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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 21, Number 12 December 2021 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Andrea Kay's Bookshelf Carl Logan's Bookshelf Chris Patsilelis' Bookshelf
Clint Travis' Bookshelf Dee Lorraine's Bookshelf Jack Mason's Bookshelf
John Burroughs' Bookshelf Julie Summers' Bookshelf Lesly Massey's Bookshelf
Lloyd Jacobs' Bookshelf Margaret Lane's Bookshelf Mari Carlson's Bookshelf
Mark Walker's Bookshelf Mark Zvonkovic's Bookshelf Michael Carson's Bookshelf
Robin Friedman's Bookshelf Suanne Schafer's Bookshelf Susan Bethany's Bookshelf
Susan Keefe's Bookshelf Suzie Housley's Bookshelf Willis Buhle's Bookshelf

Andrea Kay's Bookshelf

Just Be Claus: A Christmas Story
Barbara Joosse, author
Kim Barnes, illustrator
Sleeping Bear Press
9781534111011 $16.99 hc

Just Be Claus: A Christmas Story is a Christmas-themed picturebook about accepting oneself. Young Claus is troubled that he's different from other kids, but his grandmother reassures him that his differences are a wonderful thing. "Just Be Claus!" When a winter snowstorm threatens his hometown, Claus decides to find a way to spread holiday cheer, which becomes a lifelong calling! Just Be Claus is a warmhearted story with a strong affirmative message, highly recommended.

Andrea Kay

Carl Logan's Bookshelf

Richard Tregaskis: Reporting under Fire from Guadalcanal to Vietnam
Ray E. Boomhower
High Road Books
9780826362889, $34.95, HC, 368pp

Synopsis: In the late summer of 1942, more than ten thousand members of the First Marine Division held a tenuous toehold on the Pacific island of Guadalcanal. As American marines battled Japanese forces for control of the island, they were joined by war correspondent Richard Tregaskis. Tregaskis was one of only two civilian reporters to land and stay with the marines, and in his notebook he captured the daily and nightly terrors faced by American forces in one of World War II's most legendary battles -- and it served as the premise for his acclaimed book, "Guadalcanal Diary".

One of the most distinguished combat reporters to cover World War II, Tregaskis later reported on Cold War conflicts in Korea and Vietnam. In 1964 the Overseas Press Club recognized his first-person reporting under hazardous circumstances by awarding him its George Polk Award for his book Vietnam Diary.

"Richard Tregaskis: Reporting under Fire from Guadalcanal to Vietnam Hardcover" by Ray Boomhower is the first to tell Tregaskis's gripping life story, concentrating on his intrepid reporting experiences during World War II and his fascination with war and its effect on the men who fought it.

Critique: Inherently fascinating, impressively informative, exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Richard Tregaskis: Reporting under Fire from Guadalcanal to Vietnam Hardcover" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and univresity library American Military History & Biography collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Richard Tregaskis: Reporting under Fire from Guadalcanal to Vietnam Hardcover" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $34.95).

Editorial Note: Ray E. Boomhower is a senior editor at the Indiana Historical Society Press. He is also the author of more than a dozen books, including "Dispatches from the Pacific: The World War II Reporting of Robert L. Sherrod"; "John Bartlow Martin: A Voice for the Underdog"; and "Robert F. Kennedy and the 1968 Indiana Primary".

The End of an Era: Diverse Thoughts From 100+ Years of Living
John H. Manhold
Newman Springs Publishing
9781636925639, $19.95, PB, 160pp

Synopsis: A unique biography, "The End of an Era: Diverse Thoughts From 100+ Years of Living" by John H. Manhold presents a comparative look at several activities and the mores of the inhabitants of the United States of America during the last and the present centuries. Those established during the last century no doubt resulted from finally adjusting to the changes stemming from the Industrial Revolution that only recently had been fully incorporated; plus fighting two World Wars; enduring a huge, chaotic depression; later a Cuban Crisis as part of a Cold War with the Soviet Union, and more.

Today's activities/mores undoubtedly result from the introduction of an entirely 'different' digital world with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and other dominant features resulting in a change of emphasis in the direction of today's mores and the direction and performance of personal values.

John Manhold (who maintains an informative website at is a recognized Investigative Scientist, World Lecturer. Sculptor, Author, USCG Captain with Master's Papers, received National/International Sports Awards, and is a WWII and Korea Veteran. Thus, he accepts the reality of today's dependence on machines, computers and AI irrespective of their fallacies, but has offered comparisons from which others might profit even though he is aware of the paucity of interest today in history and the lessons it teaches (even historical novels are passe).

"The End of an Era: Diverse Thoughts From 100+ Years of Living" is one man's personal story, set forth in his own words as events are remembered and written with obvious and/or associated references.

Critique: Exceptionally well written and presented, "The End of an Era: Diverse Thoughts From 100+ Years of Living" is a thoughtful and thought-provoking read from first page to last. Part social commentary, part personal history, "The End of an Era: Diverse Thoughts From 100+ Years of Living" is innately fascinating and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library American Biography collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The End of an Era: Diverse Thoughts From 100+ Years of Living" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Carl Logan

Chris Patsilelis' Bookshelf

The Eagles's Claw: A Novel of the Battle of Midway
Jeff Shaara
Ballantine Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
9780525619444, $28.99, HC, 321pp
9780525619451, $14.99 ebook

For the past 25 years Jeff Shaara has vividly illuminated the history of America's wars. Starting with his Civil War novel "Gods and Generals" (1996), Shaara has also written fictional histories of the Revolutionary, Mexican, World War II and Korean conflicts. And in all these works he brings a humanizing sensitivity to the historical figures he describes, making the true tales he tells palpably real.

In his newest book, "The Eagle's Claw: A Novel of the Battle of Midway" Shaara focuses upon one of the most crucial battles of World War II. Most historians consider Midway to be the turning point of the Pacific War, in fact.

Some historical background: After the Imperial Japanese Navy's surprise attack upon the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on December 7, 1941, the attack's mastermind, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, realized that all the American aircraft carriers (not anchored there on that day) had escaped destruction. To remedy this failure Yamamoto devised a plan to lure the entire U.S. Fleet out of Pearl Harbor whereupon the Japanese Navy would destroy it -- including the all-important aircraft carriers.

Midway coral atoll (one square mile of land, too small to be called an island, 1,100 miles from Pearl) was chosen to be that lure. A small U.S. Marine contingent was stationed there; it also had an airfield. And a victory there, thought Yamamoto, could open the prospect of invading Hawaii.

Shaara, who prodigiously researches the subjects of his books, details how Yamamoto's attack plan was foiled by Navy Lieutenant Commander Joseph J. Rochefort who was in charge of the Navy's cryptanalyst department.

Working feverishly in his office "Dungeon", nerdy Rochefort and his highly specialized team of codecrackers, hacked into the Japanese Navy's communication system and fed the enemy false information. This led to Midway being saved by Navy fighter planes launched from carriers on June 4, 1942, ultimately turning the tide of the Pacific War in the Allies favor.

Besides introducing us to the craftily intellectual Commander Rochefort, Shaara also acquaints us with the humorless, yet tactically brilliant, naval Commander Chester Nimitz who had taken over the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor after the attack.

We also learn that the usually aggressive Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto clearly saw that his country's leaders were foolishly wrong in believing that Japan was invulnerable. Winning a few battles, he thought, does not make us unconquerable. When "bombs fall on Tokyo", our government "explains it all with lies .... We've become lazy, arrogant."

This is, of course, the official, military Yamamoto speaking. But Shaara also shows us his all-to-human side. Yamamoto misses his geisha, the lovely Chiyoko, "the most important woman in his life." Unable to see her for months, he felt "an aching loneliness."

We meet Navy pilot Percey Baker, who, fearing that he would never see action in this war, finds himself in the middle of the savage Midway air combat, narrowly eluding packs of Japanese Zeroes in his inferior Wildcat fighter: The "Zeroes had found" him. "Baker's eyes went in every direction, seeing fire and streaks of red, small explosions, more bombers going down, bloody splashes underneath him."

We also meet crusty Marine Gunnery Sergeant Doug Ackroyd, in his forties, a veteran of World War I where he stabbed a German soldier to death in the 1918 Battle of Belleau Wood, France.

Laboring on the beach at Midway in preparation for the Japanese invasion, he is stopped and asked a pointed question by a young, new lieutenant. Sergeant Ackroyd answers: "Who the hell do you think you are? .... We're working on this beach, so either pitch in or get the hell out of the way ....With all due respect."

To be sure, Shaara points many pictures of fierce combat in "The Eagle's Claw." He describes the Japanese aerial attack on Midway: "Ackroyd ducked low into the sand .... Japanese dive bombers seeming to fall from the sky, the the awful shriek the bombs released ... heavy blasts, shrapnel, small buildings leveled ...."

Of the destruction of the Japanese carrier Hiryu: "... four five-hundred-pound bombs ... burrowing through the flight deck .... a small handful of Zeroes" ... flying overhead "had lost their" home. "There was nothing left but to fly into the sea", their home carrier, Hiryu, having been sunk.

Of the sinking of the majestic American carrier Yorktown: Sailors dropping six feet off the ship into oily water, men praying, "gasping for air as they struggled", swallowing the black oil .... Packed with drama, information and well-drawn human characters, Shaara's "The Eagle's Claw" is a reminder of the bitterly high price that combat soldiers have always been called upon
to pay.

Chris Patsilelis

Clint Travis' Bookshelf

Cannabis and the Christian
Todd Miles
B&H Publishing Group
9781087734965, $12.99 pbk / $9.99 Kindle

Synopsis: What does the Bible say about marijuana? If it doesn't directly address marijuana, how can Christians know what to make of the legalization of recreational cannabis and the advocacy of medical marijuana?

In the past, Christians could easily answer the question of whether or not it was permissible to use cannabis by deferring to state prohibitions. We could simply say, "it's against the law." Today, that answer is no longer possible. Christians are now forced to do what they should have been doing all along: Think like disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ and bring to bear the wisdom of the sufficient Word of God.

Since cannabis is not explicitly mentioned in the Bible, we must understand what it is and how it affects the user. We also must understand what the Bible says about discipleship, healing, suffering, and what it is to be human. Only then can we answer the critical questions regarding the recreational use and the medical use of cannabis.

Critique: Theology professor Todd Miles presents Cannabis and the Christian: What the Bible Says about Marijuana, a thoughtful, accessible examination of how to interpret the Word of God with regard to the properties of cannabis. What does biblical wisdom have to tell us about the questions of recreational cannabis, or medical uses of cannabis? How do the principles of the Bible address other complicated, modern-day ethical questions? Written with candor, compassion, and great respect for those suffering from medical conditions for which cannabis is potentially helpful, Cannabis and the Christian is highly recommended especially for personal and church library Christian Theology and Ethics collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Cannabis and the Christian is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Editorial Note: Todd Miles is Professor of Theology at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon, where he teaches theology, church history, hermeneutics, and ethics. Prior to becoming a seminary professor, he was a nuclear engineer at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Segues into Truth
Lyle Fredrick Parks MD
Dorrance Publishing Company, Inc.
9781648045141, $26.00 hc / $21.00 Kindle

Synopsis: Segues into Truth: A Novel is about a suicidal, end stage alcoholic, at the end of his rope-literally! Dr. Parks delves into the horrors of alcoholism and the wonders of redemption, in this introspective and detailed novel. He tries to capture the psychological and spiritual aspects of the AA program. The main character in this story is a fictional composite of all the alcoholics Dr. Parks has had the pleasure of knowing. It was during his working with alcoholics that he developed his expertise in the AA program. This book is also unique in the way that it introduces and deals with the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, and will appeal to anyone who has ever known or who is an alcoholic.

Critique: The debut novel of retired psychiatrist Dr. Parks, Segues into Truth is the story of an end-stage alcoholic on the brink of taking his own life, who finds a difficult but worthwhile path to redemption with aid from the Alcoholics Anonymous program. The twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous are introduced and incorporated into the unfolding narrative. Segues into Truth is a profoundly moving journey from cover to cover, highly recommended. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Segues into Truth is also available in a Kindle edition ($21.00).

My Name Is Not Leila
Ahmed Amr
Dorrance Publishing Company, Inc.
9781638673019, $13.00 pbk / $8.00 Kindle

Synopsis: As British and German forces battle for control of North Africa, a young woman survivor of the eight month siege of Tobruk seeks refuge in Egypt. After having a passionate affair with a young cosmopolitan Alexandrian surgeon, she mysteriously disappears. Her obsessed lover goes searching for her in a desolate city living in the shadow of the epic battle of El Alamein only to find her ensnared in a brutal murder.

Critique: A historical novel taking place during World War II, My Name Is Not Leila tells of a young woman in Egypt, and the surgeon who falls madly in love with her. When she disappears under mysterious circumstances, he frantically searches for her, only to find her entangled in a violent murder. Set amid a backdrop of fierce fighting and war refugees, My Name Is Not Leila is a story of desperation, destruction, and the human struggle amid forces far greater than any one person, highly recommended. It should be noted for personal reading lists that My Name Is Not Leila is also available in a Kindle edition ($8.00).

