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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 17, Number 1 January 2017 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Andrea's Bookshelf Andy's Bookshelf
Bethany's Bookshelf Buhle's Bookshelf Burroughs' Bookshelf
Carson's Bookshelf Clint's Bookshelf Duncan's Bookshelf
Gail's Bookshelf Julie's Bookshelf Kevin's Bookshelf
Logan's Bookshelf Margaret's Bookshelf Mari's Bookshelf
Mason's Bookshelf Molly's Bookshelf Paul's Bookshelf
Polk's Bookshelf Sloan's Bookshelf Susan's Bookshelf
Suzie's Bookshelf Teri's Bookshelf  

Reviewer's Choice

Star Strangled Banner
Dan O'Donnell
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781537039855 $7.99 pbk / $6.99 Kindle

A. G. Moore

When I respond well to a poet's work I try to understand why. In Dan O'Donnell's "Star Strangled Banner", I don't have to search long for a reason. His poetry resonates with a yearning that echoes in every heart that ever left home. His yearning is not merely for a home but for a past. And in this, his work is universal.

The Irish flavor of Mr. O'Donnell's work is inescapable. He is "Paddy", "born from the sod", working the sod and, finally, dying and being buried "under the sod". Mr. O'Donnell's poetry extends to subjects besides his Irish roots. There's age, and love, hard labor and the burden of corpulence. But it is his Irish-themed poetry that affects me most. Perhaps that's because my mother-in-law was from Roscommon and spoke often of the hard early years when she would cut peat to burn in the fire. The grand houses she passed on the way to school were remote from the reality of her life.

Mr. O'Donnell's last poem, "Ireland", is my favorite and it is a perfect ending piece. "Although I have nearly always been in mind is free to send me back," he begins." He writes, "Every day is long with the stranger." However, he continues, clear memory "of a far-off past eases my yearning and helps me to send in the day."

Though pleasing and well-crafted, his poetry falls short for me in only one respect. He strains at times to find a rhyme. The rhyme is not essential and gives an occasional poem a forced quality. However, this minor point does not detract from the overall quality of his work.

Take the time to read Dan O'Donnell's "A Star Strangled Banner". It would be a hard heart indeed that could not take pleasure in this poetry.

Claire-Louise Bennett
Riverhead Books
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399575891, $26.00 HC, $12.99 Kindle, 208pp

Dr. Ann Skea, Reviewer

"Because if you want to know I don't recall ever regarding anything I remember from my past as being particularly interesting or poignant, or even especially reliable actually.... real events don't make much difference to me...".

This, I think, just about sums up this book. I have to say from the start that critics in the press have given it, almost exclusively, rave reviews and I found only a few dissenters on Goodreads, but I have read the book twice now and I am at a loss to know what so impressed them.

The writer (the protagonist, not the author) has moved to a tiny, poorly equipped cottage in Ireland. She has abandoned a Ph.D thesis and has some random things to say about academics and speech-giving. She drops a few famous names (Sappho, Seneca, Roland Barthes, Nick Cave). And she is fond of long words and strange adjectives: her vegetables are "illustrious"; she "deracinates" the weeds in her garden; jam in small cartons is "vapid" and "stupid'; and her life develops in "kariotic shifts". One whole chapter, entitled "Morning, 1908" is for no apparent reason written in the antique style of that era. And two pages of another chapter are gibberish. Some might think, since the writer makes much of her Irish setting, that this gibberish is a nod to Molly Bloom's monologue in James Joyce's Ulysses, but it has none of Joyce's brilliance or skill.

To reach for another Irish analogy, the Irish critic Vivian Mercier famously described Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot as a play in which nothing happens twice. Pond is a book in which nothing happens again and again and again. The woman finds herself a small garden and muses on gardening, but nothing happens. She imagines giving a speech at the village Big Day, but nothing happens. She considers throwing a party, "a low-key soiree", and she describes it in detail, but it never happens. She believes, twice, that she is about to be raped and writes of it as if it is taking place, but nothing happens. And she spends a whole chapter inconsequentially pondering the thought that she has to be drunk to form even the briefest relationship with a man.

At times she is funny and occasionally, as in 'The Deepest Sea' chapter, she writes beautifully. But her wit, which some critics have praised, is fleeting, her indecisiveness and her constant digressions fill page after page and mostly the reader is subjected to the random wanderings of her indecisive mind.

So, if that appeals to you, and if you really want to know, for example, what to do with stale tomato puree (a two paragraph chapter) or that she has just thrown her stir-fry in the bin (a one sentence chapter), then this could be the book for you.

This woman, like Winnie in Beckett's Happy Days, is just filling in time with trivia and I have enough trivial thoughts of my own without being immersed in those of a stranger. As far as I can tell, there is no deeper meaning to the book.

Zalman Ber: The True Story of the Man the Nazis Could Not Kill
Sol Kotz, as told to Lisa Mishler
Publication Consultants
P. O. Box 221974, Anchorage, AK 99522-1974
9781594336706, $12.95, PB, 128 pp.,

Bonnye Matthews

Sol Kotz, known as Zalman Ber in the book, tells it like it was, as he and his wife, Luba, survived the Holocaust, becoming separated and rejoined time after time against incredible odds. He tells it without pretense, convincingly reliving each event, emotion checked. Kotz includes some atrocities that are difficult to read. It's a can't-put-down read with no escape until the end. It's not just words on paper. The endearing family photos included in the story are heart grabbing, personalizing their family members, causing grievous feeling to flow with the death of each. These are real people woven into a loving family - specific lives stamped out by Nazis for reasons that defy logic, born of insanity. The veracity of the story slaps the reader in the face - full force. It's a story of Jews who were liquidated outside the concentration camps, and how they fought back. Their liquidated number exceeded the number slaughtered in the camps. There are breath-holding moments, an example of which is Zalman Ber's singlehandedly wiring a bridge to explode as a train crosses it. This act proves his loyalty to the resistance (partisan) fighters as they watch from a distance. The explosion destroys 90 freight cars, 45 trucks filled with military supplies, and 60 German troops. Heady stuff for a young man in his early twenties. Zalman Ber joins the Russian military and continues to fight. Eventually, he and Luba come to the United States.

Although I've laid out a picture of seeming hopelessness, destruction, and despair, ZALMAN BER is primarily a love story of hope, courage, and resilience - inspirational for all times and places. Despite the takeover of Germany by a deranged dictator, people not only fought back - they prevailed. This memoir makes the plight of the Jewish people in the WWII era in Poland spring to life. ZALMAN BER is a classic true story of man against evil, paralleling The Diary of Anne Frank. The memoir is exceptionally well written. With no little excitement I very highly recommend ZALMAN BER: The True Story of the Man the Nazis Could Not Kill for synagogue, community, academic Judaic Studies, and World History collections. It should be made known to general readers. ZALMAN BER is also available as an e-book (9781594336713).

The Wizard's Dog
Eric Kahn Gale, author
Dave Phillips, illustrator
Crown Books for Young Readers
c/o Random House Children's Books
1745 Broadway, 10-1, New York, NY 10019
9780553537369, $16.99, HC, 288 pages,

Peggy Tibbetts, Reviewer

Nosewise is Merlin's devoted canine companion with a case of separation anxiety. Though he is the wizard's dog, it's the apprentice Morgana who introduces him to magic. Quite by accident they discover that contact with the Asteria stone gives Nosewise the ability to talk. He and Morgana are eager to learn what other special powers the stone will unlock. But magic lessons are abruptly halted when Oberon (Summer Court fae prince) and his soldiers set fire to the house and steal away with Merlin and Morgana. Nosewise barely escapes alive and with his separation anxiety such as it is, he has no choice but to hunt down his master and teacher in the Otherworld. Luckily he still has his magic stone around his neck. Along the way he meets up with young Arthur, a castle "poop boy," who finds the company of a talking dog much more fascinating than humans and joins him on his quest. Alas, it is sweet young Guinevere, daughter of tavern keeper Leodegrance, who shows them the way to the frozen reaches of Avalon where a boy and his dog must do battle with human minions, gluttonous magic-eating worms and the sorcery of Oberon in order to rescue the wizard and the apprentice. Gale's use of first person narrative for Nosewise endears readers to this clever, energetic wizard dog from the start. Action and adventure abound with enough dashes of humor and flashes of wizardry to keep readers turning the pages. "The Wizard's Dog" is a magical dog story.

Love Leads the Way
Claudia Pemberton
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781532006371, $13.99, PB, 234pp,

Claire Foster, Reviewer
Foreword Clarion Book Review

This novel captures the imagination and puts a face on America's military involvements overseas.

In Claudia Pemberton's new military thriller Love Leads the Way, newlyweds Mikayla and Jesse Daulton experience the pains of war, both on the home front and in the heat of action.

Jesse, a retired United States Army Ranger who works as a flight medic on a rescue helicopter, has had plenty of action in his life. He is excited to finally start a family with Mikayla, but a hotheaded decision puts their plans on hold. He returns to Afghanistan as a contractor in Operation Enduring Freedom, leaving Mikayla behind.

Pemberton, also the author of Love Leaves No One Behind, does a terrific job of exploring her subject: military families and the struggles they face, whether together or separated by duty. The novel's insights into the struggles and rewards of military life are spot-on, and its depiction of a married couple coping with a long, dangerous deployment is accurate, compassionate, and honest.

Details - from the much-coveted long-distance phone call to the ache of missing someone who's in a combat zone - add depth to the characters and raise the stakes on plot elements like a crazed stalker and a pregnancy.

When Cliff, a "friend" whose obsession with Mikayla turns dangerous, breaks a restraining order, he initiates a nightmare that there's no clear path out of. The knowledge that Mikayla's husband and protector won't be back for months only heightens the fear factor in the story.

The novel falls somewhere between a romance and a thriller, and the mash-up of genres may be confusing for readers expecting one or the other. Although love scenes are extended, detailed, and exciting, they're outrun by long, graphic depictions of rape and assault. The novel skews heavily toward violence and uses shock value to get pulses racing.

Jesse's day-to-day life in Afghanistan is carefully detailed, revealing what soldiers' experiences in the Middle East are really like in a humane and realistic way. Descriptions of heavy combat fire and injuries are hard-hitting and true to life. Afghani characters are also realistic, afforded a sense of depth and humanity that sets this novel apart from other thrillers.

Love Leads the Way makes global issues personal by focusing on characters' relationships and inner lives. Pemberton shows that combat isn't just a matter of war - it involves families, too. The novel puts a human face on America's struggle overseas, imparting important truths about real military life.

American Wild: Explorations from the Grand Canyon to the Arctic Ocean
Michael Engelhard
Hiraeth Press
P.O. Box 1442, Pawcatuck, CT 06379 - 1968
9780988943094, $17.95, PB, 215pp,

Nancy Lord, Reviewer
The Washington Post

Fairbanks writer Michael Engelhard has two "soulscapes" - the American Southwest and Alaska. His new small book honors both with a collection of essays recounting adventures and reflecting upon the importance of wild places. The book divides conveniently into two parts - the first nine essays under the subtitle "Southwest" and the final 15 under "North."

With a background in cultural anthropology and 25 years of a nomadic life that's largely involved wilderness guiding, Engelhard is uniquely qualified to take readers well beyond the usual varieties of travel and nature writing. "American Wild" is not a guidebook to adventure; nor is it a cliched rhapsody about spiritual growth among the rivers and mountains. Instead, each carefully wrought essay brings us a story from a life that's always moving, always questioning.

Sometimes a bumbler

Alternately serious and not so serious, Engelhard presents himself not as hero or even a reliable outdoors guide but as a humble student of the natural world and sometimes even as a bumbler, at one point freezing his tongue to his bike's padlock in the process of thawing it. His understated sense of humor is frequently on display.

In "Blacktop Cuisine" (about eating roadkill), the author discusses hunting and gathering from an evolutionary perspective, noting that, for early hominoids, "bone-picking proved to be more efficient than gathering ... yet less risky than hunting." The invention of stone tools facilitated dismemberment. "Speech and cooperation quickly followed, in turn giving birth to more-complex behaviors like big-game hunting and presidential campaigning."

In "Marooned," about a Southeast Alaska kayaking trip, the author encounters a mountain goat at sea level. "I would trade with this bearded recluse in an instant. I'd travel unburdened by gear. I'd grow hairy and hunch-backed and rank, sniffing mates and competitors. I'd become agile enough to dodge grizzlies and wolves, fearless enough to bed down on vertiginous ledges, and smart enough to avoid our kind."

Engelhard takes us on a Denali climb, where "our bodies shrank into nothing but focused breathing, our minds into tight fists." He takes us on a rescue mission for an injured raven. He journeys through the Arctic, on foot and by canoe, beset by clouds of mosquitoes. "Without them, and without winter's dark moods, Alaska would be as crowded as Colorado or Wyoming, playgrounds for the newly rich and the eternally bored." He leads Outward Bound students kayaking in Kenai Fjords National Park, where he feels the kayak as an extension of his body and pays homage to the original Alutiiq kayakers of the region and their great skills in boat building and traveling through treacherous waters.

In perhaps the most self-effacing and humorous essay, "Mating Dance Under the Midnight Sun," Engelhard admits to being profiled in Alaska Men magazine, part of his search for a companionable mate. "Letters and pictures of women in various poses and stages of life lay scattered all over my 14-by-14-foot plywood palace without running water." ("Rustic minimalist" is how he identified himself in the magazine.) The eventual "fortunate candidate" won the right to accompany him on an Arctic kayaking trip on which (not to give too much away) he forgot to take a cooking pot and then left both paddles where they floated, forever, away.

Joined by live raptors

Another humor-filled essay, "Notes from the Road to Bestsellerdom," recounts the Anchorage-area book tour he put together as editor of a collection of northern wildlife stories (not named in the essay but readers may recall the anthology Engelhard edited, "Wild Moments: Adventures with Animals of the North").

The Sea is Quiet Tonight: A Memoir
Michael H. Ward
Querelle Press
PO Box 2808 Broadway #4, NY, NY 10025
9780996710336, $19.99, PB, 189 pages,

Liz Gray

Ward's poignant memoir is hard to put down. He tells the story of his partner Mark--their meeting in the early 1980s on Fire Island, their burgeoning romance, and Mark's AIDS diagnosis--with candor, kindness, and humor. In addition to being a riveting personal story, the memoir offers an inside look into the early years of the AIDS epidemic in Boston, which has never received as much air time as bigger cities like San Francisco and New York.

The Sea is Quiet Tonight opens with a scene that presages the honest emotional tenor of the entire book. It is the fall of 1983, and Ward is calling Mark's parents in New York to let them know of their son's diagnosis of Pneumocystis, the devastating pneumonia that was often the final illness for those whose immune systems had already been severely compromised by the disease. This moment is a reckoning for Ward, as it is the moment in which he publicly acknowledges the severity of Mark's situation, the moment after which AIDS becomes a third party in their relationship.

Ward chronicles the arc of his and Mark's life together with great detail, believable dialogue, and insight. Like most relationships, theirs is far from perfect - as Ward does, one wonders if it would have lasted had Mark survived - but its idiosyncrasies are what make it unique and compelling. The reader's interest never flags, even though the outcome is clear from the outset. Ward shows us right away that he is an excellent and reliable storyteller on whose journey we want to travel, and the trip on which he takes us is unforgettable.

Through the Hostage
J C Steel
4900 LaCross Road, North Charleston, SC 29406
9781508781813, $12.99 PB, $2.51 Kindle, 338pp,

Jennifer for Knockin' Books

4.5 stars

I have a confession to make. I'm not a sci-fi fan. There, I've said it. Now, don't get me wrong. I love sci-fi movies. Serenity is a particular favorite of mine. But in my books? I like to stick to my nice, comfy little reading rut, which just happens to be romance and the occasional zombie apocalypse book. But I've been thinking lately that it's time expand my horizons. And because this book has a great-looking cover that was obviously professionally designed and a short but highly impactful blurb, I thought this was most definitely a good opportunity to branch out into the world of sci-fi novels. The result? Well, I can't say that I'll give every sci-fi book I come across a chance going forward, but I'm certainly glad I read this one.

