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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 18, Number 8 August 2018 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Andrea's Bookshelf Ann's Bookshelf
Bethany's Bookshelf Bonnye's Bookshelf Buhle's Bookshelf
Burroughs' Bookshelf Carson's Bookshelf Clint's Bookshelf
Grace's Bookshelf Julie's Bookshelf Logan's Bookshelf
Margaret's Bookshelf Mari's Bookshelf Marlan's Bookshelf
Mason's Bookshelf Molly's Bookshelf Polk's Bookshelf
Suanne's Bookshelf Susan's Bookshelf  

Reviewer's Choice

Dragon Ride: True Stories of Adventure, Miracles and Evangelism from China
Grace Jacob
XP Publisher
9780692879177, $12.99

Gail Welborn, Reviewer

Set in Hong Kong and Mainland China, Oregon author Grace Jacob's forty-eight true short stories span twenty-nine years of her family's missionary journey, from 1986 to 2015. Some read like adventure stories, while others are tales of risk and intrigue, but all stories reflect the importance of a missionary's relationship with God and the Holy Spirit who guides and directs them.

Written in first person, the exotic stories are told in chronological order and share Grace's personal spiritual struggles and growth as well as those of her sons and husband. The stories also portray the cultural differences that shaped the world views of a people and culture who believe in Buddhism, Confucianism and Communism.

For example, Grace and her family learned Confucianism was based on blood relationship and social responsibility with foreign relationships, such as with missionaries, given little consideration. Confrontations within the Chinese culture were avoided, even if it required lying, which meant Grace's family were often told what others thought they wanted to hear. While Communism taught there was no God, thus the Bible was irrelevant.

Grace writes, through much prayer she and her family learned " to challenge the atheistic and Buddhist thinking" they confronted. They learned how to deal with " issues, persecution and forced abortions" and many other dangerous situations.

The entire family learned to "relish Chinese food, laugh at Chinese jokes and even learned how to tell Chinese jokes," which made them more effective missionaries. As their fluency in Cantonese and Mandarin increased, Grace writes, "...learning to think in another language and taking on the values of another culture..." ultimately enriched and broadened their souls.

Their extraordinary stories reveal a missionary's life is one of sacrifice and teaching others about Christ's plan of salvation and how to be in relationship with the Lord. All stories reflect that theme and reveal how the power of the gospel literally changes lives, as well as hearts; an excellent book to understand the challenges of modern-day missionaries.

Hyperspace Radio: Collected Short Stories of James Beach
James Beach
Mind Fu
Amazon Digital Services LLC
1945451025, $14.95

Suzie Housley

"The essence of the beautiful is unity in variety"

~Felix Mendelssohn

Variety is the spice of life that gives it all its favor. Embark on a journey that explores a large number of life's different situations. In this collection of short stories, you will find a variety of experiences that will entertain you from the first page.

What makes this book so unique is that you never know where the next story will take you, as you start a new adventure. Of the collection, the ones that stood out the most were "The Warthog School of Vocational Magic", and "Ghost Magnet". I felt these two exhibited the author's true writer's voice.

James Beach is an author who has the skill and dedication to provide a one-of-a-kind reading experience. In this offering, he shows the ability to visit different scenarios and explore uncharted territory. This book is definitely a unique jewel that is waiting to be discovered.

Everyone Brave is Forgiven
Chris Cleave
Simon & Schuster Publishers
9781501124389, $16.00

Teri Davis

Does everyone view the events of World War II the same way? Imagine living in London during 1939, before the Americans entered the War. Naturally, at first everyone believes it will be a short series of battles with the Brits leading the way. Everyone wants to do their part, with many able-bodied men immediately enlisting. The wealthy, or those from the "better" families", became officers. A few chose to stay working in the city to maintain the continuity of life. The children were evacuated to the country. Some chose to remain. What was life like in Londen then?

Everyone Brave is Forgiven is a story for those who search for the genuine experiences of the past. The strong voices of each character discloses the true life of the time period. Whether from Mary North being a single and pretty new teacher and finding her place in the world, or Hilda as Mary's best friend, Tom is her boss and fiance, Allistar going off to fight, or Zachary as the black and poor. Each voice explains living through a turbulent time of hardship.

Chris Cleave loosely based this novel on his grandparents. This London resident has won the Somerset Maugham Award in 2006, been on the shortlist for the 2006 Commonwealth Writer's Prize, also on the shortlist for the Costa Award and having his books on the New York Times Bestsellers' List. He is the author of Incendiary, Little Bee, and Gold.

Everyone Brave is Forgiven is enthralling. This particular war story focuses mostly on the people not fighting the enemy, but attempting to survive everyday life. Unpredictably, the novel focuses on class differences, wealth, charity, race, friendship, courage, forgiveness and loyalty.

The writing is beautiful, pulling the reader closer into the characters as each paged is turned. The beginning is slow in the character development, but being patient through the pages allows the reader a marvelous experience in opening the time capsule of the past. While the events are often ugly, the story displays the good and bad of their daily life.

Everyone Brave is Forgiven is recommended for educated historical fiction readers seeming to lean a little to female readers. Some people are intimidated by the vocabulary and sentence length, which is quickly overlooked once connected with the story.

A story of bravery, forgiveness, and idealism all describe the beautiful tale of Everyone Brave is Forgiven.

Toby's Tails - A Kitten's Tale
(Fantasy Farm Tales Book 9)
Susan Keefe
9781987754872, $10.00, 42 pages


The unconditional love we experience with our pets is a wonderful thing, however, when Toby the Border collie noticed that the cats who were already resident at Fantasy Farm ignored a tiny kitten who arrived there, he decided that he would befriend it. As the friendship developed the author realised that she had to capture this wonderful relationship in pictures and eventually in this lovely children's book.

Scared and lonely the kitten gradually became more confident, and with Toby's guidance he learnt about many of the different animals and wildlife around him.

There are lots of sweet little incidents in this enchanting book, for example, one time the kitten brings a mole into the house to find out from Toby what it is, and then wonders why the author wasn't impressed. When he discovers that humans don't like wildlife in the house, he typically cat like puts his head in the air and stalks out, as you do when you are only months old.

Life lessons for him abound as the seasons past, and children reading it will not only learn about the special bond which develops between the kitten and Toby but also that acceptance and love can be found in unusual places.

A true story, and one which will be loved by any child who loves animals.

Available from Amazon:

Emmie Mears
BHC Press
9781947727519, Hardcover, $27.95, 420 pages
9781946848529, Softcover, $15.95, 420 pages
9781947727526, Ebook $7.99,

Sara Megibow, KT Literary
Publishers Weekly

Mears's fantasy series opener introduces the seemingly utopian world of the Hearthland: peaceful, prosperous, free of want. All adolescent Hearthlanders undertake vision quests in which they learn their true names and the dark secret behind the Hearthland's prosperity: magic that drains the life force from other lands, starving them.

Most accept this knowledge and return to their community, but Carin and her friend Ryd cannot; horrified, they flee, becoming exiles. They make a new life in a hungry, harsh land, where Carin must decide whether she will break the life-draining spell by destroying the stones that bind it.

The storytelling is effective, if formulaic, and the characters are pleasantly appealing. Mears has crafted a highly detailed world in which equality of men, women, and the nonbinary hyrsin is taken for granted by all, and it's enjoyable to see a unique and idealistic treatment of gender that is not a central part of the plot.

The conclusion will leave readers eager for Carin's further adventures.

Unsolved Cold-Case Homicides of Law Enforcement Officers
James Bultema
P.D. Publishing
9780997425116, $19.99 PB, $17.99 Kindle, 326pp,

Victoria M. Newman, Reviewer
President of How2LoveYourCop
Author of A CHiP on my Shoulder and A Marriage in Progress

Within this masterpiece of historical account, we learn how law enforcement have paid the price with their lives. Most important of all, Unsolved has one overriding message: We must never forget. We must honor their sacrifice. And we must be relentless in the pursuit of truth and justice. The fallen and their families deserve it. Excellent book!

Shot of Love
R. J. Jagger
Thriller Publishing Group, Inc.
978937888459,$9.99 US/$12.99 CAN (Paperback)
978937888442,$23.95 US/$30.50 CAN (Hardcover)
9781937888466, $TBA (eBook)

Wanda Maynard

The plot was deep and lured me in, consuming me with page after captivating page. I dug in my heels as I followed Teffinger to the ends of the earth, if need be, to find out what was going on, and how he would be able to solve this intriguing problem. The suspense led me through the hot, scorching desert, and dangerous wild animals as I tagged along with him in his all consuming quest.

There were some terrifying moments throughout this great book titled, SHOT OF LOVE, by R. J. Jagger. Great author indeed! His work is genuine! Take, for instance, in chapters 26, 27, and 28. Suddenly Teffinger was in a living nightmare that would not stop. No matter what he tried to do to help the situation, It kept escalating. Then, in one part in chapter 28 he actually made me laugh. That part was amazingly said. I loved it! And I especially loved the characters.

Teffinger was truly after my heart in this story. He had me from the get go. The details of the skillful writing of this amazing author showed through with, the setting, which drew my attention in every detail. The characters lived up to their expectations, and then some. And I especially liked the dialogue. In some parts the characters showed actual surprise. And, the ending truly spectacular! That even surprised me. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I recommend this five star must read!!

I chose this book for review because I love to read the works by this great author. His skills as a writer seem to pull the reader into the plot, along with the amazing characters, through developed dialogue that is so easily read. And, the general reader will, in my opinion, get a lot of enjoyment out of this great work, and want to read, for entertainment, more books by this wonderful author. I know I do. Such as, "Lawyer Trap". Cannot wait to sink my teeth into that one.

50 Hours
Loree Lough
Progressive Rising Phoenix Press, LLC
9781946329349, $13.95 PB, $1.99 Kindle, 212pp,

Catherine Lanigan

I defy anyone to start the beautifully written 50 Hours and to put it down or to go on with their own lives as they had before reading about the remarkable, emotional and insightful relationship between dying Aubrey and the lost Franco.

As a recent widow myself, the strength, humor and respect between the main characters shot close to home, but delivered so much hope and love that even as I march forward to tomorrow, my perspective has altered all to the positive. In her last days in this life, Aubrey finally lives out the dreams she's been too browbeaten by her mother and ex husband to accomplish. She can only do this with help from Franco, who risks imprisonment to see her wish come true.

Emerson said, "To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived, this is to have succeeded." Aubrey and Franco succeeded. Believe me when I say, this is the kind of book that wins pulitzer prises.

Isabella's Painting: A Karina Cardinal Mystery
Ellen Butler
Power to the Pen
PO Box 1474, Woodbridge, VA 22195
9780998419336, $14.99 PB, $4.99 Kindle, 280pp,

Veronica Westfall, Reviewer
Affaire DeCour

Ok, show of hands, who here's guilty pleasure is spending a day watching the mystery movies on the Hallmark channel? Fess up! I know I'm not the only one!

Karina Cardinal, known to her friends as KC, is a lawyer turned lobbyist that has stumbled upon a long lost stolen piece of art work. Torn between wanting to do the right thing and report it to the authorities or keeping her soon to be in-laws and fiance safe, she sets out to solve the mystery on her own. But when the crime escalates from theft to threats to physical attacks, KC realizes she is in way over her head. Can KC's college friend now FBI agent Mike Finnegan help her out of this mess, or will the curse surrounding the painting be unleashed on her and those she loves.

Isabella's Painting by Ellen Butler has the ease and flow of an old fashioned mystery novel with some laugh out loud snark between the characters that makes this an enjoyable and fun read. So put away that TV remote! There is no need to binge watch the next season of NCIS, when you can curl up with your fav beverage and dive into this Karina Cardinal Mystery. Highly recommend and hope this will be an ongoing series.

The Immortal Gene
Jonas Saul
Vesuvian Books
9781944109585, $18.99 PB, $1.99 Kindle, 332pp,

Tracy Riva

I love both sci-fi and thrillers so this book, that is a mix of the two genres, sounded really interesting to me. I'm happy to say it more than lived up to my hopes for it.

The book was a stellar read. The storyline was well-developed and the characters were terrific. The tension was like a finely drawn bow string drawing back and holding til it was released at the perfect moment. I can't wait for more books in this series.

I don't know what else Jonas Saul had written but I plan to go in search of more books by him. Especially if they blend a touch of sci-fi with a thriller.

I received an ARC (Advanced Reading Copy) of this book.

Go Home, Afton
Brent Jones
Amazon Digital Services LLC
ASIN: B07CBRX77Q, $0.99, Kindle,

Alexa Dudley

Synopsis: We all wear masks, and Afton Morrison is no exception.

A small-town librarian with a dark side, Afton, twenty-six, has suppressed violent impulses her entire adult life. Impulses that demand she commit murder.

Blending her urges with reason, Afton stalks a known sexual predator, intending to kill him. But her plan, inspired by true crime and hatched with meticulous care, is interrupted by a mysterious figure from her past. A dangerous man that lurks in the shadows, watching, threatening to turn the huntress into the hunted.

Go Home, Afton is the first of four parts in a new serial thriller by author Brent Jones. Packed with grit and action, The Afton Morrison Series delves into a world of moral ambiguity, delivering audiences an unlikely heroine in the form of a disturbed vigilante murderess.

My Thoughts: Go Home, Afton by Brent Jones follows the story of children's librarian, Afton Morrison. Afton, however, isn't your typical librarian-- imagining herself as a murderous vigilante, Afton has an urge to kill. Although she's been ruminating over and planning for her first murder for years, she has yet to actually go through with it. With a sexual predator loose in her community, Afton believes she's found the perfect first target. However, her plan is soon thwarted by a mysterious "man in the shadows" who has been watching her every move. Will Afton finally get to act on her violent urge to kill or will this mysterious man from her past get to her first?

I loved this book. When I first read the synopsis for Go Home, Afton I was definitely caught off guard by the contrast between the typical librarian trope and Afton, the murderous vigilante librarian. I haven't read many books told from the point of view of the killer (or potential killer in this case) but Afton's character was extremely well-developed and witty, making it hard not to like her and become fascinated with her character. I especially enjoyed how the author tied in Afton's past experiences with her current desire to kill-- this not only added a lot of depth to her character but in my opinion, made the storyline much stronger.

As for the story itself, Go Home, Afton was full of twists that kept me surprised to the very end of the book. The ending caught me completely off guard, in the best possible way, and left me anxious to read the next book in the series (This is a 4 part series, the next book See You Soon, Afton has an expected publication date of August 7th 2018!!) If you're looking for a fun & unique book, you should definitely check out Go Home, Afton. Gripping from the very first page, you'll finish this book in one sitting!

Original link to review:

Welcome To Saint Angel
William Luvaas
Anaphora Literary Press
9781681143217, $35.00, HC, $2.99 Kindle
9781681143200,$20.00, PB, 233pp,

Peter Clothier, Reviewer
Los Angeles Review of Books

The title bids us Welcome to Saint Angel - a small, once friendly Southern California desert community up around Palm Springs.

That's about as far as the welcome goes in this new novel by William Luvaas, known to discriminating fans (myself included!) for his previous boisterously entertaining novels - the most recent is Beneath the Coyote Hills - and collections of stories. The trouble in this one starts with innocent-seeming lawns, which require generous applications of the natural resource that is of course most lacking in the desert: water. From there it degenerates into disputes over property rights, petty personal grudges, open hostilities, and finally outright warfare. All wounds are ripe for reopening in this sure-fire satire of contemporary America: social divisions and bitter personal animosities; wealth, possessions and power versus the assertion of individual rights; arrogant, rapacious humankind versus vulnerable nature; the corruption of politics and law enforcement, and so on.

Fortunately for the reader, this author's passion - his anger, too - come wrapped in a healthy sense of the absurd. Dangerous plot lines veer off into farce. The people who drive them leap off into engaging parodies of themselves. And the reader is caught, along with Luvaas, in a parlous place somewhere between outrage and hilarity.

Dodging between two narrators, the author takes advantage of both a first person and an omniscient point of view. The former is the protagonist and reluctant leader of the residents' rebellion, Albert Sharpe, "Al," quixotic tinkerer, inventor, and single father of the rambunctious Finley ("Fin" - shades of Huck in girl's clothing?) The other voice is that of the aggrieved Saint Angel itself, innocent target of the developer, Chester Noonan, and his ruthless, soon-to-be murderous conspiracy of surveyors, crooked functionaries, and contractors who plot together to exploit the community's remoteness and tranquility in the name of Progress.

Luvaas, as his readers will know, has a soft spot for outcasts and misfits. His wicked-keen eye for the strange, often self-destructive perversity of human behavior lends a tragi-comic inevitability to his story, and to a cast of characters that includes: Sage Littlefeather, sage, warrior and medicine man of the Soboba Indian tribe; Sam Jensen, a cranky and aging desert rat and survivalist; Rob Thompson, a "carpenter & angry Jesus freak"; Little Lester, a Vietnam vet who makes his home in a local culvert; Tinkerspoon, computer hacker extraordinaire; M & M, a couple of slovenly and cheerfully obese squatters; along with a host of others, all brought to life with Luvaas's pitch-perfect ear for idiom and speech patterns. (He usefully appends a dramatis personae at the end of the book; given his large and motley crew, I wish I had discovered it sooner).

Nature, keenly observed and described throughout in rich and sharp-edged detail, is the primary victim in this tale. Her avatar is Tahquitz ("tar pits"?) a Soboba demon/god who inhabits a local mountain cave and dyspeptically observes the action down below. Her creatures are predators (coyotes, owls); and poisonous insects (scorpions, tarantulas); and her plant life sparse and prickly. Her primary weapon of self-defense is "the slough," a quagmire back of Al's property, which swallows everything - man, beast, or backhoe - that comes near, and a recurring metaphor for the power of nature to make casual mockery of all human endeavor, sucking every particle of life and matter down into its greedy, undiscriminating maw.

The slough, of course, will survive the escalating and increasingly farcical war between the valley's developers and the victims of their greed. The only other survivor of widespread devastation is the tree in which Sharpe built long ago a magical tree house for his daughter - a particularly affecting detail since the edgy love that Luvaas establishes between father and daughter is the sole manifestation of true tenderness in this otherwise affectionately bleak view of humankind. It is sorely tested, though, when Finley begins to question the story she has long been told about her mother's death and disappears off on her own hazardous quest. The hair-raising climax of her nightmare coincides with a final, apocalyptic confrontation in which Luvaas treats us to the epic spectacle of those all-too familiar behemoths of construction equipment engaged in mortal conflict with the last-ditch defenders of what remains of private property...

Al, meanwhile, amidst the crescendoing chaos, is on the lam; pursued as a murder suspect (the slough did it!), he's off hallucinating in the desert, lost in the ordeal of his own private, unsolicited hero's journey. Now, can Luvaas contrive a "happy ending" out of this wonderfully noxious stew? Answer: Sorry, I'm not telling. Go read the book.

Freedom's Light
Robert J. Saniscalchi
Self-published Amazon Kindle/Createspace
9781542329552, $10.99 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 292pp,

Enas Reviews
December 16, 2016

Author Robert Saniscalchi has penned down a masterful fictitious narrative based on the bitter past of U.S. by reconstructing the tragic event of 9/11.

Featuring a snappy relationship of three brothers (Paul, Roy & Rob) engaged in hearty leisure time of a hunting expedition, author skillfully highlights and brings out the character of 28 year old Rob, a U.S. army veteran and a team member of 'Special Operations Delta Force' where during a casual chitchat Rob updates his brother about his livelihood and hardship at the military and a silent war being waged against terrorism.

Poignant, yet brilliantly told 'Freedom's Light' unfolds itself delivering a wild ride of thrilling quest and dangerous assignment tasked to Rob against the evil of terrorism. Vividly detailed settings entwined with intricately developed evocative prose is explicit and author manages to evoke the emotional attachment for those who have suffered brutally at the hands of terrorism and its ugliness around the world.

Action oriented, tense and dramatic, author Robert Saniscalchi's fictional thriller is a captivating modern-day parable that is relate-able and entertaining. Those looking for a powerful reality based page turner are sure to be intrigued by 'Freedom's Light'.

The Girl Who Can Cook
Mike Wehner
Progressive Thoth
9781732291119, $15.99 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 302pp,

Kristi Elizabeth, Reviewer
San Francisco Book Review

What is that saying? Revenge is a dish best served cold? Not in this case. It's served hot as schnitzel right out of the pan. Alex's best friend was shot several times and murdered by his girlfriend, Erin. Alex and Charlie (a mutual friend of Alex and John) vow to kill Erin if she is not convicted of the murder. Sure enough, she is released from custody to go lead her life as chef and owner of the German-style restaurant Essen. As Alex contemplates how he will kill Erin, he ends up becoming too close to her. He teaches himself how to cook, how to use a knife set (something crucial to a chef's success), and goes to interview for a job at Essen even though he is an engineer by trade. The characters in The Girl Who Can Cook all have vivid personalities and characteristics. Alex is a bit of a punk at times and at other times he's sweet and sensitive. He's a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde if you ask me. Charlie reminded me of a frat boy who never grew up, drinking his way into the wee hours of the night, crashing on whoever's couch, and waking up only because he did not asphyxiate on his own sickness during the night. Erin, even though Alex made her out to be a vicious killer, was actually my favorite character because she was so passionate about her job and really very forthcoming. She never seemed to have secrets she was hiding from Alex. Emily and Mike, the side characters, were also very vividly described. Mike being a big guy with a big heart and Emily, Erin's sister, being a lithe blondie who had her sister's back at all times. I liked how John, the dead boyfriend, was described by both Alex and Emily at different times in the book with completely different personality characteristics. This made the reader think, "Which one of them knew the real John?" Another feature of the book that I liked was its organization. The chapters were broken down into both Alex's Grief Journal, Alex's point of view, and Erin's point of view. This made the book read very easily and smoothly. A fantastic read that kept me engaged the whole time.

Something's Happening Here: A Memoir Of The 60s
Dennis Hicks
Marco Press
9780970909268, $15.00 PB, $8.99 Kindle, 222pp,

A Bastard's Indie Book Reviews

As Gen Xers, we grew up with the consistency of being bombarded by things of yesteryears directly influencing our culture with a mixed feeling of admiration (civil rights, music, anti-war ) and disdain (the 70s, 80s greed, and more war) for "baby boomers." Gen Xers are the disrespected middle child caught between the world made by the baby boomers and the world inherently for millennials ( not a diss on Gen Y or Gen Z ). For a Gen Xer like me, I am still fascinated with 60s culture and movements, furthering my awe by reading "Something's Happening Here: A Memoir of the 60s" by Dennis Hicks, perhaps the most personal glimpse of innocence lost and heartfully written books about "baby boomers."

The most substantial parts of "Something's Happening Here: A Memoir of the 60s" is the sexual awakening or the sexual revolution of the 60s. The awakening to the meaning of sexual expression and liberation for baby boomers is an experience future generations can't enjoy, not that we are repressed, but with the internet, our awakenings are just marred in unrealistic ideas and lacking in innocence. As Dennis writes about "Mavis," I am transformed into a witness or classmate in his "Renaissance art class" as Dennis paints a picture of profound sexual discovery. I realized this is excellent memoir writing because it's not just about sexual awakings but more about waking up to the lies about sex, how threatening this had to be for the establishment. Waking up is revolutionary.

