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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 17, Number 2 February 2017 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Andrea's Bookshelf Andy's Bookshelf
Ann's Bookshelf Bethany's Bookshelf Buhle's Bookshelf
Burroughs' Bookshelf Carson's Bookshelf Clint's Bookshelf
Emily's Bookshelf Gail's Bookshelf Julie's Bookshelf
Katherine's Bookshelf Logan's Bookshelf Margaret's Bookshelf
Mari's Bookshelf Mason's Bookshelf Moore's Bookshelf
Peggy's Bookshelf Polk's Bookshelf Sloan's Bookshelf
Susan's Bookshelf Suzie's Bookshelf Teri's Bookshelf

Reviewer's Choice

A Leadership Kick In The Ass: How to Learn from Rough Landings, Blunders, and Missteps
Bill Treasurer
Berrett-Koehler Publishers
1333 Broadway, Suite 1000, Oakland CA, 94612
9781626568020, $17.95, 192 pages

Bonnie Jo Davis

This leadership book by author Bill Treasurer should be required reading for anyone in a leadership role including newcomers and the experienced or anyone who has been terminated from a leadership position.

The Table of Contents includes:

Foreword by Clint Hurdle, Manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates
Section 1: Transformative Humiliation
Introduction: Kicking Leadership's Gluteus Maximus
Chapter 1. Ain't That A Kick In The Pants?
Chapter 2. The Anatomy Of A Butt-Kick
Section 2. Career Kicks
Chapter 3. Kick Me I'm New!
Chapter 4. The Cheeky Middle
Chapter 5. Shrinking Bigshots: Seasoned Leaders Getting Their Kicks
Section 3. Leading, For Worse Or For Better
Chapter 6. Kick-Worthy Leaders: Pigheads And Weaklings
Chapter 7. A More Perfect Derričre: Confident Humility
Chapter 8. Three Expressions Of Confident Humility
Section 4. Be Humble, Be Good
Chapter 9. How To Kick Your Own Ass
Chapter 10. Leading At The Point Of Goodness

In the preface the author reflects on his first experience as a leader when he was the captain of the U.S. High Diving Team. He received a very painful kick in the ass that lead him down the path to be a best selling author and leadership expert. He is the perfect example of how you should react to a kick in the ass.

This fun, easy-to-read book has lots of stories and examples from clients who have worked with the author over the years. The overriding lesson is that it is your mistakes and failures that should result in your personal growth. Ignore the opportunity to grow at your own peril.

Read this book and learn the importance of the balance between confidence and humility, why an unexpected and unforeseen kick hurts more, how being a good leader starts with being a good person and why you must choose to adapt instead of being stuck in your own way.

Not only do I highly recommend this book but I wish it was available when I was in my first leadership role and received my first kick in the ass!

Finding Alaska's Villages and Connecting Them
Alex Hills
Dog Ear Publishing
4011 Vincennes Road, Indianapolis, IN 46268
9781457551604, $29.95, HC, 174pp
9781457551109, $19.95, PB, 174pp
B01MCYMMKF, $9.99, Kindle,

Bonnye Matthews

The history of telecommunications in the United States is a fascinating story. The 1920s idea of the phone in every home changed over time from a goal to a virtual necessity by the last quarter of the twentieth century. The direct line, switchboard, rotary direct dial, pushbutton services all were part of the experience of the United States before Native Alaska villages were even connected. Alaska is a different place with different, sometimes difficult, needs. Imagine a state the size of California, Montana, plus Texas with a population of less than 750,000. Road service is minimal, connecting only some of the major cities or attractions. There's a huge need for communication service and little desire on the part of those who provide the service, when the recipients are very small in number and can only be reached by bush pilots.

Alex Hills arrived in Alaska in 1972 looking for adventure by accepting the challenge to lead a team to install the first VHF phones in Alaska's remote villages. There were some shortwave radios for communication, but the signals were affect by the aurora borealis, a frequent occurrence at that latitude. Each phone installed would be shared by the entire village. Hills' book is alive with Alaska, which tells the telecommunications story but personalizes it to Alaska as he describes caring for planes in -50° weather, serving as a landing light, introducing Alaska Natives (e.g., Maryann Sundown, dancing diva of Scammon Bay, and her mosquito dance). My favorite was the tale from Little Diomede where the winds were at 50 mph and the installation was postponed until the winds stopped. Hills asked the village chief, James Iyapanna when the wind would stop only to be told, "wind never stop." Not being adept at running around on roof tops in such wind, the natives, who had no problem with the wind, helped install the antenna when the wind slowed a little.

Hills eventually moved from his work connecting phones to broadcasting at KOTZ in Kotzebue. In time the need for use of improved technology, satellite communication systems for remote villages and the installation of small satellite earth stations for television, would make phone and television service available to each home. That improvement came with significant impediments, which Hills was helpful in overcoming. The corporate and political aspects of connecting not only villages but also individual homes in ways that satisfied the customers in villages is another part of this interesting story.

Eventually radio broadcast, television broadcast, full phone, and two-way communication services reached all Native villages, though internet service remains slow to take hold. As Hills puts it, the internet connection may be another book. Finding Alaska's Villages and Connecting Them is exceptionally well written, organized, and presented. I highly recommend this book as part of the telecommunications and Alaska studies sections in both community and academic American History collections. Also available in e-book form, 9781457551703, $9.99.

A Flash Of Red
Sarah K. Stephens
Pandamoon Publishing
9781945502149, 14.99 PB, $4.99 Kindle, 234pp,

Dana Faletti, Reviewer

When you read a book that reaches into your head and forces you to ask some big questions, it doesn't leave you right away. It stays with you, just like those nagging questions that shake your core beliefs.

How does a marriage come apart? Who do bystanders blame as they watch from the sidelines of the spousal playing field? What happens when two people who are intimately connected become so distant that they cannot recognize each other's motives? Could this happen in my own life? Is it already happening?

Pandamoon Publishing's new literary release, A Flash of Red, by Sarah K. Stephens, examines these questions against a backdrop of mental health issues that complicate every angle. Stephens' career as a senior lecturer in Developmental Psychology at Penn State University has prepared her to delve into the mental health aspect of this debut novel. Her role as a wife gives her a bird's eye view of what it's like to be in one of the most complicated yet common relationships known to humans - marriage.

Even before Anna Kline begins to suspect that she is suffering from symptoms of the schizophrenia that sent her own mother into an institution for life, her marriage has begun to fall apart. Every day, before leaving to teach psychology classes at the local university, she packs her husband, Sean's, lunch, assembling sandwiches to perfection and placing neatly cut veggies into baggies. This, she can control. Sean's strange behavior of retreating into his office and locking the door behind him for hours at a time is something she cannot. In Anna's passive aggressive mind, she is a righteous creature, saintly almost, making daily acquiescence for her imperfect husband who is not only lazy but also too sexually adventurous for her comfort level. When signs of schizophrenia set in, she begins to question whether she is actually losing her mind or if her husband is playing games with her, trying to make her believe she is crazy. She also begins to suspect that Sean is having an affair and that he's using the mental imbalance in her bloodline as a means to escape their marriage and be with the imagined other woman.

While reading Anna's thoughts, I found myself at first both sympathizing with her and loathing her. As I traveled more deeply into the novel, I started asking - Am I Anna? Am I in constant judgment of my spouse? Do I similarly push him away?

From Sean's point of view, the reader sees a man who is just surviving in a marriage that is suffocating him with his wife's cold yet quietly apologetic superiority. Unfortunately, his safety net is internet porn. He locks himself inside his office for hours, convincing himself that he's doing nothing wrong. It's Anna's fault he's addicted to porn. If she didn't make him feel so dirty and unacceptable, he would seek her to fulfill his needs rather than peruse online sex sites. Sean begins to receive cryptically threatening emails around the same time he witnesses signs of Anna's possible mental slip. He's convinced it's Anna sending him the messages and decides to come clean and attempt to fix his marriage.

Sean's riveting side to the story picked at me. Once again, I inserted my own life into the narrative, asking what could my spouse be hiding from me? Does he resent me, and is that resentment silently spiraling, slowly morphing into disgust?

While Sean and Anna are blaming each other and preparing for a confrontation, a student of Anna's, Bard, is the one who is bouncing their puppet strings. Bard develops amplified devotion for Anna that morphs into an intense need to protect her. When Anna begins finding strange gifts that make her question her sanity, it remains unclear to the reader whether it is Sean's continued gas lighting of his wife, a misguided attempt at support from Bard or a symptom of Anna's own mental deterioration. As the story progresses though, it is revealed that Bard is the one sending emails to Sean, threatening to expose his ugly addiction and shaming him for his poor choices as a spouse. From Bard's point of view, the reader gets a sense of how one misinformed bystander can read into the breakdown of a marriage and assign blame. In Bard's case, his own lack of sanity causes him to take one step further and insert himself into the narrative of Sean and Anna's tragedy. When Bard attacks Sean and lands the cheating spouse in the hospital, the novel takes a dramatic turn, evolving even more deeply into a literary domestic thriller.

Bard makes you wonder - what does the world see when they see us? What do the neighbors say when they hear us arguing? Do they call him lazy? Do they say "she's a shrew?" What about his coworkers? Do they hear his impatience between the cubicles and thank their lucky stars they don't have to put up with him at home? Do they think it's sweet that he never hangs up without telling me he loves me? Would they go to bat for him?

Any married person who reads this novel will find pieces of themselves in Anna and also in Sean. It begs the biggest question - what are my spouse's secrets?

Everyone hides. The question is how do we end up hiding from that truth? How do we disguise and then forget our doubt for enough hours to get through a day? Our humanity allows us to leave breathing room for our life partner's blemishes, the little idiosyncrasies that he may or may not reveal. Time passes and the imperative replaces our incertitude.

Until we read a book that calls our natural doubts to the surface.

Sarah Stephens' A Flash of Red, carefully crafted with language that sucks you in and a story that settles into all of your secret places, was that book for me.

Kinship of Clover
Ellen Meeropol
Red Hen Press
PO Box 40820, Pasadena, CA 91114
9781597093811, $16.95, PB, 272pp,

Lisa C. Taylor, Reviewer

If a novel can serve as both a harbinger of the future and a parable for our fraught political times, then Ellen Meeropol has done it again. The author of House Arrest and On Hurricane Island takes on climate change in the character of Jeremy Beaujolais, a college botany major with a history that includes a communal family, and the death of his little sister and brother when he was eight; the same year his twin brother, Tim, started the process of separation. It began with clothing choices and later moved to Tim's affiliation with the world of business.

Jeremy's first experience with an altered state came at the commune, at a symbolic funeral for their cat. During the event, he senses vines are wrapping around him, burrowing into his skin and even whispering to him, "We have names." Is it a mental illness or just an exquisite sensitivity to the dire future of both plant and animal kingdoms? In the commune, relationships and boundaries are blurred, and though his father Tian served ten years for the carelessness that led to his small brother and sister freezing to death, the circumstance, like their relationships, are not clearly defined.

When Jeremy's episodes begin to interfere with his life, a concerned nurse practitioner at the university contacts his brother in New York and Jeremy begins another chapter that puts him in the path of eco-activists who may or may be involved in a firebombing. The helpmates in Jeremy's journey include Zoe, a wheelchair-bound friend with spina bifida, her former activist grandmother Flo, now stricken with Alzheimer's, and her father, Sam. Jeremy's exceptionality may make him a visionary scientist or drive him over the edge. As he thinks in the book, "Kids are simultaneously fragile and resilient; who knows why one blooms in the dark and another withers in bright sunshine" (157) and later, "Why was Tim so untouched by their shared past, why was he the one with obsessions about fragility, about extinction, the one with hallucinations - or whatever they were - of plants growing out of his fingertips?"

If Jeremy is to be the visionary the planet most needs, he must first reconcile his external and internal conflicts. Like many parables, the novel poses questions without all the answers. Is Jeremy mentally unstable or can he literally imagine what humans are doing to choke the environment? Can we trust and protect those we love or is life a series of insurmountable challenges? Ellen Meeropol's style of using a multiple point-of-view allows the reader to glimpse what it might be like to navigate the world in a wheelchair or face old age and decline with dignity. Although this is Jeremy's story, his community of choice validates his "mutant superpower"as Zoe calls the plants he visualizes. In doing so, he is free to save himself and possibly the world.

Damaged Souls: Series: D.I. White Mysteries (Book 3)
D. J. White & David Coles
Barking Rain Press
9781941295229, $13.95 PR, $5.95 Kindle, 212 pages,

Molly Martin, Reviewer

The writing team Jack Everett and David Coles, offer a fast paced police procedural DAMAGED SOULS A Detective Inspector White Caper, beginning during the Bosnia Winter 1995.

The PROLOUGE sets the scene and introduces Serb fighters Lt Macura RA, and Sgt Vidic paramilitary. Both Serbs have been active in Northern Bosnia where they were ridding area of Muslims including moving men and women into detention centers, where they were abused and often killed.

Jamic Vidic a poorly educated heroin user and Goran Macura only child of a more affluent family who owned property had received more education. The unlikely duo had drifted together during the violence.

During a lull in the hostility; Macura sampled heroin, had a bad trip and began wildly firing his weapon. The Muslim Serbs fought back using anything they could throw, including an oil lamp which slammed in Macura, leaving him unconscious for a time, badly burned and with no memory of the shooting or how he had come to suffer burns.

When he regained consciousness Macura traded his damaged uniform for, took a new identity Cpt Karim Lucic, made his way to a church where he met UN Major Peter Brant, and was 'rescued' when the Major was able to effect a pick up by friendly forces.

From that beginning The Reader is propelled into an exciting chain of events beginning 3 Sept in Leeds, Yorkshire. First we discover Detective Inspector White perusing a business card; Evangeline Kinti; Voodoo practitioner.

During Winter 1995 into summer 1996 Captain Lucic Macura is flown to Brize Norton in England where he receives treatment for his burns and when he voices concern regarding reprisal is offered a new identity including facial surgery to change his appearance. His new identity Lt Francis Miles enables him to begin a new life including meeting and romancing Jenny, the red haired daughter of his military superior, and becoming part of a 64 member unit searching for mass graves.

The riveting tale continues as the lives and circumstances surrounding Lt Francis Miles and Detective Inspector Stewart White become more and more enmeshed.

Stewart White is facing a day of accounting on both professional and personal levels as his team closes in on a hard to pin down heroin smuggling operation and old sweetheart Connie Cleghorn returns to the UK to transport her mentally ill brother to Florida to seek treatment for him.

White contemplates his old romantic situation, as well as his widowed father's burgeoning romance, whilst conducting the necessary detective work entailed for searching for abducted 13 year old Josie and Polly, female twins, and, carrying out a successful heroin smuggling sting operation.

A reconstructed wind powered flour mill, a black Toyota Avensis, Computer, Pip a dog having one eye and three legs, cameras, revenge, shots fired, a pugilist, Michael, Butcher Boy, O'Connor all figure in the narrative filled with twists and turns, red herrings, and duplicity.

As always Everett and Coles create convincing characters that come to life under the skilled writing of this author duo, 'bad guys' are just awful, Detective White is a skilled officer and completely human ... filled with all the warts and foibles are found in most of us. 'Good guys' are those we hope to meet in life.

The storyline meanders here and there and comes to a booming, satisfying conclusion.

Note not for everyone, if you are one who finds your knickers in a knot reading incidental sexual reference, a bit of coarse language, and brutal behavior then don't read the book. However the sexual inference is an integral part of the narrative, the 'bad guys' are louts and unlikely to curb their language or brutal instincts.

I found DAMAGED SOULS A Detective Inspector White Caper to be a compelling, well written, tale. Happy to recommend DAMAGED SOULS A Detective Inspector White Caper for all who enjoy a good mystery.

Jill Leovy
Spiegel & Grau
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780385529983, $28.00, HC, 384pp
9780385529983, $16.00 PB, $11.99 Kindle, 384pp,

Paul Binford, Reviewer

Although "Ghettoside" is a work of non-fiction, it reads like a story out of the now defunct magazine, "True Detective." Jill Leovy's narrative centers on the casework of detective John Skaggs, whose relentless footwork in South Los Angeles ends with an 80% clearance of murder cases. This is in a part of the city where a 30-40% rate of conviction is "acceptable." By telling Skagg's story, Jill Leovy illustrates the ongoing tragedy in the inner cities of the United States, using Los Angeles as a stark example of what the homicide detectives call "the Monster." It is a scathing statistic that the highest murder rate in the U.S. is black-on-black homicide. These killings are rarely covered by the media, likely because they are a frequent occurrence and the sensationalism is diluted by the numbers. As Leovy puts it: "Somehow, mainstream America has managed to make a fetish of South Central murders yet still ignore them."

I was drawn to "Ghettoside" partly as a result of my stint as a junior high school teacher in South Central Los Angeles. While driving to work on the east-west Interstate 10, also known as the Santa Monica freeway, I never realized that the city of Los Angeles is basically bisected by this major thoroughfare. To the north is downtown and Hollywood, to the south are the numbered streets that extend to Watts and Compton, where 90% of the murders in Los Angeles occur. The LAPD call this area "south of the 10" and it is considered a curse to be assigned to one of the precincts there. While reading "Ghettoside," I recognized many of the street names and could picture the neighborhoods where the murders took place. In what is called "the Big Years" in the early 1990's, the murder rate for black men in South L.A. averaged 368 per 100,000 a year, six times the rate of white murders. That is a similar rate of the deaths of American soldiers in Iraq. The black population is 6 percent of the country, but nearly 40 percent of those murdered.

A chronicle of three weeks of the mayhem starts with eighteen-year-old Bryant Tennelle, who was shot down on South 80th Street in May, 2007. Three days later, Carl Pickering, 26, was killed as he was getting into his car. Later that day eighteen-year-old Wilbert Mahone was shot as he stood outside his home. Four days after that Christopher Davenport was found dead on the sidewalk. Carnell Ardoine and Marcus Peters, both nineteen, were next. Robert Lee, sixty-one, was stabbed to death soon after Peters' death. Stanley Daniels, thirty-one, was shot in the chest. A disabled man in his sixties, Irvin Carter, died after being slashed with a knife. Keith Hardy was shot in Compton, along with Christopher Rice. Within the next three days, Rodney Love, fifteen, and Dion Miles, an art student at Cal State University Northridge, were killed by gunfire. In the month previous to the murder of Bryant Tennelle, twenty- two murders were reported in south Los Angeles.

It is the case of Bryant Tennelle that lies at the heart of "Ghettoside." Bryant's father, Wally, was a detective in the LAPD Seventy-seventh Division. Among all of his colleagues, Wally chose to live in South Central, his home being a few blocks away from where his son was murdered. Most of the other detectives resided in suburban San Fernando Valley or in Orange County. When Skaggs began the case, he ran into the stumbling block that plagues every murder investigation - lack of credible witnesses. The people in the neighborhood might say "Everybody know." At the same time, the tangible fear of retaliation for wearing a snitch jacket is palpable. One prosecutor called the problem "colossal," and one detective remarked that all of the killings were "just one witness away" from being solved. Even John Skaggs, an artist at getting people to talk, recognized that "cases founder" in the absence of witnesses. His manner of working was to get up at 3:30 a.m. and start knocking on doors. He was persistent; if no one answered he would return another day, and another, and another until finally someone would answer the door.

It was the same with the Bryant Tennelle case, in spite of the fact that everyone knew the boy's father was a police officer. Skaggs eventually got the gang nickname of "No Brains," whom he tracked down to a juvenile detention camp for possession of illegal guns. During the interrogation of sixteen-year-old Devon Davis, AKA "No Brains," Skaggs discovered that there was a girl in the SUV that was connected to Bryant's murder. He also got the name of a gang - the Blocc Crips. By cross-referencing names of known gang members in the Blocc Cripps, he eventually got the name of the girl in the car - twenty-two year old Jessica Midkiff.

It would be hard to distinguish who the hero is in this game of cat and mouse, played out on any given day in the streets of South L.A. Skaggs was one of those rare breed of detectives who recognizes that whatever the background of the murder victims, they are first and foremost "Somebody's son or daughter," and he pursued his cases with the unrelenting goal in mind of bringing the killers to court, and if possible, behind bars. On the other hand, Jessica Midkiff lived in the heart of "the Monster." She was surrounded by the killers, she lived with them, she was as vulnerable as she could possibly be to retaliation for cooperating with the LAPD. Yet, she did cooperate.

The question is inevitable, why are murders so commonplace in the inner city? "Ghettoside" uses Los Angeles as an example but the story could be told by someone in Detroit, Washington D.C., Chicago, New Orleans. Leovy goes to great lengths to explain the phenomena in anthropological terms, but she also writes that many of the murders stem from insults, snitching, unwanted party guests, grudges, vengeance, or conflicts over women. Murder is ingrained into the lifestyle south of the 10 to the extent that it's not referred to as murder, rather as "takin' care of business," "puttin' in work," "smoke him," "light him up."

There is a history of impunity of killers of black men, going back to the Jim Crow days in the deep south. In Los Angeles, the resources of the LAPD are skimpily handed out to the divisions south of the 10. They are chronically understaffed, short of cars and computers, even space to interrogate suspects. Skaggs had to commandeer a large trailer, park it behind the Seventy-seventh division offices, and work out of there. Because of the shortages and the resulting ineffectiveness, there is a feeling in the black community that black people are "killable," it can be done without consequences. In fact, Leovy points out that in the absence of proper police protection in the ghetto, it is imperative that someone fill the gap, usually it's gangs that "Make the rules."

Jill Leovy got her start in the writing business with the Los Angeles Times as a reporter on the police beat. She requested and got permission from the LAPD to have a desk in the Seventy-seventh Street Division, what one would call "imbedded" if she were a war correspondent. She got to know John Skaggs and the other detectives, went out with them to crime scenes, collected data, interviewed some of the key players, and launched a blog, "The Homicide Report." This was "an attempt to provide a comprehensive, day-by-day accounting of every homicide in the county." She began writing "Ghettoside" in 2008 when The Times suspended her blog. She attended court hearings, interviewed police officers, walked the streets, visited victim's families, attended funerals. She explains her motivation to explore this subject as part of an effort to "penetrate the mystery of disproportionate black homicide.... And the attitudes and policies of legal authorities toward it."

The Assassination Complex
Jeremy Scahill
Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York NY 10020
9781501144134, $30.00, HC, 234 pages

Paul Lappen, Reviewer

Based on leaked documents, this book gives an inside look at America's military drone program.

Publicly, drone strikes are used only on those who are deemed an imminent threat to America, including American citizens living abroad. The intelligence community is as sure as they can be that they know Terrorist X's exact location and that the possibility of civilian casualties is reduced as much as possible. That's not the reality.

In countries like Somalia and Yemen, America has very few people on the ground who can confirm Terrorist X's location at any given time. Therefore, America relies on tracking their cellphones. Some drones carry what is, in effect, a fake cellphone tower. When Terrorist X's cellphone makes a call, it is forced to connect to that fake tower. The location is pinpointed. The possibility that the cellphone is in the possession of Terrorist X's wife or cousin, or that the SIM card was taken out and given to an associate, is not considered. Civilians who are killed in a drone strike are usually called "militants."

The book talks about America's no-fly lists (there is more than one list). How a person gets on, and off, the list is highly classified. Evidently giving Americans a way to get off the list would hamper the War on Terror. Ramstein Air Base in Germany is a vital relay point between drones flying around Southwest Asia, and their pilots back in America. Officially, this is in violation of German law, but the German Government intentionally does not ask America about it. Ultimately, despite the occasional high profile, and extrajudicial, killing, the drone program has not had much effect on Al-Qaeda or the Taliban.

This book deserves six stars. It is fascinating, eye-opening, upsetting and very highly recommended for all Americans.

Radio: One Woman's Family in War and Pieces
Alice H. Green and Peter H. Green
Greenskills Press
9781941402115, $15.95 PB, $4.99 Kindle, 272pp,

Paula B.

Gift Book -- History of a Strong Woman, Sprinkled with Humor
Rating 4.5 for humor and a true story that needs to be told.

"He loved me, he treasured me, and he pampered me - and then he left me for the Marines. He finally had to admit....that I was his equal." ---Alice Green

This is a wonderful gift book. Alice Green's writing is fresh and at times laugh-aloud funny, parts of it reminiscent of Cheaper by the Dozen. Thorton Wilder instructed Alice in creative writing. I recommend this book to all readers who enjoy a good laugh. The section "We Bought a Crooked House" was hilarious.

Co-written by Alice and her son Peter, I enjoyed snippets about the history of radio, radio advertising, and the home front before, during, and after WW II. Throughout the book, Alice endured her share of problems. She was born at a time when women totally acquiesced to their spouse's wishes, a time when women did not have the vote. During WW II, Alice raised two youngsters while dealing with rationing and a reduced income. Her ordeal can be compared to being hand-fed through the wringer of her new electric washing machine. She emerged changed and stronger.

This book will appeal to readers who love the true story of a woman of Irish Catholic heritage, a product of Chicago, as she was strengthened by trial and tribulation. Alice progressed from a shy wallflower to a woman who supervised countless volunteers for the American Red Cross. I intend to buy a copy of this book for a dear aunt.

Autumnal Heart: The Collected Poems of Sue Scalf
Sue Scalf
Premium Press
P.O. Box 58995, Nashville, TN 37205-8995
9781933725420, $20.95, PB, 396pp,

Michelle Schingler, Reviewer
Foreword Reviews

The gentle nudge to pause, listen, look for deeper meaning or humor - especially at the worst of times - is ever present in Sue Scalf's poetry. But her blood runs plenty hot, and that opposition between the thoughtful and the passionate helps to explain why she's been a revered bard for more than fifty years. The author of eight collections, over her lifetime Scalf lived in a couple dozen homesteads around the US, including a long stint in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. She now lives in Alabama.


Despair and fatigue travel together.
Neither believes in dawn or gods;
they plod but leave no footprints
in the slush of snow.
Around them black dots of soot
settle slowly.

Aged and wizened, they breathe
asthmatic breaths; their skin
has the pallor of ash
and carries the stench
of cabbage and gin.

They are the rag and bone men
who pick through garbage cans
down alleys where only rats
grow fat, and darkness comes on
like sick-bed sweat.

Beneath street lamps
where poisonous fog
wraps entrails of gray,
they make their way
toward the yielding bed
of the hopeless heart.

8 Steps to Getting Real with Cancer: Empowering Newly Diagnosed Patients and Those who Love Them
Marianne C. McDonough
Sapphire River Publishing Services, Inc.
9780996697705, $12.95 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 102pp,

Christine Canfield, Reviewer
Foreword Review (November 4, 2016)

This book is an excellent choice for anyone involved in the cancer journey, from patients and their families to friends and medical staff.

The first few weeks after a cancer diagnosis can feel like complete chaos. A kaleidoscope of emotions whirls around a core feeling of shock, and the volume of incoming information can be overwhelming. In 8 Steps to Getting Real with Cancer, Marianne C. McDonough gives practical and compassionate advice that shows how being honest and adopting a "survivor's attitude" from the very start can help immensely in dealing with this crisis.

Written for cancer patients and those close to them, McDonough offers chapters on getting real with many aspects of the cancer journey, including oneself, one's support system, the treatment process, and the future. She uses her own experience with breast cancer as an example of how this can be done, while acknowledging that everyone's journey and beliefs will be different. Her examples and point of view are personal, but she encourages people to tweak the information to best fit their own needs.

McDonough successfully maintains a message that is consistently compassionate and positive while being straightforward and honest about the challenges. Cancer is a struggle, and she doesn't sugarcoat that. Her goal is to empower others to navigate this difficult time, and her most helpful tools in accomplishing this are the sections that acknowledge and debunk the myths that can come up in the process of treatment. For example, patients often express that they don't want to be a burden to their friends and family. McDonough counters that allowing others to participate in the cancer journey shows them that they are trusted and that their love and caring is accepted.

The book is not only filled with great advice, but is also organized in a way that fits perfectly with the situation of its readers. It's a thin book that stashes easily into a purse or large pocket for taking on the go, and it's broken up into small chapters that are the perfect length for reading while waiting for doctors' appointments or treatment. Within the chapters are clearly designated sections that deal with myth vs. truth, practical applications for using the advice given, and a section called "Survivor Attitude" that gives a paragraph or two on how to cultivate a positive outlook. These sections are perfect for a quick pick-me-up when things are rough.

8 Steps is an excellent choice for anyone involved in the cancer journey, from patients and their families to friends and medical staff. McDonough's personal story lets patients know they are not alone, and gives others insight into how the patient may feel and the best ways to be helpful. Her advice is on-point and her voice is authentic and confident, giving those in the midst of crisis a friend to turn to who has been there and done that, and who will help them do it, too.

Circle of Nine: Sacred Treasures
Valerie Biel
Lost Lake Press
9780990645092, $13.99 PB, $4.99 Kindle, 288pp,

Divine Zape, Reviewer
Readers' Favorite

Review Rating 5-Stars!

Sacred Treasures is book three in the Circle of Nine Series by Valerie Biel, a story that brims with Celtic lore and mythology. Brigit Quinn is a young woman undergoing training to become part of the circle of nine, a select group that is entrusted with the mission to protect the sacred, ancient stones of her land. She could have been very happy exploring her history and the sacred traditions of her people, but the joy seems to be wrested from her so quickly that she finds herself fighting to stay alive while figuring out how to protect the treasures. A mysterious missive lets her in on a very deadly secret: someone knows about the treasures and their power, and this person will do everything to get them and use their power to destroy the circle of nine. Now, Brigit Quinn must find out who this enemy is before he strikes, but is she ready for the dangerous mission? Who can she really trust?

Valerie Biel has succeeded in doing to me what very few authors are capable of doing, what only Christopher Pike made me feel - making me remember that we are creatures of magic and that we come from a tradition that has roots in extraordinary things. This is an extraordinary story with a fantastic setting and characters that remind readers of the sacred in them. I enjoyed the way she explored the struggle between good and evil in this work and how the conflict reaches every aspect of the story. The protagonist is well designed to represent a whole tradition and readers will love to see her transformed from a neophyte into a confident guardian of her tradition. Great writing, enthralling plot, fast-paced, and utterly seductive. Giving this one a clean 5-star.

A Celebration of Western New York Poets
Patricia Tansey, editor
Buffalo Legacy Publications
c/o CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
490O Lacross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781519699640, $20.00, PB, 470 pp,

Jeff Simon, Reviewer
Arts and Books Editor of The Buffalo News

In an uncommonly good holiday season for anthologies of writing from and/or about the Eastern Shores of Lake Erie, here is a definitive anthology of Buffalo poets that was, says its editor, "my labor of love for five years."

One of the better academic jokes about life in Buffalo since the mid-'60's is that "poetics" in that period became one of our area's more virulent growth industries. From the mid-'60s era when Albert Cook brought Leslie Fiedler and Charles Olson to UB to the influence of Charles Bernstein and beyond, the city has been a hotbed of poets of all flavors, sizes and aesthetic varieties.

The biggest names among Buffalo poets were always obvious -- Olson, Creeley, Irving Feldman. Carl Dennis, John Logan, Bernstein, Robert Hass, Mac Hammond. But those poets all seemed to find throngs of friends, disciples and co-conspirators not just at universities but out in the community.

A terrific anthology of Buffalo resident poets over the years is the one put together by Max Wickert of those who took part in his "Outriders Poetry Series" -- "An Outriders Anthology: Poetry in Buffalo 1969-1979." Among its other features was Wickert's rollicking introduction which is one of the finest (and most entertaining) pieces ever written about Bohemian and cultural life in Buffalo.

Tansey's remarkable later-period anthology collecting "almost eight dozen" Buffalo poets is close to a perfect complement to Wickert's anthology of '70's poets.

Tansey has been working on it for so long that some of the area's finest and most conspicuous local poets over the years -- Sally Fiedler, Jimmie Gilliam and Bill Sylvester -- died before the book ever saw publication.

But in both the poetry selected and in apparently inexhaustible information about contributors, this an immensely important contribution to the Buffalo bookshelf. (It's not for nothing that it is being taught in some area schools.)

