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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 23, Number 2 February 2023 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Carl Logan's Bookshelf Carolyn Wilhelm's Bookshelf Clint Travis' Bookshelf
Israel Drazin's Bookshelf Jack Mason's Bookshelf John Burroughs' Bookshelf
Julie Summers' Bookshelf Margaret Lane's Bookshelf Mari Carlson's Bookshelf
Michael Carson's Bookshelf Michellia Wilson's Bookshelf R. Ann Bush's Bookshelf
Robin Friedman's Bookshelf Sarah Book's Bookshelf Suanne Schafer's Bookshelf
Susan Bethany's Bookshelf Willis Buhle's Bookshelf  

Carl Logan's Bookshelf

Another Epic Feat of Navigation Safely Completed!
Jeremy Walker
Welton Marine Publishing
9781739120610 $TBA hc / $TBA pbk / $6.69 Kindle

Synopsis: After 42 years at or connected with the sea, Jeremy Walker ended up on the Shetland Island of Foula commanding and running a small ferry to the mainland of Shetland. Throughout the course of his career, firstly as a seagoing deck officer with a large, but now defunct, British shipping company, then as a Hovercraft Commander for four years, returning to sea for a brief period as Master of two small coastal tankers and then for the majority of his career as a Pilot on the River Humber, he encountered many amusing situations.

In this book he attempts to relate these stories and to illustrate the lighter side of what was a very difficult, responsible and, at times, incredibly stressful job. And little did he know that his career was far from over and new opportunities and challenges would take him on for a further 13 years to eventual retirement.

Critique: Illustrated with occasional full-color photographs, Another Epic Feat of Navigation Safely Completed! is author Jeremy Walker's firsthand testimony of 42 years spent navigating the sea. His career has spanned working as a seagoing officer for a now-defunct British shipping company, four years as a Hovercraft Commander, serving as Master of two small coastal tankers, working as a Pilot on the River Humber, and running a small ferry connecting the Shetland Island of Foula to the mainland of Shetland. Overseeing all these voyages required leadership, a cool head, adaptability to changing conditions, a healthy respect for the dangers of Mother Nature, and perhaps most notably, a sense of humor to take many an unexpected, quirky, shocking, or amusing situation in stride, despite any potential perils. Another Epic Feat of Navigation Safely Completed! is thoroughly accessible to casual browsers due to its lighthearted tone, yet also a "must-read" for anyone interested in a possible nautical career. Highly recommended! It should be noted for personal reading lists that Another Epic Feat of Navigation Safely Completed! is available in a Kindle edition ($6.69) as well as hardcover and paperback formats.

Secret Agent Gals
Richard Gid Powers
Livingston Press
University of West Alabama, Station 22, Livingston, AL 35470
9781604893397, $22.99, PB, 412pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Secret Agent Gals", novelist Richard Gid Powers introduces Hilla Rebay and Peggy Guggenheim, two beautiful real-life socialite art collector ladies who later founded the Guggenheim Museum.

But first, they answered the call of duty, joined the FBI, and pretty much won World War II all by themselves. They stole Hitler's and Stalin's mojos to use a secret weapon brewed in St. Louis to put down the Great Indian Uprising. (You surely remember it!)

They saved J. Edgar Hoover and his handsome sidekick Clyde Tolson from treasonous agents and 'The Pigeon', -- who wanted to take over the FBI and run all the Post Toasties(R) Junior G-Men Clubs!

They teamed up with Secret Agent X-9, Chief Shitting Bull, James Bonds' father (Jonquil "Junk" Bond), the Bama Jamma of the Brooklyn Roller Derby, the King and Queen of England (and their corgis), plus the FBI's bevy of beauteous Secret Agent Super Sluts.

And then they went on to uncover a secret so awful, so terrible, it can't even be hinted at!

Critique A fun read from cover to cover, "Secret Agent Gals" by Richard Gid Powers is pure entertainment from an author with a genuine flair for originality, humor, adventure, and the kind of narrative storytelling style that keeps his reader's rapt attention from first page to last. One of those unique novels that will linger in the mind and memory of the reader long after the book has been finished and set back upon the shelf, "Secret Agent Gals" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to personal reading lists and community library General Fiction collections.

Editorial Note: Richard Gid Powers ( has authored four books about the FBI: G-Men: "Hoover's FBI in American Popular Culture"; "Secrecy and Power: The Life of J Edgar Hoover"; "Not Without Honor: The History of American Anticommunism"; "Broken: The Troubled Past and Uncertain Future of the FBI"; as well as "The Mystery of the Trinity: A Novel".

Carl Logan

Carolyn Wilhelm's Bookshelf

The Midwife's Touch
Sue Harrison
Open Road Media/Shanty Cove Books
9781504076258, $18.99, 343 Pages

An epic novel with never ending action, try to read this when time permits as having to stop for real life is rather annoying! Based on historical information about New York City, the Cherokee People, clothing and housing accurate to the period, references to the Civil War and its effect on the national currency, guns, and midwives, this book will take your breath away wondering what will happen next. As we learn or remember our history, the story beautifully fills out our understanding of the times. Religion and superstition were important to everyday life, while midwives were accused of witchery. While most people believed Goomer Doctors (midwives) were servants of God, not everyone did. Readers also learn of the difficulties of the Cherokee woven into the novel, an essential part of the story.

Before they understood infection, a slight wound could cause death. Alcohol and biting down on something like wood were state-of-the art medical interventions. No wonder superstition surrounded childbirth, malaria, Yellow Fever, and other medical situations. Harrison paints a vivid, detailed, word picture of the life and times of people enduring the difficult times through the experiences of China Creed.

To add to all the drama of daily life after the civil war, China Creed has a special gift of touch that people learn about and take advantage of her abilities. Strong female protagonists help each other with limited means and income. A chicken is offered as payment for delivering a baby in one scene. Making lace, when there is time, helps shore up resources.

China loses suitors and loved ones to the war, illness, and opium. Opium was medicinal in some situations, causing addiction. She almost loses one hand because of a snake bite. Yet, she goes to considerable lengths to keep away from rich relatives who would yet again take advantage of her talents.

This book is wonderfully written, has continuing action, and helps us understand history. To my mind, nothing could be better in a novel! It is an absorbing read I thoroughly enjoyed.

Talking Sky: Ojibwe Constellations as a Reflection of Life on the Land
Carl Gawboy and Ron Morton
Rockflower Press
9781938241000, $TBA paperback, 144 pages
B07HYLS2CF, $6.50 Kindle

Carl Gawboy of the Minnesota Ojibwe and Ron Morton, a professor emeritus of UMD, together wrote this book. How did the Ojibwe hunt and gather? The "written record" is still in visible celestial objects. The Ojibwe sky reveals all. Constellations familiar to the public also have Ojibwe names, as explained in the text. The book is:

"A journey of exploration and discovery that took place under the Ojibwe night sky - a sky that reflected not only the four seasons of a northern people but also their traditions, religion, myths, science, and day-to-day living on and with Mother Earth."

Pegasus, for instance, is the Moose. Lacerta is the antlers. Find out why, although dangerous in the fall, that was the actual hunting time for moose through a deep conversation and elaborate story. Climate change is causing the moose population to drop. Other constellations are explained according to the Ojibwe. Pictographs are explained as almanacs. The Wintermaker (Shingebis) does what you would expect. See if you can guess which constellation that might be. Readers will learn about Nanaboujou, a complicated creature with good and bad sides.

"He (Nanaboujou) is the embodiment of all the qualities found in the catalogue of Greek, Roman, Norse, and any other gods or demigods of the many human cultures, and yet he is distinctly Ojibwe for he is the embodiment of the People."

"Nanabojou is also seen as the one who gave the Ojibwe everything important that they have. He is also responsible for all Ojibwe ceremonies, large and small."

I first saw the authors speak on a Hamline University webinar. Northern Lights, Starry Skies has recently premiered on PBS North. I am looking forward to further reading and learning about this topic.

Carolyn Wilhelm, Reviewer
Wise Owl Factory LLC

Clint Travis' Bookshelf

On the Savage Side
Tiffany McDaniel
Alfred A. Knopf
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
9780593320709, $29.00, HC, 464pp

Synopsis: Arcade and Daffodil are twins born one minute apart. With their fiery red hair and thirst for escape, they form an unbreakable bond nurtured by their grandmother's stories. Together, they disappear into their imaginations and forge a world all their own.

But what the two sisters can't escape are the generational ghosts that haunt their family. Growing up in the shadow of their rural Ohio town, the sisters cling tightly to one another. Years later, Arcade wrestles with the memories of her early life, just as a local woman is discovered drowned in the river. Soon, more bodies are found. As her friends disappear around her, Arcade is forced to reckon with the past while the killer circles closer. Arcade's promise to keep herself and her sister safe becomes increasingly desperate and the powerful riptide of the savage side becomes more difficult to survive.

Critique: Although a work of fiction, "On The Savage Side" by novelist Tiffany McDaniel is inspired by a true story of women who were killed in Chillicothe, Ohio. While also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99) and a Random House Large Print edition (9780593678350, $31.00), "On The Savage Side" is a compelling read from cover to cover and an unreservedly recommended addition to community library Mystery/Suspense collections.

Editorial Note: Tiffany McDaniel ( is an Ohio native whose writing is inspired by the rolling hills and woods of the land she knows. Drawing from her Cherokee heritage, she is a poet, a novelist, and a visual artist. Her debut novel, The Summer That Melted Everything, won the Guardian's Not the Booker award and the Ohioana Reader's Choice Award. She is the author of Betty, an international best seller and a Friends of American Writers Chicago, the Society of Midland Authors, Nautilus Book Award, and Ohioana Library Readers' Choice Award winner.

Sallow Bend
Alan Baxter
Cemetery Dance Publications
9781587678325, $18.99, PB, 336pp

Synopsis: When two teenagers go missing from the small, rural town of Sallow Bend, the residents come together to search for them. Little do they suspect that finding the wayward girls will be the start of their problems. An old evil is rising, and only one man seems to realize that everyone is in danger and this is not the first time it's happened. With the carnival in town, people want to have a good time, but for many, this will be the worst time of their lives!

Critique: A deftly crafted novel that will have a very special appeal to readers who enjoy dark fantasy, supernatural thrillers, and books that should be read with all the lights on, "Sallow Bend" by Alan Baxter is one of those works of horror fiction that will linger in the mind and memory long after the book itself has been finished and set back upon the shelf. While highly recommended for community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Sallow Bend" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).

Editorial Note: Alan Baxter ( is a multi-award-winning author of horror, supernatural thrillers, and dark fantasy liberally mixed with crime, mystery, and noir. He is also a martial arts expert, a whisky-soaked swear monkey, and dog lover. He creates his darkly weird stories among dairy paddocks on the beautiful south coast of NSW, Australia.

Clint Travis

Israel Drazin's Bookshelf

The Biblical Book Job

The book Job is composed of three parts: a prologue, an epilogue, and the body of the tale. Many scholars are convinced that the prologue and epilogue are additions to the story's original body. The two are different in tone and portray God in a radically distinctive manner that will disturb rational thinkers. The two additions were probably made hoping to describe God in a way the average reader would like. Scholars cannot agree on when the book was composed, who wrote it, and its intended audience; however, it was probably composed sometime between the 7th and 5th century BCE.

The book's prologue states that Job was afflicted with a debilitating skin disease by God's command to show that Job, a very pious non-Israelite who did not live in Canaan, would not curse God even though he suffered constant pain. God also commands that Job's children should be killed, and he lose his wealth. This prologue theme to see if Job will curse God is different from the theme in the body of the book, which explores the age-old question why bad things happen to good people.

Significantly, despite his enormous wealth and not being very intelligent, Job is a simple ordinary good man, an individual with whom the average reader will identify. He lacks spiritual maturity; his pious acts toward God are unsophisticated and consist primarily of sacrifices, equivalent to today's prayers. His thoughts and concerns are not deep, certainly not philosophical. As God predicted in the prologue, this good man doesn't curse him explicitly when he is inflicted and loses his children and wealth, but he comes very close He disparages human life, all that God created. It is as if one man says to another, "I certainly like you, but I dislike everything you do." Job is disappointed, confused, and questioning. He doesn't curse God directly because he is afraid of him and his punishment, not because of respect. Intelligent readers will see that he fails God's righteousness test. Job does not curse God because of piety but fear.

Who is God?

The book does not identify God's name. The portrait of God in the book's prologue is, as previously stated, different than his portrayal when he speaks to Job at the end of the body of the book during a whirlwind, a violent scene of nature in turmoil, a symbol of God's message to Job. In the prologue, God is shown as a monarch sitting before attendants, presumably angels, and mentions that Job is one of the most excellent human beings. An accuser, one of the assembled angels, disagrees. He argues that Job is only behaving well because he is prosperous. He would turn and curse God if he lost all and was afflicted with a painful disease. God disagrees. He tells the accuser to inflict Job to prove that he is right. God's decision to murder Job's ten children, cause Job pain, and prove to an underling that he is correct, are uncharacteristic of what people think about God, a being who is just and all-knowing, who should be respected by all, especially by angels who shouldn't doubt his views. The psychologist Carl Jung wrote that the prologue portrays God as morally inferior to Job.

Explanations of Job's three friends

Job is visited by three friends who sit by his side for seven days without speaking because they are considerate of Job's suffering. (It is interesting to note that the magic numbers seven and three, which frequently appear in Scripture and fairy tales, are often mentioned in the story.) The friends soon ignore Job's suffering and criticize him for failing to understand what caused his situation. Each of the three, with increasing pious emphasis, reminds Job that God is just, and they chastise him for not realizing that he is suffering because he is being punished for past misdeeds. When Job repeatedly reminds his friends that he never did anything wrong, which, as God noted, is correct, they insist he is morally blind. Readers hearing the friends suppose that evil occurs in this world because the good and just God is punishing a wrong-doer; those who agree with the three friends may wonder how God could act as he did, making Job suffer a test, including the murder of innocent children.

