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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 22, Number 12 December 2022 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Ann Skea's Bookshelf Carl Logan's Bookshelf Carolyn Wilhelm's Bookshelf
Chris Patsilelis' Bookshelf Clint Travis' Bookshelf Israel Drazin's Bookshelf
Jack Mason's Bookshelf John Burroughs' Bookshelf Julie Summers' Bookshelf
Kat Payne's Bookshelf Margaret Lane'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 Willis Buhle's Bookshelf

Ann Skea's Bookshelf

There's Been a Little Incident
Alice Ryan
9781803284088, A$29.99 PB, 432 pages

Molly Black had disappeared...That's why the whole Black clan - from Granny all the way to Killan on Zoom from Sydney - is huddled together in the back room of Uncle John's semi-D in the Dublin suburbs, arguing about what to do.

Molly, it seems, has made a habit of disappearing ever since her parents died, but she is now nearly thirty years old and, as her aunt, 'Lady V', sees it, it 'wasn't normal for an entire family to lose their minds' because she has gone away 'for a few days', even if she did leave a note saying that this time 'it was for good'.

Nevertheless, all thirteen members of the Black family, plus Killan on Zoom, are, when we first meet them, 'squeezed in on top of each other', sprawled on the floor, perched on each other's knees, 'luxuriating' in an armchair ('Lady V in her exercise gear') or sitting, like Granny, on the fax machine, as Uncle John, 'wearing a strange pair of military boots for the operation', outlines the problem. This, as the narrator, lovingly tells us, is a family made up of 'new-age hippies, religious nuts, alcoholics, former shoe-salesmen, delinquent youths and Sudoku enthusiasts [Granny]'; and meeting them for the first time is funny but confusing.

One of Uncle John's first demands of the family is that they share the last text messages they had exchanged with Molly. These become brief chapters early in the book and each fills out the picture we have of the family and of Molly. In separate chapters, too, as the search goes on, we meet each member of the family, hear their thoughts and learn about their own problems. We also get to know Molly better. As our narrator tells us:

Molly had a connection to each of us, but, more than that, she brought us all together - for good reasons and bad. Molly Black was like electricity - sometimes she lit up the world. Sometimes she electrocuted you.

Uncle John, who has acted as Molly's guardian and protector since the death of her parents, clearly needs to find her and to know that she does not need to be rescued, as has always been the case in earlier 'incidents'. The discovery that she has been seen in Bangkok only deepens his concern. He 'knew all about Bangkok' and immediately rallied the family to go there and find her. Molly's cousin Anne, remembers his preparation speech in which

he had painted a vivid and scarring picture of sex-trafficking, modern slavery, poverty and drugs... a den of iniquity which could only be prepared for by watching the darkest parts of The Deer Hunter.

His description was so clear that Anne's mother (the 'religious nut' of the family) 'had passed out at the image'.

The narrator's wry account of all this is often very funny but, beyond getting to know the family and its individual members, there is the serious story of Molly's closeness to her vibrant and unusual actress mother, Annabelle, and the terrible grief she has been suffering since Annabelle's death in a freak accident. Molly is grieving, too, for the separation from her closest childhood friend (just called 'B') who has moved in with Jeff, a 'financial wizard', with whom he has fallen in love.

Molly thought about grief like a cut. When you accidentally grazed your finger with the knife there was a moment of grace where no blood emerged. All was white and looked like you had made it out OK. But when Molly stayed still, the blood began to rise to the top of her finger. Grief was always coming for her. Waiting until she couldn't move. Until there was nowhere to hide..... So she ran.

Now, however, Molly has found a way of living which helps her to stop running and to deal with her grief, but until the family find her they don't know this.

Woven into the search for Molly, is a second disappearance: that of a young Irish Nurse, Sheena, who had been working in London and, according to the London police, may have been seen by Molly just before they both disappeared. I did find Sheena's story a distraction and wanted to skip ahead to solve that mystery, but it is eventually woven neatly into the family's lives.

The family, because of their experiences on the search and when they eventually find Molly, share some of the changes this has brought to her life. Everything works out in the end, for everyone; and the mystery of Sheena's disappearance is finally solved.

This is, perhaps, a little too tidy and happy an ending, but Alice Ryan handles it well. Only the sudden introduction of the posthumous voice of Annabelle felt, to me, to be too contrived. However, this is a first novel by an accomplished story-teller; and it is a remarkable exploration of grief and of the power and the mixed-blessings which come from being part of a close-knit family. Its hopeful message is spelled out towards the end by Molly's reformed alcoholic Uncle Danny: 'with a bit of luck, no matter how lost you get, it is possible to find yourself again'.

Look! We Have Come Through: Living with D. H. Lawrence
Lara Feigel
9781408877562, A$29.99 PB, 336 pages

First, a confession. While I enjoy some of D.H. Lawrence's poetry, I have never warmed to his novels. I have a cherished memory of a university lecturer infuriating a lot of students by lecturing on Lawrence's fetish with women's stockings (this was two years before Angela Carter published her essay, 'Lorenzo as Closet-Queen'), and although I appreciate that Lawrence challenged many of the social conventions of his time, I was put off by what seemed to me to be a pseudo-psychoanalytical way of viewing life, and by the unrealistic aspects of his work. There, in The Rainbow, for example, is Tom Brangwen, out on the farm at night in bitter February weather, dealing with the often bloody and traumatic business of lambing, when

the facts and material of his daily life fell away, leaving the kernel of his purpose clean. And then it came upon him that he would marry her...

This, to me, is not romantic but laughable. So, when Lara Feigel started quoting long passages from Lawrence's novels, I concluded that her book was not for me and put it aside. However, I kept taking it up again because I was intrigued by her personal story, which she weaves into this book, and by the idea that anyone would seriously consider 'living with Lawrence', as she puts it.
At a time of major upheavals in her life - a divorce and legal struggles over custody of her young children, a new partner, a move to a rented cottage in the country, and coping with lockdowns due to Covid 19 - she turns to Lawrence for support and guidance as if he were her personal life-style coach.

Feigel has a comprehensive knowledge of Lawrence's work and regularly teaches it. She has read, and seriously considered the many critical responses to it, from those of his 'academic champion' F.R. Leavis to the 'coruscating critiques' of Simone de Beauvoir and Kate Millett, and she discusses these, taking issue with some and being ready to change her mind after considering others:

Reading Millett, I was overwhelmed by the fierce cogency of her critique. I had been uncertain about Lady Chatterley's Lover before I read her and now I was convinced by her argument that it was a book that reduced women to passive objects and reviled the female genitals.

Later in her own book, however, Feigel finds ways to discuss these criticisms with her students and to turn them into something positive.

There are many places in this book where Feigel writes about Lawrence's work and his life perceptively and in detail, often taking themes and ideas from books he is known to have read, like that of the 'German naturalist philosopher Ernst Haeckel', and from books she herself is reading during lockdown, such as 'activist philosopher' Srecko Horvat's recent writings about the apocalypse. More than anything, however, she turns to Lawrence not just for comfort but for advice on how she can cope with her own situation.

Locked down in a strange place, with a new partner (P), her two-year-old daughter (G), and her eight-year-old autistic son (H), she turns to Lawrence, as she says, for 'urgent literary companionship, hoping that he will help me make sense of the new world we have found ourselves in' and hoping to gain 'a sense of what it means to accept our lived experience as one of perpetual change'.

'People don't just read Lawrence, they have their lives changed by him', she writes, and she takes this seriously, even seeming to subscribe to his view of 'illness as primarily a psychic event'. She ponders what Lawrence would have made of the Covid pandemic and thinks

he might have said we has willed it into being, that by denying the existence of death we had made it necessary for death to reveal itself, that by excessively medicalising life we had created the conditions for a total takeover of life by medicine, and that these were the conditions in which we were more likely to get ill. "One is ill because one doesn't live properly - can't", Birkin says in Women in Love, a book that Lawrence hope would make us healthy, saving us from illness by teaching us to live.

So, Feigel wants to learn how to live. Yet, in the middle of her examination of Lawrence, her need to write a promised book about him, and her daily dealings with her family, she still has time to respond, beautifully, to the land and the creatures which surround her in her rented cottage:

Spring come suddenly here. There are snowdrops, unexpectedly, at the end of January, as the snow melts. There are sunny days in February, alternating with more days of snow. This is our new post-apocalyptic unseasonal weather, or perhaps it has always been like this. Snowdrops are, after all, called snowdrops. They are everywhere now, by the side of the road, in the woods, in gardens. G picks them - she is allowed to pick two each time - and holds them wonderingly.

Always, however, she returns to her wrangling with Lawrence. Most surprising, perhaps, is that at one point she turns to him for child-rearing guidance. Lawrence had no children and had only infrequent contact with Frieda's children, who lived with their father after she left him to be with Lawrence. Feigel is angry with him for failing to recognize the hurt Freida felt about separation from her children, nevertheless, he portrays children with what Feigel calls 'violent tenderness' in his novels. He did, however, have strong views about 'the cult of motherhood', describing it in The Rainbow as 'a violent trance', 'a helpless bond', and, elsewhere, suggesting that 'when there is too much maternal sympathy the child doesn't learn to resist enough'.

Feigel acknowledges that Lawrence's 'polemic' exhortation to parents to 'see that your children get their dinners and clean sheets, but don't love them... don't even hate them or dislike them', is among his 'madder ideas', but then she argues that Lawrence is reminding us that 'there loss is built into parenting, that our role is to bring our children into the world and then allow them to leave us'. 'Lawrence', she concludes, 'however ruthless, is helping me to see this'. It helps her, too, when her children go to their father at weekends and she feels 'fear and blankness' without them.

Feigel's chapter headings signal the aspects of Lawrence's life and work that occupy her thoughts: Consciousness, Will, Sex, Parenthood, Community, Religion, Nature and Apocalypse. She deals with each, arguing with Lawrence, angry with him, puzzling over him, applauding him, attacking and defending him, all the while seeking, as she believes Lawrence did, to use 'literature and culture to open up a space' where 'we can remain pliant and free'. Finally, she writes that

Over the past year, Lawrence has shown me the way to such a space, making me hopeful that I can find a way to live with the contradictions while still finding truths that I can believe in enough to live by.

'Look!', she might say, 'We have come through!'.

Dr Ann Skea, Reviewer

Carl Logan's Bookshelf

Antarctica: A History in 100 Objects
Jean de Pomereu, author
Daniella McCahey, author
c/o Bloomsbury Press
9781844866212, $30.00, HC, 224pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Antarctica: A History in 100 Objects", academicians and historians Jean de Pomereu and Daniella McCahey lay out the history of Antarctica through 100 varied and fascinating objects drawn from collections across the world. This beautiful and informative volume is published to coincide with the 250th anniversary of the first crossing into the Antarctic Circle by James Cook aboard Resolution, on 17th January 1773. It presents a gloriously visual history of Antarctica, from Terra Incognita to the legendary expeditions of Shackleton and Scott, to the frontline of climate change.

One of the wildest and most beautiful places on the planet, Antarctica has no indigenous population or proprietor. Its awe-inspiring landscapes - unknown until just two centuries ago - have been the backdrop to feats of human endurance and tragedy, scientific discovery, and environmental research. Sourced from polar institutions and collections around the world, the objects that tell the story of this remarkable continent range from the iconic to the exotic, from the refreshingly mundane to the indispensable ranging from Snow goggles adopted from Inuit technology by Amundsen; The lifeboat used by Shackleton and his crew; A bust of Lenin installed by the 3rd Soviet Antarctic Expedition; to The Polar Star aircraft used in the first trans-Antarctic flight; A sealing club made from the penis bone of an elephant seal; The frozen beard as a symbol of Antarctic heroism and masculinity; Ice cores containing up to 800,000 years of climate history -- and so much more!

This is stunning history that is both endlessly fascinating and a powerful demonstration of the extent to which Antarctic history is human history, and human future too.

Critique: Profusely and impressively illustrated throughout, "Antarctica: A History in 100 Objects" is a compelling and inherently fascinating approach to the history of the human presence in Antarctica over the last 200+ years. Exceptionally well organized and presented, "Antarctica: A History in 100 Objects" is a unique and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library Arctic Polar Histories. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Antarctica: A History in 100 Objects" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.60).

Editorial Note #1: Jean De Pomereu ( has focused on Antarctica and the Polar Regions for nearly twenty years. He has visited Antarctica on many occasions, accompanying both artistic and scientific expeditions with the United States, New Zealand, Peruvian and Chinese Antarctic programmes. In 2006, he was the photographer for Lita Albuquerque's Stellar Axis: Antarctica land-art installation, one of the most ambitious artistic project ever undertaken on the continent. In 2017, he took part in the 'Antarctic Biennale' expedition commissioned by Russian artist Alexander Ponomarev.

Editorial Note #2: Daniella McCahey ( is an Assistant Professor in British History at Texas Tech University. Her research includes the history of geology and geophysics in Antarctica, gender histories in Antarctic research stations and histories of Antarctic botany and volcanology. (

We're Going to the Show: Adimus ad Ludos
Christopher Bungaard
Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers
1000 Brown Street, Unit 301, Wauconda, IL 60084
9780865168800, $15.00, PB, 56pp

Synopsis: "We're Going to the Show: Adimus ad Ludos" is ancient Roman comedy presented entirely in Latin!

Titus, named after Roman playwright Titus Maccius Plautus, lives with his parents and sisters on the Aventine Hill in Rome. Without much time for leisure, everyone in the family looks forward to festival days. Titus in particular eagerly awaits the ludi scaenici, special celebrations when plays are performed. But when it's time to honor Magna Mater, the Great Mother goddess, with a comedy, Titus wakes up late! Can he catch up with his father and sisters and find a seat in time to watch the show?

Latin students will relish joining Titus as he rushes through Rome in hopes of enjoying his favorite stock characters in a production of Plautus's Asinaria.

Using fewer than 150 unique Latin words, this Encounter Latin novella from Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers introduces various topics related to Roman daily life, ancient religious celebrations, and the theater. Evocative illustrations by Rae Faba, and a variety of text supports make the story readily comprehensible to novice learners. An introduction by Dr. Robert Patrick, drawing on his decades of experience teaching Latin, explains the pedagogical underpinnings of the text and describes how novellas can be used to further language acquisition.

Critique: An ideal textbook addition to Latin curriculums, "We're Going to the Show: Adimus ad Ludos" by Christopher Bungard ( is informatively enhanced with a Latin-to-English glossary listing all inflected forms used in the text along with standard dictionary entries, as well as an overview of repeated grammar structures with examples. An effective introduction describing ways to use novellas in the Latin classroom, "We're Going to the Show: Adimus ad Ludos" is unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library Latin Linguistic Studies collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Collaborative Power Grab
Bob Donaldson
Collaborative Strategies Consulting Inc
9798986443607, $24.99, PB, 374pp

Synopsis: The premise of "Collaborative Power Grab: A Step-by-Step Guide for Every Leader on How to Invite, Attract, and Cultivate Collaborative Power" by Bob Donaldson is that in order to be an effective leader, you need to be able to gain power within the group structure. But not just any power will do. You also need to invite collaborative power from the senior leaders above you. You need to attract that collaborative power from everyone that follows you, and you need to cultivate power from the larger landscape.

What's different in Donaldson's approach (as being not only a leadership expert but a leadership training expert as well) is that he gives his students the exact step-by-step process of what they need to do leaving nothing up for interpretation and making sure (what is a very complicated process) is now broken down into the very easily understood and very easy to implement actions called Starting Now!

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Collaborative Power Grab: A Step-by-Step Guide for Every Leader on How to Invite, Attract, and Cultivate Collaborative Power" by management change expert Robert M. Donaldson will have a very special appeal to readers with an interest in Leadership, Motivation, and Education Theory. An appropriate addition to personal, professional, community, corporate, and academic library collections, it should be noted that "Collaborative Power Grab: A Step-by-Step Guide for Every Leader on How to Invite, Attract, and Cultivate Collaborative Power" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.49).

Carl Logan

Carolyn Wilhelm's Bookshelf

Dark Mission (Angel Falls Series Book 8)
Charlene Tess and Judi Thompson
Independently Published
9798359095679, $4.99 Kindle, $9.99 Paperback, 282 pages

Dark Mission, Book 8 by the Writing Sisters Tess Thompson, is as riveting a read as all the others in the Angel Falls Series. I appreciated updates about now familiar characters, and reading about the new. Jay just moved to the area and fits in well with the locals. However, the trouble is, as in any state with legal marijuana, that illegal purchases are cheaper than dispensaries, which causes other kinds of problems. Unfortunately, that is why Jay and his sister were drawn to the town, although working on the positive side of things they run into difficulties.

Jay and his sister are devoted to each other as their parents died when Jay was in high school. She is a writer who disappears when working on a story. Dead ends, red herrings, uncooperative witnesses, and a few bad cops make Jay's search difficult and lengthy. The Sheriff gets married in a hurry, but not because of usual reasons for short engagements. Moments of joy like when the neurodivergent teen enjoys working with horses, alternate with tense scenes like shots ringing out in the dark. Readers will want to cheer for the good guys and certainly not for the criminals. A realistic story so well done I almost believe it is all true, although it is fiction.

The rest of the series includes Angel Falls, Crimson Roses, Cold Vengeance, Dark Moments, Dark Flames, Dark Truths, Dark Memories, and Dark Mission. Each title stands alone as an exciting read. Together, they are a dramatic look at events and mostly admirable characters. Oh, the bad guys are trouble! The Tess Thompson team are master story writers. Judi is the plot creator, while Charlene is the writer, which is a great combination for the reader.

Carolyn Wilhelm, Reviewer
Wise Owl Factory LLC

Chris Patsilelis' Bookshelf

Black Snow: Curtis LeMay, the Firebombing of Tokyo, and the Road to the Atomic Bomb
James M. Scott
W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110
9781324002994, $35.00 hc / $16.90 Kindle, 420 pages

On the night of March 9-10, 1945 nearly 300 American B-29 Superfortress Bombers dropped nearly 2,000 tons of incendiary bombs on Tokyo, Japan flattening 16 square miles of the city, and incinerating more then 100,000 men, women and children. The firestorm, reaching 2,800 degrees Fahrenheit, melted asphalt and boiled rivers which desperate citizens had leaped into.

Drawing upon first-person interviews with American Pilots and Japanese survivors James M. Scott, author of Target Tokyo: MacArthur, Yamashita, and the Battle of Manila" (2018) and other military histories, has written a riveting and insightful work, "Black Snow: Curtis LeMay,
the Firebombing of Tokyo, and the Road to Atomic Bomb." This book emphasizes the terror, coldheartedness, and even the instances of humanity within the horrors of total war.

