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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 24, Number 4 April 2024 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Ann Skea's Bookshelf C.A. Gray's Bookshelf Carl Logan's Bookshelf
Clint Travis' Bookshelf Israel Drazin's Bookshelf Jack Mason's Bookshelf
John Burroughs' Bookshelf Julie Summers' Bookshelf Kate Michaelson's Bookshelf
Kirk Bane's Bookshelf Margaret Lane's Bookshelf Mark Walker's Bookshelf
Matthew McCarty's Bookshelf Michael Carson's Bookshelf Robin Friedman's Bookshelf
Suanne Schafer's Bookshelf Susan Bethany's Bookshelf Willis Buhle's Bookshelf

Ann Skea's Bookshelf

The Queen's Apprenticeship
Tracy Ryan
Transit Lounge
9781923023031, A$32.99 PB / $14.99 Kindle 376pp.

In The Queen's Apprenticeship, Tracy Ryan tells the stories of two women. One, Jehane/Josse, the daughter of a journeyman printer who died in a fire when she was 13, is fictional. The other, Marguerite of Angouleme, is a noblewoman who, after her second marriage in 1527, became Queen of Navarre, and was one of the most powerful and admired women in the history of France.

Jehane/Josse tells her own story, from the time of her birth in Lyon 'in the same year the new king was crowned, Francois, first of that name, by the Grace of God Most Christian King of France', to the moment she is requested to write it by Queen Marguerite:

Now I tell that story, as I never thought I would need to. My story is real: only you may judge whether it is also true. If I offend, it's from seeking not to please but to give account, with hope of forbearance.

Jehane goes on to tell how, in the course of a few turbulent, adventurous and dangerous years, she came to change her name and clothes and live as a young man - Josse; and how her path eventually crossed that of Queen Marguerite.

Marguerite's story, too, begins with her birth: she is the eldest child of high-born Louise of Savoy and Charles, Count of Angouleme. Louise, widowed at the age of 19, is determined that her son, Marguerite's younger brother, Francois, will become king of France, but his succession to the throne depends on King Louis XII dying without an heir. Louise will stop at nothing to achieve her goal, and her fiercely ambitious presence shapes Marguerite's early life.

Marguerite, who is highly intelligent, well educated, and well schooled in court negotiations and diplomacy, avoids marriage to the elderly Spanish king, to the English Tudor king, Henry VII ('an old man of 48'), and to his sons - Arthur and his younger brother, Henry (who would become King Henry VIII). Eventually, however, she is forced into marriage with Charles, Duke of Alencon:

I can see the purpose of this, and I am to be - to be traded as the solution to a lawsuit.

'The king wishes only peace and goodwill between his house and the Alencon faction,' Madame pointed out, 'and to be the instrument of peace is surely a great calling.'

Instrument, thinks Marguerite, is the right word: she is 'a piece of equipment' to be 'played upon' for sounds 'of their choosing'. She is already adept at dissembling, 'acting a part', and doing what is required of her, but she is a strong character and is determined to 'still be myself'. As she writes many years later in the 'spicy, witty, outrageous tales' of her Heptameron, which was published posthumously in 1558:

We [women] cover up our devil with the loveliest angel we can find. And under that cover, before we are recognised, we receive many favours.

Charles turns out to be mild, unintelligent and uninterested in sex with a woman, beyond a few brief attempts at what is necessary for the possible creation of an heir. Marguerite remains childless and, left to her own devices, she studies, writes poetry and plays and, more dangerously, she involves herself in the religious debates of the times, befriending Calvin and struggling to reconcile her Catholicity with the reformation of the Church sought by such prominent figures as Erasmus and Luther.

When her brother is enthroned as King Francois I, Marguerite and Louise become his most important advisors and negotiators. As sister of the king, Marguerite meets many of the most prominent figures of the time, including Henry Tudor, king of England; and, curiously, one of her court ladies is a young woman called Ann Boullon, later known as Anne Boleyn, who would eventually be married to this king.

Alongside King Francois, Marguerite and Louise attend all the important court events, especially those where diplomatic negotiations are essential. An extract from Louise's journal notes that:

On the 7th of June 1520, which was the Corpus Christi feast day, around six, seven or eight after midday, my son and the king of England met in the said king of England's tent, near Guīnes.

This meeting became known as the Field of the Cloth of Gold, and Marguerite marvels at 'this artificial valley of gold' - clothes, tents, 'a golden city', everything 'glinting in the sunshine'. There, too, is the king's man, Guillaume Gouffier, Lord of Bonnivet, with whom, in Tracy Ryan's account, Marguerite fought when he made a bizarre attempt to rape her. Ryan lifts that story from Marguerite's popular Heptameron, suggesting that it was written as the result of experience.

Chapters on Marguerite's life, until the time she became Queen of Navarre, are interwoven with Jehane's accounts of her own often dangerous life, from the time her mother remarries and she is forced to flee from a predatory stepbrother and adopt the identity of a young man named Josse, to her eventual, strange, imprisonment in Marguerite's castle.

Josse, like Marguerite, is intelligent and resourceful. She longs to follow in her father's footsteps and become a printer, in spite of being a woman, so she teaches herself to read and write. In the account of her life she writes for Marguerite, she tells of her struggles to survive, her wanderings, her friendships, and her determination to return to Lyon, where her father had worked, and find work herself. She writes of the plague that ravaged the country and disrupted the printing trades, and of the religious disturbances that threaten the lives of printers and bring her to Marguerite's castle.

Those who wrote, printed and distributed religious texts challenging the established Catholic teachings were accused of anti-Catholicism and heresy. Marguerite, whose interest in the reformation of the Church endangers her, has her kingly brother and his advisors to protect her, but the young printer Marin, with whom Josse has fallen in love, has no such protection:

Bartholemy raised an eyebrow at him. 'So, you are one of those who reads the Scriptures in our own French, then, despite the heresy bans?'

Marin did not react but continued to pack away the work materials. After some moments he said, 'Do you think, Bartholemy, that truth is confined to one difficult language and that only the learned may approach it? Or does God put us all on this earth together to live and understand our lives?'

'Too high for me to decide on. I know my place - but then I'm no bishop's son. All I fear is, Master Marin, I can smell the smoke already curling around your fancy square-toe shoes!'

The lives of Josse and Marguerite could not be more different but both defy the expectations that women should not be independent and outspoken, and should not interest themselves in political or religious affairs. Marguerite was clearly a remarkable woman, known to have been learned, compassionate and loved by the ordinary people of France. Young Jehane/Josse, although fictitious, is equally remarkable for her determination, her loving nature and her endurance.

Tracy Ryan brings these women and their lives vividly to life. She sticks closely to historical facts; uses fragments from Louise's journals to set the historical context (it is not clear if these are her own translations or are imagined); and quotes from Marguerite's own writings and those of Marguerite's favourite poet, Clement Marot, who, for a time, was attached to her suite at the court of the king. As the first in a proposed series of three novels about the Queen of Navarre, this is an intriguing and promising start.

Dr Ann Skea, Reviewer

C.A. Gray's Bookshelf

I Was Anastasia
Ariel Lawhon
9781101973318, $14.24

Based on the creativity and prose of the book, I'd give it 5 stars. Based on my enjoyment of it, I'd give it three... so I'm splitting the difference.

I have been fascinated by the story of Anastasia, especially since I saw the musical rendition. I didn't really know a great deal about the actual history though, only the legends that Princess Anastasia might have escaped with her life while the rest of her family was executed during the Bolshevik Revolution. The musical version was very much like if the story had been turned into a Disney princess movie. I think that's what I thought I was getting.

...Not so much. This was a creative retelling, based on the claims of Anna Anderson, whom I gather was the most convincing if not the only person who claimed to be Princess Anastasia, post-assassination attempt. But it was told in a very creative way: Anna's story is told backwards, from when she is in her 70s at the beginning of the story, all the way until she is in her 20s at the end of the story. In alternate chapters, Anastasia's story is told in chronological order, beginning from a few months prior to the family's execution. I should have anticipated that this would mean it would get gruesome at the end, and I did to a point, but... not to this extent. At the end of the book, there's rape (shown in a fade-to-black kind of way, but still), torture, attempted suicide, and a long drawn out murder scene. Definitely not my usual reading fare, and had I not already been 85% through the book before I hit all of that, I definitely would have stopped reading. But by then, I really wanted to know... were Anna and Anastasia the same person? The book was set up to really make it seem like the answer had to be yes...

It was very compellingly written, and the prose was so gorgeous that I highlighted numerous character descriptions and put them in my character notebook for future reference. Even so, I don't know if I could actually recommend the book, unless the reader has a stronger stomach than I do.

My rating: ****

Language: I think there was some? Can't recall

Violence: TONS. It's dreadful.

Sexual content: there's rape, in a fade-to-black way but it's still quite disturbing.

Political content: none (historical only)

C.A. Gray, Reviewer

Carl Logan's Bookshelf

The Neurodiversity Edge
Maureen Dunne
c/o Wiley Professional Trade Group
Blackstone Audiobooks
9781394199280, $28.00, HC, 336pp

Synopsis: An estimated 1 in 5 people are "neurodivergent", that is, they have a mind that works differently, such as the autistic, ADHDers, the dyslexic, synesthetes, and other unique neurotypes -- and that the vast majority of them are motivated and skilled, yet unemployed or underemployed?

With the publication of "The Neurodiversity Edge: The Essential Guide to Embracing Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, and Other Neurological Differences for Any Organization", Maureen Dunne provides an indispensable guide is that is based upon more than two decades of immersive cognitive science research, case studies, stories from neurodivergent voices, in-the-trenches work with hundreds of organizations from start-ups to global Fortune 500 titans, and Dr. Dunne's own lived experiences as a neurodivergent employer, entrepreneur, board member, and CEO. In Dr. Dunne's experience there are too many unique minds and perspectives on the sidelines, and too many organizations beset by groupthink, innovation-stagnation, and a lack of access to qualified new candidates.

"The Neurodiversity Edge" takes you all the way from why to what and to how, delivering practical insights that build on a new foundational framework including: Cultivating a values-driven approach to building a culture of sustained authentic inclusion where everyone can thrive; Improving the interview process to avoid missing game-changing talent; Developing a hybrid office protocol that works for everyone and a support infrastructure that aligns with universal design principles; Discovering why Google's Project Aristotle found that innovation and performance hinge on psychological safety; Uncovering and eliminating the destructive influence of unconscious cognitive biases; Taking a graphic tour into the wonders of the human mind; Understand unique problem-solving abilities such as lateral thinking, visual-spatial thinking, multisensory thinking, leaps of creative insight, hyperfocus, and many more; Articulating and implement organizational goals and measure progress toward them.

"The Neurodiversity Edge: is an essential guide for executives, board directors, human resources professionals, managers, recruiters, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, allies, educators, nonprofit leaders, and anyone with an interest in better understanding neurodiversity, authentic neuroinclusion, and the human mind.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented for both a professional and non-professional readership, "The Neurodiversity Edge: The Essential Guide to Embracing Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, and Other Neurological Differences for Any Organization" will prove of immense and practical value to readers with an interest in workplace culture, autism/neurological diversity, and business personnel management practices. While a unique and invaluable pick for personal, professional, community, corporate, and college/university library collections, it should be noted that "The Neurodiversity Edge: The Essential Guide to Embracing Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, and Other Neurological Differences for Any Organization" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $17.00) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9798874722319, $41.99, CD).

Editorial Note: Maureen Dunne ( is a cognitive scientist, neurodiversity expert, global keynote speaker, board director, and business leader helping organizations build thriving cultures for more than two decades. She has served as a senior advisor to some of the world's top corporate brands, Fortune 500 companies, scaleups, higher education institutions, venture capital funds, and government officials. A member of the neurodiversity community and a Rhodes Scholar, her work has been featured in Forbes, Bloomberg, MIT Sloan Management Review, New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Entrepreneur, DiversityQ, UNLEASH, and Inside Higher Ed.

Notes from the Porch
Thomas Christopher Greene
Rootstock Publishing
9781578691609, $29.99 HC / $9.99 Kindle, 142pp

Synopsis: Thomas Christopher Greene is the author of the "The Headmaster's Wife" and other novels. With the publication of "Notes from the Porch: Tiny True Stories to Make You Feel Better about the World" he now gives us a memorable collection of essays written during the Covid-19 pandemic while he sheltered in place in his tiny Vermont town.

While in isolation, Thomas Greene observed a small town at its best: neighbors helping neighbors, the joys of gardening, the pleasure of a small boy riding his bike, and walks in the park with his dog Hugo. Childhood memories and stories of family life are deftly intertwined, and what the reader gains is a sense of community, family, and belonging.

Thomas Greene writes "I sat on my porch, and thought about how small my world had become". His world, and these stories, may be small, but they show us how the human capacity for love is grand, and how that love is greater than the ills that befall us.