It is available in the Barnes and Noble on the Buffalo State campus, the Burchfield Penney Arts Center, Talking Leaves and online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Abandoned by the Vatican
Jack Doherty
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781537092409, $18.99 PB, $3.99 Kindle, 442pp,

Rebecca Skane

"Abandoned by the Vatican: My Clandestine Journey to Support Secret Priests Behind the Iron Curtain" is the little known but true tale of the "Book Priest" and his project to secretly ship Catholic books to illegal priests in Czechoslovakia, Poland, Yugoslavia, and Romania during the Cold War. You would think a tale such as this (Mission Impossible with banned books!) would be well known while ballads of its fearless leader canonized by the Vatican. Sadly, this incredible and true tale hasn't been discussed in detail, until now.

"We Czechs are defiant."

The state of these priests-in-hiding wasn't the fault of the Vatican. It was Russia's smack down after World War II, cordoning itself and the countries under its control off from the rest of the world. The Cold War and extreme communism are terms that easily go hand in hand. Russia's atheist government was tough on everyone within its territories, but they were especially tough on the Catholic Church.

In Czechoslovakia, as well as the other countries, the government took possession of all assets. All of their crops and products were shipped to Russia while the workers were left with the scraps. The bureaucrats got fat, the people - the majority - became lean. Anyone who spoke out against communism was considered a traitor and sent to the gulags. The government declared the Vatican to be an enemy country and, on that account, had most of the priests rounded up and sent to the camps for torture, interrogation, and pure suffering. The Vatican was powerless to do anything.

Many years later, the priests (those who survived) were released and sent home. Anxious to save face from the bad press of mock trials and false imprisonment, the government allowed the Catholic Church to continue under high surveillance and complete control. But there was a difference between the "fake priests" who supported communism, and the "secret priests" who denounced it. What the old priests wanted was a connection to Rome, the new materials and guides from the Vatican - material that was contraband.

In comes Jack Doherty, a young American priest working toward his Ph.D. in theology. After obtaining a visa to enter Czechoslovakia, he meets with the secret priests, bringing badly needed books. He is the first, really, to see the state they live in. Old, in seclusion, hidden meetings, hidden services - always being watched by the StB (Czechoslovakia's Secret Police).

"In 1950 Czechoslovakia had over 200 religious houses and over 2,800 priests and brothers. After twenty years of communist rule, a good estimate of the number of priests is that half survived. Of this number half are over sixty years of age. The older priests prefer to be left alone."

When Jack returns to Germany, he begins his great book project. He finds publishers willing to donate Catholic books that were slated for destruction, he receives small donations, and he is able to get a huge shipment out to a few addresses. It works. The books aren't sent back at customs, and his targets receive the desperately needed texts. He continues to visit with these secret priests, getting more names and addresses, and word of his project begins to grow when letters of appreciation coming from within communist territory are received. It becomes so popular - so huge! - the American military wants to take over. More funds are donated, more publishers excitedly donate - Jack's great book project takes on a life of its own.

There is one important group that Jack doesn't want involved: the Vatican. With spies everywhere and on both sides of the Cold War, there are known spies within the Vatican who would gladly pass the knowledge of this operation to the Russian government, and that juicy tidbit could lead to the deaths of his fellow brothers behind the Iron Curtain.

As Jack visits a few more times with more secret priests, with some mention of exciting evasion of the StB, he learns how they've managed to hide new priests (by being married - because who would suspect a married man?), and he records tales of torture they had endured in prison, although many didn't want to talk about it. Still, he gathers some awful descriptions of how the priests were starved and tortured in the most inhumane conditions possible. These gulags (although no longer called gulags during this time period) were death camps. Jack continues his visits to get more addresses, until the day comes when he tries to enter Czechoslovakia and the guard says, "Sie sind night erwunscht." (You are not wanted.) Something is wrong.

This story blows my mind. The absolute courage and determination Mr. Doherty displayed simply by walking through that Iron Curtain, bringing items that could have meant his death or imprisonment and torture if discovered, is inspiring. More than inspiring. I don't think there is a word to define it. He didn't walk in with guns, or a plan if things went south, or with a giant entourage of steely men to help him. HE JUST WALKED IN. Straight into the lion's den.

One interesting note I want to mention: the author never mentions his own name, aside from his beloved nickname as the "Book Priest" - unless I missed it. Even flipping back, I couldn't find it. I wonder if this was done as a small reminder that he felt humbled in front of those who suffered and martyred themselves. Even Jack asked why they had done it - why didn't they give in and confess to avoid torture?

Another note: most memoirs make the main focus on the self. Most memoir authors will discuss themselves at length, trying to create a connection. This is not done at all. We know almost nothing about Jack, aside from the fact that he's working on his Ph.D. In this case, the author puts all of the emphasis on the book project and on the priests behind enemy lines. He doesn't glorify himself at all. Just the facts, ma'am.

We all know about the death camps in World War II where millions were executed. This is after World War II, and these camps weren't much different. Descriptions of torture are revealed but not in gory depth. Most of the priests refused to talk about their times in the camps, not wanting to relive it. There was one story that stood out for me. When Jack asked if the priests had been able to gather at all to pray, one priest explained how they faked out the prison guards in the yard every single time. They would walk together and do the Stations of the Cross while making it look as if they were having idle conversation. It's a passage you'll have to read - let their defiance swell your heart.

I highly suggest this book to anyone with a Catholic background, a Czech background, to Christians, to Cold War historians, and to those bibliophiles who have a penchant for banned books.

Abandoned by the Vatican is the ultimate "banned books" true tale. Fans of People of the Book by Pulitzer Prize - winning Geraldine Brooks will want to read this one.

Gate in the Fence of Time
David Robert Berry
Fairhaven Lantern
9781480232884, $17.75 PB, $8.50 Kindle, 310pp,

Jeremy Berman, Reviewer
Social Studies Teacher, Manhasset NY Secondary School

David Robert Berry's novel Gate in the Fence of Time is a thrilling and thought-provoking examination of early American history from the perspective of characters that do not often appear in works of historical fiction. By seamlessly weaving together the compelling stories of a Scottish soldier, a compassionate Quaker woman with a tragic past, an African-American slave yearning for freedom, a deeply spiritual free African woman, an indentured blacksmith, a Native American holy man, and more, Berry has crafted a richly textured and deeply affecting historical panorama that will appeal to young and old readers alike.

We meet these diverse historical figures through the Sinclairs, a 21st century family on their way to Williamsburg for a historically themed vacation. As a result of a freak accident, the Sinclairs are transported back in time to Virginia in 1775, with a chance to explore the Revolutionary era more directly than they ever could have imagined! John Sinclair, a patriotic special ops veteran, bonds with colorful Scottish veteran Bruce Wallace and learns that the founding fathers were not as free of political bias and opportunism as he might like to believe. His wife, Susan Sinclair, finds catharsis and learns lessons of faith and family through her friendship with Jane Harding, a gentle Quaker with a heartbreaking personal history. Their grown children Peter and Megan connect with indentured servants and African-American and Native American communities of 18th century Virginia. Peter tries to help a slave named Evie achieve her freedom while Megan develops a friendship with Native American holy man Standing Elk, and they discover through these experiences that even as our founding fathers signed a declaration that "all men are created equal," these high ideals remained out of reach for far too many Americans.

The interactions between the Sinclairs and their 18th century counterparts are packed with fascinating historical details that demonstrate the exhaustive research Berry conducted for this book, but also such incredible courage, perseverance, humor and spiritual insight that readers will be as moved by this story as they are informed by it.

Gate in the Fence of Time provides a more well-rounded perspective on the American Revolution than we usually receive in our schools. The Sinclairs learn that American greed for Native American lands west of the Proclamation Line of 1763 was a far more important cause of the colonial rebellion than the issue of "no taxation without representation," and that the hated British actually freed as many slaves during the American Revolution as the Underground Railroad later would in the 19th century, though many of them would be denied a life of freedom by the very American patriots we valorize today. Berry does not make these points to attack America or its history, but simply to remind us that living up to the noble values of personal liberty, equality and self-determination expressed in Thomas Paine's Common Sense or Jefferson's Declaration of Independence has been a challenge for the United States since the very founding of our country. However, the irrepressible spirit and humanity of characters like Bruce, Jane, Evie and Standing Elk remind the Sinclairs that these values are never out of reach, and galvanizes readers to continue standing up for them in the fraught political landscape of 21st century America.

Gate in the Fence of Time is a vibrant portrait of Revolutionary history and its continuing ramifications, full of sharp dialogue and thrilling action. It is also a story of a modern American family reconnecting and learning more about themselves that any father, mother, son or daughter could relate to. I can't recommend it more highly. It is on the best seller shelf at Colonial Williamsburg.

Blood Shackles
Rosemary A. Johns
Fantasy Rebel Limited
978 0995557925, $13.49 pbk / $2.99 Kindle, 368pp,

Margarita Morris, Reviewer
The Good Writer

Synopsis: When your whole species is enslaved - and it's the humans who are acting like the monsters - how far would you go to free your family?

In a divided paranormal London, Light is the bad boy vampire of the Blood Lifer world. Since Victorian times he's hidden in the shadows. But not now. When he's bought by his Mistress, Light fights to escape. If he doesn't, he'll never solve the conspiracy behind the Blood Club.

Who are these ruthless humans? And who betrayed the secret of the Blood Lifer world?


London, Primrose Hill. Grayse is the slaver's daughter. She buys Light, like he's a pair of designer shoes. So why does Light feel so drawn to her? Especially when his family is still in chains. Will he risk everything - even his new love - to save them?


A stunning revelation leads Light to an inconceivable truth. If he can face his worst terrors, he can save his family and his whole species from slavery.
Maybe he can even save himself.

Critique: 5* Light is back and he's his usual charming, funny, wry, ballsy self. But he's in a dark place. Kidnapped and held prisoner by a corrupt organisation, Light finds himself acquired by the slave owner's youngest daughter, Grayse. Light determines to open her eyes to the truth about her family and to save his own Blood Life family.

This is a powerful, unflinching narrative. There are clear parallels with the slave trade, modern day sex trafficking and the potential corruption of big business. The story explores in terrifying detail how a person's identity can be taken from them.

Having said that, it's not all darkness and horror. Light's witty, loving, self-deprecating personality shines through and we get moving glimpses into his Victorian childhood. The picture of Light in a pair of pink Marigolds (a popular brand of kitchen gloves in the UK), doing the household chores made me smile. And he can cook an Italian meal for me any day.

The writing is sharp and resonant, the emotional pacing is spot on, and the action scenes are minutely choreographed and vividly described. 

Blood Shackles is a terrific read. Ultimately it is a story about the triumph of hope and love over evil.

It should be noted for personal reading lists that Blood Dragons is also available in a Kindle edition ($2.99).

To Shape the Dark
Athena Andreadis, editor
Candlemark & Gleam
9781936460670, $22.95 PB, $6.99 Kindle, 396 pages,

Kelly Jennings, Reviewers
Strange Horizons (Nov 21, 2016)

By now we've all heard of the Bechdel-Wallace test. We've read the studies and seen the reports. We know that science fiction, even science fiction written by women, suffers from a paucity of women characters, and specifically of women protagonists. While not limited to one genre, the dearth of stories which treat women as real people in their own right seems especially egregious in the field of science fiction, given that we're a genre committed to looking to the future. A regressive science fiction, in which women appear only as adjuncts to men, or don't appear at all, paints a dismaying future. Worse, it's not an accurate painting - not accurate about our present world, much less the future we hope for.

As a partial response to this situation, in 2013 Athena Andreadis, along with Kay Holt, released the science fiction anthology The Other Half of the Sky, filled with stories featuring women protagonists. For this anthology, Andreadis solicited science fiction stories about women who were fully grown, fully human, and the center of their own narratives. The anthology ended up on a number of recommendation lists, garnered stellar reviews, and saw four of its stories reprinted in Best of SF anthologies that year. Further, one of the stories, Aliette de Bodard's "The Waiting Stars," won a Nebula. With To Shape the Dark, the successor to The Other Half of the Sky, Andreadis has not just created a worthy successor to her first anthology: she has surpassed it.

This second anthology continues Andreadis's project to publish more science fiction with women protagonists. In this anthology, as she explains in her introduction, Andreadis adds an emphasis on the science part of science fiction. Just as many of us have noticed the dearth of women in the genre, many have also noticed the lack of stories with real science at their centers, not to mention of real scientists doing that real science. For To Shape the Dark, Andreadis sought out stories about women scientists who were "passionately pursuing their science" (p. 4). Though the stories are amazing, I recommend not skipping the introduction - or at least coming back to it. Here, Andreadis, herself a scientist, succinctly lays out her argument for the anthology. As she notes, much of modern science fiction has a US perspective, so that US attitudes toward science (and towards gender ) tend to prevail in the genre. Currently in the genre both science and scientists tend to appear as villains; the scientists are men, and the science is brought into the story - if it appears at all - as an info dump, rather than as a practice and an art which humans engaged in. This sort of science fiction becomes a puzzle story, a trick, rather than a fully fledged story.

Here in To Shape the Dark, Andreadis gives us fifteen stories in which both women and science - real science - are the heroes. I seldom read an anthology with more than one or two really good stories in it; usually at least a quarter of the stories are meh. Here, every single one is not just good, but stellar. This makes my task difficult, since I have to select only a few to talk about. You may take it as read that what I really want to do at this point is put the book in your hands and say, Go read, they're all wonderful.

Aliette de Bodard gives us a story rich with court intrigue covering years and multiple planets. In "Crossing the Midday Gate," a scientist, Dan Lihn, has been exiled for twenty years to a provincial planet. Her exile, as we learn, had to do as much with politics as with an ill-fated decision concerning a vaccine developed in her labs. Although Lihn might not have been responsible for the problems with the vaccine - it worked, but it had fatal side effects for some people - she kept quiet and accepted responsibility in order to protect a subordinate less politically connected than she was. Now, recalled to court - more because of her value as a political prop than for reasons of justice - Lihn must decide between reclaiming her old position, and with it the chance to once again be an effective scientist, and once again protecting that subordinate.

And from Gwyneth Jones comes "The Seventh Gamer," a story about an anthropologist studying the culture of an online game. This anthropologist, Chloe, is drawn to study a particular game after learning of a rumor that one of the NPC in the game is an alien. Chloe doesn't believe that this NPC, Pevay, is actually an alien; she immerses herself in the culture of the game in order to study the system that created this belief. However, once she's in the culture, and dealing with Pevay, she finds her certainty beginning to slip.

"Fieldwork," by Shariann Lewitt, less traditionally plotted than most science fiction stories, was for me one of the most gripping in the collection. It's the story of Anna Taylor, a third-generation scientist. She's a volcanologist whose grandmother died on the first expedition to Europa. Her mother, Irene Taylor, was one of the children on that expedition. The First Europa Expedition ended in disaster, and Irene, despite her young age, saved the survivors, due to her extraordinary mathematical ability.

"Fieldwork" concerns, among other things, Anna's decision to accept a mission to return to Europa, and the impact this has on her mother. It is told in flashbacks and journal entries - Irene's journal, which she gives to Anna as she leaves for the mission. It is a story, ultimately, about the cost of doing science; and about the fact that science is, ultimately, worth that cost.

Melissa Scott gives us "Firstborn, Lastborn," an almost too-short story of a class-stratified far-future world. In this future, the "First-born," the original space-faring settlers of new worlds, own almost everything. Second-born, those who followed them into space, and "facendi," those created - literally built - to do the more dangerous work of terraforming the planets, own little and have almost no power. The First-born also control, and to some extent own, the powerful AIs they created to run their civilization. Here in this story, one of these First-born, Anketil, is confronted by the rediscovery of a rebel AI, long since lost - deliberately lost, stranded, in an attempt to stop the coming AI war. Anketil has a family connection both to the rebel AI, Gold Shining Bone, and to the humans in the ship that it controlled - all lost when Gold Shining Bone was left stranded outside time and space. Anketil can rescue Gold Shining Bone and the crew of the ship, but knows that if she does, she may yet cause the AI war. All of this story is told, not from Anketil's point of view, but from the point of view of a narrator who tells us up front that they are not First-Born, not Second-born, and not facendi, but something entirely other. How other, we don't understand until the end of the story - which causes the reader to reevaluate everything they've read.

Constance Cooper's "Carnivores of Can't-Go-Home" is another of my favorites in the collection, along with "Chlorophyll Is Thicker Than Water," by M. Fenn. They are both about plant biologists, but I don't think that's the source of my enjoyment - plant biology is not my favorite sort of science. (It's not even in the top ten, frankly.) Part of what I like about Cooper's story is the world-building. She starts with a great premise: aliens, or some entity, have removed two entire continents of humans from Mother Earth and placed them on this alien planet, Daughter Earth. That's all backstory: she moves on from there - this story is set about a hundred years after that event. On the other hand, Fenn's story is set on our Earth, only a few years in our future. Its world is our world, depressing anti-science, global warming denialist, corporate dirty tricks and all. So it's not the world-building, or not world-building only, that draws me to these stories. Partly it's the main character and their relationships - in both stories, we have two main characters, both women, both in long-standing relationships, although of different sorts. In Cooper's story, the relationship is that of colleagues; in Fenn's, the women are married. But in both cases, the two women know each other, understand each other, and work seamlessly together. This, women working together, is something I know well from my own experience, and something I almost never see reflected in science fiction.

And partly it's the sheer pleasure, in both cases, that these women take in their science. As Andreadis notes in her introduction, this was one of her goals: scientists, enmeshed in kinship groups, passionately engaged in science. Here, in these stories, we see delightful examples of that.

In Cooper's story, the two scientists set out to chart the plants in a thus-far uncharted bog on Daughter Earth, and end up in the middle of local politics. As becomes apparent, this is a situation which could lead to disaster, not just for them and the bog, but for all humans on the planet. In Fenn's story, the scientists (who are in their eighties, by the way; another detail about this anthology that I love is how many of the main characters are well past middle age), while apparently doing nothing more exciting than running a hill farm in Vermont, turn out to be doing very important science indeed, as a corporate spy sent to investigate their work finds out.

I'll close with Vandana Singh's story, "Of Wind and Fire." This is the story I would most like to see made into a novel. Here's some world-building. Singh gives us a world filled with floating townships and a giant mountain they "fall" along and around, endlessly, with cliff settlements where they can, from time to time, make anchor, and leave or take on passengers.

And while the main character, Vayusha, does not at first glance seem like a scientist, we soon realize she is the primal scientist, studying her world through observation, trial and error, the gathering of data, and the application of that data. This world is not our world, and the laws of physics here aren't ours. It is through Vayusha's scientific observations that we begin to understand the laws of this world - how its gravity works, how it is shaped - and to form our own hypotheses about what is happening. (Singh never gives us answers: the reader, like Vayusha, is on her own.) Along with the fantastic world-building, we have a page-turning plot - people sometimes fall from the floating towns. This especially happens to children, and one day it happens to Vayusha's tiny daughter. Usually such children are given up for dead, but Vayusha knows that (in this world) light objects fall more slowly than heavy ones. She knows she can catch up with her child, and she dives after her. Vayusha's travels as she falls, and once she lands (and, spoilers, finds her daughter), just end too soon.

I could well go on, singing you paeans to every story in the collection; but I'll leave you some to discover on your own. This is, like Andreadis's previous anthology, a remarkable collection, and one not to be missed.

And Then He Was Gone
Joan Hall Hovey
Books We Love Ltd.
9781772993042, $12.99 PB, $0.99 Kindle, 248pp,

Martha Cheves

"...His hands still on the rope, they dropped away as he stared with shock and terror, mouth agape, at the water.  As if the table had suddenly transformed into a deep reservoir, water gushed from it, spilling onto the floor, flooding it, then spiking up suddenly as if alive, like thrusting fingers, reaching for him.  He gasped and lost his footing, tumbling off the ladder and bringing it down on top of him.  Laying on his back on the floor, his terror-filled eyes were riveted on the horror unfolding before him.  Even as he managed to get back up on his feet, his eyes never once left the visage that Julie thought had to be the results of some sort of conjoined hysteria, since they were both witnessing it...As he backed away from what her rational mind insisted had to be some trick of the imagination, long skeletal fingers shot out of the water and clamped around his wrist.  Beneath his screams, she heard the sirens in the distance, but that did not quite register, perhaps only existed in some other realm, some alternate universe, for Julie was aware of nothing except what was happening here and now... 

Adam was here."

Julie's husband Adam went missing on July 14th, her birthday.  He was supposed to take her out to dinner but he never showed.  She drove around town looking for him and even submitted a missing person's report with the police department.  Six months later they were still questing and accusing her of murdering her husband and doing something with his body.

Many years earlier a boy named David was found in the lake after someone tried to drown him.  He didn't die but ended up in a coma for what was the better part of his life.  After all those years he has finally awaken to a life with no memory.

So, what does a missing husband and a boy that has been in a coma for 19 years have in common?  As I read the story of both I saw a very twisted mind that reeked pure terror on both families.  It held me in suspense to see what this sick mind would do next. 

I had a hard time putting this book down. You can visit the author's website at

Game On
Shonette Charles
Seamare Press
PO Box 99095, Raleigh, NC 27624
9780996456821; $14.95 PB; $4.99 Kindle, 347pp,

Ashley Mahoney

"Game On: A Breaking into the Black Elite Novel" by Shonette Charles offers a different look at North Carolina. Charles presents a darker version of "The Great Gatsby," where the rich and famous have kids, southern accents, faster cars and leading ladies with sass and class.

Charles poignantly points out issues surrounding race, sex, sexual orientation, marriage, education and finances. On the surface, ignoring these issues would be easier than dealing with them. Yet Charles does more than deal with them. She shows the depths that people go to protect their families, secrets, business ventures and just how messy life can get, because of the choices we make.

At some point, family ties will test our patience, love and loyalty. Charles demonstrates that family can extend beyond blood. For her characters, these family ties come in the form of sorority sisters and social club members. Through her direct diction, Charles illustrates what happens when people lie: they get caught. Those lies have a tendency to cause more problems than telling the truth in the first place would have, and Charles demonstrates those consequences with flair.

Additionally, she includes gay characters, and goes to extreme lengths to address the bias directed toward those of a different sexual orientation. Yet, she also uses this as a platform to address the theme of living one's life from the closet. While she incorporates a great deal of hyperbole to convey this message, Charles depicts a world where race defines the way people treat preschoolers - it's heinous and unfortunately true.

Her story shows that no matter how much money an individual has, regardless of what school he or she attended, without consideration of the individual, prejudice can cloud a person's judgment.

The Journey of Not Knowing
Julie Benezet
Morton Hill Press
PO Box 614, Ashland, OR 97520
9780997813906, $18.95, 266pp
9780997813913, $9.99 Kindle

Kenneth Majer, PhD

"The Journey of Not Knowing: How 21st Century Leaders Can Chart a Course Where There Is None" a book that spans disciplines. Ms. Benezet's background in psychology, anthropology, the law, and her business experience coalesce into a single, multi-dimensional book that also shows off her gift of story telling. My sense is that the creation of this book was a cathartic personal journey that produced and reinforced a number of very practical ways to deal with being a business leader facing the challenges of managing in an increasingly changing world.
As a management consultant and change management practitioner, I could skip over many the stories to get to the practical gems that can be applied in my work. I found what I was looking for in Part 4 - the description of the Journey of Not Knowing model in depth. What I found was a remarkable compendium of basic truths about working within complex organizations.

The "discomfort of risk taking" is one of the main barriers to managing change. When confronted with the necessity to do things in new ways, the challenge is to keep the pressure on to avoid having individuals slip back to their comfort zones. All change requires taking risks and without overcoming the discomfort of risk-taking, the outcome will be stagnation in the status quo.

The need for "bigger bets" is a useful way to describe what others have termed "stretch goals" or BHAGS (Big Hairy Audacious Goals). The idea of betting appeals to the dynamic tension that comes with risk taking and abandoning a personal comfort zone.

As a psychologist, the  most significant part of the model for me is the section on Hooks. Benezet's treatment of these behavioral phenomena summarizes the challenges in the "people side" of organizational management including micromanaging, conflict avoidance, codependency, failure to delegate, personalizing and more. This section alone could be the foundation for a graduate-level course in organizational development, especially if the strategies for dealing with Hooks would be included in such a course. The five steps for addressing Hooks: Recognize Being Hooked, Pause and Reflect, Identify the Hook, Reevaluate, and Consider the Options is a nice template for dealing with these leadership challenges.

The final section that focuses on personal motivators and past experiences is too personal to be useful for a practitioner. However, it does provide a framework for how readers could build a personalized, individual models for themselves.
The Journey of Not Knowing will appeal to many leadership audiences including those who enjoy business stories as well as those of us who live them everyday.

Andrea's Bookshelf

Own It: Oprah Winfrey In Her Own Words
Edited by Anjali Becker and Jeanne Engelmann
B2 Books
c/o Agate Publishing
1328 Greenleaf Street, Evanston, IL 60202
9781572842038 $10.95 pbk / $8.76 Kindle

Own It: Oprah Winfrey In Her Own Words collects more than 200 selected quotations from media personality and respected businesswoman Oprah Winfrey. The quotes offer valuable life lessons about business and entrepreneurship, as well as sharing key insights from Oprah's own life. Own It is a choice pick for casual browsing, or as a source of inspiration for prospective entrepreneurs! "Become the change you want to see - those are words I live by. Instead of belittling, uplift. Instead of demolishing, rebuild. Instead of misleading, light the way so that all of us can stand on higher ground."

The 7 Wonders of Olive Oil
Alice Alech and Cecile le Galliard
1254 Commerce Way, Sanger, CA 93657
9781942934738 $16.95 pbk / $9.99 Kindle

The 7 Wonders of Olive Oil: Stronger Bones, Cancer Prevention, Higher Brain Function, and Other Medical Miracles of the Green Nectar is a guide to the tremendous health benefits of incorporating olive oil into one's diet. Drawing upon research from doctors, The 7 Wonders of Olive Oil discusses the role olive oil plays in the Mediterranean diet, and provides tips for cooking with, buying, and storing olive oil. An excellent, reader-friendly guide, The 7 Wonders of Olive Oil is highly recommended. A handful of recipes incorporating olive oil are provided, but it should be noted that The 7 Wonders of Olive Oil is not primarily a cookbook.

The Healing Art of Essential Oils
Kac Young, PhD
Llewellyn Publications
2143 Wooddale Drive, Woodbury, MN 55125
9780738750477 $21.99

The Healing Art of Essential Oils lives up to its title as a guide to using aromatic essential oils for personal benefit. Chapters describe the properties of fifty types of selected oils, and recommendations for their use in relaxation, stress relief, spiritual practices, and more. "These suggested blends are meant only as a beginning. You know yourself, your preferences, and your needs better than anyone else, so you can be as creative as you want to be and become your own personal essential oil chef." The Healing Art of Essential Oils is a "must-have" for anyone interested in the soothing benefits of fine fragrances.

The Modern Herbal Dispensatory
Thomas Easley and Steven Horne
North Atlantic Books
2526 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Berkeley, CA 94704-2607
9781623170790 $24.95

A medical disclaimer in The Modern Herbal Dispensatory warns that "Individuals should always see their health care provider before administering any suggestions made in this book." With that caveat firmly in mind, The Modern Herbal Dispensatory is an extensive guide, interspersed with color photography, to creating and using inexpensive herbal medicines. Expert herbalists Thomas Easley and Steven Horne walk the reader through harvesting, preparing, and administering herbs in forms ranging from consumption of fresh or dried herbs to capsules, extracts, salves, essential oils and more. Exhaustively researched and meticulously presented, The Modern Herbal Dispensatory is thoroughly accessible to aspiring herbalists of all skill and experience levels, and highly recommended. "[Alfalfa] acts as a mild alterative and blood purifier, and has been used for arthritis, poor appetite, general weakness, and mineral deficiencies. Alfalfa and peppermint make a good tea for digestive troubles."

In the Land of Elves
Daniela Drescher
Floris Books
9781782502425 $15.95

In the Land of Elves is a children's picturebook that brings to life a world of tiny elves living among nature's beauty and bounty. "When the winter snow begins to fall, the elves share their harvest. 'Here you are hungry birds!' they call. The chaffinch chirps his thanks." Charming, colorful illustrations featuring realistic drawings of animals and birds enriches this delightful read-aloud picturebook, perfect for storytime or bedtime. Highly recommended.

Andrea Kay

Andy's Bookshelf

Arise Pendragon
Leon Mintz
Erie Harbor Productions
9780971782860 $10.00

Who truly was the King Arthur of legend? Arise Pendragon is the second volume of the four-book Arthurian Tales series, chronicling the struggles of Artorius, the son of Euthar Pendragon. When war forces young Artorius and his mentor Merlinus from their home in Gaul, they begin a perilous journey to Britain. Their destiny is both blessed and star-crossed, and Artorius finds his one true love... but how far can he go to rescue her? Exciting, dramatic, and firmly grounded in research and scholarship, Arise Pendragon brings the fifth century to vivid life, and is highly recommended to historical fiction connoisseurs.

Secrets of Winning Slots, revised edition
Avery Cardoza
Cardoza Publishing
808 South Main Street, Las Vegas, NV 89108-6404
9781580423380, $9.95 pbk / $7.99 Kindle, 176pp,

Now in a newly revised and updated edition, "Secrets of Winning Slots" continues to be an invaluable instructional resource for anyone playing casino slot machines. Drawing upon his impressive expertise, gambling and gaming authority Avery Cardoza includes the newest machines and reveals specific secrets to winning big money at the slots! More than 20 genuine strategies include how to find high percentage machines, how to increase your chances of winning big jackpots, sucker machines to avoid, machines with the most frequent payoffs, ten slot machine myths debunked. Players also learn how to get all the freebies offered by slots clubs including extra points and getting cash back. Of special note are Cardoza's unique slots action charts. They don't call them 'one armed bandits' for nothing! So before you pop in your coins and pull the handle, give a serious read to Avery Cardoza's "Secrets of Winning Slots". It should be noted that "Secrets of Winning Slots" is also available in a Kindle format ($7.99).

Andy Jordan

Ann's Bookshelf

Crash Land
Doug Johnstone
Faber & Faber Ltd
Bloomsbury House
9780571330867, $29.99, paperback, 255 pages,

Finn is waiting for a flight which will take him from the small airport at Kirkwall on the Orkney Islands (just off the North coast of Scotland) back to his flat in Dundee. The small aircraft is delayed due to fog and in the airport waiting area a woman is being harassed by one of four men going on leave from the offshore oil rigs. She chooses Finn to rescue her and they drink together and chat at the bar until the flight is ready to take off.

On the plane, the oil worker continues his harassment, a fight breaks out, and both Finn and the oil man end up being shackled with restraints by the cabin crew. Following airline procedure in the case of a disturbance, the flight turns back to Orkney, but the woman Finn has been befriending manages, whilst the cabin crew are occupied, to get onto the flight deck and grapple with the pilot in an attempt to prevent this. Then, in sudden turbulence, the plane crashes.

This dramatic start to the story is just a taste of the thrills which continue throughout the book.

Seven people die in the crash. Finn survives and so does the woman, but whilst he is rescued from the plane and hospitalised she, and the holdall she has been carefully guarding, vanish.

Finn is allowed to return from hospital to his grandmother, Ingrid's, house on Orkney, where he had been visiting on the anniversary of his mother's, her daughter's, death. The oil man with whom he fought remains in hospital in a coma and, since Finn had been seen to throw the first punch, and the cause of the crash is not yet established, Finn is regarded with suspicion by the police. Meanwhile, the woman, Maddie, contacts him wanting him to hide her. She gives him believable reasons for wanting to remain hidden and drug-running, a violent husband and large sums of money are involved.

Finn is sexually attracted to Maddie, and she uses this to manipulate him into helping her. It is never clear to Finn, or to the reader, how much of what she says is true, but when her husband and another woman are found murdered the mystery deepens and Finn is already deeply entangled in it.

This is a fast-paced story with plenty of excitement, twists and surprises. And Doug Johnstone uses the Orkney Islands, their remoteness, their ancient stone-circles and tomb-burials, their harsh beauty and their close-knit community, to make a fascinating setting. The people of Orkney, Finn's grandmother Ingrid and her friend, Grace (who counsels Finn), a woman police officer, a local journalist, are all interesting characters; and Maddie remains an unpredictable puzzle:

"He thought about what she'd said. A dead husband, a bag of money, her panic on the plane. What did it take to kill someone? Would it show on your face if you could do that? He stared at her now."