The major figure in "Black Snow" is Major General Curtis LeMay who was promoted from his 20th Bomber Command which flew missions out of China against southern Japan, to head a new air force, the 21st, whose sole objective was destroying Japan's industrial cities.

A major general at age 38, cigar-chomping LeMay was overweight, with 'pudgy jowls" writes Scott. He looked very stern; resembled "a bulldog." Nicknamed "Iron Ass." Earlier in the war he flew bombers over the Himalayas. "A grueling hell .... sudden snowstorms."

The author points out how LeMay, taking over from the more tradition-minded Brigadier General Haywood Hansell, Jr., came up with the idea of bombing Japan's cities at night (previously thought more difficult than daylight bombing), and flying at extremely low altitudes (previously thought way too dangerous).

Six popular -- Tokyo, Kawasaki, Yokohama, Nagoya, Osaka, Kobe -- were considered prime targets because of the concentration of their heavy industry was done in civilian homes; their homes, LeMay believed, frequently doubled as small factories for Japan's war machine. And this is what guided him toward the "ruthless" conclusion to simply bomb civilian dwellings. Writes Scott: "Men and woman. Boys and girls. Toddlers and infants. The fires would consume everything and everyone."

"If we lose the war", LeMay confided to an aid, "we'll be tried as war criminals."

With Lemay's fateful decision, the United States, writes Scott, had crossed a moral line. The general, however, was willing to cross it in order to shorten the war -- and to avoid an invasion of the Japanese homeland in which, it was predicted, one half to one million American lives would be lost! -- The firebombing of Tokyo was a "GO."

On the night of March 0-10, 1945 Katsumoto Saotome and his family tried to escape the attack. "Flaming debris had struck the neck of the man steps in front of him. Another grazed the shoulder of a nearby woman ...."

"Residents flooded the streets pushing carts piled high with bedding, kimonos, and kitchenware ...." Temperatures soared in the extreme heat of flames -- in the 100s of degrees Fahrenheit! "The Smoke and heat burned throats .... sparks rained down, singeing eyebrows and lashes"

Asphalt roads melted and clung to bicycle tires, and shoe soles.

The Book's titles, "Black Snow", refers to the thick coat of black ash mixed with snow which covered Tokyo.

"The fires produced a deafening road like a freight train, drowning out the cries of husbands separated from wives, children from parents", Scott writes.

People spontaneously ignited: "As if suddenly in gasoline", stated sixteen-year-old Minoru Tsukiyama," a first-grader ... burst into flames."

A mother holding a baby -- her hair wildly aflame -- screaming before her and her baby become "a human torch."

From the windows of his bomber Staff Sergeant LeRoy Triplett, a radarman, recorded "As far as the eye could see ... there was a sea of flames, a mass of roaring fire that seemed to cover the city like a boiling cauldron."

Writes Scott, "Smoke from the fires wafted up through the bomb bay doors and circulated through the Superfortresses. Pilots and Navigators, gunmen and flight engineers -- long shielded from carnage by miles of clouds and sky -- inhaled the acrid aroma of ... burnt flesh"

Dawn on March 10 revealed piles of charcoaled corpses -- over 100,000! -- inn the streets of Tokyo.

In the weeks ahead, LeMay's Superfortresses went on to firebomb numerous other Japanese cities with similar results. Horrible as the destruction was, it paved the way for the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and, thereby, the merciful cancellation of an American invasion of Japan and the ending of World War II.

James M. Scott's "Black Snow" is propelled by vivid, eyewitness descriptions -- searing glimpses of human terror and courage. But the author never loses sight of the moral dimension of the carnage. The book is a must-read.

Chris Patsilelis

Clint Travis' Bookshelf

The Little Book of Satanism
La Carmina
Ulysses Press
PO Box 3440, Berkeley CA 94703-3440
9781646044221, $14.95, PB, 144pp

Synopsis: Satanism is too often misunderstood as a religion that makes blood sacrifices to an evil, horned Prince of Darkness. In reality, modern Satanists are nonviolent and nontheistic, and consider the Devil to be a meaningful metaphor for the pursuit of knowledge, reason, and justice.

With the publication of "The Little Book of Satanism: A Guide to Satanic History, Culture, and Wisdom", alternative culture journalist and blogger La Carmina details the "mark of the beast" in cultural and historic movements over the centuries, which have informed the sincerely held beliefs and practices of Satanists today.

"The Little Book of Satanism" is a succinct and comprehensive guide that includes: A foreword from Lucien Greaves, activist, spokesperson, and cofounder of The Satanic Temple; Information on Satan's biblical origins, and his various names, appearances, and symbols; Details on his age-old role as a scapegoat, from medieval witch trials to the 1980s Satanic Panic; An overview of modern philosophy and practices, focusing on The Church of Satan, The Satanic Bible, and The Satanic Temple; Examples of the Devil's influence on art, literature, music, and films ranging from Paradise Lost to Rosemary's Baby.

"The Little Book of Satanism is a fully accessible book that explains how Satanism developed in the context of social history while debunking lurid conspiracy theories about serial killers and ritual abuse. It also includes a primer on various Satanic practices such as social activism, rituals, and holidays. In the spirit of the fallen angel Lucifer, the careful reader will be inspired by Satanism's affirmative values that courageously oppose arbitrary authority and champion nonconformity.

Critique: Of special appeal to readers with an interest in Paganism, Occultism, and the
Judeo-Christian and Islamic history of the being called Lucifer Morning Star or Satan, "The Little Book of Satanism: A Guide to Satanic History, Culture, and Wisdom" is informative, fascinating, and iconoclastic. While highly recommended for personal, community, and academic library Metaphysical Studies collections, it should be noted that "The Little Book of Satanism" is also now available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

Editorial Note: La Carmina runs the leading blog about Goth travel, fashion and Satanism (, and is the author of four books including Crazy, Wacky Theme Restaurants: Tokyo and Cute Yummy Time, published by Penguin Random House. She is a graduate of Columbia University and Yale Law School. Follow La Carmina's Gothic adventures in over 70 countries on and on social media @LaCarmina

Wuhan 2019: A Novel on Dangerous Games in China
Gabriel Scheff
Independently Published
9798408671229, $17.95, HC, 239pp

Synopsis: When 10,000 athletes from around the world descend on the Chinese city of Wuhan for the Military World Games, no one realizes the danger. Dissidents see the Olympic-styled games as an opportunity to strike. And young volunteers form an unlikely partnership to try and stop the terrorists. At center of the plot is the Tsagaan Khas, a group bent on fulfilling an ancient prophesy by a Mongol shaman. The struggle to stop them goes from 2,000-year-old Yellow Crane Tower to the pangolin pens of Huanan market.

Critique: With the publication of "Wuhan 2019: A Novel on Dangerous Games in China", author Gabriel Scheff deftly explores in a fiction format the culture of one of China's fastest-growing cities (now made infamous in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic) and the splendor of the East Lake Greenway region.

As a novelist, Gabriel Scheff effectively contrasts the good nature of the Chinese people with the ever present and overbearing Chinese Communist government's surveillance that even includes sophisticated retinal scanning and an internet firewall of censorship. Scheff takes his readers "from the scenic river valleys of southern China to the emperor's summer palace in Manchuria, along the docks of Canton, into the gambling casinos of Macau, and through the athletic venues of the games".

A unique, entertaining, and finely crafted novel that will have a very special appeal to readers with an interest in military fiction and contemporary Chinese political culture, "Wuhan 2019: A Novel on Dangerous Games in China" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Wuhan 2019" is also readily available in a paperback edition (GWS Books, 9781087878867, $12.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).

Starry Messenger: Cosmic Perspectives on Civilization
Neil deGrasse Tyson
Macmillan Audio
9781250867766, $29.99, CD

Synopsis: In a time when our political and cultural views feel more polarized than ever, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson provides a much-needed antidote to so much of what divides us, while making a passionate case for the twin chariots of enlightenment -- a cosmic perspective and the rationality of science.

After thinking deeply about how science sees the world and about Earth as a planet, the human brain has the capacity to reset and recalibrates life's priorities, shaping the actions we might take in response. No outlook on culture, society, or civilization remains untouched.

With crystalline prose, "Starry Messenger: Cosmic Perspectives on Civilization" walks us through the scientific palette that sees and paints the world differently. From insights on resolving global conflict to reminders of how precious it is to be alive, Tyson reveals, with warmth and eloquence, an array of brilliant and beautiful truths that apply to us all, informed and enlightened by knowledge of our place in the universe.

Critique: Complete, unabridged, 6 CDs this Macmillan Audio production is brilliantly presented and articulately narrated by the author. "Starry Messenger: Cosmic Perspectives on Civilization" by Neil deGrasse Tyson must be considered an essential addition to personal, community, and academic library audio book collections.

Editorial Note: Neil deGrasse Tyson ( is an astrophysicist and the author of "Astrophysics for People in a Hurry", among other books. He is also the director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History, where he has served since 1996. Additionally Dr. Tyson is the host and cofounder of the Emmy-nominated popular podcast StarTalk and its spinoff StarTalk Sports Edition, which combine science, humor, and pop culture. He is a recipient of 21 honorary doctorates, the Public Welfare Medal from the National Academy of Sciences, and the Distinguished Public Service Medal from NASA. -- Asteroid 13123 Tyson is named in his honor.

Clint Travis

Israel Drazin's Bookshelf

Journeys to Heaven and Hell
Bart D. Ehrman
Yale University Press
9780300257007, $32.50 print / $12.48 Kindle

"Journeys to Heaven and Hell" by Bart D. Ehrman, a highly respected New Testament scholar, tells some of the different notions various nations and people had about the afterlife in ancient times. He describes a wide variety of katabases and anabases, but not all.

Katabasis means going down, a descent. It is used to describe a journey to the underworld. Its ancient usage in Greek mythology told of a person's visit to the world known as Hades. Ancient examples include Orpheus, who goes down to Hades in a failed attempt to bring his lover, Eurydice, back to the world of the living, Psyche's journey to regain the love of Eros (Cupid), and Odysseus, who travels there during his trip home after the Trojan war to consult with the prophet Tiresias. Also, Aeneas who looks for his father Anchises to learn prophecies concerning his fate and that of the Roman Empire.

Anabasis is the opposite of katabasis. It denotes going up. The most famous ancient narratives of anabases are Persephone, who travels back and forth from Hades every year, and Xenophon's anabasis, the account of the ten thousand goings up to the sea.

Professor Ehrman introduces us to the katabases in Homer, Virgil, Aristophanes, Lucian, Apocalypse of Paul, I Enoch, and more. He admits that it is impossible to know whether the authors of these ancient works believed they were true, that their description of the "underworld" was correct, or if they wrote their books as fiction. Either way, the books strongly impacted many people who believed what was written in whole or part and molded their behavior based on these beliefs. Many ancients, as well as many modern thinkers, felt and feel that if heaven and hell do not exist, if God will not award good conduct and punish wrong behavior, there is no reason to be moral, people can behave as they want.

Ehrman's book has six chapters. In the first three, he examines Greek, Roman, Jewish, and Christian writings and compares them with others. In the last three chapters, he examines two Christian texts edited by scribes to make them more rational and acceptable to readers.

What is the view of the afterlife in the Hebrew Bible?

Several facts stand out. First, the Hebrew Bible, the Torah, has no mention or even hint that dead humans go to heaven or hell. The Torah mentions that the dead goes to Sheol. This word means the grave. Some verses in the late book of Daniel are the closest to the idea of an afterlife, but most scholars dispute that this interpretation is true.

The biblical book of Ecclesiastes expresses the ancient Jewish view. In 3:19-20, it states, "For, in respect of the fate of man and the fate of beast, they have the same fate: as the one dies so dies the other, and both have the same life breath; man has no superiority over the beast, since both amount to nothing. Both go to the same place; both came from dust, and both return to dust."

Second, it was not until the early second century BCE that a Jewish book speaks of an afterlife. This occurs in the post-biblical book I Enoch. But, as Ehrman states, we have no idea whether the authors of these books believed what they wrote was true.

Thirdly, the idea that God will reward good conduct and punish evil is widespread today among many Jews and non-Jews, as is the notion that if there is no heaven and hell, people can do what they will without concern for consequences.

This third idea is wrong. Even if heaven and hell do not exist, people will be hurt if they misbehave. The world is created with consequences for good and bad behaviors. Even if God does not award and punish, nature generally does.

Although there is no proof of heaven and hell, many philosophers and clergy teach the idea of reward and punishment. They do so because of what Plato called a "noble lie," and Maimonides called an "essential truth" to help people feel good and control their behavior.

The Yeshiva Volume II: Masters and Disciples
Chaim Grade, author
Curt Leviant, translator
Bobbs-Merrill Co
9780672523441 $TBA

The Chaim Grade masterpiece "The Yeshiva II" is subtitled "Masters and Disciples" because it tells of dozens of lives of people in a manner unequaled by other writers. Each of the many people who populate this story has interesting and exciting lives that fascinate readers. Grade is uniquely capable of telling their tales and weaving them into the impressive drama of the protagonist Tsemakh Atlas, thereby creating a drama much like the biblical coat of many colors given to a loved son. This drama undoubtedly deserves a Nobel Prize for Literature.

Sixty-eight people inhabit this novel set in six Jewish towns in Lithuania after the First World War, six cities that Tsemakh Atlas enters. One would imagine that it is impossible to remember and distinguish so many. But this notion takes no account of Grade's genius. We have no difficulty. When they reappear, we recognize them as we would recognize and greet a family member.

Three stand out. There is Tsemakh. He is tall, handsome, and intelligent, but is conflicted. He spent close to twenty years in a Yeshiva that emphasized the teaching of Musar, Jewish ethics. Torah and Talmud were also taught but not emphasized. The ethics taught was harsh. It requires the individual to speak his mind unhesitatingly and, if necessary, embarrass people who do not act as the yeshiva teaches, even if it causes the other person to become angry. Tsemakh carries this idea to an extreme. He considers ethical behavior more important than other aspects of Judaism. He is unsure that God exists. He doubts that God answers prayers and helps people. He is confident that ethical behavior is more important than Torah laws because people are evil from birth and cannot become good unless they exert constant effort at self-improvement through ethical studies.

Yet, he feels driven to be a Rosh Yeshiva, the head teacher and mentor at a school for young boys. He signs a contract to marry a woman and leaves her because he sees she is sickly and her father will not fulfill his obligations under the contract. He feels very guilty for causing her distress. He marries instead a gorgeous non-religious woman who loves him dearly, abandons his religious practices, and accepts her family's offer that he be a worker in a store. He also leaves her and his wealthy in-laws because he feels guilty about the woman he rejected and stopped being religious. He goes to another town and becomes a Rosh Yeshiva without changing his inner conflicts. He falls in love in the new town with a married woman who reciprocates his love because her husband is seldom home. Her husband travels from town to town asking for contributions for yeshivas.

Rabbi Avraham-Shaye Kosover, a renowned scholar and sage, is the opposite of Tsemakh. He suffered a similar betrothal deception. The woman to whom he was betrothed turned out to be much older than he understood and incapable of having a child. She is also very loud and outspoken and turns off many people. But unlike Tsemakh, he marries her. He treats her with dignity, although he does not love her. He acts respectfully to everyone and is highly esteemed by virtually everyone, even Tsemakh. He criticizes Tsemakh's harsh ethical practices. He said, "Except for certain extraordinary instances when one must not look on and keep silent, we shouldn't tell another person anything about his character and behavior until he asks us and until we're certain that he has asked the question so as to improve his character and behavior. Even then, we shouldn't tell him anything beyond his understanding and his ability to change." He is convinced that Tsemakh is doing enormous harm to his students by his actions. He takes Chaikl out of Tsemakh's yeshiva to save this intelligent boy. He makes Chaikl his student.

The third principal character in this novel is Chaikl. Readers should pay special attention to this boy. His father is interested in the Enlightenment, which questions many Jewish ideas, and encourages Jews to engage in secular studies. He disagrees with the approach of Rabbi Avraham-Shaye Kosover who felt that Jews must spend their lives immersed in holy books. He feels instead that Jews must not isolate themselves from the world. Chaikl's mother, on the other hand, is very religious and wants him to become a rabbi. He is modeled on Chaim Grade, who left the Musar yeshiva and Jewish practices in 1932 at age 22.

The following is a small sampling of the dozens of other people whose stories are told in this novel. There is the crude tobacco merchant who tormented his son, a yeshiva student, and drove him to abandon Jewish practices. He refused to send his wife a divorce for fifteen years. She left the country, settled in Argentina, married another man, and lived in an adulterous relationship. She had children who were considered bastards by Jewish law. Although once prosperous, he turns himself into a beggar. He does not send his wife a divorce but goes from house to house begging for food, acting pious to impress others with his piety despite his terrible treatment of his wife and son.

Sroleyzer, a bricklayer, thief, fence, and a member of Tsemakh Atlas's congregation, is approached to help solve the problem that arose when the local library gave secular books to the yeshiva students. Tsemakh and Rabbi Avraham-Shaye Kosover agreed that the library books must be stolen and burnt. Sroleyzer was paid to do so. The two were surprised at the uproar in the town when the books were taken. Demands were made to punish the person or persons involved in the theft. Tsemakh suffers greatly. Sroleyzer becomes a hero for claiming that he saved the books.

Elke Kogan, a quiet woman with a mental problem, becomes pregnant. She is unable to identify the man who raped her. The community feels confident that the culprit is Sheeya Lipnishker, a Torah scholar who teaches Judaism to local farmers, a man Elke Kogan admires.

In summary, this is an outstanding book by an author who deserves the Nobel Prize for Literature.

The Guide of the Perplexed, Vol. 1
Moses Maimonides, author
Translated with an introduction and notes by Shlomo Pines
University of Chicago Press
9780226448534 $27.99 Kindle

How does God want people to behave?

In Maimonides' Guide for the Perplexed, book 3, chapter 51, in the easy-to-read translation by Michael Friedlander, Maimonides tells readers: "The present chapter does not contain any additional matter that has not been treated in the (previous) chapters of this treatise. It is a kind of conclusion, and at the same time, it will explain in what manner those worship God who have obtained true knowledge concerning God; it will direct them on how to come to that worship, which is the highest aim man can attain."