There are crucial tense moments from Dennis's POV and the people that Dennis encounters helped shape his memoir into a great American experience. Something's Happening Here: A Memoir of the 60s" makes being an activist during the civil rights era and the Vietnam war feel right, an inspiration for some of us fighting against the regression to the 50s.

City Boy
Bruce Ario
Beavers Pond Press
7108 Ohms Ln, Edina, MN 55439
Ariowrite Audio: B07B3YDTH5, $17.46, 5 hours 11 minutes
9781592988587, $14.95 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 250pp,

Peter Clease

Great novel, Bruce -- at least arguably, and likely your greatest single work of art. Despite Cityboy being a quick read (I finished it in a little over an hour), it's full of interesting tells and tales, which deepen in recollection.

It is another example: that it matter HOW art is told, not WHAT it tells. I disagree with the many philosophical tangents posited, yet recognize Cityboy is about getting behind John Argent's, not my, eyes. Or, in this case, his city.

The city is a wonderful symbol. Different readers can bring and read different things- themselves and not, into this city. This, too, is Negative Capability, and what argues greatness, at least in part, to this book.

The key to its argument is the narrator, John Argent, is sort of a reliable narrator with an unreliable eye. This excerpt is a good example, towards Cityboy's end:

The city was actually for adults - people that acted mature and were responsible - as I had known all along.

I had had to cut the umbilical cord. I was like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, all I had to do was tap my feet to get home. I was done chasing windmills as if I was some kind of Don Quixote.

The first paragraph LEAPS to the second; its first, however, renders many an Argent truth as lie. What lies these are are mysteries, if not tied to Argent's prior insanity. That doesn't belie Argent as a liar or a fiend, just wrong.

The twists of phrases are excellent. Many cliches are undermined and subverted, as in your arios. This works in both the micro sense and macro sense, sans strain. Like: 'In the fall, I started Ramsey Junior High School like a carrot sprouting out of the dirt seeking growth and sunshine.' Or, moreover, to shape character: Argent links JFK's death with a dog, using humor: 'Maybe he'll be better off in heaven,' which, like his obsession with nylons, is funny with pathos. Then there are passages like this:

I stayed tied into a feeling about Tara, somehow realizing it might never work out. She didn't express love to me even though I felt her strength uplifting me. She was someone to dream on because she had always been so free and independent. I thought she'd never fall or if she did fall she would grip onto a positive force like the love I felt for her.

My idea of love was developed from my relationship with her. She seemed to be such a winner. She was so cool. Part of her aura was that she was a heartbreaker and not a brokenhearted person. Either purposefully or unpurposefully she was trying to break my heart. I couldn't break hers, but she was breaking mine.

Minneapolis, or any city, was not a good place to be broken hearted. A trip to Minnehaha Falls made me think of many laughs over falling in love. To fall in love meant to be swept away - gone.

Girls in general did this to me. I was blown away by their charms. The love force rolled over me conquering all that was solid. My feet touched the earth but my head was in the sky. The universe was quickly shrinking. Stars couldn't compete with the love I felt for women.

At the same time God was still touching my life giving me power to go on. His love led me to devotion and humility. The universe expanded. I still planted seeds of love planning to have a harvest at some point. It could be a harvest I would never reap. The time never seemed ripe for me. Maybe I had just sown seeds for Christ to reap if He returned.

Though I could quibble of some word choices, this is an excellent example of ideas in service to character. Look how the universe shrinks and expands based on Argent's mental state. It is a superb evocation of character, and uses character and ideas to SUPPORT- not distract, Argent's wealth- not lack, of character. Despite his religiosity, God also becomes a great symbol of silence, thus truly existential. We learn the scope of his life- his evolution and devolution, his loves and fears, how he shits and pisses, his trysts and depths. And, on that score, this is a great novel.

Coming Clean
Betty Moffett
Ice Cube Press
9781948509022, $19.99, HC, 202pp,

Bryan Crockett, Reviewer
author of Love's Alchemy

With an easy grace, a ready wit, and an eye that misses nothing, Betty Moffett gives us stories that feel true to the lives they depict, true to each narrative moment. Time and again she turns just the right phrase, lands on the perfect word. Sometimes funny, sometimes wise, and sometimes both at once, the stories in Coming Clean linger in the mind as welcome company.

Portraits: A Novel
N. A. Diaman
Persona Press
9780931906121, $19.95, PB,

James Doig Anderson, Reviewer
Professor Emeritus
Rutgers University Department of Library & Information Science.

Diaman is an experienced gay writer with seven novels and three memoirs under his belt. This newest novel is a quiet, charming story of long loving relationships in San Francisco and Europe (Germany, then mostly in Paris) and finally, briefly, in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. There are three chapters, the first named for Theo, the son of Greek emigrants from Istanbul, who opened a Greek bakery, which became a landmark in the Bay Area. Theo works in a book store and becomes a manager. He falls in love with Sebastian, an American son of Ethiopian parents. Sebastian is a musician who finds it impossible to break into the crowded San Francisco music market. He gets a chance to perform in Europe, so he takes it, first in Germany, going from city to city, then finally to Paris where he makes his mark. In Germany he meets the Turk, Deniz. They begin living together and eventually become lovers. Sebastian teaches Deniz to play the guitar, and he joins Sebastian in his singing career. They are very successful.

In the meantime, Theo accepts his separation from Sebastian and meets Conrad, a Native American silversmith from New Mexico. They too become a loving couple. Much later, Conrad has an urge to discover his roots and rides off on his motorcycle to the Southwest, then down into Mexico. He finally settles in San Miguel de Allende. He builds a house there and eventually persuades Theo to join him.

This engaging novel is divided into 150 short chapters, none longer than 2 pages. Each is a snapshot into the lives of Theo, Sebastian, Conrad, their families and friends, recording the exciting and the mundane aspects of their lives, but never boring, always a pleasure to read. Diaman is a skilled and talented writer. Collections of current gay fiction will want this for their collections, and readers seeking an uplifting gay relationship novel will want to enjoy this too.

Chanting the Feminine Down
James C. McCullagh with Roy McCullagh
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
9781979059909, $9.98 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 248pp,

Chris Phillips, Reviewer

Oddly enough, when an author subtitles his book it is often more about the author then the book. However, McCullagh here declares this to be a "Psychological, Religious and Historical Novel," he is not being disingenuous.

This story is well researched and well documented. It is a tribute to the author's dedication and abilities in research and correlation of large amounts of data and information. The author provides source references and other interesting information at his website,

Colette Maria McGovern is a troubled young woman. She is finishing her education at a Jesuit-ran college in New York City. Her assignment for a thesis in one class is on the subject of the council of Trent. She is a dreamer. She has visions. She visits and lives in historical settings with a vivid imagination supplying the details that make her dream even more so. These make her have even more visions. Fortunately, she keeps a dream journal which she wisely revisits from time to time. Her dreams become more troubling and even more disconcerting as her tale develops.

She is aided in this thesis by many persons. These encounters with real and imagined persons fill her thoughts almost driving her to the brink of sanity.

One character is her mother, Patricia, who is a "typical" Catholic mother. Patricia is full of advice, admonition and constant berating of Colette as Patricia feels is her duty. Of course, as a devout Latin-service Catholic, Patricia puts mounds of guilt and passive-aggressive conversation into Colette's life and especially during this troubling time of Colette's education.

Colette has her advisor professor, Jesuit priest, Rev. Gleason. Colette always refers to her professors as Professor because she wishes to avoid more religion in her life that would come from calling them Father. He discusses her choice of thesis subject with much caution and many questions about why she shouldn't be choosing such a boring council.

After some of her more troubling dreams begin, she sees the school counselor, O'Connell. He provides some insights as she discusses some but, very pointedly, not all of her dreams. This brings in the first character that Collette's imagination brings into the story, Carl Jung. Apparently among the other lessons she has learned, Carl Jung's psychology and written insights begin and continue to play very heavily on how Colette adjusts to her dreams and visions.

The next important person, actual persons, are many poetic writers and artists from the time of the Council of Trent (1545 - 1563). There are many of these influences. However, the culmination of this is Colette's poem "Chanting the Feminine Down" which she posts on the church doors and at various other places in her reality. This becomes the defining moment for her, the story and what transpires thereon.

The next major character cannot be ignored. Professor Merkel, is a self-described take-no-prisoners Jesuit with very theatric takes on many of his lessons. It all begins with the Jesuits who land in Brazil around the same time that the Council of Trent is being held in Italy. From there through many different performances, Colette and Merkel, act out the events that she finds, imagines and even writes about eventually.

The characters are thoroughly researched and developed. There is no lack of tension even when much of the real action occurs within these dreams that Colette faithful records and then reviews with notes and comments.

The book's major draw is the intensity that Colette feels these dreams and her thesis of bringing the feminine into Catholic mass contrary to the Council of Trent.

The story is straight forward, but the struggles that Colette endures while attempting to get a handle and a useful perspective on the council of Trent make the storyline both intense, thought provoking and very deep for a novel.

The author has done well to deliver on his subtitle.

This is an interesting novel for any readers. The depth and intensity might suggest adult readers, but mature young adults would probably enjoy it as well. The interactions do require some experience with psychology, religion and the history especially of the Catholic church, and the Counter-Reformation movement of the time of the Council.

Highly recommended to most readers. 5 Stars.

Andrea's Bookshelf

Finding Granny
Kate Simpson, author
Gwynneth Jones, illustrator
EK Books
c/o Exisle Publishing
9781925335699, $17.99, HC, 32pp,

Every two seconds, someone in the world suffers a stroke. In "Finding Granny", that someone is Edie's beloved grandmother. When Edie comes to the hospital, she is confronted by the physical changes in her grandmother: muddled words, a crooked face, a woman confined to bed. This isn't the 'playtime, bedtime, story-time pantomime Granny' that Edie knows. "That's not my Granny," she says, as she waits outside in the corridor during her mother's visits. But when her mother takes Edie to watch one of Granny's art therapy sessions, Edie starts to understand that the Granny she loves is still there. Deftly written by Kate Simpson and engagingly illustrated by Gwynneth Jones, "Finding Granny" is a truly heart-warming story of changing relationships and the bond between children and grandparents. "Finding Granny" is also a sensitive exploration of coping with illness and disability that will offer children much-needed comfort, making it an ideal and unreservedly recommended addition to family, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 5 to 7.

Serah: The Daughter of Rebekah and Lucius
Barry Connolly
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781532046704, $20.99, PB, 386pp,

Serah Corvinius is a young Christian girl who is coming of age in the shadow of Rome during the reign of the Emperor Claudius. The daughter of a Roman centurion and a Jewish artisan, Serah lives an idyllic life on her fathers equestrian estate. There is where magnificent horses are trained for fierce competition in the races at the Circus Maximus. When a powerful and vindictive Roman senator threatens her family's welfare and even her own life, Serah is compelled to flee to her mother's homeland in Judea. In Jerusalem, she will experience for the first time the prejudice and danger facing the followers of Jesus Christ. It is an adventure that will test her beliefs, challenge her courage, open her heart, and change her life. A superbly crafted historical novel by a novelist with a genuine flair for consistently entertaining narrative storytelling and an impressive ability to engage his reader's total and continued attention from beginning to end, "Serah: The Daughter of Rebekah and Lucius" by Barry Connolly is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to community library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Serah: The Daughter of Rebekah and Lucius" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $1.99).

Gifts of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Wisdom Tales Press
1501 E. Hillside Dr., Bloomington, IN 47401
9781937786731, $17.95, HC, 40pp,

Just before dawn on Saturday the 9th of December, 1531, Juan Diego was on his way to Mass near Mexico City. He came to a hill known as Tepeyac just as day broke. He could hear the singing of many beautiful birds, but then the singing suddenly stopped. As he looked towards the top of the hill he heard someone calling his name. He was amazed to see a beautiful lady. Her clothes glimmered like the sun and her brilliance made the rocks and plants sparkle like jewels. Juan Diego bowed deeply before her, as she told him that she was Holy Mary, the Mother of God. Then she instructed him to go to the bishop in Mexico City and ask him to build a great church so that people would come to know her love, compassion, and protection. But the bishop wished for a sign. "Gifts of Our Lady of Guadalupe: Patroness of Latin America" is a beautiful picture book retelling of the story by award-winning author Demi for children ages 4 to 8. beautifully enhanced with illustrative artwork, children will learn how the miracles performed by the Virgin of Guadalupe persuaded the bishop to build the church; how they caused ten million Aztecs to convert to Catholicism within just eight years; and why the basilica dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupe today receives 20 million pilgrims per year, making it the most popular Christian pilgrimage site in the world. While "Gifts of Our Lady of Guadalupe: Patroness of Latin America" is unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, Sunday School, elementary school, and community library picture book collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that it is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Fruit Bowl
Mark Hoffman
c/o Random House Children's Books
1745 Broadway, 10-1, New York, NY 10019
9781524719913, $17.99, HC, 40pp,

All the fruit are in the bowl. There's Apple and Orange. Strawberry and Peach. Plum and Pear. And, of course, Tomato. But now wait just a minute! Tomatoes aren't fruit! -- Or are they? Using sly science (and some wisdom from a wise old raisin), Tomato proves all the fruit wrong and shows that he belongs in the bowl just as much as the next blueberry! And he's bringing some unexpected friends too! Delightfully written and illustrated by Mark Hoffman, "Fruit Bowl" is as entertaining as it is informational. While very highly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 3 to 7, it should be noted that "Fruit Bowl" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

Andrea Kay

Ann's Bookshelf

We See The Stars
Kate Van Hooft
Allen & Unwin
9781760632526, A$29.99, paperback, 329 pages

"I tried to do some counting, but I couldn't hear enough things to count more than four or five, and it was too hard to see any colours in the dark. Superman opened the bedroom door and signalled for me to get up, and I followed the ends of his cape down the corridor so that I wouldn't trip".

Simon is eleven. He has not spoken for several years and he lives in a world of his own, sensitive to colours, sounds, textures and touch. His younger brother, Davey, and Superman are his closest friends but he is intelligent and imaginative, although other children think he is weird.

When his new teacher, Ms Hilcombe takes an interest in him, Simon thinks of her, too, as his friend. She tolerates his growing curiosity about her and, at one point, she imparts a secret to him which she makes him promise never to reveal. So, when she suddenly disappears and the police become involved he believes he knows where she is, but he can tell no-one.

Cassie, who was "famous because everyone was scared of her", is a tough and resilient girl with a deformed hand. She sits behind him at school and because of their shared oddness they seem to understand each other. "Numpty", she calls him, and together they go to watch the police dig up Ms Hilcombe's garden, then, when the police have left Simon persuades a reluctant Cassie to break into Ms Hilcombe's house with him. What he finds, he uses to aid him on his search for Ms Hilcombe. He imagines all sorts of terrifying scenes and in the final chapters of the book, as he wanders through heat-seared land trying to follow a rough map and with only Superman and an elderly ghostly figure called Albert to help him, the reader shares every step of the way. The situation is vivid, gripping and moving.

In Simon, Kate Van Hooft has created a character and a world which let the reader into places and situations which we recognise through Simon's descriptions but which he interprets very differently. Simon remembers incidents from his childhood which help to explain his condition and that of his mother, who has retreated from the world into a darkened bedroom. We understand the difficulties of his sharp-tongued Grandma, who often looks after him and Davey. And he remembers his Grandpa, who became more and more confused and is now in hospital. Grandpa once told him that a bee always leaves its sting behind - "You'll never get them out once the sting is in - little known fact about bees". Simon imagines the bee which once stung him building a honeycomb inside him. When he is stressed, the honeycomb grows, and he can hear the bees in his blood and veins. There is also a bird trapped inside his rib-cage which gets so agitated that it loses its feathers. It helps to describe how it feels when he suffers an attack of asthma. The counting helps when he feels an "angry" coming on. And Superman is always there for support.

Like Mark Haddon's book, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Kate Van Hooft's We See the Stars is good reading and at the same time it gives us some understanding and arouses our sympathies for children whose experiences, perceptions and behaviour are very different to what we expect. This is a haunting and absorbing story.

The Barefoot Surgeon
Ali Gripper
Allen & Unwin
9781760292706, A$29.99, paperback, 264 pages

The story of Sanduk Ruit's life is so extraordinary that it is almost unbelievable. That a boy from the lowest tier of a rigid Nepalese class system, who grew up in a remote mountain village without schools, electricity, telephones, radio or TV, and cut off for much of the year by ice and snow, should grow up to be a world-renowned eye-surgeon and humanitarian, is truly remarkable. The challenges he set himself and those who eventually worked with him and for him often seemed insurmountable. But he surmounted every obstacle, not just by his extraordinary skill, but through determination, courage and, often, sheer bloody-mindedness.

As American ophthalmologist Dick Litwin (one of Sanduk's early Western supporters, who worked with him in remote camps in Nepal) noted: "Ruit had a rare quality. He was a monomaniac, obsessed with just one goal in life. He'd wake up every morning and think about how many blind people they could cure that day".

Sanduk Ruit was born in 1954. For much of his childhood his father was away, travelling through the Himalayas on foot with yaks and dzos to trade salt and other goods between Tibet and Calcutta. In his travels, Sanduk's father had seen the value of education. He recognised Sanduk's quick, enquiring mind and chose to send him to school in Darjeeling. So, at the age of seven, Sanduk walked 150 kilometres with his father, along treacherous paths, across canyons on terrifying planks and suspension bridges and through a blizzard to get to the school. There his father left him.

Lessons were in Nepali and English, neither of which Sanduk knew, and it took him six months to make any sense of them. He was bullied by the other boys, who called him 'country bumpkin'. And he was the only boy who never went home in the holidays, it was just too far. His response was to bury himself in books and in learning.

A bad spell in hospital during one holiday period taught him mental stamina and lessons about the treatment of patients which he never forgot. And the death of his much-loved younger sister from treatable TB, because the family could not afford the necessary medicines, made him determined to become a doctor and to help the poorest of his people.

Ali Gripper tells Sanduk's story in detail but with enough human interest to make it easy and enjoyable reading. She charts Sanduk's struggles to acquire the necessary scholarship to attend medical school, his training in ophthalmology, his investigation of new techniques for treating cataract, and the animosity of others in his chosen profession when he begins to treat the poorest people with a simple, quick technique requiring little in the way of technological equipment. She tells of the remote camps to which hundreds of blind people would come for his attention, and of the seemingly miraculous return of sight to these people, whose lives had often been destroyed because of their blind helplessness. She has clearly met and talked with a number of the unusual and dedicated people who have travelled and worked with Sanduk, as well as with his family and friends, and she tells of their adventures with him.

The stories of those treated by Sanduk are immensely moving. He has taken his clinics to the poorest most isolated areas of the country and to people who are usually far from medical help. And people still come in their hundreds, walking long distances, bringing blind relatives in baskets to be treated by Sanduk and his loyal team of nurses in the most primitive conditions. He has taken his clinics, too, to some of the most isolated and dangerous places in Nepal, and has braved civil war, treating people from both sides and from all religions and castes. His ambition is still to cure as many people of blindness as possible.

It was Sanduk's great good fortune to meet the maverick Australian ophthalmologist Fred Hollows, who had set up eye clinics for Australia's indigenous people, treating trachoma and performing essential eye surgery. Hollows was dedicated to treating curable blindness in the poorest communities and he became Sanduk's mentor, teaching him, supporting his aims and helping to raise funds for him. A few other Westerns also supported his work but mostly Sanduk forged his own path and took huge risks to achieve his goals. Even getting married was fraught with difficulties, because he fell in love with a woman of a higher caste and both their families rejected them. His determination, again, solved the problem and Nanda, his wife, became his most loyal supporter, putting up with financial difficulties, with his long absences in dangerous places with no possibility of communication, and bearing the major role in raising their children. Family is vitally important to Sanduk, and he carefully sets aside time for them.

Sanduk has now operated on the poorest people in North Korea and Japan and has taught his methods to doctors in those countries so that they can carry on his work. His methods have won international approval. At great risk, financial and personal, he has set up a factory to make inexpensive lenses; has founded the Nepalese Eye Programme (which began with only $200 to its name); and has organised a method of harvesting healthy corneas from those brought for burial at the cremation ghats close to the Tilganga Institute for Ophthalmology, which he founded in Kathmandu.

Sanduk is no angel. He admits to frequent impatience and anger, and to his earlier addiction to alcohol and cigarettes. His present addiction, he says, ruefully, is to food. But his major addiction is clearly to his work and to the looks of joy on the faces of those to whom he has newly given the gift of sight.

You can read about Sanduk Ruit's career and achievements at but in The Barefoot Surgeon Ali Gripper reveals the human side of the story.

Crow Flight across the Sun
Mike Di Placido
Calder Valley
9781999706210 8.00 Brit. pounds, paperback, 57 pages

Crow Flight across the Sun is Mike Di Placido's tribute to Ted Hughes and also a thank-you to Keith Sagar who read his early poems and encouraged him to keep writing.

In his 'Introduction', Di Placido writes that his early exposure to the "viscerality" "immediacy" and "imagistic punch" of Hughes' poems like 'Crow', 'Pike' and 'The Jaguar' helped to inspire his entry into writing. And although Di Placido's own voice is clear in this collection, Hughes is present not just in the two short prose pieces where he (almost) meets him but also in the spirit, language, imagery and humour of the poems.

As if to demonstrate the power of Hughes' influence, the first poem in the book, 'Metamorphosis', imagines Di Placido changed into a "six-foot-plus", tattered "Incredible Hulk", so attuned to "the sky / the moving miracle of clouds", "the grass so pungent", and the bird calls that "listening is painful", as he fumbles for his pen to start writing.

His poems are, as he says, an "eclectic bunch". The language is simple and direct and the poems are beautifully crafted so that every word fits naturally into the rhythms of ordinary speech. They are full of images and phrases which spark the imagination: "bees / doing their high wire act / among the purple loosestrife". /... "their 'baskets' spilling over with booty"; a toad hops its way down the page in abrupt, single-word lines; a few rays of sunshine prompt a "ransack" of the shed for "those stripy chairs from Asda", the coating of "alabaster limbs with lotion and sunblock from brightly coloured bottles" and dreams of "Cap Ferrat and Cannes" before, "sooner or later his majesty retires, as do we".

Some poems, 'Sketches', are directly inspired by Hughes: 'Swallow' is "An aerobatic genius"; 'Cormorant' flies down the page reproducing the birds' distinctive shape in flight; 'Caterpillar Chic' views the creature as "the loop / of a torn-off toggle" or fancy braiding on "a 60's Afghan coat". A Pigeon, a toad, a rock-pool, all reflect on Hughes's own closeness to nature. Other brief sketches seem less closely linked to Hughes but reflect his skill at neatly encapsulating thought, character and humour, as he does repeatedly in Crow: Di Placido's ironically pretentious dream of a 'Blue Plaque' on his own place of birth is punctured by reality in the final line. And, my favourite sketch, 'Alpha', in just four lines perfectly captures the reason why this questioner's aspiration to be an alpha male is doomed.

The prose pieces in this collection: 'Tiresias at the Bottle Bank', 'Crow on my Shoulder' (a memory of Hughes and Tony Harrison reading their poems at York Theatre Royal in1994), and 'The Snake, the Oak and the Chair' (remembering listening to the broadcast of the Ted Hughes Memorial Service whilst at Lumb Bank) are fine examples of story-telling.