Elihu's explanation

Elihu, Job's younger acquaintance, remains silent during the three supposed friends' rants and then offers his assessment. While he insists that his explanation for Job's misfortune is better than that of the three friends, he spends much of his time extolling God's greatness and justice. He seems to say briefly - but this is not certain because the text is not that clear - that suffering helps people realize how they can improve.

God's explanation is delivered in a whirlwind

Job hears God's voice after Elihu's explanation. He tells Job that he and his three friends do not understand the purpose of the world or how it operates. Their premise that the world functions on a moral basis of good and evil, that God oversees human behavior and punishes bad acts and rewards good deeds, and that humans are the center and purpose of creation are wrong. The whirlwind is the true symbol of how the world functions. The earth is full of violence. The lion pounces upon the deer, tears it apart, and consumes it. Violent creatures are, metaphorically speaking, God's toys. Humans, with their wrong notion of morality, want to see a different world, but the world functions as God wants it. Suffering is part of nature, the way things are. People need to understand this and accept the world for what it is, not what humans naively want it to be.


The message of this biblical book is not comforting, but it is realistic. The world functions according to the laws of nature, not morality. The philosopher Moses Maimonides (1138-1204) understood this. He explains that the Job story is a parable. And like most parables, some details are not fitting, even impossible and wrong. Also, in book one, chapter 2 of his Guide for the Perplexed, he points out that we should not make decisions based on morality, but on reason, on understanding how the universe functions, for the world works by the laws of nature. In later chapters, he explains that evil is the result of natural law, one of three things: people harm themselves, others harm them, or they suffer from natural events, such as hurricanes, which are necessary for the world as a whole but may not be suitable for a particular person. Most laws, human and those in nature, are good for the majority but harmful to some people.

This lesson that what people consider evil is necessary will bother many individuals. They want to be convinced that God cares for them and protects them as a compassionate, moralistic father. Accordingly, an additional ending was added to the Job fable, either by the original poet or some later writer, which is similar in tone to the poem's prologue. In it, a loving, helpful God, unlike the God of nature who spoke from the whirlwind, awards Job for his conduct during his suffering by giving him seven sons and three daughters again, doubling all of his previous possessions, and prolonging his life.

Dr. Israel Drazin, Reviewer

Jack Mason's Bookshelf

Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Dragonfire
James Swallow
Aconyte Books
9781839081996, $16.95, PB, 352pp

Synopsis: Inside North Korea, veteran Fourth Echelon agent Sam Fisher finds himself on the run when a top-secret covert mission goes fatally wrong. Betrayed by his allies, hunted by his adversaries, and disavowed by his own agency, Sam is stranded deep inside hostile territory and his only chance of survival is to uncover a murderous plot that reaches into the heart of the hermit state, and beyond.

Meanwhile, Fisher's estranged daughter Sarah risks everything to assemble an off-the-books effort to find her missing father before his luck runs out -- but the conspiracy that framed Sam goes deeper than either of them realize!

Critique: An absolutely riveting military thriller by an author with a genuine mastery of the genre, "Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Dragonfire" by James Swallow is especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Techno & Military Thriller collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of the legions of James Swallow fans that "Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Dragonfire" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.95).

Editorial Note: James Swallow ( currently resides in London, England, and is a New York Times, Sunday Times and Amazon bestselling author of over fifty books, including the bestselling Marc Dane thrillers.

The Insider's Edge to Real Estate Investing
James P. Nelson, author
Rachel Hartman, author
McGraw Hill Professional
1221 Avenue of the Americas, 45th Floor, New York, NY 10020
9781264865994, $26.00, HC, 272pp

Synopsis: The real estate investment market is worth nearly $21 trillion, and almost half of the properties are purchased by individual investors. There's space available for anyone who's willing to play and "The Insider's Edge to Real Estate Investing: Game-Changing Strategies to Outperform the Market" shows exactly how to get in the game and create lasting wealth.

Sought-after industry expert and highly acclaimed real estate master James Nelson delivers the knowledge, insights, and tools you need to get started, generate returns, achieve your investing goals, and build a portfolio for the future. He lays out the ten key steps to follow when investing in real estate.

He offers sage advice on: Selecting a property type: multifamily, retail, office, and land; Building a strong network to get the inside scoop on deals; Reimagining spaces and their uses to make outsized returns; Underwriting and gauging real value; Raising capital and closing the deal; Improving and repositioning property by finding the right tenants; Selling or refinancing property for massive gains.

Critique: For both novice investors and experienced real estate veterans, "The Insider's Edge to Real Estate Investing: Game-Changing Strategies to Outperform the Market" provides proven ways to succeed in real estate investing and build a lasting legacy. Exceptionally and comprehensively informative, expertly organized and presented, "The Insider's Edge to Real Estate Investing" provides a complete course of instruction and is unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library Real Estate Investment & Management collections. It should be noted that "The Insider's Edge to Real Estate Investing" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $19.99).

Editorial Note: James Nelson ( is Principal and Head of Avison Young's Tri-State Investment Sales group in New York City. During his 25-year career, Nelson has sold more than 500 properties and loans totaling over $5 billion. His accolades include being named Commercial Observer's Power 100, CoStar's Power Broker, and receiving the Deal of the Year award by REBNY. He regularly lectures at Columbia, Fordham, NYU, Wharton, and his alma mater Colgate.

Jack Mason

John Burroughs' Bookshelf

28 Days to Gut Health
Clemence Cleave, author
Giovanna Torrico, author
Smith Street Books
c/o Rizzoli
300 Park Avenue South, 3rd floor, New York, NY 10010
9781922754158, $19.95, PB, 160pp

Synopsis: Our physical and mental well-being is closely connected to our gut. With the publication of "28 Days to Gut Health: A practical guide to improve your gut health and well-being ", co-authors Clemence Cleave and Giovanna Torrico take a deep dive into the secrets of your digestive system and learn how food and lifestyle can keep it happy!

An introduction to a happier and healthier gut, "28 Days to Gut Health" starts with everything you need to know, from the science behind your digestive system, the foods you should be eating (and how much), lifestyle choices that matter, and how to begin your own journey toward a thriving microbiome.

To help make the transition easier, "28 Days to Gut Health" features twenty-eight full days of recipes, from breakfast to dinner, and a shopping list for every week -- healthier decisions don't have to be difficult. With snacks, drinks, and basics like triple nut butter and kimchi included, everything is already covered to help you get all the nutrients you need to help make your gut happy.

Critique: Profusely and informatively illustrated throughout, "28 Days to Gut Health: A practical guide to improve your gut health and well-being" will have a very special appeal as a DIY guide to readers with an interest in nutrition, dieting, and weight control. As an effective and thoroughly 'user friendly' twenty-eight-day plan for starting a diet that nourishes your gut's microbiome (essential for maintaining good health), "28 Days to Gut Health" is especially recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library Health/Medicine collections.

Editorial Note #1: Clemence Cleave ( is a registered nutritionist with an MSc in Clinical Nutrition, as well as a trained chef with Michelin star experience. She helps others to address their nutritional needs, whether that's to lose weight, to restore a healthy relationship with food, to enhance their sport performance, or to eat more broadly or ethically.

Editorial Note #2: Frankie Unsworth ( is a London-based food and prop stylist, home economist, and recipe writer and tester. Her clients include Waitrose & Partners, Daylesford Farm, Fortnum & Mason, Penguin Random House, Ebury, Miele, Twinings, BBC Worldwide, Quadrille, The Guardian, The Times, Faber, Pret ŕ Manger, Homes and Gardens, Hodder, HarperCollins, and Marks & Spencer.

The Greatest Viking: The Life of Olav Haraldsson
Desmond Seward
c/o Pen & Sword Books
9781780277950, $30.00, HC, 272pp

Synopsis: Conqueror. King. Saint. This is the story of Olav Haraldsson, the greatest Viking who ever lived.

A ruthless Viking warrior who named his most prized battle weapon after the Norse goddess of death, Olav Haraldsson and his mercenaries wrought terror and destruction from the Baltic to Galicia in the early eleventh century. Thousands were put to the sword, enslaved or ransomed. In England, Canterbury was sacked, its archbishop murdered and London Bridge pulled down. The loot amassed from years of plunder helped Olav win the throne of Norway, and a century after his death he was proclaimed 'Eternal King' and has been a national hero there ever since.

Despite his bloodthirsty beginnings, Olav converted to Christianity and, in a personal vendetta against the old Norse gods, made Norway Christian too, thereby changing irrevocably the Viking world he was born into. Told with reference to Norse sagas, early chronicles and the work of modern scholars, historian Desmond Seward paints an intensely vivid and colorful portrait of the life and times of arguably the greatest Viking of them all.

Critique: The stuff of which a block-buster movie could be made, and a simply fascinating read from cover to cover, "The Greatest Viking: The Life of Olav Haraldsson" by the late Desmond Seward (22 May 1935 - 3 April 2022) is meticulously researched and exceptional well written, making it very highly recommended for personal, community, and academic library Viking History/Biography collections. It should be noted for students, academia, historians, Viking enthusiasts, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Greatest Viking: The Life of Olav Haraldsson" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.49).

Editorial Note: Desmond Seward ( was educated at Ampleforth and St Catharine's College, Cambridge. Among the most highly regarded popular historians of his generation, he was the author of some thirty books, including biographies of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Henry V, Richard III, Marie Antoinette and Metternich.

John Burroughs

Julie Summers' Bookshelf

The Effective Facilitator's Handbook
Cathy A. Toll
1703 North Beauregard Street, Alexandria, VA 22311-1714
9781416631699, $32.95, PB, 164pp

Synopsis: Workshops, committees, teams, and study groups are a regular part of an educator's professional life, and any educator can find themselves in the facilitator role, with a responsibility to aid the group in achieving its goals.

With the publication of "The Effective Facilitator's Handbook: Leading Teacher Workshops, Committees, Teams, and Study Groups", professional development expert Cathy A. Toll has written a DIY instructional guide for busy facilitators, starting with four simple rules for successful facilitation: listen, start with the end in mind, lead with productive tools, and stay organized. The processes, tools, and templates in each chapter are easy to apply and offer advice about how to create a welcoming environment, set the right tone, understand the group's dynamics, improve communication, and more.

"The Effective Facilitator's Handbook" walks you through the unique purposes, pitfalls, and needs of specific types of groups, whether it's a professional development workshop, a committee focused on one decision or problem, a team that regularly collaborates for student success, or a study group learning about a specific issue. Also considered is the bigger picture and connecting the patterns behind different types of facilitation skills that will serve you in a variety of situations and settings.

As an effective facilitator, you will be able to increase the value of group time, foster engagement, and help teachers improve their practice so that they can bring their best to the classroom each day.

Critique: An ideal in-service training manual and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, school district, college, and university library Education Certification & Development collections, this comprehensive and thoroughly user friendly 'how-to' manual must be considered as essential reading for novice and experienced educators alike.

Editorial Note: Cathy A. Toll ( serves as both a university faculty member and a consultant. As a faculty member, she is an Associate Professor at the University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh, where she serves as Graduate Program Coordinator in the Department of Leadership, Literacy, and Social Foundations. She also teaches graduate courses in educational research, educational coaching, literacy leadership, and literacy instruction, and was recently chosen to receive the Edward R. Penson Distinguished Teaching Award. Cathy's scholarship includes models of teacher professional learning, coaching, and practices for whole-staff coaching, coaching-the-coach, and individual coaching. She has published widely on coaching, school leadership, teacher professional learning, and school change.

Yoga by the Numbers
Richard Rosen
Shambhala Publications, Inc.
300 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, MA 02115-4544
9781611807387, $20.99, PB, 232pp

Synopsis: Numbers play a meaningful role in the philosophy of many spiritual traditions -- and yoga is no exception. For example, the number one is the quintessential yoga number, representing "unity" and "wholeness"; number two sometimes stands for co-operative effort, and other times for conflict; and number four is the number of completeness or stability, as it "stands" on "four legs." There are twelve different names for the mantra OM, each one revealing a different aspect of this root sound.

With his distinctive blend of knowledge and humor, yoga master Richard Rosen unpacks the fascinating significance that numbers hold in the philosophy and practice of yoga. Stories and practices woven throughout (like the Eka Danta simple meditation exercise, which concentrates on "one pointedness" and is associated with the one tusk of Ganesh) offering readers a hands-on way to explore the importance of numbers in their own practice.

"Yoga by the Numbers" will enlighten and entertain the yogi in your life.

Critique: Fascinating, informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Yoga by the Numbers: The Sacred and Symbolic in Yoga Philosophy and Practice" is essential reading for anyone, from novice to master, who is engaged in the practice of yoga. While also readily available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.99), "Yoga by the Numbers: The Sacred and Symbolic in Yoga Philosophy and Practice" is an unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library Yoga collections and supplemental curriculum Exercise & Physical/Mental Rehabilitation studies lists.

Editorial Note: Richard Rosen ( began his study of yoga in 1980. In 1985, he graduated from the teacher training program sponsored by Iyengar Yoga Institute of San Francisco and has been teaching yoga since 1987.

Symbols and Myth-Making in Modernity
Tatiana Tiaynen-Qadir, author
Ali Oadir, author
Anthem Press
244 Madison Ave. #116, New York, NY 10016
9781785272813, $125.00, HC, 170pp

Synopsis: Why do people queue up and break the bank to watch fantasy movies? Why do some fictional characters and mythical creatures strangely arrest our mind and senses? Why do some images and tales affect us so deeply? From mystical heroic journeys to uncanny images and invincible goddesses, With the publication of "Symbols and Myth-Making in Modernity: Deep Culture in Art" by co-authors Ali Qadir and Tatiana Tiaynen-Qadir investigates the metaphoric power of symbols in human imagination today and in the past.

