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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 22, Number 4 April 2022 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Andrea Kay's Bookshelf Ann Skea's Bookshelf Carl Logan's Bookshelf
Carolyn Wilhelm's Bookshelf Chris Patsilelis' Bookshelf Christina Francine's Bookshelf
Clint Travis' Bookshelf Gini Grossenbacher's Bookshelf Israel Drazin's Bookshelf
Jack Mason's Bookshelf Janis Butler Holm's Bookshelf Jessica de Koninck's Bookshelf
John Burroughs' Bookshelf Julie Summers' Bookshelf Margaret Lane's Bookshelf
Mark Walker's Bookshelf Mark Zvonkovic's Bookshelf Michael Carson's Bookshelf
Natalie Soine'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    

Andrea Kay's Bookshelf

World Chill
$9.95 digital download card & booklet / $9.49 MP3

World Chill is a compilation of relaxing songs by artists from Senegal, the UK, Argentina, Greece, Germany, Iceland, and the USA. World Chill is a digital-only release; although a physical package is offered, it consists of a digital download card and booklet about the artists and songs, for a budget-friendly price. A wonderful collection for meditating, sunbathing, or just vibing, World Chill is highly recommended. The tracks are Anna Mou, Buain na Choirce, Dos, Simple, North East West South, Close My Eyes, Indian Christmas, Hjarta Mitt, and On the Road to My Father's House.

Andrea Kay

Ann Skea's Bookshelf

The Sorrow Stone
Kari Gislason
University of Queensland Press
9780702265525, A$32.99, PB 240 pages

The snow is in drifts against the rocks. I use it to wipe the blood from my hands. Now Sindri's the one pulling at me, wanting to go faster, and I'm crying with fear and disgust at the thought of what happened. I look at the sword and feel sick.

Disa and her 12-year-old son, Sindri, are fleeing to safety after a stabbing. She remembers the blade in the man's leg, her hand in his blood, and being beaten, but we do not learn until later who she has stabbed or why. We know only that on this bleak, wintery night Disa and Sindri need to hide from those who will pursue and punish them. We know, too, that this is ancient Norway, a rocky place of storms, fjords and lava; a place of giants, trolls, myths and legends.

Disa carries the sword 'Grey Blade'; Sindri has his shield, which is almost too heavy for him but he refuses to leave it behind, wanting to seem manly, older and stronger than he is. The fear and urgency of their escape are palpable and do not fade as they meet others and ask for help, not knowing who can be trusted. In icy conditions, they cross treacherous waters between Norway and Iceland, then negotiate hazardous paths as they make their way to Aud's home, where Disa hopes that her sister-in-law will give them shelter, but fears that she will not.

In The Sorrow Stone, K ri G slason has taken the Icelandic saga know as 'The Saga of Gisli' and given Gisli's sister, Disa, a voice of her own. Icelandic sagas are complicated tales of rivalry, love, jealousy, killing and revenge. Women play small part in them, but Disa shows how they, too, were part of the story; how they, too, had powers and rights and could make choices which, at times, changed the course of events. In telling her story Disa makes this saga simple and compelling. She shows, too, how in a society where revenge killing was legitimate, and almost a moral imperative, she and other women lived with the deaths of their loved ones and the constant knowledge and fear of reprisals. It is this which underlies the urgency and tension that runs throughout the book.

That first night of their escape, as Disa and Sindri shelter in a hollow on their neighbours farm with only Sindri's shield to protect them from the wind, Disa watches the 'cloud mountains' roll over them, and closes her eyes trying to see her dead loved ones feasting in Valhalla, but what she sees is

Not Valhalla. Not those I have lost. But me, and what will I tell Sindri if this is a story that is finally coming to an end.

So Disa begins to tell her story, remembering her childhood and how, as the eldest, she looked after her brothers, Kel and Gils (Gisli), when her mother was tired and in pain. She remembers how they would go to the beach and watch the ships return laden with treasures and, sometimes, with a girl from the slave market; and how, once, they joined a crowd around a preacher who talked of Lord Jesus. She tells of the way her brothers 'jumped on each other's backs and the high clouds circled the fjord and left space for the sun on the water', and how she had watched the slave girl, 'a little older than me', and seen the fear in her eyes. Disa recounts their journey from Norway to Aud's farm in Iceland as it happens, so we feel the dangers, fear and emotions she expresses, her worries for Sindri, her awareness of his need to talk to people, her pride at his courage. At the same time, she tells her own story, which is interwoven with that of her brothers, their lives, and the code of honour which requires challenges, fights and deaths. We feel, even as she grows older and her life changes dramatically, her determination and courage, and her love of the land, which she expresses so beautifully.

There are other stories woven into Disa's. Disa's aunt, Inga, tells her of the making of the sword, Grey Blade, by her Irish servant, who wove Gaelic words into it to give it magical power. 'He said it was a weapon that should only be used once or it would bring bad luck'. No-one who used it ever wanted to part with it.

Another story is told by Disa's father on the day that her marriage chest, carved with a pattern of 'wild fire', is delivered to their home:

Father drew a deep breath and pulled at his beard. He was no speaker. He never wanted to be the one to stand at the end of a long table and tell people why they were there, or who they were and why we all mattered so much. He didn't recite poetry or genealogies. But now, he said he would speak. He was going to tell us a sage about a good sister.

So, Disa's father tells them the saga of Gudrun and Attila, a saga typically full of 'terror and betrayal and blood and loss', which ends with Gudrun taking her horrific revenge in the manner of Ovid's Procne in the Metamorphoses, before stabbing her husband and burning down his hall. 'Gudrun was a good woman', Disa's father yelled at her when she wept at the suffering and cruelty. 'She did the right thing'. This is the lesson Disa is expected to learn.

The Sorrow Stone, is a gripping and exciting novel and it is, as G slason writes in his notes at the end of the book, based on a true story.

Thordis Sursdottir (Disa) was born in Surnadal, in western Norway in the mid-tenth century. Her son, Snorri Thorgrimsson (Sindri), became 'one of the most influential figures in Icelandic history and played a major role in the country's Chritianisation in the year 1000'. The sword 'Grey Blade', also survived and was last used at the Battle of Orlyggstadir in 1238, after which it 'disappeared for good'. Disa, sadly, 'was judged very harshly by those who knew her, and by the generations that came afterwards', and in 1183, when her body was moved to a new resting place, it was reported that it was 'charred black, as confirmation of her evil nature'. In The Sorrow Stone, K ri G slason, redeems her and shows her human frailties, her loyalty and her courage in the face of the violence through which she lived.

'The sorrow stone,' he said. 'That's another kenning I know'

'Oh? What does it mean?' I asked.

'The Heart,' Gils said. 'The heart is the sorrow stone'.

This small rune which separates passages in the book represents dawn: the meeting of darkness and light; the meeting of past and present.

The Colony
Audrey Magee
c/o Farrar, Straus and Giroux
9780571367603, A$29.99 PB, 376 pages

Mr Lloyd is an artist who describes himself as 'half married' to his artist, art-dealer, wife. She now prefers another man and his 'loud', 'declamatory' art and has pronounced Lloyd's art 'Too predictable. Too boring. A likeness, yes, but nothing more. Nothing more than a photograph'.

In an attempt to revitalize his art and his marriage, Lloyd is seeking authenticity, so he embarks on a terrifying sea-voyage, choosing to be rowed to a tiny island off the west coast of Ireland in a leaky currach:

The boatmen dropped the sticks into the water.
Are they oars?
They are indeed Mr Lloyd.
They have no blades. No paddles.
Some do. Some don't.
Don't you need them?
If we get there, we don't.

On the island he plans to paint the sea, the cliffs, the birds, and 'to create them / as they already are'. As an artist, he sees a vivid world of colours, shapes, light, and he habitually thinks of the images he will produce;

Self portrait: with gulls and rocks
Self portrait: with boatman, gull and rocks...

Island series: view from the boat I...II...III

Self portrait: drowning 1...II...III...IV
drifts of
grey brown
red yellow
blue green
How much longer?
A while yet Mr Lloyd.

The island is only 3 miles long and half-a-mile wide and is inhabited by fewer than 100 people, most of whom speak no English. 'Those with good English have left' say Miche l, who rows the currach and has rented Lloyd one of the cottages he manages for his brother, who now lives in America. He has also arranged for Lloyd's meals to be provided by the Gillan family: Francis Gillan is only on the island occasionally and is trying to persuade his widowed sister-in-law, Mairead, to accept him; Mairead and her mother, Bean U Neill, cook for visitors and understand a little English but choose not to speak it; Bean U Fhloinn, the 92-year-old matriarch of the family, has no English at all; and Mairead's 15-year-old son, Seamus, chooses to speak English rather than Irish, and is determined to be called James.

'Is your dad a fisherman? Lloyd asks James. 'Used to be'. 'Have I met him? Where is he?' 'At the bottom of the sea. With my granddad and uncle. Three of them. One fishing trip'. Understandably, James is determined not to be a fisherman. He becomes fascinated by Lloyd's work, persuades him to let him try drawing and painting, and turns out to have a natural talent for it.

Lloyd plans to stay on the island all summer and he is dismayed when another man turns up, a French linguist, who specialises 'in languages threatened with extinction' and has been documenting changes in the Irish language on the island for his academic thesis. For four years he has spent ever summer on the island recording Bean U Fhloinn as 'the last of the pure Irish speakers', and he is vehement that only Irish should be spoken when he is at meals with the Gillan family.

Lloyd and Jean-Pierre Masson (known as JP) immediately antagonise each other. Lloyd suggests Masson is trying to save a dead language: Masson sarcastically suggests that Lloyd is 'another painter who wants to be Monet'. They argue about art, history, the Irish 'Troubles' which are ongoing, and language and colonialism: 'You have spent centuries trying to annihilate this language, this culture' says Masson. 'France is no better, said Lloyd. Look at Algeria. At Cameroon. At the Pacific Islands'. Significantly, in a book which documents the changes the two men inadvertently make to the islanders as they pursue their own ambitions, they quarrel over the shared turf-pile which has been left at the cottages for their fires.

Imagine that, said Mairead. A Frenchman and an Englishman squabbling over our turf.
They've been squabbling over our turf for centuries, said Francis.

Neither man wants to be in a cottage next to the other, so Lloyd moves to a derelict hut on another part of the island but still sometimes uses the cottage and is fed by the Gillans.

Magee writes fluently and imaginatively. Each character comes to life as an individual with an inner world of their own, and their conversations, humour and emotions carry the main story easily and enjoyably. Interspersed between chapters, however, are stark, coldly objective reports of the 1979 atrocities in Ireland. Details of the attack are listed, and the dead are named along with their occupation, family, and their political background (if any).

John Patrick Hardy is having dinner with six of his ten children at his home in North Belfast on Tuesday, August 28th. It is just before five in the evening, and someone knocks at the front door. He walks from the kitchen through the hall and opens the door. A man shoots him in the chest...

Often the victims of bomb blasts and shootings are simply people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. 'Collateral damage' says Frances Gillan when Mairead is horrified by the deaths of children. 'That's the way of it'.