Editorial Note: Ahmed Amr, the former editor of, is an Arab American political commentator, peace activist and novelist. The son of an Egyptian diplomat, he grew up in Cairo, London and New York before settling in the majestic North West. He has traveled to over forty countries and lived for extended periods of time in Paris, Alexandria and Wellington, New Zealand. A prolific essayist, his work has been published in the Seattle Times, the Post Intelligencer, The Middle East Times, Dissident Voice and the Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of "Cilantro Dreams" and "The Sheep and the Guardians."

Clint Travis

Dee Lorraine's Bookshelf

Snapshots: Seventy-Five Short Stories
Don Tassone
Adelaide Books
9781955196901, $19.60 US

Born eight weeks early, Theo brings his family joy and hope during the COVID-19 pandemic. A fifth-grade girl's visit to say "Hi" cheers a lonely classmate at home, mourning his mother's passing. A loving adult son buys bread and coffee and feeds it to his father, fulfilling the dying man's last wish. These are a few of the souls in Snapshots, by Don Tassone.

In his fifth and latest short story collection, Tassone captures moments in the lives of ordinary people, some of whom do extraordinary things. Readers experience birth, death, and what happens in "the dash" between those two events. Tassone frames the occurrences lovingly, with plain, powerful, and heartfelt words and phrases.

The stories in Snapshots offer glimpses of Tassone's soul through the souls of his characters. These tales about typical life experiences are simple but not simplistic. Most of the characters are fictional, but "Theo," "Communion," and their characters are nonfiction.

Readers travel through five themes in Tassone's 176-page book: Hope, Fantasy, Nostalgia, Shadow, and Light. Tassone writes convincingly in each, whether he's speaking in the first person as a grieving widower and war veteran confronting his prejudices in "Reconciled," a young girl struggling to manage her gift of prophecy in "Final Dream," or Peggy Chamberlain, the aging professor in "Coach." Each character's behavior, regardless of their age, gender, physical condition, location, or circumstances, reflects a piece of the author's heart and mind.

With a master chef's precision, Tassone takes slices of everyday lives and serves them hot or cold, never lukewarm. Snapshots is a literary antipasti platter of irresistible bites, satisfying readers hungry for stories that entertain and make them think.

Seasoned with influences from Tassone's life, the souls of Snapshots reflect the love, light, and grace of their creator. He draws on his Italian heritage, lifelong Catholic faith, seminary education, corporate public relations career, and roles as a husband, father, and grandfather to make the characters come alive.

Most of the Snapshots characters honor their "better angels." However, as happens in real life, some devilment lurks in the details.

The varied story lengths make this book a perfect diversion for readers with a fast-paced lifestyle and those with more leisure time to savor the author's work. Some stories end after a few short paragraphs, while others are four to eight pages long. They all engage their readers.

Readers with only two or three minutes to spare will enjoy the micro-fiction stories in Snapshots, including "The Field," "I Want to Hold Your Hand," "Thinly Veiled Anger," and "The Nature of Grace." Longer tales, such as "Stay," "The Return," "The Essence of Friendship," and "Ransom" draw readers in, hold their attention, and, if they are riding a train or bus, might cause them to miss their stop.

I received this book as a gift and didn't want it to end. Snapshots is a great read for short story lovers. For a sample, listen to Tassone read "Theo" and watch a video interpretation of his story on the YouTube channel, SUPERFAST STORIES:

Dee Lorraine

Jack Mason's Bookshelf

Conscious Meaning in Your Life
Kashonia Carnegie
Independently Published
9780648761648, $14.97, PB, 166pp

Synopsis: Simply stated, "Conscious Meaning in Your Life: Elevating Your Strengths and Flow to Make a Difference for Greater Happiness, Love, and Success, For All" by Kashonia Carnegie is essential reading for anyone feeling that something is missing in their life; for those wanting to make a difference but not sure what that actually means or how to go about it; or someone who'd like to attract greater happiness, love, and success for yourself and others.

Adding meaning to your life can be as simple as pampering yourself. But that sort of short-term Me not We meaning will never fulfill the "is that all there is to life" void that so many people feel. True Conscious Meaning is all about making a difference to someone or something outside of your own life -- a We not Me approach.

"Conscious Meaning in Your Life: Elevating Your Strengths and Flow to Make a Difference for Greater Happiness, Love, and Success, For All" combines real-life examples, personal life experiences, stories, activities, pictures, diagrams, philosophical analyses, and scientific research, all shared in a casual, down-to-earth manner, to explain the links between making a difference and adding meaning to your life and what all that entails.

Critique: A unique, effective, transformative and welcome addition to personal, professional, community, college, and university library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections, it should be noted for personal and professional reading lists that "Conscious Meaning in Your Life: Elevating Your Strengths and Flow to Make a Difference for Greater Happiness, Love, and Success, For All" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $6.97).

Conscious Gratitude
Kashonia Carnegie
Independently Published
9780645231601, $9.97, PB, 126pp

Synopsis: There's more to gratitude than just saying thank you. But saying thank you is a great place to start. And developing a genuine attitude of Conscious Gratitude will change your life and the lives of those around you. "Conscious Gratitude: A Love-in-Action Virtue for Happiness, Health, and Loving Relationships at Home, at Work, and around the World" by Kashonia Carnegie is the perfect DIY handbook to guide you on that journey

In this sixth book in her Conscious Change Series of Books, Conscious Change Ethicist, philosopher, and author, Dr. Kashonia Carnegie combines real-life examples, personal life experiences, stories, activities, diagrams, philosophical analyses, and scientific research, all shared in a casual, down-to-earth manner, to explain what conscious gratitude is all about and how it can indeed change your life, and the lives of those around you.

"Conscious Gratitude" covers: What conscious gratitude is really all about; How to develop an attitude of conscious gratitude; Why counting your blessings really counts; The numerous benefits that'll be yours when you develop an attitude of conscious gratitude -- Psychologically, Physically, and Socially; The do's and don'ts of expressing gratitude; Tips for expressing conscious gratitude in your relationships; The importance of developing a culture of conscious gratitude in your workplace; A guide for teaching gratitude to children; How to overcoming challenges to gratitude.

Conscious gratitude is something anyone can learn, from which everyone will benefit!

Critique: A timely contribution to a country torn apart with rising political, cultural, racial, and economic based, hostilities, "Conscious Gratitude: A Love-in-Action Virtue for Happiness, Health, and Loving Relationships at Home, at Work, and around the World" must be considered an essential acquisition for community, college, and university library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Conscious Gratitude: A Love-in-Action Virtue for Happiness, Health, and Loving Relationships at Home, at Work, and around the World" is also readily available in an inexpensive digital book format (Kindle, $0.99).

Conscious Love
Kashonia Carnegie
Independently Published
9780648761686, $17.97, PB, 258pp

Synopsis: What is Love? is one of Google's most asked questions. And based on the wisdom of the ages, that question will be answered in Conscious Change Ethicist Kashonia Carnegies book, "Conscious Love: Cultivating a Consciousness of Virtue-Based Love-in-Action for a Peaceful, Loving, and Sustainable World" as it lays out the three umbrella forms of love: Love-as-an-Emotion; Spiritual Love; and Love-as-a-Virtue or Conscious Love -- as well as the power and beauty that unfolds when they are integrated.

But it is the concept of Conscious Love that the ancient masters, mystics, philosophers, religious leaders, and visionaries spoke of, and modern-day spiritual leaders like the Dalai Lama teach. And it's Conscious Love that can change the world.

Filled with real-life examples, personal life experiences, philosophical analyses, and scientific research all shared in a casual, down-to-earth manner, Kashonia brings "Conscious Love" to a close with a very inspiring and passionate review of a range of examples demonstrating why working together to change the world through a global consciousness of conscious love-in-action is not an impossible dream.

Critique: A potentially life changing read that will linger in the mind and memory long after the book has been finished and set back upon the shelf. "Conscious Love: Cultivating a Consciousness of Virtue-Based Love-in-Action for a Peaceful, Loving, and Sustainable World" is a critically important and recommended addition to community, college, and library Philosophy collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Conscious Love: Cultivating a Consciousness of Virtue-Based Love-in-Action for a Peaceful, Loving, and Sustainable World" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.97) thorough .

Conscious Self-Discovery
Kashonia Carnegie
Independently Published
9780648761662, $21.97, PB, 448pp

Synopsis: With the aid of personal life-changing revelations, real-life examples, illustrious stories, philosophical analyses, and scientific research, all shared in a casual, down-to-earth manner, in the pages of "Conscious Self-Discovery: Your Key to a Happy, Loving, and Successful Life by Enriching Your Relationship with Yourself ", author Kashonia Carnegie will guide her readers, step-by-step, through over sixty thought-provoking activities and exercises to assist them in developing a loving relationship with themselves, and others while overcoming any negative limiting beliefs that might have been standing in their way their entire life.

"Conscious Self-Discovery"presents: One of the most important concepts about our world -- both socially and physically; Commonly taught keys to success are not always accurate; The healing effects of emotional writing, and how to attract them; What forgiveness is, and more importantly what it is not; The keys to self-awareness; The essence of selfless self-love and self-compassion; Why anger is said to be the most moralistic emotion of all; How to retrain our brains; The source of limiting beliefs and how to overcome them.

Critique: Impressively insightful, thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation, "Conscious Self-Discovery: Your Key to a Happy, Loving, and Successful Life by Enriching Your Relationship with Yourself " will prove an invaluably informative DIY instruction manual and guide. While especially recommended for community, counseling center, college, and university library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections, it should be noted for life coaches, counselors, therapists, psychologists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Conscious Self-Discovery: Your Key to a Happy, Loving, and Successful Life by Enriching Your Relationship with Yourself" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.97).

Conscious Intelligence Competencies
Kashonia Carnegie
Independently Published
9780648761600, $23.97, PB, 472pp

Synopsis: In "Conscious Intelligence Competencies: Taking Emotional Intelligence to the Next Level for Our 21st Century World of Relationships ~ with Yourself and ... Planet, and Beyond ", conscious change ethicist, Dr. Kashonia Carnegie, has designed a framework of nine ethical Me to We competencies providing you with a fundamental foundation to go out and make the difference you want to see in your world or even the world.

These nine Conscious Intelligence Competencies provide the necessary awareness, knowledge, and understanding of how our 21st century world of relationships works; and the essential skills necessary for living a happy, healthy, harmonious life in our new world; ensuring we all live, grow, and flourish together on this beautiful planet of ours.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Conscious Intelligence Competencies" is especially recommended for community, corporate, college, and university library collections. It should be noted for students, academia, corporate executives, entrepreneurs, community activists, and non-specialized general readers with an interest in the subject that "Conscious Intelligence Competencies" is also readily available in a digital book format ($9.97).

Jack Mason

John Burroughs' Bookshelf

Sherlock Holmes and Count Dracula: The Classified Dossier
Christian Klaver
Titan Books
9781789097122, $19.99, HC, 432pp

Synopsis: Sherlock Holmes is dead. His body lies in a solitary grave on the Sussex Downs, England. But Dr. Watson survives, and is now given permission to release tales in Sherlock's 'classified dossier', those cases that are, dear reader, unbelievable because their subject matter is of the most outre and grotesque nature.

In "Sherlock Holmes and Count Dracula" (the thrilling first instalment of The Classified Dossier series), a Transylvanian nobleman called Count Dracula arrives at Baker Street seeking the help of Sherlock Holmes, for his beloved wife Mina has been kidnapped.

But Dracula is a client like no other -- meaning Sherlock and Watson must confront (despite the wild, unbelievable notion) the existence of vampires. And before long, Sherlock, Watson and their new vampire allies must work together to banish a powerful enemy growing in the shadows.

Critique: Refreshingly original, inherently fascinating, impressively entertaining, deftly crafted, and a thoroughly compelling read from first page to last, "Sherlock Holmes and Count Dracula: The Classified Dossier" is a combination of mystery and the occult that will have a very special appeal for the legions of Sherlock Holms fans and vampire novel enthusiasts alike. While highly recommended as an enduringly popular addition to community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Sherlock Holmes and Count Dracula: The Classified Dossier" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Maradona: The Hand of God
Jimmy Burns
Bloomsbury Press
9781526639417, $18.00, PB, 336pp

Synopsis: Anyone doubting that Diego Maradona was more than just a soccer player had only to witness the outpourings after his death on November 25th 2020. During his tempestuous life and career, he played for top clubs in South America and Europe, notably Napoli where he became an adored hero and adopted son, and grew to be a legend in his homeland of Argentina after leading them to victory in the 1986 World Cup.

Having gained access to his inner circle, in this newly updated paperback edition of "Maradona: The Hand of God", Jimmy Burns traces Maradona's life from the slums of Buenos Aires, where he was born, through his great years of triumph, to the United States from where, in 1994, he was ignobly expelled after undergoing a positive drugs test. He also tells of his failed attempt to bring further glory to Argentina as coach in the 2010 World Cup, and ultimately, his tragic decline and recent death.

Never before published in the U.S., this biography is widely regarded as the best and most revealing account of the highs, lows, genius and flaws of arguably one of the greatest soccer player of all time, and was the inspiration for Asif Kapadia's award-winning 2019 film Diego Maradona.