Whether he is imagining 'Shakespeare on Scarborough's Castle Hill (1591)', remembering a visit to Australia and onion picking in "the heat haze" with "the girls in their shorts / in the next field" picking "huge, white, bulbous onions" and himself as "King of the crop!", or himself holding things which once belonged to Hughes (his pen, his scarf and the small bronze jaguar which he created) and being moved by them, Di Placido honours the power that Hughes' work has had over his own imagination and creativity.

Crow Flight across the Sun is a small gift in poetry and prose which I think Ted Hughes would have enjoyed.

Dr. Ann Skea

Bethany's Bookshelf

Grizzlies, Gales and Giant Salmon
Pat Ardley
Harbour Publishing
PO Box 219, Madeira Park, BC, Canada, V0N 2H0
9781550178319 $24.95 pbk / $9.99 Kindle

Synopsis: At age nineteen, Pat Ardley packed up her belongings and left Winnipeg for Vancouver, looking for adventure. Little did she know that she'd spend the next forty years in the wilderness, thirty of which would be spent with a man known as George "Hurricane" Ardley. Pat met George soon after arriving in Vancouver, and not long after that the two of them set out for Addenbroke Island to work as junior lighthouse keepers. The journey up to the little island in the Fitz Hugh Sound, 483 km north of Vancouver, took four rolling days by Coast Guard ship?and a huge leap in lifestyle. There, the couple fell in love with the wilderness lifestyle and each other. They learned to grow their own produce, keep chickens, can clams and salmon, build their own furniture, and in the evenings they read aloud to each other for entertainment. But, of course, it wasn't always easy. Pat's fear of the ocean made for a constant struggle in her marine environment, and being the partner of an adrenalin junky (he didn't earn the nickname "Hurricane" for nothing!) sometimes made for a wild ride.

Soon Pat and George were starting their own remote fishing lodge in Rivers Inlet, not so far from where the adventure began on Addenbroke Island. Financed by their wilderness odd jobs, the lodge came together slowly but surely through the couple's hard work. George proudly added a nursery to the float lodge when their family grew, and they made sure the little ones knew not to step out the door without wearing a life jacket.

Life was full of both challenges and rewards, and dealt plenty of disasters and close calls (including grizzly encounters) but the lodge business supported the family, and gained a steady clientele who were enticed back year after year by the warm welcome, beautiful setting and plentiful salmon, giant halibut and ling cod.

Critique: Grizzlies, Gales and Giant Salmon is a true-life memoir of choosing to live, love, and raise a family in the remote British Columbia wilderness. Author Pat Ardley and her beloved husband George pursued their dream of running a remote fishing lodge. Here are stories of halibut, salmon, and cod; of earning the trust and respect of loyal lodge customers; of balancing the demands of a growing family with seemingly endless work; and much more. Grizzlies, Gales and Giant Salmon is the next best thing to experiencing life in the wilderness firsthand, highly recommended. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Grizzlies, Gales and Giant Salmon is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

The Fine Art of Painting on Silk
Jan Janas & Diane Tuckman, authors
Schiffer Publishing Ltd.
4880 Lower Valley Road, Atglen, PA 19310
9780764355356, $34.99, PB, 256pp,

Synopsis: Painting on silk, in its millennia-old traditional form and also in contemporary form, has become increasingly popular. With "The Fine Art of Painting on Silk: Inspiring Methods and Techniques for Beginners and Expert-Level Artists", novice artists will find themselves inspired by the nearly 500 images, the visual demos, and the aspects not covered in other instructional reference books on the subject.

Starting with the basic skills and techniques, step-by-step guidance is provided on every element of the art, including setting up a studio space, painting on preconstructed clothing, and framing the art. Most importantly, aspiring artists will enjoy learning unusual, innovative frames of mind to intensify their creative freedom, bringing new energy to their work.

A special chapter, "Color: The Workshop Experience", offers exercises for harnessing the variety of silk dye hues. Complex layered looks, plein air painting and landscapes, critiquing, seeking authenticity, intuitive improvisation, and much more are included.

Critique: Jan Janas and Diane Tuckman are the founders of Silk Painters International and in the pages of "The Fine Art of Painting on Silk: Inspiring Methods and Techniques for Beginners and Expert-Level Artists" they effectively collaborate to produce complete instruction manual for painting on silk that is definitively comprehensive and thoroughly 'user friendly' in presentation, making it an ideal and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, art school, college, and university library Contemporary Art instructional reference collections in general, and Silk Painting supplemental studies lists in particular.

Feminist Freedom Warriors
Chandra Talpade Mohanty & Linda E. Carty, editors
Haymarket Books
PO Box 180165, Chicago, IL 60618
9781608468973, $18.00, PB, 200pp,

Synopsis: Collaboratively compiled and co-edited by Chandra Talpade Mohanty (who is a post-colonial and transnational feminist theorist) and Linda E. Carty (who is an author, essayist, activist, feminist and Professor of Sociology at Syracuse ), "Feminist Freedom Warriors: Genealogies, Justice, Politics, and Hope" tells the stories of women of color from the Global South, weaving together cross-generational histories of feminist activism across national borders.

These engaging interviews with sister comrades will inform, inspire, and activate the imagination to explore what a just world might look like. Each woman's individual story illustrates their lifelong commitment to challenging oppressive practices and forming solidarities across borders to transform unjust structures around the globe.

"Feminist Freedom Warriors" features interviews with activists from movements spanning the last seven decades in the United States, India, Mexico, Palestine, Nigeria, South Africa, and beyond.

Critique: Enhanced with the inclusion of an eight page biographical listing of the contributors and their credentials, sixteen pages of Notes, and a thirteen page Index, "Feminist Freedom Warriors: Genealogies, Justice, Politics, and Hope" is impressively informative and thought-provoking, making it an ideal and unreservedly recommended addition to both community and academic library Feminist Studies and Women's Issues collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Feminist Freedom Warriors" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $17.10).

Where the Fire Falls
Karen Barnett
WaterBrook Press
c/o Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group
10807 New Allegiance Drive Suite 500, Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9780735289567, $9.99, PB, 352pp,

Synopsis: Watercolorist Olivia Rutherford has shed her humble beginnings to fashion her image as an avant-garde artist to appeal to the region's wealthy art-collectors. When she lands a lucrative contract painting illustrations of Yosemite National Park for a travel magazine, including its nightly one-of-a-kind Firefall event, she hopes the money will lift Olivia and her sisters out of poverty.

After false accusations cost him everything, former minister Clark Johnson has found purpose as a backcountry guide in this natural cathedral of granite and trees. Now he's faced with the opportunity to become a National Parks Ranger, but is it his true calling?

As Clark opens Olivia's eyes to the wonders of Yosemite, she discovers the people are as vital to the park's story as its vistas -- a revelation that may bring her charade to an end.

Critique: It is clear that author Karen Barnett has drawn upon her experience and expertise as a former park ranger who worked as a ranger naturalist and outdoor educator at Northwest Trek Wildlife Park, Silver Falls State Park, and Mount Rainier National Park in her deftly crafted and inherently riveting vintage national parks novel, "Where the Fire Falls".

Showcasing a genuine flair for character and narrative driven storytelling, "Where the Fire Falls" is unreservedly recommended for community library Contemporary General Fiction collections. Librarians should note that there is a library binding edition of "Where the Fire Falls" (Thorndike Press, 9781432854782, $29.99). It should also be noted for personal reading lists that "Where the Fire Falls" is available in a digital book format as well (Kindle, $9.99).

Manoomin: The Story of Wild Rice in Michigan
Barbara J. Barton
Michigan State University Press
1405 South Harrison Road, Suite 25, East Lansing, MI 48823-5245
9781611862805, $29.95, PB, 214pp,

Synopsis: Barbara J. Barton is an endangered species biologist; member of the State of Michigan's wild rice working group, Michigan Water Environment Association, and western Upper Peninsula's wild rice team; and academic affiliate of the University of Michigan's College of Literature, Science and the Arts Biological Station, where she collaborates on the state's wild rice map. She was awarded the 2009 MSU Extension Diversity Award for her work with the Michigan tribes on Manoomin.

In "Manoomin: The Story of Wild Rice in Michigan", she draws upon her years of research, experience, and expertise to provide a detailed study of the rich tradition of wild rice in Michigan and its importance to the Anishinaabek people who live there.

"Manoomin: The Story of Wild Rice in Michigan" focuses on the history, culture, biology, economics, and spirituality surrounding this sacred plant. The story travels through time from the days before European colonization and winds its way forward in and out of the logging and industrialization eras.

Deftly weaving between the worlds of the Anishinaabek and the colonizers, contrasting their different perspectives and divergent relationships with Manoomin, Professor Barton discusses historic wild rice beds that once existed in Michigan, why many disappeared, and the efforts of tribal and nontribal people with a common goal of restoring and protecting Manoomin across the landscape.

Critique: A unique and critically important work of simply outstanding scholarship, "Manoomin: The Story of Wild Rice in Michigan" is enhanced with the inclusion of maps, figures, tables, three appendices, a bibliography, and an index. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Manoomin: The Story of Wild Rice in Michigan" is unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and the non-specialist general reader with an interest in the subject that "Manoomin: The Story of Wild Rice in Michigan" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $23.95).

Healing Scarred Hearts
Susan Hoemke
Brown Books Publishing Group
16250 Knoll Trail Drive, Suite 205, Dallas, TX 75248-2871
9781612549880, $21.95, HC, 173pp,

Synopsis: "Healing Scarred Hearts: A Family's Story of Addiction, Loss, and Finding Light" is Susan Hoemke's compellingly emotional and deeply personal memoir in which she shares the candid story of her son Hayden's eight-year battle with drug addiction, and his tragic death at age twenty two.

Through the pain of losing a child, Susan unflinchingly relates the crimes that her son's desperation for a fix drove him to commit, and how the mental and physical impact of the drugs on his body turned her happy, creative son into a stranger in their home.

The years surrounding Hayden's death have been some of the most difficult in the family's life, his addiction not only affecting him but all those around him. Rebuilding their home and family, and attempting to see light in the darkest days they'd ever experienced proved to be an incredibly difficult effort, but not impossible.

Critique: Exceptionally well written and ultimately inspiring in this current age of widespread drug addictions ranging from cocaine and crack to heroin and opioids, "Healing Scarred Hearts" is worthy of wide readership among the general public, and unreservedly recommended for personal reading lists and community library Contemporary American Biography collections.

Susan Bethany

Bonnye's Bookshelf

Where the Sun Swings North
Barrett Willoughby
Originally published 1922 by
A.L. Burt Company, New York
Under agreement with G.P. Putnam's Sons
Reprinted from Public Domain 2018 by
Aunt Phil's Trunk, LLC
9870984949772, $TBA

Available at Amazon and

The story is set in (1) fictional Katleean on Tlingit land and (2) Kon Klayu, an island modeled after Middleton Island, 50 miles south of Prince William Sound in the middle of nowhere, where the author's family was actually stranded for almost a year in 1896. Kilbuck, the White Chief at Katleean, a lecherous man, takes an interest in the wife of Shane Boreland, a prospector, who has brought his family to Alaska. She does not share his feeling.

Shane Boreland sells a part of his schooner to the White Chief who takes him, his family, and others to Kon Klayu, promising to return to bring them supplies and pick them up, which he fails to do. Characters are Ellen Boreland, Shane's wife, Jean Wiley, her sister, Lol, Ellen's young son. Gregg Harlan, an alcoholic with a sensitive soul, Kayak Bill, a sombrero-wearing drifter who does some work for Kilbuck, complete the marooned.

The plot is no surprise, will Shane make it to Katleean and back before Kilbuck, who accidentally landed on the island, has his way with the married woman he wants. It is not the plot that makes the story resonate. The story shows another time when things edged on a code of behavior bordering on chivalry on the one hand and yet showing plenty of credible treachery on the other, not unlike pirate novels of the 1800s or Westerns of the 1940s and 1950s.

What is delightful is the insight into life in Southeast Alaska at the turn of the nineteenth century to the twentieth century. There is a funeral, the vagaries of a Fur and Trading Company, sea parrots (which have to be puffins), direction to look for gold in ruby colored sand, the color and intensity of Alaskan sunsets and the amazing weather, periwinkles and limpets as survival food, to mention a few of the details the author weaves into the story. It's an opportunity to relax into a story while learning some things about this land of the north.

For what it is, the story is well-written, interesting, and fun. I am not fond of Willoughby's title. Barrett Willoughby is actually Florence Barrett Willoughby, having lost her first name thanks to G.P. Putnam, when they agreed to publish the story. They had no confidence in female authors as saleable. The shadow of that belief continues on. Barrett Willoughby is called Alaska's first official author, and she clearly has deep roots to the place, for her writing well reflects the Alaska experience. Oddly, she lived in Alaska for years, but moved to California after some 20 years or more to write there. After moving to California, she made many research trips to Alaska.

Willoughby's characters are real for their time and she makes them special. During their time of starving, Lol, the young son of Ellen and Shane Boreland, finds puffins nesting and kills them. He is small enough to make his way along the ledge the birds use to burrow into the soil of the cliffs to nest. Adults are too large for the task. Though it breaks his heart, he goes out to club the puffins, so the stranded people don't starve. This act is probably responsible for saving the life of his mother. Willoughby describes his weeping and wishing he didn't have to kill so many for them to eat, and his feeling comes through poignantly. One cannot help but wonder, since she was age ten at the actual marooning of her family, whether she is the prototype for Lol in this experience.

This is a good though not exceptional novel, but it is a significant part of Alaskan literature and belongs in Alaska History collections in academic and community libraries. I highly recommend it.

Ivory and Paper: Adventures In and Out of Time
Ray Hudson
University of Alaska Press
PO Box 756240, Fairbanks, AK 99775-6240
9781602233461, $16.95, paperback
9781602233478 e-book

Synopsis: This young adult coming-of-age story involves a boy age 13 from Vermont and an Aleutian girl age 15 from Alaska who find themselves immersed in both time and spatial travel. The travel brings them together in a quest to return a magical carved ivory fox to its rightful owners. The story is woven through Alaska Native pre-contact culture, myths, legends, art and contact of natives with people, first from Russia and then the United States. The Alaska Natives in this story are the Unangan of the Aleutian Islands, who lost much of their culture in multiple ways.

Critique: The wonderful literary quality of this story is delightful. You see it through the points of view of both the boy, Booker, and the girl, Anna. You see their acceptance of both the real and fantastic as they pass through events that would normally be incredible. The story gains credibility, as the story is told in such a skillful manner that suspension of critical reality is possible. For the reader who may never have been to Alaska, this story reflects the wonder of the land honestly. It made me feel at home. Although this book is written for young adults, adults can also fully enjoy it. I highly recommend this book for middle grade and high school libraries and also for university and community libraries.

BRAVELANDS: Broken Pride
Erin Hunter
Working Partners Limited
c/o HarperCollins Children's Books
195 Broadway, New York, NY 10007
9780062642028, $16.99, Hardcover
9780062642042, paperback
B01LXT0QVU, kindle
B07664J3Q3, audible

Synopsis: Sandwiched between the overarching views of vultures, change comes to the African savanna, evidenced by breaking the Code, killing for other than survival. Trying to make things right comes from a lion cub lost from his pride where the Code is first broken by a male lion who kills the cub's father and takes over the pride. It flows to a baboon, trying to make his rightful place in the pecking order of his large species group. It includes the wise leader elephant who keeps peace among the animals, all of whom are guided by the importance of doing what's right. This middle grade chapter book moves from one adventure to another, all of which are tied together. Animals have anthropomorphic characteristics and values, and they are able to communicate in a common language. The characters have some depth and exhibit both heroic and evil characteristics, some in the same character. It's a delightful read for the age group, while the lion cub leaves his broken pride, ultimately finding another.

Critique: Interestingly, BRAVELANDS: Broken Pride is the first fiction I ever read that was written by committee. Erin Hunter is a group, not a person. That does not affect the flow of chapters at all, so the reader cannot identify shifts in writer style. The book is well written and moves. There are unexpected plot twists that keep the suspense going. The environment brings in the local plants and indigenous species such as the strangler fig, lending a reality to the story. The point of view from different species is also helpful in lending credibility to the story. For middle grade readers, I highly recommend this book for school and community libraries, where I'd expect it to be frequently sought.

Bonnye Matthews, Reviewer

Buhle's Bookshelf

Transboundary Environmental Governance Across The World's Longest Border
Stephen Brooks & Andrea Olive, editors
University of Manitoba Press
301 St. John's College, Winnipeg, MB, Canada, R3T 2M5
9780887558290, $39.95, 276pp,

Synopsis: Canada and the United States share a border that spans several of the world's major watersheds and encompasses the largest reserves of fresh water on the planet. The border that separates these two neighbors is political, but the natural environment is a matter of common concern.

In recent years, dramatic changes have taken place in the political and environmental landscapes that shape the conversations, possibilities, and processes associated with the management of this shared interest. More than ever, Indigenous populations are recognized to be a necessary part of negotiations and decision-making regarding matters ranging from pipelines to the protection of endangered species' habitats.

Globalization and, in particular, the continuing elaboration of a transnational conversation and architecture for addressing issues related to climate change have ramifications for Canada-US transboundary issues.

Collaboratively compiled and co-edited by Stephen Brooks (Professor of Political Science at the University of Windso) and Andrea Olive (Associate Professor of Political Science and Geography at the University of Toronto) the selected contributors to "Transboundary Environmental Governance Across The World's Longest Border" examine the state of the existing transboundary relationship between Canada and the United States, including the governance structures and processes, the environmental impacts and adequacy of these structures and processes, and the opportunities and obstacles that exist for reform and improved outcomes.

Critique: A deftly organized and presented volume of consistently outstanding and impressively informative scholarship, "Transboundary Environmental Governance Across The World's Longest Border" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community and academic library Environmental Studies, Contemporary Social Issues, and Public Policy collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, governmental policy makers, environmental activists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Transboundary Environmental Governance Across The World's Longest Border" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $31.95).

The Protector Ethic
James V. Morganelli
YMAA Publications
PO Box 480, Wolfeboro, NH 03894-0480
9781594395581, $18.95, PB, 208pp,

Synopsis: In the pages of "The Protector Ethic: Morality, Virtue, and Ethics in the Martial Way" by James V. Morganelli (a writer and teacher, who has studied and trained martial arts for forty year) provides the reader with an in-depth exploration of the principles and values that must anchor a modern martial arts warrior.

"The Protector Ethic" with the true story of a robbery turned homicide. It happens midday on a train. The victim is twenty-four, and the murderer is eighteen. What unfolds is nothing short of horrific, yet the other passengers refuse to help.

Morganelli sees this as a symptom. When we are reluctant to defend ourselves, when we refuse to protect those around us, we become part of the corruption and decline of our society and social order.

The principle message of "The Protector Ethic" is that martial arts are so much more than just technical combat exercises. They offer a "physical philosophy" -- one that allows us to understand ourselves, teaches us about others, and demonstrates the true meaning of justice. They help us make difficult moral decisions. Ultimately, this why we train in the martial arts.

Recognizing what it means to be an ethical warrior. "The Protector Ethic" is about understanding natural law, protective instinct, and self-risk while it examine the martial way of valuing, reasoning, judging, and acting. Readers will discover how moral relativism, political correctness, and contrived social-justice campaigns do not make people equal. They can actually dehumanize us.

Critique: Thoughtful and thought-provoking, "The Protector Ethic: Morality, Virtue, and Ethics in the Martial Way" is superbly organized and presented from beginning to end. A unique, compelling, and very special contribution to understanding the role of martial arts in individual lives and it's ethical and moral application to the health and well-being of society as a whole, "The Protector Ethic" is unreservedly recommended for dojo, community, college, and university library Martial Arts and Contemporary Philosophy collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of martial arts students, practitioners, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Protector Ethic" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

Reefer Sanity
Kevin A. Sabet
Beaufort Books
27 West 20th Street, Suite 1102, New York, NY 10011
9780825307997, $14.95, PB, 210pp,

Synopsis: Kevin A. Sabet, Ph.D, has worked on drug policy issues for more than eighteen years. He has served as the Senior Advisor to Director Kerlikowske at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. He is currently the director of the Drug Policy Institute at the University of Florida.

Now in a newly revised and updated second edition in order to continue debunking the myths about marijuana as they arise, Kevin Sabet continues to draw upon his expertise and experience with "Reefer Sanity" in order to offer a solution to the debate that steers clear of policy extremes; challenging our assumptions and shifting the emphasis to education, intervention, and common sense.

"Reefer Sanity" deftly examines the socio-economic consequences of marijuana policies, the ideological underpinnings confusing the issues at hand, and the intractable "myths" concerning marijuana that disallow for successful civic progress. Using meticulous and plentiful research, Sabet demonstrates how the dichotomous, oppositional stances taken in the marijuana debate ("legalization" on the one hand, "incarceration" on the other) are both flawed and merely serve to hinder our ability to find better possible solutions.

There are other, smarter methods for reform than either full-fledged legalization or tactless incarceration, and before committing ourselves to either, such possibilities should be brought to public awareness.

Critique: A timely and impressively informative contribution to our on-going national dialogue over the medical and recreational legalization of marijuana, "Reefer Sanity: Seven Great Myths About Marijuana" is deserving of the widest possible readership, making it an especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library collections -- as well as a 'must read' for the personal reading lists of governmental policy makers and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject.

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

Challenges to the Dream
Jim Daniels, editor
Carnegie Mellon University Press
5000 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15213
9780887486289, $19.95, PB, 197pp,

Synopsis: Compiled and edited by Jim Daniels "Challenges to the Dream" is an anthology of poetry and prose that celebrates the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and won writing awards at the Carnegie Mellon University poetry and prose writing contest that, since 1999, has invited Pittsburgh-area high school and college students to write daring, eloquent, and inventive poetry and prose to help explore and break down issues of difference in our lives. "Challenges to the Dream" is an erudite and compelling anthology that will be of particular interest to readers engaged in discussions about race, gender, and sexual orientation in America.

Critique: An inherently fascinating, thoughtful, thought-provoking read -- and including a listing of participating schools and the individual contributing students, as well as with its focus on student writing, "Challenges to the Dream" would be of particular and stimulating use as a supplemental studies curriculum textbook in classroom discussions and studies, making it very highly recommended for personal, highschool, college, and community library collections.

The Lost Commandments
Sam Silverstein
Sound Wisdom
167 Walnut Bottom Road, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9781640950122, $19.99, HC, 176pp,

Synopsis: "The Lost Commandments" by Sam Silverstein blends wonder, mystery and self-discovery into a moving tale of revelation, thereby setting the stage for unraveling the mystery of how to best live our lives and build relationships in our modern challenging times.

Silverstein's fast-pasted adventure is set first at a major university where a history professor is challenged with a question by an unseen, unknown student in the back of the lecture hall; "What would happen if we had lost half of the great teachings of our time such as the Torah or Bible?"

When an unexplainable series of events leads the professor to speak at a world education conference in Jerusalem he befriends an old man, a falafel stand merchant, who knows more about the professor and life than would seem possible.

That old man leads the professor through the teaching of 10 critical lost commandments and empowers the professor to share them with the world. Just when the professor has it all figured out everything changes in the end.