Critique: As Thomas Green so eloquently put it -- "Covid-19 stole so much. But one of the things it couldn't steal was the power of stories.". Simply stated, "Notes from the Porch: Tiny True Stories to Make You Feel Better about the World" is original, eloquent, inspiring, and 'true storytelling is at its finest'. Timely and timeless, "Notes from the Porch" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, community, and college/university library collections. It should be noted by readers with a particular interest in essays, memoirs, and human resilience in a time of tragic adversity that "Notes from the Porch" is also avalable in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Thomas Christopher Greene is the author of six novels, including The Headmaster's Wife and The Perfect Liar. In 2007, Tom founded the Vermont College of Fine Arts, a top graduate fine arts college where he still serves as President. His fiction has been translated into 11 languages. (

Carl Logan

Clint Travis' Bookshelf

Acquisitional Wealth
Josh Tolley
Matt Holt Books
c/o BenBella Books
9781637744826, $30.00, HC, 256pp

Synopsis: For millennia and in every culture we know of, the wealthiest amongst among the people have been those who have known the secret to real wealth creation. With the publication of "Acquisitional Wealth: The Fastest, Most Proven Way to Create Life-Changing Prosperity" by Josh Tolley, readers will discover how they can access the same results as a Warren Buffet, or an Elon Muskin have had in as little as 90 days.

If you've had a job longer than a year, you probably wish there was a way to leapfrog ahead of where you are financially. With the life-changing approach revealed in the pages of "Acquisitional Wealth", you can go from earning $50K per year to $500K with the stroke of a pen.

"Acquisitional Wealth" is a kind of time machine for wealth that will teach you how to: Buy a proven and profitable business and instantly reap the profits; Use your 401(k) as your down payment without taxes or penalty fees; Make sure you know how to identify the right business for you; Provide the information you need to negotiate a great deal and keep the profits coming for years to come; Avoid the wrong businesses that might appear cheap but end up costing you a fortune.

Josh Tolley is a leading business strategist and host of The Josh Tolley Show the financial wealth accumulation methodology showcased in "Acquisitional Wealth is easily to put into action regardless of age, income, education, or other typical limiting factors. All you need to decide is how soon you're ready to get started!

Critique: An ideal introduction to investing for the non-specialist general reader with no previous experience in finance, "Acquisitional Wealth: The Fastest, Most Proven Way to Create Life-Changing Prosperity" is exceptionally well written, impressively informative, and thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation. Critically important reading for entrepreneurs and anyone with an interest in securing a well financed retirement, "Acquisitional Wealth" is unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and college/university library Money/Fiance collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted that "Acquisitional Wealth" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99).

Editorial Note: Josh Tolley ( is the founder and chairman of Tolley & Co, an organization that buys, builds, operates, and sells companies in multiple industries including finance, spirits, birthing centers, and of course, Kingsbridge Brokers, which is comprised of leading M&A brokerage, advisory, strategic partnership, and capital management firms. Josh has built multiple multimillion-dollar companies over his career and has helped many other people do the same. He has appeared on national and international television, been featured in two documentaries, has conducted over 1,000 interviews and 2,000+ radio broadcasts, and is regarded by many as the global voice on business.

Libertas Press

The Tuttle Twins is a series of popular books for young readers by author/storyteller Connor Boyack and artist/illustrator Elijah Stanfield from Libertas Press. Fun reads from start to finish, the four titles comprising this 'Choose Your Consequence' series from Libertas Press includes:

"The Tuttle Twins and the Hyperinflation Devastation" (9781943521395, $14.99, PB, 405pp)

It's the perfect vacation: the Tuttle twins have saved their money, planned things out thoroughly, and are ready to head off to South America to water ski, hike the jungles, and see some of the world's oldest ruins. What could go wrong? Nearly everything, as it turns out. But that's for the reader to decide!

You're in the driver seat of the story to determine what the consequences will be. Will you send Ethan and Emily to the ruins, knowing that they are tough, smart, and well-prepared? Or will you keep them in the capital city so they remain connected with the outside world, just in case things go wrong? You make the decisions and see the consequences unfold.

Along the way, you'll learn about inflation, community, cryptocurrency, and some of the lengths people are willing to go in a Hyperinflation Devastation!

"The Tuttle Twins and the Little Pink House" (9781943521401, $14.99, PB, 496pp)

The Tuttle twins are off to visit Grandma's quaint, pink house on the banks of the Monongahela river to celebrate Independence Day. There are parades and rope swings, and all the things that make a vacation grand. But it's not all fun and games. When a greedy corporation schemes to take over Grandma's land and push her house into the river, can the twins stop it and come to her rescue? Can you help them?

Should the twins befriend the quirky, secretive editor of the local paper? Go searching for a river monster? Investigate the strange people north of town? Should they go it on their own, or get some new friends involved?

It's all up to the reader with respect to the zoning fights, the referendum, the ancient artifacts and decisions that will guide the twins either to victory or defeat. Can you save the Little Pink House?

"The Tuttle Twins and the Case of the Broken Window" (9781943521418, $14.99, PB, 279pp)

It's a perfect day for a game of baseball, and the Tuttle twins are determined to finally beat the rival team from the neighborhood. The game-winning home run from Emily gets them what they want... along with a whole lot of trouble they could never have expected. Can they figure out how to make things right with the owners of the broken window? What if they get help from the you, the reader?

You as the reader is there every step of the way as the twins face scheming salesmen, a fleet of bulldozers, and a city out of control. Will the twins face the police and an irate priest? Will they do what it takes to stop some new friends from losing their homes? What about the garden-gnome-come-to-life named Goofer? They're all here for you to meet, and no one can save the twins from the consequences of the broken window no one but you.

"The Tuttle Twins and the Play for Power" (9781943521678, $19.99, PB, 359pp)

Dennis Forde, Secretary of State, has died, and the Tuttle Twins are headed for the funeral. Little do they know the opportunities (for good and bad) that will come from this event. Aunt Cathy (their Mom's sister) worked for Forde and has a big decision to make. Will she try to replace him? A millionaire businessman wants to run for Senate. And both of them want to tap into that Tuttle Twins power.

Will they succeed? As the reader it's your call.

Along the way, there are shark-fin car toppers, stolen campaign materials, music festivals, fundraising, spying, new friends (girlfriends?) and plenty of opportunities for Ethan and Emily to show off their skills. They'll need all of them to successfully navigate one of their toughest challenges so far: the Race for the State.

Do they have what it takes to win? Do you?

Critique: While each title comprising this 'Choose Your Consequence' starring the Tuttle Twins is available individually, family, elementary school, middle school, and community libraries are highly recommended to acquire all four title for the benefit of young readers in Grades 4-8.

Editorial Note #1: Connor Boyack is author of the Tuttle Twins children's book series, which has sold over 5 million copies. As president of Libertas Institute, a multi-state impact organization, he oversees national initiatives that change hearts, minds, and laws. An author of over 40 books, he is a public speaker, homeschool dad, and outlaw beekeeper.

Editorial Note #2: Elijah Stanfield ( is a professional video producer and illustrator -- most notably for the children's book series, the Tuttle Twins.

Clint Travis

Israel Drazin's Bookshelf

Of Lions, Mice, & Menorahs
Rabbi Dr. Michael Leo Samuel
Design Publishing, inc.
9781506911595, $16.95 PB, 330 Pages

People will enjoy Rabbi Dr. Michael Leo Samuel's brilliant, enlightening, and fascinating "Of Lions, Mice & Menorahs: A Jewish Look at Aesop's Fables." Samuel retells thirty-five Aesop Tales, informs us who Aesop was, describes the ancient sources, tells us that they were first introduced to teach adults, why they are treasures for all ages, what ethics is, ethics among religious people and atheists, and more, and does so consistently in a fascinating and enlightening manner. He introduces us to the merging of Greek and Jewish cultures and shows how merging these dissimilar cultures enhances the lessons, increases introspection, and fosters intercultural dialogue.

Dr. Samuel translates them in a very readable manner that captures our interest and curiosity. He highlights the messages in each Tale and includes the parallel teachings in Jewish wisdom, including quotes from a vast collection of Jewish and non-Jewish thinkers, ancient and modern. Among much else, he has stimulating questions for people of all ages to ponder and learn.

Aesop's Fables teach Ethics. Ethics is vital to life. All religions and philosophies emphasize Ethics. Ethical behavior leads to a messianic age - when prophets say figuratively, the lion and lamb will lie together, fully satisfied, in friendship and peace.

Ethics are rules of right and wrong provided to people by thinkers in society. It is a branch of knowledge that deals with moral principles. It governs people's behavior and behavior with nature and other humans. It deals with freedom, responsibility, and justice. It guides us to tell the truth, keep promises, and help others. It creates a more fulfilling, enjoyable, and meaningful life.

It encourages us to discover how others want to be treated. It opposes setting rules for others that we do not desire. It enables us to treat others as we want to be treated. Samuel shows us how Judaism and other thinkers encouraged people to act ethically and how their ideas increased the lessons in Aesop's Fables.

This easy-to-read volume analyzing most Aesop Fables is undoubtedly the best volume of Aesop Tales for all people, young and old. It gives readers more than other books.

A Parsha Companion
Rabbi David Fohrman
Maggid Books
c/o Koren Publishers
9781592646777, $29.95

In this third excellent volume of Rabbi David Fohrman's Parasha Companion series, "Leviticus," which follows Genesis and Exodus, the rabbi raises interesting questions, offers possible answers, makes the biblical book Leviticus meaningful, and causes us to think. Without the rabbi's help, Leviticus is difficult to understand and relate to the modern age. Rabbi Fohrman overcomes this obstacle.

The book is not only easy to read but also remarkably easy to read. It is entertaining and eye-opening. He tells us that Leviticus contains a "treasure trove of interesting connections. In law after law, passage after passage, Leviticus picks up threads in Genesis and Exodus and weaves them into rich tapestries of meaning; indeed, contrary to appearances, Leviticus is emphatically not a book that stands alone." He introduces us to a game, "Where did I hear these words before? It shows us that by doing so, we can see Leviticus is not two but three-dimensional. He gives us a new, exciting, and deeper view of Leviticus.

Regarding the weekly biblical portion Tzav, Rabbi Fohrman tells us that the Talmudic rabbis in Berachot 54b identify four types of people required to offer Thanksgiving Offerings. Three of the four are similar, but the fourth stands out. He introduces us to a Sesame Street game, "One of the things is not like the others." He shows us this is not only a simple childish game but a delightful educational one, even for adults. (The technique is used in IQ tests.) Using the game, he shows quite a few lessons that the portion Tzav teaches us that are relevant today. They make us better people.

Israel Drazin, Reviewer

Jack Mason's Bookshelf

RunDisney: The Official Guide to Racing Around the Parks
Scott Douglas, author
Jeff Galloway, author
Molly Huddle, author
Disney Editions
c/o Disney Book Group
9781368054966, $19.99, PB, 144pp

Synopsis: The first-ever official guidebook by RunDisney, the hugely popular road race division of The Walt Disney Company, with the publication of "RunDisney: The Official Guide to Racing Around the Parks" is a comprehensive guide for park visitors and covers: The basics of running, while planning a most magical "runcation" to the Walt Disney World Resort or Disneyland; Which race is the best for themselves or their family; What gear is needed for a RunDisney event and what resources are available at the Disney parks.

A 'must-have' guide "RunDisney: The Official Guide to Racing Around the Parks" is written by Scott Douglas, who writes extensively for Runner's World magazine, and includes a foreword by Olympian and author Jeff Galloway. Select expert sidebars by Galloway and Olympian Molly Huddle offer additional tips on training, gear, etiquette, and more.

Critique: Profusely illustrated throughout with full color photography, "RunDisney: The Official Guide to Racing Around the Parks" is especially recommended for anyone visiting the Disney parks and wanting to get the most out of their Disney experience as possible. Thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presented, "RunDisney" will also become a treasured memento of a Disney vacation/visitation.

Editorial Note #1: Scott Douglas is a contributing writer for Runner's World, and the author or coauthor of several books, including two New York Times best sellers. Among his books are Running Is My Therapy, Meb for Mortals, Advanced Marathoning, and The Athlete's Guide to CBD. Scott is a lifelong runner who has put in more than 100,000 miles.

Editorial Note #2: Jeff Galloway is the official runDisney coach and the inventor of the Galloway Run-Walk-Run Method. Hundreds of thousands of runners have used his training programs to complete marathons and half marathons - and have fun while doing so. Jeff's books include The Run Walk Run Method, Running Until You're 100, Marathon: You Can Do It, and Mental Training for Runners. Jeff was a member of the 1972 U.S. Olympic team.

Editorial Note #3: Molly Huddle is a two-time Olympian who holds the American records for 10,000 meters and the half marathon. She has won more than twenty-five U.S. titles. Molly is the co-creator and co-host of the Keeping-Track podcast.

The Work Is the Work: Letters to a Future Activist
Brian C. Johnson
Broadleaf Books
9781506493374, $22.99, HC, 205pp

Synopsis: Drawing from his nearly twenty-five years of social justice work and LGBTQ+ advocacy, with the publication of "The Work Is the Work: Letters to a Future Activist", Brian Johnson offers a set of urgent, essential, justice-seeking letters to his daughter.

In "The Work Is the Work", Johnson explores what compels us to serve and how to respond to the many needs around us, offering insights from well-known figures in justice work such as Claudia Rankine, Greg Boyle, Gandhi, and more.

What is personal is also universal -- containing the essentials of justice work and advocacy, and revealing why we keep going. For all who care about environmental justice, LGBTQ+ advocacy, anti-racism efforts, and community support, "The Work Is the Work" celebrates the struggles and victories of advocacy work and shares the spirit of justice for our children, the next generation of change makers.

