Gray
George B. Krisch
Princeton University Press
41 William Street, Princeton, NJ 08540
9780691057330, $29.95 HC, 9780691130439, $18.95 PB, $9.99 Kindle, 168pp

This book Is good and interesting, in my opinion. It is called "Baseball In Blue And Gray". It was written by an author named George B. kirsch, he is also the author of a book called "The Creation of American Team Sports". The subject of "Baseball In Blue And Gray" is about the sport of baseball's growth before and during the Civil War. It is an interesting and readable book.

"Baseball In Blue And Gray" does a great job of teaching readers how the game of game of baseball evolved into the national pastime, during the time of the Civil War. I wanted to read this book since I have been interested in reading a book about the history of baseball. my favorite sport. "Baseball In Blue And Gray" does a great job of describing how some of the executives of the very first teams in the history of baseball along with a person named Albert G Spalding, helped change baseball into the sport it is today. The book tells some good stories about that. This happened right before the civil war started. It also tells a few great stories about how these people convinced a lot of people that the idea would work.

"Baseball In Blue And Gray" also tells a great story about how Abner Doubleday came up with the idea of creating a museum called the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

In my opinion, "Baseball In Blue And Gray" would be a great to read for people that are involved in the sport of baseball today, because it would help remind them, that if it were not for the people that George Kirsch talks about in his book baseball would not have become the kind of sport it is today. Reading this book was fun since it helped me learn a lot about the history of a sport that I like. In my opinion, this book was great. If I had to give it is a grade I would give it A.

Allan Jenkins

Ann Skea's Bookshelf

A Net for Small Fishes
Lucy Jago
9781526616616, A$29.99, 323pages

In November 1615, Lord Chief Justice Edward Coke, presiding over the trial of Mistress Anne Turner in Westminster Hall, London, heard the formal accusation

that she did comfort, aid and assist Mr Richard Weston in the poisoning of Sir Thomas Overbury while the latter was held prisoner in the Tower of London.

Anne Turner, pronounced Justice Coke, was 'A whore, a sorcerer, a witch, a bawd, a papist, a felon and a murderer' who, by acting for herself, had acted against 'the proper bounds of womanhood'.

Woman [he said] is born guilty of the sins of Eve' and only in perfect purity and good conduct can she redeem herself... She who steps away from the path of duty, who puts herself beyond the guidance of husband, father and brother, is lost to wickedness.

Anne Turner was widow of a fashionable London doctor, and close friend and confidante of Lady Frances Howard. By implication, Justice Coke's statements were also intended to apply to Frances, who was believed to be implicated in this poisoning and whose marriage annulment from Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, on the grounds of Devereux's inability to consummate the marriage, had already caused a public scandal.

Rumours of Frances's liaison with King James I's latest favourite, the young, handsome, Robert Carr, had also been circulating widely. Carr was the protege of Sir Thomas Overbury and Overbury was out of favour with the King and fiercely opposed to the annulment. He had no wish to see the already powerful Howard family gain extra influence through Robert Carr, and he had composed a widely circulated verse which clearly suggested that Frances was whore.

In A Net for Small Fishes, Lucy Jago has taken this true and notorious scandal and, as she says in her 'Author's Note', she has attempted to imaginatively reclaim Anne and Frances 'from the limbo of misogynist stereotype' in which they had become 'icons co-opted by various parties to prove the villainy of villainous women, the rottenness of the English Court, the immorality of the courtier and so on.'

Anne Turner tells their story, and we first meet her as she describes entering the courtyard of a palace close to the Thames. It is immediately clear that she is unusually independent and strong-minded:

A godly woman would have run from that place as from the maw of hell; everyone knows that the jeweled facades of courtiers thinly veil their greedy, scurrilous, vain, lascivious souls.

Me? I rushed in.

Anne's elderly husband had been physician to the late Queen Elizabeth, and he already moves in Court circles but, in spite of her nagging him, he has kept Anne away from what he calls a 'cesspit' of depravity 'trussed up in velvet'. He has, however, taught her various skills with herbs and medicines, and she has invented, and managed to patent, her own saffron-yellow starch for the ruffs, collars and sleeves which are fashionable at James's Court. Her yellow starch is brighter, more vivid, and smells better than the urine based starches which have been in use. Now, she has been summoned by Frances Howard's mother, the formidable and unsympathetic Countess of Suffolk, to dress Frances for a visit with the King and his closest courtiers to see the Kings' newly acquired silkworms.

Anne finds Frances bloodied and weeping after being beaten by her husband. Frances is just 18 and her husband Robert Devereux, 3rd Earl of Essex, is 17. The two had been married for five years in a political alliance between their powerful families but they have been kept apart until now. Robert, however, has been unable to consummate the marriage and in Lucy Jago's book he vents his frustration of Frances by beating her and cruelly abusing her. He also tries to force her to submit to his strict Protestant rules. She must be always silent and obedient. Frances tells Anne that

He cares only for horses and dogs. Even those he thrashes. He says women are parasites, like ticks.

Anne is older than Frances and has borne six children, but she is moved by Frances's plight. She sees that they are alike in wanting independence and also sees an opportunity to better her own situation. If she helps Frances and is accepted by her then she may have access to other Court ladies and can make her own life 'less precarious'. Looking at Frances, she imagines her as

a young thoroughbred, stamping about in her dark stall. If she allowed me, if I dared, we could take off her halter and together race the course in our own fashion. With Frankie, I could have the life I had always wanted.


Had she an inkling of what I imagined for us both? I had no plan, no scheme, just a basket of desires. I sensed that deep-lying in us both was a longing for something to happen; we scanned the horizon daily, expectant... Her eyes flickered minutely as she tried to see both of mine. She held out her hand, like a man. It was a strange gesture but exactly what was required. I shook it.

So, the two women become friends. 'You may call me Frankie, but not in public', Anne is told. Yet, even as her skills at dressing women to their best advantage become accepted in Court circles, and the Queen herself adopts Anne's saffron-yellow ruffs, Anne's life soon becomes difficult. When her elderly husband, George, dies, her eldest son inherits everything and refuses to support her. Her long-time lover, father of her two youngest children (with George's approval) keeps postponing their agreed marriage, her youngest daughter is sickly, and she has to move into poor accommodation and find ways to support herself and the three youngest children.

Frankie's husband allows her no money; her mother and sisters are angry with her for not being an obedient wife; so she gives Anne pieces of jewelry and cast-off clothes to sell so that they can share the proceeds. Frankie, meanwhile, has fallen in love with the King's favourite, Robert Carr, and he has begun to send her small gifts. Rumours fly around the Court, her husband accuses her of having affairs, and after a particularly vicious and degrading attack on her, Frankie is desperate for things to change. Anne, too, wants to change her own circumstances, so she persuades Frankie that they should visit an astrologer who consults 'angels'. Dr Simon Forman is known to be a charlatan. He prompts Frankie to tell him that she wishes to be free of her husband, then he tells her

the sacred bond of matrimony can be broken only by the death of one party and I am bound by the Hippocratic Oath...Angels are not. They must be called in this case.


I have broken my brains in studying the Providences of God. They are beyond our comprehension. We can but ask and they will do as He wills.

Anne describes the dark room and the 'witch marks' in which Forman requires them to stand, the charms he hangs around their necks, the pungent vapours from something he throws into a bowl, and the magical ritual he performs, all of which induce a trance-like state in both women. When the ritual is finished he opens the shutters, burns feather under their noses to rouse them, and proclaims that the angels will help.

Things do change. Frankie and Robert Carr become lovers. Her marriage to Robert Devereux is annulled after he admits he has been unable to perform his husbandly duties with his wife, but he also implies that she is not chaste. So, Frankie is required to undergo an inspection by two midwives and four noblewomen appointed by the Annulment Commission, to prove that she is still a virgin. Jago's description of this examination, based on fact, is shocking. Her account of the deception which Anne orchestrates for this examination, is based on historical rumour. Two months after the annulment is granted Frankie and Robert Carr are married.

Not everything goes smoothly, however. Various plots are hatched and poisons are procured by Anne and Frankie; Overbury, who threatens to disrupt the annulment process, dies, seemingly of natural causes; then the King finds a new favourite in George Villiers and Carr becomes bitter and falls from favour. Accusation that Overbury was poisoned are made and evidence of Anne's involvement (and possibly Frankie's) is revealed and an enquiry is initiated by the King. Anne, Frankie, Robert Carr and suspected accomplices are arrested, and trials lead to subsequent sentencing and executions.

A Net for Small Fishes is rich with detail and colour, not only of the friendship between Anne and Frankie, but also of the lives of Anne's family and friends, and the poorer Londoners who are part of her world. Frankie's life at Court and the plots and intrigues which flourish there are vividly evoked, as is life in James's England at a time when Catholics (like the Howard family) worship in secret, Guy Fawkes and the Powder Plotters have recently tried to blow up parliament, and the Pendle Witch Trials are fresh in everyone's memories.

This is historical fiction at its most readable and enjoyable. It gives two women, who for centuries have been vilified, good, understandable reasons for their actions.

Facing the prospect of death by hanging, Anne feels nothing but loyalty to Frankie

The greatest friend of my life. She will be pardoned for the King is fond of her and her actions have allowed him release from Carr's bitterness. The great love she holds for Robin [Robert Carr] will bear fruit. The risks we took will lead others to want what she has: freedom from cruel husbands and a say in whom they will marry.

Frances and Robert Carr were pardoned but four people who had no powerful families to protect them were hanged. As one of them says of the King's justice in Lucy Jago's book:

This be a net for small fishes, that the great ones swim away.

Asylum Road
Olivia Sudjic
9781526617392, A$29.99, 260 pages

Too often, quotations chosen by an author as a preface to their book seem to be put there to puzzle the reader. The two quotations chosen by Olivia Sudjic for this story, however, offer clear and direct clues to its contents. The first refers to the way we live in the surprising amount of space between our fears. The second refers to the spectre of the Balkans which still haunts Western culture.

'Sometimes it felt like the murders kept us together' says Anya, whose thoughts we follow over the next few months of her life. The murders turnout to be podcasts which take her mind off other things: 'our real problems'; 'my thoughts'; tunnels, like the Channel Tunnel, which she and her partner Luke are travelling through; nauseating anxiety, and irrational fears.

Olivia Sudjic takes us inside Anya's head and it is clear from the beginning of the book that Anya is a bundle of insecurities. She constantly watches her partner, Luke, trying to gauge his moods so that she can respond to them in ways that will please him, and she interprets his frequent silences and his questions as criticism. When she wakes in a hotel room in France, where they have gone for a break, and finds him absent, she fears he will not return, although his phone and clothes are still in the room and she knows he often does this.

My phone said it was midnight, which meant it was our anniversary. On the first one I remembered feeling warm, insulated from the outside world. The second, I kept sensing what I thought was a phantom draught. The third I saw a detailed map of hairline cracks spreading across the table between us. I did not mark our fourth but waited to see if he would. He did not. Today was our fifth. I'd reminded him when we booked the holiday.

Her friend, Christopher, to whom she often turns for advice and support, tells her that these tensions are just part of what he disparagingly calls 'monogamous cishet relationships', especially her sense that 'sex was a job, and not doing it the one way I could hold power'.

When Luke does return, his agitation makes her fear that he is going to break up with her: instead, he presents her with a diamond ring which had belonged to his grandmother.

Now that Luke has proposed to her, Anya remembers attending the weddings of others, where her ringless fingers made her feel 'like a stray among them'. Now she had a ring of her own, which was what she had always wanted: 'To change my surname to Luke's and be shielded by it'.

Little by little, through Anya's thoughts and memories, we learn that she grew up in Sarajevo in the Balkans during the terrifying siege of the 1990s. She was 8 when her parents sent her and her sister to live with an aunt in Glasgow - a 'casting out' Anya calls it, and she thinks of the 'convoy of tourist buses commandeered for evacuation. Most of the passengers were unaccompanied children'. She remembers, too, her first traumatic day at Glasgow's Mosspark Primary School, when other children taunted her and all she wanted was 'to be blonde and otherwise hairless with a name like Amy'.

Anya, now, is 31. She has a university degree in English and she is currently, off and on, researching and writing her Ph.D but she thinks of this as a refuge - a 'black-hole' that she can crawl into when her anxieties threaten to overwhelm her.

To announce their engagement to their parents, Anya and Luke travel first to Devon, then to Sarajevo. In Devon, Anya sees moss-covered roofs, drystone walls, 'narrow lanes with trees on either side of tall hedgerows', but also a cottage wall daubed with the words ENGLISH OUT. Like any visit to prospective in-laws, the atmosphere is friendly but tense. Luke's controlling mother wants to discuss the wedding and has chosen the church she thinks suitable and 'I tried not to look at her crowded mouth. Full of overlapping teeth like a shark', says Anya. In the toilet she sees a framed photograph of 'all that whole extended family, all smiles'.

The contrast between the bucolic Devon villages and the war-scarred Balkan cities where Anya's friends and family live is extreme but she sees how both have border issues and reject outsiders. As they go through Sarajevo, Anya sees, through Luke's eyes, the scarred facades, the pock-marks around most windows, the shops selling souvenirs made from shrapnel. Anya's family live in a tiny, crowded flat. Her mother has Alzheimer's and is stuck in her own version of the siege, convinced they are being shelled. She does not recognize Anya. Her father's sense of humour is 'unnerving' and Luke doesn't understand his jokes. And Anya's sister, Daria, who now looks after her mother, resents Anya and is bitter and antagonistic. In the bathroom, Anya finds a bleached and faded photograph of her mother, young and smiling, holding her as a baby. Seeing her now, she thinks

she looked very small and boxed-in. Her face unfamiliar thanks to the way her hair had been clipped back, and the new white teeth that appeared when she smiled.


She appeared to confuse Luke with Drago at first, rubbing his arm distractedly. [Drago was Anya's brother, who had committed suicide during the war]. Then from the greetings Daria translated, she seemed to decide we were being visited by another foreign journalist.

She wants to know if you know Christine Amanpour. Daria said. She thinks you work for CNN.

I stared at my sister in disbelief. For years until Drago died, we avoided talking about the war - quickly tiring of the same bad news. After he died it was never spoken of at all. Daria stared back as if to say yes, this is what we are dealing with now, what I am dealing with while you are not here.

In this unhappy family situation, memories which Anya constantly tries to repress surface again.

In the middle of the night I could no longer bear it and insisted that we leave without saying goodbye. We would check into a hotel before tomorrows' flight. I could not spend another second in that place without imploding.

When Anya's relationship with Luke unravels, she becomes depressed and anorexic.

Christopher invented the game What Can Anya Eat? The answer was usually one small plate of cucumber, thinly shaved.

He brought things to me for the first few days, then insisted I come to the kitchen, like a stray he was patiently rehoming. The game was satisfying, he said. It was satisfying for me, too, to feel myself wasting away.

When Anya's oldest Bosnian friend, the assertive and successful Mira, turns up in London, she persuades Anya to move with her to a communal house in the appropriately named, Asylum Road, although the asylum referred to is old almshouses on the surrounding land. Anya seems to become more self-reliant, but a visit to her old university for an alumni event, and a deliberately engineered sexual encounter with an old boy-friend there, is told in the third person, as if she dissociates herself from it. When Anya hears that her mother has died, she begins to dream again and vivid disturbing memories return:

The past kept intruding. We were sick to death of it. I am not welcome in my own home. My own country. Again and again this happens. I seem to be the common denominator. This realization is, at first, the end of a cigarette in the dark, then a train sucking me toward it as it passes through my station.

In the last pages of the book she imagines being at her mother's grave, her mother as 'cardboard figure', distraught, remembering 'the one she didn't send away', the son who committed suicide. 'I no longer feel the need to hold myself together', Anya thinks, 'parts of me had been unfrozen through fucking', but what is revealed is 'the raw, jellied pink meat at the centre of things' and her mental state is increasingly disturbed. In spite of this, the final paragraph of the book is unexpected and stunning.

Asylum Road is a powerful study of displacement and of what it feels like to be a survivor in a foreign culture. Sudjic's prose is taut and precise. Her skill is to make us feel as Anya feels, and Anya, for all her psychological problems is a likeable and sometimes wryly funny narrator. In a world in which refugees, exiles and resettlement in a foreign culture are constantly in the news, experiencing some of this through Anya is a thought-provoking and moving experience..

Belinda Lyons-Lee
Transit Lounge
9781925760620, A$32.99, 346 pages

Sometimes, it seems, the truth really is stranger than fiction.

Marie Tussaud really was rescued from the guillotine during the French Revolution and forced to make death masks and wax models of the guillotined heads of aristocrats, many of whom she knew, including Queen Marie Antoinette. She did move to London and exhibit her wax models in performances staged by the successful illusionist and pioneer of phantasmagoria, Paul Philidor. William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Portland, was a notable eccentric, and the 15 miles of tunnels and rooms, including a 160ft long underground ballroom, that he had excavated under his manor and grounds at Welbeck Abbey are still there. And Mrs Druce was acquainted with all of them through her husband's father, Thomas Charles, who owned the Baker Street Bazaar.

In Tussaud, Belinda Lyons-Lee weaves their lives together in a tale of mystery, mesmerism, magic and madness. She develops their characters, 'tweaks some of their ages and life-events', and immerses them in an intriguing story of her own, which could, almost, be true.

In Tussaud, Philidor is shown to be the jealous brother of the well-known 'Professor of Natural Magic', Giovanni Pinetti. He steals the drawings of a mechanical bird made by Pinetti and plans to make animated figures for his own magic shows. He needs someone with special skills to help him create lifelike heads and bodies and Marie Tussaud, who had been taught by the notable anatomist and wax model-maker, Phillipe Curtius, seems ideal for this. Marie had inherited Curtius's business and his anatomically precise wax creations and she had been exhibiting these, along with her gruesome wax heads, in a window in the heart of Paris, but she had left her husband, and had little money to support herself and her two small boys. Philidor visits her and offers her a business proposition:

'A shared love of art and theatrics', he said easily. 'Your windows were the entertainment for most of Paris. My business is of similar nature'.... 'And so I wonder, madam, if you still dream of the thrill of creating for a crowd? Not just a head, but something more, something that would make them swoon again. What if I offered you the chance for a much greater audience?

'You have my attention,' she said.

'I am going to create something myself. Something like the world has never seen before. But I can't do it here, I need to go to London. Once I am there, I will send you the necessary information to complete the construction, if you understand'.

Marie accepts his offer and follows him to London where they take lodgings in the house of Mrs Druce and set to work to create an animated figure of Marie Antoinette.

The figure they create is magnificent. It can walk, sit, move its mouth, and nod and shake its head in reply to questions from the audience, but things go drastically wrong when Philidor keeps the model onstage too long, the wax melts in the heat, and the show is a disaster.

William Cavendish, the Duke of Portland, however, had been in the audience and was inspired by the idea of creating another figure to his own specifications. He invites Marie and Philidor to Welbeck Abbey, where he lays out strict rules for their brief stay in this grand mansion whilst they undertake his commission. They are to live in rooms far distant from his own; they may not explore the manor and are restricted to certain areas of the grounds; he will communicate with them only by letter, never in person; they may not have visitors; and the commission is to be kept secret.

Cavendish, it turns out, requires an automaton made of a young woman, Elanor, who had been his childhood playmate but who had disappeared under mysterious circumstances. It is clear that he feels guilt for something which happened but the reason for this is not revealed until late in the book. When he provides drawings, clothes and samples of hair and eye colour, Cavendish stipulates that 'Elanor is to be made in every particular a woman. Every particular'. Marie is disgusted by the implications of this and suspects that the Duke wants to use the automaton 'for his own debauched purposes' but she makes the model and Philidor installs the mechanism which creates the impression that it is alive. Elanor will stay in the Duke's rooms but Marie also recreates her figure of Marie Antoinette, which is to be part of a performance the Duke is allowing them to put on in his underground ballroom. Philidor advertises this in his usual way as introducing 'PHANTOMS OR APPARITIONS of the DEAD', 'SPECTROLOGY' and 'GHOSTS or DISSEMBODIED SPIRITS'. The audience is primed for a scary evening, so the unplanned, terrifying, interruption at the end of the performance is seen as intentional and the event is hugely successful.

Cavendish, however, has begun to believe that 'Elanor' is alive, and he becomes terrified of her. He is already mentally unstable. He has nightmares about his disastrous early war service, and he lives at Welbeck in absolute seclusion, but he keeps rooms in London, where he meet people who sell him antiques, curios and the stories which go with them, for his Baker Street Bazaar. He meets prospective clients in rooms rented by Mrs Druce. There, he is known as 'Thomas Charles'.