It is time to find this lost wisdom, to study it and to embrace it and in the pages of "The Lost Commandments" readers will discover the lost commandments for themselves and how to apply them to their lives.

Critique: An innately entertaining, occasionally iconoclastic, and inherently riveting read that is impressively thoughtful and thought-provoking throughout, "The Lost Commandments" is one of those deftly written and thoroughly original works of erudite fiction that will linger in the mind and memory long after the book is finished and set back upon the shelf. While very highly recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Lost Commandments" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

The End of Strategic Stability?
Lawrence Rubin & Adam N. Stulberg, editors
Georgetown University Press
3240 Prospect Street, NW, Washington, DC 20007
9781626166028, $110.95, HC, 328pp,

Synopsis: During the years of the Cold War, many believed (under the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction -- MAD) that the superpowers shared a conception of strategic stability, a coexistence where both sides would compete for global influence but would be deterred from using nuclear weapons. In actuality, both sides understood strategic stability and deterrence quite differently.

Today's international system is further complicated by more nuclear powers, regional rivalries, and nonstate actors who punch above their weight, but the United States and other nuclear powers still cling to old conceptions of strategic stability.

The purpose of "The End of Strategic Stability?: Nuclear Weapons and the Challenge of Regional Rivalries", compiled and edited by Adam N. Stulberg (who is the Neal Family Chair and Co-Director of the Center for International Strategy, Technology, and Policy at the Sam Nunn School, Georgia Institute of Technology) is to unpack and examine how different states in different regions view strategic stability, the use or non-use of nuclear weapons, and whether or not strategic stability is still a prevailing concept.

The contributors to "The End of Strategic Stability?" explore policies of current and potential nuclear powers including the United States, Russia, China, India, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia.

Critique: Given the recent expansion of the international 'nuclear club' to extend to eight members, including the volatile state of North Korea, and the pending possible addition of Iran in the near future, "The End of Strategic Stability?: Nuclear Weapons and the Challenge of Regional Rivalries" makes an important and timely contribution towards our understanding of just how nuclear weapons will impact the international system in the twenty-first century. and will be useful to students, scholars, and practitioners of nuclear weapons policy.

While very highly recommended for community, governmental, and academic library International Relations in general, and Contemporary Nuclear Security supplemental studies lists in particular, it should be noted for students, academia, governmental policy makers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The End of Strategic Stability?: Nuclear Weapons and the Challenge of Regional Rivalries" is also available in a paperback edition (9781626166035, $36.95) and in a digital book format (Ebook, 9781626166042, $36.95).

Portrait in Smoke/The Longest Second
Bill s. Ballinger
Stark House Press
1315 H Street, Eureka, CA 95501
9781944520489, $19.95, PB, 270pp,

Synopsis: William Sanborn Ballinger (13 March 1912 - 23 March 1980) was an American author and screenwriter. Educated at the University of Wisconsin he was an Associate Professor of Writing at the California State University Northridge, Los Angeles, California) and wrote 81 radio scripts, and produced The Dinah Shore Show, The Breakfast Club, and Lowell Thomas broadcasts, and was the author of 30 published books. Now the Stark House Press has brought back into print for a new generation of readers two of his best works of mystery fiction.

In "Portrait in Smoke", Danny April is obsessed. He buys out a little collection agency in Chicago, and that's how he first meets Krassy. He'd never seen anyone so beautiful. She was Krassy Almauniski then, when he first runs across her picture in his files. She's gone through several identities since then. As Danny tries to track her down, each new name presents him with a portrait of a woman on the move. Krassy is climbing up the social ladder, one sucker at a time. There's the photographer who signs off on a charge account for her, later arrested for larceny. And the ad executive -- he gets off lightly. He gets to walk away with his pride. Not all the men who Krassy meet are so lucky. But Danny knows he'll be different. So he keeps looking... until at last he finds her.

"The Longest Second", is the story of a man who when he awakens, stares straight above himself at the ceiling only to realize that when he attempts to turn his head realizes that his throat had been cut and he doesn't know his own name! When the authorities check his fingerprints they find out that his name is Victor Pacific -- but he has no memories of who he is, what he is, or why someone tried to kill him. He remembers the name Horstman. But he has no idea of how to find him. All he can do is to begin a search for the clues to his former life. Then he meets a woman named Bianca -- but will she be able to help him before they strike again?

Critique: Two simply riveting reads under one cover, "Portrait in Smoke/The Longest Second " is a very highly recommended addition to the personal reading lists of all dedicated mystery buffs and suspense fans -- and will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to community library Mystery/Suspense collections.

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

Empires of Ancient Eurasia
Craig Benjamin
Cambridge University Press
One Liberty Plaza, Fl. 20, New York, NY 10006
9781107114968, $25.99, PB, 316pp,

Synopsis: The Silk Roads are the symbol of the interconnectedness of ancient Eurasian civilizations. Using challenging land and maritime routes, merchants and adventurers, diplomats and missionaries, sailors and soldiers, and camels, horses and ships, carried their commodities, ideas, languages and pathogens enormous distances across Eurasia. The result was an underlying unity that traveled the length of the routes, and which is preserved to this day, expressed in common technologies, artistic styles, cultures and religions, and even disease and immunity patterns.

"Empires of Ancient Eurasia: The First Silk Roads Era, 100 BCE - 250 CE" by Craig Benjamin (Professor of History, Grand Valley State University, Michigan) deftly explores the processes that allowed for the comingling of so many goods, ideas, and diseases around a geographical hub deep in central Eurasia. Professor Benjamin argues that the first Silk Roads era was the catalyst for an extraordinary increase in the complexity of human relationships and collective learning, a complexity that helped drive our species inexorably along a path towards modernity.

"Empires of Ancient Eurasia" is the first accessible single-volume history of all of ancient Eurasia, offering an account of the major sedentary and nomadic states and empires of the region. It conceptualizes the Silk Roads within big history, world-systems, and ancient globalizations to connect history and theory and provides the reader with a fresh approach to understanding historical developments in the ancient world.

Critique: A part of the Cambridge University Press 'New Approaches To Asian History' series, "Empires of Ancient Eurasia: The First Silk Roads Era, 100 BCE - 250 CE" is enhanced for academia with the inclusion of figures, maps, a fourteen page bibliography, and a six page index. While a critically important and unreservedly recommended addition to both community and academic library World History collections in general, and The Silk Road supplemental studies reading lists in particular, it should be noted for history students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Empires of Ancient Eurasia" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.65).

Thought and the Perception of Time
Eliezer A. Trachtenberg
Gefen Publishing House
11 Edison Place, Springfield, NJ 07081
9789652299277, $30.00, HC, 152pp,

Synopsis: Born in 1946 in Tula, Russia, grew up in Kishinev, Moldavia, in the former USSR, Eliezer A. Trachtenberg holds an MS degree in control systems from the Leningrad Polytechnic Institute and a DSc in applied mathematics and computer engineering from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. He is presently Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Drexel University in Philadelphia. Being interested in the humanities from an early age, he started his systematic studies in Judaism as a member of the underground Zionist organization in Leningrad. He was sentenced to two years imprisonment for Zionist activities and classed as an especially dangerous state criminal at the Kishinev trial in 1971; at the same time he was honored with the title of Prisoner of Zion in the State of Israel.

In "Thought and the Perception of Time: Aristotle, Plato, the Hebrew Bible, and the Babylonian Talmud" Professor Trachtenberg analyzes thought using two models, demonstrating that while Greeks think step by step, sequentially, like in a logical syllogism, Jews do so in a multi-stream parallel process in which many factors affect decision-making simultaneously.

Professor Trachtenberg reveals the fascinating implications of these differing modes of thought, including the striking observation that parallelism, processing ideas simultaneously on multiple tracks, requires moral judgment in order to discern which factors take precedence, while sequentiality precludes moral judgment, since all one can do is to question which first principle takes precedence in a given situation.

Professor Trachtenberg uses the contrast between sequentiality and parallelism to gain new insights into a variety of phenomena from anti-Semitism to Godel s dilemma (consistency versus completeness of thought) and to compare systems of thought throughout the ages as viewed through the works of prominent thinkers and writers, both Jewish and non-Jewish.

Critique: An erudite and seminal work of outstanding scholarship both in content and in presentation, "Thought and the Perception of Time: Aristotle, Plato, the Hebrew Bible, and the Babylonian Talmud" is further enhanced for academia with the inclusion of a four page Bibliography and an eight page Index, making it an especially recommended addition to personal, community, college, and university library Judaic Philosophy Studies collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

The World According to Xi
Kerry Brown
I. B. Tauris Publishers
9781788313285, $12.95, PB, 160pp,

Synopsis: It can arguably be asserted that China is now surpasses the United States as being the most powerful country on earth. Its manufacturing underpins the world's economy; its military is growing at the fastest rate of any nation and its leader, it holds billions of dollars worth of U.S. bonds: and which now has effectively elected leader for life Xi Jinping, is to set the pace and tone of world affairs for decades into the future.

In 2017 Xi Jinping became part of the constitution which is an honor and political position not seen since Chairman Mao. In "The World According to Xi: Everything you Need to Know About the New China" China expert Kerry Brown (who is the Director of the Lau China Institute at King's College London and an Associate for Chinese Affairs at Chatham House) guides the reader through the world according to Xi including his plans to make China the most powerful country on earth and to eradicate poverty for its citizens.

An impressively informed and informative study, "The World According to XI" reveals his beliefs, how he thinks about communism, and how far he is willing to go to defend it.

Critique: "The World According to Xi" is a seminal study and one that should be a part of every community and academic library Contemporary China collection and supplemental studies lists, as well as the personal reading lists of China students, academia, government policy makers, corporations dealing with China, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject.

Superhero Ethics
Travis Smith
Templeton Press
300 Conshohocken State Road, Suite 670, West Conshohocken, PA 19428
9781599474540, $24.95, HC, 190pp,

Synopsis: Whether in comic books or on movie screens, superhero stories are where many people first encounter questions about how they should conduct their lives.

Although these outlandish figures - in their capes, masks, and tights, with their unbelievable origins and preternatural powers - are often dismissed as juvenile amusements, they really are profound metaphors for different approaches to shaping one's character and facing the challenges of life.

But, given the choice, which superhero should we follow today? Who is most worthy of our admiration? Whose goals are most noble? Whose ethics should we strive to emulate?
To decide, Travis Smith takes ten top superheroes and pits them one against another, chapter by chapter. The hero who better exemplifies how we ought to live advances to the final round. By the end of the book, a single superhero emerges victorious and is crowned most exemplary for our times.

How, then, shall we live? How can we overcome our beastly nature and preserve our humanity? (The Hulk vs. Wolverine); How far can we rely on our willpower and imagination to improve the human condition? (Iron Man vs. Green Lantern); What limits must we observe when protecting our neighborhood from crime and corruption? (Batman vs. Spider-Man); Will the pursuit of an active life or a contemplative life bring us true fulfillment? (Captain America vs. Mr. Fantastic); Should we put our faith in proven tradition or in modern progress to achieve a harmonious society? (Thor vs. Superman).

Critique: Using the concept and constructs of superheroes to bring into focus timeless themes of the human condition is an effective and popular culture based approach to the study of ethics and morality, right and wrong, good and evil. An inherently fascinating, thoughtful and thought-provoking read, "Superhero Ethics: 10 Comic Book Heroes; 10 Ways to Save the World; Which One Do We Need Most Now?" is an unreservedly recommended addition to both community and academic library collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Superhero Ethics" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.99).

Michael J. Carson

Clint's Bookshelf

Daisy Jones
Mack Mama
Prodigy Gold Books
9781939665324, $14.99, PB, 240pp,

Synopsis: Gorgeous temptress, Daisy Jones has the power to send men to prison for sexual relations with a minor. She is the epitome of a gold digger and raised to go after rich men by a bitter mother. Mama Jones (mad at her own fate in life) has taught Daisy the art of manipulation and how to scheme on her prey. But Mama Jones didn't warn Daisy about letting her heart get in the way of business, resulting in Daisy falling for a southern rapper and the CEO of a multi-million dollar empire. The story begins in Atlanta, Georgia, traveling to New York City, and enters the notorious crew, the OBG s a gumbo of women hustlers, killers, and drug dealers, who have earned a reputation in the streets for being beyond terrorist. And they're connected to Daisy Jones with all of them wanting to get their "Daisy" on!

Critique: An impressively entertaining and engaging novel from beginning to end, "Daisy Jones" by author Mack Mama is unreservedly recommended for community library Contemporary General Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Daisy Jones" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99).

A Dangerous Proposition
Donna Harris Harrison
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781532024740, $34.94, HC, 284pp,

Synopsis: Julianne Sloan is a fiery businesswoman consumed by her cutthroat career in television production when an assignment introduces her to Elisa Tate. Elisa is drowning in a sea of violence at the hands of a deranged husband.

Unlikely allies, these women engage in a plot to expose a monstrous secret, using the power of the television spotlight. Together, they hope to bring awareness to the crisis of women trapped in heinous circumstances, tortured by those they love and hindered by unforgiving judgment.

Julianne must stand up to the men at the studio and sometimes put herself in dangerous situations in the name of the greater good. She and Elisa become driven by their project, letting nothing slow them down. But the more involved they get, the more their lives spin out of control.

They have revealed a matrix of sexual exploitation and personal oppression that causes them to scrutinize their own love lives and challenge their perspectives on love, lust, domination, and victimization. With any luck, their sacrifices will teach other women how to fight back, but Julianne and Elisa have to win the battle first.

Critique: A novel whose concept could come directly out of the MeToo movement, "A Dangerous Proposition" by Donna Harris Harrison is a distinctly riveting novel from beginning to end. Certain to be an enduringly popular addition to community library Contemporary General Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "A Dangerous Proposition" is also available in a paperback edition (9781532024726, $19.95) and in an inexpensive digital book format (Kindle, $0.99).

A Warning from the Past
Marian E. O'Meara
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781984338594, $24.95, PB, 294pp,

Synopsis: "A Warning from the Past: Socialist Schools and Academic Decline" by Marian E. O'Meara presents the historical circumstances impinging on the Soviet system of education as the tumultuous events of the Bolshevik Revolution transpired.

The chapters comprising Part One pertain to the effect that atheism and scientific materialism with their socialist implications had on education in the Soviet Union, resulting in academic decline.

Part Two of "A Warning from the Past" considers the parallels found in contemporary American schools and finds a recurring pattern concluding that socialist schools and practices are a primary cause of academic decline which eventually lead to centralized government control, with the implication that a weakening educational situation inevitably affects the economy.

The chapters comprising Part Two include topics such as multiculturalism, progressive education, the psychotherapeutic classroom, sex education, atheism.

Of special note is the final chapter which discusses what can be done about academic decline in contemporary American schools.

Critique: Thoughtful and thought-provoking, "A Warning from the Past: Socialist Schools and Academic Decline" is a singularly welcome and informative contribution to our national discussion of American institutionalized education in the 21st Century. While an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library Contemporary Issues in Education collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, school district administrators and government education policy makers, as well as non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject, that "A Warning from the Past" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).

Clint Travis

Grace's Bookshelf

Kyle Dargan
Northwestern University Press
9780810137844, $18.00, 96 pages

"Anagnorisis is a moment in a play or other work when a character makes a critical discovery. Anagnorisis originally meant recognition in its Greek context, not only of a person but also of what that person stood for. Anagnorisis was the hero's sudden awareness of a real situation."

Dargan takes no prisoners in this book, himself or others. He looks our society right in its one Cylopian eye, seeing, sadly and bitterly that there's always been a widening circle of murder among black males. In "La Petite Mort "...I cannot afford to believe that someday/the State, these states, will stop murdering my cousins..." Dargan memorializes victims, and history, in layered poems that make us look harder and see better. These observations are not new nor are they radical in African-American literature today; we can find similar overtones elsewhere; what is distinctive is Dargan's verbal gift.

There's a 6-page masterwork entitled "In 2016, the African-American poet Kyle Dargan is asked to consider writing more like the African-American poet Ross Gay." This referendum on "joy" is insightful and eye-opening so we won't find this poet singing Spirituals anytime soon.

To be inside a poem, reflecting on what's going on in the world outside, takes craft and innovation. Dargan's poetic forms are an adventure, housing subjects via imagery, and when he adds colloquialism, they become interactive.

"DISTANCES" features two pieces of poetic prose (or prose poetry.) "Lost One" explores our flagging sprits: i.e. Questioning fear in just walking through the street, seeing boys who appear menacing, then seeing they too are just on their way home, "...just like Kirstyn and me, just like, for all we'll know, Michael Brown."

"THE CHINA CIRCLE" chronicles the poet's time in that country. His casual good-humored learning of the language makes for infectious reading. In every environment of this book the speaker personalizes his expedition with access to ideas. It's always a living dialogue because - above all things - this poet passionately believes in what he's writing; and so, we do too. Passion and truth are the voices poetry is made of. This is Dargan at his best because, in addition, he doubles down on insistence.


The cypress trees I planted after
I bought the dead woman's house
sway higher than me, even taller
than the out-of-work chimney.
And the neighbor, Ms. Miller, who
watched me wedge up crepe myrtles
in favor of then knee-high evergreens,
she has died. The stressed myrtles
withered but lived once replanted
in a hedgerow behind the Japanese maple.
I drenched them daily. Now they sing
a steady emerald harmony
backing the maple's burgundy croon.

Yes, there are days, say today, when I am
fine suspending here my journey

of breathing - not a fatal capitulation.
Just ready. When questions of what more
arise, only wind, only wind. Ambition,
though, remains an antagonizing allergen,
and my body secretes will's mucus
throughout my day's work. I never learned
from Charles Wright the sage way a poet
pulls poems out of their somber descents.
Maybe I'm not yet sufficiently worn
by this world. (Not old enough,
what everyone tells me.) But explain that
to my palms, to my soles, to the cypress
fronds that fan above me, blatant
in their surprise that I am still here.

The Arrows That Choose Us
Marilyn Annucci
Introduction by Tom Lombardo
Press 53
9781941209752, $14.95

Annucci has the ability to take the most insular moments, make them public, and turn it all into contemporary art. She's an honest observer, fulfilling poetry's demands by recording small acts, - giving a cup of water to Mexico's stray dogs; seeing faces pressed against a Saint's glass picture frame; watching a mother "breathy from Winstons" - her theme is aloneness, and each poem broadens that loneliness to become a moral voice weighing what we mean to each other and what we could mean. Some poems offer unexpected patterns, others emphasize with a stylish swag.

No matter how beautiful or strange poems are they are still public messaging, and only the mantles of language will prove the poet's worth. Annucci is nuanced, restrained, and keen. With a light hand she makes elegant solutions to life's inelegant dailiness.


We leave in the hour
of film noir. Neighbors'

eaves and porches,
trash cans, shady

shapes, your suitcase
lifted into our car's

back seat. Traffic lights
blink yellow all the way

down Johnson Street,
and the sky begins

its slow resolution,
whitening. Your hand

closes in mine. You'll be
onboard soon, matter

of fact, will settle in
to your seat, call me

from your cell, take out
your book, gaze out

the window as the plane
noses into the clouds

and you look down
one last time - roads,

farm fields, loves.
Freighted into all this light.

North American Stadiums
Grady Chambers
Milkweed Editions
9781571315045, $19.25

" many lives/seem possible/so many Rockaways..."

Twin Cities, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, Brooklyn, Syracuse, Far Rockaway, and always Pittsburgh, he hears America singing, alright - and if this is his first book may he live to live up to his poetry - because it's fabulous.

Each page is a breathing scene. Each normal day is a rare event fierce with memory and details, recurring imagery; sentient with skies, snow, gravel and mud - talking of the past and making every word so present, this is beyond craft, this is gifted by legions of angels (who must be writers.) I love this book. It's about a seven-year-old; an eleven-year-old; grown people; blue denim jackets; weather; baseball; dead dogs. Chambers reenacts (rather than recites) bringing us in by a sheer energy force field. The book's populated with houseplants, strange neighbors, backpacks, Jackknives, poems crammed with imagery. How does this writer transform the detritus of human thought to poetry that moves with such ease and technical virtuosity? The courage to share could be the point of view behind each poem. If memory serves anyone it certainly serves Chambers best, because it's impossible to stop reading this work. This should be the start of something big.

Sunday Morning

The weather turned bad and I got happy.
That's wrong - I mean the morning sky
was ash blue, birds on the ground. I mean
not happy but good, not good
but fastened, steady, like every train in the city
was running late, but no one minded.
On 12th Street, tarpaulin swelled
and bowed in wind. Rain drove straight
through a woman's dress. And again
on Hollis, that slowness: damp black
trees, the line of streetlights
paced like breath. I pulled over. Leaves
dripped like rinsed hands.
A girl held her mother
by the shoulders on a porch.

Our World
Shelby Stephenson, Cover art by Jacob Stephenson
Press 53
9781941209790, $14.95

Stephenson is our Walt Whitman of the South and our Carl Sandburg of North Carolina. "He lives at his home place on Paul's Hill, where he was born, near McGee's Crossroads, about 10 miles northwest of Benson; " and he's North Carolina's Poet Laureate.

This book is a requiem on aging and family history. It's elegiac, lyrical, and bears the customary narrative we've waited for. Romance, marriage, life, nature, death. How can a poet memorialize these so that we hear them for the first time? Stephenson does this with particulars of life about family legacy and his love for the past and his wife, with sincerity that is manifest.

(Flummoxed & Bumfuzzled:) "When I am not with you I hear people say/where is she who sings with you/and I look aside and another so lovely appears, /2 images which shift back and forth/and one brings me orange slices on a plate/and I want to call my mother."

Love Clouds

My song's of setting suns
That look good going down.
My only milk-cow's gone.
Please help me drive her home.
I need to press my face
Into her side again
As she eats hay and grain.

Gallons must swell the bag
Of roaming Gloria
I love now and always,
My rambling Jersey cow,
Settling in that carriage.

I hear the bucket's pings,
A milking musicale.
My freckles grace her lows.
Her tail unlays my hair.

4:30 Movie
Donna Masini
W. W. Norton & Company
9780393635508, $25.95

Two sisters live a lifetime together. One sister dies. The way to hold this grief is through a cinematic framework; and sometimes by being present in the process. (Washing Her Hair) "...The way I'll hold/the fading paper//wreath she/made in the first grade..." How do you organize feelings about losing the one who held all the puzzle pieces of your life? They're gone now. These sisters watched films together. Linear experience that cannot be exact; time is pointillistic, yet pieces of the script, camera angles, and movie content can be captured. There's also no way to organize pain and Masini doesn't try - but, to hold onto authenticity is to hold on to a life now gone; and this is done with flashbacks, narratives and inventions. In one section there are freewheeling words scattered over several pages (Water Lilies) that demonstrate how fragile words and life are. These thoughts can hurt too much to string together and page space is merciful. Hospital waiting rooms and medical procedures are frightening because it's clear what the" deleted scenes" will tell. In one poem the speaker says I Want Her Back. In a way this book does that. This is courageous writing, not for what Masini withstood but for how she says it with exquisite dependable skill.