In honor for the millions who work for justice, march in the streets, volunteer in service positions for the public sector, and want to inspire the next generation of changemakers, "The Work Is the Work" reminds us of the essentials and inspires us to keep fighting the good fight.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The Work Is the Work: Letters to a Future Activist" should be considered critically essential and important reading for anyone wanting to engage in political activism in behalf of social, cultural, political, or any other movement to establish justice, promote human rights, advocate for reform, establish economic equality, or create a better life, a better community, a better government -- without burning out from mental and spiritual exhaustion. While unreservedly recommended as an essential addition to personal, professional, community, and college/university library collections and supplemental Political Science curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for students, academia, political activists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Work Is the Work: Letters to a Future Activist" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $20.99).

Editorial Note: Brian C. Johnson ( has served in education and advocacy, community organizing, and political activism at local and national levels for two decades, dedicated to the American promise of fairness for all. He's been featured on CNN and in The Washington Post, USA Today, and The New York Times. Johnson currently serves as the CEO of Equality Illinois, one of the nation's most successful LGBTQ civil rights organizations. He lives with his husband and their daughter in Illinois.

Jack Mason

John Burroughs' Bookshelf

Black 'race' and the White Supremacy Saga
Kehbuma Langmia
Anthem Press
9781839989964, $110.00, HC, 208pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Black 'race' and the White Supremacy Saga", Professor Kehbuma Langmia examines the conundrum that has haunted the Black and White ancestry for ages on what supremacy actually means.

Is it Black or White supremacy? Granted, the term White supremacy has occupied the sociopolitical, cultural and economic discourse for ages, but what does that really imply?

While all other ancestries on planet earth have been coerced to believe that conformity to Euro-American lifestyle is the way to become 'civilized' on planet earth, the term 'civilization' owes its genesis to the African cultural and educational achievements in Egypt.

Consequently, Black ancestry, the first human species on planet earth, should lead mankind to cultural and epistemological supremacy but that has always been met with skepticism. "Black 'race' and the White Supremacy Saga" deftly examines this debate, especially between the Black and White ancestry.

Critique: Comprised of ten chapters, a ten page listing of References, and a three page Index, "Black 'race' and the White Supremacy Saga" is a timely contribution to our on-going national dialogue refuting racism and the flawed idea of racial superiority based on skin color, defective cultural assumptions, or misrepresented ethnic history. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented by Professor Kehbuma Langmia, "Black 'race' and the White Supremacy Saga" is definitively recommended for personal, professional, community, and college/university library collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for students, academia, political activists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Black 'race' and the White Supremacy Saga" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $38.09).

Editorial Note: Kehbuma Langmia ( is a full professor and a Fulbright scholar in the Cathy Hughes School of Communications, Howard University, Washington DC. He has published nationally and internationally on media communications.

The Materials of Service Design
Johan Blomkvist, author
Simon Clatworthy, author
Stefan Holmlid, author
Edward Elgar Publishing
9781802203295, $145.00, HC, 298pp

Synopsis: If design is about forming materials, then what are the materials of Service Design? Co-authored by academicians Johan Blomkvist, Simon Clatworthy, and Stefan Holmlid and published by Edward Elgar Publishing, "The Materials of Service Design" is a ground-breaking study that fully explores this question by establishing a discourse around the materials of service design, discussing materials as a means to study what service design is and could be.

Exploring the contours and foundations of the field, "The Materials of Service Design" is an innovative book that redefines the material and opens with an investigation of how service has been understood as a material in design. With insights from expert practitioners in the field, its chapters then examine a vast library of materials, including social structures, touch-points, thinking, culture, time, organisations, conversations, data, human bodies and more.

Making sense of this material mix, "The Materials of Service Design" delves into the material of the immaterial and displays the diversified and expansive field of service design today. In doing so, it forms a starting point to go beyond reductionist ideas of the material-immaterial dichotomy and makes room for new constructivist perspectives.

Critique: Significantly contributing to the development of education within the field of service design, the information and insights comprising "The Materials of Service Design" will prove invaluable for students, practitioners and course leaders seeking to navigate a new path to service design. Founded in design as a knowledge intensive practice, "The Materials of Service Design" will also be transformative for the research of students and scholars of marketing, service design, design theory, and innovation studies. "The Materials of Service Design" is unreservedly recommended as a unique and invaluable pick for personal, professional, and college/university library collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note #1: Johan Blomkvist, Assistant Professor in Design, Department of Computer and Information Science (IDA), Linkoping University, Sweden,

Editorial Note #2: Simon Clatworthy, Professor in Design, Institute of Design, The Oslo School of Architecture and Design, Norway

Editorial Note #3: Stefan Holmlid, Professor in Design, IDA, Linkoping University, Sweden

John Burroughs

Julie Summers' Bookshelf

All Buttons Great and Small
Lucy Godoroja
EK Books
c/o Exisle Publishing
9781925820836, $34.99, HC, 304pp

Synopsis: Have you ever looked at a button and wondered about its history? Where it's from? The craftmanship involved in its creation?

With the publication of "All Buttons Great and Small: A compelling history of the button, from the Stone Age to today", author and button historian Lucy Godoroja takes readers on a visual tour of buttons, offering fascinating insights into their peculiar history and sharing an appreciation of their design and meaning. From the exquisite to the different to the ordinary, the study of buttons offers a world of delight.

This unique collection of quirky and beautiful images alongside intriguing stories ranges from antiques to today's modern creations, giving Lucy Godoroja a wealth of button design, material and meaning to discuss.

"All Buttons Great and Small" also showcases the craft and production of contemporary buttons in the hopes of inspiring a new era of button-makers, admirers, and users. There is an exciting challenge ahead, with the fusion of old and new technologies and the issues of sustainability that have permeated the fashion world.

This celebration of the humble button highlights its beauty, versatility and longevity -- when a garment is no longer wearable, the buttons may live another life, no matter if they are transferred to a piece of clothing, used in jewellery making, or featured in an artwork.

Critique: This large format (7.3 x 1.1 x 9.6 inches, 2.7 pounds) hardcover edition of Lucy Godoroja's "All Buttons Great and Small: A compelling history of the button, from the Stone Age to today" provides a wealth of fascinating facts and crafty inspiration making it unreservedly recommended for designers, sewers, collectors, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in buttons and their history. Simply stated, "All Buttons Great and Small" is a prized pick for personal, professional, community, and college/university library Fiber Arts & Fashion collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: Lucy Godoroja has always had an interest in the creative process, whether through the handcrafts of sewing and needlework or jewellery making, to the design of large or small objects. A serendipitous meeting in Amsterdam with a button shop owner renewed her passion for this small, innocuous object, inspiring her to open her own button shop in Newtown, Australia, called 'All Buttons Great and Small' ( There followed both a career path and a life of shared stories and exchanged ideas... and buttons. Lucy has been published in collections about fashions, jewels, shops and travel. "All Buttons Great and Small" is her first book.

Across the Narrows
Mary Burns
Atmosphere Press
9798891321533, $27.99, HC, 256pp

Synopsis: In 1924, at Brooklyn's Kings County Hospital, Ruby del Palacio delivers a blue baby weeks early. The baby girl dies for want of oxygen. Within a year, Ruby delivers another baby girl named Alice.

Gradually realizing that her sole role in the del Palacio household is to conceive, deliver, and nurse babies, trapped by societal expectations in a time of limited women's rights and rampant injustices, Ruby summons the courage to sue for a legal separation from her Colombian husband, Juan. Her efforts are met with a counter lawsuit, resulting in Juan being granted custody of their six children. Months later, he flees the state with the children, leaving Ruby abandoned and bereft.

Decades later, Alice embarks on a journey to find her long-lost mother. It is only when a dear friend imparts a profound revelation to Alice, explaining that forgiveness necessitates relinquishing all hope for a different past, that Alice finds the strength to accept her history.

Across the Narrows unravels as a sweeping family saga, centered around a tragedy that shapes the del Palacio family's destiny and leaves little room for forgiveness. With themes of love, loss, and resilience, this poignant novel explores the transformative power of forgiveness and the pursuit of one's own identity in the face of adversity.

Critique: An emotional saga of a read from start to finish, "Across the Narrows" showcases author Martha Burns' natural flair for originality and the kind of distinctive narrative driven storytelling style that immediately engages her readers. Of special attraction to readers with an interest in historical family life fiction from a woman's perspective, "Across the Narrows" is an especially and unreservedly recommended pick for community and college/university Literary Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Across the Narrows" is also available in a paperback edition (9798891321380, $18.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99).

Editorial Note: A finalist for the 2023 Spur Award for contemporary fiction for her debut novel, Blind Eye, Martha Burns ( earned a Doctor of Letters with distinction from Drew University and won the Faulkner-Wisdom Gold Medal for short story.

The Land in Our Bones
Layla K. Feghali
North Atlantic Books
9781623179144, $24.95, PB, 368pp

Synopsis: Tying cultural survival to earth-based knowledge, with the publication of "The Land in Our Bones: Plantcestral Herbalism and Healing Cultures from Syria to the Sinai -- Earth-based pathways to ancestral stewardship and belonging in diaspora", Lebanese ethnobotanist, sovereignty steward, and cultural worker Layla K. Feghali offers a layered history of the healing plants of Cana'an (the Levant) and the Crossroads ("Middle East") and asks into the ways we become free from the wounds of colonization and displacement.

Feghali remaps Cana'an and its crossroads, exploring the complexities, systemic impacts, and yearnings of diaspora. She shows how ancestral healing practices connect land and kin - calling back and forth across geographies and generations and providing an embodied lifeline for regenerative healing and repair.

Anchored in a praxis she calls Plantcestral Re-Membrance, Feghali asks how we find our way home amid displacement: How do we embody what binds us together while holding the ways we've been wrested apart? What does it mean to be of a place when extraction and empire destroy its geographies? What can we restore when we reach beyond what's been lost and tend to what remains? How do we cultivate kinship with the lands where we live, especially when migration has led us to other colonized territories?

Recounting vivid stories of people and places across Cana'an, Feghali shares lineages of folk healing and eco-cultural stewardship: those passed down by matriarchs; plants and practices of prenatal and postpartum care; mystical traditions for spiritual healing; earth-based practices for emotional wellness; plant tending for bioregional regeneration; medicinal plants and herbal protocols; cultural remedies and recipes; and more.

"The Land in Our Bones" asks us to reclaim the integrity of our worlds, interrogating colonization and defying its "cultures of severance" through the guidance of land, lineage, and love. It is an urgent companion for our times, a beckoning call towards belonging, healing, and freedom through tending the land in your own bones.

Critique: Both fascinating and informative, "The Land in Our Bones: Plantcestral Herbalism and Healing Cultures from Syria to the Sinai -- Earth-based pathways to ancestral stewardship and belonging in diaspora" is an extraordinary and timely study that will prove to be of immense interest to readers concerned with the Middle East, Nature, Ecology, and Herbal Remedies. A core and essential contribution to personal, professional, community, and college/university library Herbal Medicine and Alternative Medicine collections, "The Land in Our Bones" is significantly enhanced for the reader's benefit with the inclusion of a four page Meaningful Language Glossary, a four page Herbal Actions Glossary, twenty-two pages of Notes, and a twenty-two page Index. It should be noted for students, academia, Alternative Medicine practitioners, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Land in Our Bones" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.99).

Editorial Note: Layla K. Feghali ( is a cultural worker and folk herbalist who lives between her ancestral village in Lebanon, and California, where she was raised. Feghali's work is about restoring relationships to earth-based ancestral wisdom as an avenue towards eco-cultural stewardship, healing, and liberation. Feghali's methods emphasize plants of place and lineage. Her company, River Rose Re-membrance, features a line of plantcestral medicine, education, and other culturally-rooted offerings. It also hosts the Ancestral HUB, an online space for the cross-pollination of ancestral knowledge across diasporic and home communities from Southwest Asia and North Africa. Feghali has formal certifications and colloquial training in numerous herbal, therapeutic, cultural, and traditional practices for over a decade. Amongst which, she also supports birth-tending processes, and is a certified teacher of EmbodyBirth(TM)/BellydanceBirth(R).

Julie Summers

Kate Michaelson's Bookshelf

All We Buried
Elena Taylor
Crooked Lane Books
9781643852911, $26.99 hardcover

Synopsis: This police procedural follows Sheriff Bet Rivers, a former LA police officer who returned to her hometown of Collier, Washington and steps into the role of sheriff previously held by her recently deceased father. Though Collier is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, the mysterious history of a deadly mine collapse and a vanished train still haunt the scenic town. The normally sedate routine of her job is disrupted when an unidentified young woman's body is found in the town's lake. When the woman is found to have a gunshot wound to the back, Bet must switch gears from rescuing lost hikers and responding to mundane calls and head up her first murder investigation. There's no shortage of suspects, from the visiting scientist who found the young woman on the lake, to a wealthy landowner whose return to Collier coincided with the woman's death. To solve the crime, Bet has to confront her hometown's tragic past, as well as her own traumatic memories.