Critique: The one year anniversary of Maradona's death is November 25th. This newly updated and expanded edition of "Maradona: The Hand of God" includes a new chapter covering the years after the 2010 World Cup right up until Maradona's death in November 2020. A 'must' for the legions of soccer enthusiasts in general, and the legions of Diego Maradona fans in particular, "Maradona: The Hand of God" is highly recommended for community library collections and also readily available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99)

Editorial Note: Author and journalist Jimmy Burns other books include The Land that Lost its Heroes, Barça: A People's Passion, Papa Spy, La Roja, Pope of Good Promise, and Cristiano & Leo.

John Burroughs

Julie Summers' Bookshelf

Green with Milk and Sugar
Robert Hellyer
Columbia University Press
61 West 62nd Street, New York, NY 10023-7015
9780231199100, $32.00, HC, 304pp

Synopsis: Today, Americans are some of the world's biggest consumers of black teas -- while in Japan, green tea, especially sencha, is preferred. With the publication of "Green with Milk and Sugar: When Japan Filled America's Tea Cups", Professor Robert Heller addresses these national partialities while revealing that they are deeply entwined. Tracing the trans-Pacific tea trade from the eighteenth century onward, "Green with Milk and Sugar" shows how interconnections between Japan and the United States have influenced the daily habits of people in both countries.

In this impressive work of meticulous historical scholarship, Professor Hellyer explores the forgotten American penchant for Japanese green tea and how it shaped Japanese tastes. In the nineteenth century, Americans favored green teas, which were imported from China until Japan developed an export industry centered on the United States.

The influx of Japanese imports democratized green tea: Americans of all classes, particularly Midwesterners, made it their daily beverage -- which they drank hot, often with milk and sugar. In the 1920s, socioeconomic trends and racial prejudices pushed Americans toward black teas from Ceylon and India. Facing a glut, Japanese merchants aggressively marketed sencha on their home and imperial markets, transforming it into an icon of Japanese culture.

Featuring lively stories of the people involved in the tea trade (including samurai turned tea farmers and Professor Hellyer's own ancestors), "Green with Milk and Sugar" offers not only a social and commodity history of tea in the United States and Japan but also new insights into how national customs have profound if often hidden international dimensions.

Critique: An inherently interesting, exceptionally well researched, impressively written, organized and presented, "Green with Milk and Sugar: When Japan Filled America's Tea Cups" is a unique and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of academia and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Green with Milk and Sugar: When Japan Filled America's Tea Cups" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $17.27).

Editorial Note: Robert Hellyer is an associate professor of history at Wake Forest University. He is also the author of Defining Engagement: Japan and Global Contexts, 1640 - 1868 (2009) and co-editor of The Meiji Restoration: Japan as a Global Nation (2020).

On the Way to Casa Lotus
Lorena Junco Margain
Cuco Press
9781736390504, $26.00, HC, 176pp

Synopsis: Lorena Junco Margain (a passionate art collector and devoted wife and mother) is already shaken after abruptly fleeing Mexico and relocating in the USA with her family while pregnant due concerns for their safety. Then, she learns she has a tumor on her adrenal gland. Having long experienced unexplained symptoms of dizziness and lethargy that neither medications nor holistic or Ayurvedic treatments have helped, she embraces the news with tears of relief: with a simple surgery, she can regain her strength and joyful spirit. But fate can be mischievous, and to err is human -- even for surgeons. Rather than improve after surgery, her condition worsens.

"On the Way to Casa Lotus: A Memoir of Family, Art, Injury, and Forgiveness" is the gripping true story of Junco Margain's journey coming to terms with the permanent consequences of a surgeon's devastating mistake. Mindful that even good people make errors and that vengeance would not mend her broken body or soul, she chooses instead to embark on a quest for peace and healing -- beginning by seeking space in her heart to forgive.

Deeply compassionate, wise and poetic, "On the Way to Casa Lotus" lays bare some of the most poignant contradictions of the human condition, blurring the distinctions between guilt and neglectfulness, anger and sorrow, humility and shame, gratitude and despair. Rich with imagery and metaphors from the world of contemporary art, brimming with scenes from the author's close-knit, abundantly loving Mexican family, "On the Way to casa Lotus" plants a seed of hope that loss and pain can serve a higher purpose: one of promoting forgiveness as a force for personal and universal change.

Critique: A unique, emotionally moving, extraordinarily candid, thoughtful and thought-provoking read from cover to cover, "On the Way to Casa Lotus: A Memoir of Family, Art, Injury, and Forgiveness" is exceptionally well written, organized and presented, making it an unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library Contemporary Mexican-American Biography & Memoir collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "On the Way to Casa Lotus: A Memoir of Family, Art, Injury, and Forgiveness" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781736390511, $17.00), and in an inexpensive digital book format (Kindle, $0.99).

Editorial Note: Lorena Junco Margain was born and raised in Mexico (Monterrey and Mexico City). As an author, art collector, and philanthropist, Lorena studied visual arts at Universidad de Monterrey before co-founding the Distrito14 gallery as a platform to amplify emerging Mexican artists. Soon afterward, she co-founded and curated the Margain-Junco Collection with her husband, Eduardo Margain, to support emerging artists, foster the art scene in Mexico, and promote awareness of Mexican art internationally. She also played an instrumental role in launching the 2015 Shaped in Mexico contemporary art exhibition in London. In 2008, Junco Margain was forced to flee Mexico with her husband, children, parents, and extended family due to concerns for their safety.

Julie Summers

Lesly Massey's Bookshelf

Re-Attribution of the British Renaissance Corpus
Volumes 1-2: British Renaissance Re-Attribution and Modernization Series
Anna Faktorovich, author
Anaphora Literary Press
9798499587652, $40.00, 698pp, PB
Volume 1: 9798499588642, $27.00, HC
Volume 2: 9798499590843; Kindle $9.99

The complete series on British Renaissance Re-Attribution and Modernization by Anna Faktorovich is a remarkable accomplishment. Based on her own unbiased method of computational-linguistic authorial-attribution, she has critically examined an entire collection of texts, many previously inaccessible and untranslated to modern English. From a variety of distinct factors that have been ignored or unnoticed in the past, she identifies a group of ghost writers behind many miss-attributed Renaissance works. Of particular interest are works traditionally attributed to William Shakespeare. Dr. Faktorovich is a prolific writer, very well informed in English literature, philology, and literary criticism, and she is clearly thorough and detail-oriented. Her re-attribution and modernization series demonstrates solid scholarship, fresh perspective, and willingness to challenge conventional thought and methodology.

Lesly F. Massey

Lloyd Jacobs' Bookshelf

Sonnets to the Fairest Coelia
Volume 3: British Renaissance Re-Attribution and Modernization Series
William Percy, author
Anna Faktorovich, translator
Anaphora Literary Press
9798499595244, $20.00, 114pp, PB
9798499596708, $25.00, HC / $9.99 Kindle

Historians have long recognized that the revered Hippocratic Corpus is an accretion of the writings of many ghost writers and imitators. The analysis of a similar process of accretion in the instance of the British Renaissance Corpus has brought to the fore contributors and ghostwriters here-to-fore largely unknown. Such is the case with William Percy, obscure poet of the 17th century.

At first glance, the notion that careful analysis of this phenomenon may be assisted by artificial intelligence seems contrary to humanistic literary values. But Anna Faktorovich has been a full and sensitive participant in the process and the result is not only her computational-linguistics re-attribution, but also a sensitive, accessible rendition of William Percy's twenty "Sonnets to Coelia".

The poems are contextualized by exordia from multiple historical authors and perspicaciously by Anna Faktorovich herself. Such contextual writings illuminate the central purpose of Percy's poetizing; the "Sonnets to Coelia" are an apologia for alternative forms of human love, more specifically an apologia for homosexual love. It is, therefore, of considerable modern interest as an important milestone (or millstone) in the historical record of laws governing human sexuality. "Sonnets to Coelia" is a plea to Elizabeth I to reverse the "Buggery Act" of 1533, which she instead reinstated.

The poems themselves exemplify the period. They conform to the sonnet form with considerable consistency. What makes them seem most archaic to the modern ear is their rhyme. Commitment to rhyme over-rides all other considerations: it over-rides rhythm, it over-rides accessibility and often renders locutions awkward. Still a careful reading, aided by the abundance of footnotes, is rewarded by considerable amusement and insight.

Perhaps the greatest reward is received if the "beholder's share", that which the reader brings to the poem, is the presupposition that "Coelia" is a rubric signifying all the manifold and various forms of human love. Consider for example Sonnet 16 where a grain of cruelty seems to be welcomed:

Then, if I swear thy love does make me languish;
Thou turn away, and smile scornfully.
And if I weep; my tears thou despise.

In summary, William Percy's "Sonnets to Coelia" are a fascinating read and receive my highest recommendation.

Cuck-queans and Cuckolds Errands
Volume 4: British Renaissance Re-Attribution and Modernization Series
William Percy, author
Anna Faktorovich, translator
Anaphora Literary Press
9798499599471, $20.00, 138pp, PB
9798499600375, $25.00 HC / $9.99 Kindle

It is tempting to read Cuck-queans and Cuckolds Errands superficially, to enjoy its façade, which has been much enhanced by Faktorovich's extensive and erudite introduction and footnotes.

Frankly, without those and without her careful modernization of language, the original work would be nearly unreadable. At that superficial level, the reader finds much enjoyment in its satire and slightly puerile humor. Human coitus, especially if illicit, is after all, the world's most fascinating and enduring topic.

The cuckoo is a bird of European origin, about the size of a robin who displays the disconcerting habit of laying eggs in another bird's nest. The derivatives "cuckold" and "cuck-quean" describe a usurper or supplanter, hence one who practices the pleasures of venery outside the boundaries of holy matrimony. And the drama Cuck-queans and Cuckolds Errands is about just that, obsessive and nearly random fornication.

But there is a deeper level to Cuckolds. The reader wishing to access that level might do well to first read Jokes and their Relation to the Subconscious by Sigmund Freud. All of human vulnerability and sexual peccadillos, deviant and sanctioned, are displayed in this writing, which was self-attributed in William Percy's (obscure poet of the 17th century) closeted manuscripts. The reference to Freud above is intended to imply the ubiquity of this pattern of behavior and its persistence from age to age; humankind is steeped in concupiscence. Percy's drama is a paean to joy and jouissance, a celebration of what it is to be alive.

The drama itself tells of the peregrinations and loves and fates of a dozen players. Prominent among them are two spouse swapping couples: Doucebella and Claribel, and Aruania and Floridan who couple in various permutations, including a Lesbian encounter. The drama is replete with absurd miscreants: thieves who steal from a doctor, a masculine but desirable gamekeeper and her husband, an innkeeper and two deadbeat customers. The reader will enjoy many hours dis-entangling this menage.

In the language of Percy's drama, the reader will hear tones and rhythms and phrases suggestive of Shakespeare - and no wonder: Faktorovich establishes Percy as a ghost writer for Shakespeare. For example, a witch in Macbeth says, "By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes".

And in Percy's drama (p105), "Beset the pricking enclosure of my conscience..." Cuckolds would be a great read if it were only for the fun of detecting such similarities. I commend it to you.

Lloyd Jacobs

Margaret Lane's Bookshelf

Sunshine Warm Sober
Catherine Gray
c/o Octopus Books
236 Park Avenue, New York NY 10017
9781783253395, $19.99, HC, 304pp

Synopsis: Despite the ubiquitous phrase "Stone cold sober.", the millions of men and women who choose to stay sober now know, that the propaganda around drinking and sobriety is wonky. Being sober neither feels stony or cold.

Catherine Gray, author of "The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober", is now in her eighth sober year and has learned a damn sight more. Her hotly anticipated sequel enlists the help of experts and case studies, turning a curious, playful gaze onto provocative questions. Is alcohol a parenting aid? Why are booze and cocaine such a horse and carriage? Once an addict, always an addict? How do you feel safe - from alcohol, others and yourself - in sobriety?

Critique: "Sunshine Warm Sober: Unexpected Sober Joy That Lasts" is a witty, gritty, realistic, memorable read that can change how Catherine's drinkers, non-drinkers, and no-longer drinkers think about alcohol forever. While unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Alcoholism Recovery collections and supplemental curriculum studies, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Sunshine Warm Sober: Unexpected Sober Joy That Lasts" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).

Blue Eyes, Brown Eyes: A Cautionary Tale of Race and Brutality
Stephen G. Bloom
University of California Press
155 Grand Avenue, Suite 400, Oakland, CA 94612 - 3758
9780520382268, $27.95, HC, 312pp

Synopsis: The day after Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination in 1968, Jane Elliott, a schoolteacher in rural Iowa, introduced to her all-white third-grade class a shocking experiment to demonstrate the scorching impact of racism. Elliott separated students into two groups. She instructed the brown-eyed children to heckle and berate the blue-eyed students, even to start fights with them. Without telling the children the experiment's purpose, Elliott demonstrated how easy it was to create abhorrent racist behavior based on students' eye color, not skin color.