Balancing these stark reports, there is much light and laughter and beauty in this book, especially in the interchanges of Lloyd and James as they both immerse themselves in their art. The Gillans and Michel share good-natured jokes about Lloyd and JP. Mairead dreams of being a woman in a Rembrandt painting. Lloyd dreams of the future exhibition of his new art and the praise this will garner; James dreams of leaving the island and being an artist; Bean U Fhloinn tells JP about her long life on the island and how things have changed, and JP remembers his own difficult early life as a child of a French father and Algerian mother.

JP also dreams of his academic success and of bringing photographers to film this old Irish woman and the island; and, meditating on his future success, he outlines his thesis, and in doing so outlines of the history of the British occupation of Ireland and the resulting suppression of the Irish language.

In the end, in spite of the pleasures of Magee's fine story-telling, there is an underlying theme to this book. Lloyd and JP come to the island because it has something they want, they use the people for their own ends, change lives and language, then return to their own countries and leave their mess behind. All this can be seen as an allegory for colonialism everywhere, but, especially in Ireland. The ending of the book, too, made me think that this is, in fact, an angry book.

Ann Skea, Reviewer

Carl Logan's Bookshelf

Ice Age Florida: In Story and Art
Robert W. Sinibaldi, author
Hermann Trappman, illustrator
Dorrance Publishing Company
585 Alpha Drive, Suite 103, Pittsburgh, PA 15238
9781648043567, $79.00, HC, 312pp

Synopsis: The impact of the last Ice Age on Florida was vastly different from what the states north of Florida and provinces of Canada experienced. "Ice Age Florida: In Story and Art" by author and fossil expert Robert W. Sinibaldi investigates and illustrates the fascinating fossil record and history of the Gulf Coast compared to what most envision when the term Ice Age comes up. "Ice Age Florida" takes the reader along on Sinibaldi's initial and developing interest in fossil diving and details his insatiable curiosity about the fauna of Florida's Ice Age -- all of which is vividly represented by the artwork of Hermann Trappman.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Ice Age Florida: In Story and Art" is not only a fascinating and informative read that will be of immense interest for paleontology students and non-specialist readers with an interest in the subject and unreservedly recommended for highschool, community, college, and university library Earth Sciences & Paleontology collections, it would well serve as a template for similar Ice Age impact studies for other areas, states, and provinces comprising the North American continent.

Editorial Note: In 1993, Robert W. Sinibaldi began diving for fossils, and by 1998 he wrote Fossil Diving in Florida's Waters, a book used by many Gulf Coast dive shops to certify divers interested in underwater paleontology. In 2001 he was elected President of the Tampa Bay Fossil Club, the world's largest amateur paleontological association at the time; he remains on their board of directors to this date. Over the years he has donated hundreds of fossils to the Florida Museum of Natural History's Vertebrate Paleontology Department for study, and to add to their permanent collections. In 1999, Sinibaldi was the only amateur invited to speak at the University of Florida's Paleofest Conference.

In 2011, Sinibaldi wrote What Your Fossils Can Tell You: Vertebrate Morphology, Pathology, and Cultural Modification, which was published by the University of Florida Press. This textbook broke down the technical scientific literature in paleontology and made it accessible to the avid amateur and undergraduate paleontologists. Sinibaldi has traveled throughout the state of Florida giving lectures at paleontological societies, museums, and libraries. He has published more than 400 book reviews over the past twenty-five years in various fossil newsletters. In 2012, Sinibaldi received the prestigious Howard Converse Award from the University of Florida's Vertebrate Paleontology Department for his contributions to the field.

Carl Logan

Carolyn Wilhelm's Bookshelf

Simple Serenity: Finding Joy in Your Life
Nancy Oelklaus
Loving Healing Press
9781615996636, $16.95 Paperback, $28.95 Hardcover, $4.95 Kindle, 168pp.

I didn't think I needed any more finding joy books, so started reading thinking it would be the same old. The author suggested writing, drawing, painting, or other activities to help process the book. Not just read it through? Well, it seems I changed my mind soon after beginning to read. This is not a "preachy" text as Oelklaus explains how her thoughts helped her to find peace. She discusses being "in love" as opposed to trying to fix other people. She explains how she stopped being a fixer of other people and says it is freeing to her to mind her own business.

Yes, some of the short writing pieces with questions at the end did seem quite easy. Some seemed to be great for writing group prompts, some seemed good for a reading group discussion warm-up, or even useful for art class. I think counselors might refer to some chapters for finding discussion topics. One of her ideas to solve feeling overwhelmed is explained in terms of her practical and step-by-step system. All in a very short chapter, which others could try although it is explained in terms of her own life. Her lesson from a ceiling fan recently happened to me after I found a telescoping and bending duster online, bought it, and was able to dust our ceiling fans. The vignettes are relatable. She asks:

"When have you felt as if you were being held hostage and your world was narrowing? How did you work your way out of it?"

A wardrobe can support the life you truly want to live, according to Oelklaus. She tells about buying three pieces of clothing and donating four. No piling all the clothes you own in one room, just thinking about the life you want.

She also discusses a "God box." Any nagging thoughts can be put in such a box until you can see it clearly for what is really is about.

With poetry, stories from real life, and questions, this book offers a chance for a new view of life. Highly recommend.

When Angels Die (Leaving Home Trilogy Book 3)
James Sniechowski
JayEss Publishing
9780991317240, $15.95 Paperback, $17.49 Audiobook, 234pp
B098844Q1K, $0.99, Kindle

When Angels Die is third in the Leaving Home Trilogy, after Worship of Hollow Gods and An Ambition to Belong by James Sniechowki, Catholic guilt consumes him in all three books until he finally comes to terms with his childhood. The book is a narrative autobiography. Theological arguments are woven throughout the text, based on Catholic religiosity. He is inspired to become an actor from a working-class home in Detroit, much to his family's horror. He discovers he is a talented actor at the University of Detroit's theater department. He becomes a successful actor. He explains how he learned to play his characters, which would inform anyone involved in dramatic efforts.

Some childhood experiences must be left behind. Although all readers will not be Catholic, the experience of maturing and finding happy adulthood is universal to many. Although I was raised with extended family, had old-world grandparents, and attended Mass sometimes, all of the theology was unclear to me. However, the book intensely helps us understand unconscious feelings that hold us back from living a full life.

Sniechowki recounts the actions of strict Nuns. Although that story is detailed in book two, his teen rebellion is discussed some. This book intends to help set others free from shame, guilt, and ties to following childhood rules. Readers will find it freeing and enlightening.

Points North: Discover Hidden Campgrounds, Natural Wonders, and Waterways of the Upper Peninsula
Mikel B. Classen
Modern History Press
9781615994908, $27.95 PB
9781615994915, $39.95 HC
9781615994922, $6.95 eBook

United States/Midwest/East North Central (IL, IN, MI, OH, WI)

Oh, this book helped me reminisce about the days when I could do primitive camping, hear loons, see wildlife, go canoeing, and enjoy the outdoors with relative privacy. It covers history, fishing, boating, hiking, walking, camping, with detailed location information in Michigan's Upper Peninsula (U.P.). How many camping spots, a few or many? Tents only, or are recreational vehicles allowed? Are canoes or motorboats allowed? Is the fishing good? Is the park or camping area away from roads and noise? Where should a family go for a good day trip? What animals are usually seen around the campsites? Is it a good location for photographers? Where do the seniors stay? Are there accessible trails for those who need them? Where can people who want a grueling climb and a sense of accomplishment find a spot for that type of exercise?

Details like this are usually only known by locals. This illustrated travel guide lets us in on these secrets not usually shared to have the best vacation possible for a single day or longer. Classen must have spent many years experiencing all the U.P. offers and kindly shares this off the beaten path information.

Carolyn Wilhelm, Reviewer
Wise Owl Factory LLC

Chris Patsilelis' Bookshelf

Chasing History: A Kid in the Newsroom
Carl Bernstein
Henry Holt and Company
9781627791502, $29.99, 371 pages

Long before Carl Bernstein became part of the iconic Woodward and Bernstein duo that brought down the Nixon Administration in the early '70 Watergate scandal, 16-year-old Carl, as a mere high school junior, wearing a cheap, oversized, cream-colored suit just purchased at "No-Label Louie" Goldstein's store on Washington's D street, wrangled a job in 1960 as a copyboy at the Washington Evening Star.

To hear him tell his story in his delightful, fond-memory-laden new memoir, "Chasing History: A Kid in the Newsroom", Carl's father, Alfred, "feared for my future - a concern that was based on hard facts, most of them having to do with the pool hall, my school report cards, and the Montgomery (Maryland) County Juvenile Court .... the odds were against my ever amounting to much."

Young Carl's life changes, however, when editor Rudy Kaufman, who hired him as a copyboy opened a door and led me into another universe. People were shouting. Typewriters chattered and chinged. Beneath my feet, I could feel the rumble of the presses .... I had never heard such glorious chaos or seen such purposeful commotion as I now beheld in that newsroom .... I know that I wanted to be a newspaperman."

The new copyboy's job, Bernstein tells us, "was to mediate between the thinking part of the operation" - those writers who worked their "magic with sentences - and the production side - those who worked in the composing room" where the stories were set in type ...."

Carl quickly transported the written articles from writers to "editors in shirtsleeves bent over the copy, wielding pencils", rewriting maybe up to five times, ultimately to the typesetters and printers.

In Carl Bernstein's stint with the Evening Star (1960-65) he was promoted to the dictation desk where reporters would phone in stories: Carl's typing skills were consummate. But television was quickly encroaching upon Carl's beloved, though somewhat antiquated, newsman's methods. Now a fledgling reporter, covering a President John Kennedy press conference for the first time, Carl found himself racing to phone in his report - only to realize that TV had already broadcast Kennedy's talk to millions of viewers.

Ever sharpening his investigative chops, Carl also covered Kennedy's 1961 inauguration, a grisly plane crash site, the 1963 March on Washington, the Civil Rights Movement and, sadly, President Kennedy's assassination.

Throughout "Chasing History: we are shown how the Star was closely involved with the Washington community. The Star's reporters, including Carl, grew up in it's environs. The reporters walked it's streets daily, writing stories that connected with D.C.'s inhabitants.

We are introduced to a multitude of young Carl's co-workers: Rudy Kauffman, who had worked for the Star since 1936 and who had hired Carl, instantly seeing the young man's potential. Senior editor Gould Lincoln, who used a walking stick, had a gnarled left hand, his body "bent like a parenthesis", started working at the Star as a copyboy at 15 - - in 1895! Mary Lou "Ludie Werner, winner of a Pulitzer Prize in 1959 for her coverage of Virginia's intense resistance to school integration.

And Bill Hill, an inefficient managing editor who, in 1964, demoted Carl from reporter back to the lower position dictationist (he now would merely type stories that reporters phoned in) because Carl did not posses a college degree. "Experience is no substitute" for formal education, Hill informed Carl.

So Carl quit the Star (1965) and for a short time wrote for the local paper in Elizabeth, New Jersey, the Elizabeth Daily Journal. But by the autumn of 1966 the brash managing editor of the Washington Post, Ben Bradlee, hired Carl Bernstein as a reporter - sans college degree .... and the rest of Carl's career (not covered in this book) includes his world-shattering uncovering - along with reporter Bob Woodward - of the Nixon Watergate scandal as detailed in their riveting histories, "All the President's Men" (1974) and "Final Days" (1976).