This is one of those reads you probably shouldn't take on if you have a heart condition, because it's definitely an edge-of-your-seat story that keeps you biting your nails as you fret about what horrors await the heroine from one page to the next. And speaking of the heroine...Khyria kicks ass! She's quick-thinking and determined, and I actually found her to be relatable, which I didn't expect from a sci-fi heroine.

As for the mechanics of the story, this is a sophisticated read with complex, intricate world-building, well-fleshed-out characters and smooth, clever dialogue. The book is free of annoying typos and grammatical errors and the story is tight enough to suggest it's been professionally edited (which I totally appreciate).

All in all, this is a story even a non-sci-fi fan like me can enjoy, so I can only imagine how happy actual sci-fi readers would feel about this one!

Full disclosure: a free copy of the book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Three Years in Afghanistan: An American Family's Story of Faith, Endurance, and Love
Matthew Collins
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781533389428, $11.99 PR, $4.99 Kindle, 316pp,

Dr. Rick Donlon, Reviewer
Co-founder and CEO, Resurrection Health

Anyone who earnestly seeks to imitate God by sacrificially loving others will eventually arrive at the crossroads of faith and fear. Through masterful storytelling, Matthew Collins discloses his struggle to fully trust God with his wife and children in post-Taliban Afghanistan. Many of my Memphis coworkers and I had the good fortune of working with Matthew and his team, seeing firsthand how they struggled to acquire language and cultural skills as a foundation for their wide-ranging humanitarian service to the Afghan people. There was plenty to be afraid of, including kidnapping threats, spontaneous anti-Western riots, and pitched street battles between rival warlords. Over the years, more than a few committed Western aid workers violently lost their lives.

Three Years in Afghanistan is the story of imperfect men and women who repeatedly opted for faith rather than fear, perseverance rather than retreat. By holding fast to their conviction that God had led them to Afghanistan, Matthew and his team provided food to starving villages, cured thousands of patients (mostly women and children) with tuberculosis, and provided job skills and computer training in one of the remotest corners of the country. All the while they sought to love Afghans and understand the wild idiosyncrasies of Afghan culture. Anyone who has ever dreamed of living a God-glorifying, world-defying, risk-taking life will enjoy learning from Matthew Collins.

Life, Sex, and Death: A Poetry Collection (Vol 1)
David Ellis
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781523676675, $9.00 PB, $0.99 Kindle, 198pp,

Colleen Chesebro, Reviewer

In the words of the Author:

A collection of poetry spanning a variety of themes, with the dominant ones being Love & Romance, Inspiration and Philosophical musings.

Life, Sex & Death represents David's first full-length collection of emotional contemporary poetry that celebrates time-honored themes and finds new and interesting ways to present them.

His work is uplifting, sensual and at times tries to connect on some base instinct level with the reader.

His style is distinctly his own yet in these pieces David evokes and echoes the playful spirit of his poetic heroes such as Emily Dickinson, Edgar Allan Poe, Leonard Cohen, Cecil Day-Lewis and modern musical contemporaries such as Nick Cave, The Kills, Chris Cornell, Katy Perry and even Weird Al Yankovic (yes, really!) to name but a few all feed the elective vision and vibes of his work.

He aims for Life, Sex & Death to be a trilogy and a triumph for modern poetry, accessible to a large number of age groups and one worthy of taking pride of place on any bookshelf.

Find your favourite poem today, be it filled with seriousness or off-beat humour."

My Recommendation:

This collection of poems is one man's written philosophical journey through life. The book is divided into three sections - Love/Romance, Philosophical, and Inspirational. I could not help wondering if this was the way the author's own life meandered on a path to wisdom and understanding. Each poem contained a story that seemed to capture a life moment and hold it in suspension as if waiting for us to read and share in the experience for the first time.

Life lessons abound in this collection of prose filled with poetic visions and worldly advice. One of my favorite poems was called, "Pride can be a Sword." The words extol a virtue of forgiveness and confidence in your own life path. Most meaningful to me were these words, "...The lives touched now have purpose - face your fears..."

This is just one example of how David Ellis' words reach out and grab you. His writing is down to earth and sometimes raw, exposing some welcome philosophical meanderings of my own.

Another favorite was called, "Modern Ragnarok." For whatever reason this poem spoke and awakened something in the deep dark recesses of my mind. David Ellis writes:

"...Only the strongest tales survive / Built from foundations of flesh and bone / Azure oceans froth and writhe / Crashing wildly into the unknown / Bestowing a name to our pain / Ancient myths and prophecies / Retreating off this terrain / Fighting against past mistakes..."

Poetry and prose have a way of speaking to your heart and this is certainly the case with this collection. Sound and inflection are used to show a change in mood and to bring emphasis to meaning. It is the sound of the words, the alliteration, that always draws me in.

Of particular interest to me was the author's love of acrostic poetry. This is where the first, last or other letters in a stanza spell out a particular word or phrase. David Ellis has created his own form which he lovingly calls his, "Acrostalyptica style," which is evident in many of his works.

They say writing poetry frees your mind, and as a poet, you possess the creative ability to share your world reflections in a different light. This is what David Ellis' style does. It leads the reader along as if telling a tale when in reality it is asking you to embrace your own experiences right along beside him.

The poetry of David Ellis is filled with empathy and compassion, wisdom and experience, all conspiring with your own emotions to bring you an insight you never had before. However, I also drew comfort, knowing David Ellis' words shared in the joy and despair of life that we all experience. At times, I wondered if he read my mind.

I read these poems in a series of weeks, a few each night. The words are written to ponder and enjoy. Take your time and wander through life with David Ellis. I enjoyed the ride!

The author provided me with a copy of the book in return for an unbiased review.

Reach: A Twin-Bred Novel
Karen A. Wyle
Create Space
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781484889886, $11.99, PB, 300pp
B00CWH5SPG, $2.99, Kindle,

Gordon Roger Lawrence

I don't often post book reviews, simply because if I have time to read then I would rather be writing than ploughing through long tedious and often rambling dissections of a book I've never heard of. However, after reading Twin Bred by Karen A Wyle I felt compelled to read the second in the series.

Reach takes over from where Karen Whyle's previous novel "Twin Bred left" off and although the two need not be read in sequence, the world(s) create by Karen are far too intricate to let go.

Following a long running and intrigue-filled experiment, the Twin Bred, outcast offspring of the Human/Tofar breeding program, finally leave the planet Tofarn. Their destination is another world where they hope to be happy, or at least discover some peace. Awaiting them on this new planet are yet another race of people. Will they be friendly? Amid the ensuing discoveries none of the problems on the world they left behind are forgotten, and all endow a richness to the plot. The pace accelerates but not so fast as to leave the reader bewildered and, like the first novel, full of intrigue and alternate avenues of thought.

This is in a different league from most SF adventures. Intelligently written, the pace never slackens. To say much more would be to spoil it for any would-be readers. All I can say is delve in yourselves. You won't be sorry.

Karen A. Wyle
Create Space
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781493775989, $12.99, PB, 350pp
ASIN B00G82BBQQ, $2.99, Kindle,

Charlie Kravetz

Can two individuals, joined together before birth, be two separate individuals?

Conjoined twins, raised as individuals, yet never being apart. Johnny would like to live a separate life now that it is possible. Gordon, on the other hand, believes him and Johnny can and will live together forever.

The author took the time to weave a delicate and sensitive story into a great novel. It is so much more than the idea that cloning could be acceptable at some time. It is much more than science fiction. It is the story of love and relationships between brothers. It is the story of the delicate threads that bind us together at times. It is also the story of fear and loathing that sometimes sneaks in to our relationships.

The author writes a very serious story with this book. She also writes a story of the love between brothers, and the battles that sometimes take place. This is a work of fiction, but who can say that it will not be a work of fact some day?

I have enjoyed every one of Karen A. Wyle's books that I have read. She writes with authority about subjects that are near to her own heart. I would recommend this book to adults and teens alike.

Disclosure: I was given my copy of this book by the author as a review copy.

Wander Home
Karen A. Wyle
Create Space
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781481167093, $10.99, PB, 276pp
B009J6SK8U, $2.99, Kindle,

Jill Elizabeth Franclemont, Reviewer
All Things Jill-Elizabeth

Oh do I have a treat for you today! Today I am proud to bring you the latest from author Karen A. Wyle - and you're going to LOVE IT.

I first met Karen almost a year ago, through Book Blogs. She was looking for reviewers for her sci-fi novel Twin-Bred (review available here), I responded with interest, and then after reading the book, responded with even more interest. Karen knows how to tell a great and original story, and I can say with absolute conviction that I will read any- and everything she writes from here on out...

Her latest, Wander Home, is not only a lovely tale about the after-life and after-world, but also a lovely vision of what I hope that life/world looks like. The book came to me at a particularly auspicious time - a wonderful, kind, generous man, one whose children I have babysat and who I've also had the privilege to toss back a beer or two with over the years, passed away recently (we miss you Marty S, and always will). Reading a book about untimely death and its aftermath was a little bittersweet, to say the least. But hopefully Karen Wyle knows something the rest of us don't, because reading her imagining of what happens after we pass made things a little more poignant and left me a little more hopeful.

Let me explain.

To begin my explanation, I'm going to give you the synopsis of the book. First, because it's easier and more concise than my retelling it, and second because I want to focus this review on my reactions and the writing, rather than on a recitation of the plot. From Karen:

Death is what you make it. . . .

Eleanor never wanted to leave the daughter she loved so much. The overpowering urge to wander - to search, without knowing what she sought - drove her away. She left little Cassidy in her family's loving care. But Cassidy and the others died in an accident before Eleanor could find her way home.

Cassidy has her grandparents, and her Great-Grandma. And all of them have what may be eternity. Memories can be relived, or shared. The wonders of the world they left behind are only a thought away. The one-way tyranny of aging is no more - a white-haired and stooped great-grandmother one moment can be a laughing young playmate the next. But nothing can ease Cassidy's longing for her mother; and Eleanor's parents know better than to hope that Eleanor's life has been a happy one.

Now, they are all reunited, with the chance to understand and heal. But the restlessness that shaped Eleanor's life still haunts her in death. Somehow, she must solve the mystery of her life - or none of them will be at peace.

There's a lot in that summary, so read it again. I'll wait.

Okay, now that you've read it twice, think past what it says a little. This is the story of an after-life in which we are whatever age we want to be, surrounded by whatever people we want around us. It is a story about how death, even untimely death, doesn't have to be the end of everything. It is a story about the consequences of the choices we make, and the difficulty even we can have in understanding - and living with - the reach of those consequences. Wyle's isn't the first vision of the afterlife that addresses these concepts (Richard Matheson's What Dreams May Come springs to mind), but it is one of the loveliest.

Eleanor's life is tragic and heart-breaking; not only for the things she lost, but for the things she spent so long trying to find. There is a nice twist hidden in the layers of family drama, redemption, and the quest for understanding, and it's handled deftly and with a unique spin that keeps it from feeling in any respect derivative, even if it's not a brand-new construct. (Sorry that is so obtuse, but I don't want to give spoilers!) Wyle has a lovely way with language, weaving characters and setting together into a seamless tapestry of an after-life that I personally hope bears more than a passing resemblance to what's really out there.

I started the book in the morning, on a sick day. I read through until it was finished, that evening. Even with my cold medicine-addled brain and eyes I could barely keep open, I couldn't put it down. Don't miss this one. It's a beautiful story, well-written and smoothly paced with characters you can't help but fall in love with (especially Cassidy and Great Grandma Amanda). Thanks for another great novel Karen - I can't wait for the next one!

Nazi Saboteurs on the Bayou
Steven Burgauer
Battleground Press
9780692808122, $14.95, PB, 324pp,

Dr. Wesley Britton, Reviewer

Don't let the rather misleading title of Steven Burgauer's new World War II novel fool you. Yes, there's a ring of Nazi spies plotting to blow up a boat building factory in New Orleans. But the scope of the book reaches far beyond Louisiana and involves many more characters and situations than the small band of unlucky German agents.

The various settings indeed center on New Orleans where Andrew Jackson Higgins, an actual historical figure who in reality did what is described in the novel, is building landing craft for the allies, especially boats that can travel in shallow water, land safely on shores and beaches, and return to the water by a simple change to the propellers. But we also spend much time in New Orleans bordellos and meet mixed-blood prostitutes, some keenly interested in Haitian voodoo with helpful connections for the U.S. government. These connections include Sicilian mob families who provide helpful intelligence on the German and Italian defenses of Sicily where an allied invasion is planned using the Higgins boats.

We also spend considerable time with Navajo code-talkers before we spend even more time in bloody South Pacific island hopping by U.S. forces. We go to London and visit British intelligence where one Commander Ian Fleming makes several appearances. Burgauer throws in scenes in Cuba, an amphibious invasion by a U.S. squad in Tunisia, as well as a number of U.S. locations described in many a soldier's backstory.

In short, a lot of moving parts keep this story going with so much rich detail providing every page with verisimilitude, notably in the settings and multi-cultural panorama of the mixed-blood women, soldiers and officers, Mafia bosses and henchmen, and the Navajo code-talkers. Considerable research is demonstrated from street slang to military technology which, admittedly, often slows the flow in order to get in historical descriptions from World War I battles to engineering specs for Higgin's boats. Sometimes, these bits are a tad repetitious, as when Burgauer makes sure all readers know what the acronym, SNAFU, stands for.

While the title isn't the best choice for what this book includes and some passages can easily be skimmed, Nazi Saboteurs on the Bayou is for World War II buffs, those who like historical fiction in general, fans of New Orleans legends and lore, and readers who like espionage yarns spun out with an epic sweep. In other words, it's a book for a wide variety of readers.

Note: Reviewer Dr. Wesley Britton: Dr. Britton is the author of four books on espionage in literature and the media. Starting in fall 2015, his new four-book science fiction series, The Beta-Earth Chronicles, will debut via BearManor Media. For seven years, he was co-host of online radio's Dave White Presents where he contributed interviews with a host of entertainment insiders. Dr. Britton teaches English at Harrisburg Area Community College.

Bitter Honey
Nicolas D. Charles
A.N. Charles Enterprises
PO Box 1187, Hayward, WI 54843
9780692764732, $14.95, PB, 202pp,

Sybil Rockwell, Reviewer
Wisconsin Mensa Publication

Nick Charles' new book, Bitter Honey, starts with Nick Verriet at the beginning of his career as a Chicago PI. The story is set in the mid-1920s, during Prohibition. Gangs control the drugs, alcohol and numbers rackets with a firm hand, although there is plenty of infighting between the factions. The story starts when a beautiful young woman asks Nick to retrieve a bag that Boots, a powerful mob boss, has reported stolen. Nick agrees to take the job, and the case immediately becomes more complicated when he discovers his old friend, Joe, is implicated in the theft. Nick and Joe grew up together and were best friends until Nick went to fight in WWI. After Nick returned from overseas wounded and addicted to morphine he discovered Joe had married Teri, the love of Nick's life. Although the three had not talked in years, Joe pleads for Nick's help to keep Boots from killing him. Nick agrees to Joe's request, but when he arrives at their chosen meeting place, Nick discovers a dead body and the police soon target Nick as the murderer. The plot has many twists and turns, including a couple of perilous trips up north to Wisconsin. Eventually, Nick must extricate himself from the middle of a mob war, clear himself of two murders, and win back Teri's love. One of the things I enjoyed about this book is the street language, with all its idioms, slang and curses. Charles builds a picture of the language, culture and mores of that era. The story has action, believable characters, and enough plot twists that kept me up past bedtime. Mainly, the book explains how Nick Verriet becomes the carefree roue of later years as featured in the author's other series' books.