"Symbols and Myth-Making in Modernity: Deep Culture in Art" traces how ever-present symbols in cultures and rituals across the world, as well as in masterpieces of Renaissance, Sufi poetry and Finnish 'Kalevala' myths, erupt in popular culture today, including in cinema, books, visual art, music and politics.

The authors have developed a phenomenological theory of deep culture that nourishes human perception of reality through multivalent symbols and myths, in which art and rituals occur as liminal spaces of symbol-making. Drawing on examples from the Hobbit and Avengers, street art, politics, and work of acclaimed modern artists, the book describes how deep culture can be seen as a symbolic map of modern mythology. Dismantling literalism and disturbing our view of the world, at each step the book unpacks how symbols play out in the modern world and the work they do in transforming the self.

Critique: Of particular and special appeal to readers with an interest in mysticism, pop culture art, folklore and mythology, "Symbols and Myth-Making in Modernity: Deep Culture in Art" is informatively enhanced for the reader with the inclusion of a twelve page Bibliography and a four page Index. Occasionally illustrated with black/white images, "Symbols and Myth-Making in Modernity: Deep Culture in Art" is a seminal work that is exceptionally well written, organized and presented. While readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $30.49) to students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject, "Symbols and Myth-Making in Modernity: Deep Culture in Art" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to professional, college, and university library Myth & Popular Culture collections and supplemental curriculum reading lists.

Editorial Note #1: Tatiana Tiaynen-Qadir, anthropologist and historian, researches and writes on anthropology of religion, especially Eastern Christianity and Islam, and on deep culture in art and rituals. (

Editorial Note #2: Ali Qadir ( is Professor of Sociology at the Faculty of Social Sciences, Tampere University, Finland, where he studies and teaches sociology of religion, globalization, critical and cultural theory, and deep culture in religion.

The Gap Between: Loving and Supporting Someone With Alzheimer's
Mary Moreland
Brown Books Publishing Group
9781612545554, $24.95, HC, 194pp

Synopsis: There are millions of people caring for loved ones living with Alzheimer's or some other form of dementia. Alzheimer's is an irreversible brain disease that is ultimately fatal. There are no Alzheimer's survivors in the world and no cure for Alzheimer's to date.

Having a parent living with Alzheimer's means that you experience a mix of often conflicting emotions, such as fear of the unknown, worry that you cannot provide the care that's needed, and repeated grief as your loved one's abilities wane. Let's be honest - dealing with a parent living with cognitive impairment and memory loss is a struggle, both emotionally and physically. The stigma associated with Alzheimer's is powerful and makes providing elder care more difficult; if caregivers are reluctant to share their real-life challenges and the strategies they employed, other caregivers who need support cannot learn from those experiences.

With the publication of "The Gap Between: Loving and Supporting Someone With Alzheimer's", Mary Morleand provides a perfect description of what caregivers of people living with dementia experience in their lives. Moreland draws from her own personal experience and provides her readers with valuable and complete information to help them care for their loved ones from diagnosis to deathbed. "The Gap Between" is a beautiful story in an engaging and accessible style that aims to make the lives of caregivers and those living with dementia as easy as possible.

Detailing her first-hand experience caring for a parent with Alzheimer's, lawyer and Moreland translates her most painful journey into help for other families facing the devastating illness. Alongside her own story of loss, she delivers insights on protecting and grieving for loved ones with Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia and provides advice on navigating critical matters including legal documentation, diagnostic and educational resources, preparing for and accepting deterioration, and the end-of-life experience.

Whether you're searching for ways to effectively communicate with your loved one or a real-life experience of a modern-day caregiver, "The Gap Between" has it all. So, before you grieve the loss of dad or mom with dementia, give this book a read. Of course, every situation is unique, but "TheGap Between" can be a great help if you love someone living with Alzheimer's or any form of dementia.

Critique: Absolutely essential reading for anyone having the responsibility for caring for a parent, spouse, or sibling with dementia, "The Gap Between: Loving and Supporting Someone With Alzheimer's" is simply and unreservedly recommended for all personal, professional, community, and academic library Medical Home Care, Nursing Home Care, and Alzheimer/Dementia collections. It should be noted that "The Gap Between" is also readily available to caregivers in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99).

Editorial Note: Mary Moreland ( is a lawyer living in Houston. The bulk of Mary's twenty-five-year legal career has been spent working on transactions outside the United States, principally in Latin America. In addition to her transactional work, Mary has vast and deep knowledge of ethics and compliance matters, having served as chief compliance officer for two publicly traded international companies.

Good Sex
Catherine M. Roach
Indiana University Press
9780253064684, $75.00, HC, 292pp

Synopsis: "Good Sex: Transforming America through the New Gender and Sexual Revolution by Catherine R. Roach is the manifesto (or Manisexto, if you will) for our contemporary cultural gender defining revolution. Same-sex marriage is legal, the #MeToo movement has exploded, colleges nationwide now teach consent-based sexual health, the media celebrates body positivity, and transgender visibility has become mainstream.

Defining "good sex" as both ethical and pleasurable, Catherine Roach features such topics as equity, intersectionality, and shared pleasure while offering a lively discussion that is inclusively feminist, queer-friendly, and sex-positive without being divisive.

An accessible guidebook, "Good Sex" provides hope that America's sexual, gender, and racial injustices can be addressed together. After all, this new gender and sexual revolution strengthens the pursuit of happiness and love.

Critique: With informative illustrations, "Good Sex: Transforming America through the New Gender and Sexual Revolution" is an exceptionally well written, organized and presented contribution to our on-going national discussions about the complexities of gender in modern American society. Thoughtful and thought-provoking, insightful and iconoclastic, "Good Sex: Transforming America through the New Gender and Sexual Revolution" is a work of impressively and meticulous scholarship in the field of the medical, psychology, and cultural anthropology of human sexuality.

While especially commended for personal, professional, community, and academic library Human Sexuality collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists, it should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Good Sex: Transforming America through the New Gender and Sexual Revolution" is also available in a paperback edition (9780253064691, $24.00) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $19.15)

Editorial Note: Catherine M. Roach ( has 25 years of grant-funded research experience on gender, sexuality, and American popular culture. A two-time Fulbright awardee with a PhD from Harvard and publications in both fiction and nonfiction, she's been an invited visiting professor in Canada, Australia, and Europe. She is Professor of New College, an innovative liberal arts program at the University of Alabama, where she's won the school's top research and teaching awards and where she offers a popular cross-university course titled "Sexuality & Society".

Julie Summers

Margaret Lane's Bookshelf

The Fiction Kitchen Trio Cookbook
Sarah M. Eden, author
Sian Ann Bessey, author
Traci Hunter Abramson, author
Covenant Communications
9781524421328, $16.99, PB, 144pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "The Fiction Kitchen Trio Cookbook: Novel Recipes from Your Favorite Novels" by the team of co-authors Sarah M. Eden, Sian Ann Bessey, and Traci Hunter Abramson, readers can now experience the thrilling and heartwarming world of popular fiction as never before -- right in their own kitchens!

Countless readers have lost themselves in the heart-pounding thrills of Traci Hunter Abramson's books and been delighted in the bygone world of dazzling ballrooms and courtly romance in the works of Sian Ann Bessey and Sarah M. Eden. Now they can join beloved characters from some of the most popular tales of romance and suspense (along with their Fiction Kitchen Trio authors) for a memorable and unique culinary journey through fiction.

From the favorite fare of the Jonquil and Lancaster families, to the top-secret recipes of the Saint Squad and Guardians, to the best-loved foods of the Georgian Gentlemen, more than100 delectable dishes are featured alongside passages of the books where the foods are found. No matter what the reader's culinary skill level might be in the kitchen, "The Fiction Kitchen Trio Cookbook: Novel Recipes from Your Favorite Novels" is a charming and very special cookbook that will inspire book lovers and aspiring cooks alike.

Critique: A singular and unusual but unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, and community library cookbook collections, "The Fiction Kitchen Trio Cookbook: Novel Recipes from Your Favorite Novels" is a genuine pleasure to browse through and exceptional fun to plan menus with. Thoroughly 'kitchen cook friendly' in organization and recipe presentation, "The Fiction Kitchen Trio Cookbook: Novel Recipes from Your Favorite Novels" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).

Editorial Note #1: Traci Hunter Abramson won her first three Whitney Awards in 2013 (Code Word), 2014 (Deep Cover), and 2016 (Failsafe). Her novel Safe House won the Whitney Awards for both the mystery/suspense category as well as 2017 Adult Novel of the Year. She added two additional awards in 2019 (Mistaken Reality - best mystery/suspense and Sanctuary - Adult Novel of the Year). ( and (

Editorial Note #2: Sian Ann Bessey ( began her writing career as a student, publishing several magazine articles while still in college. Since then she has published historical romance and romantic suspense novels, along with a variety of children's books. She is a USA Today best selling author, a Foreward Reviews Book of the Year finalist, and a Whitney Award finalist.

Editorial Note #3: Sarah M. Eden ( is the author of multiple historical romances, including AML's "2013 Novel of the Year" and Foreword Review's 2013 "IndieFab Book of the Year" gold medal winner for Best Romance, Longing for Home, and the Whitney Award's "2014 Novel of the Year," Longing for Home: Hope Springs. Combining her obsession with history and affinity for tender love stories, Sarah loves crafting witty characters and heartfelt romances set against rich historical backdrops.

What You Must Know About Women's Hormones
Pamela Martin Smith, MD, MPH
Square One Publishers
115 Herricks Road, Garden City Park, NY 11040
9780757005183, $18.95, PB, 416pp

Synopsis: A hormone is a class of signaling molecules in multicellular organisms that are sent to distant organs by complex biological processes to regulate physiology and behavior.

For women, hormonal imbalances can occur at any age -- before, during, or after menopause. The reasons for these imbalances vary widely, and can include heredity, environment, nutrition, and aging. While most hormone-related problems are associated with menopause, the fact is that fluctuating hormonal levels can also cause a variety of other conditions; and for some women, the effects can be truly debilitating.

In this newly updated and expanded second edition of "What You Must Know About Women's Hormones: Your Guide to Natural Hormone Treatments for PMS, Menopause, Osteoporosis, PCOS, and More", Dr. Pamela Wartian Smith has provided a clear and concise guide to the treatments of hormonal irregularities without the health risks associated with standard hormone replacement therapy.

"What You Must Know About Women's Hormones" is divided into three parts.

Part I describes the body's own hormones, looking at their functions and the different side effects that can occur if these hormones are not at optimal levels.

Part II focuses on the most common problems that arise from hormonal imbalances, such as PMS, hot flashes, postpartum depression, and endometriosis. You will learn that even disorders that seemingly have nothing to do with hormones, such as heart disease and osteoporosis, can be affected by a hormonal imbalance.

Part III details hormone replacement therapy, focusing on the difference between natural and synthetic hormone treatments. It explains how you can have your hormonal levels measured, and provides examples of the various hormone replacement therapies available. In addition, there is now a helpful table on the various ways to treat insulin resistance, a key factor in creating hormone imbalance.

Critique: Whether you are looking for help with menopausal symptoms or you simply want to enjoy vibrant health and well-being, this newly published second edition of "What You Must Know About Women's Hormones - Second Edition: Your Guide to Natural Hormone Treatments for PMS, Menopause, Osteoporosis, PCOS, and More" can and will make a profound difference in the quality of a woman's life. Comprehensive, informative, and thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation, Also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99), "What You Must Know About Women's Hormones - Second Edition: Your Guide to Natural Hormone Treatments for PMS, Menopause, Osteoporosis, PCOS, and More" is unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community and academic library Women's Health collections.

Editorial Note: Pamela Wartian Smith, MD, MPH, MS, is a diplomate of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Physicians and past co-director of the Master's Program in Medical Sciences, with a concentration in Metabolic and Nutritional Medicine, at the Morsani College of Medicine, University of South Florida. An authority on the subjects of wellness and functional medicine, she is also the founder of the Fellowship in Anti-Aging, Regenerative, and Functional Medicine. Dr. Smith is the author of ten books, including "What You Must Know About Vitamins, Minerals, Herbs & So Much More"; and "What You Must Know About Memory Loss".

One Company Productions

Pippa White calls her One's Company Productions "part theatre, part storytelling, part history". Audiences call them unique, captivating, and touching. To date she has crisscrossed the country many times as a professional storyteller, touring to over 30 states, performing at universities and colleges, conferences, performing arts centers, museums, libraries, and festivals.

Pippa turned to solo performing after an extensive career in theatre and television on the West Coast, including five years hosting a daily morning television show on ABC in San Francisco. Pippa has performed three times at the United Solo Theatre Festival in New York City. She has a BA in English from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In addition to professional storytelling, she offers workshops (Mining the Gold in the History Books: Finding Great Stories in History; Speech 101: How to Improve All Speaking Skills) and residencies, and has been a teaching artist with Nebraska Arts Council since 1990. She has received several awards in recognition of her work, including two Individual Artist Fellowship awards from the Nebraska Arts Council.

Now Pippa and her company have produced six simply outstanding CD audio book collections: Dust Bowl Stories; 72 Years To Women's Suffrage, Good Things Come In Small Packages; Child Labor And The People Who Ended It; Far As The Eye Can See: Stories of the People of the Prairie; The Story Of The Orphan Train. Each of these are flawless, engaging, entertaining, and informative audio books ($15.00 each) are especially and unreservedly recommended for personal and community library CD audio book collections.

U.S. Games Systems, Inc.