As a result, Elliott would go on to appear on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show, followed by a stormy White House conference, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and thousands of media events and diversity-training sessions worldwide, during which she employed the provocative experiment to induce racism. Was the experiment benign? Or was it a cruel, self-serving exercise in sadism? Did it work?

"Blue Eyes, Brown Eyes: A Cautionary Tale of Race and Brutality" by Professor Stephen G. Bloom is a meticulously researched study that details for the first time Jane Elliott's jagged rise to stardom. It is an unflinching assessment of the incendiary experiment forever associated with Elliott, even though she was not the first to try it out.

"Blue Eyes, Brown Eyes" also offers an intimate portrait of the insular community where Elliott grew up and conducted the experiment on the town's children for more than a decade. The searing story is a cautionary tale that examines power and privilege in and out of the classroom.

It also documents small-town White America's reflex reaction to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1970s and 1980s, as well as the subsequent meteoric rise of diversity training that flourishes today. All the while, "Blue Eyes, Brown Eyes" reveals the struggles that tormented a determined and righteous woman, today referred to as the "Mother of Diversity Training," who was driven against all odds to succeed.

Critique: An especially timely read in this current era of the Black Lives Matter movement and the politically driven resurgence of racial bigotry and minority voter suppression that has become the hallmark of the Donald Trump dominated Republican Party, "Blue Eyes, Brown Eyes: A Cautionary Tale of Race and Brutality" is an essential and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library Contemporary Social Issues and American Education History collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, political activists, social justice advocates, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Blue Eyes, Brown Eyes: A Cautionary Tale of Race and Brutality" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $19.99).

Editorial Note: A Professor of Journalism at the University of Iowa, Stephen G. Bloom is an award-winning journalist and author of five nonfiction books: The Audacity of Inez Burns, Tears of Mermaids, The Oxford Project, Inside the Writer's Mind, and Postville.

Boom Kids: Growing Up in the Calgary Suburbs, 1950-1970
James A. Onusko
Wilfrid Laurier University Press
9781771124980, $85.00, HC, 260pp

Synopsis: The Baby Boomer generation's impact on Canadian life in the fifties and sixties is unchallenged; social and cultural changes were made to meet their needs and desires. While time has passed, this era stands still in time -- viewed as an idyllic period when great hopes and relative prosperity went hand in hand for all.

"Boom Kids: Growing Up in the Calgary Suburbs, 1950-1970" by James A. Onusko is deftly organized thematically, with chapters focusing on: suburban spaces; the Cold War and its impact on young people; ethnicity, "race," and work; the importance of play and recreation; children's bodies, health and sexuality; and "the night," resistances and delinquency. Reinforced throughout this manuscript is the fact that children and adolescents were not only affected by their suburban experiences, but that they influenced the adult world in which they lived.

Oral histories from former community members and archival materials, including school-based publications, form the backbone for a study that demonstrates that suburban life was diverse and filled with rich experiences for youngsters.

Critique: Even as the boomer generation is beginning to 'age out', their impact on Canadian culture and politics is still influencing events today. An impressively informative and meticulously presented cultural history, "Boom Kids: Growing Up in the Calgary Suburbs, 1950-1970" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and library 20th Century Canadian Cultural History collections and supplemental curriculum 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 "Boom Kids: Growing Up in the Calgary Suburbs, 1950-1970" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $27.99).

Editorial Note: James A. Onusko is a permanent faculty member at Northern Lakes College. He researches the history of children and youth and post-Confederation Canadian history. He has published peer-reviewed journal articles and the public history book Ontario's Soldiers' Aid Commission: 100 Years of Assistance to Veterans in Need, 1915-2015.

Margaret Lane

Mari Carlson's Bookshelf

An Ambassador to Syria
Cathy Sultan
Calumet Editions
1950743624, $16.99, Paperback

Diplomat Robert Jenkins follows in his father's footsteps carrying out America's dirty work in foreign lands. Where his father was involved in Central America in the 1980s, Jenkins' mission is to foment havoc in Syria, to turn peoples against each other in order to gain the upper hand in a "proxy war against Iran'' (56). But as he attempts to bring Bashar Assad down, others try to bring Jenkins down. Jenkins' mistress, Nadia, is a spy providing damning information on Jenkins and American politicians to journalists and others in Syria. Nadia's ex-fiance, Andrew, a doctor in a refugee camp in Lebanon, is kidnapped by terrorists and only all the warring factions working together can rescue him - and the more peaceful way of relating he represents.

A meeting between Assad and Jenkins at the start introduces the theme of transformative human encounters that develops throughout the novel. Jenkins' shifting conscience is seen in an internal dialogue running alongside the formal exchange he and Assad share over a trip to a tragic bombing site. Subsequent dialogue is not as successful as this initial scene. Several interview-type conversations convey background information in a stilted format. Passages graphically describing Syrian civil war brutality, including lots of death, rape, and torture better set a villainous stage on which complicit characters emerge. Jenkins', Nadia's, and other expats' dizzying personal entanglements and betrayals, helpfully reiterated from numerous perspectives, bring the nation-to-nation conflict to a more understandable, and entertaining, level. Nadia is central in the web, with connections to the kidnapped doctor, Andrew, and to Jenkins, as well as to other powerful men. Nadia masks her hatred for Jenkins but cannot hide her hatred for Sonia, a journalist who has her own history of betraying expats to get stories. The novel shifts rapid-fire between threads and back and forth in time producing an authentic war-zone-esque controlled chaos.

"Wars are premised on lies... and truth is its first casualty" (13). The novel lays a foundation for truth-building by portraying love alongside open combat. Pictures of neighbors helping one another from destroyed buildings, lovers uniting in spontaneous passion, and strangers-cum-friends sharing delicious-sounding Syrian meals show genuine grounds for trust. Scenes of Andrew helping patients, insurgents and refugees alike, in clinical settings convince that these characters are equally capable of respectfully working together as they are of destroying each other. The rescue sequences are an effective encapsulation of the broader changes of heart that facilitate it. But the surprise ending also shows that hard work is still to come.

An Ambassador to Syria is a love letter to a country at war. One ambassador's story of changing from a promoter of injustice to fighting for peace and diplomacy inspires all readers toward active, ongoing compassion.

Mari Carlson, Reviewer

Mark Walker's Bookshelf

The President
Miguel Angel Asturias
Waveland Press, Inc.
9780881339512, $19.95

I'd read this Latin American classic in Spanish years ago, but decided to read it again in English in order to share it with a broader audience. Although it was published before I was born, it's relevant today, as it portrays the damaging psychological impact of a totalitarian government and the brutality it will go through to maintain power - a phenomenon all too real to Guatemalans today.

Much to my surprise, my Guatemalan wife had to read this when she was in seventh grade - something I wouldn't recommend for today's students in the U.S. even though it's been translated into English. I was shocked when my wife informed me that she also had to memorize the first paragraph, which is a clear indicator that you're in for an interesting literary journey:
"BOOM, bloom, alum-bright, Lucifer of alunite!" The sound of the church bells summoning people to prayer lingered on, like a humming in the ears, an uneasy transition from brightness to gloom, from gloom to brightness. "Boom, bloom, alum-bright, Lucifer of alunite, over the sombre tomb! Bloom, alum-bright, over the tomb, Lucifer of alunite! Bloom, alum-bright...bloom...alum-bright...bloom, alum-bright...bloom, boom."

The passage also reminds me why I'm glad I didn't have to translate this book! The style of El Señor Presidente influenced a generation of Latin American authors. His use of dream imagery, onomatopoeia, simile and repetition of phrases, combined with a discontinuous structure, make for an interesting, but challenging, read. The author was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1967 for his entire body of work and in recognition of the region's literature as a whole - another reason the book is so important.

The dictator depicted in the novel is Guatemalan President, Manuel Estrada Cabrera (1898-1920). The author started writing the novel in the 1920s when he was a young law student, but it wasn't finished until 13 years later in Mexico due to strict censorship policies of the Guatemalan dictatorial government.

The author draws from experience as a journalist writing under repressive conditions to convey the government's transgressions reflected in this passage about the plight of one political prisoner who is sent to the dungeons below:

A few steps further on they entombed him in an underground dungeon three yards long by two and a half yards wide, in which twelve prisoners condemned to death were already standing packed together like sardines, motionless for lack of space, satisfying their physical needs where they stood and trampling on their own excrement....

The pleas of one prisoner reflects the inhumane conditions prisoners suffered from:

...His cries grew fainter and fainter as they echoed through the vaults. He beat on the walls, stamped on the floor with his feet and shouted again and again, until soon his shouts had become yells..." Water, soup, salt, fat, anything; water, soup...

The author's work reflects the origins of the use of violence and torture still common in Guatemala today.

Asturias was one of the early authors to use magic realism, a literary technique often employed by such acclaimed Latin American writers as Gabriel Garcia Márquez. The author's surrealistic dream sequences to demonstrate the police state's impact on the individual psyche is reflected in this passage:

And each time anyone described what had happened, General Canales came out of his grave and died all over again; he sat down to eat by lamplight at a table without a cloth, they heard the rattle of cutlery and plates, the footsteps of the orderly, a glass of water being poured out and a newspaper unfolded, and then - nothing more, not even a groan. They found him lying across the table dead, his cheek resting on El Nacional, his eyes half-closed, glassy, staring at something that was not there.

The author moved to Paris in 1923 where he studied anthropology at the Sorbonne and continued writing his book while he associated with members of the Surrealist movement and future Latin American writers like Cuban Alejo Carpentier.

Asturias expressed what motivates his writing in his acceptance speech of the Nobel Prize for Literature, "My work will continue to reflect the voice of the people, gathering their myths and popular beliefs and, at the same time, seeming to give birth to a universal consciousness of Latin American problems."

The Times Literary Supplement sums up the impact of this book with, "Asturias leaves no doubt about what it is like to be tortured, or what it is like to work for a man who is both omnipotent and depraved." Dorian Jackson of Roger Williams University goes on to say, "A much-needed English language edition of one of Latin America's greatest novels. The translation captures the truest essence of the original work. This is a must-read for those wanting to understand our current political culture."

Born in Guatemala, the author studied the myth and religion of Central America in Paris, where he was a correspondent for several Central American Newspapers. He pursued a diplomatic career, and represented the Guatemalan government in France, Argentina, El Salvador, and Mexico. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1967. Other works include El Papa Verde and Hombres de Maiz. This book received an Ibero-American Novel Award from The William Faulkner Foundation.

Mark D. Walker, Reviewer

Mark Zvonkovic's Bookshelf

Small World
Jonathan Evison
c/o Penguin Random House
9780593184127, $14.99

An intricate historical puzzle composed of multigenerational family dynamics and suspense.

Jonathan Evison's Small World is quite large actually, encompassing four sets of ancestors and associated persons from many distant countries. The stories of the characters in the novel begin in the 1800's, entwine with each other over two hundred years, and collide, astonishingly, on a train ride in Oregon in 2019. It is the crossing of paths by disparate ancestors and the coming together of their descendants near the end of the story that suggest the title of the novel.

A variety of protagonists populate Small World. Evison's development of them is brilliantly done, not only for its detail but also for its clever and subtle juxtaposing of the circumstances of their lives and the hardships they endure, culturally and physically. Racism and prejudice abound, blatantly in the eighteenth century parts of the story and evasively by the twenty-first century. The ancestors set the stage. George (Othello) Flowers is a runaway slave in Chicago, Wu Chen is from China, a gold rush prospector and then shopkeeper in San Francisco, John and Luyu Tully are American Indians struggling to make a home in the Rocky Mountains, and the Bergen twins from Ireland are separated in a Chicago orphanage, Nora sent to be a servant in the home of a rich man, Abraham Seymour, who was once a Jewish orphan in England, and Finn adopted by the Vogels, German immigrants intending to be farmers in the Midwest. Their descendants complete the themes: Walter Bergin, a railroad engineer; Malik Flowers, a budding basketball star; Jenny Chen, a successful businesswoman; and Laila Tully, a young woman fleeing from an abusive man. The villains are well done: Don LoPriori, a chauvinist business owner; Warnock, a slave owner; Boaz, an abusive boyfriend; and Master Searles, the orphanage director.

Small World is divided into multiple stories that at the outset don't seem to have a connection. Each story has its own protagonist and antagonist, some of whom cross over into other stories as the novel progresses, embedded into an intricate pattern of plots that near the end come together with all the descendants boarding the train in Oregon. The novel begins in 2019 with the beginning of the train's journey, the Bergen's descendant Walter being the train's engineer. Thereafter, times and characters jump between the eighteen and twenty-first centuries. There are three sections in the novel: Golden, Fortunes, and Horizons. Within each of those are multiple subsections, each of which contains a piece of each character's plot through a particular time period. These subsections are like pieces of a large puzzle laid out on a table to be assembled by the reader as the novel progresses. It's an extraordinary device used by the author to create suspense and tension as the stories move forward and, on a macro level, to demonstrate how a family's history, while often thought of chronologically, is understood emotionally and, frequently, subconsciously. Mistakes and tragedies are repeated in between jubilation and good fortune.