The Fountain of Youth Is Just A Breath Away: Breathing Exercises for Relaxation, Health and Vitality
Molly Larkin
Four Winds Press
P.O. Box 176, Douglas, MI 49406
9780692518069 $5.99 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 77 pages,

Grady Harp

California author Molly Larkin, born in Brooklyn, has been a spiritual seeker and student of human potential since the age of seven, when her teacher said human beings only use 10% of their brain capacity! She made a mark studying with Native American and indigenous elders from around the world, and was an apprentice to Muskogee-Creek healer/teacher, Marcellus "Bear Heart" Williams, co-authoring "The Wind Is My Mother; the Life and Teachings of A Native America Shaman" with Bear Heart. In addition to getting in touch with her own mind and spirit she works as a healing practitioner and spiritual counselor with an international clientele to restore balance to body, mind and spirit. Not content to share her teachings with humans alone, Molly also works with pets and horses, helping them achieve emotional, spiritual and physical balance.

In this involving book Molly addresses breathing and how we can increase our energy and heal our body more quickly by learning to breathe correctly and incorporating breathing exercises into our daily routine. She divides her message into the following sections: Spiritual Aspects Of The Breath, A Few Breath Facts, What Is Correct Breathing? The Science, Or, As I Like To Call It, Motivation!, Anatomy Lesson, Chanting, Toning And The Breath, and What Your Doctor May Not Know.

As a sample of her writing style, in the first chapter Molly writes, 'Many ancient cultures teach that life begins with the first inhale and ends with the last exhale. This is a profound truth, and yet we give very little thought to the breaths we take in between. Why is that? Perhaps because we tend to take for granted all that is sacred around us. Our breath is, indeed, sacred. It can extend our lives, as well as the quality of our lives. It can calm us, focus our minds and bring life-giving oxygen into our body. So, for a balanced, healthy life, it's time to start paying attention to it.'

There is so much to gain by reading Molly's book - and to think it all starts with simply learning the art of breathing.

Highly Recommended.

PJ Colando
Pattis Press
9781631920899, $16.00 PB, $3.99 Kindle, 354pp

Coleen Chesboro, Reviewer
Genre: contemporary book club fiction
Recommendation: 4.5 stars:

Stashes was one of the funniest and most enjoyable books in this genre I have read in a long time. Maybe it had to do with the language (I am from Wisconsin, the book takes place in Michigan) or maybe it had to do with the stage of life I find myself at but I felt a strong connection. I enjoyed the loveable characters of Jackie and Steve and felt right at home with their dialog and their thoughts. There were times that I silently howled with laughter at the situations all of these characters ended up in. The best part was that every challenge was believable and realistic in our world today!

I also enjoyed the approach that PJ Colando took in the story telling. She used two protagonists so you got both points of view, that from Jackie telling her side of the story, and Amy elaborating her's. This made the story richer by sharing the generational ideals of the two women. You can only imagine the fireworks between these two.

The character of the daughter-in-law, Amy was fascinating to me. You had to love her determination and grit, even though she always seemed to make disastrous decisions. In fact, I liked that Amy mirrored many of Jackie's attitudes. The fact that the women didn't recognize that about each other added to the absurdity of their lives and decisions. P J Colando describes her book as a "fictional farce," and I couldn't agree with her more.

Humor aside, this book deals with the realities of life in the heartland of America and how people are dealing with life in a downsized economy. The issues of medical marijuana are humorously discussed without demeaning the positive qualities of such a program, or demeaning the laws in place to protect the rights of all citizens.

What I loved most about the book was the moral tug of war Jackie had with herself while trying to honor her values as a friend, wife, and mother. Many of these lessons were interwoven with humor and faith, a joyful combination. Stashes will help you realize that staying true to your beliefs and values is not always an easy thing and sometimes you have to be creative to survive!

Hashes & Bashes
PJ Colando
Pattis Press
9780692758977, $16.00 PB, $3.99 Kindle, 328pp

Kate Farrell, Reviewer
Genre: contemporary book club fiction
Recommendation: 4 stars

With an insider's glimpse of life on a Midwestern dairy farm, and the solid, loyal people who live in its small town community, "Hashes & Bashes" entertains us with daily life amid high drama. It's a humorous contrast between the simple and complicated, the ins and outs of a farm family who have surprising secrets and make this novel intriguing.

PJ Colando's work is authentic, passionate, and witty. But underneath the turmoil of conflict and betrayal, I sense a deep love of the land between each line in the book. Over and over the farm is saved, the land kept pure, a way of life preserved. The abiding goodness of a most traditional way of life is held sacred, no more so than around the dinner table with Jackie at its head. Jackie is the quintessential farm wife, ever ready to resolve all issues with good food, even with an extra dash. While all the chaos ensues around her, Jackie can dish it up. And so can PJ Colando!

Blood and Ash
Manuel Perez
Privately Published
9780997507201, $12.99 PB, $6.99 Kindle, 286pp,

Pallas Gates McCorquodale, Reviewer
Clarion Foreward Reviews

Themes of insecurity, regret, and redemption stand against the backdrop of high school and college life and will resonate with a younger crowd.

From the dorms of Cambridge to the pyramids of Egypt, the banks of the Seine, and the glitter and glitz of the Vegas strip, Manuel Perez's Blood and Ash, a modern-day fantasy with ancient roots, follows the misadventures and transformation of one unlikely champion in the ever-evolving and escalating battle between the forces of good and evil.

Ash Drake is a socially awkward MIT senior by day and an online elven mage by night, screen name "Rath10n." He slogs through life with little effort or enthusiasm. But the arrival of a mysterious package and a magical mentor and the induction into an alternate reality quickly and irrevocably change the course of his life forever. Ash must learn to control the rush of power from his newfound magic before it leads him down the slippery slope of corruption and instant gratification.

Blood and Ash introduces a cadre of compelling characters, from geeky Ash to the tragically beautiful Sarah Blake, a.k.a. Miss Murder. Flashbacks are rampant, although backstory details are feast or famine. Some profiles reach back into defining childhood moments, as they do with the lovable misfit and trouble magnet Fat Jack and his red-haired sidekick, Bruce. Others' stories are notably absent, as with "the Wizard," an Obi-Wan-like master to Ash's Padawan/initiate who doesn't even warrant a real name. The abundance of information surrounding otherwise minor characters gives the impression of a setup for more to come in Ash's world, although the story itself is complete as a stand-alone.

The classic good versus evil motif gets a bit murky as Ash, Sarah, and Jack all struggle to control their powers as descendants - legend has it, either "Blessed" by angels or "Touched" by demons. The Blessed, or good side, are ostensibly tasked with protecting the world from the "relentless and ever-present darkness," but they do not always behave admirably, and the "evil" side produces some heroes, adding layers and dimensions to the diverse personalities, but also some confusion as to what great evil is actually being fought. This complexity allows for some sympathetic villains and disappointing saviors, which adds to the richness of the cast and allows for some surprising plot twists and action sequences.

Themes of insecurity, regret, and redemption stand against the backdrop of high school and college life and will resonate with a younger crowd. Teenagers and young adults in particular will appreciate the temptation of using magic and precognition to ace chemistry tests, win at blackjack, and, naturally, attract the attention of love interests. With an equal balance of action and character growth, Manuel Perez's Blood and Ash has fresh appeal in the world of fantasy realism with, hopefully, more to come.

The Lesbian Lyre: Reclaiming Sappho for the 21st Century
Jerrey M. Duban
Clairview Books Ltd.
9781905570799, $37.50 HC, $10.99 Kindle, 832pp,

Thomas L. Cooksey

This is essentially two books: the first includes translations of Sappho other Greek lyric poets -- including Alcman, Anacreon, Archilochus, and Ibycus -- presented with encyclopedic discussions of their cultural and formal contexts.

The second is an extended critique of Greekless "poet-translators", for instance, a long polemic against many modern versions of Homer.

Unifying them is the problem of capturing the "tenor" of the original, the flavor of its "structural and dictional formality." Duban, a practicing lawyer, holds a PhD in classics (Johns Hopkins) and was a poetry editor for the journal Classical Outlook.

Underlying his thesis is what he takes to be the negative influence of the modernists, exemplified by Ezra Pound and others.

For Duban, an inadequate command of classical languages and philology, coupled with an imperative to be relevant to modern sensibilities, has distorted if not lost the purpose of the original poets.

Verdict -- Rich and gracefully written, this work is by turns insightful, provocative, and grumpy, good in its parts but diffuse as a whole. Accessible to the general reader, though most interesting to those concerned with questions of translation.

A Slice of History: Musing on Religion
Frans Koning
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Road suite 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781478760061, $14.95 PB, $9.99 Kindle, 197pp,

Gary Gustafson

Most Americans know World War II from secondary sources like books, documentaries, etc. or from people they know who were alive at that time. "A Slice of History: Musing on Religion" by Frans Koning is a delicious primary source on how a young man experienced the war in the Netherlands. The dominant theme coming so often from the US public on "How we saved Western Europe" misses the complexities involved for the Dutch and all other liberal minded youth in this part of Europe who lived through this period.

The book is written in the style of letters written to friends, or even a thoughtful diary, is a refreshing reading experience. Koning shares his religious and political thoughts and feelings as he tries to create meaning in the midst of the forces of the war around him. The author's colorful descriptions of a few of his medical practice experiences at home and in West Africa will certainly raise the reader's curiosity. His ancestors trace back to the Reformation, as he reflects on his own struggles to understand the Christianity he encountered from parents, country, and Americans when he moved to the US. His long, soul searching for religious meaning caused his involvement with a liberal church. The openness and critical thinking of that religion served his questioning mind well.

Finally the narrative is full of personal details that most Americans could never imagine. This includes discovering the proper placement of straw into his wooden shoes, and how his mother saved Koning's life from a belligerent Nazi SS officer by bribing him with a ham and a half bottle of gin.

This book causes readers to imagine how they would have reacted to events if they had been there. Overall, anyone interested in WWII will find this to be an excellent excursion into understanding how WWII affected a thoughtful young man.

Necessary Trouble: Americans in Revolt
Sarah Jaffe
Nation Books
c/o Perseus Book Group
250 W. 57th St., Suite 1500, New York, NY 10107
Tantor Audio: 9781515905714, $39.99, CD, Unabridged.
9781568585369, $26.99 HC, $17.99 Kindle, 352pp,

Anonymous Reviewer

One might be tempted to read Sarah Jaffe's book with a kind of archaeological nostalgia, to look upon it as a remnant of a bygone-era when the left had confidence in the gains it was making, before a meteor named Trump struck earth.

But the people Jaffe describes don't have to become fossils buried beneath the sediment of the nascent Trumpian-era. The struggles her heros and heroines face prefigure future battles to come. Writing from the not-so ancient times of pre-election America in 2016, Jaffe offers example after example of what ordinary people can do when pushed too far and the Trump White House will likely push most of us to our limits.

Necessary Trouble: Americans in Revolt is chockablock with stories we can learn from of ordinary Americans who have just about all they can bear. Shaken out of complacency and resignation they rise confront the social problems affecting their lives.

They were moved first to make changes directly around them, at work, in their communities, and their cities, but their increased involvement in activism broadened their horizons. It led them to think beyond the scope of their immediate interests, to seek common ground and work with others struggling with distinct but overlapping troubles. Jaffe's vivid narrative outlines the transition from the personal to the political. The people she profiles were moved by experiences of intimate and communal loss to confront a social and economic system that is long past its sell-by date.

The book's snappy title comes from an interview Jaffe conducted in 2013 with Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee during the 1960s civil-rights movement. Lewis said that election activity was just one part of the process of social change. Activists, he insisted, need to find "a way to get in the way," to "get into trouble, good trouble, necessary trouble."

The book, to its credit, isn't a simple rhetorical call to "unite and fight," though it could be read as a faithful diary of protest. It charts the struggles of dozens of hard-working, mostly young and neophyte activists who sought to right social wrongs in the years following the 2008 Great Recession - to end police murders of African-Americans, to clean up toxic dumpsites, to restore their labor unions. The Walmart employees Jaffe profiles took their grievances not just to individual store managers but to the company's home office in Bentonville, Ark.

Jaffe clarifies murky terms like "horizontalism" and "intersectionality" by showing how they operate in practice within protest organizations. Leadership can be both diffused and effective, she illustrates. Class and identity are not at variance, but indissolubly entwined.

Her sketch of the Labor Religion Coalition of New York State is one example of the intersectional nature of struggle. The ongoing battle to end the school-to-prison-pipeline teaches activists from the diverse groups in the coalition that ending mass incarceration requires living-wage jobs.

One the book's strongest chapters covers police militarization. Jaffe documents how weapons developed in war zones and occupied nations abroad are now used routinely on restive, urban populations at home.

Another powerful chapter deals with storm-damage rescue work in New York following Hurricane Sandy. Jaffe tells how former Occupy Wall Street protesters launched a massive relief effort in the Rockaway peninsula when the Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Agency failed to deliver aid.

Surprisingly, Jaffe has some kind words for conflicted Tea Party members who don't buy the Republican claptrap that unleashing business from regulation will raise all boats or that corporate leaders are job producers.

Will those Tea Partiers come around to fight for social justice someday? Is wondering about that overly optimistic? Blind to the dangers of the coming Age of Trump?

Perhaps, but we knew a Clinton administration would be no springtime in paradise. Neoliberalism is an uninspiring alternative to Trumpism, and the neoliberal order is cracking up, even if it is doing so in a manner few imagined possible. A finely written book such as Jaffe's is not just a palliative of hope: The stories she reports of people building power through struggle offer a healthy direction forward.

Third Party: Volume 1
Steven Nemerovski
Wasteland Press
9781681111353, $29.95, HC, 351pp
9781681111346, $19.95, PB, 351pp
B01KXZ9DCM, $0.99, Kindle, 351pp,

Wesley Britton, Reviewer
Book Pleasures

Steven Nemerovski's Third Party: Volume One: Starting in the Middle is obviously fiction, but it reads more like journalistic non-fiction.

In part, that's because the first quarter of the book is full of detailed back-stories of the major participants in the establishment of a Third Party in the U.S. Most of the book to follow is apparent news clippings from fictional Illinois newspaper, The Back Bench (with the tag line "If you let it slip, we'll catch it") and transcripts of e-mails and phone calls. Verisimilitude is established quickly and the story is both believable and convincing.

Things are set in motion when self-made billionaire Alex "Atlas" Stein invites a handful of movers and shakers to his Aspen estate to talk about creating a viable third party. In that initial conference, two key components of his plan are established: to set the party's sights on winning local legislative races in the Illinois General Assembly and create the party's issue-based agenda. The party is quickly dubbed the "E Party" because of their three main objectives, to emphasize education, economics, and ethical reform.

Because of Stein's wealth, fund raising isn't a problem but rather finding viable candidates to serve in the Illinois State Senate and House of Representatives. While we learn precious little about those candidates, we know most of them are teachers wanting to push the issue of educational reform. Winning enough seats to become an important presence in the Assembly, the E Party quickly pushed their platforms of supporting education and putting the state budget on solid footing.

In short order, the two major parties strike back, not because of ideology or issues but rather to maintain the political status quo. Despite its small size, the E Party is well organized and innovative as it battles entrenched power players like David Kennedy, the long-running Speaker of the House who is a mastermind at maneuvering and manipulation. So the book becomes a long lesson in the processes of state governments, sadly not just those of Illinois.

The book then traces what happens the first year of the E Party's involvement in working to pass their chosen legislation and then describes the next election cycle when dirty tricks become part of the campaign mix. The E Party's goals increase, including finding candidates to run for the highest state offices and expanding into other states, although nothing is explained about how or what is going on outside Illinois. At first blush, it might seem their victories are too localized to be all that dramatic, but mastering their baby steps is what volume one of the saga is all about. What happens next, including nationally, seems to be addressed in volume two, Strange Bedfellows, which was published on August 9 if you're ready for round two.

