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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 19, Number 8 August 2019 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Amanda Barlow's Bookshelf Andrea Kay's Bookshelf Andy Jordan's Bookshelf
Ann Evans' Bookshelf Ann Skea's Bookshelf Barry Moreno's Bookshelf
BlueInk Reviews Camille-Yvette Welsch's Bookshelf Carl Logan's Bookshelf
Carol Smallwood's Bookshelf Clabe Polk's Bookshelf Clint Travis' Bookshelf
Daniel Casey's Bookshelf David Gray's Bookshelf David Williams' Bookshelf
Ed Sarna's Bookshelf Fran Lewis' Bookshelf Greg Bem's Bookshelf
Jack Magnus' Bookshelf Jack Mason's Bookshelf James Martin's Bookshelf
Janine Hornsby's Bookshelf Jen Lis' Bookshelf John Burroughs' Bookshelf
Julie Summers' Bookshelf K.C. Finn's Bookshelf Kindle Book Review Team's Bookshelf
Kirkus Reviews Lyric Hunter's Bookshelf Margaret Lane's Bookshelf
Mari Carlson's Bookshelf Marj Charlier's Bookshelf Mayra Calvani's Bookshelf
Michael Carson's Bookshelf Michael Hartnett's Bookshelf Molly Martin's Bookshelf
N. Moss' Bookshelf Paige Bremner's Bookshelf Penny Carter-Francis' Bookshelf
Rebecca Bethel's Bookshelf Ronna Russell's Bookshelf Samantha Freehold's Bookshelf
Suanne Schafer's Bookshelf Susan Bethany's Bookshelf Susan Keefe's Bookshelf
Teri Davis' Bookshelf Willis Buhle's Bookshelf ZenaLei7's Bookshelf

Amanda Barlow's Bookshelf

Breaking the Gas Ceiling: Women in the Offshore Oil and Gas Industry
Rebecca Ponton
Modern History Press
9781615994441, $37.95 HC, $6.95 Kindle
9781615994434, $15.95, PB, 292pp,

An Inconvenient Life: My Unconventional Career As A Wellsite Geologist

In Breaking the GAS Ceiling Rebecca talks to a number of women, some of whom were among the first to explore this relatively new frontier in the 1970s and '80s when the offshore sector began opening up to women, and who paved the way for a new generation of female oil and gas workers, as well as some of the inspiring young women who are helping bring about the change they want to see in the offshore world. Chapter by chapter Rebecca reveals the real-life account of one amazing woman after another, each chapter being a transcript of an interview with some of the most remarkably talented and resilient women in our industry.

Women's roles are changing in both society and the workplace, with male fiefdoms being cracked open with educated and ambitious women now playing an increasingly active part across a range of professions. Despite this, Rebecca recognized that the energy sector, especially the oil and gas industry, had lagged behind other industries. Traditionally, this was considered to be a male domain but increasingly women are choosing to accept the challenge and are now playing an active part in key activities such as exploring and producing hydrocarbons for an energy-hungry world.

Throughout the chapters in this book you can see how change is slowly but surely being driven by women themselves and the choices they make. The way women perceive themselves and their role at work has changed irrevocably as they opt for education pathways in science, technology and management. However, as they embark on their careers they still face resistance at every stage. The women interviewed for this book all show a common thread of resilience born of hardship, determination and indifference to other people's perceived perceptions of an industry that hasn't traditionally been women-friendly. It still isn't in some respects. But it is changing.

You'll be left wanting more chapters...more stories of fascinating careers from inspirational women who have left an indelible mark on the oil and gas industry for future generations. Finally the word is getting out that women can build successful careers within the oil and gas industry. Upstream, midstream and downstream; wherever hydrocarbons can flow, women can go!

Amanda Barlow

Andrea Kay's Bookshelf

Things You Save in a Fire
Katherine Center, author
Read by Therese Plummer
Macmillan Audio
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 315, New York, NY 10010
9781250221407 $39.99

Things You Save in a Fire is the unabridged audiobook rendition of a romantic novel about a courageous female firefighter effectively married to her job - until a change of cities places her in an unfamiliar work environment. After moving to Boston to help her ailing mother, she finds the Boston firehouse underfunded, with terrible facilities, and a cold welcome from her male co-workers, except for one rookie who stirs butterflies in her heart. Her old captain advised her to never date firefighters, and to fall in love with one could risk everything - her life, her career, and the hero she has sacrificed to become! Thoughtful, intense, and emotionally moving, Things You Save in a Fire is highly recommended especially for personal and public library audiobook collections. 8 CDs, 9.5 hours.

Bark of Night
David Rosenfelt, author
Read by Grover Gardner
Macmillan Audio
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 315, New York, NY 10010
9781250220776 $29.99

Award-winning author David Rosenfelt presents Bark of Night, a mystery novel in the "Andy Carpenter" series now available as an unabridged audiobook. When defense lawer Andy Carpenter brings his beloved golden retriever to the vet for a checkup, he learns that a perfectly healthy French bulldog named Truman was dropped off at the vet's clinic, with instructions to be euthanized. But the person who gave those instructions was not Truman's owner - a microchip confirms the identity of Truman's real owner, who has been murdered! A dog-lover's mystery unfolds, in this smartly written, fast-paced story brought to life with Grover Gardner's dulcet performance. Highly recommended! 6 CDs, 7 hours.

Whisper Network
Chandler Baker, author
Read by Almarie Guerra
Macmillan Audio
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 315, New York, NY 10010
9781250220899 $39.99

Superbly performed Almarie Guerra, Whisper Network is the unabridged audiobook rendition of Chandler Baker's thrilling, darkly humorous novel about workplace harassment. Three female friends have worked together at Truviv Inc. for years, helping one another through tough times, parenthood, divorce, and office politics. When Truviv's CEO suddenly dies, his likely replacement is a man with a dark side, surrounded by whispers... shocking, terrible whispers about his bad behavior. When he targets a new, young female employee, the three-woman sisterhood decide to make a stand, with potentially devastating consequences! A riveting saga of tangled lies and targeted retaliation, Whisper Network is highly recommended for both personal and public library audiobook collections. 10 CDs, 12.5 hours.

The Weight of Smoke
George Robert Minkoff, author
Read by Nigel Gore
Minkoff Audio
c/o Alison Larkin Presents
9781982748586 $39.99 CD / $29.95 digital

The first novel in the "Land of Whispers" trilogy, now released as an unabridged audiobook, Weight of Smoke is presented as the final words of Captain John Smith about the disastrous first two decades of the Jamestown colony. Here are tales of desperation, struggle, and survival in the untamed New World, brought to vivid life by the superb performance of critically acclaimed Shakespearean actor Nigel Gore. The Weight of Smoke is a thoroughly engrossing historical novel, highly recommended for both personal and public library audiobook collections. 15 CDs, 18.5 hours.

Being Small (Isn't So Bad After All)
Lori Orlinsky
Mascot Publishing
560 Herndon Parkway, #120, Herndon, VA 20170
9781643071275, $14.95, HC, 38pp,

Being small is the worst! No one ever picks me for their sports team and my feet hurt from standing on my tiptoes all the time. There can't be anything good about being small...right? "Being Small (Isn't So Bad After All)" is a picture book by author and illustrator Lori Orlinsky about a little girl who is scared to go to school because she's the shortest kid in the class. She talks about all of the reasons that being short is a challenge, but her mother presents to her funny and unique advantages that only she has because of her height, instilling self-confidence in her. "Being Small (Isn't So Bad After All)" is a must-read for any child ages 4-8 who has ever fallen behind the curve on the growth chart. Also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $6.99), "Being Small (Isn't So Bad After All)" is very highly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections.

Andrea Kay

Andy Jordan's Bookshelf

The Dirt
Motley Crue
Read by Hillary Huber, Fred Berman, MacLeod Andrews, Sebastian York, and Roger Wayne
Harper Audio
195 Broadway, Floor 2, New York, NY 10007-3132
9781094017488 $44.99

The Dirt is the unabridged audiobook rendition of the sensational biography of the legendary rock band Motley Crue. Here are shocking true stories of backstage scandals, celebrity trysts, battles with drug addiction, and head-banging rock 'n' roll. An utterly unforgettable tell-all about the world of rockstars The Dirt is enthusiastically recommended especially for public library audiobook collections.12 CDs, 15 hours.

One Good Deed
David Baldacci, author
Read by Edoardo Ballerini
Hachette Audio
1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104
9781549151941 $40.00

Set in 1949, One Good Deed is the unabridged audiobook rendition of a novel about Aloysius Archer, a war veteran recently released from prison on parole. Under the vigilant eye of his parole officer, Aloysius looks for a job and a drink - and gets more than he bargained for, when a seemingly simple debt collection assignment snowballs into a complicated morass of gripes and grudges. Then a shocking murder happens, and Aloysius realizes that if he doesn't find the killer quickly, all suspicions will fall on him as an ex-convict! A gritty period piece mystery-thriller with twists and turns, One Good Dead is a "must-have" for connoisseurs of the genre, enriched by Edoardo Ballerini's stellar performance. 10 CDs, 12 hours.

The Escape Room
Megan Goldin, author
Read by Ramon De Ocampo and January LaVoy
Macmillan Audio
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 315, New York, NY 10010
9781250221537 $39.99

The Escape Room is the unabridged audiobook rendition of a suspenseful novel of cruel secrets and vicious revenge. Four ruthlessly competitive, rising stars of Wall Street participate in an "escape room challenge" as a team-building exercise, but the game quickly turns into a horrific trap. Can they put aside their rivalries and survive the lethal trials, or will they turn on one another? Riveting to the very end, and brought to life with a brilliant performance from Ramon De Ocampo and January LaVoy, The Escape Room is highly recommended for personal and public library audiobook collections. 9 CDs, 11 hours.

Andy Jordan

Ann Evans' Bookshelf

Union Square
Adrian Gibbons Koesters
Apprentice House Press
c/o Loyola University in Maryland
9781627201926, $26.99 HC, $6.29 Kindle, 238pp.
9781627201933, $15.99 PB,

Good descriptions. For example on Page 2: "Through the day, the clean, weak sunlight will pass over the tarred lengths of the roofs, slide over the straight moldings, and a block away stagger downhill."

She deals in ambiguity, just the way real life is. We don't know if a relationship between Carmella Stunchon, is having lesbian relationship with Miss Maurice or whether they're just friends. It fiddles in the back of the brain as a question, just the way it does in real life. Humans like to know what they're dealing with, and when we can't and even the most liberal-minded person likes to know where they stand with others.

It's hard at first to accept that people live in sch depravity and poverty, but then you get to know the characters and they're reacting the same way you'd probably react if you had such a mother, such a grandmother, kept such company. The idea f a drug-addled, prostitute of a mother would be worrying about her daughters' good manners seems ludicrous at first, but why not?

The cruelty is shocking: when the mother asks her young son to go get the belt, she strikes him with it across the face. The face?

The humor is embedded in the language. "Young Mr. Emerson's mother had been quite an accomplishment."

The tide of the book doesn't rely on great storms to turn and twist it. Small obstacles arise suddenly. Then the young boy and his father arrive back from the hospital where his mother has suddenly and unexpectedly died, they find her pocketbook on the table, the sheets still tousled on the bed. As a reader, I didn't feel "Oh, that's too bad, how sad," I took in a sharp breath. It struck my solar plexus, not my heart. It's as if you were driving at 80 miles an hour down the road, and suddenly there's a hairpin turn and you squeal around it. For example, when the boy's father puts money on the table and then tells him he's leaving, the boy is not terrified, he says he would be happier than he had ever been in his life. Squeal.

Poverty, not race, is the marker here.

A ship of Fools, a circus of the odd, an impressionist painting. Fearless, brave confrontation with loneliness the likes of which few of us had ever suffered. Abandonment by parents.

People are described only by brushstrokes, yet the reader understands them perfectly well. What more concrete expression of boredom than standing at the window trying to spit into the exact spot over and over again. A man is defined when you learn he depends on fried scrapple for his nourishment. What man wears a bow tie and boxer shorts?

Page 43 1st paragraph should be known line 7 Page 47 line 4, "an sensible knowledge".

She barges into the parts of life that usually are left out - the practical details of masturbation and sex, the lusting after, but not assaulting, a five-year-old girl, the abandonment of children, the presence of a mother's sex clients, some of them stinking and rude. These are dealt with as matter-of-factly as the morning bacon.

Pointed POV of each character. They don't interact. They just live in the same neighborhood; a neglected girl child, an abandoned old man, a murderous Irish boxer, She saves in-depth description for just th right moments - coming in the door to tend a dead father, where everything is moving slow. Or when the doctor is examining their grievously wounded friend, noting the hairs in his nose and the drape of his jowls.

Exquisite command of the Baltimore dialect that comes like a jewel in the middle of various stories, "when did you ever et a sub without it was no mayonnaise on it." (People don't say that in New Jersey). "I'm gonna live m and die on Stricker Street."

How do you tell the story of a person's whole life with just a few well chosen details? Skillfully.
Shifts POV occasionally, so seamlessly that you don't notice.

The brutality of their lives is almost funny. People don't go to the hospital when they're beaten to a pulp, or when they break a hand, they're left to suck it up

There are anchors in he story which flesh out or frame the neighborhood, like Dolan's grocery store and bar. These desperate people, who are so used to desperation that they could be called "happy," some of them, all visit these places.

Ann Evans

Ann Skea's Bookshelf

Everything in its Place: First Loves and Last Tales
Oliver Sacks
Pan Macmillan
9781509821792, A$39.99, hardback, 274 pages

Those who knew Oliver Sacks as a practicing neurologist who wrote The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Awakenings (which inspired a play and a popular film), were surprised when his memoir On The Move revealed his passion for motorbikes, extreme weightlifting and, briefly and addictively, amphetamines. This new book, published four years after Sacks' death, offers more surprises and is as enjoyable and interesting as his earlier books.

True to its sub-title, its essays range from first loves to last tales, including memories, observations, stories, opinions, patient-studies and, amongst the final essays, written when he knew he was dying, a glowing appreciation for gefilte fish "which will usher me out of this life, as it ushered me into it eighty-two years ago"; and a sad commentary on the way technology now monopolises our attention and invades our privacy.

Looking back on his earliest childhood years he remembers the start of his lifelong passion for swimming and notes that later, at the age of 43, when he was named 'Top Distance Swimmer at the Mount Vernon Y in 1976-7', he had swum five hundred lengths of the pool (six miles) and "would have continued, but the judges said "Enough! Please go home".

Another early love was biology, and he writes a hilarious account of the explosive, horribly smelly and messy result of a failed seaside holiday attempt to impress his school biology teacher by collecting and preserving dozens of cuttlefish.

Like Rudyard Kipling's mongoose, Rikki Tikki Tavi, Sacks seems always to have been "eaten up from nose to tail with insatiable curiosity". This was fuelled early on by the South Kensington Museums in London, where he haunted the Natural History Museum until staff got to know him and allowed him into the "private realm of the new Spirit Building", where specimens from around the world were sorted and identified.

The Science Museum had special interest for him, since it housed a display showing the Landau Miners' Lamp invented by his grandfather in 1869 and which, as the display label attested "displaced the earlier Humphrey Davey Lamp". But, for him, the real epiphany (as he puts it) was his discovery at the age of ten of the Periodic Table on the fifth floor: "not one of your nasty, natty, modern little spirals, but a solid rectangular one covering a whole wall, with separate cubicles for every element and actual elements, whenever possible".

Science in all its forms became his life's interest, and reading, too, was all absorbing. He was lucky to grow up in a house where books of all kinds were valued and easily accessible, and "whenever I was late for lunch I could be found so completely absorbed in what I was reading that all time would be lost". The local public libraries, including specialist libraries which he sought out, were where "I received my real education". And later, at Oxford, the ancient books in the Radcliffe Science Library, the Bodleian, and in the catacombs of Queen's College Library, introduced him to original research notes and old classics which gave him "a sense of history and of my own language".

As he got older, impaired vision hindered his reading and in one impassioned essay he deplores the way e-books, audio-books and digitised texts have replaced "books with heft, with a bookish-smell" and books he could read in the bath. The severely restricted range of large-print books makes him furious: "did publishers think the visually impaired were intellectually impaired, too?".

An essay on asylums, which were once real places of refuge for those considered mad, is knowledgeable and fascinating. As is his chapter on 'The Ageing Brain'. He bases musings on the possibility of extra-terrestrial life on his own scientific knowledge and reading. And the few case-histories he recounts, such as the case of finding a cure for persistent hiccups, and the effects of environment on a friend who suffers from Tourette Syndrome, are written with the same insight and sensitivity to the patients as was shown in his earlier books.

Some of the late essays, such as that on the gait of elephants, are curious. One close encounter with an Orangutan at the zoo is beautifully described. And the surprising vision of a dozen people "flattened against the enormous embankment of the Park Avenue railroad trestle, peering with magnifying glasses and monoculars into tiny crevices in the stone" simply demonstrates the huge variety of activities to which Sacks' insatiable curiosity led him: "we were assembled for a meeting of the American Fern Society", he explains. "And this is a perfect place to see chink-finding xerophytic ferns".

This book is varied and interesting and, although Sacks occasionally assumes that his reader is familiar with scientific or medical terms, the book is easy to read and Sacks tells his stories well.

Dr Ann Skea, Reviewer

Barry Moreno's Bookshelf

The Man Who Lit Lady Liberty: The Extraordinary Rise and Fall of Actor M. B. Curtis
Richard Schwartz
RSB Books
Paperback ISBN: 9780967820460, $19.95, 320pp
Hardback ISBN: 9780967820453, $29.95, 332 pp

In this outstanding new biography of that remarkable immigrant thespian M. B. Curtis, Richard Schwartz gives readers a lost episode in the story of the Statue of Liberty and her torch - that it was none other than Curtis himself who helped pay for Miss Liberty's first electric lighting bills in November 1886. This is just one of the many absorbing episodes in this biography of one of the most talented character actors of his time.

Editorial Note: An historian and author, Barry Moreno is with the Bob Hope Memorial Library at Ellis Island, Statue of Liberty National Monument

Barry Moreno

BlueInk Reviews

Saint Unshamed: A Gay Mormon's Life
Kerry Ashton
Lynn Wolf Enterprises
9780692170519, $28.95 HC, $18.95 PB, $9.99 Kondle, 348pp,

This powerful, extensively detailed memoir tells the life story of Kerry Ashton, who grew up gay and Mormon in a small Idaho town.

An actor and playwright, Ashton dramatically tells his tale, first detailing his abusive childhood and struggles at college and later discussing his efforts to become a famous actor while learning to overcome his childhood shame.

Ashton's parents argued constantly. His mother, he writes, was "the only source of love I knew," while his father was frequently enraged at his youngest child's "sissy" behavior, such as when he performed the Cowardly Lion's song from The Wizard of Oz or cried during his parents' shouting matches.

At Brigham Young University, Ashton discovers sex in a restroom and deals with a crush on his friend Harlan, who slowly reveals his own troubled past. It's fascinating to watch this friendship (and the handsome former Marine's complex feelings towards Ashton) unfold.

Ashton is viciously raped during a hookup, and under threat of expulsion when university authorities learn of his cruising, undergoes electroshock therapy to "correct" his sexuality. (The Mormon church believes gay members can be changed and threatens excommunication for any who refuse treatment.) The procedure leaves his hands "constantly shaking."

Eventually, the author, with the help of his therapist and loving partner, works through the past trauma and begins to reconcile with his family.

Ashton is a passionate, unfailingly candid narrator. Using vivid detail, he crafts absorbing scenes. Additionally, some readers may be uncomfortable with Ashton's graphically described sexual encounters.

Overall, this is a compelling look at the repercussions of being gay in a community that sees this as a source of shame - a detailed record of one man's hurt and healing, while many more with similar stories have yet to speak of their pain.

BlueInk Reviews

Camille-Yvette Welsch's Bookshelf

God's Will and Other Lies
Penny Mickelbury
BLF Press
9780997243925, $15.95 PB, $9.99 Kindle, 206pp,

"[T]here was so much hurt and pain and fear and sorrow ... that I needed more than one kind of song to sing," says one of Penny Mickelbury's characters in God's Will and Other Lies. Here a cacophony of voices sing, spit, and scream their songs in a collection both historical and absolutely contemporary.

Mickelbury's stories chronicle the lives of black Americans, from an elderly woman at a Black Lives Matter rally to a family caught in the heart of Detroit's 12th Street Riots in 1967. Women anchor many of the stories as they battle against racism, rumors, insinuations, and sexism. Still, the women in these stories take great pains to create and retain their own dignity, whether that means killing a man or saving one.

Mickelbury moves across the South and through time, wielding characters that interact at the heart of some of the most powerful moments in American history. A young civil rights activist tries to register voters in Jim Crow South and nearly loses her life. A family moves to Detroit and witnesses the effects of Detroit's race riots, and two elderly sisters defend their home from a would-be burglar. In each case, Mickelbury's characters speak in distinct voices, rife with
the cadence of place, and her elderly characters are as uniquely defined as her children. Everyone has a fully realized place at this table. Mickelbury's great narrative knack lies in her intersection of the personal with the political. The reverend who tries to silence the dissenting older woman becomes the face of misogyny in the church, the older woman speaks truth to power, and, in this instance, arises triumphant. These characters strive and fight within the institutions of family, faith, and history, where each has the power to redeem or destroy.

Political, personal, and multivoiced, these stories cross genres, from literary short stories to African American literature to historical fiction. That scope is part of what makes God's Will and Other Lies so powerful; the rest lies with the voices and their haunting narratives.

Camille-Yvette Welsch, Reviewer
Foreword Review

Carl Logan's Bookshelf

The Silk Road and Beyond
Ivor Whittall
Old Pond Books
c/o Fox Chapel Publishing Company
1970 Broad Street N., East Petersburg, PA 17520
9781912158355, $29.99, HC, 240pp,

Synopsis: Comprised of disastrous near misses, border control mishaps, intense home sickness, mechanical failures, cultural misunderstandings, and so much more, "The Silk Road and Beyond: The Hair-Raising True Adventures of a Long-Distance Trucker in the Middle East" is a collection of true accounts of Ivor Whittal's trucking career that began in the late 1960s. From traveling overseas to Kuwait, driving the desert trek between Jordan and Saudi Arabia, and surviving the infamously dangerous (and sometimes deadly) Tahir Pass in Eastern Turkey that has claimed the lives of truckers with its haphazard landslides and avalanches and tricky mountainous terrain, readers get a driver's seat perspective to Whittall's daring career. Enhanced with the inclusion of 72 contemporary color photos of trucks, drivers, passports, visas, and custom forms, readers will be thrust into what it was like being a long-distance trucker in the 1970s.

Critique: An immediately engaging and impressively entertaining story of a trucker's life in the Middle East, "The Silk Road and Beyond" offers a unique and unreservedly recommended volume the personal reading lists of long-haul trucker fans, as well as inclusion into both community and academic library collections.

Taxing Robots
Xavier Oberson
Edward Elgar Publishing
9 Dewey Court, Northampton, MA 01060-3815
9781788976510, $115.00, HC, 200pp,

Synopsis: The increasing use of artificial intelligence within the workplace is likely to cause significant disruption to the labor market and in turn, to the economy, due to a reduction in the number of taxable workers. In this innovative book, Professor Xavier Oberson (University of Geneva, Switzerland) proposes taxing robots as a possible solution to the anticipated problem of declining tax revenues.

In accordance with guiding legal and economic principles, "Taxing Robots: Helping the Economy to Adapt to the Use of Artificial Intelligence" explores the various tax models that could be applied to both the use of robots, such as a usage or automation tax, and to robots directly. Numerous associated issues are discussed, such as the definition of robots for tax purposes, the difficulty of granting a tax capacity to robots, as well as the compatibility of robot taxes with international tax rules. Professor Oberson concludes by putting forward a possible system for the taxation of robots, taking all of these issues into consideration.

Being the first work of its kind to explore the potential for taxing robots in detail, "Taxing Robots: Helping the Economy to Adapt to the Use of Artificial Intelligence" will be a unique resource for researchers in the fields of law and economics who have an interest in the impact of artificial intelligence. Lawyers and tax professionals can also benefit from Professor Oberson's insights on what future models of taxation may look like and what the legal consequences may be.

Critique: An impressively informative and thought-provoking study of original scholarship, "Taxing Robots: Helping the Economy to Adapt to the Use of Artificial Intelligence" is enhanced for academia with the inclusion of a two page listing of Abbreviations, a nine page Bibliography, and a three page Index. A seminal contribution to a looming economic, social, and political problem where it is expected in some quarters that AI will be replacing 40% of currently existing jobs by 2040, "Taxing Robots" is unreservedly recommended for community, corporate, governmental, college, and university library AI collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

The Joy of Cycling
Jackie Corley
Hatherleigh Press
c/o The Hatherleigh Foundation
62545 State Highway 10, Hobart, NY 13788
9781578268047, $12.50, HC, 96pp,

Synopsis: We all remember what it was like the first time we tried to ride a bike. After some falls, a few bruises and lots of practice, we eventually succeed -- and it's this feeling of accomplishment, freedom, and excitement that is prominently highlighted in "The Joy of Cycling". Akin to learning how to drive for the first time, riding a bike offers very unique experiences and certainly is more accessible to a lot more people than driving a car.

Critique: A compendium comprised of over 200 fun and inspirational quotes on the wonderfulness of riding a bike, "The Joy of Cycling" is a pleasant and inspiring browse from cover to cover. An ideal gift for all bike lovers, "The Joy of Cycling" will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to personal and community library collections.

History in Times of Unprecedented Change
Zoltan Boldizar Simon
Bloomsbury Academic
c/o Bloomsbury Press
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 315, New York, NY 10010
9781350095052, $114.00, HC, 224pp,

Synopsis: Our understanding of ourselves and the world as historical has drastically changed since the postwar period, yet this emerging historical sensibility has not been appropriately explained in a coherent theory of history. In "History in Times of Unprecedented Change: A Theory for the 21st Century", Zoltan Simon (Research Fellow and Board Member of the Centre for Theories in Historical Research at Bielefeld University, Germany) argues that instead of seeing the past, the present and the future together on a temporal continuum as history, we now expect unprecedented change to happen in the future (in visions of the future of technology, ecology and nuclear warfare) and we look at the past by assuming that such changes have already happened.