It was always hard for William when he was at the threshold of his two worlds. The Baker Street Bazaar took enormous energy to run, and there were times when simply arriving and opening the door blew it all away. And he was always mindful of the incessant nosing and snooping and watching and listening of his landlady, the Druce woman. She was a pest, an insect that bumped against his head, her wings of chatter agitating the fine hairs in his ears.... She had little intellect but plenty of mental space and she'd decided that he and his Bazaar were just the objects to occupy it.

Marie and Philidor complete the commission but their business partnership is marred by Philidor's arrogance and his wish to control everything. Marie is an astute business woman and she resents the fact that men assume women are incompetent and weak, so she constantly challenges him about this control. Philidor plans to get rid of her and when he introduces a Bethlehem Assylum doctor to her she suspects that he intends to try and prove that she is insane, but she, too, has her plans, especially involving the man she has been encouraging to be her suitor.

As the story comes to its close, ghostly presences and madness become more frequent, and multiple conspiracies, plots and counter-plots are revealed. Pinetti turns up to take revenge on his brother, and dramatic events lead to surprising disclosures and deaths.

If all this begins to seem far-fetched, it is as well to remember that Welbeck Abbey does have underground tunnels, secret passages and hidden rooms, a grand ballroom with a magnificent sunset painted on its domed ceiling, and the stables, which once held 'over a hundred horses that the duke never rode but kept in good condition at the ready' and once included a riding house 'lit by four thousand gas-jets'. It is also true that the claim Mrs Druce makes in the final pages of this book was actually made and caused widespread public scandal which was reported in popular newspapers like The Tatler and The Penny Illustrated Paper. The subsequent investigations went on for years before the claim was disproved, appropriately, in a graveyard.

As Marie determines in the final paragraph of the book: 'This daughter of an executioner would, after much running, now finally make her living from death.... It was time to send the guillotine'. The first Madam Tussaud's waxworks exhibition with its Chamber of Horrors opened in London in 1835, and there are now branches of it in major cities around the world.

Ann Skea, Reviewer

Carl Logan's Bookshelf

How the Tin Man Found His Brain
Danute Debney Shaw, author
Jon C. Munson II, illustrator
Balboa Press
c/o Hay House, Inc.
PO Box 5100, Carlsbad, CA 92018-5100
9781982241131, $39.95, HC, 376pp

Synopsis: Inspired by Frank Baum's series of OZ books that included the wonderful character of the Tin Man that many of us have come to know and love as in "The Wizard of Oz" movie as someone who was in search of something they felt lacking within themselves. As it turned out in that OZ story, the Tin Man would eventually discover that he already possessed the very thing he was yearning for.

As it will be recalled, the Tin Man was a sensitive soul who would start to rust whenever he became emotionally affected and begin to cry. Yet he was always pursuing the one thing that was most important to him, and which he believed would make him whole -- a heart.

In the pages of "How the Tin Man Found His Brain: One Attorney's Path for Perceptual Development", author and attorney Danute Debney Shaw asks of her readers -- "Don't we often do the same thing? Seek outside of ourselves what we already possess?"

The Tin Man is not the only character we will run into within the essays and commentaries comprising "How the Tin Man Found His Brain, but others, both real and imagined as well. If not on a specific quest, they are nonetheless also seeking in some ways to find resources within themselves.

With a superbly effective storytelling approach, Shaw walks the Tin Man through the process of self-discovery, leading us to a new paradigm for thought and process development in our personal and professional worlds: building courage, confidence, competence and resilience along the way.

Critique: Erudite, eloquent, inherently engaging, inspired and inspiring, "How the Tin Man Found His Brain: One Attorney's Path for Perceptual Development" is a unique, life changing, life enhancing, and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, college, and university library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections. It should be noted that "How the Tin Man Found His Brain: One Attorney's Path for Perceptual Development" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781982241148, $22.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.99).

Editorial Note: Danute Debney Shaw is Managing Director, International Speaker and Consultant for CelaPhontus, LLC. Ms. Shaw has been a consulting facilitator and writer in the areas of professional, personal, group, and individual, innovative strategies of thought and process development. Her background includes over 25 years in management, organization and law, spanning such varied contexts as work for the broadcast industry, corporate, governmental, aviation and not for profit organizations and agencies. With a diverse cultural history, and a complex platform of integrated skill sets, Ms. Shaw has provided information and training for both individuals and groups, across the United States and in England.

Revival of the Runes
Stephen Edred Flowers
Inner Traditions International, Ltd.
One Park Street, Rochester, VT 05767
9781644111789, $19.99, PB, 240pp

Synopsis: Runes are the letters in a set of related alphabets known as runic alphabets, which were used to write various Germanic languages before the adoption of the Latin alphabet and for specialised purposes thereafter.

"Revival of the Runes: The Modern Rediscovery and Reinvention of the Germanic Runes" by runic expert Stephen Edred Flowers is an exploration of the history of the runes from 1500 CE to the present day, presenting an informative examination of the five periods of runic revival: the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, the Romantic period, the early 20th century, and the late 20th century.

For each period, "Revival of the Runes" discusses both the scholarly studies and those focused on the esoteric mysteries of the runes -- and how these two branches of study were at first intertwined yet diverged in later revivals. Focusing in particular on the first runic revival, this meticulous study fully examines the use of runes during the Renaissance by the foremost magicians and scholars of the era, including mystic and scholar Johannes Bureus, the "grandfather of integral runology", who developed his own system known as Adalruna.

In Flower's definitive examination of the runic re-awakenings of the early and late 20th century, looks at how the runes were employed as part of a reassessment of Germanic identity, one school of which led to Nazi Germany. He explains how the Nazi use and abuse of the runes was misguided and revealed a lack of comprehension of what earlier rune scholars had discovered through their extensive studies of the past. He also offers a fresh look at the work of Guido von List and clears him of his guilt by association with the Nazis.

Detailing the multilayered history of the runes, "Revival of the Runes" reveals the integrated way the predecessors of today's rune workers thought and conceived of the runes, highlighting how their discoveries helped shape modern magical practices and scholarly studies -- and calls for a return of integral runology as was practiced during the Renaissance and before. By reuniting the two branches of runic study, blending the scientific with the magical, we make way for new discoveries in runology and a chance for a full-scale reawakening of integrated runic knowledge.

Critique: An erudite, wide ranging, and inherently fascinating study, "Revival of the Runes: The Modern Rediscovery and Reinvention of the Germanic Runes" is a deftly crafted, original, and assiduously diligent study of the history and use of the Runic alphabet in antiquity down through the 20th Century. While especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, college, and university library Runic Divination, Occult, and Germanic Cultural History collections, it should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Revival of the Runes" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.99).

Editorial Note: Stephen Edred Flowers received his doctorate in Germanic languages and medieval studies from the University of Texas at Austin and has studied the history of occultism at the University of Göttingen, Germany. He is the author of more than 25 books, including Lords of the Left-Hand Path and Original Magic.

Carl Logan

Carolyn Wilhelm's Bookshelf

Deeper into the Pond: A Celebration of Feminity(Celebration Series of Poetry Chapbooks 5)
Magdalena Ball and Carolyn Howard-Johnson
Independently Published
9781461159384, $5.95 paperback, $5.95 paperback
B005G51I82, $2.99 Kindle

The Celebration Series of Poetry Chapbooks covers many aspects of life, seasons, and holidays. The Deeper into the Pond: A Celebration of Femininity is about life as experienced and thought of by women. Poetry would be the perfect Mother's Day gift for critical thinkers.

As Howard-Johnson writes, progress has been made in women's lives while not in an orderly fashion. Progress isn't always in a straight line. Younger women do not realize what has been achieved. As Howard-Johnson writes:

"Let us be measured

Not for height or at the hip

But for our roles."

Howard Johnson's poems are about topics like a midlife crisis, narcissism, and her closet as a psychological profile. Hmmm, yes, closets (clothes) reveal much. I have never thought of writing a poem about such thoughts. She says memory has two voices which is a profound statement.

Ball writes of Lady Godiva and her mother burning a bra and how the word freedom is misused. She writes about hypergraphia (who knew?) and compulsion. A brave woman has her wig blowing in the wind due to cancer, a discarded dress in a landfill, and Jupiter's moons are other topics she addresses. Not everyday conversation!

The book offers readers much to contemplate and appreciate.

Little Art City on the Prairie: Impressions of Faulkton South Dakota
I. Reid
9798709411425, $9.50, paperback, 60 pages
B08X65NPJ2 $2.99 Kindle

Faulkton, South Dakota, has become known as the prairie's little art city because of the many murals on buildings and giant art by Guido Van Helten. A crane was used to allow Van Helten to draw on several sides of a grain elevator. The people of the town, of course, watched the progress of the art. Tourists drive to Faulkton for the experience of seeing and taking photos with the elevator art. The city hired Van Helten as they refuse to simply exist or perhaps become obsolete. They were able to hire him due to a stroke of luck. I. Reid took hundreds of pictures along the trip from Minnesota to South Dakota and in the city of 800 people. Also, citizens of the town contributed photos to the book, which were used with permission. The Pickler Mansion in Faulkton, the one-room schoolhouse museum and other local landmarks are described in this full-color travel book.

Michelle Robinson Obama
9781524763138, $11.98 Hardcover, $30.99 Audio Book, 446 pages
B079ZYWJJ8, $12.99 Kindle

This rather long and detailed book is an honest review of Michelle Obama's life, from childhood to First-Lady of the United States. I had heard of many of the news and conversation topics but didn't realize the full background stories. For instance, I had visited the White House but never realized at all how large the rooms were or how people served the First Family. The chapters filled in many of the questions I had but hadn't researched for myself. And it would not be possible without this book. The reason why Obamas ended up leaving their church was a short story in the media, and we learn more about the whole event in this book. A frank discussion of life as an African American in the United States is given in detail if you are uninformed or not wholly aware of the difficulties. She also tells about their marriage counseling which is brave but helpful as many people won't deal with such issues. I appreciated how she explained how she dealt with difficulties to see what helped her may help people in general.

I understand more about the Obamas by reading Becoming and comparing it to A Promised Land by former President Barack Obama. The two books have several of the same stories. A clearer picture of how both Obamas viewed the same events is gathered from reading both books, which is sometimes humorous.

Your Goal Guide: A Roadmap for Setting, Planning, and Achieving Your Goals
Debra Eckerling
Mango Media
9781642501506, $19.95 Paperback, $7.49 Audio Book, 290 pages
B07T3GZX1S, $11.99 Kindle

Debra Ecklerling is a "guide on the side, not a sage on the stage" and helps people develop their own goals. Readers cannot merely sit back and absorb her wisdom, and there is work to do throughout the book that helps people realize their dreams. Writing your current and future biography is one of the first activities. Where do you want to go? You might not get there if you aren't sure of your "goaltopia."

Questions such as: What stops you from achieving your goals? She compares achieving goals to a road trip. You have to plan your itinerary. The D*E*B Method can be used for professional and personal goals. She suggests simple thinking exercises and has straightforward, sound advice to reach the dream you have in your head. First, you go back in time, think about today, and then consider the future. Examples with goals are listed that can be personalized and tweaked to fit readers. She suggests going undercover to see people doing what you have dreamed of doing to be sure it is a fit for you.

Yes, you'll need a mission statement and a motto. You know, the elevator pitch. It is beneficial to be ready with such ideas and avoid tripping on your tongue.

The book has organized, clear, helpful, truthful, and easy to follow information is priceless. If you procrastinate or need help in this area, buying this book is a must.

Tales2Inspire ~ The Pearl Collection: Awesome Kids
Lois W. Stern
9781798757772, $11.25 paperback, 125 pages
B07PK51NV5, $4.99 Kindle

Children who have been on the Hampton Roads Show, the Today Show, Steve Harvey Show, and recipients of thousands of dollars in donations and grants wrote chapters in this anthology. One or two might have appeared on your local television, but this is a group of thirteen awesome, inspiring kids. Have you heard of the buddy bench for new or lonely kids at school? The American version began with one of these children. Many of them began noticing how the world needed help and stepped in to do the work at very young ages. They collected food, bags with necessities for shelters, thousands of shoes, and even helped rescue dogs travel to supportive new homes. None of them are old at this time. They lead workshops. They speak at events. Read this book and see the world from a new hopeful viewpoint.

Memory of Water: Knowledge is Power
Emmi Itaranta
Harper Voyager
9780007529919, $8.99 Paperback, $9.67 Hardcover, 272 pages
B00FJ3CHU4, $7.49 Kindle

The Scandinavian Union is facing a climate crisis with high temperatures on arid lands. The army guards the water where Noria Kaitio lives. She is a tea master-apprentice for her father. The entire story seems like it is set in China, probably because China now rules Europe. Noria rakes the outdoor Zen garden. She performs tea ceremonies in the tea house. Noria's family has privileged access to water they do not share for fear of repercussions. Noria stands in the water lines when locals do to help disguise this access.

What would happen when water is scarce? This book describes one possibility with realistic detail. Only 3% of the world's water is freshwater that has been polluted, while 2.5% of that water is unavailable. People are mostly drinking desalinated ocean water in this story. Beautifully written, this book may motivate people who understand the immediacy of the issue to action.

Gods of Jade and Shadow
Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Del Rey
9780525620778, $8.79 Paperback, $15.78 Hardcover, 367 pages
B07KDX5NTF, $4.99 Kindle

The twin Mayan gods of death are each vying to be the sole one in charge of the deepest underworld. The story is a quest requiring traveling far by foot, train, and automobile. The absence of planes is due to the fact the setting is the Jazz Age. Casiopea Tun is a Cinderella character who is whisked away from her dull teen life full of work and abuse by one of these dark gods. She isn't miserable or crying, which surprises the reader until one realizes she has never been able to leave her village before and how curious she is about the rest of the world. The adventure crosses hundreds of miles and resolves in the underworld. Characters are often close to death and consider mortality while experiencing magic events. Although 1928, the ending seems relatively modern.

The Hurricane Code
James Aura
@james_aura on Twitter
9798681342670, $9.99 Paperback
B08HPTHWLR, $2.99 Kindle, 256 pages

What would life be like on Earth during the year 2099? James Aura tells us about a new hurricane scale with eight levels instead of only five. Category 8 was added in 2099 with winds up to 270 miles per hour, which would not be survivable. Climate refugees are traveling toward the north and south, away from the equator. The daily temperatures everywhere are almost unbearable.

Authentic characters, a suspenseful plot involving various groups of people the migrants have to deal with along the way, and believable science-based possible situations.

In this story, the characters are trying to get to Canada and Alaska for better weather portions of the calendar year. By the end of this book, I thought maybe we should all pack right now and get going. Or, we could perhaps deal with climate change directly. A must-read for book lists for the environmentally-minded!

Flash Fiction Stories of the Warrior (Flash Fiction Anthologies Book 9)
Dr. Theodore Jerome Cohen and Alyssa Devine, authors
9798719982458, $7.99 paperback
B08YS43VX3, $2.99 Kindle, 184 Pages

Ninth in a flash fiction series by Dr. Theodore Jerome Cohen (and Alyssa Devine), Flash Fiction Stories of the Warrior is a book devoted to Warriors, dogs, and others been involved in battles. From the Civil War through the present day, with various perspectives from soldiers, family, and friends, the book is masterfully written. This impressive book is one of Cohen's finest works.

Footnotes and endnotes provide background information and details about the stories. Each story begins with a photo for inspiration. I enjoyed the different dialogs, which read authentically.

The book would be an excellent present for family and friends. It could be a conversation starter or a silent appreciation of another person's service. Five stars! I very highly recommend it!

Carolyn Wilhelm, Reviewer
Wise Owl Factory LLC

Chris Patsilelis' Bookshelf

Bag Man
Rachel Maddow and Michael Yarvitz
Crown Press
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
9780593136683, $28.00 HC, $14.99 Kindle, 293pp

"Bag Man: The Wild Crimes, Audacious Cover-Up and Spectacular Downfall of a Brazen Crook in the White House", the meticulously researched book by Emmy-winning MSNBC host Rachel Maddow and Emmy - and Peabody-winning TV producer and journalist Michael Yarvitz, tells the story of how three determined, young U.S. attorneys brought down the imperious Vice President Spiro T. Agnew in a scandalous, bribery-extortion investigation in 1973.

The authors are quick to point out that the reason Agnew's story is largely forgotten now is due not only to the passage of years (a half century) but to the overwhelming disaster of President Richard Nixon and the Watergate scandal which overshadowed Agnew's.

Maddow and Yarvitz inform us that Spiro Agnew began his political career as the Baltimore County Chief Executive in 1962. He became governor of Maryland in 1967 and was elected Vice President of the United States (Nixon elected President) in 1968, at age 49. He was a fighter, obnoxiously aggressive, screaming at Black Baltimore civic leaders for inciting riots in the city in the traumatic wake of Martin Luther King's assassination. (They did not incite.) But to Richard Nixon, the authors point out, Spiro Agnew appeared to be his kind of guy, his kind of Vice Presidential running-mate.

What neither Nixon nor anyone else outside Maryland politics knew, however, was that from the very beginning of Agnew's career as Baltimore Chief Executive, he was the Kickback King. He relentlessly took bribes from engineering companies and gave them lucrative city and state contracts to build highways, bridges, etc., etc. He was a typical creature of corrupt Maryland politics which had been going on forever. The corruption was so indigenous, in fact, "that when one county official was convicted for taking bribes and sentenced to eighteen months behind bars, his constituents threw him a going away party", the authors write.

Agnew's kickback ways did not end with his rise to the Vice Presidency. The wanton bribery only expanded -- now to the national level. Frequently, one of Agnew's Baltimore accomplices, Lester Matz, would routinely drive up to the guardhouse gate, sign in, and bring envelopes stuffed with cash (usually $100.00 bills) to the Vice President right in his White House office!" $9,000 on one visit; $10,000 the next."and another $5,000 the next."

Suffice it to say, such brazen corruption eventually attracted the attention of the Baltimore District Attorney's Office. Three young assistant U.S. prosecuting attorneys -- Barry Skolnik (32), Tim Baker (30), and Ron Leibman (29), under the supervision of Maryland U.S. Attorney General George Beall (35), began gathering evidence against Agnew. When they thought they found enough for a conviction, they took the huge step of informing Elliot Richardson, Attorney General of the United States in the Nixon Administration.

In the meantime, Spiro Agnew became aware that he was being investigated. He then went to Nixon for advice, encouragement. He even called a press conference claiming that the accusations against him were, in his words, "false and scurrilous and malicious ... rumors ... damned lies."

At first, Nixon offered him support. But, being naturally political and facing his own scandal, Nixon was much more interested in saving his own butt. Agnew had to go. But when Nixon asked him to resign, he balked, fought it, the author tells us.

Meanwhile, the three young U.S. prosecuting attorneys and their Chief managed to successfully convince U.S. Attorney General Elliot Richardson to take up the bribery-extortion case against Spiro Agnew. Harvard educated, a Boston Brahmin-type with a moralistic streak, Richardson believed that, besides the corruption aspect of the case, there was an added, much more important, component of this case to consider. Namely, if President Nixon was impeached, convicted and driven from office before Agnew, then Spiro Agnew would (gasp!) become President and, therefore, impossible to indict while in office. They had to move fast. (Sitting Vice Presidents can indeed be impeached, convicted, and thrown out of office.)

In the end Agnew's lawyers and Richardson's team reached an agreement of leniency for the good of the nation. In a federal court proceeding (and only focusing on a 1967 federal tax evasion charge) Agnew pleaded "nolo contender", no contest, on October 10, 1973. He paid a $10,000 fine and was placed on a three-year probation. Case closed.

In the late 1970s and '80s Agnew threw himself into a series of nefarious business deals in the Middle East and died on September 17, 1996 at age 77.

What comes through in this book is the idealism and iron dedication of the three prosecutors, their Chief, and the straight shooting, so-what-if-I-am-a-Republican sheer political courage of
U.S. Attorney General Elliot Richardson.

A gripping true story, Maddow's and Yarvitz "Bag Man" carries a whiff of reassurance for America's political future.

Chris Patsilelis

Christina Francine's Bookshelf

Bookish Meets Boy, A Downtown Divas Romance
Dianna Dann
Wayward Cat Publishing
9781938999222, $14.99,$2.99 Kindle, 331 pages

A Romantic Comedy & 2016 Eric Hoffer Book Award & Honorable Mention describes "Bookish" as "of or relating to books; literary," as "given or devoted to reading or study," and as "stilted (stiffly dignified or formal)" and pedantic (overly concerned with minute details)." The title of Dann's story certainly shows how titles and assumptions are not always correct. Just because her main character loves books does not mean she fits the "bookish" profile. She is outspoken. Yes, she also loves cats, but that still doesn't mean she fits the profile and Dann shows how in her fun story.