There are two things to understand at the outset. First, in his introduction to his Guide, Maimonides tells us that his book will contain two kinds of ideas: (1) those that are fitting for the unlearned, people who are unable to deal with intellectual ideas, who are unable to abandon notions they learned as children; and (2) ideas designed to enlighten people who are intelligent, who not only know about Judaism by also secular studies. He warns his readers to read his book carefully, and those who are intelligent should accept the latter ideas, not the notions set forth for the masses of the people, such as God needing to perform miracles, requiring angels to assist him, and God becoming angry when people act improperly. Guide 3:51 contains a section for intelligent people followed by one for the general population. As usual, as will be seen, Maimonides does not identify his audience for both sections.

The second thing that must be recognized and understood is that his statement that 3:51 contains nothing new should be understood by intellectual people that this statement is not true for if it were not new, why would Maimonides have included it? Intelligent people should realize that he wrote these words for the public to suggest that they ignore the first half of this chapter. He took this approach because what he was about to say would bother, perhaps even anger people in the general public. He recognized that thinking people would see through this ploy and approach the chapter knowing that it contains a new and very significant idea.

As we will see below, Maimonides stresses that religious Jews who diligently observe the Torah commands and rabbinical enactments, who spend time reading or even studying the Torah and Talmud, and who devote hours to prayer have failed to do what God wants them to do. It is important to observe the law, but the law leads one to proper behavior, achieved only when one has knowledge of God as Maimonides explains the term. Maimonides stresses in his Guide 1:54, people can only know God by understanding the laws of nature that God created or formed, laws revealed in the secular sciences. "The knowledge of the works of God is the knowledge of His attributes, by which He can be known." Thus, true worship of God requires Jews to study the sciences. This is the only way to gain knowledge of God. This is Maimonides' explanation of Exodus 33, where Moses requested that God tell him what God is. God, in essence, tells Moses that he can only know about God by viewing what God did.

Maimonides presents his revelation of what is proper worship of God and that Jews are not doing what God wants them to do if they only spend their entire day studying the Torah and Talmud in Guide for the Perplexed 3:51 by a parable. He compares people who worship God to people having a relationship with their king.

In the parable, humans seeking to do what God wants them to do are like people ruled by a king who is in his palace. Some of the king's subjects are:

People who turn their backs to the palace, like people who have false ideas about God.

Some never saw the palace. This describes most religious people. They "observe the divine commandments, but are ignorant" of secular studies.

Similarly, some people try to reach the palace, circling it looking for an entrance but never find it. They symbolize individuals who devote themselves to the "study of the practical law. They believe in the true principles of faith... but are not trained in philosophical treatment of the law." These people consider themselves pious because they refuse to engage in worldly affairs. By "practical law," Maimonides means Torah and Talmudic law. By "philosophical treatment," he and the people of his time meant all of the sciences.

The fourth group is a little better than the third who reject secular study. These represent people who study secular subjects, but not enough.

The final group are those people who in the simile enter the room where the king is present. They describe individuals who obey Jewish laws and study the laws of nature and the sciences. They are, like Maimonides, totally observant of halakha while engaging in improving themselves and society by studying and using their knowledge of the sciences. They are doctors, lawyers, engineers, plumbers, construction workers, social workers, and the like.

Maimonides writes that it is necessary to gain knowledge of God by knowing His works, "then commence to devote yourselves to Him, try to approach Him and strengthen the intellect, which is the link that joins you to Him." The more people "think of Him [know the sciences], the more they are engaged in His worship." He summarizes: "The highest kind of worship to which we refer in this chapter, is only possible after the acquisition of the knowledge of God."

Maimonides' teaching that people should learn the laws of nature, the sciences, makes sense. Maimonides tells us in Guide 3:27 and 28 that the purpose of the law, meaning the Torah, is to remove injustice, teach good conduct that furthers the well-being of society, and impart truths that help improve individuals and society. Obviously, the knowledge of science, including subjects such as medicine, proper hygiene, philosophy, logic, physics, biology, chemistry, mathematics, statistics, history, sociology, and even weather forecasting, will help further these goals immeasurably.

Maimonides follows this discussion in Guide 3:51 with a long "Note" in which he tells readers that to strengthen the bond with God, people must engage in "reflecting about God." He writes that we should read the law, pray, perform the precepts, free ourselves from worldly business, and other distractions. Read the Shema prayer with the intent to be more pious. Read the Torah with all your thoughts occupied with an understanding of what you read, and do not let superfluous things disturb your thoughts. Only "think of worldly matters when you eat, drink, bathe, talk with your wife and little children, or when you converse with other people." These times "must suffice to you for reflecting on everything that is necessary as regards business, household, and health." This "Note," was written for the general unenlightened population. It mentions nothing about spending time studying the laws of nature.

This "Note" was obviously written for most Jews who could not accept what Maimonides revealed previously. It contradicts the prior section and Maimonides' own behavior. He preferred spending a sizable amount of time every day studying the sciences and using his time to help others. He devoted half of most days ministering as a physician to the health of the non-Jewish leaders of Egypt; engaging in community affairs; writing books on medicine; studying Talmud commentaries and Jewish Law; answering questions of people assembled in his house and those who wrote to him, and educating fellow Jews.

The Origins of Judaism: An Archaeological Historical Reappraisal
Yonatan Adler, author
Yale University Press
9780300254907 $45.00 print / $33.99 Kindle

When did Jews begin to observe Biblical Laws?

The question of when did Jews begin to observe the practices and prohibitions of biblical laws is one of the most important yet thorniest questions that has bothered scholars for centuries. While traditional Jews believe their ancestors accepted and practiced Torah laws since the time of Moses, there is no clear statement that this occurred in the Bible itself. Associate Professor Yonatan Adler of the Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology at Ariel University in Israel addresses this age-old question. His reply, supported by multiple sources, is contained in his 2022 book, "The Origins of Judaism: An Archaeological Historical Reappraisal," a scholarly, easy-to-read Yale University Press book. Several hundred interesting notes follow the 236-page book in 64 pages, a bibliography of 30 pages, and an extensive, helpful index of 34 pages.

Adler's goal in this very informative and eye-opening book is not to examine when, why, and by whom the Torah was written or answer any other theological question. His focus is on the behavior of the Judean society, when we can identify the time when Judeans observed the Torah. Many scholars argued previously that the early Judeans did not obey Torah law, but they did not identify when Jews accepted the Torah as a director of their lives. For example, I wrote in my book "The Tragedies of King David," "Scholars contend that there are many indications in the book of Samuel that the book's author knew nothing about Moses's Torah, and may not have known about the biblical books of Joshua and Judges. I identified thirty-nine such indications in my two prior books about Samuel and David. There are an additional eighteen in this volume, fifty-seven in all." In later books on the Bible, I showed more examples.

Adler examines thirteen practices, dietary laws, ritual purity, artful portrayals of humans and animals, tefillin and mezuzot, the synagogue, circumcision, the Sabbath prohibitions, the Passover sacrifice, the Festival of Unleavened Bread, fasting on the Day of Atonement, residing in booths on Sukkot, the four species, and having a continually lit seven-branched menorah in the Jerusalem temple. In each case, he begins by telling the law as specified in the Pentateuch, the five books of Moses, examines the evidence for the practice or prohibition in the first century CE, both writings by Jews and non-Jews of this time, such as Philo, Josephus, Dead Sea Scrolls, the New Testament, Roman writers, as well as archaeological finds of the period, such as coins, pottery, buildings, and bones, and continues backward in time to earlier available writings and archaeological evidence before the first millennium, until there is no evidence that people observed these practices,

Adler found that "the earliest surviving evidence for a widely practiced Judean way of life governed by the Torah never predates the second century BCE." The evidence suggests that the early Hasmonean leadership who rescued the Judean nation from Syrian Greek control, legitimized the Pentateuch as the authoritative law and fashioned themselves as the "restorers" of an ancient system of divine law. They went so far as to convert the Semitic people they conquered forcibly. They were the first who converted people. There was no need for conversion previously. The Hasmonean family led the revolt against the Syrian Greeks around 167 BCE. The last of the brothers, Simon, became high priest and leader of the Judeans in 142 BCE when he established an independent country led by his descendants until the Hasmonean state fell to the Roman general Pompey in 63 BCE.

While the lack of evidence of the Judean observance of the Torah before the Hasmonean era could suggest the Torah did not exist before that time and the tradition that the Torah was present since the time of Moses is untrue, Professor Adler does not say this. He wrote that he was only interested in this study on when the Judean population observed Torah practices and prohibitions. We readers are left to decide this issue ourselves. It is possible that despite the majority not making Torah the guide to their lives until the mid-second century BCE, a minority of Jewish ancestors, perhaps even a sizable minority, accepted a Torah life since very ancient times. There are also many other possibilities.

Letters Concerning the English
Voltaire, author
John Lockman, translator
9781548226640 $3.99

An example of prejudice

Unthinking prejudice resulted in the deaths of millions. The stories of Voltaire and Jenner are examples.

The Frenchman Voltaire (1694-1778) tried unsuccessfully to get the French to inoculate children from smallpox. He was a very intelligent member of the Enlightenment, a writer, historian, and philosopher who criticized Christianity and slavery. He was an advocate for civil liberties. He authored some 2,000 books and pamphlets. He is best known for his highly acclaimed novel Candide in which he mocked the thinkers of his time.

His 92-page "Letters Concerning the English" contains essays based on his experiences and observations in England between 1726 and 1729. He tells how the Circassians, Turks, Chinese, and English inoculated children with a small dose of smallpox. The Circassians, for example, were a nation that lived on the northeast shore of the Black Sea. Russians massacred most of the people. From ancient times, they made an incision in the arm of their children before they reached the age of six months. They placed in the incision a pustule, a bit of pus, taken from the body of another child with smallpox. The pustule assured that even if the inoculated child got smallpox later in life, it was very mild and did not kill or disfigure the child as smallpox generally did. In contrast, prejudice against the other nations, many French hated the English, closed the minds of the French and others, resulting in many millions of disfigurements and unnecessary deaths. Some French even called the inoculation process anti-Christian.

After Voltaire's death, it was not until 1796 that the first smallpox vaccine was developed against the contagious disease. The British doctor Edward Jenner (1749-1823), who pioneered the concept of vaccines, demonstrated that infection with the relatively mild cowpox virus conferred immunity against the deadly smallpox virus. It helped the inoculated person's body to develop immunity to smallpox. It is estimated that Jenner saved 530 million lives.

Jenner, of course, did not call inoculation anti-Christian. He was a Christian who treasured the Bible and was not prejudiced. Before his death, he stated to a friend: "I am not surprised that men are not grateful to me, but I wonder that they are not grateful to God for the good which He has made me the instrument of conveying to my fellow creatures."

The Sages, Character, Context & Creativity, Volume V
Binyamin Lau
9781592644025 $24.95

The truth about the Oral Law

Many Jews are convinced that the laws and customs that originated with the rabbis were taught at Sinai to the Israelites during the days of Moses and are called "Oral Law," even though the Torah itself states that only the Decalogue that people call The Ten Commandments were spoken there. Rabbi Dr. Binyamin Lau describes the true origin of rabbinical laws. He also informs us about the rabbis and the occurrences of the times they lived in his five-volume series "The Sages."

The fifth book, written first in Hebrew, is now translated and sold in English. It is called "The Sages, Character, Context & Creativity." It focuses "on the teachings of the second generation of talmudic sages - the founders of the great rabbinic academies in Babylonia and the Land of Israel at the end of the third century CE." It is very informative. The prior four Sages books are, The Second Temple Period, From Yavneh to the Bar Kokhba Revolt, The Galilean Period, and From the Mishna to the Talmud.

Rabbi Dr. Yehuda Brandes tells readers in the Foreword that, in his opinion, "the main purpose of this series is to set the various sages of the Mishna and Talmud before the eyes of students who study their teachings. All too often, teachers of rabbinic literature do not bother to introduce their students to the various sages mentioned in the text." A complete understanding of rabbinical rulings is only gained by knowing the person making the ruling, why he did so, and the conditions of the time that prompted him to act. Rabbi Lau does this in clear, understandable language.

We read of the death of the first generation of Babylonian rabbis, Rav in 247 CE and Shmuel in 254 CE, their successors, and the founding of rabbinical academies in Southern Babylonia in Sura and Northern Babylonia in several cities. We also read of the academies in the Land of Israel, the significant differences between Babylonia and Israel, conditions during the reign of the last pagan Roman Emperor Diocletian when Jews were satisfied to live in peace under Roman rule, and the power of his successor Constantine. This first Christian emperor started a period in which Israel suffered. We also read of Israeli rabbis' dislike for the rabbis of Babylonia. They thought the Babylonian Jews acted improperly by not returning to Israel when Cyrus allowed Jews to return from their exile to their homeland in Israel

There is much in this 278-page book that will enlighten readers.

Dr. Israel Drazin, Reviewer

Jack Mason's Bookshelf

The Death of Christ
Steven Rutledge
Pen & Sword Books
c/o Casemate (US distribution)
9781399088770, $36.95, HC, 272pp

Synopsis: What was the world like, and what was going on in it, around the time of Jesus' death? "The Death of Christ: The Bible and Popular Culture vs Archaeological and Historical Evidence" by Professor Steven Rutledge is detailed study that examines this very question, and also seeks to place Jesus in his larger historical context, as a non-citizen resident of the Roman Empire living in Judaea and Galilee in the 20s and 30s AD.

"The Death of Christ" deftly explores the larger background and context to some of the major power-brokers of the Roman Empire in Jesus' day, including the emperor Tiberius, his ambitious Praetorian Prefect Sejanus, Judaea's governor Pontius Pilate, and the client king who governed Galilee, Herod Antipas. It further explores some of the larger historical and cultural context and background of some of the characters who parade through the gospel accounts, including the treacherous informant Judas Iscariot, the tax collector turned apostle, Matthew, and the gruff centurion whose servant Jesus was said to have healed.

Furthermore, "The Death of Christ" also considers the nature of Jesus' radical resistance to the Roman Empire, and seeks to contextualize it through comparison with other resistance movements. Attempts to recover the historical Jesus have sought to put him in his immediate context of ancient Galilee, Judaea, and the Jewish community to which he belonged. Instead
"The Death of Christ" focuses on the Roman historical background to the time and place of his ministry and death. Cast into relief against the much larger picture of the greater Roman world of which he was a part, the ministry of Jesus is quite radical indeed.

Critique: A simply fascinating, thought-provoking, and impressively well presented study, Professor Steven Rutledge's "The Death of Christ: The Bible and Popular Culture vs Archaeological and Historical Evidence" includes maps, illustrations, family trees, a glossary, chapter notes, a bibliography, and an index. An exceptional work of meticulous research and simply outstanding scholarship, "The Death of Christ: The Bible and Popular Culture vs Archaeological and Historical Evidence" is a unique and strongly recommended addition to personal, community, and academic library Christian History and Archaeology collections. It is also readily available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99).

Editorial Note: Steven Rutledge ( is an Associate Professor Emeritus of Classics (University of Maryland, College Park), and an Adjunct Professor of History at Linfield University (McMinnville, Oregon). He is also the author of Imperial Inquisitions. Prosecutors and Informants from Tiberius to Domitian (Routledge 2001), Ancient Rome as a Museum. Power, Identity, and the Culture of Collecting (Oxford 2012), and A Tacitus Reader (Bolchazy-Carducci 2014). He has also written numerous articles on Roman history and culture.

Port of Refuge: Udaagamax
Dan Magone
Dorrance Publishing Company
585 Alpha Drive, Suite 103, Pittsburgh, PA 15238
9781685373542, $57.00, HC, 238pp

Synopsis: After his forty-plus-year career in emergency ship repair and marine salvage in western Alaska, Dan Magone knows the grit and grace required to survive Alaska's brutal marine frontier. "Port of Refuge: Udaagamax" is an episodic memoir that records his breathtaking experiences at sea and the high adventure and discouraging setbacks that accompanied it.

During his career, Dan Magone personally directed the successful salvage or wreck removal of seventy-nine vessels and has been awarded two Public Service Commendations by the USCG. He received his commercial diving certificate in 1971, has maintained an Explosive Handlers license since 1990 and has extensive experience in underwater welding and ship repair.

Touching on environmentalism, spirituality, race and ethnicity, as well as friendship, leadership and loyalty, "Port of Refuge: Udaagamax" proves that the marine industry is what you make of it.

Critique: With each chapter beginning with a full color illustration, "Port of Refuge: Udaagamax" is an impressively well written, organized and presented memoir that is an inherently fascinating and exceptionally informative read from first page to last. Of special appeal to those with an interest in the subject of maritime & marine salvage, and available for personal reading lists in a paperback edition (9798886046823, $23.64, Amazon) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99), "Port of Refuge: Udaagamax" is especially and unreservedly recommended as a unique of special addition to community and academic library Contemporary American Biography/Memoir collections.

Editorial Note: Dan Magone ( is a longstanding member of Unalaska Christian Fellowship, supports the Unalaska Native Fisherman's Association, and is a regular at the city's annual School Career Day where he does his best to inspire students in career ideas. But Magone is best known for being the guy that the fishermen, the city, or any local can call when they need help quick.

The Potentialist I: Your Future in the New Reality of the Next Thirty Years
Ben Lytle
Amplify Publishing
9781637551363, $28.00, HC, 264pp

Synopsis: Anyone living through the next thirty years will become the most powerful members of the human race to have ever existed. They will live long, novel lifestyles doing more significant, meaningful work. They will function as only geniuses could have done in the past. They will collaborate and share experiences in physical and virtual reality with anyone, anywhere, anytime. Innovations in medicine, seamless integration with automation, and unlimited Cloud computing power are what will make it all possible.

They will have the opportunity and the duty to create a decidedly better world. But they will also need to develop the wisdom to use this expansive power in advance of receiving it. Their success or failure will decide if the future is a new age of enlightenment or darkness. Experience and maturity alone cannot provide the required wisdom fast enough. They will also need to maximize their innate potential to accelerate wisdom.

Withe the publication of "The Potentialist: Your Future in the New Reality of the Next Thirty Years", Ben Lytle explains the first steps to achieve our potential and accelerate wisdom. We will be encouraged to discard potential-limiting mindsets, wasteful habits, and destructive lifestyles that caused unnecessary suffering in prior generations. We will discover how forces of change create a better world (a New Reality!) by breaking down the one we know. The pace of life will accelerate and become more turbulent. Institutions such as government, education, religion, news media, and many employers will be disrupted and become less reliable. But we will live to see the unfolding New Reality through the lens of opportunity instead of anxiety and fear.