This radical theory of history challenges narrative conceptualizations of history which assume a past potential of humanity unfolding over time to reach future fulfillment and seeks new ways of conceptualizing the altered socio-cultural concerns Western societies are currently facing. By creating a novel set of concepts to make sense of our altered historical condition regarding both history understood as the course of human affairs and historical writing, "History in Times of Unprecedented Change" offers a highly original and engaging take on the state of history and historical theory in the present and beyond.

Critique: A provocative, iconoclastic, and thought-provoking work of meticulously presented and original scholarship, "History in Times of Unprecedented Change: A Theory for the 21st Century" is enhanced for academia with the inclusion of a twelve page Bibliography and a six page Index. While highly recommended as a core addition to both college and university 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 "History in Times of Unprecedented Change: A Theory for the 21st Century" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $82.08).

Carl Logan

Carol Smallwood's Bookshelf

Carol Smallwood's Interview of Robert Erlandson

Robert Erlandson, Ph.D.
Circle Publications LLC
1794007997, Kindle, paperback, 48 pages, $4.99

Carol Smallwood: A member of Michigan Writers, you were born in Detroit; what other places have you lived or traveled? Do you think Michigan may have helped shape you as a poet?

Robert Erlandson: I was born and grew up in Detroit. I received a BS in Electrical Engineering from Wayne State University. Immediately after graduating from Wayne State I started Case Western Reserve University where I earned a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering. I lived in Euclid, Ohio while attending Case. Upon graduation I accepted an offer from Bell Telephone Laboratories, in Naperville Illinois, and my wife and I and two daughters moved to Glen Ellen, Illinois. We lived there until Bell Labs was broken up as part of the break-up of AT&T. It was at this time that we moved back to Michigan and I started working at Wayne State University. While it may sound like a cliche it was a circle of life that did in fact shape my poetry.

My parents immigrated from Sweden in the early 1920s and I have traveled to Sweden many times to visit family. I have also traveled throughout Norway, Denmark, and most of northern Europe. That would include England, Scotland and Ireland. Of course, living in Michigan, I have traveled in Canada.

Has Michigan help shape me as a poet? Most certainly. From growing up in Detroit to vacations, camping, hiking, swimming and just being in AWE I mention watching sunsets at Lake Michigan as one source of awe. In other poems, not in this book, I speak to growing up in Detroit - the good and bad.

My travelling, particularly Scandinavia since I have family there, has offered a personal view of different social structures and to a degree different societal values than in the U.S. Each country, culture and geography has left an impression that sneaks out in my writing.

Carol Smallwood: Please tell us about the intriguing front and back covers:

Robert Erlandson: I attach the following statement to the back of my digital prints:
"Fractals have been described as "never ending patterns"; like snowflakes, lighting strikes, galaxies and waves on a beach. As an artist and engineer I find such patterns fascinating. While nature's patterns have always inspired artists, the nature of fractals is just beginning to capture the imagination of artists. The engineering part of me loves how computers can create incredibly beautiful fractal patterns from a mathematical score. Like a symphony, fractal patterns can be simple or complex, peaceful or tumultuous, whimsical or serious."

Nature provides countless other examples -- fractals are everywhere.

I have been interested in fractals and chaos theory (the formal mathematics background from which fractal math and images emerged) since the mid 1970s when chaos and fractal research started to be reported. A few years ago, I started to look more seriously into any artistic expressions of fractals and of course a lot has happened in the last 40 years. There are several software packages, kind of like Excel and Photoshop on steroids, wherein you can use mathematical tools to create beautiful fractal images. Basically, equations are one's brushes and equations your color palette.

I have painted, acrylics, since graduate school and with the tools available for creating digital fractal images I was hooked. I have had several gallery showings and am working on some ideas for digital images printed books. I currently have a gallery show in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Carol Smallwood: How has your education reflected itself in your poetry? It has put you in a remarkable position to reflect.

Robert Erlandson: With respect to the topics covered in AWE, it comes down to how we have been able to use mathematics to understand and make predictions about this universe. My engineering and scientific training and experience have and continue to provide a basis of experiencing and appreciating the phenomena and beauty of our world. As I say in the book, everyone can experience awe from a Lake Michigan sunset, but for me, understanding the physics behind the show adds another dimension of awe to what I'm experiencing.

In the book I consider such things as the number of petals flowers have, the shape of pinecones and snails - everyday things that are expressions of some relatively simple yet profound mathematical ideas that developed over centuries. I try and do this using poetry, images and with a sense of humor. My family, especially my wife and daughters, got sick and tired of having me point out how many flowers have a number of petals that is a Fibonacci number (1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, etc.) or spirals that follow from the Golden Ratio (galaxies, hurricanes, snail shells). So, I decided to start putting some of my "observations" in writing and adding poetry - like haiku, Limericks - poetry that in and of itself is light and flowing.

Carol Smallwood: What other types of writing have you done? Continue to do?

Robert Erlandson: Professionally I have written over one hundred scientific papers and authored or edited several books. I've not engaged in such writing since my retirement. Since retirement, I've been going back to notes and journals I have kept since high school; re-working, re-thinking and organizing material. AWE was my first attempt at self-publishing. I have had some haiga (an image with a haiku or tanka) accepted by DailyHaiga, an online haiga journal (not sure of the actual publication date). I have started submitting material to different haiku and tanka journals and am waiting. I am developing ideas for a book of haiga - in that I like the combination of an image and haiku or tanka.

Carol Smallwood: Please tell readers about your admiration of how math helps explain our world. What do you think of quantum mechanics? Your poetry chapbook, Awe, expresses wonder about the space we inhabit. When did you first become conscious of it?

Robert Erlandson: I remember in Junior High School I had a science teacher who had us use Ohm's Law to plot the current through a resistor as the voltage across the resistor change. Then he had us do an experiment to verify the math. I remember being amazed that such a simple equation could predict what actually happened in the experiment. I was hooked. Since then I have continued to learn mathematics that apply to physics, chemistry, and a very limited way quantum mechanics. The fundamental question: "Is God a Mathematician?" This question, or some form of it, goes back to Plato, Galileo and a host of scientists. I'm just one more poor soul in a long progression to wonder about this question or its variation. Which came first the mathematics or the universe? Or as I said in the last page of AWE.

"Did nature follow this plan all along
or did we make up the words to this song?

It seems to me not to matter
It's there and that is the wonder."

With respect to quantum mechanics:

As I understand it - with the measurements currently being made of gravitational waves we have proven the core conjectures and hypotheses of quantum mechanics. I would ask "What do you think of string theory"? It predicts parallel dimensions. Now that's got me scribbling a few haiku.
Carol Smallwood: You mention an "aphoristic unit" and please tell what it involves:

Robert Erlandson: From Merriam-Webster's online dictionary: aphorism "a terse formulation of a truth or sentiment" Terse is why I like shorter forms of poetry like haiku, tanka, Limericks. I would say my work uses sentiments -- hopefully expressing some truth along the way.

The "aphoristic unit" would be the image with short statement. The Japanese haiga would be an example of such a unit. My main inspiration came from the Grooks created by Piet Hein. Piet Hein, was a Danish scientist, poet and artist. Grooks are typically a combination of a sketch and short poem forming an aphoristic unit. Here are 2 examples: Hein and mine (my example has been accepted by DailyHaiga for publication some time in June or July)

Carol Smallwood: Do you have social media you wish to share? Are you working on another collection?

Robert Erlandson: I am currently working on a website and Facebook presence "under construction" as the saying goes. Web address will be:

You can share my email: robert [at] circlepublications [dot] net

As to other projects: Yes - I am seriously developing what could be called a contemporary haiga collection. For images I would be using drawings, sketches, digital photos and of course fractal images. Concurrently I'm working on haiku/synryu and tanka for a collection. This along with the fractal art and some painting.


Closing comment: These questions made me think. What I've done and how I've proceeded has been like water running downhill. Something is of interest, fascinates me, stimulates my imagination and I can flow downhill for a while - see where things go. Your questions made me think a bit more -- thank you.

Carol Smallwood's Interview of Moira Allen

The Bookends Review

Carol Smallwood: Founder and editor of and freelance writer since 1989, Moira Allen is the author of several hundred published articles, and three books on writing published by Allworth Press:, The Writer's Guide to Queries, Pitches, and Proposals, and Starting Your Career as a Freelance Writer (now in its 3rd edition). Allen has also served as the editor of the national magazine Dog Fancy, as well as the editor of several online/electronic publications. I first came across Moria Allen's writing articles in Working Writer and her practical suggestions helped my writing and the often confusing submission process. Recently I checked and discovered an amazing website and author.

Moira Allen: Couple of corrections here. First, I've actually been freelancing since 1979, not 1989. However, the website has been in existence since 2000 (again, not since 1989).

Carol Smallwood: When did you begin your author website guide and how did it come about?

Moira Allen: actually began in several stages. My first website was "Tips for Writers," and included only my own articles. In 1996, I began to write for Inkspot, which was at the time the largest and most popular site for writers on this "new" Internet thing. Eventually I became an editor there. After Inkspot was purchased by Xlibris in (I think) 1999, I knew I wasn't going to remain an employee of the site for much longer, so I decided to set up the "second best" site for writers online.

I had just completed when Xlibris pulled the plug on Inkspot and shut it down forever. As it closed, its editor redirected would-be visitors to my site. In addition, many of the writers who had contributed to Inkspot over the years were happy to shift their articles over to (which helps answer your next question). So I ended up with a flood of visitors who spread the word about as more or less the next great thing for writers. That was in 2000. Later in the year I launched our e-mail newsletter, which continued for the next 15 years.

My goal in the site was to bring information to writers from both sides of the table. Having been both a freelancer and an editor, I knew a lot about the business from both sides, and I wanted to be able to help writers understand not only how to do their best work but how to deal with editors and the marketplace. It's important as a writer to understand what editors are looking for and how your efforts are "seen" by the people who are choosing what to publish and what to reject.

Carol Smallwood: Your web covers so many topics I was first overwhelmed how to begin. How were you able to bring such a feast of knowledge to writers?

Moira Allen: Again, the biggest boost was when Inkspot shut down, and the majority of its contributors agreed to transfer their material to But because I had a great deal of experience as an editor, it was then possible to continue attracting excellent contributors and adding material to the site. The site was profitable from the very beginning, which made it possible for me to purchase quality articles from skilled writers.

One of my goals was to be a "general" site for writers. I didn't want to be just for fiction or nonfiction, or just for beginners, or just for experts. I wanted to be THE site for writers to come for help, regardless of their level of experience. I also wanted to have a global feel to the site, as this was a time when the Internet was making it possible for writers to start selling from, and to, the world rather than just within their own countries.

Another goal was to make sure I only used articles by writers who KNEW what they were talking about and could back it up with publishing and sales - and writers of that caliber expect to be paid a decent wage for their work. Most of the other writing sites at the time were paying nothing, or a very small pittance (e.g., $10 or less). At certain points during the history of I think I was buying four or five articles and one or two columns every month. So the site grew like the proverbial weed.

Carol Smallwood: Tell us about your book now in its 3rd edition:

Moira Allen: "Starting Your Career as a Freelance Writer" actually began as my effort to put the knowledge gathered online in into book form. I had originally pitched this concept to Allworth, but they weren't interested. So a few years later, I decided to try self-publishing a collection of my articles on writing. As I was starting to gather the articles together and trying to make some sense of an outline, Allworth came back and said, "Hey, do you have any interest in doing a book on becoming a freelance writer?" I said "Hey, funny you should ask..."

The goal of this particular book is to walk a would-be writer through all the steps necessary to launch a successful freelancing career, from the very beginning ("what kind of equipment or skills do you need?") through the steps of coming up with article ideas, refining those ideas, doing the research, querying editors, drafting an article, etc. It also addresses issues of business writing and copy-editing, photography, writing and selling columns, and writing and marketing a nonfiction book.

This is, as you've said, its 3rd edition. Each time I've undertaken a revision I've thought, "Oh, this will be easy, tweak a few chapters here and there and you're done." And each time, I've found that things have changed so much, especially in the online world for writers, that I've practically had to rewrite the book from scratch. So having just done so again, I can confidently say it's a very helpful and up-to-date reference for anyone considering freelancing either as a career or as a source of secondary income.

Carol Smallwood: What areas in writing do you find writers have the most trouble and just give up?

Moira Allen: I think the issue that is most difficult for any writer is simply getting published. This is getting harder rather than easier. Now, with so many online "opportunities" that pay pennies for a writer's hard labor, writers find that they are in competition with thousands of wannabes who are willing to practically give their work away just to get "published." Since this is just FINE with companies that don't really want to have to pay real money for writing, it means it's getting harder to find decent paying markets.

As for the "decent pay" bit, a growing problem for writers is that pay rates have not risen over the years. Magazines that paid $200 for a 2000-word article ten years ago may pay the same today. Some have raised their rates; others have lowered them. Short fiction remains an incredibly low-paying market. For example, Isaac Asimov used to reminisce about getting 2-3 cents a word for his short stories back in the 1930's. Today, Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine pays 8-10 cents a word. Doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that this hardly reflects inflation over the last 80-90 years! In Asimov's early days, it might have cost you five cents to mail a letter - or, effectively, pay for two words. Today a stamp costs 50 cents, so you now have to sell five or six words to mail that same letter.

Carol Smallwood: What changes in the writing field have you noticed since 1989 when you started your website?

Moira Allen: Again, didn't start the website in 1989. Not sure where 1989 even came from. The website launched in 2000.

The Internet has encouraged more and more would-be writers to plunge in and try to "succeed." At the same time, it has spread the myth that the industry is a nasty, closed marketplace that isn't at all interested in "quality" writing - and if you "can't get published" it's just because those bad guys are against you, NOT because, perhaps, you need to polish your craft a bit more. And so instead of embracing rejection as a means of pushing us to do better and work harder, we turn increasingly to the "do it yourself" marketplace, self-publishing books through POD companies or Kindle, and wondering why we aren't turning into the next J.K. Rowling.

I suppose part of it is our culture today. There seems to be a tide of feeling that "no one has the right to tell me I'm not good enough." All that matters is that I WANT to be good enough - so again, rather than accept rejection as an indication that perhaps I need to work harder or learn some element of my craft that I'm not so good at, I'll just take it as a nasty slap from those evil bad "good old boys" in the publishing network and assume they just don't know brilliance when they see it. I have seen some of the most appalling writing on Kindle - writers who have no grasp of grammar, spelling, or punctuation, let alone plot or character development. But today, you can't tell someone "you need work." The answer is "you just don't understand me."

Writers who don't fall into this trap will still find a way to get published. The problem is, Kindle is really a fantastic platform - but when it is flooded with, literally, millions of appallingly bad books every year (that's not an exaggeration), it makes it very difficult for the good writers to stand out when they DO decide to go their own way. So writers have to spend more and more time marketing themselves as well as actually writing.

A final area that I see as being difficult for writers is the constant demand to be "available" to your readers on social media. I happen to believe that it is, in fact, only a very small segment of a writer's audience who wants to "interact" on social media. In the old days, you wrote a book, people read it, they liked it, they bought the next one. They didn't expect to engage in constant dialogue with you about your writing, your characters, and what you had for breakfast. Personally, if you are the author of a book I love, I'd rather you get on with writing the next one so that I can read it and enjoy it. Connecting is nice but it shouldn't be regarded as an "obligation."

Carol Smallwood: Thank you Moria, for being there to help so many of us; you are one to admire especially since you are a fellow cat person.

Moira Allen: Thanks for the interest!

Editorial Note: Carol Smallwood is a literary reader, judge, and interviewer. A recent poetry collection is Patterns: Moments in Time (WordTech Communications, 2019). Her most recent poetry collection is In the Measuring (Shanti Arts, 2018). A multi-Pushcart nominee, recipient of the Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award, she's founded and supports humane societies.

Carol Smallwood's Interview of C.B. Anderson

Roots in the Sky, Boots on the Ground: Metaphysical Poems
C.B. Anderson
Kelsay Books
1949229688 $17.00 pbk., 107 pages

Smallwood: Joseph S. Salemi commented on Roots in the Sky, Boots on the Ground: Metaphysical Poems: "On the one hand it aspires to a high level of intellectual seriousness, but at the same time, the book maintains an unbreakable link to our terrestrial limitations."

It's cover and format makes it a very attractive book. Many (besides me) will recognize you from the very popular PBS television series of over twenty years, The Victory Garden, in which you were head gardener. What's some of your other background?

CBA: Well, I matriculated at Wesleyan University in Middletown CT, where I had an opportunity to study poetry under Richard Wilbur. Alas, I did not take advantage of this, because I did not know then what I would be doing some forty or fifty years later. For three years I lived in a mountain valley in rural Arizona, where I worked for the local ranchers as a cowboy. I later continued my college education at Harvard University Extension, where I finally earned my bachelor degree c. 1988. While there, I took courses from Calvert Watkins, the greatest American Indo-Europeanist, which still inform my tendency to borrow from other languages in the family, which include Sanskrit, Farsi & Tocharian A & B. I grew up in a small town in eastern Pennsylvania when there were still many woods around to wander in.

Smallwood: How did you come upon metaphysical poetry? It makes me think of grad classes and difficult poets to understand like John Donne! You have a lot of courage to use it.

CBA: I think I read my first John Donne poem for a high school English class. Back then you could still get a decent education in a public school. Why do you say that John Donne is difficult to understand? His language is a bit archaic, but his themes seem fairly modern. It didn't take courage on my part to cozy up to him. The man was a straight shooter, as I myself would wish to be considered.

Smallwood: What are some popular subjects of the classical metaphysical poets and how do they compare with yours?

CBA: There is always present the contemplation of the divine and what it might mean for those of us who live within the sphere of the created world. And then there is erotic love, or sex, which is the eternal subject around which the world revolves. In many respects, not much has changed in the past four hundred years.

Smallwood: A conceit is a metaphor that compares two very dissimilar things and metaphysical conceits are usually bold and complex. Please give an example of a conceit in one of your poems and why you selected it:

CBA: Let's take "Escrow" - the conceit, in the normal sense of the word, is that I can address God as a peer, as an equal, in other words. This is clearly absurd, but the Lord is merciful, and metes no punishment to those who take liberties with conventional etiquette and reverence. The reason I selected it has to do with the fact that in the past few years a number of my oldest closest friends have passed away.

Smallwood: Which of the 80 poems in Roots in the Sky, Boots on the Ground: Metaphysical Poems, was the most difficult to write and why?

CBA: The most difficult to write? Maybe "Who" owing to the fact that I don't write a lot of blank verse, and that I felt I was putting myself at risk for a fatwa. But honestly, "Goats" might have been the most difficult in a technical sense, because it's hard to turn a rhyme every two beats.

Smallwood: Did Mortal Soup and the Blue Yonder use your gardening experience?
CBA: Who can say? If I wrote any poems where plants are mentioned, the answer is obvious. Incredibly, in neither of these two volumes do any of my advertently horticultural poems appear.

Smallwood: What are some links to your poetry and prose in Society of Classical Poets for readers:

It's not necessarily exhaustive, but it serves the purpose.

Smallwood: Around 700 of your poems have appeared internationally in such magazines as: Lucid Rhythms, The Lyric, Poetry Salzburg Review. What are a few of the most recent ones:

CBA: most recently my poems have appeared in Snakeskin, Better than Starbucks, and Expansive Poetry Online. They should be fairly easy to find if one is willing to undertake a concerted search.

Smallwood: Are you working on a next book and do you also write fiction, nonfiction?

CBA: For the most part, I write nothing but poetry, though I did publish "How to Write an Alexandroid" at Society of Classical Poets. I sometimes wish I were able to write good science fiction, but so far I am only proficient at reading it.

Carol Smallwood, Interviewer
Author of Patterns: Moments in Time (WordTech Communications, 2019)

Clabe Polk's Bookshelf

Caitlyn's Song
John Heldt
B07RD5V7ZV, $3.99, Kindle, 530 pages

Book 4 in The Carson Chronicles Series

Narrowly escaping from the 1940's into 1962, the Carson siblings are once again faced with surviving in a new era for some months until either they encounter their time-traveling parents or decide to settle down and stay in the current time. With each from the 1800's to the early 1900's to the 1940's and now the 1960's they have endured changing social and historical conditions and made, and broken, a number of deep friendships and alliances along the well as a number of disappointed law enforcement officers who have been unable to deal with them.

Mr. Heldt has said he was advised early in his career to include romance in his novels. I truth, his novels are romance novels with only a smattering of time-travel to set the tone and the historic context. Caitlyn's Song is no exception. Settling temporarily in Boulder, Colorado with Nick's (Natalie's husband from the 1940's) relatives Caitlyn and Cody take the opportunity to go to college. What starts as an open-minded adventure soon becomes something completely unexpected.

Meanwhile, Tim and Caroline, the time-traveling parents, are panicked by a newspaper article and move to change history. However, they find that future historical events often have unpredictable outcomes.

Mr. Heldt's books are about living daily lives under pressure in a historical context. Daily lives that include dangers, loves and loses that occasionally result in winning in a completely unexpected way.

Recommended reading for anyone who likes romance, historical fiction and life in general. 5 Stars.

Quantum Void
Douglas Phillips
1973583933, $10.99, paperback, 353 pages
B078H1S543, $3.99, Kindle

In Book 1 of the Quantum Series, Quantum Space, the ability compress space to small distances through quantum manipulation is used to discover an entity, "Core" located light-years away in deep space. Communication channels are opened with it resulting in an invitation to visit, through quantum means, an odd watery world, "Ixtlub", many light-years distant.

Marie Kendrick is chosen by an alien android to visit Ixtlub, but her visit is designed to give her a unique ability that confuses and frightens her. In the meantime, Fermilab is shaken by fourth-dimensional tremors resulting in catastrophic damage. Is Core to blame for the tremors? Or is there a more rational explanation close to home? In any event, Fermilab physicist Nala Pasquier and a colleague find themselves caught between dimensions and their path out is totally unexpected.

Quantum Void is the kind of far-fetched adventure every sci-fi reader loves. Anyone who likes a good, rousing edge of the seat romp through the unknown will like it as well. 5-Stars.

Quantum Time
Douglas Phillips
B07L5967VP, $3.99, Kindle, 373 pages

What would you do to prevent a nuclear holocaust? For Dr. Daniel Rice it was traveling into an uncertain and deeply disturbing future using questionable technology. For him, the result was ultimately confusing with no guarantee of either success or being able to return to his present.

After books one and two of the Quantum Series, we learned that linear distance can be compressed in quantum dimensions and that space can be segmented into various compartments or bubbles each containing a different reality. Now, in book three we see that time can be manipulated in a similar fashion and that perhaps history can be changed enough to prevent unacceptable future this case assured destruction.

Intense, edge of your seat entertainment, Quantum Time will push readers to stay up until all hours of the night to read one more page. Sci-fi and action adventure enthusiasts will love it! 5-Stars.

Winter World
A. G. Riddle
Legion Books
9781940026220, $14.26, Paperback, 468 pages
9781940026213, $21.74, Hardcover
B07N32K12H, $4.99, Kindle

Is energy is the most precious commodity in the universe? If you believe a mysterious entity known only as "the Grid" that seems to travel throughout the galaxy collecting the energy of stars that would be true. According to the 'Grid", energy must be conserved and used with the greatest efficiency. And so the grid began harvesting the energy produced by Earth's star, Sol. Earth became an icy snowball; humans, an endangered species.

Dr. James Sinclair, a trained physician and roboticist, is elected by NASA to deal with the Grid to the disgust of his arch enemy, egotist, manipulator and fellow roboticist, Dr. Richard Chandler. Combining talents with Emma, the endangered commander of the International Space Station, another roboticist and a Russian Cosmonaut, James undertakes the task of first contact, in a hostile environment, with an advance alien intelligence determined to harvest the energy of our sun and drive mankind extinct.

Along the line, James encounters love, physical debilitation, assaults by his detractors and the pressure of being the last hope for the human race. Is he smart enough, determined enough and strong enough to pull it off? Can the human race bring enough material, effort and technology to bear on the problem to defeat the "Harvester"?

These questions will keep readers of Winter World up through the night turning page after page. A great read for any sci-fi, action adventure and apocalyptic fans. 5-Stars.

The Solar War
A. G. Riddle
Legion Books
9781940026251, $14.26, Paperback, 514 pages
9781789544916, $21.74, Hardcover

It's said that sequels are never as good as the original. In spite of that cliche, The Solar War has some excellent high points.

As expected, the Grid has retaliated in the years since Winter World. Their retaliation is strong, deceptive and irresistible. The ultimate destruction of the human race seems assured. Yet, humanity is thrown an unexpected lifeline. Why?

Humanity is overwhelmed. James Sinclair is now a family man, and Emma is now the mother of James' children. Together, they must rally the few remaining humans and make a pact with the Devil, the Grid, to survive. But does the Grid have another agenda? It certainly seems as though its agenda is not human survival.

Although this book had breath-taking high points, I found much of it repetitive and boring. I would find myself skipping blocks of pages and repeating a silent mantra, "get on with it". In addition, the character of Richard Chandler did not ring true. While there are certainly egotistical power-hungry manipulators in play, most try to be associated with success and flee far from unavoidable disasters with which they can be associated. It seems like the unavoidable destruction of the Earth and extinction of humanity is the kind of disaster that characters like Richard Chandler would distance himself from.

Still, most readers will love The Solar War and sci-fi readers everywhere will thrill to many of its high points...especially the ending. 4-Stars.

Medal of Purity
Barry Smythe
Book Publishing World (an imprint of Dolman Scott, Ltd.)
United Kingdom
9781911412885, $11.72, Paperback, 364 pages

Karma is, indeed, a bitch.

Does our ultimate fate repay our cruelty? Or, are some of us destined to live secret lives until the greater world reveals our secrets? Does our will to survive always justify the means of survival? These are philosophical questions that have plagued mankind for centuries, but never more than in the years since the rise of Nazi Germany and the days of the Holocaust.