Finn, is just an ordinary man taking an ordinary plane journey. His basic good-nature, his intelligence and kindness, all contribute to his involvement in a situation which changes his life dramatically, dangerously and permanently. And Doug Johnstone tells his story skilfully, so that you almost believe that what happened to Finn might happen to anyone.

Crash Land is a gripping, well-written and enjoyable read.

John Berger
20 Jay Street, 10th Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11201-8346
9781784785840, $34.99 HC, $9.99, 254 pages,

"Yes, I'm still amongst other things a Marxist"

The essays in this book can leave the reader in no doubt about the truth of John Berger's statement. In spite of its title, and in spite of the landscape in Thomas Gainsborough's 'Portrait of Mr and Mrs Andrews' which graces the dust-jacket, this book is not about landscape art. Instead, as Tom Overton puts it in his Introduction, it is about "searching for the conditions from which [art] arises, or the climate into which it was received".

So, Berger expresses his views on what constitutes "a valid work of art"; on what art is, its purpose and what it does for us. And always, he comes back to its social and historical context and value. He writes of "the bourgeoisation of the finished work"; of "the revolutionary meaning of the works"; and of the increasing view of art as property - a commodity embedded in the capitalist economic system. In spite of speaking of the spiritual value a work may have for the artist, he calls the idea that art "is a depository of transcendental values" and idealistic view. In order to rightly judge a work of art, he tells us, we must ask "Does this work help or encourage men to know and claim their social rights?". "Art is born out of hope" he claims, and an artist's way of looking at the world "increases our awareness of our own potential".

These are statements of his own beliefs but the arguments he offers to support them I found confusing, often irrational, and hard to follow. Take, for example, this passage from 'The Moment of Cubism' where he discusses the consequences of historical change: "There was no longer any essential discontinuity between the individual and the general. The invisible and the multiple no longer intervened between each individual and the world. It was becoming more and more difficult to think in terms of having been placed in the world. A man was part of the world and indivisible from it. In an entirely original sense, which remains at the basis of modern consciousness, a man was the world which he inherited".

In 'The Moment of Cubism', Berger writes perceptively and clearly about the historical context which helped shape the Cubists' unique view of reality (even if they were unaware of these influences as they worked) and about the way they constructed their work. Unfortunately, one has to work through several pages of Berger's political ideology in order to get to this analysis.

Amongst all this, however, there are clear and demonstrably true descriptions of the state of the art world in the most recent decades; of the commercial imperatives which drive museum curators; of the subjectivity of art and art criticism; and of the trends and cults which influence present-day art and artists. Commenting critically on the Venice Biennale of 1958, he writes that the works displayed had one thing in common: "the image of muck and garbage". He sees pettiness, poverty, gimmicks, and a 'thinness of ideas and aims', which he puts down to social and psychological factors which produce fear, cynicism and human alienation and which make this "non-art" possible.

Also, there are parts of essays, reviews and poems which, for me, provided valuable insights into particular historical periods and the art and artists who reflected current life and helped shape the ideas and work of those who followed them. In particular, I appreciated Berger's descriptions in 'To Take Paper, to Draw' of the artist's perceptions of line, space and arrangement in the development of a drawing. Anyone who has attempted life-drawing will recognise the process he describes, even if they were unaware of it beforehand. His essay 'The Basis of All Painting and Sculpture is Drawing' is similarly enlightening and enjoyable

Just occasionally, there are passages such as his description of his encounter in a field with two donkeys, where he shows that he can be a superb story teller, but these moments are rare

This is not an easy book to read. The pieces in were written between 1953 and 2015 and it would have been helpful if they had been clearly dated so that one could see how Berger's views changed and matured. Also, Berger discusses and compares the work of specific artists and refers to many named works of art, many of them well-known but others more obscure, yet there is not a single picture in the book. Unless you are extremely familiar with a wide range of art, you need to have a computer handy so that you can look up images of the works discussed.

John Berger died at the age of 90 on 3rd January 2017, whilst I was reading this book. Tom Overton, who knew him and his work well, and who wrote the 'Introduction' to Landscapes, said of him: "His great themes were the experience of exile and the disastrous relationship between art and property", and that his legacy was "one of encouragement and hope, and a massively diverse range of work in all genres".

Landscapes is a map of the beliefs and ideals which shaped Berger's view of art.

You can read an obituary for John Berger in The Guardian at:

The River at Night
Erica Ferencik
Bloomsbury Press
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 315, New York, NY 10010
9781408886588, A$24.99 PB, $9.99 Kindle, 294pages,

My initial response to this book, base on the first three chapters, was not positive. I find it hard to empathise with a group of middle-aged women who indulge in group hugs - "screaming and laughing"; who call each other crazy bitches; and whose response to a sexually aggressive male who addresses them as "muff munchers" and "fuckin' bitches" is to return to their car to "howl with laughter" and enlarge on these insults in similarly crude terms. Maybe that's a healthy response, but it did nothing to improve my first impression of them.

However, once this group of friends reach the remote wilderness area of Maine in which they have booked a white-water rafting adventure, the pace of the novel picks up and their behaviour and their interactions with each other change. The reality of being isolated and inexperienced in a wild place begins to sink in - a place where there are many different dangers, no phone signal, no people and no easy way to get help.

Erica Ferecik writes vividly about the wilderness and especially about the river. Once the white-water rafting begins, she captures the turbulence, danger, thrills and terrors of this adventure with a realism which is sometimes breathtaking.

The group, which now includes their young guide, Rory, becomes changed and fragmented. There are accidents and deaths, and the women, individually and together, are faced with desperate choices in their struggle to survive and reach safety.

Fragments of their past lives are woven into the story but the present dangers are relentless, and when they finally reach what seems to be safety and refuge this turns out to be as life-threatening as the river itself.

So, what begins as a seemingly bland, girly tale turns out to be a gripping wilderness adventure. In terrifying situations each woman learns her strengths and weaknesses. And the fact that these women are not simply youngsters seeking thrills but, as Win (the narrator) puts it, "middle-aged" women "who should have middle-aged concerns", adds another dimension to the story. Win's final words in the book sum this up: "My aging body, my dull job. I mean, really, who cares? I'm alive".

I can't say that I want to go out and seek such an adventure - to experience it vicariously in a novel such as this is thrill enough - but I do approve of the decision these women made to live life to the full.

Ann Skea, Reviewer

Bethany's Bookshelf

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Paul Ganson and Laurie Lanzen Harris
Painted Turtle
c/o Wayne State University Press
The Leonard N. Simons Building
4809 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, MI 48201-1309
9780814331361 $39.99

Synopsis: The Detroit Symphony Orchestra: Grace, Grit, and Glory details the history of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra as seen through the prism of the city it has called home for nearly 130 years. Now one of America's finest orchestras, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra began in 1887 as a rather small ensemble of around thirty-five players in a city that was just emerging as an industrial powerhouse. Since then, both the city and its orchestra have known great success in musical artistry for the symphony and economic influence for the city. They have each faced crises as well-financial, social, and cultural-that have forced the DSO into closure three times, and the city to the brink of dissolution. Yet somehow, in the face of adversity, the DSO stands strong today, a beacon of perseverance and rebirth in a city of second chances.

This is the first history of the DSO to document the orchestra from its earliest incarnation in the late nineteenth century to its current status as one of the top orchestras in the country. The Detroit Symphony Orchestra tells the story of the organization - the musicians, the musical directors, the boards, and the management-as they strove for musical excellence, and the consistent funding and leadership to achieve it in the changing economic and cultural landscape of Detroit. Author Laurie Lanzen Harris, with Paul Ganson, explores the cycles of glory, collapse, and renewal of the orchestra in light of the city's own dynamic economic, demographic, and cultural changes. Any reader with an interest in Detroit history or the history of American symphony orchestras should have this book on his or her shelf.

Critique: The Detroit Symphony Orchestra: Grace, Grit, and Glory is thoroughly accessible to lay readers as well as scholars of music or urban studies. Covering the orchestra's creation and first concert in 1887 up to the modern-day, The Detroit Symphony Orchestra is fascinating, inspiring, and highly recommended. A "must-read" especially to be treasured for its candid perspective on Detroit's shifting culture, demographics, and severe challenges.

Divided We Stand
Marjorie J. Spruill
Bloomsbury Press
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 315, New York, NY 10010
9781632863140, $33.00, HC, 448pp,

Synopsis: Gloria Steinem was quoted in the New Yorker magazine in 2015 as saying the National Women's Conference in 1977 "may take the prize as the most important event nobody knows about".

After the United Nations established International Women's Year (IWY) in 1975, Congress mandated and funded state conferences to elect delegates to attend the National Women's Conference in Houston in 1977. At that conference, Bella Abzug, Steinem, and other feminists adopted a National Plan of Action, endorsing the hot-button issues of abortion rights, the Equal Rights Amendment, and gay rights--the latter a new issue in national politics.

While across town, Phyllis Schlafly, Lottie Beth Hobbs, and the conservative women's movement held a massive rally to protest federally funded feminism and launch a Pro-Family movement.

Although much has been written about the role that social issues have played in politics, little attention has been given to the historical impact of women activists on both sides. "Divided We Stand: The Battle Over Women's Rights and Family Values That Polarized American Politics" by Marjorie J. Spruill (who teaches courses in women's history, Southern history, and recent American history at the University of South Carolina) reveals how the battle between feminists and their conservative challengers divided the nation as Democrats continued to support women's rights and Republicans cast themselves as the party of family values.

The women's rights movement and the conservative women's movement have irrevocably affected the course of modern American history. We cannot fully understand the present without appreciating the events leading up to Houston and thereafter.

Critique: Exhaustively researched, exceptionally well written, organized and presented, impressively informed and informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Divided We Stand" is a critically important and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library 20th Century American History & Women's Studies collections. It should be noted for students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Divided We Stand: The Battle Over Women's Rights and Family Values That Polarized American Politics" is also available in a Kindle format ($9.99).

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Laurie Lanzen Harris
Painted Turtle
c/o Wayne State University Press
4809 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, MI 48201-1309
9780814331361, $39.99, HC, 320pp,

Synopsis: "The Detroit Symphony Orchestra: Grace, Grit, and Glory" by author, editor, and Detroit based publisher Laurie Lanzen Harris (with the help of Paul Ganson was the first president and CEO of Save Orchestra Hall, Inc., until its consolidation with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in 1989) details the history of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra as seen through the prism of the city it has called home for nearly 130 years.

Now one of America's finest orchestras, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra began in 1887 as a rather small ensemble of around thirty-five players in a city that was just emerging as an industrial powerhouse. Since then, both the city and its orchestra have known great success in musical artistry for the symphony and economic influence for the city. They have each faced crises as well-financial, social, and cultural-that have forced the DSO into closure three times, and the city to the brink of dissolution. Yet somehow, in the face of adversity, the DSO stands strong today, a beacon of perseverance and rebirth in a city of second chances.

This is the first history of the DSO to document the orchestra from its earliest incarnation in the late nineteenth century to its current status as one of the top orchestras in the country. The Detroit Symphony Orchestra tells the story of the organization-the musicians, the musical directors, the boards, and the management-as they strove for musical excellence, and the consistent funding and leadership to achieve it in the changing economic and cultural landscape of Detroit.

"The Detroit Symphony Orchestra" also explores the cycles of glory, collapse, and renewal of the orchestra in light of the city's own dynamic economic, demographic, and cultural changes.

Critique: Nicely illustrated, informed and informative, "The Detroit Symphony Orchestra" is exceptionally well researched, written, organized and presented, making it a "must" for anyone with an interest in Detroit history or the history of American symphony orchestras. An extraordinary history of an extraordinary orchestra, "The Detroit Symphony Orchestra" is unreservedly recommended for personal, community, college, and university library American Music History collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

Very Married
Katherine Willis Pershey
Herald Press
1251 Virginia Avenue, Harrisonburg, VA 22802
9781513801278, $28.99, PB, 224pp,

Synopsis: Katherine Willis Pershey has never slept with the mailman or kissed an ex-boyfriend. Good thing, since she's married. But simply not committing adultery does not give you the keys to happily ever after, as Pershey has come to find out in her own marriage and in her work as a pastor. What is this sacred covenant that binds one person to another, and what elements of faith and fidelity sustain it?

In "Very Married: Field Notes on Love and Fidelity", Pershey opens the book on all things marital. With equal parts humor and intelligence, Pershey speaks frankly about the challenges and consolations of modern marriage. As she shares her own tales of bliss and blunder, temptation and deliverance, Pershey invites readers to commit once again to the joyful and difficult work of cherishing another person. For better or worse. For life.

Critique: A lively, thoughtful and thought-provoking read from beginning to end, "Very Married: Field Notes on Love and Fidelity" is exceptionally well written, organized and presented, making it very highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library collections. It should be noted that "Very Married" is also available in a paperback edition (9781513800172, $15.99) and in a Kindle format ($9.99).

How to Reach the Hard to Teach
Jana Eschevarria, Nancy Frey, Douglas Fisher
1703 North Beauregard Street, Alexandria, VA 22311-1714
9781416622383, $25.95, PB, 178pp,

Synopsis: "How to Reach the Hard to Teach: Excellent Instruction for Those Who Need It Most" presents a thoughtful and practical approach to achieving breakthrough success with linguistically and culturally diverse students who struggle in school.

Combining elements of the SIOP Model and the FIT Teaching approach, authors Jana Echevarría (Professor Emerita at California State University, Long Beach), Nancy Frey (Professor of Educational Leadership at San Diego State University), and Douglas Fisher (Professor of Educational Leadership at San Diego State University) take stock of what we know about excellent instruction and distill it into five guiding principles: 1. Set high expectations; 2. Provide access to the core curriculum; 3 Use assessment to inform instruction; 4. Attend to language development (both English and academic); 5. Create a supportive classroom climate.

"How to Reach the Hard to Teach" presents specific practices associated with each of these five principles and see how real-life teachers are employing these practices in their classrooms so that all students have the opportunity to learn and receive optimal support for that learning.

Every teacher has had the experience of seeing a "hard to teach" student in a new light and realizing all he or she might achieve. "How to Reach the Hard to Teach" is about shining that light of possibility on the students who challenge us most, interrogating our beliefs, and taking action to ensure they receive the best instruction we have to offer.

Critique: Effectively written, organized and presented, "How to Reach the Hard to Teach: Excellent Instruction for Those Who Need It Most" is enhanced with the inclusion of six pages of References, and a seven page Index. While very highly recommended for college and university library Teacher Education collections and supplemental studies lists, it should be noted for students, classroom teachers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "How to Reach the Hard to Teach" is also available in a Kindle format ($24.65).

Lingua Terra
Leah Laiman
Mill City Press
9781634135528, $14.99, PB, 400pp,

Synopsis: After losing her Wall Street job, dumping her boyfriend, and moving back in with her parents, Claudia Davis needs a new life. Then, she reads about Le Marche, a region of Italy with breathtaking scenery, a rich heritage and a tradition of farm-to-table culinary delights. She's never heard of it, but since it's undiscovered it's still affordable -- and she's got just enough to make it through a year.

On the back of a Vespa, with her handsome Italian teacher as her guide, Claudia discovers the treasures (and foods) of the region. But things get complicated when she crosses paths with Giancarlo Russo, a brilliant but embittered chef. With his potential and her ambition, it's clear they could build something together. But can they make room for love when there's a Michelin star at stake?

Critique: A thoroughly engaging and unfailingly entertaining novel by a truly gifted storyteller, Leah Laiman's "Lingua Terra" is unreservedly recommended, especially for community library General Fiction collections. Of special note is the inclusion of recipes by Lucio Pompili. For personal reading lists it should also be noted that "Lingua Terra" is available in a Kindle format ($5.99) as well.

The Last Flight
Cydney Marshall
Balboa Press
c/o Hay House, Inc.
PO Box 5100, Carlsbad, CA 92018-5100
9781504345095, $35.95, HC, 220pp,

Synopsis: AmerAsia Flight 56 has vanished with over two hundred passengers and crew. Has it simply run into mechanical issues and crashed into the ocean? Was it an act of terrorism or a sinister plot to kidnap the numerous diplomats onboard? When no trace of the missing airliner is found, husband-and-wife CIA operatives Alexis and Markus Dain begin to realize that the disappearance is no ordinary air crash but part of the world-wide conspiracy that will further arm terrorists and cost thousands of innocent lives.

An ocean away from CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, a consortium of terrorists and smugglers, flush with the success of their first operation, are planning more hijackings-and more atrocities.

As the crack-CIA team travels the globe and uncovers the truth, they find links to the highest echelons of American business and political power. As they race to solve the crime of the century and end a wave of terror, they find the love they thought had vanished long ago. Come onboard The Last Flight.

Critique: In a deftly crafted work of fiction that could be torn from the headlines, "The Last Flight: is a compelling novel of suspense and international intrigue, driven by the very real dangers of air travel today-hijacked and missing planes, air disasters, and the use of commercial aircraft to smuggle weapons and drugs while committing acts of terrorism. While very highly recommended, especially for community library General Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Last Flight" is also available in a paperback edition (9781504345071, $17.99) and in a Kindle format ($9.99).

Will Dogs Chase Cats in Heaven?
Dan Story
Kingdom Come Publications
9780692758076, $10.95, PB, 194pp,

Synopsis: Do wild animals have immortal souls? Will we see our household pets in the hereafter? In the pages of "Will Dogs Chase Cats in Heaven?: People, Pets, and Wild Animals in the Afterlife", graduate school-trained Christian apologist Dan Story offers a resounding "Yes!"

In "Will Dogs Chase Cats in Heaven?" Dan does far more than wax sentimental about our furry friends. His unique style pairs anecdotal experience with animal-behavior studies and biblical commentary. In fact, Dan's conclusions are backed by an impressive list of references ranging from Dinesh D'Souza to Martin Luther.

Academics and theologians both ancient and modern have long discussed the validity of an animal resurrection, and Dan's "Will Dogs Chase Cats in Heaven?" puts it all together in a delightfully cogent yet readable way.

Most importantly, "Will Dogs Chase Cats in Heaven?" tells us something about the nature of God: his eye truly is on the sparrow, and his overwhelming love for all creation is perhaps best reflected in the significance he places not just on man -- but also man's best friend.

Critique: An inherently fascinating and consistently compelling read from cover to cover, "Will Dogs Chase Cats in Heaven?: People, Pets, and Wild Animals in the Afterlife" is thoroughly 'reader friendly' in tone, commentary, organization and presentation. While highly recommended and certain to be an enduringly popular addition to community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists of anyone that has an interest in the subject that "Wild Dogs Chase Cats in Heaven?" is also available in a Kindle format ($8.75).

Sheela na gig: The Dark Goddess of Sacred Power
Starr Goode
Inner Traditions International, Ltd.
One Park Street, Rochester, VT 05767
9781620555958, $35.00, HC, 384pp,

Synopsis: Sheela na gigs are figurative carvings of naked women displaying an exaggerated vulva. They are architectural grotesques found on churches, castles, and other buildings, particularly in Ireland and Great Britain, sometimes together with male figures.

Profusely illustrated throughout with 150 black-and-white photograph images and illustrations, "Sheela na gig: The Dark Goddess of Sacred Power" by Starr Goode traces the origins of the Sheela na gig from Medieval times to Paleolithic cave art; reveals the sacred display of the vulva to be a universal archetype and the most enduring image of creativity throughout the world; provides meditations on the Sheelas the author encountered in Ireland, England, Scotland, and Wales, allowing readers to commune with the power of these icons.

Goode provides meditations on the individual Sheelas she encountered during her 25 years of research, allowing readers to commune with these icons and feel the power they emanate. Exploring comparable figures such as Baubo, Medusa, the Neolithic Frog Goddess, and vulva depictions in cave art, she reveals the female sacred display to be a universal archetype, the most enduring image of creativity throughout history, and illustrates how cultures from Africa and Ecuador to India and Australia possess similar images depicting goddesses parting their thighs to reveal sacred powers.

Explaining the role of the Sheela na gig in restoring the Divine Feminine, Goode shows the Sheela to be an icon that makes visible the cycles of birth, death, and renewal all humans experience and a necessary antidote to centuries of suppression of the primal power of women, of nature, and of the imagination.

Critique: Exhaustively researched, exceptionally well written, thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation, "Sheela na gig: The Dark Goddess of Sacred Power" is an extraordinary history and study that is remarkably informed and informative. Enhanced with the inclusion of twenty-four pages of Notes; a nineteen pages Bibliography; and a thirteen page Index, "Sheela na gig: The Dark Goddess of Sacred Power" is an invaluable and highly recommended, especially for community and academic library collections. It should be noted for students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Sheela na gig: The Dark Goddess of Sacred Power" is also available in a Kindle format ($17.99).

Sacred Relationships
Anaiya Sophia & Padma Aon Prakasha
Destiny Books
c/o Inner Traditions International, Ltd.
One Park Street, Rochester, VT 05767
9781620555491, $18.95, PB, 320pp,

Synopsis: In "Sacred Relationships: The Practice of Intimate Erotic Love", mystic and spiritual teacher Anaiya Sophia collaborates with Padma Aon Prakasha (an initiate of Saivite Tantra and the Tibetan Buddhist Lineage of Tsongkhapa and Maitreya) to create an instruction guide, manual and study on divine sexual expression, sacred relationship, and uniting the Divine Feminine and Masculine. "Sacred Relationships" explains how to transform your relationship into an initiatory temple of spiritual development and ignite the alchemical process of Sacred Marriage -- union with God; offers female specific, male specific, and couples exercises for self-awakening, womb pulsing, yoni-lingam evolution, and a series of sacred body rites: integrates wisdom from shamanic, gnostic, tantric, and alchemical traditions with sacred sexual practices, including teachings from the Temples of Isis.

Sexuality is one of our core soul qualities, best evidenced by the design of our physical and spiritual bodies and their inherent propensity for sexual expression. By embracing your sexual power in a loving union, you can enact a sacred trinity between your two souls and the Divine, transforming your relationship into an initiatory temple of spiritual development and awakening yourselves to divine gnosis, direct knowing of God, through sacred body rites.

Weaving together mystical feminine wisdom, transcendent masculine consciousness, and sexual psychology, "Sacred Relationships" offers practical tools to balance masculine and feminine energies, help with relationship obstacles, and bring about sexual healing, emotional clearing, spiritual growth, and physical release. Offering female specific, male specific, and couples exercises, "Sacred Relationships" details practices for self-awakening, womb pulsing, yoni-lingam evolution, and a series of sacred body rites.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Sacred Relationships: The Practice of Intimate Erotic Love" is as informed and informative as it is insightful and inspiring. While very highly recommended, especially for community and academic library collections, it should be noted for students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Sacred Relationships" is also available in a Kindle format ($18.00).

Susan Bethany

Buhle's Bookshelf

Jews and Jazz: Improvising Ethnicity
Charles Hersch
711 - 3rd Avenue, Floor 8, New York, NY 10017-9209
9781138195783, $140.00, HC, 210pp,

Synopsis: When the subject of the history of Jazz comes up it is usual associated with African-American musicians. But there was a critically important and creative influence in this original American music genre by members of the Judaic community as well.

"Jews and Jazz: Improvising Ethnicity" by Charles Hersch (Professor of Political Science at Cleveland State University) explores the meaning of Jewish involvement in the world of American jazz. Professor Hersch focuses on the ways prominent jazz musicians like Stan Getz, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Lee Konitz, Dave Liebman, Michael Brecker, and Red Rodney have engaged with jazz in order to explore and construct ethnic identities.

Professor Hersch looks at Jewish identity through jazz in the context of the surrounding American culture, believing that American Jews have used jazz to construct three kinds of identities: to become more American, to emphasize their minority outsider status, and to become more Jewish.

From the beginning, Jewish musicians have used jazz for all three of these purposes, but the emphasis has shifted over time. In the 1920s and 1930s, when Jews were seen as foreign, Jews used jazz to make a more inclusive America, for themselves and for blacks, establishing their American identity. Beginning in the 1940s, as Jews became more accepted into the mainstream, they used jazz to "re-minoritize" and avoid over-assimilation through identification with African Americans. Finally, starting in the 1960s as ethnic assertion became more predominant in America, Jews have used jazz to explore and advance their identities as Jews in a multicultural society.

Critique: Enhanced with the inclusion of a fourteen page Bibliography and an eight page Index, "Jews and Jazz: Improvising Ethnicity" is a definitive model of outstanding scholarship and an invaluable contribution to the study of American Music History collections in general, and Jazz History supplemental studies reading lists in particular. While unreservedly recommended for community and academic library collections, it should be noted for students and non-specialist general readers that "Jews and Jazz: Improvising Ethnicity" is also available in a paperback edition (9781138195790, $44.95) and in a Kindle format ($31.69).

The Complete Encyclicals, Bulls, and Apostolic Exhortations: Volume 1
Pope Francis
Ave Maria Press
PO Box 428, Notre Dame, IN 46556
9781594717390, $27.95, PB, 512pp,

Synopsis: Pope Francis was born Jorge Mario Bergoglio in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He was ordained a priest in 1969, became archbishop of Buenos Aires in 1998, and was made a cardinal by Pope John Paul II in 2001. Bergoglio was elected the 266th pope of the Roman Catholic Church by the College of Cardinals on March 13, 2013, when he took the name Francis for St. Francis of Assisi. He is the first Jesuit pope, the first pope from the Americas, and the first non-European pope in more than twelve centuries. He has arguably been the most influential religious leader in the world, drawing praise and admiration from people of all faiths.

The impact of his writings has been felt not just in the Catholic Church for which they were intended but throughout the world. Each of the five works collected in this first volume of "The Complete Encyclicals, Bulls, and Apostolic Exhortations" is a book unto itself. This single volume anthology includes:

Lumen Fidei, June 29, 2013: The Light of Faith is an encyclical on the centrality of faith, the relationship between reason and faith, the Church's role in the transmission of faith, and how faith results in redeeming the world.

Evangelii Gaudium, Nov. 24, 2013: The apostolic exhortation The Joy of the Gospel has been called Pope Francis's manifesto. It challenges all Christians to approach evangelization anew and overcome complacency in order to fulfill Christ's great mission.

Misericordiae Vultus, April 11, 2015: In The Face of Mercy, the papal bull for the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy in 2015, the pope urges Catholics, "We need constantly to contemplate the mystery of mercy."

Laudato Si', May 24, 2015: Praise Be to You: On Care for Our Common Home is the landmark encyclical in which Pope Francis issued a call to the entire Church--and the world--on climate change, human responsibility, the role of faith in how we live among God's entire creation, and the future of the planet.

Amoris laetitia, March 19, 2016: Love in the Family is an exhortation published after the Synods on the Family. In it, Pope Francis ranges in his quotations and examples from St. Thomas Aquinas and Martin Luther King Jr. to the film Babette's Feast.

Critique: An absolutely essential and core addition to church, diocese, seminary, and academic library Roman Catholic Theology collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of seminary students, clergy, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in Pope Francis' writings that this first volume of "The Complete Encyclicals, Bulls, and Apostolic Exhortations" is also available in a Kindle edition ($15.99).

Journalism in Crisis
Mike Gasher, et al.
University of Toronto Press
10 St. Mary Street, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M4Y 2W8
9781442637368, $75.00, HC, 360pp,

Synopsis: "Journalism in Crisis: Bridging Theory and Practice for Democratic Media Strategies in Canada" is comprised of eleven erudite and informative articles that address the concerns of scholars, activists, and journalists committed to Canadian journalism as a democratic institution and as a set of democratic practices. The contributors look within Canada and abroad for solutions for balancing the Canadian media ecology.

Public policies have been central to the creation and shaping of Canada's media system and, rather than wait for new technologies or economic models, the contributors offer concrete recommendations for how public policies can foster journalism that can support democratic life in twenty-first century Canada. Their work, which includes new theoretical perspectives and valuable discussions of journalism practices in public, private, and community media, should be read by professional and citizen journalists, academics, media activists, policy makers and media audiences concerned about the future of democratic journalism in Canada.

Critique: Canadian journalism is undergoing rapid technological competition and transformation, as well as political, social, cultural, and economic changes -- yet it still remains the principle defense against anti-democratic forces that seek personal, political, or corporate aggrandizement at the expense of personal library and communal democracy. Enhanced with the inclusion of an informative Introduction (Whose Crisis? Journalism Is Not Just For Journalists and Policy Is Not Just For Wonks), a forty-four page listing of References; a six page listing of the Contributors and their credentials; and a seven page Index, "Journalism in Crisis: Bridging Theory and Practice for Democratic Media Strategies in Canada" is very highly recommended for community and academic library Contemporary Journalism collections in general, and Canadian Journalism supplemental studies lists in particular. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of journalism students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject, that "Journalism in Crisis" is also available in a paperback edition (9781442628885, $32.95) and in a Kindle format ($32.95).

JFK and the Masculine Mystique
Steven Watts
Thomas Dunne Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781250049988, $29.99, HC, 432pp,

Synopsis: From very early on in his career, John F. Kennedy's allure was more akin to a movie star than a presidential candidate. Why were Americans so attracted to Kennedy in the late 1950s and early 1960s -- was it his glamorous image, his good looks, his cool style, tough-minded rhetoric, and sex appeal?

As Steve Watts argues in "JFK and the Masculine Mystique: Sex and Power on the New Frontier", JFK was tailor made for the cultural atmosphere of his time. He benefitted from a crisis of manhood that had welled up in postwar America when men had become ensnared by bureaucracy, softened by suburban comfort, and emasculated by a generation of newly-aggressive women.

Kennedy appeared to revive the modern American man as youthful and vigorous, masculine and athletic, and a sexual conquistador. His cultural crusade involved other prominent figures, including Frank Sinatra, Norman Mailer, Ian Fleming, Hugh Hefner, Ben Bradlee, Kirk Douglas, and Tony Curtis, all of whom collectively symbolized masculine regeneration.

"JFK and the Masculine Mystique" is not just another standard biography of the youthful president. By examining Kennedy in the context of certain books, movies, social critiques, we arrive at a deeper and more insightful understanding of the man and the times which created him and then propelled him into legend.

Critique: Exceptionally well researched, written, organized and presented, "JFK and the Masculine Mystique: Sex and Power on the New Frontier" is a consistently compelling read from cover to cover. As informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking, "JFK and the Masculine Mystique" is very highly recommended for community and academic library 20th Century American Biography collections in general, and John Fitzgerald Kennedy supplemental studies lists in particular. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "JFK and the Masculine Mystique" is also available in a Kindle format ($14.99).

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

The Collaborative Leader
Ian McDermott & L. Michael Hall
Crown House Publishing
81 Brook Hills Circle, White Plains, NY 10605
9781785830099, $19.95, PB, 208pp,

Synopsis: Ian McDermott has worked with hundreds of organizations and thousands of professionals globally over the past 30 years. He is the Founder of International Teaching Seminars (ITS) and the author of fifteen books on NLP, coaching and systems thinking. L. Michael Hall is a Cognitive Psychologist who through research into NLP and Self-Actualization Psychology is now a modeler of human excellence.

In "The Collaborative Leader: The Ultimate Leadership Challenge", Hall and McDermott answer key questions about leadership including: What is collaboration? How does it relate to leadership? How do you do it effectively? How do you pull people together, inspire them with a meaningful vision, and organize them so that a team spirit emerges and peak performance is achieved?

"The Collaborative Leader" is a practical guide to collaborating with others and leading collaboratively. That means learning how to win the hearts and minds of those who we lead. Packed with practical and immediate action points, Hall and McDermott will show you how to turn around a non-collaborative group or environment immediately. You will find assessment questions throughout, step-by-step processes on collaboration, and an invitation to action at the end of each chapter: a personal challenge to step up to the collaborative level of leadership. Learn the core competencies that facilitate a healthy, joyful, and productive collaboration.

The foundation of collaborative leadership is self-collaboration. The leader who cannot effectively collaborate cannot effectively lead. If you are to walk your talk, you need to demonstrate collaborative skills yourself, and "The Collaborative Leader" will show you the how to's for developing the critical success elements of leadership. The best collaborators are those who have lots of fun collaborating. The goal can be serious. The collaboration can be fun. Learn how it's possible by understanding the structure and processes of collaboration.