"The Potentialist" is first installment in a three-book series and written specifically for those who will live thirty years or more, those who are older and seeking to assist younger people through this unprecedented challenge, and leaders who are charged with adapting organizations for the New Reality. Mind-blowing change is coming. "The Potentialist" provides a kind of roadmap to success.

Critique: Of special appeal and value to readers with an interest in the social aspects of evolving technologies, engineering, and self-help/motivation for dealing successfully with social, cultural, political, and economic change, "The Potentialist: Your Future in the New Reality of the Next Thirty Years" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Potentialist: Your Future in the New Reality of the Next Thirty Years" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Ben Lytle ( is a self-made serial entrepreneur-CEO known for being ahead of the curve. He launched five successful companies, including two listed on the New York Stock Exchange. The best known is Anthem, today twenty-ninth on the Fortune 500 with a market value over $100 billion. He is a healthcare policy expert who served on state and presidential healthcare commissions, a governance leader with extensive public company experience.

Jack Mason

John Burroughs' Bookshelf

Poster Art of the Disney Parks, second edition
Danny Handke, author
Vanessa Hunt, author
Disney Editions
c/o Disney Book Group
9781368062473, $50.00, HC, 256pp

Synopsis: Disney attraction posters have been an important means of communication since Disneyland began displaying them in 1956. These eye-catching pieces of artwork adorn the parks with flair and style, and are displayed to build excitement and disseminate information about the newest additions to the Disney landscape. As evidenced by the evolution of the attraction posters, art styles and design techniques have certainly changed over the years. These characteristics also differ from continent to continent. Posters from EPCOT, Tokyo Disneyland, Disneyland Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland, and Shanghai Disneyland exhibit the nuances in presentation that give each park's pantheon of posters its signature look and story.

This significantly expanded and fully updated second edition of "Poster Art of the Disney Parks" by the team of Danny Handke and Vanessa Hunt includes : An incredible collection of original attraction posters from Shanghai Disneyland; The extensive and graphically bold collection of EPCOT posters first unveiled at D23 Expo 2019; Posters featuring attractions and lands inspired by storytelling from Pixar, Star Wars, and Marvel.

A variety of vibrant voices quoted throughout "Poster Art of the Disney Parks", providing interesting insights about the development of the posters over the years and the interconnection among art, typography, and graphic design -- Disney style.

Critique: A coffee-table style (11.5 x 1.13 x 14.38 inches, 1 pound) volume, "Poster Art of the Disney Parks: 2nd Edition" will prove to be an especially appreciated addition to personal, community, and academic Pop Culture Art & Disney Art collections for collectors, art students, and non-specialist general readers wanting a lasting memento of their visit to a Disney theme park.

Editorial Note #1: Danny Handke ( is a senior creative director for Walt Disney Imagineering, where he is responsible for creating and developing stories and ideas for Disney parks and cruise ships from concept to completion. On the Disney Wish cruise ship project, Danny is leading the creative direction and story development for Worlds of Marvel, AquaMouse, Star Wars: Hyperspace Lounge, Arendelle: A Frozen Dining Adventure, Disney's Oceaneer Club, and more. He has worked for The Walt Disney Company for eighteen years. His recent projects include Guardians of the Galaxy - Mission: BREAKOUT! at Disney California Adventure, the integration of Marvel and Star Wars to Disney's Oceaneer Club across the Disney Cruise Line fleet, and several blue sky projects for Disneyland Resort, Tokyo Disney Resort, and Hong Kong Disneyland. He is also coauthor of the first edition of Poster Art of the Disney Parks for Disney Editions. Danny is a graduate of the Art Institute of Phoenix with a degree in Media Arts & Animation.

Editorial Note #2: Vanessa Hunt ( worked for The Walt Disney Company for nearly twenty years. As a former Walt Disney Imagineer and a lifelong Disney aficionado, she was part of the group responsible for the original artwork preserved in the Walt Disney Imagineering Art Collection. She has been curator of several Imagineering exhibits featuring many of the works from the collection, and has consulted for The Walt Disney Family Museum. Vanessa is also the coauthor of the first edition of Poster Art of the Disney Parks (2012) as well as the wildly popular Maps of the Disney Parks (2016) and The Disney Monorail: Imagineering a Highway in the Sky (2020). In addition, Vanessa was the curatorial director on Marc Davis in His Own Words: Imagineering the Disney Theme Parks (2019).

The Power of Story
Harold R. Johnson
9781771964876, $16.95, PB, 192pp

Synopsis: Approached by an ecumenical society representing many faiths, from Judeo-Christians to fellow members of First Nations, Harold R. Johnson agreed to host a group who wanted to hear him speak about the power of storytelling. "The Power of Story: On Truth, the Trickster, and New Fictions for a New Era" is the outcome of that gathering.

In "The Power of Story", Johnson explains the role of storytelling in every aspect of human life, from personal identity to history and the social contracts that structure our societies, and illustrates how we can direct its potential to re-create and reform not only our own lives, but the life we share. Companionable, clear-eyed, and, above all, optimistic, Johnson's message is both a dire warning and a direct invitation to each of us to imagine and create, together, the world we want to live in.

Critique: A fascinating, thought-provoking, and ultimately inspiring read from cover to cover, "The Power of Story: On Truth, the Trickster, and New Fictions for a New Era" will have a very special appeal and value to readers with an interest in Native American folklore, mythology, and cultural studies. While also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99), "The Power of Story" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library Indigenous People's Biographies & Cultural Studies collections and supplemental curriculum syllabus.

Editorial Note: Harold R. Johnson (1954-2022) was the author of six works of fiction and six works of nonfiction, including Firewater: How Alcohol is Killing My People (and Yours), which was a finalist for the Governor General's Literary Award for Nonfiction. Born and raised in northern Saskatchewan to a Swedish father and a Cree mother, Johnson served in the Canadian Navy and worked as a miner, logger, mechanic, trapper, fisherman, tree planter, and heavy-equipment operator. He graduated from Harvard Law School and managed a private practice for several years before becoming a Crown prosecutor. He was a member of the Montreal Lake Cree Nation.

John Burroughs

Julie Summers' Bookshelf

Bells: Music, Art, Culture, and Politics from Around the World
Jaan Whitehead
Girl Friday Books
9781954854734, $34.95, HC, 288pp

Synopsis: We live in a world of bells but seldom notice them. However, bells have existed in all cultures since earliest times and are one of the world's most remarkable artifacts. They have been the "voice" of God and Buddha, a talisman for early monastics, a source of glorious music, and part of many sacred rituals. Yet, they have also been the clocks, school bells, fire bells, and shop bells of daily life. With the publication of "Bells: Music, Art, Culture, and Politics from Around the World", Jaan Whitehead brings together seventeen stories that explore the magic and mysticism of these bells, their political and religious power, their wide-ranging musicality, and their familiarity in our everyday lives.

The stories range from the recently discovered chimes of Ancient China to the music of carillons and change ringing to reindeer bells in Arctic Norway to the surprising bell that is on the International Space Station. Other stories explore Buddhist bells in Japan and Tibet, the famous African bells of Benin, Russian bells, early Christian bells in Scotland, the Liberty Bell and Big Ben, bells on trains, cable cars, and circus wagons, and two bells brought up from lost ships to serve as memorials for their crews. Illustrated with 130 photographs, this beautiful book brings bells out from the background of our days to create a living history of this amazing musical instrument.

Critique: Beautifully illustrated, impressively informative, exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Bells: Music, Art, Culture, and Politics from Around the World" will have a very special appeal for bell collectors, musicians, and fans of musical instruments, as well as museums, universities, and libraries that have musical instrument collections. It will also appeal to the nonspecialist general reader with an interest in the use of bells as part of cultural history. While highly recommended for library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Bells: Music, Art, Culture, and Politics from Around the World" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

Editorial Note: Jaan Whitehead ( has been researching and collecting bells for over twenty-five years. She graduated from Wellesley College with a major in economics, has a M. A. in economics from the University of Michigan, and a Ph. D in political theory from Princeton University. In recent years, she has been working in the theater world and is the co-editor of The Art of Governance: Boards in the Performing Arts, as well as several articles about theater in the American culture.

The Spirited Kitchen: Recipes and Rituals for the Wheel of the Year
Carmen Spagnola
The Countryman Press
c/o W. W. Norton & Company
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110
9781682686676, 256pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "The Spirited Kitchen: Recipes and Rituals for the Wheel of the Year", by Carmen Spagnola the underlying message throughout is that practicing witchcraft means nurturing a relationship with the seasons and drawing on ancestral roots to find magic in small details.

From the Halloween festivities of Samhain to Midsummer celebrations and the return autumn at Harvest Home, witch and animist Carmen Spagnola will be your guide through the modern pagan Wheel of the Year.

With "The Spirited Kitchen", you will learn to channel folk magic into every ingredient, feast, and centerpiece. In winter, Cranberry Custard Tarts encourage health and well-being; in spring, Deep Dish Nettle Quiche ushers in resilience after cold months; and Calendula Chicken embodies the abundance of summer. Along the way, ritual crafts like Salt Spells, Witches Ladders, and Corn Dollies set the scene with extra symbolism.

Critique: Informative and fascinating, "The Spirited Kitchen: Recipes and Rituals for the Wheel of the Year" is enhanced with the inclusion of 100 color photographs and 20 black/white illustrations, tips on foraging, and a glossary of spirited symbols and ingredients. The ideal instructional reference of those with an interest in everyday animism, folk magic, modern witchcraft, and recipes that are palate pleasing, appetite satisfying, and reflect Wiccan values, "The Spirited Kitchen: Recipes and Rituals for the Wheel of the Year" is unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, and community library collections. It should be noted that "The Spirited Kitchen: Recipes and Rituals for the Wheel of the Year" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.19).

Editorial Note: Carmen Spagnola ( is a Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef turned trauma recovery practitioner and clinical hypnotherapist. The founder of The Numinous Network and The Numinous Podcast, she leads seasonal folk magic workshops both online and in-person at her home in British Columbia.

The Eighty-Year-Old Sorority Girls
Robin Benoit
Brown Books Publishing Group
9781612545516, $21.99, HC, 332pp

Synopsis: As a group of eighty-something girlfriends deals with the mental decline of their sorority sister, they reconnect with their college sorority, advise their grandchildren, find new lives for themselves, and continue to show up for each other.

Vivian, nicknamed "Button," is an Alzheimer's patient who adores her sorority group. Helen rediscovers love at age eighty-one, Ida's crazy side comes out during football season, and Laney is the "big sister" in charge of baking for the group. These three women consistently show up for Vivian as her mental health deteriorates -- because that is what sisters do. As they discover a new way of life, they find they would rather take "the road less traveled," just as they did in their college days.

Critique: Fascinating, heart-warming, deftly crafted, and a fully rewarding read from cover to cover, "The Eighty-Year-Old Sorority Girls" by author Robin Benoit is one of those novels that will linger in the mind and memory long after the book itself has been finished and set back upon the shelf. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Contemporary Women's Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Eighty-Year-Old Sorority Girls" is readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99).

Editorial Note: Robin Benoit ( has served in officer positions for her sorority and Alumnae Panhellenic. She graduated from college in 1985 with a degree in Journalism/Public Relations. She believes it was her sorority experience which led her to a career in public relations/community relations with non-profit agencies and corporations because she wanted her work to be meaningful and helpful to others. That desire to make a difference led her to become a writer. Robin wrote her first book in 2010 following the amazing success of her daughter Jillian's vision therapy treatment. Jillian's Story: How Vision Therapy Changed My Daughter's Life and second book was co-written with her daughter in 2014, Dear Jillian: Vision Therapy Changed My Life Too.

Julie Summers

Kat Payne's Bookshelf

How to Survive Your Murder
Danielle Valentine
9780593352014, $17.99 print / $10.99 Kindle

Of Corn Fields, Time Travel, and Brutal Murders

"The scream wouldn't have helped her, anyway. It was much, much too late for that. The chain saw flew closer, whirring and grinding, the sound it made an electric howl - Until it hit bone," (Valentine).

Readers are hooked at the bloody prologue of Danielle Valentine's newest story, where she doesn't waste time jumping right into the action. Valentine's newest novel, "How to Survive Your Murder," was published 01 September 2022 and follows Alice Lawrence as she's forced to relive the worst night of her life - the night her older sister, Claire, was stabbed to death in front of her. It's Halloween night, and Alice is attending a party with her friends. Instead of venturing through the eerie, dark corn maze to reach festivities, the group sneaks around it; however, Alice allows her older sister to venture into the maze alone. As more time passes and Claire doesn't appear from the towering corn, Alice enters the maze to search for her lost sister, only to find Chloe - one of the most popular girls at their Nebraska high school and the organizer of the Halloween party - missing her arm and sees her older sister Claire being stabbed to death. A year later, Alice meets a girl who transports her back to the Halloween party where Alice is able to save Claire; however, discovering who the true murderer is isn't as straight forward as Alice thought.

Danielle Valentine has written under two other pseudonyms: Danielle Vega and Danielle Rollins. Her novels are published under Penguin Random House, where her description reads: "Danielle Valentine spent her childhood hiding under the covers while her mother retold tales from the pages of Stephen King novels. Now as an adult, she can count on one hand the number of times in her life she's been afraid." As readers, we can see where her horror inspiration originates from. Valentine is from New England, which is where many of Stephen King's books take place, and where her first horror novel "Survive the Night" is situated. However, her newest story takes place in Nebraska; she has other books take place in various locations, with "The Merciless: Last Rites," being in Italy.

I've read all of Danielle Valentine's novels, all of them in the horror genre. Horror is my favorite genre to read and write; thus, I've read a plethora of the genre's stories. Valentine creates perfect pacing in her novels, elegantly balancing scenes and including significant details. For example, in "How to Survive Your Murder," the pacing of the story is imperative since it takes place in one night. Valentine repeatedly states how much time remains until midnight. The chapter, "Carb Up! You're Gonna Need It..." is the slowest pacing of the story but still keeps the reader on their toes. Alice and her love interest, Wes, go to a local donut shop called O-Town Dough. This chapter combines a sweet interaction between Alice and Wes that swiftly turns sour as more evidence of who's behind the murders is revealed.

While Valentine is great at pacing, she excels at creating unique characters who're easy to become attached to, which is perfect for horror. Her pacing improves her characterization as she sprinkles small character details throughout the story rather than depositing large chunks of information. Compared to Valentine's previous horror novels, The cast of "How to Survive Your Murder," leaves much to be desired. The two characters I felt were the most unique and possessed the most personality were Alice and Claire. A common theme in Valentine's horror novels is a teenage protagonist - Alice - and a group of friends who also serve as main characters. In this story, I wasn't connected to any of Alice's friends. Xavier, whose nickname was X, seemed like a stereotypical Tik Tok boy. Millie was my least favorite character. "Millie loves gossip. You don't tell her something unless you're ready for the whole world to hear about it." As such, she was an irritating character. It was difficult for me to decipher how she fit into their friend group; she didn't enjoy horror like Alice and X did, which is what the story revolves around. Eli was my favorite of Alice's three friends, but still his character didn't stick with me; most of the dialogue between him and Alice was over messages. Even Wes, Alice's love interest, was convoluted. Alice's high school spread rumors about Wes to the point where no one knew what was true about him. The two chapters titled, "Halloween One Year Later," and "Your Friends Aren't Really Your Friends," made me dislike Alice's friends as they began to turn against her, starting their podcast without her and talking about behind her back.

"How to Survive Your Murder" is Valentine's newest horror novel, but the story is nothing spectacular. It differs from Valentine's previous works as it combines both supernatural/paranormal and true crime horror. The novel is tailored toward a young adult audience, but this aspect is easily noticeable. Valentine tried too hard for the characters to be stereotypical, modern teenagers to the point where I was cringing at some points, especially during the first conversation between Alice, X, and Millie in the chapter "Three Hours Earlier." The dialogue seems unrealistic and has an overwhelming number of references to classic horror films. Overall, Valentine's newest novel is full of spontaneous twists, but it isn't her best work. Nonetheless, it was a fun adventure trying to solve who the murderer was, and it built up to an exciting and unexpected climax. If you're searching for a fun horror novel that balances a bloody mystery with quirky teenage banter, then this is the book for you.

Kat Payne, Reviewer

Margaret Lane's Bookshelf

My First Popsicle: An Anthology of Food and Feelings
Zosia Mamet
Penguin Books
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
9780143137290, $26.00, HC, 304pp

Synopsis: What is your most poignant memory surrounding food? Of all the essentials for survival: oxygen, water, sleep, and food, only food is a vast treasure trove of memory and of sensory experience. Food is a portal to culture, to times past, to disgust, to comfort, to love: no matter one's feelings about a particular dish, they are hardly ever neutral.

With the publication of "My First Popsicle: An Anthology of Food and Feelings", Zosia Mamet showcases some of the most prominent voices in art and culture to tackle the topic of food in its elegance, its profundity, and its incidental charm. With contributions from Stephanie Danler on vinaigrette and starting over, Anita Lo on the cultural responsibility of dumplings, Tony Hale on his obsession with desserts at chain restaurants, Patti LuPone on childhood memories of seeking out shellfish, Gabourey Sidibe on her connections with her father and the Senegalese dish Poullet Yassa, Andrew Rannells on his nostalgia for Jell-O Cake, Sloane Crosley on the pesto that got her through the early months of the pandemic, Michelle Buteau on her love for all things pasta, Jia Tolentino on the chicken dish she makes to escape reality, and more,

"My First Popsicle: An Anthology of Food and Feelings" is as much an ode to food and emotion as it is to life. After all, the two are inseparable.

Critique: Of particular interest and appeal to readers with an interest in gastronomy, cooking, the cultural and personal impact of food, "My First Popsicle: An Anthology of Food and Feelings" is a fascinating, informative, and thought- provoking compendium of deftly crafted short stories that is especially and unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "My First Popsicle: An Anthology of Food and Feelings" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.99).

Editorial Note: Zosia Mamet ( is perhaps best known for her starring role in the Emmy- and Golden Globe Award-winning HBO series Girls, and her role in the Emmy-nominated HBO Max series The Flight Attendant.

Essential Oils for Dental Health
Karin Opitz-Kreher, author
Jutta Schreiber D.M.D., author
Earthdancer Books
c/o Inner Traditions International, Ltd.
One Park Street, Rochester, VT 05767
9781644115787, $15.98, PB, 128pp

Synopsis: Healthy teeth in a healthy oral environment play a key role in physical and mental well-being. We all want to preserve our teeth intact for as long as possible, and essential oils allow us to do so in a natural way. These precious "stars" from the plant kingdom promote oral hygiene and prevent a range of dental ailments, including caries and periodontitis. They can even help alleviate a fear of going to the dentist.