In The Medal of Purity, Barry Smythe has crafted a book that reads more like a factual historic blow-by-blow account of the character's lives than a fictional historical novel based on fictional characters. However, it is fiction, and it is ironic.

Greta is a girl victimized by her parents. A murderous criminal in her own right, her self-worth is strongly influenced by the Hitler youth organizations, and she is determined to become a poster child for Hitler's agenda. Magda is a girl victimized by the social system in which she found herself and a family trying to fit into that system. She is a girl who is driven by other's cruelty to commit her own crimes. Karl Borch is the father trying to fit into the role of a Nazi SS commander who slips willingly into the role of Dr. Frankenstein. Freida Borch, the mother, is unable to save her children...or her husband. This is the story of these people's lives in the hotbed of suspicion, hate and nationalistic paranoia gripping Germany between 1930 and the end of the Second World War, and into the twenty years or so following the war.

The Medal of Purity is the story of horror; a story of people who victimize others because of ingrained of cruelty, opportunism, survival, social and political pressure, their own victimization, or all of the above. The ending is fitting and satisfyingly ironic.

The Medal of Purity is a riveting read that should be enjoyed by any historical fiction fan, any fan of World War II or European history, any military action adventure reader or any reader of murder, horror, and mayhem. 5-Stars.

This book was provided free by the author in hopes of receiving an honest review. The above review represents my honest opinion of the book.

Drawing Thin
Patricia Loofbourrow
Red Dog Press, LLC
9781944223274, $9.99, paperback, 176 pages
B07NTMR44L, $2.99, Kindle

Young David Bryce has disappeared without a trace.

Constable Paix Hanger and his partner, probationary constable, Leone Briscola catch the investigation because their beat is the low numbered streets nearest the Pot. Mrs. Bryce, David's mother recently fled Dickens after the death of her husband with David and her other son, Herbert one step ahead of a ruthless bill collector, Kiga. (Vulnerable by Patricia Loofbourrow).

Hanger refuses to give up on solving David's disappearance. Running afoul of fellow police officers and the Spadros crime family alike, Hanger learns he has friends, as well as enemies, in places he never imagined. And while the investigation takes him to lengths he also never imagined, the body count grows and Hanger seems no closer to finding the killer.

A good yarn, and one that is a perfect companion to Ms. Loofbourrow's Jacq of Spades, I was simultaneously sympathetic with Mrs. Bryce and frustrated with her lack of honesty while still understanding the lack of trust she felt for anyone. She is a victim, but in what respect? And who is killing young men? To cover something up? If so, what is the killer trying to hide? Is the Spadros family behind this? Do they have a rogue associate? Or is the killer someone else entirely? And what does the red dog sign have to do with the crime?

You should read it and decide for yourself, and have a great time doing it! I wanted to cheer for Hanger, roll my eyes at Kanhu, feel sorry for Green, scream Scheinwold and cringe each time another strangling victim appeared. A good read! 4-Stars

Forbidden Cure Omnibus Edition: A Chris Ravello Medical Thriller
William Rubin
Crystal Vision Publishing
B07QX1RF45, $5.99, Kindle, 318 pages

Surgeon, turned detective, Chris Ravello has fallen victim to a debilitating, incurable, disease. As if that isn't enough, he has been blindsided by the senseless death of his wife, Michelle, as a result of an investigation into a serial killer, Jean Louis Durand. Reeling, Ravello has resigned as chief of the Medical Crimes Unit of the NYPD and his personal physician, Dr. Jacobs, has turned to Dr, Harold Hyslop, an eccentric researcher who has acquired a reputation for off-the-wall treatments for auto-immune diseases based on dubious research. With Hyslop's treatments, timing is everything.

Enter Irina Malekoviec; once a prima concert pianist, she has been reduced by rheumatoid arthritis to first a children's piano teacher and then to a helpless cripple. Thanks to one of Dr. Hyslop's miracle cures administered by an unknown killer, she has been further reduced to a lifeless corpse. Ravello is sucked back into his old job as an NYPD detective to find the killer. Is it Hyslop, Hyslop's chief assistant, Zigler, his secretary, Kiki? Or is it Kerline St. James, the detestable Dr. Jerome Gorlick, or Grayson Limerock, Hyslop's bitter rival?

I guess you'll have to read the book to find out. Forbidden Cure Omnibus Edition is a morass of interactions between characters, any one of which could be either the murderer or the killer's next victim. All is overshadowed by the pressure of Revallo's illness and the outstanding questions about the viability of Hyslop's treatments. And, to add more pressure to Revallo's whistling tea-kettle, Michelle, whose death he witnessed, may be alive. Is that even possible?

Forbidden Cure Omnibus Edition should have die-hard murder mystery, police-procedural, medical thriller, and creepy mad-scientist fans glued to the edge of their seats. 5- Stars

This book was provided free by the author in hopes of receiving an honest review. The above review represents my honest opinion of the book.

Clabe Polk, Reviewer

Clint Travis' Bookshelf

Why My Cat Is More Impressive Than Your Baby
Matthew Inman, author
The Oatmeal, author
Andrews McMeel Publishing
1130 Walnut Street, Kansas City, MO 64106-2109
9781524850623, $14.99, PB, 160pp,

Synopsis: "Why My Cat Is More Impressive Than Your Baby" is compendium of comic illustrations about cats, babies, dogs, lasers, selfies, and pigeons! Contained herein is a vast wealth of never-before-seen comics, including informative guides, such as: How to comfortably sleep next to your cat; 10 ways to befriend a misanthropic cat; How to hold a baby when you are not used to holding babies; A dog's guide to walking a human being; How to cuddle like you mean it; and so much more. Of special note is the inclusion of a pull-out poster of: How to tell if your cat thinks you're not that big of a deal.

Critique: An absolute 'must' for anyone and everyone who has a feline companion of their own, "Why My Cat Is More Impressive Than Your Baby" is a laugh out loud volume of cat based humor that all cat lovers will immediately recognize and specially prize. While unreservedly recommended for community library Contemporary Humor collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Why My Cat Is More Impressive Than Your Baby" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.64).

History's Weirdest Deaths
James Proud
Portable Press
PO Box 1117, Ashland, OR 97520
c/o Printer's Row Publishing Group
9781684127573, $12.99, HC, 128pp,

Synopsis: Death comes in many forms -- sometimes peaceful, sometimes tragic, sometimes dramatic, -- and at other times just plain weird.

Compiled and presented by James Proud, "History's Weirdest Deaths", is a compendium of true stories about more than a hundred people who met their end in a bizarre fashion. Each cautionary tale is unique. Readers will meet the victims of stunts that went horribly wrong, ordinary people who made boneheaded blunders, and famous figures who realized too late that celebrity isn't a cure for stupidity.

Critique: It is interesting to note that James Proud spent several years as a writer and researcher for Ripley's Believe It or Not specializing in writing about the weird and wonderful. It's clear that as a researcher and as a writer he draws upon his years of experience and expertise to create a novel and thoroughly entertaining little volume of history's weirdest ways to die. While unreservedly recommended for community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "History's Weirdest Deaths" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

Sunshine State
D. P. Lyle
Oceanview Publishing
1620 Main Street, Suite 11, Sarasota, FL 34236
9781608093366, $26.95, HC, 354pp,

Synopsis: Jake Longly and Nicole Jamison are confronted with their most bizarre case yet. Serial killer Billy Wayne Baker now denies that two of his seven murders were actually his work. An anonymous benefactor, who believes Billy Wayne's denials, has hired Longly Investigations to prove Billy Wayne right. Billy Wayne had confessed to all seven. Not only did the confessed serial killer have the motive, means, and opportunity for murder, but his DNA was found at each crime scene. Bizarre doesn't quite cover it.

Jake and Nicole travel to the small Gulf Coast town of Pine Key, Florida, where three of the murders occurred. The local police, FBI, state prosecutor, and crime lab each did their jobs, uncovered overwhelming evidence of Billy Wayne's guilt -- and even extracted a full confession. Is Billy Wayne simply trying to tweak the system to garner another fifteen minutes of fame?

It's likely all a game to him, but, if he's being truthful -- someone out there is getting away with multiple murders. How? Why? And most importantly, who? Dark clouds loom in the Sunshine State.

Critique: Another deftly crafted suspense thriller of a novel, "Sunshine State" is the third and latest title in author D. P. Lyle's 'Jake Longly Thriller Series'. A thoroughly riveting read with more unexpected plot twists than a bakery full of pretzels, "Sunshine State" is certain to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to community library Mystery/Suspense collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of dedicated mystery buffs that "Sunshine State" is also available in an inexpensive digital book format (Kindle, $0.99).

Forgotten Bones
Vivian Barz
Thomas & Mercer
9781542041638, $24.95, HC, 302pp,

Synopsis: When small-town police officers discover the grave of a young boy, they're quick to pin the crime on a convicted criminal who lives nearby. But when it comes to murder, Officer Susan Marlan never trusts a simple explanation, so she's just getting started.

Meanwhile, college professor Eric Evans hallucinates a young boy in overalls: a symptom of his schizophrenia -- or so he thinks. But when more bodies turn up, Eric has more visions, and they mirror details of the murder case. As the investigation continues, the police stick with their original conclusion, but Susan's instincts tell her something is off. The higher-ups keep stonewalling her, and the FBI's closing in.

Desperate for answers, Susan goes rogue and turns to Eric for help. Together they take an unorthodox approach to the case as the evidence keeps getting stranger. With Eric's hallucinations intensifying and the body count rising, can the pair separate truth from illusion long enough to catch a monster?

Critique: A deftly penned and riveting read from first page to last, "Forgotten Bones" showcases author Vivian Barz's natural flair for originality and a reader engaging narrative storytelling style. Offering more delicious plot twists than a bag of pretzels, "Forgotten Bones" is unreservedly recommended for community library Mystery/Suspense collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of all dedicated mystery buffs that "Forgotten Bones" is also available in a paperback edition (9781542041645, $15.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).

Clint Travis

Daniel Casey's Bookshelf

Laughter Includes the Word: Revealed, A Life of Poetry
Doug Snelson
Petalous Publishing, LLC
9780977781133, $17.99, PB, 128pp,

Read. Think. Write.

For some, writing is a chore and reading anything but a pleasant pursuit. Fortunately, there are vastly more people in the world looking to encounter a new, fresh story or simply revel in the recalled experiences of someone else. It provokes ones own memories and deep feelings for a person, place, or time forgotten allowing readers to more deeply live in their present. Readers of this ilk tend to adore writers like Doug Snelson, an author who has made writing occasional poems a daily practice.

In Snelson's new collection Laughter Includes the Word, readers are treated to a myriad of lyrics composed in the moment and taking as their subject the mundane yet sly experience of everyday living.

These poems cover more than fifty years of Snelson's life experience. It is a collection of verse giving not so much a glimpse into the mind of the poet but a wide, clear window into one's thought process. And yet Snelson is able to compose gentle verse that's easily accessible to even the most novice of poetry readers yet not so ordinary as to not earn admiration from the more academic of poetry readers.

Poetry of the everyday can often fall into the trap of being too personal. They can be poems overloaded with intimate totems never explained or relational histories never explored but mistakenly taken for granted. Fortunately, Laughter Includes the Word avoids this, never snagging the readers on unknown persons, meaningless micro-history, or maudlin reminisce.

A pleasant quirk of this collection is the inclusion of Snelson's actual handwritten drafts of the poems as well as those composed on an Olivetti-Underwood typewriter. It gives each lyric a very present feel making the sentiment at once forgettable (since many of the pieces of paper Snelson used were receipts or napkins, soon to be trash) and urgent (this was a thought that had to be expressed, transcribed). We can see this in the poem 'lotsam flotsam,' a poem written while awaiting the subway and ruminating on trash:

lotsam flotsam
Doug Snelson

lotsam flotsam stuff on shore
swishing, swashing, salty floor

flashing, scrashing to the core
bobbing, bleating, "help me, more!"

feasting, fretting of the lore
dolphin dazing to the roar

of flotsy stuff
that suffocates

of slooty stuff
that hesitates

disintegrates from sight and feel
how could the ocean make appeal

to all of us
oh flotsy junk

and lotsam large
the worst has sunk

just like a barge
of oily sponge

tsunami mommy
adding grunge

i so do wish
if I were fish

lotsam flotsam
I would expunge

Is each poem worth writing? Hardly the right question. Rather, each poem pushed its way through Snelson's consciousness and demanded to bloom. We read this poems knowing they've been cultivated but still retain their rawness making for a unique reading experience. We experience poems from over five decades, we see a man grow, change, and yet in many ways stay the same. Laughter Includes the Word is an inspirational collection of poetry certainly, but it's strength comes in the pleasure it grants. That pleasure arises in allowing everyday actions and objects to be foregrounded in plain language letting the poet-speaker and reader a moment to revelry.

Editorial Note: Doug Snelson's storytelling is based on the idea that children and adults should be at play as much as possible. He believes play includes two intertwined qualities: awe and concentration. Awe is the ability to see the beauty and wonder of life in anything and everything; concentration is a focus on the joy of experiencing simple, everyday activities. Doug is available for readings and signings at your school, organization, or special event. He reads "Who's Got the Face?" and "The Fable of the Snake Named Slim" at libraries, bookstores, primary and elementary grades K - 3, book fairs, nonprofit children's programs, and fundraising events. He also teaches parents how to optimize the experience of reading to a child. He holds a BS in Communications from Syracuse University's Newhouse School of Communications and an MA in Communications from William Paterson University.

Daniel Casey, Reviewer

David Gray's Bookshelf

The Clockwork Detective (Constable of Aqualinne Book 1)
R.A. McCandless
Ellysian Press
9781941637586, $14.99 PB, $4.99 Kindle,

If ever we needed an Aubrey Hartmann, it's now. Because the sexually fluid, painkiller-addicted, clockwork-legged, fast-drinking, hard-talking (or maybe the other way round) constable who strides across McCandless' dizzying new world like a limping cross between Ripley and one of the later-model Terminators, is, quite simply, magnificent.

She takes shit from exactly NO men. Or women. Or weird supernatural beings, and is extremely unhealthy to be around. Fun, but lethal.

Did I mention steampunk? Not yet? Well, that's intentional. Because that's a label that fails to do The Clockwork Detective justice. Sure, there are airships and imperials, and some lovingly described antique pistols. But that's just the start, and before you can say "my powder's damp, damn you!" we're knee deep in fantasy and mythology, with a hint of Basil Rathbone's Sherlock Holmes. Talking of knees, my favorite part is Hartmann's wind-up lower leg, the original having been shot off on a distant battlefield. It's both wonderfully fascinating, and one realizes, horrid to live with. But I absolutely want the blueprints to it framed and on the wall.

McCandless has done a lovely job of blending genres in such a way that you think "only now?" and has created a protagonist who you admire greatly and know you'd have a (hopeless) crush on in real life. This first full-length novel of the Constable of Aqualinne series is a non-stop romp that doesn't take a breath, and promises many more adventures to come.

I'd follow Hartmann anywhere, from the safety of the sofa.

David A. Gray

David Williams' Bookshelf

Management Mess to Leadership Success
Scott Jeffrey Miller
Brilliance Audio: 9781978691773, $24.99, CD
9781642500882, $24.99 HC, $9.99 Kindle, 241pp,

I've mentioned my admiration for Stephen R. Covey as well as my prior roles in Franklin Quest Canada and the Covey Leadership Center. To that end I made a recent discovery that delights me -- the new book "Management Mess to Leadership Success" by current FranklinCovey EVP and webcast/program host Scott Miller.

For those of you who consider leadership wisdom "dry as dirt" you are in for a pleasant surprise. Miller's advice bares all, including getting demoted from his first leadership position three weeks into the role.

Miller boils his best advice into 30 challenges (one per day?) that are high on insight while also being fun and easy to read. He shares his advice in three parts: Lead Yourself, Lead Others and Get Results.

Here are my favorite four:

Demonstrate Humility. This is a principle every alpha personality in a leadership position should learn. In Miller's case he got a strong first dose in his first week as a newly-appointed sales lead. He'd won approval to bring in a spectacular consultant for a two-day retreat. He and she arrived early to set out materials and spread out the beautiful fruit tray she'd personally and meticulously prepared for the 8:00 start. As the participants sauntered in on a leisurely schedule, he delayed the start until the last one arrived at 8:30. He led the proceedings but was barely able to contain his disgust. That evening, he purchased copies of the local newspaper and a pile of highlighter pens, determined to teach the team a lesson they would never forget.

On Day 2, as each arrival was seated, he handed them a copy of the classified ads and a highlighter pen. "If you're looking for a nine-to-five job, there are plenty of them, right here," he declared. "Here, go ahead and circle your pick with a marker." The reactions ranged from confusion to anger. One of the 10 stood up and declared it was his last day.

Indignant, Miller argued with the visiting consultant in the ensuing days about all of the reasons he believed his approach to be right. Patiently she listened and ultimately showed him the many reasons a gentler approach would have been better. Thankfully, he can now report that 20 years later he is again (and still) friends with each of the 10 who'd experienced his take-no-prisoners method of leadership on the fated day (some of whom even returned to attend his eventual wedding). In a nutshell, humility is one of the most valuable challenges a leader can master and is vital to becoming the person a team will want to support instead of silently hate.

Listen First. This is one of the classic lessons from Stephen R. Covey, yet we need to be reminded of it again and again. Think of the many interchanges, especially during meetings, where participants interrupt each other so quickly that the interchange becomes an exercise in dominance and very little is actually said. Leaders are often the worst offenders in this. Think, instead, about pausing 5-7 seconds before starting to speak. Not only will it allow you to fully hear the other individual, it may give them the confidence to share more deeply. Now, after fully considering the person's position and thinking, you can speak out with a greater level of clarity and influence. And it is far more likely the other party will respect your message by listening intently as well. Think on this: in any group setting, it is quite typically the person who is saying the least, but who is listening intently, who is carrying the majority of the influence cards.

Carry Your Own Weather. How reactive do you tend to be to outside distractions? Miller talks about FranklinCovey's Chairman and CEO Bob Whitman's extraordinary ability to manage his emotional temperament. Even though it's possible for situations to trigger his emotions, he has learned to keep his "emotional rudder," as he calls it, tightly aligned to his guiding values.

In my own case, I talk frequently about the value of simply putting some space between the stimulus and the response. Psychologists speak often about the mistakes people make when they respond in a state of emotional stress. In these situations, we are not "acting" but primarily "reacting" - and have allowed our best thinking to be clouded by anger or stress.

Before lashing out or speaking in anger, I advise people to think about this: "What is it that I want to happen? Is what I'm about to say the best way to arrive at that outcome?" If you're still angry, the answer is probably "no." Sleep on it. Consider the situation carefully, from all sides, and then come back when tempers have cooled to respond.

Lead Difficult Conversations. Difficult conversations are the crux of leadership and in fact of all meaningful human interactions. Yet so many leaders avoid them, deflect them to others, or attempt to never have them at all. This is disastrous. But the opposite is also true - learning to have difficult conversations in constructive ways can result in the most meaningful experiences you'll ever experience, both as a leader and as a human being. A few of Miller's best pointers: Practice, but don't over-rehearse. Enter the conversation with a win-win attitude. Be respectful of the other person's point of view and even be open to the possibility there are additional sides to the story. Don't compare the person to others (or compare their work to others). Describe your concerns and give examples. Think about how and when you would want to hear the difficult information. Opening with a sincere statement such as, "I'm sure I will say this the wrong way, so please forgive me in advance if I stumble, but there's a sensitive topic we need to discuss." In some cases, the discussion will need to be deferred to HR (and it is definitely a good thing to ask their advice, when needed).

As a general rule, in a really tough situation, let the first words out of your mouth be the thing you need to convey. Don't beat around the bush or mosey up to the subject. But in most cases, your sincerity and your genuine desire to get to the bottom of a tough situation will bring out your best and will lead to progress if not to a full resolution.

There are many additional examples in Miller's new "lesson book" that all can enjoy. By openly sharing his own mess-ups, he's made the topics relatable to all, and allows every leader to realize that at the end of the day, we're all human and we can all benefit from finding additional ways to emphasize the "soft skills," as I call them in The 7 Non-Negotiables of Winning. A constant emphasis on character-based leadership is a boon to every business and to every leader as well.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website.

Editorial Note: David K. Williams - I am the founder and chairman of DKW Ventures. I am a serial entrepreneur, have led divisions and companies and a C-level executive for companies ranging from startups to multi-nationals. I am a consultant to C-level executives throughout the world, from South Africa to America, Canada, Europe and Australia. I have 40-plus years experience in selling, innovation, and on using the soft skills of character to substantially increase personal and organizational success. I've led divisions and companies that are venture backed, partnerships, bootstrapped, high growth, retail, commercial real estate, technology, and energy, I am the author of The 7 Non Negotiables of Winning: Tying Soft Traits to Hard Results, from Wiley & Sons.

David K. Williams, Reviewer

Ed Sarna's Bookshelf

Way Station and What Does a Question Weigh? (Two Plays)
Wes Payton
Adelaide Books
9781950437498, $19.60 PB, $7.99 Kindle, 202pp,

Wes Payton's latest publication, Way Station & What Does A Question Weigh? is a book of two plays. Anyone familiar with Payton's unique way of looking at the world will not be disappointed. His complex work simultaneously enlightens and entertains.

The first play, "Way Station," concerns itself with a one-hit-wonder of a novelist looking back on his life twenty years after the publication of his lone success. The protagonist, known as Frieze, relives his past while contemplating suicide. The story is told in three acts. The play features a nonlinear narrative, with scene one in each act taking place in a present-day, shabby barroom. Scene three of each act takes place in the same barroom, only twenty years in the past. The second scenes in all the acts take place in Frieze's mind.

While Mr. Payton is never afraid to tackle uncomfortable subjects, he couches his writing with smart, funny lines that catch you off guard. I would find myself pitying the characters just before I burst out laughing at something one of them said or did. Speaking of the characters, along with Frieze, they have names such as Ease, Sleaze, Cheese, Louise, Wheeze, Geeze, and Please, which gives you an idea of the playwright's off-kilter predilections.

The second play, "What Does A Question Weigh," revolves around a character named Tralf, "a self-described time-traveling anthropologist who is studying the people of our time in the hope of finding a cure for the lethal ennui that plagues his time." He becomes entangled in an investigation into the disappearance of the wife of a wealthy industrialist - someone he knows well. Throughout the play he interacts with members of the Chicago Police Department, including a hard-boiled detective straight out of 30's film noir; if the film had been co-directed by Lewis Carroll and Timothy Leary. The detective, as well as most others, have trouble believing he is really from the future. Along with the police, other characters include agents of the FBI, Tralf's Blographer (blogger-biographer), and a young anarchist.

By looking at our world through the eyes of an outsider, the author skewers many of our foibles and questions things we take for granted. Why is a plastic spork referred to as silverware? As in the first play, the clever dialogue sneaks up on you and gives you an entertaining and thought-provoking way of looking at the world.

I would love to see these plays performed on a stage, but having said that, they are both excellent reads. As in Payton's other works, these plays can be appreciated on more than one level. As pure entertainment, they excel, but they also point out absurdities all around us. I highly recommend Way Station & What Does A Question Weigh?

Ed Sarna

Fran Lewis' Bookshelf

Better than Sistersá
Catherine Gigante-Brown
Volossal Publishing
9780999691656, $19.95 PB, $9.95 Kindle, 248 pp,

Growing up in the 70s in a multicultural neighborhood and learning to adopt to the ways of a friend, Desi Ruiz and Cici Piccolo become close early on. As Cici, our narrator, tells how she and Desi met, the sadness behind Desi's father's death and what is did to Desi's family, we learn how these two young teens discover the meaning of friendship as we take their life's journey from teenagers to adulthood.

Author Catherine Gigante-Brown brings out many important issues in this thought-provoking coming-of-age novel that all young teens and young adults should read. Friendships, loyalties, discords, an uncle who betrays their family, relatives on both sides who are unique and colorful, and two amazing teens will bring tears, laughter and smiles to the faces of readers as you learn the true meaning of the words "better than sisters." How many people have true lifelong friendship?

Fran Lewis, Reviewer
Just Reviews

Greg Bem's Bookshelf

Pamela Manche Pearce
Green Bottle Press
9781910804124, $7.00, PB, 36pp

Help me when I collapse.

(from "Widow, Falling")


The word contains so much. There is resolution. There is mystery. There is story. In grief, there is individuality. Reflection. The phenomena of existence. Of reality. Of mortality. The processes we have of engaging with and understanding the passing of those around us to memory, history, and a physical absence - these processes weigh us down. Discussions of loss are many. Discussions of grief are few, at least in my culture, where I come from. It often feels like holding a flashlight in a cave, seeking out the contours and recesses of an infinity of investigation. Seeking to understand where they have gone, and where I am following.

The significance and the challenge of grief as experience and as culture occasionally is met with art, with creativity, as counter, as balance, as navigation. Widowland by Pamela Manche Pearce is one such act of creation. It is a short chapbook containing 17 poems about grief. About loss. About the death of the poet's husband. It is a raw glimpse into the texture and energy of these processes of investigation, of understanding, and of living beyond.

We didn't know when the moment would come.
But I had no escape from being left behind.

(from "Pantoum")

Throughout the collection, we are met with the poet who is existing moment to moment, fragment of experience to next fragment. Everything that was, each system of the relationship that was, has been dismantled, and her life, which continues, must go on, no longer paralleled. The weight is real. The presence of disjunction is real. The resolution is existing but has not yet existed and conclusion is needed. Reflection is active. The moments are strange, excessive, and they plunge into the core of the everyday. There is a sense of the brooding, the gothic, the existential. And it is all broken down into moments. Widowland provides, as a collection, an assortment of beautiful and raw moments that tackle an active life without the poet's other. Without his living presence.

In life, death's interpretation may be spiritual. It may be emotional. It may be of consequence. It may be an enigma. The many interpretive qualities to the light of life indicate just how challenging these processes of grief can be. I appreciate Pearce's distinct intentionality in approaching the grieving process (in her poetry) as variously as possible. The poems become dynamic in their arrangement across the book, offering the reader the opportunity to be enamored, to be confused, and to be at a loss of engagement. Because ultimately this is work, and there is a capacity within us all to explore this work. And at some point, capacity will be maxed.