Young spunky Sophie Childers works in a bookstore with her grandfather and she enjoys the life. Ever since her beau left her six months ago for one of her friends, she's resolved to be single, and she liked it that way. A few people referred to Sophie "bookish" and she wore the title proudly. Her other safe love was seven stray cats who lived behind an abandoned storefront on Mangrove Street in Central Florida. She stops to feed them every day. Though she'd sworn off men and instead loved seven felines, she secretly wished for a good man she could trust.

A perfectly handsome young man "with silky hair" and "gorgeous laughing eyes" comes into the bookstore one day. This is when bookish meets boy, and it happens when she accidentally rains armfuls of books down on top of him. They soon go on a date and everything seems wonderful until Reese tells her he is buying the abandoned storefront and wants the cats out of there. How dare anyone not care about her cats! Now, she has to trade one love for the other, and the cats were more important than any cat-hater. Sophie will not have anything further to do with him, but Reese continues to try because he really likes Sophie.

Sophie decides that is how her luck usually goes, and then her luck gets worse. Cal wants her back and seems to really try, but he doesn't make her feel like Reese does. He begins saying all the right things, but her heart won't feel differently. Sophie decides to stay safe in the bookstore and away from her gossiping friends and men. She also needs to find homes for her cats because she simply couldn't keep them all. Her bad luck continues when nobody wants the cats. Life grows more and more complicated, even though all she wanted was for things to be simple.

The title of the book describes the story perfectly. A good-heated, colorful and fun read. Sophie feels like a friend, or someone who could be. Readers will root for Sophie and laugh out loud at times. For readers who like humor blended with romance. A perfect read for young adults and beyond.

Christina Francine, Reviewer

Elan Kluger's Bookshelf

Liddell Hart and the Weight of History
John Mearsheimer
Cornell University Press
9780801476310, $27.95

It appears that the method of choosing who in the past to venerate, and who to sneer and lambast is haphazard. Some people did not get the luck of the draw, while some did. Others are forgotten completely. Our knowledge of antiquity is only based on what manuscripts happened to survive, not what is most important, or the best writing. But in modern times, with a plethora of material available, it seems likely that there are more efficient mechanisms of sorting out the weed from the chaff, rewarding the great people of history, and punishing those deserving of punishment. That of course, is not how it always works out.

B.H. Liddell Hart is a figure who has almost been beatified as one of the great strategic thinkers of the 20th century. Many attribute to him the creation of the blitzkrieg strategy, and others ascribe the success of the Israeli army to his doctrines. Given the amount of material about him, one would expect that general attitude to be true.

13 years before publishing the book that made John Mearsheimer a household name, he published a slim volume called Liddell Hart and the Weight of History. In a careful, tactical process, Mearsheimer slowly released each component to an argument that, when revealed in the second-to-last chapter, is quite damning for Liddell Hart.

Starting with World War I, Mearsheimer demonstrates that Liddell Hart had not been important at all for many of his early years, and many of his famous positions on the war, such as criticism of General Douglas Haig and others, was the exact opposite of his belief during much of the war and post-war period. That by itself is not too bad, many people change their minds.

As his books became better received, he had greater influence. In the 1950s and '60s, he would go on to say that in the books he wrote in the 1930s, he had developed the tactic of blitzkrieg, and the German generals had read him and adopted the strategy. This is the fundamental lie that Mearsheimer untackles. After reading everything Mearsheimer wrote in the period, there are a few paragraphs that loosely mention the idea of the deep penetration into enemy territory, not much else. According to Mearsheimer, it is not even implied as many argue, in his biography of William Tecumseh Sherman.

Liddell Hart's main works in the 1930s, instead of arguing for a deep and quick penetration like the blitzkrieg, instead focused on the importance and strategic advantage of defense. According to Mearsheimer, this view was shaped by his horror at World War I, and his deep desire to not fight such a war again. While many other pro-appeasement British statesmen and intellectuals were motivated by an affinity for the Nazis, Liddell Hart was trying his best to avoid war. While certainly noble in mission, this goal led to failed appeasement strategies that only made Hitler more powerful.

As appeasement was in full swing, Liddell Hart was at his most influential, the British government listened to his doctrines. But once World War II started, he was ignored. Simply put, he was wrong on the facts and was ignored for that reason. He continued to argue for a negotiated peace with Germany, even into 1940, an extremely embarrassing position.

If he had died at this period, he would have been a forgotten figure. But Liddell Hart lived. His move to recover his image was multifaceted. His most important move was tying himself to the brilliance of various german generals. He wrote letters to Guderian and Manstein, important German generals, and convinced them to put in writing that they were influenced by Liddell Hart. He also wrote to Erwin Rommel's wife and son, in effect forcing them to admit that Rommel was influenced by Liddell Hart. Liddell Hart edited the Rommel papers and helped to create the positive vision of Rommel, now present in the West. Liddell Hart was necessarily linked to the popularity of Rommel because he got Guderian to write a statement acknowledging Liddell Hart's influence, although Mearsheimer does document the difficulty Liddell Hart had convincing both Guderian and the publishers to put in that footnote, as it was false and known to be false.

Liddell Hart also wrote Memoirs that told his version of the appeasement period. Many public figures write memoirs that seek to restore their image and fail. Liddell Hart's were taken as truth, and his version of the history was taken as truth.

Mearsheimer also documents the large network of friends that Liddell Hart had gathered over time. While it is tempting to attribute it to a Machiavellian motive, it appears that he was simply friendly and extremely personable. Nevertheless, this network included many of the key thinkers in the military strategy world.

For example, a student at Stanford was going to write a Ph.D. thesis on whether Liddell Hart did invent the doctrine of blitzkrieg. An advisor, Peter Paret said there was no need, as it was already covered in Liddell Hart's memoirs. Paret was a friend of Liddell Hart.

Something that Mearsheimer did not mention, but struck me was Hart's move to improve his image involved tying himself to the success of various Nazi generals. He was proud of the influence that doctrines had had on his "pupils" or to use a more correct term: Nazis.

In the last chapter, Mearsheimer goes beyond Liddell Hart and extrapolates a few key lessons, but one stands out as most important: intellectuals must be held accountable for the opinions that they hold. In Nate Silver's The Signal and the Noise, he demonstrated that partisan commentators tend to be 50-50, as they always assume and argue their side will win. But nobody expects insightful commentary from a T.V. But a celebrated thinker who has serious impact on policy must be held accountable for the views they hold. To give a more contemporary example, many thinkers who advocated strongly for the Iraq War are still giving advice and still have a good standing as a thinker. But should they? This does not mean once someone is wrong, they should be replaced. But they certainly should be reevaluated.

Elan Kluger, Reviewer

Gregory Stephenson's Bookshelf

Cold War Piano
Doug May
Ober-Limbo Verlag
9788797156964, $11.00, PB, 98pp

Doug May is a poet who has - in every figurative sense of the phrase - paid his dues. Afflicted during his school years with ADD and learning disabilities, he nevertheless earned a GED and later attended college classes. His work life consisted of a series of unskilled jobs, such as driving a delivery truck, clerking and stocking, moving furniture and emptying bed pans. At the same time, though, he mastered three musical instruments and played in a rock'n'roll band. May's musical interests are eclectic, extending beyond popular musical forms to encompass classical music and jazz. It is, perhaps, his love of music that helps to account for his technical adroitness in composing poems in a variety of traditional forms, as well as in free verse. Already during the 1970s, May's poetry began to be printed in small press publications, but his first collection, titled Songs from the Back Row and published by UnCollected Press, appeared only a few years ago.

Whatever learning disabilities the poet may have experienced during childhood and adolescence, he is clearly in possession of a lively mind, one that is alert and acute, and one whose interests are wide and whose insights are deep. The poems in Cold War Piano - May's second collection - address a multitude of topics, ranging from fruit trees to type faces, dogs, an inventor, a virtuoso pianist, an astronomer, an unsung Russian hero, an aging self-help guru, the posthumous life of a famous author, low-dollar jobs and co-workers, runaways and outsiders, issues of conscience, jealousy, history and human fate, quirks of memory, weather, crime, crossword puzzles and the perplexities of contemporary politics - all considered with shrewdness and ingenuity, wit and lyric grace. Poetic forms and styles vary among the poems, according to each composition's mood and theme. Cold War Piano confirms May as a poet of valuable and distinctive gifts, with a fine ear for verbal music, a sharp eye for subtle tokens and unattended things, and a keen nose for the essential and the genuine.

Gregory Stephenson

Israel Drazin's Bookshelf

Was Thomas Jefferson a heretic and anti-Semite?

Often when I hear people wanting to destroy statues of historical figures and burn books of authors who mentioned something they considered wrong, even though these men and women also did good things and are part of our history, I wonder what they would do with the Hebrew Bible if they found out that all the men and women mentioned in the Hebrew Bible arguably did something wrong, such as King David's adultery. The only totally innocent good man in the Hebrew Bible is Job, and that story according to many rabbis and scholars is just a parable. By pointing out the wrongs, the Torah is telling us that the biblical heroes were humans like us. The Bible does not expect any human to never do wrong. We should learn from these narratives to strive to be as good as we can be.

President Thomas Jefferson is one of the villains of these people. They choose to criticize him because he had slaves. They ignore the good he did, which does not absolve him for his many wrongs, his slave ownership, the way he treated his black children, the illegal acts he committed in France, and more. But he did do significant good act, so he should not be erased from our history. I will not speak about his wrong behavior other than his statements and writings about the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. Peter Manseau tells about Jefferson's negative feelings about the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament and how and why he came to cut and paste sections of the New Testament, removing miracles and events and statements he considered unnatural, and created his own Bible. He also tells how many people considered him a heretic. The book is "The Jefferson Bible."

President Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), a deist, believed in the existence of a single deity who was not involved in the daily life of people. He disliked both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament for many reasons, especially because they include unnatural, even impossible events such as the talking snake and talking donkey in the Hebrew Bible. He felt that only some, but not all, of the ethical teachings in the Bibles are worth teaching.

He - like Leo Tolstoy in his "The Gospel in Brief," and others - decided to cut and paste the New Testament Gospels, with no attempt to retain the order of the Gospel writers, and remove those items that distressed him, including the miraculous birth of Jesus, told with different "facts" in two of the four Gospels, and all of the other miracles, including the events that occurred after Jesus death. He solved the problem of the frequent differences between the Gospels about what occurred to Jesus at different times - for each Gospel has its own version of the life of Jesus that differs widely with the other three - by selecting passages from each that he thought made sense and blending them together to create what he considered a perfect no longer defective Bible, a Bible that teaches morality. Jefferson wanted "to pick out diamonds from dunghills." He completed his abridged version of the New Testament in 1820, six years before his death. He placed his "diamonds," roughly one thousand of the 7,957 New Testament verses in 84 pages in English, French, Greek, and Latin. While he also felt that the Hebrew Bible was filled with "dunghills," he did not compose an abridged version of the 23,145 verses in the Hebrew Bible.

After Jefferson died, people forgot about his Bible. It was not until the Orthodox observant Jewish Curator of the Smithsonian, Cyrus Adler, discovered the book in the library of another Jew in 1886. Congress published the book for Senators and members of the House of Representatives in 1904.

Those who suppose that Jefferson's Bible has any relation to the New Testament are mistaken.

Bart D. Ehrman highlights a sample of about a hundred thousand differences between the four gospels in his 2009 book, "Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (and Why We Don't Know About Them)." He points out that there is something far more significant than these different descriptions of New Testament events; it is the fact that each of the gospel writers wrote his book to offer his readers his unique understanding of Jesus life and mission. These views differ greatly. For example, Mark, writing a little more than several decades after Jesus' traditional date of death, emphasized that Jesus was predicting the advent of a new and better world on earth during the lifetime of those listening to him. In contrast, John, who composed his Gospel decades later, after the death of all of Jesus' contemporaries, stated that Jesus' message was that people should strive to achieve an everlasting life in heaven.

Despite his attempt to remove problematical items, Jefferson's perfect Bible retains many "flaws" that Ehrman disclosed exist in the canonical version, such as the census in its opening verse, which history has shown never occurred, and the curious statement that Joseph had to take his family to Bethlehem because one of his ancestors had lived part-time in this city over a thousand years before he was born.

However, more importantly, Jefferson demolished the uniqueness of each of the four gospels. He created a Bible that each of the Gospel writers would reject. He distorted the moral teachings in two ways. First, as we said, he changed the overall focus and intent of the document. Second, by mixing the language of each gospel writer and presenting them in his own chronological order, he perverted the details of the teachings.

Was President Thomas Jefferson an anti-Semite and a heretic? I think he was not. Everyone has the right to believe what he or she feels is correct as long as he or she does not harm others. True, he like all other humans made mistakes, but he also did magnificent things in helping create our country. And he had every right to deny the existence of miracles and other biblical statements that are unnatural.

Dr. Israel Drazin, Reviewer

Jack Mason's Bookshelf

Time Shifts: Experiences of Slipping into the Past and Future
Von Braschler
Destiny Books
c/o Inner Traditions International, Ltd.
One Park Street, Rochester, VT 05767
9781644112397, $16.99, PB, 192pp

Synopsis: Every now and then somebody reports stepping out of normal time and space. It doesn't seem to matter where they live or their background -- the veil of ordinary reality drops and they suddenly slip into the past or future, usually seamlessly and unknowingly, experiencing a temporary and accidental form of time travel.

Comprised of detailed accounts from people who have experienced time slips and shifts between realities, including his own experiences, "Time Shifts: Experiences of Slipping into the Past and Future " by Von Braschler examines what their stories have in common to establish the pattern behind how these sudden slips in time occur.

Von Brashcler informatively examines criticisms of and scientific support for this phenomenon, debunking claims that time slips are delusions, implanted memories, or remembrances of past lives and showing that they may be related to energy vortices, tears in the fabric of our reality, black holes, astral travel, or light body movements. Studying reliable models from both the West and the East, he compares these excursions with shamanic journeying and the practices of yoga masters and Samadhi mystics, who use trance-like meditative states to travel outside normal space and time.

Exploring the work of Einstein and other physicists, Von Braschler also examines the different speed with which time passes in ordinary reality and during time shifts -- people will find that only a few minutes has elapsed for a time-shift experience that appeared to take hours.

Offering step-by-step exercises to prepare you to experience time shifts, to help set them up, and to enhance the experience when you have slipped through time, Von Braschler provides a road map allowing anyone to explore shifts in time and space and expand their awareness beyond ordinary reality.

Critique: A unique and inherently fascinating study, "Time Shifts: Experiences of Slipping into the Past and Future" is an extraordinarily thoughtful and thought-provoking read throughout. While of special and particular interest to students of out-of-body experiences and shamanism, as well as students of unexplained mysteries, "Time Shifts" is recommended for community, college, and university library Metaphysical Studies collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Tim Shifts" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99).

Editorial Note: A journalist and former publicist, Von Braschler is the author of several books on consciousness development including Manifesting (Red Feather, June 2021). He has also written on lucid dreaming, healing with our pets, chakras, auras, ghosts, and time travel. He maintains a facebook page at

The Triumph of the Amateurs
William Lanouette
The Lyons Press
c/o The Globe Pequot Press
246 Goose Lane, Suite 200, Guilford, CT 06437
9781493052769, $28.95, HC, 304pp

Synopsis: "The Triumph of the Amateurs: The Rise, Ruin, and Banishment of Professional Rowing in the Gilded Age" by author and journalist William Lanouette is the story and history of the lost world or professional rowing in America -- a sport that once attracted crowds of thousands, widespread betting, and ultimately corruption that foretold its doom.

"The Triumph of the Amateurs" centers on the colorful careers of two New York City Irish boys, the Biglin brothers John and Barney, now long forgotten save for Thomas Eakins's portraits of them in their shell.

Rascals abounded on and off the water, where rowdy fans often outdid modern soccer thugs in violence, betting was rampant (as was fixing the races) and spectators in the tens of thousands came out to see it all.

"The Triumph of the Amateurs" traces the sport from its rise in the years before the Civil War on through the Gilded Age to its scandalous demise and eventual transition into a purely amateur sport. In addition, Barney Biglin's later career as holder of sinecures offers a colorful glimpse into late 19th-century New York City political corruption.

Critique: An impressively detailed and informative sports history that is profusely illustrated with 40 black and white and color illustrations (including Thomas Eakins's famous paintings of the Biglin brothers rowing on the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia in 1872), "The Triumph of the Amateurs: The Rise, Ruin, and Banishment of Professional Rowing in the Gilded Age" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library 19th Century American Sports History collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists of boat racing enthusiasts that "The Triumph of the Amateurs" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $27.50).

Editorial Note: William Lanouette was a journalist on the staffs of Newsweek, The National Observer, and National Journal and was Washington Correspondent for The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. His freelance writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Civilization, The New York Herald Tribune, Scientific American, The Washington Post, and The Wilson Quarterly.

Jack Mason

John Burroughs' Bookshelf

Dancing with the Mountains
Paul Travers
Ozark Mountain Publishing, Inc.
PO Box 754, Huntsville, AR 72740
9781940265940, $24.00, PB, 368pp

Synopsis: When the cosmic tumblers click into place and the universe opens its vault, miracles can happen. Inspired by his dying father's dream of hiking the Appalachian Trail, Paul Travers hits the trail and finds that miracle in the healing power of America's sacred mountains.

"Dancing with the Mountains: Alzheimer's, Angels, and the Appalachian Trail: A Journey of Spirit" chronicles Paul's hike to raise money for the Alzheimer's Association and prove that sixty is the new forty. More than a just another personal travelogue, it is a love story about fathers and sons, families battling Alzheimer's, and the people and places along the Appalachian Trail.

On his pilgrimage, Paul also eludes the FBI, meets his guardian angel, survives a lightning strike and a near drowning, encounters the ghost of a relative, acquires a trail name (Sondance), finds a field of dreams, walks off the war, solves the death of a Hollywood starlet, discovers Saint Francis and the Buddha in New York, embraces a religious cult, visits ground zero for the sixties hippie movement (Arlo's not Alice's Restaurant), receives a sacred stone from a Lakota medicine man, meets a female apostle, discovers his father's parallel spiritual journey, and copes with the death of his parents.

His adventure ultimately reveals nature is not only the handiwork of God but the hand of God that leads each of us on a unique spiritual journey.

Critique: An inherently fascinating, compelling, informative, thought-provoking, iconoclastic read from cover to cover, "Dancing with the Mountains: Alzheimer's, Angels, and the Appalachian Trail: A Journey of Spirit" is a unique, riveting, and extraordinary account that is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as community, college, and university library Contemporary New Age/Metaphysical Studies collections.

Editorial Note: A former park ranger and historian with the Maryland Park Service, Paul J. Travers is also the author of Eyewitness to Infamy (An Oral History of Pearl Harbor), The Patapsco: Baltimore's River of History, The Flight of the Shadow Drummer, and The Cowgirl and the Colts. Over the past decade, he has been involved with various historical and environmental groups. He continues to hike the Appalachian Trail.

Tracing the Path of Yoga
Stuart Ray Sarbacker
State University of New York Press
State University Plaza, Albany, NY 12246-0001
9781438481210, $95.00, HC, 451pp

Synopsis: A comprehensive and theory-rich investigation of the history and philosophy of yoga, from its Indian origins to the contemporary context, "Tracing the Path of Yoga: The History and Philosophy of Indian Mind-Body Discipline" offers a clear, accessible, meticulously annotated, and comprehensive survey of the history and philosophy of yoga that will be invaluable to both yoga specialist practitioners and to non-specialist general readers seeking a deeper understanding of this fascinating subject.

In the pages of "Tracing the Path of Yoga" yoga expert and academician Stuart Ray Sarbacker argues that yoga can be understood first and foremost as a discipline of mind and body that is represented in its narrative and philosophical literature as resulting in both numinous and cessative accomplishments that correspond, respectively, to the attainment of this-worldly power and otherworldly liberation. Professor Sarbacker goes on to demonstrate how the yogic quest for perfection as such is situated within the concrete realities of human life, intersecting with issues of politics, economics, class, gender, and sexuality, as well as reflecting larger Indic religious and philosophical ideals.

Critique: An inherently fascinating, impressively informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking work of meticulously presented scholarship, "Tracing the Path of Yoga: The History and Philosophy of Indian Mind-Body Discipline" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, college, and university library Indian Eastern Philosophy/Religion collections in general, and Yoga History/Philosophy supplemental curriculum reading lists in particular. It should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Tracing the Path of Yoga" is also available in a paperback edition (9781438481227, $33.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $90.25).

Editorial Note: Stuart Ray Sarbacker is the Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religion at Oregon State University. He is also the author of Sam?dhi: The Numinous and Cessative in Indo-Tibetan Yoga (SUNY Press), and (with Kevin Kimple) The Eight Limbs of Yoga: A Handbook for Living Yoga Philosophy.