Critique: This book stands apart due to its smart, thoughtful protagonist and its richly layered setting in the remote Washington wilderness. Taylor has created a protagonist who is eminently capable yet vulnerable due to the loss of her father and her difficulty letting people in. Aside from lovely descriptions of the setting, readers learn the history and geology of the small mining town through Bet's conversations with the visiting scientist who is researching the town's deep glacial lake. The last half of the book is layered with unexpected twists, and Taylor takes full advantage of the unique setting as Bet and the villain face off in an unforgettable scene. The book will appeal to mystery readers in general, particularly those who enjoy stories set in remote locales, such as Nevada Barr's Anna Pigeon series.

Editorial Note: This is one of two books in the Sheriff Bet Rivers series. This author also writes the Eddie Shoes Mystery series under the name Elena Hartwell.

Give Out Creek
J.G. Toews
Mosaic Press
9781771613057, $19.00 paperback

Synopsis: The amateur sleuth mystery, Give Out Creek, follows reporter Stella Mosconi as she returns to her hometown of Nelson, Canada. The book opens with a portrait of a young family and captures Stella's busy life as a working mom. As Stella is going into work one morning, she discovers a friend of hers from her book club dead in a rowboat adrift on the lake. Stella finds herself drawn into the investigation and delves into the web of small-town secrets, gossip, and friendships. Her involvement in the investigation is further complicated by her attraction to the police officer in charge. As Stella juggles marital troubles and her job as a journalist, she must also confront the secrets among her small circle of friends if she is to get to the bottom of the murder.

Critique: What I enjoyed most about this mystery was its nuanced portrayal of marriage, motherhood, and family. Toews didn't shy away from exploring the difficulties of these commitments, yet showed their importance in Stella's life. I'm also a sucker for books with distinctive settings, and the isolated British Columbia mountain town on a lake delivers. This book will appeal to readers who enjoy slow-burn mysteries with three-dimensional characters.

Editorial Note: Give Out Creek was a finalist for the Arthur Ellis for best unpublished crime fiction novel and is the first of two books in the Stella Mosconi series.

Kate Michaelson, Reviewer

Kirk Bane's Bookshelf

Arthur Penn's Bonnie and Clyde
Edited by Lester D. Friedman
Cambridge Film Handbooks Series
Cambridge University Press
9780521596978, $20.99, paperback

"Based on a true-life story, few films in the history of American cinema have inspired more critical discussion and greater scholarly debate than has director Arthur Penn's Bonnie and Clyde (1967). Along with The Graduate (1967) and Easy Rider (1969), Penn's provocative evocation of Depression-era life on the run, delivered with visual panache and a hip sensibility, ushered in what came to be categorized as the New American Cinema." So contends film scholar Lester D. Friedman, professor at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York.

Adeptly edited by Dr. Friedman, this superb volume consists of nine perceptive articles, including essays by director Penn and the film's scriptwriter, David Newman. Moreover, Friedman includes two historically significant reviews of the movie by critics Bosley Crowther (New York Times, August 14, 1967) and Pauline Kael (The New Yorker, October 21, 1967). Crowther condemned Bonnie and Clyde as "a cheap piece of bald-faced slapstick comedy that treats the hideous depredations of that sleazy, moronic pair as though they were as full of fun and frolic as the jazz-age cut-ups in Thoroughly Modern Millie... [the film's] blending of farce with brutal killings is as pointless as it is lacking in taste." Kael, however, championed Penn's picture, calling it "the most excitingly American movie since The Manchurian Candidate. The audience is alive to it... Bonnie and Clyde, by making us care about the robber lovers, has put the sting back into death."

Essays include Friedman's "Arthur Penn's Enduring Gangsters," Penn's "The Directing of Bonnie and Clyde," Newman's "Pictures at an Execution," Diane Carson's "Searching for Bonnie and Clyde," Steven Alan Carr's "Bonnie and Clyde for a Sixties America," Matthew Bernstein's "Visual Style in Bonnie and Clyde," Liora Moriel's "A Queer Reading of Bonnie and Clyde," and Stephen Prince's "Bonnie and Clyde's Legacy of Cinematic Violence." A Filmography and Select Bibliography round out the book.

Dr. Prince, who taught at Virginia Tech University, provides an in-depth analysis of the film's ground-breaking violence. The movie ends abruptly, and shockingly, with the vicious machine-gunning of Bonnie (Faye Dunaway) and Clyde (Warren Beatty) by Frank Hamer's posse. Prince asserts: "Bonnie and Clyde is a landmark film for many reasons, chief among them the film's presentation of graphic violence with a detail unprecedented in American cinema. When the Texas Rangers ambush Bonnie and Clyde, the bloody, slow-motion deaths of the two outlaws have a ferocity that no American director before Arthur Penn dared attempt...Bonnie and Clyde established a new threshold for screen violence." (Within two years, of course, Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch far exceeded Bonnie and Clyde's bloodletting.)

Cinephiles will relish Professor Friedman's exceptional volume, an insightful examination of one of the most important films of the Sixties. Two enthusiastic thumbs up!

Kirk Bane

Margaret Lane's Bookshelf

Up the Down Escalator
Lisa Doggett, MD
Health Communications, Inc.
9780757324864, $16.95, PB, 384pp

Synopsis: Facing the prospect of a career-ending disability as she adjusts to life with multiple sclerosis, Dr. Lisa Doggett was forced to deal with a new level of uncertainty and vulnerability, and the everyday fear that something new will go wrong. Taking off her white coat (and becoming a patient herself) she confronted unimaginable fears, coped with her limitations, and sidestepped her skepticism of alternative medicine to seek help from unlikely sources. Drawing on riveting patient stories, with the publication of "Up the Down Escalator: Medicine, Motherhood, and Multiple Sclerosis", Dr. Doggett reveals the dark realities of the dysfunctional U.S. healthcare system, made all the more stark when she becomes the one seeking care.

MS pushes Doggett (a perfectionist at heart) to soften her inner drill sergeant and embrace self-compassion. As a patient, she learns to advocate for herself to ensure on-time medication deliveries and satisfactory treatment plans; to navigate chronic dizziness, relapses, and parenting frustrations; and to push her physical limits as a runner to go farther than ever before. As the director of a health clinic for the uninsured, Doggett's MS inspires an even deeper empathy as she confronts challenging cases, prompting her to work harder on behalf of those in her care, many of whom struggle with illnesses more serious than her own.

"Up the Down Escalator: Medicine, Motherhood, and Multiple Sclerosis) is a hopeful and uplifting medical memoir that will encourage those living with chronic disease, and those supporting them, to power forward with courage and grace. It will also spark conversations to redefine perfect parenting and trigger uncomfortable discussions and outrage about the vicious inequalities of health care in the U.S.

Most of all, "Up the Down Escalator: Medicine, Motherhood, and Multiple Sclerosis" will inspire readers to embrace the gifts of an imperfect life and look for silver linings, despite life's detours that sabotage plans and take them off their expected paths.

Critique: A deeply personal and intimate account with universal applications, "Up the Down Escalator: Medicine, Motherhood, and Multiple Sclerosis" will prove to be of particular value and interest to readers concerned with doctor/patient relationships when dealing with critical, debilitating, and life altering illnesses like multiple sclerosis. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Up the Down Escalator: Medicine, Motherhood, and Multiple Sclerosis" is unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and college/university library Health & Medicine collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for medical students, practitioners, patients, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Up the Down Escalator: Medicine, Motherhood, and Multiple Sclerosis" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (HighBridge Audio, 9798212921022, $41.99, Digital Download).

Editorial Note: Lisa Doggett, MD, is a family physician, MS Warrior, and cofounder of Texas Physicians for Social Responsibility. She previously directed a safety net clinic in Austin, Texas, where she saw an eclectic mix of patients struggling with their own health challenges in a deeply dysfunctional system. Since her MS diagnosis in 2009, she has battled frustrating symptoms and insurance companies. She has experienced relapses and has explored alternative treatments. But she has also run two marathons, traveled to five continents, raised two daughters, and embraced her job as a lead physician creating innovative programs for people with chronic disease around the country.

Manda's Beast
Mann Spitler
Independently Published
9798988404705, $11.99, PB, 128pp

Synopsis: As parents, the thought of our children falling into the abyss of drug addiction is a nightmare we all desperately wish to avoid. To be successful, it will take consistent preventive measures that parents never thought would be necessary.

Raising your son or daughter to be free of alcohol and other drugs requires parents to shed the optimistic mindset that "my child would never do drugs", and replace it with the more protective mindset of "it could be my child, so I must be vigilant about their activities."

Wanting to prevent others from enduring the excruciating agony of watching their son or daughter succumb to drug or alcohol abuse, Mann Spitler wrote "Manda's Beast: A True Life Addiction Story to Help Parents Protect Their Sons and Daughters From Self-Abuse with Drugs". This is a heart-wrenching, informative, and deeply personal memoir in which he shares Manda's haunting journey into the "beast" of heroin addiction, culminating in her tragic death at age 20 from a self-administered lethal dose.

This true life guide was lovingly crafted with your kids and teens in mind, with the preventive measures he and his wife Phyllis wish they had taken. Their story reveals: The pervasiveness of drug addiction as you read anonymous notes from parents, adolescents, and young adults; The cunning ways our kids funnel money to drug dealers, as revealed through Manda's bank statements; The progression of drug addiction, seen through hospital intake notes (these include nicotine, alcohol, hallucinogens, methamphetamine, and prescription drugs like depressants and narcotics); Behavior associated with street drugs: meaninglessness, secrecy, lying, low self-worth, chaos, purposelessness; and How to develop a strong drug prevention plan and follow through with its strategies.

The culture of drugs doesn't discriminate by social background, geography, or education. It is profoundly hoped that by read "Manda's Beast", parents and caregivers will find the courage and motivation to deter the influence of drugs and its culture on your son or daughter and help them escape the catastrophic consequences of self-abuse with consciousness altering drugs.

Critique: Two parents lost their only child to drug addiction. "Manda's Beast: A True Life Addiction Story to Help Parents Protect Their Sons and Daughters From Self-Abuse with Drugs" is their story and its publication could save your child from the same horrific fate. Informative, eloquent, and an inspiring clarion call for parents of children wanting to protect their sons and daughters from the pain and affliction of any and all forms drug addiction from coaine, to heroin, to opioids. Deserving of as wide a readership as possible, "'s Beast: A True Life Addiction Story to Help Parents Protect Their Sons and Daughters From Self-Abuse with Drugs" is unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and college/university library Parenting & Drug Addition collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted that "Manda's Beast" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $6.99).

Editorial Note: Mann Spitler ( is a storyteller, retired podiatrist, and drug addiction preventionist. In the 20 years since losing his daughter, Manda, to heroin addiction and her subsequent death in March of 2002, he has narrated her story to every public and private group that has invited him. Manda's story is ultimately one of hope, and her father's goal is to prevent self-abuse with drugs and the catastrophic consequences of their use. Mann believes prevention begins with knowledge and insight into drug addiction, and Manda's story provides both.

A Special Sisterhood
Laura Carroll, author
Natalia Tonyeva, illustrator
LiveTrue Books
9780986383274, $32.99, PB, 242pp

Synopsis: Women form sisterhood bonds in many special ways -- as sisters, friends, or linked by a common interest, passion, or life experience. As women, one of the biggest is motherhood.

Going back in history to today, there are more women than you might think who have lived lives that do not include motherhood. There are countless women around the world who make up a sisterhood that is bonded by not doing something women are historically supposed to do. For some, it is by choice, others not. And for many, many women, their lives have just unfolded such that becoming mothers has not been a part of it.

With the publication of "A Special Sisterhood: 100 Fascinating Women From History Who Never Had Children" Laura Carroll gives engaging snapshots and illustrations of women in this childless sisterhood from the around the world going as far back as 350 AD!

Rather than focus on why they did not have children, "A Special Sisterhood" focuses on the lives they lived. From Women Warriors, High Powered Political Leaders, to Social Changers, Medical Pioneers and more, their individual life stories will inspire you to learn more about them, and find even more women who are alive today carrying on this sisterhood connection.

To the young women (and men), "A Special Sisterhood" will give you a taste of the unlimited and exciting ways life has been fully and remarkably lived by an ever-growing collective of women. Indeed, "A Special Sisterhood" is a fun educational gift for adults to give to the young adults in their lives as examples of the many ways to lead a life that is uniquely one's own!

Critique: Informative, fascinating, unique, thought-provoking, inspiring, "A Special Sisterhood: 100 Fascinating Women From History Who Never Had Children" is a compelling read and a seminal, ground-breaking, unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, and college/university library Women's Studies and Gender Studies collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for students, academia, women's rights activists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "A Special Sisterhood" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Laura Carroll ( has studied women without children since the year 2000. As an expert on the childfree choice, her books include Families of Two: Interviews With Happily Married Couples Without Children by Choice and 25 Over 10: A Childfree Longitudinal Study. She is also the author of The Baby Matrix: Why Freeing Our Minds From Outmoded Thinking About Parenthood & Reproduction Will Create a Better World. Laura has contributed to textbooks on childfree and childless topics and has been featured on network television, radio, and in many print and digital media publications, including Fortune, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, Women's Health,and New York Magazine.