What does a well-dressed gentleman wear
to have his corpse set afire?

(from "I Kiss Your Clothes Goodbye")

There are not many instances of humor or release or relief within Widowland, which makes those instances that do crop up exaggerated and restless. Through confusion, through a reencountered situation or setting, through the novelty of ritual of passing, Pearce relies on the absurdity that is our life and our death and our existence between the two. There is the fleeting sense of lightness that carries the poet along day to day, and night to night. It is satisfying to read her works, anticipate how I would feel, and think about those efforts to reduce the stress, to flit along, and to be. Ultimately, thus, the poet shows where the hidden pockets of relief get to exist, and how death is not excluded from those pockets of relief.

I could not help but connect Pearce's book and the emotions within to other recent cultural contributions covering similar themes. In the literary canon, Widowland comes not too long after Susan Howe's stark and visceral This That (2010), which also explored, through poetry, the loss of a husband. Pearce's book also comes after a handful of produced albums by Mount Eerie singer and songwriter Phil Elverum, albums working through, realizing, and processing the sudden death of his wife. These three releases include A Crow Looked at Me (2017), Now Only (2018), and the live album (after) (2018). These works have been not only widely heard but widely lauded, indicating a great cultural need for exploration and description of death and the resultant widowing.

It is the color of his
cracked fingertips
that smell of
gasoline as he
cups my face to
kiss my hair
I have
as many cardinals
as I want.

(from "Tree of Cardinals")

These recent cultural artifacts are matched with countless other distant and recent portrayals of death, dying, grief, and the afterlife. I can't help but think about Pixar's Coco (2017) and the upcoming return to Disney's The Lion King (2019), all of which make death accessible to many audiences and age groups. The themes of loss and grief, of course, are hardly new; and even to acknowledge more recognition now than in previous moments seems like a precarious approach. But there is a canon, and Pearce arrives in it with her own exquisite verse. With this short collection holding up the weight of so much presence and intentionality, I look forward to seeing the poet's future engagements with this relationship with loss and beyond in her own Widowland.

Greg Bem, Reviewer
Yellow Rabbits Review

Jack Magnus' Bookshelf

Astonishing Tales!* (Your Astonishment May Vary)
Matt Geiger
HenschelHAUS Publishing, Inc.
9781595986665, $24.95 HC, $15.95 PB, $9.99 Kindle, 200pp,

Astonishing Tales!* (Your Astonishment May Vary) is a collection of humorous essays and stories written by Matt Geiger. Who is Matt Geiger and is he really still alive? In his opening story, Geiger relates his experiences growing up in the shadow of the much more famous NBA player, Matt Geiger, and receiving anonymous envelopes with clippings about his alter-ego in his school locker. Matt Geiger, the NBA player, loomed so much larger in so many ways, not least of which was his physical height and solid physique. Then there was his palatial retreat boasting eight bathrooms, a bass-stocked lake and a herd of bison. How could a geeky, somewhat portly kid compete with that? And then, there was his sense of loss at hearing of his more famous self's misfortunes, the back taxes and forced sale of that mansion. And what about the bison and the one lone donkey?

Matt Geiger's collection of humorous essays and stories managed to keep my astonishment at a fairly high and consistent level. As I began reading, I soon found myself Googling Matt Geiger, not the author, the other Matt Geiger, and couldn't help but seek out pictures of the mansion and its inhabitants. I loved sharing the author's ruminations over whether that Matt ever wondered about this one, and found myself wistfully imagining that they would somehow manage to meet or at least enjoy a chat someday. His essay, Horse Baby, is hilarious and kept me happily occupied picturing him sliding, slipping and extravagantly falling awash in conditioner and shampoos. While I don't really have much of a sense of humor and am not terribly partial to short stories, I had a grand time reading every word of every essay and story. Many of them are astonishing to some degree or other; all of them are marvelous and funny -- and very, very human. Astonishing Tales!* (Your Astonishment May Vary) is most highly recommended.

The Kraken of the Cape Madre (Lorestalker #2)
J. P. Barnett
Evolved Publishing
9781622530755, $14.95 PB, $3.99 Kindle, 280pp,

Rating: 5 stars

The Kraken of Cape Madre: Lorestalker #2 is a speculative adventure fiction novel written by J.P. Barnett. Miriam Brooks felt oddly out of place on the crowded beach where she was attempting to enjoy the surf and sun with her best friend, Macy, and her cousin, Tanner. She felt especially uncomfortable in the skimpy bathing suit she had somehow been persuaded to wear. Macy seemed to wear her suit with effortless grace and elegance; things that seemed foreign and out of reach to Miriam, who had grown up under the dictatorial and oppressive control of her famous cryptozoologist father. The family's most recent mission, conducted in accordance with her dad's orders, had ended with the death of Miriam's brother, Cornelius. Miriam was in college now trying to heal from the event, and Tanner, who had grown up with her and Cornelius, was, in her estimation, her only relative now. Spring break was an anomaly for the overly serious and still psychologically injured young woman, who was even now wondering if she could actually consider once again her childhood dream of being a marine biologist.

The Kraken of Cape Madre is a fast-paced and action-packed journey into the realm of the impossible that will thrill anyone who's ever hoped that the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot are really out there, and maybe even dreamed that they might see them someday. I'll readily admit to having a weakness for reports of such sightings and regularly pore over news sites after major storms at sea just in case someone discovered any strange creatures that were beached in the process. Miriam is an awesome character and the consummate cryptid hunter. She's strong, resilient and intelligent, and I'm hoping one day to also see Miriam Brooks as the star of movies based on the Lorestalker series. Barnett's characters are marvelous; they're well defined, multifaceted and credible. His plot is suspenseful and his story is impossible to put down. This book stands on its own as the author gives just enough background from Book 1, while refraining from spoilers to allow the books to be read out of order. I quickly came to love Cape Madre and appreciated how well the author made that little beach town feel real. The Kraken of Cape Madre: Lorestalker #2 is most highly recommended.

Jack Magnus, Reviewer
Readers' Favorite

Jack Mason's Bookshelf

Made to Change the World
Derek Evans
Post Hill Press
9781642931419, $21.00, HC, 192pp,

Synopsis: All his life, Derek Evans felt a spiritual pull to be a part of something greater than himself, but it wasn't until he and a friend embarked on a transformational trip to LA's infamous skid row that he found his true calling. They returned home with a plan to build a mission-minded business that would change the world -- one T-shirt at a time.

When their "Spread Love, It's the Nashville Way" grassroots campaign to raise money for people recovering from homelessness and addiction caught the attention of celebrities like Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus, it went viral and ignited a global movement to end homelessness, child hunger, and human trafficking.

"Made to Change the World: How Ordinary People Are Called To Do Extraordinary Work, The Story of Project 615" is both an inside look at one man's passionate drive to make a difference, and a call to action for anyone who has ever dreamed of being a part of something that changes the world.

Critique: An inherently fascinating and impressively informative read that is both inspired and inspiring, "Made to Change the World: How Ordinary People Are Called To Do Extraordinary Work, The Story of Project 615" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to both community and academic library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Made to Change the World" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Church, State, and Family
John Witte, Jr.
Cambridge University Press
One Liberty Plaza, Fl. 20, New York, NY 10006
9781107184756, $130.00, HC, 454pp,

Synopsis: In "Church, State, and Family: Reconciling Traditional Teachings and Modern Liberties", John Witte (Woodruff Professor of Law, McDonald Distinguished Professor of Religion, and Director of the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory University) defends the fundamental place of the marital family in modern liberal societies.

While applauding modern sexual freedoms, Professor Witte also defends the traditional Western teaching that the marital family is an essential cradle of conscience, chrysalis of care, and cornerstone of ordered liberty. He thus urges churches, states, and other social institutions to protect and promote the marital family.

He also encourages reticent churches to embrace the rights of women and children, as Christians have long taught, and encourages modern states to promote responsible sexual freedom and family relations, as liberals have long said. He counsels modern churches and states to share in family law governance, and to resist recent efforts to privatize, abolish, or radically expand the marital family sphere.

Professor Witte also invites fellow citizens to end their bitter battles over same-sex marriage and tend to the vast family field that urgently needs concerted attention and action.

Critique: Enhanced for academia with the inclusion of a forty-one page Bibliography and a fourteen page Index, "Church, State, and Family: Reconciling Traditional Teachings and Modern Liberties" is an extraordinary work of meticulous scholarship and a part of the Cambridge Studies in Law and Christianity. While an exceptional and unreservedly recommended addition to seminary, college and university library Contemporary Christian Doctrinal Issues collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists, it should be noted for students, academia, clergy, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Church, State, and Family" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $19.58 Rent / $88.39 Buy).

Lynn Vincent & Sara Vladic
Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781501135958, $18.00, PB, 592pp,

Synopsis: Just after midnight on July 30, 1945, the USS Indianapolis is sailing alone in the Philippine Sea when she is sunk by two Japanese torpedoes. For the next five nights and four days, almost three hundred miles from the nearest land, nearly nine hundred men battle injuries, sharks, dehydration, insanity, and eventually each other. Only 316 will survive.

In the pages of "Indianapolis: The True Story of the Worst Sea Disaster in U.S. Naval History and the Fifty-Year Fight to Exonerate an Innocent Man" and for the first time, collaborative authors Lynn Vincent and Sara Vladic tell the complete story of the ship, her crew, and their final mission to save one of their own begining in 1932, when Indianapolis is christened and continues through World War II, when the ship embarks on her final world-changing mission: delivering the core of the atomic bomb to the Pacific for the strike on Hiroshima.

Critique: Impressively informed and informative, "Indianapolis: The True Story of the Worst Sea Disaster in U.S. Naval History and the Fifty-Year Fight to Exonerate an Innocent Man" is an extraordinary study that is a 'must' for both community and academic library World War II Naval Military History collections and supplemental studies lists. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Indianapolis: The True Story of the Worst Sea Disaster in U.S. Naval History and the Fifty-Year Fight to Exonerate an Innocent Man" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.99).

Editorial Note: Lynn Vincent is a US Navy veteran. A veteran journalist and author of more than 1,000 articles and several books, her investigative pieces have been cited before Congress and the US Supreme Court.

Sara Vladic is an acclaimed documentary filmmaker and one of the world's leading experts on the USS Indianapolis, having become obsessed with the story at the age of thirteen. Over the next two decades, Vladic met and interviewed 108 of the ship's survivors, and in 2016 she released an award-winning documentary film on the disaster, USS Indianapolis: The Legacy. She has published new research on Indianapolis in Proceedings, the official journal of the US Navy, and appeared as an expert commentator on PBS's USS Indianapolis: Live from the Deep, which explored the ship's wreckage.

Jack Mason

James Martin's Bookshelf

Stars and Crosses: A Novel
Curtis Urness
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781532051562, $20.99 PB, $3.99 Kindle, 260pp,

You've heard of coming-of-age novels. Well, "Stars and Crosses" is a discovery-of-self story. American Chic Lucas sets out for Poland on a quest to find the details of his Christian grandfather's death at Auschwitz, and in so doing he hopes to learn about his father's life, as well.

His is a winding journey wherein he meets cousins, friends, and a special woman named Ruth. The themes of Christian versus Jew and what happened during the war (and contemporaneously) play out in unexpected ways for him and for the reader. Life and History (amidst land disputes, skinheads, relatives, romance, present and past relationships) turn out to be more complicated and connected than he thought.

As the puzzle pieces of Chic's life start to come together, Chic just might come away from his quest with more than he bargained for.

Extremely well-written, "Stars and Crosses" does what stories should do: teach a little - and awaken the reader's emotions. Highly recommended.

Editorial Note: James Conroyd Martin is the author of several historical fiction novels, including his Poland Trilogy (Push Not The River, Against A Crimson Sky, The Warsaw Conspiracy), The Boy Who Wanted Wings, and Hologram; A Haunting.

James Conroyd Martin

Janine Hornsby's Bookshelf

Think Like A Man: The Only Guide You'll Ever Need
JD Shapiro
Austin Macauley Publishers
9781788233194, $13.95, PB, 238pp,

One of the perks of working with books is that I have the privilege to read great new titles from talented authors. This week I read 'Think Like a Man: the only guide you'll ever need'. Although this is not the genre of book I normally enjoy reading, I was pleasantly surprised. This book contains a treasure trove of advice, especially for women who wish to gain insight into the way men think and feel, whilst learning how to build stronger, lasting relationships with them.

Although this book is for all women, I will share four reasons why I believe feminists will love the book - and I'm interested to find out if other readers feel the same!

1) Empowerment!

I'll be honest, I was skeptical when I started reading this book. At first glance, the concept seemed controversial; how could a man possibly write a self-help guide aimed at women?

However, my skepticism disappeared when I realized how truthful the advice was and that it was coming from a man who has the utmost respect for women, changing my perspective and encouraging me to stick with the book.

There are undoubtedly times when you'll want to throw the book at his head (as jD gives readers full permission to do) but by the time you have read the last page, you'll want to give jD a massive high five instead!

This is not a book telling women that they need to change the way they think to be successful. Rather it is a MANual aimed at helping women understand the way men think so that we can use our innate power over them to get what we want, in a way that makes both you and him happy.

2) Thinking Like a Man Is for ALL Women, Not Just Those Looking to Land a Man

Although the advice in the book is predominately centered around romantic relationships, I personally found that many of the "secrets" jD reveals are transferable to non-romantic and even professional relationships.

He explains that women's wants and needs are far more complex than those of a man and much of this stem from evolution. Therefore, if women understand how men think, they will be better equipped to communicate more effectively with them in all aspects of work and life.

3) The Concepts are Universal

In the book, jD says, "Although cultures, customs and languages are different, sometimes vary, the core of a man is not. And because of this, women can "weaponize" themselves by USING (not just reading but using) what's in this book to empower yourself to get what you want from a man. These secrets that are powerful truths will work the same for a woman in Utah as it would in Madrid."

He often refers to inherited traits that are universal, so women everywhere can use it to their advantage.

4) All you need is YOU!

Most chapters begin with a quote from an influential person, which I thought was a great touch. Some funny, some thought-provoking, all of which I am putting on my wall!

Although this book is filled with humor, there is one very serious, underlining message to all the women reading it: You are valuable, you are powerful, and you don't need a man to make you happy. However, if you did want to land and keep the RIGHT guy or attempt to understand what scores you more points with men, you will find the advice in this book invaluable.

Think Like a Man can be purchased online now and you can follow Austin Macauley on Facebook and Twitter, for more news and updates on the book and author!

Janine Hornsby

Jen Lis' Bookshelf

Marvel Avengers Shake to Assemble
Calliope Glass
Illustrators: Ron Lim and Richard Isanove
Marvel Press
c/o Disney
9781423178262, $12.99

This book starts out with high energy that is carried all the way through. The plot of the book is simple - the Avengers need to assemble. One by one, six Avengers gather until they have to work together to get the Incredible Hulk to join them. The illustrations are bright and straightforward, and almost entirely consist of the characters and their props. The illustrations also work in some humor with side conversations that parents will likely enjoy (but are also entirely kid appropriate).

What I really love about this book is the way it involves the reader by giving directions on how the reader can help find the next Avenger. For example, "Now try shaking the book from left to right three times. Maybe we can find another Avenger." This has at least a two-fold benefit. One, it helps little readers practice following directions. Two, it keeps squirmy readers engaged. With a command (clap, shake, tap, and so on) on nearly every page, it would be hard for even the most active little one to lose interest in this book. The book even works in some counting throughout by telling how many claps, shakes, taps are needed and also at the end as the team ensures they have gathered everyone.

This is a super hero book, so Hawkeye does have a bow and arrow. Additionally, in order to get the Hulk to join them, the team has to do a little coaxing which basically involves pestering Bruce Banner until the Hulk comes out. I personally felt they should leave poor Bruce Banner alone. One might go so far as to criticize this as encouraging that type of behavior, but given it is in the context of comic book characters and specifically a trait of the Hulk, it is not something that would prevent me from sharing this book with my kids.

Shake to Assemble is a fun book, easy for kids to engage with, and one they will likely pick up again and again until it is memorized.

The Butter Battle Book
Dr. Seuss
Random House Books for Young Readers
9780881034219, $16.99 hc / $9.99 Kindle

Dr. Seuss is great. But this book is not for young kids or parents looking for a happy ending. The story is simple, the Yooks and Zooks are waging battle over which side of the bread should be buttered. Each side persists in developing more and more advanced weapons, the protagonist doing the bidding of the Chief and the Back Room Boys, until he finds himself face to face with a Zook, both holding bombs and threatening to drop them. The illustrations are imaginative as ever. The expressions on the characters' faces help add to the depth of the story.

While fun to read in Dr. Seuss rhyme with funny, involved illustrations, the story itself is both ridiculous and dark. Like Dr. Seuss books, there is a deep, thoughtful, message present. In fact, given the current polarization that seems to run rampant today, it is perhaps a timely message (despite the 1984 copyright date), one to take to heart. That said, the book is a bit of a downer and may not be ideal for lap reading or very young readers. Perhaps this is one to revisit when the kids are older, or for adults to read and reflect upon.

Jen Lis, Reviewer

John Burroughs' Bookshelf

Clearing the Plains
James Daschuk
University of Regina Press
University of Regina
9780889776227, $22.95, PB, 362pp,

Synopsis: Now in a newly updated and revised second edition "Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics of Starvation, and the Loss of Aboriginal Life" by James Daschuk is a meticulously researched and expertly presented study that dismantles and destroys the view that Canada has a special claim to humanity in its treatment of indigenous peoples.

Daschuk shows how infectious disease and state-supported starvation combined to create a creeping, relentless catastrophe that persists to the present day. The writing is compelling, the analysis is insightful, and the narrative is what happened to the aboriginal inhabitants of Canada at the hands of Europeans is markedly upsetting.

Critique: A seminal work of impeccable scholarship that will linger in the mind and memory long after it is finished and set back upon the shelf, "Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics of Starvation, and the Loss of Aboriginal Life" should be considered a core and critically important addition to personal, community, and academic library Canadian History and First Nations History collections and Indigenous Studies supplemental curriculum reading lists.

Robin Hood: The Life and Legend of an Outlaw
Stephen Basdeo
Pen & Sword Books
c/o Casemate (distribution)
9781526729811, $34.95, HC, 224pp,

Synopsis: Robin Hood is a national English icon. He is portrayed as a noble robber, who, along with his band of merry men, is said to have stolen from the rich and given to the poor. His story has been re-imagined many times throughout the centuries in literature and film.

In "Robin Hood: The Life and Legend of an Outlaw" by Professor Stephen Basdeo, readers will be introduced to some of the candidates who are thought to have been the real Robin Hood, before journeying into the fifteenth century and learning about the various 'rymes of Robyn Hode' that were in existence. This historical study then shows how Robin Hood was first cast as an earl in the sixteenth century, before discussing his portrayals as a brutish criminal in the eighteenth century. Then readers will learn how Robin Hood became the epitome of an English gentleman in the Victorian era, before examining how he became an Americanized, populist hero fit for the silver screen during the twentieth century.

Thus, "Robin Hood: The Life and Legend of an Outlaw" will take readers on a journey through 800 years of English cultural and literary history by examining how the legend of Robin Hood has developed over time.

Critique: An impressively researched, exceptionally well written, and thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation, "Robin Hood: The Life and Legend of an Outlaw" is an extraordinary combination of biography and cultural history. An inherently fascinating and informative read from beginning to end, "Robin Hood: The Life and Legend of an Outlaw" is certain to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to both community and academic library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Robin Hood: The Life and Legend of an Outlaw" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.78).

Editorial Note: Dr Stephen Basdeo is Assistant Professor of History at Richmond University (RIASA Leeds). His research interests include Georgian and Victorian medievalism, as well as the history of crime. He has published widely in these areas for both an academic and non-academic audience, and regularly blogs about his research on his website ( He has published two other works with Pen and Sword: The Life and Legend of a Rebel Leader: Wat Tyler (2018) and The Lives and Exploits of the Most Noted Highwaymen, Rogues, and Murderers (2018).

The Last Leonardo
Ben Lewis
Ballantine Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9781984819253, $28.00, HC, 384pp,

Synopsis: In 2017, Leonardo da Vinci's small oil painting the Salvator Mundi was sold at auction. In the words of its discoverer, the image of Christ as savior of the world is "the rarest thing on the planet." Its $450 million sale price also makes it the world's single most expensive painting.

For two centuries, art dealers had searched in vain for the Holy Grail of art history: a portrait of Christ as the Salvator Mundi by Leonardo da Vinci. Many similar paintings of greatly varying quality had been executed by Leonardo's assistants in the early sixteenth century. But where was the original by the master himself? In November 2017, Christie's auction house announced they had it. But did they?

"The Last Leonardo: The Secret Lives of the World's Most Expensive Painting" by Ben Lewis (who is an art critic, author, documentary filmmaker, and visiting fellow at the Warburg Institute in London) tells a thrilling tale of a spellbinding icon invested with the power to make or break the reputations of scholars, billionaires, kings, and sheikhs. Lewis takes us to Leonardo's studio in Renaissance Italy; to the court of Charles I and the English Civil War; to Amsterdam, Moscow, and New Orleans; to the galleries, salerooms, and restorer's workshop as the painting slowly, painstakingly emerged from obscurity. The vicissitudes of the highly secretive art market are charted across six centuries.

"The Last Leonardo" is a twisting tale of geniuses and oligarchs, double-crossings and disappearances, in which we're never quite certain what to believe. Above all, it is an adventure story about the search for lost treasure, and a quest for the truth.

Critique: A solidly researched, expertly written, and factual history that reads with all the drama, twists and turns of a deftly penned novel, "The Last Leonardo: The Secret Lives of the World's Most Expensive Painting" is a compelling, page turner of a read from beginning to end. Impressively informed and informative, and also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.99), "The Last Leonardo" is unreservedly recommended for personal, community, and academic library Art History collections in general, and Leonardo supplemental studies lists in particular.

John Burroughs

Julie Summers' Bookshelf

Dottoressa: An American Doctor in Rome
Susan Levenstein, MD
Paul Dry Books
1700 Sansom Street, Suite 700, Philadelphia, PA 19103-5214
9781589881396, $16.95, PB, 270pp,

Synopsis: Susan Levenstein has been practicing primary care internal medicine in Italy for four decades, treating an international clientele that's featured ambassadors and auto mechanics, millionaires and maids, poets and priests. She is a graduate of Harvard University and the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. After completing her medical training in New York, Susan set off for a one year adventure in Rome and 40 years later she is still practicing medicine in the Eternal City.

In "Dottoressa: An American Doctor in Rome" Susan writes with equal parts love and exasperation about navigating her career through the renowned Italian tangle of brilliance and ineptitude, sexism and tolerance, rigidity and chaos.

Part memoir (starting with her epic quest for an Italian medical license) and part portrait of Italy from a unique point of view, "Dottoressa" is packed from cover to cover with vignettes that illuminate the national differences in character, lifestyle, health, and health care between her two countries.

Dr. Susan Levenstein, who has been called "the wittiest internist on earth", covers everything from hookup culture to neighborhood madmen, Italian hands-off medical training, bidets, the ironies of expatriation, and why Italians always pay their doctor's bills.

Critique: An impressively candid, insightful, exceptionally well written and entertaining life story, "Dottoressa: An American Doctor in Rome" will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to community and academic library Contemporary Biography collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Dottoressa: An American Doctor in Rome" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Brandi Dawn Henderson, editor
2Leaf Press
PO Box 4378, Grand Central Station, New York, NY 10163-4378
9780988476363, $19.99, PB, 212pp,

Synopsis: Expertly compiled and edited by Brandi Dawn Henderson "Whereabouts: Stepping Out of Place, An Outside In Literary & Travel Anthology" is an anthology of the best nonfiction stories from the 'Outside In Literary & Travel Magazine -- an online journal founded in 2011.

Presented and showcased are 38 emerging and established global storytellers who share their stories discussing what it means to enter a new place; the kinds of worlds that exist to others that we, ourselves, do not experience; and how place and/or circumstance can affect who and how we are.

Whether it is the story of a dog musher's girlfriend, a heavy-metal-loving Marine, an Inner Mongolian lover, or a Mormon missionary living in a dangerous land, this unique anthology explores the question: Why does anyone take the first step to anywhere he or she doesn't belong?

Critique: An inherently fascinating, thoroughly entertaining, thoughtful and thought-provoking read from cover to cover, "Whereabouts: Stepping Out of Place, An Outside In Literary & Travel Anthology" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to both community and academic library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Whereabouts" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Waking the Witch
Pam Grossman
Gallery Books
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781982100704, $16.99, HC, 304pp,

Synopsis: While the stereotype of a witch is of a woman with a pointy black hat, maybe riding on a broomstick, historically witches in various guises have been with us for millennia. In "Waking the Witch: Reflections on Women, Magic, and Power", Pam Grossman deftly explores the cultural and historical impact of the world's most magical icon. From the idea of the femme fatale in league with the devil in early modern Europe and Salem, to the bewitching pop culture archetypes in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and Harry Potter; from the spooky ladies in fairy tales and horror films to the rise of feminist covens and contemporary witchcraft, witches reflect the power and potential of women.

"Waking the Witch" is part cultural analysis and part memoir, as Pam opens up about her own journey on the path to witchcraft, and how her personal embrace of the witch helped her find strength, self-empowerment, and a deeper purpose.

A comprehensive meditation on one of the most mysterious and captivating figures of all time, "Waking the Witch" celebrates witches past, present, and future, and reveals the critical role they have played (and will continue to play) in shaping the world as we know it.

Critique: An impressively informative, thoroughly absorbing, deftly written, and accessibly organized and presented presentation from cover to cover, "Waking the Witch: Reflections on Women, Magic, and Power" is an extraordinary and highly recommended addition to both community and academic library Metaphysical Studies, Contemporary American Biography, and Religion/Spirituality collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Waking the Witch" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9781508292968, $39.99, CD).