Deleted Scene: Bargaining (.56)

Here I come again
with my abra
cadabra, my gang
of language, to beg,
harangue. Oh Divine Airbag.
I stand here in your rabid Niagara,
with nothing but prayer's ragbag
incantations. Need me to gin
up? Watch me, mere gnat,
up the ante: I'll take the angina,
you take the brain
cancer. My loss is your gain!
Leave me elbow-deep in
your whole grab-bag
of disaster. But bring
her back.

Barbara Berman
Three Mile Harbor Press
9781532364129, $16.00

Sometimes poetry can feel as if all the air has just been rinsed by a fresh spring rain. Berman's poems are direct clean writings about family, world affairs, and travel; she presents a crisp look at the world in concentric circles from her threshold all the way out to countries at war. The tone consistent throughout is kindness, and her diction is without trickery. Her stories are object lessons in naturalism and clarity.

First Wedding

Aunt Mona in long, simple
backless chartreuse silk crepe.
Uncle Carroll's hand began
at the nape of her neck
and went down slowly
that hand as expressive
as his Adriatic blue eyes.

I was fourteen, five feet three,
one hundred and eighty pounds
and convinced no part of my body
would ever incite desire.

So many mistakes
between eighteen
and thirty five
wanting what I'd witnessed
in the receiving line.

The Typists Play Monopoly
Kathleen McClung
Kelsay Books
9781947465602, $17.00

The first thing we admire are the character portraits, then we realize, with more observation, how each poem is shaped by perfect form. The virtue of craft is honored in a spectacular series of 7 "Renter Sonnets" that draw strongly on classic form so to hold contemporary content. The Renters are an interesting collection of lifestyles and McClung pays homage to the everyday by elevating it with her literary expertise.

Gilbert and Ed Washing the Wheelchairs,
Telegraph Avenue Coin-Op

We come each Saturday. Sometimes we sing,
tell knock knock jokes to lighten, lift our chore -
car wash duet, our prayer for bodies aching

in wards of orderlies and moans, in wings
with Ansel Adams prints on walls, Half Dome decor.
We come each Saturday. Sometimes we sing

Sinatra, fly me to the moon. We bring
our boom box in the van, open both doors,
duet, our prayer for bodies aching,

confined to narrow beds, remembering
a picnic, August 1934.
We come each Saturday. Sometimes we sing

but mostly listen to high-powered spray rinsing
these fleets of unfilled seats, each week a dozen more,
our prayer for bodies aching

we never meet yet surely know, those whispering
our names and words we've heard somewhere before.
We come each Saturday. Sometimes we sing,
our bodies aching.

Feminists Are Passing from Our Lives
Leslie McGrath
The Word Works
9781944585235, $17.00

Once in a while you'll find a poet you realize has felt everything a person can feel. We all have, of course, but unless we write it we haven't really felt everything. Leslie McGrath chronicles her life and uses it as a foundation to understand others. The tone is candor and the book gets high marks for turning realism into lyricism. When hard subjects threaten to gain momentum, musicality and imagery are their redemption. The title is cautionary. The book is a resolution with intimate stories, full disclosures, and smart perspectives. There's something interesting that happens when a poet bares her soul. It makes us kinder.

The "Feminism" in the poems is not from the suffragette movement; it's a one-woman speaker who has a larger cause in mind while writing poetry - apparently to influence our culture; and, sharpen our minds to the inner workings of womanness. McGrath embraces her past, refreshes her youth, and releases it to find the opposite of her pain. These poems rise to the occasion of our best expectations.

Encountering Franz Wright Along the Way

I had been dawdling I don't know how long
In the placid dark after the rash of day had receded.
I found an anvil-shaped stone in a field overlooking the road
And thinking I was alone, made audible the speech
I knew not to share with any person for fear of frightening them.
I lay back on that stone, turning away from the tree, away
From their ceaseless industry, toward the everything I could not see
But pretended to. He appeared on the smooth cheek of the sky
The raw edge of a raw edge, alarming the stars into stillness.
"Don't be so much at the mercy of things," he boomed
But as I began to utter a polite fuck off, the sky behind him
The night sky, flashed emerald. This, his lucid recognition
Of the unabating shame made flesh in me. If he said more
Before he meteored away, I don't recall. All I heard was mercy.

The Acoustic Properties Of Ancient People
Michael Tims
Finishing Line Press
$19.99 62 pages

This is a poet and a scientist - a man who takes inspiration from experience and this is the reason for his consequential poetry. We could call this humanistic meta data. Each sight is a vision connecting things of this earth to our fragile lives. (The World You See Is Not Your Own) "... A dense Mat of leaf decay/gives way slowly/to something/approximating smoke, / diffuse and ethereal beings/that weave moments/into memory, /unravel story/into that which waits/outside me for her/dusky breath, her/brain stem's sway..."

The body is present, the brain is present; the world is visceral and this artist deserves an energetic fan base for his powers of surveillance, both outward and inward.


Once off the path,
walking along a ridge line
above the last outcropping of rock,
I caught a glimpse
and tried to follow leaping -
if that's what you can call
a big-bellied man on the edge of free-fall -
over bracken and stone.

Movement blurred the edge of my vision
near where deer burst from their stillness
at the base of two hollows.
A small boy laughed and disappeared,
spiriting down the rock sluice
like wind wailing through the hay
field below, yellowed joyfully.

Grace Cavalieri

Julie's Bookshelf

The Craft Kingdom
Eli Maor
AAHR Offset Maor Ltd.
9789657679463, $29.00, PB, 112pp,

Synopsis: Author and artist Eli Maor knows the best way to keep kids and parents happy is crafting -- and that it doesn't have to get too fancy to be fun! A "crafting minimalist", Eli Maor specializes in using what is all around us to create beautiful, fun crafts and DIY projects in the pages of "The Craft Kingdom: DIY and Craft Projects for Kids and Adults".

With a passion for recycling, upcycling, and just using what you have on hand, Maor creates gorgeous and fun projects from common household objects like toilet paper rolls, fabric scraps, even sticks and twigs from the back yard.

Crafting and making art is very individual. These moments are completely yours. Even if you don't have access to all of the materials, you can be creative and experiment. If you prefer to use one type of material over the other, or if you prefer glue over sewing, do so. The main purpose is to enjoy it and create your vision at every moment.

There is no need for any special skills for the projects instructively showcased "The Craft Kingdom". However, those who sell artwork and wish to obtain the maximum results should stick to the projects and supplies as written. With that being said, there is no right or wrong way to craft and to make art, it comes down to having fun and express yourself.

"The Craft Kingdom" is comprised of 92 individual do-it-yourself crafts and art projects. Under each category are listed the required supply for each project, along with a step-by-step a tutorial. At the end of "The Craft Kingdom" are stencils that will trace shapes and silhouettes for the projects.

The ultimate guide to DIY and Craft projects, organized by subjects, "The Craft Kingdom" is enhanced with the inclusion of step-by-step photographs and detailed instructions. The features include Nature Craft, Stamps, Washi Tape, Soap Making, Candle Making, Recycling Art, Repurposing, Accessories, Fabric and Textile, Buttons, Paper and Paper Napkins.

Critique: Exceptionally well organized and presented, "The Craft Kingdom: DIY and Craft Projects for Kids and Adults" is impressively 'user friendly' in tone, commentary, and instructions, making it an a source of endless hours of fun and artistic creativity for all ages. While very highly recommended for anyone from 5 to 95, it should be noted that "The Craft Kingdom" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.00).

Inventive Wire Weaving
Susan Barzacchini
Kalmbach Books
21027 Crossroads Circle, Waukesha, WI 53187-1612
9781627004954, $22.99, PB, 112pp,

Synopsis: Susan Barzacchini has been a jewelry teacher for decades and has taught wire weaving at colleges, libraries, jewelry schools, the Bead&Button Show, and in bead shops. She sells her work at Studio V in Chicago and lives in East Dundee, Illinois.

Wire jewelry has been around for centuries and never goes out of style. Wire weaving techniques simply evolve to incorporate the newest materials and trends.

In the pages of "Inventive Wire Weaving: 20+ Unique Jewelry Designs", designer and instructor Susan draws upon her years of experience and expertise to focus on the timeless techniques of wire weaving, wrapping, coiling, and capturing, plus texturing metals and wire.

Using these evergreen techniques, Susan showcases metal, beads, lamp-worked elements, cabochons, and found objects in interesting, beautiful wire jewelry. Whether they use fine silver wire or copper, jewelry makers will be able to create artistic and unique pieces they'll be proud to wear.

Each individual project comprising "Inventive Wire Weaving" includes clear and easy-to-understand photos and step-by-step instructions from an experienced wire weaving instructor. Styles cover a wide range of tastes, from delicate and feminine to bold and unusual, and many projects include variations for even more personalization.

Critique: Beautifully illustrated with full color photography, the artistic necklaces, pendants, earrings, and cuffs showcased in "Inventive Wire Weaving" will have a special and particular appeal to intermediate level wireworkers looking for new project ideas -- making it a very strongly recommended addition to personal, professional, and community library do-it-yourself instructional reference collections for aspiring jewelry makers.

Cleansing Rites of Curanderismo
Erika Buenaflor, M.A., J.D.
Bear & Company
c/o Inner Traditions International, Ltd.
One Park Street, Rochester, VT 05767
9781591433118, $18.00, PB, 216pp,

Synopsis: A curandero is a traditional native healer, shaman or witch doctor found in Latin America, the United States and Southern Europe. The curandero dedicates their life to the administration of remedies for mental, emotional, physical and spiritual illnesses based on their evaluation of those who come to them for a healing. (Wikipedia)

Erika Buenaflor has a master's degree in religious studies with a focus on Mesoamerican shamanism from the University of California at Riverside. A practicing curandera for over 20 years, descended from a long line of grandmother curanderas, she has studied with curanderas/os in Mexico, Peru, and Los Angeles and gives presentations on curanderismo in many settings, including at UCLA.

In "Cleansing Rites of Curanderismo: Limpias Espirituales of Ancient Mesoamerican Shamans" Erika draws upon her years of experience and expertise to provide her readers with a tutorial on the ancient practice of limpias to heal the mind, body, and soul. She also offers step-by-step instructions for the practice of limpias, shamanic cleansing rituals to heal, purify, and revitalize people as well as physical spaces; examines different types of limpia ceremonies, such as fire rites for transformation, water rites for cleansing and influencing, and sweeping rites for divination; and explores the sacred stories behind limpia rituals and traces these curanderismo practices to their indigenous roots.

Critique: Impressively informative, exceptionally well organized, and thoroughly 'reader friendly' in tone, commentary, and presentation, "Cleansing Rites of Curanderismo" is a truly extraordinary and unique contribution to professional, community and academic library Shamanism collections and Alternative Medicine supplemental studies lists. It should be noted for students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Cleansing Rites of Curanderismo" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99).

What You Must Know About the Hidden Dangers of Antibiotics
Jay S. Cohen, MD
Square One Publishers
115 Herricks Road, Garden City Park, NY 11040
9780757004698, $15.95, PB, 144pp,

Synopsis: While the news about taking too many antibiotics is now common knowledge, there is another underlying danger that the public is not aware of. As beneficial as this class of drugs are, there is a widely prescribed family of antibiotics that is highly destructive. Called fluoroquinolones, they are better known under the names Cipro and Levaquin (as well as four others).

"What You Must Know About the Hidden Dangers of Antibiotics" by Jay S. Cohen, MD, (Associate Professor of Family and Preventive Medicine at the University of California, San Diego), has two main goals. The first is to expose the truly destructive capability of these drugs to cause serious, sometimes long term and permanent injuries. The capacity of these drugs for such damage has been attested to by the government's own watchdog agency, the FDA. Hundreds of patients, many of whom are quoted in this book, have confirmed their long-lasting injuries to the book's author, Dr. Jay Cohen, while many hundreds more have been ignored or dismissed by their own physicians. As this book will show, being brushed off and dismissed as simple side effects essentially allows these manufactures to hide these problems from public view.

The second goal is to provide other safer and effective remedies, solutions, and considerations that may help end the suffering experienced by patients suffering from these dangerous side effects -- that can affect many human systems including the musculoskeletal, nervous, psychiatric, gastrointestinal, and others.

To do this Dr. Cohen explain how these dangerous antibiotics work, and particularly how they injure. By understanding the underlying problems, the alternatives offered in "What You Must Know About the Hidden Dangers of Antibiotics" can help people potentially reduce their pain reduction, clear up persistent antibiotic-based health issues, and just as important, give them hope.

Because so many doctors do not carefully read the FDA's dire warnings about the risks these specific antibiotics pose, there is little likely patients will be know why they are having such serious reactions. "With What You Must Know About the Hidden Dangers of Antibiotics", they may have the answer they are looking for.

Critique: Expressly written and intended for the non-specialist general reader with an interest in the subject, "What You Must Know About the Hidden Dangers of Antibiotics" is impressively well written, organized and presented, making it an ideal and unreservedly recommended addition to both community and academic library Contemporary Health & Medicine collections. It should be noted for medical students and the personal reading lists of anyone with an interest in the subject that "What You Must Know About the Hidden Dangers of Antibiotics" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.95).

The Masterpiece
Fiona Davis
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, 3rd floor, New York, NY 10014-3657
9781524742959, $26.00, HC, 368pp,

Synopsis: For the nearly nine million people who live in New York City, Grand Central Terminal is a crown jewel, a masterpiece of design. But for Clara Darden and Virginia Clay, it represents something quite different.

For Clara, the terminal is the stepping stone to her future, which she is certain will shine as the brightly as the constellations on the main concourse ceiling. It is 1928, and twenty-five-year-old Clara is teaching at the lauded Grand Central School of Art. A talented illustrator, she has dreams of creating cover art for Vogue, but not even the prestige of the school can override the public's disdain for a "woman artist."

Brash, fiery, confident, and single-minded--even while juggling the affections of two men, a wealthy would-be poet and a brilliant experimental painter--Clara is determined to achieve every creative success. But she and her bohemian friends have no idea that they'll soon be blindsided by the looming Great Depression, an insatiable monster with the power to destroy the entire art scene. And even poverty and hunger will do little to prepare Clara for the greater tragedy yet to come.

Nearly fifty years later, in 1974, the terminal has declined almost as sharply as Virginia Clay's life. Full of grime and danger, from the smoke-blackened ceiling to the pickpockets and drug dealers who roam the floor, Grand Central is at the center of a fierce lawsuit: Is the once-grand building a landmark to be preserved, or a cancer to be demolished? For Virginia, it is simply her last resort. Recently divorced, she has just accepted a job in the information booth in order to support herself and her college-age daughter, Ruby.

But when Virginia stumbles upon an abandoned art school within the terminal and discovers a striking watercolor hidden under the dust, her eyes are opened to the elegance beneath the decay. She embarks on a quest to find the artist of the unsigned masterpiece--an impassioned chase that draws Virginia not only into the battle to save Grand Central but deep into the mystery of Clara Darden, the famed 1920s illustrator who disappeared from history in 1931.

Critique: An original, beautifully crafted, and thoroughly entertaining novel by a master of narrative storytelling, "The Masterpiece" by Fiona Davis is a compelling read and a highly recommended addition to community library Historical Fiction collections. It should be noted for librarians reading lists that "The Masterpiece" is also available in a large print paperback edition (Random House Large Print, 9780525632962, $28.00, 448pp), and for the personal reading lists of Fiona Davis fans in that there "The Masterpiece" has a digital book format as well (Kindle, $12.99).

Julie Summers

Logan's Bookshelf

Advances in Postharvest Fruit and Vegetable Technology
Ron B. H. Wills & John Golding, editors
CRC Press
6000 NW Broken Sound Parkway NW, Suite 300, Boca Raton, FL 33487
9781482216967, $250.00, HC, 403pp,

Synopsis: Collaborative compiled and co-edited by Ron B. H. Wills (Emeritus Professor in the School of Environmental and Life Sciences, University of New Castle, Australis) and John Golding (New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, Australia), "Advances in Postharvest Fruit and Vegetable Technology" is comprised of contributions from 31 experts who informatively examine how changes in community attitudes and associated pressures on industry are demanding changes in the way technology is used to minimize postharvest loss and maintain product quality.

In particular, "Advances in Postharvest Fruit and Vegetable Technology" discusses important drivers for change, including: Using more natural chemicals or physical treatments to replace synthetic chemicals; Increasing the efficiency of older, more traditional methods in combination with newer biocontrol treatments; Leveraging a range of biomolecular research tools or "omics" to efficiently gather and assess mass information at molecular, enzymic, and genetic levels; Using modelling systems to identify key changes and control points for better targeting of new treatments and solutions to postharvest problems.

The postharvest handling of fresh fruits and vegetables plays a critical role in facilitating a continuous supply of high-quality fresh produce to the consumer. Many new technologies developed and refined in recent years continue to make possible an ever-expanding supply of fresh products. "Advances in Postharvest Fruit and Vegetable Technology" examines a range of recently developed technologies and systems that will help the horticulture industry to become more environmentally sustainable and economically competitive, and to minimize postharvest quality loss and generate products that are appealing and acceptable to consumers.

Critique: Exceptionally informed and informative, impressively well written, organized and presented, "Advances in Postharvest Fruit and Vegetable Technology" is an ideal textbook on the subject, as well as a critically and immensely important addition to professional, college, and university library Agricultural Sciences collections and supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted for students, academia, agricultural agents, farmers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Advances in Postharvest Fruit and Vegetable Technology" is also available in a paperback edition (9781138894051, $94.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $25.22).

The Best Is Yet To Be
Larry Sudbay, author
Steven Kellogg, illustrator
Building Quality Companies LLC
c/o Peter E. Randall Publisher
5 Greenleaf Woods Drive, Suite 102, Portsmouth New Hampshire 03801
9781942155140, $25.95, HC, 168pp,

Synopsis: "The Best Is Yet To Be" is a unique collection of inspiring stories, some found and some authored, by a visionary entrepreneur.

Originally shared over many years in a corporate newsletter, these tales cross the line from the business realm to a place of personal reflection.

Illustrated by Steven Kellogg, "The Best Is Yet To Be" is also a memoir of sorts for author Larry Sudbay.

Kellogg and Sudbay worked together to envision the group of paintings that now tell the tale of Sudbay's life, even as they highlight certain periods that were particularly transformative.

Readers will learn that Sudbay loves family, hard work, good ideas, and fair play. They will see that his lessons in life revolve around zest, resiliency, and his belief that the best is yet to be. It is in that spirit, that "The Best Is Yet To Be" deftly showcases a blending of intriguing tales and captivating artwork.

Critique: Inspired and inspiring, "The Best Is Yet To Be" thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation, making it an ideal and unreservedly recommended addition to personal and professional reading lists, as well as both corporate, and community library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections.

Good Heart
Alan Newman
Gefen Publishing House
11 Edison Place, Springfield, NJ 07081
9789652299550, $15.95, PB, 256pp,

Synopsis: Bobby Langford and Danny Baranson lead classic American childhoods together in small-town Indiana in the 1960s and 70s. But any notion that these boys lives are run-of-the-mill is dispelled when the reader is flashed back to the family histories that led them there. As the reader follows Bobby and Danny's lives through adulthood, characters from vastly different backgrounds are pulled together by twists of destiny, drawing them all to one special place: the land of Israel.

"Good Heart" is embedded throughout with little gems of Israel's history and culture, giving nuanced insights through tangible human stories. From an Israeli army base to an Indiana evangelical church, from World War II Austria to the Sudanese desert, exotic locales pepper this adventure with the ultimate discovery that even those who seem worlds apart are all interconnected.

Critique: "Good Heart" by Alan Newman deftly interweaves the stories of a Jewish family and a Christian family over three generations in a simply riveting read from beginning to end. While very highly recommended for community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Good Heart" is also available in an inexpensive digital book format (Kindle, $0.99).

Chicago Heights
Charles Hager & David T. Miller
Southern Illinois University Press
1915 University Press Drive
SIUC Mail Code 6806, Carbondale, IL 62901
9780809336722, $22.95, PB, 184pp,

Synopsis: "Chicago Heights: Little Joe College, the Outfit, and the Fall of Sam Giancana" is a riveting and true story of coming of age in the Chicago Mob. It is the personal story of Charles "Charley" Hager who was plucked from his rural West Virginia home by an uncle in the 1960s and thrown into an underworld of money, cars, crime, and murder on the streets of Chicago Heights.

Street-smart and good with his hands, Hager is accepted into the working life of a chauffeur and "street tax" collector, earning the moniker "Little Joe College" by notorious mob boss Albert Tocco. But when his childhood friend is gunned down by a hit man, Hager finds himself a bit player in the events surrounding the mysterious, and yet unsolved, murder of mafia chief Sam Giancana.

"Chicago Heights" is part rags-to-riches story, part murder mystery, and part redemption tale. Hager, with the help of author David T. Miller, juxtaposes his early years in West Virginia with his life in crime, intricately weaving his own experiences into the fabric of mob life, its many characters, and the murder of Giancana.

Fueled by vivid recollections of turf wars and chop shops, of fix-ridden harness racing and the turbulent politics of the 1960s, Chicago Heights reveals similarities between high-level organized crime in the city and the corrupt lawlessness of Appalachia. Hager candidly reveals how he got caught up in a criminal life, what it cost him, and how he rebuilt his life back in West Virginia with a prison record.

Based on interviews with Hager and supplemented by additional interviews and extensive research by Miller, "Chicago Heights" also adds Hager's unique voice to the volumes of speculation about Giancana's murder, offering a plausible theory of what happened on that June night in 1975.

Critique: A simply fascinating contribution to the growing library of American organized crime biographies and histories in general, and the Chicago Outfit in particular, "Chicago Heights: Little Joe College, the Outfit, and the Fall of Sam Giancana" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to personal reading lists, as well as community, and academic library Organized Crime collections and supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

Carl Logan

Margaret's Bookshelf

Saving Each Other
Stacy Mitchell
9781547250349, $14.99, PB, 328pp,

Synopsis: What would you do if the most important people in your world were suddenly and violently taken away from you?

Two cars demolished, two families destroyed. Dani Adams and Ean Montgomery were each forced to see the same grief counselor on a one-to-one basis after a drunk driver killed Dani's husband along with Ean's pregnant wife and six-year-old son.

The rules: Communicate only through text messages, and never reveal their real names or any other personal details. In an unconventional twist of therapy, Dani and Ean were each given a private cell phone and only the first initial of each other's first names. They were then instructed to reach out to one another in order to share their grief -- to heal. Neither planned to contact the other, but with all hope and the will to live gone.

Over the course of a year, through texting alone, they form a unique bond. Friendship blossoms into something deeper. They were never supposed to meet, but fate had other plans. And in their world of loss and despair, something amazing began to grow. But can the love they found triumph over the deep, soul-twisting pain that never seems to fade?

Critique: An inherently fascinating premise that is fully realized with author Stacy Mitchell's genuine flair for character and narrative driven storytelling, "Saving Each Other" is a unique, extraordinary, and very highly recommended addition to community library Contemporary Romance Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Saving Each Other" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).

Education with the Grain of the Universe
J. Denny Weaver
Cascadia Publishing House
126 Klingerman Road,, Telford, PA 18969
9781680270082, $27.95, PB, 362pp,

Synopsis: Is the grain of the universe really visible? Working from the statement that the nonviolent Jesus reflects the grain of the universe, "Education with the Grain of the Universe", compiled and edited by Mennonite academician J. Denny Weaver, demonstrates how the grain can be visible in any discipline of the academic curriculum or its application in the life of the church or wider society.