Margaret Lane

Mark Walker's Bookshelf

Burma Sahib
Paul Theroux
Mariner Books
c/o HarperCollins
9780063297548, $30.00

The Dean of travel writing reimagines one of English literature's most controversial writers in his early, formative years. Theroux leads us on the journey with George Orwell from a British Raj officer in Colonial Burma and his transformation from Eric Blair to Orwell, the anti-colonial writer.

Blair set sail for India shortly after graduating from the same prestigious private school of Eton, whose alums included Boris Johnson and nineteen other British prime ministers. Despite his young age (19), he would oversee local police officers in Burma and deal with his fellow British's racial and class politics while trying to learn new languages. His father, a middling official in Britain's opium trade, had served in India, and his grandmother, an uncle, and a cousin were still in Burma. This part of his family were virtual outcasts since some had married local women, which didn't sit well with British Sahibs (masters) who were convinced of the inferiority of the "natives." Throughout the story, Blair tries to avoid his family at all costs.

During his time in Burma, Blair contended with his self-image and identity. Theroux does a commendable job of following the thread of Blair's parallel secret self and metamorphosis into a writer. "Blair had always tried to maintain a shadow existence, of reading, of letter writing, of making lists - trees, flowers, Hindi and Burmese words - or composing poems he knew to be bad." He was also a prolific letter writer, which helped strengthen his literary chops.
Blair's writing was a form of transformation, "it took the sting out of their slights because John Flory was the whipping boy, not Blair Sahib..." John Flory would be the key protagonist in Blair's story about this experience, Burmese Days.

Eventually, clashes with his superiors and a traumatic scene towards the end of the book would end his experience in Burma. His "house girl" interrupted an Easter church service half-crazed and begging for money. "This embarrassment was something physical, a sickening humiliation. A cup of tea was no help."

In the Postscript, Theroux reveals that Blair eventually ends up in Paris as a dishwasher, interacting with the poorest of society and developing his writing skills. Orwell "descended into the netherworld. He swapped his decent clothes for shabby ones, as Jack London had done in People of the Abyss, and became a tramp, lodging uncomfortably in squalid doss houses and living among homeless wanderers, beggars, gypsies, and hop-pickers..." This experience led to Confessions of a Dishwasher, which his publisher recommended he call Down and Out in Paris and London. It was here that Blair asked for the pseudonym of George Orwell.

At the end of the book, Orwell reflects that "I wanted to submerge myself, to get right down among the oppressed, to be one of them and on their side against their tyrants. And, chiefly because I had had to think everything out in solitude. I had carried my hatred of oppression to extraordinary lengths. At that time, failure seemed to be the only virtue."

His writing career was limited to twenty years. Orwell finished his time in Burma in 1927, and his first book, Burmese Days, was not published until 1934. His epic dystopian novel, 1984, was published 15 years later in 1949.

E. M. Forster's Passage to India is mentioned several times in the book. Blair believed that his experiences in the far outreaches of the Empire would allow him to describe scenes Forster could never imagine. And he was right.

Theroux, like Orwell, was an astute observer of the nonsense of the class system and racism of the Raj empire. They both held a resentment, instinctive insubordination, and a nascent antipathy to the nuances of rules and bigotries of British rule. Theroux has spent most of his lifetime recording and detailing the reality of colonial and post-colonial outposts, which he puts into the world of young Eric Blair. Both writers wrote poetry during their formative overseas experiences to cope with the isolation and travails of living in isolated parts of the world.

According to an interview, Theroux felt that the idea to write this book was "a gift." He revered Orwell and read most of his books. He's been to Burma five times and had a solid connection to England. He'd spent much of his adult life among the Brits in Africa, Singapore, and England. His first wife and children were British, although he didn't love England.

Theroux's Peace Corps coming-of-age experience occurred during the end of the British Empire. Working as a Peace Corps teacher in a school in the former territory of Nyasaland, just before Malawian independence, informed the writing of this book.

Theroux's keenly researched book impressively recounts details of Eton, Burma, the British Raj, and the different religious and social customs of the Brits, Hindus, and Scots, to mention just a few groups represented. Due to the various dialects and terminology, I kept a dictionary close at hand.

For example, "Maybe you can find one for me; a wee one will do, but I'd be ever so "chuffed" if you found one." Chuffed is an informal British adjective for delighted, first recorded in 1855-60. A "kukris" to carve up a dacoit is a Hindi large knife with a heavy curved blade used by the Nepalese Gurkhas. Or "Thrawn," an Ulster Scots word first recorded in 1400-50, a late Middle English term that means stubborn. And "chee chees" (half-breeds), a word Blair loathed.

I've read and reviewed Theroux's last seven books, and this ranks as one of the most impressive. I took my time reading it like a fine wine. Speed-reading would lead to missing the underlying meaning and social, cultural, and linguistic nuances.

I was pleased to learn from a recent interview that at 82, Theroux is already planning his next novel. In the spirit of On the Plains of Snakes and Deep South, he intends to hit the road again in his car, crossing our neighbor to the north. He won't take a laptop and rarely use a cell phone and writes with a pen/pencil on a notepad, and at the end of the journey, after listening to what the locals in some very isolated places tell him, he'll come back with the materials for his 56th novel.

"It's a risky proposition for one writer to attempt to channel another, especially one as closely read and influential as George Orwell. But Theroux has the chops and the moxie, drawing on his experiences as a novelist and travel writer to imagine Orwell's life-shaping sojourn in Burma with dramatic specificity... Theroux's engrossing, suspenseful novel incisively maps the start of Blair's metamorphosis into George Orwell, resounding critic of malevolent power." -Booklist (starred review)

The Author

Paul Theroux was a Peace Corps volunteer in Malawi from 1963-65. His many books (55) include Picture Palace, which won the 1978 Whitbread Literary Award; The Mosquito Coast, which was the 1981 Yorkshire Post Novel of the Year and joint winner of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and was also made into a feature film. The Bad Angel Brothers was his latest novel.

Mark D. Walker, Reviewer

Matthew McCarty's Bookshelf

The Secret History of Bigfoot
John O'Connor
9781464216633, $26.99

Americans have always been eager to answer the questions of life that have intrigued us since we came to these lands. One of the biggest questions of the last half-century has been the quest to finally find that most elusive of creatures: Bigfoot. John O'Connor, in his debut work, The Secret History of Bigfoot: Field Notes on a North American Monster, (Napierville: Sourcebooks, 2024, 288 pgs., $26.99), has written a masterful tale of his year chasing Bigfoot and getting to know his fellow hunters who are referred to as "Bigfooters." O'Connor leads the reader on an adventure from the wilds of Oregon and California, to the other side of the continent and the primeval forests of Maine. Along the way he meets everyone from a veteran who is dedicated to the quest to a wildlife scientist that is not sure of exactly what is "out there."

The Secret History of Bigfoot is well-written and easy to read. It is a tale of a wide variety of aspects of the current American conspiracy culture and how easy it can be for average Americans to become a part of that culture. O'Connor gives equal time to mysterious creatures and mythmaking that has undergirded American culture for centuries. The importance with which "Bigfooters" place the quest should not be mistaken for a wild-goose chase but should be viewed as something that is important to people who are inspired to believe in Bigfoot. This importance serves as a foundational piece of O'Connor's writing. It makes the narrative flow amazingly well.

The Secret History of Bigfoot is an excellent debut volume. O'Connor writes with ease and with a confidence that it takes to tackle such a subject. The imagery in O'Connors' writing is also an essential part of the story and helps the reader visualize Bigfoot and his searchers. The Secret History of Bigfoot deserves a place on the bookshelf of any reader interested in what makes us American. It is a useful guidebook on our road to the mysteries of life.

Matthew W. McCarty, EdD

Michael Carson's Bookshelf

Gangbuster: One Man's Battle Against Crime, Corruption, and the Klan
Alan Pendergast
Citadel Press
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
Tantor Media
9780806542126, $28.00, HC, 320pp

Synopsis: At the height of the roaring 1920s, the ex-frontier town of Denver, Colorado, emerged from the postwar boom as the future of the American city. But the slick facade of progress and opportunity masked a murky stew of organized crime, elaborate swindles, and widespread government corruption. One man risked everything to alter the course of history.

Rookie district attorney Philip Van Cise was already making national headlines for a new brand of law enforcement. Employing military intelligence tools he'd developed during the Great War (wiretapping, undercover operatives, communication intercepts) Van Cise crippled the criminal empire of Lou Blonger, an ex-lawman who had risen from petty scam artist to master of the Big Con. But Van Cise had even darker, more malevolent forces on his radar.

The Ku Klux Klan had emerged as a shockingly mainstream middle-class movement, employing anti-immigration scare tactics, encouraging vigilantism, and instigating culture wars, all while claiming to protect true American values. Van Cise saw the toxic ideology for what it was: a new version of the Big Con sold as populism. Utilizing his pioneering surveillance techniques, Van Cise was determined to expose the Invisible Empire from within.

Gripping and exhaustively researched, "Gangbuster: One Man's Battle Against Crime, Corruption, and the Klan" by journalist and academician Alan Pendergast is prescient chronicle of Philip Van Cise's spectacular career as a feared gangbuster taking on organized crime, the KKK, and corruption at the highest levels of government is a cautionary tale that mirrors our tumultuous times.

Critique: Of particular and special attraction to readers with an interest in 20th Century American history in terms of organized crime and the Klu Klux Klan, "Gangbuster: One Man's Battle Against Crime, Corruption, and the Klan" is an extraordinary story and a work of meticulous historical research by Alan Pendergast. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Gangbuster" will prove to be a welcome and prized addition to community and college/university library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Gangbuster" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Tantor Audio, 9798212524582, $27.29, CD).

Editorial Note: Alan Prendergast ( is a journalist whose work has appeared in Rolling Stone, Outside, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, as well as The Best American Sports Writing and The Best American Crime Reporting. His nonfiction crime book, "The Poison Tree", was an Edgar Award finalist and his stories have appeared in The Best American Crime Reporting and The Best American Sports Writing. He lives in Colorado, where he is a senior contributor for Denver's weekly newspaper, Westword, and part-time professor at Colorado College.

The Power to Destroy: How the Antitax Movement Hijacked America
Michael J. Graetz
Princeton University Press
9780691225548, $29.95, HC, 368pp

Synopsis: The postwar United States enjoyed large, widely distributed economic rewards -- and most Americans accepted that taxes were a reasonable price to pay for living in a society of shared prosperity. Then in 1978 California enacted Proposition 13, a property tax cap that Ronald Reagan hailed as a "Second American Revolution", setting off an antitax, antigovernment wave that has transformed American politics and economic policy.

With the publication of "The Power to Destroy: How the Antitax Movement Hijacked America", Professor Michael Graetz tells the story of the antitax movement and how it holds America hostage -- undermining the nation's ability to meet basic needs and fix critical problems.

In 1819, Chief Justice John Marshall declared that the power to tax entails "the power to destroy". But Professor Graetz deftly argues that tax opponents now wield this destructive power.

Attacking the IRS, protecting tax loopholes, and pushing tax cuts from Reagan to Donald Trump, the antitax movement is threatening the nation's social safety net, increasing inequality, ballooning the national debt, and sapping America's financial strength.

In "The Power to Destroy" Professor Graetz informatively chronicles how the anti-tax movement originated as a fringe enterprise promoted by zealous outsiders using false economic claims and thinly veiled racist rhetoric, and how (abetted by conservative media and Grover Norquist's "taxpayer protection pledge") it evolved into a mainstream political force.

With respect to the history of how the antitax movement came to dominate and distort politics, and how it continues to impede rational budgeting, equality, and opportunities, "The Power to Destroy" is essential reading for understanding American life today.

Critique: A seminal, eloquent, detailed and groundbreaking study, "The Power to Destroy: How the Antitax Movement Hijacked America" is a fascinating read and a clarion call for reform. While especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, governmental, and college/university library Contemporary Political Science collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists, it should be noted for students, academia, political activists, governmental policy makers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Power to Destroy: How the Antitax Movement Hijacked America" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.17).

Editorial Note: Michael J. Graetz ( is Professor Emeritus at Columbia Law School and Yale Law School and a leading authority on tax politics and policy. He served in the U.S. Treasury's Office of Tax Policy and is the author and coauthor of many books, including Death by a Thousand Cuts: The Fight over Taxing Inherited Wealth (Princeton) and The Burger Court and the Rise of the Judicial Right.

Michael J. Carson

Robin Friedman's Bookshelf

Brahms: Complete Organ Works
Johannes Brahms, composer
Konstantin Volostnov, performer
B0CJB1PS2W, $13.95

Konstantin Volostnov Performs The Organ Music Of Brahms

Johannes Brahms (1833 - 1897) composed music for the solo organ at two points in his career: at the beginning and at the end. I had not been familiar with this part of his output before hearing this new CD of Brahms' complete music for solo organ performed by Konstantin Volostnov on the historic, romantic organ constructed in 1898 by German organ maker Ernest Rovner for the Central Church of Evangelical Christians - Baptists in Moscow. Both the organ and the church are discussed in the liner notes for this CD. The notes also include Volostnov's own brief comments: "On this recording, we tried to convey the spirit of the late 19th century with its late Romantic musical aesthetics: somewhat gloomy, and fully reflecting the feelings and thoughts of Brahms."