Critique: Exceptionally well written and thoroughly 'user friendly' in tone, content, commentary, organization and presentation, "The Collaborative Leader" is especially recommended to the attention of anyone responsible for team or organizational development. While very highly recommended for corporate, community, and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Collaborative Leader" is also available in a Kindle format ($9.99).

Making Love While Levitating Three Feet in the Air
Jeff Fearnside
Stephen F. Austin University Press
9781622881031, $18.00, PB, 175pp,

Synopsis: "Making Love While Levitating Three Feet in the Air" is an anthology of 13 short stories by Jeff Fearnside that are linked thematically by the recurring idea of flight, in its various definitions and senses. The characters are sometimes in flight from their situations, sometimes from other people, sometimes from themselves.

The stories range from contemporary to historical, from realistic to magical realist. The known and the unknown often blur as the characters struggle to understand the unseen forces that move them. Ultimately, the crises that all the characters encounter are psychological or spiritual in some way, however each may define that; as the title of the collection suggests, the characters find themselves levitating somewhere between their deepest desires and an exquisite and terrifying nothingness.

No one in these stories "wins" in the traditional sense; there are no tidy answers. But the stories are subtly life affirming in how each character deals with the difficulties of life. Each learns something about himself or herself, however fleeting that knowledge may be, however small a step forward it inspires. Life isn't static, and neither are these people.

Critique: Showcasing and documenting author Jeff Fearnside's genuine flair for deftly creating memorable characters and original, entertaining, and thought-provoking storylines, "Making Love While Levitating Three Feet in the Air" is highly recommended and certain to be an enduringly popular addition to personal reading lists, as well as community and academic library Literary Fiction collections.

The Animal Trade
Clive J. C. Phillips
c/o Stylus Publishing, Inc.
22883 Quicksilver Drive, Sterling, VA 20166-2012
9781780643137, $48.99, HC, 208pp,

Synopsis: Trade is an inevitable part of human activity and evolution, but when it involves animals there are important ethical issues that have to be considered. Animal trade is often for economic reasons only, and may be hard to justify ethically. There are significant welfare and environmental costs to animals and human society that must be carefully evaluated before such a trade is sanctioned.

Controversial and thought-provoking, "The Animal Trade: Evolution, Ethics and Implications" by Clive Phillips (Centre for Animal Welfare and Ethics, School of Veterinary Science, University of Queensland, Australia) focuses on the trade in live and dead animals and animal parts.

"The Animal Trade" examines the facts and figures to quantify the scope of the animal trade, concentrating mainly on farm animals, but also covering captive wildlife and companion animals. "The Animal Trade also describes welfare, environmental, economic and cultural issues around this trade, debating important ethical considerations for everyone that uses or is otherwise involved with animals, especially people in animal welfare.

Critique: Enhanced for academia with the inclusion of a six page listing of References and a seven page Index, "The Animal Trade: Evolution, Ethics and Implications" is impressively well written, organized and presented, making it a critically important addition to community, college, and university library collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students and non-specialist general readers that "The Animal Trade is also available in a paperback edition (9781786391476, $50.00) and in a Kindle format ($47.50).

Military-to-Civilian Success for Veterans and Their Families
Ronald L. Krannich
Impact Publications
9104 Manassas Drive, Suite N, Manassas Park, VA 20111
9781570233845, $24.95, PB, 371pp,

Synopsis: Ronald L. Krannich is one of America's leading career transition and travel experts who has authored more than 100 books, including several designed for service members and their families.

Each year nearly 250,000 servicemembers and their families leave the military. While a few (10 percent) go into full-time retirement, most expect to work for at least another 10, 20, or 30 years. So, what kind of employment decisions will they make? Where will they live? When and where will they retire? Faced with numerous forks in the road, most transitioning military want to make smart re-careering, relocation, and retirement decisions. They welcome useful advice.

In "Military-to-Civilian Success for Veterans and Their Families: The Ultimate Re-Imagining Guide for Making Smart Re-Careering, Relocation, and Retirement Decisions" Krannich draws upon his years of experience and expertise to write an instructional guide for the specific purpose of helping anyone achieve transition success in the less structured and more chaotic civilian world after a career in the more orderly and 'chain-of-command' environment of the military.

"Military-to-Civilian Success for Veterans and Their Families" compels readers to address one of the most important questions about their future: "What do you want to do with the rest of your life?" The answers hopefully involve more than just making money or acquiring more depreciating "stuff."

"Military-to-Civilian Success for Veterans and Their Families" covers the new world of work, transferable skills, best jobs, top 100 employers, attitudes, skills, goals, applications, resumes, letters, dress, online job search, job fairs, networking, interviews, salary, job offers, career advancement, overcoming setbacks, and much more.

Enhanced with special features, "Military-to-Civilian Success for Veterans and Their Families" includes: 150 military-friendly and best employers; 103 compensation elements for negotiating salaries; 47 tough interview questions you should be prepared to answer; 40 myths and realities of the job search process; 40 employment trends; 25 job-keeping and advancement strategies; 20 principles for job search success; 19 sample resumes; 14 things you need to know before starting a business; 11 samples letters and focus pieces; 7 sequential job search steps you must follow.

"Military-to-Civilian Success for Veterans and Their Families" also includes numerous self-assessment tests and exercises, a realistic planning and implementation time line, job search contract, weekly performance reports, advice on relocation, tips on starting a business, questions about retirement, and useful military transition resources.

Critique: Comprehensive, detailed, informative, thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, "Military-to-Civilian Success for Veterans and Their Families" is unreservedly and strongly recommended, especially for community, college, VA Hospital, and university library collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Military-to-Civilian Success for Veterans and Their Families" is also available in a Kindle format ($22.99).

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

Peanuts and Philosophy
Richard Green & Rachel Robison-Greene, editors
Open Court Publishing Company
70 East Lake Street, Suite 800, Chicago, IL 60601
9780812699487, $19.95, PB, 288pp,

Synopsis: Collaboratively compiled and co-edited by Richard Green (Professor of Philosophy at Weber State University in Utah) and Rachel Robison-Greene (who is currently a Ph.D. Candidate in Philosophy at the University of Massachusetts Amherst), "Peanuts and Philosophy" is comprised of contributions by twenty philosophers presenting a diverse range of perspectives focusing on different aspects of the Charles Shultz 'Peanuts' cartoon canon.

Readers will consider a range of questions such as: How can the thoughts of children, who have yet to become grown-up, help us to become more grown up ourselves? Do we get good results from believing in something like the Great Pumpkin, even though we're disappointed every time? What can Linus's reactions to the leukemia of his friend Janice tell us about the stages of grief? Why don't we settle what's right and what's wrong by the simple method of asking Lucy? Is true happiness attainable without a warm puppy? Do some people's kites have a natural affinity for trees? Is Sally an anarchist, a nihilist, or just a contrarian? Does Linus's reliance on his blanket help him or hurt him? Is Charlie Brown's philosophy of life pathetic or inspirational?

Other topics include: how the way children think carries general lessons about transcending our limitations; the Utopian quest as illustrated by Charlie's devotion to the Little Red-Haired Girl; Snoopy's Red Baron and history as selective memory; the Head Beagle as Big Brother. And, as we would expect, Lucy's repeated cruel removal of Charlie's football has several philosophical applications.

Critique: Exceptionally well organized and presented, "Peanuts and Philosophy" is a consistently compelling read and very highly recommended for community and academic library Philosophy collections in general, and Popular Cultural supplemental studies lists in particular. Of particular interest for the legions of Charles Shultz fans, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Peanuts and Philosophy" is also available in a Kindle format ($9.99).

Rules for Revolutionaries
Becky Bond & Zack Exley
Chelsea Green Publishing Company
85 North Main Street, Suite 120, White River Junction, VT 05001
9781603587273, $18.00, PB, 224pp,

Synopsis: Beck Bond and Zack Exley served as senior advisors in the Bernie Sanders presidential election campaign of 2016. Together they have collaborated in writing "Rules for Revolutionaries: How Big Organizing Can Change Everything", intending it to be a bold challenge to the political establishment and the "rules" that govern campaign strategies.

"Rules for Revolutionaries" tells the story of a breakthrough experiment conducted on the fringes of the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign: A technology-driven team empowered volunteers to build and manage the infrastructure to make seventy-five million calls, launch eight million text messages, and hold more than one-hundred thousand public meetings -- in an effort to put Bernie Sanders's insurgent campaign over the top.

Bond and Exley are digital iconoclasts who have been reshaping the way politics is practiced in America for two decades, and have identified twenty-two rules of "Big Organizing" that can be used to drive social change movements of any kind. In "Rules for Revolutionaries" they reveal the inside story of one of the most amazing grassroots political campaigns ever run.

Fast-paced, provocative, and profound, Rules for Revolutionaries stands as a liberating challenge to the low expectations and small thinking that dominates too many advocacy, non-profit, and campaigning organizations -- and points the way forward to a future where political revolution is truly possible.

Critique; Informed and informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking, impressively 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation, "Rules for Revolutionaries: How Big Organizing Can Change Everything" is critically important reading for anyone seeking to politically oppose the policies of the Trump administration, clean up Washington politics through congressional reforms, and simply win elections on the municipal, district, state, and federal levels. While very highly recommended for community, college, and university Political Science collections and supplemental studies lists, it should be noted for non-specialist general readers (especially former Bernie Sanders supporters) with an interest in the subject, that "Rules for Revolutionaries" is also available in a Kindle format ($9.99).

What Is Hypnosis?
Tom Fortes Mayer
Watkins Publishing
Angel Business Club
9781780289304, $12.95, Soft Cover, 144pp,

Synopsis: Tom Fortes Mayer is a clinical hypnotherapist living and working in Highgate, North London. He is the creator of the FreeMind process which is a self-hypnosis system that enables people to do deep level healing on themselves. In the pages of "What Is Hypnosis?", he draws upon his years of experience and expertise to debunk the myths of hypnosis and makes plain and simple the power we have to change how we think, feel and behave by looking at how we use our mind and the permission (or not) we give to others to influence us.

After an insightful introduction about why the subject of Hypnosis is so worth exploring and the many benefits it can bring, each main chapter then addresses a key question: Where did hypnosis come from and how has it developed over time? How does hypnosis really work? Are there different types of hypnosis? How can it change my life? What are the most powerful techniques? How can I bring hypnosis into my daily life? And, finally, what are the wider social benefits of hypnosis and how can it change the consciousness of the world?

As such, "What Is Hypnosis?" brings readers on an exploratory journey through the world of hypnosis, uncovering its immense therapeutic power, and showing readers how to tap into this power for the purposes of personal transformation, so that we can all lead more authentic, connected, contented lives.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, impressively informed and informative, thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation, "What Is Hypnosis?" is especially recommended for community, college, and university library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "What Is Hypnosis?" is also available in a Kindle format ($8.99).

The Ultimate Guide to the Gettysburg Address
David Hirsch & Dan Van Haften
Savas Beatie
PO Box 4527, El Dorado Hills, CA 95762
9781611213331, $14.99, PB, 64pp,

Synopsis: Abraham Lincoln's November 19, 1863, Gettysburg Address is generally recognized as one of the greatest leadership speeches ever written and delivered by an American president.

The collaborative work of David Hirsch and Dan Van Haften, "The Ultimate Guide to the Gettysburg Address" explains the 272 word speech with the aid of colorized step-by-step diagrams. "The Ultimate Guide to the Gettysburg Address" deconstructs the speech into its basic elements and demonstrate how the scientific method is basic to the structure of the Gettysburg Address.

Lincoln's fascination with geometry is well documented. "The Ultimate Guide to the Gettysburg Address" however, is the first work to discover and then demonstrate Lincoln's use of the six elements of a proposition and then diagram and explain how his in-depth study of geometry helped him compose the Gettysburg Address. The result is a deeper and richer understanding of the Gettysburg Address that was not previously possible.

"The Ultimate Guide to the Gettysburg Address" is a concise color examination of one of our nation's most treasured and important speeches is perfect for all ages and especially for those interested in history, the use of language, and logic.

Critique: Informed and informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking, thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation, "The Ultimate Guide to the Gettysburg Address" is unreservedly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as school, community, and academic library American History collections in general, and Abraham Lincoln supplemental studies lists in particular.

Michael J. Carson

Clint's Bookshelf

Cannabis and Spirituality
Stephen Gray
Park Street Publishing
c/o Inner Traditions International, Ltd.
One Park Street, Rochester, VT 05767
9781620555835, $16.95, PB, 288pp,

Synopsis: Stephen Gray is a teacher and writer on spiritual subjects and sacramental medicines. He has worked extensively with Tibetan Buddhism, the Native American Church, and with entheogenic medicines. In "Cannabis and Spirituality: An Explorer's Guide to an Ancient Plant Spirit All" he draws upon his years of experience and expertise to compile and edit an informed and informative guide to the benefits and challenges of the use of cannabis in spiritual practice. An informative anthology of eighteen contributors on the subject of the modern cannabis movement "Cannabis and Spirituality" deftly explores the use of marijuana in a wide range of spiritual practices, including meditation, yoga, chanting, visualization, shamanism, group ceremonies, work with other entheogens, and as a creative aid. "Cannabis and Spirituality" is an indispensable guide showing how cannabis is an effective ally on the awakening journey, unlocking the receptive energy in us all and helping us to feel connected to nature, to each other, and to ourselves.

Critique: Written in plain terms accessible to readers of all backgrounds, Cannabis and Spirituality closely examines the spiritual benefits of cannabis (also known as marijuana), a controlled substance which has recently been decriminalized in some American states. Cannabis and Spirituality is certain to be an enduringly popular and appreciated addition to community and academic library collections. It should be noted for academia and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Cannabis and Spirituality" is also available in a Kindle format ($9.99).

Tax Revolt
K. Mike Hill
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781440109409 $17.95 pbk / $9.99 Kindle

Synopsis: Suppose the social fabric tore. Suppose uninformed or misinformed citizens, unmindful of how taxes translate into public services, chose not to support their government; to let the institutions wither away. How could it happen? What might the aftermath look like? With the system in collapse, can Americans restore trust in the miracle of self government? Imagine a complex timepiece, scattered into its' many parts, and no one knows how to put it back together again; the watchmakers long since dead. Can Americans revive the institutions that have been built up over the years from the model of the Founding Father's? How do you rebuild the infrastructure of a modern society? Examine the remarkable thing called 'self-government' by seeing what it would be like should it fail through neglect of its' citizens. Could a small faction seize power while the public is not paying attention? This is a chilling view of an American Insurrection.

Critique: What if the anti-tax movement was carried to its extreme conclusion? Tax Revolt examines how far-right political policies could bring about the ruin of America. Sharply critical of conservative talking points ranging from "school choice" to "stand your ground" and much more, Tax Revolt is a fascinating hybrid of statistical research, persuasive political analysis, and classic dystopia storytelling. Could anything new arise from the ashes of a nation that failed its own people? Tax Rivolt is riveting to the final page. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Tax Revolt is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

The Breaking Point
James Dale Davidson
Humanix Books
PO Box 20989, West Palm Beach, FL 33416
9781630060602 $30.00 hc / $16.50 Kindle

Synopsis: The global economy as we know it is due for a major correction, and with this will come permanent, systemic change: the greatest economic freedom the world has ever seen. But hard financial times are ahead, and The Breaking Point will help you protect your wealth and prosper through it all.

Providing a painfully clear view of the state of the global economy, outspoken economist James Dale Davidson uses the old-fashioned tool of argument - facts - to describe how governments have mismanaged the financial system to the point of no return. It has all led to Brexit - the opening salvo in the war for financial freedom.

The Breaking Point shows you where we've been and where we're headed, offering the insight and information you need to ensure you're positioned for the worst of times-and the best of times.

Critique: Author and economist James Dale Davidson openly speaks his mind in The Breaking Point, an examination of modern government economic policies compared to those of history, revealing why endemic problems are pushing the U.S. and other nations toward a financial "breaking point". Davidson is particularly, unapologetically critical of the Obama administration's floundering attempts to prevent catastrophe. "...a reason I respect Donald Trump is that he has tried to advance the national conversation by underscoring a point that should be evident to any thinking person - namely, that the 'recovery' the establishment is so keen to have you embrace is a fraud." Honest and candid, The Breaking Point is thought-provoking and worthy of contemplation regardless of whether one fully agrees with all of its predictions.

Wicked Weeds: A Zombie Novel
Pedro Cabiya
Mandel Vilar Press
9781942134114 $16.95 pbk / $10.49 Kindle

Synopsis: Set at the contact zones between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, this is a polyphonic novel, an intense and sometimes funny pharmacopeia of love lost and humanity regained; a most original combination of Caribbean noir and science-fiction addressing issues of global relevance including novel takes on ecological/apocalyptical imbalance bound to make an impact.

A Caribbean zombie - smart, gentlemanly, financially independent, and a top executive at an important pharmaceutical company - becomes obsessed with finding the formula that would reverse his condition and allow him to become "a real person." In the process, three of his closest collaborators (cerebral and calculating Isadore, wide-eyed and sentimental Mathilde, and rambunctious Patricia), guide the reluctant and baffled scientist through the unpredictable intersections of love, passion, empathy, and humanity. But the playful maze of jealousy and amorous intrigue that a living being would find easy to negotiate represents an insurmountable tangle of dangerous ambiguities for our "undead" protagonist.

Critique: Wicked Weeds is an extraordinarily thoughtful zombie novel. A self-aware Caribbean zombie seeks to cure himself of undeath, while disguising himself as normal human and running a laboratory. Most of all, he misses having human emotions and connections. Could the secret to recovering his humanity be through forming a bond with his beautiful and sexy lab partners? A surprisingly insightful tongue-in-cheek parable, Wicked Weeds is highly recommended!

Sam Wilson
Pegasus Books
80 Broad Street, 5th Floor, New York, NY 10004
9781681773186, $25.95, HC, 452pp,

Synopsis: In San Celeste, a series of uniquely brutal murders targets victims from totally different walks of life. In a society divided according to Zodiac signs, those differences are cast at birth and binding for life. All eyes are on detective Jerome Burton and astrological profiler Lindi Childs, who are divided in their beliefs over whether the answer is written in the stars, but united in their conviction that there is an ingenious serial killer executing a grand plan. Together, they intend to contend with betrayal, lost love, broken promises and a devastating truth with the power to tear their world apart . "Zodiac" is a starting new thriller with one of the most original concepts in years, where the line between a life of luxury and an existence of poverty can be determined by the stroke of midnight.

Critique: All the more impressive considering that it is author Sam Wilson's debut novelist, "Zodiac" clearly reveals his genuine flair for his authentic and extraordinary storytelling skills and ability to consistently engage his reader's attention from cover to cover. While very highly recommended, especially for community library Mystery/Suspense collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Zodiac" is also available in a Kindle format ($12.99).

Can I Keep Drinking?
Cyndi Turner
Morgan James Publishing
11815 Fountain Way, Suite 300, Newport News, VA 23606-4448
9781630479909, $31.95, HC, 200pp,

Synopsis: There are some 90-million-plus people who struggle with alcohol in the United States. Most will avoid getting help for fear of being labeled an alcoholic, of being forced into treatment, made to attend 12-step meetings, and have to stop drinking completely. Only about 6 percent of the population is alcoholic yet more than 80 percent of treatment programs require total abstinence from alcohol. In "Can I Keep Drinking?: How You Can Decide When Enough is Enough", Cyndi Turner (a licensed clinical social worker and licensed substance abuse treatment practitioner with more than twenty years of field experience) challenges this traditional belief and teaches you how to have a better relationship with alcohol.

Critique: Reading "Can I Keep Drinking?" is the next best thing to sitting with Cyndi in her office as she provides easy-to-follow tools, checklists, and quizzes to guide you through the process of answering the crucial question: can I keep drinking? Included throughout are experiences of people who have struggled with drinking. The "How Do I Know If I Can Keep Drinking? Quiz" gives positive and negative predictors for whether a person is a candidate for moderate drinking and prepares the reader to develop and implement a Moderate Drinking Plan for themselves. While very highly recommended, especially for community and academic library Health/Medicine collections in general, and Alcoholism supplemental studies reading lists in particular. It should be noted for non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Can I Keep Drinking?" is also available in a paperback edition (9781630479893, $16.95) and in a Kindle format ($9.99).

Dissolving Classroom
Junji Ito
Vertical, Inc.
451 Park Avenue South, 7th floor, New York, NY 10016
9781942993858 $12.95

Synopsis: A pair of twisted siblings - Yuuma, a young man obsessed with the devil, and Chizumi, the worst little sister in recorded history-cause all sorts of tragic and terrifying things to happen wherever they go. These scary short stories will shock you with a literal interpretation of the ills that plague modern society.

Critique: Junji Ito's hideously detailed art is the distinguishing feature of this black-and-white manga (Japanese graphic novel). Dissolving Classroom is a complete horror story in one volume, but this gruesome saga of a young man cursed with the twisted power to literally dissolve human beings (as well as the brattiest little sister on Earth) will haunt the reader long after the final page is turned! Highly recommended for connoisseurs of the macabre.

The Artist Formerly Known as Adolf Hitler
A. M. Overett
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9780998157795, $12.95, PB, 304pp,

Synopsis: In 1907 and again in 1908 Adolf Hitler applied for entry at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. He was rejected on both occasions - a professor citing "unfitness for painting". It seems that this decision has been deemed by many historians as not a significant event. But what if Adolf Hitler had been accepted to the prestigious Academy of Fine Arts?

Prior to this rejection, Adolf had sold some of his paintings so it would not have been unthinkable for him to have been accepted. Some have thought that perhaps he had been rejected by Jewish professors and so began his hatred of the Jews. Again, we have to think about what if Adolf Hitler had been accepted in the Academy of Fine Arts? Would that have change his path and therefore changed the course of history? Would someone else have simply taken his place?

"The Artist Formerly Known as Adolf Hitler," is a novel that looks at what the world may have looked like had he chose a different course in life. For many people, the name Adolf Hitler is the embodiment and true definition of evil. The purpose of this book is not to venerate Adolf Hitler. This story is meant to have the reader think in a different way about Adolf Hitler. Was Adolf Hitler predestined to be the architect of one of the most horrendous and evil events in modern history, or was it simply a series of bad choices and decisions and eventually choosing the wrong course in life?

There is evidence that in Adolf Hitler's youth, he had many interactions with Jewish people and in some cases, quite beneficial ones. What were those events or interactions that shaped his opinions to become drastically different in later life? What if we had to walk a mile in Adolf Hitler's shoes? Many find such a thought preposterous. But what if we had his formative years? What if we had his physiology? What if we had the same path and obstacles to go down or around as he? Would we make the same decisions? While we may judge people like Hitler, Stalin and Mao as ruthless and evil dictators, had we been born to live their lives, would we have made different choices while in their shoes?

To this point, are all human beings just subject to their predestined fate, or do we all the unfettered opportunity to make the correct or incorrect choices that lead us down a certain path?

Critique: A unique and iconoclastic novel, "The Artist Formerly Known as Adolf Hitler" is an impressively thoughtful and thought-provoking read that is recommended for both community and academic library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Artist Formerly Known as Adolf Hitler" is also available in a Kindle format ($2.99).

Clint Travis

Emily's Bookshelf

The Girl Who Drank the Moon
Kelly Barnhill
Algonquin Young Readers
PO Box 2225 Chapel Hill, NC 27515-2225
9781616205676, $16.95 PB, $9.04 Kindle,

Somehow Kelly Barnhill has crafted a story in which a tiny dragon, a cranky swamp monster, and a witch possess the traits most kids experience in their own families. Like The Witch's Boy, this is a bildungsroman that takes place in a world where magic rules. Luna, the book's unwitting heroine, was accidentally fed on moonlight by the witch Xan, which made her extraordinarily magical--and far more powerful than any child should be. The Girl Who Drank the Moon is sure to delight readers of other fairy tale-style stories like Neil Gaiman's Stardust with its deliberate mixture of allusions, satire, and playfulness.

Raymie Nightingale
Kate DiCamillo
Candlewick Press
99 Dover Street, Somerville, MA 02144
9780763681173, $16.99,

Because Kate DiCamillo has written so many powerful stories about animals including her Newberry-award winning books Because of Winn Dixie, The Tale of Winn Dixie, and Flora & Ulysses, I expected there to be a bird in this one. The title refers instead to Florence Nightingale, and the story alludes to her in ways that lend depth and complexity to the heroine, a young girl convinced that she needs to win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition in order to make her father come back. As usual, DiCamillo captures her protagonist's struggle in a way that is nuanced and powerful: she recognizes that children's psychological struggles are deep and complex, and she never talks down to her young readers. With Raymie Nightingale, DiCamillo shows Raymie making impossible bargains--much as we all do--in her efforts to make things right. The story of unlikely friendship and adventure is fantastical yet always grounded in realism. This is definitely a book for parents and middle-grade readers to enjoy together.

Sara Pennypacker
Balzer + Bray
c/o HarperCollins Children's Books
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780062377012, $16.99,

Pax is the perfect book for fans of tearjerkers like Charlotte's Web. In chapters that alternate between the perspective of a young boy and his pet fox, Pennypacker explores the tenuous bonds people establish with animals--and she spotlights shared concepts of integrity, freedom, and authenticity. The pacing of this novel is perfect: Pennypacker ends a few chapters with ambiguity, then shifts to the other character's perspective before drawing the reader back into the drama, which makes it suspenseful and balanced. She also includes a thoughtful, age-appropriate discussion of PTSD. Pax is beautiful exploration what it means to be a human in a time of war that will encourage readers to think about empathy.

Emily Bowles, Reviewer

Gail's Bookshelf

God Moment: Hearing God's Voice Sparks A Remarkable Experience
Bette & Wayne Price
4900 LaCross Road, North Charleston, SC 29406
9781508928997, $9.95,

In "God Moment...," Betty and Wayne Price's memoir, they share a walk of faith that includes years of living with undiagnosed Bipolar Disorder, a manic-depressive illness afflicting over two million U.S. adults according to the latest statistics from The National Institute of Health.

The Price's story begins after a thirteen year marriage causes Bette to wonder, "Is this all there is?" That's when the couple found "Marriage Encounters," a weekend retreat she writes, "...for couples who want to take their marriage from good to great," where Bette learned about God's plan for marriage, but she still didn't know Jesus.

She prayed, "Father God, if this Jesus I keep hearing about is so important to You, please show me." God answered her prayer at a Catholic Church event where she accepted Christ and received the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Wayne saw the new sense of "joy, peace and laughter" in Betty and didn't yet realize, although he "accepted the possibility of God" he didn't know Jesus and wasn't saved. Still he liked to make his wife happy and when she asked him to record her favorite television show, Pat Robertson's 700 Club, he said he would since she was at work when the program aired.

It happened while he listened to the show as it recorded. He felt the Lord was speaking to him personally when the salvation message was given and he knelt to repent, pray and gave his life to Christ. In the following days event though he now read the Bible and prayed, he yearned for more and asked God. "I crave to hear Your voice. You are Almighty God. Will you speak to me?"

Thus begin an account of a young couple's child-like faith and trust in God through enormous trials and struggles that include living with undiagnosed "manic depressive illness." An illness the National Institute of Health defines "as a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy and activity levels" seriously impacting day-to-day living; caused by severe emotional swings from feelings of elated, energized behavior to a sense of hopelessness, despair and depression.

Their story is co-authored with Wayne's words in regular text and Bette's in italics. It's a remarkable story of applied faith and trust in God in spite of daunting circumstances that includes Wayne's direction from God that caused them to sell their home, buy a motor home and travel where they believed God sent them. They retired in Oregon and continue to follow God's leading through their writing.

Happy Are The...: Discovering Joy In The Beatitudes
Steve Hudgik
MTA Quick Commentaries
P. O. Box 1068, Cannon Beach, OR 97110
9781539550280, $5.99,

Steve Hudgik, street evangelist and pastor from Oregon's Canon Beach Bible Church wrote "Happy Are The..." as part of a series that investigates "popular sections of Scripture" which he believes, are "commonly misunderstood." In this book he explores the Beatitudes from Jesus' point-of-view because so many of the described characteristics appear contradictory to human nature.

The Beatitudes characterize Christ's kingdom and are the first eight statements in Matthew that begin Christ's Sermon on the Mount which Pastor Steve believes are the "right hearts and attitudes" of men and women God intended them to have until, he writes, sin became a "roadblock to having a right heart."

God sacrificed His own Son to break that "heart roadblock," whereby God would give new hearts and spirits as recorded in Ezekiel 36:26, "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh."

Pastor Steve believes "heart attitudes are important" because hearts reflect thoughts, attitudes and emotions that words and actions reveal. When God reads our hearts He knows "the inner you," he writes, not the facade so often reflected to the world. He goes on to separates the Beatitudes into two groups and believes, "the first four heart attitudes lead to the actions in the second group of four."

In twelve short chapters he explores the words and meanings of the Beatitudes, such as "poor in spirit, which he believes means to be humble," an attitude that counters the human tendency for pride when sin entered the world. Or "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted," a statement he believes is more about repentance than comfort and sadness.

The book is an easy read of short, concise chapters with space for notes and also slips easily into purse, bag or briefcase for brief moments of down time. Besides a wonderful teaching tool and gift choice, Pastor Steve also uses the book in his street evangelism with non-believers.

Gail Welborn, Reviewer

Julie's Bookshelf

300 Best Blender Recipes Using Your Vitamix
Robin Asbell
Robert Rose Inc.
120 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 800, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M4P 1E2
9780778805588, $24.95, PB, 320pp,

Synopsis: Vitamix, privately owned and operated by the Barnard family since 1921, manufactures high-performance blenders for consumers and for the restaurant and hospitality industry. A Vitamix blender can do much more than just make tasty smoothies.

A Vitamix blender chops, grinds and minces, a convenient and nearly instant way to get those servings of fruits and vegetables that are so often skipped. The Vitamix blender also grinds grain, making fresh flour at home easily within reach, a good alternative to buying stale flours from the store. Breads, pancakes, muffins and scones will have maximum flavor and nutrition when made from flour still at its peak.

"300 Best Blender Recipes Using Your Vitamix" by Robin Asbell provides ways to eat real, whole foods when time is limited.

Ms. Asbell has created an extensive collection of tantalizing and innovative recipes that get the most out of this exceptional appliance. Delicious dishes range from nutritious breakfasts to fresh sauces, sumptuous soups, dips and spreads to desserts that invite requests for seconds. Of special note are the chapters on baby foods and on nut butters.

The recipes showcase Smoothies; Smoothie Bowls and Parfaits; Juices and Blends; Fresh Flours and Baking; Baby Food; Alternative Milks; Sauces; Dressings, Marinades, Spice Pastes and Blends; Soups; Dips and Spreads; Burgers and Loaves; Desserts; Ice Cream, Sorbets, Milkshakes and Popsicles; Truffles and Energy Balls; Alcoholic Drinks; Scrubs, Masks and Lotions.

Asbell has also included useful information on the differences among the different series models, and tips and techniques that demonstrate how to turn a Vitamix blender into an invaluable workhorse in the home kitchen.

Critique: Enhanced with three sections of beautiful full color photographs, and thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, "300 Best Blender Recipes Using Your Vitamix" is an unreservedly recommended addition to the cookbook collection of all Vitamix owners.

Dear Heart: The Courting Letters
Judith Pinkerton Josephson
eFrog Press
9780996719933, $11.99, PB, 256pp,

Synopsis: In 2010 teacher Lisa Anderson has almost given up on love after a failed, longtime relationship and Internet dating disasters.

In a cluttered attic, she discovers an antique writing box labeled "Courting Letters." Untying the beribboned packets inside, she finds tattered envelopes, their contents penned more than a century before.

As Lisa begins to read, she learns that in 1907 in Ipswich, England, the authors, Gertie and Fred, meet. Just as their friendship deepens into something more, Fred and his family emigrate to America in search of a better life.

Hopes for the budding relationship fade. Long months pass. Then a letter from Fred to Gertie arrives. The two begin a dance of written words, but the romance is fraught with obstacles, not the least of which is the Atlantic Ocean.