In "Education with the Grain of the Universe", eighteen erudite and insightful contributors shape philosophies of Mennonite higher educational institutions as they explore intersections of educational theories and practices with Anabaptism, Mennonite thought, and peacemaking.

In order of appearance they are J. Denny Weaver, Justin Heinzekehr, Drew G. I. Hart, Felipe Hinojosa, Benjamin Bixler, Laura Brenneman, Jackie Wyse-Rhodes, Hannah E. Heinzekehr, Malinda Elizabeth Berry, Gerald J. Mast, Sarah Ann Bixler, Daniel Shank Cruz, Rebecca Janzen, Lowell Ewert, Rudi Kauffman, Lonna Stoltzfus, Zachary Walton, Angela Horn Montel.

Critique: An absorbing, thoughtful and thought-provoking read, "Education with the Grain of the Universe" is the eleventh volume in the outstanding Cascadia Publishing House 'C. Henry Smith' series and very highly recommended for college and university Christian Education collections in general, and Mennonite Studies supplemental reading lists in particular.

Buddha and Einstein Walk Into a Bar
Guy Joseph Ale
New Page Books
c/o Red Wheel/Weiser/Conari
65 Parker Street, Suite 7, Newburyport, MA 01950
9781632651402, $15.99, PB, 224pp,

Synopsis: Guy Joseph Ale was the founding president of Lifespan Seminar and vice president of Asia Pacific Association of Psychology. In "Buddha and Einstein Walk Into a Bar" he presents the revolutionary idea that sensing how long we can live is a latent capacity in us, currently unknown, just like the introduction of fire, the invention of flying, and the discovery of radio waves were before we "discovered" them. Understand how the knowledge of transcendence, consciousness, and self-healing are integral to your well-being.

You could drive a car without a fuel gauge, but knowing how much gas you have clearly gives you more control of your vehicle. Using the latest breakthroughs in cosmology, neuroplasticity, superstring theory, and epigenetics (the study of heritable changes that occur without a change in the DNA sequence), "Buddha and Einstein Walk Into a Bar" helps you to master your entire system of mind, body, and energy and provides practical tools to help you live your longest and healthiest life.

In the pages of "Buddha and Einstein Walk Into a Bar" readers will learn Lifespan Seminar's multiple-award-winning tools of: Exercises that align the different systems of the body; Mindfulness and meditation to relieve daily stress; The Good nutrition simple rules sustainable for a lifetime; Proper rest for your mental and physical peak performance; Active lifestyle to stay vibrant through your entire life.

Critique: Impressively informed and informative, this 'real world practical' instruction guide and manual for achieving an extended life span is strongly and reservedly recommended for personal, community, and academic library Health & Medicine collections. It should be noted that "Buddha and Einstein Walk Into a Bar" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9781538521021, $29.95, CD).

The Well-Spoken Woman Speaks Out
Christine K. Jahnke
Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2197
9781633885004, $18.00, PB, 270pp,

Synopsis: In "The Well-Spoken Woman Speaks Out: How to Use Your Voice to Drive Change", top speech coach Christine K. Jahnke shared techniques to help women present their ideas effectively in any setting. Written specifically for women who are persisting, resisting, advocating, or running for office -- "The Well-Spoken Woman Speaks Out" will give them the tools to be effective, persuasive, and powerful communicators.

"The Well-Spoken Woman Speaks Out" will guide any woman who wants to state her case in the most compelling way, ensure that she is truly heard and understood, and seeks to impact and inspire others.

"The Well-Spoken Woman Speaks Out" takes Jahnke's direct experience working with women like Michelle Obama and the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton, and pairs it with the recent surge of women nationwide who are speaking up to drive social and political change.

Jahnke, who has spent twenty-five years helping women leaders, provides guidance and best practices so women of all ages and backgrounds can: rally support for a cause, make a persuasive pitch, campaign for public office, be a successful advocate, and motivate people to make positive change.

Jahnke deftly applies her expertise to many facets of communicating publicly, including using women's voices in social media; participating in panels, meetings, and discussions; giving presentations; and speaking to the media.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The Well-Spoken Woman Speaks Out" is an extraordinarily effective and thoroughly 'user friendly' instructional guide and manual that should be a part of every community, college, and university library collection. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of every female social or political activist, student, aspiring politician, businesswoman, or non-specialist general reader with an interest in the subject that "The Well-Spoken Woman Speaks Out" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99).

The Global Cosmopolitan Mindset
Linda Brimm
Palgrave Macmillan
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10001
9781349953448, $37.99, HC, 228pp,

Synopsis: A growing number of people in the world have embraced globalization and actively seek opportunities to live, study, and work in other cultures. Highly talented and deeply motivated, they have been shaped by the new political/economic opportunities, technological realities and personal choices that have configured their lives. They are known as the Global Cosmopolitans.

In "The Global Cosmopolitan Mindset: Lessons from the New Global Leaders", Linda Brimm (Emeritus Professor at INSEAD, one of the world's leading business schools) introduces the Global Cosmopolitan Mindset and Skillset and examines what are the dilemmas and opportunities of composing a global life over time.

Professor Brimm has interviewed Global Cosmopolitans at different life stages and has garnered insights from those on the front line of the global economy. She describes how they understand the life dilemmas and opportunities implicit in navigating the rapidly changing global environment and how they learn from the lives they are creating. While these are people using the expertise developed over their global journey to manage change, lead organizations, make a difference in the world, or create their own ventures, she helps us understand what they have learned and how this global learning opportunity has contributed to the development of a Global Cosmopolitan Mindset and Skillset.

"The Global Cosmopolitan Mindset" relates some of the stories that global leaders and entrepreneurs have shared with Professor Brimm. These concrete examples help us understand what the individuals have learned from their personal experience. Emerging from these stories are the unique attitudes and skills that are necessary to confront life challenges, embrace change and take steps to create new life chapters.

Whether a Millennial considering joining this 'Cosmopolitan Club', an existing Global Cosmopolitan reflecting on what is next, someone in mid-career contemplating an international move, part of an organization trying to develop its responses to a global workforce, or a leader considering who can best run global organizations, "The Global Cosmopolitan Mindset" provides a unique insight into the Global Cosmopolitan Mindset and Skillset - as well as the challenges and rewards of pursuing a global life.

Critique: Impressively informed and informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking, exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The Global Cosmopolitan Mindset: Lessons from the New Global Leaders" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library collections. A superbly crafted work of original scholarship, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Global Cosmopolitan Mindset" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $28.49).

Margaret Lane

Mari's Bookshelf

A Place Called Schugara
Joe English
Line by Lion Publishing
9781940938837, $18.95

"The greatest sin of all is the failure to love." A Place Called Schugara by Joe English is a classic of the Me Generation, setting epic life lessons in a cross cultural story that spans continents and decades.

Several character threads converge on the Caribbean island of Mabouhey. In 1989, Ohio businessman Travers Landeman brings Bibles and used clothes there, to Father Chester and his congregation. Father Chester was sent to Mabouhey as punishment, in the 1970s, for upsetting his Chicago Monsignor. In 1991, Joe Rogers, a Chicago bookseller and vodka devotee, and his travel companions search the island for buried treasure. Also in 1991, insurance investigator Albert Sidney, of New York, hopes to reap the rewards of finding the missing Travers - or his remains - in Mabouhey. Each of these men escape from something at home but discover something in Mabouhey to which to escape.

The book goes back and forth between Travers', Joe's, and Albert's stories, among others, but only Joe narrates in the first person. Each strong personality is brought out by colorful turns of phrase and habits. Joe's winsome word play, a clue to the author's sense of humor, contrasts with Father Chester's verging-on-vitriolic chapters. At times it is hard to tell whether the criticisms of the Church's racial biases and tyrannical policies are his own or belong to Joe English. The sing-song dialect of Black characters, Zero and Ragweed, is a delight to hear. Marguerite, a Mabouhey native, is a convincing female heroine among the predominantly male cast.

In addition to distinct character voices, the novel includes a variety of styles. Mabouhey songs and poems are featured. Matthew, Travers' nephew, writes a journal about his budding sexual orientation. A snobbish sociology PhD writes up her interview and evaluation of Zero and his place in the cultural landscape. Newspaper articles summarize the conclusion. The mix of voices and styles reflects the melange of societal problems plaguing the characters: urban flight, the war on drugs, the Catholic Church clergy abuse scandal, among others. Transitioning from city to city, person to person, each described in a new way, there is never a dull moment. The quick, fresh pace sets a hopeful tone.

The climax comes when not only Travers, Joe, and obese Albert, but the psychic baggage they carry, all descend on Mabouhey at the same time. What could be a cliched redemption moment (remote island paradise saves modern city dwellers), is anything but. Each character plays his or her freely chosen part to help each other solve problems practically and creatively. If the greatest sin is to fail to love, then the greatest gift is to succeed in loving. Don't miss this unpredictable and unforgettable historical fiction story involving both sides of the logic gate.

Guillermo Stitch
Nineveh Editions
1987775678, $5.99, Paperback, $2.99, ebook

Literature's become a tool! Guillermo Stitch's Literature(R) tells of Billy Stringer's attempt to serve literature, not the other way around.

Billy is a reporter for the Herald, covering a story of GrippingTails'(R) new transport system utilizing literature as a means to get around. When Billy picks up on a metaphor used in GrippingTails presentation, the presenter perceives him as Lit, a threat, someone who reads. Billy has two choices: be put to use at GrippingTails or suffer the consequences of his rebellion.
In this depiction of the future, in an unnamed town, unless literature is a commodity to be bought and sold, it is all but eradicated. GrippingTails has changed all that, bringing literature under the thumb of business, in the vein of Solace(R) and other enlightening substances.

Literature(R) cleverly plays by this dystopia's rules, as well as breaks them. On the functional level, it's an entertaining story, earning its entertainment value through a fraught love story between Billy and Jane, a PhD candidate, chase scenes, newspaper intrigue and colorful thugs. But on a deeper level, it follows the rule of good art; it reads effortlessly, maneuvering seamlessly between past and present, with beautiful similes, such as "rage draped like a shroud," and an overall conceit that speaks to contemporary culture wars.

Billy and his nemeses, the GrippingTails employees, ring true as ordinary people caught up in age-old struggles. Jane and her brother, Vince, a reader like Billy, are less developed. I wanted to hear more about Jane; she could fill out Billy's motives. Vince holds the key to understanding Gilgamesh, the Lit terrorist group. Without more knowledge of him, the real threat of literature remains murky.

At just over 100 pages, Literature(R) is a quick and gripping noir novel that pumps us up for the subversive act of reading!

Phat's Chance for Buddha in Houston (or, How I spent my Summer Vacation)
Virginia Arthur
Ecological Outreach Services
B01543RYRO, $2.51, Kindle
ebook ISBN 425463

Phat's Chance is a quick summer read packed with adventure, friendship and growing up.
It is a story within a story. Newly minted Master of Physics, Galen Calcoun, is about to embark on a new chapter. He revisits some of his best, but also most troubling, memories, about his Uncle Phat's disappearance a few years earlier. The summer he turns 16, his Uncle Mike, aka Phat, invites him on a road trip spanning Ohio to Texas, from which only Galen returns. The trip affects everything that happens afterwards.

As a flashback, the story is more than just summer antics; it is about Galen's and his uncle's parallel transformations. Described in straightforward and informal prose befitting a teenage author, Galen and his uncle are peas in a pod: nerdy, book-loving, not the most attractive, and at the mercy of a large and gregarious family. They seek each other out against teasing cousins and practically-minded adults. On their own together, they make mistakes only they can fix, learning what it takes to stand up for themselves and go after their dreams.

Phat's fancy sports car, Ruby, seems incongruous with his dumpy appearance, but his mysterious, albeit quirky, actions come to fit the car's "cool" status. After tornadoes, drunken rages in an stranger's barn and accidents with another stranger's fence, Galen and Uncle Phat manage to endear themselves to folks they meet across middle America. Their trip is two weeks of non-stop movement worth a lifetime of unpacking.

The book is a comic coming of age story lined with history, great literature, and a tender portrait of familial love.

Mari Carlson, Reviewer

Marlan's Bookshelf

The Frugal Editor: From Your Query Letter to Final Manuscript to the Marketing of Your New Bestseller, second edition
Carolyn Howard-Johnson
HowToDoItFrugally Series of Books for Writers
9781505712117, $17.95 Paperback / $3.99 Kindle

Summary: What sets "The Frugal Editor" apart from the status quo of grammar/style reference books is the ease and simplicity with which it presents a wealth of well-organized information. With humor and high intelligence, Howard-Johnson covers an impressive variety of topics vital to every editor's survival in eighteen chapters, seven appendices and an accessible index that can help a harried editor quickly find answers to pressing editorial questions.

"To neglect researching the language we write in when we so assiduously research the facts for what we write is folly." - Carolyn Howard-Johnson

As a professional writer and editor, I know firsthand the pain of discovering a grammar mistake or typo in a manuscript I thought was finished and reviewed dozens of times. DIY editing can be like trying to take out your appendix in a forest where you can't see the trees. However, into all our writers' lives a lot of editing must fall, and our manuscripts must be flawless if they are to be sent to a publisher or be self-published.

This is where "The Frugal Editor" comes in.

I was actually on a book editing assignment when I received a copy of "The Frugal Editor" from the author in exchange for an honest review. It fell into my lap like heavenly manna.

The Table of Contents sets the tone with such promising and funny titles such as:

"Getting Cute with Caps"; "Effusive Italics"; "Quotation Marks for the Two-Dumb Reader"; "What About Those Double Adjectives?"; and "Ellipsis Dots Gone Wild."

Inside this comprehensive handbook is a meticulously organized wealth of information that covers the most common editing questions that can still niggle even the most seasoned of editors. The book's seven appendices include "My Generous Agents," which features the responses from agents about what submissions turn them on and off, as well as sample query letters for submissions of media kits and books for film consideration.

"The Frugal Editor" fills the niche between dry, technical style manuals and the kinder-gentler teacher approach. Howard-Johnson's presentation gives us the feeling that we are seated in her classroom, with the added benefit that she will not disappear at the end of the semester.

Howard-Johnson makes the valid point that even if you are an English teacher/scholar, your "credits" don't perfectly transfer to the exact knowledge required for excellent book editing. Although she provides many handy tips, she still urges authors to seek professional editing assistance. Four eyes are better than two, right?

As with the other books in her "How to Do It Frugally" series, Howard-Johnson is again writing for the Highest Common Denominator in reader intelligence. It is NOT for Dummies. In fact, I'd suggest a printed warning, similar to the ones at the base of roller coasters that states:

"You have to be THIS smart to read this book."

Note: This review was originally published in the blog, "Roadmap Girl's Book Buzz."

The Joy of Syntax: A Simple Guide to All the Grammar You know You Should Know
June Casagrande
Ten Speed Press
c/o Crown Publishing Group
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780399581069, $14.99


Penguin Random House:


Language columnist June Casagrande presents a fun and breezy guide to everything a grown-up interested in grammar needs to know. When it comes to grammar,...

Originally posted on L.A. Now & Then Blog []

"If someone tells you that it's wrong to X, where X is something native English speakers do regularly, you can be pretty sure the rule is bogus." : "The Joy of Syntax, June Casagrande

The first thing that popped into my head when I first began reading June Casagrande's lively, informative "The Joy of Syntax: A Simple Guide to All the Grammar You Know You Should Know" was me in the backseat of my parents' car circa 1960, listening to Mom and Dad engage in a heated argument over incorrect vs. correct grammar. I don't recall what "rule" they were debating, only the yelling. That's how seriously a grammar mistake can affect us.

When it comes to syntax, I suspect people may be divided into three categories: those who know what syntax is and care; those who heard about it in English class but it didn't stick; and those who do not care at all. The first group contains people who love words or need them to advance their careers, future careers, and/or social standing. Those are the people who stand to get the most out of this book.

Casagrande's style is simple, direct, and friendly-humorous. The book's contents reflect a trove of enlightening trivia such as "Well as an Adverb and an Adjective;" "Dangling Participles and Other Danglers;" "Language Myths" (brace yourself). Part I focuses on "Syntax" and Part II on "Usage and Propriety." The latter goes beyond the average English speaker/writer's grasp of what is grammatically correct and explains that the acceptability of certain words can depend on whether they have been accepted into common usage.

Did you know that if a word is found in the dictionary, it's considered "valid"? Not necessarily appropriate for your dissertation, but not "wrong" in more casual contexts.

Pop Quiz:

True or False?

(1) It is always wrong to say or write "ain't."

(2) "Nauseous" and "Nauseated" can be used interchangeably.

(3) "Tomorrow" is both a noun and an adverb.

(4) Most, if not all, grammar questions can be answered by looking in the dictionary.

Here's a hint: number one is false. Surprised? Want to know why? Read the book. As for the the book. It won't kill you and you might even learn something.

Marlan Warren, Reviewer

Mason's Bookshelf

Charles M. Russell: The Women in His Life and Art
Joan Carpenter Troccoli, editor
University of Oklahoma Press
2800 Venture Drive, Norman, OK 73069
9780806161792, $39.95, HC, 192pp,

Synopsis: Charles Marion Russell (March 19, 1864 - October 24, 1926), was an artist of the Old American West. Russell created more than 2,000 paintings of cowboys, Indians, and landscapes set in the Western United States and in Alberta, Canada, in addition to bronze sculptures. Known as 'the cowboy artist', Russell was also a storyteller and author. The C. M. Russell Museum Complex located in Great Falls, Montana, houses more than 2,000 Russell artworks, personal objects, and artifacts. Other major collections are held at the Montana Historical Society in Helena, Montana, the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming, the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth, Texas, and the Sid Richardson Museum in Fort Worth, Texas.

Joan Carpenter Troccoli retired as Senior Scholar of the Petrie Institute of Western American Art of the Denver Art Museum in June 2012. She is the Founding Director of the Petrie Institute of Western American Art, Denver Art Museum, a position in which she served from 2001-05. From 1996-2001, she was Deputy Director of the Denver Art Museum. Before coming to Denver in 1995, she was a Curator of Art and subsequently Director of Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Compiled by Professor Troccoli and lavishly illustrated throughout with full-color illustrations, "Charles M. Russell: The Women in His Life and Art" presents groundbreaking essays essential to understanding the role of western women in Russell's art. This beautiful and informative volume is both a tribute to the women who nurtured Russell's artistic development and a landmark in the study of the role of women in a genre all too often identified almost exclusively with a masculine world.

The catalogue essays deftly examine the exhibition's theme from four unique perspectives. Professor Troccoli provides an overview of the works in the exhibition and the social, cultural, and personal values that influenced them.

Emily Crawford Wilson explores Russell's interest in the feminine ideal, tying it to wider artistic trends of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Jennifer Bottomly-O'looney describes Russell's friendship with Ben and Lela Roberts, who introduced the artist to Nancy Cooper, the woman who would become his wife and indispensable business partner.

Thomas A. Petrie employs extended excerpts from Nancy's unpublished biographical memoir to illuminate the Russells' marriage, a relationship sustained by affection and mutual respect, as well as shrewd creative and marketing decisions.

Critique: An absolute 'must' for the legions of Charles M. Russell fans, "Charles M. Russell: The Women in His Life and Art" is an extraordinary work of simply outstanding scholarship and needs to be considered as an essential, core addition to personal, community, college, and university library American Art History collections in general, and Charles M. Russell supplemental studies lists in particular.

The Basics of Doing Your Own Home Inspection
Thomas O'Connor
Dorrance Publishing Company
585 Alpha Drive, Suite 103, Pittsburgh, PA 15238
9781480924826, $10.00, PB, 47pp,

Synopsis: Thomas O'Connor is a three-year reelected president of the Western PA chapter of ASHI (American Society of Home Inspectors). He has performed over fifteen thousand residential and commercial building inspections for both buyers and sellers and has also been a speaker at realtor and first time home buyer meetings for three decades.

For years, author Thomas O'Connor has accumulated interesting, and often hilarious, stories from numerous home inspections. Many are for first-time buyers for whom he has done several home inspections together before they find one that passes.

Some of the problems an inspector repeatedly sees are obvious to the professional (wet basements, roof leaks, mold, electrical wiring done by a non-electrician, gas leaks, etc.).

In "The Basics of Doing Your Own Home Inspection: Advice from a Seasoned Home Inspector " he draws upon his extensive experience and expertise to teach buyers what to look for before they pay a professional inspector to find a house that passes.

If buyers knew a little bit more about what to look for, they would save lots of money!

Critique: A succinct, practical, reliable, and thoroughly 'user friendly' instructional guide, "The Basics of Doing Your Own Home Inspection" is especially and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, community, and academic library Real Estate instructional reference collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of home owners and prospective home buyers that "The Basics of Doing Your Own Home Inspection" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.00).

In the Restaurant: Society in Four Courses
Christoph Ribbat
Pushkin Press
9781782273080, $24.95, HC, 224pp,

Synopsis: What does eating out tell us about who we are? The restaurant is where we go to celebrate, to experience pleasure, to see and be seen -- or, sometimes, just because we're hungry and we don't want to cook for ourselves at home. But these temples of gastronomy hide countless stories.

"In the Restaurant: Society in Four Courses" by Christoph Ribbat (Professor of American Studies at the University of Paderbor) is a dazzlingly entertaining, eye-opening volume that shows the restaurant is where performance, fashion, commerce, ritual, class, work and desire all come together. Through its windows, we can glimpse the world.

"In the Restaurant" is a history of the restaurant in all its guises, from the first formal establishments in eighteenth-century Paris serving 'restorative' bouillon, to today's new Nordic cuisine, via grand Viennese cafes and humble fast food joints.

Here are tales of cooks who spend hours arranging rose petals for Michelin stars, of the university that teaches the consistency of the perfect shake, of the lunch counter that sparked a protest movement, of the writers ranging from Proust to George Orwell, all of whom have been inspired or outraged by the restaurant's secrets.

Critique: An impressively informative and unreservedly fascinating study, "In the Restaurant: Society in Four Courses" is a unique and extraordinary study that is strongly and unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "In the Restaurant: Society in Four Courses" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

Jack Mason

Molly's Bookshelf

A Matter of Selection
Carol Smallwood
Poetic Matrix Press
9780998146980, $17.00

Carol Smallwood's A Matter of Selection is a small edition of poetry spanning a broad spectrum of free verse, requiem, rhyme and elegy.

Opening with a series of Acknowledgements, Foreword offered by Jordan Blum of The Bookends Review, and the Table of Contents Preface and Prologue; Smallwood whets Reader interest for the rhythmical works to follow.

Smallwood sets in motion the idea that we all make ongoing selections; some good, others not, and leaves us with the realization that choices are the grist of our being.

The Table of Contents indicates the 71 works are divided by Theme: Nature, Moments in Time, The Domestic and Speculations as a mix of poetic endeavors.

Nature sets the tone for the first segment The Universe is 6 stanzas focused on finding a good center for ourselves; for the writer, she has found security in cutting up pieces to sew with needle and thread.

Wind in Trees indicates a sketch that comes and goes with the anecdote left to the interpreter.

Finishing up this section is a three stanza piece, The Big Corn Field, filled with the poignancy of harvest and the emptiness of the field when the harvester has wrought its fury.