Along the way, some ideas are glossed over, notably just what's in those supposedly well-written and significant white papers. We get only occasional splashes of non-political personal relationships as in the story of besieged ex-baseball player turned youth advocate Tom Robinson and the surprising love story of Atlas Stein that seems to come out of nowhere.

In the main, readers drawn to The Third Party will most likely already be political junkies, especially those with some experience in ground-level politics or have tried to urge responses from their own elected representatives. Despite the optimistic conclusion, witnessing state politicians function the ways they do is rather depressing. After this year's elections, this literary x-ray of how things work, or don't, suggests solutions to our problems are not going to be an easy fix, if our two main parties have anything to say about it.

Five Years, Eleven Months and a Lifetime of Unexpected Love
Visakha Dasi
Our Spiritual Journey Press
9781522838449, $17.95; 290 pages,

Kirkus Reviews

Dasi (nee Jean Papert) was studying photography as an undergraduate in Rochester, New York, when she met and fell in love with a photojournalism graduate student named John Griesser. She followed Griesser to India, where he was completing a project on the Hare Krishna movement.

Dasi's initial impressions of the country were less than ecstatic. "The moment I looked out the window at Bombay's international airport," she recalls, "the term 'third-world' shed its mystery." Soon, however, the beauty of the landscape and the deep spiritual history of its peoples began to pull on Dasi and Griesser both.

Over the course of their Hare Krishna project, which kept them in the close company of the movement's charismatic founder, Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the couple became enamored of the guru's teachings. The world of ashrams and devotees was highly distinct from the Long Island of Dasi's youth. For the first time, she felt she was surrounded by people "who harmonized their lives with a higher purpose, who chose to control their minds, who were not at the mercy of passion, who were striving for something pure and great."

This book is an account of Dasi's and Griesser's gradual conversion to the teachings of the Hare Krishna, set against the backdrop of the dynamic India of the early 1970s. The text is accompanied with brilliant photographs the couple took during that time, which lovingly frame the country as a place of great devotion.

Dasi is a talented writer, particularly when it comes to documenting the specifics of places and people. Like the photographs, her descriptions are lyrical and evocative while remaining rooted in impoverished reality. Her transformation from Krishna skeptic to devotee is somewhat unsettling, particularly for secular readers who are more sympathetic to the author's initial critiques of the faith.

As a firsthand account of Prabhupada and his movement, however, the book is quite informative, and it should appeal to any readers curious about the Hare Krishnas or modern Gaudiya Vaishnavism. An idiosyncratic recollection of travel, photography, and the Hare Krishna movement.

Wisdom Found in the Pause - Joie's Gift
Barbara Techel
Joyful Paw Prints Press
9780988249936, $14.95, 208 pages,

Linda and Allen Anderson, Reviewer

What an amazing person Barbara Techel is! One who inspires all those she touches with her many bestselling books, articles, workshops, lectures, and media interviews. She is driven to help those in need. Among her amazing talents and accomplishments, Barbara leads the nation as an advocate for dogs in wheelchairs. She founded the National Walk'N Roll Dog Day and established The Frankie Wheelchair Fund which has granted wheelchairs to paralyzed dogs.

Her new book Wisdom Found in the Pause, Joie's Gift gives us an insider's look at her life as a writer with the ups and downs, the love she has for a special-needs dog, and the devastation of loss. What a gift that Barbara allows us to take the ride with her as she shares her amazing, inspirational, and often humorous experiences with her dachshund Joie.

There are times when we need to be inspired, to see life's true purpose, and open our hearts to love again. In her book and through Joie, Barbara shows us the path to unconditional love, rocky as it may be, but always an adventure in discovering what is important. Read Wisdom Found in the Pause, Joie's Gift and be inspired with ways of giving back to life.

Appealing For Justice
Susan Berry Casey
Gilpin Park Press
9780997698404, $23.95 PB, $17.99 Kindle, 360pp,

Mark Stevens, Reviewer

On BallotPedia (what a resource), the entry for 1992 Colorado ballot measures shows a green check mark next to Amendment 2, showing that the proposal passed. In fact, the proposal won with 53 percent of the votes. Amendment 2 would have banned laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation in Colorado. At the time, three cities (Denver, Aspen and Boulder) had passed laws that prohibited such discrimination but statewide voters approved the idea of a constitutional amendment that would have made such laws illegal. However, next to the green check mark is another tiny icon. A brown gavel. Appealing for Justice is the story of that brown gavel.

That case was called Romer v. Evans. And not quite four years later (in May, 1996), a 6-3 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court decision wiped out the passage of Amendment 2. The language approved by Colorado voters, in fact, was ruled unconstitutional.

"We must conclude that Amendment 2 classifies homosexuals not to further a proper legislative end but to make them unequal to everyone else," wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy, delivering the majority opinion. "This Colorado cannot do. A state cannot so deem a class of persons a stranger to its laws." It may seem now that such logic should be a given. (Given the national election results this month, however, what is?) What's reassuring about reading Appealing for Justice is the notion that individuals can - and do - make a difference.

Smoothly written by former Denver City Councilwoman Susan Berry Casey, Appealing For Justice: One Colorado Lawyer, Four Decades, and the Landmark Gay Rights Case: Romer v. Evans is an inspiring account of the case and the woman, Jean Dubofksy, who led the charge. If you've been around Colorado for any length of time, reading the book also provides a meaty opportunity to think about how the cultural landscape has changed. The story also shines a light on a woman who did not get much of the spotlight as the case wound its way through the courts.

What a life. Jean Dubofsky's story plays out against a half century of civil rights struggles. Raised in Kansas, she attended Stanford and then Harvard Law School. Dubofsky's enlightenment about the plight of all minorities grew as she worked on civil rights cases in the South and also as she experienced discrimination as a woman seeking acceptance in man's world, whether that was in law school itself or working as a legislative assistant to Senator Walter Mondale in 1968.

"The Senate was a stodgy place and there were many rules to be followed," writes Casey. "When in the Senate chamber, for instance, staff members were required to kneel along the side wall in a certain manner: with one knee up and one knee down. 'But with a short skirt on, you couldn't kneel with one knee up and one down,' Jean said. The sergeant-at-arms had little experience with dealing with women staffers kneeling in the Senate chambers and insisted that protocol was protocol, skirts or not. When Jean failed to persuade him that the archaic rules were not going to work anymore, she took the issue to her boss, Senator Mondale. Soon Jean was kneeling on both knees in the Senate chamber without being reprimanded by the sergeant-at-arms."

This wasn't Jean's last fight. Hardly. She was appointed deputy Attorney General for Colorado in 1975 and, four years later, became the first female justice on the Colorado Supreme Court (the youngest person ever appointed, at age 37). Dubofsky faced a series of tough challenges. She battled an ugly, false professional accusation. She made a difficult choice in balancing her career with family responsibilities. And she endured a nasty, brutal public relations fight over being denied tenure at the University of Colorado.

Over and over, Jean Dubofsky chose to go her own way. She pushed back in some cases, turned away in others. When it came time to set the strategy for the appeals over Amendment 2, she stuck firm with her belief that it would be the story of ordinary gay men and women who would end up winning the day. She stuck and stuck firm. She fought for her conviction that the case turned on proving that homosexuality was, in fact, immutable.

One goal of the Colorado Supreme Court hearing (before the case was appealed up to the U.S. Supreme Court) was to establish a thorough record about all aspects of the case. But a second goal, Casey writes, "was to provide everyone, from the presiding judge to the world at large, an education. The trial became an introductory course: Gays and Lesbians 101. And the world was watching. Literally, Court-TV was again in the courtroom and televised the trial live, gavel-to-gavel. For Jean, the trial was more than a legal case. It was an argument for society about social justice, and the key to winning that argument was education."

The final showdown in the U.S. Supreme Court is a nifty narrative and Casey doesn't waste the opportunity to demonstrate the stakes of the case or the tension in the room during oral arguments as the state attempted to defend the indefensible.

Appealing for Justice is an engaging, insightful read about an important figure in Colorado - and U.S. - history. It's also, just as Jean Dubofsky might want it, an education. RECOMMENDED.

Andrea's Bookshelf

If Truth Be Told
Om Swami
Harper Element
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9789351368069 $TBA hc / $6.99 Kindle

If Truth Be Told is the autobiography of Om Swami, who career success in Australia (he was a multimillionaire by the age of twenty-six) did not fill the emptiness in his life. He moved back to his native India and, renounced the world, and became a monk in the Himalayas. His search was grueling, difficult, and brought him dangerously close to starvation, until his sadhana (the spiritual training through which one learns how to attain a state of intense, meditative concentration) brought him a revelation: "I am what I have been seeking". If Truth Be Told is a true story of the quest for meaning, step by step, and the hard yet worthwhile journey to fulfillment, highly recommended.

Shock Peace
CieCie Tuyet Nguyen
Tate Publishing
127 East Trade Center Terrace, Mustang, OK 73064
9781682378830, $39.99, HC, 444pp,

The twenty-one year war had brought chaos, catastrophe, and death. Two million civilians perished in the conflict. More than a million Northern troops and 250,000 South Vietnamese combatants never came home. 58,000 members of the US armed forces were dead or missing, and 500 Australian soldiers had sacrificed their lives. For the next decade, Vietnam descended into total self-destruction. "Shock Peace" by CieCie Tuyet Nguyen reveals the tragic life stories of numerous survivors in postwar Vietnam with spell binding raw emotion and gripping insights to daily lives, never told before. A riveting reading for all. Of special note is the intimately personal introduction in which the author explains how she came to write this fact-laced novel of such a complicated and catastrophic civil war. While very highly recommended, especially for community library General Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Shock Peace" is also available in a paperback edition (9781682379448, $30.99) and in a Kindle format ($14.99).

At That Moment
Dawn Marie Nappi
Westbow Press
c/o Thomas Nelson Publishers
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9781512735499, $28.95, HC, 108pp,

"At That Moment" is a consistently compelling story of tragedy, restoration and hope. Dr. Dawn Marie Nappi's heartfelt memoir sheds light on a mother's worst fear, surviving the aftermath of a child's death and experiencing God's loving hand through it all. "At That Moment" is a must read for anyone having to deal with the sudden and catastrophic loss of a loved one, and will prove to be of genuine comfort to those who doubt God's existence or who require His very present help in a time of need. Unreservedly recommended for church and community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists the Dr. Nappi's "At That Moment" is also available in a paperback edition (9781512735475, $11.95) and in a Kindle format ($7.99).

Words to Live
Dan Semenoff
Xlibris Corporation
1663 South Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781514405482, $24.99, HC, 86pp,

"Words to Live" by Dan Semenoff is a collection of free verse thoughts and insights from over the years, invoking all kinds of thoughts and emotions expressing one man's journey through life. A thoughtful and thought-provoking read from first page to last. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Words to Live" is also available in a paperback edition (9781514405475, $15.99) and in a Kindle format ($3.99). "A still picture / to some / but endless / motion / of thought / to me // I'll give you / one example / "I Love You" / well / maybe / that's three".

Little Home Bird
Jo Empson, author/illustrator
Child's Play
64 Wellington Avenue, West Orange, NJ 07052
9781846438899, $16.99, HC, 36pp,

Little Bird loves everything about his home. He's surrounded by his favorite branch, his favorite food, his favorite view and his favorite music. Why on earth would he ever want to change, even when his brother tells him that they must? Young readers ages 3 to 8 will discover just how Little Bird ends up finding happiness in his new home from home in this beautifully illustrated and thoroughly entertaining picture book. Perfect for all children who love home, however many they may have, "Little Home Bird" is an especially and enthusiastically recommended addition to family, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections.

The Anne Dialogues
Guy Needler
Ozark Mountain Publishing, Inc.
PO Box 754, Huntsville, AR 72740
9781940265391, $19.00, PB, 320pp,

"The Anne Dialogues: Communications with the Ascended" by Guy Needler (who learned about energy and vibrational therapy techniques from a direct student of the Barbara Brennan School of Healing, which included personal development using Pathwork methodology) provides a behind-the-energetic-scenes look at what happens in the incarnation process. Readers are taken each step of the way from the point of death to the decision to incarnate again and through the myriad teachings in between. A channeled work, "The Anne Dialogues" provides an insider's view of the actual process of dying and ascending to the spirit side. An inherently fascinating and consistently compelling read from beginning to end, "The Anne Dialogues" is very highly recommended for personal, community, and academic library Metaphysical Studies collections. It should be noted that "The Anne Dialogues" is also available in a Kindle format ($9.99).

Andrea Kay

Andy's Bookshelf

How to Get Tax Amnesty
Daniel J. Pilla
Winning Publications Inc.
9781884367106 $39.95

Now in an updated, fully rewritten new edition, How to Get Tax Amnesty is a financial self-help guide written especially for Americans burdened by back taxes they can't pay. How to Get Tax Amnesty discusses ways to lawfully challenge the IRS's position; appeal an IRS decision in an independent forum; ensure one's rights to finality, privacy, confidentiality, and representation; and more. While How to Get Tax Amnesty absolutely cannot substitute for the advice or assistance of a trained attorney, it contains invaluable information for any American struggling with taxes, and is especially recommended as a study tool prior to consulting with any legal professional who bills by the hour!

Heidegger's Shadow
Jose Pablo Feinmann, author
Joshua Price & Maria Constanza Guzman, translators
Texas Tech University Press
PO Box 41037, Lubbock, TX 79409-1037
9780896729704, $21.95, PB, 208pp,

Jose Pablo Feinmann is a Jewish-Argentine philosopher who in "Heidegger's Shadow" asks if Martin Heidegger (26 September 1889 - 26 May 1976), one of the most influential philosophers of the twentieth century, could have provided the theoretical reasoning to justify mass murder such as that carried out by the infamous Third Reich against the Jews, Gypsies, Homosexuals, and others? "Heidegger's Shadow" deftly explores the philosopher Heidegger's collusion with the Nazis and reveals how his thought shares an affinity with Nazi ideology. Ably translated into English for an American readership by academicians Joshua Price and Maria Constanza Guzman, "Heidegger's Shadow" is an inherently compelling read and deftly crafted study in the form of a unique work of fiction that is especially commended for community, college, and university library collections, as well as the personal lists of non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject of Heidegger's philosophy revealed in a superbly crafted novel.

Beat the Game!
Scholastic, Inc.
557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012-3999
9781338118148 $8.99

Written especially for young adults, Beat the Game! Be the Best at All Your Favorite Games is a beginner's guide to earning achievements and trophies from popular favorite Playstation 3, Playstation 4, and Xbox One video games. Filled with full-color screenshots, artwork, and photographs, Beat the Game! has tips and tricks for a wide variety of popular games, including No Man's Sky, Star Wars Battlefront, Minecraft: Story Mode, Shovel Knight, Forza Motorsport 6, Mighty No. 9 and many more. Safety tips (such as "Never agree to meet someone you met online in person, and never send photographs of yourself"), special lists such as "funniest achievements" and "easiest achievements", and brief interviews with a select few "influencers" (exceptional gamers who have earned an outstanding amount of achievements and trophies, or otherwise distinguished themselves) round out this celebration of video game skills and accomplishments.

Andy Jordan

Bethany's Bookshelf

Tibetan Shamanism: Ecstasy and Healing
Larry Peters
North Atlantic Books
2526 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Berkeley, CA 94704-2607
9781623170301, $21.95, PB, 208pp,

Synopsis: Reflecting sixteen years of intensive fieldwork, "Tibetan Shamanism: Ecstasy and Healing" by Larry Peters (a world-renowned scholar and initiated shaman in the Tamang-Nepal tradition) provides the reader with a rich chronicle of the daily lives, belief systems, and healing rituals of four highly revered Tibetan shamans forced into exile by the Chinese invasion during the 1950s.