Living with Coco Chanel
Caroline Young
White Lion Publishing
c/o Quarto Publishing Group USA
400 First Avenue North, Suite 400, Minneapolis, MN 55401-1722
9780711240346, $30.00, HC, 192pp,

Synopsis: Gabrielle 'Coco' Chanel (19 August 1883 - 10 January 1971) was one of the most influential and ground-breaking fashion designers of the twentieth century. "Living with Coco Chanel: The Homes And Landscapes That Shaped The Designer" by Edinburgh-based writer and fashion journalist Caroline Young is beautifully illustrated biography tells her remarkable story in a unique and accessible way, examining how the homes and landscapes of her life relate to her work.

From her childhood at the convent at Aubazine to her boutique and apartment on Rue Cambon in Paris and her villa, La Pausa, on the French Riveria, Chanel's style was inspired and influenced by her environment. Emerging at a time that allowed women to be more independent, she designed clothes that let them be free. As she found fame, love and success, she used the memories of her past, and the way that she lived, to forge her own independence.

Critique: Profusely illustrated throughout with historical and fashion photographs, "Living with Coco Chanel" is impressively informative and exceptionally well written, organized and presented, making it an ideal and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, community, and academic library biography collections in general and Coco Chanel supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

Plant-Based Sports Nutrition
D. Enette Larson-Meyer & Matt Ruscigno
Human Kinetics Publishers, Inc.
PO Box 5076, Champaign, IL 61820-5076
9781492568643, $24.95, PB, 333pp,

Synopsis: In "Plant-Based Sports Nutrition: Expert Fueling Strategies for Training, Recovery, and Performance", registered dietitians Enette Larson-Meyer and Matt Ruscigno combine decades of evidence-based research with personal experience working with (and as) vegan and vegetarian athletes to offer a reliable and complete explanation of how, when, and why athlete's need to plan their nutrient intake to maximize nutrition and get the best results -- helping to make smart decisions about properly fueling the human body so as to have the energy and stamina to boost training and excel during competition.

Readers will learn how to get proper amounts of all essential macronutrients, vitamins, and minerals, taking into account your personal caloric needs. The will also draw inspiration from athletes who share how they succeed in their sports while following a plant-based way of eating.

"Plant-Based Sports Nutrition" offers plenty of recipes to use for training, event, and everyday nutrition needs and utilize the tailored meal plans and training strategies to properly fuel an athlete's body. Of special note is the information provided on keto diets, tips for optimizing bone health and iron intake, and instructions for making a fluid-replacement beverage.

Critique: Impressively informative, expertly organized and presented, "Plant-Based Sports Nutrition: Expert Fueling Strategies for Training, Recovery, and Performance" is especially and unreservedly recommended for vegetarian and vegan athletes wanting a plant-based diet that will provide them with a competitive edge in their performance. While highly recommended for college and community library Nutrition & Sports collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Plant-Based Sports Nutrition" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $19.99).

Editorial Note: A CE exam is available. For certified professionals, a companion continuing education exam can be completed after reading "Plant-Based Sports Nutrition". The Plant-Based Sports Nutrition Online CE Exam may be purchased separately or as part of the Plant-Based Sports Nutrition With CE Exam package, which includes both the book and the exam.

Julie Summers

K.C. Finn's Bookshelf

The Girl in Hemingway's Studio
Carolyn Grady
9781543961966, $14.96 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 346pp,

The Girl in Hemingway's Studio is a work of dramatic fiction penned by author Carolyn Grady. Our central heroine and the title character is Dr Alexis Strong Caldwell, an English professor and aspiring writer who is seeking more creativity in her life after winning a writing contest. She travels to the studio where Ernest Hemingway worked on some of his most famous writings of the '30s, reluctantly agreeing to take her sister Charlotte along for the ride. As the sisters attempt to bond, new adventures spring from the Key West locale, and other developments in the family Alexis has left behind begin to stir up trouble too.

This is a family drama in every sense of the word, and readers looking for an immersive experience where every family member has their own intriguing story will be very satisfied with the plot development work of Carolyn Grady. Plenty of backstory fills us in on Alexis's relationship with her parents and sister, whilst Alexis's husband Marcus has his own plot line as he inherits a mine that he doesn't really know how to operate. The everyday struggles of the family are heightened by the new locations they are thrown into, with the development of the two sisters' relationship right at the centre. In finding her new creative spirit, Alexis learns a lot more about life and the inspirations that come from it, and readers will find her a very endearing heroine the more she opens up. Overall, The Girl in Hemingway's Studio is sure to please women's fiction and family drama fans everywhere.

Cooperative Lives
Patrick Finegan
Two Skates Publishing LLC
9781733902526, $28.00, HC, 474pp
9781733902502, $13.99 PB, 348pp
9781733902533, $3.99 Kindle, 350pp,

Cooperative Lives is a work of dramatic literary fiction penned by author Patrick Finegan, which focuses on a slice of life from New York City's recent past, the year 2013. In the concrete jungle of one of the world's busiest cities, nobody knows anyone and the idea of community has gone out of the window with each passing day's profit margins rising. But in one prestigious Manhattan address, the lid is lifted to show the real lives of the people who live there. We feel their histories in the walls and witness how their stories slowly connect to one another in a web of connections, making them truly cooperative in the building in which they live.

A delicate mix of realism and drama is at work in author Patrick Finegan's sweeping novel of commingled lives and the concept of the relative stranger next door. I really enjoyed the mix of characters, and the commitment to their development as individuals is what gives this novel its true literary quality. Plot-wise, it is a test of faith to read through each individual experience until the strands slowly come together, and the conclusion and overall effect of the book were satisfying when the journey was complete. There is a nostalgic feel to the work, despite it only being set a few short years ago, one which gives it the grandeur of the past at the same time as dealing with the real human issues of present daily life. Cooperative Lives is a must-read for fans of unique literary character study.

K.C. Finn, Reviewer
Reviewed for Readers' Favorite

Kindle Book Review Team's Bookshelf

Everyone's Happier Than You
Jamie Zerndt
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781523492886, $6.99 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 70pp,

To do a review, I read the entire book and make notes. Then I go back to poems I marked as special. This time there are so many of them that I will content myself with giving you samples of a few of them.

Zerndt treats himself with irony sometimes, as in Passive-Aggressive: "All you had to do was read the stupid thing, /then say thank you /for the tan you got /while basking in its brilliance."

Drama and description open Felony Flats: "At one in the morning the wind is camouflaged /in old newspapers and car exhaust /as fifteen men circle two..."

For an amazing metaphor about writing, turn to Antiques Road Show. I generally distrust poems about poems, but this one is special.

There is fresh imagery in Floyd's Coffee, about a converted gas station, where we find this: "Before the black-haired girl /leans her tattooed arm out the window /like a sultry gas nozzle to /fill the cars up with espresso...."

Spoiler alert: this is the entire short poem, The Party. This is a clear example of Zerndt's power and imagination: "The earth is a pi˝ata /stuffed with death certificates /while all the various gods circle round /waiting to swing bats/ at what they jokingly refer to /as candy."

For more complex poems that reward second and third readings, turn to Reasons Why the World Should Have Stopped, and to Coroner.

Zerndt's gut-punch power will get to you here for sure. Then read Black Out - personal, moving, and scary.

Zerndt can create astonishing prose poems as well; I Want to Write Something About the Airport being another favourite here. This is experience, personal, and communicated.

There are many more fine poems in this volume, but I trust this gives you a feel for the fundamental excellence of this poet and his work. I promised earlier to harp back on the star counts, so here's my usual boilerplate: My personal guidelines, when doing an 'official' KBR review, are as follows: five stars means, roughly equal to best in genre. Rarely given. Four stars means, extremely good. Three stars means, definitely recommendable. I am a tough reviewer. I try hard to be consistent.

Five stars is an easy decision. Everyone's Happier Than You is an excellent collection of first-class poetry. Extremely recommended."

Editorial Note: this reviewer received a free copy of this book for an independent review. He is not associated with the author or Amazon.

Kindle Book Review Team

Kirkus Reviews

The ABCs of Law School: Diary of a First Year Student
Teresa Anne Power
Stafford House Books
9780998107073, $15.95 PB, $9.99 Kindle, 360pp,

Worthy tips, tricks, and tools for prospective law students delivered in concise prose. Power presents a handy manual aimed at those who want to go to law school and wish a leg up on the competition.

Off The Well-Lit Path
M.S. Holm
Sentry Books
c/o Great West Publishing
9780997455380, $14.00 PB, $8.00 Kindle, 320pp,

A desperate man tries to recover his teenage daughter, kidnapped in Mexico.

Bob Rugg and his 13-year-old daughter, Rose, travel to Mexico together with plans to relax on a sun-drenched beach. But they're intercepted by gangsters who steal Rugg's truck and abscond with Rose. Rugg, shot and left for dead, somehow survives. He's brought to a hospital, where one of his legs is amputated. Hobbled but determined, he takes it upon himself to track Rose down, afraid that if he reports the crime, he'll forfeit his only real advantage - the gangsters don't know he's alive and coming for them. Rugg only has the most meager of leads. For example, he remembers that a young thug with a pronounced limp lifted his wallet. Holm (Driller, 2016) alternates between two dueling narratives: a third-person perspective that focuses on Rugg and a first-person account from the perch of Rayo, a newly recruited gavillero under the rule of El Sin, the crime boss who runs the outfit that abducted Rose. The author artfully swings between two viewpoints worlds apart, capturing the vulnerabilities Rugg and Rayo share: Both submitted to the despotic calculations of El Sin. Rugg takes extraordinary risks to find his daughter and finds that the line that separates law enforcement from organized crime is capriciously drawn.

Holm beautifully combines two typically incongruent fictional genres: a gripping, action-packed novel and an emotionally astute drama. His writing is poetically austere at times, invoking the hard-boiled prose of Cormac

McCarthy: "The streets daylit. Rugg saw laborers with bundled lunches and water jugs, some riding bicycles, their lives lived beyond his troubles. Their troubles borne beyond what his life would know." The author refuses to traffic in facile caricatures or easy moral distinctions: Rayo is a sympathetic character because of, not despite, his imperfections, and even El Sin, as dastardly as he is, is permitted a human side. And Rugg is a deliciously complex character - a former pilot and soldier, he radiates a grizzled toughness and a cynical wisdom born of loss and despair. Holm could have made him into a formulaic action hero - cinematically invincible - but he avoids that shopworn trope. And the surfeit of action the book does deliver unfolds in captivating language, the violence terrifyingly real, the danger sickeningly ubiquitous: "The desert without gully or outcrop. A vanished sea had left Rugg no concealment beyond the holes of long dead foraminifera, their benthic shells crunching under his feet. He ran with his mouth blooded and agape, as though in astonishment at a newly broken world, one where masked marauders set a man free so that they might shoot him in the back."

This is certainly not a feel-good story or for those in search of lighthearted entertainment. Holm asks a lot of his reader, both to understand the plot and to stomach the violence. But the author repays that labor with a memorable literary experience.

A thrilling and moving story of love and desperation.

Kirkus Reviews

Lyric Hunter's Bookshelf

Muslim: A Novel
Zahia Rahmani
Deep Vellum Publishing
9781941920756, $14.95 PB, $9.99 Kindle, 145pp,

Zahia Rahmani's "Muslim: A Novel" is at its core a warning of the danger and violence of distilling human life down to a single identity label: religion, gender, or nationality. It also warns against the violence of erasing any part of one's life that encompasses those identities and cultures: the colonized who are forced to stop speaking their language, or oppressed groups who are forced to assimilate into the dominant culture while their own cultural practices are demonized and marginalized. This is the tension of the novel, pulling between multivalent life and erasure. The narrator lets no one off, not even herself.

The first three chapters describe how the narrator's life was shaped by loss and shifting borders, but also by social ties and community, even when those supports were threatened by war and discrimination. Tales from childhood and the Quran take on added significance as the narrator describes her father returning from prison with PTSD, leaving wartorn Algeria for France, and struggling to reconcile Berber culture with French bureaucracy. The narrator frequently repeats: "I do not have a country."

"Muslim: A Novel" is a study in the function of language as a tool of colonization, of violence, of criminalization, and of murder. The narrator presents the various meanings of the Name, "Muslim," how it is always given by the ones who conquer. This forced identification sometimes flies under the radar, as in "Dialogue With a Government Worker," which underlines the intrusiveness of a state that is suspicious of foreignness. At other times it is overt, as in "Desert Storm," where the narrator is imprisoned by the army occupying a desert country. In this last chapter, the narrator recognizes the inherent resistance to conquest of the land and its people, and her last dialogue occurs between her and a soldier. It is dialogue frustrated by truth: the narrator's answers get at the rotten heart of the tension of the novel, and are both what the occupiers want to hear and precisely not what they want to hear. All the while, the humanness of the narrator throws wrenches in the cogs of the occupation machine.

The style of the novel is conversational, at the same time as circling. The novel is poetically written, almost stream of consciousness. While the subject matter is not easy, the novel is absolutely essential reading for everyone. It is a beautiful translation of a powerful work from an intelligent writer.

Lyric Hunter

Margaret Lane's Bookshelf

Knowing Her Place
Valerie Bevan & Caroline Gatrell
Edward Elgar Publishing
9 Dewey Court, Northampton, MA 01060-3815
9781783476510, $120.00, HC, 232pp,

Synopsis: Today, more women are studying science in degree oriented university curriculums and they are consistently outperforming men students. Yet, still, significantly fewer women than men hold prestigious jobs in science. Why should this occur? What prevents women from achieving as highly as men in science? And why are so few women positioned as 'creative genius' research scientists?

Drawing upon the views of 47 (female and male) scientists, Valerie Bevan (Honorary Teaching Fellow, Lancaster University Management School) and Caroline Gatrell (Professor of Organization Studies, University of Liverpool Management School, UK) collaboratively explore why women are less likely than men to become eminent in their profession. They observe three mechanisms which perpetuate women's lowered 'place' in science: subtle masculinities (whereby certain forms of masculinity are valued over womanhood); (m)otherhood (in which women's potential for maternity positions them as 'other'), and the image of creative genius which is associated with male bodies, excluding women from research roles.

Critique: An impressively informative and thought-provoking work of seminal and meticulous scholarship, "Knowing Her Place: Positioning Women in Science" is an extraordinary study that is enhanced for academia with the inclusion of lists of figures and tables, a twenty-two page bibliography of references, a seven page appendix of interviewed subjects, and five page index. Exceptionally well organized and presented, this groundbreaking study is especially recommended for both college and university library collections and supplemental studies curriculum lists. It should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Knowing Her Place" is also available in a paperback edition (9781789904260, $39.95).

Shades: Detroit Love Stories
Esperanza Cintron
Wayne State University Press
4809 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, MI 48201-1309
9780814346884, $18.99, PB, 144pp,

Synopsis: Esperanza Cintron's "Shades: Detroit Love Stories" is a short story collection that is distinctly Detroit. By touching on a number of romantic and sexual encounters that span the historical and temporal spaces of the city, each of these interconnected stories examines the obstacles an individual faces and the choices he or she makes in order to cope and, hopefully, survive in the changing urban landscape.

"Shades" begins in the 1960s by following two young black women who are determined to find joy in their lives even as they struggle to make ends meet. Their lives continue to evolve under triumphant and disappointing conditions -- falling in and out of love, giving birth, raising children, and struggling to "make it" despite disappointing and tenuous love affairs and relationships. The setting throughout the eighteen stories shifts as these women age and their children extend the timeline, reflecting on the city's social and political changes over three decades, as well as the pitfalls, tragedies, and opportunities these linked families encounter.

As an storyteller, Cintron favors an everyday vernacular for her characters' voices in order to reflect the complexities of their working/middle-class, ethnic, and racial identities. Divided into two sections, Eastside and Westside, the collection gives a nod to the sometimes contentious geographical split marked by Woodward Avenue. Cintron takes readers through city streets (from neighborhood bars to burger joints) while painting lyrical portraits of the unique and multifaceted characters whose honesty shatters the illusion of endless love and happily-ever-after fantasies, as they clash with the circumstances of economics and race. Cintron's stories capture the rhythms of language and the poetry of the people and will interest readers of fiction or poetry who seek to understand love.

Critique: An inherently engaging (and at times simply fascinating) read, "Shades: Detroit Love Stories" is an extraordinary and memorable anthology that is unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Contemporary American Literary Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Shades: Detroit Love Stories" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $18.04).

Tender: Stories
Sofia Samatar
Small Beer Press
150 Pleasant Street, Suite 306, Easthampton, MA 01027-1875
9781618731265, $24.00, HC, 256pp,

Synopsis: Divided into "Tender Bodies" and "Tender Landscapes," the stories comprising Sofia Samatar's first collection of short fiction range from a rising star travel, to the commonplace, to the edges of reality.

Some of Samatar's weird and compassionate fabulations spring from her life and literary studies; some spring from the world, some from the void. "Tender" is an anthology of short stories that collectively explore the fragility of bodies, emotions, and landscapes, in settings that range from medieval Egypt to colonial Kenya to the stars, and the voices of those who question: children, students, servants, researchers, writers.

Critique: With each individual story a nicely polished literary gem, "Tender: Stories" is unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Contemporary American Literary Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Tender: Stories" is also now available in a paperback edition (9781618731654, $17.00) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Girl Warriors
Svenja Hohenstein
McFarland & Company
PO Box 611, Jefferson NC 28640
9781476676647, $39.95, PB, 255pp,

Synopsis: From the Hellenic Age of the ancient Greeks down to the present time, quest narratives are an established and inherent aspect of Western culture. In stories like The Odyssey, The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars and Harry Potter, men set out on journeys, fight battles and become heroes. Women traditionally feature in such stories as damsels in need of rescue or as the prizes at the end of heroic quests.

These narratives perpetuate predominant gender roles by casting men as active and women as passive. Focusing on stories in which popular teenage heroines Buffy Summers, Katniss Everdeen and Disney's Princess Merida embark on daring journeys, "Girl Warriors: Feminist Revisions of the Hero's Quest in Contemporary Popular Culture" by Svenja Hohenstein (who is an Assistant Professor at the University of Tuebingen, Germany) explores what happens when traditional gender roles and narrative patterns are subverted.

Professor Hohenstin deftly examines representations of these characters across various media film, television, novels, posters, merchandise, fan fiction and fan art, and online memes that model concepts of heroism and girlhood inspired by feminist ideas.

Critique: A seminal work of simply outstanding scholarship, "Girl Warriors: Feminist Revisions of the Hero's Quest in Contemporary Popular Culture" is exceptionally well written, organized and presented. Enhanced for academia with the inclusion of eight pages of Chapter Notes, a twenty page Bibliography, and a two page Index, "Girl Warriors" is an exceptionally unique and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, community, and academic library Feminist Studies collections and supplemental curriculum lists.

Job 2.0: God and Lucifer Battle Again For A Single Soul
Del Staecker
Elm Hill Books
9780310107583, $6.99, PB, 76pp,

Synopsis: God and Lucifer are at it again in "Job 2.0: God and Lucifer Battle Again For A Single Soul" by Del Staecher.

"Job 2.0" is an updated retelling of JOB, one of the oldest book in the Bible and takes place in modern times, using every-day language and ordinary life situations.

More than three millennia after their first contest, the creator of the Universe and his highest errant minion are struggling once again over the fate of a single soul. For this battle the center of their attention is not God's most favored servant. Rather it is an everyday person.

What could this rematch mean for humankind when a nobody is in Lucifer's crosshairs? -- More importantly, what does it mean for us all?

Critique: Imaginatively thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Job 2.0: God and Lucifer Battle Again For A Single Soul" is one of those quick and easy reads that will linger in the mind and memory long after this slender little book is finished and set back upon the shelf. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Job 2.0: God and Lucifer Battle Again For A Single Soul" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99).

Editorial Note: Educated at The Citadel, Wheaton College, and The University of Puget Sound, Del Staecker is an American writer of novels, novellas, short stories and non-fiction in a number of genres, including suspense, crime, philosophical fiction, satire, and memoir. He is a life Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (London) and Knight of Honor in the Order of St. John (Malta).

Margaret Lane

Mari Carlson's Bookshelf

Eye Exams: A Collection of Epigrams
Richard Krause
Propertius Press
9780359496518, $14.99

Richard Krause's collection of epigrams, Eye Exams jabs at collective truths, creating its own perspective, or lack thereof.

The preface defines an epigram as "a concise, often witty short statement that has a twist." Epigrams are time-full, whereas axioms, aphorisms and other quotes-to-live-by are timeless standards. Epigrams may be true for now, but not later, yet make a lasting impact nonetheless. This collection's epigrams deal in a variety of topics, from mundane to moral, such as: knowledge and beauty, carnal desires, power and courage, art, philosophy, religion, justice, honesty and jealousy, mastery and failure, and word play. A common theme is how observations reflect most the observer.

Written over 4-5 years, mostly in New York city, the epigrams do come from a context. I found myself trying to locate the story in the collection. The literal space between the epigrams on the page lends itself to letting the imagination wander and make connections. Who is the author? Under what circumstances would this statement have come about? Some statements use "I;" some "he" or "she." To whom do they refer?

Eye Exams itself becomes a subject. It addresses readers as "you" or "we," inviting introspection, critique and reaction. It holds up a mirror, examines us, our vision, scrutinizing our beliefs and thoughts. It is difficult not to respond to many bold statements, like "Violence is the knife no one knows you are carrying, that can't be found even if you are frisked." But as strong as our agreement or disagreement may be, the collection wiggles out from under any blanket appraisal. "Contradictions are the unheralded completion of everything."

Best read in short bursts, as the disparate insights startle and linger, this flexible book confounds and compels. It tests our willingness to question ourselves for the sake of truth.

Mari Carlson, Reviewer

Marj Charlier's Bookshelf

The Other Americans
Laila Lalami
c/o Penguin Random House
9781524747145, $25.95, Hardcover, $13.99, Kindle, 301 pages

A hit-and-run driver hits Driss, a Moroccan immigrant, as walking to his car after closing his restaurant on a highway in the high desert above Palm Springs, CA. Is it murder or was it an accident?

That question drives the plot of Lalami's excellent novel, which explores the loneliness of our modern America and the racial and ethnic prejudices that keep Americans apart.

Written from the point of view of nine characters, the story mainly revolves around Nora and Jeremy. Nora is a first-generation American, whose musical and intellectual pursuits are underappreciated by her family, revealed by their constant complaint that she has her "head in the clouds." At the news of her father's death, returns home to the desert from San Francisco, where she is struggling to establish a career in composing. Jeremy, who spent five years in Iraq, knew Nora in high school, but as a chubby and ill-socialized youngster, he kept his admiration under wraps. Nora and Jeremy become lovers soon after she returns to the desert, but her main preoccupation is to find out who killed her father and whether it was a murder.

The family was the target of anti-immigrant/anti-Muslim hatred years before Driss was killed, when the family restaurant was torched in a never-solved hate crime. The unmoored attitude of Driss's wife, Maryam, who wishes to return to Morocco in spite of the death threats that drove them to America, is echoed in Efrain, a Mexican immigrant without papers, who witnesses the hit-and-run, but doesn't report it for fear of deportation.

We get first-person points of view from those five characters, plus those of Coleman, the African-American detective investigating the death; the aging Anderson, whose bowling alley sits next to Driss's restaurant and who has had disagreements with him over parking and signage; Anderson's son, A.J., a bully whose life has been as tough as well; and, only briefly, Salma, Nora's sister with her own secret problems. The effect of all of these voices (which all sound eerily alike, given their divergent origins, ethnicities and ages) is a full picture of all the lives at stake in the story.

In allowing so many people to speak, Lalami gives us insight into each character's interior struggle as they desperately seek to connect with their community and with other people. With quick, but effective, evocation of their individual backstories, she makes even the worst of the characters sympathetic. Making a bully and a racial bigot sympathetic is a trick I'm not sure I, as a novelist, have ever been able to pull off, even though I may have wanted to.

The ending is satisfying, if a bit too good to be true, and a few loose ends are left hanging (what happens to Efrain after he comes forward? what happens to Salma?) but I recommend this book wholeheartedly, and look forward to reading what Lalami writes next.

This America: The Case for the Nation
Jill Lepore
Liveright Publishing
c/o W.W. Norton
9781631496417, $16.95, Hardcover, $9.61, Kindle, 138 pages

Jill Lepore's credentials are longer than this brief book. A professor of American history at Harvard and a staff reporter for The New Yorker, she has been a finalist for the National Book Award, and has authored 10 laudable books. Reading This America, which is essentially a long essay, slapped me in the face for how little I know and understand about the philosophical and historical roots to our nation's concept of democracy and country.

Lepore's concern is the illiberal nationalism that arose in America following the Civil War, and its threats to our sense of nation since then. She examines through history the difference between a liberal nationalism - which embraces all the country's citizens, religions and ethnicities and is based on a common understanding of ideals - and Trump's version of nationalism, which is based on intolerance and a myth of common origins. The battle over immigration, which has raged for more than a century and a half, has its roots in differing views of what makes a nation, and in widely divergent views of nationalism and globalism.

Despite the long history of intolerance and prejudice in America, Lepore is optimistic that a case can be made for America as a nation, if we return to our principles of equality and justice, and begin looking forward, not backward, again. Although it comprises only 138 pages of manuscript, it is dense and academic, not a quick read by any stretch, and once I finished reading it, I realized I have to go back to the beginning and start over. I may do that several times, because as difficult as it is to absorb all the history and wisdom herein, I know that it is really, really important. The fate of our nation depends on our understanding of what has happened to our American, democratic ideals, and how they have been corrupted by the selfish and the bigoted.

Genesis: The Deep Origin of Societies
Edward O. Wilson
Liveright Publishing
c/o W.W. Norton
9781631495540, $23.95, Hardcover, $11.99, Kindle, 125 pages

I am a fan of evolutionary studies and human genetic history, particularly books that increase our understanding of what has made humans human, and how natural selection and adaptation has delivered us to our current, precarious state as a species on the brink of bringing about our own extinction.

This thin book aspires to explain altruism as an adaptation that led to the expansion and ascension of our species. For scientists who study the genetic and environmental constraints that conspired to create the surviving animals - including humans - on earth, this is undoubtedly a clear-headed and well-argued exploration of the benefits of the evolution of altruism in animal societies. However, I found myself mired in what I found to be a boring discussion of bugs and beetles and rats and shrimp up right up until the final chapter. Then, I was disappointed in the short, shallow and extrapolatory exploration of human altruism in the balance.