Homeland: Ethnic Mexican Belonging since 1900
Aaron E. Sanchez
University of Oklahoma Press
2800 Venture Drive, Norman, OK 73069
9780806168432, $24.95, PB, 248pp

Synopsis: Ideas defer to no border -- least of all the idea of belonging. So where does one belong, and what does belonging even mean, when a border inscribes one's identity? This dilemma, so critical to the ethnic Mexican community, is at the heart of Homeland, an intellectual, cultural, and literary history of belonging in ethnic Mexican thought through the twentieth century.

Belonging, as Professor Aaron E. Sanchez's sees it, is an interwoven collection of ideas that defines human connectedness and that shapes the contours of human responsibilities and our obligations to one another. In the pages of "Homeland: Ethnic Mexican Belonging since 1900", Professor Sanchez traces these ideas of belonging to their global, national, and local origins, and shows how they have transformed over time.

For pragmatic, ideological, and political reasons, ethnic Mexicans have adapted, adopted, and abandoned ideas about belonging as shifting conceptions of citizenship disrupted old and new ways of thinking about roots and shared identity around the global. From the Mexican Revolution to the Chicano Movement, in Texas and across the nation, journalists, poets, lawyers, labor activists, and people from all walks of life have reworked or rejected citizenship as a concept that explained the responsibilities of people to the state and to one another.

A wealth of sources (poems, plays, protests, editorials, and manifestos) demonstrate how ethnic Mexicans responded to changes in the legitimate means of belonging in the twentieth century. With competing ideas from both sides of the border they expressed how they viewed their position in the region, the nation, and the world -- in ways that sometimes united and often divided the community.

A transnational history that reveals how ideas move across borders and between communities, "Homeland: Ethnic Mexican Belonging since 1900" offers welcome insight into the defining and changing concept of belonging in relation to citizenship. In the process, this study marks another step in a promising new direction for Mexican American intellectual history.

Critique: An impressively presented work of exhaustive and meticulous scholarship throughout, "Homeland: Ethnic Mexican Belonging since 1900" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library Hispanic American Demographic Studies collections and supplemental curriculum studies reading lists. It should be noted for students, academia, political activists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Homeland: Ethnic Mexican Belonging since 1900" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $21.95).

Editorial Note: Aaron E. Sanchez is a professor on the faculty of Mountain View College in Dallas, Texas. His writing has appeared in the Washington Post, National Public Radio's Latino USA and Code Switch, Sojourners, and the Texas Observer, among other outlets.

John Burroughs

Julie Summers' Bookshelf

Women Discoverers: Top Women in Science
Marie Moinard, author
Christelle Pecout, illustrator
NBM Publishing
160 Broadway, Suite 700, East Wing, New York, NY 10038
9781681122700, $19.99, HC, 96pp

Synopsis: From Ada Lovelace (computing) to Marie Curie (Physics and Chemistry), there were exceptional women who through their hard (and often pioneering) work enabled the world to advance in all fields of science. These women whose biographies are showcased in "Women Discoverers: Top Women in Science" also include space exploration (Mae Jemison), telecommunications (the actress also genius discoverer Hedy Lamarr), and Biology (Rosalind Franklin).

Critique: Inspirational accounts that effectively counter preconceived notions about women and science, and presenting a diverse group of women scientists from around the world, "Women Discoverers: Top Women in Science" is an simply outstanding graphic novel style biographical presentation by the team of author/biographer Marie Moinard and artist/illustrator Christelle Pecout. Inherently fascinating and impressively informational, "Women Discoverers: Top Women in Science" is a unique and especially recommended addition to highschool, community, college, and university library Women's Studies & Biography collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Women Discoverers: Top Women in Science" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle,comiXology, $9.99).

It's STORYTIME, Memaw!
JoAnn Vicnair
Carpenter's Son Publishing
9781952025198, $19.99, HC, 224pp

Synopsis: For years, grandmother and storyteller JoAnn Vicnair's grandchildren insisted on "Memaw, storytime!" But she had no imagination. The she prayed, "God, give me Your story. They need You in their lives."

The result of her prayers was that she then began a journal of the stories a few years ago. Many of the stories are based on her family's true life experiences. They deal with salvation, faith, hope, the power of God, rebellion, forgiveness, and more.

"It's STORYTIME, Memaw!: An Answered Prayer for Stories that Point Children to God" is a small collection of those stories. JoAnn Vicknair had never written a book and never had a desire to. But, she decided to type up the stories from her journal so her grandchildren could practice reading with stories that they love. During that process, God told her to have them published.

Critique: As unique and entertaining as they are inspired and inspiring, "It's STORYTIME, Memaw!" is an extraordinary and inherently engaging stories that will be of particular and special interest to children ages 4-12 -- making this compendium of short stories an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, Sunday School, and community library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "It's STORYTIME, Memaw!" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Sister Sleuths: Female Detectives in Britain
Nell Darby
Pen & Sword Books
c/o Casemate (distribution)
9781526780256, $29.95, PB, 216pp

Synopsis: The 1857 Divorce Act in England paved the way for a new career for women: that of the private detective. To divorce, you needed proof of adultery -- and men soon realized that women were adept at infiltrating households and befriending wives, learning secrets and finding evidence. Whereas previously women had been informal snoops within their communities, now with the passage of this new law they were getting paid for it, toeing a fine line between offering a useful service and betraying members of their sex for money.

Over the course of the next century, women became increasingly confident in gaining work as private detectives, moving from largely unrecognized helpers to the police and to male detectives, to becoming owners of their own detective agencies. In fiction, they were depicted as exciting creatures needing money and work; in fact, they were of varying ages, backgrounds and marital status, seeking adventure and independence as much as money.

Former actresses found that detective work utilized their skills at adopting different roles and disguises; former spiritualists were drafted into denounce frauds and stayed to become successful private eyes; and several female detectives became keen supporters of the women's suffrage movement, having seen for themselves how career-minded women faced obstacles in British society.

These were groundbreaking women, working in the shadows, often unnamed in press reports. Even today, they are something of an unknown, yet of intense interest to the public, their work largely an enigma. With the publication of "Sister Sleuths: Female Detectives in Britain" author and historian Nell Darby sheds new light on the history of female detectives who have worked over the past century and a half to uncover wrongdoing and solve crimes.

Critique: A unique and inherently fascinating history that brings a particular aspect of the role of women in law enforcement up out of obscurity, "Sister Sleuths: Female Detectives in Britain" is an impressively well written, organized and presented study that is truly extraordinary and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Women's History and Criminology collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Sister Sleuths: Female Detectives in Britain" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

Editorial Note: Currently residing in Oxfordshire, England, Nell Darby is a historian and writer who was originally trained as a newspaper reporter, and was formerly the editor of Your Family History magazine. She has a monthly history column in the Stratford Herald newspaper and writes about social and criminal history for many newspapers and magazines. Nell has a PhD in the history of crime. She also maintains a informative Criminal Historian themed website at:

Julie Summers

Margaret Lane's Bookshelf

The Ultimate Guide to Threesomes
Stella Harris
Cleis Press
101 Hudson Street, Suite 3705, Jersey City, New Jersey 07302
9781627783071, $18.95, PB, 276pp

Synopsis: "The Ultimate Guide to Threesomes" by sex educator Stella Harris is a serious and comprehensive compendium of everything there is to know about how to have a successful experience with a threesome. Articulate and knowledgeable, Stella teaches how to have ethical, consensual encounters that give pleasure to everyone involved.

Guiding the reader through the whole process of a threesome, this instructional guide showcases positions and scenarios for beginners and veterans alike, plus information about safer sex and aftercare. It even teaches how to use threesomes in dirty talk and role play.

Whether you're just starting out on your threesome journey, or you've been having threesomes for years, "The Ultimate Guide to Threesomes" has something here to suit your needs both general and specific.

Critique: For a mature adult readership only, "The Ultimate Guide to Threesomes" is expertly written, organized and presented -- making it an especially recommended addition to personal and professional Human Sexuality collections and supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted that "The Ultimate Guide to Threesomes" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.49).

Editorial Note: As an experienced sex educator, Stella Harris is changing the way people experience their sex lives. As a certified intimacy educator and sex coach, she gives her students the tools and confidence to explore their sexuality safely and free of shame. A national and international speaker, Harris teaches everything from pleasure anatomy, to communication skills, to kink and BDSM. Harris also writes a weekly sex advice column for Portland's Willamette Week newspaper and her erotic fiction has appeared in more than a dozen anthologies. She also maintains an informative website at:

One Drop: Shifting the Lens on Race
Yaba Blay
Beacon Press
24 Farnsworth Street, Boston, MA 02210
9780807073360, $30.00, HC, 288pp

Synopsis: In the United States, a Black person has come to be defined as any person with any known Black ancestry. Statutorily referred to as "the rule of hypodescent," this definition of Blackness is more popularly known as the "one-drop rule," meaning that a person with any trace of Black ancestry, however small or (in)visible, cannot be considered White.

A method of social order that began almost immediately after the arrival of enslaved Africans in America, by 1910 it was the law in almost all southern states. At a time when the one-drop rule functioned to protect and preserve White racial purity, Blackness was both a matter of biology and the law. One was either Black or White. Period.

Has the social and political landscape changed one hundred years later?

"One Drop: Shifting the Lens on Race" by Yaba Blay explores the extent to which historical definitions of race continue to shape contemporary racial identities and lived experiences of racial difference. Featuring the perspectives of 60 contributors representing 25 countries and combining candid narratives with striking portraiture, this book provides living testimony to the diversity of Blackness.

Although contributors use varying terms to self-identify, they all see themselves as part of the larger racial, cultural, and social group generally referred to as Black. They have all had their identity called into question simply because they do not fit neatly into the stereotypical "Black box" -- dark skin, "kinky" hair, broad nose, full lips, etc. Most have been asked "What are you?" or the more politically correct "Where are you from?" throughout their lives.

It is through contributors' lived experiences with and lived imaginings of Black identity that we can visualize multiple possibilities for Blackness.

Critique: An inherently fascinating, insightfully articulate, and impressively informative compilation of photo essays on the subject of Race in America, "One Drop: Shifting the Lens on Race" is an extraordinarily thoughtful and thought provoking read from cover to cover. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Ethnic Demographic Studies collections and supplemental curriculum lists, it should be noted for students, academia, political activists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "One Drop: Shifting the Lens on Race" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $18.99).

Editorial Note: Dr. Yaba Blay is a scholar-activist and cultural creative whose work centers the lived experiences of Black women and girls. She has launched viral campaigns including #PrettyPeriod and #ProfessionalBlackGirl and has appeared on CNN, BET, MSNBC, and NPR. Dr. Blay's work has been featured in the New York Times, Ebony, Essence, and The Root. A thought leader on Black racial identity, colorism, and beauty politics, she is a globally sought-after speaker and consultant. She also maintains an informative website at

Margaret Lane

Mari Carlson's Bookshelf

Red Hands
Colin Sargent
Barbican Press
9781909954397, 12.99 Brit. pounds / $19.50 US

Colin Sargent describes crafting Red Hands, his latest novel about Iordana Ceausescu, like salvaging scattered crystals from a shattered chandelier. For her, telling this past is not unlike shattering into a thousand shards all over again. Sargent's depiction restores her as a luminescent and resilient whole set against a turbulent background.

Ceausescu grew up in Romania's Nomenclature (communist party). Both her parents had high positions in the government. As her father and his colleague Nicholas Ceausescu conflicted over Romania's direction, Iordana's infatuation with Valentin Ceausescu tempted her teenage rebellion. But the thrill of taking risks turned into fear after their clandestine marriage. The Ceausescu family disavowed her and she, in turn, rejected many of their lavish gifts. She kept Valentin's baby despite the family's disapproval. She and Valentin divorced amidst political unrest sweeping communist countries in the late 1980s. She and her son fled the country when the Ceausescus came under attack.

The dangers Ceausescu faces become all the more convincing in Sargent's depictions of their interviews in which information leaks out bit by painstaking bit. In contrast, she comes across in the rest of the story as a confident and principled woman. The novel focuses on the actions she takes to protect herself, her son, and fellow citizens. "The people were free without Communism and the Ceausescus but they were desperate without someone to blame" (254). With elegance and journalistic precision, this novel speaks to the timeless struggle of individuals up against powerful collectives.

Mari Carlson, Reviewer

Marj Charlier's Bookshelf

The Dutch House
Ann Patchett
c/o HarperCollins
9780062963673, $27.99 Hardcover, $17.00 Paper, $10.99 Kindle, 337 Pages

I don't know that I have ever read works by anyone who writes a better sentence or paragraph than Ann Patchett. I was an earlier advocate of Bel Canto, and have continued to read her books since, largely for lessons in style.

The Dutch House doesn't disappoint when it comes to demonstrating this talent. I can't imagine that anyone could report that they didn't find the book well-written. I'm guessing that is why 60% of her nearly 20,000 ratings on are five-star. Granted, some of that might be the band-wagon effect; how can you rate a book poorly if everyone else in the world loved it?

I have not read any of the reviews attached to those ratings, because it is my pledge to read books and write reviews without allowing my reaction and opinion to be influenced by others. So, I cannot be sure why this book was so highly rated. My guess is the exquisite writing.

But a good sentence does not a good novel make. Thanks to the flawless prose, I found it easy to keep reading this novel from front to back in a couple of short days. But in the end, I found much else about it disappointing. Largely, I believe my lack of love comes from the structure and the rather milquetoast narrator.

First: the structure. SPOILER ALERT for these next two paragraphs. SKIP if you want. Patchett spends about seven-eighths of the book tightly weaving together the lives of Danny, the narrator, and Maeve, his older sister. They spend hours of their adolescent and adult lives talking and sharing, parked in front of the house they were ejected from by an evil stepmother. They support each other, worry about each other, rush to each other's side for any and all emergencies and semi-emergencies. But then, in the final eighth-or-so of the book, Patchett spends very little time unwinding that filial tapestry once it is rent.

While I have not read other reviews, several reading friends had told me they thought the book ended too quickly. I had argued - before reading the book - that many books come under that criticism, which often isn't fair. A climax is supposed to come at the near end of the book, and the denouement should be short. But now I understand why they were feeling that way. It's that too much is created that is too quickly abandoned without a decent examination of the impact of that destruction. I feel that the end of the book did not need to be longer. It needed to be more focused on the relationship that occupied most of the book. What was built up should either have been supported, or we should have seen what happens when it falls down.

My second criticism is easier to explain. The narrator, Danny, is both boring and whiny. He never acknowledges what his sister has done for him without whining that he wishes she hadn't. When he does acquire some agency and chooses his own profession in life, his whining is redirected largely at his similarly unsympathetic wife. I found it tiring to spend time with these two, and I wished the story had been told from Maeve's point of view. She was a far more interesting character whose desire for vengeance and denial of her own needs are too little explored.

If Patchett gives lessons in writing that I could afford, I'd sign up. But if she offered lessons in story, I don't think I'd show up.

A Feigned Madness
Tonya Mitchell
Cennan Books/Cynren Press
9781947976207, $21.00 Paper, $5.99 Kindle, 377 Pages

I have to tip my hat to Mitchell for taking on this story. It is not a low-risk endeavor to write a historical novel about a character whose story has already been examined by many other authors.

Elizabeth Cochrane is Nellie Bly, the famous female muckraker of the late 19th Century, a time that introduced American readers to yellow journalism and investigative reporting - sometimes one and the same, sometimes a derogatory broad brush applied to articles by foes and fans per their biases. Seeking acceptance as a serious journalist at a time when women in newspapers were confined to the "women's pages" and society news, Bly takes on an assignment to go undercover into the notorious Blackwell Asylum to investigate its abuses against its women inmates.

Blackwell is no asylum, as the term is defined by the Oxford dictionary as "an institution offering shelter and support to people who are mentally ill." It is at best a place to warehouse women whose parents or husbands want to rid themselves of, regardless of the veracity of the diagnoses. At worst, it is a torture chamber, a dungeon, a prison managed by sociopaths. Bly gets into the asylum by faking amnesia and a bit of paranoia. Although it is her ambition to get in, stay for 10 days and get out to tell the story and win her spot on the newspaper, the novel plays the reader's support for her ambition against the hope she would be found out and sprung from the hunger, cold, brutality and mortal danger of the place long before 10 days are up.

A minor subplot about a less than historically certifiable relationship with a fellow journalist at times intrudes, taking away more than it adds, I believe. Granted, this is a story about a young woman. And it is arguably true that even the most career-oriented and ambitious women of the time were also obsessed with the dream of finding a man and getting married. But the strength of the novel is in its depiction of the abysmal treatment of the mentally ill in general, and women in particular. Since most journalists ply their trade above cover, not under it - even famous ones, I came away thinking this is a great novel about the shame of institutions like Blackwell, and not so much about the history of women in journalism.

Twilight Empress
Faith L. Justice
Raggedy Moon Books
9780692460511, $12.99 Paper, $4.99 Kindle, 321 Pages

Twilight Empress is the kind of historical novel that dedicated fans of historical fiction will find satisfying and impressive. With exquisite attention to political and military history, this novel weaves together many of the important political events of the fifth century and the author's interpretation of what living through them was like for this one remarkable and resilient woman, Galla Placidia, daughter of the Roman Emperor Theodosius, half-sister to the much-maligned (for good reasons) Emperor Honorius, and eventual empress in her own right. It is a rich tapestry of both historical research and vivid imagination.

Placidia escapes from humid, bug infested and swamp-delimited Ravenna to return to her native Rome, leaving behind her incompetent and poultry-obsessed brother who rules the western half of the Roman Empire. Honorius had just assassinated the half-barbarian military leader, Stilicho, whose military brilliance and strategy sense were barely holding back the hordes of migrants attempting to enter the empire. Without Stilicho to negotiate with the Goths, Honorius leaves Rome nearly defenseless, and the city is sacked by the great Gothic King, Alaric, who captures Placidia, thinking she might be just the bargaining chip he needs to wrest settlement and support from Honorius.

However, after months of traveling up and down the Italian peninsula with the Goths, Placidia falls in love with Ataulf, who has succeeded Alaric as king of the Goths, and marries him. With Placidia as his advisor and, to some respect, his insurance policy against aggression by the Romans, Ataulf leads the Goths into southern Gaul, where they become federates of the Roman Empire, pledging to protect southern and western Gaul from pirates and brigands. But when Ataulf dies, Placidia is dragged back to Ravenna and married to Constantius, Honorius's patrician and military leader. Despite her animosity toward her new husband, they have two children, and when Honorius dies, she becomes regent for her young son and empress in her own right. Through this period, there is much plague, disease, war, bloodshed, intrigue and conspiracy, all which Placidia witnesses, and which helps the reader understand the mess that the Roman empire had become before it falls to the Huns, the Ostrogoths and the Lombards.

The story Justice tells is largely true, only modified at times to make the telling less cumbersome, however, casual readers of late antiquity may find it dense and overly packed with characters. But for those already somewhat familiar with the time period and the historical details, it will be both satisfying and enlightening.

The Barbizon: The Hotel that Set Women Free
Paulina Bren
Simon & Schuster
9781982123895, $27.00 Hardcover, $12.99 Kindle, 321 Pages

The Barbizon Hotel, a hotel for women only, opened in 1929 in New York to board women who came to the city to seek their fortune as artists, actors, models, writers and (even) secretaries. The book has its share of celebrity gazing: Sylvia Plath, Grace Kelly, Betsey Johnson, Joan Didion, Ali McGraw, Liza Minelli, and many other famous women, all stayed there at one time. But it's also about the women who were brought to New York and the Barbizon by Mademoiselle as "guest editors" each summer (even though they were chosen for their good looks and 35-24-36 figures as much as for their talents); about the women who came to the city after graduation from college to get secretarial certificates from Katharine Gibbs; and about the women who became (now nameless) models with the Eileen Ford agency.

But more than a book about famous women and institutions, The Barbizon also details the friendships and competition among women and the degree to which the (mostly) young women were intent on either attracting a man or steering clear of them. Especially from WWII on, whatever the women's ambitions were, the endgame was nearly always about finding the future man in their lives (and rarely the current one) and the home and family they would build with him.

The strongest, most compelling theme of the book is the way the world shrunk for women after WWII - suddenly, women were expected to leave the workforce to allow men (breadwinners) to have the jobs and how marriage and motherhood replaced careers as acceptable paths for women. Some states even tried to forbid married women to work out of the home. Author Bren compares the relative freedom and ambition of the 1920s-30s flappers and WWII Rosie the Riveters to the oppression and lowered expectations of the post-war women of the 1950s, which redefined women's place as picket-fenced suburbs, rearing babies and supporting their career-focused husbands. This was expected of them even after they got college educations.

Quote: "I was born in 1953 and came into adulthood in the much more feminist world of the 1970s and beyond. This narrative made me realize how regressive the 1950s and most of the 1960s were and why Sylvia Plath stuck her head in the oven."

It is fascinating, well-written, and a great choice for book club discussions.