Peters lived and studied closely with the shamans in Nepal, learning their belief system, observing and participating in their rituals, and introducing many dozens of students to their world view. Including photographs of the shamans in ecstatic ritual and trance, "Tibetan Shamanism: Ecstasy and Healing" (one of the most extensive ethnographic works ever done on Tibetan shamanism) captures the end of Tibetan shamanism while opening a window onto the culture and traditions that survived centuries of attack in Tibet, only to die out in Nepal.

The violent treatment of shamans by the Buddhist lama has a long history in Tibet and neighboring Mongolia. At one point, shamans were burned at the stake. However, in the mountainous Himalayan terrain, especially in the difficult to reach areas geographically distant from the Buddhist monastic urban centers, shamans were respected and their work revered.

Peters's authoritative and meticulous research into the belief systems of these last surviving representatives of the shamanic traditions of the remote Himalayas preserves, in vivid detail, the techniques of ecstasy, described as pathways to the shamanic spiritual world.

Critique: A seminal work of simply outstanding scholarship and insight, "Tibetan Shamanism: Ecstasy and Healing" is as informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking. An enormous contribution to the growing library of Shamanistic literature, thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation, "Tibetan Shamanism: Ecstasy and Healing" is an extraordinary and highly recommended addition to personal, community, and academic library collections in general, and Shamanic supplemental studies reading lists in articular. It should be noted for students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Tibetan Shamanism: Ecstasy and Healing" is also available in a Kindle format ($12.99).

Life as Jamie Knows It
Michael Berube
Beacon Press
24 Farnsworth Street, Boston, MA 02210
9780807019313, $25.95, HC, 232pp,

Synopsis: "Life as Jamie Knows It: An Exceptional Child Grows Up" by Michael Berube (Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Literature at Penn State University) introduces his son, Jamie Berube, to the world as a sweet, bright, gregarious little boy who loves the Beatles, pizza, and making lists. When he is asked in his preschool class what he would like to be when he grows up, he responds with one word: big. At four, he is like many kids his age, but his Down syndrome prevents most people from seeing him as anything but disabled.

Twenty years later, Jamie is no longer little, though he still jams to the Beatles, eats pizza, and makes endless lists of everything -- from the sixty-seven counties of Pennsylvania (in alphabetical order, from memory) to the various opponents of the wrestler known as the Undertaker.

"Life as Jamie Knows It", is a father's chronicle of his son's journey to adulthood and his growing curiosity and engagement with the world. Writing as both a disability studies scholar and a father, Michael Berube follows Jamie through his social and academic experiences in school, his evolving relationships with his parents and brother, Nick, his encounters with illness, and the complexities of entering the workforce with a disability. As Jamie matures, his parents acknowledge his entitlement to a personal sense of independence, whether that means riding the bus home from work on his own, taking himself to a Yankees game, or deciding which parts of his story are solely his to share.

With a combination of stirring memoir and sharp intellectual inquiry, Berube tangles with bioethicists, politicians, philosophers, and anyone else who sees disability as an impediment to a life worth living. Far more than the story of an exceptional child growing up to be 'big', "Life as Jamie Knows It" challenges us to rethink how we approach disability and is a passionate call for moving toward a more just, more inclusive society.

Critique: A unique and seminal work of scholarship and personalized biography, "Life as Jamie Knows It: An Exceptional Child Grows Up" is a truly exceptional and informative candid work that is a consistently compelling, thoughtful and thought-provoking read from beginning to end. While very highly recommended, especially for community, college, and university library Contemporary American Biography collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Life as Jamie Knows It" is also available in a Kindle format ($16.99).

Imperial Plots
Sarah Carter
University of Manitoba Press
301 St. John's College, Winnipeg, MB, Canada, R3T 2M5
9780887558184, $34.95, PB, 480pp,

Synopsis: In the pages of "Imperial Plots: Women, Land, and the Spadework of British Colonialism on the Canadian Prairies", Sarah Carter (Professor and Henry Marshall Tory Chair in the Department of History and Classics and the Faculty of Native Studies at the University of Alberta) deftly examines the goals, aspirations, and challenges met by women who sought land of their own.

Supporters of British women homesteaders argued they would contribute to the "spade-work" of the Empire through their imperial plots, replacing foreign settlers and relieving Britain of its surplus women. Yet far into the twentieth century there was persistent opposition to the idea that women could or should farm: British women were to be exemplars of an idealized white femininity, not toiling in the fields. In Canada, heated debates about women farmers touched on issues of ethnicity, race, gender, class, and nation.

Despite legal and cultural obstacles and discrimination, British women did acquire land as homesteaders, farmers, ranchers, and speculators on the Canadian prairies. They participated in the project of dispossessing Indigenous people. Their complicity was, however, ambiguous and restricted because they were excluded from the power and privileges of their male counterparts.

"Imperial Plots" informatively depicts the female farmers and ranchers of the prairies, ranging from the Indigenous women agriculturalists of the Plains, to the land army women of the First World War.

Critique: Thoroughly researched, remarkably well written, organized and presented, "Imperial Plots: Women, Land, and the Spadework of British Colonialism on the Canadian Prairies" is an impressive work of seminal scholarship that is further enhanced with the inclusion of illustrations, tables, a list of abbreviations, a note on terminology, forty pages of notes, a twenty page bibliography, and a twelve page index. While unreservedly recommended for community and academic library Canadian History collections in general, and Canadian Women's Studies supplemental studies lists in particular, it should be noted for students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Imperial Plots" is also available in a Kindle format ($25.00).

The Way of Transformation
Mark O'Keefe, O.S.B.
ICS Publications
c/o Discalced Carmelite Friars
2131 Lincoln Rd. NE, Washington DC 20002
9781939272393, $16.95, PB, 216pp,

Synopsis: "The Way of Transformation: Saint Teresa of Avila on the Foundation and Fruit of Prayer" by Mark O'Keefe (a Benedictine monk and priest of Saint Meinrad Archabbey in Indiana, as well as an Associate Professor of Moral Theology at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology) is considered tp be St. Teresa's 'operations manual' for anyone genuinely committed to the spiritual life. But by perfection she doesn't intend the futile pursuit of idealized flawlessness, as some might think. Rather, St. Teresa means achieving an authentic human fulfillment a true becoming of that person we are meant to be.

Offering a fresh perspective on St. Teresa's thought, Father Mark O'Keefe draws our attention to the central fact that she considers the virtues especially love of neighbor, detachment, and humility as the essential and ever-relevant foundation for her spirituality of prayer.

This very human Doctor of the Church teaches that whether in the 16th century or the 21st century, prayer is intimately and necessarily linked with personal transformation. Authentic prayer is never divorced from our daily living: God, Teresa reminds us, walks among the pots and pans.

Critique: With attention-catching quotations, helpful questions for personal reflection or group discussion, and its comprehensive index, "The Way of Transformation" is an excellent resource for any serious student of St. Teresa of Jesus and a must-read for everyone looking to explore Christian spirituality and prayer more deeply and authentically. While unreservedly recommended for personal, church, seminary, community, and academic library Christian Studies collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Way of Transformation: Saint Teresa of Avila on the Foundation and Fruit of Prayer" is also available in a Kindle format ($9.99).

Go: Returning Discipleship to the Front Lines of Faith
Preston Sprinkle
3820 North 30th Street, Colorado Springs, CO 80904
9781631466106, $14.99, PB, 208pp,

Synopsis: Disciple-making is a passion of many, as it should be. It is, after all, our great commission. But much of contemporary discipleship is informed by instinct, and as such it is vulnerable to the whims and trends of the broader culture, which can take us further away from our biblical model and mandate.

Drawing on a 2015 Barna Group study of the state of discipleship in the United States commissioned by The Navigators, author Preston Sprinkle provides a holistic, biblical response for discipleship, providing accessible tools for all those who are engaged in making Christ-followers in the 21st century. Sprinkle points pastors, church leaders, and frankly, all Christ-followers, to a discipleship that is responsive to this most current research and accountable to the model of Jesus and his earliest followers, who counted making disciples as their most important work.

In an extremely practical fashion, "Go: Returning Discipleship to the Front Lines of Faith" helps us to discern, from the Scriptures and from exemplary disciple-making ministries, what discipleship is and is not, what it has become and what it can still be.

Critique: Exceptional well written, organized and presented, "Go: Returning Discipleship to the Front Lines of Faith" is as informed and informative, and as thoughtful and thought-provoking, as it is inspired and inspiring. While very highly recommended to all members of the Christian community, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Go: Returning Discipleship to the Front Lines of Faith" is also available in a Kindle format ($8.87).

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

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

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

Years later, the memory of that woman's act came to the fore, and Magda Hollander-Lafon could be silent no longer. In her own words, she wrote "Four Scraps of Bread" not to obey the duty of remembering but in loyalty to the memory of those women and men who disappeared before her eyes. Her story is not a simple memoir or chronology of events. Instead, through a series of short chapters, she invites us to reflect on what she has endured. Often centered on one person or place, the scenes of brutality and horror she describes are intermixed with reflections of a more meditative cast.

"Four Scraps of Bread" is both historical and deeply evocative, melancholic, and at times poetic in nature. Following the text is an "Historical Note" with a chronology of the author's life that complements her kaleidoscopic style. After liberation and a period in transit camps, she arrived in Belgium, where she remained. Eventually, she chose to be baptized a Christian and pursued a career as a child psychologist.

Magda records a journey through extreme suffering and loss that led to radiant personal growth and a life of meaning. As she states: "Today I do not feel like a victim of the Holocaust but a witness reconciled with myself." Her ability to confront her experiences and free herself from her trauma allowed her to embrace a life of hope and peace. Her account is, finally, an exhortation to us all to discover life-giving joy.

Critique: An extraordinary memoir that is a valued and appreciated addition to the growing library of Holocaust literature, "Four Scraps of Bread" is unreservedly and emphatically recommended for community, college, and university library collections. For the personal reading lists of academia and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject, it should be noted that "Four Scraps of Bread" is also available in a paperback edition (9780268101237, $25.00) and in a Kindle format ($11.99).

My Teenage Zombie
David L. Henderson, MD
Thomas Nelson Publishers
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9780718031244, $16.99, PB, 272pp,

Synopsis: Zombies are not just found in horror movies, sometimes they're lying on your living room couch. These are undead adolescents whose psychological and social development have come to a screeching halt. Torn by their yearning for freedom and their fear of surviving the outside world, they have stalled in their maturity, motivation, and purpose in life, hijacked by a helplessness and fear of responsibility. Parents often feel ill-equipped to love, support, and guide them -- especially when they may be facing a midlife crisis of their own and battling some of the same issues in their own lives. Is it really possible to escape this "undead" state of being?

In "My Teenage Zombie: Resurrecting the Undead Adolescent in Your Home" board-certified psychiatrist and medical doctor David L. Henderson explains the parts of a teenage zombie (their brain, heart, and spirit), how they got into this undead state, and how to resurrect them back to life. Using real-life examples of families he has counseled, he describes both their physical and psychological characteristics and offers practical suggestions on how to deal with, and in many cases avoid, having an undead adolescent in your home.

"My Teenage Zombie" is divided into three helpful sections: The Rise of the Undead: Understanding the Nature of a Teenage Zombie; The Fear of the Undead: Facing the Anxiety of Confronting a Teenage Zombie; Resurrecting the Undead: Restoring Your Teenage Zombie to a Life Worth Living.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, impressively informative, thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation, "My Teenage Zombie" is especially commended to the attention of parents who want to effectively and successfully raise their adolescent (and pre-adolescent) children in a Christian atmosphere. It should be noted that "My Teenage Zombie" is also available in a Kindle format ($9.99). Librarians should note that there is a complete and unabridged MP3 CD audio book edition of "My Teenage Zombie" (Blackstone Audio, 9781504765602, $29.95).

New Jerusalem
Emanuel Swedenborg, author
George F. Dole, translator
Swedenborg Foundation
320 North Church Street, West Chester, PA 19380
9780877854159, $7.99, PB, 208pp,

Synopsis: Emanuel Swedenborg (29 January 1688 to 29 March 1772) was a Swedish scientist, philosopher, theologian, revelator, and mystic. Swedenborg understood the city of New Jerusalem (as described in the book of Revelation) to mean not a physical city but an epoch of history, a new spiritual age that was just beginning to take shape during his lifetime in the eighteenth century. Ably translated into English for an American readership by George F. Dole, Swedenborg's "New Jerusalem" is short work, presented as a series of teachings that characterize this spiritual age to come. It is also one of Swedenborg's most concise and readable summaries of his own theology. Building on fundamental concepts such as good, truth, will, and understanding, he describes the importance of love and usefulness in spiritual growth. In the second half of the volume he focuses on how this new theology relates to the church of his day and to church teachings about the Bible, the Lord's incarnation on earth, and rites such as baptism and the Holy Supper. Each short chapter is followed by extensive references back to his theological magnum opus, Secrets of Heaven.

Critique: "New Jerusalem is an excellent starting point for those who want an overview of Emanuel Swedenborg's theology as presented in his own words. Informative, thoughtful, inspiring, this new translation of "New Jerusalem" is unreservedly recommended for personal, community, and academic library Spirituality & Western Religion collections in general, and Emanuel Swedenborg supplemental studies reading lists in particular. It should be noted for students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "New Jerusalem" is also available in an inexpensive Kindle format ($0.99).

Susan Bethany

Buhle's Bookshelf

Lennon on Lennon
Jeff Burger, editor
Chicago Review Press
814 North Franklin Street, Chicago, IL 60610
9781613748244, $28.99, HC, 480pp,

Synopsis: John Lennon (9 October 1940 - 8 December 1980 was a highly opinionated and controversial figure with a commanding personality and quick wit. And he made a point of living his adventurous life as openly as possible. Whether he was experimenting with LSD, Transcendental Meditation, primal therapy, macrobiotic diets, or recording techniques, the public was on board every step of the way.

He spoke candidly about his intense, sometimes tumultuous relationship with Yoko Ono, his split with the Beatles, his squabbles with Paul McCartney, and just about everything else, baring his emotional ups and downs for all to see. By the time he granted his final interview, only hours before his death, he had become one of the most famous people on the planet and an articulate commentator on politics, human relations, and world peace.

Compiled and edited by Jeff Burger, "Lennon on Lennon: Conversations with John Lennon" is an authoritative, chronologically arranged anthology of some of Lennon's most illuminating interviews. The majority have not been previously available in print, and several of the most important have not been widely available in any format. Interspersed throughout "Lennon on Lennon" are key quotes from dozens of additional Q&As. Together, this material paints a revealing picture of the artist in his own words while offering a window into the cultural atmosphere of the sixties and seventies.

Critique: Extraordinary, informative, insightful, inherently fascinating and consistently compelling, "Lennon on Lennon" is a 'must read' for the legions of Lennon fans and will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community and academic library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Lennon on Lennon" is also available in a Kindle format ($15.65).

Paving the Great Way
Jonathan C. Gold
Columbia University Press
61 West 62nd Street, New York, NY 10023-7015
9780231168267, $65.00, HC, 336pp,

Synopsis: The Indian Buddhist philosopher Vasubandhu (fourth - fifth century C.E.) is known for his critical contribution to Buddhist Abhidharma thought, his turn to the Mahayana tradition, and his concise, influential Yogacara - Vij˝anavada texts.

"Paving the Great Way: Vasubandhu's Unifying Buddhist Philosophy" by Jonathan Gold (Associate Professor in the Department of Religion at Princeton University) reveals another dimension of his legacy: his integration of several seemingly incompatible intellectual and scriptural traditions, with far-ranging consequences for the development of Buddhist epistemology and the theorization of tantra.