I look back to the thrill I had when I first read Melvin Konner's The Tangled Wing, which in 1986 turned my head around and ignited my interest in the environmental and biological constraints on human evolution and survival, and wish I could find something close to as insightful and exciting 33 years later. Genesis is not it.

Joshua Furst
Alfred A. Knopf
c/o Penguin Random House
9780307271143, $26.95, Hardcover, $13.99, Kindle, 333 pages

When I finished reading this captivating, well-researched, and at times unsettling novel, I wondered what Abbie Hoffman's real-life son, america (with a small first "a), thought about it. Then I wondered what his fellow "revolutionaries" thought of it, and then I decided, what difference does it make? This book is not sold as a biography or a history of the radical movements of the 1960s, it is a novel, and like all art, its worth and truthfulness is in the eyes of the beholder.

Revolutionaries is a fictionalized version of the elder Hoffman's life told through the eyes of his son, Freedom Synder, a fictionalized america. Like Hoffman, Lenny Snyder is a founder of the Yippies, a Chicago Eight defendant, a leader of the anti-war movement, and the orchestrator of demonstrations both violent and theatrical.

I am too young (barely) to remember much of the Yippies and the radical movements of the 1960s. I was only 15 when Woodstock impressed on most Americans an indelible image of hippies, flower children, radicals, and rock and roll. I was also sequestered in the middle of the country, in a tiny farm town. In high school, as the editor of our school newspaper (printed and overseen by the town's conservative weekly newspaper editor), I wrote an editorial arguing for the right to wear blue jeans to school. It was one of the most radical things any kid or young adult had ever done in that town. You get the idea.

So, living inside Joshua Furst's fictional account of one family's life at the center of the chaos, the excitement, the optimism and the cynicism of the radicals of the movement was eye-opening and slightly unnerving. The novel starts with a couple of short chapters told from the middle-aged "Fred" - short for Freedom - and quickly turns back the clock. We hear from a two-year-old in short, episodic bursts of text (too full of insight and judgment for a real two-year-old), and then follow him as he grows up in the shadow of his father, raised by a woman who was by all practical accounts, a poverty-stricken single mother.

The weakness of the novel - and I think it is major and serious one - is the narration by a youngster who is incredibly (literally incredible) precocious as both a child and a teenager, and who remembers things no one his age could have. His impressions and his reflections are all adult, and disconcertingly so. At one point in the novel, Furst tries to cover for this in "recalling" a meeting between his mother, Lenny and their lawyer:

"That's what I remember. Being bored. Getting frustrated by the endless details. Struggling to follow them. Lost in their meaning. I remember certain repeated words and their inflections. Entrapment. Criminal conspiracy. Prove it. Evidence. Bleecker Street. Wiretaps. COINTELPRO. Extralegal. COINTELPRO. NYPD. COINTELPRO. They're still at it. They say they're not, but they are. Prove it. Skepticism rising off of everyone."

He remembered COINTELPRO? Criminal conspiracy? Extralegal? A four-year-old could note "skepticism rising off of everyone?" Really? Does anyone believe this?

On the other hand, the author doesn't romanticize the movement (even though he does apparently hold romantic notions about "normal" family life, which, of course, is what young Fred longs for but doesn't experience.) Furst's prose is fast-paced and evocative. His scenes are impressively constructed with the kind of detail that indicates a significant amount of research that went into the project.

In the end, the novel leaves us with a cynical view of politics and a deep ennui promulgated by the suggestion that the 1960s movements amounted to nothing more than a loud, distracting mistake by some drug-addled and troubled, however talented, people. But perhaps Furst wasn't trying to find a point in the messiness of the time, or help us find a way out of our current political morass. Perhaps he simply wanted to tell a story of a boy and his famous, confounding, manic-depressive father. That he does, and he does that well.

Marj Charlier, Reviewer

Mayra Calvani's Bookshelf

From Idea to Reality: An Entrepreneur's Guide to Meaningful Business Growth
Jean Paul Paulynice, MBA
Paulynice Consulting Group, LLC
9781733042710, $19.99, Hardback
9781733042727, $14.99, Paperback
9781733042772, $7.99, eBook

Jean Paulynice draws from personal experience, revealing the secrets he shares with clients and provides you with essential information as if he were your own personal coach guiding you along the way.

By using this workbook, which has ample space for notes, you'll be able to brainstorm, self reflect, and develop a plan/strategy, as well as become aware of not only your strengths but also your weaknesses and obstacles. In addition, you'll be able to join a community of like-minded entrepreneurs.

Written in an engaging, conversational style, "From Idea to Reality" will help push you forward and gather momentum, improving your chances of discovering and fulfilling your true potential and increasing your chance of success. No matter your type of entrepreneurship, this book will be helpful if you're starting out or would like to take your business to the next level.

Mayra Calvani

Michael Carson's Bookshelf

Farm DIY
Daniel Johnson 7 Samantha Johnson
CompanionHouse Books
c/o Fox Chapel Publishing Company
1970 Broad Street N., East Petersburg, PA 17520
9781620083321, $19.99, PB, 192pp,

Synopsis: Daniel and Samantha Johnson have collaborated on a number of rural-living guidebooks, including How to Raise Rabbits and Beginner's Guide to Beekeeping. A 4-H alumna who lives on a family farm in northern Wisconsin, Samantha is also a certified horse show judge and raises purebred Welsh Mountain ponies and Dutch, Holland Lop, and Netherland Dwarf rabbits. In "Farmy DIY" they have compiled twenty useful and fun projects for both practical and hobby farms that include complete plans and easy-to-follow construction tips. t

Veteran family farmers and 4-H alumni Samantha and Daniel Johnson present 20 essential projects for aspiring homesteaders ranging from log jacks, rabbit hutches, and milking stands, to a weather vane and a barn quilt. Clear step-by-step instructional color photographs guide the reader through each hands-on project.

An introduction to the DIY mindset explains the positive benefits and satisfaction of building things yourself, and provides an overview of the basic tools and skills needed to complete each task. "Farm DIY" also features a background discussion of farming today, and instructions for building an effective farmer's market display stand for selling your products.

Critique: Thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, "Farm DIY: 20 Useful and Fun Projects for Your Farm or Homestead" is particularly ideal for those new to the DIY philosophy and practice. Fun, practical, and inspiring, "Farm DIY" is unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, and community library collections.

The Ex-Offender's Re-Entry Success Guide
Ronald L. Krannich
Impact Publications
14 Cotesworth Place, Savnnah, GA 31411
9781570234033, $13.95, PB, 144pp,

Synopsis: America operates the world's largest, costliest, and most dysfunctional criminal justice ($250 billion) and incarceration ($80 billion) systems. With nearly 2.2 million prisoners in state and federal correctional institutions, another 10 million circulating in and out of jails and detention centers, and 77 million with arrest records, Americans boast more troubling rap sheets than promising resumes! Their criminal records present numerous barriers to re-entry success.

Indeed, each year nearly 700,000 ex-offenders exit prison for the free world. Within three years of release, two-thirds return to prison where they each cost taxpayers between $25,000 and $210,000 a year to experience questionable justice and retribution. Once released with a measly $200 in gate money and no housing, job, or re-entry/support plan, not surprisingly, a majority of ex-offenders don't make it on the outside for long.

But help is on the way for surviving this criminal justice maze. Filled with powerful insights, advice, self-test, examples, and exercises that focus on both hope and action, this newly updated and revised third edition of "The Ex-Offender's Re-Entry Success Guide: Smart Choices for Making It on the Outside" by Ronald L. Krannich is the ultimate guide for those who want to stay out of prison for good and do something meaningful with their lives. This transition period is a time for self-renewal and transformation -- a unique time for ex-offenders to inject greater meaning and direction into their lives so they will never again waste their time and mind in a prison, jail, or detention center.

"The Ex-Offender's Re-Entry Success Guide" deftly addresses the major challenges facing ex-offenders as they re-enter the free world and outlines a clear seven-step process for re-entry success the includes: Changing attitudes and motivations; Developing a purpose in life; Getting smarter through education; Telling the truth about the new you; Taking responsibility and building trust; Seeking assistance for life-long recovery; Leaving a legacy as a good friend, spouse, parent, and citizen.

Also included in "The Ex-Offender's Re-Entry Success Guide" is: A comprehensive 146-item re-entry success assessment text; Eexercises for developing a purpose and legacy in life; Daily action-planning exercises to implement the seven steps; A planning journal for keeping critical re-entry activities on track; Forms to help organize a budget and use community support systems; Powerful quotes and recommended resources for guiding one's life.

Critique: Simply stated, "The Ex-Offender's Re-Entry Success Guide: Smart Choices for Making It on the Outside" should be considered mandatory reading by anyone being released from incarceration. It should be a part of every jail and prison library, every community library, and every academic Penology collection.

Editorial Note: Ronald L. Krannich is one of today's leading career transition writers who has authored more than 100 books, including several self-help guides for ex-offenders: The Ex-Offender's New Job Finding and Survival Guide, The Ex-Offender's Re-Entry Assistance Directory, Best Resumes and Letters for Ex-Offenders, The Ex-Offender's Job Interview Guide, Best Jobs for Ex-Offenders, The Ex-Offender's Re-Entry Success Guide, The Ex-Offender's Quick Job Hunting Guide, The Ex-Offender's 30/30 Job Solution, 99 Days to Re-Entry Success Journal, The Re-Entry Employment and Life Skills Pocket Guide, The Re-Entry Start-Up Pocket Guide, The Anger Management Pocket Guide, The Re-Entry Personal Finance Pocket Guide, and Re-Imagining Life on the Outside Pocket Guide. A former Peace Corps Volunteer, Fulbright Scholar, university professor, and management trainer, Ron specializes in producing and distributing books, DVDs, training programs, and related materials on employment, career transition, addiction, anger management, criminal justice, and life skills.

The Showy Town of Savannah
John D. Duncan & Sandra L. Underwood
Mercer University Press
1501 Mercer University Drive, Macon, GA 31207-0001
9780881466898, $40.00, HC, 464pp,

Synopsis: In December 1817, the English architect William Jay arrived at the busy port of Savannah, Georgia. In the coming four and a half years, he designed several public buildings and private residences in Savannah and a few structures in Charleston, South Carolina. All of his work was remarkable; yet, soon after his departure in 1822, only vague recollections of Jay survived in Savannah, and in Charleston he was forgotten altogether.

Early in the twentieth century, Jay's work was observed by a few prominent architectural historians, and accounts of his life and labors began to appear. But none of these offered satisfying answers to these questions: Just who was this man? Where had he come from, and what of his family and friends? Why did he pursue the profession of architecture, and where and how was he trained? Why did he venture to Georgia, the last of the English colonies; and why did he leave after such a short period of time? And, why had his elegant work not been more noticed in the history of American architecture?

Collaboratively written by John D. Duncan and Sandra L. Underwood, "The Showy Town of Savannah: The Story of the Architect William Jay" is new biography of Jay that describes his place in a vibrant but volatile world. The English Regency was marked by the wealth and power of empire, the accomplishments of the industrial revolution, and the emergence of a vast underclass trapped in grinding poverty. Jay's father, the most popular preacher of the day, was a leader in evangelical campaigns to bring relief to the poor, to foster universal literacy, and to abolish slavery. In this tumultuous environment, Jay made his way. He suffered many disappointments, but he gained remarkable achievements, not least of which was his lasting imprint on "showy Savannah".

Critique: An exceptionally meticulous and informative work of original and seminal scholarship that is enhanced for academia with the inclusion of illustrations, a bibliography, and an index, "The Showy Town of Savannah: The Story of the Architect William Jay" is an extraordinary biography and an outstanding contribution to academic library 19th Century American Architectural History collections in general, and William Jay supplemental studies lists in particular.

Editorial Note: John D. Duncan is a twelfth-generation Charlestonian who came to Savannah to teach history at what later became Armstrong State University. He and his wife have shared three passions: the restoration of their 1869 Monterey Square townhouse; the creation and operation of an antique print and book shop; and research and travel to document the life and work of the architect William Jay.

Sandra L. Underwood is Professor Emerita of Art History at St. Mary's College of Maryland, located in St. Mary's City, the site of the founding of the Maryland colony. Retirement brought her and her husband to Savannah where they could indulge their shared interests in art and architecture.

Michael J. Carson

Michael Hartnett's Bookshelf

Fatechanger Book One: Penny Lost
L. M. Poplin
Black Rose Writing
9781684332786, $18.95 PB, $4.99 Kindle, 225pp,

A Clever, Exciting Novel of Rough Old Boston

In L.M. Poplin's lively, smart novel Fatechanger, young Penelope is transported from present day to Boston, 1915. There, she must take the guise of a boy, Penn, and enter into the rough and tumble world of pickpocketing. Poplin has a clean, sharp style to contrast with the grubby, hard streets inhabited by impoverished youths. As her friend Fin explains to Penn, "You get a corner, and you learn the faces of every man, woman, and child on that corner. And slowly patterns emerge, patterns you can control. Patterns equal power."

A quick study, Penn quickly earns enough money to buy her freedom from Joe, the boss of the young thieves. Mercurial and thoughtful, Joe is a wonderful, mysterious character rife with moral complexities. As Penn moves onto selling newspapers on the street, the reader becomes completely enthralled by both the storyline and evocative sense of time and place. The battle between Joe and Mack, the leader of the newsboys, is one of sly maneuvers and machinations that are quite entertaining. Penn's divided loyalties between these two charismatic and often generous figures both keep her at the center of the action and compel the reader to struggle with her to decide just who has the moral upper hand. Clearly flawed figures, Mac and Joe still engender loyalty and provide some comfort in a rough world: they both possess something akin to grace.

Furthermore, Poplin captures the striking inequities of the time and the nascent women's rights movements, imbuing the novel with subtle social and feminist ideas. Fatechanger is filled with astute asides ("... politics were only considered polite conversation if you were complaining"), punchy dialogue, and a slew of wry, clever lines. I deeply enjoyed the novel and look forward to the next installment of Penn's journey.

Michael P. Hartnett

Molly Martin's Bookshelf

The Frog Alphabet Book
Jerry Pallotta
9780881064629, $7.95, Paperback, 32 pages

Jerry Pallotta's The FROG Alphabet Book .... And other awesome amphibians illustrated by Ralph Masiello features child friendly frogs and their reptilian cousins.

Beginning with the letter A: A is for Amazon Horned Frog. This frog looks like it ...

On each page is a large full color, full page graphic of the frog represented usually shown in the venue where the small and large reptiles live.

And, reptiles portrayed runs the gamut of Blue-Legged Strawberry Frog, Dumpy Green Tree Frog, Goliath Frog, Red Eyed Tree Frog, Xenopus laevis, Xenopus laevis is the scientific name for Clawed Frog and the Yosemite Toad a land dwelling reptile often found in Yosemite National Park.

Some of other awesome amphibians include snake like Caecilian, Hellbender, giant salamanders, Ichthyostega the now extinct first amphibian, the deep cave dwelling Olm with his teeny weeny legs and almost blind, hooded eyes, and the Slimy Salamander.

Osage County First Grade, as I found to be true with my very first class in Fresno County, California, and all that I met over three + decades in the K 1 level of primary grades; really LIKE toads and frogs and many other critters.

Writer Pallotta's Frog Book quickly became a classroom favorite for use while doing alphabet work, DEAR reading read for pleasure enjoyment, choosing for the end of the day reading on the rug and for taking home to share with family and friends.

I like the paperback version, it is light weight for children to hold or tuck into back pack for trek to and from school.

Dandy Read, happy to recommend for classroom usage, public library, as a gift for a special child, and as a first day of school gift for sharing with classmates.

Available Amazon, hard cover, paperback, unknown binding, kindle

Too Many Tamales
Gary Soto
Puffin Books
c/o Penguin
9780698114128, $8.99, Paperback, 32 pages

Gary Soto's Too Many Tamales introduces Little Readers to Maria, and her family. It is Christmas Eve, snow has been falling. Mama and Maria are making tamales for the family to enjoy, cousins, aunts, uncles and grand parents will soon arrive.

Mama is so pretty, she is wearing a little lipstick, and she smells as beautiful as her perfume. On her finger her diamond ring sparkles. Mama even allowed Maria to wear a little lipstick and perfume!

Maria and her mother add masa, corn meal, and Manteca, butter and begin to knead the dough. Maria loves her mother's beautiful ring. When the phone rings, mama removes her ring, and hurries to answer the phone.

Maria slips her mother's ring onto her thumb, oh how it sparkles, she hurries to return to her job kneading the masa for the tamales as Mama returns to the kitchen.

Before long masa is spread on the corn husks, Maria's father does his job adding a spoonful of meat before rolling the tamales and placing them in a steaming pot simmering on the stove.

How good the kitchen smelled as the Tamales were cooking. They will be so delicious! And soon everyone arrives, they bring presents to put under the tree.

Maria and her cousin Delores hurry upstairs to play. Delores' younger brother and sister tag along with the girls.

Oh No!! Suddenly Maria remembers her mother's beautiful ring.

Hurrying to the kitchen, Maria feared the ring must be in one of the tamales.

What is she going to do? How can she tell Mama about trying on her ring?

While teaching in San Joaquin Valley California where most of my students were Hispanic they were well acquainted with tamales, not so my students living in Osage County, OK.

Gary Soto's Too Many TAMALES, introduces Little Readers to a holiday celebration tradition they may not already know.

I chose Soto's book as one for reading especially during December in part to allow Little Reader's begin to understand that while we all may celebrate our Christmas holiday in one way, across the nation and the world celebrations vary greatly. While teaching in California some of my students celebrated on 25 December while others on 6 January.

In my home when my own children were young we began our holiday 5 Dec to celebrate our Dutch heritage, and continued on to 25 Dec, and beyond to 12th night..6 December. I took wooden klompen to school and we left them by the classroom door hoping Sinter Klaas might bring some chocolates, and no coal! He always did.

As was Soto, I too was raised in the San Joaquin Valley, California, learned to love Tamales at a young age, in addition to eating the 'down home,' Southern Cooking often appearing on our supper table.

The tamales featured on pages of Soto's book were something new and not recognized by Osage County First Grade. I often find I can buy tamales during December from local restaurant.

After reading Too Many Tamales aloud to the class and discussing Maria's problem, and how she resolved it. The class and I enjoyed eating tamales. Most Osage County Little Students told me they had never eaten tamales before, and agreed, they liked them!

I found Writer Soto's Too Many Tamales to be an excellent choice for teaching units regarding ethnic cultural practices, broadening Little Learner understanding that while we may not all do everything just the same, we all tend to enjoy good food, good times, family and happy times.

Students of felt at ease to share a time when they too had done something Mama had not okayed, and how that resolved itself.

Gary Soto's Too Many Tamales is a spell binding Read filled with much grist for class discussion. It is filled with large almost full page color illustrations, graphics are child pleasing, shows much of the procedure for making tamales, and illustrates that even though we are different we are also much the same.

Children DO behave in child like manner, Parents always seem to somehow know what they have done, even before the child confesses the mistake, parents do forgive, and family fun and good times can continue in spite of children making a mistake.

24 Thumbs up from Osage County First Grade, I am happy to recommend Gary Soto's Too Many Tamales as an excellent addition for the classroom, December theme box, for gifting a special child, or child's teacher during holiday time. Soto's book has a place for the classroom library shelf, school and public library.

Available Amazon, Paperback, hard cover, unknown binding, kindle, audio book

God Bless America
Irving Berlin, author
Lynn Munsinger, illustrator
HarperCollins, 1st Edition
9780060097882, $15.99, Hardcover, 32 pages

God Bless America Words and music by Irving Berlin and Illustrations by Lynn Munsinger presents to Little Singer, Readers the wonderful words to one of our most loved patriotic songs.

Each page presents one child size phrase and a page filling, well-executed graphic depicting the phrase in full color. Each illustration features a little sis, her older brother and their dad or mom. The little patriots are beautiful, clothing clad bears.

Page one God Bless America finds little sis, her doll set aside, helping Dad, hoisting Old Glory to the top of the flag pole as brother, hand on his heart salutes.

The loyal bears travel across the country, Land that I love, across plains, small towns and major cities. On one stop, Stand Beside Her, the family enjoys a parade with marching fire men, police officers, community workers And guide her where the family visit the Lincoln Memorial in our nation's capital.

Through the night with a light from above, and the family while standing on a ferry, gazes through the dusky twilight at the sky line filled with tall and short buildings. From the Mountains and we see the family toasting marshmallows over a campfire near their tent where bed rolls await.

To the prairies, and the family visits a family farm, and strolls through a field of waving wheat, To the oceans white with foam, where we see swim suit clad Papa and sis ready for a stroll along the beach, brother has a shovel, pail, and small boat.

God Bless America, fireworks fill the sky overhead, watching from the crown at the top of the Statue of Liberty is the flag waving trio.

My home sweet home brother is waving goodbye from an open window, sis can be seen through the open front door. She is hugging her mom as Papa stands nearby.

Following the song in phrase and illustration is a two page spread with the music itself and a group of little singers depicting children from around the world as is found in our country.

Trustees of the God Bless America Fund have worked to ensure funding be allocated also for New York City children impacted with the tragic events of Sep 11, 2001.

God Bless America is one of the patriotic songs I taught each of my 30+ years of Public School classes of K 1 and 2 years of 4th grade students. It is one of my personal favorites of our loyalty, patriotic songs.

I found this particular picture book to be perfect for use with K 1 level students, they love the pictures of baby sis, brother and dad traversing our nation and quickly picked up the phrase depicted as I 'sang' the book cover to cover during our morning reading together, or evening on the rug reading before time to go home at end of the day.

Illustrator Lynn Munsinger has done a wonderful job presenting the fully dressed little bears in their T shirts, dungarees and 'tennies'. The graphic of little sis in her little pink swim suit always drew positive comments as students exclaimed they or their sibling 'have one just like it.'

I especially found useful the varying depictions of our country, the diversity and topography, the men and women who work at jobs that actually serve our country to help keep us all safe from whatever war, weather, crime poverty, illness, or unthinking sloppiness may cause, as well as monuments signifying those ideals we find as a nation find important.

God Bless America proved to be very popular with each class as I used it in the classroom and am happy to recommend for school and public libraries, primary class reading shelf, the home library of books for use reading to young children, and for older children to read/sing during their own personal pleasure reading time.

Interesting Read ... Recommended ... 4 stars

Who Wants a Dragon
James Mayhew
Lindsey Gardiner, Illustrator
9780439800792, $TBA, Paperback, 32 pages

James Mayhew's Who Wants a Dragon, illustrated by children's artist illustrator Lindsey Gardiner presents to Little Learners to 'a dragon all fiery and bright ... a lost baby dragon, alone in the night.'

'A dragon is much more fun than a cat!' he attempts to persuade a witch in a hat. They soon grasp dragons are not the finest thing for the broom.

Next Baby Dragon inquires of the knight brave and bold, 'how could he leave him outside in the cold?'

Poor knight, worried inside his helmet, 'he's certain the dragon will give him a bite!'

Accordingly the narrative goes on; he talks with a drowsy princess, The King and his Queen, even the Fairy, until, at last

He does find someone 'who'd cuddle a dragon, someone who'll love him just right, SHE will cuddle him, and kiss him and help him sleep tight'

James Mayhew's Who wants a Dragon, is one more of the countless just for fun books I frequently read to K 1 Little Learners during the first weeks of the new school term.

Writer Mayhews' appealing chronicle coupled with Lindsey Gardiner's delightful, quirky pictures enchanted Little Learners and their teacher alike.

I particularly like the unaffected rhymes offered in each scenario. They are unpretentious rhymes, nonetheless they are vital for growing reading fluency. I have found; too often it seems, Little Students do not always recognize what rhyme means.

Once that hurdle is subjugated many Emergent Readers commence realization that knowing words and their rhymes can rev up their reading speed and comrehension too.

During the primary readings of the book during the first few days of our new school term; I merely read the book, prior to it being placed into the basket to be one of the selected for fun reading during daily DEAR reading time. Who Wants a Dragon was regularly the first taken by the child of the day.

As our school term proceeded and Little Learners became more self-confident and happy with listening and reading and enjoying; I began work regarding the words that sound alike; ie rhyme.

Even when Little Learners do not yet recognize what rhyme means, I seldom found a student who did not enjoy the rhymes.

I particularly like Who Wants a Dragon for the opportunities it offers for class discussion. What a beautiful reassuring belief for children everywhere that the one who is most expected to love, want and adore any of us, is our very own Mama.

During many years in the K 1 level classroom; I have found children who feel they are loved, wanted and adored are much more happy, self-assured, able to face a defeat or mistake without tears or whining or giving up, and are able to see the mistake, work to correct and able to continue to progress in most situations.

Osage County First Grade treasured Who Wants a Dragon; I am happy to recommend for the school, classroom, and public library. It is a nice book for gifting a child who may be hesitant to start their school career, it is a lovely book for students to gift their new class and teacher.

Available Amazon hardcover paperback, audio with cassette, accessory with book

Quondam: An Ancient Mirrors Tale
Jayel Gibson
Synergy Books
9781933538839, $14.95, Paperback, 368 pages

Quondam: An Ancient Mirrors Tale makes available, preceding the narrative lines of the chronicle, for the reader a chart of Aedracmorae, along with a depiction of the Fortress of the Serpent King, and a map of Quondam; I like that.

I like being able to study maps and depictions of the settings where action takes place, particularly as I read a fantasy type account. Continuing events in standpoint assists my understanding of the account with more lucidity.

A yarn populated with authoritative female characters, Quondam is the final of the four-part series of writer Gibson's The Ancient Mirror Series.

The narrative originates in the prologue as we read concerning the loud din of men's angry, fuming voices along with sounds of apprehensive mounts squealing their trepidation concerning entering the gloom of the spirit woods.

Readers find themselves drawn into the account, as they match pace with the wood nymph, Karid's, servant whilst she treks soundlessly along the side wall of a noisy tavern; she knows, there can be no survivors.

Summoning a veil of invisibility she stepped into the pub.

We pause with Malaia as she struggles through the wrenches of giving birth, we listen in as the spright Flida counters her sister Karid's spell against the dragon-spawn who will grow up motherless subsequent to Malaia's expiry during his birth.