Moments in Time offers a 7 stanza Septet beginning with consideration of Routine before meandering through back aches and snow, limitations of logical atomism, more snow, mention that humans shed their skins a few cells at a time before ending on a whimsical, thought provoking note It's good we're not snakes - imagine all those human skins.

The Domestic includes Supermarket Triptych, Hanging Clothes on Clothes Lines, The Car Wash, The Sewing Box, and The Last Doll before coming to a close with a peek through Venetian blind and Capturing the Moon.

Speculations provides a jewel Near the Library Window for those who enjoy a nice visit to the reading room, while A Matter of Lines puts into focus the wait at the local post office where a queue leads to one or the other clerk behind the counter.

Sleeping Beauty cause us to consider, What would've happened if she hadn't been a beauty?

The Epilogue offers one more for those of us who gaze at the skies in effort to locate dinosaur and ships or puppies chasing butterflies to consider
The sky today was cumulus clouds:
The choice too immense, I chose one
to secure the secret of time and space,
forget spinning on a planet.

Poet Smallwood's collection of finely honed, detail filled verses spring from the page as though borne on wings to fill the air, the room, the location with perfume for the eyes.

I enjoyed reading these verses, some more than once, others a quick passage with scant time to savor the message before rushing on to the next just to see what was there.

I have read for review a number of poetry tomes and am always amazed again to find the broad spectrum of poetic abilities engendered by each bard.

As each poet proves to be a complex soul, perpetually exploring technical horizons of the poetic field and the impetuses, stimuli, and triumphs of those who harvest within the boundaries of the imagination; I continue to enjoy the verses even more.

I enjoyed the read, and am happy to recommend Carol Smallwood's A Matter of Selection for those who enjoy poetry and for those who do not yet realize they can!

I received ARC from the author for review.

Symptoms of Terminal Passion
Chester Aaron
El Leon Literary Arts
9780976298373, $10.00

Chester Aaron - Symptoms of Terminal Passion transports the reader along on a tormented journey occupied with craving, some delight and some not.

Author Aaron records with uncontrollable munificence and enthusiasm. This is not the first Aaron work I have read, it will not be the last.

Presented as a system of sketches, Symptoms of Terminal Passion is an investigative journey overflowing with the relationships between mature couples from Tuscany to California.

The Secret of Thyme familiarizes The Reader with Sergeant Anthony Sabini as he is writing a letter. Older than most of his men, established on the hood of a half track stopped near his tank; the communication he was writing was to his sister Grazia. The aroma of thyme cause Sabini to pause for a moment. Such memories were stirred by that fragrance.

Winterswijk leads us to Amersterdam, downward toward Schiphol; in 1945 Ben had only seen Holland from ground level. Here and now he was aboard an El Al airplane. Passport in hand he moved toward the official, paused for his baggage, and tried to detect Nikki.

Ben has two weeks he can spend in Holland; who knows what will take place during that time. Nikki has no longing to move to America, and she has a noticeably disparate view of relationships than does he.

Crossing few pages is Miwok Moon and Sheldon Horowitz, he a fiery haired, cobalt eyed fellow who thinks of himself as a Miwok Indian, might actually think of himself more as a Jew.

Sheldon's Los Angeles born father, Herman Horowitz, is a gentleman of mawkishness, compassion and passion. Sheldon's mother Elsie Whispers is diminutive, thickset, brown haired, and, far more elegant in Sheldon's eyes than any Hollywood variety of the Indian Princess. Elsie is a Miwok Indian.

Thirty Minutes in Bologna: finds Charley who is waiting at the top step of the Piazza Maggiore. He is not astonished to see the otherworldly figure of Maggie materialize from the mists at the end of the square. Charley has been haunted by her phantasm figure from the time he left California. Her existence is always with him, alongside him, nearby.

Reading The Female of the Species is a poignant glimpse at the like, love and loss that associations can engender. This chronicle is one of the longer pieces and brings the reader to an instantaneous revel of genius, anticipation and rebirth, and, unquestionably, love.

Its Not a Bad Life is teeming with humming birds, and expectancy and sustenance organized with, conceivably, love. Larry and Judith kept the feeder jam-packed with nectar and became so familiar with 5 of the tiny feathered denizens that they gave them names.

There was the Anna, she with a rounded beak, they termed Julia Roberts, while the Rufous they named Pavarotti. John Wayne was an aggressive Black chin while the smaller Calliope who ignored bees and yellow jackets; Larry had branded Schwarzenegger. Judith was persuaded they were all males with the exclusion of the Rufous.

Once married and now not; Larry and Judith's continuing relationship is fundamentally a pretty good one, maybe it is even better than when they actually were married.

Transporting the narratives to a close Author Aaron provides Thicker Than Water. Clay and Gina are awake at 4:15 AM. It is not desire they are enjoying, it is discussion, and enjoy is not the word to describe their conversation.

Chester Aaron's Symptoms of Terminal Passion siezes and intrigues as the reader journeys this touching range of anecdotes with beginning in Tuscany and culmination in California. The communications of adult, conformist and older couples, who are unselfish, forthcoming and relaxed with the natural world bring the grist for the plentiful accounts.

The premise for the seven narratives offered on the pages of Symptoms of Terminal Passion are distinguishable: departure, anticipation, love and penalty, reverberations of war as well as war itself, old world juxtaposed with new, Italian food, nonetheless, all are presented in distinctive Aaron unforeseen method uniting many of the fundamentals drawn from Aaron's broad experiences.

Winterswijk brought together a pair of discrete elements. Aaron uses cunning and splendor to interweave the tempting inelegance experiences often succeeding when attempting to bring back what was, or is recollected as what was with a previous love in Holland while conforming with nearly unreal memories of the Holocaust.

For each ardent account, Writer Aaron thoughtfully brings together multifaceted, and at times seemingly tongue-in-cheek emotions with the flamboyance and style of a writer who writes from the heart.

Chester Aaron's Symptoms of Terminal Passion brings to the reading a rich interweaving of cruxes, and traces, of people and settings, and of potentials and relationships.

Yarns are intended to draw the reader into the chronicles on the search to determine those plot interweavings sanitized in the expected splendid Aaron prose.

As always Aaron's characters typify all the warts and shortcomings and necessities and crabbiness along with the magnetism and appetite as do we all. That Writer Aaron knows people, and longing and how to spin an anecdote is apparent.

Symptoms of Terminal Passion is another of the candid, well written works offered by a writer who has much to tell.

Happy to recommend Chester Aaron's Symptoms of Terminal Passion.

What is Man: From the World of Ro and Mo
Rohan and Mohan Perera
9781540650306, $15.99

"What is Man is unique, for it takes science and what society understands and uses spiritual exploration to explain how to obtain God's love."

Authors Rohan and Mohan Perera, Ro and Mo's WHAT IS MAN is a 142 page overflowing with insight, thoughtfulness, and praise drawn in large part from their professional and personal experience.

The authors tell us that the World of Ro and Mo, a self-awareness and empowerment campaign; based on teachings of Christ was created in 2008.

This book was completed prior to the death of Rohan, lost to a rare lung disorder, Ro died in 2013. Mo has released this book as a tribute to Ro, and for the benefit of those who read it.

The first 108 pages are packed with Biblical reference, and includes a Table of Contents

Comments from the World of Ro and Mo

What is Man (with reference to Psalms 8) We learn man is but a conscious spirit, mortal and finite is the son of man, and Love is the character of life.

Introduction the writers point out that for many life is just pain and suffering, nonetheless, they encourage the reader to seek to learn the meaning of life.

Prologue The authors reveal that the notions hypothesized in this book and other spiritual works they have written are an outgrowth of the journey to self-awareness begun by them about age eleven.

Early on the lads considered their close bond to be due to their being twins, in time they came to realize it was something more, something deeper than simply being twins.

1. The Quest a chapter dedicated to the reality of life with quotes from Stephen Hawking, Biblical entities and others

2. The Conscious Ego and the Unconscious Mind leads to discussions of duplicity of words and actions and ends on the note 'the consciousness of the material things of life is like borrowing the feeling of being alive'

3. The Unconscious includes a dialogue regarding the Buddha, Hans Steiner, Stanford Psychiatrist, as well as discussion of two types of energy, kinetic and potential

4. God like Consciousness Without God presents Einstein and theories and notions, energy and matter, and we continue to try to figure out how to merge our spirit with the conscience of God

5. More about the Unconscious delves into the notion that everything stems from one source, no beginning, no end, before asking the question 'then how is conscience initiated?'

6. Pride and Mind everything we create has an evolutionary progress something to consider: Why would God be proud of you (us)?

7. Love and the Perfect much of the world is a pretty loveless place, most of us spend a good bit of time looking for the perfect love

8. Energy of Love lack of spiritual energy in humans causes the ego to begin craving for physical energy

9. God VS Devil how we live, and manage our awareness brings about good, and also bad

10. Sin and Sex we need to understand that sex is not sin, and it is not a problem. The immoral ego does not love, it lives for itself

Fin Conclusion Love is when we really understand as God does, knowledge is necessary if we are to acquire wisdom

Discourses from the world of Ro and Mo follow the text beginning on page 109 and ending on 142

I found What is Man to be a compelling read, well worth the time to read through, and re read again, and to carry along to read bits and pieces as time allows.

I enjoyed the Biblical references, discussion scientific and thought provoking beliefs from a variety of tenets, disciplines, notions and ideas.

Quotes from various of the great thinkers, writers and historians all serve to bring deeper meaning to our lives.

With each notion the writers present varied ideas, and then lead back again to the Biblical foundation of our lives.

I received an ARC for review, and while I do not keep every book I receive, I will be keeping this one and referring to it again and again.

Thought provoking, compelling, startling at times, Most Interesting Read ... Happy to recommend.

From the Author

In this refined volume, What is Man from the World of Ro and Mo, we share with you, the blessings of the visceral Oneness of life, which we experienced being twins. And thus, our comprehension of the meaning of life that sourced from our passionate journey in the search for answers as to why we were born, and the purpose of life.

In doing so, we reveal the mystery of the Oneness and Duality of Matter and Energy, Light and Spirit, Conscious and Conscience and, of the Father and Son - the oneness of Love and Life in all things; and bilaterally bring clarity to the teachings of Christ, in the modern empirical world as it unravelled and illuminated us.

Life is difficult! In fact, it was difficult at the time of Jesus, so he instructed the people of his time to pray to the Father: "not to lead them into temptation, but deliver from life's most significant stumbling block, our divinely bestowed self-consciousness - ego."

The greatest gift of God to humanity is to become infinitely conscious, i.e., 'knowing with' the mind of God and realise the eternal omnipresence of peace and love that is, in fact, the Life Eternal.

When we live as one, there is peace and love.
Ro and Mo

Raising Kids in the New Millennium
Marianne Restel, MD
Bonneville Books
c/o Cedar Fort, Inc.
9781555176747, $14.95

Raising Kids in the New Millennium, How to Maximize Their Wellbeing and Your Enjoyment written by Marianne Restel, a Mom, doctor is a dandy for the new parent.

This is a work 220 page, paperback work offered by a 1983 graduate of the University of Utah School of Medicine prior to beginning her practice as a pediatrician.

The Table of Contents sets the tone for the narrative to come:

Chapter 1 The First Year of Life

Chapter 2 The Four to Six Month Old

Chapter 3 The Twelve Month Old

Chapter 4 The Toddler Years

Chapter 5 The 24 Month Old

Chapter 6 The Preschool Years 3-5

Chapter 7 The School aged child

Chapter 8 Parenting the Adolescent

Chapter 9 Behavior and Discipline

Chapter 10 Spit Happens Encountering the Unexpected.

Most chapters begin with General Comments before progressing to particulars for each level with common normal conditions, issues, etc to aid the new and not so new parent. A generation or two ago, when girls often grew up in homes with several siblings some of the common occurrences of caring for an infant were more easily recognized as what happens when there is a baby in the house.

Today's new mom may be an older first-time mom, may not have done any caring for younger siblings, or baby sitting for the neighbors. This is a book for the older new mom, or mom who may find herself with older children and a new infant readying to join her life.

We all forget!

Colic, crying, elimination are all discussed as Dr. Restel guides the new parent toward understanding what is ordinary, normal and do not warrant a call to the doctor and for what is not.

Language development and getting ready for school, Feeding including guidelines for when to introduce solids etc is included.

Dr. Restel provides the parents with tools for use from birth right on through teenage years.

Expectations and changes to be encountered along that path are all presented in the work.

Even more delicate concepts, Divorce, Medical illness and serious injury, Child Mistreatment are discussed.

I found Raising Kids in the New Millennium to be a well written, easily readable guide. The fact that the work is presented by a medical doctor specializing in kids of all ages is a real plus to this reader.

So often guides are prepared based on 'what should work' by writers who it appears may have had little contact if any with actual children.

I found comfort in the fact that Writer Restel tosses in a steady scattering of anecdotes regarding her own children.

Restel's low key handling of problems without drama, but coupled with a little humor and some scraps thrown in concerning her own parenting do's and don'ts all serve to capture and retain the reader's interest.

I like the chapter headings and chapter notes, few new parents have time to actually sit down and read or re read an entire book.

Raising Kids in the New Millennium can be read in entirety preceding birth of baby and then piecemeal as the need demands following birth.

I like the fact that writer Restel does not present herself to be the absolute and final 'there I said it now go and do' authority.

She provides a number of upright recommendations, closes her book with a agreeably rounded bibliography along with plainly written descriptive definitions for countless childhood vaccines including their uses and importance for the well-being of children and those living, attending school and existing near them.

Raising Kids in the New Millennium is well done, covers most of the questions new parents, and second time around following a span of years between children may have.

Happy to recommend for home and public library, pediatrician book shelf, shower gifting, tuck in hospital gift for new mom.

Jungle Fever
Franz L. Kessler
9780805958812, $13.00

Franz Kessler's Jungle Fever is a Volume written in three distinct sections.

First Book Journeys to the Congo The time is August 1994, and oilman, Raoul Stern, married, is occupied with penning a letter to his wife Aliye.

His business journey begun aboard a Boeing 737 has been pretty much as any other, including a transitory landing in Libreville and soon back to sleep before the aircraft lands, when, he is informed his visa is not valid, then, a stern faced officer tells Raoul he must leave his passport.

Soon, Mr Lamira of Lowland Oil drives Raoul to his hotel; it is not long before Raoul encounters his superior Tony. As often happens here and there in the world, the visa actually is no big deal, just pay a bribe, and all will be well. Pretty much as any other trip.

A letter from home, a visit to a meditation bar, Raoul's occupation working with Tony of the American Company, Califoil, prostitutes, in addition the realization that his wife is unfaithful, all leave their mark on Raoul.

Second book Mission Raoul continues letter writing, in addition he is as well keeping a journal telling of experiences including a good many problems along with running low on food, experiencing bad moods and bouts of malaria.

Book three, Love and Lost Illusions, the Zamba hotel, meeting and writing letters to a girl named Rosa, before wife Aliye surfaces to propose an opportunity to reawaken their relationship.

It is, Aliye says, get rid of Rosa or face divorce.

Raoul chooses divorce, along with a dowry basket and marriage to Rosa. Their child Carl is born and while Raoul and his family are in Holland Rosa's brother writes relating instances of appalling problems at home. The family is ripped apart, some are missing, dogs feed upon carcasses of the dead, and the arid season returns to Congo.

Raoul's life is turned on its head, nonetheless he has a plan.

Long time oil man turned writer; Kessler relies on his own, long, experience in the oil industry in addition to his personal acquaintance with Africa to create a captivating, highly readable slice of life work.

On the pages of Jungle Fever, a most acceptable accomplishment, writer Kessler has astutely combined creative writing, passion, conundrum, maneuvering and peril in this account of living, dying, exploitation and commitment.

Chief Characters presented are fully fleshed, full of life and resolve, settings are nicely detailed, dialogue is credible, a subsidiary cast of subsidiary players round out the manuscript so that the reader will want to read it more than once. The good and decent are decidedly so, the scoundrels are not very likeable or decent.

Not a formula work, Jungle Fever, a decidedly unusual novel, offers the reader a hint into the misunderstanding and havoc widespread on the African continent all through the 1990s.

The scalding chemistry depicted between various players make this book a must read.

The work deals with grave issues such as those surrounding the turbulence rampant in Africa, in addition to presenting light hearted moments all set against a backdrop of indications, reverberation and fragrance of a continuing enigmatic continent most of us know only from reading, movies or television.

Well done, happy to recommend.

Confronted with Death
B. J. Bloch
9781931391139, $19.95

Beth Stuyvesant was a puzzled eight-year-old who had who had gone with her parents to a fortuneteller, she was surprised when the woman refused to disclose what she had seen in the child's hand. Her mother on the other hand may have had a premonition regarding what the future held in store and refused to enter the seer's tent.

B J Bloch's Confronted With Death introduces Readers to eighteen year old Beth Stuyvesant who faces the inevitable demise of her mother Mattie with the same stoical resoluteness she has preserved from the time Mattie was diagnosed with ALS five years previous.

Initially Beth's needy, hard to please father turned to rage and alcohol during his struggle to dealwith the modification the disease causes and became a violent and abusive man who had continued to require his 'marital due' even as the unforgiving, progressively degenerative illness destroyed his wife's body until, two years following the onset, he abandoned his wife, daughter and marital responsibility and left.

Beth is eighteen when she confronts death the first time; she has been forced to simply accept the dreadful malady and watch as her beloved mother wastes away finally is reduced to remnants in an urn. Now alone at eighteen; Beth begins college, falls in love and is betrayed by the married man who has lied to her.

Beth is all but destroyed by the deceit and even considers suicide before she leaves Philadelphia to commence teaching school in Indiana where meets a likely, but struggling, student. Working to assist sixth grade Pete Bascomb and his 'learning problem' as he endeavors to learn to read is the one bright spot in Beth's life. Beth looks beyond the troubled student in need of help and becomes the first Peter trusts enough to believe that with her help he can learn to read. Beth's unselfish sincerity to her new job and Pete, are compensated over time by the youngster's gratitude and caring for her.

Writer Bloch produces a powerful, riveting writing style which is certain to develop and become even better over time.

The straight forward narration found in Confronted with Death is not similar to Bloch's mystery "Another Senseless Killing". The latter was a mystery, Confronted with Death is a contemporaneous 'slice of life' type offering.

Beth is confronted with more than her share of misery, death, and heartache much the same as are many who find themselves also facing despair and sorrow during their life time.

Bloch's writing is hard hitting, determinant and on the whole well thought out. Settings are presented with enough detail to draw the reader into the narrative.

Bloch has crafted a grouping of well fleshed, very human, however not always sympathetic, likeable, or attractive characters; much as most of us encounter at times in our own lives. Beth's father, and Art the fellow student with whom she is in love, are each weak, needy men more than willing to use others, while they think of themselves and their wants, likes and needs first and always.

My one personal reservation regarding the narrative is my wondering that one so young and having so little education as Beth, would be given a teaching position in the manner she was. I, a teacher of 35+ years Public Elementary classroom experience in California and Oklahoma;question that Beth could have met the requirements for receiving a teaching credential in the manner as presented in the narrative in Indiana or many, if not all, states.

Other than that one glitch Confronted with Death is a well written, not an easygoing read and is not one to leave the reader with warm fuzzy feelings when it ends.

Confronted with Death is a brooding, earthy presentation offered by one in the medical profession regarding what families may face when they struggle to confront the reality of illness for which there is no cerebration, no remedy and nothing to do but watch the degeneration and ultimate demise of their loved one.

It is a message needing to be told; Bloch has told it well.

Confronted with Death is not a cheery narrative for a lazy afternoon in the hammock. It is a challenging read due to the tragedy of catastrophic illness and the long term ramifications attendant to such coupled with self doubt and poor relationship choices. This is a book to be read thoughtfully and with growing discernment for the terrible problems confronting both those suffering ruinous illness and those who are caring for the sufferer as well as long term misery as a secondary instance for those who may also face self-diffidence and ruinous relationships.

Recommended for the counselors book shelf, public library and for those who like a compelling, well written work with power to hold reader interest.

Lost on Earth
Lily Alex
9780738814131, $9.99

Lily Alex' Lost on Earth introduces one Robert Noirson. Appearing as a reputable man of affairs; forty two-year-old, bored, Robert Noirson must keep to the normal conventions of society while he attends a charity event designed to offer monetary aid to a Catholic run orphan institution.

Part 1, Chapter 1 commences with a gathering between orphaned Mary and Noirson. Mary is quick to realize that disregarding her apprehension, she must accept the assistance of Noirson. He is moneyed and can do much for the orphanage.

If angered, Noirson can do the committee and the orphanage itself great harm. Mary has little choice, she needs to carefully reckon the needs of the other residents over her own feelings.

Chapter 2 moves the narrative to a Scandal, while Chapter 3 tells of an alarming canine intent upon devastation of the spiritual figures who are wanting to influence Mary to take another, perhaps better look at Robert Noirson; the man who is now her husband.

Chapter 4 finds the tale enmeshed in a kidnapping while Chapter 5 leads the reader toward regarding Love and Punishments. Mary learns that what may bring delight at one point may only become punishment at another.

Chapters 6 and 7 bring The Discovery perhaps of the unexpected and The Ordeals in which a saddened, perhaps wiser Mary and her husband now live apart and Mary prepares to bears a child.

Part 2: The Loss, opens with Chapter 1 At Home. Mary and the seventeen-year-old twins she is parenting now live with a crippled Robert Noirson. Chapters 2: Work, Life, Rest and 3: Bats and Viruses add a bit more to our understanding regarding narrative and the behavior of the characters presented.

Chapters 4: Truth, 5: Love and Fight and 6: A fork in the Road; move The Reader precipitately toward an ineluctable Conclusion. Five years have passed when Mary and her four-year-old son join other mourners for the funeral of her divorced husband Robert Noirson; his present spouse is not at all enthralled to see them.

It was Angie who found the deceased Robert laying dead while clenching a photo of Mary to his chest.

Writer Lily Alex present the question 'Can angels fall in love and act like ordinary people?'

Then she sets out to illustrate that, indeed, they very well may do precisely that.

On the pages of Lost on Earth writer Alex takes a riveting thought and conveys The Reader on a fast paced roller coaster runaway filled with exhilaration, upheaval, action-packed and at times, roughshod circumstances, choler, and compelling communication.

Lost on Earth presents a fantasm concentrated on warmheartedness and desolation in which process and activity are interlocking. This is a publication in which all entreaty is answered, every misconduct is soon rebuked. Commitment is laced throughout the narrative with not even expiry capable of overcoming the bond.

The utilization of chapters in reality presents a series of complex inter-locking short stories, each of which, is capable of standing alone. Alex' writing is gritty, well thought out, and occupied with credible dialogue. Given the pretext of the work the situations are gripping and at times, frightening in their blunt realism. `

While English is not this writer's first language; that Author Alex does more than an estimable job with the genre, the format and the prose used to produce Lost on Earth is to be commended.

This message of fallen angels Lost on Earth may not be for everyone. Those who are unable to question and/or simply blindly accept religious dogma will very likely not like the book.

For those who do enjoy reading a well written text founded on a captivating concept within Christendom; Lost on Earth is a must read.