Focusing upon Carl Bernstein's first six years as a novice newspaperman, "Chasing History" is a warm, personal Horatio Alger tale of a young man's journalistic journey. It is also, regrettably, a heartfelt homage to the dying world of print newspapers.

Chris Patsilelis

Christina Francine's Bookshelf

Madam in Lace: American Madams, vol. 3
Gini Grossenbacher
JGKS Press
9781735842769, $14.99, 308 pages
9781735842776, $4.99, Kindle, 349 pages

"The cur ran his purple tongue across his lips. The former guards reappeared, their mouths open in hangdog delight. She recoiled. Horrors. No one said this would be easy, but she had to get past these Cerberean hellhounds."

One-line descriptor:

A historical heroic young woman fighting-the-odds plot during the economic Paris crisis of 1857-1858. Intriguing characters with a strong sense of place.

Twenty-year-old Celeste yearns to pull her mother from the tumultuous Paris to live safely with her in San Francisco. When she finds the home where she spent the first fourteen years of her life, she wonders if the place had been lived in since that day when men came and took her mother away. Her mother had run a Paris brothel until that fateful day, and now no one seemed to know what had become of her. After a lot of detective work, Celeste learns her mother may still be locked away, and the locals claimed death was the only way prisoners left. In an attempt to keep her daughter safe, Celeste's mother had sent her to New Orleans six years ago to stay with Cousin Madame De Salle, also a brothel-keeper.

While searching Paris/Montmarte Celeste stumbles into revolutionaries working to overthrow Emperor Napoleon III. Even if she had no part in their plans, she would meet the same fate as they would if caught. When she learns they know where her mother is but won't tell her, she decides to continue anyway. She wouldn't leave Paris without her. Still, Celeste is considered a part of the rebels, and despite herself, falls in love with one of them.

Grossenbacher's third book in her American Madam series is as entertaining and educational as her second: Madam in Silk. She sets scenes using actual details and selects words that fit the time and culture. Her research included traveling to hilly Montmartre to study Paris and visiting the royal apartments where Louis Napoleon III held his autumn court. And when it came time to write her tale, she included real historical revolutionaries: Felice Orsini, Carlo di Rudio, and Thomas Allsop. Readers will be transported to the Normandy region and the historical Mont St. Michel in 1857. For those who enjoy romance and fiction based on actual history. Vivid and highly atmospheric. Madam in Lace won't disappoint.

Christina Francine, Reviewer

Clint Travis' Bookshelf

All the White Friends I Couldn't Keep
Andre Henry
Convergent Books
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
9780593239889, $26.00, HC, 288pp

Synopsis: When the rallying cry "Black Lives Matter" was heard across the world in 2013, Andre Henry was one of the millions for whom the movement caused a political awakening and a rupture in some of his closest relationships with white people. As he began using his artistic gifts to share his experiences and perspective, Henry was aggrieved to discover that many white Americans (people he called friends and family) were more interested in debating whether racism existed or whether Henry was being polite enough in the way he used his voice.

"All the White Friends I Couldn't Keep: Hope--and Hard Pills to Swallow--About Fighting for Black Lives" is personal and thought-provoking study in which Henry explores how the historical divides between Black people and non-Black people are expressed through our most mundane interactions, and why this struggle won't be resolved through civil discourse, diversity hires, interracial relationships, or education. The clarion message here is that what is needed is a revolution, one that moves beyond symbolic progress to disrupt systems of racial violence and inequality in tangible, creative ways.

Sharing stories from his own path to activism ranging from studying at seminary, to becoming a student of nonviolent social change, and from working as a praise leader, to singing about social justice, and then connecting all those experiences to lessons from successful nonviolent struggles in America and around the world.

With the publication of "All the White Friends I Couldn't Keep" Andre Henry calls on Black people and people of color to divest from whiteness and its false promises, trust what their lived experiences tell them, and practice hope as a discipline as they work for lasting change.

Critique: Iconoclastic, timely, articulate, exceptional, from a Christian perspective, and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Contemporary Social Issues, Racism/Discrimination, and African-American Biography collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of political activists, students, academia, and non- specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "All the White Friends I Couldn't Keep: Hope--and Hard Pills to Swallow--About Fighting for Black Lives" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99). Librarians should note that it is also available in a large print paperback edition (Random House Large Print, 9780593559109, $28.00, 352pp).

Editorial Note: Andre Henry is an award-winning musician, writer, and activist. He is a columnist for Religion News Service and the author of the newsletter "Hope and Hard Pills." He is a student of nonviolent struggle, having organized protests in Los Angeles, where he lives, and studied under international movement leaders through the Harvard Kennedy School. His work in pursuit of racial justice has been featured in The New Yorker and The Nation, and on Liturgists Podcast.

Clint Travis

Gini Grossenbacher's Bookshelf

Betrayal on the Bayou
Sheryl Bize-Boutte
Privately Published
B089G8SHWJ, $14.00

Betrayal on the Bayou opens in 1853 with the compelling tale of Emile, daughter Celeste, and wife Clotilde, who jumps overboard while en route on their ship from France to Louisiana, but it does not stop there. Emile carries the taint of selfish disregard further on his path to America. The novel's many conflicts center on the fictional Tassin Valley in Louisiana. In the mixed-race town of Tassin, where Emile settles and continues to make his life with disastrous consequences, his arranged-marriage wife Marie and mistress Margot live side-by-side. Since Margot is Creole and Marie is white, Margo and any visitors to her house are not allowed to walk on their overlapping land; hence they must zigzag and sidestep their way into her home. The zigzag image provides the theme for the Tassin Valley's coded relations between the black and white races and the painful class differences which layer the novel. The conflicts that ensue and their outcomes provide page-turning tension, along with moments of pure eloquence such as Margot's observations in "(a) place where the light had permanently dimmed, and there was nothing but the welcoming flow of the river water."

This novel hums with lyrical cadence and the majestic bayou landscape of Louisiana, yet it bites with its dramatic rendering of racial cruelty and subjugation of women. At times this reader was reminded of work by Toni Morrison and Zora Neale Hurston in Bize-Boutte's dreamlike weaving of people, historical period, and setting. This compelling novel bears repeated reading for its potent reminder that the Tassin Valley world created by the author lives on in the human condition, "a place where the bounty of the harvest gives way to the sinister yields of betrayal." A novel not to be missed

Gini Grossenbacher, Reviewer

Israel Drazin's Bookshelf

The Hidden Saint
Mark Levenson
Level Best Books
9781685120504 $17.95 pb / $5.99 Kindle

The popular best-selling author Jonathan Kellerman is right to call "The Hidden Saint," "ingenious" and "compelling."

Many ancient Jews and non-Jews, as well as many modern people are convinced that the world is filled with evil-producing demons of many types. The most acclaimed Bible and Talmud commentator, whose commentaries on the Bible are taught to young Jewish school children, Rashi (1040-1105), believed they existed. As a joke, I once wrote that Rashi was so fearful of demons that before exiting his house, he would quietly and carefully open his door, sneak a peek to the right and to the left, the right being first as always, assure himself that no demon was lurking outside his dwelling, and only then exit his house.

The Talmud warns people not to drink from a barrel of water that remained uncovered overnight. Rashi explained that the barrel probably contained a demon who entered it in the dark. Rashi's grandson Rashbam mocked his granddad for his views. He explained that the Talmud was warning people not to drink uncovered water which most likely became polluted with dirt and germs during the night.

The famed mystic Nachmanides (1194-1270), held similar idea, many of which I describe in my book "Nachmanides, an Unusual Thinker." He should not be confused with the rational thinker Maimonides (1138-1204) who, like Rashbam, mocked such views. I made a similar joke about Nachmanides as I did of Rashi. A mystically-minded rabbi overheard me and was so shocked to hear his hero Nachmanides mocked that he told his shammas (sexton) to punish me by not giving me an honor of being called to make a blessing over the Torah when it is read in the synagogue.

Being superstitious, he allowed an exception. I was permitted to be called to the Torah on the anniversary of the death of my parents. The rabbi believed and so taught his congregants that saying the Torah blessing on the yahrzeit, the anniversary of death, would "elevate" the soul of my parents, raise them to a higher level in the world to come. This idea, called illui neshama, was only developed a couple of centuries ago. He felt my parents should not be punished for my sin. I declined the honor since I considered illui neshama superstition.

The famed codifier Rabbi Joseph Karo (1488-1575) placed in his Shulchan Arukh, his Code of Jewish Law, the rule that Jews should wash their hands three times when they awake because of the likelihood that the hands contain demons that invaded the body during the sleep. (The magical three times is in contrast to the two times Jews wash before eating bread.) Rabbi Karo added that the Jew must be careful not to spill any of the water on the floor because doing so would contaminate the home with the demons still alive in the water. Maimonides did not include the three-washing practice or anything similar in his Mishna Torah, his Code of Jewish Law.

The non-Jewish biblical scholar Bart D. Ehrman along with many other currently living New Testament scholars feel certain that Jesus believed that the world was filled with demons and other evils and taught his disciples that God would rid the world of this malevolency during their lifetime.

Demons are mentioned in the New Testament Gospel of Mark and other New Testament writings. In Mark 6:7, for example, Jesus tells his disciples to cast out demons. In Mark 1:24, 3:11, and 5:7, Demons recognize Jesus as the messiah.

These are just five of many examples of beliefs in superstitions that I could mention.

Mark Levenson's "The Hidden Saint" is a very interesting look at the life of Jews in Russia in 1745 and soon after, when virtually all people of all religions had many superstitious ideas which controlled and distorted their lives, and corrupted how they treated other people. We read of physical battles between a human and demons, of a person being turned into a donkey, of making people do acts contrary to what they want and what is good for them, making men, women and children disappear. And more, much more.

The story focuses on Rabbi Adam, a golem, a huge seven-foot man made by Rabbi Adam out of clay, the chief demon the female Lilith, demons of all sorts, and the 36 righteous men whom Jewish myth declares must exist so that the world will be sustained and not end - if one died and was not immediately replaced, the world would end.

When the tale begins, Adam is a young man on his way to the synagogue to marry the young woman whom he loves dearly. He suddenly realizes that he forgot the wedding ring at home. He turns back to his home to get it, and disappears.

We read next that twenty-five years later Adam had come to a small town as a young man, not knowing how he got there, with no memory of his past. He was now the rabbi of the town. He is married to a nice woman whom he does not love, and has three children.

His oldest son marries and goes with his bride to his bedroom. They are later found unconscious. All of many attempts to revive them fail. Adam's eight-year old daughter who returned to the synagogue to get her doll that she forgot after the wedding is also found unconscious, also unable to be revived. Her twin, a boy of eight, disappeared.

Adam decides to leave town to find them. He is convinced that the demon Lilith, who had been the first wife of the first human Adam, who is still alive, perpetrated the deed. He doesn't know why. He is sure that if he can find one of the 36 pious men, this man would help him revive his children and find his missing son.