Separation and distance also conspire against Lisa when her intriguing new beau must return to his native Spain.

"Dear Heart: The Courting Letters" deftly weaves a tapestry from two intersecting love stories. Will the threads hold or pull apart?

Critique: An absolutely engaging and positively riveting read from cover to cover, and enhanced with the numerous black-and-white illustrations by Kirsten Elise Josephson, "Dear Heart: The Courting Letters" by Judith Pinkerton Josephson will prove to be a unique and enduringly popular addition to community library collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Dear Heart: The Courting Letters" is also available in a Kindle format ($4.99).

Yoga Affect: A Primer for a Beautiful Life
Sandra Zuidema
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781530789047, $14.99 PB, $9.99 Kindle, 296pp,

Synopsis: In "Yoga Affect: A Primer for a Beautiful Life", yoga teacher, facilitator, and author Sandra Zuidema takes an unprecedented look the numerous benefits of yoga for the body, the mind, and as a resource for inspiring a purposeful life.

While much has been made of yoga's physical benefits, the same cannot be said of its power to improve mental and spiritual wellness -- until now. Sandra's experiences from yoga teacher training sessions, seminars, workshops, ashrams, and travel to India convinced her to break down complex albeit neglected history, research, and therapies of yoga science.

In "Yoga Affect" she starts from its ancient origins down to the cutting-edge scientific research of today, guiding her readers through modern developments, such as healing chronic disease, addiction recovery, and pain management.

All the while, Sandra leads the reader down a path of truth, encouraging them to discover how yoga can spark a chain reaction of health and well-being, one that first affects oneself, then others -- broadening influence, awareness, and inspiration.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Yoga Affect: A Primer for a Beautiful Life" is highly recommended as a potentially life-changing, life-enhancing read. Also very highly recommended is Sandra Zuidema's companion book, "Yoga Affect: A Guided Journal" (9781530789276, $9.99, PB, 200pp), where are to be found essential details and writing prompts encouraging the yoga practitioner to proceed even further along the path to self-awareness and fulfillment.

Circulating Literacy
Alicia Brazeau
Southern Illinois University Press
1915 University Press Drive
SIUC Mail Code 6806, Carbondale, IL 62901
9780809335442, $40.00, PB, 210pp,

Synopsis: Near the dawn of the twentieth century, more than a million Americans had subscriptions to popular magazines, and many who did not subscribe nonetheless read the periodicals. Far more men and women were learning advanced literacy through reading these magazines than by attending college. Yet this form of popular literacy has been relatively ignored by scholars, who have focused mainly on academic institutions and formal educational experiences.

In "Circulating Literacy: Writing Instruction in American Periodicals, 1880 - 1910", Alicia Brazeau (Director of the Writing Center at the College of Wooster, Ohio) concentrates on the format, circulation, and function of popular and influential periodicals published between 1880 and 1910, including the farming magazines Michigan Farmer, Ohio Farmer, and Maine Farmer, which catered to rural residents, and two women's magazines, Harper's Bazar and the Ladies' Home Journal, that catered to very different populations of women.

Brazeau establishes how these magazines shared a common strategy in the construction of literacy identities by connecting a specific identity with a particular set of reading and writing practices. She explores how farm journals were preoccupied with the value of literacy as a tool for shaping community; considers how the Journal and the Bazar deployed distinctly different illustrations of literacy values for women; shows how the Journal and editor Edward Bok cast women as consumers and sellers of literacy; and looks at the ways in which Bazar editors urged readers to adopt habits of reading and writing that emphasized communal relationships among women.

In "Circulating Literacy", Brazeau speaks to, and connects, the important topics of rural studies, gender, professionalization, and literacy sponsorship and identity, arguing for the value of the study of periodicals as literacy education tools.

Critique: A masterpiece of exhaustively researched, impressively unique, and exceptionally well written scholarship, "Circulating Literacy: Writing Instruction in American Periodicals, 1880 - 1910" is an invaluable and unreservedly recommended contribution to community, college, and university library American Popular Culture History collections and supplemental studies lists. For students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject it should be noted that "Circulating Literacy" is also available in a Kindle format ($31.20).

Water Tossing Boulders
Adrienne Berard
Beacon Press
24 Farnsworth Street, Boston, MA 02210
9780807033531, $26.95, HC, 208pp,

Synopsis: On September 15, 1924, Martha Lum and her older sister Berda were barred from attending middle school in Rosedale, Mississippi. The girls were Chinese American and considered by the school to be "colored"; the school was for whites. This event would lead to the first US Supreme Court case to challenge the constitutionality of racial segregation in Southern public schools, an astonishing thirty years before the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision.

Unearthing one of the greatest stories never told, journalist Adrienne Berard recounts how three unlikely heroes sought to shape a new South. A poor immigrant from southern China, Jeu Gong Lum came to America with the hope of a better future for his family. Unassuming yet boldly determined, his daughter Martha would inhabit that future and become the face of the fight to integrate schools. Earl Brewer, their lawyer and staunch ally, was once a millionaire and governor of Mississippi. When he took the family's case, Brewer was both bankrupt and a political pariah - a man with nothing left to lose.

By confronting the "separate but equal" doctrine, the Lum family fought for the right to educate Chinese Americans in the white schools of the Jim Crow South. Using their groundbreaking lawsuit as a compass, Berard depicts the complicated condition of racial otherness in rural Southern society.

In a sweeping narrative that is both epic and intimate, "Water Tossing Boulders: How a Family of Chinese Immigrants Led the First Fight to Desegregate Schools in the Jim Crow South" evokes a time and place previously defined by black and white, a time and place that, until now, has never been viewed through the eyes of a forgotten third race. In vivid prose, the Mississippi Delta, an empire of cotton and a bastion of slavery, is reimagined to reveal the experiences of a lost immigrant community. Through extensive research in historical documents and family correspondence, Berard illuminates a vital, forgotten chapter of America's past and uncovers the powerful journey of an oppressed people in their struggle for equality.

Critique: A unique and impressive contribution to the study of American History, "Water Tossing Boulders: How a Family of Chinese Immigrants Led the First Fight to Desegregate Schools in the Jim Crow South" is unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library 20th Century American History collections and supplemental studies reading lists. Exhaustively researched, exceptionally well written, organized and presented, it should be noted for students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Water Tossing Boulders" is also available in a paperback edition (978-0807083161,$18.00) and in a Kindle format ($15.99).

Lawrence Alma-Tadema: At Home in Antiquity
Elizabeth Prettejohn & Peter Trippi, editors
Prestel Publishing
900 Broadway, Suite 603, New York, NY 10003
9783791355528, $60.00, HC, 240pp,

Synopsis: The collaborative editorial effort of Elizabeth Prettejohn (Professor of History of Art and Head of Department, History of Art, at the University of York, UK) and Petr Trippi (New York- based Editor-in-Chief of Fine Art Connoisseur, and current President of the Association of Historians of Nineteenth-Century Art), "Lawrence Alma-Tadema: At Home in Antiquity" is important re-evaluation of the Dutch- born painter Lawrence Alma-Tadema that traces his personal and artistic journey towards international fame and success in London and investigates how this exceptionally creative artist used his own houses and studios as laboratories to produce vivid paintings of life in ancient Greece, Rome, and Egypt.

Lawrence Alma-Tadema's paintings were immensely popular among his contemporaries, and have since enchanted a wide audience through the medium of cinema. Anyone who has ever enjoyed the great epic films of antiquity, from Italian silent classics and Cecil B. DeMille to Ridley Scott's Gladiator, will instantly recognize their origins in sets and costumes Alma- Tadema invented.

Accompanied by glowing reproductions of the artist's rich and detailed works, "Lawrence Alma-Tadema: At Home in Antiquity" deftly re-assesses Alma-Tadema's art through the idea of home: from his admiration for the interiors depicted in early Dutch paintings through his fascination with Pompeian ruins, to his creation of large studio houses that were artworks in their own right.

Building upon Alma-Tadema's renown as 'the archaeologist of artists', the new scholarship in this impressive volume shows how the spaces he created and inhabited with his talented artist-wife Laura and their two daughters reflected an aesthetic vision that has thrilled viewers and other artists for more than a century. Appealing to general and scholarly audiences alike, this book underscores Alma-Tadema's reputation as one of his era's greatest creative talents.

Critique: Replete throughout with wonderfully beautiful reproductions of his art, "Lawrence Alma-Tadema: At Home in Antiquity" is as comprehensive and informative as it is thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation. A consistently compelling and insightful study from beginning to end, "Lawrence Alma-Tadema: At Home in Antiquity" is a unique and very highly recommended selection for personal, community, college, and university library Art History collections.

Eulalie and Washerwoman
Malcolm R. Campbell
Thomas-Jacob Publishing, LLC
PO Box 390524, Deltna, FL 32739
9780996388481, $11.99, PB, 180pp,

Synopsis: Torreya, a small 1950s Florida Panhandle town, is losing its men. They disappear on nights with no moon and no witnesses. Foreclosure signs appear in their yards the following day while thugs associated with the Klan take everything of value from inside treasured homes that will soon be torn down.

The police won't investigate, and the church keeps its distance from all social and political discord.

Conjure woman Eulalie Jenkins, her shamanistic cat, Lena, and neighbor Willie Tate discover that the new "whites only" policy at the once friendly mercantile and the creation of a plantation-style subdivision are linked to corrupt city fathers, the disappearing men, rigged numbers gambling, and a powerful hoodoo man named Washerwoman.

After he refuses to carry Eulalie's herbs and eggs and Willie's corn, mercantile owner Lane Walker is drawn into the web of lies before he, too, disappears. Washerwoman knows how to cover his tracks with the magic he learned from Florida's most famous root doctor, Uncle Monday, so he is more elusive than hen's teeth, more dangerous that the Klan, and threatens to brutally remove any obstacle in the way of his profits.

Eulalie and Lena face their greatest challenge with scarce support from townspeople who are scared of their own shadows. Even though Eulalie is older than dirt, her faith in the good Lord and her endless supply of spells guarantee she will give Washerwoman a run for his ill-gotten money in this swamps and piney woods story.

Critique: "Eulalie and Washerwoman" is the sequel to"Conjure Woman's Cat" and part of author Malcolm r. Campbell's 'Florida Folk Magic' series. A simply riveting read from beginning to end, "Eulalie and Washerwoman" is very highly recommended for both personal reading lists and community library General Fiction collections. It should be noted that "Eulalie and Washerwoman" is also available in a Kindle format ($4.99).

Lost Masters
Linda Johnsen
New World Library
14 Pamaron Way, Novato, CA 94949
9781608684380, $15.95, PB, 240pp,

Synopsis: Linda Johnsen has a master's degree in Eastern studies and has done postgraduate work in the history of religions. She is the author of eight books on spirituality, including "Daughters of the Goddess: The Women Saints of India" (Yes International Publishers, 9780936663098, $13.95, 128 pp, PB) and "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Hinduism" (Alpha, 9781592579051, $19.95, 432pp, PB).

In the pages of "Lost Masters: Rediscovering the Mysticism of the Ancient Greek Philosophers" she draws upon her research and expertise to reveal that there were Ashrams in Europe twenty-five hundred years ago; Greek philosophers studied in India; and Meditation classes took place in ancient Rome.

Although this all sounds unbelievable, it is historically true. Alexander the Great had an Indian guru. Pythagoras, Empedocles, and Plotinus all encouraged their students to meditate. Apollonius, the most famous Western sage of the first century c.e., visited both India and Egypt -- and claimed that Egyptian wisdom was rooted in India.

"Lost Masters" delves deeply into classical sources, uncovers evidence of astonishing similarities between some of the ancient Western world's greatest thinkers and India's yogis, including a belief in karma and reincarnation. Today ancient Greek philosophers are remembered as the founders of Western science and civilization. We've forgotten that for over a thousand years they were revered as sages, masters of spiritual wisdom.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, impressively informed and informative, thoroughly 'reader friendly' in tone, content, organization and presentation, "Lost Masters: Rediscovering the Mysticism of the Ancient Greek Philosophers" is an inherently fascinating exploration of a long-lost Western spiritual heritage and the surprising insights that heritage can offer the students of Metaphysical Studies today. A consistently compelling and iconoclastic read from cover to cover, "Lost Masters" is especially recommended for community and academic library Philosophy & Spirituality collections and supplemental studies lists. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Lost Masters" is also available in a Kindle format ($9.99).

Julie Summers

Katherine's Bookshelf

The Word Thief
James S. Martinez
Helping Tales Publishers
9780989428293, $18.13, PB,

James Martinez writes children's books about social issues. Adults will enjoy reading them to children and take away a great feeling for "Empathy, Kindness and Compassion". His latest book, "The Word Thief" is no exception. Dementia in all forms is hard for anyone to understand, especially the young. Think of how confusing it can be for the one who has it.

"The Word Thief" tells the story of a young boy trying to understand his Grammie's situation. She explains to him that she will lose more and more words, but she will never lose the love she has for him.

All of us have had a relative or a friend who has been affected by some form of dementia. James gives us a way of dealing with this insidious disease and that someone in the future will find a cure - possibly Drew, the Knight of Care in this wonderful book.

Helping Tales Publishers donates a percentage of book sales to select charities. James has already addressed bullying in "The Dinosaur's New Shoes", animal issues in "Patches Awesome Day", "Diamonds in the Ruff", "The Most Incredible Journey", "The Final Pet Stop" and "Cooper: A Rescue Dogs Tale Coloring Book". With his creative mind, there is no telling what he will do next. But you know it will be as good as what he has already done and you will want to add all of them to your collection

(I just realized that I cannot write a review of one of this awesome authors books without including all of his books. Be sure to get and read all of them. You will be helping yourself, children and some really wonderful causes.)

An Unlikely Hero
Cindy Nord
DCT Associates
1603 Corcoran Street NW, Suite C, Washington, DC 20009
9780997657319, $15.00 PB, $0.99 Kindle, 316pp,

Cindy Nord has continued her series of the Cutteridge family with Alma and Dillon, two VERY different personalities - on the surface. As you follow these two as they trek across the sometimes beautiful, sometimes dangerous and sometimes placid country, they show themselves more alike than at first glance. Alma Talmadge is traveling to Arizona to marry and Dillon Reed is ordered to escort her safely to her destination. Not a comfortable trip for a pampered Boston socialite. Not the kind of mission for a rough and tumble, hardened western scout! Step aside John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara, you have been matched - or mismatched? The reader travels a parallel trip through the words of Cindy Nord.

I loved this book as much as I did the first two - maybe a little more as I see a growth in the author's writing. She brings the history of the western era alive. Her depiction of fashions - men and women alike is beautifully portrayed. You will picture the beautiful land as they travel. You will worry about their safety as they are followed by the obligatory nefarious characters and the plot takes some interesting and exciting turns. Depiction of her characters is magnificent. The sexual tension between the two for most of the book leads to a satisfying conclusion.

You must read "An Unlikely Hero". It is very unlikely that you will want to put it down and you will begin to wait impatiently for her next (and last) of the series. Must I say "clamoring for more"? Yes!

Cindy lives in Indiana with her very supportive husband, Tom, two beautiful Shelties and a cat. She has 2 sons and 3 grandchildren who, along with Tom, are the loves of her life.

Katherine Boyer

Logan's Bookshelf

FDR on His Houseboat: The Larooco Log, 1924-1926
Karen Chase, editor/annotator
Excelsior Editions
c/o State University of New York Press
State University Plaza, Albany, NY 12246-0001
9781438462271, $19.95, HC, 213pp,

Synopsis: In the midst of the Jazz Age of the 'Roaring Twenties', while Americans were making merry, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was stricken by polio and withdrew from public life.

From 1924 to 1926, believing that warm water and warm air would help him walk again, he spent the winter months on his new houseboat, the "Larooco," sailing the Florida Keys, fishing, swimming, playing Parcheesi, entertaining guests, and tending to engine mishaps. During his time on the boat, he kept a nautical log describing each day's events, including rare visits by his wife, Eleanor, who was busy carving out her own place in the world. Missy LeHand, his personal assistant, served as hostess aboard the "Larooco."

While FDR was sailing the Keys, the larger world was glittering. Chaplin, Gershwin, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Bessie Smith, Louis Armstrong, Gertrude Stein, Frida Kahlo, Martha Graham all were flourishing in the Roaring Twenties, but so were Stalin, Al Capone, and Hitler. The world went on as Roosevelt fished for mangrove snapper and drank martinis.

Compiled with annotations by Karen Chase, "FDR on His Houseboat: The Larooco Log, 1924-1926" presents FDR's log entries, interspersed with photographs from the tumultuous outer world, to form a kind of timeline between two arenas -- one man's small private life full of struggle and fun, juxtaposed with the large public sphere.

"FDR on His Houseboat" gives us a side of FDR seldom seen before, revealing his wit, his penchant for practical jokes, and his zest for each day's ordinary concerns in the context of his painful struggle to regain the use of his legs.

"FDR on His Houseboat" also includes a facsimile of the original "Larooco" log. For many decades FDR's log was virtually unknown to the public, appearing only once before in 1949 in his son Elliott's four volume collection of Rossevelt's personal letters.

Critique: Profusely illustrated, exceptionally well organized and presented, "FDR on His Houseboat: The Larooco Log, 1924-1926" is a critically important and unreservedly recommended addition to academic library 20th Century American History collections in general, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt supplemental studies lists in particular. It should be noted for academia and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "FDR on His Houseboat" is also available in a Kindle format ($9.99).

Fake Silk
Paul David Blanc
Yale University Press
PO Box 209040, New Haven, CT 06520-9040
9780300204667, $40.00, HC, 328pp,

Synopsis: "Fake Silk: The Lethal History of Viscose Rayon" by Paul David Blanc (Professor of Medicine and holder the Endowed Chair in Occupational and Environmental Medicine, University of California, San Francisco) is disturbing book that reveals a dark story of hazardous manufacturing, poisonous materials, environmental abuses, political machinations, and economics trumping safety concerns.

"Fake Silk" explores the century-long history of cellulose viscose (commonly referred to as 'fake silk'), used to produce such products as rayon textiles and tires, cellophane, and everyday kitchen sponges. Dr. Blanc uncovers the grim history of a product that crippled and even served a death sentence to many industry workers while also releasing toxic carbon disulfide into the environment.

Viscose, an innovative and lucrative product first introduced in the early twentieth century, quickly became a multinational corporate enterprise. Dr. Blanc investigates industry practices from the beginning through two highly profitable world wars, the midcentury export of hazardous manufacturing to developing countries, and the current "greenwashing" of viscose as an eco-friendly product. Deeply researched and boldly presented, "Fake Silk" brings to light an industrial hazard whose egregious history ranks with those of asbestos, lead, and mercury.

Critique: A masterpiece of scholarly research that is deftly written, organized and presented making it thoroughly accessible for both academia and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject, "Fake Silk: The Lethal History of Viscose Rayon" is an informed and informative study that is unreservedly recommended for community and academic library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Fake Silk" is also available in a Kindle format ($19.99).

Reading Klein
Margaret Rustin & Michael Rustin
711 - 3rd Avenue, Floor 8, New York, NY 10017-9209
9780415452939, $160.00, HC, 206pp,

Synopsis: The collaborative work of Margaret Rustin (a child, adolescent and adult psychotherapist and a child analyst at the British Psychoanalytical Society) and Michael Rustin (Professor of Sociology at the University of East London), "Reading Klein" provides an introduction to the work of Melanie Reizes Klein (30 March 1882 - 22 September 1960) who was an Austrian-British psychoanalyst and justifiably considered one of the twentieth century's greatest psychoanalysts who was known in particular for her contribution in developing child analysis and for her vivid depiction of the inner world.

"Reading Klein" makes Melanie Klein's works highly accessible, providing both substantial extracts from her writings, and commentaries by the authors exploring their significance.

Each individual chapter corresponds to a major field of Klein's work outlining its development over almost 40 years. The first part is concerned with her theoretical and clinical contributions. The second part sets out the contribution of her ideas to morality, to aesthetics and to the understanding of society, introducing writing by her associates as well as herself.

"Reading Klein" provides a lucid account of Klein's published writing, presented by two distinguished writers who know her work well and have made creative use of it in their own clinical and extra-clinical writing. Its aim is to show how substantial her contribution to psychoanalytic thinking and clinical practice was, and how indispensable it remains to understanding the field of psychoanalysis.

Critique: Exceptionally insightful, well written, organized and presented, "Reading Klein" will prove to be a critically important resource for psychology students, trainees in psychoanalysis, psychoanalytic practitioners, as well as academicians and non-specialist general readers with an interest in Melanie Klein and her legacy. While unreservedly recommended for college and university library Psychology/Psychoanalysis collections and supplemental studies lists, it should be noted that "Reading Klein" is also available in a paperback edition (9780415452946, $32.75) and in a Kindle format ($31.16).

Jeet Kune Do: The Arsenal of Self-Expression
Teri Tom
Tuttle Publishing
364 Innovation Drive, North Clarendon, VT 05759-9436
9780804847797, $14.95, PB, 208pp,

Synopsis: In a natural progression from martial arts expert Teri Tom's earlier work, "The Straight Lead: The Core of Bruce Lee's Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do (Tuttle Publishing, 9780804847797, $14.95 PB, $10.49 Kindle), Teri takes the mechanics and strategies covered in that instruction manual and applies them to the rest of the JKD repertoire. With a foreword by Ted Wong, Bruce Lee's protege', "Jeet Kune Do: The Arsenal of Self-Expression" continues to fill instructional gaps found between Lee's Fighting Method series and Tao of Jeet Kune Do.

Often referred to as Ted Wong's "top student," Teri presents many details that Wong observed during his time with Bruce Lee, and also describes his research into the how and why of Jeet Kune Do techniques.

Bruce Lee wrote of "three stages of cultivation" that lie along the path to JKD mastery: The Stage of Innocence - this is the level of the absolute beginner; The Stage of Art - the student is immersed in the process of technical and physical training; The Stage of Artlessness - the stage of "highest art" in which the body is no longer hindered by the mind. As Bruce Lee would say, "It hits all by itself."

To reach the final stage, the martial arts student must progress methodically through the Stage of Art -- there are no shortcuts! Author Teri Tom guides you on this journey by revealing the science behind the moves in Jeet Kune Do repertoire. Martial arts students will learn how to protect themselves from injury, and maximize the effectiveness of the following core techniques and their variations: Straight Lead; Rear Cross; Hook; Uppercut; Straight Kick; Hook Kick; Side Kick; and Spinning Back Kick.

"Jeet Kune Do: The Arsenal of Self-Expression " also covers: Bruce Lee's revolutionary approach to combat that takes advantage of human biomechanics; How to evade attacks, and use those evasive movements to launch counter-attacks; Natural ways to chain your moves into seamless combinations; The importance of developing mental and physical speed, footwork, cadence, good timing and judgment of distance.

All techniques are traced to the original sources that inspired Bruce Lee, including the works of Jack Dempsey, Aldo Nadi, Jim Driscoll, Edwin Haislet, Roger Crosnier and Julio Martinez Castello. Direct influences on Bruce Lee are referenced to the page of their original sources.

Critique: Step-by-step movements are profusely and methodically illustrated, instructive commentary is exceptionally well written, impressively well organized and presented, "Jeet Kune Do: The Arsenal of Self-Expression" will prove to be a critically important and enduringly popular addition to personal, dojo, community, and academic library Martial Arts collections in general, and Jeet Kune Do supplemental studies reading lists in particular. It should be noted that "Jeet Kune Do: The Arsenal of Self-Expression" is also available in a Kindle format ($9.99).

Carl Logan

Margaret's Bookshelf

The Liberators Of Willow Run
Marianne K. Martin
Bywater Books
P.O. Box 3671, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48106-3671
9781612940793, $16.95, PB, 250pp,

Synopsis: It's 1943 and the world is at war. Hope for victory rests on the wings of America's Liberator, the B-24 bomber. And, with more than nine million Americans on the front lines, there is only one way for the assembly plants to produce enough planes to meet the demand -- and that is to recruit women by the thousands into the work force.

Audrey Draper is committed to the war effort, and beyond that, to finding her own personal and financial independence. And she is not alone. Ruth Evans also chooses to seek employment. As a waitress living on her own, she not only searches for freedom, but also a way to fulfill an important promise.

And then there's young Amelia, a fifteen-year-old rape victim who is being forced to return to a dark and dangerous home.

Audrey, Ruth, and a handful of these newly independent women must risk everything they have fought so hard to achieve to give one of their own a fighting chance to survive. Set against the backdrop of a rapidly changing world, these women capture the spirit of the times through their determination, ingenuity, and enduring courage.

Critique: An absolutely riveting read from cover to cover, "The Liberators Of Willow Run" clearly showcases author Marianne K. Martin's genuine flair for creating a memorable novel that will linger in the mind and memory long after the book itself has been finished and set back upon the shelf. While very highly recommended, especially for community library General Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Liberators Of Willow Run" is also available in a Kindle format ($10.49).

ACLS Certification Exam Q & A with Explanations
Michele G. Kunz & Joseph C. Kunz, Jr.
Dickson Keanaghan, LLC
9781933230757, $15.95, PB, 142pp,

Synopsis: The collaborative work of Michele and Jospeh Kunz, "ACLS Certification Exam Q & A with Explanations" is specifically geared toward healthcare students and new healthcare professionals that are preparing to take the ACLS certification exam for the first time. This personal instruction manual will also give the seasoned healthcare professional lots of great review information as well as a way to update themselves on the latest research and guidelines.

Whichever certifying agency's program you are taking, either in a classroom or on the internet, "ACLS Certification Exam Q & A with Explanations" and its contents will help you succeed in this course. "ACLS Certification Exam Q & A with Explanations" covers all the essential information that will be needed to successfully pass the certification course and exam on the first attempt.

Included are 101 practice questions that are designed to simulate actual exam conditions. The practice exam questions simulate the real exam. The subject of ACLS covers a lot of material. It is an interesting topic, and a working knowledge of the material is essential to do your job properly. In addition, "ACLS Certification Exam Q & A with Explanations" will make studying for this exam as painless and as easy as possible. Included is all the essential information necessary for you to be successful on this exam. We have also included additional material to make studying this topic more fun and less painful.

Critique: Exceptionally well organized and presented, "ACLS Certification Exam Q & A with Explanations: For Healthcare Professionals and Students" is especially commended to the attention of all licensed healthcare providers and emergency responders taking the ACLS Certification Exam including: Physicians (MD's, DO's, DPM's); Nurses; Paramedics; Emergency Medical Technicians; Physician's Assistants; Nurse Practitioners; Residents and Fellows; Medical and Nursing Students; Medical and Nursing Assistants; Dentists; and for all licensed healthcare professionals.

Hens, Hooves, Woollies and Wellies
Bobbi Mothersdale
5m Publishing
c/o International Specialized Book Services
920 Northeast 58th Avenue, Suite 300, Portland, OR, 97213
9781910456279, $24.95, PB, 316pp,

Synopsis: Behind every good farmer is a great farmer's wife, though the farmer in question may not always appreciate this!

Having been married to John for over 30 years, Bobbi Mothersdale knows this more than anyone. Through her diary, Bobbi gives a wry, comical and yet realistic account of life on their East Yorkshire farm.

Over the course of the year, we meet her friends and family, as well as the three dogs, numerous hens and crafty guinea fowl that play such a big part in their daily routine. Like any farming family they have good days mixed with bad, including dealing with adverse weather, bureaucratic challenges and uncooperative livestock.

Bobbi's accounts of her irate farming husband thwarted once again by the gods of rain or a petulant sheep will be instantly recognizable to anyone who has ever worked on a farm. Readers will laugh out loud at her description of the situations she finds herself in.

Critique: A compelling and unfailingly entertaining read from cover to cover, "Hens, Hooves, Woollies and Wellies: The Diary of a Farmer's Wife" is enhanced with the inclusion of twenty-four beautiful sketches by Jacquie Sinclair. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Hens, Hooves, Woollies and Wellies" will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to personal reading lists and community library collections.

Dinner Made Easy with Six Sisters' Stuff
Six Sisters' Stuff
Shadow Mountain Publishing
P.O. Box 30178, Salt Lake City, Utah 84130-0178
9781629722283, $21.99, PB, 184pp,

Synopsis: Beautifully illustrated in full page color images (one for each featured dish) throughout, "Dinner Made Easy with Six Sisters' Stuff" is the collaborative project of Camille, Kristen, Elyse, Stephanie, Lauren, and Kendra and is specifically intended for busy moms trying to create family meals.

"Dinner Made Easy with Six Sisters' Stuff" is a compendium of quick, easy, and delicious family dinner entrees, with all the organization, all the taste-testing with kids, all the hacks to cut the prep time, done by the Six Sisters. The complete family meal game plan is arranged along seven popular categories:

30 Minutes or Less including recipes for: Skillet Pork Lo Mein, Parmesan Pork Chops, Ham and Pineapple Pizza Roll-ups, Mini-Spinach Calzones.

5 Ingredients or Less including recipes for: Easy Gnocchi Casserole, Sweet and Tangy Meatballs, Baked Sloppy Joes, Marinated Pork Loin.

Pantry Essentials including recipes for: Seven-Can Tortilla Soup, Crispy Coconut Strips with Pina Colada Dipping Sauce, French Dip Crescents, Chili Mac Skillet.

Slow Cooker including recipes for: Honey Garlic Chicken, Tuscan Soup, Teriyaki Bowl, Mongolian Beef, Chipotle Pulled Pork, Salsa Verde Chicken.

Freezer Meals including recipes for: Kung Pao Chicken, Country-Style BBQ Spareribs, Beef and Mushrooms, Ham and Cheese Potatoes, Honey Ribs, Beef Stew.

One Pan, One Pot including recipes for: One-Dish Baked Fajitas, Sunrise Skillet, Mushroom Asparagus Chicken Stir Fry, One-Pan Chili Beef Pasta, Skillet Pizza.

Casseroles including recipes for: Cheesy Chicken Quinoa Casserole, Country Breakfast Casserole, John Wayne Casserole, Chicken Tetrazzini, Chicken and Stuffing Bake, Poppy Seed Chicken Casserole.

Critique: A pleasure to browse through and inspiring to plan menus with, "Dinner Made Easy with Six Sisters' Stuff" is an absolutely 'kitchen cook friendly' in organization and presentation. Simply stated, "Dinner Made Easy with Six Sisters' Stuff" will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to personal, family, and community library cookbook collections. It should be noted that "Dinner Made Easy with Six Sisters' Stuff" is also available in a Kindle format ($12.90).

My Brother's Keeper: A Caregiver's Story
Wendy Mac Ewan Kroger
Black Rose Writing
PO Box 1540, Castroville, TX 78009
9781612967714, $16.95, PB, 218pp,

Synopsis: Wendy Mac Ewan Kroger's love for her younger brother led her on a frightening and difficult journey after he suffered a major stroke.

The episode plays out in the pages of "My Brother's Keeper: A Caregiver's Story", from Wendy's visits to hospitals and care facilities, to her sharing a home, to dealing with a myriad of issues -- none of which was easy. Over the course of several years, Wendy became her brother's caregiver, advocate, drill sergeant, mother -- whatever was needed and whatever helped.

In "My Brother's Keeper" Wendy shares what she learned in hopes others who suddenly become inadvertent caregivers may benefit from her experience. Wendy covers such issues as: Medical jargon, Medicaid, power of attorney, student loans, unraveling red tape, the IRS, credit unions, business owners, as well as stellar professionals and unbelievable friends.

She learned about herself and lost thirty pounds, but she also discovered a tenacity she didn't know she had.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented,"My Brother's Keeper: A Caregiver's Story" is a tale that can help those who must care for others, making it especially recommended for community library collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "My Brother's Keeper: A Caregiver's Story" is also available in a Kindle format ($2.99).

Four Scraps of Bread
Magda Hollander-Lafon, author
Anthony T. Fuller, translator
University of Notre Dame Press
310 Flanner Hall, Notre Dame, IN 46556
9780268101220, $50.00, HC, 120pp,

Synopsis: Born in Hungary in 1927, Magda Hollander-Lafon was among the 437,000 Jews deported from Hungary between May and July 1944. Magda, her mother, and her younger sister survived a three-day deportation to Auschwitz-Birkenau; there, she was considered fit for work and so spared, while her mother and sister were sent straight to their deaths.