Most scholars read Vasubandhu's texts in isolation and separate his intellectual development into distinct phases. Featuring close studies of Vasubandhu's Abhidharmakosabhasya, Vyakhyayukti, Vimsatika, and Trisvabhavanirdesa, among other works, "Paving the Great Way" identifies recurrent treatments of causality and scriptural interpretation that unify distinct strands of thought under a single, coherent Buddhist philosophy.

In Vasubandhu's hands, the Buddha's rejection of the self as a false construction provides a framework through which to clarify problematic philosophical issues, such as the nature of moral agency and subjectivity under a broadly causal worldview. Recognizing this continuity of purpose across Vasubandhu's diverse corpus recasts the interests of the philosopher and his truly innovative vision, which influenced Buddhist thought for a millennium and continues to resonate with today's philosophical issues.

Critique: An erudite, informative, impressively organized and presented study, "Paving the Great Way: Vasubandhu's Unifying Buddhist Philosophy" is a model of insightful scholarship that is enhanced for academia with the inclusion of an appendix that includes extensive English-language translations of the major texts discussed. While unreservedly recommended for community and academic library Buddhist Studies collections and supplemental studies reading lists, it should be noted for students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Paving the Great Way" is also available in a paperback edition (9780231168274, $28.00) and in a Kindle format ($26.59).

The Past and Future City
Stephanie Meeks & Kevin C. Murphy
Island Press
2000 M St NW Suite 650, Washington, DC 20036
9781610917087, $60.00, HC, 352pp,

Synopsis: At its most basic, historic preservation is about keeping old places alive, in active use, and relevant to the needs of communities today. As cities across America experience a remarkable renaissance, and more and more young, diverse families choose to live, work, and play in historic neighborhoods, the promise and potential of using our older and historic buildings to revitalize our cities is stronger than ever.

This urban resurgence is a national phenomenon, boosting cities from Cleveland to Buffalo and Portland to Pittsburgh. Experts offer a range of theories on what is driving the return to the city -- from the impact of the recent housing crisis to a desire to be socially engaged, live near work, and reduce automobile use. But there's also more to it. Time and again, when asked why they moved to the city, people talk about the desire to live somewhere distinctive, to be some place rather than no place. Often these distinguishing urban landmarks are exciting neighborhoods. Miami boasts its Art Deco district, New Orleans the French Quarter. Sometimes, as in the case of Baltimore's historic rowhouses, the most distinguishing feature is the urban fabric itself.

While many aspects of this urban resurgence are a cause for celebration, the changes have also brought to the forefront issues of access, affordable housing, inequality, sustainability, and how we should commemorate difficult history. "The Past and Future City: How Historic Preservation is Reviving America's Communities" speaks directly to all of these issues.

In "The Past and Future City", Stephanie Meeks (who is the President of the National Trust for Historic Preservation), describes in detail, and with unique empirical research, the many ways that saving and restoring historic fabric can help a city create thriving neighborhoods, good jobs, and a vibrant economy. She explains the critical importance of preservation for all our communities, the ways the historic preservation field has evolved to embrace the challenges of the twenty-first century, and the innovative work being done in the preservation space now.

Critique: "The Past and Future City: How Historic Preservation is Reviving America's Communities" is an extraordinary and exceptional study that is especially commended to the attention of anyone who cares about cities, places, and saving America's diverse stories as a way to help us better understand our past, present, and future. Enhanced with the inclusion of fifty pages of Notes, an eight page Bibliography; an eleven page Index, "The Past and Future City: How Historic Preservation is Reviving America's Communities" is unreservedly recommended as a significant addition to community and academic library Urban Planning collections in general, and Historic Preservation supplemental studies reading lists in particular. It should be noted for students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Past and Future City: How Historic Preservation is Reviving America's Communities" is also available in a paperback edition (9781610917094, $30.00) and in a Kindle format ($17.49).

Ford Coyote Engines
Jim Smart
CarTech Inc.
838 Lake Street South, Forest Lake, MN 55025
9781613252895, $26.95, PB, 144pp,

Synopsis: Ford introduced its first "clean slate design" V-8 engines in the early 1990s in Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury models. Known as the "Modular" engine family, the 4.6L engines employed new overhead cams, multi-valve performance, distributorless ignition, and more. This engine had new technology for its time, and it proved to be an extremely durable workhorse that logged hundreds of thousands of miles in police and taxi applications as well as light-duty trucks. And, of course, hotter versions, and even supercharged versions, found their way into performance applications such as Mustang GTs and Cobras.

By 2011, Ford wanted something hotter and more current, especially for its flagship Mustang GT and GT350 models, which were suddenly competing with new 6.2L LS3 engines in Camaros and 6.4L Hemi engines in Challengers. Enter Ford's new 5.0L "Coyote" engine with Twin Independent Variable Cam Timing (Ti-VCT); it was an evolution of the earlier 4.6L and 5.4L Modular designs. Although the new Coyote engine had increased displacement, it still had far fewer cubes than the competition. Despite less displacement, the Coyote could hold its own against bigger Chevy and Chrysler mills thanks to advanced technology such as 4V heads with better port and valvetrain geometry. The Coyote is also Ford's first foray into technology such as Ti-VCT and cam-torque-actuated (CTA) function, which is a fancy way of saying variable cam timing for an incredible power curve over a broader RPM range.

Even with all of this new technology, there is always room for improvement, and both Ford and the aftermarket have produced an array of parts to squeeze even more power out of your Coyote. In "Ford Coyote Engines: How to Build Max Performance", veteran Ford writer and historian, Jim Smart, explains and highlights all of the latest and greatest options to achieve more horsepower and torque, and of course, faster quarter-mile times. Some of the upgrades covered are engine building techniques, cold-air induction kits, supercharger and pulley kits, better exhaust headers, fuel system and ECU tuning upgrades, and more.

Critique: The definitive history and instructional reference book, "Ford Coyote Engines: How to Build Max Performance" is profusely illustrated, exceptionally well written, impressively organized and presented, making it unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, and community library collections. It should be noted that "Ford Coyote Engines: How to Build Max Performance" is also available form CarTech in a Kindle format ($19.20).

The Wehrmacht Retreats
Robert M. Citino
University Press of Kansas
2501 West 15th Street, Lawrence, KS 66049
9780700618262, $34.95, HC, 440pp,

Synopsis: Throughout 1943, the German army, heirs to a military tradition that demanded and perfected relentless offensive operations, succumbed to the realities of its own overreach and the demands of twentieth-century industrialized warfare. In the pages of "The Wehrmacht Retreats: Fighting a Lost War, 1943" by Robert Citino (Professor of History at the University of North Texas) chronicles this weakening Wehrmacht, fighting desperately on the defensive but still remarkably dangerous and lethal.

Drawing on his impeccable command of German-language sources, Professor Citino offers fresh, vivid, and detailed treatments of key campaigns during this fateful year: the Allied landings in North Africa, General von Manstein's great counterstroke in front of Kharkov, the German attack at Kasserine Pass, the titanic engagement of tanks and men at Kursk, the Soviet counteroffensives at Orel and Belgorod, and the Allied landings in Sicily and Italy. Through these events, he reveals how a military establishment historically configured for violent aggression reacted when the tables were turned; how German commanders viewed their newest enemy, the U.S. Army, after brutal fighting against the British and Soviets; and why, despite their superiority in materiel and manpower, the Allies were unable to turn 1943 into a much more decisive year.

Applying the keen operational analysis for which he is so highly regarded, Professor Citino contends that virtually every flawed German decision from defending Tunis, to the attack at Kursk and then calling off the offensive, to abandoning Sicily, to defending Italy high up the boot and then down much closer to the toe, had strong supporters among the army's officer corps. Professor Citino looks at all of these engagements from the perspective of each combatant nation and also establishes beyond a shadow of a doubt the synergistic interplay between the fronts.

Ultimately, Professor Citino produces a grim portrait of the German officer corps, dispelling the longstanding tendency to blame every bad decision on Hitler. Filled with telling vignettes and sharp portraits and copiously documented, "The Wehrmacht Retreats" is a dramatic and fast-paced narrative that will engage military historians and general readers alike.

Critique: Exhaustively researched, impressively well written, exceptional in both organization and presentation, "The Wehrmacht Retreats: Fighting a Lost War, 1943" is a seminal work of outstanding scholarship and an invaluable addition to the growing library of World War II European Theatre literature. While unreservedly recommended as a critically important addition to community and academic library World War II History collections in general, and Wehrmacht supplemental studies reading lists in particular, it should be noted for students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Wehrmacht Retreats" is also available in a paperback edition (9780700623433, $26.95) and in a Kindle format ($15.49).

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

Siege at Jadotville
Declan Power
Blackstone Publishing
31 Mistletoe Road, Ashland, OR 97520
9781504758727, $16.99, PB, 144pp,

Synopsis: In September 1961, another chapter in Irish military history should have been written into the annals, but it is a story that was buried in obscurity for years.

The men of A Company, Thirty-Fifth Irish Infantry Battalion, arrived in the Congo as a United Nations contingent to help keep the peace. For many it would be their first trip outside their native shores. Some of the troops were teenage boys, their army-issue hobnailed boots still unbroken. They had never heard a shot fired in anger. Others were experienced professional soldiers but were still not prepared for the action that was to take place.

Led by Commandant Pat Quinlan, A Company found themselves tasked with protecting the European population at Jadotville, a small mining town in the southern Congolese province of Katanga. It fell to A Company to protect those who would later turn against them. On September 13th, 1961, the bright morning air of Jadotville was shattered by the sound of automatic gunfire.

The men of A Company found their morning mass parade interrupted, and within minutes they went from holding rosaries to rifles as they entered the world of combat. This was to be no Srebrenica; though cut off and surrounded, the men of Jadotville held their ground and fought.

Critique: Impressively researched, "Siege at Jadotville: The Irish Army's Forgotten Battle" is an extraordinary account that will prove to be a riveting read that is as informed and informative as it is comprehensive and detailed. A unique and documented account, "Siege at Jadotville" is an especially recommended addition to community and academic library 20th Century Military History collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Siege at Jadotville" is also available in a Kindle edition ($8.99) and in a complete and unabridged MP3 CD audio book format (Blackstone Audio, 9781504661065, $29.95).

See Something, Say Nothing
Philip Haney & Art Moore
WND Books
9781944229207, $25.95, HC, 352pp,

Synopsis: One day after a prominent U.S. Muslim leader reacted to the November 2015 Paris attacks with a declaration that the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, has nothing to do with Islam, President Obama made the same assertion.

Who exactly is the enemy we face, not only in the Middle East but also within our borders? Is it "murderers without a coherent creed"; or "nihilistic killers who want to tear things down", as some described ISIS after 130 people were brutally slain and another 368 injured in a coordinated attack on Western soil that authorities say was organized with help from inside France's Muslim communities.

After the Paris attacks, Obama, himself, described ISIS as "simply a network of killers who are brutalizing local populations."

When the Department of Homeland Security was founded in 2003, its stated purpose was "preventing terrorist attacks within the United States and reducing America's vulnerability to terrorism". The Bush administration's definition of the enemy as a tactic, terrorism, rather than a specific movement, proved consequential amid a culture of political correctness. By the time President Obama took office, Muslim Brotherhood-linked leaders in the United States were forcing changes to national security policy and even being invited into the highest chambers of influence. A policy known as Countering Violent Extremism emerged, downplaying the threat of supremacist Islam as unrelated to the religion and just one among many violent ideological movements.

When recently retired DHS frontline officer and intelligence expert Philip Haney bravely tried to say something about the people and organizations that threatened the nation, his intelligence information was eliminated, and he was investigated by the very agency assigned to protect the country. The national campaign by the DHS to raise public awareness of terrorism and terrorism-related crime known as If You See Something, Say Something effectively has become If You See Something, Say Nothing.

In "See Something, Say Nothing: A Homeland Security Officer Exposes the Government's Submission to Jihad", Philip Haney (a charter member of DHS with previous experience in the Middle East) and co-author Art Moore (an editor for and its monthly magazine and book-publishing division) expose just how deeply the submission, denial and deception run. Haney's insider, eyewitness account, supported by internal memos and documents, exposes a federal government capitulating to an enemy within and punishing those who reject its narrative.

Critique: A critically important and timely contribution to our on-going public and political discussions concerning national security in the face of our continuing and complex war against ISIS and it's various allies and domestic recruits, "See Something, Say Nothing" is unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Political Science collections in general, and National Security supplemental studies reading lists in particular. It should be noted for students and non-specialist general readers that "See Something, Say Nothing" is also available in a Kindle format ($9.99).

Brazilian-African Diaspora in Ghana
Kwame Essien
Michigan State University Press
1405 South Harrison Road, Suite 25, East Lansing, MI 48823-5245
9781611862195, $49.95, PB, 402pp,

Synopsis: "Brazilian-African Diaspora in Ghana: The Tabom, Slavery, Dissonance of Memory, Identity, and Locating Home" by Kwame Essien (the Derrick K. Gondwe fellow and an Assistant Professor of History and Africana studies at Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania) is a fresh approach that challenges both pre-existing and established notions of the African Diaspora by engaging new regions, conceptualizations, and articulations that move the field forward.

Professor Essien examines the untold story of freed slaves from Brazil who thrived socially, culturally, and economically despite the challenges they encountered after they settled in Ghana. "Brazilian-African Diaspora in Ghana" goes beyond the one-dimensional approach that only focuses on British abolitionists' funding of freed slaves' resettlements in Africa. The new interpretation of reverse migrations examines the paradox of freedom in discussing how emancipated Brazilian-Africans came under threat from British colonial officials who introduced stringent land ordinances that deprived the freed Brazilian- Africans from owning land, particularly "Brazilian land".

Professor Essien also considers a new contention between the returnees and other entities that were simultaneously vying for control over social, political, commercial, and religious spaces in Accra and tackles the fluidity of memory and how it continues to shape Ghana's history. The ongoing search for lost connections with the support of the Brazilian government -- inspiring multiple generations of Tabom (offspring of the returnees) to travel across the Atlantic and back, especially in the last decade -- illustrates the unending nature of the transatlantic diaspora journey and its impacts.

Critique: A seminal study of outstanding scholarship, "Brazilian-African Diaspora in Ghana: The Tabom, Slavery, Dissonance of Memory, Identity, and Locating Home" is impressively well researched, written, organized and presented, making it unreservedly recommended, especially for college and university library African History collections and supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Brazilian-African Diaspora in Ghana" is also available in a Kindle format ($34.79).

The Illuminati
Robert Howells
Watkins Publishing
Angel Business Club
9781780288727, $19.95, PB, 320pp,

Synopsis: Rob Howells has spent the last twenty years investigating the mysteries of Rennes-le-Chateau, the Priory of Sion and the history of conspiracy theories In "The Illuminati: The Counter Culture Revolution-From Secret Societies to Wilkileaks and Anonymous" he draws upon his years of research and expertise to demonstrate that the old secret societies were driven by the same impulse as Anonymous and WikiLeaks are today. These marginalized groups have always rebelled against the establishments; some subversively by spreading progressive ideas through art and literature, while others are far more proactive, driving revolution and exposing government secrets.

The Illuminati, founded in 1776, aimed to rid Europe of the ruling aristocracy and religious control of education, politics and science. They supported the Age of Enlightenment and were accused of fueling the dissent that culminated in the French Revolution.

Since that time the term Illuminati has become a meme, giving a name to a secret network believed by conspiracy theorists to control the world. These were depicted as pranksters, working in the shadows to manipulate society. It was in this climate of pranks, memes and conspiracy theories that the hacktivist collective Anonymous were born. Their ideals of freedom from censorship and the empowering of societies against their rulers make them the spiritual successors of the Illuminati.