Readers of Small World will find it hard to put the book down. The author does a masterful job of revealing the stories' elements in a fashion that creates anticipation. The settings for the stories are beautifully described, whether a ship's hold, the streets of New York, the Iowa prairie, a view of the Pacific, or a raging snowstorm in the Northwest. The imagery makes the character's emotions palpable. So many times the reader will weep for the world, as Nora Bergen does, and realize, as the author so shrewdly demonstrates, that in family history the end of one's story is but the beginning of another.

Mark Zvonkovic, Reviewer

Michael Carson's Bookshelf

Flywheels: How Cities Are Creating Their Own Futures
Tom Alberg
Columbia Business School Press
Columbia University Press
61 West 62nd Street, New York, NY 10023-7015
9780231199544, $24.99, HC, 296pp

Synopsis: Once a blue-collar outpost, Seattle is now home to Microsoft, Amazon, and hundreds of startups, transforming itself into one of the world's major innovation hubs in less than twenty years. As other cities try to solve the riddle of creating vibrant economies, many have looked to Seattle as a model for tech-driven urban renaissance. However, that success comes with skyrocketing housing costs, increasing homelessness, public safety concerns, persistent racial inequality, and a widening gap between the haves and have-nots. Against that backdrop, big tech has become a popular target.

In "Flywheels: How Cities Are Creating Their Own Futures", Tom Alberg, a venture capitalist who was one of the first investors in Amazon, draws upon his years of experience and expertise in Seattle's tech boom to offer a vision for how cities and businesses can build a brighter future together. He explores ways that cities can soar to prosperity by creating the conditions that encourage innovation.

Like flywheels, livable cities generate momentum by drawing creative citizens who launch businesses. Success attracts more talent, energizing local economies and accelerating further innovation. Alberg emphasizes the importance of city governments and tech companies partnering to address civic challenges. He reflects on why the benefits of the tech boom have not been distributed equally and what business and government leaders must do differently to ensure inclusive growth.

"Flywheels: How Cities Are Creating Their Own Futures" also examines success stories from smaller cities and their lessons for other up-and-coming tech hubs.

Critique: Demonstrating the need for innovative thinking that encourages livability alongside economic growth, "Flywheels" is timely reading for everyone from mayors to business leaders to engaged citizens. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Flywheels: How Cities Are Creating Their Own Futures" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Urban and City Planning/Development collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of governmental policy makers, city planners, corporate executives, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, social issues activists, urban economics students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Flywheels: How Cities Are Creating Their Own Futures" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99).

Editorial Note: Tom Alberg is cofounder of the venture capital firm Madrona Venture Group. He previously was senior vice president of McCaw Cellular and president of LIN Broadcasting. Alberg was an early investor in Amazon and one of its board members from 1996 to 2019. He has also served on the boards of numerous other companies and was a member of the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

William Shakespeare's Avengers: The Complete Works
Ian Doescher, author
Danny Schlitz, illustrator
Quirk Books
215 Church Street, Philadelphia PA 19106
9781683692072, $34.99, HC, 304pp

Synopsis: What if the most epic cinematic franchise of all time had been penned by the greatest playwright of all time? Wonder no more! In "William Shakespeare's Avengers: The Complete Works", Ian Doescher (who is also the author of the "William Shakespeare's Star Wars" series has re-imagined the Avengers films as plays penned by the Bard himself, including: Assemble, Ye Avengers; Lo, The Age of Ultron; Infinity War's Tale; The Endgame's Afoot.

Authentic meter and verse, stage directions, and clever Easter eggs will delight fans of the Avengers and Shakespeare alike. Readers will experience their favorite scenes, characters, and lines in a fresh (yet fully faithful) way, through soliloquies and dialogue by everyone from Captain America to Groot ("'Tis I!").

The lavish two-column format recalls Shakespeare's folios, and dozens of vibrant illustrations capture all the iconic movie moments.

Critique: An extraordinary and unique contribution to the growing library of Marvel Universe fiction, "William Shakespeare's Avengers: The Complete Works" is also readily available for the legions of Avengers fans in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.99), and an especially and unreservedly recommended acquisition for community, college, and university library collections.

Editorial Note: Ian Doescher is also the author of the Pop Shakespeare series, and MacTrump. He has written for Marvel Comics and is a contributing author to the story collection "Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View". Ian maintains an informative website at

Michael J. Carson

Robin Friedman's Bookshelf

Spinoza's Religion
Clare Carlisle
Princeton University Press
9780691176598, $29.95 hardback

A Scholar's Engagement With Spinoza

Clare Carlisle's book "Spinoza's Religion: A New Reading of the Ethics" (2021) offers an interpretation of Spinoza that is both scholarly and erudite and deeply felt. Professor of Philosophy at King's College London, Carlisle has written on Kierkegaard and has edited George Elliot's translation of Spinoza's "Ethics", the first translation into English. Kierkegaard seems an unlikely philosopher to pair with Spinoza, but Carlisle puts his thought, and much else, to good use in her understanding of Spinoza.

Carlisle does not dwell upon her own background in this study, but what she says is important. She grew up "without a religion" while becoming fascinated with Spinoza and philosophy as an undergraduate. Carlisle says that she has been drawn deeply into questions about God and religious life and has learned from Eastern religion and from Catholic mysticism while not seeing herself clearly within any religious category. In a way contrary to how many people view religion, she says "I have come to think that religion, for me, is not a matter of identity at all." I agree. Carlisle's discussion of how her study of Spinoza has helped her own search for religious understanding frames the book and the interpretation of Spinoza's thought that she develops. She writes:

"[A]lthough I have studied and taught philosophy and theology for more that twenty years, and should perhaps be expected to have formed opinions about religious questions, I have until quite recently felt rather tentative and uncertain about my relationship to these questions. My experience did not match the ready-made images of religionI saw around me, and so I wondered whether I was getting something wrong. For example, the questions, 'Does God exist?' and 'Do you believe in God' confused me. Neither 'yes' nor 'no' feels like the right answer, and this is not because I am agnostic, but because the wording of these questions seems somehow to lead away from what is meaningful and important to me. 'Are you religious' is, similarly, a perplexing question, to which the best answer I can offer is a not-very-illuminating 'yes and no'. Reading Spinoza more deeply and pursing the question of his religion has helped me think more clearly and confidently about my own religious inclinations -- and to understand my own resistance to the ways religion is usually represented and discussed".

In addition to her own search for religious understanding, Carlisle draws on many sources. She shows a thorough familiarity with the contemporary literature on Spinoza, from America and Britain and from the Continent. (The bibliography is a joy to read in itself as are the detailed endnotes.) But the sources on which she draws for her interpretation are perhaps more important. Scholars of Spinoza tend to emphasize either his relationship to the philosophical thought of his contemporaries, particularly Descartes, or his relationship to the Jewish philosophy he studied in his youth, particularly the thought of Maimonides. Carlisle argues that after his Excommunication, age 23, from the Jewish community, Spinoza had little contact with and evidenced little interest in Judaism but rather lived and philosophized within a Christian community. While Spinoza was highly critical of much Christian theology and was far from a convert, Carlisle finds some broad parallels between Christian thought and Spinoza. In particular, she often tries to elucidate Spinoza's views by comparison to the thought of Aquinas, Anselm, and Augustine.

Carlisle offers a detailed reading of both the "Ethics" and the "Theological Political Treatise" and tries to show how Spinoza's great works are related. Unsurprisingly, she finds Spinoza's religious teaching ambiguous in view of the competing interpretations that tend to be offered. She tries to work between the secularist, naturalistic interpretation on one hand in the romantic picture of the "God intoxicated man" on the other hand. Her chief insight is that readers tend to rely too heavily and uncritically on Spinoza's phrase "God or Nature" in understanding his thought. Relying solely on this phrase "God or Nature" encourages interpretations of Spinoza as a naturalist or as a pantheist. But that phrase needs to be read in light of a more fundamental, developed teaching of Spinoza which Carlisle finds in "Being-in-God" which she describes as "the fundamental tenet of Spinoza's thought". It is found at first in Part One, proposition 15 of the "Ethics", "Whatever is, is in God" and is referred to and expounded upon by Spinoza repeatedly throughout the work. Much of Carlisle's reading of Spinoza is based upon her understanding this proposition and following it through the various parts of the "Ethics".

Expanding upon "Being-in-God, Carlisle argues that Spinoza's thought is more akin to panentheism than to either naturalism or pantheism. Reality, for Spinoza. consists of the single substance and of modes, which are dependent upon substance. The dependent, partial modes, including human beings do not exhaust substance but are "in" it or "participate in" it. In successive chapters of her book, Carlisle explores what it means for modes, such as persons, to "participate in" substance as a matter of ontology, epistemology, psychology, and ethics. Her discussions are complex and frequently deeply insightful.

In chapter 6, "Acquiescentia", Carlilse develops Spinoza's statement in Book Four of the "Ethics", pP.52, that "Self-esteem is really the highest we can hope for" and ties this statement in with her understanding of humans being modes participating in God. This becomes a pivotal concept for Carlisle's understanding of religion in Spinoza as she writes: "{T]he thing itself is very simple. Do we feel anxious or contented? Are we agitated or at peace. Spinoza offers this feeling of being ourselves as a guide to the depth of our self-understanding, the adequacy of our metaphysics and our theology, the truth of our religion." As Carlisle works through the "Ethics", her chapters are arranged as concentric circles, almost as independent essays which say similar things about Spinoza and his understanding of religion but with different emphases. The focus is on an ultimately non-dualistic understanding of the relationship between persons and God. And she rejects what she understands as modernity's and secularism's attempts to objectify religion by defining it in terms of creeds. She argues that Spinoza held to instead a concept of religion more akin to the ancient and medieval concepts of virtue; it is internalized and individual and shows in one's acceptance of oneself and lovingkindness towards others. Carlisle sees religion and philosophy as practiced by Spinoza not as a doctrine but as a way of life. Spinoza devoted his life and his gifts to his search for wisdom and understanding. It is this focus and commitment in living a human life that constitutes the religious search.

"Spinoza's Religion" is a splendid and moving book that reminded me of the inspiration I have drawn from Spinoza at many times during my life. Carlisle's book has the rare accomplishment of being deeply personal and intellectually challenging. Not the least of the book's virtues is how it shows philosophers re-engaging with broad questions of reality when these questions, not long ago, had seemingly been abandoned. Readers with a passion for Spinoza and for philosophy will love this book.

Breathing Lessons: A Novel
Anne Tyler, author
Vintage Books
9780345485571, $16.95 paperback

"What Makes An Ideal Marriage?"

Early in Anne Tyler's "Breathing Lessons", the distracted main character, Maggie Moran, is listening to an early-morning talk show on Baltimore radio. The subject of the show for the day is "what makes an ideal marriage?". As is so often the case in this Pulitzer Prize winning novel (1989) this little scene functions on a variety of levels. Most simple are the human foibles displayed by the callers and their opinions. Most broadly, the question becomes a theme to be explored throughout the course of Tyler's novel Most immediately, the question precipitates a trip by Maggie and, reluctantly, by her husband Ira to visit their former daughter-in-law and their seven year old granddaughter Leroy after attending a funeral in rural Pennsylvania north of Baltimore for the husband of a long-time friend of Maggie's. The day-long trip including the funeral and two side adventures form the setting of Tyler's novel. The book is structured into three parts, with Maggie's perspective central to the first and third part and Ira's to the second.

The 28-year marriage between Maggie and Ira is at the center of the book as the couple fight and bicker with each other during much of the drive, the funeral, the trip to the former daughter-in -law, Fiona, and LeRoy. and an unplanned adventure in the middle of the story. In the process, the story of the marriage is told through reflections and through flashbacks. The couple have two children. The older, Jesse, dropped out of high school to pursue his will o' the wisp as a rock singer. He married Fiona when they were both 17 and Fiona was two months pregnant. The couple have been divorced for six years with Maggie having dreams of bringing them together. The younger child, Daisy, was a straight A student in high school and is leaving home on a full scholarship for college the day after the trip to pursue her dream of becoming a physicist. Maggie and Ira are of two different personality types, with Maggie outgoing and manipulative and Ira, sullen, withdrawn, and critical.

Other marriages explored in the tale include the relationship between Jesse and Fiona, between Maggie's friend Serena and her deceased husband Max, and between the elderly Daniel Otis and his wife of many years, Duluth, in the middle section of the book. These and other marriages are variations on the theme with the primary attention focused on Maggie and Ira.

The story is told with Tyler's gift for dialogue and for speech patterns and with her unerring sense of place. Tyler is a poet of lower-middle class Baltimore, but in this novel she expands her range northward to explore small towns, out of the way places, drab filling stations, and coffee shops in the drive to the country.

It is easy to become exasperated with the characters in this novel. Many of the scenes and incidents were painful and realistic in depicting a marriage with its compromises and difficulties. Tyler manages to be detached and funny as well as serious as she describes the eccentricities of her characters without losing her love for them or for the marriage. The characters muddle through which, the book suggests, is itself a gift of life.

"Breathing Lessons" is a deeply textured, thoughtful novel given in the context of a day trip. I was able to identify with the characters which did not always make for pleasant reading. But the book spoke truly to me of marriage and of carrying on with life.