From that inaugural episode, we keep step along with Cwen; the chief character of the account. Vindictive Queen Karid sent a fire-breathing cutthroat through an enchanted portal, into another realm in her determination to devastate those she most believes to be an appalling peril for her.

Karid's homicidal exertions will be enough to propel two women through the entrance and into Quondam. This was not her what she had in mind. And, to her vexation it will have overwhelming costs for her.

One of those hauled through is Cwen who embraces an astonishing influence which will commit her to D'raekn, the dragon-spawn. D'raekn, half man/half dragon has been displaced in exile to an island for over a thousand years.

Queen Karid's energies to overturn the prophetic connecting of Cwen to D'raekn, will unavoidably bring the pair together. From a slaying, to quest, to a recompence, Magick, insurgency and dreams; the chronicle is advanced at a furious pace.

Mythic lore declares, only dragon-spawn born both of human and dragon can restore directive and magick, and, bring synchronization to Quondam. And, it is only dragon spawn able to overthrow the usurper queen, she a sprite of the woods who has been cursed and must live in the flesh. It is she who has stolen the crown.

Thoroughly power-mad, Queen Karid, a raucous, gushing force of malevolent deeds, apprehends herself facing a possible, serious confrontation when Cwen of ĂdracmorŠ, the until now mostly disregarded, hot tempered niece, of the king first introduced in earlier books of the series comes plunging the all but unplumbed entry leading into Quondam.

Strongwilled, with a chip ever ready on her shoulder, Cwen will need to realize when it is best to apply good judgement and to see the viewpoint of others as well as her own, if she wants to better grasp opportunity to not only redeem herself but to advance meaning for her life as well.

At last, Cwen determines her life purpose, as well as that of the world, are knotted in ways sure to thrust her, angry and demanding, into the very center of a daunting struggle.

Cwen looked as if she had been beaten all but to death when she blasts though the portal and lands on D'raekn's island prison. Karid's subordinates have horrendously victimized Cwen. She is thrown away, seemingly dead, into the sea and is saved by humble folk.

D'raeken himself actually has a hand in Cwen's rebuilding her strength. Cwen was physically and emotionally shattered by her abusers; now recovering D'raeken endeavors to help her expand her confidence.

Quodam has become a monarchy spinning under the control of Karid, the fallen wood nymph whose pitiless rule commenced when she was required by the gods into human form as consequence of behavior frowned up by the gods. Her penalty has already lasted for an eon.

Karid is delighted to have blood flowing in her veins, and is always more than eager to spill the blood of any who foolishly threaten her continuous domination.

A face to face chance meeting between Karid and Cwen set into motion an emergence of inactive mystical influences lying dormant across the land. The queen sullenly strove to eradicate all enchanted entities in order that all superior powers would be held in reserve for herself.

At last; innumerable of the enraptured residents; who were able to escape the queen and have kept themselves concealed as the land rouses, begin to awaken as well.

Gibson's writings validate her principles, beliefs and viewpoints. Characters are multifaceted, multilayered, and engaged in complicated activities causing the action-packed story line to be chockfull of details, environments, trickery and reader welcoming circumstances.

The multi layered accounts are spellbinding in depth and particulars; thrashing out human deficiency securing reader attention from the preliminary paragraphs and continuing to the last sentences found on the final page. Themes have become more resolute, unswerving, and reliable for the simple reason that Gibson's characters do exhibit the very oddities, warts and feebleness as trouble, plague, or devastate us all.

Molly Martin, Reviewer

N. Moss' Bookshelf

Some Unimaginable Animal
David Ebenbach
Orison Books
9781949039238, $16.00, PB, 60pp,

David Ebenbach's slim poetry collection Some Unimaginable Animal has become my go-to gift this summer. It is a charmer. Ebenbach (a prolific fiction and nonfiction writer) has created a magic potion with this book, one part humor, one part savvy insight, two parts kindness.

This collection delighted me from the first poem, "Basket and Kneading Trough" about how, while the narrator is eating one meal, he is already planning the next. Everyone I've given the collection to says, "That's me!"

The collection is, in one way, about food. Bagels, yogurt, vinegar, and cherry tomatoes make appearances, as do the meals eaten alone and together, the meals that are rituals, and the increasingly snug pants of an inveterate nosher.

It's also a collection that is permeated with Judaism. There are poems about Hannukah, Sukkot, Passover. There's one called "The Rabbi's Advice" that had me reeling, as did "Our Memory for a Blessing Right Now."

But the collection is many things, maybe also about animals, as the title suggests. We encounter a menagerie by the time it's over, that includes primates, bucks, whales, dolphins, and cats meandering across the pages..

Ultimately the collection is about the sweet insights that make me gasp, make me laugh, make me feel connected to the dolorous, hungry, hugely lovable world.

Editorial Note: N. West Moss is the author of the short story collection The Subway Stops at Bryant Park.

N. West Moss

Paige Bremner's Bookshelf

At the Far End of Nowhere
Christine Davis Merriman
Green Writers Press
9780998701288, $19.95 PB, $7.99 Kindle, 250pp,

What is it like for a girl to grow up with a dad who is old enough to be her grandfather? Lissa Power is finding out first-hand in the mid-twentieth century. She's close with her father from the beginning, but when she loses her mother at a young age, she becomes the center of her elderly father's entire world. The two are inseparable and the other kids can't seem to understand their relationship, but Lissa's daddy has always been unconditionally proud of her. The relationship seems idealistic, but such intense devotion also proves to be oppressive.

In Christine Davis Merriman's debut novel, At the Far End of Nowhere (Green Writers Press), her protagonist Lissa grows up in a farmhouse outside of Baltimore, contrasting their small family's peaceful and rigid farm life with an onslaught of rising social issues. Merriman throws her characters head-on into the tumultuous decades of the 1950s, 60s and 70s, forcing them to deal with the nationwide issues of race tensions, modernization, and suburbanization in addition to their own personal, domestic problems. Her writing weaves reality with fantastic tales shared between Lissa and her aging father in a seamless, often indistinguishable way.

While Lissa's classmates are occupied with thoughts of school dances and shaving their legs for the first time, she is stuck living in the old-fashion world of her father. A watchmaker by trade, Stouten Power sees no real value in modernization and imposes a strict set of outdated rules for his daughter.

She's not to wear makeup or even to bathe regularly and her contact with the outside world diminishes as she is forced to take on more and more responsibility at home as the new woman of the house. Lissa sacrifices a great deal in order to care for her father, but she can only give so much. Now she'll have to find the balance between pleasing her life-long best friend and becoming her own person.

This coming-of-age story forces Lissa to consider how much she is willing to give up for family and who she wants to be as an adult. Though it's a tough time in history and in her personal life, Lissa finds reprieve from the stress in the ever-changing stories her father tells. He claims the tales are true representations of the past, but the details seem to change with each new iteration. Maybe it isn't the authenticity of the story that's so important, but rather the lesson that can be learned from it. Or, perhaps the true value of stories is the escape from reality that they provide.

At the Far End of Nowhere is both a historically engaging and sentimentally compelling read.

Paige Bremner, Reviewer - a Website Where Readers and Writers Meet

Penny Carter-Francis' Bookshelf

Eye for Eye
J. K. Franko
Talion Publishing
9781999318802, $16.95 PB, $4.99 Kindle, 432pp,

Where do I start? Wow - this book has such an in-depth and detailed storyline that its hard to begin to explain - not in a bad or do not bother way - but in a way that shows great research has gone into it. JK Franko either clearly has spent a lot of time boating in Florida, or he has used his time and energy researching everything to do with boating, tides, and depths of the Florida Straits. And boy, does it pay off - it's fast-paced and pulls on the emotional heartstrings, anyone with children can with how the parents are feeling and that justice and or revenge would clearly always be in the back of their minds.

The plotline is magnificent such attention to detail and twists can only come from someone who has experience of law (which we know JK Franko does) and also the knowledge of how to get around it. The chapters jump between the lives of the main characters - Roy, Susie, Deb, Tom, Joe, and the detectives investigating, then a third person - who holds the key to all the information gathered during the book.

Deb & Susie met at summer camp and its great until Joan Dias is found, dead. Its decided it was a tragic accident. But the girls are taken home by their parents, they keep in touch by letter and met up over the years to come. Sometimes by accident, sometimes not.

Their friendship is tested when Susie's daughter Camilla, is killed in a tragic car crash, from a negligent driver. Susie is trying to come to terms with Camilla's death by doing advocacy work, but she doesn't feel its enough. She wants more. Mysteriously, the driver dies too, despite his earlier prognosis.

Deb and Tom Wise's daughter Kristy was raped, by the Senators son, Joe Harlan Jnr. He goes missing - his body is never found, but there's proof that shows he's dead. Who killed him though. Well, that's Detective Garza's job to figure it all out and he does it well.

Nothing is ever proven but the Police know these four are involved.

Without giving more information or too many spoilers - which I don't want to do, I can't say much more - other than this is a must for anyone who enjoys crime/thriller and the thrill of the chase. This is real detective stuff, if you can piece this together, wow - you're good! This is a trilogy of books, Eye for Eye is Book 1 of three - Tooth for Tooth is out Halloween 2019 and then life for life follows in 2020. JK Franko is one to watch and hot property as this is a great debut novel.

Penny Carter-Francis, Reviewer
What Do I Read Now blogger

Rebecca Bethel's Bookshelf

Word Has It: Poems
Ruth Danon
Nirala Publications
9788182500976, $23.99, HC, 85pp,

In many ways, reading Word Has It by Ruth Danon feels like reading an abstract diary. One where Danon is taking the reader through the hallways of her mind and showing them different memories and emotions. But, no matter how personal the subject matter is to the poet, the reader also brings their own experiences and knowledge to its understanding and therefore moves through the hallways of emotions and memories in their mind.

In this manner, poetry is highly personal and subject to many interpretations. While the poet, no doubt, has clear intentions while writing, the reader will not have those same intentions. And it's through my own perspective I've read Dadnon's words.

In the first section of Word Has it, Rumor, Murmur, the poems expresses how easily words spread and life goes on. Each work seems to speak to the human existence, whether it's how we deal with life's ups and downs like in Entry, or how we do everything we can to make life and death more attractive, like in The Joke.

A friend once told me of a woman who plays the harp in the rooms
of the dying. It is said that this gives comfort...It made a pretty story.
But it was not clear to me who was most comforted - the dying one
... the harp player, or the person telling the story... On another
night a man reads a story about going batshit in Kansas City. The
audience thought this was funny,...But of course it wasn't funny. It
was terrifying...

The section entitled Every Room in the House, to me, is about the writing process; especially the poems in Habitation. The reader catches a glimpse of what it's like to be an author as they read through each "room": the brainstorming process and trying to find inspiration, the depression that sets in with writer's block, and, finally, releasing the completed work into the world and moving on to the next project.

Then, the final section, Divination reads like a forewarning to an inevitable disaster. If the signs had only been noticed, it might have been avoided. But, then again, maybe not. Maybe the disaster was supposed to happen. Perhaps it was fulfilling someone's purpose on this earth. The last poem in this section, the one that is about the disaster, is entitled 21 for 49. And in mysticism, the numbers 21 and 49 are numbers attributed to selflessness and the fulfilling of one's life's work.

Each time I read this collection, something new caught my eye; some new meaning was found. And, I'm sure, the next time I read it, in its entirety or in part, I will have different experiences to draw upon. Each poem will morph with my life and relate to me where I am at that moment. And that's the universality of poetry. It can mean so many things to so many people and yet still ring true with each interpretation.

Le Trouvere Pretendu
Peter Siedlecki
9781609643409, $16.00, PB, 200pp,

Peter Siedlecki's collection of poems in Le Trouvere Pretendu is a reflection on life, music, and everything in between.

The collection is split into three sections: Words, Words On Music, and Music and Words. Each section can stand on its own, but when read together the reader can see how music has shaped Siedlecki's life and how for him it might be the personal religious experience that is hinted at in the title.

In the section titled "Words," Siedlecki reminisces about life. His words move like bubbles floating in the air. His verse floats and bobs in the wind, they catch the light and reflect it back in an array of colors. Sometimes his words distort the world, turn it upside down, and show a different perspective.

Some perspectives are more bleak, such as Speakeasy Child where life imagined doesn't live up to the life lived,

She dreamed herself into a heroine,
but when the necessary time arrived,
she married a man
who had suffered the misfortune
of being real.

And some are thoughtful, like Emily's Image, where a woman is not free to be who she truly is, but who society molds her to be.

As with her poems,
when editors would doctor them
to satisfy their own conventional sense,
Emily was not allowed
to shape herself,
and so, she locked that self away.

Other poems in "Words" read like more a reflection on Siedlecki's personal life. The pieces, Containers of Time, Daughter, and Kiss all offer a personal view into the author's life.

"Words On music" is more of a reflection on music and its importance in life rather than on life itself. From gaining an education through a jukebox, to playing a polka and getting that first applause, this section speaks to the human condition and the small moments that help shape our lives.

The section takes the reader through the journey to find of music. Some are told through childhood memories and how certain moments throughout life helped foster a love for song like
The Green Box.

I can see that green
Webcor reel-to-reel that my aunt

Bought and just let sit
After having
Tasted its

I can feel
my urge
to use it
and my delight
when she gave it to me.

The last section, "Music and Words," reads less like cohesive collection of songs, and more like a mixtape. Some pieces are religious, others are political, some are just lessons in life. The cacophonous feeling to the last section left me a bit confused and searching for a common thread.

While not every poem is a hidden gem, the overall theme is one that everyone can relate to; to live life and enjoy small moments, take pleasure where you can, knowing that darker days will always exist, and try to never live life with regrets.

Rebecca Bethel

Ronna Russell's Bookshelf

Dandelion Summer
Mary Ellen Bramwell
Black Rose Writing
9781684332793, $19.95 PB, $5.99 Kindle, 293pp,

Bramwell's Dandelion Summer is a lovely, lively immersion into a family's adventure. Through the keen eye of an adolescent, she explores the bonds between fathers and daughters through the generations and how families manage their secrets, big and small. Bramwell eloquently takes the reader into the mind of a forthright young girl, Madelyn, who is determined to grasp independence. Along the way, Madelyn shows us how to reach out to those closest to us, who might need us more than we realize, how to trust, and how to be there for our loved ones, as well as how to solve a mystery.

Ronna Russell, Reviewer
Author of "The Uncomfortable Confessions of a Preacher's Kid"

Samantha Freehold's Bookshelf

The Oracle Series
A. Claire Everward
Author & Sister

Author & Sister is a publishing firm consisting of author A. Claire Everward and her sister Kate Anne. When Claire said all she wants to do was write, her sister Kate Anne decided she would use her ten-year PR and marketing experience to start a publishing company that would support it as a business. Now both with the launch of Author & Sister, these two sisters are finally doing what they were meant to do -- and they are doing it as a family.

On the Author & Sister website (, every reader, every supporter, and every dreaming writer will be able to read about them on the Author & Sister blog. They will be able to follow what it's taking to make the sisters' dream come true, their breakthroughs and setbacks, the good and bad moments, the ideas and whatever interesting stories come up on the way. The sisters expect Author & Sister to grow and one day help other authors, who like them are looking for a way to achieve their dream.

Meanwhile they have launched two deftly written volumes in their 'Oracle' series.

In "Oracle's Hunt" (9789659258406, $17.62 PB, $4.86 Kindle, 422pp), a security-critical facility is destroyed to get to it and it is called Oracle. That's all USFID investigator Donovan Pierce knows. And while he is told to find whoever perpetrated the deadly attack, and find them fast, he is also warned not to look for Oracle itself. Lara Holsworth never expected Oracle to be in any danger. She would like nothing more than to keep it secret and Pierce away from it and from her, but hiding is no longer an option. With those who now know too much more determined than ever to destroy Oracle, will its protectors' cooperation be enough to keep it safe?

In "Oracle's Diplomacy" (9789659258420, $16.96 PB, $4.86 Kindle, 426pp), a plane carrying an Internationals ambassador vanishes over Europe and is found hours later safely on the ground with the aircrew and passengers still inside, dead. All except for the ambassador, who disappears without a trace. When Oracle is called on to help in the race against time to find the one man who can ensure the survival of two desperate nations and prevent a volatile region from erupting in war, the woman behind it must once again step up, while she is still reeling from the too recent threat to her own life. And when a turn of events brings the path of an investigation led by USFID agent Donovan Pierce to cross that of Oracle's mission, Lara Holsworth must also once again work with him, even as she is still trying to accept his presence in her life.

These first two volumes in A. Clair Everward's 'Oracle' series showcase the author's genuine flair for originality and an distinctively effective, reader engaging narrative storytelling style -- and lead them to looking eagerly toward the next title in this simply outstanding series. Both "Oracle's Hunt" (volume 1) and "Oracle Diplomacy" (volume 2) are unreservedly recommended for both personal reading lists and community library Contemporary General Fiction collections.

Samantha Freehold

Suanne Schafer's Bookshelf

The Marriage Clock
Zara Raheem
William Morrow Paperbacks
9781525823572, $15.99

I chose to read The Marriage Clock because I'm always interested in reading own voices writing about their culture. About this time last year I read a book the premise of which was finding a man through Though that book was comical, at the end I felt unsatisfied as a reader as the female protagonist didn't seem to grow emotionally from her experiences. That is not true of The Marriage Clock. I flew through this book in just a few hours. Raheem's writing style is simple, direct, and easy to read. Her characters, particularly Leila, are fully developed, funny, and all-to-human. She is a first-generation American with Indian parents. Leila is frequently torn between her more liberal American self and her family-loving Muslim self. Often she's frustrated by her more traditional parents who have decided it is time she fulfill her destiny and marry, thus starting the countdown on The Marriage Clock. Leila is convinced she'll find a partner equal to the men her favorite Bollywood movies but with more liberal qualities of an American male tossed into the pot.

Raheem's description of Leila's trials in finding a husband range from sad to pathetic to hysterical. Her marital rejects are each individualized with traits that range from funny to totally bizarre: the guy who uses the sound "bam" to punctuate every sentence, the one who asks about the past medical history of Leila and her entire family; the one who's far older than he admits to; the one who's already engaged, but fails to divulge this to Leila; and finally, the one who "ghosts" her after a seemingly-great date in which she thinks they really connected. I lived extensively in the Muslim world (though I've forgotten every word of Urdu I ever knew) and the world Raheem has created is very real.

This was not a typical romantic comedy, though those elements are present. There is depth to the narration, and the characters are all well-developed, especially Leila's family and friends. In addition, the glimpses into the Muslim Indian community and culture are wonderful. The Marriage Clock is also an amusing look into traditional arranged marriages with "auntie" matchmakers, biodata spreadsheets compiled by Leila's parents, speed-dating, and dating apps. The joy of this book, as mentioned above, is the personal growth of Leila and her journey to self-acceptance.

The Year Marjorie Moore Learned to Live
Christie Grotheim
Heliotrope Books LLC
9781942762461, $16.50

Author Christie Grotheim takes readers into the world of suburban housewife Marjorie Moore, a walking train-wreck of a woman. Marjorie lives in Prairie Mound but feels drawn to the bright lights of the nearby big city of Dallas. She works as an admissions clerk in the local emergency room and is well-liked and well-respect in her role there. It's the rest of her life that is off-kilter. She has nightly insomnia for which she takes one of several drugs which she rates by the effects each has on her: does she drift to sleep, float away, or sleep dead-to-the-world.

Marjorie tries to assuage her deep desires to be something other than what she is that she wall-papers her home with photos torn from design magazines for the latest and greatest furniture, sconces, hanging lights, etc. Joining those are pictures of children's clothing, etc in her kids' rooms. She is a shopaholic and, since her math skills are limited, never pays much attention to the growing totals of her purchases or the final balance on her credit card.

Loaded with tons of emotional baggage, she nonetheless is charming, but ultimately delusional, trying to fill gaps in herself with medications and material objects while not appreciating what she has: a nice home, a terrific hard-working husband, and two great kids. The Year Marjorie Moore Learned to Live is an easy-to-read condemnation of our current society focused on blatant consumerism and self-medication.

A Lady's Guide to Gossip and Murder
Dianne Freeman
119 West 40th Street, New York, New York 10018
9781496716903, $26.00

Dianne Freeman's debut novel, A Lady's Guide to Etiquette and Murder, is a witty romp of a Victorian mystery. The second in the series, A Lady's Guide to Gossip and Murder, is just as delightful. Frances (Lady Harleigh), the heroine, has progressed in her emotions as a newly-widowed lady. The independence she fought so hard to gain in book one, is pleasing to her, but she finds that her next-door neighbor is looking better all the time. There is an understated, though smoldering, chemistry between the two that is about to burst into flame. Frances is surprisingly perspicacious, and her struggles with propriety and her journey to independence are gratifying. The mystery is well-plotted and full of twists concerning the death of a friend and the suspicion that she was blackmailing the aristocracy. Freeman does an excellent job of capturing London in the heyday of the late nineteenth century with its culturally ingrained social mores.

Light from Other Stars
Erika Swyler
Bloomsbury Publishing
9781635573169, $27.00

Having recently finished Mike Chen's Here and Now and Then, I undertook another sci-fi novel - and was blown away by Light from Other Stars. Wow!!! - exquisite prose in an ambitious novel told in two timelines, the present (with the protagonist, Nedda Pappas, on a space voyage with three other crew members) and the past which looks at the effects of a machine Nedda's father built intending to fight entropy - he wants to give his daughter all the time she needs to mature. Instead, his machine, the Crucible, wreaks havoc on the Florida town of Easter, its orange groves, kudzu, and its inhabitants, particularly Nedda's best friend Denny and her father.

Light from Other Stars starts with Nedda at age eleven, watching the Challenger disaster, and mourning her idolized astronauts. She is a prodigy who feels "it was stupid to send grown men into space when a girl would be a better fit." Later, she is an astronaut whizzing through space with three other crew members with an ailing life support system.

This is a book that tears at your heart and soul. I sobbed through a goodly portion of it. It's hard to imagine a sci-fi book so focused on pure, deep emotion while centered on the Earth and the wonders of space. Light from Other Stars hits big issues: loneliness, the bond between parent and child; grief; death and what happens to us after death. Theo, Nedda's father is an archetypal absent-minded professor character, but her mother, Betheen, is unique. She goes from being a mother unable to bond with her daughter to one who handles the biggest crisis in her daughter's life with aplomb, giving incredibly poignant advice that both comforts Nedda and admits to its own limitations. Plain and simple, I loved this book.

Runaway Love Story
Sadira Stone
The Wild Rose Press, Inc.
B07QBHS1ZQ, $5.99

Laurel, Runaway Love Story's heroine, is a free-spirit who wants to be an artist. Her plans are derailed time and again by her own lack of commitment and tendency to run away when things don't go her way. Her plans are again derailed, this time by outside forces: her aunt, Maxie, is 90 years old and suffering from memory loss. Maxie has mentored Laurel and paid her college tuition, so Laurel "owes" her. So Laurel returns to Eugene, OR to help Maxie move into an assisted living facility. Laurel envisions her situation with Maxie to be a temporary stopover as she plans to move to San Francisco and run an art gallery.

While running, she meets Doug, a good guy/teacher whose mother is in the same assisted living. Not your average romance hero, Doug is tall, lanky - and bald. Laurel is six feet tall, so he's a good bit taller. He has deep roots in Eugene and doesn't plan on leaving. These two have hot chemistry but must work out if that is enough for them to weave a life together.

Stone's use of every day situations like putting a loved one in a nursing home brings a deep humanity to this novel that is usually lacking in romance, especially one this hot! It certainly elevates the book above the usual romance. Laurel and Doug face a rough road with lots of potholes and emotional baggage as they try to find a compromise that will let their relationship blossom. I read it in one sitting.

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill
Abbi Waxman
9780451491879, $16.00

I was intrigued by the book cover and the blurb about The Bookish Life of Nina Hill. Nina is an introvert who suffers from situational anxiety. To compensate, she tends to stick to a well-documented routine. She has good friends and is active in the "real" world with book clubs and her trivia team but prefers being on her own in a life she considers complete. Her attempts at romance have failed in the past, and she's not currently looking for a partner. An only child of a single mother (a globe-trotting photojournalist), Nina never knew her father. At this point, a lawyer appears, telling her she's mentioned in her father's will. Suddenly Nina is part of a large, multi-generational family. Then, a cute member of another trivia team asks her out. Nina is forced to come out of her cocoon.

This book is written in a wryly funny voice and filled with literary references, nerdy random bits of information regarding books, TV, movies, and other aspects popular culture. Nina is fully relatable as a character. Though there is a romance between Tom (the trivia guy) and Nina, it's not the focus of the story, so if you want a "pure" romance, this isn't the book for you. If you like alpha males, this really isn't the romance for you as Tom is a sweet, nerdy beta male. I'd call The Bookish Life of Nina Hill chick-lit or women's fiction light with elements of romance. It was a fun read with tons of lines that were so good I highlighted them on my Kindle:

Nina had a lot of sympathy for Bruce Banner, particularly the version played by Mark Ruffalo, and at least she had Xanax. He only had Thor.

Being surrounded by books was the closest she'd ever gotten to feeling like the member of a gang. The books had her back, and the nonfiction, at least, was ready to fight if necessary.

The Forgetting Flower
Karen Hugg
Magnolia Press
9780578484075, $12.99

This book intrigued me as it was described as a slow-burn thriller, and it certainly was. Author Karen Hugg expertly juggles secrets, half-truths, lies, and flashbacks while gradually leading the reader into the labyrinth of the gritty underground of Paris. Renia Baranczka has a secret: she's hiding a unique hybrid plant whose odor can cause amnesia. She ostensibly left Poland with the plant to save her twin sister who has fallen under the spell of the plant and whose boyfriend is dealing the flowers. Renia has slowly built a sanctuary in a botanically-oriented boutique, Le Sanctuaire.