Marj Charlier, Reviewer

Mark Walker's Bookshelf

How I Learned English
Tom Miller
National Geographic
9781426200977, $16.95, 288 pages

I purchased this book as a Christmas present for my Guatemalan wife because, she like millions of other Latinos, has struggled to master the quirks and challenges of English. Ligia took English in school in Guatemala. But I've always insisted we speak Spanish in order to maintain my fluency and she patiently corrected my grammar, which she continues to do. After our first year of marriage, I took her to my hometown of Evergreen, Colorado in the dead (cold) of winter, where she tried to communicate with my mother by writing notes. But my mother insisted that we get a job so Ligia could talk to her - in English, of course. I obtained a job managing low-income housing in the Denver area and Ligia had to answer the phone and show apartments, which greatly accelerated her ability to speak English.

Since then, our children and l have corrected her English, although she's far more demanding of my Spanish, especially when I mix the masculine and feminine articles. Thanks to the Rotary Youth Exchange program, our children learned a third language, and this ability to speak various languages has informed our worldview and enriched our lives, immensely facilitating our love of global travel.

I also chose this book because the author, Tom Miller, is one of my favorite travel writers. He lives close by and has served as adjunct research associate at the University of Arizona's Latin American Area Center since 1990. I met him through a common appreciation of ex-pat author Moritz Thomsen, who wrote the iconic Peace Corps experience book, "Living Poor." Tom was recruiting an author to write Thomsen's biography after he set up an impressive treasure trove of materials about Thomsen in the Special Collection at the University of Arizona. I tapped into those resources for my next book "The Moritz Thomsen Reader: His Books, His Letters and His Legacy Told By The Writers Who Knew Him Best".

"The Panama Hat Trail" is the book of his I resonate with the most, as it takes place in Ecuador where he met and developed a friendship with Thomsen. But the project that impressed me the most was the "GeoTourism MapGuide" published by National Geographic, "Sonoran Heritage: The Human Story." He produced the text, which, together with graphics, stories and maps reflects the cultural and historical mix of the Sonoran Desert that crosses so many geographic, cultural and historic boundaries.

One of the first things I asked the author was how he was able to convince over 50 accomplished Latinos to share stories about language and life, including some of the greatest baseball stars such as Orlando Cepeda and Juan Marichal, and TV personality Cristina Saraglegui. He shared his secret with, "Yes, the National Geographic identity made all the difference in the world. I got my editor there to write a to-whom-it-may-concern letter, which I used as a battering ram."

The 55 stories are as diverse and compelling as the authors who wrote them. Gabriel Truillo Muńoz, a professor at a university in Mexicali on the border of Baja, California shares the cultural diversity that enriched his life, "It was the whole world in one neighborhood. I could hear polkas and mariachis, Japanese and Peking opera all at the same time. It was a triumphant Babel, defying divine punishment by proving that diversity is better than uniformity."

Peruvian Alejandro Necochea's essay, "Nothing Seemed Unreachable after Traveling through Europe in a Used Red Lada," reflects the power of being multi-lingual, "...We communicated in English, Spanish, and my mom's French, or a combination of the three, and somehow managed to make ourselves understood. We saw remarkable places and met fascinating people. I quickly forgot about the tough times in Heworth Grange. Instead, I saw a world of opportunities ahead. Nothing seemed unreachable." An internal medicine resident at the University of Pennsylvania, Necochea also organized a program to increase minority participation of health professionals at Yale University School of Medicine.

The first story I read was by Francisco Goldman, who is Guatemalan. He was born in Boston with a Guatemalan, Catholic mother, a Jewish American father and a Jewish Russian aunt. At four, he spoke fluent Spanish since he returned to Boston with his mother and her aunt from a long stay in Guatemala. "As long as I've been conscious of such things, I've had the sense of a double or divided life. Guatemala City and Massachusetts. Catholic and Jewish. Guatemalan and American. Contrasting memories of a populous, pungent patio of my grandparents' house in Guatemala City - chickens, parrots, my pet rabbit, the Indian girls who took care of and fussed over me - and of sitting for hours at the living room window in the Boston suburbs staring out at snow and remote-looking houses that were like mirror images of ours.

Eventually he lost his Spanish, which is why his essay is entitled, "Ghost Boy." Later in life, a Latin American author friend whose books' translation into English was botched remarked, "A country that speaks to the world only in its own language and describes reality to itself only in its own language will be able to convince itself of anything... (a timely observation given the growth of conspiracy theories and misinformation in this country). Eventually, Goldman would return to Guatemala with some friends and would regain his fluency in his 20's and begin covering the wars in Central America as a freelance journalist and, eventually, an author.

He describes bringing these two worlds together as, "...To borrow a certain literary metaphor, it was like constructing my own garden of forking paths that I can follow back into the past, to a place where that lost boy and I were never separated, and forward into a familiar landscape where two separate countries comprise one." His book "The Art of Political Murder: Who Killed the Bishop, is one of the most revealing tales of military violence in Guatemala. This book was recently made into an HBO production.

NewsHour PBS correspondent Ray Suarez's commentary in the "Foreword" of the book provides insights into some of the other fifty plus stories contained within. "The need to learn English was accompanied by wrenching personal circumstances: exile, illness, economic migration, family dissolution," but it was also "a proffered ticket to...the modern and changing world." In a piece from 1982's Hunger of Memory, for example, Richard Rodriguez recalls distinctions he made as a child between a private and a public language. Spanish that had always been his to use, but English, what he needed for school, felt more difficult to embrace. In a selection from her 2001 memoir, American Chica, Washington Post books editor Marie Arana tells how she feigned ignorance of English on her first day at a new elementary school so she'd be funneled into the Spanish-speaking class. Other contributors such as Alvaro Vargas Llosa, Walter Mercado, Enrique Fernandez and Daisy Zamora provide nuanced perspectives on the ongoing immigration debate, putting faces to the statistics and concrete meaning to broad points of policy and ideology.

About the Author

Tom Miller has been bringing us extraordinary stories of ordinary people for more than thirty years. His acclaimed travel books include The Panama Hat Trail, On the Border, and Trading with the Enemy: A Yankee Travels Through Castro's Cuba. Another of his titles, Jack Ruby's Kitchen Sink, won the Lowell Thomas Award for Best Travel Book of 2000. He has also edited two collections, Travelers' Tales Cuba, and Writing on the Edge: A Borderlands Reader. His articles have appeared in the Smithsonian, The New Yorker, The New York Times, LIFE, Natural History, and many other periodicals.

Mark D. Walker, Reviewer

Mark Zvonkovic's Bookshelf

Chateau Laux
David Loux
Wire Gate Press
9781954065017, $15.99 PB

This beautiful piece of storytelling set in colonial times that will forever touch a reader's heart and soul.

Colonial Pennsylvania, 1710 - 1715, Lawrence, a parentless young man who had been frequently demeaned by his grandfather, was rewarded by an inheritance of a prosperous brewery in Philadelphia. He hired a Native American guide to take him hunting in the wild, beyond the small farms and homesteads just on the fringes of the civilized world. When the guide decided to travel deeper into the wild lands, on his way north to the New York colonies, Lawrence remained behind to hunt alone, and during three solitary days he discovered the parts of himself not injured by his grandfather's abuse. The imagery of this event in the novel is beautiful. "The wilderness didn't judge. In aloneness, he found peace - if only for the moment - and his veins filled with a rushing motion, like the waters of a cold mountain stream." On his way back to civilization, Lawrence became lost and a storm made him seek shelter at an isolated farm, just on the edge of the wild. The farmer, Pierre, and his family took him in. Pierre, older than Lawrence, old enough to be his father, had come to the colonies from France, carrying with him his own scars of family abandonment, which, like Lawrence, he wanted to leave behind. From here the story unwinds, narrated in alternating sections by Lawrence, Pierre, Pierre's daughter, Catharine, Pierre's son, Jean, and several smaller characters when warranted by the story's twists and turns.

The writing in Chateau Laux is excellent, but what is most remarkable is the storytelling. The pacing in which the story is unfolded and the characters are revealed puts the reader in a comfortable chair, sitting in front of a roaring fire, mesmerized by the words in the narrative, and hoping that the storyteller will continue, without interruption, until the novel's end. There are back stories, carefully placed, that bring the narrators to life and, in several instances, serve as portents of tragedy to come. Imagery is often employed to build the carefully constructed plot. An example is an observation made, upon Jean's returning home to learn a dog had bitten Catharine, that "Ever quiet as it slipped into late afternoon, the day had the eerie apprehension of one thing ending and another not yet begun." Pierre's backstory is carefully layered into present events, and supports how important moments in the story are presented, like the arrival of Lawrence, Jean's joining a militia, and a tragic fire. In Pierre's past he mourned the loss of his mother, "putting her to rest while the drunken soldiers slept, placing her so deep she would never be disturbed." He cannot forget how his father rode away to petition the king and then failed to return, or how he was shown kindness during his tenure in the tailor shop after arriving in Philadelphia. The mixing of the past and the present gives an emotional depth to the story it would not otherwise have. Pierre kept the history of his family in France close, the reader hears much of it in interior monologue, until the night before Jean left with the militia, when he told Jean about his ancestor Inigo. This lays the groundwork for what is to come. He advised his son, "No matter the circumstance, remember that you are not an island of fear and despair." Although delivered by Pierre as fatherly advice, this proves to be a powerful observation in the story made true by the struggles of all of the narrators. And for Pierre, the backstory of his life in France came together with his present life after the McDonall incident, when he made the self-observation that, "He had a family that needed his guidance, in spite of his shortcomings, and his father had come through for him, after all, these many years later, a whisper from the past, the voice of reason." Lawrence did not have the good fortune of a father like Pierre's. But Pierre in the end took on that role for Lawrence in a brilliant conclusion when he granted the Chateau, and in a symbolic manner, Lawrence, use of his name.

The character development in Chateau Laux makes the novel great. So many modern novels have poorly crafted characters, who are no more than skeletons, placeholders for cheap twists of plot and, sadly, social commentary. Chateau Laux is art, the best of creative writing, a lighthouse among dim lights. A reader will feel Pierre and Lawrence, and the rest of the narrators, in his or her heart and soul. They become real people in a real story, and the moral a reader can take away is, as it should be, a moral composed by the reader, and not dictated by the author. It is a miracle of sorts, that the world is given such a beautiful work by David Loux, an event not unlike the birth of twin foals.

In The Shadows Of Enigma
Alex Rosenberg
Top Hat Books
c/o John Hunt Publishing
9781789046663, $19.95

This imaginative narrative about a woman's decades long struggle with World War II secrets is an engaging compilation of the many consequences suffered by that war's survivors.

There are two secrets in In The Shadows Of Enigma. The first, hinted at by the title and then explained in the preface, is that Germany's secret Enigma code had been cracked by the Polish intelligence service in 1942 and given to the western allies, but not announced for almost thirty years, leaving the Russians to assume, after they'd captured the code in Berlin, that it was still usable. The second secret is that Rita, the novel's primary protagonist, in 1947 found her son, Stefan, who she'd given to a woman in 1940 to save him from the Nazi roundup of Jews, and that Rita chose not to reveal that she had survived the Nazis, which would have led to Stefan's return to her, his birth mother. Ignoring the wartime flashbacks, the story's plot crosses many international boundaries: Austria, France, Spain, Australia, the United States and, at the end, Switzerland. In addition to Rita, there are even more characters than locales, each with a backstory: the main ones being, Schulke, the deNazified, yet deranged, Gestapo man turned German policeman, Gil, Rita's common law husband, Geoffrey St John, Rita's classmate at university and years later her boss in an Australian government post, Phil Morton, Rita's fellow employee at the United Nations, Frania Sajac, Stefan's foster mother, and, finally, Stefan Sajac, an officer in the German BfV and Rita's son.

The novel expertly weaves together a complex plot involving its many characters and locations. During the years through which the story moves, many historical events are carefully included, such as the Hungarian uprising against the Russians, the Suez Canal conflict, and the Cuban Missile Crisis, which add an element of authenticity to the plot. The characters cross paths repeatedly, but never confusingly, and their interspersed time lines develop an excellent suspense to the story. Yet, character development is not as robust as one would like to see in a literary novel. The many years and different locations are a distraction. One wishes that New York had arrived sooner, and that Australia had been briefer. The number of characters, each given a point of view during the plot, dilutes the presentation of Rita. Would that the reader could learn more about her than her thoughts and feelings that only directly support the plot. In The Shadows of Enigma is billed as a standalone sequel to the author's The Girl From Krakow. What that means is that Rita's background is to some extent repeated from the earlier book. The better approach, however, may have been less repetition and more development of Rita's character from the end of the earlier book. Yes, there are some insights from Rita regarding her past. But so many years pass and insights of her current circumstances are few. These comments are not to say the book is not a great read. On account of its story and suspense, In The Shadows Of Enigma is very enjoyable.

Girl In The Walls
A.J. Gnuse
c/o HarperCollins
9780063031807, $27.99

Girl In The Walls is a metaphorical tale about an orphan girl and a granddaughter clock, both occupying a house in the grip of fate.

Girl In The Walls is an allegory. The story takes place in an old house, in many instances in hidden places, gaps between the walls, crawl spaces beneath the floors, an old laundry chute, and a hidden corner of the attic. How can a girl, even a tiny one, squeeze into such places? It strains reality that she moves through these places, so quiet that the family living in the house doesn't notice her. But that doesn't matter. Elise, the heroine, the brothers, the parents, the friend, Brody, and, last but not least, the monster, Traust, must all be seen through a metaphorical window. What the characters do in the story and the circumstances they confront, a hurricane and a flood, a monster breaking through the walls, as examples, occupy the outskirts of the real world, on the edge of fantasy, and yet present a true picture of what it takes to overcome adversity and live in the real world.

The writing in the novel is extraordinary, a style that carries a reader along, a fast pace where appropriate and a slow stroll at other times. Sentences omit verbs when a still life sort of image is intended. Including a verb in those places would be like walking fast past a painting, giving it a glance. The author's style is brilliant, structuring sentences in the way he does to match a focus in a given section or the action in the plot. What happens in a termite swarm? The parents run up and down the stairs, closing windows, and turning off lights. But Eddie, calm and lying on his bed, ignores them, a quiet observation in his head: "Cracks beneath ill-cut doors and along the bottoms of the old storm windows, and holes in the foundation." The sentence says everything you need to know about bugs in a porous house, and about uncertainty in life. There are many beautiful metaphors in this novel. To judge them grammatically as sentence fragments would be a mistake.

Girl In The Walls is a brilliant piece of art. All of its parts work together to tell a story of many dimensions. Its characters and its plot are never conventional. Appreciation of the novel is enhanced by a reader's willingness to accept the unusual, to enjoy the passage of every hour in the story by the call of a bird sounded on a granddaughters clock, and to watch how a girl can wrap herself in a house "as if it were a winter coat." One wants Elise never to take it off, but of course she must, and Edward, having run out in bare feet to his mailbox to get his memento, is lucky enough to see the hem of her dress as she goes around the corner. At that point one realizes that the story of Girl In The Walls goes on forever.

Mark Zvonkovic, Reviewer

Michael Carson's Bookshelf

Echoes of Exclusion and Resistance
Robert Bauman & Robert Franklin, editors
Washington State University Press
PO Box 645910, Pullman, WA 99164-5910
9780874223828, $29.95, PB, 261pp

Synopsis: Mid-Columbia region history mirrors common American West multiracial narratives, but with important nuances. Collaboratively compiled and co-edited by Robert Bauman (Associate Professor of History at Washington State University Tri-Cities) and Robert Franklin (the Assistant Director of the Hanford History Project and specializing in U.S. history, historic preservation, and archival science), "Echoes of Exclusion and Resistance: Voices from the Hanford Region" is the third Hanford Histories volume in which scholars draw from oral histories in six outstanding essay to focus on the experiences of non-white groups such as the Wanapum, Chinese immigrants, World War II Japanese incarcerees, and African American migrant workers from the South, whose lives were deeply impacted by the Hanford Site. Linked in ways they likely could not know, each group resisted the segregation and discrimination they encountered, and in the process, challenged the region's dominant racial norms.

Critique: An impressive compendium of meticulous scholarship, "Echoes of Exclusion and Resistance: Voices from the Hanford Region" is enhanced for academia with the inclusion of an Appendix (Oral History Interviews: Ellenor Moore / Wallace 'Wally' Webster); a complete listing of the contributors and their credentials, a nine page Bibliography, and a three page Index -- making it especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, college, and university library Discrimination & Racism collections in general, and Cultural Anthropology / U.S. State & Local History supplemental curriculum studies lists in particular.

Immigrant Hustle
Amine Rahal
Tellwell Talent
9780228819585, $24.99, HC, 290pp

Synopsis: Compiled by Amine Rahal, "Immigrant Hustle: How 50 Entrepreneurs Came to America and Built Something Out of Nothing" is collection of interviews with 50 successful immigrant entrepreneurs from all over the world provides proof that the American dream is not only alive and well, but thriving. Furthermore, these stories show the great wealth (financial and cultural) that immigrants can offer the United States.

This country was founded by immigrants who set off to make a better life for themselves. Similarly, many of these innovators left behind war-torn countries, failing economies, and political unrest to find financial and personal security for themselves and their families. Along with them, they brought the wisdom and insight of their cultures, the sobriety of their perspectives on life, and an unending passion for innovation and hard-work.

On top of almost unanimously coming to the country without speaking the language, these enterprising business owners were jailed, took bullets, and overcame incurable diseases, all on their journey to becoming successful entrepreneurs. They hail from Mexico, Russia, Somalia, Afghanistan, China, Argentina, Lebanon, France, India, Kenya, Haiti, and several other countries, and they represent a wide swath of industries including healthcare, finance, cosmetics, fashion, food & beverage, technology and more.

Whether you are an immigrant in need of motivation to start your own business, or you're wondering if the US is still a great place to do business, you'll find "Immigrant Hustle: How 50 Entrepreneurs Came to America and Built Something Out of Nothing" filled from cover to cover with actionable and inspiring advice and examples that will help save you time and money on your own path to becoming an entrepreneur in America.

Critique: An effective and much needed counter-argument to the anti-immigrant bias that has deeply infected the country during the Trump Administration, "Immigrant Hustle: How 50 Entrepreneurs Came to America and Built Something Out of Nothing" is a critically important and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Immigrant Hustle: How 50 Entrepreneurs Came to America and Built Something Out of Nothing" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9780228819578, $19.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.99).

Editorial Note: Amine Rahal is an entrepreneur and author with over 20 years of experience in the fields of technology and marketing. He has written for multiple magazines, including Forbes, Thrive Global, Inc, MOZ, SEJ and many others. He is also a member of YEC and the Forbes Communication Council. Throughout his career, he has been working with entrepreneurs from all over the world and has lived in the US, Canada and China. He is currently the CEO of IronMonk Solutions and CMO at Regal Assets LLC.

Kengo Kuma: My Life as an Architect in Tokyo
Kengo Kuma
Thames & Hudson, Inc.
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110-0017
9780500343616, $24.95, HC, 128pp

Synopsis: Tokyo is Japan's cultural and commercial epicenter, bursting with vibrancy and life. Its buildings, both historical and contemporary, are a direct reflection of its history and its people. Kengo Kuma was only ten years old when he found himself so inspired by Tokyo's cityscape that he decided to become an architect. In his memoir, "My Life as an Architect in Tokyo", he engagingly relates the story of his career through the vehicle of twenty-five inspirational buildings in the city. Kuma's passion is evident, as well as his curiosity about construction methods and his wealth of knowledge about buildings around the world, making "My Life as an Architect in Tokyo" a unique commentary on Tokyo's dynamic architecture and revealing the beauty that exists in a city's everyday spaces.

Critique: An inherently fascinating, amazingly informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking read, "My Life as an Architect in Tokyo" by Kengo Kuma is a unique and highly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, college, and university library Contemporary Biography collections in general, and Architectural Studies supplemental curriculum lists in particular.

Kissing Fidel: A Memoir of Cuban American Terrorism in the United States
Magda Montiel Davis
University of Iowa Press
119 West Park Road, Iowa City, IA 52242-1000
9781609387266, $18.00, PB, 264pp

Synopsis: What does it mean to be instantly transformed into the most hated person in your community? After meeting Fidel Castro at a Havana reception in 1994, Cuban-born Magda Montiel Davis (who founded of one of the largest immigration law firms in South Florida), soon found out.

The reception, which was attended by hundreds of other Cuban emigres, was videotaped for historical archives. In a seconds-long clip, Fidel pecks the traditional protocol kiss on Montiel Davis's cheek as she thanks him for the social benefits conferred upon the Cuban people. The video, however, was mysteriously sold to U.S. reporters and aired incessantly throughout South Florida. Soon the encounter was an international cause celebre.