With the publication of "Essential Oils for Dental Health: A Holistic Guide to Oral Care and Treatment", experienced essential oils expert Karin Opitz-Kreher and holistic dentist Jutta Schreiber, D.M.D., have combined their expertise to explain in clear, accessible, and practical terms how to use essential oils for oral health.

Learn all you need to know about what factors to consider when buying oils, which methods to use for different treatments, and how to apply them safely within the mouth. Sixteen recommended essential oils and various oil mixtures are discussed, all with beautiful four-color illustrations. Discover their safe application and health benefits through the focused expertise and knowledge of the authors. The simple and practical techniques in "Essential Oils for Dental Health: A Holistic Guide to Oral Care and Treatment" will help to preserve and enhance your dental and oral health.

Critique: Nicely illustrated with full color photography and thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation, "Essential Oils for Dental Health: A Holistic Guide to Oral Care and Treatment" is an unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library Health/Medicine collections. For non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject it should be noted that "Essential Oils for Dental Health: A Holistic Guide to Oral Care and Treatment" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

Editorial Note #1: Karin Opitz-Kreher has qualifications in aura soma, aura soma bodywork, and foot reflex zone reharmonization. She works in her own wellness clinic, specializing in stress reduction and harmonization. Karin has been making use of traditional knowledge of essential oils and passing this on to others in workshops since 2013.

Editorial Note #2: Jutta Schreiber, D.M.D., has been working as a dentist for more than thirty years, specializing in holistic and naturopathic approaches at her own clinic in Neubi berg, Germany. Her methodology includes materials testing and exclusion, identifying interference zones, homeopathy, anthroposophical techniques, bioresonance, matrix rhythm therapy, and much more. She has also been using essential oils successfully in her clinic for many years. Since 2022 Jutta has worked with various dental practices as a consultant on dental and oral health, applying her knowledge and expertise in the field of essential oils.

Margaret Lane

Mark Walker's Bookshelf

Those Who Are Gone: A Novelette
Lawrence F. Lihosit
Independently Published
9798352366608, $13.00, Paperback, 118 pages

Over the years, I've read and reviewed several of the eighteen books of fellow author and Returned Peace Corps Volunteer "Lorenzo" Lihosit. He was a volunteer in Honduras and married a lady from Mexico, and I was a volunteer in Guatemala and married a se¤orita from there. I used his Peace Corps Experience: Write & Publish Your Memoir to write my own, Different Latitudes: My Life in the Peace Corps and Beyond, proofed his Oral History from Madera, California, and agreed with the Madera Tribune, "The best of its kind in print. Like Volume 1, the author offers real-life stories by citizens of Madera, California. It seems like they speak directly to us, seated at our kitchen table, waving their arms while laughing. This is a must-read for those interested in the California Central Valley."

So, when he told me he was writing a story about my community of Scottsdale, Arizona, I purchased a copy as soon as it appeared. Lorenzo assured me it was "a page-turner," and he was right. He also told me, "Yesterday, I received comments from the man who was the model for Vic Chacon. He said that it was so accurate that it affected him."

Those Who Are Gone tells the story of Jack Colter's early school years in the 1960s when Scottsdale had 10,000 people. This modest "Novelette" is historical fiction, although the characters and scenes of his childhood adventures and mishaps with his friends came alive.
As someone who has traveled extensively and lived in different cultures, the author's stories with a mix of Anglos, Yaqui, Papago, and Pima Indians were a surprise and a delight. And since I learned more slang than good grammar when learning Spanish in the Peace Corps, I felt at home with the jargon used by the young protagonists, "Muy Jalado," said Wuicho, and everyone laughed.

"Eh la moey," said Chucho, and everyone laughed again.

"so, if jalado is a jerk, what is 'Eh la moey," I asked.

"It's like cool," responded Vic....

The diversity of these schoolboys is emphasized when a teacher addresses "Chucho." "So, you speak two languages and play an instrument." He responds, "I speak three languages, ma'am." "The third language is Yaqui?" Chucho nodded. "You are considered a well-educated person, Chucho. Thank you for sharing," responded his teacher.

The book offered an appreciation of local Indigenous history. Phoenix is known for its extensive system of canals, which have local Indigenous origins, "The modern canals were begun in 1878. We believe the Hohokam began building their ancient system about 1,500 years ago...."
The tragic origins of Yaqui Indians in Scottsdale were traced back to the Mexican government, which in 1896 and 1926 "used poisonous gas dropped from planes, 12,000 troops, and artillery. Yaquis were sold as enslaved people and taken by cattle cars to work on plantations in the Yucatan." At that time, Yaquis were welcome (to Arizona) as political refugees because of the genocide."

Among other things, the Yaquis brought their medicinal remedies with their "curanderas." After a hard-fought battle on the basketball court, the boys applied "sabila poultice" to their bruised legs. This linguistic and cultural diversity wasn't always appreciated by others, as reflected while shaking hands after winning a basketball game from a larger school and hearing such slurs as "Injun chumps" from opposing players.

The book ends with a profound observation by the narrator, Jack Colter:

Maybe my role was meant to be as a witness. To this day, every member of our Thunderbird team still has a yellowed, cut-out copy of that newspaper photo even though none of us live in South Scottsdale anymore. We've all become Hohokam, those who are gone."

This is why a story of childhood schoolmates and basketball games is so fascinating and timely, as it reflects how much the community has changed over the last 68 years. The population of Scottsdale has increased from 10,000 to over 250,000 today after a steady process of gentrification. Modest homes have given way to sleek, high-rise apartments. The average home in North Scottsdale is worth approximately $5 million, making it one of the wealthiest communities in the country.

Old Town Scottsdale, "The West's Most Western Town," is now populated with boutiques, and a stretch of Scottsdale Road is lined with dealerships of Benzes, Beamers, and Ferraris, not to mention the occasional $500,000 Lamborghini, all of which causes one to appreciate a day when life was simpler and more inclusive.

About the Author: Lawrence F. Lihosit was born in the southern suburbs of Chicago, Illinois, in 1951. His family later moved to Arizona, where he graduated from grade school, high school, and Arizona State University. He reluctantly served in the U.S. Army Reserves during the closing years of the Vietnam War and enthusiastically volunteered for the Peace Corps (Honduras, 1975-1977).

His literary work is eclectic, including poetry, short stories, travel essays, memoirs, history, and how-to. He recently published a series of art essays, accompanied by more than 150 sketches from his travels. Several of his books were nominated for Peace Corps Writers' awards, and one was named Best Travel Book of the Year (2012). Another received a U.S. Congressional Commendation (2011). Some of his work is listed in the U.S. Library of Congress Peace Corps Bibliography, and his Peace Corps literary donations are in the John F. Kennedy Library Archives.

The Man Within My Head
Pico Iyer
c/o Penguin
9780307387561, $16.00 print / $12.99 Kindle

I came across Pico Iyer while reading and reviewing Ronald Wright's Time Among the Maya, published by ELAND Press, as he wrote the introduction. His overview was insightful and concise, and I learned he'd written over 50 such openings. Initial research revealed that he was a revered travel writer and that he'd written a book about his fascination with one of my favorite writers, Graham Greene.

The book is a meditation about Graham, as well as the author. Greene is the virtual man in Iyer's head, raising the question, what causes a particular writer to resonate in our souls? I'd grappled with this question regarding the iconic writer Moritz Thomsen. I explored my fascination with his life and writing in an essay in which I followed him on a trip from the Pacific coast of Ecuador to the deepest reaches of the Amazon River in Brazil entitled, "The Saddest Pleasure: A Journey of Two Writers."

A Los Angeles Review of Books provides the most lyrical description of this book, "Part memoir, part literary excavation, part travelogue, and existential inquiry, it's a story about finding one's voice as a writer and one's place in the world (or lack of place)."

In The Man Within My Head, Pico Iyer unravels the mysterious closeness he has always felt with the English writer Graham Greene; he examines Greene's obsessions and his elusiveness and traces some of his mysterious influences. Iyer begins by following Greene's trail from his first novel, The Man Within, to such later classics as The Quiet American and begins to unpack all he has in common with Greene: an English public school education, a lifelong restlessness, and refusal to make a home anywhere, a fascination with the complications of faith. The deeper Iyer plunges into their haunted kinship, the more he begins to wonder whether the man within his head is not Greene, but his father or perhaps some more shadowy aspect of himself.

The author would follow Greene's footsteps across the globe from Cuba to Sri Lanka, including stopovers to the heights of Bolivia. After high school, the author "bumped across Central and South America on buses, taking in the tough and unaccountable world that school had trained us for...." It was Bolivia that he remembered twenty years later, as I also did, since I'd made a similar trek, which included Bolivia "..the bowler-hatted women laboring up the steep streets and near the cathedral, unsold goods slung over their shoulders; the billowing, snow-white clouds that looked fantastical in skies as sharp as those of Lhasa; the square-headed statues in the Altiplano, barely excavated in centuries."

While reading the book, I learned that the author ran into some of my favorite writers who knew Greene, although in one case, Iyer only referred to him as "my friend Paul..." with whom he sipped tea after lunch on "an expansive estate in Hawaii" where geese clucked along the path. In the bungalow "where Paul wrote, fierce tribal masks from Angola and the Pacific Islands grinned down unnervingly." He goes on to reveal that Greene had offered words of public praise for Paul's first travel book, The Great Railway Bazaar, "perhaps because he saw strong echoes in it of his early book and first commercial success, Stamboul Train...."

In a conversation between Paul and Graham Greene about infidelity, Paul says he had an image of Green as a "power figure, a Shaman" and revealed some interesting characteristics of Greene, "...he didn't type, he didn't drive, he couldn't boil an egg."

The author provided one final piece of information that confirmed my suspicion that his friend was Paul Theroux with a quote that tied my favorite authors, Theroux, Greene, and Moritz Thomsen. The connection was to one of Theroux's novels, Picture Palace, in which an imaginary Maud Pratt is talking to an aging Graham Greene:

"I'm going to wind it up. Call it a day."
"Whatever for?"
"I'm too old to travel, for one thing."
"Which Frenchman said, 'Travel is the saddest of the pleasures?'"
"It gave me eyes."

This last quote inspired the title of Moritz Thomsen's My Saddest Pleasure. (Theroux met Thomsen in Ecuador twice in the late seventies and considered him a friend). And that would inspire the title for my most recent book, My Saddest Pleasures: 50 Years on the Road, which contained my travel "horror stories."

For Iyer, Greene was his adopted father, although the two never met. Iyer didn't need Green's manuscripts or letters in research libraries; "...I made no conscious effort to track down those who'd known him. He lived vividly enough inside me, in some more shadowy place...." The author sums up his virtual relationship with Greene in the book's last paragraph as follows, "...But with Greene, there'd be no need of words at all. He knew me better than I did myself. I knew him better than I knew Louis or my father or many of the people closest to me, when it came to his secrets, his sins, his most intimate needs...." All of these recall Donna Seaman's words: "A writer is a palmist, reading the lines of the world."

About the Author: Pico Iyer was born in Oxford, England--to parents from India--raised in California, and educated at Eton, Oxford, and Harvard. Since 1987, he has been based in Western Japan, traveling everywhere from Bhutan to Easter Island, North Korea, to Los Angeles airport. Apart from the two novels and ten works of non-fiction he has published, he has written introductions to more than fifty other books, screenplays, librettos, and many liner notes for Leonard Cohen. He regularly speaks everywhere, from West Point to Davos and Shanghai to Bogota, and between 2013 and 2016, he delivered three talks for

Democrazy Version 2020
Elizabeth Graham
c/o Simon & Schuster
9781665712644, $30.95

The author attended a presentation I made at the Arizona Professional Writers Group in August, and I participated in a presentation she made to the same group's "Book Club" the next month, which offered an excellent opportunity to get acquainted. Her book helped connect the dots between several circumstances around past President Trump many Americans, and I wondered about: The stunning comment he made at the Helsinki Conference where he ignored his own intelligence community's reports of Russian involvement in our elections because Putin said it was a lie. And then the impact of Trump working with and borrowing money from some of Putin's oligarchs for such projects as a Trump Tower in SoHo (New York) and Trump's potential interaction with Russian prostitutes who work for Putin in a Moscow hotel room.
She brings a unique perspective on Putin and Russia: "My work with the CIA was extremely clandestine, top-secret clearance. My father worked there, and he wanted me in his office - so by the ripe ole age of 16, I had a top-secret clearance. I graduated from HS (high school) in 1962 and went to work there while I attended college and afterward. The very last meeting I had with CIA personnel was in Scottsdale in 2014 - 50 plus years later."

She lived in the former Soviet Union, soon to become Russia, for twenty years, and two of her children attended Moscow Public Schools. She's also an excellent cross-cultural communicator and speaks Russian and Ukrainian, among other Cyrillic-based languages. She worked with Science Applications International Corporation and the largest "Russian Language Data Base" in the U.S. as a manager for twelve years. She told me of her first-hand experience with Russia's operations and the Russian daily infiltration of the U.S. As she put it, "I bring a different perspective on Russia and Putin than the "Russian Experts" in DC who have spent time in Russia as an ex-pat and consider themselves "well informed."

The author went on to describe why she wrote the book and some of the most salient points she wanted to make:

As for the lack of understanding within the U.S., people here are not only naive about how the world operates but also isolated. My book discusses how so many Americans - especially Republicans - were brainwashed. I explained how Hitler's brainwashing began in totalitarian countries and was used to convert an entire nation of peaceful people into a hateful and violent society that killed over six million human beings. Putin spent all his "spy years" living and working in Germany. He speaks German fluently and fully grasped Hitler's methods of mind manipulation. Along came Trump, who used the same type of mind-altering methods used by Hitler and Putin - repeating lies and hatred over and over.

In 2020, hate crimes and violence in the U.S. increased by 30% in one year - the highest percentage jump ever. By this time, Trump had already been caught in a typical Putin/Russia spy trap due to professional prostitutes working for Putin (probably when he went to Russia in the 1990s trying to open a signature hotel.) He came back to the U.S. from a trip to Russia and said to a friend, "you need to go to Russia; the girls there have no morals" - almost an admission of guilt or due to his lack of financial management (he filed four bankruptcies and U.S. banks refused to loan him money - so he turned to Russia) and his being in bed with a long list of Russians on many, many business deals as far back as 1990. Putin and his KGB buddies needed new ways to launder black cash into the U.S. instead of just using banks - and along came inexperienced and ignorant Trump with his crooked business deals - a KGB textbook perfect example.

Putin is an international mob boss, and if those on his chain do not do what he requests - they or a member of their family die - it's a replay of the good ole Al Capone days - torture and murder. Ivana Trump's death was probably NOT an accident but a warning to Trump. I could go on and on, but the book explains in detail and provides a chart outlining "how Trump was associated with Russians (all KGB), was groomed for years, and then nailed."

Most Americans do NOT grasp anything outside of their neighborhoods. Russia is the opposite of the U.S., and it took me many years to be bi-cultural so that I looked like, spoke, and dressed Russian. Russians think 3-dimensional, while Americans think 2-dimensional. Americans are just plain way behind in the world of scheming and corruption on an international scale.

While Americans were told the Cold War era was over and we are now living in the age of international cooperation, the Cold War never ended for Russian leaders, especially Putin, who spent his entire life as a KGB spy hating the United States. He blames the U.S. for the fall of the Soviet Union and will do just about anything to destroy our democracy - including putting Trump in power. Trump sold his soul - and our country - to the devil when he became involved with Russians. His desperate need to maintain control of the Presidency was probably due to his relationship with Putin - since this was potentially Trump's only safety net.

The author includes an article from the July issue of "The Moscow Times" which Graham says describes similarities between Hitler, Stalin, Putin, and Trump:

At the same time, he (Putin) is as banal as the dictators and autocrats of the 20th century - these dictators all fostered the cult of the leader, relied on the indifference and obedience of the masses, deified the state, maintained a cult of strength, militarism and heroic death, confused themselves with the state, built an autarkic economic model, often surviving by extracting rents from resource dependence. They also refused on principle to allow a rotation of power, fought against "national traitors," imprisoned their opponents, imposed censorship, and sought to rule forever.

I was surprised to learn that one of the significant reasons the author wrote the book was in response to the murder of George Floyd in the summer of 2020, "Like so many others across the U.S. and around the world, my gut response was disbelief, outrage, and blind fury. The news replayed his death over and over and over... There is a malevolent tragedy playing out in our country, and now - finally - spectators are recording these murders."

She highly recommends and quotes Robin DeAngelo's White Fragility, a book about Why it's so hard for White People to Talk about Racism, "Race is an evolving social idea created to legitimize racial inequality and protect white advantage..." and quotes expatriate writer Richard White. who said, "There isn't any Negro problem; there is only a White problem." As White pointed out, "racism against people of color doesn't occur in a vacuum." She then explains how Trump and other Republican leaders have used mistrust and hatred to stoke their white supremacist base.

The subtitle on the book's cover reflects the urgency the author feels, "A Warning to All U.S. Citizens: It Can Happen Here!!! And the profile of the book is correct to point out that the book provides a "...distinctive view that she brings to this book on racism in America and our country's recent brush with totalitarianism - a dictatorship based on rule by fear."
The book is enhanced with humorous and insightful cartoons and includes "endnotes" and a bibliography. On the back cover of the most recent version is a letter to the author from President Biden on August 3rd, 2022 - "Your story is an integral part of the American story, and I am humbled that you shared it with me...Through trials and triumphs, we will always be a Nation where hope runs deep and optimism reigns. Folks like you remind me of that truth every day." Keep the Faith, Sincerely, Joe Biden.

About the Author: Elizabeth Graham has spent about twenty-five years living and working abroad - mainly in the Soviet Union, then Russia, and then the five countries of Central Asia. She had also served as a consultant in the war-torn areas of Rwanda, Bosnia, and Afghanistan.

Mark D. Walker MA, Reviewer

Mark Zvonkovic's Bookshelf

They're Going To Love You
Meg Howrey
9780385548779, $28.00 hc / $13.99 Kindle

Emerging from endarkenment into enlightenment.