The kindling of the French Revolution by the Illuminati has found a modern counterpart in how Anonymous and WikiLeaks played a key role in the Arab Spring uprisings using the internet as a new weapon against dictatorships. It is the same battle fought by secret societies for a millennium but the new inquisition has shifted its focus from secret societies to wage a war on the connected communities of the internet age. "The Illuminati" is the story of that war and how the American public needs to be an informed and active part of it.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The Illuminati: The Counter Culture Revolution-From Secret Societies to Wilkileaks and Anonymous" is remarkable informed and informative. A 'must read' for all students of the Illuminati and the impact of 'secret' societies and organizations such as Wikileaks, "The Illuminati" is an extraordinary and highly recommended addition to both community and academic library collections. For students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject it should be noted that "The Illuminati" is also available in a Kindle format ($8.99).

The Confused World of Modern Atheism
Rabbi Moshe Averick
Philipp Feldheim / CreateSpace
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781937887575, $25.99, HC, 290pp,

Synopsis: Is Atheism more rational than Monotheism? Atheists claim so. But "The Confused World of Modern Atheism" is fascinating, original and meticulously researched masterpiece by Rabbi Moshe Averick that proves otherwise. Exploring the Modern Atheistic movement in its failed attempts to confront the baffling scientific mysteries of the Origin of Life and Human Consciousness, Man's Search for Meaning, and the relentless human drive to seek coherent abstract Moral Principles; Rabbi Averick demonstrates conclusively that nearly everything that modern atheist thinkers have to say about God is simply nonsense. "The Confused World of Modern Atheism" is a powerful and compelling presentation that reclaims the intellectual high ground for the rational believer in God in the 21st Century. Using razor-sharp logic, a rapier wit, and irony-laced humor, Rabbi Averick exposes the gaping flaws in atheistic ideology in general, and in the modern "militant atheism" of writers like Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris, in particular.

Critique: Rabbi Moshe Averick was ordained as an Orthodox rabbi in Jerusalem in 1980. For the past three decades he has taught spirituality, theology, and religious philosophy in the United States, Canada, and Israel. In " The Confused World of Modern Atheism" he deftly presents an exceptionally well written, organized and presented study that is as consistently compelling as it is impressively informed and informative. Deftly crafted, remarkably thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Nonsense of a High Order" is unreservedly recommended for community, temple, and academic library Judaic Studies and Religious Studies collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of academia and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Confused World of Modern Atheism" is also available in a paperback format (9781535018340, $17.95).

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

Refinery Town
Steve Early
Beacon Press
24 Farnsworth Street, Boston, MA 02210
9780807094266, $27.95, HC, 248pp,

Synopsis: Home to one of the largest oil refineries in the state, Richmond, California, was once a typical company town bankrolled by Chevron. This largely nonwhite, working-class city of a hundred thousand had experienced the by-products of decades' worth of poverty, substandard housing, and poorly funded public education. It had one of the highest homicide rates, per capita, in the country and a jobless rate often twice the national average.

But in 2012, when veteran labor reporter Steve Early moved from New England to Richmond, where he witnessed a surprising transformation which he presents in "Refinery Town: Big Oil, Big Money, and the Remaking of an American City". Here Early chronicles the ten years of successful community organizing in Richmond that raised the minimum wage, defeated a casino development project, created a municipal ID to aid undocumented workers, challenged home foreclosures, and took on a big oil giant.

Here we meet a dynamic cast of characters ranging from 94-year-old Betty Reid Soskin, the country's oldest full-time National Park Ranger and witness to Richmond's complex history, to Gayle McLaughlin, the city's first Green Party mayor who led the movement to sue Chevron -- and won, to former police chief Chris Magnus, who pioneered "community policing" in Richmond, and is now celebrated as one of the country's most effective police reformers.

Part regional history, part call to action, "Refinery Town" is far more than the story of how one community defeated one company and remade itself into a revolutionary city. Richmond is merely a single example of how members of local government and empowered citizens can drive the nation forward, one city at a time.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, impressively informed and informative, a compelling and thoughtful read from beginning to end, "Refinery Town: Big Oil, Big Money, and the Remaking of an American City" is very strongly recommended for both community, college, and university library American History collections. It should be noted for academia and non-specialist general readers that "Refinery Town" is also available in a Kindle format ($16.99).

Merchants of Men
Loretta Napoleoni
Seven Stories Press
140 Watts Street, New York, NY 10013
9781609807085, $25.95, HC, 304pp,

Synopsis: A powerful and sophisticated underground business delivers thousands of refugees a day all along the Mediterranean coasts of Europe. The new breed of criminals that controls it has risen out of the political chaos of post-9/11 Western foreign policy and the fiasco of the Arab Spring. These merchants of men are intertwined with jihadist armed organizations such as al Qaeda in the Maghreb. They have prospered smuggling cocaine from West Africa and kidnaping Westerners. More recently, the destabilization of Syria and Iraq coupled with the rise of ISIS offered them new business opportunities in the Middle East, from selling Western hostages to jihadist groups to trafficking in refugees numbering in the millions.

Overall, the kidnaping industry today is bigger than the illegal drug trade and worth hundreds of billions of dollars annually. Merchants of Men is based on exclusive access to hostage negotiators actively involved in ransom negotiations and rescue missions, counter-terrorism experts, members of security services, and former hostages, among many others. The reader will discover that the protocols of prevention and rescue change according to the type of abduction and the designated targets, and will come to know first hand the range of experiences of kidnaping victims.

Will the West once again reap the benefits of the political chaos it has sown in its own backyard? From colonization to the advent of "friendly" dictatorial regimes, today's fast-aging European nations are buyers on the refugee market. New workers are needed, and the merchants of men are supplying them. But only skilled, highly educated refugees are wanted. As a tsunami of migrants and refugees floods Europe, new questions almost too numerous to count must be answered.

Critique: In some respects the nations of the west are now reaping what they've sown over the last century of military conquest and politically suppressive rule, directly or through puppet rulers with respect to the Middle Eastern and South Eastern peoples. One of those unexpected consequences has been the rise of ISIS and the reintroduction of slavery, female exploitation, kidnaping as a revenue resource, and the emergence of a bleakly raw and unremittingly violent version of Islamic fundamentalism. Author Loretta Napolioni's "Merchants of Men: How Jihadists and ISIS Turned Kidnaping and Refugee Trafficking into a Multi-Billion Dollar Business" is an exceptionally well researched, written, organized and presented study that should be a part of every community, college, academic, and governmental library International Terrorism collection and supplemental studies reading list. For the personal reading lists of students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Merchants of Men" is also available in a Kindle format ($16.99).

Translation and Translating in German Studies
John L. Plews & Diana Spokiene, editors
Wilfrid Laurier University Press
Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, N2L 3C5
9781771122283, $85.00, HC, 359pp,

Synopsis: Collaboratively compiled and co-edited by Canadian academicians John L. Plews (Associate Professor of German at Saint Mary's University, Nova Scotia) and Diana Spokiene (Associate Professor in German studies at York University), "Translation and Translating in German Studies: A Festschrift for Raleigh Whitinger" is a collection of essays in honor of Professor Raleigh Whitinger, a well-loved scholar of German literature, an inspiring teacher, and an exceptional editor and translator. Its twenty chapters, each written by Canadian and international experts, explores new perspectives on translation and German studies as they inform processes of identity formation, gendered representations, visual and textual mediations, and teaching and learning practices.

Translation (as a product) and translating (as a process) function both as analytical categories and as objects of analysis in literature, film, dance, architecture, history, second-language education, and study-abroad experiences. "Translation and Translating in German Studies" arches from theory and genres more traditionally associated with translation (i.e., literature, philosophy) to new media (dance, film) and experiential education, and identifies pressing issues and themes that are increasingly discussed and examined in the context of translation.

Critique: An impressive and seminal body of impeccable scholarship, "Translation and Translating in German Studies" is a study that will prove to be invaluable to university and college faculty working in the disciplines in German studies as well as in translation, cultural studies, and second-language education. Its combination of theoretical and practical explorations will allow readers to view cultural texts anew and invite educators to revisit long-forgotten or banished practices, such as translation in (auto)biographical writing and in the German language classroom. "Translation and Translating in German Studies" is unreservedly recommended for academic library German Literature reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

Canada: An Illustrated History, second edition
Derek Hayes
Douglas & McIntyre
c/o Harbour Publishing
PO Box 219, Madeira Park, BC, Canada, V0N 2H0
9781771621205, $36.95, PB, 296pp,

Synopsis: From the early days of exploration and settlement, to Canada's participation in space exploration, to the 2015 federal election, this newly revised, updated and expanded second edition of "Canada: An Illustrated History" illustrated history by Derek Hayes conveys the drama and scope of the nation. Through accessible commentary and a wealth of images, both well-known and obscure facets of Canadian history are presented in this splendid compendium.

"Canada: An Illustrated History" covers Canada's first newspaper, the Halifax Gazette, which, in its first iteration, was a single sheet of paper; a Canadian bridge that collapsed not once, but twice; Canada's history of crime and punishment, firefighting, the 25-cent and $50,000 bills, Prohibition, early aviation, and so much more.

"Canada: An Illustrated History" also features tales of a myriad of men and women who shaped Canada including the famous, the infamous, the popular and the unknown. "Canada: An Illustrated History" details stories of First Nations, separatists and statesmen, astronauts and inventors, motorists, mail carriers, fur traders, photographers and politicians.

More than 450 illustrations enhance the text, including 200-plus photographs, 50-plus paintings and drawings (many by Canadian artists), 35 historic maps, as well as posters, stamps, cartoons, stained glass and tapestries.

Critique: Impressively informative, exceptionally well written, thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation from cover to cover, "Canada: An Illustrated History" is unreservedly recommended for personal, community, and academic library Canadian History collections in general, and supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

Eco-Evolutionary Dynamics
Andrew P. Hendry
Princeton University Press
41 William Street, Princeton, NJ 08540
9780691145433, $65.00, HC, 416pp,

Synopsis: In recent years, scientists have realized that evolution can occur on timescales much shorter than the "long lapse of ages" emphasized by Charles Darwin -- in fact, evolutionary change is occurring all around us all the time.

"Eco-Evolutionary Dynamics" by Andrew P. Hendry (Professor in the Department of Biology and the Redpath Museum at McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada) provides an authoritative and accessible introduction to eco-evolutionary dynamics, a cutting-edge new field that seeks to unify evolution and ecology into a common conceptual framework focusing on rapid and dynamic environmental and evolutionary change.

Professor Hendry covers key aspects of evolution, ecology, and their interactions. Topics presented in "Eco-Evolutionary Dynamics" range from natural selection, adaptive divergence, ecological speciation, and gene flow to population and community dynamics, ecosystem function, plasticity, and genomics.

Professor Hendry also evaluates conceptual and methodological approaches, and draws on empirical data from natural populations (including those in human-disturbed environments) to tackle a number of classic and emerging research questions.

Of special note is Professor Henry's discussion of exciting new directions for future research at the intersection of ecology and evolution.

An invaluable guide for students and researchers alike, Eco-evolutionary Dynamics reveals how evolution and ecology interact strongly on short timescales to shape the world we see around us.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Eco-Evolutionary Dynamics" is a model of erudite scholarship that will be appreciated by academia and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject. While unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Ecology and Biology collections in general, and Evolution supplemental studies reading lists in particular, it should be noted that "Eco-Evolutionary Dynamics" is also available in a Kindle format ($37.99).

Michael J. Carson

Clint's Bookshelf

Montana Madams
Nann Parrett
Farcountry Press
PO Box 5630, Helena, MT 59604
9781560376347 $16.95

Synopsis: Men flooded to the Montana frontier for gold, furs, rich land, and jobs. Women followed, but their options were more limited. Here are stories of women who made a desperate choice, turning the law of supply and demand to their advantage. Many eked out a meager but independent existence; grit and business acumen brought remarkable wealth and influence - even respectability - to a few. From Alzada to Yaak, these enterprising women shaped Montana communities, in some cases helping to fund social programs and public education.

Critique: Spanning the 1860s to the 1980s, Montana Madams is an extraordinary anthology of true-life stories about female managers of the skin trade, including Madame Moustache, Chicago Joe, Big Dorothy, Mary Gleim, and more sagas of little known illicit businesswomen. Forty-eight vintage black-and-white photographs, a list of sources of original research, and an index enhance this sometimes salacious, always fascinating collection. Montana Madams is especially recommended for amateur and professional historians interested in learning more about a side of Montana's past that standard textbooks tend to gloss over!

Incurable Me
K. P. Stoller, M.D.
Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.
307 West 36th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10018
9781510707986, $24.99, HC, 216pp,

Synopsis: Dr. K. P. Stoller completed his training at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Medicine in 1986 and was a practicing board certified-pediatrician for over two decades, focusing on brain-injured children and adults. Dr. Stoller's area of expertise is functional medicine, also known as integrative medicine. He is chief of hyperbaric medicine at the Hyperbaric Oxygen Clinic of San Francisco and editor of Medical Gas Research. In "Incurable Me: Why the Best Medical Research Does Not Make It into Clinical Practice" Dr. Stoller brings transparency to some of medicine's most closely guarded secrets. As he establishes a link between commerce and medical research, Dr. Stoller also explains how to treat some of the most worrisome diseases and conditions afflicting humans today -- including Lyme disease, brain trauma, dementia, and autism. Dr. Stoller maintains that the best evidence in medical research is not incorporated into clinical practice unless the medical cartel has the potential to make large amounts of money promoting the results of the research. Dr. Stoller takes his provocative argument a step further, maintaining that if specific research conflicts with a powerful entity's financial interests, the likely result will be an effort to suppress or distort the results. Dr. Stoller cites numerous examples, including corporate influence on GMO labeling and public health. Dr. Stoller also explores how "revolving-door-employment" between the Centers for Disease Control and large pharmaceutical companies can affect research results -- as well as our health.

Critique: Unfortunately, modern medicine is heavily driven by profiteering, with catastrophic results. Written in an reader-friendly style that is thoroughly accessible to a lay audience, "Incurable Me" is a must-read for anyone interested in the state of modern medicine, and a critically important addition to community and academic library Health/Medicine collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Incurable Me" is also available in a Kindle format ($14.49).

Look Past
Eric Devine
Running Press
c/o Perseus Book Group
250 W. 57th St., Suite 1500, New York, NY 10107
9780762459216, $16.95, HC, 288pp,

Synopsis: Someone brutally murdered Mary Mathison, daughter of a prominent and very conservative local pastor, and Avery, a transgender boy who loved Mary, is bent on finding her killer. He goes to the crime scene to do some investigating, but is quickly put in harm's way. Reluctantly, Avery must move to the sidelines to wait for the police to do their job. However, following Mary's funeral, Avery receives the first in a series of disturbing text messages that can only come from the killer, revealing that Avery is now a target. The killer claims that Mary's murder was revenge for her relationship with Avery. The killer's demands are simple and horrific: Avery must repent for changing his gender identity, or he will be the next one killed.

Now Avery is torn between finding the murderer and protecting himself from a killer who is playing a disturbing cat-and-mouse game. Can Avery deny who he is to catch Mary's killer? Or will sacrificing himself be the ultimate betrayal?

Critique: In "Look Past" author Eric Devine clearly shows himself to be a master of the genre and an impressively gifted novelist able to craft truly memorable characters and a consistently compelling story from beginning to end. While highly recommended, especially for community library Mystery/Suspense collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of dedicated mystery buffs that "Look Past" is also available in a Kindle format ($9.99).