Hollander-Lafon recalls an experience she had in Birkenau: "A dying woman gestured to me: as she opened her hand to reveal four scraps of moldy bread, she said to me in a barely audible voice, 'Take it. You are young. You must live to be a witness to what is happening here. You must tell people so that this never happens again in the world.' I took those four scraps of bread and ate them in front of her. In her look I read both kindness and release. I was very young and did not understand what this act meant, or the responsibility that it represented."

Critique: Combining poetry with commentary, "Four Scraps of Bread" presents Magda Hollander-Lafon's testament and fulfillment of that old woman's request given in the midst of a Nazi death camp that was to claim tens of thousands of lives before the Allies finally came. Ably translated into English by Anthony T. Fuller, "Four Scraps of Bread" is highly and unreservedly recommended for community and academic library collections. An exceptional and moving read, to should be noted for personal reading lists that "Four Scraps of Bread" is also available in a paperback edition (9780268101237, $25.00) and in a Kindle format ($11.99).

''You Gotta BE the Book''
Jeffrey D. Wilhelm
Teachers College Press
1234 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY 10027
9780807757987, $29.95, PB, 320pp,

Synopsis: Now in an updated and revised third edition, "''You Gotta BE the Book'': Teaching Engaged and Reflective Reading with Adolescents" by Jeffrey D. Wilhelm (Distinguished professor of English Education, Boise State University) is specifically written to resonate with educators and inspire their classroom teaching because it focuses on the joy of reading and how it can engage and even transform readers. In a time of next generation standards that emphasize higher-order strategies, text complexity, and the reading of nonfiction, ''You Gotta BE the Book'' continues to help classroom teachers meet new challenges including those of increasing cultural diversity.

At the core of Wilhelm's foundational text is an in-depth account of what highly motivated adolescent readers actually do when they read, and how to help struggling readers take on those same stances and strategies. His work offers a robust model teachers can use to prepare students for the demands of disciplinary understanding and for literacy in the real world. This new edition of "You Gotta BE the Book" includes new commentaries and tips for using visual techniques, drama and action strategies, think-aloud protocols, and symbolic story representation/reading manipulatives.

"You Gotta BE the Book" includes: A data-driven theory of literature and literary reading as engagement; A case for undertaking teacher research with students; An approach for using drama and visual art to support readers' comprehension; Guidance for assisting students in the use of higher-order strategies of reading (and writing) as required by next generation standards like the Common Core; Classroom interventions to help all students, especially reluctant ones, become successful readers.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, this new and expanded third edition of "'You Gotta BE the Book'': Teaching Engaged and Reflective Reading with Adolescents" is a fundamentally critical and important addition to college and university Teacher Education collections and supplemental studies lists. It should be noted for practicing classroom teachers and reading program instructors that "'You Gotta BE the Book'': Teaching Engaged and Reflective Reading with Adolescents" is also available in a Kindle format ($19.99).

Frocking Life: Searching for Elsa Schiaparelli
300 Park Avenue South, 3rd floor, New York, NY 10010
9780847843862 $39.95 hc / $19.99 Kindle

Synopsis: Inspired by Shocking Life, Schiaparelli's own memoir, Frocking Life will resonate with anyone who loves fashion and flamboyant storytelling. Built around some of the most iconic pieces ever created by the designer, this book is about endless discoveries, and the meaning that can be transmitted, across decades, by a simple piece of clothing. Peopled by dazzling characters from Schiaparelli's own inner circle and the worlds of art and fashion - Saint Laurent, Vreeland, Warhol to name a few - this is a scintillating yet profound homage to a woman who saw life as art, and inspired a young boy to do the same.

BillyBoy* has always been a strange fruit and it must be said, not everyone could have a bite of it. The press adored him since he was, as author Edmund White wrote, "good copy." In fact, his thrilling journey through fashion, culture, and art are deeply tied to what he wore for each occasion. One day, it is a skintight silver lame studded outfit by Nudie Cohen (the designer of Elvis Presley's elaborate ensembles), which was originally made for David Cassidy. For a tea with the Begum Aga Khan at the Ritz, he played the part of the dandy in a conservative suit with impeccable tie, topped by a Vivienne Westwood/Malcolm McClaren Buffalo hat adorned with a silk lettuce leaf. For an interview at home with German Vogue, he transformed into a sex kitten in hot pants and an Yves Saint Laurent sheer blouse. This book is both BillyBoy*'s personal story of his intense spiritual and metaphysical journey through life, and also his authoritative insight into the life and work of Elsa Schiaparelli who became such an influence on him.

Critique: Author BillyBoy*, who cherished Italian fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli (1890-1973) as a role model, presents Frocking Life, a blend of memoir and honorary tribute. Witty, insightful, and candid, Frocking Life is a whirlwind tour of fashion, culture, and art. Highly recommended! It should be noted for personal reading lists that Frocking Life is also available in a Kindle edition ($19.99).

Margaret Lane

Mari's Bookshelf

The Mark of the King
Jocelyn Green
Bethany House
11400 Hampshire Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55438
9781441231079, $14.99 HC, $14.99 PB, $9.67 Kindle, 416pp,

"You are a child of the King; it is His image you bear. King Louis marked you with judgment, but the King of Kings covers you with grace. Whose mark will you now display?" These are the words the main character, Julianne, speaks to herself at the end of the book, when she's come to a pivotal opportunity to either kill the man who has caused her grief over the course of the book, or save him. Her words epitomize the trajectory of the story: Julianne's life in Paris, then in New Orleans, is marked by decisions she can base either on spite or divine love. We follow her dramatic adventure charting her course in a new territory, both geographically and in her heart.

Jocelyn Green's historical fiction is based on the real story of female prisoners and male convicts sent to Louisiana from France in 1720. In a nonstop series of calamities and graces, she imagines why these vulnerable people were chosen to become the inhabitants of France's latest claim in the new world and what their experience is like.

Julianne is sent to Paris' notorious Salpetriere prison, after the mother of a baby she's just delivered dies. She's a new midwife, assisted at this birth by her former teacher, who accuses her of causing the mother's death. In prison, Julianne is branded with a fleur-de-lys (the mark of King Louis) given the choice of death or a passage to Louisiana. Little does she know that a new chance at freedom in Louisiana is nothing less than a different sort of imprisonment. She is forced to marry a fellow felon. Luckily, they become endeared to one another over the journey to New Orleans and in their new home, but soon after they arrive, husband Simon dies. And then their child dies by miscarriage a few months later. Julianne struggles to cope with her mounting grief: first her parents die when she is young, then the brother she is left to raise emigrates to Louisiana, then Simon and their baby, whom she names Benjamin after the brother she hopes to find in the new colony, both die. Her friend Denise offers solace. "Here, there is no church to go to at all. But this is where I've been learning to pray.... Just as slippery elm soothes inflammation, prayer is a balm for a raw and ragged soul." Appealing to Julianne's medical knowledge, she helps Julianne recognize God's abiding presence.

Julianne loses Simon but gains Marc-Paul, a French soldier who knew Benjamin and Simon. When another soldier, Pascal, questions the legitimacy of Julianne's practicing midwifery in New Orleans, Marc-Paul defends her. They marry, vowing to have no secrets. However, Marc-Paul and Julianne both wait for the right moment to reveal secrets that might call their fidelity into question. Marc-Paul's secrets come from a time when law ruled his life. "He followed the law, he stayed alive by the law, and he punished those who broke it. But ever since he met Julianne Chevalier, a hunger for something more had grown in him. Grace. He craved grace. For her and for himself." Julianne struggles to choose between loyalty to her husband and loyalty to Benjamin. She loves them both but has reasons to mistrust both, too.

Without giving away the ending, I can say that the truth wins out. The truth is a directive another of Julianne's friends gives her: "Love your enemy, Julianne, and that poison in your heart will go away." Julianne's mistrust evaporates as she works to keeps her family together. God's grace in her efforts prevails. And Jocelyn Green's efforts to move the story along with increasing plots twists, political intrigues and personal scandals makes discovering God's love exciting! Through the metaphors she employs (prominently, the mark) and the many chances she gives characters to each other, she inspires readers to recognize grace in our own experiences.

Warren Ellis
Farrar, Straus & Giroux
18 West 18th Street, New York, NY 10011
9781427279859, $23.99, CD, audio book,
9780374534974, $13.00 PB, $6.99 Kindle, 160pp,

Normal is anything but. Print novels are not what Warren Ellis normally writes (he's more known for graphic novels and digital works). The setting for the work is Normal Head, the last safe haven for people who have gone mad thinking about the future for a living. What's normal at Normal is what amiss.

Adam Dearden is the latest arrival to Normal Head, having had a breakdown while working in Windhoek, a remote town in Namibia. Upon arrival he meets Clough, who finds salvation in Danger Mouse, and Lela, an urbanist who won't touch people, and Dickson, his aide. By the time he meets Dr. Murgu, his psychologist, he's had his fill of personalities. "He just nodded. This is how the cycle went. Emotional incontinence, and then hyper-focused on the environment but drained of words. No sensory input/output. Human -shaped camera. Two facets of terminal panic, he supposed." What is meant to be a place for healing wounds brought on by "abyss gaze," Normal only offers Adam mystery.

The biggest mystery comes in the form of a disappeared patient (inmate). Clough and Adam are present when Normal staff find not Mansfield in his bed at room check, but a swarm of insects. Adam imagines what life must be like for such bugs. To them, humans are "towering blurs of things, terrifying and unpredictable natural disasters on the move." Not content to let the staff solve the mystery for them, Adam leads a group of fellows to investigate for themselves. What they find is that perhaps they aren't terrible, moving, unpredictable blurs to the bugs, but that the bugs are a clue to a devastating and towering force at work among them.

"The thing about the future is that it keeps happening without you." In the midst of an invigorating investigation, during which Clough and Lela have more fun than they've had in months, Adam loses the will to live. He knows too much. He's tried to predict and control the future and has failed. Does he have the will to try again, in as unconventional a manner as anything possible at Normal?

The short novel ends on a cliff hanger, apt for a book about the future. What is yet to unfold, whether we're involved in it or not, has a stranglehold on the present, on our reading experience. Ellis excels at cinemagraphic engagement. (Take Jasmin Bulat: "she wore a sports bra that may historically have been white and the ugliest knee-length shorts in the world.") The story happens in episodic bursts, less than 150 pages divided into three parts. Don't expect the "normal" dystopia woe. Normal is part warning, part lament, part farce and part silent movie.

For The Record
Regina Jennings
Bethany House
11400 Hampshire Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55438
9780764211423, $14.99 PB, $8.04 Kindle, 336pp,

For the Record, fiction can reveal as much truth as fact. In this rousing novel by Regina Jennings, she plays with the themes of disguise and deceit, truth and justice, to uncover messages about faith and love. Set in Pine Gap, in the 19th century Ozark mountains, this tale seems innocuous on the surface, but its meaning is serious.

Betsy "just couldn't stand to let a mystery be. Not when there was a chance on her figuring it out." When Joel, the new deputy, arrives in Pine Gap, Betsy becomes his shadow, wanting in on the action he incites in town. He also becomes material for a series she writes about his alter ego, "Eduardo." Betsy's there at the train station to tell Joel where the boarding house is, and there when it isn't accepting new guests. She's there when he gets his "horse" and as he trails the Bald Knobbers, a self-appointed band of justice-seekers filling in for the former inept sheriff. The Bald Knobbers think the town doesn't need a new sheriff. But when Doctor Hopkins' farm burns down, Joel, the Bald Knobbers, Betsy and her nephew Scott, sneakily tagging along, all go after Miles Bullard as the prime suspect. Young Scott gets caught up in the fray and Betsy and Joel join forces to save him.

It is as easy to approach the Pine Gap gang as a cast of whimsical characters as it is for Betsy to turn Joel into "Eduardo." The prose gallops along, dotted with colorful metaphors. "Joel felt like he was at the bottom of a rust-colored sack, surrounded by these mountains. At any moment someone might pull the drawstring and the sky would be swallowed up from view." "His eyes traveled to her lips, and somehow his expression became that of a starving man sitting inches from food he couldn't eat." The people are charming in their quirky scooginess. The Mayor says to Joel, "do what you want, Mr. Deputy. You won't find people who care less than here." These characters and their antics serve as a backdrop for the primary drama, a love story between Joel and Betsy.

The biggest mystery to be solved isn't who burned the farm, or how to save Scott, but how Joel and Betsy will get together. Betsy's stories about Joel/Eduardo do earn her the money she hoped they would, but they incriminate Joel as well. His past in Texas, as suggested in the stories, comes to haunt him in Pine Gap. Regina Jennings uses these lovers' secrets to reveal everlasting truths about God's love. "Sometimes God can only work with us when we've come to the end of our efforts," Mr Sanders, the defunct boarding house owner, tells Joel after Betsy advises him to go back to Texas and settle his affairs before returning to her. "And what a paradox to find that because you loved someone, you had to send them away." Joel and Betsy's love flourishes when they set each other free to listen to God's work in their lives.

Regina Jennings manages not to make her book into a moral lesson. She weaves messages of faith into the plot. I can easily relate to the characters as they discern where to leave off trying to fix things and rely on some outside help. However, I do not relate to Betsy at the end. Is her love for Joel at the expense of her writing? It is unclear whether being together means she can't also do what she loves. I learned from her website that Regina Jennings is a busy mother, teacher and writer. I hope her example shines through in this novel; I wouldn't want readers to get the impression that divinely inspired love, especially for women, means sacrificing creative expression and independence.

Faith Sullivan
Milkweed Editions
1011 S Washington Ave #300, Minneapolis, MN 55415
9781571310521, $24.95 HC, $16.00 PB, 392pp,

"On Mother's Day in 1942 Aunt Betty and I gave Mama a gardenia bush.... Gardenias are supposed to grow in rich, moist soil. The soil at the corner of our house is not rich or moist.... Mama says that love alone has saved it but I think the bush has a mind of its own and tries very hard to stay alive and make flowers." In a short piece she writes for a friend, narrator Lark Erhardt sums up the themes of Gardenias, one of five stories about characters from Harvester, Minnesota, by Faith Sullivan. The novel centers around Lark, her mother and aunt as they make a new home for themselves in California, both sisters having left husbands in the Midwest. They meet neighbors, castaways themselves, thriving despite war, troubled pasts, uncertain futures and personal challenges in the present. The three women are determined to succeed together, not over and against one another. They and their ragtag group of companions become an unlikely family, as scarce as gardenias in Minnesota.

The way Faith Sullivan weaves together the main characters becomes the roots for a new character: this California family. Sisters Betty and Arlene play off each other. Arlene is feisty and agitated. She is never settled, always improving the home, while Betty establishes routines and finds solace and peace at church. Lark and her adopted sister, Shirley, are foils for each other. Shirley is a classmate who plants herself in Lark's home when she discovers not only that Lark's caregivers have food, but a piano. Betty prepares Shirley for a better teacher, one who makes Shirley into a real performer. While Shirley pounds away at the piano hours a day, Lark does chores, writes stories, and resents this intruder. She doesn't understand why her special skill, writing, such a secret, understated devotion, isn't more valued in her own home than Shirley's racket. Willie, Arlene's estranged husband, and Stanley, Betty's, are contrasts. Where Willie pleads with Arlene to come "home," Stanley can't seem to bring himself to settle with Betty. Betty's career at Gilpin's department store takes off; she earns promotions and increasing independence. But Arlene stagnates as an office worker at Consolidated, a manufacturing plant. Disappointed, she loses herself to a string of servicemen. The differences between these central characters leave space for reconciliation.

Secondary characters nourish this entangled set of family members on their way to resolution. One such character is Lou, the negro driver who delivers goods the little threesome find at the secondary shop. "In Minnesota, Negroes were as scarce as gardenias, so sharing a drink with Lou lent an element of the exotic to Mama's and my life." Lou opens their eyes to the diversity California has to offer. Next, Fanny and Jack and their two dogs lend a class to the Projects, where they all live. When Fanny grows ill, Lark earns money walking the dogs. She also works for Miss Eldridge, another Project neighbor, filing family mementos. Miss Eldridge encourages Lark's writing and becomes like a second grandmother to her. Boys who threaten to hurt Lark and Shirley are nourishment in their own way. Usually at odds, Shirley and Lark join forces to defeat the ruffians. Betty and Arlene, Fanny and Jack and the Eldridges support one another, sharing meals, caring for one another when sick, celebrating Shirley's accomplishments and Lark's milestones.

Faith Sullivan always includes in her work literature, the arts, and creative endeavors as forces - characters - in their own rights. These, too, bolster Lark as she comes of age. She follows closely the career of a ballet dancer she sees on the train from Minnesota. After she's escaped from war torn Europe and made and acted in movies, the press questions Alicia Armand's identity. Is she really just a fake from Iowa? Lark makes up her own stories about her and the baby Aunt Betty lost, as well her friends back home in Harvester. They become a safe place where she can dream herself into who she wants to become. In her stories, she can see herself from the outside, as she sees Aunt Betty "through a stranger's eyes... no longer in the flush of youth but [as] life was carrying her on a long, slowly rising tide toward wholeness." Faith Sullivan brings to the fore the power the creative arts have to lift us into the next stage, into who we want to become.

Gardenias is more than a coming-of-age story. It is a timeless tale that uses the backdrop of one girl's struggle during wartime to illuminate the indelible spirit we all possess to write our own stories. I recommend it highly and look forward to reading the remaining books about Harvester.

Death in Cold Water
Patricia Skalka
University of Wisconsin Press
1930 Monroe St, 3rd floor, Madison, WI 53711-2059
9780299309206, $24.95 HC, $9.49 Kindle, 256pp,

Death in Cold Water, the third in the Dave Cubiak mystery series, is as haunting as the onset of winter in its setting, Door County, WI. Fittingly, the book begins and ends on the water. In the first scene, Dave fishes alone along Green Bay shore, finding not fish but a sack full of kittens. In the last scene, Dave and his beloved Cate take a last trip out on the boat Parlando celebrating a case closed and a relationship salvaged. In between, Dave uncovers a mystery buried deep under frigid water, a mystery implicating both kidnappers and kidnapped.

Philanthropist Gerald Sneider goes missing during a Packers game he's attending with his son, Andrew. When he first reports the disappearance to Dave, he, Andrew is as much a suspect as Madison area terrorists federal agents think might be to blame. But Dave follows his hunch that the kittens he rescues are somehow a clue. He identifies the rope used to cinch their satchel closed as the same Leeland Ross uses on his boat. While the federal agents assigned to help Dave on the case track the terrorists, Cubiak investigates the Ross family and employees of Sneider's. Through interviews with workers at Sneider's boys' camp, Cubiak links the Ross' and Sneider in a heinous crime that has been secret until now.

Skalka poignantly uses water to convey how the "arrogance of the proud... will lay low," the quote from Isaiah with which she begins the novel. Not only does the haughty Sneider get his come-uppance in water, but Cubiak also drowns his own proud envy. He's jealous both of the federal agents, who nearly take over his case, and of Cate's ex-husband who shows up unannounced and ties up her attention. As more than just kittens emerge from the depths of the bay, Cubiak wins the respect of the feds and Cate's devotion. Water serves as a metaphor for the fluidity of justice Skalka explores. "Cubiak realized that Ross's desire for justice, twisted as it was, originated in a deeply buried shred of decency."

Through water Skalka also plays with themes of science and faith. Despite the bad taste left in his mouth from a Catholic education, Cubiak prays throughout the novel. The feds tell him, "it's how we do things, Sheriff. Data analysis and good police work following the leads. Science puts us ahead of the game. We've got technology working for us and that's where I put my faith." Dave has faith in science and logic as well, but his sixth sense brings him to the truth, connecting dots in a way the data alone cannot. Dave finds his clues on the bay's floor, disconnected from any of the other clues Sneider's kidnappers leave, and disconnected from their demands. "At sea, the dead were dropped overboard and consigned to the depths. And here they were doing the opposite, lifting the dead out of the water and setting them down on the vessel." The crime scene hidden under water is hoisted up, bone by fragile bone, the frigid water having preserved them until it was time the truth came out.

I have not read the other two Cubiak mysteries. If they're as dark as this one, it might be a while before I'm ready to submerge myself in them. This third mystery is written well enough that I lived in it while reading it - not a comforting dip in a shallow, heated pool, but more like the shock of cold Dave feels jumping in after a squirming, mewling sack of kittens. Be ready for a solid freeze as well as a soothing thaw from Skalka. She'll both bring you to the brink of terror as well as back to a satisfying case-closed ending.

Mari Carlson, Reviewer

Mason's Bookshelf

Ancient Gods
Jim Willis
Visible Ink Press
43311 Joy Rd., #414, Canton, MI 48187-2075
9781578596140, $19.95, 400pp,

Synopsis: We all have questions such as: Where do we come from? What are the origins of modern civilization? Do the world's pyramids, the Nazca Lines, Easter Island statues, and other enigmatic structures, archaeological wonders, and geographic anomalies contain evidence of ancient gods?

Sifting through the historical and archaeological evidence, :Ancient Gods: Lost Histories, Hidden Truths, and the Conspiracy of Silence" by Jim Willis probes the myths, stories, history, and facts of ancient civilizations, lost technologies, past catastrophes, archetypal astronauts, and bygone religions to tease out the truth of our distant past and modern existence. It takes and in-depth look at the facts, fictions, and controversies of our ancestors, origins, who we are as a people -- and who might have come before us.

"Ancient Gods" tackles more than 60 nagging stories of ancient gods, ancestors, alien visitors, theories and explanations, including: Why did our ancestors crawl deep underground and paint on cave walls?; How did the megalithic temple site called Gobekli Tepe come to be built some11,600 years before the agricultural revolution?; How were massive stones, weighing tons, dragged miles to build Stonehenge?; Who and why were pyramids built on the equatorial band circling the earth?; What secrets does modern DNA analysis reveal mankind's heritage?; Are we to believe the Ancient Alien Theory?; and so much more!

Critique: Exceptionally well written, nicely illustrated throughout in black-and-white, thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation, "Ancient Gods" is an exceptionally informed and informative compendium that is very highly recommended and certain to be an important and enduringly popular addition to personal reading lists and community library collections.

Business as an Instrument for Societal Change
Sander G. Tideman
Greenleaf Book Group Press
PO Box 91869, Austin, TX 78709
9781783534500, $70.00, HC, 192pp,

Synopsis: "Business as an Instrument for Societal Change: In Conversation with the Dalai Lama" by Sander G. Tideman (Senior Research Associate at the Business & Society Center of Rotterdam School Management, Erasmus University; Senior Fellow at Garrison Institute in New York; and Chairman of Education of the Heart) is the result of two decades of research and dialogue with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and other leaders in business, government, science and education. Tideman, a lawyer and banker who has maintained a friendship with the Dalai Lama over all these years, presents a practical framework and methodology to develop a new kind of leadership -- one fit to re-purpose the business world and tackle escalating social, economic and environmental needs.

The Dalai Lama rarely speaks directly on the topics of business, leadership and economics. Yet in the dialogues recounted here, his wisdom - combined with key insights from business and public leaders -- creates a unified shift towards a consciousness of interconnectedness, offering profound insights for practitioners and general readers alike.

Tideman unites the scientific worldviews of physics, neuroscience and economics with the positive psychology of human relationships, and ancient spiritual wisdom, to formulate practical business leadership solutions. While recognizing the need for change in external structures and governance, Tideman highlights the importance of opening our minds, and connecting inner and outer spirituality. At the same time, he focuses on concrete practices for winning the hearts and minds of employees, customers, communities, and society at large, while addressing deep-rooted problems such as extreme social inequality and continued financial collapses.

At the heart of "Business as an Instrument for Societal Change" lies the journey to discover our shared purpose. This ignites new sources of value creation for the organization, customers and society, which Tideman terms 'triple value'. We can achieve triple value by aligning societal and business needs, based on the fundamental reality of interconnection.

A readable and intelligent exploration of how leaders can actually help to shape a sustainable global economy by embracing innate human and humane behavior, "Business as an Instrument for Societal Change" is also Tideman's fascinating personal journey, which brought him to question the underlying motivations and goals of businesses leadership and to seek a new paradigm for a more sustainable approach. Reflecting Tideman's sharp perceptions and infused with the Dalai Lama's unmistakable joy, "Business as an Instrument for Societal Change " has the power to change ways of thinking.

Critique: Unique, exceptional, informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Business as an Instrument for Societal Change: In Conversation with the Dalai Lama" is a consistently compelling read from beginning to end. A 'must' for the legions of Dalai Lama supporters, and very highly recommended for community, college, and university library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Business as an Instrument for Societal Change" is also available in a paperback edition (9781783534524, $22.95) and in a Kindle format ($15.85).

The Wrong Dog
David Elliot Cohen
Yellow Pear Press
9780997066418 $22.95 hc / $9.59 Kindle

Synopsis: From David Elliot Cohen, the multi-New York Times bestselling author of One Year Off, The Wrong Dog is the heartwarming, often hilarious, story of Simba II, a mischievous white Labrador puppy brought home by accident. As he grows into an enormous ninety-pound dog with a huge personality, Simba cements the bond between two families and enriches their lives in countless ways.

When the family moves from San Francisco to New York, the author is charged with bringing Simba to the family's new home, so he and his best friend, Erick, load the old hound into the back of a station wagon and set out on a 3,300-mile once-in-a-lifetime road trip across America.

With stops at Buck Owens' Crystal Palace; the Las Vegas Strip; Meteor Crater; the Painted Desert; Cadillac Ranch; Winslow, Arizona; Gallup, New Mexico; Graceland, and other all-American landmarks, this engaging and poignant volume chronicles an epic journey, the unconditional love between one dog and his family, and the vast and benevolent role dogs play in American family life. But most of all, The Wrong Dog shows us how the end of life can sometimes be the richest part of all.

Critique: Part memoir, part tribute to a loyal and beloved pet, The Wrong Dog is a heart-touching celebration of the joy and companionship dogs bring to families every day. The Wrong Dog makes an excellent gift for dog lovers, particularly to console those who may have recently outlived their canine friend. It should be noted for personal reading lists that The Wrong Dog is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.59).

WoofiLeaks: Your Dog's Secrets Revealed
John Emmerling
Water Bowl Publishing
9780997000900 $14.99 pbk / $2.99 Kindle

Synopsis: WoofiLeaks - Your Dog's Secrets Revealed is a book of colorful cartoons and rhymes - written by a dog - that spills dozens of canine secrets. If you've ever wondered why your dog acts strangely, or does something completely off-the-wall, this book is for you. Max, a wise old poodle, courageously breaks the Canine Code of Silence to answer head-scratching questions like these:

Why do dogs sniff hydrants?
Why do puppies pull on the leash?
Can old dogs learn new tricks?
Why do dogs love ice cream?
Why does your dog want to sleep in your bed?
Why do dogs give owners "the sad look" when they leave home for five minutes?
What do dogs think about humans locking up animals in zoos?
Are dogs happy about being called "man's best friend?"
What makes dogs so funny?
Do dogs fall in love with other dogs?

Max will even explain what that embarrassing butt-sniffing thing is all about? WoofiLeaks will delight dog lovers as they turn the pages and encounter dozens of flashes of recognition ("Hey, this rhyme totally explains why Rufus goes bonkers at the beach!") Max's mission was a simple one. He wants to help you - and all of humanity - have a better understanding of why dogs do the things they do. And you'll learn that dogs have excellent reasons for ALL their behaviors.

Critique: Written in witty, rhyming verse and illustrated with colorful cartoon dog drawings, WoofiLeaks: Your Dog's Secrets Revealed explains common dog behaviors with humor and charm. "Dogs growl as a WARNING / They can sound like a hornet / If their growl turns to growwwllll!! / Best advice - do not scorn it." WoofiLeaks is a fun and enlightening, browse, sure to brighten any dog lover's day! It should be noted for personal reading lists that WoofiLeaks is also available in a Kindle edition ($2.99).

Jack Mason

Moore's Bookshelf

Bellevue: Three Centuries of Medicine and Mayhem at America's Most Storied Hospital
David Oshinsky
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780385523363, $30.00, 400pp, HC,

In 2016, a Johns Hopkins safety review panel reported that every year, 250,000 deaths in the United States are attributable to medical error. That's a whopping 9.5% of all deaths in the country. As eye-opening as this statistic may be, it pales in comparison to deaths attributable to medical misadventure in previous centuries. According to David Oshinsky, author of Bellevue, eighteenth and nineteenth century medical treatment was as likely to be the cause of death as it was to save life. The evolution of medical care from that dark age occurred in fits and starts. Dr. Oshinsky offers a gripping description of the journey from darkness to the relative enlightenment of today.

This author skillfully blends medical and social history. He demonstrates the knack of a skilled teacher as he weaves anecdotes into a narrative of hard facts. Dr. Oshinsky has so much information at hand, that he doesn't need to resort to conjecture to enliven his story. Truth, he proves, is indeed stronger than fiction.

Examples of Dr. Oshinsky's dynamic writing are on display throughout the book, most memorably in his descriptions of surgery without anesthesia and treatment without antisepsics. In the first case, a boy's leg is amputated. The father is present and aids in restraining his son. The sound of a saw fills the surgical theater as the child, without benefit of anesthesia, loses his leg. Shrieks fill the room. The father faints. We, the readers, are left with an indelible impression.

In another instance, President James Garfield suffers the consequences of medical obstinacy. The President is shot. An assassin's bullet must be removed. The esteemed Dr. Frank Hamilton of Bellevue is called in. He, confident in his skills, declines to follow new guidelines in medicine that prescribe sterilization before contact with a patient. Garfield dies, month later, of massive infection. It is the medical consensus that this death was due not to an assassin's bullet but to medical misadventure.

Dr. Oshinsky comes to the task of writing his book with excellent credentials. He is a professor of history at New York University and the director of Medical Humanities at NYU Langone Medical Center. In addition, he has won a Pulitzer Prize for an earlier book, Polio: An American Story.

The current book, Bellevue, is about the history of a public institution, and it is more. It traces the history of health care in New York City. It introduces readers to some giants of modern medicine, including Robert Koch, Joseph Lister and Florence Nightingale. The author's broad perspective offers insight into the immigrant experience and its intersection with New York City politics. Dr. Oshinsky's wide lens creates a richly textured tableau in which Bellevue Hospital is the focal point.

Bellevue is an easy read. I recommend it to anyone interested in history, and to those readers who would like to gain insight into the culture of the medical profession.

The Duality Code
W. K. Choy, author
Privately Published
9789671442005, $19.99, PB, 352pp,

The title of this book, The Duality Code, will lead some readers to expect a spy mystery. In a way, that expectation is correct. There is a mystery, one that involves an obscure code. And there is intrigue, even murder. The startling aspect of the murders is that these are occasioned by disagreements over language.

W. K. Choy guides us through the sometimes gruesome history of China's language wars. As he does so, he deciphers the mystery of its ancient language. He provides detailed analyses of relationships between Chinese characters and he explains the difference between traditional and simplified Chinese characters.

According to Choy, the Duality Code has its roots in pre-modern China, in a warrior class called the shi. The "code" is secret in the sense that mastery of it, even today, is reserved for the highly educated. It is partly because Chinese characters were historically complex, according to Choy, that the literacy rate in China remained low, until recent times. Attempts toward simplification in the twentieth century included the suggestion that Chinese characters be eliminated altogether in favor of an alphabet-based system. Such a reform, it was believed, would make the language more accessible to ordinary people. However, the reform was never instituted.

Choy writes about how language has been a cultural football in China, and how the rules of this game have been brutal at times. For example, the Emperor Qin Shihuang ordered (in 212 BCE) that four hundred and sixty Confucian scholars be buried alive. He wanted to control scholarship and the use of language in his empire. Mao Tse-tung, centuries later, also wanted to control scholarship and the use of language. In furtherance of that end, Mao boasted, "We are a hundred times worse (than Qin Shihuang)...We have buried forty-six thousand Confucian scholars".

I learned a great deal about the Chinese language from reading The Duality Code. I know now, for example, that Chinese characters are logographic. Each character represents a concept. This is distinct from alphabet-based languages, in which letters are combined to represent speech sounds. Sounds, in Chinese, are not associated with the characters. Therefore, Chinese characters may also be used by people who speak other languages.