An international thriller, The Forgetting Flower, is set between Paris and Poland, with vivid details of each. Overlying the setting is the role of the immigrant in large cities. Renia tries to fit in, but with her Polish accent, she really doesn't. While Renia is living hand-to-month, her rich French boss's out-of-control spending threatens Le Sanctuaire. Working with Renia is Minh, a Vietnamese immigrant who's forced to work under-the-table to help pay for her mother's chemotherapy. Renia's life spins out of control when her friend Alain is found dead and her sister's old drug-dealing boyfriend finds Renia in Paris and pulls her into the dark underworld of drug dealing. I stayed up half the night reading this and was engrossed the whole time.

The Last Book Party
Karen Dukess
Henry Holt and Co.
9781250225474, $27.00

Like its beach-tanned cover, The Last Book Party is a golden glimpse into the summer life of Cape Cod. Told from the point of view of a twenty-five year old aspiring writer who's spending the summer as the personal assistant to a famous journalist. Through this contact, the protagonist, Eve, is drawn into the literary high society of successful writers and learns that writing is more about showing up, putting ass in chair and working, not waiting for her Muse to strike. There is a truly vibrant sense of place with details about the ocean, the landscape, the breeze, and Cape Cod's glorious beaches. I took true delight in all the bookish details: descriptions of books, discussions of their protagonists, cool literary allusions, and simply the experience of holding a book in one's hands and getting lost between the pages.

This is a gorgeous debut coming-of-age novel with fantastic prose that slowly unveils the facades of the famous writers she meets and reveals that all is not perfect in the Eden of Cape Cod. Both timeless and nostalgic, The Last Book Party is a delightful coming of age story.

The Peacock Room at Sammezzano Castle
Merryn Corcoran
RedDoor Publishing
9781910453810, $15.95

I chose to read The Peacock Room because of extensive time spent living in Northern Italy. As a former artist and being well-versed in art history, I had high expectations. Author Merryn Corcoran does deliver on capturing the gorgeous landscape of Tuscany.

What was less enjoyable was the constant dropping of designer names like Missoni (while mislabelling Missoni clothing as made up of zig-zags). It is obvious from the story that Allegra lives on the upper crust of London society, and the name-dropping is unnecessary and distracting.

The dialogue is woeful. Much of the descriptions of the Peacock Room and Sammezzano Castle are info-dumped into conversations, making it seem like Allegra is lecturing to native Italians, some of whom are art historians themselves. These pseudo-lectures weighed down the dialogue. Even as someone interested in art history, I found myself skimming these sections. And the romantic dialogue between Allegra and Massimo is trite and overwrought.

The descriptions of Tuscan foods tend to be lists of what Allegra and her new love ate, but without sensory input as far as taste and smell and the tactile sensation of fresh mozzarella di bufala on the tongue.

There is a touch of magical realism as the ghost of Allegra's great-grandfather guides her to hidden paintings in the Castello Sammezzano.

Overall, I felt the book tried to be too many things: a family drama with Allegra's husband Hugo being unfaithful to her with a woman their daughter's age; a thriller about missing paintings; a romance; a women's fiction story about a woman returning to past interests in architecture after her career plans were sidelined by her marriage; a women's fiction story about a woman helping her mother deal with breast cancer and a demented grandfather. Had Corcoran simply chosen one or two of these to put into one novel, the book might have been more cohesive. Two themes felt superfluous: the issue with Massimo using a gun in his job as a policeman (Allegra is anti-gun, but there is no basis in the story for why she feels that way) and her mother's breast cancer.

Suanne Schafer, Reviewer

Susan Bethany's Bookshelf

In Dreams Awake: Kathy Ruttenberg on Broadway
Kathy Ruttenberg
Pointed Leaf Press
136 Baxter Street, Suite 1C, New York, NY 10013
9781938461903, $65.00, HC, 162pp,

Synopsis: Artist Kathy Ruttenberg has built a career spanning three decades. Her work, which has garnered both critical acclaim and awards, has been exhibited and collected worldwide - from the Tisch Children's Zoo in New York's Central Park to the Mamiraua Sustainable Development Reserve in Amazonas, Brazil.

On April 27, 2018, six large-scale sculptures hers were unveiled along New York's historic Broadway - from across from Lincoln Center, at 64th Street and extending up to 157th Street.

Most known for her fantastical mix of human, nature, and plant forms used in ceramics, watercolor, and sculpture, spent months planning, designing, and executing the works, Ruttenberg's works ranged from an armless mouse atop a squash-like pedestal, to an upside-down female Atlas, a woman caught in a contemplative moment while inside a snail's shell, and a deer-man and his tree-lady partner who walk in an embrace these fairytale-like creatures are juxtaposed against New York's chaotic urban landscape.

All these are showcased in "In Dreams Awake: Kathy Ruttenberg on Broadway", as well as tracking her progress from concept to the final results.

Critique: Profusely and dramatically illustrated throughout, "In Dreams Awake: Kathy Ruttenberg on Broadway" is a coffee table sized volume clearly showcases the unusual and distinctive art of one America's most avant garde artists working today. A fascinating and thought provoking browse from cover to cover, "In Dreams Awake: Kathy Ruttenberg on Broadway" is unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library Contemporary American Art History collections.

The Art of Mindful Reading
Ella Berthoud
Leaping Hare Press
c/o Quarto Publishing Group USA
400 First Avenue North, Suite 400, Minneapolis, MN 55401-1722
9781782407683, $14.99, HC, 144pp,

Synopsis: The healing power of reading has been renowned since Aristotle; focus, flow and enlightenment can all be discovered through this universal act.

"The Art of Mindful Reading: Embracing the Wisdom of Words" by bibliotherapist Ella Berthoud embraces the joy of absorbing words on a page, encouraging a state of mind as deeply therapeutic and vital to our wellbeing as breathing.

"The Art of Mindful Reading" poses such questions as: If reading is our daily nourishment how best should it be consumed? How should you read mindfully? And why will reading mindfully help you to read better?

"The Art of Mindful Reading" deftly explores how reading mindfully can shape the person you are, give you your moral backbone, and teaches empathy with others. Through meditative exercises, engaging anecdote, and expert insight, "The Art of Mindful Reading" reveals the enriching potential of reading for mindfulness.

Critique: As thoughtful and thought-provoking as it is inspired and inspiring, "The Art of Mindful Reading: Embracing the Wisdom of Words" is an extraordinary compilation of insights into the impact literacy has upon character, how what we read shapes who we are. It also subtle underscores the tragedy of functional illiteracy -- that is, the cultural impoverishment of those who can read but choose not to. While unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Art of Mindful Reading: Embracing the Wisdom of Words" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.36).

Editorial Note: Ella Berthoud is a bibliotherapist at the international School of Life, prescribing literary cures to readers everywhere. She is the co-author of "The Novel Cure" and "The Story Cure", and read English literature at Cambridge University. Residing in West Sussex, England, Ella regularly gives talks on reading ailments and mindful reading at bookstores and festivals across the UK.

Nursing Through the Years
Loretta B. Bellman, et al.
Pen & Sword Books
c/o Casemate (distribution)
9781526748461, $32.95, PB, 248pp,

Synopsis: Ever since the days of Florence Nightingale, nursing has always been a challenging but rewarding profession. As part of the core healthcare team, nurses take responsibility for the care they provide to patients, displaying both compassion and discipline in their daily work.

Demanding professions require rigorous training, and nursing is no exception. "Nursing Through the Years: Care and Compassion at the Royal London Hospital" is a unique medical profession history that spans eight decades to reveal the fascinating lives of nurses who trained and worked at The Royal London Hospital, serving the community of the East End of London.

Having interviewed over 85 nurses, whose experiences span from the 1940s to the 2000s, "Nursing Through the Years" is a unique and important account that captures the memories of their time at The Royal London. Exploring each decade, the extent to which nursing has developed and changed, and the highs and lows of training to be a nurse in a renowned teaching hospital are recalled in detail.

"Nursing Through the Years" is a treasure chest of recollections which are informative, entertaining, inspiring, enlightening and also controversial, often challenging the myths and misconceptions that continue to surround nursing today.

Critique: Extraordinary in its scope and subject matter, "Nursing Through the Years: Care and Compassion at the Royal London Hospital" will have a very special appeal to medical historians and non-specialist general readers alike. While strongly recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists (especially for fans of the popular BBC series 'Call The Midwife') that "Nursing Through the Years: Care and Compassion at the Royal London Hospital" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $22.13).

Susan Bethany

Susan Keefe's Bookshelf

Mind Home
Joel Ross Whitehead
Independently Published
9781097622269, $6.30 pbk / $2.99 Kindle, 183 Pages

"We're all on a journey to improve our mental health for peace of mind and soul" thought-provoking words from the heartfelt introduction to this important book by the author Joel Ross Whitehead.

The main character is Gosling Wakefield, a man struggling with his life, in his own way. We may not relate to his particular mental health problems, each and every one of us takes their own journey through life, and tackles the obstacles and challenges each twist and turn along the way throws up uniquely.

Gosling struggles with voices in his head, and the scenarios they play out before him. It is in one of these moments that the voice in his head tells him that he must find the room where 'he' resides, and then go on to find thalamus. But the question is, how can he do this, and who or what is thalamus?

Struggling with inner voices is something everyone experiences in their life. Whether it's that inner voice that says, "Go on, one more biscuit won't hurt your diet," or the nagging fearful voice which haunt the time between an illness and the doctor's diagnosis. However most of us then let life take over, kick into another gear, and continue on our life's journey, but not all of us can do this. Mental health is a frail thing. Depression, anxiety, and fear expand out of control. This is the mental state Gosling is in, and it is propped up by alcohol. However, despite regularly looking, Gosling discovers the answers are not found at the bottom of his whisky glass, or the next, or the next...

The horrors of his inner torment are compounded one day when in his drunken stupor he realises that the irritating inner voice is in fact the younger him.

Things then get worse as his life is played out before him, the night terrors of his youth, the zealousness of the religious teachers at St. Johns where he had been sent for education and rehabilitation, events, people... As his mind tumbles through the memories of his lifetime the reader cannot help but feel a myriad of emotions, torment, loves lost, death, failure, they are all there, and more.

Then when his life has been thoroughly exposed, we discover if he found his thalamus. I'm not going to spoil the story and reveal all here, this book is just too good, you will have to discover the answer for yourself. What I will say to future readers of this inspiring, uplifting, and incredibly poignant story is that at the end of his journey Gosling found peace, a way to come to terms with his illness and face the world anew.

In conclusion: This book was absolutely incredible, I just could not put it down. It journeys into the torment we can put our mind through, and exposes the real suffering mental illness causes, yet gives hope that life CAN be different, but the changes stem from within.

Available from Amazon:

If I Were Human
Wes Tyler
9781543972351, $12.49, 32 Pages

As soon as I saw this book it instantly appealed to me, not just because I am a dog lover, but because being a mum and nanny I just knew that it would appeal to our little grandchildren.

Sure enough, on the cover, the two extremely cute main characters; black (Brina) and white (Winnie) instantly caught my three year old granddaughter's eye.

Anyone who spends time with dogs will instantly be able to relate to the way that Brina watches over her little mistress Genevieve as she is playing a game. You can practically see your dog's brain computing everything which goes on around him or her, and sure enough it's not long before Brina's thoughts turn to what she would do if she were a human. This book is beautifully illustrated and captivated our little one, every page turn brought a different scenario, as we discovered what this little Scottie dog would do with her day.

Of course, it's not long before Winnie is asked the same question, and being a boy dog his day is totally different. Add into the equation a squirrel with dreams of being a MasterChef, and the nosy dog next door's visions of grandeur, and you have a story which will captivate every child who reads it, or has is it read to them.

This enchanting book will stand the test of time, and hold a very special place on our bookshelf for years to come. Highly Recommended!

Available from Amazon:

I Believe: I Am a Great Reader and Writer Just Like Jojo, the Talented Horse
Suzanne Mondoux
Balboa Press
9781982222826, $8.99, 52 Pages

The star of this children's book is Jojo the talented horse. When she meets two other horses, Carlo and Teddy, she invites them to a reading and writing class which is being held at her ranch. Already waiting for the class to begin are four children, Julie, Sam, Paul and Suzie.

When Julie reveals that she has a stutter it prompts Carlo to confide in them that he had a difficulty too when he was younger, but he has overcome it. In doing this he gives Julie and the other children confidence that they can overcome obstacles too.

Jojo is very pleased to hear the story and decides to set the children and horses' playtime stories to improve their writing and reading. In the first they are asked to explain why they believe they can be great readers and writers, and in the second they are asked to write about the person who has helped them learn something new

However, this is an interactive book and so the playtimes continues for a further 30 days. The reader is encouraged to write their own short stories each day about any type of animal, and how people can help it. They are encouraged to use their imagination and see where it takes them.

My grandson is staying with us, and so we have decided that we are going to do a short story each day. Kevin is loving the creativeness of this project, and as a parent and grandparent it is amazing to see how his writing and imagination is growing each day.

Having belief in yourself and your abilities doesn't always come naturally to everyone. Each person is different, and sometimes there may be physical, or mental challenges to overcome. This wonderful book is excellent for children, but also a tool for parents and teachers showing them how to encourage their charges to be creative and express their dreams and imagination as stories.

I absolutely love this book and its concept. The message is clearly demonstrated to children, practice regularly, use your imagination, believe in yourself and anything is possible. It is also an important lesson to adults that sometimes spending time with your child, giving them the confidence that you believe they can do a task is all it takes to sow the seeds of success, and these will eventually grow helping your child gain confidence and belief in themselves.

Available from Amazon:

The Domino Effect
Andrew Cotto
Black Rose Writing
9781684332991, $17.95, 191 Pages

The people who shape us, and the influence they have on us is something which we probably only realise when we look back over our lives. There can be no doubt that strong parenting, and the ideals which our family, culture, and the neighbourhood in which we live affect us, either consciously or subconsciously as we grow up.

In this incredible story, which was a finalist in the Readers Favorite Award, the author has written a spellbinding coming-of-age story.

The protagonist, Danny Rorro or Domino as he is known to his childhood friends, is a loveable rogue, a prankster and mischief maker. He lives in Queens, in the neighbourhood his Sicilian mother has grown up in, and he idolises his Italian father who is a musician. His life is good, until the Italian neighbourhood is taken over by the Spanish. Then, Danny quickly discovers that life will never be the same again.

After trouble between the two factions escalates at his school, Danny suffers a savage beating and he ends up in hospital. Distraught, his parents, doing what they think is best, move house and change his school, still Queens but a different neighbourhood. The impact the beating has on him, and the resulting damage to the relationship he has with his father is catastrophic. Resentful, argumentative and extremely happy, Danny is reacting as only children know how, yet it has to stop. After discussion it is decided boarding school is the answer, and Hamden Academy seems just what he needs, especially when he falls in love on the first day with the beautiful Brenda Devine. In his rollercoaster years at this sports obsessed academy, in his own way Danny makes a difference, standing up for what he feels is right, making plenty of blunders, having conflicts with other pupils, and having bumbling attempts at romance along the way.

Throughout this fast paced, exciting story I found myself going through a myriad of emotions. As a mother I felt protective of him and, yet as a parent of a son I saw his parents' side of things.

In conclusion, this book was a real joy to read, as I watched this young vulnerable boy evolve into the young man he became, overcoming hurdles, achieving more than he could have imagined, and surviving boarding school.

Highly recommended as a wonderful read for all ages.

Available from Amazon:

Kinda Friends II (Super Speed Sam Book 12)
Monty J. McClaine
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
9781718758728, $5.99, 114 Pages

My family really enjoy the Super Speed Sam series of children's book and its star the loveable Basset Hound Sam. His family (because all dog owners know that our dogs are sure they own us and not the other way around) are the McClaine family consisting of Jack, Sam's mischievous human playmate and partner in crime, his little sister Molly, and their mum and dad.

This story opens with mum getting ready for a bargain hunting shopping trip with her new neighbour Patricia Goldman, and Jack and Sam looking forward to spending the afternoon paying with Jack's friend Gary.

However, mum is soon surprised to discover that Sam will have to stay outside, you see her new neighbour has a very precious cat called Bella, but she's not just an ordinary cat, she's a real film star, and is on Molly's favourite TV programme The Cat Walk Kittens'.

Consequently, having such a precious diva cat Patricia is not sure she wants her upset by Sam, so it is agreed Sam will stay outside whilst the boys play. However when Jack arrives in Gary's bedroom he is stunned to discover that Gary doesn't have a computer or games consoles. Gary has instead just put the finishing touches to a space game, played the old fashioned way. It's not long before the two boys are deeply engrossed in their game, oblivious to the catastrophic events which are happening outside.

You see, it hasn't taken Bella long to realise there is a dog outside and she decides to trick him, much to Sam's dismay. However karma is a good thing and soon she finds herself making a chain of bad decisions which leaves the diva distraught.

The next part absolutely captivated my granddaughter as Sam's inner voice brings back memories of times long ago and an event which happened to him then - or is he just imaging it did? Anyway, Sam decides he must go into superhero mode and after chanting his special chant he magically saves the diva, even if he does make a blunder on the way. He thinks he has got away with it, but then Bella says something to him which makes him wonder...

The Super Speed Sam books have become a firm favourite in our household, each one bringing a different special message subtly woven into their wonderful stories. Highly recommended for children who love superheros, especially the canine variety.

Available from Amazon:

Susan Keefe, Reviewer

Teri Davis' Bookshelf

Reece's Vintage Tales
N. Reece Ho-Sheffield
Apples-of-Gold Inc.
Amazon Digital Services
9781543966510, $19.99, Paperback, $5.99, Kindle, 84 pages

Today's children need relevant fables teaching values. Many of the older fairy tales, along with many of Aesop's fables refer back to an era with where farming and gardening were standard for most people. We now do not expect women to be helpless damsels in distress who need rescuing or is marrying a prince. As society progresses, so must our perspectives.

Reece's Vintage Tales, comprising of twelve short stories, is a new approach to short stories for children from seven to thirteen with lessons to be learned along with thoughtful discussions. These stories each have a message which reveals the integrity of the characters while interjecting Christian values.

Each story is short and ideally would be a great read-aloud between a parent and their child. At the end of each is a glossary with a list of the more difficult vocabulary words included. The range is from two to eleven words per story. Parents should discuss these words ideally before reading and unquestionably during the story. The words are added to understand the meaning of the text as the reading proceeds.

The illustrations perfectly match to the stories assisting the reader in visualization. As an example, The Farting Bunny is a delightful story about a bunny who uncontrollably passes gas and is an outcast from his group, The Puffy-Tails. What child wouldn't want to repeat parts of this tail while laughing? However, the author masterfully changes his problem into a solution, permitting children to view life as gifts rather than hindrances.

Also magnificently enjoyable is the story, Persinette. Persinette, as an empty nester, decides to pursue her dreams. Living in a neighborhood, she viewed others' successes and decided to join the work force similar to her neighbors. She quickly discovered that what worked for one neighbor did not work for her. Persinette learns that life is more fun following your path.

With more stories like these, it is obvious the value of these educational and entertaining tales based on legends, historical events, Christianity, and creativity.

The author, N. Reece Ho-Sheffield, has written these delightful Christian stories for children. She is well-qualified as a retired pediatrician and geneticist in both the United Kingdom and the United States. She has won the USA Mom's Choices Award for "The Firefly Story."

These stories are unusual in their creativity, promoting Christian values, vocabulary, personal integrity, as well as short enough to keep a child's attention and engagement.

Teri Davis

Willis Buhle's Bookshelf

The Shotokan Karate Dictionary
Quill Driver Books
2006 South Mary, Fresno, CA 93721
9781610353380, $29.95, PB, 296pp,

Synopsis: Now in a newly updated fourth edition, "The Shotokan Karate Dictionary: Japanese Technical Terms Used in Karate" by martial arts expert Schlatt is a complete compendium of essential terms of the practice of karate-do, with special focus on the Shotokan style.

Clear, easy-to-understand, and accurate English translations of Japanese karate terms, plus color photographs of essential karate stances, movements, and techniques, will give karate students a firm foundation in karate terminology. A Japanese pronunciation guide and exquisite calligraphy of the Japanese characters (kanji) of each term will deepen students' understanding of karate's cultural roots.

This comprehensive reference volume covers the Japanese numerical system, different target levels and directions of movement, the basic elements of karate training, basic and advanced katas, as well as the Japanese terms for typical instructions and commands you will hear throughout your karate training.

"The Shotokan Karate Dictionary" also explores the philosophical background of karate through an explanation of selected terms, the origin of the name karate-do, the Twenty Precepts of Funakoshi, the rules that govern the dojo, karate philosophies, and annotations by famous Zen masters.

Critique: An absolutely essential and core addition to personal, professional, dojo, community, and academic library Martial Arts instructional reference collections in general, and Karate supplemental studies lists in particular, "The Shotokan Karate Dictionary: Japanese Technical Terms Used in Karate" is exceptionally well organized, thoroughly comprehensive, and impressively 'user friendly' in presentation.

Editorial Note: Schlatt was born in Lauda, Germany, in 1964 and started the practice of karate-do in 1979. He has studied karate in over 20 countries and has taught in several dojos in Germany. Schlatt qualified for the Canadian National Karate Team for the 1996 Japan Karate Association World Championship. In 2016, Schlatt received his sixth Dan from Hideo Ochi, chief instructor of the Japan Karate Association of Germany and Europe. Schlatt's Japanese and Chinese cultural and language studies began in 1985 at the University of Freiburg and he received his masters degree from the University of Tubingen in 1994. At the 1990 Gasshuku in Kempten, Germany, Schlatt translated for Norihiko Iida. This was the first time that instructions by a Japanese guest coach were translated directly from Japanese into German. Due to Schlatt's deep knowledge and understanding of Japanese language and culture, he is still a favorite interpreter for Japanese guest instructors at events inside and outside of Germany.

The Last Day of Ramadan
Gandharva Raja
Amanita Books
c/o Summit Crossroads Press
9780999156537, $17.95, PB, 206pp,

Synopsis: Can religious wars and genocide give way to tolerance and equality? Grounded in today's reality, university student Gora and his friends in India are bystanders as Kabir Humayan Jain, a professor of comparative religion in Delhi carries out his mission to end religious violence and close the religious divide.

As a young boy, Jain lost his Muslim parents in a religious riot. He is adopted by his father's Hindu friend and colleague, but his adoptive father falls victim to another riot and dies in a burning train. Jain vows to bestow meaning to his dead parents' lives.

During a trip to the Himalayas, Jain suffers a concussion and during recovery believes that the Prophet Muhammad is speaking to him, saying Jihad is outdated and irrelevant in modern times. Jain encourages his students to consider and question religious beliefs. Women students argue for full equality.

Jain hires a helicopter to reveal the Prophet's message to a large crowd in Delhi. Will he succeed in his mission to end jihad? Can religious beliefs be changed? Will he survive or become another martyr? One man's courageous mission to close the philosophical divide that affects the world culminates in the skies over a Delhi mosque on the last day of Ramadan.

Critique: An inherently fascinating and deftly scripted read from first page to last, "The Last Day of Ramadan" by Gandharva Raja, although a work of fiction, offers an unusual perspective and insight into the practice of Islam in today's troubled world. While unreservedly recommended, especially for community and academic library Contemporary Literary Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Last Day of Ramadan" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99).

America & Islam
Lawrence Pintak
I. B. Tauris Publishers
9781784539092, $24.95, HC, 344pp,

Synopsis: Donald Trump's first term as the 45th President of the United States of America has shocked the world. His attitudes towards Islam became a key point of contention on the campaign trail, and in power Trump has continued his war of divisive words and deeds. In "America & Islam: Soundbites, Suicide Bombs and the Road to Donald Trump", journalist Lawrence Pintak scrutinizes America's relationship with Islam since its foundation.

Casting Donald Trump as a symptom of decades of misunderstanding and demonization of the Islamic world, as well as a cause of future tensions, Pintak shows how and why America's relationship with the world's largest religion has been so fractious, damaging and self-defeating.

Featuring unique interviews with victims and perpetrators of Trump's policies, as well as analysis of the media's role in inflaming debate, "America & Islam" seeks to provide a complete guide to the twin challenges of terrorism and the polarizing rhetoric that fuels it, and sketches out a future based on co-operation and the reassertion of democratic values.

Critique: A timely and much needed contribution to our on-going national discussion regarding Islam and American values, and the current political administrations propaganda campaign and policies denigrating Islamic Americans, "America & Islam: Soundbites, Suicide Bombs and the Road to Donald Trump" should be a part of every community, college, and university library collection in the country. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, political activists, politicians, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "America & Islam" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.24).

Willis M. Buhle

ZenaLei7's Bookshelf

Delilah and Others Like Her
Trish Titus
Independently Published
9781732335219, $14.95 PB, $4.99 Kindle, 172pp,

Delilah and Others Like Her by Trish Titus are memoirs written by pet owners whose pets have passed away. Consisting of stories of about 20 pets, each story details the memories, whether good or bad, that the owners had of their pets.

A cat that played with plastic colored Easter eggs. A dog with two colored eyes who loved to howl along to any tune. A hamster who could daintily pick out the smallest crumb in your hand instead of nipping at it. A goat that acted like a dog and loved to play with children. What do all of these pets have in common? They all had loving owners who experienced the pain of losing their beloved pets whether in an accident or sickness.

Each chapter is a story written by different owners that describes how their pets were like, their antics and personalities. Most of the stories also describe the pain of losing their pets and reminisce what it was like to have someone have such a profound impact on your life. At the end of most chapters, there is an excerpt that urges readers to fully understand what it's like to have a pet and to research the different breeds before adopting one. The owners also listed what they learned from their pets, like patience, love, and to enjoy every moment you have with your loved ones. Many of them encouraged readers to adopt instead of buying from a breeder. At the end of the book, there is a list of animal shelters that readers can volunteer at or adopt pets from and a list of pet loss support groups.

The main goal of this book is to give comfort to those who have lost their pets. I teared up a lot as some of the stories were heartbreaking as well as heartwarming. What I like the most about this book were the adorable pictures of pets included in each chapter. This made the book more relatable and engaging. My favorite story was that of Chaddy Noody, a pet rooster, whose story had a surprising but amusing ending.

Overall, I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. The heart-warming stories, as well as the cute pictures of all the pets, made this book an enjoyable read. I would recommend this book to pet owners who have lost a pet.

ZenaLei7, Reviewer

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

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