U.S. Games Systems is the nation's premier publisher of Tarot and Oracle card decks. Here are four of their newest offerings to the Tarot reading community:

"Pastoral Tarot" (9781646711116, $31.95) by author Lynn Araujo and artist/illustrator Lisa Hunt explores how a sense of place reveals who we are and where we belong. Honoring the rich pastoral tradition that celebrates the sweeping majesty of the countryside, Pastoral Tarot transports us to bucolic places where we can appreciate the beauty and bounty of nature as we stroll through apple orchards, lavender farms, golden pastures, prairies, woodlands and meadows. Nostalgic scenes of rural life are presented in exquisite historic detail, while closely following the traditional structure of Smith-Waite Tarot. Horizontal artwork draws us into immersive landscapes for deep personal reflection into tarot meanings that are readily accessible to readers of all levels. This deluxe set includes 78-card deck, linen pouch, and 180-page illustrated book.

"Wild Woman Rising" (9781646711086, $25.95) by author Angi Sullins and artist/illustrator Jena DellaGrottaglia is a 44 card and 104-page guidebook as a siren's cry to connect that courts the wisdom of the Wild Woman and conjures her presence as it lives in your own wildish nature. Though she has been trivialized and truncated, Wild Woman comes when called. May this deck be a battle cry and a peace song as it companions your courtship. In an era when so many are clamoring that the end is at hand, the truth is that the beginning is near. For there is no force more powerful than a woman determined to rise.

"Love Who You Are" (9781646711093, $26.95) by author Angi Sullins and artist/illustrator Silas Toball is particularly relevant for anyone who, no matter how accomplished are subject to doubt, anxiety, fear of criticism or betrayal. This deck is an invaluable companion on the journey to radiant self-worth and confidence. This 44 card deck, reinforced by the musings comprising the accompanying 116-page book has been carefully curated to be 'a light in the window along your path'.

"Earthly Souls & Spirits Moon Oracle" (9781646711130, $22.95) will allow you to engage with the enchanted world created by Terri Foss -- igniting your hidden spiritual energy. "Earthly Souls & Spirits Moon Oracle" embraces the subtle shifts of Mother Nature to guide you toward manifestation of your own soul magic. Witches, black cats, owls and ravens emerge through the ethereal lunar glow with empowering messages to deepen your intuition and help focus your intentions. "Earthly Souls & Spirits Moon Oracle" is comprised of 55 cards with luminous artwork and a 132-page illustrated guidebook with affirmations, meditations, and full moon rituals.

These four new Tarot and Oracle decks from U.S. Games Systems are unreservedly recommended metaphysical treasures and certain to be cherished by all members of the Tarot, Oracle, and Fortune Telling community.

The Complete Guide to Reflexology
Ruth Hull
Healing Arts Press
c/o Inner Traditions International, Ltd.
One Park Street, Rochester, VT 05767
9781644116258, $29.99, PB, 312pp

Synopsis: Reflexology is a gentle, non-invasive therapy that encourages the body to balance and heal itself. It involves applying finger or thumb pressure to specific points on the hands and feet. Called "reflexes," these points reflect, or mirror, the organs and structures of the body as well as a person's emotional health. In this way, the hands and feet are "mini maps" or "microcosms" of the body that can be used to encourage holistic healing.

Presenting the most complete reflexology study guide available, this newly revised and updated third edition of "The Complete Guide to Reflexology" by Ruth Hull is a full-color illustrated textbook specifically designed for use both in the classroom and as a DIY home study resource. Ideal for students of reflexology up to levels 2 and 3, this latest edition of "The Complete Guide to Reflexology" impressively exceeds the curriculum requirements of all the major awarding bodies as well as meeting the current National Occupational Standards for reflexology.

Providing detailed and accurate anatomical drawings, zone and reflex maps, and muscle tables, "The Complete Guide to Reflexology" outlines each body system, explaining how, when, and why to work the reflexes. It explores foot reflexology, hand reflexology, as well as meridian therapy and offers extensive basic pathology of all body systems, including case studies, allowing the student to develop interpretive diagnostic and treatment planning skills. Each chapter also includes a study outline as well as review and multiple choice questions.

Offering a comprehensive guide to the theory, philosophies, and history of reflexology, "The Complete Guide to Reflexology" will encourage students and practitioners to develop understanding and confidence in their reflexology practice.

Critique: Profusely and informatively illustrated, and thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, this new edition of "The Complete Guide to Reflexology" is informatively enhanced with a two page Bibliography, a four page Glossary, and a six page Index. Of special note is that also a one page Answers to Multiple-Choice Questions. While also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $20.99), "The Complete Guide to Reflexology" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, college, and university library Health/Medicine collections in general, and supplemental Reflexology curriculum studies lists in particular.

Editorial Note: Ruth Hull ( is an integrative health consultant and author who has been working in natural health since 1999 as a therapist, lecturer, and writer. Born and educated in Zimbabwe, she holds a degree in philosophy and literature as well as a master's degree in health and homeopathy. She studied and practiced complementary therapies in London and worked as a homeopathic doctor and lecturer in South Africa. The author of The Complete Guide to Reflexology Workbook, she currently resides in Australia.

Margaret Lane

Mari Carlson's Bookshelf

Just Friends, Just War
Korinthia Klein
Korinthian Violins
9781733388924, $15.00 paperback

Can a boy and a girl be "just friends"? Can they remain friends as they each date and marry?
Everyone, except Claire and Alex, assumes they are in love. They're certainly close, sparring in martial arts class, studying together, visiting each other at college and sharing an apartment together after graduation. More than once, though, their respective partners call the relationship quits due to the irritating presence of "the best friend." When Alex returns from a tour in Afghanistan changed forever, physically and emotionally, Claire confronts him as no one else can.

Klein depicts an enduring friendship through every day encounters with family, in school, and community settings, making an unbelievable friendship plausible. Alex and Claire's candid and respectful fights add a new dimension to what love looks like. The climactic scene between the two of them breaks every rule and cultural barrier. This book innovates, professing a new class of camaraderie while upholding timeless principles. Down-to-earth language captures relatable characters seeking out-of-the-ordinary connections.

Crooked Little Pieces Volume 2
Sophia Lambton
The Crepuscular Press
9781739722753, $6.99 paperback

In this second volume of the series, the war is over. Twin sisters Annaliese and Isabel have graduated and begun their adult lives in competition with and in imitation of each other. Isabel marries Steven, Liese Stephen. Isabel stays with her husband for the chance of a child while Isabel can't stand the thought. Liese tries to solve her psychiatric patients' problems - and her sister's - but won't face her own. When Isabel finds satisfaction, Liese might just admit she's bored.

Elusive answers to who the sisters are as individuals drives the plot and parallels questions that have answers. The book ends on a cliff hanger as Liese is on the verge of finding justice on behalf of her therapist. The author dignifies life's highs and lows (grief feels like "her members are branches of a frozen lake" (122)) with her lyric descriptions, allowing readers to enjoy periods of tension and unresolve.

Mari Carlson

Michael Carson's Bookshelf

The Descendants
Robert Chursinoff
Nightwood Editions
c/o Harbour Publishing
9780889714403, $24.95, PB, 320pp

Synopsis: Seven years after a brutal encounter with the Hells Angels, two ex-lovers, Jonah Seeger and Ruby Samarodin, return to their Doukhobor religious community in the mountains of British Columbia to heal and start new lives. Jonah is a twenty-five-year-old from a disgraced family, and now injured and battling PTSD from his time as a Marine. Ruby, practically Doukhobor royalty, is a rock star with a substance use disorder.

Jonah finds his mother, Sharon, still struggling with an eating disorder stemming from her terrorist upbringing in the Doukhobor splinter sect known as the Sons of Freedom. Ruby returns to Sasha, the young son she abandoned, and to her overbearing mother, Virginia, a pious pillar of the community raised to loathe the Sons of Freedom.

After a heartfelt reunion between Jonah, Ruby, and Sasha, they learn that a murderous Hells Angel, Clinton Pritchard, is still obsessed with revenge for the damage Jonah caused years earlier. But when Ruby confronts Clinton about their terrible past, Clinton's brother Swanny Pritchard must choose whether to side with his brother or turn against him. Jonah and Ruby unwittingly draw their family into a final confrontation with the Hells Angels that will test longheld, pacifist Doukhobor beliefs.

Critique: A skillful and riveting novel of violent crime, religious fanaticism, revenge and recovery, "The Descendants" by Robert Chrusinfoff is one of the memorable reads that will linger in the mind and memory long after the book is finished and set back upon the shelf. this edition of "The Descendants" is highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library General Fiction collections.

Editorial Note: Robert Chursinoff was born and raised in the Doukhobor community of southeastern British Columbia. He draws inspiration for The Descendants from his upbringing and his years spent drumming for Grammy-nominated duo Tegan and Sara, Australian pop star Ben Lee, the Be Good Tanyas, Juno-nominated performer Kinnie Starr, the Belle Game and many others. His writing has been published in the literary journal Blank Spaces, the anthology Just Words Volume 4, and online in Vice, Nowhere Magazine, Upworthy and Matador Network. As a scriptwriter, he has worked on dozens of Red Bull Media House documentaries and series.

Of Ashes and Dust
Ron Roman
Addison & Highsmith Publishers
c/o Histria Books
9781592111787, $29.99, HC, 294pp

Synopsis: At the time of the Millennium three people struggle for survival in a small New Hampshire town as the world spins into chaos, not realizing that each harbors secrets that will eventually pit them against one another.

"Of Ashes and Dust" by novelist Ron Roman is a story that evolves from the U.S. Government's earlier two classified secret projects during the Vietnam War (the USAF's revelation about UFOs and Project Sixty-Seven). "Of Ashes and Dust" is a no-punches-pulled apocalyptic tale of mesmerizing intrigue and gut-retching survival told as an alternate-history thriller during the Last Days of a global Armageddon, culminating in a totally unexpected and explosive ending.

Critique: Of special appeal to fans of dystopian novels, "Of Ashes and Dust" is a compelling read that showcases author Ron Roman's genuine flair as a novelist with respect to his impressive originality and narrative driven storytelling skills. While highly recommended, especially for community library Alternate History and Dystopian Fiction collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists that "Of Ashes and Dust" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.49).

Editorial Note: Ron Roman ( is a Associate Professor of English, ESL, and Humanities who has taught with the University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC- Asia) since 1996. He has written extensive travel, academic, and political articles for regional and national publications. He studied writing (both fiction and creative) for his third graduate degree (Humanities) from Wesleyan University. Currently, he resides in South Korea, where he writes and has acted in numerous Korean TV dramas and motion pictures, like Operation Chromite, portraying Admiral Forrest Sherman opposite Liam Neeson as General Douglas MacArthur.

Michael J. Carson

Michellia Wilson's Bookshelf

Ore Choir: The Lava on Iceland
Katy Didden, author
Kevin Tseng, illustrator
Tupelo Press
9781946482747, $39.95

Lyrical erasure - a profound concept found in Katy Didden's, Ore Choir: The Lava on Iceland. This solid compilation of poems illustrates lava pouring over and through the metallic muse of Didden. The molten substance, inching its way over Iceland and the reader's psyche. The artistic renderings of Kevin Tseng, striking, perforated, as one might see in a lava rock, jagged and black.

Didden's poetry is thick, like the hot, oozing lava that permeates the land - the "postvolcanic landscape." We are further drawn in by the history, the tributaries of ancient Icelandic poetry, "its craters of dove-gray ashes matted with snow, / attracts artists who siege eddas in the rills." These powerful lines draw out the significance of Icelandic poetry in our time. Moving around Iceland, [I adore canoes] slices through the frozen ocean water. Drifting as does the burping mountainous orange cone full of steaming magma.

In, [Two Go Out], the shape of the erasure resembles cerebral art - a brain-like picture, to make us think and visualize the division of the lavafield. /One plans a feast, / one a siege... /a plume of steam/ rises/ like a hired gun/ out of the ruin." The ruin of the mind, the preservation of an ancient land. The words cast out like a skull permeated around a brain-like structure.

Iron ore, metallic, minded for its value, "I wanted iron songs/ample time/ a sphere concert, / an ore choir - / the core's sly music." The erasure for [Ocean Erased] takes on the attributes of smelted metal, bursting with heat and steam and a silent music. A violation of rust, just a day of rain or dew away. Profoundly, the music emerging from the very center, essence of the volcanic seize.

[Oh Soft! what sun] pours onto the page in shades of green - the algae that has nested upon the facade of the lichen, miles from the ocean, erosion a by-product. An array of colors, an attribute of the speciated fungi. A [revery -] of microbes built into beautiful [gemmed lines]. The corresponding erasure, a square and accurate rendering of the poem held within.

Poetic music arises [Inside time/the future rises], proofing as a [loaf/fit for its tin]. These lines flow as rhyme, the erasure, a mushroom cloud of an explosive nature. As we meander into the section, the SCIENTIST, questions the LAVA, the layout shifts the basalt, the rusting ore. The erasure on the left, the plucked words to the right - a fight breaks loose. The scientist sparring with the lava. Lakin - "a broad measure of days," takes on [LAVA] compiled of "fissures, blobs and brine... a red sun/, shorn of its rays." Repetition follows, "The past,/ the past." The lava doesn't know what the scientist knows. The lava only knows its fiery rocks, covering the expanse of the land, oozes beneath its wake.

A significant part of this work is credit to art and ruinous natures of the erasure pictures. Tseng aptly takes on colors, shapes, space, time, beauty and destruction. His work is striking and well paired with the poems of Didden. The marriage of art weaves nicely with the aesthetic nature of the poems. We are educated, touched with art in the coolness of an icy breeze, warmed by rolling lava. This beautiful book is truly a journey into a sacred land.