Can one categorize They're Going to Love You as a "coming of age" novel? The protagonist, Carlisle, confronts a plethora of obstacles as she progresses toward womanhood and occasionally grasps a truth of one kind or another. But that genre may not be a perfect fit because in many respects the plot is retrospective; it doesn't move through a typical journey of angst and discovery to a concluding "aha" moment. Instead, Carlisle's narration moves back and forward in time, through glimpses of perspective that don't so much lead to a conclusion as they create a dance that a reader can experience through Meg Howrey's beautiful use of metaphor and imagery. Said another way, Carlisle is not similar to Holden Caufield, who starts his story at the end and then marches through a bittersweet, although flat, narrative of how he got there. Instead she skirts around a single incident that occurs when she is twenty-four years old. Howrey craftily allows her narration to drop only hints about that incident until midway through the book. And Carlisle is a far more complex character than those found in the typical, modern coming of age efforts, which are often too much saturated with teenage angst. If the novel is a coming of age one, Carlisle shares a stage with Scout Finch.

Carlisle's story begins with a view of dancers standing in fifth position, inviting the reader to "Feel what I feel" and "See what I see." But she isn't actually there to see it. What she's conveying is a part of a story told to her. So the reader is asked to "Imagine what I imagine," as she introduces an antagonist, Alex. It's a very complex beginning, impossible to figure out really, until one is well into the story. James, a second antagonist, is the one telling Carlisle about Alex, who must be imagined because she hasn't met Alex yet. Although told in the first few pages of the novel, the event described actually occurs in the middle of the story's chronology, and the next chapter will jump forward to a point near its end. As the novel continues, Carlisle's narration slides back and forth in time, randomly it seems at first, to entwine the plot with an often disheartening revelation of herself. Howrey brilliantly paces the narrative by way of these juxtapositions of events and revelation, bringing Carlisle to life by allowing the reader to witness her subconscious monologue. And at the end of the story, after the feeling, seeing, and imagining, Carlisle asks the reader to "remember what I remember."

Carlisle is a far more developed and multi-dimensioned character than Kate Crane and Luke Prescott, the author's protagonists in her previous novels. Waves of insight push over her at times, but just as frequently she is desperate to understand. She is at one moment flighty, another moment serious, and a lot of time just insecure. That is no surprise in her teenage years, when her father buys her a dress that is silky with bright stripes and she observes, "I'm not the girl that would wear that, look good in that. I put it on and immediately feel fantastic. Whatever girl this dress is right for, I want to be her." These kinds of observations replay themselves over the later years, particularly as she arrives in New York in 2016, for what might be a reconciliation, when she feels "disoriented, in between cities, decades, versions of myself." She is forty-three years old. Over the previous nineteen years she has repeatedly told herself versions of the story that would lead to this trip to New York. Just before leaving on the trip, she is working on a dance and thinks that "the past gets caught in the lungs, the joints, the interstitial tissues of our bodies. It was part of the dance I was making today. A waltz with time, with oneself. With anger. With shame. With love?" This is a recurring struggle for Carlisle, these feelings of failure, in connection with both the Bank Street incident and her ballet career, and her attempts at rationalization. She believes that she has "failed at both. But I'm not that girl anymore and her dreams are no longer my dreams. Why should I feel like I failed her? I'm not that girl anymore. Oh, she's still there." Howrey doesn't create a precisely constructed history for Carlisle. Nor is her psychology linear; her behavior and thoughts don't often make sense. That would've caused the novel to succumb to a common fallacy in most modern novels, that a life always has coherence.

They're Going To Love You is set in the world of dance, but to say that it is about dance does the novel a disservice. Dance is merely Howrey's backdrop for her presentation of Carlisle's journey through the novel's chronology, during which she makes her mistakes and then, metaphorically, comes to a ceasefire in her battle for atonement she believes she must achieve. Carlisle is commissioned to choreograph a new version of The Firebird, a version in her mind that is not a fairy tale, but "one about power and freedom, the gaining of it, the loss of it, the trades you make for it." It is given no more definition than that in the novel but a reader can certainly imagine how the struggles during Carlisle's life are wedged into her vision for the ballet. And Howrey then employs another turn of chronology, in which Carlisle, performing the literary equivalent of a battlement fondu, presents what will happen, how her version of The Firebird will be successful, how closure will come at Bank Street, and how she will come to terms with "All this wreckage. All this gorgeous, unrepeatable wreckage. Life."

Like many ballets, Howrey presents the novel's plot in movements, through which Carlisle plunges into endarkenment, most of which is her own making, and emerges into enlightenment. The term "containment" appears in the novel at times, perhaps a nod toward a combination of particular ballet positions, but also a reference to a recurring theme in the novel. "Not every movement needs to go out into the world. We can keep some for ourselves. Contained. Powerful." And in a larger context it becomes a failure of containment, or restraint at one time, that highlights Carlisle's three relationships during the story, her metaphorical pas de deux with each of James, Alex and Isabel. With these dances Howrey develops Carlisle's character and place milestones for the plot. The recollections are a brilliant way to pace Carlisle's movement toward reconciliation, not unlike the manner in which Prince Ivan is led to the egg that holds Kashchey's soul. Arguably, a reader could find a fourth pas de deux with Carlisle and her father, but that seems a bit too contrived and a forced coherence for her life. If there is a father-child pas de deux in the novel, it is between James and Alex, something suggested subtly by Howrey's elegant prose.

With They're Going To Love You Howrey takes a step, perhaps a leap, toward literary virtuosoship. The author's prose seamlessly slides back and forth between folksy simplicity and chromatic outburst, often leaving the reader gasping for air. And the elasticity in the plot's chronology sometimes produces moments of startlement, like those that come after an unexpected lightning bolt. The finale arrives in a sweet melody created with the heroine's previsional observations. One can compare the novel to a symphony or a ballet, but in the end They're Going to Love You stands in its own position as a fine novel.

Mark Zvonkovic, Reviewer

Michael Carson's Bookshelf

Mavericks: How Bold Leadership Changes the World
David Giles Lewis, author
Jules Goddard, author
Tamryn Batcheller-Adams, author
Kogan Page Inc.
9781398604414, $80.00, HC, 224pp

Synopsis: Business organizations are where the world's most innovative and impactful talents lie; along with the ingenuity, the technology and the resources to change the world for the better.

With "Mavericks: How Bold Leadership Changes the World", co-authors and London Business School faculty David Giles Lewis, Jules Goddard, and Tamryn Batcheller-Adams show how to awaken the 'maverick mindset' in you; one that will question, debate and enhance. It's not the conformists but the mavericks are the key to answering some of the world' most pressing challenges. That's because they don't settle for anything less, and neither should you. "Mavericks" shows you how being a maverick isn't about shooting from the hip and rocking the boat for the sake of it, it's about demanding better of yourself and your organization for the wider good.

"Mavericks" guides you through the five characteristics that you can develop to become a maverick leader. From passionate belief, an undeterred attitude, being resourceful, being directional and finally experimenting, these characteristics are the blueprint for you to grow into an iconic and positive change maker. The focus is not on what becoming a leader can do for you, but on what you can do to make the world a better place.

Critique: As real-world practical as it is motivationally inspiring, "Mavericks: How Bold Leadership Changes the World" is exceptionally well written, organized and presented -- making it an useful and 'user friendly' instructional textbook on the subject of sustainable business development and management. While a core recommendation to personal, professional, corporate, community, and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Mavericks: How Bold Leadership Changes the World" is also available in a paperback edition (9781398604391, $25.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $20.76).

Editorial Note #1: David Lewis ( has 35 years of experience in business and academia. He is a consultant and sought-after speaker working with global business leaders. In 2019, David was cited on Thinkers 50 Radar of top global management thinkers. David's research with co-author Alison Reynolds focuses on diversity and performance - the ability of teams and organizations to thrive in the face of new, uncertain and complex situations. With Alison, David developed the Qi Index, a tool to help leaders understand and enhance the quality of interaction between people to better formulate and execute groundbreaking strategies.

Editorial Note #2: Jules Goddard ( has spent most of his career at London Business School, first as a Professor of Marketing and latterly as an architect of its action learning programmes for corporate clients. He served as the inaugural Gresham Professor of Commerce, and is currently on the faculty of CEDEP, Fontainebleau, France. He is a member of the Council of the Royal Institute of Philosophy. (

Editorial Note #3: Tamryn Batcheller-Adams ( is a psychologist, leadership presenter, consultant and coach working internationally with TomorrowToday Global. As a prac[1]tising psychologist with two Masters' degrees in psychology, Tamryn focuses on leadership, team and individual development. Having worked with leaders across 20 countries, Tamryn utilizes frameworks with a focus on building adaptability, emotional agility, resilience, stress management, self[1]awareness, social awareness and team cohesion to enhance personal, professional and collective growth. She co-designs, facilitates and coaches in Senior Executive Leadership Programmes and is a registered Enneagram (personality) specialist based in Cape Town, South Africa.

Every Goddamn Day
Neil Steinberg
University of Chicago Press
1427 East 60th Street, Chicago, IL 60637
9780226779843, $25.00, HC, 408pp

Synopsis: Every day in Chicago is a day to remember. In a city so rich with history, every day is the anniversary of some storied historical or cultural moment, whether it's the dedication of the Pablo Picasso sculpture downtown on August 15, or the arrest of Rod Blagojevich at his Ravenswood home on December 9, or a fire that possibly involved a cow on October 8.

With the publication of "Every Goddamn Day: A Highly Selective, Definitely Opinionated, and Alternatingly Humorous and Heartbreaking Historical Tour of Chicago", acerbic Chicago Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg takes the story of the city, pares away the dull, eat-your-peas parts, and provides 366 captivating daily readings in what makes Chicago Chicago and America America. It calls upon a wide cast of characters ranging from Oscar Wilde to Muhammad Ali, from Emma Goldman to Teddy Roosevelt, and from Richard M. Daley to Fred Hampton, to create a compelling narrative that can be read at a sitting or in a yearlong series of daily doses.

From New Year's Day to New Years' Eve, Steinberg takes the reader on a vivid and entertaining tour, illuminating the famous, obscure, tragic, and hilarious elements that make each day in Chicago memorable.

Critique: A fun, fascinating, and informative read from cover to cover, "Every Goddamn Day: A Highly Selective, Definitely Opinionated, and Alternatingly Humorous and Heartbreaking Historical Tour of Chicago" by Neil Steinberg is organized with each day (January 1 through December 31) having its own one page accounting of something distinctive that happened on that day somewhere in Chicago's recorded history. With a special appeal for readers with an interest in immigration, urban sociology, Chicago history, memorable characters and events, "Every Goddamn Day: A Highly Selective, Definitely Opinionated, and Alternatingly Humorous and Heartbreaking Historical Tour of Chicago" is a unique and recommended addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library American Regional History collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Every Goddamn Day: A Highly Selective, Definitely Opinionated, and Alternatingly Humorous and Heartbreaking Historical Tour of Chicago" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $23.75).

Editorial Note: Neil Steinberg ( is a daily news columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, where he has been on staff since 1987. His books include Out of the Wreck I Rise and You Were Never in Chicago, both also published by the University of Chicago Press. His writing has also appeared in Esquire, Rolling Stone, Granta, the Washington Post, and the New York Times Sunday Magazine, among other publications.

The Fall of the FBI
Thomas J. Baker
Bombardier Books Post Hill Press
1604 Westgate Circle, Suite 100, Brentwood, TN 37027
9781637586242, $30.00, HC, 368pp

Synopsis: Americans have lost faith in the Federal Bureau of Investigation, an institution they once regarded as the world's greatest law-enforcement agency. Thomas Baker spent many years with the FBI and is deeply troubled by this loss of faith. Specific lapses have come to light and each is thoroughly discussed in "The Fall of the FBI: How a Once Great Agency Became a Threat to Democracy".

Why did they happen? What changed? The answer begins days after the 9/11 attacks when the FBI underwent a significant change in culture. To understand how far the Bureau has fallen, "The Fall of the FBI" shows the crucial role played by the FBI and its agents in past decades. It was quite often, as the reader will see from these firsthand experiences, a fun-filled adventure with exciting skyjackings, kidnappings, and bank robberies. At the same time, the reader will see the reverence the Bureau had for the Constitution and the concern agents held for the rights of each American.

More than just a mere memoir, "The Fall of the FBI" it is law enforcement history. From the shooting of President Reagan and the death of Princess Diana, to the TWA 800 crash and even getting marching orders from St. Mother Teresa, Baker's story shows how the FBI has played a pivotal role in our country's history.

Critique: Of special value to readers with an interest in federal law enforcement, the political attempts at corrupting federal law enforcement, "The Fall of the FBI: How a Once Great Agency Became a Threat to Democracy" offers extraordinary and inherently fascinating insights that, given the attempts of the Trump administration to politicize the FBI and DOJ, is exceedingly relevant, timely, and unreservedly recommended to personal, professional, community, and academic library Law Enforcement & Judicial Studies collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Fall of the FBI" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9798200983827, $31.95, CD).

Editorial Note: Thomas J. Baker ( has over thirty-three years of investigative and management experience as an FBI Special Agent. He has experience with police management and training issues, having served as a management instructor at the FBI academy. His international experience is extensive. He served as the Legal Attache in Canberra, Australia, and Paris, France. He was the American security representative to the Calgary Winter Olympics and was commended by the Canadian government for his role in the event. As the Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office, he was one of the first agents on the scene of President Reagan's shooting; Tom directed the FBI's initial response to that crisis.

Michael J. Carson

Robin Friedman's Bookshelf

Selected Songs
Ned Rorem, composer
Carol Farley, performer
Ned Rorem, performer
Naxos American Classics
B00005QISU, $9.06

An American Composer Of Art Song

American popular song, whether standards, show tunes, jazz, blues, or rock, is one of our country's most visible artistic achievements. American classical (or Art) songs are much less known. Ned Rorem (b. 1923) is probably the greatest American composer in this unfamiliar medium. Rorem is sometimes dubbed the "American Schubert."

This CD features 32 of Ned Rorem's songs for voice and piano. Soprano Carole Farley is the accomplished singer, and Ned Rorem himself plays the piano. The disc is special because it features settings of the works of American poets. The CD begins with 9 settings of poems by the mid-twentieth century poet, Theodore Roethke, and concludes with settings of 5 poems by Walt Whitman. The disc also includes settings of poems by William Carlos Williams, Gertrude Stein, and Paul Goodman, among others. Thus the disc combines in a special way American creative effort in poetry and in music.

Rorem's songs are declamatory in style. Typically, the voice line delivers the text of the poetry in a sort of chant. The relationship between the voice line and the piano is far from Schubertian. Generally, the piano takes a separate line and accentuates the voice by means of large chords or by runs or by other comments and punctuation on the voice. The texts are well set and the music is effective. There are some unusual harmonies with jazz and blues influences. Rorem's piano accompaniment on this disc gives the recording a sense of authenticity -- we get a good idea of how the composer wants his songs to be conveyed.

The disc includes excellent program notes and texts of all the songs. Naxos has received deservedly high praise for its "American Classics" series which makes much music written by Americans available on CD at a low price. This disc includes some lovely, little-known songs. It is an excellent introduction to the American art song and to the music of Ned Rorem.

The Shattering: America In The 1960s
Kevin Boyle, author
W.W. Norton & Company
9780393355994, $18.89 hc / $17.60 Kindle

The United States In The 1960s

In the third chapter of "The Shattering" (2021), Kevin Boyle's history of the tumultuous 1960s, the concept of the "Beloved Community" receives considerable attention and, in fact, constitutes the chapter's title. While exploring the Civil Rights Movement during the late 1950s -- early 1960s, Boyle discusses the nature of the Beloved Community. He quotes civil rights activist James Lawson as saying "Love is the force by which God binds man to himself and man to man." (p. 103) Lawson said that with uncompromising love, the Civil Rights movement wouldn't just redeem America's soul but would also create on American soil the Beloved Community. (p. 104) Boyle then discusses John Lewis's expansion of the nature of the Beloved Community. (p. 104). Lewis had said:

"According to this concept all human existence has strived toward community, toward community together. Wherever it is interrupted or delayed by forces that would resist it -- by evil or hatred, by greed, by the lust for power, by the need for revenge -- believers in the Beloved Community insist that it is the moral responsibility of men and women with soul force, people of goodwill, to respond and to struggle nonviolently against the forces that stand between a society and the harmony it naturally seeks."

Civil Rights leaders expanded the concept of the Beloved Community from American philosophers and social thinkers earlier in the 20th Century, including Josiah Royce among others. While the term does not appear frequently in Boyle's book, it constitutes a foil to the title of his study "The Shattering: America in the 1960s" in the history it has to tell.

The 1960s and the decade's many components have received a great deal of scholarly and popular attention. In his Preface, Boyle uses the term "shattering" to describe the break-down of what often is seen as consensus politics: compromise, and a sense of national unity in the United States prior to the events of that decade, spurred on, in many accounts, by the nation's young people. Boyle does not entirely agree with the portrayal of consensus politics in America. Rather, he sees the events of the 1960s as arising in substantial part from issues and fissures in the earlier United States that were not far, if at all, below the surface and that needed to be addressed. "Even at its mid-fifties peak", Boyle writes, that political order was a fragile arrangement, its boundaries repeatedly tested and occasionally broken. In the first half of the 1960s they were fully breached." (pp. xxiii -- xiv).

Thus Boyle, while recognizing the end of consensus politics, emphasizes as well the continuity of the 1960s with prior events in America. His book contextualizes the decade by brief looks at the years following WW II, including the rise of the Cold War, the Truman presidency, domestic unrest, and the Korean War, among other things. Although many types of shattering took place in the 1960s, Boyle, probably wisely, focuses on three intertwined histories: the Civil Rights struggle waged by African Americans, the anti-war movement centering upon the Vietnam War, and the extent, if any, of the government's right to regulate its citizens' sexual behavior. These three histories provide more than ample material for a book about the 1960s while leaving still leaving much unsaid.

Boyle's history combines the broad, large themes mentioned above with many stories and anecdotes about individuals. This is a valuable approach to take. As Boyle points out: "History isn't shaped by structures alone, though, no matter how powerful they may be. Individual actions matter too, as do the complex mix of experiences, beliefs, and emotions that lie behind them." (p.xv) Thus in his study, Boyle devotes a great deal of attention to a small working class family, the Cahills, in Chicago and to its history and neighborhood. The book opens with the family organizing a neighborhood display of the American flag in 1961 in celebration of the Fourth of July. Boyle delves into the family's immigrant history and explores how the family fared and changed as the 1960s ran their course. He goes on about the Cahills a great deal, making the book meander in places, but on balance his discussion brings a human, particular perspective to his broad history. So too, while exploring the large events of the era and figures such as the Kennedys, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Martin Luther King, Jr. and others, Boyle weaves in discussions of individuals, some well-known, some less so.