He discovers a box that someone left for him. He doesn't know who left it. It contains a book telling him how to make a powerful golem. Although not a sculpture, he decides to create a golem and take him with him during his search. The result is not very attractive. One ear, for example, is higher than the other. He doesn't know how or when he will use him. The box also has a mirror. Pictures of places where he should walk appear in the mirror. When he reaches the spot shown, a new picture emerges for the next step in his search. He and the golem set out to find the help Rabbi Adam and his children need.

Israel Drazin, Reviewer

Jack Mason's Bookshelf

Working Water: Reinventing the Storm Drain
Bill Wenk
ORO Editions
9781943532360, $40.00, HC, 180pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Working Water: Reinventing the Storm Drain", landscape architect Bill Wenk demonstrates better approaches of managing urban water resources in ways that support more efficient water use, clean urban runoff, support natural systems, and enhance the vitality and livability of our cities. Exploring the potentials of urban water resources is an important part of Wenk Associates landscape architects' practice, and the principle focus of "Working Water.

"Working Water" evolved as a reflection on over thirty-five years of the firm's professional work and is organized in three parts. The first part is a teaching tool for students and the interested public. The second part is a monograph describing selected projects of the firm and their value as civic and natural resources in addition to their essential function of stormwater control. The third part is a resource manual describing lessons learned after decades of observing project successes and failures and ways to overcome legal, financial, and institutional barriers to implementing green infrastructure at a system scale.

Critique: Impressively and profusely illustrated in full color throughout, this coffee-table style(9.25 x 0.75 x 11.25 inches) volume of "Working Water: Reinventing the Storm Drain" is expertly organized and presented, making it an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, college, and university library Landscape Architecture collections and supplemental curriculum studies reading lists.

Editorial Note: Bill Wenk is founder of Wenk Associates, Inc., a Denver-based landscape architectural firm. For over 40 years, Bill has been influential in the restoration and redevelopment of urban river and waterfronts, the implementation of green infrastructure systems, and the design of public parks and open spaces. He is recognized nationally for utilizing stormwater as a resource.

Bill's extensive portfolio includes a master plan for the reclamation of the 32-mile Los Angeles River corridor in California; green infrastructure planning and implementation for the redevelopment of abandoned railyards, and restoration of the Menomonee River in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and transformation of the South Platte River Valley in the heart of Denver into a mosaic of parks, open spaces, and in-fill development. All projects focus on site and district-scale infrastructure systems that incorporate stormwater as a multi-benefit resource.

Bill lectures frequently at universities and conferences across the nation on the integration of stormwater systems and public space as a component of green infrastructure. He served on a National Science Foundation committee assembled to recommend revisions to Federal rules and regulations governing non-point source stormwater pollution. He has served as a visiting professor at several universities. Bill holds a Master of Landscape Architecture from the University of Oregon and a Bachelor of Science, Landscape Architecture from Michigan State University and is a Fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects.

Jack Mason

Janis Butler Holm's Bookshelf

A Writer's Reference
Diana Hacker and Nancy Sommers
Bedford/St. Martin's
9781319169404, $59.99 Kindle

What can a college textbook offer those outside the classroom? Since its initial publication in 1989, A Writer's Reference has found a place on many a writer's shelf. The fact that it is the best-selling composition textbook in North America (used by literally millions of students) has in no way lessened the appeal of this well-designed and user-friendly handbook. Now available in a variety of both print and digital formats, it continues to be the leading resource for writers and editors aiming for perfect prose.

What A Writer's Reference offers is a clear and unpretentious guide to standard English--its uses and abuses. Instructions are concise and readable, and the book's tidy, systematic layout pleases the eye. Tabbed dividers make access to topics such as "Sentence Style," "Word Choice," and "Punctuation and Mechanics" quick and easy. Each tabbed page includes a menu of the items addressed in that section, organized in outline form. And the coverage is thorough. Rare is the writing predicament that is not addressed within this book's covers.

Particularly helpful is the "Glossary of Usage" included in the section on word choice. There one can learn when to use "lie" or "lay," "like" or "as," "fewer" or "less." This glossary distinguishes between standard (e.g., "a lot of") and dialect (e.g., "lots of") forms and helps the reader sort out soundalike words (e.g., "sometime," "some time," and "sometimes"). Throughout, explanations are provided in simple, direct language.

Is A Writer's Reference worth the price it commands as a best-selling textbook? Yes. Given what this manual offers, most consider it a bargain. But those on tight budgets can also purchase earlier print editions, widely available from online used-book sellers. Whatever the writing genre or purpose, this book has continually provided dependable guidance.

Janis Butler Holm

Jessica de Koninck's Bookshelf

Start Again
Miriam Sagan
Red Mountain Press
9781952204241, $21.95

There are substantial benefits to growing older, or old. Among them is the opportunity to reflect on the various stages of life: childhood, adulthood, and, for some, parenthood and grandparenthood. This ability to look forward and to look back forms a great circle. In Start Again (Red Mountain Press, 2022), the most recent collection by poet Miriam Sagan, author of more than thirty books of poetry, fiction, memoir and essay and two-time winner of the New Mexico/Arizona Book Award, the poet turns these reflections into a mandala in verse.

Mandalas, or variations on mandalas, are common to many spiritual traditions. Mandala means circle in Sanskrit. A mandala can be a tool for spiritual guidance, to focus attention, to aid in meditation, to map deities, or as a representation of a spiritual journey. Typically, they are circular with no beginning and no ending. Sagan brings to her mandala a variety of traditions including her own Jewish tradition, as in "Tashlich, 5781" where the speaker tosses "crumbs of regret" into a dry riverbed.

The opening poem, "Along the Chama," begins on a river and establishes that the poet is on a journey. Though the collection is by no means narrative, with each poem the metaphoric journey unfolds, accruing more and more meaning as details gradually emerge. In various poems the speaker explores the role of mother, child, grandmother, spouse in relation to one another and from various points of view. She writes unflinchingly about aging and disability. At the same time, the poet displays great wit.

"Ranchos de Taos" begins:

you think you
have problems
kept us awake
all night

The writing is spare, piercing and informed by a deep sense of history. The poems are situated in the natural world, the spiritual world, and the political world.

In "By the Shrine",

yellow flutters and falls
on stone steps
neither Buddha or Shinto

Nature and various religious traditions move together in a circular dance while maintaining a keen sense of the human condition.

In "The Devil," an exploration of developing the atomic bomb:

a truckful of saints
going in the opposite direction
from us
seems a sign.

Sagan's dance rotates in the directions of both of humor and horror.

Start Again is laid out in a single section. This single thread assists in maintaining the flow of the poems from beginning to end.

The final poem, "Spring is Coming," returns the reader to the start of the year. The poem begins.

I know that spring is coming,
desire in our always broken hearts,
chipped and mended so many times
like Japanese teacups

The circle is complete. Broken, we are starting over.

Jessica de Koninck, Reviewer

John Burroughs' Bookshelf

My Tsunami Journey
Mark Dowd, author
Resource Publications
c/o Wipf and Stock Publishers
199 West 8th Avenue, Suite 3, Eugene, OR 97401-2960
9781725295353, $19.00, PB, 164pp

Synopsis: How can we reconcile belief in a loving God with the suffering of innocent human beings and earthly creatures in the natural world? This question, as old as the Old Testament's book of Job, has been mainly grappled with over the centuries by learned theologians and philosophers.

"My Tsunami Journey: The Quest for God in a Broken World" is a groundbreaking work by Mark Dowd. It is the fascinating story about what happened when Mark was sent on a journey across thousands of miles to speak to Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, and Christians like himself following the 2004 colossal tsunami waves that killed more than 230,000 people.

In the wake of such carnage, why do some people lose their faith while others emerge with it intact and strengthened? Are these events in the natural world really linked to divine justice as "punishment for sin"? And if not, what are the best possible explanations for why an intelligent and caring deity would fashion a world in which babies can die of leukemia and the elderly fall victim to deadly viruses such as COVID-19?

"My Tsunami Journey: The Quest for God in a Broken World" offers profound food for thought for troubled believers and curious agnostics alike.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "My Tsunami Journey: The Quest for God in a Broken World" is an insightful, inspiring, thoughtful and thought-provoking study in the meaning and purpose of spirituality in the modern world that is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, seminary, church, synagogue, mosque, temple, community, college, and university library Religion/Spirituality collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

John Burroughs

Julie Summers' Bookshelf

Miserable Mom: The Do's and Don'ts of Sending Your Kid to College
Sharon L. Brecher, author/illustrator
Brett C. Nancy, illustrator
Independently Published
9798985755107, $17.99, PB, 113pp

Synopsis: When the kids are going to college, their parents are embarking upon an emotional roller-coaster. Written by a mom for parents of young adults, "Miserable Mom: The Do's and Don'ts of Sending Your Kid to College" is a collection of Influencer Sharon Brecher's humorous comic strips that portray the do's and don'ts of sending your kid to college. Sharon shares her most popular and funny comedic musings to which every parent can relate. It's the fun and candid "best friend's take" on your kid leaving home.

Through illustrations and transparent slice-of-life narrative, "Miserable Mom: The Do's and Don'ts of Sending Your Kid to College" offers an authentic and humorous connection to others who are also navigating this emotional time. Delivering an unapologetic perspective of motherhood, Sharon shines a light on the stream of consciousness we all internalize and helps us laugh at ourselves.

By normalizing common parenting and mid-life vulnerabilities with a dose of humor, "Miserable Mom: The Do's and Don'ts of Sending Your Kid to College will help you feel supported while enduring this incredibly special time of parenting college students.

Critique: Very highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library collections, as a delightfully comical, brutally honest, and 'real world based' survival guide, "Miserable Mom: The Do's and Don'ts of Sending Your Kid to College" should be considered as essential reading for any and all moms and dads facing this particularly stressful stage of parenthood!

Julie Summers

Margaret Lane's Bookshelf

Andrew's Awesome Adventures with His ADHD Brain
Kristin M. Wilcox, author
Andrew S. Wilcox, author
Sean Maykrantz, illustrator
MSI Press
1760-F Airline Hwy, #203, Hollister, CA 950243
9781957354026, $16.95, PB, 114pp

Synopsis: Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity, which are pervasive, impairing, and otherwise age inappropriate.

"Andrew's Awesome Adventures with His ADHD Brain" is two-part book in which Andrew, a child with inattentive-type ADHD, and his mom, Kristin Wilcox (who has a Ph.D.), each tell their story about living with the inattentive subtype of ADHD.

How do you survive life and middle school with an ADHD elephant in your brain? Kids with ADHD will relate to Andrew's reactions to everyday and school-related situations, like remembering to turn in homework, staying organized, and making friends. Using practical strategies Andrew learns to manage his ADHD even when his brain sometimes feels "like and overstuffed garbage can, the lid won't stay on and garbage is falling out all over the floor". He even realizes there is a positive side to having ADHD like creativity, fearlessness and hyperfocus.

Dr. Wilcox's unique perspective as both a mother and a researcher allow her to discuss, parent to parent, the science behind ADHD from someone living in the trenches, learning to work with Andrew's ADHD brain. Kristin discusses the significance of various aspects of ADHD and the theory and practices of the education and medical professions related to them, distinguishing inattentive-type ADHD from other subtypes.