Michellia Wilson

R. Ann Bush's Bookshelf

On Display: a novel of natural history
Christy Baker Knight
Field & Studio Productions, Ltd.
9780578897790, $15.00

On Display's successful mix of herpetology, museum curation, and mystery is a tribute to author Christy Baker Knight's ability to blend humor, scientific fact, character development, and witty dialogue into a captivating read.

Readers will appreciate experiencing protagonist Becca North's adventures, including snake catching, nocturnal expeditions in the Georgia swamp, and angry protesters disrupting her access to and productivity at work while ensconced in their armchairs without having to break a sweat.

In addition to crafting an action-filled story that dispels the stereotype of boring museum curators and dusty displays, Baker Knight thoughtfully relates the relatively recent young adult ritual of accepting an unpaid internship with the hope of future employment. While never hitting the reader over the head with her commentary, Baker Knight does subtly illustrate working long uncompensated hours and being programmed to say yes, no matter how unpleasant (and perhaps illegal) the requisite tasking might be. The reader becomes more expert at museum dynamics as Becca traverses office politics, beginning with making seating charts in meetings to keep her new colleagues straight to eventually joining "the girls" for celebratory lunches.

The result is a captivating story that brings naturalists, adventure seekers, and mystery readers into the hijinks behind static museum displays. After finishing this book, readers will never walk through a museum with detachment or without wondering what might be happening in the basement again!

R. Ann Bush, Reviewer

Robin Friedman's Bookshelf

The Woman of Rome: A Novel
Alberto Moravia, author
Tami Calliope, translator
Steerforth Press
9781883642808, $29.00, paperback

Amor Fati In Fascist Italy

Alberto Moravia was a leading mid-Twentieth Century Italian novelist and short story writer. Although his works were quickly translated into English, they were little read in the United States. Fortunately for interested readers, many of his books are now in print again and accessible, including his 1949 novel, "The Woman of Rome".

The book tells the story of Adriana, a beautiful, poor, and uneducated young woman who begins as an artist's model at the age of 16. Although she dreams of a quiet, modest home with a loving husband and children, she becomes both a prostitute and a thief. As a prostitute, she is involved with a number of men with competing ideologies and interests including Astarita, a Fascist chief of police, Giacomo, a student revolutionary against the Fascists and Sozmogo, a criminal and a thug.

The story is told in the first person. Adriana is always on stage and the character of highest interest. The reader gets to know her well. The book is told in a linear, easy-to-follow style which builds to a large crescendo at the end of the first part. The second part of the book loses slightly in dramatic intensity and in construction.

As with any work of depth, this book functions on a number of levels which reject easy paraphrase or simple meaning. Many readers see the book as a picture of corruption in Rome while others see it more as the story of Adriana. I am more inclined to the second view. As far as I can tell, however, there is a strong spiritual theme in the book which sometimes gets too little emphasis in the pull of conflicting readings.

There are no less than four pivotal scenes in "The Woman of Rome" set in a church. Although the book is replete with sex, violence and raw brutality, it is also highly internalized. Many of its most effective moments are those in which Adriana reflects (in church or out) on her life and on the course it has taken.

The German philosopher Frederich Nietzsche (Adriana does not mention and would not have known of him) used the phrase "amor fati" to describe the wise person's attitude towards life. The phrase means loving one's destiny or, to use another related Nietzschean phrase, "becoming who one is". The specific facts of one's life may be determined by circumstance. What is not determined is one's attitude. A person can understand his or her life and accept it joyfully, regardless of its state. It is in the acceptance and understanding that choice resides and that gives life its value and dignity.

The novel shows the attempt of a poor, but intelligent woman to find "amor fati" and to become who she is. She struggles to accept her nature and her being as a prostitute. Many of Adriana's reflections in the church are quite explicit and insightful. Adriana, alas, is no more successful than are most people in staying with her insight into herself. That, in my opinion, is the tragedy of the story which leads to the downfall of the men involved with Adriana.

The spiritual tone of the book goes well beyond Nietzsche. Together with the theme of amor fati, there is a religiosity that emphasizes, in the context of Western theology, God as merciful and as all-forgiving rather than God as a moralizer or judge. This God -- or self-understanding is open to all regardless of creed or station. The religion that seems to be espoused in the book recognizes the sinful, fallen nature of people and their frequent inability to change. It seems to suggest the possibility of atonement and forgiveness offered to everyone by a turning of the heart, even if, perhaps, behavior cannot be changed. It is a powerful picture of a God of mercy and forgiveness who holds the possibility of love out to all.

"The Woman of Rome" is a first-rate Twentieth Century novel.

Beyond Twisted Sorrow: The Promise of Country Noir
Jay A. Gertzman, author
Down & Out Books
9781643962702, $21.95, paperback

The Old, Weird America Revisited

Music critic and writer Greil Marcus wrote a book about Bob Dylan titled "The Old Weird America". And Dylan himself in the song "Mr Tambourine Man" famously sought release "Far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow." Marcus' "Old Weird America" and Dylan's "twisted sorrow" are only two of the many evocative images and phrases that Jay Gertzman uses in his exploration of country noir in his new book, "Beyond Twisted Sorrow: The Promise of Country Noir." (2022) Gertzman, Professor Emeritus of English at Mansfield University, has written extensively on noir. In particular, he has written a study of one of my favorite authors, the noir "poet of Philadelphia" and other dark urban places, David Goodis, in his book, "Pulp According to David Goodis" (2018). I got to know Gertzman through our shared love of Goodis, and he was kind enough to send me a copy of his new book.

The new book, as does the Goodis book, deals with popular genre American writing of the type that once was denigrated by critics and academics but that now receives serious attention. It differs from the book on Goodis in two obvious ways. First it has a broad scope while Gertzman's earlier book focused on a single author. Second, the book discusses "country noir" which, whatever that may be, is not the noir of Goodis. "Noir" itself is an elusive term, and in this book "country noir" is even more so. Gertzman's book has a broad range geographically, temporally, and stylistically. Most obviously, Gertzman's book covers not only noirish works but expands to include the genre of the Western. He draws insightful parallels while also recognizing differences between noir and the Western. Also, the discussion of Westerns leads to a discussion of historical writings that become increasingly removed from noir, such as James Fenimore Coopers "Leatherstocking Tales" and the Western stories of Steven Crane. It is all valuable and interrelated, but the book casts a broad net.

Gertzman writes to explore the nature of country noir and to compare and contrast it with the noir of writers such as Goodis. He realizes the difficulty of pinning down his subject. His discussion of the scope of country noir is worth quoting.

"The world of country noir is inhabited by native Americans, Mountain Men, ridgerunners, west Texans, cowboys, ranchers, hunters, homesteaders, rustlers, frontier marshalls, social isolates, or most recently by van dwellers travelling western highways. Its chroniclers have intimate knowledge of its 'habitus,' which includes language, temperaments, tastes in entertainment and lodging, clothing, food preferences, weaponry, and treatment of animals."

The book explores all of this and more, in novels, primarily, but also in film. The manner of presentation in the book also varies. Some chapters are devoted to broad matters and concepts, such as the "old, weird America", the nature of American culture and life and the differences between urban and rural life, the nature of noir, genre writing and its differences from allegedly more "serious" writing, and the manner in which writers of country noir perceive America and their subjects and how it differs and perhaps is ultimately more hopeful in tone than the noir of writers such as Goodis.

Then, sections of the book are much more specific. Gertzman knows this literature well and describes many books and authors in the broad category of country noir. Many of the books are described in great detail and compared and contrasted to one another. Other books receive briefer, more passing references. The writing is always intriguing. I read the book slowly because I frequently felt the need to stop and look up a book or author under discussion with which I was unfamiliar. In part this book is a finding tool for works to read that may be unfamiliar to its readers. That is in itself an admirable purpose. The effect in this study can be dazzling and sometimes confusing.

I am an avid reader of both noir and Westerns and am familiar with some of the major works Gertzman discusses. For example Gertzman discusses the work of Denis Johnson at some length, including "Angels" "Jesus Son" and "Train Dreams". I learned a lot from his treatment of these books. He discusses Robert Coover's "Huck out West", Jack Schaefer's "Shane", and "The Big Sky" by A.B. Guthrie. I don't like Coover's book but love the others. I was interested in Gertzman's perspective on these and many other books. In short, I had enough background in works that Gertzman discusses at length and in the cultural issues of American life addressed in Westerns and noir writings. This gave me perspective and a point of reference on books and authors I didn't know. Readers who approach this book without a prior passion for and interest in American literature and in noir and Westerns may have trouble.

Gertzman makes the reader fully aware of the difficulties of life in America's small towns in the South, the West, Appalachia and elsewhere. There is a gap between American urban and rural life that must be bridged. He points out the classic tension in American life between the search for community and peace on the one hand and the life of wildness, independence and "isolates" on the other hand. This tension pervades the world of country noir. For all its grit and toughness, country noir seems to be able to reach a sense of optimism and redemption more often than does the Goodis-type noir from the city. Gertzman's book has a distinct spiritually influenced view in many places.

The book includes many quotable phrases, some of which have been touched on above. Another, derived from Greil Marcus, forms the title of a chapter, reflecting on an "insistence on Mystery as inseparable from any Honest Understanding of what Life is about". The most eloquent depiction of the theme of the book comes from Gertzman himself as he writes at the close of the opening set of epigraphs: "We're all Americans".

I learned a lot from this book about the world of country noir and about America.

Symphonies 1 & 4
Florence Price, composer
John Jeter, performer, Fort Smith Symphony Orchestra, performers
Naxos American Classics
B07KM16SDP, $13.97

Florence Price In The American Classics Series

Shortly after moving to the United States in 1892, the renowned Czech composer Antonin Dvorak developed what became known as the "Dvorak Manifesto" which prophesied that music in the United States would develop in its own way and would ultimately be based on folk materials, especially spirituals and other music of African Americans and Native Americans. Much American music, both popular and classical expands upon the Dvorak Manifesto. Florence Price (1887 -- 1953) incorporated African American themes, as well as a style reminiscent of Dvorak's own music into her extensive output. Price's work was known in her lifetime but faded from the public eye after her death. It has been rediscovered and has been getting a great deal of attention in recent years.

The "American Classics" of Naxos CD aims to make accessible the United States' large, diverse, but often overlooked achievement in classical music. With the revival of interest in Florence Price, Naxos began to include CDs of her orchestral works in its "American Classics" series. The CDs feature John Jeter the Music Director of the Fort Smith Symphony, Arkansas and an enthusiastic proponent of Price's work. Price was born and lived much of her life in Arkansas even though she composed most of her music while living in Chicago. Jeter conducts the Fort Smith Symphony on this, the first CD, in the series. In the two following CDs, Smith conducts two internationally known European orchestras. Of the three CDs issued to date, I like this first CD the best in terms of both music and performance. Smith and his orchestra are in their element.

In 1933, the Chicago Symphony under its Music Director Frederick Stock became the first major orchestra to perform a symphony by an African American woman when it performed Price's Symphony No. 1 in E minor. Price's first symphony is a large scaled work which combines the styles of Dvorak and Brahms with African American folk elements and rhythms. The first two movements are spacious with beautiful orchestration for winds, brass, harp, and percussion. The deeply moving second movement is based upon themes reminiscent of spirituals. The final two movements are shorter and rhythmic with an African American dance, the Juba, forming the third movement and a whirlwind scherzo for the finale. This Symphony held my attention throughout.

Price's Symphony No. 4 in D minor (1945) receives its world-premier recording on this CD. The symphony is lyrical, with lovely orchestration and use of solo instruments and syncopated rhythms. Quotations of spirituals feature in the symphony's extended opening movement. The slow second movement is a lullabye. The Juba dance of the third movement is particularly effective with its outer rhthmic themes surrounding a slow middle section for solo oboe. The final movement is heavily rhythmical and jazz-inflected.

The CD was recorded in May 2018 in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Because most listeners will be unfamiliar with Price's music, they should find useful the liner notes by Douglas Shadle of Vanderbuilt University. I listened to this CD after listening to the two CDs of Price's music conducted by Jeter which include Price's Symphony No. 3 together with orchestral suites, overtures and dances. I was won over to Price's music by her First Symphony from this CD. It is fortunate that Price's music has been rediscovered and made available for listeners to enjoy. Her music rewards getting to know for itself, and it deserves recognition in a series of American Classics devoted to preserving the breadth and depth of American accomplishments in classical music.

Total Time: 69:04

Symphony No.3 in C Minor
Florence Price, composer,
John Jeter, performer, Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, performers
Naxos American Classics
B09FSCKLHB, $13.99

Florence Price Rediscovered

In 1933, Florence Price (1887 -- 1953) became the first African American composer to have a symphony performed by a major orchestra when the Chicago Symphony programmed her Symphony No. 1. Price received attention during the 1930s and 40s and then gradually faded from the public eye. Her music began to be rediscoved particularly after the 2009 recovery of many of her manuscripts from an abandoned summer home. Price's music is receiving increased and well-deserved attention.

The Naxos American Classics series is recording Price's orchestral music under the direction of John Jeter, the music director and conductor of the Fort Smith Symphony, Arkansas since 1987. Price was born in and lived in Arkansas for many years. Jeter is a gifted champion of her music. On this CD, Jeter conducts the music of Price with an internationally known orchestra, the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra. Price's music merits performance by a world-class orchestra, and the symphony and Jeter perform with enthusiasm and commitment.

This CD includes Price's Symphony no. 3, (1940), her Mississippi River Suite (1934) and, in a world premier recording, her short suite, "Ethiopia's Shadow in America" from 1932. In 2001, the other two works were included in a pioneering recording by the Women's Philharmonic, a San Fransisco based orchestra dedicated to the performance of music by women under the direction of its last conductor, Apo Hsu. This recording is still available and I was fortunate to hear it some years ago. Another recording of Price's first and third symphonies received the Grammy Award in 2022 for best orchestral recording.