Life as she knew it was over for Montiel Davis and her family, including a father who worked with the CIA to topple Fidel, a no-hablo-ingles mother who lived with the family, her five children, and her Jewish Brooklyn-born attorney husband. "Kissing Fidel: A Memoir of Cuban American Terrorism in the United States" shares the sometimes dismal, sometimes comical realities of an ordinary citizen being thrown into a world of death threats, mob attacks, and terrorism.

Critique: A deftly crafted and impressively informative memoir, "Kissing Fidel: A Memoir of Cuban American Terrorism in the United States" is an extraordinary, unique, and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library American Biography collections in general, and Cuban/American Studies supplemental curriculum reading lists in particular. It should be noted for personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Kissing Fidel" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $17.10).

Michael J. Carson

Monika Kosman's Bookshelf

Louise Membership
Mohammad Elsanour
Yavi Publishing
Egypt - Cairo - Matarieh
2146718977978, $TBA, 191pp
Formats (HC, PB, Kindle): HC & PB, and Kindle version will be available soon

A young man in his final year in College of Pharmacy called Amir, and his uncle and cousin are killed by an unknown group, and one of his friends suggests to him that an old pharmacist named Salem participate in establishing a pharmacy, and it is established after that by Amir and that man, and during Amir's training in the hospital he falls in love with a girl named Reem. And the love story begins with her, so that in one day that group which called Louise Group comes and contacts Amir's father and gives him a week to find an important files that were with his brother before they got rid of him, and they threatened him with killing him and his family if their request wasn't fulfilled.

The required files were detailed information about a new drug that the company intends to produce and market as a strong analgesic & narcotic, but in reality it is an addictive drug.

Amir finds these files at last and sends them to the group, which covers up by working for a pharmaceutical company called Louise, which is in fact a very precise and global gang, so that group rewards him and employs him in the company in a large position, and Amir graduates and works with them, then he uses his smart mind to market that drug. Amir devises a set of ideas to promote and spread that drug, and build pharmacies for the company, stores, and hospitals, then the Emir uses that group to employ his fiancee Reem in State Security as she dreamed.

And when the authorities sensed the destructive effect of this drug, they immediately stopped importing it pending verification of its medicinal effects, and in the end they decided to include it in the list of controlled drugs.

Then, in the end, Reem is the one who reveals the gang members... She reports about them, except for Amir.

After the gang was arrested, Amir decided to return to his benevolent nature, help the sick, and completely separate from his previous work, and repentance for those wrong deeds which he was forced in order to maintain the safety of his family.

Monika Kosman

Peter Blaisdell's Bookshelf

In the Land of Men: A Memoir
Adrienne Miller
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062682413, $28.99 HC, $14.99 PB, $11.99 Kindle, $21.02 MP3-CD, 352pp

Curiously, In the Land of Men needed better editing; it's curious because this memoir was written by a former fiction editor of Esquire.

Early on, In the Land of Men is an arch portrait of a time when journals like Esquire made an effort to publish significant, literary short stories and Adrienne Miller navigated her way through this male-centric, sometimes inhospitable world to become a deciding voice in what got published. In later chapters, In the Land of Men narrows to focus on the author's relationship with one of these writers, David Foster Wallace. This turns out to be less interesting than it might sound.

Miller has a deft touch with the telling detail, and, at its best, In the Land of Men is an intriguing description of the 1990's New York world of letters, the most praise-worthy and well-reviewed denizens of which constituted 'the red hot center'. Esquire was a part of this world when Miller began curating fiction that the journal printed. She carried on a tradition stretching back decades to when Esquire published writers including Hemingway, Martin Amis, and Truman Capote. Would that Miller had included more commentary on the authors she crossed paths with as well as what separated a publishable story from the slush pile. Also, given her former vantage point, where does Miller think short-form fiction is heading now with the gate-keeper role of journal editors much reduced? In a post-literary world, will tweets and texts shouting the fraught emotions of the moment signify more than fiction addressing complex perspectives (or at least the latest output from MFA creative writing programs)?

Less compelling sections of In the Land of Men cathartically recount the author's relationship with writer David Foster Wallace of Infinite Jest and Pale King fame. Miller's association with Wallace appears to have deeply affected her and, besides examining the intricacies of their intense relationship, possibly the intent in devoting so many, many pages to this particular erudite, seemingly charismatic, and probably difficult man is to cast him as a concrete example - exhibit A, if you will - of a woman editor's travails in the testosterone fueled publishing world of that time. This memoir might have been entitled In the Land of Difficult Men. About half of the book is, charitably, a dialogue between Miller and Wallace offering some insight into the multifaceted relationship between this editor and author. Less charitably, this reads as pillow talk. Quarter-century old conversations are repeated and big chunks of this could have been pruned to the betterment of the overall narrative.

The interesting parts of In the Land of Men are the descriptions of how ego, talent and magazine publishing intersected at the turn of the century in a world not welcoming to women in its upper echelons. Other parts of the book can be skimmed or skipped.

I can't resist an addendum: One wonders how Wallace would have described the relationship with Miller? Per film producer Robert Evans, "There are three sides to every story: your side, my side, and the truth. And no one is lying. Memories shared serve each one differently."

Speaking out of school, this might have worked better as a literate, romantic novel.

Peter W. Blaisdell, Reviewer

Robin Friedman's Bookshelf

What is a Chemical Element? A Collection of Essays by Chemists, Historians, Philosophers, and Educators
Eric Scerri and Elena Ghibaudi, editors
Oxford University Press
9780190933784, $99.95

The Chemical Elements Philosophically Considered

I became interested in this book, "What is a Chemical Element?: A Collection of Essays by Chemists, Philosophers, Historians, and Educators" (2020) through my interest in philosophy. In particular, I had been reading about a form of philosophical naturalism, sometimes called "scientism" which attempts to reduce, both ontologically and epistemologically, reality and knowledge to the findings and methods of the sciences, especially physics. Philosophical naturalism and some of its alternatives are discussed in a recent book of essays, "Responses to Naturalism: Critical Perspectives from Idealism and Pragmatism" edited by philosopher Paul Giladi.

I had earlier read books by the chemist and philosopher Eric Scerri which seemed suggestive to me in approaching these issues of scientific naturalism in a technical way by a writer with a much more intensive knowledge of the sciences than that of most philosophers. Scerri is the co-editor of this book together with Elena Ghibaudi, a bioinorganic chemist and Assistant Professor of Chemistry at the University of Torino, Italy. Scerri and I have exchanged emails over the past several years, and he and Oxford University Press kindly sent me a review copy of this recent book.

This book is part of a relatively recent discipline called philosophy of chemistry in which chemists identify and explore the philosophical questions suggested by their studies. The philosophy of chemistry, of course, appeals to chemists and others with philosophical interests and not to all practitioners or students of chemistry. Through his many books and articles exploring the periodic table and what it teaches about the chemical elements and other matters in chemistry, Scerri is one of the leading figures in the philosophy of chemistry. He and Ghibaudi try to explain the importance of the field and of integrating philosophical questions with chemical studies in this book, which consists of fourteen essays by an international group of scholars who show great learning and thoughtfulness both in chemistry and in philosophical reflection.

Most students receive a rudimentary exposure to the chemical elements in high school. The nature of a chemical element is difficult to pin down. Each of the essays in this volume consider as a starting point the two-part definition of "element" propounded by the Gold Book of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) which reads:

"a species of atoms: all atoms with the same number of protons in the atomic nucleus

a pure chemical substance composed of atoms with the same number of protons in the atomic nucleus. Sometimes this concept is called the elementary substance as distinct from the chemical element as defined above, but mostly the term chemical element is used for both concepts."

The book explores the many issues raised by this definition in addition to its awkwardness. The first part phrases the definition in terms of atoms while the second begins with an apparently broader reference to a pure chemical substance. One part of the definition suggests reductiveness to simple substance while the other suggests elements as constituitive -- for example water is a compound of hydrogen and oxygen but the properties of these elements are lost when they combine to form water. Some of the volume's essays try to reconcile the two parts of the definition of element but most of the contributions to the volume suggest a troubling inconsistency between the two parts of the definition. Then too, some of the essays suggest that both prongs of the definition may be read naturalistically while other essays argue that the concept of element has a metaphysical or "transcendent" component that cannot be reduced to, say, a physical object such as a quantity of gold contained in a jar.

The essays explore the understanding of the nature of chemical element developed in the history of chemistry. The early competing views of Lavoisier and of the founder of the periodic table, Mendeleev, receive sustained attention in most of the essays. The essays also discuss the views of the 20th century chemist and philosopher Fritz Paneth who discussed the inconsistent naturalistic understandings of the nature of the chemical element and argued in favor of an overtly transcendent, metaphysical definition.

The essays also explore the views of many philosophers going back to the Pre-Socratics and to Aristotle. Some of the essays use the insights of theories of meaning and reference in analytic philosophy and the work of contemporary thinkers including Hilary Putnam. Kant is the historical philosopher receiving the most attention in this work. The First Critique is discussed in several essays and some go further to explore Kant's late writings on science. The work on elements of the twentieth century neo-Kantian philosopher Ernest Cassirer is explored as is the work of the more transcendental thinker Eduard von Hartmann who does not receive a great deal of attention from most contemporary philosophers.

The Introduction to the volume by Scerri and Ghibaudi gives a brief overview of the volume while Scerri's own essay "The Many Questions Raised by the Dual Concept of 'Element' explores and integrates the philosophical and chemical questions involved in understanding the nature of chemical elements and offers Scerri's own thoughts on their resolution. Ghibaudi co-authored the concluding essay, "The Dual Concept of the Chemical Element: Epistemic Aspects and Implications for Chemical Education." The philosophical discussions in this volume are combined with discussions of contemporary and historical issues in the science of chemistry, some of which presuppose a working knowledge of the discipline that most philosophers are unlikely to possess.

I am not a chemist but I was able to learn from and be challenged by this volume with my interest in philosophy. I was struck by the difference in approach between the Giladi volume mentioned early in this review and this book. In some ways, the philosophers and the chemists seem to by-pass one another even in their philosophical reflections. With a little digging, the approaches share some commonalities. I think the philosophers of chemistry as represented in this book would benefit from seeing how philosophers without a background in their discipline approach some of the broader questions they try to address. The philosophers in their turn would benefit from some particular knowledge of the sciences and of the work of scientists with a philosophical turn of mind, such as Scerri. This volume will reward reading by those with a serious interest in both philosophy and in the natural sciences.

Against the Hounds of Hell: A Life of Howard Thurman
Peter Eisenstadt
University of Virginia Press
9780813944524, $34.95

A Biography Of Howard Thurman

It is rare late in life to find a writer that becomes treasured, but I had the good fortune in finding such a writer in Howard Thurman. Thurman (1899 -- 1980) was an African American mystic, educator, theologian, philosopher, and civil rights activist. I learned of Thurman through my study of Martin Luther King and through my interest in philosophical mysticism. Many other people are coming to share a fascination with Thurman. Late in 2020, Paul Harvey wrote his short biography, "Howard Thurman and the Disinherited: A Religious Biography." Within months, Peter Eisenstadt published this new more detailed biography, "Against the Hounds of Hell: A Life of Howard Thurman" (2021). Both Harvey's and Eisenstadt's books taught me a great deal and will reward reading by those interested in Thurman. This review is of the Eisenstadt volume.

Eisenstadt is a widely-published historian in a unique position to write a biography of Thurman. He was the co-author with Quinton Dixie of an earlier book about Thurman's trip to India, "Visions of a Better World: Howard Thurman's Pilgrimage to India and the Origins of African American Nonviolence" (2011). For many years, he was the associate editor with the scholar of religion Walter Fluker of the Howard Thurman Papers Project which resulted in the publication of five volumes of Thurman's papers and two volumes of his unpublished sermons. These volumes will be invaluable to students of Thurman, and Eisenstadt makes extensive use of them in his biography, together with a broad range of published and unpublished material by and about Thurman.

Thurman's work and life combine a deeply introspective philosophical mysticism and sense of unity in apparent diversity with a strong commitment to social activism, particularly as it involves the lives of African Americans and of downtrodden people everywhere. Eisenstadt discusses both the mystical and the activist components of Thurman, but gives a strong emphasis throughout the book on the latter. I have tended to see Thurman more as a spiritual seeker and teacher, and this role might have received more emphasis in the book.

The volume's title, "Against the Hounds of Hell" is taken from Thurman's most famous book, "Jesus and the Disinherited" (1949) which became a critical work for the Civil Rights Movement. Eisenstadt discusses the book in detail with a focus on fear, hypocrisy, and hatred, the three "hounds of hell" that Thurman describes as tracking the trail of the disinherited. Among many other things, Eisenstadt draws an insightful parallel between Thurman's hounds of hell and the hellhounds in a source Thurman probably didn't know: the "Hellhounds on my Trail" in the iconic song by bluesman Robert Johnson. Similar parallels and references run through and enhance Eisenstadt's book.

The biography begins in the middle of Thurman's life, in 1935-36, when he travelled to India with his wife and another couple as part of a "Negro Delegation". The importance of this trip to Thurman's work cannot be overstated and is the subject of Eisenstadt's earlier book on Thurman. The delegation became the first group of African Americans to meet Gandhi. While passing through the fabled Khyber Pass, Thurman experienced an epiphany which inspired him to create "a religious fellowship developed in America that was capable of cutting across all racial barriers, with a carry-over into the common life." Thurman would work towards the fulfillment of this vision in his role in establishing and leading the first interracial church in the United States, the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples, in San Francisco. It was an ambitious and visionary ideal.

The remainder of the biography is presented chronologically, beginning with Thurman's childhood in the heavily segregated and poor community of Daytona, Florida, through his education and positions at Howard University, the Fellowship Church, Boston University, and the broader, untethered ministry in the last years of his life. The book closely intertwines the story of Thurman's life, including his long second marriage to Sue Bailey Thurman, and his friends and critical influences, with a consideration of his thought and writings. Thus many chapters begin with a biographical narrative followed by a discussion of Thurman's key writings from the period. Among the writings of Thurman that receive close discussion are "Jesus and the Disinherited", mentioned above, his thesis at Rochester Theological Seminary which focused on sexuality, the studies of the Negro Spirituals, "Deep River and the Negro Speaks of Life and Death", the account of the early years of the Fellowship Church, "Footprints of a Dream", his discussion of spiritual growth in "Disciplines of the Spirit", his late discussion of segregation at the close of the Civil Rights Era, "The Luminous Darknes" the attempt to summarize his mystical and social philosophy in "The Search for Common Ground", and his autobiography completed just before his death, "With Head and Heart." Eisenstadt's discussion of his sources is always insightful and should encourage readers of the biography to explore some of these works for themselves.

The book describes well the influences on Thurman and those whom he greatly influenced. The former group includes the South African novelist and feminist Olive Schreiner, whom Thurman studied throughout his life, as well as the Quaker mystic and philosopher Rufus Jones. The latter group includes a spectrum of individuals, including Martin Luther King, Jr. the Jewish thinker Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, Walter Pankhe, James Farmer, Jesse Jackson, and many other leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. Thurman's influence continues. He may ultimately be remembered, in my view, more for his spirituality and mysticism than for his political commitments and his role as an advocate for civil rights, crucial and important as these are.

Eisenstadt clearly loves his subject and understands Thurman well, writing, with an allusion to the title of Thurman's anthology of the writings of Olive Schreiner that "[f]or the past quarter century, with a few extended breaks, I have been trying to take the measure of this extraordinary man. What began as a job has become a calling and a mission, my track to the water's edge." The book is clearly, if densely written, and benefits from slow reading. The endnotes refer to and expand upon the many sources discussed in the text, many of which merit pursuing on their own. The biography concludes with an eloquent summary of Thurman's vision and of his continued importance which reads in part.

"In his democratic vision, all people were infinitely equal; in his world, boundaries were just lines drawn on a map and religious creeds just words written in a book; in his universe everything was alive, connected, and filled with divine sparks. .... Those touched by his message must continue to oppose humanity's most tenacious and implacable foe, our voluntary imprisonment within our fears, our lies, and our hatreds. Let us take up Howard Thurman's battle against the hounds of hell."

I was moved in reading Eisenstadt's biography together with the earlier biography by Harvey. Thurman is a pivotal individual in 20th Century American life. Readers will benefit from getting to know him.

Reaches of Heaven: A Story Of The Baal Shem Tov
Issac Bashevis Singer, author
Ira Moskowitz, illustrator
Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
9780374516482, $12.00 paperback

I.B. Singer And The Baal Shem Tov

After I.B. Singer received the Nobel Prize in 1978, he collaborated with the artist Ira Moskowitz on a limited edition book of 275 copies telling the story of the great Jewish mystic and teacher Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer known as the Baal Shem Tov. Fortunately, in 1980 the expensively-produced book was made available, with Moskowitz' art, in a reasonably priced trade edition. I bought this venerable trade edition many years ago on the remainder shelf at a time when I was greatly interested in Jewish mysticism and in Singer. I have been revisiting Singer and was inspired when I reread this book after many years.

Singer's "Reaches of Heaven" tells the story of the Baal Shem Tov who lived in Poland from about 1700 -- 1760. Baal Shem Tov is an honorific title meaning "Master of the Good Name". He is the founder of Hasidism which became a powerful force in Jewish life.

Not much is known about the Baal Shem Tov's life. His parents died when he was young and he was raised an orphan. He became a student and was early attracted to Jewish mystical texts. He became a wandering rabbi and through his personality and charisma attracted a large following together with controversy with established Jewish Orthodoxy. Few Jewish figures are more revered.

Singer writes that his story is an attempt to capture imaginatively the Baal Shem's spirit. He sees the Baal Shem as a "man of deep belief in God and of much doubt in man and his abilities to reach perfection. He was, like all great religious thinkers, a lonely man, both primitive and refined, enchanted by the divine powers and pained by man's suffering, by his bitter struggle and often by his pettiness." He captures the character and the appeal of the Baal Shem Tov in his book.

Singer describes the Baal Shem as heavily influenced by the Kaballah and its teachings of the ever-presence of God in what appears to be diversity. As he matured, the young rabbi gradually found his own path to Jewishness. He became critical of what he saw as the over-intellectualized, elitist character of the Judaism of his day and tried to make the teachings more accessible to unlearned people. He taught the importance of emotion, enthusiasm, and serving God with the heart and with love. The Baal Shem wanted God to be worshiped through dance, song, and feeling, not merely the intellect. Singer's story stresses how the Baal Shem made Judaism more inclusive of women. There is a strong sexual current in Singer's story as the Baal Shem recognizes and tries to channel his own sexuality and that of his followers. His Hasidic movement had conflicts both with Jewish heresies of his time and with the more traditionally inclined, perhaps scholastic part of the religion.

The Baal Shem Tov was a dreamer and a visionary. Although the Baal Shem Tov left no writings, Singer emphasizes one of his followers, his great grandson Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav who left extensive writings. Singer aptly describes Rabbi Nachman as "one of the greatest religious minds of all times." I remember being moved deeply by Rabbi Nachman's tales when I read them years ago.

Singer's book offers insight into the Baal Shem's life and times but more importantly it offers insight into his spirit and into why he is revered, even by those with little attachment to organized Jewish life. Singer himself was such a person. This book reminded me of the attraction Hasidism and Jewish mysticism held for me for many years. I was glad to revisit this book and to think again about Jewish mysticism, Rabbi Nachman, and the Baal Shem Tov.

Robin Friedman

Suanne Schafer's Bookshelf

Witch in the White City
Nick Wisseman
Independently Published
9798643608516, $7.99

As a writer, I've done some research on the American Gilded Age and the World's Columbian Exposition Chicago World's Fair of 1893 (the World's Fair). Wisseman does an outstanding job blending exemplary research into a very dark alternate history fantasy, even mentioning that Buffalo Bill was denied a place there for his Wild West Show and had to arrange his show outside of the Fair itself.

Neva, a black woman, is a dancer in a sideshow at the Fair in its Algerian Theatre. One day she looks up into the rafters and sees insects crawling everywhere - and dropping down on her. She's bitten multiple times, resulting in strange marks rising on her skin. A Columbian Guard notices her rash and warns that people with similar sores have been murdered, but before they died, the victims lost their minds.

The Columbian Exposition was an illusion, covering the dire straits of the Panic of 1893, a depression that started in the middle of the United States and spread to the financial centers with banks failing. People stood in soup lines, while the rich partied at the Fair. Set at a time when the civil war remained a living memory, many white individuals still openly discriminated against nonwhites. Witch in the White City is a wild ride of suspense, magic, social corruption and history. It's an interesting mixture of facts strewn in a great deal of dark fantasy.