Two helpful appendices include a means for parents to "diagnose" the inattentive subtype of ADHD and a list of resources for parents and children with ADHD.

"Andrew's Awesome Adventures with His ADHD Brain" provides unique insights into ADHD behaviors and suggests highly pragmatic and successfully implemented strategies for children with the inattentive subtype of ADHD and their parents (with implications for educators and others who work with children with ADHD).

Critique: Unique, exceptional, informative, thought-provoking, "Andrew's Awesome Adventures with His ADHD Brain" is highly recommended reading for kids with ADHD and essential reading their parents! Very well organized and presented, "Andrew's Awesome Adventures with His ADHD Brain" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, school district, college, and university library Attention Deficit & Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Disability Parenting, and collections and Psychology Pathologies, supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: Dr. Wilcox has a PhD in pharmacology and spent over 20 years as a researcher studying the pharmacological and behavioral effects of drugs, including ADHD medications, and has published her work in peer reviewed scientific journals. Currently, she serves on the executive board of the Inattentive ADHD Coalition, hoping to increase awareness and understanding of the inattentive subtype of ADHD. IDr. Wilcox is the mother of two sons -- one with an inattentive-type ADHD.

The Art of Thai Massage: A Guide for Advanced Therapeutic Practice
Bob Haddad
Findhorn Press
c/o Inner Traditions International, Ltd.
One Park Street, Rochester, VT 05767
9781644113721, $24.99, PB, 256pp

Synopsis: Unlike other books about Thai Massage, "The Art of Thai Massage: A Guide for Advanced Therapeutic Practice" by Bob Haddad is a guide that offers a deep and insightful view of important and often neglected aspects of this work. Many of these concepts and techniques also apply to table massage, physical therapy, yoga, and other healing arts.

"The Art of Thai Massage: A Guide for Advanced Therapeutic Practice" also takes the reader through the conceptual, spiritual, and practical approaches behind effective bodywork. An entire section is dedicated to awareness of breath for massage, movement, and everyday activities. Assessment guidelines help the therapist to work with others based on physical appearance, preexisting conditions, and elemental predisposition. Exercises are presented to sharpen sensing abilities and intuition, and to find, coax, and release blockages in the body.

Twelve important Thai massage techniques that are often taught and performed incorrectly are described in great detail. Other chapters offer ways to create customized sequences of practice and to move from one technique to another with ease and grace. Finally, the chapter on medicinal herbs discusses the preparation, use, and benefits of herbal compresses, poultices, balms, oils, and baths, and it offers easy recipes for all of these therapies.

"The Art of Thai Massage: A Guide for Advanced Therapeutic Practice" is a DIY manual containing information that has never been previously available in print. Full of exercises and insights to help therapists hone their bodywork skills, it reveals key principles that give way to effective treatment and explores traditional Thai massage with a special focus on intention, awareness, sensitivity, and spirituality.

Critique: Illustrated with black-and-white photos, "The Art of Thai Massage: A Guide for Advanced Therapeutic Practice" is extraordinarily well written, organized and presented, making is an ideal instruction manual for the novice therapist and with a great deal to offer even the more experienced Thai masseuse. Comprehensive, informative, and thoroughly 'user friendly' in style and approach to the subject, "The Art of Thai Massage: A Guide for Advanced Therapeutic Practice" is highly recommended for personal, professional, community, college, and university library massage, acupuncture, and exercise injury & rehabilitation collections. It should noted for personal reading lists that "The Art of Thai Massage: A Guide for Advanced Therapeutic Practice" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.99).

Editorial Note: Bob Haddad is a Thai massage therapist and a respected teacher in the field of Thai healing arts. The founder of Thai Healing Alliance International (THAI), he offers courses and workshops in the Americas, Europe, and Thailand. Bob is also the author of "Thai Massage & Thai Healing Arts: Practice, Culture & Spirituality".

Margaret Lane

Mark Walker's Bookshelf

Allegro to Life
Earl Vincent de Berge
9788182538504, $15.00, Paperback, 118 pages

I met the author and his wife, Suzanne, several years ago over lunch in Phoenix discussing fundraising strategies for an NGO they set up in Guatemala, "Seeds for a Future," which provides training to impoverished rural women in and around Chocol  on the South coast, to improve family access to food and nutrition. I soon learned that we not only shared a love and appreciation of Guatemala and the Desert Southwest, but that Earl was also a writer and, in his case, a poet as well.

I was surprised to learn that he started writing as far back as 1959 and is publishing this spring an autographical novel laced with poetry and photos about his adventures as a young man in the Sonoran deserts of Baja California, Mexico, and Arizona, A Finger of Land On An Old Man's Hand. As a high school senior, he came across one of the best Chinese poets, Li Po, noted for his elegant romantic verse, which was what the author felt drawn to express to some of the various women in his life at the time. He was soon writing about nature, environment, cities, social issues, and his imagination was fueled by his travels through Central America, the Sonoran Desert, and the Andes. "Everything I experience has potential for a poem - even the increasingly dreadful business of politics."

In this book, his poems are divided into "Songs from my Life," "Poems from Guatemala," and "Desert Songs." Anyone who lives in the desert appreciates the rare times it rains, which is why "Desert After Rain" struck my fancy:

Drained ivory clouds drift flat-bottomed/above valleys strewn in yellow froth/ where flowering palo verde trees geyser/ above cactus spines and creosote brush...

Colossal mesquites whisper ancient tales/ fall silent contemplating their love of rain. / All pause before resuming tasks of survival. / A silver dove decants its mournful song.

With a vivid description of the desert in "Subtle Greens:"

My mind is calmed by desert's pastel tan and green colors/capped by a pale blue sky..."

I fancy cacti as fortified castles/ lush with wild displays of flower and fruit/as nature has had fun with shapes/and splashes of color.

From the Desert Southwest, the author transports us to the unique, ever moist environs of the rain forest in Guatemala with "Chipi-Chipi:"

It is raining/in the way of mist, / just heavy enough/to cling to plants/...too light to dimple the lake...

Chipi-Chipi is the name/Tzutujil speakers/ give to mist rain/ that neither/ starts nor stops/ yet accumulates/like dew/ to drip gently from/ palm fronds. / One senses eternity.

The author and his wife split their time between Guatemala and Arizona and have owned homes on Lake Atitlan, but eventually were drawn to Antigua, so I wasn't surprised to find this enchanting tale of life in the Central Plaza in "Blind in Antigua:"

Girdled by ancient Spanish buildings, / their silent arches like eyes gazing with/ stern conqueror authority into Antigua's, / graceful central park where modern folks/ now stroll, dally, and relax beneath gnarled jacaranda trees in full lavender flower...

In slow waltz, the calm mix of humanity stir/ in social mingling, a seamless stream that eddies, / and pauses on benches where lovers giggle/ and women chat in clusters, their hands waving/ "oh really!" as they rock back laughing in/ the glow of fresh neighborhood chin-wagging...

A man sits with sad slumped shoulders. / one foot raised on the shoeshine boy's box/ as he reads of war and butchery in the world. / Worried only about future family meals.

The author deftly takes us from the enchanting world of Guatemala to its troubled, violent past in "Cesspool Brain:"

Imagine, /if you can, the cesspool brain/ of the Guatemalan army colonel/ who ordered the murder/ of hundreds of indigenous/ civilians and their burial/ in his army's latrine pits.

Imagine again/ if you can, / him walking away. /Whistling of a job well done. / Time will fade victim's names/ and the pain of personal loss/ but the Maya have not forgotten the / meaning of their agony. / Genocide is the mother of the next war.

The author uses plain language, "my Texas mother can understand." He uses metaphors and rhyming sparingly. No matter where the poem takes place, it is underscored with a clear idea, image, and emotion, which paints a picture that will set the reader adrift on their journey.

About the Author

An Arizona native, Earl Vincent de Berge is a poet/photographer. His education includes Antioch College (BA) and the U of Arizona (MA). A political scientist, he founded Behavior Research Center, created the respected Rocky Mountain Poll, and was Editor for 35 years.

His second book, "A Finger of Land On An Old Man's Hand," will be published this spring. He is assembling a novel, "The Man Who Ate His Dreams," and a collection of short desert stories for children. You can learn more about Seeds for a Future at

Mark D. Walker, Reviewer

Mark Zvonkovic's Bookshelf

Little Souls
Sandra Dallas
St. Martin's Press
9781250277886, $27.99 HB

A story with characters who blaze a trail through a frontier of emotions and dream about clowns.

The narrator, Lutie Hite, tells a story about a journey through the few months of the story's timeline, what she called her "long nightmare." The story began in October, 1918 in the city was Denver, Colorado. The Spanish Influenza was raging, but there was a parade for the soldiers in France. Otherwise, it was a normal day for Lutie at work, including, as she traveled home on the streetcar, a man who stared openly at her legs when her skirt hiked up while she descended the streetcar's stairs. And then she arrived home to find her sister, Helen, kneeling over a man's body, a bloody ice pick in her hand.

Little Souls includes, in addition to the time when the plot occurs, earlier periods when Lutie and Helen were children growing up in Cedar Falls, Iowa and a later period when a third generation is added to the character list, both of which add veracity to the plot. The story is much more than a snapshot of several months in Lutie's life. The plot is an amalgam of many events with which the characters must cope: the death of parents, children, siblings and loved ones, and the survival of desperate circumstances that have a lifelong effect. Sandra Dallas brilliantly depicts through Lutie's eyes both joy and sorrow, as well as bleakness and hope. The war and the flu are only a backdrop for a sensitive rendition of the suffering that occurred during a desperate time and the inner strength that propelled the novel's characters to surmount the adversities they faced. War and pestilence don't keep away villains. Crimes happen.

Lutie's life was one of hard choices. She was not alone. The other characters struggled as well, facing the heartbreak of the death of a mother or a son, and the robbery of innocence. Three little souls in the story triumph over heinous crimes, each in her own way. Sandra Dallas brings the people and their struggles to life in a credible manner. There are no superhuman feats, and around every corner that the story turns the reader is as likely to find catastrophe as good fortune. Some characters are philosophical about the cards they are dealt. Some are religious. But Sandra Dallas takes no sides, and never preaches. She only applauds the fight against adversity her characters demonstrate, no matter how they find their strength. Her words are beautifully written and her episodes are comfortably strung together. Little Souls is a magnificent story that readers will carry in their hearts for years after putting down the book.

Mark Zvonkovic, Reviewer

Michael Carson's Bookshelf

Western Skies
Darden Smith
Dexterity Books
9781947297425, $50.00, HC, 128pp

Synopsis: Amid a series of road trips across West Texas, Darden Smith (an Austin-based musician, author, and creative) found himself writing songs at the wheel and taking Polaroid photographs of the stark and ghostly terrain. Inspired by the spirit of the landscape, Smith scribbled his observations in a notebook and found new life in old lyrics -- and between the prose, the music, and the Polaroid images he captured with his camera, "Western Skies" came vividly to life.

A beautifully designed and collectible coffee-table style (9.75 x 0.5 x 12.25 inches) volume, "Western Skies" combines everything Smith captured and created during his travels including: Dozens of Smith's personal Polaroid images; Sixteen new essays; A foreword by Grammy Award - winner Rodney Crowell; The lyrics of Smith's latest album, also entitled Western Skies; and a link to a free download of the complete Western Skies album with a book purchase.