The book also tends to move between subject matter and chronology in its organization. Some chapters begin, for example, in the middle of a story and then work back. Other chapters begin with a discussion of the Vietnam War, for example, and then shift to a discussion of contemporaneous events in Civil Rights, in gender issues, or student protests. Again, it is valuable to see the inter-relationship of the events of the 1960s, even at the cost of a collage-like presentation on occasion.

I was intrigued by Boyle's discussion of the Nixon presidency. He sees Nixon as trying to reinvent himself to bring back what many people then thought of as the peaceful, largely consensus days of the Eisenhower presidency of the 1950s. Boyle, as noted earlier, finds the 1950s rather less than admirable. Still, I wondered whether the problem was more in Nixon himself rather than in the days and policies of his former presidential mentor. Boyle finds much of the 1960s as a time of protest justified by the injustices of the America of the time. Again, I did not find it necessary to agree with Boyle's opinions in their entirety to benefit from his book.

Boyle is a Professor of American History at Northwestern University and received a National Book Award for his "Arc of Justice" (2003) about a 1920's trial in Detroit helping to precipitate the Civil Rights Movement. As were many readers of "The Shattering", I was in high school and college during the 1960s. I learned from Boyle's book even while it brought back memories and made me sad. The divisions of that time persist in the current United States. My wish is for our dear country to come together, resolve its differences and wounds in a spirit of patriotism and in the direction of the ideal of the Beloved Community discussed in Boyle's book and in this review.

What Happens After Pascal's Wager?: Living Faith and Rational Belief
Daniel Garber, author
Marquette University Press
9780874621761, $20.96, hardcover

Daniel Garber In Milwaukee

The Philosophy Department at Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin sponsors an annual lecture by a distinguished philosopher in honor of St. Thomas Aquinas, with each lecture being preserved in small, uniformly bound volumes. Daniel Garber, Professor and Chairman of the Philosophy Department at Princeton University, gave the 2009 Aquinas Lecture. Garber is renowned as a historian of early modern philosophy and of the philosophy of science. His Aquinas Lecture, "What Happens After Pascal's Wager: Living Faith and Rational Belief" moves from the history of philosophy to questions of epistemology and of religious faith and belief. It is a short, challenging philosophical presentation which Garber tells the reader, had its origin in various earlier essays and lectures.

Garber begins with Pascal's famous wager on God's existence in his "Pensees". He quotes Pascal:

"Either God is or he is not. But on which side shall we incline? There is an infinite chaos that separates us. At the extremity of this infinite distance, a game is being played in which heads or tails will come up. How will you wager?"

Pascal argues that the stronger bet for the skeptic or "libertine" is in favor of God's existence. His argument has always provoked substantial controversy. But Garber's focus is not on the wager itself. Rather he considers what comes "after" the wager. The issue is that belief cannot be commanded. Belief may come, for Pascal, only through the adaptation of a way of life which includes, in Catholicism, taking communion, observing the sacraments and following other matters of faith. Adopting this way of life, Pascal says, will allow the individual to understand religious belief in a way that would not be possible from the outside.

It is this aspect of Pascal's wager and its aftermath that Garber subjects to critical scrutiny. Broadly, the question would be whether a belief formed in the manner which Pascal describes would be reasonable. Garber describes various possible objections with counter-examples, including the possibility of self-deception, the lack of a cognitive elements in a belief so formed (What if the belief could be induced by a pill?) and contingency in the formation of the belief (if the individual had been raised in a different time or place, say in a Jewish or Moslem home or in the Amazon rainforest, the belief pattern would have been different.).

The discussion quickly becomes complex as Garber moves from figures such as Pascal, Descartes, and Hume to modern epistemological theory as exemplified in the work of Frank Ramsey, among others. He distinguishes two ways of coming to a belief, say, that God exists. The first is based on reasons and arguments in support. The second is based on historical or genetic reasons. A person in the position of Pascal's believer would have reasons of the second type and his belief might be viewed as inadequate because he has not fully examined all the evidence and all the possibilities. What is interesting is Garber's attempt to weave these two ways of believing together. He argues that an individual ordinarily is not expected to explore every option and to read every work on a matter before formulating a belief. A belief formed historically could well be partial but could still have reasons to support it. Garber wants to conclude that the faith could be justified for an individual for himself as long as when it came to particular matters in life or to relationships with others, it was tempered with a degree of skepticism. The conclusion is a creative melding, I think, of Pascal and Hume.

I was fascinated by this short, provocative argument in Garber's Aquinas Lecture. I was also gratified to think of philosophy in Milwaukee where I studied in my early life and as an undergraduate. I always am moved to remember some of the history of my own beliefs through the philosophical and intellectual life of my old home town.

Philosophers Without Gods: Meditations on Atheism and the Secular Life
Louise M. Antony, editor
Oxford University Press
9780199743414, $17.95 paperback / $9.59 Kindle

Philosophers Without Gods

While philosophy and religion have long been my passion, I had a more specific reason for reading this collection of essays, "Philosophers Without Gods: Meditations on Atheism and the Secular Life" (2007), edited by Louise Antony. I had read Daniel Garber's 2009 Aquinas Lecture at Marquette University, Milwaukee, "What Happens After Pascal's Wager: Living Faith and Rational Belief" and was fascinated by Garber's careful, nuanced analysis of the nature of religious belief. Garber's Aquinas Lecture reaches the following seemingly paradoxical conclusion: "it seems to me that the conviction I have may well suffice for the salvation that I seek, the salvation that was the ultimate point of this whole exercise. And this leads to a delicious irony. It is possible that while the certainty that I arrive at through the Pascal Regimen may be good enough for eternal salvation, it isn't good enough for everyday life". Garber makes reference to his essay "Religio philosophi: Some Thoughts on God, Reason, and Faith" in "Philosophers Without Gods", the book under review here. I was so impressed by Garber's lecture that I purchased "Philosophers Without Gods" immediately.

The book consists of essays by twenty philosophers, including Garber, and the editor of the volume, Louise Antony. Each of the philosophers in the book self-identifies as an atheist. In their individual essays, the philosophers explain why he or she does so and how he or she came to reject theism. The essays are all within the Judaic or Christian understanding of theism. They discuss Jewish and Christian theology and, crucially, they all engage with Biblical texts. It is important at the outset to be reminded that the Abrahamic faiths and the Bible do not necessarily exhaust theism.

Philosophical studies of religion and of atheism are legion but what sets "Philosophers Without Gods" apart is the personal, searching character of the essays. This is particularly the case for the first of the two parts of the book, which consists of ten essays under the heading "Journeys". These essays are heavily experiential in tone as the writers explain what led them to atheism, frequently after growing up in religious homes. Not accidentally, I think, the essays also suggest why their writers opted to become philosophers and to explore questions of religious faith in detail. I did not become an academic philosopher, but the book resonated with me and reminded me of my own life, journeys, and searchings.

In particular, the first four essays are by philosophers raised in Judaism. Garber's essay "Religio Philosophi" is in this group and it has a much more personal tone than his broader, more academic Aquinas Lecture. Garber describes his fascination with religious questions, particularly with the Christian mysticism and early Christian thought he encountered in his philosophical studies. For all the appeal and wisdom he drew from this tradition, Garber explains that he remained a nonbeliever and an atheist. The Aquinas Lecture, if I understand it correctly, is slightly more open to the possibility of belief.

The remaining three essays by Stewart Shapiro, Joseph Levine, and Louise Antony are also steeped in different ways in Judaism and show respect for its teachings even while the authors largely reject the religion. The six remaining essays in Part I by Daniel Farrell, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Edwin Curley (the outstanding recent translator of the works of Spinoza), Marvin Belzer, James Tappenden, and Daniel Dennett are likewise heavily autobiographical, personal, and insightful from a perspective beginning in Christianity. I was deeply moved by the essays in this part of the book. The essays are accessible to readers who have faced questions of religious faith in their own lives and require no particular background in philosophy.

The essays in Part Two, "Reflections" continue the personal, meditative character of the essays in the first part but they tend to focus on specific philosophical issues. Thus the essays, including Elizabeth Anderson's "If God is Dead is Everything Permitted" address the claim that without God, "everything is permissible" or subject to relativism. The problem of evil, long a difficulty for religion is the subject of several essays, including the reconstructed essay "Divine Evil" by the late David Lewis.. Some of the essays, including "Transcendence without God" by Anthony Laden, and "Without the Net of Providence" by Kenneth Taylor discuss and reformulate traditional religious concepts in a secular way. I found these discussions insightful. David Owen's essay "Disenchantment" suggests the limitations of science even in a world without God. Marcia Homiak's "An Aristotelian Life" explores the "Nichomachean Ethics" as offering an alternative to theism. And the essays by Simon Blackburn, Richard Feldman, Georges Rey, and Jonathan Adler address aspects of atheism and theism in dialogue. In general, the essays in Part II of the book are somewhat more technical than those in Part I. Some of them are couched in the idiom of modern analytic philosophy.

This book is valuable for many reasons. For me, much of it was deeply personal and related to questions in my life. The book allows philosophers to speak for themselves and shows the still crucial character of the discussion between theism and atheism in understanding and in leading a good human life. More broadly, the book shows the continuing importance of philosophical thinking, an importance which sometimes is slighted by philosophers themselves. The book encourages the reader to think deeply about assumptions and about large issues. I do not consider myself an atheist but I also am not a theist within the terms of this book. I was glad to find this book and to think through it.

"Philosophers Without Gods" will appeal to serious readers with a strong interest in religious questions.

A Sun for the Dying
Jean-Claude Izzo, author
Howard Curtis, translator
Europa Editions
B079MFDCKF, $11.99, Kindle

Down And Out In Paris And Marseilles

Jean-Claude Izzo (1945-2000) was born in Marseilles to immigrant parents, giving him the life of an outsider. In the 1990's Izzo wrote a series of noir novels, known as the Marseilles Trilogy, which made him famous. His final book, "A Sun for the Dying" tells the story of a homeless, down and out man in his 40s named Rico. For three years, Rico has lived on the streets of Paris. When his only friend, a homeless man named Titi, freezes to death at a metro stop, Rico leaves Paris and journeys to Marseilles in the south of France. The story is harsh, violent, graphic and moving as it speaks of love, loneliness, and loss.

The book is divided into two parts. The first part of the book takes the reader from Rico's life on the streets of Paris through a brutal beating he suffers from two pimps in Avignon. This part is narrated in the third person with an occasional reference to an "I" who comments on some aspect of the story he recounts. The second part of the book begins about a year after the first part. Rico has survived his beating and found his way to Marseilles. This portion of the story is told in the first person by the same narrator who speaks in part 1: an adolescent boy named Abdou, 13-15 years of age, who has smuggled himself into Marseilles from Algiers. Rico befriends Abdou. Part 1 tells what Abdou has understood from Rico about Rico's life. Part 2 is Rico's life in Marseilles as Abdou sees it.

Throughout the book, scenes from Rico's life on the streets are interspersed with flashbacks of his past life. The flashbacks center on Rico's search for love and his relationships with women. Rico wants to return, homeless and broken in heart, to Marseilles because as a young 20 year old fresh from military service he had fallen in love with Lea. He never forgot the beauties of their affair on the shore of Marseilles. Rico broke off with Lea and married a woman named Sophie and the couple had a boy, Julien. Rico was modestly successful as a travelling salesman. When Sophie leaves Rico for another man, Rico is crushed. He begins drinking heavily, loses his job, has affairs with two women, Julie and Malika, before landing inexorably on the street homeless and alone. In Avignon, during the journey to Marseilles, Rico has his last live relationship with a woman, a young prostitute from Bosnia named Mirjana. The relationship is intense on both sides and ends with Rico's beating from the pimps.

With its violent and lurid character, the book is cast in the form of a spiritual journey as well as a quest by Rico for the memories of his lost loves -- melded together in Lea, Sophie and Mirjana. There are three authors, Kerouac, Saint-John Perse, and Homer, whose works help frame the journey.

The most important influence on the book is Kerouac. After Rico's friend Titi dies early in the story, Rico remembers how Titi compared their journey in life to those of the beats that Jack Kerouac described in "On the Road" and "The Dharma Bums". Kerouac's spiritual quest pervades Rico's own sad journey. Rico travels with the flamboyant and criminal Dede, possibly a reminder of Dean Moriarty, Sal Paradise's travelling companion in "On the Road."

As for the second author, Mirjana, the prostitute with whom Rico has a relationship, carries among her few possessions a book of poems by the French poet Saint-John Perse. Little known to Americans, Perse was a diplomat as well as a poet who was forced to flee Vichy France during the 1940's. Perse won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1960. His evocative, difficult poems of the hope of a better life for people inspire Rico briefly and give Mirjana the strength to live.

The third important author on the journey is Homer. Near the end of the book, when Rico befriends Abdou, the pair briefly discuss Homer's Odyssey with its parallels to their own wandering lives and searches for love. These books and many of the French song lyrics that appear in the novel do a great deal to set the books themes of searching, love, loss, and memory.

The novel is harsh and raw, reminding me in places of Charles Bukowski. The book spoke to me of the universal character of suffering and of the common elements of the human condition. For all the desperation of Rico's life, a small sense of hope comes through based upon the power of love. Rico's final understanding of his life and his search may not be the same as the adolescent narrator's understanding. This, Izzo's final book, is absorbing, disturbing, beautifully written and bittersweet.

Robin Friedman

Suanne Schafer's Bookshelf

Ordinary Grace
William Kent Krueger
Atria Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
9781451645859, $17.00

Ordinary Grace is a beautifully written coming-of-age story, told in retrospect from a distance of forty years and the point of view of thirteen year old Frankie Drum. Set in New Bremen, Minnesota, in the summer of 1961, Frankie starts that summer a normal kid who adores his older sister, Ariel, and is adored in turn by his little brother, Jake. As the summer progresses, Frankie's family and New Bremen are beset by multiple tragedies, death in many forms. The novel captures both Frankie's innocence and his creeping awareness of adult issues: secrets, lies, premarital sex, teen pregnancy, adultery, racial issues (particularly prejudice against Native Americans), PTSD and other psychological issues.

Krueger's writing is exquisite, bringing me to tears on occasion. This is a mystery in which the endpoint is deducible, but the suspense, the climax, and how the characters learn of and handle the solution is fascinating. The overall message about God's love, grace, and forgiveness is meaningful and not at all offensive to this agnostic. This book goes in my permanent collection and makes it to my "all-time favorite" book list.

The Silent Count
E. A. Smiroldo
Independently published
9798840423226, $16.99

The Silent Count is an interesting read on a subject matter - climate change - at the forefront of modern life. E. A. Smiroldo builds a lot of suspense in the life of Dara Bouldin, a young nuclear engineer who has just received her Ph.D. Dara has developed a plan to reverse climate change and has been picked up by the CIA to participate in a clandestine assignment. Unfortunately, her personal life isn't going as well as her professional life at this point. She is being devoured by debt, all occurred to help her father get out from under heavy gambling debts. She's broken an engagement with a long-term rock star boyfriend, though they remain in contact. She turns twenty-three years old during the book, so she's really too young to understand the ethical concerns of her invention.

Author Smiroldo successfully simplifies the physics so the reader can grasp them without dumbing down the subject too much. She also looks at the ethics of climate change, why we refuse to change our ways of life to fix the problem. There are many naysayers regarding climate change, and one issue that emerges is who we should trust to lead us out of this morass, those that claim science is "fake news" or actual scientists.

It's News to Me
R.G. Belsky
Oceanview Publishing
9781608094561, $27.95

It's News to Me by R G Belsky is the fifth in the Clare Carlson mysteries, an investigative journalist fiction series. Clare's boss is fired and she faces a new, controversial, and cantankerous new woman determined to achieve high ratings on their TV news program whatever the cost. Her goal is within sight when young Riley Hunt, the "perfect" college student, is found murdered near campus. Clare must investigate the real story, not just the one her boss chooses to promote her "Take New York Back" program to foment fear in the city. Clare becomes convinced that the story is more than just a simple murder case and investigates further, bringing her deeper into conflict with not only her boss, but a mob boss and the police commissioner.

Clare Carlson is a credible journalist, funny, feisty, and determined. The dialogue is excellent with multiple great retorts. There are plot twists and turns, some I could anticipate and others not, in this complex story. I will check out the earlier four books in this series, my ultimate compliment.

Dead and Gondola (Christie Bookshop #1)
Ann Claire
9780593496343, $17.00

Dead and Gondola is the first in the new Christie Bookshop series. Ellie Christy has recently returned to her family home in Last Word, Colorado, where she and her sister, Meg, run the family's history bookshop, the Book Chalet. They are the fifth generation in the book business. They're joined by Agatha C. (as in Cat) Christy, a cranky long-haired Siamese whose Instagram profile is larger than that of the two women. Last Word is a skiers' paradise being bought up by wealthy people and pricing out the old-time residents, creating a melange of movie stars, real estate entrepreneurs, skiing enthusiasts, and grumpy old-timers and their ensuing conflicts.

A mysterious stranger enters the shop as a book club holds a seance re-enacting an Agatha Christy book, The Sittaford Mystery. He leaves suddenly and is later found murdered on a gondola. While in the shop, he leaves behind a rare copy of a Mary Westmacott, an Agatha Christie written under a pseudonym.

This is a cute book. Ellie is an appealing protagonist, and her family and friends feel lifelike and fun. Agatha Christie books are a common denominator, and the conclusion even wraps up like most Christie books do with the suspects gathered together as Ellie tries to get them to talk. The ending has a twist that brings everything to an exciting climax. Dead and Gondola is the perfect book for a gloomy day or when you need a light fluffy read.

Egypt's Golden Couple: When Akhenaten and Nefertiti Were Gods on Earth
John Darnell, Colleen Darnell
St. Martin's Press
9781250272874, $29.99

The Darnells, a husband and wife team of Egyptologists, combine scholarship, detective suspense, and adventure in Egypt's Golden Couple. I have always been fascinated by Egyptology, so I particularly enjoyed this book. Like The Real Valkyrie: The Hidden History of Viking Warrior Women, Egypt's Golden Couple is part history, part archaeology, and part fiction. Each chapter opens with a scenario that is fictional derived from known facts about the subjects, and even the backdrops of the scene are based on actual paintings and bas-reliefs on the walls.