I was sent review copy by author

Smart Vaccine
R. D. Sadok
9781545056967, $12.00

R. D. Sadok's Smart Vaccine commences as Charles Lanier, Pharmaceutical researcher considers a vial of 'wonder drug.' It is not a drug he has been working on, rather, SV-136 is the apogee of the work carried out by Lanier's fellow researcher.

Charles galled as accolade and prestige were lauded upon Jon Randall, and, disregarding any possible danger in using some of the SV-136 upon himself prior to the trials, Charles Lanier now sent the powerful substance into his own vein thus setting into motion a series of outcomes he had never contemplated.

Sadok's gripping narration carries the reader along on a wild ride occupied with anticipation, and desperation, enviousness, misrepresentation, kidnapping, and spirited writing in this tale filled with provocative premise, newsworthy well-fleshed characters, dialogue that is gritty at times, situations troubled with peril and elaborate setting fashioned to pull the reader interest into the story and hold it fast from opening lines to last paragraphs.

Jon Randall is pleased that his SV-136 seemed to have worked a genuine miracle and returned a cherished family member to those he loved but had forgotten.

Charles Lanier's envy drives him to take some of the valuable medicine, distort video tapes to move blame from himself to another, and join a mobster in an attempt to pitch the drug for more money than he had ever thought he might have to enjoy.

The narrative moves speedily from Jon and his bride-to-be Rachel reveling in the success of SV-136 and the dandy initial results plus the expectation it would bring for those suffering from Alzheimer disease to Charles; and the choleric filled circumstances he finds himself embroiled in after his trying out the therapy meant to regenerate brain function for Alzheimer patients upon himself to test the idea that a non-impaired brain might be made even more powerful and perhaps more intelligent.

Charles is certain he has covered his tracks well, strikes a deal with a man he believes to represent a competitor Pharmaceutical company, soon learns that he has gotten himself caught up in something far more dangerous than he had ever thought possible. He makes good an escape, discovers himself far from his home in California, is on the East Coast with no money, is cold and hungry before turning to a homeless shelter where he finds refuge, comfort and a closeness with God that he has never known before.

I found Smart Vaccine to be a well penned work in which a tangled narration occupied with compelling motivations, displays Sadok's deftness for presenting the human situation coupled with his descriptive narrative. His is a tale intended to draw the reader right into the content through means of skillful interlacing of content lines. The interwoven story lines do suffice to keep readers engrossed and turning the pages as they meet the captivating characters fleshing Sadok's controlled text. Created with noesis Smart Vaccine presents an involved uncertainty jam-packed story line as the basis for the work presenting believable uncertainty, and heart stopping near misses along with a thought-provoking result.

Sadok proves to be an inventive author who has created a riveting domain infused with a powerful, well written story that is one you will want to complete in one setting; so choose a time when you can read from beginning to end.

In this suspense filled narrative engineered with skill, awash with conflict satisfactorily resolved, vibrant characters come to life under the penning of author Sadok. The 'good' guys are rattling good, and the mobsters are genuinely horrifying. Interest is preserved during a galvanizing rush end-to-end crammed into the work. The tale complete with a large portion of angst, development, perfidiousness as well as enigmatic circumstances comes together as one persuasive read.

Dialog as presented adds a disarming fell of the dramatic and added dimension to the message through use of hard hitting, granular, non profane, persuasive and strong vocabulary.

Settings provided with sufficient particulars enable readers to form mental imaging of the surroundings further maintains reader interest.

While Sadok's biography acknowledges he is authoring novels with a Christian mindset: I find he executes his goal without coming across as preachy.

We who enjoy powerful thrillers can only hope R D Sadok is hard at work on the next, and many more novels are soon forthcoming.. Gripping Read ... Happy to Recommend ... 4 stars

Molly Martin, Reviewer

Polk's Bookshelf

Extinction Code; Ancient Origin Series
James D. Prescott
Privately Published
9781926456218, $11.95, paperback
B0764BMDYW, $2.99, Kindle
9781926456218, eBook

Dr. Jack Greer gambled big when he leased a deep sea drilling rig and sought evidence of the meteorite that devastated the dinosaurs sixty-five million years ago on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico. He never expected to find a space-craft...and he never expected to find himself controlled by the U.S. Navy in what could easily become a war-zone; or find himself the potential victim of extremist elements determined to destroy his find.

Dr. Mia Ward, sought answers necessary to cure human genetic diseases. When her old nemesis and former mentor, Alan Salzburg, is killed, she finds that his death, and her research, seem linked to Greer's drilling operation in the Gulf.

What follows is a fascinating and suspense filled tale of intergalactic genetic engineering of the human genome designed to result in the rise of hominids on Earth.

Greer, Ward and Greer's partner in the expedition, Dr. Gabby Bishop, are well developed characters. Each of them is likable and believable. None of them are heroes; all of them have big risks on the table; None of them trust the Navy...although with some exceptions, the Navy proves to be a reliable ally. In identifying with the characters, however, the reader is called upon to identify with the courage it would take to enter and explore an ancient alien space-craft buried beneath the ocean floor. This is not the first book of this kind I've read, but in reality, the type of courage it would take to actually do this is, in my estimation, mind-blowing.

A clear winner for sci-fi and action adventure fans, I found this to be an excellent, riveting story and well worth 5-Stars.

The Event; The Survivors Series
Nathan Hystad
Privately Published
9781985626263, $TBA, paperback
B079LZR278, $0.99, Kindle

Imagine that alien space ships suddenly appeared over every major city on Earth and began harvesting every human being using tractor beams. Imagine that humanity is powerless, terrified and has no idea whether they will live or die. Imagine that three or four people have been spared and have no clue why. Each of them has been married to a spouse that has died mysteriously and with similar symptoms. Imagine these few are chosen to play a special role in a comic civil war in which Earth is caught in the middle...and that they have no concept of what they must face.

Dean, is one of the 'chosen'. Allied with a cocker spaniel named Carey, Dean's character must meet up with others who are chosen to be led by an alien race against a faction of the same alien race who are determined to inhabit the Earth. Dean proves to be a likeable, if somewhat clueless, hero bolstered by a second chosen, Mary, as they struggle again long odds and internal treachery to save the other occupants of Earth.

The Event is a slightly far-fetched read that I found entertaining just to see what kind madness turned up next. I particularly wanted to know the fate of the rest of the occupants of Earth; whether or not Earth would be saved from some of its excessive human population by the hostile actions of aliens. Doubtless, you will interested in finding that out as well.

To do so, however, you will need to buy a copy of The Event and read it. The Event should be appreciated by most any sci-fi fan with a sense of humor. 4 Stars

In Times Like These
Nathan Van Coops
Skylighter Press
9780989475501, $10.99, paperback
B00FCCT6UQ, $2.99, Kindle

What happens when you mix five friends who play softball with a lightning strike from a Florida thunderstorm? Time travel, that's what! All the way back to 1986; twenty-three years in the past...when they were two to four years old, when their parents were young, and grandparents were still alive...when time travelers were as active as they were in 2009, the time they left.

When Ben, Carson, Robbie, Blake and Francesca are struck by lightning as they sat on the dugout bench of a softball field in St. Petersburg, Florida they are not only faced with coping with time travel itself, but must cope with a escaped murderer from their time; a murderer they find they must face and defeat in order to prevent disaster. Learning bits and pieces of time knowledge and wisdom from several different practitioners, they learn to manipulate time enough to confront their least as far as the murderer is concerned. But are they being manipulated by a master time traveler with a personal agenda...and perhaps a vendetta to be served in a different timeline?

In Times Like These will keep every time travel fan on their edge of their seats and it winds its way through a maze of twists and turns, pitfalls and dead ends made all the more confusing by the time travel element. Are they being manipulated? I guess you'll have to read it to know! 5-Stars

Clabe Polk, Reviewer

Suanne's Bookshelf

Freyja's Daughter
Rachel Pudelek
City Owl Press
9781944728687, $14.99

People who enjoy urban fantasy with good world-building will enjoy Rachel Pudelek's debut novel, Freyja's Daughter, released in May 2018 by City Owl Press. It is based on an interesting premise: groups of supernatural women have been forced into submission. A group of men called Hunters control these women, terming their care as "protection" them but more truthfully, keeping the women "tame". These women are subjected to punishments if they don't adhere to monthly and random check-ins and follow the Hunters' rules. The women are forced to suppress their abilities. Any use of their powers is revealed on their monthly check-ins, and if positive, the Hunters won't hesitate to punish them.

Worse, their history and much of their culture has been expunged by the Hunters, so in many ways, like human women, they have lost their rightful place in the world as well as their trust of each other.

Pudelek does a great job giving each of these tribes of women - huldras, mermaids, succubae, rusalki, and harpies - different personalities and traits. The huldras are "tree women" who grow bark on their skin after a kill. The mermaids are the typical mermaids of fantasy. The succubae can control thoughts and emotions and incapacitate a person. The harpies are winged women of legend. The rusalki are the "earth mothers" living in holes in the ground to be as close as possible to the earth and having the ability to teleport themselves and read minds. The protagonist, Faline, is a bounty hunter, an unusual occupation for a woman. In addition she is one of these wild women, a huldra, and her journey to self-realization and her growth as a leader of the various tribes - and carrying out a revolution - is well-developed in this book.

The impetus to Faline stepping into a leadership role is the kidnapping of her sister, yet this seems to resonate minimally with only minimal emotion from Faline. I realize this is an action-adventure-fantasy, but I would expect more of an emotional response from a woman whose mother and sister have both been torn from her life.

I recommend this book despite the fact that I can't figure out how a tribe that reproduces with men and can only bear female children (the huldra) hasn't died out over the centuries.

All-American Cowboy
Dylann Crush
Sourcebooks Casablanca
c/o Sourcebooks, Inc.
PO Box 4410, Naperville, IL 60567-4410
9781492662617, $7.99

I enjoy an occasional romance when I need lighter reading, and as a Texan, All-American Cowboy, set in the fictional Texas town of Holiday, appealed to me. Other readers of Texas-based romances or contemporary romance in general will also enjoy this light-hearted romp.

All-American Cowboy is Dylann Crush's debut novel, but she writes well within the genre and entertains readers with an amusing story line using tried-and-true romance tropes. It is a cute contemporary Texas romance which utilizes the fish-out-of-water trope when a New York executive (Beck) must work three months at a Texas honky-tonk to secure an inheritance from his recently deceased grandfather. The female love interest is the tortured heroine, Charlie, who has run the honky-tonk for the past eight years and has hidden herself in this little Texas town and suppressed her emotions since her longtime boyfriend was killed by an IED while serving in the military. A cute change is that Charlie goes to visit Beck in New York and is, in turn, a fish-out-of-water in the big city. Charlie is sassy and Beck sexy enough to steam up the pages, but Ms. Crush adds some slapstick shenanigans based on the local penchant for a beauty contest for the best-looking pig.

The Girl from Blind River
Gale Massey
Crooked Lane Books
9781683316404, $26.99

The Girl from Blind River is a fast-paced, impressive debut novel from Gale Massey. Her clear, piecing prose belies the "debut" label. In it we meet Jamie Elders, a young woman of nineteen who's trapped in Blind River, a small town where everyone knows everyone else's business and in which children are pegged from birth to follow family bloodlines.

When Jamie and her brother were young, their mother was sent to prison. Their uncle Loyal took them in, saving them from the "evils" of the Social Services Department. Anxious to break away and branch out on her own, Jamie wants to head to Florida to make money on the professional poker circuit. She learned cards from her mother early on and has the instincts of a savant, yet her age and inexperience necessarily mean she is somewhat naive. She also can't leave Blind River as long as her brother Toby is in the care of the abusive Loyal who is in cahoots with a corrupt judge.

Jamie's naivete also leads her to a going-nowhere affair with a married man who uses her for more than just sex. Despite her faults, she is well-rounded, but resourceful, smart, and strong. Her backstory is sprinkled in judiciously. The other characters are also well-rounded. No one, however, is totally innocent, and the town itself is far from the protypical American small town. Rundown and cold as the proverbial witch's tit, Blind River is a character in itself.

Massey does a terrific job amping up the tension. Jamie borrows from the money she collects from Loyal's illegal gambling machines and loses it. In fiasco after fiasco, she grows deeper in debt to her snake of an uncle. Only when a detective from out of town convinces her to tell the truth of what she knows does Jamie see an end to her life in Blind River.

The Uninvited Corpse
Debra Sennefelder
9781496715920, $7.99

The Uninvited Corpse is author Debra Sennefelder's debut novel, the first in the Food Blogger Mystery series. It is entertaining and fluffy and will engage those readers who enjoy cozy mysteries and cooking.

Protagonist Hope Early is a likable heroine, strong, independent, and feisty. Hope has returned to her hometown - from a stint in New York City - to recover from her divorce and a loss in a reality cooking show. Hope has her hands full writing the blog "Hope at Home", cooking, renovating an old house, and raising chickens.

She tries to become more involved in her home town and attends several functions like the library bake sale and the spring party of the local garden club. Corpses start dropping, and Hope invariably finds them. An ardent mystery reader from her school days, she's intrigued, and when her sister becomes the lead subject, Hope becomes actively involved, determined to investigate and save her sister.

I enjoyed the cooking aspects, and Ms. Sennefelder has a way of describing food so that the reader can almost smell and taste it. Some of the recipes described can be found at the end of the book, and I was intrigued enough to consider trying them. However, I found the fashion descriptions to be tedious. I disliked the overly-involved descriptions of everyone's footwear and clothing, but those details may appeal to other more fashionista-ish readers.

Some characters are fairly well-developed (Hope, the police chief, for example); others are fairly two-dimensional. Two potential love interests, the police chief and a lawyer, provide fodder for future romantic entanglements. As this is a planned series, hopefully the characters will be rounded out over time.

In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills
Jennifer Haupt
Central Avenue Publishing
9781771681339, $15.95

In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills is Jennifer Haupt's debut novel. It will appeal to anyone interested in foreign affairs, race and prejudices, the Civil Rights Movement and the Rwandan genocide, and literary fiction.

Haupt carefully weaves her settings (current Rwanda, the Rwanda of the 1994 genocide, the present United States, and the States during the 1960's Civil Rights Movement), along with multiple points of view, into a rich tapestry that will hold you spellbound as the fabric forms beneath your eyes.

Four women have loved photographer Henry: Merilee, his ex-wife who dies of cancer; Rachel, the daughter he abandoned to seek his fortune; Lillian, the woman he loved though he married Merilee; Nadine, another daughter-figure. Three of these women end up in Rwanda together at Lillian's farm where she raises orphans along with produce. Lillian, living her dream of helping the world one person at a time rather than in a large-scale movement, loves Henry but recognizes his limitations as a man and husband. Merilee, involved in EST, decides that divorcing Henry will transform her life. Nadine, a child Henry rescued during the genocide, must deal with her own traumatic experiences as well as Henry's abandonment. Rachel seeks relief from the grief of her second miscarriage and searching for answers as to why her father left her.

In addition, an American physician, Tucker, grieves for his lost wife and carries the burden of co-parenting with Lillian, a child with HIV named Rose.

Against the backdrop of the Rwandan hills, these diverse characters, while attempting to heal themselves, form a multi-cultural family while their nation copes with the ugly remnants of the genocide.

In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills is extraordinary, rising slowly to an intense, satisfying peak. Moving and powerful, this book deals with universal conditions of humanity: love, abandonment, loss, grief, starting over, finding your true self, finding amahoro or peace, the devastating effects of violence, fear, and vengeance. I finished this book then immediately started it again.

The Wild Birds
Emily Strelow
Rare Bird Books
9781947856516, $21.00

Emily Strelow's novel The Wild Birds is an mesmerizing debut. It will appeal to readers of literary fiction and those with an interest in the West Coast, historical fiction, and birding.

Strelow deftly weaves a diverse cast of characters and three time frames into a cohesive whole, a mosaic glittering in the sunlight. Olive, an orphan who disguises herself as a boy and becomes a lighthouse keeper's assistant on the Farallon Islands in the 1870s. Victor, the runaway son of a wealthy parents, searches for a place in which he can find himself and to call home in the 1940s. Finally, in the present day, Alice and Lily, a mother and daughter are tied by their unique relationship to each other and to the family's filbert farm. Alice loves Sal, another woman, and eventually leaves her daughter to find her true love. Tying all these lives together is a lovely spandrel - a silver box with partitions to hold egg shells.

With some of the best nature prose I've read, Strelow reveals the intimacy and the grandeur of the Pacific Northwest, an experience akin to being in an Ansel Adams landscape. There is an underlying thread of abuse of the land bringing to mind an understated Rachel Carson. Her knowledge and love of birding is apparent and her ability to transport readers to forests and deserts is unparalleled.

The Wild Birds is one of the few books I've read recently that I was sorry to see end. Strelow's characterization of her sundry characters is spot on, from an unborn child to tormented teens to an elderly man with dementia; each searches for the home - or in Alice's case, the person - that will complete them. The Wild Birds illuminates the human spirit and reveals the long and sometimes twisted roads we take to find ourselves, our families, and our homes.

Don't Call Me Cupcake
Tara Sheets
Zebra Shout
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
9781420146264, $4.99

Don't Call Me Cupcake is author Tara Sheets's debut novel, the first in her Holloway Girls series. It will appeal to those who like light paranormal romances.

Though this book is outside my normal reading material, but I was quickly drawn in by its charm. The plot is cute, the dialogue fresh and breezy, and the fluffy story a perfect end to a long, frustrating day.

The paranormal aspect adds just enough leavening to make this story rise above its contemporary romance competitors. The magical aspects are cute and deftly woven into the story. The sentient house steals the show!

A big-time Seattle business man, Hunter Kane, moves to a sleepy island town with ideas to open a restaurant and to bring the town into the 21st century. He immediately runs into Emma Holloway, the local baker, who mixes magical spells into her cupcakes. The couple try to ignore their growing attraction which Emma attributes to a misguided magical spell placed by her cousin.

This book utilizes several romance tropes: Billionaire hero: Hunter Kane is a rich alpha male who can buy anything he wants - except true love. Fish-out-of- water: When he moves to the coastal village, he doesn't fit in but still manages to win his true love's heart. Opposites attract: Hunter is rich, math- and money- and goal-oriented who doesn't believe in love and marriage while Emma is a go-with-the-flow woman who still dreams of finding her one-and-only.

Baby Teeth
Zoje Stage
St. Martin's Press
9781250170750, $26.99

Baby Teeth is author Zoje Stage's deliciously creepy debut novel. It's not quite a thriller but definitely is a dark, compulsively-readable page-turner, peopled with complex, dysfunctional characters. I chose to read this book because I'd heard both good and bad about it. If you enjoy reading about twisted minds, even that of a child, this book is for you. Whether you like the book or not, it's bound to stir up strong emotions, especially among parents who will second-guess their parenting skills.

Baby Teeth alternates between the point of view of Hanna, the nonverbal, but brilliant seven-year-old child of well-educated parents who try to do everything to protect and nurture their child, right from the moment of conception, and that of her mother, Suzette. This technique lets the reader inside the vicious mind of Hanna and and allows insight into the effects her manipulations have on her mother. Stage ratchets up the tension by having Hanna and Suzette play them off of each other, each pushing the other into new behaviors. in incredible ways, ratcheting up the tension throughout the novel as we see how far the two of them can push each other.

As the story progresses, Stage reveals that all is not perfect in this seemingly-perfect family. Suzette, the mother, suffers from Crohn's disease, and that inflammatory bowel disease progresses during her pregnancy. The victim of poor mothering herself, Suzette resolves to be a better parent that her own mother had been. Once the child arrives, the parents grow somewhat apart, but each feels that is normal when a baby moves in with two adults who are very much in love.

Suzette, a stay-at-home mother, bears the brunt of raising Hanna and must begin homeschooling after her daughter is expelled from kindergarten. Tensions escalate between mother and daughter as Hanna's acting out increases. Suzette's over-exposure to her daughter leaves her questioning her child-rearing abilities - to the point she wonders whether the unconditional love of a parent for a child is possible.

The father, Alex, like many fathers, is only involved with his child in the evenings and on weekends and refuses to believe his adorable daughter is as manipulative as Suzette leads him to believe - or even acknowledge that Hanna misbehaves. Eventually, Alex begins to see his daughter's flaws. Her bizarre, violent behavior cracks even his unconditional love.

As a physician, I've seen sociopaths and psychopaths. Though Hanna's thinking seems a bit too mature for her chronological age, being an intelligent is not incompatible with being a budding psychopath - and in fact may enhance the state.

Suanne Schafer, Reviewer

Susan's Bookshelf

Tricycle and Friends: The True Life Adventures of a Three-Legged Golden Retriever and His Rescued Farm Animal Friends
Lester Aradi
Post Hill Press
9781682617618, $16.39, 32 Pages

This wonderful children's books is about a three legged retriever called Tricycle who is adopted by a family, and goes to live at their farm.

Once there, he meets Buckaroo, the miniature donkey. The two quickly become friends, and Buckaroo introduces Tricycle to some of the other animals. Many are adopted too. He soon discovers that there are all sorts, not only other dogs, but horses, llamas, chickens, and honey bees.

Every one has their own story to tell, and no one cares that Tricyce has only three legs, in fact they are interested to know how he lost it, and if it bothers him. He in return discovers that all his new friends have their own stories to tell, and that the farm is a magical place where they can all live together in harmony.

Through the talented storytelling of Lester Aradi, and the wonderful illustrations of Darwin Marfil, children learn in a very gentle way, through the experiences of Tricycle and his friends, how being different is okay, and as the book progresses they learn about bullying, the importance of adopting animals, and many other things.

That this beautiful Golden Retriever and the farm, with its animals actually exist is the icing on the cake - one day perhaps I will be lucky enough to visit!

Available from Amazon:

Miles for Bonnie: Finding our Family
Irene Helenowski
Amazon Digital Services
B07FC2885J, $2.99, 297 pages

This is a truly inspirational story which takes you on the rollercoaster which is Dave's life.

Who is Dave? Well Dave was just your average man who runs a diner and gets on with life. That is he did, until his beloved wife Bonnie dies. Now he is a broken man, going through the motions, with a big house and business, but no sparkle in his eye. He has known his waitress Tammy for a long time and she has had her own fair share of misery, but she is a mother and must get on with life, with kids to feed and work she just gets on with things, there's no place for self-pity.

Then, one evening just before Christmas, at the end of a busy day a client called Nicholas stays to natter, and his parting words have an incredible impact on Dave, taking him down a pathway he could never have imagined.

From that day he changes his life completely, and remembering his dear Bonnie's words he decides to travel and help people...

As the reader joins Dave on his journey we meet people from all walks of life, each with their own story to tell, and Dave intuitively seems to know what they want, be it a shoulder to cry on, tough love or support. In return he receives love and respect from those who get to know him.

However, home is home and when the yearning for the diner becomes too much he returns. During his absence many alterations have been made to the place, and even bigger plans are afoot. Yet just after his homecoming Dave discovers he is not immune to disaster, and when it strikes he learns he needs help too. Encouraged to write his story, he finds peace in its telling, and then discovers that there are yet more adventure to be had...

With twists and turns, this amazing story simultaneously both pulls at your heart strings and fills you with inspiration. A great read and one which people from all walks of life will enjoy.

Available from Amazon:

Susan Keefe, Reviewer

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

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