This Naxos CD is outstanding in its own right and offers an introduction to Florence Price. Her music is accessible and combines later romantic folk elements, in the manner of Dvorak and of Brahms's folk song arrangements, with African American themes and rhythms. Other American composers including Charles Ives and Aaron Copland, frequently incorporated American folk material and folk idiom into their music.

The Symphony No. 3 weaves together romantic and folk materials in its outer two movements while the two middle movements, a slow, reflective second movement and a lively syncopated dance, the "Juba" for the third movement present more African American themes. The lengthy "Mississippi River" suite flows slowly, as does its namesake with twists and turns from North to South. Price uses folk material extensively as the Suite moves on its course. The third work offers a brief musical depiction of African American life from slavery to the present. Price gave the titles to the three movements: 1. "The Arrival of the Negro in America when first brought here as a Slave", 2 "His Resignation and Faith", 3. "His adaptation: a Fusion of his Native and Acquired Impulses." It is good to have this work recorded and available to be enjoyed.

The CD was recorded on March 12, 2020, in Vienna, and Douglas Shadle of Vanderbuilt University wrote the informative liner notes. The Naxos "American Classics" series highlights the frequently overlooked contributions of American composers to classical music. I have enjoyed many recordings in this series over the years. Florence Price has achieved recognition at last, and her music deserves to be included as an "American Classic".

Total Time: 66:48

Songs of the Oak: Concert Overtures Nos 1-2
Florence Price, composer,
John Jeter, performer, Wurttemburgerische Philharmonie Reutlingen, performers
Naxos American Classics
B0BG5R1FXK, $13.99

A Deserving American Classic

The American Classics Series of Naxos CD has brought home to many listeners the richness and diversity of American classical music. The series is now featuring the music of the African American composer Florence Price (1887 -- 1953). After receiving a degree of recognition in the 1930s and 1940s, Price fell into obscurity following her death. Fortunately there has been a revivial of interest in her music particularly following the discovery in 2009 of many manuscripts in her old summer home near Chicago.

This CD is the third in the American Classics Series consisting of Price's orchestral music conducted by John Jeter, conductor of the Fort Smith Symphony, Arkansas, and a champion of Price's work. Each CD features a different orchestra. On this recording, Jeter conducts the Wurtemmbergishe Philharmonie Reutlingen in a committed and enthusiastic performance recorded in April, 2022 in Germany.

The music on this CD is varied but it is all delightful, sparingly orchestrated, and shows Price's interest in fusing African American folk music and spirituals into classical form. Thus, the CD includes two Concert Overtures based upon spirituals. The first, composed in 1939 is based upon the spiritual, "Sinner, Please Don't Let this Harvest Pass." The spiritual had been unfamiliar to me and I listened to it together with Price's overture. Knowing the original helped me enjoy Price's music as she not only states the theme but varies it and sometimes quotes it only in portions. The second Concert Overture dates from 1943 and is based on three spirituals: "Go Down Moses", "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen" and "Every Time I feel the Spirit". The three are woven together beautifully in Price's music.

The next two pieces are tone poems. The first "Songs of the Oak" is well- described in the liner notes as "a tour de force of Hollywood-influenced picturesque musical storytelling."The second tone poem, "The Oak" is a more challenging, tautly composed work. I had the opportunity to hear "The Oak" some years ago in a pioneering recording by the Women's Philharmonic, a now disbanded orchestra based in San Francisco which specialized in the performance of music by women. Their 2001 recording of Price is still available.

The CD concludes with two short, lively and rhythmical dance pieces. The "Colonial Dance" is recorded here for the first time. The "Suite of Dances" consists of three short works originally written for solo piano and then set by Price for orchestra. This music, in its piano version, was Price's most popular work during her lifetime.

This is an enjoyable, accessible CD of Price's orchestral music. Douglas Shadle of Vanderbilt University wrote the helpful liner notes for music which will, after all, be unfamiliar to most listeners. Florence Price's music deserves its inclusion in the "American Classics" series both for itself and for showing the breadth of American classical music.

Total Time: 60:59

Robin Friedman

Sarah Book's Bookshelf

Shania Anastasi
Independently published
9798767599097 $4.75

"I daydream to escape the life that was handed to me. I dream of better so that I don't wake more broken than when I closed my eyes the night before. And I dream of him because, without him, I wouldn't have survived

Noya is a seventeen year old girl living in the middle lane. She doesn't want to stand out. She doesn't want to be noticed because people who are seen fall prey to falling too fast, and when you have skeletons that she has in her closet, it's easier to hide them when nobody notices you scream."

5 Stars

This is a powerful book, You may cry,

Everything Noya has to go through

Andy, what the hell is wrong with you?

Some lines from the book I thought might be good to list:

"What is it that makes you so different from anyone else I've known?"
"I'm not done talking to you,
-What if I'm done talking to you?"
"What are you afraid of?"
"Did someone hurt you? Is that why you're so withdrawn and flinch and don't like violence, because you've seen it and... and" - he swallows - "felt it."
"Conner: That girl is you"

"You saw the photo, Sarah, Did it ever occur to you that someone hurt me more than you ever could?"

But this is a really emotional destroying book, Shaina you did good!

But since it involves topics, there could be triggers, here is a list of what I think could be triggering:

CW: sexual assault, rape, domestic violence, child abuse, child neglect, trauma, Alcohol abuse, mention of character using drugs, cheating

Thank You Shaina For The Book!

Bush Dance
Sally Morgan and Ambelin Kwaymullina
Hardie Grant children's publishing
9781761211829 $19.99

A Treasury of stories

"In this collection of four stunning stories. Sally morgan and Ambelin Kwaymullina celebrate Australian animals and the habitats in which they live,

From dingos to galahs, children can watch, learn, listen and count and experience the beauty of the country "

5 stars

this was really good, this could be educational, but yes, this children's book, if any parents are reading this, i think you should try this with your kids, kids will love this book,

Thank You Hardie Grant Children's Publishing For The Copy!

The Last First Date
Hayley Quinn
9780008511043 $24.99

"One date. One missed chance. One mission to find love.

At 31-years-old, Helen Pines is far from where she thought she would be. Whilst her ex-boyfriend is now engaged, Helen's still eating ready meals for one, wistfully dreaming of her last first date.

Determined to give online dating a go, she matches with drop-dead-gorgeous Brody, and they hit it off immediately.

One date later, Helen's heart is still singing. Brody's everything she's looking for in a man - sexy, charismatic, and the perfect gentleman. But then she receives an error message on the app... all her contacts have been deleted.

With nothing but Brody's name and job title to go on, Helen is determined to track him down.

But despite the initial chemistry, Helen realises she knows surprisingly little about her mystery man... Was it really love-at-first like, or will she find a new love along the way?

An utterly hilarious laugh-out-loud romance that will have you grinning from ear to ear from the first page to the last! Fans of Our Stop and Mhairi McFarlane will love this book"

3.8 stars

I did not think it would take this long for my first read of 2023

There were a couple things

Overall the story was good, i thought it was going to be a slow romance but around the middle of the book that totally changed, and was unpredictable...

The third person POV was really throwing me off though, I did not think I would like it in the end.

I loved most of the characters but I did not like BRODY! He seemed just like a jerk though, i wish I could explain more about that

But I have mixed feelings about this book, it isn't a 5 star, but I'm like, is it a 4? Why is this so HARD?

Probably just venting by now.

But final. Yes, it was a bit of a page turner, i did like the ending,

Thank You Harper Collins Australia For The Review Copy!

This time it's real
Ann Liang
Scholastic inc
9781338827118 $15.99

Get ready to fall in love in this hilarious romcom about a girl who begins a fake relationship with the famous actor in her class, perfect for fans of Meg Cabot and Jenny Han.

When seventeen-year-old Eliza Lin's essay about meeting the love of her life unexpectedly goes viral, her entire life changes overnight. Now she has the approval of her classmates at her new international school in Beijing, a career-launching internship opportunity at her favorite magazine... and a massive secret to keep

Eliza made her essay up. She's never been in a relationship before, let alone in love. All good writing is lying, right

Desperate to hide the truth, Eliza strikes a deal with the famous actor in her class, the charming but aloof Caz Song. She'll help him write his college applications if he poses as her boyfriend. Caz is a dream boyfriend - he passes handwritten notes to her in class, makes her little sister laugh, and takes her out on motorcycle rides to the best snack stalls around the city.

But when her relationship with Caz starts feeling a little too convincing, all of Eliza's carefully laid plans are threatened. Can she still follow her dreams if it means breaking her own heart?

5 stars

First, I want to thank Scholastic inc, For giving me the physical ARC

Now for the review

I honestly cannot tell you how much I loved this book, would it not be weird if I just repeated to you that I adored this book?

It was a hilarious rom-com, We got to see the story in first person POV from Eliza, I was laughing, smiling, okay maybe a few tears at the end, this book just sticks, even though I finished this wonderful story yesterday, It is still filling my thoughts, part of me wanted a sequel, I seriously adored this story, and I will NOT stop recommending others to try.

The book is recommended for 12+

So yes, this is on my fav's shelf, whenever I'm in a book slump, or anything like that, this is a book I will go to

Thank you scholastic for sending me this copy,

And thank you for reading this review, I hope i had convinced you to stick this in your 2023 TBR

My Family Sized Pizza
Josie Montano
Independently published
9781494254261 $20.00 AUD

"Angela lives with her grandparents who run a restaurant, Fioruccis, rechristened Hoochies by the mega cool Rachael Blake and her wannabe groupies. How can Angela discover herself when she feels as if she's smothered in spaghetti sauce and drowning in olive oil? Add two scheming Italians with a grand matchmaking plan, Simon who wants to be more than friends, a controlling Nonna who won't let her wear jeans and Angela's sheer Italianicity- all getting in the way of her search for independence"

5 stars

I think this deserves a lot more talk-about.

First, I was hooked from start to finish, SERIOUSLY! Whenever i put it down, that was all i could think about, did Angela end up together with Simon, how does it end? What happens to Angela's Nonno & Nonna? So many questions, i was guessing the ending, not that many books have done that to me, and when i turned the last page, i was not ready to write the review, so a few hours later, the review was in progress, i adored all the characters. This is now one of my comfort reads, if i'm in a reading slump again, this is a book i would go back to

Would I recommend this?
I know I will!

Thank you Josie Montano for sending me the book! I adored everything in this book!

The untold tales of a sailor at sea
L.C. Tang
Xulon Press
9781632214270 $5.90 pbk

"I wanted freedom, open air, and adventure. I found it on the sea."
Alain Gerbault

The Untold Tales of a Sailor at Sea invites you to look behind cruise ship doors and join in one woman's adventures during her life at sea. Lincee Tang decides to celebrate her milestone thirtieth birthday with a vacation cruise which ignites her desire to sail away to many ports of call proudly wearing the uniform in the Entertainment Department.

Lincee's story of making memories at sea unveils the hidden truths and untold stories of the sailing crew who work hard to make passengers' ocean journeys enjoyable. Taking hold of her courage to lose sight of the shore, Lincee discovers hidden talents within, forges ahead with resilience in tough situations, and has her chance at romance and love.

Discover how removing inhibitions and fear of the unknown can lead to a whole world of possibilities and adventures. Finding growth in unexpected social, emotional and spiritual avenues leads one to explore how it is possible to reach new horizons.

"The Sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever."

4 stars

And I know what you are thinking, no 4 stars for me isn't bad, it's ok, I do recommend it, it's just don't know, but there a few could be spoilers in this review

Well, the officer, what happened, this is a good example of why it's incredibly dangerous for women to join the sea crew, or the army, the stuff in this book (rape, harassment) like that always happens, but I did like this book, and I think people should give it a try, who aren't triggered by sexual assault, or harassment, and I think rape? But anyways, the story, yes,

This was a powerful story, emotional, you feel rage, emotion when reading this

Thank you L.C. for the book!

A Daisy In The Field
Annie Chandler-Cummings
Shawline Publishing Group
9781922594525 $19.95 pbk

"Daisy was living her dream, literally. She had already established her garden centre, Daisy's Dream, and had a scholarship to study Horticulture at University. She had the support of her loving family, plus she had been in a steady relationship with Kyle Fielding for over 7 years. It wasn't 'if' they would marry, but 'when'.Why Kyle was working with the Australian Army Communications as part of his Honours Degree, he was seconded for a special operations mission overseas. After several months he was injured when the convoy in which he was travelling clipped a land mine. He received extensive damage to his legs and it was not known if he would ever walk again.

Kyle felt he had let Daisy down, and he didn't want to be a burden so told her he'd changed his mind and no longer wanted to be saddled with a home-body and a small town when he could have an international career. Daisy's mother and grandmother didn't want a third generation of women to suffer at the hands of war as both their husbands had been killed in active duty. They believed it was best for her to let Kyle go, especially as Daisy had begun her Uni degree and a dashing young professor was very keen to support her. Is love stronger than war, and will Daisy and Kyle finally have "Perfect' as their wedding song?"

5 stars!

this was a really good read, it is something i would re-read, loved the characters, i loved this book! it has romance, I'm guessing a little mystery, drama, maybe a little comedy, and i recommend this book! that's all i can think of to say that don't contain spoilers, so this is the end of the review

Thank you Shawline Publishing for the review copies!

Susan lee
9781867271840 $19.99 AUD

"The last person Hannah wants to see is her former best friend, Jacob. Until blackmail and a bucket list, along with two meddling mamas, push them together for a summer worthy of a K-drama...