The perfect companion piece to his latest album, also titled Western Skies, this arresting travelogue celebrates the sights and sounds of West Texas in a truly immersive and transportive way.

Critique: Part prose, part album, and part photographic essay, Western Skies is singer-songwriter Darden Smith's inherently impressive and memorable homage to the mythologies and landscapes of Texas, as well as a welcome companion to his music release of the same name. While essential for the growing legions of Darden Smith fans, and readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.00), "Western Skies" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal and community library Contemporary Photography and American Essay collections.

Editorial Note: Hailed "one of the most respected American musicians working today" by The Daily News, Darden Smith has released 16 critically lauded studio albums, landed singles on both the country and pop charts (including the Top 10 hit "Loving Arms"), penned a symphony, scored works for theater and dance, published a widely celebrated book on creativity, exhibited works of visual art, and co-founded multiple nonprofits devoted to helping veterans, healthcare workers, students, and more tap into the transformational possibilities of collaborative songwriting.

Michael J. Carson

Natalie Soine's Bookshelf

Yin: Completing the Leadership Journey
Lisa Marshall
Dennison Press
9781736237007, $24.95 PB / $14.95 ebook, 154pp

Yin: Completing the Leadership Journey was written by Lisa J. Marshall throughout 2020, the first year of the Covid 19 pandemic when people found it difficult to come to terms with the changes in our world. Yin helps readers to build their own confidence to use their voices and tell their stories, sharing their wisdom in the process. Lisa provides inspiring quotations, references, and useful suggestions for further reading in each chapter, as well as thought-provoking questions for the reader to consider and answer for their own benefit. The book includes subjects such as leadership, maturity, instinct, nature, spiritual health, wellbeing, and many more. "Explore it, try it on, and begin your own journey of imagining how the world could and should be."

What a beautiful book. Yin by Lisa J. Marshall certainly is an eye-opener. Lisa has clearly done her research and together with her personal knowledge, skills, and experience, Lisa has produced Yin: Completing the Leadership Journey. Lisa authored the book not for her own benefit but for our benefit, to help us as we journey through life. I especially enjoyed the thought-provoking questions that I never knew needed to be asked. The book is well-written, smooth flowing, and an absolute pleasure to read. Filled with quotes and life lessons, the book provides the reader with an educational experience like no other and begs the question - what does the future hold? I recommend Yin: Completing the Leadership Journey to people of all ages for their own personal development.

Natalie Soine, Reviewer
Readers' Favorite

Robin Friedman's Bookshelf

Brahms: Complete Songs Vol. 5
Johannes Brahms, composer
Christopher Maltman, performer
Graham Johnson, performer
B00M2D7KWO, $18.84

Christopher Maltman Sings Brahms' Romances From Magelone

The scholar-pianist Graham Johnson and Hyperion CD are engaged in recording the complete songs of Brahms. This outstanding project follows upon their recordings of the complete songs of other composers, particularly Schubert, but including Schumann, Faure, Strauss and Liszt as well. This CD, the fifth in the Brahms series, features the British baritone Christopher Maltman with Johnson at the piano performing Brahms' only song cycle, "Die Schone Magelone", opus 33, a large, passionately romantic work which is rarely heard.

Together with beautiful music and performances, the Hyperion-Johnson CDs feature extensive book-length liner notes. Because of the unfamiliarity of "Magelone" op. 33 it is best to begin this review with these notes. Brahms set 15 poems from a novel called "The Wondrous Love story of the Beautiful Magelone and Count Peter of Provence", by Ludwig Tieck (1775 --1853). Tieck was a popular and romantic writer at the time, and Brahms loved his novel. Tieck's book is a medieval romance involving a young prince coming of age, wandering, dark forests, jousting, finding and losing love, hazardous sea voyages, three love rings and more. Tieck's story is unintelligible from the 15 poems Brahms set. When the work is performed, a narrator sometimes is used, either in German or English, to fill in the gaps in the story. Brahms tolerated but did not care for this practice and it is not used on this CD. The result is a recording of 15 "Magelone" songs, named for the heroine, which present a disjointed story as a set.

The liner notes also suggest that Brahms did not view the "Magelone" songs as a connected cycle but preferred to think of them as 15 separate love songs which could be performed individually or in small groups at recitals. In other words, Brahms tried to avoid thinking of "Magelone" as similar to Schubert's "Winterreise" for example. The practice has continued of performing "Magelone", when it is performed at all as a set, as is the case on this CD. The liner notes include short summaries of the story line of Tieck's book to allow the interested listener to put the songs in context.

Another difficulty with the "Magelone" songs besides the story line lies in the songs themselves. The 15 songs tend to be long and elaborate, difficult to sing and particularly difficult in the varied character of the piano writing. The piano part challenges pianists and is more on the order of a chamber piano work than of art songs. The songs are large and almost operatic in character. Unlike, again, "Winterreise" the "Magelone" songs lack the sort of intimacy that makes songs suitable for home performance or for small recitals. They are virtuosic and demanding. Pianists, singers and audiences have generally shied away from them. In addition, two of the 15 songs, no. 11 and 13 are written for a woman -- in fact for two different women. Thus, the Magelone set on occasion uses two singers, but the general practice, for economy if for nothing else, if for a single singer to perform the entire set, as is done on this CD.

With all these issues, Maltman and Johnson offer a passionately convincing performance of these songs which, uncharacteristically for Brahms, wear their hearts on their sleeves. Maltman is a renowned performer who has recorded the Schubert cycles with Johnson and who appears frequently in opera. His voice and musicality are both lyrical and strong. He possesses a wide vocal range which is necessary for this demanding score. I thought Maltman was especially effective in the upper part of his register which gets much taxing use in these songs.Johnson plays his difficult piano part with skill and conviction. He and Maltman understand and work well with one another. Maltman sings the most famous of the "Magelone" songs, "Rest My Sweetheart", no. 9 with tenderness and smoothness. Other beautifully-sung works from the set include "Are these sorrows, are these joys?" (no. 3), "We must Part" (a song Peter sings to his lute when he plans to elope with Magelone, no. 8), and the climactic, concluding song "True Love Abides" (no. 15). Then as now, composers and audiences generally preferred happy endings.

The liner notes include texts and translations of each song together with detailed musical analysis. I found it best to read the booklet first to avoid distraction when listening. With the performances and the booklet, this CD offers an excellent opportunity for serious listeners to get to know Brahms' "Magelone" songs or to deepen one's love for them. I have other CDs of "Magelone", but I came to enjoy the set much more with Maltman's and Johnson's performance and with the detailed booklet.

Total Time: 57:28

Brahms: Complete Songs Vol 6
Johannes Brahms, composer
Ian Bostridge, performer
Graham Johnson, performer
B011JFSFYM, $21.98

Two Scholar-Musicians Perform Brahms Songs

The gifts of two scholar-musicians are fully displayed in this CD, the sixth in an ongoing series on Hyperion of the complete songs of Brahms. The series is the project of the scholar-pianist Graham Johnson who has undertaken to record the complete songs of other composers including Schubert, Schumann, Faure, Strauss, and Liszt. The songs of Brahms are a necessary addition to this group. Johnson performs as the pianist in these recordings and also prepares the book-length liner notes on each song. Johnson has expanded the notes he wrote for the cycle of Schubert songs into a three-volume study of the Schubert lieder: "Franz Schubert: The Complete Songs".

Tenor Ian Bostridge, who sings on this CD, is also a renowned scholar of subjects musical and otherwise. Before turning to singing as a career, Bostridge was a historian. He has continued with his scholarly interests in addition to a busy performing schedule.. Bostridge has written a highly acclaimed study of Schubert's Winterreise, a work he has often performed:, "Schubert's Winter's Journey: Anatomy of an Obsession". It is a pleasure to hear these two musicians and scholars perform together. The collaboration of voice and piano is close and intimate, with both performers displaying a passion and understanding for Brahms. Bostridge's light, highly emotive tenor is displayed to good effect. The two performers have worked together before on Schubert; but this CD appears to be Bostridge's first recording of Brahms songs.

The twenty-eight songs on this CD might be approached through Brahms' setting of a poem called "Meine Leider" which ends with the line, "Dunkel klingen meine Leider!" (Dark is the sound of my songs!") Brahms' songs are far more intimate and autobiographical than the chamber and orchestral music for which he is better known. Brahms' songs are at their best when they sing of love. In Brahms' case, most of the time the songs speak of loss, regret, missed opportunities, or rejection. The songs seem to track Brahms' inner life and his frustrations with women. "Dark is the sound of my songs!"

In the introductory notes to the CD, Johnson points out that Brahms generally thought of his songs as intimate music to be sung a few at a time in the home more often than in the recital hall. Johnson also argues that Brahms often more or less arbitrarily collected several songs within a single opus number and that the songs in a given opus need not necessarily be performed as a set. Still, in this recording Bostridge performs two song collections in their entirety, opus 32 and opus 96, while offering as well a selection of individual songs from other collections. The two sets work beautifully here when performed in full.

The opus 32 collection which opens this recital consists of nine songs by two poets, August Von Platen (1796-1835) and Georg Friedrich Daumer (1800 -- 1875). These songs show the lonely singer wandering through city streets expressing his frustration and loss or lack of love. Some of the songs are harsh and angry in tone. These songs fit together convincingly when performed as a cycle. The set reaches its climax in the final, longing song, "How blissful my queen, you are."

The opus 96 set includes three songs by Heine and one song by Daumer. These four songs are united in their themes of love and death. Each of these four works is beautiful and intense with beautiful piano writing in "Sea Voyage" the final work of the collection.

The individual songs on this CD are placed between the two complete performances of an opus. Many of these songs, such as "The Secret", op 71 no 3,, "Love Song" op 71 no. 5, "In the churchyard", op 105 no.4, and "Meine Leider", op 105 no. 6, are beautiful, perfonal, and intense. Some other songs are in a lighter, often sardonic vein. These include "Salamander", op107 no2,, "Standchen", op 106 no1, and "Do you wish me to go?", op 71 no.4.

In addition to the beautiful music and performances, Graham Johnson's notes make this CD a valuable source of information for listeners with a serious interest in art song. The liner notes include texts and translations together with Johnson's own analysis of the text and music of each song. The notes show both love of the music and erudition. They are an excellent resource for close listening and appreciation. For example, Johnson's notes to the song "Invincible" op. 72 no 5. show how Brahms made use of a theme from a Scarlatti keyboard sonata. The discussion branches out to a consideration of the reception of Scarlatti in the romantic era. Thus Johnson relates the Brahms songs to the broader world of music.

In my own approach to the CD, I listened to the songs through with minimal reference to the booklet. Then I read the booklet and listened to each song individually or in short groups. In most instances, I supplemented listening to Bostridge/Johnson by listening to other recordings of Brahms songs. In particular, I enjoyed listening to the Fischer-Dieskau/Sawallisch recording of the opus 32 songs which they, as do Bostridge and Johnson perform as a unit.