The earlier part of Brahms' output consists of sets of Preludes and Fugues composed in the 1850s and published without opus number. As the liner notes indicate, Brahms wrote these works for Clara Schumann and Joseph Joachim. At the time, Brahms regarded these pieces as student works as he was engaged in the serious study of counterpoint. The music reflects Brahms' extensive study of Bach, combined with strong elements of romanticism. Brahms' musical learning and contrapuntal knowledge shown in these early works would stay with him throughout his life.

Brahms' later works for the organ were composed much later and gathered together after his death to form his final opus, no. 122. It consists of eleven chorale preludes which again take as a model the work of Bach. This music is melancholy, reflective, and intimate. It is music of age, looking back on life, one's own and that of loved ones. This is beautiful valedictory music that was good for me to get to know at last. It helped take me away from the small distractions of the everyday and to think about my own life and loved ones.

Of the eleven chorale preludes, nos. 1, 5, and 2 were composed for the death of Clara Schumann. Preludes 6,7,3, and 4 were added later. The final works in the collection, nos. 8 -- 11 were composed in 1896, a year before Brahms' death.

The ordering of the chorale preludes was revised by Brahms' copyist, but they make an integrated and moving set. I loved the fifth chorale prelude, "Deck Thyself, My Soul" and the final two, "I do Desire Dearly" and "Oh World, I now must Leave Thee". It is difficult to hear this music without recognizing its autobiographical component and without thinking about the mystery of life and death. Alternative versions of preludes 10 and 11 close the CD.

Lovers of Brahms or of organ music will enjoy this recording.

Total Time: 67:23

Penderecki: Symphony No. 7, "Seven Gates of Jerusalem"
Krystof Penderecki, composer
Antoni Wit, performer
Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra, performer
B000I2IUTS, $17.56

Penderecki's Symphony To Jerusalem

The Polish composer Krzystof Penderecki (1933 - 2020) initially gained fame as a composer of avant garde, atonal, and difficult music. In common with many other composers, such as the American George Rochberg, his style changed over the years from modernism to a more traditional, late romantic style. A devout Catholic, Penderecki has composed many works with religious themes.

Penderecki's Symphony no. 7, "Seven Gates of Jerusalem" is a large-scale romantic composition of immediate appeal. It is a powerful religious work of over an hour's duration scored for orchestra, five singers, a narrator, and chorus. It is beautifully rendered on this budget-priced Naxos CD by the Warsaw National Phiharmonic Orchestra conducted by Antoni Wit. Wit is in the process of recording Penderecki's symphonies and orchestral compositions for Naxos.

Penderecki composed this symphony in 1996 to celebrate the third millenium of Jerusalem, and it was premiered in that city in 1997. Initially conceived as an oratorio, Penderecki subsequently decided to call the work a symphony. Chorus and soloists predominate from beginning to end. The work is in seven movements, each of which sets texts from the Psalms and Prophets that describe Jerusalem. The movement is in turns broad and powerful and quiet and intimate with large orchestral and choral passages alternating with passages for the soloists and for small ensembles. The movements likewise differ widely in scope with three lengthy movements, the first, fifth and seventh, interspersed with four shorter and generally quieter movements. Many of the themes of the work and the repetition of notes make use of the number 7 -- for the gates of Jerusalem (an eighth gate is said to wait until the time of the Messiah).

The work opens with a majestic setting of Psalm 47's "Great is the Lord and highly to be praised/ in the city of God on our holy mountain." There is a middle section for the soloists after which the opening material returns in force. The second movement is a short meditation for soloists on the text "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand be given to oblivion." (Psalm 136) This text returns as well in the fourth movement. The third movement is unique in that it is in an unaccompanied, chant-like style setting the text "Out of the depths I have called to you Lord/Lord, hear my voice"from Psalm 129. The lengthy fifth movement is a song of praise with percussion, brass, and bells with alternating powerful and reflective sections setting texts from Psalms and several Prophets. The Sixth movement features a speaker reciting in Hebrew verses from Ezekiel to the accompaniment of solemn brass. The finale has the character of an enormous summation, beginning with a setting of Jerimiah's "Thus saith the Lord/Lo I give you the way of Life and the way of Death." This is intense music that works to a large climactic conclusion.

The highlights of this work are the magnificent opening phrase for brass and chorus, the intimate, archaic third movement, and especially the recital passages of Boris Carmeli in the climactic sixth movement. The effect of this entire work, on initial hearing, is overwhelming and visceral.

Those expecting highly modern, difficult music will not find it in this symphony. Instead, this is modern music of great immediacy and passion in the language of religious devotion. The texts are not included in the liner notes, but they are available on the Naxos website.

Penderecki: Symphony No. 8, -- Dies Irae / Aus Den Psalmen Davids
Krystof Penderecki, composer
Antoni Wit, performer
Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra, performer
B000ZJVI6Q, $11.81

Penderecki On Naxos

The Polish composer Krzystof Penderecki (1933 -- 2020) began his career as a modernist composer, but in the 1970s experienced a "return to Romanticism" as did some of his contemporaries. Penderecki has recently composed two large-scale choral symphonies: the lengthy Symphony no. 7, the "Seven Gates of Jerusalem", available on a separate Naxos CD, and the Symphony no. 8, which receives its first recording on this CD, composed in 2005. This music is performed by Antoni Wit conducting the Warsaw National Philharmonic Choir with soprano, mezzo-soprano and baritone soloists. In his recent review of the recording for Classics Today, David Hurwitz observes that Wit "summons terrific playing from the orchestra, has a brilliant and enthusiastic choir at his disposal, and has assembled a very impressive team of soloists." The CD is part of a cycle of Penderecki's large-scale works conducted by Wit for Naxos.

The symphony no. 8 called "Lieder der Verganglichkeit" or "Songs of Transience" is in 12 movements each of which sets a poem or stanza by a German romantic poet, including Eichendorff, Rilke, Karl Kraus, Hesse, Goethe, and Achim von Arnim. The poems sing of transience and change in human life and in nature. Many of the movements are elegaic and reflective. Penderecki makes full use of the orchestra to establish the mood of the poems, including extensive use of bells and lower brass, meditative solos for the flute (no. 2) oboe (no. 3), English horn (no. 5), and bass trumpet (nos. 10 and 12). The poems and music speak of the inevitability of change, both in the sense of loss and of isolation, but also in the sense of human renewal and aspiration. Declamatory passages for the soloists alternate with choral sections. In the lengthy final poem, "O Green Tree of Life" by von Arnim, the three soloists sing together, for the only moment in the work, in a hymn to the hope for immortality in the human heart as an antidote to the change and pain of life. This is the climactic moment of the symphony and gives it a distinctively religious cast. In his "Classics Today" review, Hurwitz described this symphony as "among Penderecki's finest recent creations" and stated that "I could easily see it becoming a repertory item." The symphony is a moving work which is immediately accessible.

This CD also includes two works from Penderecki's modernist period. The "Dies irae" dates from 1967 and was composed to commemorate the victims of Auschwitz. This work is in three movements and, in spite of its modernist character, is also of an immediate appeal. The work sets biblical texts together with portions of the Eumenides by Aeschylus in giving a musically apt portrayal of the horrors of the camps. The work includes soprano and bass soloists, but much of the power of the music derives from the chorus which alternatively declaims, screams, and whispers its anguish. The climax of the work occurs at the close of the second movement with shrieks from the orchestra, frenzied singing, and the wail of a siren.

The final work on this CD, "From the Psalms of David" dates from 1958 and is in four brief movements. The work is in a modernist vein and it is characterized by intense and shifting rhythms which mirror the original Hebrew texts. The second movement is a moving, archaic contrapuntal setting for chorus alone.

Richard Whitehouse wrote informative performance notes for this CD. Unfortunately texts of the poems are not included, but the texts and translations for the symphony no. 8 and for the psalms are available on the Naxos website. This CD received a well-deserved rating of 10/10 in the Classics Today review I mentioned earlier. It constitutes an ideal introduction to Penderecki's music.

The World Will Never See the Like: The Gettysburg Reunion Of 1913
John L. Hopkins
Savas Beatie
9781611216844, $14.99, Kindle

The Great Gettysburg Reunion

"The World Will Never See the Like" tells the story of the reunion of over 53,000 Civil War veterans, North and South, held at Gettysburg from June 29 -- July 4, 1913, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the battle. This reunion was a monumental event. It was so regarded at the time, but, unfortunately, it has not received the attention it deserves. The 1913 reunion has been discussed in books with a broader focus on the Civil War such as Carol Reardon's "Pickett's Charge in History and Memory". Carl Eeman and Alan Simon have written novels about the event, and Thomas Flagel has written a historical study, "War, Memory, and the 1913 Gettysburg Reunion" (2019). Still this book by John L. Hopkins, a communications and public relations professional, is unique in offering a thoughtful study of an event which has been insufficiently remembered.

Fought between July 1 and July 3, 1863, was the largest battle of the Civil War and is often regarded as the pivotal event in the conflict. The Confederate Army of Northern Virginia commanded by General Robert E. Lee fought the Union Army of the Potomac commanded by General George Meade. Many events of the battle, including the fighting at Little Round Top on July 2 and Pickett's Charge on July 3 have become embedded in American culture.

Some years after the end of the Civil War, reunions of the combatants began to take place, including a 25th reunion at Gettysburg. In 1908, with Civil War veterans aging and dying, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania began the arduous process of planning a 50th Reunion in 1913 at Gettysburg.

Hopkins's study begins with the planning of the reunion, a process which was often contentious and which involved Congress and the Army, and the several states as well as the town of Gettysburg. There were many difficulties in the project but ultimately 53,000 people took part in the reunion, more than the 40,000 the planners had expected up until the last moment. Plans had to be made for transporting the attendees to the battlefield, for housing and feeding the aging veterans, and for the extensive activities planned for the day. This included providing medical care for those veterans who would require attention or die given the stresses of the event. Gettysburg was punishingly hot during the summer of 1913. Hopkins has done a service in his focus on the planning stage of the reunion -- the sort of detail that often gets overlooked.

Most of the book describes the reunion itself as veterans, their families, the press and dignitaries gathered on the former battlefield. A large tent with a capacity to hold 13,000 people had been constructed for speeches and other events during the week, climaxed by a brief appearance and speech by President Woodrow Wilson on July 4 after Wilson had earlier sent his regrets. Hopkins discusses Wilson's speech and other speeches during the reunion but his focus is on the reunion of the veterans. Soldiers wandered through the old battlefield recalling times of 50 years earlier and looking for comrades and old foes. Many also spent time in the town and in its saloons. The book is full of touching scenes between aging veterans, comrades and former enemies.

Hopkins relies upon extensive contemporary accounts of the 1913 reunion from individuals, newspapers, official documents and other sources. He shows a good command of Civil War literature, including studies of the Battle of Gettysburg and studies about memory and history which are used well in his account of the reunion. Of the Corps commanders at Gettysburg, only the irascible Union General Dan Sickles was alive in 1913, and he attended the reunion and signed autographs. The widow of Confederate General James Longstreet, Helen Durch Longstreet, also attended . Both Sickles and Longstreet played pivotal roles in the battle.

The climax of the reunion occurred on July 3 with a reenactment of Pickett's Charge for Seminary Ridge to Cemetery Ridge. Hopkins offers background on this storied event and a detailed account of how the reenactment transpired with the famous reconciliation scenes of the aged warriors.

Hopkins considers at length the purpose of the reunion in promoting reconciliation in the United States between North and South. At the time this reconciliation was predicated on the Lost Cause view of the Civil War promulgated originally by Southern writers to explain the cause of the Confederacy's defeat. The proponents of the Lost Cause tended to find the views of the Union and the Confederacy morally equivalent and to downplay seriously the role of slavery in causing the Civil War and the continued mistreatment of African Americans following its conclusion. As Hopkins points out, the United States was still a highly racist society in 1913. Thus, there were grievous shortcomings in the reunion in its failure to acknowledge slavery and its continuing influences. With these deficiencies, the reunion was still important in bringing about an end of sectionalism and a reunification of the United States. These accomplishments should not be under-estimated. Hopkins writes at the conclusion of his study:

"[t]he fact that more than 53,000 veterans from both sides of a bloody, bitter civil war were sufficiently reconciled to come together in fellowship less than 50 years after the last gun had fallen silent was truly remarkable, and the role they had played in reuniting and healing the nation -- imperfectly, incompletely, at a terrible cost to their black fellow countrymen but nevertheless in the end lastingly -- is deserving of remembrance."

Hopkins's study of the reunion is enhanced by many images and by a bibliography for readers wishing to explore the subject further. The book is valuable for itself and for provoking thought about the continued need for both reconciliation and justice in America in our troubled, polarized times.

War, Memory, and the 1913 Gettysburg Reunion
Thomas R. Flagel
Kent State University Press
B07QDP2FK8, $19.49. kindle

The Great Gettysburg Jubilee Of 1913

The Battle of Gettysburg (July 1 -- July 3, 1863) was the largest battle of the Civil War and for many has always been emblematic of the conflict. From Jun3 29 -- July 4, 1913, a fifty year reunion took place at Gettysburg attended by over 53,000 Civil War veterans and many others. The Reunion (or Jubilee) receives attention in book length studies of Gettysburg or the Civil War more than in books specifically devoted to the event. It has largely receded from public memory. Thomas Flagel's short book "War, Memory, and the 1913 Gettysburg Reunion" (2019) is one of the few devoted to studying the Reunion. Flagel is professor of history at Columbia State Community College in Franklin, Tennessee. His book offers a well-documented history of the Reunion from its early planning stages through its conclusion. It includes many photographs from the event, which was widely publicized in its time. Flagel offers a provocative interpretation of the 1913 Reunion at Gettysburg.