A Lullaby in the Desert
Mojgan Azard
9781912092819, $11.99

A Lullaby in the Desert, though fiction, is a stark book that conveys the horror of real events currently occurring in certain parts of the Middle East. Azard goes a wonderful job setting the scene of bombed out skeletons of buildings, the tension of getting through life on a day-to-day basis while living in a war zone, and that war zone is split between multiple factions and shifts constantly. Not only that, woman are viewed as worthless except for their sexual potential. They are forced to hide themselves beneath shawls, hijabs, and chadoors so men cannot sin by gazing upon them.

The protagonist, Susan, is currently the sole support of a disabled mother (her hand was destroyed in an argument with her husband) and a drug-addicted father. She flees home at an early age to avoid marriage to a much older man. Eventually, Susan decides to attempt an escape to Germany and arranges for passage with a human smuggler. On this journey she experiences many devastatingly traumatic moments. This book is not an easy read, full of truly unspeakable views of man's inhumanity to his fellow men - and women. The story ends when Susan reaches the ocean. I would have loved to see the book continue and to see her complete her journey. Despite her travails, this is a longing for a better life, a journey of hope.

The story is told in a rather distant third-person omniscient point of view with the reader seeing into many of the characters' heads, and I wonder if it might have been more compelling in a closer third-person POV.

Fatal Intent
Tammy Euliano, M.D.
Oceanview Publishing
9781608094165, $26.95

As a physician, I was sucked right into this book, partly because of the medical accuracy (the author is a physician herself), the strong female protagonist, and the end-of-life issues.

Anesthesiologist Dr. Kate Downey realizes that elderly patients are dying at home days after minor surgery. And she provided anesthesia to several of them. The question remains, did they did of natural causes or some form of malpractice. She approaches her superiors and quickly learns that protecting the hospital is more important than searching out the causes of these deaths.

Euliano does a great job in upping Kate's stakes. The woman has recently suffered a miscarriage, and now, with her beloved husband in a coma from a traumatic brain injury from an IED, there won't be another child, at least not with him. Eventually, as she realizes that the deaths are due to a serial killer, she eventually has to choose which of her loved ones must be sacrificed and which she can save. on Kate. Or a serial killer? And why doesn't anyone care? wants to know why, but her unorthodox investigation threatens her job, her family, and her very life. The stakes escalate to the breaking point when Kate, under violent duress, is forced to choose which of her loved ones to save - and which must be sacrificed.

This is a fast-paced medical drama that deals with end-of-life issues every physician - and every family - must deal with. Who should be saved? Who should be allowed to die? And who should play God?

Odin's Child
Siri Pettersen
9781646900008, $19.95

This is a YA fantasy story loosely based on Norse Mythology. The story combines fantasy with a young adult love story in the classic hero's quest. The protagonist is Hirka, a fifteen-year-old girl who is different from everyone else she knows. She was born without a tail. As a baby she was left out in the snow and found and raised by a kind man. She faces the coming-of-age ritual all teens in the country face, but she is unable to bind, the critical requirement of the test. She runs away to avoid the test, and thus begins her adventures. Evil lurks everywhere as do challenges.

The world building is stupendous. The fantasy vocabulary is not so extensive that you need to speak Norwegian to "get" it. The characters are unique. An enjoyable read.

The Sound Between the Notes
Barbara Linn Probst
She Writes Press
9781647420123, $16.95

The Sound Between the Notes by Barbara Linn Probst is beautifully-written, engrossing, and emotional journey through a woman's search for her own identify. Throughout the novel, Susannah's choices have dramatic effects upon her family. Adopted at birth, the protagonist Susannah, has an adoptive mother who tells her she's a special child, chosen to be their daughter. This woman sacrifices to give her daughter the education needed to become a great classical pianist. Despite having such a loving family, Susannah once she's off at college, journeys back to Texas to discover her roots. Eventually, she gives up that search, but when she marries and becomes pregnant, she feels she has to do better by her son. She gives up her career as a promising musician to become a full-time mother.

As her son, James grows up, Susannah feels she can return to her former profession - only to discover she is having physical difficulties with playing a piece she's played for ages. She soon learns that she has Dupuytren's contracture, a progressive hereditary disease that causes the fingers to contract toward the palm of the hand. With this diagnosis, she becomes obsessed about her future and resumes her search for her Texas family.

The author is a musician, and her love of music pervades the book: the marvelous descriptions of not just the notes of music, but the fingering, and the way Susannah thinks of everything in terms of music. Overall, this is a lovely, nuanced book about motherhood, family, career, and loss.

With the compelling theme of adoption and loss, this book would be well read in the company of Surrender: A Memoir of Nature, Nurture, and Love by Marylee MacDonald. Like Susannah, MacDonald was a "chosen" child, yet playing against those feelings tied up in her adoption, is the sixteen-year-old MacDonald suffers when she gives up her own child at age sixteen.

In Times of Rain and War
Camron Wright
Shadow Mountain
9781629728544, $26.99

In Times of Rain and War by Camron Wright is a fictionalized World War II historical fiction novel that looks at British Bomb Disposal Unit and is based in part upon diaries written by volunteers. It describes the devastation and destruction of England, particularly London, during the Blitz. It is fast-paced, yet poignant and compelling with lovely imaging and prose. The heroine, Audrey Stocking is a German Jew masquerading as British to escape Hitler. The hero, Lieutenant Wesley Bowers is an American in training with the Bomb Squad.

The novel also looks at PTSD and how people can survive a war but never leave it fully behind. While something of a romance, there is a twist at the end that carries In Times of Rain and War beyond the usual sappy war romance. It is fast-paced, yet poignant and compelling with lovely imaging and prose. Author Camron Wright makes good use of literary sequels to highlight some of the most important scenes.

I received an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and impartial review.

The Unkindness of Ravens
M. E. Hilliard
Crooked Lane Books
9781643856940, $26.99

M.E. Hilliard's debut novel, The Unkindness of Ravens, grabbed me from the first page. I was hooked by the first person narrator, Greer Hogan, a former New York City high-powered executive who turns into a small town librarian after the death of her husband. Greer's intelligence and personality shine through from the onset. I immediately bonded with a gal who's read all the Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew mysteries and prefers Trixie to Nancy because Trixie "got into more trouble." Greer is uncertain Nancy's boyfriend Ned Nickerson, who Greer had always envisioned as a Ken doll, was even "anatomically correct." She's much more attracted to Trixie Beldon's beau. Jim Frayne had a "working-class background ... and came into a pile of money at an early age" and became "a prototype Nora Roberts hero." Despite this irreverent look at childhood heroines, Hilliard aligns her protagonist with these girl detectives, as well as others within the mystery genre, including Agatha Christie's Miss Marple and Hercules Poirot.

Hilliard has also done a bang-up job in creating a chilling atmosphere complete with a spooky, creaky old mansion-turned-public-library, populated by dark Victorian images of the former owners of the manor. the requisite nooks and crannies, creaking floors, and drafty windows, and ravens inside and out - and hints of the supernatural as well. The suspense rises as Greer, whose husband was murdered in NYC, finds a dead body in the library. The book is well-plotted as the body count rises. It's well-written, sort of a cozy mystery with a bit of an edge to it. I'm eager for the second book in this series.

I received an advanced copy of this book from the author in exchange for a fair and impartial review.

Letters Across the Sea
Genevieve Graham
Simon & Schuster; Export edition
9781982169343, $17.99

Letters Across the Sea is an account of Canadian history from the Great Depression until shortly after the end of World War II. Molly Ryan, a lass with an Irish background, has loved Max Dreyfus, a Jewish boy, since childhood. During the 1933 Christie Pits Riot in Toronto, the largest ethnic riot in Canadian history, Molly is attacked by an anti-Semitic Nazi sympathizer, but is rescued by Max. When her father sees her kiss Max, he starts to beat Max. A brick comes from nowhere, striking her father and giving him a brain injury, leaving him with permanent neurological deficits. The two families, who have gotten along well to this point, split in a dramatic fashion.

Max goes on to medical school while Molly achieves her goal of becoming a newspaper reported. As Britain fights the Nazis, Canadians are drawn into the war as well with disastrous results. Max is held in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp.

Author Graham does a wonderful job dealing with the horrors of war, neither minimizing nor sensationalizing them and brings light to the problems suffered by the soldiers who return: loss of limbs, blindness, PTSD, and emotional and psychological scarring.

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and partial review.

The Angle of Flickering Light
Gina Troisi
Vine Leaves Press
9781925965483, $14.99

Gina Troisi's lawyer father is a serial philanderer. Rather than being secretive about his affairs, he tells five-year-old Gina and her sister about them before he abandons them to marry his secretary, Brenda. That impropriety marks the beginning of years of verbal abuse and neglect from her father and psychological torment from Brenda. These assaults on Gina's young psyche in turn lead to her own drug abuse and participation in codependent relationships (particularly with John, a heroin addict) as she searches for a home, a place to call her own, both within and without herself. Gina is fortunate, though, to have an involved and caring mother and grandfather.

With lean prose, heavily laced with personal insight, Gina places a harsh spotlight on herself yet manages to maintain a spark of humanity alive within her during as she for self-acceptance and a home.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Suanne Schafer, Reviewer

Susan Bethany's Bookshelf

A Shimmer of Joy: One Hundred Children's Picture Books
Chris Loker
David R. Godine, Publisher
Fifteen Court Square, Suite 320, Boston, MA 02108-2536
9781567926569, $35.00, HC, 256pp

Synopsis: It has always been a wonder how simple words and images can make a children's picture book so magical that one reading can create a cherished memory for life. Compiled with commentary by Chris Loker, "A Shimmer of Joy" showcases 100 books that amply prove that at its best, the children's picture book is an art form of memorable elegance and interest that endures from generation to generation. Profusely illustrated throughout, "A Shimmer of Joy" showcases books will be remembered, along with new gems to be discovered.

Ranging from The Tale of Peter Rabbit (1901) to Last Stop on Market Street (2015), each of the 100 books are deftly presented with a cover and inside spread along with an informative explanation about the qualities that combine to make a successful picture book: the interplay between words and images, the dynamic pulse of picture and narrative that compels us to turn the page and follow the story, the sometimes quirky elements that appeal to both children and adults alike. It affirms what we all instinctively know, and have known since childhood -- that a picture book is a work of literary art and theater all rolled into one, miraculously blended and irresistibly presented.

Additionally, "A Shimmer of Joy" provides an intriguing array of information, not only about the books but also about the authors, artists, publishers, and designers who created them. Along the way, the reader gains insight into the evolving eras of children's literature and book publishing in the 20th and 21st century, with fascinating stories of its publication history and biographies of the creators.

Critique: Gaining a new, deeper, appreciation for the picture book while also remembering a time when, sitting in a classroom or on a lap, someone read you a book and opened up your world, "A Shimmer of Joy" is an absolute and often nostalgic 'must' for the picture book collector, the dedicated bibliophile, and children's book enthusiast. Fully living up to its title, this unique and impressively memorable collection is guaranteed to provide nothing but joy and unstintingly recommended for personal, family, professional, community, college, and university library collections.

Editorial Note: Chris Loker is an antiquarian bookseller in San Francisco, specializing in antique children's books from 1750 to 1950. Loker serves on the boards of the Grolier Club, the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, Rare Book School at the University of Virginia, and Bring Me a Book. She is also the curator of "One Hundred Books Famous in Children's Literature", an exhibition of landmark children's books at the Grolier Club in New York City.

Avenca: Nature's Secret For Weight Loss
Leslie Taylor, ND
Square One Publishers
115 Herricks Road, Garden City Park, NY 11040
9780757004919, $16.95, PB, 192pp

Synopsis: While there may not be any perfect formula for people to lose weight, nature may have created one that comes very close to being perfect. Avenca is a plant that grows in forests throughout the world, and for centuries it has been safely used as an herbal remedy for numerous aliments. Recently, however, new research has shown that along with its healing benefits, it can also prevent fats, sugars, and starches from being absorbed during digestion -- the very elements responsible for weight gain. Based on Dr. Taylor's research and testing, "Avenca: Nature's Secret For Weight Loss" provides a complete guide to understanding how avenca works and how it can be used to lose those unwanted pounds. And considering that over seventy million Americans are classified as obese, the timing could not have been better.

Dr. Taylor begins by explaining what Avenca is and how, as a traditional herbal remedy, it has been used to treat dozens of health disorders ranging from respiratory issues to toothaches. She then goes on to look at the latest research on avenca's use as a weight loss supplement. Dr. Taylor first examines the factors behind its ability to block fats, sugars, and starches, but then she goes further. Using the most recent and groundbreaking studies on the gut's microbiome (the collection of good and bad bacteria in the gut) she explains why some of us are "naturally" fat and others "naturally" skinny. This is followed by a consumer's guide to buying and using avenca. Just as important, Dr. Taylor includes a chapter on the avenca weight loss plan. And while the focus of the book is certainly on shedding extra weight, the author also provides a chapter that looks at all the other health conditions avenca has been used to treat.

With avenca, it's no longer about counting calories, since you can eat what you normally eat. It's about your body no longer absorbing fats, sugars, and starches. And interestingly enough, you are likely to feel fuller quicker. Yes, avenca will be a game changer, but as a consumer you will find that the information in this book will help you ask the right questions, become a savvy shopper, and most important, allow you to reach your ideal weight.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented for the benefit of the non-specialist general reader with an interest in weight control, "Avenca: Nature's Secret For Weight Loss" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, college, and university library Health/Medicine collections and Weight Control supplemental studies curriculums. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Avenca: Nature's Secret For Weight Loss" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.95).

Editorial Note: Ms. Leslie Taylor founded, managed and directed the Raintree group of companies from 1996 to 2012. ( She is also the author of "Herbal Secrets of the Rainforest" (published September 1998) and "The Healing Power of Rainforest Herbs" (published in March 2005). Leslie is also the author of the extensive online Tropical Plant Database on rainforest medicinal plants. ( She is currently writing a new series of books called The Rainforest Medicinal Plant Guide Series.

Don't Believe the Hype of the Negative Media
Coach Michael Taylor
Creation Publishing Group LLC
9780996948784 $16.99 pbk

Synopsis: Contrary to popular belief, the future is optimistic; can you even imagine what would happen if you welcomed life's positivity with open arms?

Much more than being just a philosophy, optimism has a scientific background. Even more, it's a state of mind that has the power to change one's world - if not the whole world. The dictionary defines optimism as 'hopefulness and confidence about the future or the success of something'.

Somewhere along the way, we forgot how to be hopeful and confident that the future is bright. We became overwhelmed with negative mainstream media that's spreading like wildfire. We lost touch with the Divine Intelligence and lost ourselves in other's prognosis of the future.

Within the pages of this book, you'll discover wisdom based on science, psychology and, spirituality.

Critique: Don't Believe the Hype of the Negative Media is a self-help book that focuses upon the profound power of optimism, a state of mind key to bringing about beneficial change. Chapters discuss what it means to be human; the concept of Divine Intelligence as the driving force behind evolution; spirituality as a way to connect to the Divine Intelligence; the understanding that the only "race" is the human race; the transcendental power of love; and much more. Don't Believe the Hype of the Negative Media is an invaluable and uplifting addition to self-help collections, highly recommended.

Nights of the Moonless Sky
N. S. Vishwanath
Archway Publishing
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781480895744, $29.99, HC, 260pp

Synopsis: In the sixteenth century in South India and the Vijayanagara Empire is in the throes of a succession struggle that threatens to disrupt the peace of the realm.

Far away from the chaos, the splendorous estate of Madhuvana sits in relative heaven where its seventy-year-old patriarch, Rajanna, has just died. After elders decree that his widows are to perform an ancient ritual in which a widow is cremated alive, the lives of three people intersect. Aadarshini is Rajanna's twenty-two-year-old third wife and mother of his heir. Azam Khan is Rajanna's trusted bodyguard, left rudderless after the death of his master. Prabhakara Swami is the enigmatic temple priest who holds the strings that control the fates of others.

When Aadarshini is thrust into a forbidding darkness, she discovers what it means to become the hero of her own story as destiny tosses her around like a straw in the wind. While events in the capital close in around her, she must seize her fate and overpower not just those who want to see her down, but also her inner demons.

"Nights of the Moonless Sky: A Tale from the Vijayanagara Empire" by N. S. Vishwanath is the story of a widow of a South Indian patriarch who embarks on a journey of self-discovery in order to take control of her destiny and survive in an uncertain world.

Critique: An original, deftly crafted, and inherently absorbing historical novel by an author with a genuine flair as a novelist for the kind of narrative storytelling style that is fully entertaining from first page to last, "Nights of the Moonless Sky: A Tale from the Vijayanagara Empire" by N. S. Vishwanath" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to community library Historical Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Nights of the Moonless Sky: A Tale from the Vijayanagara Empire" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781480895768, $15.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.99).

Susan Bethany

Susan Keefe's Bookshelf

Get Thee to a Bakery: Essays
Rick Bailey
University of Nebraska Press
9781496225511, $19.95 pbk / $17.69 Kindle 228 Pages

Firstly I have to say that I loved this book. The author's style of writing is easy to read and humorous. Written in chapters, this series of essays is part memoir and part travelogue. They are taken from Rick Bailey's observations on his environment, and the social and technological changes which have occurred during his lifetime. Whilst I know humour is deeply personal, this book is steeped in it, and it covers a wide variety of subjects. I challenge anyone not to have a chuckle at the author's antics, and observations.

The essays cover a myriad of subjects. For example, in the Chapter 1 Get Thee to a Bakery, the author is completing a regular task which requires him to climb a stepladder when his wife says "I wish you wouldn't do that." A harmless comment, but it prompts memories of tales he has heard of the perils of this a seemingly simple task. The author consoles himself with the knowledge that, should he survive, he will go and get some pumpkin pie which itself triggers other reflections.

Chapter 4 Con te partiro, is one of my favourites, because I suffer terribly from it. 'Earworms,' otherwise known as those tunes which become lodged in your head when someone says, "What was that song which such and such sang in/at?" Or those insidious ones which arrive on Monday morning, and you find yourself still humming them on Friday. Rick reflects on being stuck with the famous Andrea Bocelli song replaying in his ear while taking the reader on a short tour of San Francisco. I wonder if I should take a leaf from the author's book and get the anti-earworm app.

Life has undergone so many changes through the years, new-fangled gadgets, and culinary inventions like the push- button pancake, which I read about in Chapter 32 / Rock Me, which Rick encounters on a visit to Sedona. What is the world coming to? These little frustrations, or problems, and many more experienced by the author, will make you giggle, or cringe, depending on if you agree with his viewpoint on the particular subject, or not...

Being a dual-cultured family, with children and grandchildren who also travel, readers are treated to wonderful fly-on-the-wall peeps into other cultures. Rick and his wife, spend a lot of time with her Italian family, and this really gives us a flavour of European living, which I can attest to having just returned from having spent 14 years living in France. Life really is 'different' living in Europe, as it is in other places they visit like Shanghai. We, the lucky reader can sample it all from the comfort of our armchair.

Rick Bailey, the author of this thoroughly entertaining collection of essays, grew up in Michigan. He has written text books for McGraw-Hill, taught writing for 38 years, and is a persistent blogger. His blog became the basis for first book 'American English, Italian Chocolate,' which is a collection of essays, and his second book, 'The Enjoy Agenda at Home and Abroad.' Since his retirement, he and his wife divide their time between Michigan and the Republic of San Marino.

Whether you love to people watch, enjoy virtual travelling, enjoy a spot or humour, or are simply looking for a great read, this is the book for you! Highly recommended.

The Ailing Nation: Lessons From the Bedside for America's Leaders
Nate Link MD
Outskirts Press
9781977224989, $18.95 pbk / $6.99 Kindle, 302 Pages

The author, Dr. Link, earned his MD at Washington University School of Medicine in 1982. He completed his internship and residency in Internal Medicine at the NYU School of Medicine and Bellevue, American's oldest public hospital, where he is now the Chief Medical Officer. Dr. Link was Co-Chief Editor of the "Bellevue Guide to Outpatient Medicine," winner of the American Medical Writers Association award as Book of the Year for Physicians in 2001.

I found reading this absolutely fascinating, the authors frank memoirs of events and the patients he has treated during his career in this prestigious hospital were both very entertaining, and revealing. One can only admire his candidity in exposing the inevitable mistakes which had been made in the past by the medical professionals. Yet, whilst doing this, he also revealed the very 'human' side of the nurses, doctors, and other professionals, and the invaluable gift of sixth sense which sometimes prevailed.

I would imagine that many readers of this book, like myself, will forget for most of the time the political aspect of this book, and the morals in the stories it contains. Because, quite simply, the writer has enrobed the politics so well in an excellent story that his message is naturally absorbed, as if my osmosis.