I look forward to each release in Johnson's Brahms series. This CD and its companions are beautiful ways to explore Brahms' lieder and the world of the art song.

Total Time: 67:07

The Osterwald Liederbuch
Robert Franz, author
Iain Sneedon, editor
Victoria Edge, monograph and translations
Graham Johnson, introduction
Lieding Publications
c/o Lulu
9781916247703, $44.93 paperback

Robert Franz And The Osterwald Liederbuch

This beautiful and unusual book, "The Osterwald Liederbuch" (2019) explores the underappreciated German art song composer Robert Franz (1815 -- 1892) and the 51 songs he set to poems by his friend Karl Wilhelm Osterwald (1820 -- 1887). Franz's settings of Osterwald emphasize nature and sad, failed love. The book is part of a project initiated by Victoria Edge, Associate of the Royal College of Music for Singing Performance as well as the author of a book on Schubert's "Die Winterreise". This project resulted in a two CD set of Franz' setting of Osterwald performed by soprano Harriet Burns, tenor William Searle, and pianists Marc Verter and Sebastian Wybrew. This CD set is available separately from this accompanying book.

Franz was almost exclusively a composer of art song. Of his 279 songs, he set 51 by Osterwald, more than any other poet with the exception of Heine. Most of the Osterwald settings are rarely performed and have never before been recorded. Performances of Franz, when they occur, focus on his settings of better known poets. Franz's settings of the work of his friend tend to be from early in his career and were completed by the mid-1840s. Franz and Osterwald had been boyhood friends in school in Halle, where Franz lived his entire life. They collaborated closely on these songs from the late 1830s to 1840s when Osterwald lived in Halle. Later in life, the two continued to communicate with Osterwald writing a brief biography of his friend.

"The Osterwald Liederbuch" offers a detailed study of the Franz-Osterwald collaboration which Graham Johnson's Introduction to the volume describes as "one of the most fascinating in the history of the German lied and, until now, one of the most underestimated." Johnson is a scholar-pianist who will be familiar to many lovers of song for his CDs and extensive commentary on art song composers such as Schubert, Schumann, and Brahms, including a CD of the songs of Franz with tenor Robin Tritschler. Following Johnson's introduction, the "Osterwald Liederbuch" continues with a lengthy essay by Victoria Edge, "The Osterwald lieder of Robert Franz" which includes biographical and historical information about both the composer and the poet together with extensive photographs. Her essay will introduce most readers to a composer they will find unfamiliar and a poet, at least to English speakers, even more obscure. The songs and their themes are well described. In her essay, Edge argues that Franz and Osterwald had been lovers, not just friends and collaborators. I wasn't convinced. This issue does not detract from the value of presenting these rarely heard songs and their story.

The book then includes text, translation and historical information for each of the 51 Osterwald settings arrange by Franz's opus numbers. Then, the book presents each of the songs in full score for piano and voice. This is an invaluable resource for those wishing to study the songs as they have never before been gathered together in a single volume. There is no "collected edition" of the Franz songs. The scores conclude with a short, beautiful piece for piano solo that Franz composed late in his life, his only work of this type. The piano solo also appears on the CD set. An appendix concludes the volume with five additional Franz songs on which Osterwald had some input even though he did not write the texts. These five songs are not included on the CD.

I used this book, particularly the scores, in listening to the CD set of these songs. On the CDs, the songs are not presented by opus number, as is the case in the book. Instead, the songs have been grouped, almost as a song-cycle, under the headings "Spring, "Summer", "Fall", and "Winter". The book collates the presentation of songs by opus number with the ordering on the CD but it can be confusing to follow. It should be remembered that neither Franz nor Osterwald chose to organize the songs in the order or with the headings used in the recording. With these qualifications, the arrangement on the CD is an effective way to present these rarely-heard works.

This book is a treasure in presenting a great, little known composer to music and song lovers together with songs and poems that have been almost entirely neglected. It was valuable to see these works lovingly and carefully presented and studied and to hear the songs on the CD set. I was reminded of Franz's own admonition, repeated several times in the book to focus on the music rather than on the biographical details of his enigmatic life: "Concern yourselves with my songs; what I have been is there." This book will serve its purpose if it pursuades music lover to explore the songs of Franz. "The Osterwald Liederbuch" will appeal to lovers of art song.

Leo Ornstein: Modernist Dilemmas, Personal Choices
Michael Broyles and Denise Von Glahn
Indiana University Press
9780253348944, $45.00 print / $9.99 ebook / $2.99 Kindle

Leo Ornstein (1893? -- 2002) remains one of the most obscurely fascinating figures in American music. Born in Russia in about 1893, he was a child prodigy who studied at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. In about 1905, his family fled Russia to escape the pogroms and emigrated to the lower east side of New York City. Ornstein studied music at a predecessor to the Juilliard School of Music and toured Europe in the early 1910s with his teacher, Bertha Fiering Tapper. During this time, Ornstein received a compositional "epiphany" and wrote some wildly dissonant, percussive piano pieces which established his reputation as the "bad boy of American music."

Upon returning to the United States, Ornstein, young and handsome, all of 5'4" with a mane of long black hair, became a charismatic pianist (With the outbreak of WW I, he never again toured Europe.) who played the standard repertoire together with his own and other modernist compositions. Ornstein had a successful career as a concert pianist until 1925. In the interim, he married Pauline-Mallet-Prevost, who was a fellow student at the conservatory, and the daughter of a wealthy family, highly different from Ornstein's own background. The marriage lasted over 60 years.

Suddenly, in 1926, Ornstein abandoned the life of a concert pianist for reasons that remain obscure. He taught at a conservatory in Philadelphia and ultimately opened his own studio. He did no more concertizing and ultimately became forgotten. In the 1950s, the Ornsteins retired from their studio and wandered around the United States, finally settling in a trailer in Brownsville, Texas and then moving to Wisconsin.

Ornstein was "rediscovered" in the 1970s, and was the subject of news features and a number of recordings. During this time, he continued to compose. Pianists Marc Hamelin and Janice Weber are among the artists who have recorded Ornstein's solo piano compositions, from the radical early works to the more conservative, virtually unknown pieces he composed late in life.

It is fortunate that there is a recent thoughtful biography of Ornstein, the man and the musician, "Leo Ornstein:Modernist Dilemmas, Personal Choices" (2007) by the musicologists Michael Broyles and Denise von Glahn. Their work is the product of eight years of research, including interviews with Ornstein's family, and study of his large output of music.

The book proceeds on many levels. It is a study of the composer's childhood in Russia and the immigration of his family to the United States, in company with many Russian Jews. It is also a study, in Ornstein's case, of assimilation and Americanization, and its consequences. We learn a great deal about the United States, up through WW I, and about musical life of the time. Finally, Broyles and von Glahn give an overview of Ornstein's music and detailed descriptions of some major pieces, especially the "Quintette" and the early radical piano works.

Underlying any consideration of Leo Ornstein is the question why he abrubtly abandoned his concert career in the mid-1920s for a life of obscurity. The authors offer a variety of answers, including Ornstein's aversion to risk-taking, and his desire for a peaceful mainstream life in America. They are critical of his marriage to Mallet-Prevost, for wanting to keep Ornstein to herself and to hinder the development of his career - a decision in which Ornstein at the least obviously acquiesced. It remains unclear to me whether the authors' criticism of Mallet-Prevost is well-founded.

The authors take a similar approach to the change in Ornstein's music from its early anarchy to its latter approach which Ornstein described as "expressivist". Ornstein became disenchanted with the development of modern music which he characterised as overintellectualized, experimental and formalist. His own music, in contrast, was emotive and spontaneous, wearing its heart on its sleeve. The authors are somewhat critical of Ornstein's technical skills as a composer and his difficulty in handling complex forms. They also raise questions, as they do in considering Ornstein's life, about the composer's abandonment of his Jewish-Russian roots, including his relative lack of contact with his family after he became successful, his desire to be mainstreamed into America, his isolation from other composers and intellectuals following the end of his career as a performer, and his aversion to risk-taking as factors that contributed to his obscurity.

Following my reading of this book, I listened to the Naxos recording of Ornstein's piano music by Janice Weber with renewed interest and appreciation. Broyles and von Glahn have written a meditative, troubling biography of a composer who deserves to be remembered and, more generally, of the changes and challenges faced by Jewish immigrants to the United States early in the 20th Century.

Robin Friedman

Suanne Schafer's Bookshelf

Out Front the Following Sea
Leah Angstman
Regal House Publishing
9781646031948, $19.95

Out Front the Following Sea is a delight to read. It's thoroughly researched but doesn't feel bogged down in historical facts. Set during the King William's War between French and English settlers in 1689, the novel abounds with adventure and romance as it deals with survival in colonial New England. The cold winters are enough to affect the shifting of the political and religious climates, the war against the Native Americans, and the impending war provide ample sources of intrigue and action - along with the ever-present risk of accusations of witchcraft, treason, or heresy, particularly to women who don't strictly follow the norm.

Ruth Miner is one of those women - headstrong and independent female. Ruth lost both her parents in a fire for which she, despite being only six at the time, was blamed and branded a witch by the colony. Now, at sixteen, she's an outcast, an orphan living with her grandmother.

Ruth has an escape plan, one she drew up with the help of Owen Townsend, her childhood friend, and leaves her village for another one, no less bound by religious and military dogma than her former home.

This is an atmospheric read, so much so you can almost feel the bitter sea winds blowing. However, the ending seemed a bit unbelievable.

Come as You Are
Jennifer Haupt
Central Avenue Publishing
9781771682251, $27.00

Jennifer Haupt, in her prior novel, In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills, effortlessly blended the American Civil Rights Movement with the 1994 Rwandian genocide. In her newest novel, Come as You Are, she just as easily dovetails the West Coast "Seattle Grunge" music scene with the New Mexican Native American milieu. Zane and Skye are teenaged best friends/lovers who plan to move to LA, Zane planning to hit it big in music while Skye works on her art. Things go screwy when her sister, Lauren, dies and, shortly thereafter, Skye discovers she's pregnant. To escape the tensions at home, she bails out and heads to Montana. He soon follows her but becomes too messed up by drugs to be a good partner for Skye or father to their daughter, the eponymously-named Montana. Eventually, Skye moves to New Mexico. She is too damaged by her past to recognize the potential of the second family she forms with Aaron and his mother, Enola.

Come as You Are is a haunting novel about trauma, love, healing, forming new connections and new families while learning to deal with the old. It's also about how traumas spiral around, revisiting families in new ways. The music references are spot-on. The emotions portrayed are grim, haunting, and ultimately uplifting.

When She Disappeared
Steph Mullin and Nicole Mabry
9780008461270, $15.99

When She Disappeared is set in a small town, which like all gatherings of humanity, has plenty of secrets. The novel has a "cold case" gets hot again storyline, but with a more contemporary twist in that, after fifteen years, a true crime show takes up the case and stirs up the pot. Back then, Jessie, a beautiful high school student disappears. Everyone seems to have an alibi, and the case rather quickly turns cold.

The main character, Margo, left the area way back then and has returned for two reasons: her divorce and her father needing care after hip surgery. When she reunites with Austin, her former high-school lab partner, who is now working for the television show. With that action, she moves into the cross-hairs of the various unreliable and unlikeable potential suspects.