Hannah Cho had the next year all planned out - the perfect summer with her boyfriend, Nate, and then a fun senior year with all of their friends. But then Nate does what everyone else in Hannah's life seems to do - he leaves her, claiming they have nothing in common. He and all her friends are newly obsessed with K-pop and K-dramas, and Hannah is not. After years of trying to embrace the American part and shunning the Korean side of her Korean American identity to fit in, Hannah finds that's exactly what now has her on the outs.

But someone who does know K-dramas - so well that he's actually starring in one - is Jacob Kim, Hannah's former best friend, whom she hasn't seen in years. He's desperate for a break from the fame and someone to trust, so a family trip back to San Diego might be just what he needs... that is, if he and Hannah can figure out what went wrong when they last parted and navigate the new feelings developing between them."

5 stars

I really loved this wonderful story, I am now convinced that Korean stories is something I should keep reading, The characters. the plot, the romance.. like this is a little tragedy, sweet, YA Romance, and I am so lucky to have received a ARC, There are two First-Person POV's following Jacob, and Hannah, I do think I maybe had my expectations a tad high, but I loved this incredible story, Susan Lee, thank you for sharing your writing with us!

I hope most of you will give this incredible story a try!

Sarah Book

Suanne Schafer's Bookshelf

The Blue Bar
Damyanti Biswas
Thomas & Mercer
9781662503917, $15.95

The Blue Bar is a gritty thriller set in Mumbai, complete with a serial killer preying on vulnerable women, real estate fraud, a corrupt police administration, and a dash of Bollywood.

Police investigator Arnav Singh Rajput is investigating three headless, handless, footless corpses discovered in a mangrove swamp set to become a real estate development. He was a young cop when his first love, Tara, disappeared years ago. With every female body discovered over the years, he's always afraid it will be her. His department is underfunded and lacks basic equipment to investigate such crimes, and his superiors are inclined to write off these murders.

As in You Beneath Your Skin, Biswas's intricate plots, lush authentic descriptions of Mumbai, its food, locales, and denizens, make for an enticing read. She uses multiple points of view and vibrant descriptions to bring her setting and her characters alive. ting, lush language, and gripping storytelling make this book a true delight. The book uses multiple points of view and is a fast-paced, fun read. I enjoyed Arnav's search for his lost true love. Biswas is also a champion of Indian women, and her female characters in both The Blue Bar and You Beneath Your Skin heighten readers' awareness of how women are treated in India. I enjoyed reading both very much.

The Things We Do to Our Friends
Heather Darwent
c/o Penguin Random House
9780593497166, $28.00

The Things We Do to Our Friends is a twisted story of toxic friendships, unlikeable characters, and an unreliable narrator filled with tons of teenaged angst.

Clare has started studying art history at a university in Scotland. A rather unsophisticated young woman, she decides to reinvent herself by becoming more calm, shouting less, not being so intrusive, improving her accent, etc. The book does an extraordinary job of showing Clare's insecurities. She knows enough to not rush into friendships but is drawn toward a group of rich golden people: Tabitha, Imogene, Ava, and Samuel. The three girls live together in a fancy flat while Clare shares a dumpy flat with girls she doesn't particularly like. Eventually "The Shiver" - as Clare calls the golden group - notices her and pulls her into their clutches. Tabitha is the sun around which the others rotate. The Shiver gets involved in Tabitha's "project," or le projet as she calls it in her poor French, which involves rather sinister activities in lieu of the party-hearty stuff college kids are known for.

Clare's story is revealed slowly in flashbacks interspersed with the workings of the project and these gradually unfolding details reveal Clare to be an unreliable narrator scarred with psychological baggage from her family and from events that happened in her early teens. Edinburgh is described well with atmospheric details of the various nooks and crannies of the old city versus the new.

Robert Lanza and Nancy Kress
The Story Plant
9781611883435, $21.99

Observer is a science-fiction novel based on ideas from scientist Robert Lanza (called one of the 100 Most Influential People by Time magazine) and co-written by Nancy Kress (a Hugo and Nebula Award winning author) and demonstrates an in-depth grasp of science and a penchant for speculative science fiction. The physics is understandable and illuminating. In short, the premise begins with aspects of the observer effect in quantum physics then makes the observer central, theorizing that the observer creates the universe, rather than the universe creating the individual.

The protagonist, Dr. Caroline (Caro) Soames-Watkins, is a neurosurgeon whose career is destroyed when she accuses her superior of sexual misconduct and becomes the target of a massive social media storm promulgated by misogynistic trolls. To salvage her career, she accepts a position with her great-uncle and moves to the Caribbean. Along with physicist George Weigert and tech entrepreneur Julian Dey, Samuel Watkins, himself a Nobel Prize-winning scientist, has developed technology that allows people with implanted brain stimulation devices to create new universes and to revisit them at any time they are hooked up to the machinery.

Because the subject matter is complex, a lot of explication is necessary, and these complex ideas are frequently repeated. Because of all the exposition, the dialog drags through extended lengthy paragraphs, much of which I skimmed. A subplot involves Caro's sister, who has a disabled and a non-disabled child, all of whom depend on Caro for financial support. In another subplot, Caro overcomes her distrust of men to embark on a romance. When her lover is killed, she insists on immediately being implanted with the device so she can establish a universe in which he still exists. There didn't seem to be enough depth in the relationship for Caro to make this kind of leap.

Overall, I found Observer fascinating and enjoyed the read and the challenges of the science. I'd call this "hard" sci-fi as opposed to the "kinder, gentler" sci-fi I've read recently (for example, Our Child of the Stars and Our Child of Two Worlds by Stephen Cox).

Anatomy: A Love Story
Dana Schwartz
Wednesday Books
c/o Macmillan
9781250774156, $18.99

Anatomy is set in Edinburgh in 1817. Hazel Sinnett is a young woman of seventeen who wants to be a surgeon. Unfortunately, as a member of the upper class, she is destined to marry to provide a rich man an heir, to be pretty, and idle away her life in luxury. She's known the man she's to be affianced to since they were babies but now his kisses leave her unmoved. To get into classes to learn anatomy, she disguises herself as a male. Eventually she is found out, but makes a deal with the professor: if she can pass the medical examination without the classes, the university will allow her to enroll. Without classes, though, Hazel needs more than books - she needs actual bodies to study. She makes another deal, this time with Jack Currer, who is so poor he steals bodies from graveyards and sells them to medical schools for extra income. A mystery arises when strange men stalk the graveyards, and people are disappearing from the streets.

Anatomy is a gothic mystery with resurrectionists, Victorian operating theaters with their stands of seats and the smell of blood and decay. Author Schwartz captures the environs of Edinburgh well and depicts anatomic studies accurately. As a physician, having dissected cadavers, I'm well aware of the stench of bodies in anatomy labs. I admire Hazel for having the gumption to dig up her own bodies to dissect. The ending was a bit predictable and weaker than the rest of the book, but I would read the second book in the duology.

This is a young adult book. There is a mild love story between Hazel, a strong female lead, and Jack, the resurrectionist. They share a few kisses including one as they sit on a coffin in a grave, waiting for the strange men to vanish. Otherwise, there's no obvious mention of sexual activity. With the gore, it is probably best read by older young adults.

Indian Horse
Richard Waganese
Milkweed Editions
9781571311306, $15.00

This beauty and horror of this book caught at my heartstrings. Told in first person by a northern Ojibway man, Saul Indian Horse, who has reached the absolute bottom. An alcoholic, his last binge nearly killed him and brought him to a residential treatment center. He must revisit his past before he can move forward. He recalls when he was abandoned by his parents and left for a grandmother to raise. When their home can no longer support them, she takes him away, but dies in the effort. He is then forced to a residential school. There, he discovers hockey, and the game opens a way for him to deal with life in the school.

Waganese's prose is breathtakingly spare, easy to read, yet each word is fraught with emotion and often with deep spirituality. I am not a sports fan by any means, but I was drawn into the game by the prose. I could clearly see the game and envision what Saul saw and how he was transformed by playing. Additionally, the lush descriptions of the land and the Ojibway connections with it are delightful. He neither over- nor underplays the horrors the children endured at the residential school but writes with unflinching candor of these evils. Despite the Bible's exhortations about love and mercy, the nuns and priests at the school are demons. Even after leaving the school, Saul endures outright racism and the internal conflicts caused by cultural alienation and displacement from his family and lifestyle.

This book should be required reading in the upper grades of high school, especially in light of the recent residential graves discovered in Canada and the migrant crisis at the southern border of the United States when children were torn from their parents. Indian Horse deals with difficult topics but handles them beautifully. It would be great in a critical race theory classroom. History is selective when written by the "winners," but all sides of an issue should be taught and the plights of the "losers" shouldn't be ignored. American and Canadian treatments of Native Americans is genocide, no less than what Hitler did to Jews and other "undesirable" races.

Valiant Ladies
Melissa Grey
Feiwel & Friends
c/o Macmillan
9781250622204, $18.99

Valiant Ladies is an entertaining read, breezy but not totally frivolous. Loosely based on genuine historical characters, Eustaquia "Kiki" de Sonza and Ana Lezama de Urinza attempt to be proper seventeenth-century young ladies. But by their spirited temperaments alone, they fail. When night falls, they venture into the seedy underworld of Potosí, Peru. Cross-dressed in men's clothing and carrying swords and muskets, they mete out much needed discipline to the law-breakers of Potosí - rich and poor alike - and protect women, particularly prostitutes. When Kiki's engagement to the Viceroy's son is announced at a fancy ball, her older brother - heir to the family fortune - is found hanging from a tree. His death looks like a suicide, but is it? The girls' investigation carries them from the most elite haciendas to the lowest brothels and danger to themselves and others.

The sapphic romance is fairly well written without being graphic, sweet yearnings of two young women for each other. They are best friends trying to deny their attraction to each other and their growing sapphic love. There is a nice chemistry between the two girls, and I enjoyed how they always had each other's backs. The vocabulary is rich and varied if a tad too contemporary at times. Beyond the romance, there is murder, familial interactions, a spritz of feminism, and lovely swashbuckling scenes worthy of Zorro. I would like a bit more back story, particularly what initially motivated Ana and Kiki to become vigilantes. This definitely reads as young adult, though a bit toward the older group. There are depictions of sword-fighting, torture, prostitution, and expletives some people might find objectionable.

Rooted and Winged: Poems
Luanne Castle
Finishing Line Press
9781646629626, $19.99

Like Luanne Castle's other volumes of poetry (Kin Types and Doll Gods), the poems of Rooted and Winged explore family, kinship, life, and death. A trail of images always ties the reader to the earth and nature. In this newest collection of poems, Castle also explores flight and falling and the Sonoran desert.

As the mother of an adopted child now seeking his birth mother, I was particularly struck by lines from "For an Adopted Child": One day you will see us together and understand/the warning you have heard your whole life/about the missing.

I am also coming to terms with the fact that my Black son may not have much interest in the history of his White family. I was particularly moved by the opening and closing lines of Castle's prose poem, "How to Create a Family Myth": My grandfather built a city with his tongue" and I plucked a heart from the clouds and tucked it safely inside/the brick house in the city where it keeps the city alive to this day.

These poems are rooted in the soil, the flora, and the fauna of the Sonoran desert, from saguaro cacti to hawks to bobcats. Castle is an expert at twining words into images that make the heart ache and the mind soar. This is truly an extraordinary collection of poetry.

Purple Deceiver (Buck Reilly Adventure Series Book 10)
John H. Cunningham
Greene Street, LLC
9798986920016, $15.99

Purple Deceiver is the tenth in John Cunningham's Buck Reilly Adventure Series. Despite that, the novel is easily read as a standalone as the author provides enough back story to keep the reader from being lost. After being down on his luck for a while, Buck has recently salvaged the Queen's Jewels from a wreck in Bahamian water. He didn't have the proper authority to salvage there, so he takes the treasure to different waters and "discovers" it there. Now, he's riding on that success and reclaimed his title of "King Buck," a world class archeologist. His subterfuge comes to light just as he and dozens of other treasure seekers start seeking an unknown treasure in Key West.

This is a quick read, a page-turner that keeps the reader entertained as it reveals the history of Key West and the men who built the city from nothing. Key West is well described and is a character in its own right in this novel. Buck has a character arc as he realizes he has endangered his ex-wife and his friends and his own greed has caused his dire circumstances. This is a good beach or airport read.

The Forgotten Bookshop in Paris
Daisy Wood
9780008525248, $16.99

The Forgotten Bookshop in Paris is a nicely-written historical fiction following two timelines, the present and Paris during World War II. In the present, Juliette and her husband, Kevin, have taken a trip to Paris, an event she is more invested in than he is. While there, it comes to light that he is having an affair with their neighbor down the street. Juliette decides to stay in Paris to think over her life. The pretext they give their friends is that she is doing some research on her family history, and indeed, her grandmother grew up in Paris. Using a painting that her grandmother kept in her home as a guide, Juliette searches every little square in Paris until she finds the one depicted in the image, and that discovery sets off unimaginable changes in her life.

In the 1940s timeline, Jacques has everything he needs to live a complete life: wife Matilde and his bookstore, Le page cachee. But the Nazis have taken over Paris. Jacques is instructed to remove certain illicit books from his store. Matilda, much more of an activist that Jacques, goes to the south of France to work with the Resistance. As Jacques witnesses more and more Nazi atrocities, he understands his wife's need to take action and becomes stronger than he thought he could be.

There is a nice balance of male and female points of view in the two timelines. Though the outcome is somewhat predictable, the main characters have nice character arcs and the minor characters are well-rounded.

Jane Austen, Time Traveler
Rachel Dacus
Independently published
9798356017049, $11.99

Author Rachel Dacus has authored a series of books tied together by time travelers who are committed to "fixing" errors in history and combating a group called the Optimalists who are equally committed to changing history to further their own agenda. Jane Austen, Time Traveler is the fourth in this series but can be read as a standalone.