However, the book illustrates that the pressures, expectations, and management skills, required to keep a large hospital like Bellevue functioning smoothly cannot be underestimated. And, as we discover, it is not all about self, self, self, the hospital isn't an island. There are the patients, workers, other facilities of the same, and similar ilk, to be added to the equation of every decision. Crisis, have and will happen, whether it be AIDS, Ebola, the coronavirus, or meteorological disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes and fires. All these factors, and many others have to be juggled carefully to keep the different departments running smoothly, and the patients care to the best possible standard. Also, importantly, when an error is discovered, it cannot be overlooked, or swept under the carpet, it must be dealt with, corrected, and measures put in place to ensure it is not repeated. Just like in ruling a country...

The author has cleverly likened the state of America to that of a terminally ill cancer patient. He however, unlike many author's doesn't blame one president/party or another, a particular set of circumstances, or even the handling of an individual event or crisis. He instead acknowledges that every illness is different and therefore calls for unique treatment, and just as importantly, accepts that the symptoms have been present for a long time.

He, as if medically treating the cancer, through his stories looks at the underlying symptoms of his patients and by extension the country. These life lessons and memories have given the author a unique perspective and he offers interesting solutions to America's problems through them.

This is a book for the leaders and the people, both insightful, and educational. If only the people in power could embrace, and go forward with the author's suggestions, this country would be in remission and a long way to recovery. Highly recommended.

Love: What It Is, What It Is Not
Michael Soward
Powar Jazz Publishing
B08VJJ7PP5, $2.99 Kindle, 21 Pages

Genre: Religion and Spirituality

It has been a few years since I reviewed Michael Soward's autobiography 'Life-ology 101: If All Else Fails Smile.' However, I can clearly remember reading it. Why? Because this author's words really touched my heart as he told his story. It began in Arkansas, where Michael and his brother, after being abandoned by their father, were living with their strict grandmother. However, weekly church visits awakened a love of music in the young Michael, who was gifted at playing the organ. When he was old enough he fled to Kansas City. Following the traditional paths of marriage, and children. His story was hard, brutal at times, yet through it all, his strong belief in God shone through.

Now in this new book 'Love: What It Is, What It Is Not,' the author's prayer is that his words will offer guidance, so that you, his readers can embrace the True God Given love which is offered, freely and openly. He encourages you to take it into your heart, and be empowered by it.

He asks you to reflect on your life and the people you share it with. Are you truly living, or just existing? Can you honestly say that you are giving your whole self to the relationship you are in, are you listening to the other person, being mindful? In this modern world where everything is available 24/7, and at the push of a button, are you living in the now, or has technology overtaken your time. Relationships can't work from only one side, they take two, they take time, and they take commitment. How easy is it to bury yourself in the mobile phone when the going gets tough? Michael Soward encourages you to put the phone down, talk, and really listen.

I love what this book does, because it is simple, it's direct, and it doesn't need to be a weighty epic. In these 21 pages, if you are receptive, you have everything you need to open yourselves up to the love you have, or be receptive to new opportunities. God loves his people and will always be there for you, if you let him in. One of my favourite pieces in this book is this 'People and connections are all we have in the world; money, material things come and go.' We know it is true, what a pity that so many of us only awaken to the truth when it is too late.

I highly recommend this book to those who really want to find themselves, open their lives to love and embrace the True God Given love which is waiting for them.

Deborah Striking (Book of Deborah 4)
Avraham Azrieli
Privately Published
9781953648099, $12.99 pbk / $2.99 Kindle, 349 Pages

The 'Deborah' series tells the incredible story of a young girl in Old Testament times. A girl who, against all odds, grew with courage, and through her faith in Yahweh, to became the first female prophet, and a great military leader.

We have, through previous books in the series, seen the young girl flee her village in fear of her life. Watched her struggles, then borne witness to her strength, both physically and mentally, as she transforms herself into a boy called 'Borah.' Why? Simply because in those times the role of a female, was very different than it is today. A subservient obedient girl could never fulfil her father's prediction that she would become a great prophet, and preach to her people from beneath the palm tree at the family home 'Palm Homestead.'

Deborah/Borah had absolute faith that this was her destiny, she didn't know how it would happen, but she 'believed' unswervingly that it would. All the decisions she made, and deeds she accomplished were carried out with that conviction, fortified with the wisdom and visions she received from Yahweh's word, as he came to her in the guise of an eagle.

Now, in 'Deborah Striking,' Deborah can no longer masquerade. The mantle of Borah is discarded. Here we see the warrior, intent on claiming her birth right in the name of Yahweh. Her lifetime of good deeds and sound judgements are repaid many fold. Her reputation has spread widely. Now, comes the climax of the story, and readers are in for a real treat as, with her supporters around her, she fulfils her destiny, truly becoming the incredible prophet we read of in the scriptures.

Avraham Azrieli, has, through this absorbing series brought alive for modern readers the life of this amazing prophet, and in doing so, he also gives us glimpses into what life was really like in Old Testament times. I highly recommend this book to lovers of biblical stories and historical fiction.

Take Charge: The Skills That Drive Professional Success
Norman Bacal
Iguana Books
9781988387215, $12.85 pbk / $8.99 Kindle, 203 Pages

Nothing beats experience, and Norm Bacal, the author of this informative book certainly has plenty. During his career he was one of the leading entertainment lawyers in America. He is an entrepreneur, leader, and was the builder of a Canadian law firm success story, Heenan Blaikie, a firm which he led as managing partner for sixteen years.

Now retired, you, his readers can benefit from not only the wisdom he has gained through hundreds of legal and business transactions, but also the experience of over twenty other professionals who have contributed to the book, plus sample case studies, and links to podcasts.

From your application to a professional or business school, the myriad of choices available in size of business, and career paths, everything is covered. Questions like, should you work in-house for a corporation or business, or go into private practice? What are your long and short term goals? The author rises many questions, young and more mature lawyers may be, or should be asking themselves.

However, one thing is certain, whatever course you decide to take, there are two key elements which define the practice of law, and they are, service and sales. These are explained in detail, as are other important subjects, such as how to market yourself, make good impressions, learn writing and speaking skills, and master the four P's, practice, process, patience, and perseverance.

"There's no room for doubt if you need to succeed." This quote says it all. The author, candidly gives insights into his own career, and in doing so explains that errors will happen, "The true test of a professional is not whether you never make a mistake - you most certainly will - but rather how you deal with the mistake once you discover it." He emphasises the necessity to, and explains how you should provide the best service possible to your client, stressing the need to go that extra mile, and show you care about your client and their business.

In this insightful and thought-provoking book Norm Bacal empowers his readers. Although this is written from a law student and lawyer's perspective, the wealth of information it contains is pertinent to anyone who really wants to succeed, and has the inner fire to achieve his, or her goals. Highly recommended!

Pathway to Prosperity: Your Guide to Money and Economics
Mark Lazar
Privately Published
B08K2ZMF2Q, $9.99 Kindle, 241 Pages

This incredibly informative book really is the definitive guide to finance. Mark Lazar is a Certified Financial Planner, and senior vice president of investments for a national wealth management firm, who has not only worked in the industry for twenty-five years but has a Batchelor of Science in Finance, and a MBA. However, it is his personal experiences watching his parents struggle to make ends meet, and hard personal circumstances, which motivated him to do better. Working from the age of twelve, this self-made man "quickly learnt the correlation between effort and reward and became a millionaire by age forty." What better recommendation could anyone ask for, when seeking financial advice?

Set out in five sections, beginning with the basics, the author covers important subjects such as balance sheets, cash flow, credit scores and taxes. Then in Section 2, he discusses 'The Head Versus the Heart,' getting down to the hard tacks of get rich schemes, education funding, and wants, versus needs. Or as he says "It's important to understand the difference between essential and non-essential spending: wants versus needs." These days, pressures such as these are very real and cause great financial hardship. I just loved this excellent quote he used, "Too many people spend money they earned, to buy things they don't want, to impress people that they don't like - Will Rogers."

Then he tackles the 'big' financial decision we make during our lives, either alone or with a partner, our home. He advises the reader on how to decide which option would be better for them, to rent, or buy, and mortgage options. Then as life continues, how to plan for the future, investment properties, risk management and onward...

Until, the year's roll quickly by and you find yourself considering retirement plans, assets, social security, income in retirement, and the many options available to you. Perhaps you would like to know how to work the Stock, or Bond Market. Well, this incredibly knowledgeable author demystifies these, and discusses other options which are available too.

Finally in Section 6: The Big Picture, he provides 'Economics 101,' and talks about inflation, deflation, Fiscal Policy and other important subjects.

I hope the author doesn't mind me quoting this paragraph. "The bad news is there is no magic formula or get- rich-quick scheme. The good news, however, is that by building your wealth the right way - by understanding and incorporating sound financial principles into your everyday life and doing a handful of things a little better - over time you will become financially secure. Furthermore, the very same principles that enable you to achieve prosperity will also ensure you won't lose it once you have it. For me, it explains perfectly why I believe this book should be on every high school reading list.

I have never read such a comprehensive guide written in such an easy to understand way. Highly recommended!

The Broken III: Control
A. L. Francis
Ruby Rose Publishing
9780960105120, $13.99 pbk / $5.99 Kindle, 196 Pages

In 'The Broken' series, lovers of deep suspenseful horror have been following a dark entity as it wreaks havoc on unsuspecting families, whilst steadily growing in power.

In 'The Broken I,' widower Matthew Honey, a once charismatic, successful businessman, lost his beautiful teenage daughter Eve to an evil entity which wove its way into their lives. Then, in 'The Broken II,' the entity moves on and devastates the lives of Alice Parkinson and her children.

Now we are on the third book, and deep in the Irish countryside, the haunted Moycullen Forest lies. This forest, and the Nunnery which it embraces, has been for many years the source of rumour and superstitions. It is said that those who enter the forest never return. Behind the convent walls, the sisters care for unloved children. Now they have a new member, Sister Jesselle, a wolf in sheep's clothing. For Sister Jesselle is The Dark Empress, and she has only one vocation...

United in their pain, and desperation to get their children back, Matthew, and Alice's husband Phil, team up with Chief Superintendent John Terry who has come to believe their story. The men will stop at nothing to discover the children's whereabouts, and end the entity's reign of terror. They can sense that time is running out, and so they are willing to stop at nothing. But will that be enough?

It is said that the best books are written from the heart, and that the author gives a little bit of themselves in them. I believe this is very much the case with this young author whose prologue for this story is very insightful.

I look forward to the next book in this excellent series, and thoroughly recommend this series to lovers of suspenseful, scary, horror stories.

Susan Keefe, Reviewer

Suzie Housley's Bookshelf

Your Destiny is Inside You
Ana Pat
9781698908267, $10.99 pbk / $0.99 Kindle, 203 Pages

Let your thoughts guide you towards a new state of oneness...

Energy is present in the Universe; it revolves around how we interact with others. Everyone has the power to change themselves by the energy they radiate. Since the beginning of time, energy exists, and humanity can generate positive or negative thoughts. The type of ideas we choose to have can define our destiny.

Through our consciousness, we establish our desires, goals, and needs. They guide us towards what each of us needs to feel complete. We must send out to the Universe clear and concise goals, so they can be released into the atmosphere and have an opportunity to be answered.

Once we learn how to master our thought process, we gain a sense of freedom and responsibility. We must realize that we alone control our destiny. Our positive and negative thoughts determine what pathway we will travel in our life journey.

Once we develop a positive mindset, we can invite another to share our love and form a relationship. A key element to discovering true and lasting love is to learn to love yourself first. Do not depend on others to guide you on your pathway of self-realization. This pathway you travel must be one that you do alone to find yourself.

Finding oneself is a pathway to discovery. It is a road that will encounter many obstacles. Believing in yourself, having positive thoughts, and establishing clear goals will ensure that your journey is with purpose.

Your Destiny is Inside You is a powerful book filled with the ability to change oneself. It educates the reader in a significant way that enlightens how they have the power to change their thoughts and have a happy and successful life. The guidance in this book will enrich a person's mind and soul. The words penetrate deep into the reader's subconscious.

Ana Pat is a master in his craft. As a writer, he has provided a book that will open up your mind to self-discovery. It will allow you to rebuild yourself into a more positive and enlightened person. This book will serve as your guide on finding yourself. To discover the truth, you that the world deserves the opportunity to experience.

Queen Ogo and the Arrow from the Black Pope
Ike Charles Okwuobi
9780973705638, $19.99 pbk / $9.99 Kindle, 280 Pages

Listen to the words of the past, for they allow you to relive the moment . . .

Queen Ogo of Asaba legendary voice retells stories of the past. She pays tribute to her cousin Hanye by telling how he was born in Africa and sold into slavery. Overnight, Hanye's finds his name and identity taken away from him, and he's now known as Harry Washington.

Young Harry became a Sergeant in the Colonia Army. His military expertise did not go unnoticed, and he becomes a private confidant to George Washington. Locked in his memory, unbeknown to most, were the memories of his life in Africa and the freedom he had lost.

Travel further in Queen Ogo's memories as her descriptive words explore the Roman Catholic Church. She tells of the customs of similar people who shared the same vision and truth as our American Founding Fathers. Her journey continues with a visit to King James VI and how he created his version of the Bible.

Listen closely to what she is saying. History will suddenly unfold before your eyes. Her powerful words will captivate you and show you a past world that changed the lives of America. As she is calling out to you, hear her voice and feel the heartfelt emotions that go into each story.

Queen Ogo and the Arrow from the Black Pope has the potential to be awarded the distinguished honor to become a recommended book on the Black History Month list. It's filled with a rich culture that allows the reader to discover a world of times past. One whose characters suffered horrific circumstances and was able to take their tragedy and turn it into a triumph.

Ike Charles Okwuobi has crafted a masterpiece. His words will make the reader stop, think, and absorb what is occurring in his scenes. It will provide them an education in African American culture like no book has attempted to show. I feel this book is about to take the literary world by storm!

Suzie Housley

Willis Buhle's Bookshelf

Death, Dying, and Bereavement Around the World
Frank E. Eyetsemitan
Charles C. Thomas, Publisher
2600 South First Street, Springfield, IL 62704
9780398093488, $35.95, PB, 236pp

Synopsis: In the pages of "Death, Dying, and Bereavement Around the World: Theories, Varied Views and Customs", Frank Eyetsemitan evaluates existing theories, concepts, and models with the practices of death, dying and bereavement from different societies around the world. The differences in various belief systems and how these influence death, dying and bereavement practices are highlighted, including Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Ancestor worship, Afro-Brazilian religions, the belief systems of Native Indians, the Maoris of New Zealand and others. These belief systems will contribute to a better understanding of the existing models of death, dying and bereavement that are examined.

An overview of countries in different continents is also provided. This helps to refresh the readers mind of the country's geographical location and bring attention to the prevailing causes of death and life expectancy of nations in different parts of the world. At the end of each chapter, review questions are provided to aid in the readers comprehension and allow for self-reflection. At the end of each chapter, an Additional Readings section has been included so the reader can find additional information to further an interest developed from reading the chapter material. A glossary of terms is included to aid with explaining certain terms and add to the readers vocabulary.

Given its overview of existing theories/models as well as a focus on issues of cross-cultural relevance on death, dying and bereavement, "Death, Dying, and Bereavement Around the World: Theories, Varied Views and Customs" will be of particular interest and relevance to bereavement counselors, healthcare practitioners, social workers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Death, Dying, and Bereavement Around the World: Theories, Varied Views and Customs" is a unique and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, college, and university library Death/Bereavement/Funeral Customs collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Celebrating Mackenzie-Childs: Celebrating 25 Years
Jo Anne P. Welsch
Schiffer Publishing Ltd.
4880 Lower Valley Road, Atglen, PA 19310
9780764360978, $65.00, HC, 256pp

Synopsis: MacKenzie-Childs is a manufacturer of ceramics and retailer of hand painted imported furniture and home decor based in Aurora, New York and was founded in 1983 by Victoria and Richard MacKenzie-Childs. (Wikipedia)

The company entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2000, and in 2001 Pleasant Rowland, founder of American Girl, purchased MacKenzie-Childs. In 2005, the company laid off several workers, including founders, Victoria and Richard MacKenzie-Childs.[6] After Rowland restructured her management team in 2006 MacKenzie-Childs became profitable. In 2008 Rowland sold MacKenzie-Childs to Lee Feldman and Howard Cohen, part owners of Twin Lakes Capital.

Expertly compiled and written, "Celebrating Mackenzie-Childs: Celebrating 25 Years" showcases the iconic decor and lifestyle company MacKenzie-Childs in a simply gorgeous and impressively informative exploration that offers to fans and newcomers alike a full immersion in the charm and handcrafted beauty that have made MacKenzie-Childs sought after for beautiful style.

With over 250 color photos, plus inside insights from Rebecca Proctor, the creative director of MacKenzie-Childs, this gorgeous treasury reveals how the MacKenzie-Childs vision and style have impacted our living spaces. The photos and stories allow looks into the company's many facets, from the design studio, to hand painting in the workshop, to the popular shop in Soho and the annual summer Barn Sale celebration on the farm.

Readers will also learn about the ceramics, furniture, porcelain, Entertaining Kitchen, and more. With the thousands of MacKenzie-Childs collectors in mind, "Celebrating Mackenzie-Childs: Celebrating 25 Years" also includes photo identification guides to all MacKenzie-Childs patterns from 1983 to 2020.

Critique: A perfect showcase of what MacKenzie-Childs has been able to create over the last quarter of a century, "Celebrating Mackenzie-Childs: Celebrating 25 Years" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, college, and university library Antique & Collectible Porcelain & China collections in general, and Home Decorating reference collections in particular.

James Hoban: Designer and Builder of the White House
Stewart D. McLaurin
White House Historical Society
PO Box 27624, Washington, DC 20038
9781931917964, $49.95, HC, 200pp

Synopsis: When considering the design of the President's House yet to be built in the emerging Federal City of Washington, President George Washington asked after a young Irish builder he had learned of while visiting in Charleston, South Carolina. Soon James Hoban appeared in Washington's Philadelphia office with his credentials. By 1792, Hoban was at work on the building site, having won the competition for the design of the President's House. Washington had placed him in charge of the entire project, with all carpentry, stonemasonry, and brickwork under his supervision.

The resulting structure, accomplished in time for President John Adams to take residence in November 1800, fulfilled Washington's vision and is today one of the most recognizable landmarks in the world. Yet of the millions of people who know the White House are likely to find Hoban's work more memorable than his name.

With the publication of "James Hoban: Designer and Builder of the White House", an anthology of essays the world's most knowledgeable scholars on James Hoban, we are provided the story of his life, influences, and work. The essays are followed by an illustrated catalog of nearly 100 images of historic Dublin, Irish Country Houses, the White House, and sites known to James Hoban in America.

"James Hoban: Designer and Builder of the White House" is the second book in a series on the design and construction of the White House published by the White House Historical Association; it follows "A White House of Stone: The First Ideal in American Architecture", which focused on the work of the Scottish stonemasons. The third book in the series will focus on the slaves who built the White House.

Featured essays include:

"James Hoban: Designer and Builder of the White House," the story of Hoban's youth in Ireland, his journey to America, and how he came to be selected to build the White House, by the late American historian, Dr. William Seale.

"The Building Line in Ireland," which focuses on the influences of Irish architecture known to Hoban in his youth, by Merlo Kelly, a Design Fellow in the School of Architecture, University College Dublin, and Conservation Architect.

"Eighteenth-Century Irish Landscape Design and Its Translation to America by James Hoban," by Finola O'Kane, professor of architecture at University College Dublin.

"Life as Lived in Irish Country Houses: Desart Court and Leinster House," by Christopher Moran, Chairman of Co-operation Ireland.

"James Hoban and George Washington Devise the President's House," by Brian O'Connell of O'Connell Mahon Architects in Dublin.

"James Hoban's 1792 Designs for the President's House" by Andrew McCarthy, independent historian and scholar of architectural history.

"Building the President's House with Enslaved Labor: James Hoban and Slavery," by Dr. Matthew Costello, Vice President of the David M. Rubenstein National Center for White House History.

"James Hoban and the Early Roman Catholic Church in the Federal City of Washington," by Kristen Hunter Mason, Senior Editorial and Production Manager at the White House Historical Association.

Critique: Beautifully illustrated, exceptionally informative, expertly organized, and thoroughly 'reader friendly' in presentation, "James Hoban: Designer and Builder of the White House" is an extraordinary study and one that is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, college, and university library 18th Century American History & Biography collections in general, and White House History supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

Editorial Note: Stewart D. McLaurin has served as president of the White House Historical Association since 2014. He leads the Association's nonprofit and nonpartisan mission to support conservation and preservation at the White House with nongovernment funding. Under his leadership, the Association has expanded greatly in mission, reach, and impact; fund-raising results; educational public programming and award-winning publications that teach the story of White House history; and related retail offerings inspired by history. For more than thirty-five years, McLaurin has held leadership roles with national nonprofit and higher education organizations such as the American Red Cross, Georgetown University, and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation.

Willis M. Buhle

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
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