Made in America: A Social History of American Culture and Character
Clude Fischer
University of Chicago Press
9780226251448, $22.50 paperback

Continuity And Change In America

Claude Fischer's book, "Made in America: A Social History of American Culture and Character" (2010) examines American life from colonial days to the present to explore whether there is a distinctively American character and experience and if so whether that experience has somehow been lost or diminished with time. It is a challenging inquiry which Fischer himself describes as an "outrageously vast and absurdly ambitious goal." (p. 8) Nevertheless, Fischer perseveres in his study with doggedness and erudition. The result may help some American readers rethink their understanding of themselves. Fischer writes that this densely documented, scholarly study addresses not only fellow academics but also general readers who are interested in the evolution of American culture and its implications. (p. 15) Born in France, Fischer came to the United States in 1952 at the age of four. He is Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Berkely.

Fischer's study is based upon extensive work of social historians in researching the everyday life of people in the United States before the availablity of surveys and means of scientific studies. The book is full of stories, diaries, letters, and anecdotes. Fischer has also read extensively about contemporary America. His book offers a generous, optimistic vision of the United States. Broadly speaking, Fischer concludes that there is a distinctively American character. He argues that this character can be determined most clearly by studying the development of the American middle class and the continued expansion of this class over the years to include African Americans, women, the aged, immigrants, among others. Fischer denies that concluding that the American experience is distinct exposes him to a charge of promoting American "exceptionalism". The claim that an experience is unique does not mean that it is somehow privileged over other experiences or that the experience is not subject to historical laws or conditions.

The larger part of the book is devoted to setting out the nature of American culture and character. Fischer finds it largely in voluntarism, a term he defines and explores in several contexts in the study. For Fischer, voluntarism is a path between the excessive individualism or the communalism that frequently are used to define portions of the American experience. Fischer best states the nature of voluntarism while introducing his study of Americans and their relationship to various groups. He states: "The American solution to the tension between the individual and the group is to assume that a person best reaches his or her personal ends with others in freely chosen fellowship." (p. 95) Earlier, he offers a more detailed, two pronged definition of voluntarism (p.10):

"The first key element of voluntarism is believing and behaving as if each person is a sovereign individual: unique, independent, self-reliant, self-governing, and ultimately self-responsible."

"The second key element of voluntarism is believing and behaving as if individuals succeed through fellowship-- not in egoistic isolation but in sustaining, voluntary communities."

Voluntarism blends individualism and communitarianism in the free choices of persons to decide what matters to them in their lives. Fischer argues that the early American experience was voluntaristic but limited by economic condititions. As the United States has developed, voluntarism has become more open.

There is an underlying economic theme to Fischer's presentation. He argues that even in the face of harsh economic conditions, America has been a land of plenty. As the country developed and its economic bounty grew, an increasing number of people were able to feel more secure in life and pursue other ends than bare sustenance. Thus, in the second chapter of his book, Fischer describes in broad terms the zig-zag growth of American economic security, with some tensions and regressions beginning in the 1970s. Importantly and provocatively, Fischer denies the often repeated charges that Americans are a "materialist" or "consumerist" people. He argues that at all times Americans have sought out the good things in life which have been on the whole plentiful in the nation. The use and benefits that people make of material goods, Fischer maintains, does not support often-levelled charges of philistinism. Rather, the increasing availablity of material goods have allowed Americans to expand their voluntaristic activities in pursuing their own ends.

In a chapter called "groups", Fischer focuses on the changes in the American family and on the role of women to a position of independence and equality. The family becomes a key instance of Fischer's analysis of how individuals relate to groups: they are sources of identiy and purpose but they also can be left when they fail to meet their purpose. With this broad form of analysis, Fisher examines American's religious commitments and concludes that Americans have remained an essentially religious people. He examines clubs, social organizations, the work place, neighborhoods and friendships to conclude that voluntarism has been and remains a critical component of American life and character.

In a chapter called "public spaces", Fischer examines American participation in the public sphere, from main street to the voting booth and in the private sphere. He finds that in recent years, Americans participation in voting and other public activities has fallen off as Americans have tended to pursue more private ends, based in part on the television and the Internet.

In a chapter called, "Mentality", Fischer examines the passions Americans have displayed for self-help and self-improvement. There is a tension in American life between the expectations people have of themeselves and of others on the one hand and liberty on the other hand. As in marriages, freedom has resulted in raised expectations which often cannot be met, people being fallible and imperfect. Nevertheless, Fischer finds claims that American life has become more tense or mentally unstable unproven and overstated. He concludes that contemporary Americans are on the whole happier than were their predecessors.

This is a detailed book consisting of about 250 pages of text followed by and almost equally set of endnotes and bibliography. The author convinced me of his efforts at even-handedness. He has written a book that touches upon some of the divisions in current American life but that takes no particular side. The writing can be dry. This is a thoughtful, provocative book for readers interested in considering and understanding the nature of the American experience.

Spinoza: A Life
Steven Nadler
Cambridge University Press
9781108425544, $39.95 hardback

A Biography Of A Great Philosopher

Benedict Spinoza (1632-1677) is one of the most influential philosophers in history. As a young man, her was excommunicated by the elders of the Jewish community in Amsterdam and subsequently came to be regarded by some as a "secular saint" and by others as an infamous atheist. Although there are many legends and myths about Spinoza's life, there has been no extended biography in English until Nadler's study. In fact, outside of brief accounts written shortly after Spinoza's death, this book is probably the first extended treatment of Spinoza's life in any language.

Given the scarcity of biographical information, Nadler does an excellent job in placing Spinoza's life in historical context. He discusses in detail how the Jewish community in Amsterdam became established, precariously, by immigrants from the Inquisition in Spain and Portugal. He describes the efforts the Jewish community made to win acceptance in Amsterdam, the place of Spinoza's family in the Jewish community, and the rabbis and leaders of the community. Some of this material is well-known, others of it is less so. It is all valuable to getting to understand Spinoza.

There is a great deal of discussion of the history of the Dutch republic in Spinoza's time. Nadler's discussion includes both internal affairs (the tension between those who wanted a powerful monarch and those who wanted republican institutions) and the complex foreign wars and shifting alliances of the Netherlands during Spinoza's time. I never could make sense of this material before, but Nadler has discussed it well and in sufficient detail to provide a good background in understanding Spinoza's political ideas.

Nadler's book is not itself a philosophical study. But he treats carefully and instructively the origin of Spinoza's works and he summarizes their complex ideas well. He does not limit his discussion to the "Ethics". Instead, Nadler spends a great deal of time on the "Theological-Political Treatise" which he rightly views as a neglected masterpiece complementary to the Ethics. There are also good discussions of Spinoza's unfinished "Hebrew Grammar" and, particularly, of the Epistles, as well as of his other works.

Nadler has a good sense of Spinoza's naturalism encompassed be the famous phrase "deus, siva natura". He gives the reader a good feel for the revolutionary nature of Spinoza's thought and shows how and why Spinoza departed from the traditional religious belief of his day.

Nadler is a careful in his use of sources. He tells the reader what evidence from a record both complex and sparse he accepts, what he doubts, and why. When Nadler draws a conclusion that goes beyond the available evidence, he tells the reader that he has done so and why he has done so. This is measured, careful writing about a figure Nadler obviously admires.

There is much creative detail in this book as Nadler draws on recent scholarship to cast light on Spinoza and his times. For example, he relies substantially on the report made to the Inquisition of a person who knew Spinoza in Amsterdam. He discusses the Sabatti Zvi incident (a false Jewish Messiah who appealed to many people during Spinoza's lifetime) and Spinoza's possible knowledge of it. The book debunks the myth of Spinoza as a recluse. One of the strongest features of the book is its picture of Spinoza's intellectual circle and of his relationship to many friends.

The book doesn't include a critical analysis of Spinoza's thought. Such studies are legion and there still is much to say and learn. Also, the book doesn't discuss the reception and influence of Spinoza through the years. Again, this is beyond the scope of the book. The book is an excellent biography of a seminal figure in Western philosophy. I came away from the book with a increased understanding of and appreciation for Spinoza's life and thought.

Robin Friedman

Suanne Schafer's Bookshelf

Crooked in His Ways: A Lightner and Law Mystery
S. M. Goodwin
Crooked Lane Books
9781643857442, $27.99

S. M. Goodwin pulled me into Crooked in His Ways immediately just as she did the first book in the series, Absence of Mercy. As a physician I enjoyed her descriptions of Jasper Lightner, a Crimean War hero with post-traumatic stress syndrome and a traumatic brain injury - and am fully aware of how lucky he was to have survived in those pre-Civil War days when there was no such thing as a sterile procedure. The second son of a cold-hearted duke, Jasper inherits enough money to become independent of his father and begins working as a Detective Inspector on London's Metropolitan police. In 1857 Jasper is sent to New York City to train American policemen on investigative techniques. Some time later, still in the States, he is sucked into another grisly murder, that of a blackmailer. Even he feels challenged when the list of victims - and thus suspects - surpasses one hundred.

Goodwin has created some marvelous characters, both major and minor, and populates them in a NYC that rings true to the times with pre-Civil War politics and Tammany Hall. Jasper faces both American fascination with and prejudices against titled Brits, the latter of which survives though the Revolutionary War ended some eighty years earlier. Though Jasper predates Sherlock Holmes by some years, he too has an addiction: opium helps the headaches generated by his traumatic brain injury.

This fantastic detective novel has plenty of twists and turns, yet there are no loose plot bunnies Eagerly awaiting the next in the series.

Salvation: A novel based on a true story
Avery Caswell
TouchPoint Press
9781952816550, $16.99

Salvation is the tory of two girls "kidnapped" by a female evangelist in 1971. It is based on events told to Avery Caswell by one of the children involved. Her testimony is coupled with Ms. Caswell's research. In 1971, the United States was involved in the Viet Nam war and the Civil Rights movement including such civil rights groups such as the Crusade for Voters and the NAACP. These events are woven into the fabric of Salvation as are the marginalization, the economic deprivation, and the disenfranchisement of blacks and visions of a dual America, one for whites and another subculture for blacks.

Del Munro, the single mother of four children, is chronically short of funds. Even with two jobs, she is frequently unable to feed her family. She and her older children often wish for a "vacation" at the beach. When neighbors take off for two weeks, that dream becomes more intense. Thus, when Mother Franklin, a morbidly obese evangelist, offers to take the two girls (Willie June, age nine, and Glory, age seven) on such a vacation, Del agrees. She assumes the girls will return in two weeks. Money changes hands which Del hides in her closet. It's never clear whether Del sells her children or if the money exchanged was a thank you for Del housing and feeding Mother Franklin during a stop on her evangelical tour. When the girls don't return, Del begins to regret her decision. She calls all the appropriate governmental agencies but is brushed off. The police and FBI aren't interested in the fate of two black children. Eventually her boss hires a private investigator, Charlie Banks to track down the girls. As Mother Franklin's entourage tours the South, moving from downtrodden church to downtrodden church, fleecing the congregations with false prophesies. Glory's and Willie June essentially become child slaves, caring for Mother Franklin.

It took me a while to get into the dialect presented in the book without having to stop and translate every line into standard English. Though written in a rather distant third person point of view, Caswell brings Willie June's and the PI's point of view into play using an imaginary diary and his investigative reports respectively. The reports often reiterate what the reader has already learned, so in places Salvation was somewhat repetitive.

El Paso
Winston Groom
c/o W.W. Norton
9781631492242, $27.95

This is not-quite-a-western novel, though it has cowboys (Tom Mix) and a trail drive. It's a historical novel that spans the ritzy East Coast and the wilds of Mexico with a cast of characters ranging from a fictional railroad robber baron to real-life personages such as Pancho Villa, reporter/socialist John Reed, an aging Ambrose Bierce, and a young George Patton. Tossed in are upper crust essentials (a "cottage" in the Newport and a yacht), a plane vs. train contest, a kidnapping of the robber baron's children, bullfights, and run-ins with Mexican Federale troops, Pancho Villa's ragtag army, and attacks from nature (rattlesnakes, gila monsters, jaguars and bears).

With typical American arrogance and the conceit that his money would protect him, railroad baron John Shaughnessy, in severe financial straits, takes his family in his private railroad cars and journeys to Mexico to keep their cattle from being "requisitioned" by Pancho Villa. There, the men decide to drive the cattle north to El Paso, leaving behind wives and children. Pancho Villa kidnaps the boy and girl, and Shaughnessy and his son pursue the general through the wilds of northern Mexico. The events depicted are violent, cruel, even brutal, at times.

The characters in El Paso lack the depth of Larry McMurtry's Gus and Call from Lonesome Dove, but I enjoyed reading El Paso.