In the future in 2087, George, a time traveler, notices a blip on the Golden Net, a futuristic version of the worldwide web, and traces it to Jane Austen, two centuries earlier, whose novel has been rejected by a top British publisher. This causes her acute distress plus the realization that, without the income from a book, she is doomed to a loveless marriage. George fears that the Optimalists are wiping out Jane Austen to quell the feminist movement at its onset. To combat her feelings of despair, he takes her to Pasadena, California in 2024, to show her the effect her works have had on readers. What he doesn't count on is the feistiness of Ms. Austen who not only manages to deal with the changes from her time to the present but falls in love with her number one fan, Will. She arranges her own HEA in a manner befitting an enlightened woman.

Jane Austen, Time Traveler is a fun read, especially Jane's reaction to all the changes as she shifts in time, such as cars, airplanes indoor plumbing, cell phones, and Uber. She'd consider all the changes magic, but "magic only exists to get wayward boy to eat their porridge."

Suanne Schafer, Reviewer

Susan Bethany's Bookshelf

Reverse Diabetes: 12 Week Challenge, updated and revised edition
Editorial Staff
Reader's Digest Trade Publishing
c/o Trusted Media Brand
9781621458517, $11.99, PB, 256pp

Synopsis: With the '12-week Eat, Move, Choose' plan as a reliable source of guidance and support, readers of this newly updated and revised edition of "Reverse Diabetes" from the editorial staff of the Reader's Digest will be well on their way to reversing insulin resistance, losing weight, using less medication, and feeling healthier and more energized.

Sifting through mountains of conflicting advice about managing diabetes from from friends, family, colleagues, and more, can often be overwhelming and confusing. "Reverse Diabetes" eliminates the need for guesswork and provides a streamlined, achievable path to better health.

This thoroughly 'user friendly' edition of the '12-week Eat, Move, Choose' plan is deftly broken down into concrete, manageable goals including: Walking at least five days a week; Inclusion of lean protein at every meal; Enjoying seven to eight hours of sleep a night; Making active choices.

The goals are supplemented by step-by-step plans, interactive quizzes, infographics, recipes, and other resources that help readers understand the hows and whys behind each recommendation.

With science-backed guidance that takes the most current diabetes research into account plus completely new recipes, meal plans, and other tools to make it a breeze to implement, this updated and revised volume offers an easy-to-follow 12-week challenge shown to lower blood sugar by 25 percent.

Roughly 40% of the book will be new, and includes new research, new recipes and meal plans, and new planner/tracker tools.

Critique: Informative illustrated and thoroughly 'user friendly' in commentary, organization and presentation, this newly revised and updated edition of "Reverse Diabetes: 12 Week Challenge" is unreservedly recommended to the attention of anyone having to deal with diabetes or who are classified by their doctor as pre-diabetic. Highly recommended as a core addition to professional, and community library Health/Medicine collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Reverse Diabetes: 12 Week Challenge" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99).

Held by the Land
Leigh Joseph
Wellfleet Press
c/o Quarto Publishing Group USA
100 Cummings Center, Suite 265D, Beverly, MA 01915
9781577152941, $24.99, HC, 192pp

Synopsis: Plants can be a great source of healing as well as nourishment, and the practice of growing and harvesting from trees, flowering herbs, and other plants is a powerful way to become more connected to the land. The Indigenous Peoples of North America have long traditions of using native plants as medicine as well as for food.

With the publication of "Held by the Land: A Guide to Indigenous Plants for Wellness ", Leigh Joseph shares some of these traditions and offers a guide to: Harvesting herbs and other plants and using them topically; North American plants that can treat common ailments, add nutrition to your diet, become part of your beauty regime, and more; Stories and traditions about native plants from the author's Squamish culture; Using plant knowledge to strengthen your connection to the land you live on.

Early chapters will introduce you to responsible ways to identify and harvest plants in your area and teach you how to grow a deeper connection with the land you live on through plants. In the plant profiles section, common plants are introduced with illustrations and information on their characteristics, range, how to grow and/or harvest them, and how to use them topically and as food. Special features offer recipes for food and beauty products along with stories and traditions around the plants.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, illustrated, organized and presented, "Held by the Land: A Guide to Indigenous Plants for Wellness" is an ideal and 'user friendly' guide to Indigenous plants, providing the reader with informative insight into the power of everyday plants for good health and medical applications. Also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99), "Held by the Land: A Guide to Indigenous Plants for Wellness" will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to community, college, and university library Health/Medicine collections in general, and Herbal Remedies studies lists in particular.

Editorial Note: Leigh Joseph ( is a member of the Squamish Nation and the founder of Sk wa?lwen Botanicals, an Indigenous business creating small-batch botanical skincare products based in British Columbia, Canada. Honoring traditional Squamish plant knowledge, they incorporate wild-harvested plants and organic, high-quality ingredients. Leigh is also an ethnobotanist, researcher, and community activist whose aim is to contribute to cultural knowledge renewal in connection to Indigenous plant foods and medicines.

Visionary Healing: Psychedelic Medicine and Shamanism
Alexander Shester, M.D.
Regent Press
9781587906367, $89.95, HC, 350pp

Synopsis: A psychedelic renaissance is taking place worldwide for those who wish to develop a more comprehensive awareness of themselves and the planet. The proper usage of entheogens can lift the veil from our consensus reality, allowing ordinary individuals to experience a broader field of awareness. These sacred medicines can provide access to expand insights and the possibility of lasting behavioral transformation previously available only to privileged mystics.

"Visionary Healing: Psychedelic Medicine and Shamanism" by medical doctor and psychiatrist Alexander Shester will familiarize and prepare the reader for psychonautical voyages by means of an introduction to several powerful psychedelic medicines, sometimes called hallucinogens or entheogens.

"Visionary Healing" is intended for both the novice and the more experienced seeker. It includes personal memoirs describing the sacred usage of psilocybin mushrooms, ayahuasca, iboga, San Pedro cactus, peyote, and DMT by the author for healing, revisioning of the natural world, and developing a relationship with the spirit domain. Additional sacred medicines and their use in different cultures throughout history are described.

The reader will also learn details about numerous mind-altering plants and chemicals, as well as the current use of shamanic methods toward an enhanced understanding of the sacred and safe use of various psychedelic medicines. A vision quest model with shamanic techniques and meditations is provided, which can be utilized with or without medicines. Examples of meditations are provided which could assist in orienting the reader to the transpersonal journey and honoring the natural world.

A discussion of current legal research and practice utilizing psilocybin, MDMA, ayahuasca, iboga, and ketamine for psychiatric treatment is included. In addition the possible dangers and misappropriation of entheogen use are explored. The emphasis of the material is on the process of deep journey work to expanded realms of consciousness; therefore, the current practice of microdosing psychedelics is not emphasized.

Later chapters comprising "Visionary Healing" include stories related to various mind-altering substances, including possible origins of Santa Claus, witches, and werewolves; as well as historical uses of DMT-containing snuffs, cannabis, khat, coca, tobacco, ecstasy, ketamine, and 2C-B. In addition, excerpts of an interview with Albert Hofmann, the discoverer of LSD, are provided.

"Visionary Healing" contains a large number of visionary color art images by the author and other artists, diagrams, and photographs to visually illustrate the described encounters with transpersonal entities. Also included some music suggestions to use during a journey experience.

Critique: Nicely illustrated, "Visionary Healing: Psychedelic Medicine and Shamanism" is a complete and comprehensive course of information and instruction with respect to consciousness alteration substances and their uses in medicine, religion, and psychology. "Visionary Healing" is organized into three main sections (Shamism and Plant Medicines; Psychedelica Medicines and Experiences; More Shamanic Lore - Other Sacred Medicines), and is informatively enhanced for the reader with the inclusion of four Appendices, and an eleven page Bibliography. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Visionary Healing: Psychedelic Medicine and Shamanism" is unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library Pharmacology, Shamanism, and Pain Management collections. It should be note that "Visionary Healing: Psychedelic Medicine and Shamanism" is also available in a paperback edition (9781587906343, $59.95).

Editorial Note: Alexander Shester is a medical doctor, board-certified psychiatrist and Jungian analyst. He has extensively lectured and led workshops on topics related to C.G. Jung, shamanism, initiation rites, and men's psychology. He is the past president of the San Diego Society of Jungian Analysts and a past member of the International Association of Analytical Psychologists. His current interests lie in the areas of the relationship of the human psyche to the natural world, ecopsychology and the preservation of a healthy planet, the roles of fungi and viruses, and the spiritual awareness at the center of the psyche.

Susan Bethany

Willis Buhle's Bookshelf

Night Letter
Sterling Watson
Akashic Books
232 Third Street, #A115, Brooklyn, NY 11215
9781636140636, $28.95, HC, 304pp

Synopsis: Eighteen-year-old Travis Hollister is always the stranger who comes to town.

As a twelve-year-old escaping a disordered and unhappy home and parents who loved hard but couldn't make it work, Travis left the Midwest to spend a summer with his grandparents in the Deep South. There he met Delia, the love of his life, who, tragically, was beyond his reach for two reasons -- she was his aunt and she was sixteen years old.

That summer made Travis guilty of crimes discovered and undiscovered. For his public wrongs, he did time, six years in a Nebraska reform school. For his undiscovered wrongs, he suffers mightily and wants desperately to be shriven. Can he achieve redemption or is he bound for the hell on earth he can imagine all too well?

Driven by his need to rejoin the human community, he becomes the stranger who arrives in Panama City, Florida, searching for Delia, the aunt who was the idol of his twelve-year-old passion. Who is she now? What have the years done to her? Will she welcome the return of Travis or fear it? What will she do about the return of the stranger she once held to her teenage heart.

Travis learns that other people can also be salvation. Amid a cast of characters struggling with their own needs, desires, tragedies, and, yes, crimes, Travis finds violence, hatred, vengeance, and, in greater measure, friendship, honor, loyalty, and at least a glimpse of the road to redemption.

Critique: A superbly crafted work of eloquent storytelling, "Night Letter" by novelist Sterling Watson will have a very special appeal to readers with an interest in the combination of crime fiction and coming-of-age fiction. The result is a memorable read from first page to last. While "Night Letter" is unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Contemporary Literary Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Night Letter" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99).

Editorial Note: Sterling Watson is the author of nine novels, including Deadly Sweet, Sweet Dream Baby, Fighting in the Shade, Suitcase City, and The Committee. Watson's short fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Prairie Schooner, the Georgia Review, the Los Angeles Times Book Review, the Michigan Quarterly Review, and the Southern Review. He was director of the creative writing program at Eckerd College for twenty years and now teaches at Lasell University in Newton, Massachusetts.

When the Night Bells Ring
Jo Kaplan
CamCat Books
9780744306118, $25.99, HC, 304pp

Synopsis: In a future ravaged by fire and drought, two climate refugees ride their motorcycles across the wasteland of the western US, and stumble upon an old silver mine. Descending into the cool darkness of the caved-in tunnels in desperate search of water, the two women find Lavinia Cain's diary, a settler in search of prosperity who brought her family to Nevada in the late 1860s.

But Lavinia and the settlers of the Western town discovered something monstrous that dwells in the depths of the mine, something that does not want greedy prospectors disturbing the earth. Whispers of curses and phantom figures haunt the diary, and now, over 150 years later, trapped and injured in the abandoned mine, the women discover they're not alone and have no easy way out because the monsters are still here -- and they're thirsty.

Critique: An impressively well crafted dystopian novel of horror and suspense, "When The Night Bells Ring" by author Jo Kaplan is one of those stories best read with the lights on. An original and inherently riveting story with more plot twists and turns than a Disneyland roller coaster, "When The Night Bells Ring" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to community library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "When The Night Bells Ring" is readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.49). Community librarians should be aware that "When The Night Bells Ring" also available in a large print paperback edition (9780744306156, $19.99, 448pp).

Editorial Note: Jo Kaplan ( is a Los Angeles based writer and professor. She is the author of the haunted house tale It Will Just Be Us and also writes under the name Joanna Parypinski. Her work has appeared in Fireside Quarterly, Black Static, Nightmare Magazine, Vastarien, Haunted Nights edited by Ellen Datlow and Lisa Morton, and Bram Stoker Award nominated anthology Miscreations: Gods, Monstrosities & Other Horrors. She currently teaches English and creative writing at Glendale Community College.

The Sons of Darkness
C. J. Sears
Evolved Publishing
9781622537792, $18.95, PB, 278pp

Synopsis: Agent Llewyn Finch must investigate former black-ops specialist Elias Cobb, a charismatic man known for his dabbling in the arcane arts. Under Cobb's tutelage, a paramilitary organization called the Sons of Darkness strives to create a new paradise on Earth, one obedient to his unified vision. Cobb seeks the mythical fruit of the Wellspring Tree, a medicinal wonder capable not only of curing any disease, but of enhancing various bodily functions to superhuman levels.

Llewyn races to find the fruit of the Wellspring Tree before Cobb and his minions do, but troubled waters guard the hallowed ground of the Whispering Isle.

Critique: The third volume in author C. J. Sears 'This Fallen World' series, "The Sons Of Darkness" is a deftly scripted novel that will have a very special appeal to readers with an interest in Occult Fiction and riveting suspense thriller stories. "The Sons Of Darkness" is original and compelling read that is particularly recommended for personal reading lists and community library collections. The first two titles in this outstanding series are "The Shadow Over Lone Oak" and "The Smiling Man Conspiracy".

Editorial Note: C.J. Sears ( earned a Bachelor's Degree in Creative Writing from Arkansas Tech University in 2013. His range of interests and hobbies include gaming, occasional poetry, swimming, and amateur photography.

Willis M. Buhle

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

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