Chinese characters can be combined (described and diagrammed in detail by Choy). Some characters are pictographic--their shape approximately resembles the idea they are intended to convey.

This book has much to offer besides an analysis of Chinese language. There's history, political theory and philosophy. There's commentary on the role of language in culture. W. K. Choy has a broad command of a variety of subjects. Readers of this book may not understand everything that is offered, because there is so much here. Choy's analysis of language morphology is very clear and logical. For those with the ambition and time, it can serve as a veritable course on the Chinese language.

I found a wealth of information in The Duality Code, and not all of it specific to China. The book is unlike any I've read. It is challenging and entertaining. It is a cultural history and technical analysis. For Western readers, this will likely be an eye-opener. It was for me.

I highly recommend W. K. Choy's Duality Code.

A. G. Moore

Peggy's Bookshelf

Mae and June and the Wonder Wheel
Written by Charise Mericle Harper
Illustrated by Ashley Spires
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers
3 Park Avenue, 19th Floor, New York, NY 10016
9780544630635, $15.99, 128 pages,

June's best friend is her dog Sammy because he talks to her -- but only her -- and they both enjoy on-the-ground disco dancing. Sammy and June are on a mission to find a new friend who practices the 3 Fs: fun, friendly, and full of adventure. As luck would have it, Mae has just moved in across the street. June and Sammy watch her from the window because they don't know how to meet their new neighbor. In the nick of time a wheel-of-fortune style game arrives from Grandma Penny with plenty of suggestions for making new friends. But June is worried that bossy April has claimed Mae's friendship first. Spires' black and white cartoon illustrations add the right touch of humor and personality to Harper's charming story about friendship. "Mae and June and the Wonder Wheel" challenges young readers with creative ideas for making and keeping new friends.

Clara Humble and the Not-So-Super Powers
Written by Anna Humphrey
Illustrated by Lisa Cinar
Owlkids Books
1700 Fourth Street, Berkeley, CA 94710
9781771471473, $16.95, 224 pages,

Nine-year old Clara Humble has some amazing super powers. She's the fastest sprinter on the Gledhill Elementary School track team. She creates an action-packed cartoon series featuring superhero @Cat and his nemesis Poodle Noodle. Her best friend is her 80-year old neighbor Momo, plus her other neighbor Bradley is pretty cool, too. And she wakes up every morning -- even Saturdays and Sundays -- at exactly 7:14 a.m., with no alarm clock. But Clara's well-ordered world begins to unravel when she finds out that Momo is planning to sell her house and move to a retirement home. Followed by the horrible news that the super mean kids from rival school R.R. Reginald -- the very same ones who pushed the Gledhill Gators mascot into the pond -- will be attending classes at Gledhill until the mold is removed from their school building. In an effort to keep both disasters from happening, Clara decides she needs to beef up her super powers, and Bradley enthusiastically agrees to act as her coach. Using psychic-boosting drills from, Clara works on strengthening her ability to manipulate water (hydrokinesis) and energy (electrokinesis) with decidedly mixed results. Undaunted and desperate to save their school from the invasion of the Reginal b-Rats, Clara and Bradley resort to pranks instead of the paranormal and pull off a sticky situation for everyone. Humphrey's new series starring Clara Humble as a plucky young cartoonist tackles the big challenges facing kids like friendship, anger, competition, and change with honesty and humor. Cinar's @Cat cartoons a la Clara are a delightful distraction giving readers a peek into Clara's heart and soul. "Clara Humble and the Not-So-Super Powers" is hilarious super hero hijinks that kids will love.

The Uncommoners: The Crooked Sixpence
Written by Jennifer Bell
Illustrated by Karl James Mountford
Crown Books
c/o Random House Children's Books
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780553498431, $16.99, 320 pages,

When Granma Sylvie takes a tumble and winds up in hospital, her secret past begins to unravel. Unbeknownst to Granma Sylvie and her grandkids, 11-year old Ivy and 14-year old brother Seb, she possesses a mysterious connection to a whole other world beneath the streets of London. Lundinor is a vast Victorian city populated with Uncommoners who wear peculiar costumes and spend their time consumed with trading uncommon things. Uncommon things are actually common things bewitched by spirits which gives them the ability to do -- well - uncommon things. There are feathers that write, belts that fly, combs that bite, strings that pick locks, bells that talk, and oodles more. Within this extraordinary enchanted world, Ivy and Seb must solve the mystery of the Tweltfth Night to unlock the secret to Granma Sylvie's past. If that wasn't enough to maneuver, Ivy and Seb's parents are in danger and the clock is ticking. Readers will get a kick out of the wacky Uncommoners and their uniquely useful uncommon things while they explore the wonders of Lundinor. In "The Uncommoners: The Crooked Sixpence," Jennifer Bell combines time travel and magical realism into an uncommon fantasy for middle grade readers.

Peggy Tibbetts, Reviewer

Polk's Bookshelf

Rune of the Apprentice
Jamison Stone
99 Linden St., Oakland, California 94607
9781941758915, $19.58, hardcover, 500 pages
B01M7Q2MV0, $7.19, Kindle,

An apprentice practitioner of magic with powers he does not understand, a master who has abandoned him, a price on his head, an evil master who threatens him, a beautiful high priestess and a displaced but capable and honorable pirate who saves him...what more could a fantasy fan want in a book?

Rune of the Apprentice is a classic good-v-evil fantasy tale in which the rulership of the known world is sought by the powers of darkness. Aleksi is a young apprentice born with rune imbedded in his hand. He hasn't a clue what the rune means, or and he certainly doesn't understand its power. His early master, Rudra, has left him a cryptic letter outlining a path he should follow. The path is confusing and not well defined; more to the point, it's dangerous...even life threatening. What Aleksi really knows is that he must find Rudra quickly if he is to survive the awaking of his rune, and he must learn about his family and their fate.

The story occurs on Terra, a world quite different from Earth. The characters are well developed and generally likeable, except for Luka Norte whom the reader will mistrust from the start. Aleksi is a confused sixteen year old teenager, who despite his confusion has the clarity of mind to respond appropriately to danger even if his recognition of danger is sometimes a little late. Domadred now lives as a pirate captain outlawed on most continents after being framed in a political power-play after his father's death. He is, however, a man of honor who sees things clearly. Saiya is a young, beautiful high priestess with who Aleksi forms a bond while in dreamscape. It seems apparent that Aleksi and Saiya have an as yet undefined higher purpose.

Rudra, Aleksi's enigmatic master seems to be universally hated; he is understood by none and felt to be a threat to all. Readers are not introduced to him or given enough information understand him in Rune of the Apprentice. Likewise, the role of the "academies" is never actually defined and one is never sure exactly who they serve and why.

Rune of the Apprentice is nicely balanced between inner rumination and action as there are plenty of threats requiring action and plenty of questions both between characters and within characters, some of which have no immediate answers. It is well written and edited.

This is a suburb fantasy adventure I couldn't put down. It should provide hours of entertainment and adventure for readers of fantasy, or any lover of high adventure. 5-Stars

The Helsinki Pact
Alex Cugia
Chesil Press Limited
9780993302411, 9.99 BP, 373 pages
B01HYKVPCU, $4.99, Kindle,

In the end, this book proved to be a very entertaining story with a twist at the end that I should have suspected but didn't see coming.

However, getting to the end was a challenge and to my mind, started so slowly that I repeatedly laid the book down determined not to waste time with it. However, I came back to it and pushed on determined, I suppose, to see what the fate of the poor souls determined to flee East Berlin through a cave might be.

What I eventually found was a tale of corruption at the highest levels in which senior officials plot to enrich themselves in the economic confusion left over from the reunification of Germany. Thomas and Bettina, the main characters, are caught up in events beyond their control. Furthermore, the events that occur will challenge their loyalty to others...Bettina torn between her loyalty to her Stasi boss and her loyalty to the leaders of her country, and Thomas's loyalty to his friend, Stephan, upon whom he is forced to spy by Bettina's boss. At stake is a conspiracy based on the exchange rates between West German and East German currencies at the time of reunification to make millions of Deutsche Marks at the expense of the East German people.

The plot is excellent, but depends upon complicated politics and currency principles that many readers will either not understand or be willing to muddle through. The story may better be told with less focus on the economics and politics and more focus on the characters and story line; unless, as in most historic fiction, the author's real purpose is to educate readers to factors underlying the reunification of Germany rather than to merely tell the story. If that's the case, I feel the history lesson will be missed by many readers.

The Helsinki Pact is generally well written, but the latter parts of the book contain numerous typographical errors. They are not fatal flaws but do catch attention when encountered.

Historic fiction buffs, those who like stories of political upheaval, stories of spies and tales of people caught in webs of intrigue created by the conspiracies of others, should love The Helsinki Pact. The first half required patience, but eventually the book earned 4-Stars.

Until Someday
E.S. Ready
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781534884090, $14.99, paperback, 240 pages
B01IWIPJLG, $7.99, Kindle,

Emmett Roane is a boxer from Brooklyn in the year 1927 who is trying to come to grips with the death of Anna, his deceased lover. Anna has been dead for some time and although Roane remains obsessed with her loss, the reader is not told how she died, or even that she is actually dead until later in the book. Nevertheless, it is to find relief from grief and obsession that drives Roane to Newport, Rhode Island to confront cherished memories in an effort to put his relationship with Anna behind him.

Much to his chagrin, and to his grudging delight, he meets Maude, a woman on the run from her own past, in the hotel in Newport. He also runs into Owen Topler, a cheating boxer, that he once fought who introduces him to Luther Irvin, a displaced bootlegging crime boss who is losing out to the Italian mob. Relations with Irvin are strained but cordial until Emmett and Maude witness an assassination carried out by one of Irvin's men. Then all hell breaks loose in Newport.

Until someday is a convincing novel that both compels the reader to commiserate with Roane's grief and simultaneously grit teeth and pray for him to get the hell on with his life. Fortunately, Maude is there to help him, and the developing situation with Luther Irvin and his gang provides enough action and distraction for Roane to temporarily remove Anna from his thoughts. Roane is nevertheless a fairly convincing character and is easy to cheer for. I found myself less willing to cheer for Maude at first until the book revealed more of her character and her own story. Irvin is purely evil; his gang possessed of the simple-minded stupidity with which many gangsters are credited. The book is well written and although a few typos were noted, they were not distracting.

I found Until Someday to be entertaining, even exciting and with a satisfying outcome. It should appeal to readers who love crime action, gangster or bootlegging stories, or stories in which a simple man gets caught in a situation not of his making and rises to become a hero.

Love Give Us One Death: Bonnie and Clyde in the Last Days
Jeff P. Jones
Texas Review Press
Box 2146, Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, TX 77341-2146
9781680030976, $18.95, paperback, 232 pages,

The era of Prohibition and the time of the Great Depression immediately following were desperate times that highlighted the disparity between the rich and the poor; the 'haves' and the 'have nots' spurring the rise of gangsters and bank robbers and a huge number of lesser outlaws who robbed to eat and to feed their families.

Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker were two of those outlaws. Spurred first by the challenge and the freedom of the open road, Clyde was quickly driven deeper into criminality by anger at the Texas State penal system. His main desire was to spend time with Bonnie Parker and to strike an embarrassing and telling blow at the Texas prison system. Bonnie Parker, on the other hand, was driven by her love for Clyde, the freedom of the road and her sense of fate to endure unimaginable hardships during their time on the run. The two of them, however, would polarize the populations of several states either for them or against them as they became pawns in a game of power and pride between the banks, law enforcement and the newspapers on one side, and everyday working people on the other.

Today, researchers are piecing together the dynamics of their story from scraps of documents and memorabilia to determine what really happened, for what deaths were Bonnie and Clyde really responsible, and whether the law enforcement response was responsible law enforcement or cold blooded retaliation.

Love Give Us One Death is a historic novel that does not tell the whole story. Instead it attempts to use the facts and narratives of a large number of documents, records and memorabilia to attempt to expose what Bonnie and Clyde may have been thinking and feeling in those difficult times as they tried to maintain their life on the run while staying in contact with family and friends. It brings to the forefront their mutual hatred and distrust of the law; a force they saw as created by the rich to oppress the poor. The book does a good job of getting into the minds and hearts of these two criminals/folk heroes, particularly when dealing with Bonnie's severely injured legs and the various gunshot injuries sustained in gun fights with the law.

Love Give Us One Death is well worth reading for any fans or historians of Bonnie and Clyde, and for anyone else curious as to why two young people living in one of the most difficult times in American history would turn criminal...and whether they were really criminals at all or simply rebels against a world of desperation. 5-Stars

Full Circle: A Haszard Narrative
Kevin E. Hatt
Koehler Books
9781633933385, $15.95, paperback, 273 pages
B01JK5Z0XC, $4.99, Kindle,

Haszard, "Haz" to his friends, may seem an odd name for a medical doctor who dabbles in mysteries, but according to the text he cannot stomach his given name. For the purpose of this review, we'll accept that and stick with "Haz". Haz's better part, Sabrina, is learning to accompany him on adventures as varied as the landscape. His other friends are along for the ride lending a helping hand when needed...except for Grace, whose talent for getting lost in the moment as well as geographically is as large as her generous heart.

So when Suzie, a mutual friend of Grace and Haz, asked Haz to look into the mysterious death of her brother Dean Haz can't say "no" in spite of Sabrina's initial skepticism. When they find that Dean may have been murdered by a group practicing ancient Druid rituals of human sacrifice, the call to find the truth becomes too much for either of them to bear. What they encounter involves several small towns and a large number of people none of whom want them poking around and are willing to take whatever steps are necessary to discourage their investigation.

Full Circle is a well written narrative first person narrative. Haszard, as the narrator, is almost too detailed at times, but seems to make jumps at other times. Nevertheless, the story is easy to follow and a bit tedious since it takes place over a period of days among the normal activities, such as work, of Haz and Sabrina's life. The other characters are believable and more than willing to help up to a point. Grace, who has no real part in the story other than as a delightful distraction manages to catalyze the action through her antics by bringing Haz into contact into certain people at just the right time to provide key information essential to the story.

Full Circle should be enjoyed by readers of cozy mysteries who love nail-biting threats of danger without actually having to see the characters face it. It is entertaining, sometimes humorous, and a great choice for a winter read in front of crackling fire. 4-stars

Destiny's Crucible, Book 3: Heavier than a Mountain
Olan Thorensen
Privately Published
B01N23S2AZ, $3.99, Kindle, 523 pages,

When last we saw our hero, Yozef Kolsko, in The Pen and the Sword (Destiny's Crucible, Book 2) he had returned home slightly injured from the major battle of Moreland fought between the Narthani aggressors and the Caedellian defenders; a battle victory claimed by the Caedellian clansmen, but with both sides understanding that a strategic retreat from a losing battle is not an ultimate victory. Now, the Nathani forces will seek to keep the Caedellian forces off balance with strategic attacks while the Caedellian forces strive to build their fighting forces and keep the Nathani guessing as to their real military capabilities. The stakes are rising as Maera gives birth and as the Narthani plot strategic treachery; but are the stakes high enough for the separate clans to overcome their independence and mutual animosity and work together to prevent their defeat by the Narthani?

Heavier than a Mountain is a serious read for anyone who is invested the Destiny's Crucible series and is cheering for Yozef Kolsko and the Caedellians in the face of an overwhelming enemy. It is well worth the loss of sleep and the midnight oil to see what will happen next. As with the preceding two books, the main characters continue to be developed into lifelike images with human emotions and fears. New characters emerge, both good-buys and bad. In any event, a satisfying story of nail-biting entertainment.

Any lover of action adventures, war drama, political intrigue, or science fiction should do themselves a favor and check out the Destiny's Crucible Series, beginning with Cast Under an Alien Sun, The Pen and the Sword...and now, Heavier Than a Mountain. 5-Stars

Clabe Polk, Reviewer

Sloan's Bookshelf

A Wall Street Bailout for Main Street: This Bulletproof Trade Will Help You Get Paid
Iris Marie Mack, PhD, EMBA
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781541024618, $19.99, PB, 140pp
B01N7HJ78S, $9.98 Kindle,

Buckle up and settle in. It's payback time for small investors -- who want big returns.

In her outstanding new book A Wall Street Bailout for Main Street, Dr. Iris Marie Mack uses her Harvard University and London Business School savvy to simplify what she calls a "bulletproof trading strategy" that even the most inexperienced investor can use to become wealthy over time.

It's a breakthrough primer that explains in easy-to-understand language the intricacies and importance of:

Stock Options, and
Covered Call Options (also known as "renting" your stocks)

These are the building block strategies used by sophisticated Wall Street players -- and, once you understand the basic principles governing each one, you can use them to achieve personal financial success yourself -- no matter how young or old you may be.

Dr. Mack fills the first three chapters of her exhaustively researched book with, among other things, startling background information on how the U.S. government has routinely bailed out financially insolvent companies and even banks in the recent past.

"While many people may be aware of the billions of dollars in bank bailouts from the U.S. Treasury Department, they are perhaps unaware of the trillions of dollars in bank bailouts from the Federal Reserve," Dr. Mack says.

These bailouts have gotten out of hand, she asserts, adding that the Federal Reserve is, essentially, a for-profit entity governed by high-stakes influencers in foreign countries who are setting the banks up to fail yet again. Indeed, she asks the burning question that should be on every taxpayer's mind:

"So, what will the government do next time around? How will the banks be bailed out? Also, who will bail the rest of us out? Investors? Small businesses? The average taxpayers on Main Street?"

Dr. Mack goes on to provide excellent insights, examples, and case studies explaining in sufficient -- but not overwhelming -- detail the relative importance and functions of stock market mainstay strategies like stock options, calls and puts, and "naked" calls vs "covered" calls.

Along the way, she provides excellent illustrations of just how some of these strategies might be analogous to other scenarios, like horse racing:

"(Let's say) you bet that a horse Chestnut will win the next race. Therefore, you spend $10 to bet on Chestnut. The four-lap race will begin and you need to wait to see the result at the end. Now suppose you can buy or sell your bet during the race.

"After the first lap, your horse is in the lead! If Chestnut keeps leading, your lovely horse will bring you a big fortune! Should you sell your bet or keep it? You decide to wait. However, Chestnut seems to be tired during the second lap and falls behind now. If you sell your bet you can still get some money back, or you can wait and see. Now Chestnut begins speeding in the third lap and keeps leading until the final lap. Unfortunately, your horse finishes in fourth place and you get nothing."

The horse bet, she explains, is similar to an options trade.

"Here, you chose not to buy the horse; you simply placed a bet on its outcome in the race. Similarly, you can choose not to buy a stock; you can, instead, decide to buy an option on the stock. What you bet on your horse is similar to what you paid for your option."

It is this very gift for simplifying heretofore complex stock trading notions that sets this financial how-to book far above others in its genre. Dr. Mack's impressive academic credentials don't keep her from relating easily to everyday investors. In fact, she seems to revel in imparting her knowledge.

Her populist cry of "Don't get mad; get even!" will resonate soundly with retirees, students and everyone in between who are looking for a simplified methodology for extending their resources -- in a safe and sane manner.

Five-plus stars to Wall Street Bailouts for Main Street. Dr. Mack has authored a comprehensive, yet down-to-earth guide to making money that anyone can follow easily.

The Grandfather Paradox
Steven Burgauer
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781542454476, $15.95, PB
B01MR40744, $2.99 Kindle, 380 pages,

In this brilliant science fiction adventure, veteran storyteller Steven Burgauer weaves an intricate narrative bristling with technological insights and historical detail.

And, along the way, he spins a good old-fashioned space opera about a stranded trio of female clones, a man with a mission rooted in the past, and a sweeping journey across time and space to put an end to a genetic curse.

In the opening pages of this tale, Captain Andu Nehrengel, the victim of a mutiny in deep space, finds his way to a nearby planet to discover giant, carnivorous parrot-beasts and -- astonishingly -- human footprints close by. He follows these footprints and winds up as the prisoner of three gorgeous female clones -- the sole surviving members of an expeditionary band of Mormons dispatched from Earth more than two centuries earlier to establish a new colony.

Things progress in a satisfactory manner -- at least for Nehrengel. The trio has never seen a man before and -- well, let's just say they are delighted to meet one. However, on a trip back to recover batteries from his downed ship, the bird-beasts attack and kill two of the triplets before Capt. Nehrengel can lay waste to the avian attackers.

Heartbroken and now alone, the surviving clone -- named Prime Alpha -- cozies up to Nehrengel and agrees to go with him on a trip back in time to try and change history.

But before you say: "Been there, done that on a million time-travel stories before," hang on. This one delves deep into uncharted fictional waters for one of the most imaginative plot twists we've seen in years.

After acquiring a spaceworthy ship, Nehrengel and his lovely new friend set their sights on a place Prime Alpha has never seen -- the storied homeworld she's only read about: Terra. Soon the lovely blue-white ball is growing in their forward viewscreen -- Planet Earth, circa 1861.

In Part 2 of this exciting adventure, Nehrengel and Prime Alpha -- now going by the name of Margaret -- find they've miscalculated a key component of their journey and must adjust their plans to contact the object of their trip -- Nehrengel's great-great-granduncle Byron Matthewson -- and correct a calamitous wrinkle in the fabric of time.

Along the way, they sail on a riverboat, discover that Alpha/Margaret can put her telepathic powers to profitable use in a friendly game of poker, meet an American writer of some fame -- Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain -- and become embroiled in the terrible conflict that was the American Civil War.

"It has been said that war is the continuation of politics by other means. This was unquestionably the case with the American War Between the States. Not for another five hundred years - not until the Great War - would more American blood be spilled for less reason."

Some passages of this novel are purely poetic in their power to convey a sense of scene to the reader. Nowhere is this power more clearly on display than in the section in which Andu -- playing the part of a Union soldier in search of his kinsman -- gets caught up in the fray:

"Shiloh was a battle fought on a rough, wooded plateau. It was a battle fought up and down and along the ridges of deep gullies and sloping hills. One fought amid thick underbrush and heavy timber. A battle saved only at the eleventh hour by reinforcements. A battle so potent in its results it very likely changed the entire course of the war."

Can they do it? Can they alter time to suit their purposes and survive all the adventures they encounter? Pack your things and tag along as Andu, Alpha/Margaret and the venerable Sam Clemens get themselves into one seemingly inextricable situation after another on the way to a surprising and satisfying conclusion.

Five stars to The Grandfather Paradox. It's a saga worth savoring, from beginning to end.

A New Family (The Bart Northcote Series) (Volume 3)
Murray Lee Eiland Jr.
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781530056385, $14.99, PB
B01BSDGJW0, $2.99 Kindle, 174 pages,

Dirk Dixon's dough has disappeared. He's been shorn like a prize sheep, fleeced by a finagling femme fatale, screwed like a -- never mind; you get the picture.

Luckily, he has one of the best private investigators in modern fiction on the case, and the resulting story is truly one of the most inventive hardboiled detective tales in years.

Dixon, a famous -- though self-absorbed -- movie star, lost millions when his new girlfriend skipped town with literally everything he owned. And she didn't leave so much as a hair follicle behind for private eye Bart Northcote to begin a trace.

Nevertheless, the cold trail grows warmer by the day as Bart and his unlikely but highly competent all-female team of agency associates begin tracking down (a) the scheming girlfriend and (b) the $25 million she stole.

The scent leads them to the Oakland airport, where a young woman resembling the elusive Laura Lowell has been detained. Bart and a giddy Dirk Dixon descend on the interrogation room where she's being held but -- in a stunning turn of events -- the detainee proves graphically that she can't possibly be the swindler, despite Dixon's vigorous assertions.

The gleeful girl departs and, shortly thereafter, Bart discovers the truth -- Laura has a lookalike twin sister who is helping in the heist.

This masterfully crafted novel then leads the reader through a series of exhaustive -- but brilliant -- countermoves as Bart and his team methodically dissect the caper, from its origins in Great Britain to the successful sting in Los Angeles.

Along the way, they discover the twins' second victim in the Grand Cayman islands. Ironically, the missing money has just passed through the tropical banking haven and Bart finds himself standing in frustration on a dock, watching one of the girls depart with heavy bags of recently converted currency.

How many more millions will be transferred into the conniving sisters' bank accounts from hapless tycoons who fall headlong into their well-practiced con? Only Bart and his intrepid trio of teammates stand between them and a scot--free existence in the lap of luxury.

The final series of events -- painstakingly plotted and skillfully written -- will leave you shaking your head in admiration at this superb detective novel.

Here are a few examples of the kind of writing that abounds in the book:

"He had never been handsome, and his face now looked weathered and deeply creased, but his eyes were accentuated by the way the surrounding flesh had receded, exposing a dazzling blue within deep sockets."

And this, describing the sultry seductress moving in for the kill:

"She obviously wanted to keep my mind on the bliss that awaited me within a lifetime of her attentions. It was all I could do to fake interest in a hungry female praying mantis."

This book earns five-plus stars for its excellent pacing, clever plot twists and sheer ability to entertain.

Life After
Privately Published
B01HPFGY3Y, 415 pages, $7.99, Kindle,

Dana Thompson has a problem. His wife of twenty years is dead, and, while in Rome on business a year later, he thinks he may have figured out a chilling and startling truth about her.

Katie Thompson, world-acclaimed broadcast news producer, apparently was a spy.

dhtreichler, in his latest book, offers up world-class intrigue mixed with fascinating detail and insight into how arms deals are cut daily in global capitals like Warsaw, Istanbul, Riyadh and Rome.

The novel delves deeply into the relationship between Dana Thompson and Katie -- a thoroughly unique, long-standing love affair that spanned two decades before her life was cut short by complications arising from aggressive cancer treatments.

The well-drawn characters in the book pull the reader along nicely as Dana travels the world as a "defense contractor," and Katie hops from one international hot spot to another in her attempt to stay on top in the race for ratings.

That is, until the diagnosis of breast cancer comes in unexpectedly. To make matters worse, it has apparently gone undetected for years, and, as a result, it has spread throughout her slim body.

Tantalizing hints of Katie's secret vocation as a back channel courier of governmental information are revealed early, as the Thompsons encounter a mysterious Italian named Gian Carlo at dinner one night while visiting the city of Rome.

But it is not until a year after Katie's death that Dana puts the unmistakable pieces together and finds himself trying to trace the actual circumstances of his wife's clandestine involvement in world affairs.

Was she a patriot or a turncoat? The layers of the enigma slowly unfold as the story progresses.

Dana is suddenly thrust into peril when four men coerce him into a meeting with yet another mysterious player who wants to influence the way the U.S. does arms sales. Dana escapes harm, but not so for an unfortunate fellow American who is killed after trying to warn him off before the meeting.

The author does a great job of examining with a deft hand how Dana and Katie, with their almost constant international travels, raised their son, Brandon. After her death, the twenty-year-old son is left with anger and resentment toward his father -- a widening emotional gulf that may yet prove too far to cross, for either one.

Still, it is the special insight into massive arms sales that drives the book. The author -- himself a defense contractor for many years -- rivets the reader with intimate inside knowledge as his main character dances adroitly with Turkish, Italian, French and even Russian weapons buyers and sellers.

Indeed, the almost matter-of-fact discussions about weapons procurement -- which ultimately will result in widespread warfare and, in some countries, outright genocide -- may leave the reader in possession of an uncomfortable truth that this sort of thing is happening regularly somewhere around the world.

But, back to the story.

Dana is being urged almost continuously to leave his almost obsessive devotion to Katie's memory behind, and move on with his life. Get out more, perhaps try the dating scene.

But Dana wants no part of that advice, well-intentioned as it is. He continues his grueling travel and negotiations schedule, finally winding up back in Turkey, trying to salvage a multi-billion dollar deal that is in danger of heading south.

Then, he has two epiphanies. First is a sobering realization about the nature of warfare, military parity and the relative merits of America's armed might.

"Change," Dana says to himself after one particularly grueling negotiating session. "I see it. I smell it. I know it is all around me. But my company leadership continues to arm the world for combat no one can win and no one wants to fight anymore."

The second epiphany is the fortuitous meeting of a charming and intelligent Turkish beauty named Elif.

From there, the plotline develops in ways that are both surprising and satisfying. Will Dana rediscover love, halfway round the world? Will he finally reconnect with his son in a meaningful way? And what is the role of the shadowy character Gian Carlo in the affairs of the world's power brokers?

Bottom line: if you ever wondered what goes on in the foreign boardrooms where these huge arms agreements are hammered out, this is your best chance to become thoroughly enlightened.

Five stars to Life After. It's a mature and deceptively subtle look at one man's efforts to come to terms with love, loss and the art of the deal in an increasingly imperfect world.

Don Sloan

Susan's Bookshelf

Making The Elephant Man: A Producer's Memoir
Jonathan Sanger
McFarland & Company
PO Box 611, Jefferson NC 28640
9781476666624, $29.95 PB, $9.99 Kindle, 208 Pages,

Genre: Entertainment

Who cannot remember watching the award winning film called The Elephant Man, and, if they are truthful, the horrific fascination, and strong emotions it evoked? This is quite simply an incredible film which chronicles the life and experiences of John (Joseph) Merrick, cruelly labelled 'The Elephant Man' because of deformities which started to materialise at about 5 years of age, and which he had to live with throughout his short life.

Written by the producer, Jonathon Sanger, this book tells the story of how this film, the first he ever produced, came to be.

From the moment he first read the script Jonathon immediately felt strongly that it was a story which had to be told on screen. With the backing of Mel Brooks who helped finance the film through his new company Brooksfilms, The Elephant Man got the green light and the search for production staff and actors began.

Jonathon's enthusiasm for this story was infectious, and with the creative and artistic talents of David Lynch as Director, it is fascinating to discover how the film was shot and how they came to cast so many famous actors, and talented artists.

Anyone who has seen it cannot fail to be moved by it. Unusually, for the time it was filmed in black and white, which dramatically adds to the atmosphere. I can imagine anyone interested in the film industry will be fascinated to reading how, through diligent searching and an eye for detail, Jonathon and David managed to find the cobbled streets, and hospital buildings, needed as sets, and learn how with special clever photography they ensured the perfect ambience needed to recreate Victorian London at that time.

Jonathon has, throughout this book been extremely frank about the relationships between production staff, cast members, actors, and crew, in the making and filming of The Elephant Man which is refreshing, and this honesty gives the reader and any would-be member of the industry a glimpse into what life in this line of work is really like.

The impact of this film continues however, past its premier, in that not only has it received many awards, but it has also affected how people perceive disability, and has helped organisations which work with people suffering from disabilities.

Since this, his first production, Jonathon Sanger has produced and directed many films, and also given other film professionals the chance to direct their own films through the Chanticleer Film company.

The testament to this film, and why this book was written has been summed up by the man himself, as he says in the preface, when asked what his most challenging accomplishment had been as a film producer, "it was my first film as 'producer, The Elephant Man, that set the bar high enough that I felt I could accomplish anything." After reading this statement, who could resist such an amazing story?

Okay Okay
Fred Krebsbach
The Write Place
9780989671019, $11.99, PB, 194 Pages,

Genre: Biography

In November 1968, Fred Krebsbach had just turned twenty-one, he had finished his education with a tech degree in engineering, and was looking forward to a bright future. However the US military had other plans, the war in Vietnam needed soldiers and he was called up for draft.

Before leaving for basic training, his uncle Gene, a WWII veteran advised him to take something which would give him comfort, with him, and he chose his First Communion rosary, something which would sustain him through the months of conflict.

After he had completed his training, he left his homeland for the Tan Son Nhut Republic of South Vietnam. Thus began his tour of duty in that hell hole, where for nearly seven long months he served as an M-60 machine gunner.

The author freely admits that he was changed in irrevocable ways, and reading his story, how can he not have been. Fighting the Viet Cong, and the North Vietnamese Army under terrible conditions, losing many of his ammo bearers to booby traps, and for me, one of the saddest things was that they never said hello, because then they would never have to say goodbye...

The detailed descriptions of army life in Vietnam, and how he survived it, is absorbing reading. I was amazed to discover that captured, and rehabilitated Viet Cong, were used by the army as Tiger Scouts, and sent out in front of the soldiers to find the booby traps, punji pits, daisy chains and explosives set by their ex-comrades.