The Beautiful Ones
Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Thomas Dunne Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
9781250099068, $17.99

The Beautiful Ones is very unlike Ms. Moreno-Garcia's noir-ish Velvet Was the Night. The Beautiful Ones is a comedy of manners set in an imaginary world in which the characters maintain the tightly-drawn rolls of the late 19th century British gentry with the addition of some characters having the ability to teleport objects. Members of high society are "the beautiful ones." Antonina (Nina) Beaulieu is an amateur lepidopterist in the fashion of the 19th century people who enjoyed collecting and categorizing the natural world. She has the gift of telekinesis, a trait she's unable to control and which manifests itself most strongly when she is overly emotionally. Hector Auvray, a telekinetic performer, returns home after a decade away, hoping to settle his feelings about Valerie Beaulieu, a woman he'd loved who broke off their engagement to marry the wealthy Gaetan Beaulieu. Hector, still reeling from that blow, is taken with the young, naive Nina but fears losing his heart again. Valerie, a villain you will love to hate is a scheming, bitter, manipulative virago who tries to break Nina's independent will.

The Beautiful Ones turns a scathing gaze on male privilege, the stifling roles allowed women, and materialism. The language is poetic and languid in keeping with the world view.

The Island of Missing Trees
Elif Shafak
Bloomsbury Publishing
9781635578591, $27.00

The Island of Missing Trees is undoubtedly the most beautiful, most lyrical book I've read in 2021. I have previously read and enjoyed her The Bastard of Istanbul, but feel she outdid herself with this newest book. Shafak writes with imagination, originality, and a hefty dose of magical realism of the people and natural environment of Cyprus.

Cyprus has a turbulent history, governed in succession by Greece, Turkey, and Britain; finally, the UN moves in to help settle a long-running civil war. Besides providing a Romeo and Juliet-type love story, this novel gives a knowledgeable yet compassionate account of Cyprus's tragic past, looking in depth at its inhabitants and communities, fractured by war, partition, and religion.

The narrative switches from the late 2010s to the past 1970s, the setting shifts from London to Cyprus, and the narration moves between Ada, her father, and a fig tree. First the reader meets Ada, a sixteen-year-old girl of Cypriot origins, raised almost entirely without knowledge of her family or its past. After the death of her mother only months before, Ada struggles to hold herself together. Ada's father, Kostas (a Christian Greek), and mother, Defne (a Turkish Muslim), fell in love, but due to the disapproval of both their families, they keep their relationship a secret. The couple is torn apart when Kostas is sent to England at the height of the civil war. Years later, after his wife's death, he retreats into his studies of ecology and trees.

This book is powerful, moving, and profound without being stuffy. Though I was moved to tears several times (and at the end felt like I needed a good, cleansing cry), Shafak never resorts to sentimentality as she writes of the depths of war and loss - and the epigenetic changes those traumas evoke. Shafak masterfully connects our human lives with those of the natural world, particularly trees.

Beasts of a Little Land
Juhea Kim
c/o HarperCollins
9780063093577, $27.99

Beasts of a Little Land spans fifty years, 1917 to 1965, years in which Korea was a Japanese-occupied territory through World War II, and its later division into the North and South Korea. Over this timeframe, author Juhea Kim explores family, love, loss, politics, and Korea's struggle for independence.

Kim introduces two primary characters, Jade, a peasant girl sold to a courtesan school and JungHo, a street orphan. As children, their lives touch, then, as they come of age, they are exposed to everything that the struggle for independence - as well as the struggle to modernize - has to offer. Even the supporting characters are complex, nuanced and impact the resolution.

This was a worthy read. The prose is gorgeous, tragic, tender, and with lovely motifs stranded throughout. Even the supporting characters are complex, nuanced and impact the resolution. I learned a bit about Korea and enjoyed reading about the its history from World War I era to the Cold War. Beasts of a Little Land doesn't read like a debut novel at all.

Orphans of the Tide
Struan Murray
9780063043114, $17.99

Orphans of the Tide, Struan Murray's debut novel, is a great middle-grade read. I was drawn in immediately by the unique world-building. The novel is fast-paced, filled with action, and populated with delightful characters.

The City, the only remaining city in the world, is built on a mountain that juts from the sea, dating from the flood that covered the world and during which one god drowned the other gods. A whale washes in with the tide and lands on the roof of a cathedral. The protagonist, Ellie, seems to be the only one in the city with any common sense, and she prepares to vent built up gases escape from the animal before it explodes. When she makes the first cut, a human hand pops out. A group of men called the Inquisition function much as the Inquisition did during the fifteenth century, torturing people and ruling with iron fists, as they aim to control "the Enemy," a parasite that grows within the mind of a human Vessel until the Enemy becomes powerful enough to take on his true and terrible form and wreak havoc in the human world.

Ellie, an orphan, no longer lives in the orphanage but makes a living building steampunk type machines and repairing those made by her mother. Her best friend is Anna, still living in the orphanage and in charge of a motley crew of Baker Street irregulars. Seth, the boy pulled from the whale, is mysterious with no memory of his past other than his brothers and sisters are missing.

This is one of the best written children's books I've read recently, a high-stakes read, full of twists and turns that will keep readers enthralled. It is, however, somewhat dark, and parents should be aware of that.

The Spanish Daughter
Lorena Hughes
9781496736246, $15.95

Inspired by the real-life history of Vinces, an Ecuadorian coastal town known as the birthplace of cacao, Lorena Hughes #OwnVoices novel tells the story of Puri, a young Spanish woman who convinces her husband Cristobal, to sell everything, including their chocolate shop, and move to Ecuador. Her father has died and left her a share of a cacao plantation.

As the couple embarks on the last leg of their journey, it becomes clear that someone wants her dead. An assassin sent to murder Puri accidentally kills Cristobal instead. Fearful that she may yet fall prey to a hired gun, Puri assumes Cristobal's identity.

Dressed as a man, Puri learns of both the freedoms and the constraints that men have. As she learns more about her siblings from her father's second, bigamous marriage, she also discovers secrets about her father and those siblings.

Hughes does an excellent job capturing Vinces of the 1920s with its small town people with dreams of being a second Paris. Her descriptions of the costumes and the airs the population puts on ring true. This is an exceptional book in that the bud of an early romance doesn't open.

Last Redemption (Rick Cahill #8)
Matt Coyle
Oceanview Publishing
9781608094240, $26.95

Last Redemption is the eighth book in Coyle's Rick Cahill private investigator series, but it reads well as a stand-alone book with just enough back story splashed in to orient the reader. Cahill is not on the best of terms with the local law enforcement stemming from days when he was the primary suspect for his wife's murder. Cahill has just seen a neurologist and learned that he has cumulative brain trauma from multiple concussions and is facing early dementia from it. He's experiencing fugue states which he attributes to this diagnosis. His girlfriend, Leah, is pregnant and trying to run her interior decorating business in Santa Barbara while awaiting the birth. A fellow PI, Moira, has worked with Cahill on a few cases and calls on him to help locate her missing son.

Cahill is a great wounded hero, and Coyle does a superb job of capturing Cahill's efforts to handle his diagnosis while keeping Moira from freaking out over her son's disappearance. Cahill is a moody PI, tough, hard-boiled, and unapologetic, in the tradition of Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe. The secondary characters are well-developed.

The Professor's Wife
Marina DelVecchio
Black Rose Writing
9781684337811, $15.95

The Professor's Wife by Marina DelVecchio is a dark read, one that gave me chills at the very end. Camilla, a student at Skidmore College, falls for her professor, Carl Bingham. He teaches British literature there. She chases him until he catches her. She withdraws from his class to avoid the appearance of impropriety. In him, she finds not only a terrific lover, but a father figure to replace her own harsh, distant father. Camilla's best friend, Chelsea, warns Camilla not to pursue the professor. She feels some vague bad vibes from him.

Carl falls heavily for this much younger woman (he is 56 to her 27), but apparently has the stamina to satisfy her. Many sensuous love scenes show his deep attachment. After two miscarriages which threaten their marriage, Camilla falls ill from a mysterious ailment.

Chelsea leaves the area to pursue her own artistic goals and the two women lose their close connection. On a visit, Chelsea discovers the true nature of Camilla's ailment.

The prose here is spare but sensuous. Clues are given here and there - but the big one is withheld until the bitter end. I enjoyed it even as it turned my stomach.

Suanne Schafer, Reviewer

Susan Bethany's Bookshelf

The Right Rehab
Walter Wolf
Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group
4501 Forbes Blvd., Suite 200, Lanham, MD 20706
9781538155127, $32.00, HC, 272pp

Synopsis: Imagine you are awakened by a call at 3 a.m., informing you that your loved one is in crisis due to addiction or mental illness. Maybe he or she has been incarcerated, hospitalized, or left for dead from an overdose. Who would you turn to and what would you do next?

Walter Wolf got that very call when his own family member was in crisis . There was no playbook, but Walter knew who to call -- a friend in the treatment world who knew exactly what to do. And that got him thinking about the $42 billion unregulated treatment industry with its share of grifters and 1-800 toll-free call centers standing by to promise you anything to get your credit card number. Who protects the uninitiated terrified to the point of doing anything they're told to save their loved one? Wolf knew something had to change.

Families hit by addiction like Wolf's needed a "how-to" book on finding the right treatment at the right rehab. Since that book didn't exist, he wrote it himself. From intervention to recovery, "The Right Rehab: A Guide to Addiction and Mental Illness Recovery When Crisis Hits Your Family" is a step-by-step guide that details how to identify and access treatment options available to all individuals and families, no matter how plentiful or spare their resources.

Due to Walter's relationships with the most ethical and renowned professionals in the treatment world, he is able to explain the treatment plan principled experts insist is the most evidence-based, dependable, and customizable for the individual who is fully committed to sobriety.

"The Right Rehab: A Guide to Addiction and Mental Illness Recovery When Crisis Hits Your Family" is meant for the millions of vulnerable, terrified and uninitiated families who need to know what to do first, next, and into the future, while protecting them from programs that don't work. No one wants to get that call, but many can see it coming. "The Right Rehab: A Guide to Addiction and Mental Illness Recovery When Crisis Hits Your Family" is a clear, concise, and easy-to-follow instructional guide to getting the right help for your loved one.

Critique: This book can save lives. "The Right Rehab: A Guide to Addiction and Mental Illness Recovery When Crisis Hits Your Family" is so well written, organized and presented, that it is imperative that this practical and throughly 'reader friendly' resource be a part of every community, counseling center, college, and university library Mental Health, Mood Disorder, Substance Abuse, and Parenting collection. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of family members, students, academia, counselors, social workers, mental health professionals, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Right Rehab: A Guide to Addiction and Mental Illness Recovery When Crisis Hits Your Family" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $30.00).

Love Me Please!: The Story of Janis Joplin
Nicolas Finet, author
Christopher, illustrator
NBM Publishing
160 Broadway, Ste. 700, East Wing, New York, NY 10038
9781681122762, $24.99, HC, 160pp

Synopsis: "Love Me Please!: The Story of Janis Joplin" is a graphic novel style biography that showcases the life and career of the amazing rock singer Janis Joplin, including the highlights of her journey from childhood after the Second World War to her abrupt death in late 1970.

It is one of the most fabulous musical adventures in America of the second half of the twentieth century, yet it lasted only five years. How did a very young, messed up woman, a drug addict filled with doubt, become a planetary icon of rock music in a few years? Thanks to a worldwide movement of emancipation which would consecrate for a long time the ideals and modes of alternative lifestyles from counterculture to the flower power generation, Janis, the ugly duckling, gave free rein to her impulses.

Fed by the thirst for freedom of the Beat Generation and the desire for emancipation expressed by American youth in the early 1960s, Janis Joplin left for San Francisco, the epicenter of cultural innovation. There, she abandoned herself to all impulses, overcoming without hesitation all the taboos of the time: bisexuality, alcohol, and drugs, doing so not only with delight, but with the taste for excess which came naturally from her spontaneous character.

Critique: An inherently fascinating and informative read from cover to cover, "Love Me Please!: The Story of Janis Joplin" is a 'must' for the legions of Janis Joplin fans and will prove to be a welcome and popular addition to community, college, and university library Biography collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Love Me Please!: The Story of Janis Joplin" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.99).

Amplified: Unleash Your Potential Through the Power of Music
Frank Fitzpatrick
Amplified Media
9781737103417, $17.95, PB, 362pp

Synopsis: In the pages of "Amplified: Unleash Your Potential Through the Power of Music", Frank Fitzpatrick offers fresh, innovative way to relate to and experience music. Fitzpatrick shows how to use the power of music in your everyday life by awakening creativity, rewiring your brain, deepening your relationships and amplifying your potential.

How can you tune your body, mind, and spirit to hear the voice of your own calling? How can you use music to perform optimally in an increasingly dysfunctional and disruptive world? These are the questions so deftly explored throughout "Amplified: Unleash Your Potential Through the Power of Music".

Critique: Inherently fascinating, impressively well written, exceptionally thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Amplified: Unleash Your Potential Through the Power of Music" is a potentially life enhancing read and one that will be especially appreciated by musicians, counselors, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject music, philosophy, and holistic medicine. While unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Amplified: Unleash Your Potential Through the Power of Music" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Frank Fitzpatrick is a multi-platinum selling record producer, a Grammy nominated songwriter, a social entrepreneur, and an award-winning filmmaker. He also serves as a music and health expert, faculty at Singularity University's Exponential Medicine, contributing writer for Forbes, and a leading voice in the emerging field of Hearables technology. He maintains an informative website at

Susan Bethany

Susan Keefe's Bookshelf

The Bad Love Series: Collection of Books 1 - 4: Sci-Fi Adventure Series
Kevin L. Schewe MD, FACRO
Privately Published
B09LPPDBMM, $18.99, 1059 Pages

I became hooked on this amazing, multi-award-winning time-travel series as soon as I read book one, BAD LOVE STRIKES. Now it's possible to buy the whole series as a box set - what could be better?