At the time, the Reunion was promoted and perceived as showing the reconciliation between North and South fifty years after a hard war. This is how most students see the Reunion today. For example, a study of the Reunion written after Flagel's book, John Hopkins's "The World will Never See the Like: The Gettysburg Reunion of 1913" (2024) emphasizes reconciliation as a theme of the Reunion and also stresses the value, with serious limitations, of the reconciliationist approach. I was fascinated by Hopkins's book and proceeded to read Flagel's study, which is mentioned in Hopkins's bibliography but not expressly discussed in his book.

The reconciliationist approach is usually juxtaposed with the reconstructionist approach which emphasizes how the needs of African Americans were unfairly minimized and left out in the years following the Civil War. The contrast between reconciliation and reconstruction is emphasized in David Blight's book "Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory" and is developed effectively in Hopkins's study of the 1913 Reunion at Gettysburg.

Flagel's book tries to avoid seeing the Reunion in terms of the Reconciliationist/Reconstructionist dichotomy. His goal is to understand the Reunion from the perspective of the individual soldiers and participants in the event. "Every soldier has his own war", as Flagel suggests more than once. Flagel observes that heavily divisive sectional issues persisted in the United States in 1913 as did racial discrimination. He finds the meaning of the Reunion did not lie in the reconciliationist platitudes offered during the public speeches at the event, including the speech of President Woodrow Wilson, but instead was found in the responses of individuals who, in old age, made the long difficult trip to Gettysburg to understand and make sense of their own participation in the War and the course of their lives in subsequent years and to come to an increased sense of peace and personal understanding.

Flagel covers much the same material as does Hopkins: the planning of the Reunion, the treks from other remote locations to Gettysburg, the large public nature of the Reunion, and the activities of the individual attendees; but he sees the meaning of the event much more on a personal, individual basis. In his account, Flagel singles out four veterans who attended the Reunion, two from the North and two from the South. The four veterans included residents of Vermont, Virginia, North Carolina, and, after the war, Arizona. Two of the men became officers during the War while two remained privates. In their lives after the War, the men ranged from wealthy and educated to subsistence farmers who were essentially illiterate.

As he describes the course of the Reunion, Flagel focuses upon the differing responses of these four veterans, as well as the responses of many others. Most of the veterans gave little attention to the speeches. Instead they spent their Reunion time walking the battlefield and the town of Gettysburg, reliving and thinking about their own experiences, and trying to find and make a connection with others they encountered at the time, both comrades and foemen. The importance of the Reunion, Flagel argues, lies in the efforts of individuals to come to terms with and to make sense of an extraordinary, mostly frightening moment in their own lives. He tries to avoid the large reconciliationist picture. Flagel writes at the conclusion that the veterans "sought and shared stories of survival more than tales of glory." The most bountiful outcome of the Reunion was its "ability to successfully combat loneliness" as the veterans encountered others at the Reunion who shared similar experiences and who offered connection and support. The veterans deepened their relationship to their country not through the many speeches from dignitaries but from the "resplendent effort to provide them safe water, fresh food, and basic shelter." The Reunion had its effect in the lives and self-understandings of individuals.

Flagel offers a moving, detailed account of the Reunion and its significance. In my view, it is not a question of Either-Or. There is no inconsistency between holding to a reconciliationist view of the Reunion, as does Hopkins, and the more personalized view of its importance that Flagel emphasizes. We can learn from and be inspired by both. I learned a good deal in thinking about the Reunion from both Flagel and from Hopkins.

Robin Friedman

Suanne Schafer's Bookshelf

Daughters of Warsaw
Maria Frances
9780008595241, $18.99

Daughters of Warsaw is a dual point-of-view historical fiction novel, split between the present time in Seattle and World War II Warsaw. Lizzie in the Pacific Northwest has suffered a series of miscarriages and is wallowing in self-pity and grief when she discovers old photographs of her great-grandmother. This starts her on a trip to Warsaw and a genealogical journey to discover her Polish roots.

She learns that her great-grandmother was Zofia Szczesny, a heroic young woman who helped smuggle food and medicine into the Jewish Ghetto and Jewish children out of the ghetto to be adopted by Christian families to save their lives. This story-book heroine was based on a real-life heroine, Irena Sendler, who rescued Jewish children from the Ghetto.

The Seattle parts of the story were less entrancing than the Warsaw sections, partly because author Maria Frances is able to evoke the horrors of the war, the ghetto, and the day-to-day life in 1942 Warsaw. That said, overall, the story was quite similar in tone and characters to several recent books and didn't fully rise to its potential. That said, books like this need to be written to keep us aware of how depraved the human heart and mind can get. Humanity has managed, in the last eighty-odd years, to kill 62.5 million people (Ukrainians, Armenians, Jews, Chechens, Uyghurs, etc, ad nauseam) in over sixty different genocides. With books that point out both man's inhumanity to man and the heroes and heroines who combat the inhumanity, we can keep alive our hope that this behavior will be extinguished.

Rifted Hearts
M.A. Guglielmo
Merit Ptah Press
9798989771004, $11.98

I had read the short story prequel to this fantasy/paranormal romance ("Witch City Rift") which helped clarify a bit of this book and introduces some of the characters (like Remi Gatti, the villain/love interest in the male/male romance), but Rifted Hearts is easily read as a standalone novel. I appreciated Guglielmo's use of contemporary terms such as ace, demisexual, pansexual, allosexual, etc. I enjoy animal shape-shifting books, and this stands out by not limiting the shape-shifters to the usual wolves, bears, etc, but going way beyond that with dragons, jellyfish-type creatures, even the "villain" of the book is a shape-shifting chinchilla. Set on a dude ranch/animal shelter for creatures from the "Rift," where a series of doorways have opened between Earth and other worlds, bringing in bizarre creatures, some of whom are capable of interbreeding with humans. In fact, the two male love interests are hybrids: Kaveh is an earth dragon/human cross while Remi is a rat/human cross whose only shape besides human is that of an oversized chinchilla. The romance is cute, and the sex scenes are relatively understated. There's lots of drama as the Rift Zone is expanding out of control, Kaveh is searching for his true love, assigned by "the Matchmaker," and a spy is out to steal the dragons' secrets on controlling the Rift.

Mia's Journey
Diane Byington
Red Adept Publishing
9781958231456, $16.99

In Mia's Journey, author Diane Byington creates a genre-bending novel combining science fiction, paranormal activity, and women's fiction. Mia Gray took over her brother's dream of becoming an astronaut after his death. She's worked for years to be assigned to a launch. Three weeks before she's due to head to space, her world crashes. She's run over by an SUV and suffers significant injuries, all of which heal - except her brain. NASA grounds her because her reaction times are slow. In a desperate attempt to complete her dream, she learns of a commercial space launch company. Before they will send her to space, she must endure a two-week simulation course in Colorado.

Mia's Journey is a lovely story of how one woman learns to deal with adversity and her path back to her life, her marriage, and her discovery of new dreams.

Every Living Thing
Jason Roberts
Random House
9781984855206, $35.00

Every Living Thing is a wonderful account of two men in a competition of their own making to name every living creature on earth. They were nearly exactly contemporaries, being born only months apart - Carl Linnaeus, born may 1707, while Buffon was born in September 1707 - yet polar opposites in their approach to life. Though neither were particularly good students, they had well-functioning minds that could focus intently.

Linneaus (whose system ended up "winning") was poor, short, and not very good looking. He started training to be a pastor but got sidetracked into botany. To support his botany habits, he sought an ersatz medical degree and leveraged himself into being the man who treated all of Swedish military's syphilis cases. He felt that living things should be labeled in tight little boxes of similar animals as observed by man, and some of his observations led to rather bizarre couplings and included animals such as the hydra (which he debunked as being a real animal).

In the other corner, tall, good looking, wealthy Georges-Louis de Buffon, who kept the French royal gardens felt that life was too complex to categorize in ill-fitting boxes and favored a more dynamic approach. He built a forest around his home and devised experiments to see which woods responded best to what sort of treatment. His thinking was quite advanced for the time as he co-invented some mathematical theories and worked with probability. Charles Darwin, a century later had to admit that Buffon's theories of evolution were much like Darwin's own.

Each sincerely thought that the world contained a limited number of species, and each spent much of their lives trying to catalog these. The French Revolution did in poor Monsieur de Buffon, leaving us with a cumbersome archaic system that is getting further and further out of date as more and more species are discovered. The story of the rivalry of these two men is a fascinating look at the birth of biology and botany.

Trials of Apollo series
Rick Riordan
Disney Hyperion
9781368024136, $49.95

Having recently read Rick Riordan's Heroes of Olympus series, I decided to tackle his Trials of Apollo series (which includes The Hidden Oracle, The Dark Prophecy, The Burning Maze, The Tyrant's Tomb, and The Tower of Nero) and found it just as enjoyable.

Zeus blames Apollo for the happenings that occur previously in the Heroes of Olympus series and, to punish his son, drops him literally into a garbage dumpster in New York City - sans his immortality and godly powers - with a junior driver's license proclaiming him to be Lester Papadopoulos. He's got to survive as a flabby, sixteen-year-old boy with pimples until he can convince his dad to allow Apollo to return to Olympus. A mortal Apollo has plenty of enemies who'd like to see him dead, including former friends, enemies, and lovers such as Caligula, Nero, and Commodus as well as his ancient enemy, Python. He teams up with Meg, a daughter of Demeter and step-daughter of Nero, who claims Apollo as his slave.

As always, Riordan is witty, often laugh-out-loud funny as he blends pop culture (Apollo apparently knew and influenced everyone from jazz musicians to rock-and-rollers) with twists on Greek and Roman mythology. He also does a bang-up job giving Apollo, who starts out as a typical arrogant, egotistical god with a superiority complex, a delightful character arc as he becomes more human, more tolerant, more caring. The book is a rousing, rollicking adventure with a great message for youngsters. I have previously credited Riordan's writing for triggering my son's love of reading, and that certainly would apply to this series - except that he's now an adult reading Star Wars books ad nauseum.

Heroes of Olympus series
Rick Riordan
Puffin Books
9781338045017, $55.00

I credit Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series with engendering my son's love of reading. We read that series aloud to each other, every word. I loved them as much as he did. He's grown up now, but I have a youngster who loves fantasy in the house again, so I read this series, the Heroes of Olympus which includes The Lost Hero, The Son of Neptune, The Mark of Athena, The House of Hades, and The Blood of Olympus), and enjoyed it immensely. Riordan has a marvelous way of bringing the Greek gods - and this time, their Roman alter egos - to life in contemporary times. They, like the original gods, are eccentric, egocentric, and all-too-human. Percy Jackson works with a six other demigods to save the world from the awakening of Gaia, the Mother Earth, who threatens to destroy mankind. Riordan's sense of humor is on point. As a physician, my favorite line occurs when the young demigods are in the reception room of Asklepios, the god of medicine, waiting to ask a boon of him. His receptionist accosts them and demands, "Do you have insurance. Who is your primary care deity?" Rollicking good fun reading these books. Was totally able to suspend belief and go with the flow of the demigods' quest to save the world.

Among Schoolchildren
Tracy Kidder
Harper Perennial
c/o HarperCollins
9780380710898, $17.99

I enjoyed reading Kidder's nonfiction books, Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World and Strength in What Remains, and decided to catch up on some of his backlist. He is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author with what I feel is a unique approach to his reportage. He seems to embed himself in his story for months and produces truly in-depth looks at interesting subjects. His books read with the ease of novels but are wonderfully well researched.

Though Among School Children was first released in 1989, it doesn't read as being out of date. Since I just read an article showing how far children's education levels dropped during the Covid Pandemic, it seems more pertinent than ever. Here, Kidder embeds himself in Mrs. Zajac's class in the "Flats" of Holyoke, Massachusetts, a depressed area and follows her class for the full school year. It shows the hours Zajac puts in at school, the more hours at home grading papers, and even more hours with disturbed sleep as she worries about her children. Just as today, many of her students are from broken homes, have poor nutrition, and/or are neglected or abused. She tries to instill a love of learning in these kids, but it's hard to learn when you're demoralized and hungry.

This is remarkable picture of education in America and how it is largely failing, despite teachers' labors and love. Zajac's school is a microcosm of what works - and doesn't work - in our school systems. We need to address what doesn't work before America is truly "dumbed down" to idiocy.

The Lion Seeker
Kenneth Bonert
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
9780547898049, $14.99

I'm finding, as I get older, reading books that are thought-provoking or emotionally crushing (such as books on genocide) I have to read in stages. Because of the emotional discomfort this book brought, I started out not wanting to review it. It was painful to read, and it took me forever to get through it. Then weeks later, I realized the book was still haunting me and that I really needed to review it.