The author says that hearing WWII veterans say that they wish they had talked to their family more, has been an important factor in his decision to writing this book. I can understand this as my own Granddad was a WWII veteran who was lost, presumed dead. In fact my Grandmother was told he was dead by the British War Office. Then he turned up in Australia a couple of years after the war had ended. Apparently, he had been taken there, having been released, he had been tortured, and it was that long before they could discover his identity. I remember, he never, ever, talked about his experiences.

It must have taken a lot of courage for the author to put these words down on paper, to search is memories, trace people, and diagnose the effect on his life of those months.

Yes he came back alive, and despite sustaining injury, in one piece. However the man who returned was totally different from the 'boy' who left his home to fight for his country.

He married Marcia, has had children, and grandchildren, he was one of the lucky ones, thousands did not. Because of this, he wanted to put pen to paper to explain in real terms the true cost of war, both mentally and physically.

Thank you Fred.

Christmas for Joshua
Avraham Arieli
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781463602888, $12.99 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 292 Pages,

Genre: Fiction

I loved the character of Rusty Dinwall from the very first page. He is a well-respected, compassionate man, a heart surgeon, and a loving husband and father.

Indeed, after falling in love with Rebecca, over twenty years before, he even renounced Christianity, embraced her Jewish faith, and is now president of his local Reform synagogue. A happy and contented man leading a devout life, and helping others.

This story begins on Thursday September 24th, it is Rosh Hashanah Eve (Jewish New Year). Rusty and his wife Rebecca are looking forward to a Skype call that evening from their daughter Deborah who is away at university, and cannot join them for the celebrations. However, Deborah is not alone when she makes the call, and introduces them to her future husband Mordechai, an Orthodox Jew.

Deborah and Mordechai announce that they will be marrying on 20th December in New York, and then coming back to her home in Arizona for their honeymoon.

Although initially surprised at the swiftness of the wedding, Rusty and Rebecca arrive in New York excited at the forthcoming celebrations.

With their daughter happy and radiant nothing, it would seem could possibly spoil such a perfect day, that is, until Rabbi Mintzberg arrives. When the elderly orthodox Rabbi announces Rusty is a shaygetz (not a full Jew), Rusty is shocked at his words, and dismayed at the ramifications they will have on such a special day.

Reeling from the repercussions, hurt, confused and surprised at the reactions of those around him, he suddenly discovers that religious intolerance is evident even within the same faith. Searching for answers, and pondering his past, Rusty decides that he is going to make the young couples celebration of their marriage in his local Reform synagogue, a night to remember, which it is, in more ways than one...

As a parent, it is easy to understand both Rusty and Rebecca's reactions, and ways of coping to the news of Deborah's rapid marriage, and her decision to become an Orthodox Jew. Their natural reaction is to protect her but as an adult does she need their protection?

This book highlights very clearly how hard things can be for mixed faith families at special occasions, specific times of the year, and at family celebrations, which should be happy. However it also celebrates the strength of marriage, and commitment couples should make to each other.

This book is very different to the other spy thrillers I have read by this talented author, however, I have to say it is simply a wonderful story which is uplifting, yet heart rendering at the same time, and I would highly recommend it, whatever religion you follow.

Dynomike: Talent Show Time
Frankie B Rabbit
Amazon Digital Services
B01NCSQ76G, $5.01, Kindle, 27 Pages,

Genre: Children's Book

I loved reading Dynomike: Talent Show Time with my grandsons! It tells the story of what happens when a teacher puts up a poster for a talent show at school. It is asking for entrants who have all sort of talents, and it gets Dynomike and his friends thinking.

Each one ponders on what a great chance it is to show off their special talent, and win a prize! Out comes their competitive spirit, and they start working out what THEY can do, and how THEY can win. They are all very talented in their own special ways, and each is sure they are the best.

This sets Dynomike thinking, he takes himself off and is sad, it's a pity that there has to losers for there to be winners. How much better it would be if they could all win!

So, he gets all his friends together, and tells them his plan.

But will his friends be interested?

Do they want to work together, and can they?

All is revealed on Talent Show night, when we find out what happens, and who steals the show.

This series of books is very special because it shows children, through wonderful rhyme, and beautifully eye-catching illustrations, using the lovable characters of Dynomike and his friends, the importance of friendship, support and team work, in many different situations.

The Time Traveler 7: The Time Traveler's Son
Joe Corso
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781540334725, $19.95, PB, 332 Pages,

Genre: Science Fiction

This book starts another chapter in the exciting Time Traveler series. It is spring in the 12th century and we find Lucky's young 6 year old son Robert in the castle gardens, waiting for the chance to enjoy special time with his father. The bond between father and son is very close, and it is closer still when Robert reveal to his father that he can see sparkles, and Lucky realises that his son has inherited his father's gift for seeing portals into other times in history.

Lucky recognises that it is important that Robert learns to respect the portals in due time, when he is old enough, however, for now, he needs to understand the danger they can put him in. Obediently Robert listens to his father's words, and agrees never to go through one, until his father decides the time is right and takes him.

A year later, with the agreement of his wife, the Princess Krystina, Lucky is just about to take Robert on his first trip through the portal when there is an emergency at the palace, the King is ill. Lucky decides he has no choice but to take the King with them to the 21st century and seeking emergency help.

Well of course, young Robert is amazed at the 21st century the televisions, light, iphones, electricity and even has a ride in a car, everything is so magical to him. However soon the adventure takes a dark twist as Micky and Robert are kidnapped, by three men, trying to locate Lucky.

In fear of their lives, and needing to escape, Robert disobeys his father and takes Micky through a portal, and thus begins an amazing adventure. It leads them to the spot where the famous aviator brothers Wilber, and Orville Wright are trying out their flying machine, and Lucky catches up with them there.

Deciding not to go back through the same portal the trio start an amazing journey, leapfrogging through time and across continents, meeting famous people through history, like Alexander Dumas, and Queen Elizabeth I, and actually witnessing first hand world changing events like the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

A thrilling adventure for a young boy, certainly, however, sometimes he finds himself alone, facing real dangers, having to use his wits to survive, and needing his mother, as any young boy would.

I love the 'Time Traveler' series of stories, however, this book can stand alone. The bond between father and son is wonderful, and the clever links between time, events and historical figures make it not only an enjoyable book to read, but also very interesting.

The Witch's Shadow (The Mind Traveller Book 2)
James McKenna
Lone Cloud Publishing
9780992840044, $9.20, 236 Pages

Genre: Young Adult

Rosie is a 15 year old orphan who lives with her Uncle Hugo at Haston Manor, however, she is also very special as she has inherited the ability to travel into Mind Space from her mother. Mind Space is a mysterious realm which can be reached by special people called Mind Traveller's, and it is inhabited by strange and mythical creatures, angels, demons and more.

This story begins on Rosie's end of term sports day, at St Monica's Boarding School for Girls, and her new adventure is about to begin...

That night, lying on her bed in the dorm, she is transported by Elissa, her SAS Angel to the Ministry of Procedures building, a special place where everything in her world and other parallel ones are organised. There Rosie learns that she must go into Mind Space again. Apparently she has inherited from her mother a section there, however, is overrun with scrowlers, and their owners, the Dark Angels are beginning to win the angel wars.

The Rule Maker Grubalot has decreed that as a Mind Traveller, and Warrior of Light, she must free Prince Tiago and his main army of Cloud Riders from a terrible place, so they can fight the Dark Angels, kill the scowlers, and save the human race.

However, this is not all, she is told that she must continue her mother's mission and collect the pieces of the Dove of Peace, however the next piece is in a place soon to disappear forever!

As Uncle Hugo sets off with Rosie to Larkin Cottage in Southwold, Suffolk, for their holidays, little does he know that he is fulfilling his role in the plan, for the cottage has stood there for hundreds of years, and it, and its inhabitants have their own special part to play.

Soon Rosie is travelling through Mind Space again with the aid of her magic talismans, advice from her mother's diaries, and her Three Musketeers (Charlie, Oliver and French boy Jean-Paul). However on their quest Rosie soon discovers that the mission and the researching her school project about the Battle of Sale Bay have combined, and have become a terrifying real life adventure.

Can the brave explorers find Princess Lavinia, her baby, and a piece of the Dove of Peace?

Will they survive the dangers which lurks at every turn, as Gizeda, the Dark witch, and her minions try desperately to thwart their mission?

Find out the answers to these questions, and so many more in this exciting story where the war against good and evil rages and mysterious creatures roam the lands.

This book is the second book in this series by this talented author, its sequel is called The Mind Traveller, however it also stands alone.

Susan Keefe, Reviewer

Suzie's Bookshelf

Horrors of the Mind: A Paranormal Experience
H.E. Kline
Horrors of the Mind Entertainment, LLC
c/o CreateSpace
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781539804567, $2.99 Kindle, 364 pages,

Fiction - Paranormal

"Welcome to my nightmare. I think you're going to like it. There'll be some more when you come down." ~Alice Cooper

Darkness descends as the shadows of night closes in signaling that it's time to enter into a world of the unknown. One where you find yourself caught in a nightmare with a scream trapped in your throat. You can feel that your last breath is slowly being robbed from your body; you are powerless to stop it. Go now and discover three unforgettable tales of evil, death, and destruction. . .

The Dream

Since the young age of five, Lacy has been plagued by nightmares. These nightly terrors take possession of her body as the darkness of nightfall transcends upon her. Will she be strong enough to break free of these night terrors? Or will they finally take control of her mind and life?

The Haunting of the Hockomock Swamp

For centuries "Hockomock" has held unspeakable secrets. From mysterious lights, to unknown creatures that no one dares speak of until the day Janie Williams finds herself intrigued by the Massachusetts legend? Will she discover what is behind the strange occurrences that have plagued the town? Or will her curiosity endanger her own life?


Route 44 is located on a desolate road in Massachusetts. It is rumored that it is haunted by a Phantom who has walked that lonely road for three decades. The man is looking to be picked up by unsuspected travelers... Travelers who are never seen or heard from again. Will the mystery be solved? Will the missing people be located?

Three outstanding horror stories fill the pages of this nail biting novel. These three stories are assured to raise the hair on the back of your neck. I was so impressed by the historical accuracy each one offered. Readers beware for these stories are not to be read near bedtime for they are assured to seep into your unconscious mind.

H.E. Kline is an author that continues to amaze me with the talent that pours from her mighty pen and unlimited imagination. With each offering I discover from this wonderful author I grow more amazed at her talent. This book will send thrills and chills up your spine as you read each one. One of the things I love about this author is how her descriptive words paint the picture I am reading in my mind. Of all the books I have read of hers by far this one stands out and calls out to be turned into an unforgettable movie series.

The Entrepreneur's Garden: The Nine Essential Relationships To Cultivate Your Wildly Successful Business
Divya Parekh
Scorpio Press
B01N086ZL8, $6.99 Kindle, 213 pages

Non-Fiction - Self Help

"Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant." -- Robert Louis Stevenson

Sally is an entrepreneur who finds herself leaving her safe and secure corporate job and branching out to open her own business. Courageously she makes that first step and finds running her company is harder than what it seemed. She enlists the help and advice of Dee who quickly becomes her mentor. Dee shares her knowledge and insight on how she overcame the challenges she faced when she opened her own business and learned to prioritize them around her own personal life.

The success of any new business starts with building a solid foundation which is strong enough that can withstand being built upon. Starting a new business is often a scary and overwhelming task that often the new business owner is clueless on how to have their business thrive and succeed.

Through the helpful insight contained in THE ENTREPRENEUR'S GARDEN, you will find invaluable advice that will help you discover nine essential elements that any business owner needs to master in order to have a successful business.

THE ENTREPRENEUR'S GARDEN: THE NINE ESSENTIAL RELATIONSHIPS TO CULTIVATE YOUR WILDLY SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS is a book that I would have gladly been snowed in with for an extended period of time. There was so much helpful information that was contained in this book that I could put to use in my own quest to start my own business. I felt an instant connection to Sally and the struggles she was facing to try to succeed in her business. Through her obstacles, I could compare them to my own business situation and find peace in knowing that there was hope for new business owners.

Divya Parekh has convinced me that she is a master in her field. Through the words and advice that she has provided in this book I am convinced that if a person were to apply this to their new business venture they would reap the rewards of success. Not only does this book focus on learning how to be successful with your business it also gives you a wonderful life lesson to help discover your inner self.

I am a firm believer that books come to the reader in the time of their life when they need it most. This book arrived just when I found myself wanting to expand my own dream of having my own company. Words connect convey how impressed I am with the knowledge and insight contained in these pages. I feel they have set me back on a path to want to continue to expand my talent to reach larger audiences.

5 Essential Dimensions: How to Balance Your Life for Health, Success and Content
A. A. Albraheem
Amazon Digital Services LLC
B01L9HP0NO, $0.99 Kindle, 186 pages,


"Life is about change, sometimes it's painful, sometimes it's beautiful, but most of the time it's both." ~

Our life is filled with a kaleidoscope of variety. In order to have it is kept balanced we must ensure the five elements of existence are kept aligned. Our lives have a total of five dimensions that revolves around financial, social, internal, physical, and spiritual affairs.

Each one of these items elements is essential to our overall happiness and success. When one of them is not in balance it can throw off our ability to succeed and live a fulfilling life. This book provides the insight to discover what steps needs to be taken to ensure that each one is given proper attention.

5 ESSENTIAL DIMENSIONS: HOW TO BALANCE YOUR LIFE FOR HEALTH, SUCCESS, AND CONTENT is a very thought provoking book. It provides in-depth knowledge that is crucial to the livelihood of any individual.

A.A. Albraheem is an author who is an expert in his field. He has proven to me that he has conducted research that dates back thousands of years to prove that his method of success is solid and reliable. I found his level of commitment to be very commendable. Authors of similar titles fail to put in the time and effort Mr. Albraheem has devoted. This fact sets him far ahead of the competition for I know that the information he is providing has been tried and is assured to work.

The Beauty of the Fall
Rich Marcello
Langdon Street Press
322 1st Avenue N, Suite 500, Minneapolis, MN 55401
9781635054040, $16.95, PB, 378pp
B01MFCTYYW, $9.99 Kindle, 283 pages,


"Love yourself. It is important to stay positive because beauty comes from the inside out." ~Jenn Proske

Dan Underlight had spent sixteen years working at RadioRadio Software Company. When he is called into his Manager's office and learns his job is being terminated he feels the weight of the world crash down on his shoulder. In his mind he goes to a happier place in his life, to avoid the final words of dismissal.

Ever since the death of his ten-year-old son, Zack he has been grieving for his loss. His son's death set him in a downward spiral of depression which made going on with his life a struggle. Dan is unsure where to go next as he walks out of RadioRadio's door. He finds himself going into a deeper depression.

Salvation comes in the form of Willow Kaye, a poet and domestic violence survivor. She gives Dan the courage to want to move forward with his life. She provides a purpose for him getting up each morning, through her he is able to believe life is worth living.

Will Willow's positive influence be enough to keep Dan wanting to move forward with is life? Or will he fall back into a dark world of no return?

THE BEAUTY OF THE FALL is an exceptional book. It is filled with heartfelt emotions that wrap themselves around the reader. In seeing the grief Dan has suffered and how Willow is able to bring light to his bleak existence is a beautiful revolution.

Rich Marcello writes with a voice that projects a deeply moving experience. I found within pages of the first chapter I was in love with Dan and wanted to reach out and provide my own hand to try and save him from himself. I feel this book has made a great impact in the literary world.

Weight Loss: The Fat Burning Secret: The Simple Basics Of Fat Burning And Healthy Nutrition
(Lose Weight Fast, Burn Body Fat, Sports Nutrition, Fat Burning, Lean Muscles Book 1)
Patrick Price
Amazon Digital Services LLC
B01MY2F1G8, $4.99 Kindle, 82 pages,

Non-Fiction/Self Help

With the start of a new year it is time to jumpstart your fitness plan to be in the best shape of your life. Throughout the pages of this book you will discover the secret weapon that is needed to burn belly fat fast.

There are countless weight loss books on the market, but this book has stood out from its completion because it offers a no nonsense approach to learn what you need to in order to take control of your weight.

It is evident the author is expert in his field for he reveals a simple to understand plan that is assured to work for anyone. I was so intrigued to learn the secret juice that is one of the best for losing weight.

WEIGHT LOSS: THE FAT BURNING SECRET: THE SIMPLE BASICS OF FAT BURNING AND HEALTHY NUTRITUTION is a wealth of useful and helpful information. It provides all the elements anyone needs in order to lose weight effortlessly. I feel this book is the perfect way to succeed in the following New Year formula:

New Year = New You!

Patrick Price shares a dual role as both a fitness expert and one outstanding author. These two talents make for one winning combination for the reader. I was so impressed with how quickly I wanted to get up off the couch and make an effort to lose those unnecessary pounds that I seem to always be wearing. I highly recommend this book for it is one perfect reading experience to kick off a highly effective fitness program.

Best Kept Secret
Elsa Joseph
Amazon Digital Services LLC
Pen Press
B008WA4YSO, $2.99 Kindle, 244 pages,


"The face is the mirror of the mind, and eyes without speaking confess the secrets of the heart." ~ St. Jerome

Natasha Dawson finds herself living a fairy tale life. She is working her dream job as a high class fashion photographer. She finds herself engaged to Luke Steven who is handsome and loving. Her future looks to be filled with all the financial security anyone could even desire.

Then her perfect world suddenly gets disrupted when she learns her ex-boyfriend, Tony Samuels has disappeared. Tony and her shared a once in a lifetime romance, she is unable to forget their past time together.

Natasha finds herself torn between wanting to go in search of Tony or to forget him and go on with her wonderful life she and Luke are building together. Which way will her heart take her? Will she stay with the man who is willing to give her the world or run away to find a man who existence is a mystery?

BEST KEPT SECRET is an outstanding novel. Natasha Dawson is a character who exhibits strength and character that is hard to forget. I felt myself getting caught up in her dilemma of which man she should choose. I was impressed with how seeing her past gave the story more substance.

Elsa Joseph is a wonderful and talented author. I find that her work is the type that offers a mystery entwined with a well-developed romance. She generously sprinkles in a good mixture of action and adventure to keep the story flowing smoothly. It is evident this author has the penmanship to write an award winning novel. I was highly impressed with this first offering and look forward to discovering more of her wonderful work in the future.

Healing On Doves' Wings
Pamela K. Phillips
Painted Books Publishing
9780997758603, $7.99 Kindle, 500 pages,

"Life moves very fast. It rushes from Heaven to Hell in a matter of seconds." Paulo Coelho

Since the young age of twelve Anna Spark's life has been spinning out of control, memories of her traumatic childhood refuse to leave her memory. Now she finds herself at the age of forty-five year old and living a life of hell. Her mind is plagued with thoughts of killing herself.

Anna dreams of the peace she will find once she is in the hereafter. She believed when she escaped her abusive husband her life was going to take a turn for the better. She was cheated out of her happiness when she learned that her only daughter Reese had died of pneumonia.

Salvation comes in the form of Clinical Psychologist Dr. Henry McCleery. Through his therapy sessions will he is able to convince Anna that her life is important? Will his words provide her mind the soothing hope of healing that it so desperately craves? Or will Anna sink lower to the depth of no possible return?

HEALING ON DOVES' WINGS is a powerhouse book of emotional drama. From the first page you can't help but make an instantaneous connection to Anna. She is showcased as a lady who has been tortured most of her life. Through the authors descriptive words you can feel her depth of desperation.

Pamela K. Phillips is an author who presents a strong literally voice through the intense emotions that she so effortless displays to her readers. Through her powerful pen readers will find themselves mesmerized by her hypnotic words. It takes a very talented author to be able to write about such a serious subject to such a degree the reader is able to feel the main characters pain. I was highly impressed with this first offering from this talented author. I predict this book is assured to make a strong mark in the literary world.

Between Truth and Eternity
Scott Moses
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781540747662, $12.95 pbk / $4.99 Kindle, 308 pages,

Fiction - Fantasy

"For the meaning of life differs from man to man, from day to day and from hour to hour. What matters, therefore, is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person's life at a given moment." ~ Viktor E. Frankl

Futuristic Secret Agent Joshua Boehm has seen the best and worst that life has to offer. His job puts him in the pathways of danger his soul craves a normal life. After successfully completing his last mission he learns of a new threat in the form of The Teapar Coalition. This organized crime organization is plotting to take over the galaxy. Joshua knows that it is up to him to save the galaxy from their evil plan.

To complicate the matter Joshua meets the woman he has been dreaming about, Myrra Nirvan. He discovers that Myrra holds the key that could help bring this crime lords to justice. Together they join forces to bring the evil to their knees while discovering a love neither one of them expected. Will they be strong enough to keep evil from destroying their target while keeping themselves both protected from their evil?

BETWEEN TRUTH AND ETERNITY is a masterfully crafted work of art. There are so many elements of surprise that keeps the reader glued to its pages. I found each descriptive scene allowed me to be able to feel the high impact action. Joshua and Myrra are true warriors; together they blend beautifully to fight for truth and justice.

Scott Moses has proven to me that he has the talent to be an exceptional writer. Throughout the pages of this book there are many different genes that seem to effortless emerge. You go through a period where you think what you are reading is a fantasy, then the scene changes and you find yourself caught up in a thriller, then in the next instant there is a beautiful romance that comes to light. Authors of lesser talent could not possibly pull off all of different talents it takes to write such a though provoking book. I predict this author's name will go down as a legend in the book industry.

Victorious Underdog
Roosevelt Sargent
Resilience Publishing
9780692604724, $9.99 Paperback / $0.99 Kindle, 250 pages


"Victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival." ~ Winston Churchill

Since birth Roosevelt Sargent life has been filled with drugs, violence, and poverty. He grew up to believe that it was him against the world. The friends he selected were like warriors to his quest for survival.

When his parents find themselves both in jail he knows that it is up to him to use his street smarts to outwit his opponents. He finds himself battling being homeless and living a gangster lifestyle. The life he finds himself living is one where death is around every corner.

Can Roosevelt break out of the chains of darkness that are binding him? Is it possible that someone that has only seen the worst life has to offer can break free and make a new start? Or will he find himself facing the end of a gun as his life quickly fades before his eyes?

VICTORIOUS UNDERDOG is an exceptional book. You can feel the heartache, pain, and adversary the main character has experienced. This book is a true testament to endurance and overcoming mind boggling odds.

Roosevelt Sargent is an author who is to be commended. His story is one that is a true source of inspiration. I found that as I discovered what obstacles were presented to him and how he conquered each one my heart went out to this strong man. I found myself getting caught up in the intense drama that radiated from each page. As I finished the last page I knew that this man having living through the hell he endured could have a MAJOR impact to others who are facing similar situations. This book is highly recommended, I would encourage the author to tell his life story in order to be a source of inspiration to others.

A California Mail Order Bride: Miss Lizzy & The Highwayman
Katie Wilde
Amazon Digital Services LLC
B01MRX3MAT, $0.99 Kindle, 70 pages,


At the age of twenty two, Elizabeth "Lizzy" Derry felt that she was an old maid. She found there were no marriage prospects that existed for her in her small hometown. She refuses to stay single the rest of her life and makes the decision to become a mail order bride.

Lizzy selects an ad from a lonely miner. She feels that he can offer her a life of security. The two begin to correspond, and he offers her hand in marriage and sends money to allow her to travel to him. Lizzy has high hopes for this union. Even though her father was against her leaving, she knew that in her heart she is about to find the love of her life.

On the way to meet her attended her stagecoach is held up by highwaymen. She struggles with one highwayman in particular to allow her to keep the trunk that contains her mother's wedding dress. She manages to keep her dress and make it to her intended.

When she meets Louis Dawson, there is something strangely familiar about him. Will she put her concerns behind her and look towards a future as a happy bride?

A CALIFORNIA MAIL ORDER BRIDE: MISS LIZZY & THE HIGHWAYMAN is an exceptional book. I was happy to know that I got snowed in for two days with this delightful novel. The characters are richly developed, each one adds their own special magical blend that helps keep the story flowing.

Katie Wilde is a talented author who has managed to write a heartwarming romance that is assured to thaw any cold winter day. Her descriptive words allow the reader to take part in all the drama the characters are experiencing. Her writing style is one that is assured to capture the hearts of all romance fans.

Suzie Housley

Teri's Bookshelf

Tempting Skies Book Three: Beyond the Woods
Michael Roueche
Vesta House Publishing
9780997698008, $17.99, Trade Paperback, $7.99 Kindle, 366 pages,

How would you like to read your ancestors' journals about their lives while living through the Civil War? Would you be able to understand the perspectives of both sides?

Just recently in the year 2012, while searching through the attic of a mansion in Lexington, Kentucky, scheduled for demolition, a manuscript and letters revealed the history of this estate beginning in the 1820s. These documents are the foundation of the third book of this trilogy.

Betsy Richman Henderson Gragg appears to have a charmed life. Born as a privileged daughter of a slave-owner and beautiful, she married a Southern gentleman who fought for the Confederacy. When he dies in battle, who quickly remarries. Fortunately, Betsy finds love again and this time marries a Union soldier, Their love quickly has her carrying their child.

Now Betsy is in Washington waiting for word of her husband on the battle lines. Unknown to her, he is nearby, in a hospital.

Also in the city is a former slave from her family's estate. William has taken the last name of Richman since he is now a freed man. He is married to Victoria and enjoys being a father to her son, Adam.

How will former slaves and their previous owner react when then meet at her husband's hospital?

Unfortunately, another person has plans to change their happiness. Although known by many names, one man sets on his personal mission to possess Betsy. His obsession endangers everyone in his quest.

Tempting Skies is the third book in Roueche's trilogy entitled, Beyond the Wood Series. The first book, Beyond the Wood, won the 2012 John Esten Cooke Fiction Award, and the second in the series won the the 2014 Drama Laramie Award for Western, Pioneer, and Civil War fiction.

Can anyone read Tempting Skies and understand the characters without having read the previous two books? Definitely. Each character continues in their development with a quick, but not distracting background established in the previous books. By reading the third book first, I found myself wanting to know more about each person's past when mentioned.

Michael Roueche masterfully reflects on his upbringing in Virginia for being the foundation of this series. Now that his home is in Colorado, he realizes his view of both sides of the Civil War has given him insight into the perspectives of the period.

Tempting Skies is a brilliant novel revealing the day-to-day, unglamorous existence during the Civil War. Showing everyone has some losses during a war, the characters become realistic through Roueche while exploring the sites, smells, and sounds of Washington City in 1864, as well as the dangers.

Michael Roueche is a masterful storyteller creating a Civil War masterpiece in Tempting Skies.

The Falling of the Moon: Book 1 - Moonfall Mayhem series
A. E. Decker
World Weaver Press
9780692526019, $14.95 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 330 pages,

How many of us secretly dream of life as "happily ever after?"

For Ascot Abberdorf of Shadowvale, all she has to guide her through life is a single book of fairy tales. Being orphaned, she relies on the guidance of her big brother for advice as she is approaching adulthood.

However, when her big brother arranges her marriage to a much older man, she decides to leave her home carrying her guide book of fairy tales and whatever silverware she can quickly grab along with her loyal bat-winged cat, Moony.

She believes that by traveling to the distant Daylands, she will find her true love as her destiny in life. Her father was from Shadowvale and her mother from Daylands, so why not discover how the other half lives?

Since Ascot is a vampire, this land of brightness is a little strange to her.

As luck would have it, the prince of the land is searching for a wife.

Fortunately, a fairy godmother appears giving Ascot a ring with this inscription to help her find her true love.

"I burn bright in Love's True sight. If you light not where I have shown, live out your life, unloved, alone."

Will the ring lead to the prince?

What could stop Ascot from finding her own happily ever after with this prince?

The Falling of the Moon is a delightful adventurous fantasy for teenage girls, but all readers who have ever thought about the "happily ever after" philosophy of life. Often resembling The Wizard of Oz, Ascot's adventures in life are realistic with her quickly valuing her friendships above all other goals.

The assortment of fanciful characters is unquestionably unique with teaching the reader to judge each person or animal by their deeds and words rather than their appearance.
A. E. Decker is a former ESL tutor and doll-maker who has become a masterful storyteller who resides in Pennsylvania.

The Falling of the Moon is the first in this trilogy and unquestionably a prerequisite for the second book, The Meddlers of Moonshine.

I am completely addicted to this fantasy series that has a little life lesson for everyone. The Falling of the Moon is one of the most enjoyable and fun books I have read in ages.

Poison Feather
Matthew Fitzsimmons
Thomas & Mercer
9781503934276, $15.95 PB, 370pp, $4.99 Kindle
9781503939295, $24.95, Hardcover, 370pp,

A wealthy billionaire spends seven years in prison for embezzlement. However, he doesn't seem to regret his past crime. After an interview with a financial magazine about his upcoming release, it is apparent to everyone that he has hidden money from the authorities.

So who will find the money first?

Charles Merrick swindled people's hopes and money. Many people invested with him every penny so that their families would have prosperous futures. He took their money and left them with nothing.

Unquestionably, Merrick had made some deal with the government since he was at minimum "country-club" facility. Are they expecting some payoff as he is released? Why are they still so interested in Merrick?

Before his imprisonment, Merrick had been married and had a daughter. As with many relationships, his wife divorced him, and he lost contact with his little girl.

Chelsea, his daughter, had no college fund since Merrick had invested her money.

Now that Merrick is out, who will find his money first? Or will he outsmart all of them and disappear to some island with no extradition?

Gibson Vaughn is brilliant as a computer hacker. As a teenager, he was imprisoned for hacking into the Vice-President's e-mail. Unfortunately, his past continues to haunt him.

Now Gibson just wants to earn a decent living in the computer security field. He seems to be blackballed with achieving this dream.

Now the former judge who sentenced him would like to use Gibson's talents in finding the money his family lost in investing with Merrick.

Can he find the money before everyone else?

What would you do for one point seven billion dollars?

Poison Feather immediately grabs the reader into the world of Gibson Vaughn and Charles Merrick, two characters wielding the story onto a roller-coaster ride for power and money. With likable characters who evolve along the journey and antagonistic ones, who stay the course into an enthralling page-turner.

Poison Feather is the second novel for the author, Matthew Fitzsimmons following his best-selling first book, The Short Drop. He currently resides and teaches in the Washington, D.C. area.

Poison Feather is a thrilling book for any adult reader who enjoys a well-written, intricate story.

The Northeast Quarter
S. M. Harris
1760 East River Road, Suite 145, Tucson, Arizona 85718
9781627873765, $20.95, Trade Paperback, 464 pages,

A birthday celebration changes their lives.

Colonel Wallace Carson is looking forward to his granddaughter's birthday party. Now that is it 1918, Ann is ten-years-old and feels special that she shares her birthday with the country.

During the family gathering, the Colonel gives advice to his heir, Ann, to always protect the Northeast Quarter of the family land. The Colonel started his estate in that part of Winfield, Iowa and expanding his property as he prospered.

Warren Hyatt decides that this is his moment to tell the Colonel hat life needs to change. He believes that the revolution in Russia where the workers own the land should be inspirational to change life in this country.

The Colonel dies. Did Warren cause his death?

This one death changes life for every member of the Colonel's family.

The Northeast Corner is the story of the household for the next eight years, especially Ann. Through sheer determination, Ann daily remembers her promise to her grandfather to protect the Northeast Corner, her legacy. With constant challenges, she realizes that this promise seems impossible to fulfill.

The promise to preserve the land seemed simple. The problem to keep the promise is overwhelming, especially to a teenage girl. How can she possibly fight for her family when they don't fight for themselves? What does anyone do when the world is against them?

This family saga is reminiscent of Nelson DeMille's novels centering on one character, Ann, while also observing how each of the other family members change throughout the years.

The Northeast Quarter has phenomenal realistic characterization portraying life in the early part of the twentieth-century before the stock market crash of 1929. The setting of Winfield, Iowa in the year of 1918 transport the reader into the rich farmland of the time.

The author, S. M. Harris is a playwright of the Colleen series which have been produced off-Broadway in Spokane, Cincinnati, and Baltimore. The Northeast Quarter is his debut novel.

The Northeast Quarter is for readers who enjoy well-written historical fictions involving family sagas.

Teri Davis

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

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