What's so special about this series? Well, not only has its author, Kevin L. Schewe MD, got a great imagination, but also the books are historically accurate, which I found really enhanced my enjoyment whilst reading them. However, this author has gone one step further, as the piece-de-resistance is that he has provided soundtracks to accompany each of the books, with hit songs from the 1960's and 70's guaranteed to get your feet tapping, whatever your age.

Each book happily stands-alone as a complete adventure, however, when you read the whole series, you discover there are storylines which run throughout. There are some additions to the gang as the books progress, as well as danger, adventure, and excitement, not forgetting the KGB spies, and a touch of romance...

Now I've wetted your lips, it's for some tasters... BAD LOVE STRIKES is the first book, and it is here we are introduced to the Bad Love Gang, a group of teenagers from Oak Ridge, Tennessee, who in1974 discover a tunnel which leads them to the White Hole Project. This project was a time machine invented by Einstein at President Roosevelt's request. After learning how to use it, they go back in time to 1944 where they witness first-hand WWII and the plight of the holocaust victims, and their adventures begin.

It is New Year's Eve 1975 when book two, BAD LOVE TIGERS begins. This time the gang's mission is to try to uphold the secrets of Area 51 and the answer to the eternal question, "Have aliens ever visited Earth?"

Then in book three, BAD LOVE BEYOND they go out of this world to another galaxy, visiting Planet Azure, Earth's sister planet. There, the gang not only help their alien friends the Blue Azurians, but also find a cure for cancer.

The final book in the box set, BAD LOVE MEDICINE finds the gang torn. They are tasked to change history in two ways, firstly by saving a gang members loved one from cancer, but also at the special request of Winston Churchill to stop Hitler and the Nazis from creating their own time machine.

Kevin L. Schewe MD, the author of this multi-award-winning series, is also a board-certified cancer specialist practicing radiation oncology for over 30 years, and a successful entrepreneur. His sister, who shares his love of time travel stories fought and survived cancer, she was his motivation behind the writing of his first book, and I for one am very pleased he did, and that he continued with this excellent series.

Lovers of time travel are in for a real treat with this exciting box set. Highly recommended!

The 21st Century Man: Advice from 50 Top Doctors and Men's Health Experts to Help You Feel Great, Look Good and Have Better Sex
Dr. Judson Brandeis
Privately Published
B09LRG1G78, $4.95, 1374 Pages

This book really is a comprehensive guide about men's health and well-being. The author, Dr. Judson Brandeis, is a graduate of the Brown University, Vanderbilt Medical School, UCLA Urology residency, and is a Harvard researcher. He specialises in the emergent field of men's sexual health and rejuvenative medicine and was voted best urologist in the SF Bay Area for a decade.

This book aims to give its readers the best information possible over the vast range of subjects covered in its fourteen parts, which are then divided again into specialist areas. In order to provide the most up to date and well researched information available, he has called upon additional doctors, experts in healthcare, and other professionals.

In the introduction it is suggested that readers browse through the contents and pick out the parts which a relevant to them first. These parts begin with 'The Journey' where the author emphasises that each man's journey is unique irrespective of race or creed. The book then investigates, in depth the things we can all do to help ourselves prevent health problems, there's also advice from specialists, and information on food and exercise.

Next, the author acknowledges that quality of life is very important, and this is comprehensively covered as well. Looking good, mental health, sexual healing, and relationships are all affected by health problems, and the strain of them on both the sufferer and their partners can be severe, sometimes resulting in depression and other illnesses. We all want a good quality of life, and now you can find out how to achieve it.

One thing I personally loved about this book is that although it is written about men's health, the author covers very well in 'Relationship Skills, how the differences in women's bodies and their functioning both mentally and physically can affect a relationship. Helpfully this book offers advice to men about dealing with these issues.

My late husband suffered erectile dysfunction even before we married, and in a loving relationship it can be overcome. However, I know first-hand how distressing it can be for men, and how embarrassing it is for them to seek help on such a personal subject.

I applaud Dr. Judson Brandeis for not only writing this excellent book and finding such wonderful contributors, but also for covering a difficult subject so comprehensively, and from so many angles. Very highly recommended!

Susan Keefe, Reviewer

Suzie Housley's Bookshelf

The Sugar Creek Mystery
Andy Gonzalez
9798762546171, $8.99 pbk / $3.99 Kindle

Twelve-year-old Wyatt Jenkins lived with his mother at Tall Oaks trailer park in Sugar Creek Township, Indiana. Growing up in such a harsh environment made Wyatt want to escape from his turbulent lifestyle. He found peace and solace in Rocky Hollow Falls Canyon Nature Preserve. There he was always warmly greeted by a Native-American Park Ranger, Cheveyo Dogmoon.

He found his life spinning out of control one night when his mother's boyfriend Hank came over.

He could no longer stand the verbal and mental abuse Hank used to threaten them. He decided to make a new life for himself, one where he was in control.

Wyatt ran to the forest where he found Cheveyo, and explained why he had run away from home.

Cheveyon patiently listened to his reasons and didn't offer any resistance to make him return home. His acceptance of Wyatt's situation and decision gave him the first peace he had found in years.

Rocky Hollow Falls Canyon Nature Preserve has a dark history of children entering the forest and never being seen or heard of again. By Wyatt deciding to hide out in the woods, has he put his own life in further danger? Will he find out what mystery revolves around this location?

Andy Gonzalez is a master of suspense and surprise. Throughout the pages of this book, it will take you on many ups and downs and leave you guessing all along the way. The character development he uses to describe each character is superb. I predict this author will quickly become a well-known name in the literary world.

Charles C. McCormack
Self Published
9798499593813, $14.99 pbk / $0.99 Kindle

"Out of darkness is born the light"

~Catherine of Siena

Essence shows how one man was about to break out of the darkness and move forward towards the light of finding happiness and acceptance. It's centered on the life of the author Charles C. McCormack. Charles grew up in an abusive home, where his father ruled like a military commander. Having lived in several states and moving to Germany, he always felt he was the outcast.

As an adult, Charles encountered many people dealing with depression, drug abuse, and suicide. Every person he meets along his life journey further shapes his character as a man. It allowed him to see a part of the world that he could not see as a young boy.

McCormack uses intense descriptive passages to show how different emotions and scenarios can define a person. Life has a way of leaving emotional scars that the average eye can't readily see. His philosophy provides wisdom about life's most defining moments, including acceptance, love, and relationships.

Essence will give hope and motivation to the reader who experiences a similar troubled life. McCormack's words can penetrate even the hardest heart. This book provides the soul healing comfort that so many individuals need to invite into their lives.

Charles McCormack's life story is one that has great depth and meaning. The way he showcases his life scenes will give you an appreciation for how far he has come. This book will provide a genuine source of motivation and will give others the courage to face and conquer whatever life obstacles they find in their pathway.

Suzie Housley

Willis Buhle's Bookshelf

A War of Empires: Japan, India, Burma & Britain: 1941-45
Robert Lyman
Osprey Publishing
4301 21st St, Suite 220B, Long Island City, NY 11101
9781472847140, $35.00, HC, 560pp

Synopsis: In 1941 and 1942 the British and Indian Armies were brutally defeated and Japan reigned supreme in its newly conquered territories throughout Asia. But change was coming. New commanders were appointed, significant training together with restructuring took place, and new tactics were developed. "War of Empires, A: Japan, India, Burma & Britain: 1941-45 " by historian and author Robert Lyman expertly retells these coordinated efforts and describes how a new volunteer Indian Army, rising from the ashes of defeat, would ferociously fight to turn the tide of war.

But victory did not come immediately. It wasn't until March 1944, when the Japanese staged their famed 'March on Delhi', that the years of rebuilding reaped their reward and after bitter fighting, the Japanese were finally defeated at Kohima and Imphal. This was followed by a series of extraordinary victories culminating in Mandalay in May 1945 and the collapse of all Japanese forces in Burma. The Indian Army's contribution has been consistently forgotten and ignored by many Western historians, but in the pages of "A War of Empires", Robert Lyman proves how vital this hard-fought campaign was in securing Allied victory in the east, defeating Japanese militarism and ultimately redrawing the map of the region with an independent India, free from the shackles of empire, all but guaranteed.

Critique: A meticulous and comprehensive work of exhaustive research and impeccable scholarship, "War of Empires, A: Japan, India, Burma & Britain: 1941-45" is an invaluable contribution to the growing library of World War II histories. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "War of Empires, A: Japan, India, Burma & Britain: 1941-45" is enhanced with the inclusion of maps, illustrations, an Author's Note; a timeline, four appendices, a bibliography, notes, and an index. While also readily available for students, academia, WWII military history buffs, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.46), "War of Empires, A: Japan, India, Burma & Britain: 1941-45" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library World War II collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: Robert Lyman is regarded as one of Britain's most talented military historians, with 15 best-selling works of history published and numerous television appearances including on the BBC's 'Who Do You Think You Are?' and on two episodes of the 'Great Escapes' documentary series, on Tobruk (1941) and Kohima (1944). He spent 20 years in the British Army and is an elected Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.

Ancestry and Sex in Human Crania: A Comparative Photographic Atlas
Robert W. Mann
Charles C. Thomas, Publisher
2600 South First Street, Springfield, IL 62704
9780398093648, $89.95, HC, 478pp

Synopsis: A masterpiece of meticulous scholarship, "Ancestry and Sex in Human Crania: A Comparative Photographic Atlas" by Robvert W. Mann is coffee-table style (8.5 x 11) atlas of 29 male and 21 female crania and is intended to serve as a reference source of documented identity crania in the Mann-Labrash Osteology Collection at the John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) of the University of Hawaii, Manoa.

This atlas increases our comparative reference samples and diversity to include individuals of Asian and Pacific Islander ancestry. "Ancestry and Sex in Human Crania" is also intended to add to our knowledge of the complexity and range of cranial variation and to provide examples based on contemporary known-identity individuals. Large color photographs are provided for researchers to reference when estimating ancestry, sex, and, to a limited extent, age.

Most crania in this atlas are presented using six anatomical views: anterior, right lateral, left lateral, inferior (basilar), superior, and posterior (occipital) in the Frankfort horizontal plane. A superior view of each mandible is included to provide the reader with size and shape features of the teeth and bone. Additional photos are included to highlight other features such as dental morphology and anatomical variants.

Many photographs are labeled to identify specific features, while others are not, leaving interpretation to the reader. Figure captions reflect the author's opinion but are intended to allow readers to interpret features for themselves and draw their own conclusions based on the photographs of each cranium. The photographs are intended to provide readers with the most holistic and integrated perspective of each feature. Each feature is viewed as part of the whole without requiring the reader to place them along a fixed continuum or sequence based on size or shape. Photographs also allow readers to examine each feature as an integrated piece of the "puzzle."

Critique: Profusely illustrated and exceptional in organization and presentation, "Ancestry and Sex in Human Crania: A Comparative Photographic Atlas" is an unreservedly recommended addition to professional, college, and university library Human Anatomy and Forensic Anthropology collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for the personal reading list of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Ancestry and Sex in Human Crania: A Comparative Photographic Atlas" is also available from Charles C. Thomas Publishers in an eBook format (9780398093655, $89.95).

Walking the Bowl
Chris Lockhart, author
Daniel Chama, author
Hanover Square Press
9781335425744, $27.99, HC, 304pp

Synopsis: Based on years of investigative reporting and unprecedented fieldwork, "Walking the Bowl: A True Story of Murder and Survival Among the Street Children of Lusaka" by the team of Chris Lockhart (a widely published academic author who currently lives and works in Namibia as a global health consultant for international development agencies) and co-author Daniel Chama immerses readers in the daily lives of four unforgettable characters: Lusabilo, a determined waste picker; Kapula, a burned-out brothel worker; Moonga, a former rock crusher turned beggar; and Timo, an ambitious gang leader. These children navigate the violent and poverty-stricken underworld of Lusaka, one of Africa's fastest growing cities.

When the dead body of a ten-year-old boy is discovered under a heap of garbage in Lusaka's largest landfill, a murder investigation quickly heats up due to the influence of the victim's mother and her far-reaching political connections. The children's lives become more closely intertwined as each child engages in a desperate bid for survival against forces they could never have imagined.

Gripping and fast-paced, "Walking The Bowl" exposes the perilous aspects of street life through the eyes of the children who survive, endure and dream there, and what emerges is an ultimately hopeful story about human kindness and how one small good deed, passed on to others, can make a difference in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.

Critique: An exceptionally well written, inherently fascinating, searingly memorable read, from cover to cover, "Walking the Bowl: A True Story of Murder and Survival Among the Street Children of Lusaka" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Walking the Bowl" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (9798200863211, $$43.99, CD).

Willis M. Buhle

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

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