The Lion Seeker is a Jewish family saga in which Isaac Helger, the son of Lithuanian Jews who immigrated to South Africa before World War II when pogroms begin in Lithuania. They settle in a working class neighborhood near African slums. Isaac's mother has ambitions for her son and hopes he can leave the poverty his family has endured behind, to have a better life, and to help bring her family from Lithuania. He's more interested in running around his neighborhood, a young delinquent. He wants to do well, but like many young men, doesn't have patience or the ability to think fully on his actions before he leaps into them. He first works moving furniture, and that job takes him into the suburbs and his first love with a Gentile girl. His next foray is working in a garage where he is undermined by a gray shirt, the Afrikaner version of a Fascist. Finally, he works with Hugo Bleznick, the quintessential con man.

His mother holds several secrets: the cause of the cut in the corner of her mouth that keeps her from speaking well and causes her to drool and the full extent of damage to her family during the pogroms. When she withholds this knowledge from her son, she sets into motion the ultimate tragedy of this book.

Suanne Schafer, Reviewer

Susan Bethany's Bookshelf

Half Moon Waking
Liv Hunziker
Page of Notes
9798218296186, $15.99, PB, 180pp

Synopsis: Weary women and men -- having become new mothers and new fathers -- will find hope and laughter in the poetry, fiction, and essays comprising "Half Moon Waking: Rising, Falling, and Walking Through Marriage, Motherhood, and Miscarriage."

Collected here are the reflections of a woman who has experienced the same sources of anxieties and grief that are all too common with the onset of parenthood. "Half Moon Waking" also presents tough questions whose answers don't fit nicely within proper, typical prose. Questions such as, "What is the meaning of life?" or "Where exactly is heaven located?"

It is through poetry that we are best able to place hard and abstract pains into understandable frames. With the publication of "Half Moon Waking," Hunziker offers poetry, metaphors, and fiction, rather than "teaching" or "how-to-guides," so that refreshing insights on surviving babies, toddlers, marriage challenges, parenting abroad, living overseas, or grieving a miscarriage can all be digested in a soothing and empathetic way. Essays, written with care and compassion, offer real-time and hands-on support to new moms and new dads, through the asking of vulnerable questions.

Hunziker's vast spread of creative writing genres enables each reader to pick up where they left off or to simply jump right into the middle of this encouraging volume. Haiku's and bite-sized phrases are the real balm, the deeper empathy, that mothers, tired parents, and anyone suffering a miscarriage, have been needing. These lines and expertly crafted poems are indeed the artists' alternative to didactic teaching or preaching. When not for oneself, this book is the right resource to hand to a friend grieving a miscarriage and is also a timely gift for baby showers, Mother's Day, Father's Day, or other seasonal holidays.

Readers are encouraged to simply leaf through this collection at the pace that works for them, to soak in the parenting puzzles, traveler joys, hiker perspectives, and honest questions that comprise "Half Moon Waking." The dexterity of lyrics, the genuine transparency, and the respect for nature in this collection will satisfy and restore each reader, as well as strengthen the significant relationships and families we all find ourselves in.

Critique: Brilliant, comforting, inspired, thoughtful, thought-provoking, and memorable, "Half Moon Waking: Rising, Falling, and Walking Through Marriage, Motherhood, and Miscarriage" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended pick for personal, professional, community, and college/university library self-help collections for new and struggling parents. "Half Moon Waking" is of special value for readers with an interest in Christian poetry, travel writing, parenting, and deftly crafted life story memoirs.

Editorial Note: Liv Hunziker ( served fifteen years as an editorial coach for a variety of novels. She will forever find ways to stay involved with the wholistic community development work of Mission: Moving Mountains, D4D, The Navigators. Her outside-the-box writing has appeared in Korean Quarterly and Converge magazines. Via haikus, villanelles, prose, and especially her free verse poetry, Liv compassionately digs into hard questions. Together with her husband and two teens, the author lives in Switzerland and the USA.

Shaker Made: Inside Pleasant Hill's Shaker Village
Carol Peachee
The University Press of Kentucky
9780813198767, $50.00, HC, 228pp

Synopsis: Although there are currently only a handful of members of the Shaker faith and one active community in the world today, Shakerism at its peak comprised thousands of members living in communal villages across the eastern United States.

Kentucky's iconic Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill was one of these communities, and it remains an enduring cultural touchstone. The history of the Shakers is often reduced to the handmade objects they produced and sold, but their lives were so much more than their material culture. Their efforts were suffused with their religious beliefs: each piece's sturdy simplicity memorializes the Believers' devotion to God and how it guided their every action.

"Shaker Made: Inside Pleasant Hill's Shaker Village " by photographer Carol Peachee is a kind of visual love letter to the cultural artifacts (the architecture, furniture, and crafts) of one of America's most notable utopian societies.

Peachee has photographed Pleasant Hill for more than four decades ranging from small items such as eyeglasses, embroidered handkerchiefs, elixir bottles, and bonnets, to the distinguished furniture and architecture of the more than 260 buildings that the Shakers built at Pleasant Hill.

The curator of collections at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, Rebecca Soules, provides an informative foreword to the photos, while Peachee herself offers a lovingly written introduction explaining her personal connection to the subject.

The attention to detail in the simple yet beautifully composed photographs serve as an elegant and respectful tribute to the history and legacy of the Pleasant Hill Shakers -- an often misunderstood people who sought to honor the divine in all aspects of life.

Critique: This large format (11 x 0.75 x 9 inches, 2.3 pounds) hardcover edition of "Shaker Made: Inside Pleasant Hill's Shaker Village " from the University of Kentucky Press is unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and college/university library Contemporary American Photography collections and is comprised of informatively captioned, full page, B/W photos that make it a fascinating volume to browse through, as well as of particular value to readers with an interest in the history and accomplishments of American Shaker Christianity.

Editorial Note: Carol Peachee ( is a fine art photographer and psychotherapist whose photographic work explores cultural and natural heritage. She was awarded the Bluegrass Trust for Historic Preservation's Clay Lancaster Heritage Education Award, a Governor's Award for Innovative Programming, and an Art Meets Activism grant from the Kentucky Foundation for Women. Her books, Kentucky Barns: Agricultural Heritage of the Bluegrass, The Birth of Bourbon: A Photographic Tour of Early Distilleries, and Straight Bourbon: Distilling the Industry's Heritage, are the recipients of multiple IPPY and Foreword INDIES awards. Her photographs have also appeared in Kentucky Bourbon Country: The Essential Travel Guide and LensWork Publishing: Trilogies 2022.

Worthy: From Cornfields to Corner Office of Microsoft, Stories of Overcoming
Jane Boulware
Worthy Emprises LLC
9798987341957, $24.99, HC, 292pp

Synopsis: Jane Boulware was never meant to succeed yet did so while no one was looking. No one would have expected the scrappy girl working the corn fields of rural lowa, who paid for college selling her dad's used carpeting and mom's prayers, to become a leader of billion-dollar businesses and a top Microsoft executive.

Vulnerable and relatable, with the publication of "Worthy: From Cornfields to Corner Office of Microsoft, Stories of Overcoming", Jane Worthy shares her stories of overcoming expectations, failures and fears.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Worthy: From Cornfields to Corner Office of Microsoft, Stories of Overcoming" will resonate with readers who are interest in women's biographies laced throughout with humor, insights, and 'lessons lerned'. Inspired and inspiring, a fun read from start to finish, "Worthy: From Cornfields to Corner Office of Microsoft, Stories of Overcoming" is unreservedly recommended for personal, community, and college/university library collections. Also available in a paperback edition (9798987341940, $15.9), and in digital book format (Kindle, $3.99), it should be noted that Jane is donating 100% of her book's proceeds to Boys & Girls Clubs.

Editorial Note: Jane Boulware ( is a global business leader and former Microsoft Executive.

Susan Bethany

Willis Buhle's Bookshelf

The Knights Templar in Popular Culture
Patrick Masters
McFarland & Company
9781476681979, $39.95, PB, 216pp

Synopsis: From the Arthurian epic poem Parzival to Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and the Assassin's Creed video game series, the Knights Templar have captivated artists and audiences alike for centuries.

In modern times, the Templars have featured in many narrative contexts, evolving in a range of contrasting story roles: the grail guardian, the heroic knight, the villainous knight, and the keeper of conspiracies. "The Knights Templar in Popular Culture: Films, Video Games and Fan Tourism" by Patrick Masters is a study that explores why these gone but not forgotten warrior monks remain prominent in popular culture; how history influenced the myth; and how the myth has influenced literature, film and video games.

Critique: Featuring an informative Introduction, an eight page Appendix (Knights Templar Films, Television and Video Games), a twelve page Bibliography, and a two page Index, "The Knights Templar in Popular Culture: Films, Video Games and Fan Tourism" is a unique and high value contribution to the continuing Knights Templar impact as a modern day cultural phenomena. Exceptionally well organized and presented, and also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $19.49), "The Knights Templar in Popular Culture" is an extraordinary and recommended addition to personal, professional, community, and college/university library collections.

Editorial Note: Patrick Masters ( has published writings on the Knights Templar in The Conversation and The Independent. Currently residing in the UK, Patrick has a lifelong passion for writing and research. Combining elements of history, media and film analysis, his non-fiction works provide his readers with a thorough understanding of how historical events are presented to audiences in recent times through to today.

Locksport: A Hackers Guide to Lockpicking, Impressioning, and Safe Cracking
Jos Weyers, et al.
No Starch Press
9781718502246, $54.99, PB, 416pp

Synopsis: "Locksport: A Hackers Guide to Lockpicking, Impressioning, and Safe Cracking" by the team of co-authors Jos Weyers, Matt Burrough, Walter Belgers, BandEAtoZ, and Nigel Tolley, is a comprehensive, fully illustrated, DIY instructional guide to the fascinating sport of picking locks and that shows you how to ethically, efficiently, and effectively bypass anything ranging from simple locks and safe dials to deadlocks and vaults.

"Locksport" is a definitive guide, packed with practical advice from a team of experts on: How various locks work and how to maintain and disassemble practice locks; What makes some locks more secure than others; The laws, competitions, and communities that make up the world of locksport.

"Locksport" shows how to pick pin tumblers and lever locks, make impressions or craft a working key from a blank, and manipulate open combination safe locks. How to work with picks, rakes, tension wrenches, files, magnification tools, safe-lock graphs, and depth-measuring instruments. The intricacies of security pins, wards, dimple locks, keyways, and antique locks.

Also covered are: The ins and outs of competition setup and tools and how to host your own competitions; Expert strategies for managing your nerves and gathering lock intel; What it's like to participate in timed head-to-head competitions, PicTacToe(TM), escape challenges, and other lockpicking contests.

From mastering your first padlock to conquering a competition, Locksport will show you how to take your skills to the next level -- and have endless fun doing it!

Critique: A complete and comprehensive course in lock picking for any and all occasions and types of locks, "Locksport: A Hackers Guide to Lockpicking, Impressioning, and Safe Cracking" by five experienced lock picking experts is a unique, special, 'user friendly', DIY instruction guide and 'how-to' manual that will prove an unusual and enduringly popular pick for personal, professional, community, and college/university library Home Security & Improvement collections. It should be noted that "Locksport" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $30.99).

Editorial Note #1: Jos Weyers is a world-record holder in the field of lock impressioning and a mainstay participant at LockSport events around the world. President of TOOOL in the Netherlands and a key figure at the Hack42 hackerspace in Arnhem. Jos is the mastermind behind the initiative. Some people know him as the Dutch Kilt guy. Featured in the New York Times. Voted #2 in the category "Hackers and Security" of the Nerd101-list of VrijNederland June 2015.

Editorial Note #2: Matt Burrough is a devoted locksport hobbyist. His locksport highlights include placing twice in the ShmooCon Lockpick Village competition, second place in the 2019 TOOOL US LockFest safe manipulation competition, and getting first-round opens at every TOOOL NL LockCon since 2016. During the day, Matt is a professional red team operator, and is the author of Pentesting Azure Applications (2018, No Starch Press.) He holds a bachelor's degree in networking, security, and system administration, a master's degree in computer science, and a variety of industry certifications from GIAC (SANS), Microsoft, and Offensive Security.

Editorial Note #3: Walter Belgers is a hacker, having worked in IT security for all his life, the majority as a penetration tester and currently as a security officer at Philips. He has an M.Sc. in computing science and has been on the internet since the 1980s. He is an honorary member of TOOOL, the Open Organisation of Lockpickers and NLUUG, the Dutch UNIX Users Group. Walter likes to speak at technical conferences. He has co-invented a microcomputer without microprocessor and turned it into a DIY kit. His hobbies are diverse, but include drifting and rally driving, sailing, reading, travelling and photography.

Editorial Note #4: BandEAtoZ is a GSA certified safe technician with years of experience opening safes around the world. He regularly publishes articles of interest in both the locksmithing magazine, Keynotes and in the more specialized periodical, Safe and Vault Technology, reaching safe engineers around the world. He is an active member in the Safe & Vault Technicians Association, the National Safeman's Organization and numerous professional forums.

Editorial Note #5: Nigel Tolley was picking locks and subverting security as a schoolboy, long before he had ever heard of locksmiths or locksport. However, this wasn't a career path, and so university called, and a job as an aerospace engineer, with a side line of databases and coding, became his daily reality. He escaped before dying of boredom, but it was close!

Willis M. Buhle

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Midwest Book Review
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