The story is told in Margo's point of view and includes epistolary chapters taken from the diary she kept as a teenager. There is a clever twist at the rather open-ended conclusion.

A Panther Crosses Over
Sam Foster
Agave Americana Books
9781737260127, $29.95

I enjoyed reading this book and learning more about the state of indigenous Americans at the time between the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 and, of course, Tecumseh. The research was excellent. As it was mostly "told" not "shown" and written in a rather distant point of view, I found it difficult to connect with the characters. I was never "transported" by this book and actually needed multiple days to finish it.

Fairy Godmurder (Fractured Fae, #1)
Sarah J. Sover
Falstaff Books
B09S15M55N, $4.99

Sarah J. Sover's first book, Double-Crossing the Bridge, is a play on the fairy tale "The Three Billy Goats Gruff." If you ever wanted a story about the Underworld, filled with trolls and other monsters, Double-Crossing the Bridge is for you. Sover's second novel, Fairy Godmurder, takes a swing at the traditional view of a fairy godmother and successfully blends it with a noir whodunnit with a strong female detective, populated by well-developed secondary characters. The story is set in New England, which is really a fae world in which the fae control things behind the scenes while humans have little understanding of what's going on. While lacking the teenage-boy humor of Double-Crossing the Bridge, Fairy Godmurder works on many levels and, despite its serial-killer underpinnings, is fun to read.

The Bucharest Dossier
William Maz
Oceanview Publishing
9781608094769, $27.95

The Bucharest Dossier is a classic espionage thriller set in 1989 against the back drop of the Romanian Revolution and the fall of communism. The protagonist, Bill Heflin, is a double refugee. As a child, he moved from Romania to Greece then on to America, resulting in a classic fish-out-of-water hero who never fits in. He attempts to establish a new identity in college by changing his name to Heflin and creating a new background for himself. While at Harvard, he is approached and recruited by the CIA. He ends up joining as an economic analyst. He is sent to Romania and, while carrying out his clandestine activities, searches for Pusha, his long-lost childhood love.

This book has tons of twists and turns. The characters are well-developed. The setting in Romania has a special verisimilitude I found particularly appealing. On reading the author's notes, I learned that he had been born in Romania, and like his main character, spent two years in a Greek refugee camp before moving to the U.S.

The Bucharest Dossier provides a realistic portrayal of the CIA and spycraft during the fall of communism. My main criticism is that the romance aspect is the least successful on the interwoven lines of this book, and I had a hard time figuring out why Bill would fall for such an unlikeable character as Catherine. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the book immensely.

The Third Warrior
Carol Potenza
Tiny Mammoth Press, LLC
9781736326213, $26.99

I have read every Tony Hillerman book and, being raised in the Southwest, loved how he (and later his daughter Anne Hillerman) captured so beautifully the aura of the land and its people. Author Carol Potenza's debut novel, Hearts of the Missing, won the Tony Hillerman Prize for Best First Mystery Set in the Southwest and her sophomore novel was so good she is now on my automatic-buy list.

Potenza's second book, The Third Warrior (Tiny Mammoth Press, August 3, 2021), is every bit as enthralling as a Hillerman Leaphorn or Chee mystery novel. Potenza's love for the New Mexico landscape comes through clearly. Additionally, she has a strong female protagonist, Nicky Matthews, an officer in the police department of the Fire-Sky people. Though not a Native American, she is trusted by the people she serves. The book combines well-conceived plot twists in which Native American mythology clashes with illegal drug distribution and human trafficking. I love the esoteric science Potenza utilizes as Nicky tracks down murderers and thieves of sacred items while she deals with past characterized by abandonment, a boss who dislikes her, a sleazy former lover, an impending financial disaster, and a new love interest.

Suanne Schafer, Reviewer

Susan Bethany's Bookshelf

Where They Purr
Paul Barbera
Thames & Hudson, Inc.
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110-0017
9781760762285, $50.00, HC, 240pp

Synopsis: Cats can be notoriously aloof, yet they have a special knack for commanding a room. What can these curious creatures reveal about their owners' personal style and design sensibilities?

"Where They Purr: Inspirational Interiors and the Cats Who Call Them Home" by Paul Barbera showcases twenty-eight inspirational houses and their stylish interiors, along with the charismatic felines that call these places home. From a historic Victorian terrace to a modern farmhouse with panoramic vistas, an art-filled inner-city apartment to a cozy rental that melds classic pieces and clever design, discover each cat's domain and their predilection for sunlit nooks, midcentury furniture, or rooms with a view.

Through stunning color photography, Paul Barbera captures these enviable homes complemented by the enigmatic qualities of those most contrary of domestic companions: our cats.

Critique: Enhanced with some 200 captioned color illustrations, "Where They Purr: Inspirational Interiors and the Cats Who Call Them Home" is an inherently fascinating coffee-table style (8.8 x 1.1 x 11.2 inches) volume that will have particular interest and appeal for cat fanciers and interior designers. A beautifully book to simply browse through one page at a time, "Where They Purr: Inspirational Interiors and the Cats Who Call Them Home" is highly recommended for personal, community, college, and university library Pets/Wildlife, Interior Design, and Contemporary Photography collections.

Editorial Note: Paul Barbera is an Australian-born, New York - based lifestyle and interiors photographer. He has shot the studios and homes of architects, designers, and artists around the world, from Tadao Ando and Kengo Kuma to Kelly Wearstler, Jonathan Adler, and Luis Barrag n. Employing a minimalist approach, Barbera shoots in natural light and avoids complicated technical arrangements to capture emotional honesty in his subjects, which range from cultural anthropology to luxury living. Regularly commissioned throughout the United States, Asia, and Europe, Paul's work has been published in high-end publications such as Vogue Living, Bon Appetit, the New Yorker, Stewart Living, and Elle Decor.

Susan Bethany

Susan Keefe's Bookshelf

Negotiate Like a CEO: How to Get Ahead with Lessons Learned From Top Entrepreneurs and Executives
Jotham S. Stein
Political Animal Press
9781895131598, $29.99, 336 Pages

The author of this comprehensive guide graduated from Princeton University then went to Stanford Law School. As the principal of the Law Offices of Jotham S. Stein P.C., he has used the extensive knowledge, and the wealth of experience he has acquired throughout his legal career to write this incredibly informative book.

Not only has Mr. Stein represented and advised innumerable clientele from a vast range of companies for more than two decades, but he has also negotiated various agreements, and is also a litigator representing individuals and corporate clients. The author has served as a part-time General Counsel and is also a member of multiple bar associations. His previous book Executive Employment Law was first published in June 2011 and is now in its ninth edition.

I just had to quote these wise words from NEGOTIATE LIKE A CEO. 'If you think you're invulnerable, think again. If you think it can't happen to you, dream on.'

Everyone with the hunger for success can learn from this book. The business world is cruel; it takes no prisoners. To be the best you must have the strength to follow your convictions, be cutting edge innovators, leaders in your chosen fields. However, never forget, there's always someone just behind you waiting to take over your spot, be the number one. It's a dog-eat-dog world and the only way forward is to protect yourself!

This is where the author comes in. He will guide you on building your business with the correct legal protection, which experts it will pay to hire, and with interesting and very relevant fictional stories, give you examples of scenarios you may come across in your career. Hiring, firing, agreements, the importance of ensuring your documentation is legal and watertight, everything you need is within the pages of this book.

Everyone who falls in love thinks it's forever, but what if it isn't? You may regret not having a pre-nuptial agreement. Be prepared, just in case. Learn how to recognize your self-worth, NEGOTIATE LIKE A CEO the best deal for you, and protect your interests. You're on the rise, your career is taking off, everyone wants to be your friend, but are they true, or just hanging on to your shirt tails. These are just a few of the circumstances you may find yourself in. Now, you have the opportunity to discover how you can protect yourself and your inventions/business ideas from an expert in the field. Mr. Stein's comprehensive experience makes him well qualified to offer you advice in the comfort of your home or office, through his book.

NEGOTIATE LIKE A CEO provides the ultimate no-nonsense guide for those who want to protect themselves, their friends and family, both in the business world and personal life. It doesn't matter how big or small your company or dreams are, this book is one you must read. Highly recommended.

Susan Keefe, Reviewer

Suzie Housley's Bookshelf

The Vampire's Missing Cape
Steve Stables
Privately Published
B09SXLYRV1, $4.99 Kindle

Creatures of the night come out for their own delight...

What's a vampire to do when he's bored with his life? He sets out on an adventure. His journey leads him to the city, where he's attracted by the bright lights of a dance club. He couldn't resist passing it by, for the music seemed to beckon him to come in.

The music made him want to dance. The beat was one that was fast and furious. As he danced, he felt he didn't care about the world and was enjoying himself. He realized he needed a break, so he stepped off the dance floor and found somewhere to remove his cape and rest. He wanted to cool off and stepped outside for a minute.

When he returned, it shocked him when he couldn't find his trustworthy cape! What will he do? How will he survive? A Vampire without a cape is a sad sight. Will he be able to find his treasured possession? Or will he suffer having to live out all of eternity cape less?

Children and adults will enjoy reading this book for its brightly colored illustrations bright each scene to life. The story is one that is one that will quickly become a favorite of children worldwide.

Steve Stables has masterfully crafter a book that is both fun and informative. His writing style is easy to understand and one that will be appreciated by children and adults. This book is one that will leave a lasting memory once finished.

Suzie Housley

Willis Buhle's Bookshelf

The Wealthy: Chronicle of a Jewish Family (1763 - 1948)
Hamutal Bar-Yosef
Gefen Publishing House
c/o Storch 255 Central Ave #B-206, Lawrence, NY 11559
9789657023983, $24.95, PB, 488pp

Synopsis: The inherently fascinating two century saga of a fictional Jewish family line, "The Wealthy: Chronicle of a Jewish Family (1763 - 1948)" showcases author Hamutal Bar-Yosef's impressive attention to historical detail and context.

Critique: With a genuine flair for originality and a compelling narrative driven style of storytelling, "The Wealthy: Chronicle of a Jewish Family (1763 - 1948)" by novelist and poet Hamutal Bar-Yoself is an truly extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to personal reading lists and community, college, and university library Jewish Historical Fiction collections.

Editorial Note: Hamutal Bar-Yosef was born in Kibbutz Tel Yosef in 1940. She received her Ph.D in Hebrew Literature from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1985. She taught Hebrew literature at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev until 2003, and is now Professor Emeritus. She has also been a visiting professor in Paris, Moscow and Columbia University in New York. Bar-Yosef has published many collections of poetry as well as academic books and articles on Hebrew literature. She also translates poetry from English, French and Russian. Among other awards, Bar-Yosef has received the Tel Aviv Prize (1987), the ACUM Prize (1987), the Jerusalem Prize for Poetry (1990), the WIZO Prize for the Creative Woman (1999), the President's Prize (2002), the Brenner Prize for Poetry (2005), the Yehuda Amichai Prize for Poetry (2011), The ASI Prize (2012), the Ramat Gan Prize for Poetry (2012) and the ACUM Prize for Lifetime Achievement (2013).

Willis M. Buhle

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Midwest Book Review
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