Akhenaten and his wife Nefertiti have been portrayed in widely differing accounts and depicted as an incestuous tyrant or an innovator who affected nearly every aspect of Egyptian life. He established the world's first monotheist religion. The images, the gold funerary mask of his son Tutankhamun (King Tut) and the painted bust of his wife Nefertiti, are among the most recognizable in the world, right up there with Vincent Van Gogh's "Sunflowers."

Akhenaten and Nefertiti transformed Egyptian solar worship from polytheism to monotheism. While doing so, they changed the face of Egyptian art and architecture. The Darnells weave a delightful story about these two rulers. I enjoyed the in-depth view of Egyptian life, but some readers may find it slow going, particularly in parts that talk about the difficulty of reading and translating hieroglyphs: The verb is written with three phonetic signs. The first sign is a chisel... which we can approximately pronounce as 'ab'...

Overall, this is a great read but be prepared to learn more about ancient Egypt that you might wish to.

Jason (Book 2 in the Blades of Bronze Series)
Mark Knowles
Head of Zeus
9781803287188, $29.95

Jason, the retelling of the myth of Jason and the Argonauts, is a 528-page tale of Jason's journey home after he's stolen the golden fleece. He's accomplished the mission his uncle, King Pelias of Iolkos, set for him, and now hopes to retake the throne Pelias stole from Jason's father. On the return voyage, Jason and his compatriots must deal with Circe, the Sirens, warring kingdoms, and hostile tribes. It isn't mentioned on the title page or the first few pages of the novel that Jason is the second in the Blades of Bronze series. Jason stands well as an independent volume, however, if one has a basic knowledge of Greek myths and can piece together the myth.

Knowles is very knowledgeable about Greek mythology and the depth of his research is apparent. The novel is populated with many of the major and minor characters of Greek mythology: Theseus, Orpheus, Castor and Pollux, etc. The storyline is rich, fleshing out the myth well while packing in enough action and heroics to engage a modern reader of Marvel comics.

However - and this is a big however - Jason is not for someone with little knowledge of Greek mythology. Knowles provides no transition from Argo (book 1 in the series) to Jason nor background on the many, many characters, though he does provide a list of the "prominent" Argonauts and a map in the early pages of the book. Unfortunately, I found a fair number of technical problems with the writing. The writing is convoluted, switching randomly from past to present, sometimes within a paragraph. There are multiple points of view, often with no indication of whose POV the reader is in for several paragraphs - there's nothing like beginning a chapter and not knowing whose POV you're reading or where you are located in time and space. For instance, in the prologue, the she in is never clearly identified. Even after rereading, I couldn't decide if the POV was that of one of Celeus's daughters (Demo, Callidice, or Saessara) or Persephone. While I enjoy learning new words, too often the erudite literary words were too obscure and had to be looked up, thus removing me from the story. Some of the problems were simply amateurish, such as having two or more males in the same paragraph with whichever he is meant being clear. Overall, the prose itself is stilted and lacked rhythm.

I think the concept of the novel interesting and, if properly edited, I'd enjoy it immensely. While Jason is compared by some reviewers to Circe and The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, the prose never rises to the majesty of Miller's.

Never Name the Dead
D.M. Rowell
Crooked Lane Books
9781639101276, $26.99

Never Name the Dead, though the first in a series, may join the ranks of Native American books along the veins of Tony Hillerman and Anne Hillerman's Leaphorn/Chee mysteries. I was entranced by the aspects of Kiowa culture found in this novel. All her life, Mud, a biracial woman, has been neither white enough nor Kiowa enough. To cope with a failed relationship and her feelings of not fitting in, she moves to California, reshapes herself as Mae, and establishes her own company. After ten years, she returns to Oklahoma in response to an enigmatic phone call from her grandfather. She leaves her business at a critical point to return home where she finds her grandfather missing and then is forced into the role of a detective. One mystery is solved, but another left hanging. hopefully leaving an opening for a second in the series.

This murder mystery is tightly woven. When I finished reading, I could scarcely believe the entire novel took place in less than twenty-four hours. She juggles multiple potential suspects, all seemingly capable of killing someone, before the reveal happens

This is not a run-of-the-mill cozy mystery. Rowell covers multiple sociological, historical, and ecological areas: authentic Kiowa cultural details, the many broken treaties with white men, the fact that Native Americans on the whole are the poorest of America's poor, the raping of the land by oil developers, particularly frackers, and the raping of Kiowa culture by museums and artifact collectors. I look forward to the next book in the series.

Cleopatra's Vendetta
Avanti Centrae
Thunder Creek Press
Kindle only, $4.99

Cleopatra's Vendetta is a fast-paced thriller with an unusual background story. Cleopatra, after being defeated by Octavius, has a servant/spy hide a map to her secret stash of gold. She has hides images of female deities, before she kills herself. Centuries later, three American women and their two children are kidnapped from a bar in Bari, Italy. These women are the wives and friends of an American Special Ops group. Stryker, whose wife Angie and daughter Harper are among the kidnapped victims, must find the women. They soon uncover a group called the Sons of Adam and learn that somehow everything is related to Cleopatra. The team travels all over Italy, Greece, the Ionian Islands, Egypt, and India to solve the mystery.

Author Centrae's prose is sharp; her characters show a moderate amount of depth and emotion and some forward growth in their character arcs. However, I look to Daniel Silva for the ultimate in thrillers. His Gabriel Allon is a deep, richly characterized man with ethics. Also, Silva's details make me feel like I'm back in the Jewish ghetto in Venice, for example, or standing right before the artwork he describes. I was not fully transported by Cleopatra's Vendetta, but those who love a snappy read with a conspiracy with world-wide involvement, this may be the read for you.

Doomed Legacy (#9 in the Rick Cahill series)
Matt Coyle
Oceanview Publishing
9781608094790, $27.95

Doomed Legacy, the ninth book in Coyle's Rick Cahill private investigator series, 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. His life seems to be turning around: He's reconciling with his good friend, Turk, after a major disagreement; Cahill's girlfriend, Leah, who saw him through being shot in the face in Santa Barbara, is now his wife and they have a toddler daughter; in addition, a fellow PI, Moira, has worked with Cahill on a few cases pitches in with this case. He's now seeing a neurologist regarding some changes in the way his brain is functioning and learns he has CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) from multiple concussions during his years of playing sports and being beaten up as a private investigator and cop.

Cahill is a great wounded hero, and Coyle does a superb job of capturing Cahill's efforts to deal with his new diagnosis. Cahill - a moody PI, tough, hard-boiled, and unapologetic - has been side-tracked by his wife and is doing only background checks for employers, which he finds unappealing and dull. Doomed Legacy centers around the murder of a woman who talks to Rick about possible abnormalities in the handling of the company's background checks - critical because that company also works with the Defense Department. The reader is immediately taken on a whirlwind tour of the West Coast as Cahill moved from San Diego to Santa Barbara to Monterrey while tracking down multiple plot lines: a serial rapist, the DOD employee background checks, police coverups, and Chinese spies.

So far I've read half this series and will definitely continue working through the remainder.

Mother of Valor
Gary Corbin
Double Diamond Publishing
Kindle only, $4.99

Valorie (Val) Dawes is molested at age twelve by a family friend, "Uncle Milt." Though Val eventually reports it to her family, no one believes her except her Uncle Val, a cop. He's shot in the line of duty before he can bring Milt to justice. A year after Val is raped, her mother walks out of her life. Years later, Val follows in her Uncle Val's footsteps and becomes a policewoman. As a rookie, she faces the usual harassment of any younger cop by older policemen as well as the rampant sexism in her department.

Rookie cop Val Dawes has been on duty less than a year and has already fired her weapon three times - with two fatalities. When she works investigation a prostitution operation, she blows the lid off a national sex trafficking ring with ties to a violent right-wing group. Val's mother unexpectedly shows up again just as the heat is on the police department to keep Fourth of July celebrations safe in Clayton.

Author Corbin manages to integrate pedophilia, childhood sexual abuse, sexism, workplace harassment, and right wing politics into a police procedural, keeping the Valory Dawes series en pointe with current events. Corbin also does a good job getting into the head of a young abused woman finding her way back to trusting men.

Suanne Schafer, Reviewer

Susan Bethany's Bookshelf

Uphill: A Memoir
Jemele Hill
Henry Holt & Company
Macmillan Audio
9781250624376, $27.99, HC, 256pp

Synopsis: Jemele Hill's world came crashing down when she called President Trump a "white supremacist"; the White House wanted her fired from ESPN, and she was deluged with death threats. But Hill had faced tougher adversaries growing up in Detroit than a tweeting president. Beneath the exterior of one of the most recognizable journalists in America was a need and a calling to break her family's cycle of intergenerational trauma.

Born in the middle of a lively routine Friday night Monopoly game to a teen mother and a heroin-addicted father, Hill constantly adjusted to the harsh realities of not only her own childhood but the inherited generational pain of her mother and grandmother. Her escape was writing.

Hill's mother was less than impressed with the brassy and bold free expression of her diary, but Hill never stopped discovering and amplifying her voice. Through hard work and a constant willingness to learn, Hill rose from newspaper reporter to columnist to new heights as the coanchor for ESPN's revered SportsCenter. Soon, she earned respect and support for her fearless opinions and unshakable confidence, as well as a reputation as a trusted journalist who speaks her mind with truth and conviction.

In Uphill: A Memoir, she shares the whole story of her work, the women of her family, and her complicated relationship with God in an unapologetic, character-rich, and eloquent story of her life.

Critique: Exceptionally well written and presented, Jamele Hill' "Uphill: A Memoir" is an inherently fascinating and thought-provoking read from cover to cover. With a special appeal to readers with an interest in African-American and Journalist memoirs, "Uphill: A Memoir" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community and academic library American Biography/Memoir collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Uphill: A Memoir" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Macmillan Audio, 9781250791054, $39.99, CD).

Editorial Note: Jemele Hill ( is the Emmy Award winning and former co-host of ESPN's SportsCenter and 2018 NABJ Journalist of the Year. Hill is a contributing writer for the Atlantic, where she covers the intersection of sports, race, politics, and culture. She is also the producer of a Disney/ESPN documentary with Colin Kaepernick.

Decoding the Stars
Allison Scott
Wellfleet Press
c/o Quarto Publishing Group USA
100 Cummings Center, Suite 265D, Beverly, MA 01915
9781577153290, $22.99, PB, 240pp

Synopsis: Astrological archetypes are highly fluid and subjective in nature and your personal relationship with them can change over time. While we may look to our zodiac signs to help us navigate our relationships, career, finances, and family matters, astrology can also help us align the personality and the soul.

You may have already learned how to interpret the external influences through astrology -- the paths your life may take, who you will make friends with and love. Now's the time to find what's inside you. "Decoding the Stars: A Modern Astrology Guide to Discover Your Life's Purpose" by Allison Scott is an instructive guide that will help you understand your desires, skills, and unique talents and guide you toward identifying your purpose and motivation.

With the guidance of "Decoding the Stars: A Modern Astrology Guide to Discover Your Life's Purpose", you will awaken self-knowledge and awareness of your larger spiritual planetary influences. The more self-aware you become, the greater your possibility of finding inner peace and happiness. With a walk through your birth chart, reflective questions, and writing prompts, "Decoding the Stars: A Modern Astrology Guide to Discover Your Life's Purpose" will help you to better understand your creative spirit and bring your life's purpose to light.

Critique: Arranged by the signs of the Zodiac, "Decoding the Stars: A Modern Astrology Guide to Discover Your Life's Purpose" by astrologist Allison Scott is an ideal introduction for the novice and has much of value for active practitioners and dedicated students of the metaphysical sciences. Thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, "Decoding the Stars: A Modern Astrology Guide to Discover Your Life's Purpose" is an especially welcome and recommended addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library Metaphysical Studies collections in general, and supplemental Astrology curriculum studies lists in particular. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Decoding the Stars: A Modern Astrology Guide to Discover Your Life's Purpose" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99).

Editorial Note #1: Allison Scott ( of Conjuring the Muse is an astrologer dedicated to helping people unlock the wisdom of their birth charts so they can express their true selves. She specializes in astrology readings specifically tailored for creatives to help them reflect on what they are here to manifest. Allison uses the power of astrology to help people identify their unique purpose and calling in life, and to help them bring that into full fruition.

Editorial Note #2: "Decoding the Stars: A Modern Astrology Guide to Discover Your Life's Purpose" is part of the Complete Illustrated Encyclopedia series from Wellstreet Press. These elegantly designed and beautifully illustrated books that offer comprehensive, display-worthy references on a range of intriguing topics, including dream interpretation, techniques for harnessing the power of dreams, flower meanings, and the stories behind signs and symbols. Also available in the series are: The Complete Book of Birthdays, The Complete Language of Flowers, The Complete Book of Dreams, and The Complete Guide to Astrological Self-Care.

Susan Bethany

Willis Buhle's Bookshelf

Do the Right Thing
Karla Rae Fuller
Michael Wiese Productions
12400 Ventura Blvd., #1111, Studio City, CA 91604
9781615933402, $26.95, PB, 132pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Do the Right Thing: Five Screenplays that Embrace Diversity", Professor Karla Rae Fuller offers screenwriting strategies that focus on diversity, equity and inclusion. The five film featured are: Moonlight, Get Out, Mudbound, Roma, and Always be My Maybe. The goal is to teach an already challenging writing mode that requires screenwriters to create complex human experiences through visual storytelling.

We are in a critical historical moment where the importance of screenwriting can be of the utmost usefulness in the observation of racism, inequity and inclusion in all media. The screen representations of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality or class are not often explicitly addressed at the "front end" of the film production process, specifically, during the creation of the screenplay (whether original or adapted from outside source material).

The idea is to introduce and reinforce the importance of accountability for what you write for the screen. This is not to limit the screenwriter's creative impulses, but rather to create and engage them in consistent ways that reveal unconscious biases and instances of systemic racism. We will use five case studies of commercially successful and award-winning screenplays that resist stereotypes to present multidimensional depictions of historically underrepresented groups, such as LGBTQ, African American, Latino and Asian American.

In the discussions of each individual screenplay issues such as the adaptation process, plot structure and devices, characterization, setting, symbolism, and genre conventions are introduced and analyzed in depth.

Critique: "Do the Right Thing: Five Screenplays that Embrace Diversity" is a simply fascinating, insightful, thoughtful and thought-provoking study that will have a very special appeal to aspiring (and professional) script writers with an interest in the impact and influence that screenplays can have on the mores, attitudes, and prejudices of the consumers of films and television programming. While highly recommended for personal, professional, community, and film school library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Do the Right Thing: Five Screenplays that Embrace Diversity" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $20.49).

Editorial Note: Karla Rae Fuller ( is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Cinema and Television Arts at Columbia College Chicago. She teaches in the Cinema Studies and Screenwriting areas in the undergraduate and MFA graduate programs. She received her PhD from Northwestern University, MFA from Columbia University in New York City and BA from Amherst College. Prior to teaching at Columbia College, Ms. Fuller held the position of Director of Feature Film Evaluation at Vestron Inc. which produced the hit movie Dirty Dancing among others. She was also a freelance script reader for New Line Cinema, Miramax and various other production companies.

Caesar's Lord
Bryan Litfin
Fleming H. Revell Company
c/o Baker Publishing Group
6030 East Fulton, Ada, MI 49301
9780800742461, $39.95, HC, 464pp

Synopsis: After more than a decade of tumult, Roman warrior Rex and his aristocratic wife, Flavia, are thankful to the God they serve for the peaceful life they are living in the city of Alexandria. But with the Empire in flux, it cannot last. When Rex is called away to serve Constantine in his fight against Licinius, Flavia's loneliness and longing for a baby lead her down the road of temptation. Perhaps one of Egypt's gods will grant her conception?

As battles rage both within and without, Rex and Flavia will have to rely on God's forgiveness and protection if they are to survive the trials to come. Their adventures sweep them into the great events of the ancient church, including the forging of the Nicene Creed, terrible murders within the imperial family, the quest for the true cross of Christ in Jerusalem, and the end of pagan Rome as a new Christian empire dawns.

Critique: With the publication of "Caesar's Lord", novelist Bryan Litfin brings his epic Constantine's Empire series to a dramatic close in a riveting and deftly written story of struggle and redemption, temptation and salvation, brutality and faith. Of special note is the inclusion of an Historical Note, 'The Dynasty of Constantine', a Gazetter of Ancient and Modern Place Names, a Glossary, and a Prologue. Unreservedly recommended for community library Historical Fiction collections, it should be noted that "Caesar's Lord" is also available for personal reading lists in a paperback edition (9780800738198, $19.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99). The first two volumes of this simply outstanding trilogy are "The Conqueror" and "Every Knee Shall Bow".

Editorial Note: Bryan Litfin ( is the author of several works of nonfiction, including Wisdom from the Ancients, Early Christian Martyr Stories, After Acts, and Getting to Know the Church Fathers. A former professor of theology at the Moody Bible Institute, Litfin earned his PhD in religious studies from the University of Virginia and his ThM in historical theology from Dallas Theological Seminary. Bryan is also a Professor of Theology in the Rawlings School of Divinity at Liberty University.

Time Lock
Howard Berks, author
Peter Berk, author
IE Snapes
9781952961076, PB, PB, $14.99, Kindle $8.49, 240pp

Synopsis: With crime rampant in the near future, the President authorizes a controversial program: TimeLock, a cellular acceleration process that instantly ages prisoners the total number of years of their sentence. In other words-three strikes and you're old -- very old.

Despite ongoing public outcries, two years later the program is up and running and crime is already on the decline. But what happens if you're innocent?

Falsely convicted of murder, 23-year-old Morgan Eberly is sentenced to be aged 40 years in a TimeLock capsule. When a riot interrupts his processing, Morgan (now 43 years old) manages to escape.

With powerful forces on his trail, Morgan enlists the help of Janine Price, the FBI agent who arrested him. Together, they investigate the murders of ex-prisoners who were transformed by TimeLock and soon discover why Morgan is certain to be next.

Can Morgan and Janine unlock the truth about TimeLock before it's too late?

Critique: An exceptionally well written and simply riveting read from first page to last, "Time Lock" by the late Howard Berk and his son Peter Berk, is an inherently fun read that will have a special appeal to fans of original science fiction stories. The stuff of which movies are made, "Time Lock" is unreservedly recommended for community library Science Fiction collections and the personal reading lists of all dedicated science fiction fans.

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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