Livia Lone
Barry Eisler
Thomas & Mercer
c/o Amazon Digital Publishing
9781503939660, $24.95, HC, 358pp,

Synopsis: Seattle PD sex-crimes detective Livia Lone knows the monsters she hunts. Sold by her Thai parents along with her little sister, Nason; marooned in America; abused by the men who trafficked them -- the only thing that kept Livia alive as a teenager was her determination to find Nason. Livia has never stopped looking. And she copes with her failure to protect her sister by doing everything she can to put predators in prison. Or, when that fails, by putting them in the ground. But when a fresh lead offers new hope of finding Nason and the men who trafficked them both, Livia will have to go beyond just being a cop. Beyond even being a vigilante. She'll have to relive the horrors of the past. Take on one of the most powerful men in the US government. And uncover a conspiracy of almost unimaginable evil. In every way, it's an unfair fight. But Livia has two advantages: her unending love for Nason -- and a lifelong lust for vengeance.

Critique: A riveting read from first page to last, "Livia Lone" reveals author Barry Eisler has having an impressive flair for creating memorable characters and deftly crafted storylines. While unreservedly recommended for community library fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Livia Lone" is also available in a paperback edition (9781503939653, $15.95) and in a Kindle format ($4.99).

The Jekyll Revelation
Robert Masello
47 North
c/o Amazon Digital Publishing
9781503951198, $14.95, PB, 492pp,

Synopsis: While on routine patrol in the tinder-dry Topanga Canyon, environmental scientist Rafael Salazar expects to find animal poachers, not a dilapidated antique steamer trunk. Inside the peculiar case, he discovers a journal, written by the renowned Robert Louis Stevenson, which divulges ominous particulars about his creation of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It also promises to reveal a terrible secret -- nothing less than the secret identity of Jack the Ripper! Unfortunately, the journal (whose macabre tale unfolds in an alternating narrative with Rafe's) isn't the only relic in the trunk, and Rafe isn't the only one to purloin a souvenir. A mysterious flask containing the last drops of the grisly potion that inspired Jekyll and Hyde and spawned London's most infamous killer has gone missing. And it has definitely fallen into the wrong hands. It seems a chilling curse has been transported from 1880s London to present-day California -- awakening a long-dormant fiend.

Critique: "The Jekyll Revelation" is a simply riveting read from cover to cover and highly recommended, especially for community library collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "The Jekyll Revelation" is also available in a Kindle format ($4.99).

Tiananmen West
Jenny Deason Copeland
Crazy Red Head Publishing
9780692714980 $24.99 pbk

Synopsis: Tiananmen West encompasses decades of research by the author in hopes of replacing conspiracy theories with facts. The FoIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests reveal some interesting new perspectives of not only the Kent State Massacre but how the mind of Richard Nixon could justify such an event. The book ends with a call to action, that, if followed, might prevent the U.S. from ever allowing an unfit President to obtain the office again. The evidence presented in the book suggests that Nixon was insane while in office. It also buys in to the theory of others that Nixon acted like a Mafia boss. He was a man in charge of a homicidal reign unmatched in America's history. It also suggests that his purpose for the Kent State Massacre was to help him end the Vietnam War using one more of his homicidal, disturbing, psychological twists. In the end, four innocent college students lost their lives. But in the mind of Richard M. Nixon, the ends justified the means.

Critique: Tiananmen West makes a shocking allegation against former U.S. president Richard Nixon. Author and historian Jenny Deason Copeland lays out the case for Nixon's criminal intent with meticulous precision. Whether one agrees or disagrees with Tiananmen West's conclusions, the evidence is at once both horrifying and compelling to contemplate, making Tiananmen West all but impossible to put down.

Clint Travis

Duncan's Bookshelf

The Love Hunter
Jon Hassler
Ballantine Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780345410191, $0.01, PB (Used), 320 pp.,

At the appointed time (sunrise) Chris arrived at Larry's house to drive Larry to a remote area of bogs in Canada. Larry is in the final stage of MS and Chris intends that Larry die in a hunting accident by drowning. At the hunting camp they meet and are influenced by the ebullient Blackie LaVoi, who runs the camp with a blind woman and two females who exist to 'service' the needs of male hunters.

This novel revolves around this question: Chris loves Larry, who is asking to die by accident. Will Chris drown Larry who is suffering from depression and losing his bodily functions? The characters at Blackie's camp are memorable as are Larry and Chris. It was a good read BUT slightly morose. An ethical person wonders if Chris has the gumption to commit an act of murder.

That question, in the back of this reader's mind, tainted the entire novel. To believe in a character like Chris is to rise and fall with his actions.

Clive Cussler & Jack Du Brul
Penguin Group
375 Hudson St, NY, New York 10014
9780425233290, $9.99 PB, $9.99 Kindle, 437 pp.

An ancient pirate/Imam on the Barbary coast of Africa brought his small ship up a river in Libya. Then his engineer lifted the boat to a higher level on the river and left it protected inside a cave. This Imam is greatly respected by today's Muslim Imams. Archeologists suggest his writings, professing a new interpretation of the Quran may be inside the ancient ship.

Juan Cabrillo and the crew of the Oregon are hired to investigate the kidnapping of the US Secretary of State. They discover the Secretary has been slated for death at the hands of the Islamic terrorists.

To Cussler fans: It is a good read with action that keeps the reader pinned to his (or her) chair. The technology inside the Oregon helps Juan's crew during a nearly disastrous battle at sea.

On a scale of 1 to 10, this sceptic gives Corsair a 9.

Marty Duncan, Reviewer

Gail's Bookshelf

Heart Eyes: The Journey Begins
Christine Johnson
Tate Publishing
127 East Trade Center Terrace, Mustang, OK 73064
9781682708644, $11.99,

Debut author Christine Johnson, ( wraps prayer, praise, worship and the power of God into an exciting new fantasy series that begins with "Heart Eyes" The story of a young boy named Charlie, who runs away, the beings he meets and how he learns to use the full armor of God in spiritual warfare. The small numbers of well-done black and white illustrations are for ages 9-12, however adults will enjoy the storyline as much or more than children.

The story begins with the "King of Lies" evil presence, his vile voice screaming at the demons surrounding his "obsidian-crusted throne." "Do something! Stop The Promise being fulfilled. If you don't...according to Scripture... our Kingdom" will be destroyed!

"Fire flashed" from Ecnagorra's demon eyes when he approached the king, bowed low and said he had a plan to find "who the enemy is sending the Promise through." The king screamed and called him "a fool" and Ecnagorra felt the full measure of the king's wrath when he didn't move fast enough to avoid the king's blows that drew blood from his scab-encrusted neck.

Charlie and his little sister Sarah learned about demons, angels and the spirit world in Sunday School, but they were just stories to Charlie as he gathered the "maps, money and food" to run away. He planned to join his Uncle Joe in Alaska and couldn't know his plans would be sidetracked when demons from the spiritual world engaged him in a battle for his soul. Or that he would meet Guardian, an angel who would teach Charlie to see with "heart eyes."

Christine Johnson penned "Heart Eyes" to teach youngsters the "Word of God in action" through an exciting fiction story about the Bible's spiritual world of angels, demons and the power of God wrapped in a story of good versus evil. The non-denominational story line carries a biblical world view that emphasizes prayer, praise, worship and how to be in relationship with Christ.

On a scale of one to ten, "Heart Eye's" is a ten and would make a terrific Christmas present for anyone. For an interview with the Washington author: YouTube Interview link:

Book two "The Heart Garden: from Stone to Flesh" is scheduled to release in 2017

Third Calling: What are you doing the rest of your life?
Richard & Leona Bergstrom
Church Health
PO Box 1493, Edmonds, WA 98020
9780970555212, $14.99,

Gerontologist Amy Hanson describes Baby Boomers born between 1946 and 1964 as "independent, cause oriented and well-educated" in the foreword to Richard and Leona Bergstrom's new release, "Third Calling". Where the author's believe retirement is a time to consider the question, "What will I do with the rest of my life?" Will this new season mean potlucks and rocking chairs or will I find new direction, meaning and purpose in a life free of alarm clocks, schedules and work responsibilities?

A calling designed by God even though retirees often struggle with stresses of adult children, grandchildren and health issues while also caring for aging parents. The Bergstrom's, leading edge Baby Boomers themselves, founded Re-Ignite, an organization that equips Baby Boomers ages 55-70, to search for and discover new meaning and purpose in retirement. Their quest also led them to write "Third Calling."

The book defines first, second and third callings as three stages of life. The first segment includes family responsibilities and young adulthood, the second, midlife responsibilities and the third offers "a full range of opportunities in maturity." The third is like a blank canvas ready to be filled in by engaged, involved and often passionate retirees.

Part one invites readers to "step into their story...pursue their passion and awake their dreams." while part two clarifies what values are, how values determine new directions and how to "hear the One who calls."

Part three considers risks, explores new worlds and new possibilities that focus on how to live a memorable, "values-based" life. Chapters include quotes, Scriptures, tools, insights and personal examples that equip readers for their third calling and make a difference in the world.

Written from a Christian perspective and filled with practical, doable suggestions, "Third Calling" is the perfect gift for anyone nearing or in retirement as they consider what to do with the rest of their life.

Kissing Father Christmas: A Novel
Robin Jones Gunn
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
9781455565603, $19.00,

"Kissing Father Christmas" completes Robin Jones Gunn ( heartwarming "Father Christmas" novella series that began with "Finding Father Christmas," an inspirational romance Hallmark made into a movie for Christmas in 2016.

Anna, a minor character in previous books, takes center stage when she returns to the enchanting village of Carlton Heath at the invitation of family and friends. During her last stay at Whitcombe Manor in May she celebrated her Cousin Ian's marriage to Miranda. They had all had such a good time friends and family invited her to return for Christmas.

The wedding reception still remained in sharp focus as Anna made plans to return to England over the summer. She couldn't forget Peter Elliott, an outgoing and complex man she'd met at the wedding reception. They had danced the night away that night and it remained a magical night in Anna's memory because their final dance ended with an unforgettable kiss full of promise. What would happen upon her return?

Thus begins an inspirational Christmas romance that transports readers to London, England with a story rich in family traditions, faith in God and the real meaning of Christmas. Although Anna will soon flirt with mixed signals, misleading statements and discouragement she will still secretly believe in fairy tales and magical possibilities. Set the mood for a joyous season and join Anna this Christmas and learn along with her the lessons of love because "as soon as your soul feels its worth, all you can do is receive grace and love as a gift."

Although part of a series, "Kissing Father Christmas" can be read as a stand-alone title.

Goodnight, Manger
Laura Sassi, author
Jane Chapman, illustrator
5300 Patterson Avenue SE, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530
9780310755715, $8.99, Board Book,

Laura Sassi uses creative license, colorful illustrations and rhyming text to tell an imaginative manger tale about Baby Jesus because Mama believes there's " much noise! He just can't sleep."

After "rocking, squeezing, hugging" and holding sweet Baby tight, Mary and Joseph "Dim the lantern and say "Goodnight." Soon a clucking hen approaches with soft brown feathers to mix with the itchy hay and a braying donkey brings a pillow for Baby Jesus to snuggle into while angels sing loud "Hosannas overhead."

However, "Mama's frantic. In a Tizzy. Who knew stables were so busy?" Until she takes command and suggests another way for everyone to work together.

While the board book is sturdy enough for toddlers, the illustrations beautiful and the rhyming text engaging, the overall message of the Christmas story is subtly changed. Jesus' mother is portrayed as frantic and she tells the angels praising Jesus to " quiet, please." The story says the manger is filled with itchy hay and Baby Jesus is portrayed crying all of which take away from the holiness of the event.

Even with the engaging rhyme, because of the age range, this board book may be the first Christmas story children hear and it might be more suitable for those who aren't ardent fans of the scriptural Christmas story.

Ready, Set, Find Christmas
5300 Patterson Avenue SE, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530
9780310757665, $8.99, Board Book,

Ready, Set, Find, Christmas is an interactive board book for children ages 4-8. Because of the books simple portrayal of Mary and Joseph's journey to Bethlehem, the birth of Jesus and visits from the shepherds and wise men the book is more suitable for toddlers through age six.

The numbered, twelve-page board book has rounded corners with sturdy, chunky page tabs for little fingers to grab. Two page spreads include a few sentences about the story, accompanying scriptures and eight pictures of items to find in the colorful illustrations on the opposing page.

Elegantly costumed characters and engaging animals relate the story visually while the story, the items to find and scripture fill are on the left. While on the right, a few sentences unfold the story with scripture references that reinforce the story in addition to the items to find that make his an interactive book for children.

The well-made book is a perfect choice to introduce young children to the Christmas story.

Gail Welborn, Reviewer

Julie's Bookshelf

Impressionist and Modern Art: The A. Jerrold Perenchio Collection
Leah Lehmbeck, editor
Prestel Publishing
900 Broadway, Suite 603, New York, NY 10003
9783791355610, $65.00, HC, 256pp,

Synopsis: Compiled and edited by Leah Lehmbeck (Curator in the Department of European Painting and Sculpture at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art) and with informative commentary contributions by Michael Govan (the CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art) and Kristine McKenna (an American journalist, critic, and curator), "Impressionist and Modern Art: The A. Jerrold Perenchio Collection" offers an overview of the promised gift of A. Jerrold Perenchio, a renowned philanthropist and art collector, that will transform the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's collection of 19th and 20th-century European art.

The collection of former Univision CEO A. Jerrold Perenchio is a treasure trove of masterpieces, including important works by Bonnard, Degas, Le?ger, Magritte, Manet, Monet, Picasso, and others. By donating this incredible collection to LACMA, Perenchio will singlehandedly transform the museum's collection of European art. Ranging from the 1870s through the 1930s, many of these nearly 50 pieces exemplify some of the most radical and inventive moments in the history of art.

Included here are Degas's outstanding At the Cafe? Concert: Song of the Dog; LACMA's first Manet, the portrait of M. Gauthier-Lathuille, fils; three exceptional paintings by Monet; a Post-Impressionist standout by Bonnard; a superb early Cubist drawing by Picasso; and Magritte's Dangerous Liaisons.

Featuring brilliant reproductions of each work and insightful text, "Impressionist and Modern Art: The A. Jerrold Perenchio Collection" celebrates an extremely rare and magnanimous demonstration of support for the visual arts and for one of the United States' premier museums.

Critique: An impressively organized and presented overview and study of this LACMA art collection, "Impressionist and Modern Art: The A. Jerrold Perenchio Collection" is unreservedly recommended for personal, community, and academic library Art History collections. Librarians should note that this superbly published edition of "Impressionist and Modern Art: The A. Jerrold Perenchio Collection" would make an excellent Library Memorial Fund acquisition selection.

Facebook for Seniors
Carrie Ewin, Chris Wein, Cheryl Ewin
No Starch Press
245 - 8th Street, San Francisco, CO 94103-3910
9781593277918, $24.95, PB, 332pp,

Synopsis: Facebook is the world's largest internet community. It's used by millions of people like you to connect with family and friends, share photos, and stay in touch. But if you're new to Facebook, getting started can be a little tricky. Based on award-winning computer classes for seniors, the 12 lessons comprising Facebook for Seniors will show how to do things like: Sign up for Facebook and connect with family members and old friends; Instantly share photos and messages; Keep up-to-date with friends and loved ones; Chat about cars, gardening, travel, or anything else that interests you; Play games, and RSVP to parties and other events; Keep your account safe and secure. Step-by-step instructions and full-color images make it easy to follow along. Activities throughout help you practice what you've learned, and if you get stuck, just flip to the solutions at the back of the book!

Critique: Thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, "Facebook for Seniors" is unreservedly recommended for seniors (or anyone else at any age!) seeking to learn how to use Facebook. An effective and practical instruction manual, "Facebook for Seniors" will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to senior citizen center and community library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Facebook for Seniors" is also available in a Kindle format ($17.94).

Peters' Music Therapy: An Introduction, third edition
Wanda Lathom-Radocy
Charles C. Thomas, Publisher
2600 South First Street, Springfield, IL 62704
9780398091095, $79..95, HC, 804pp,

Synopsis: Now in a newly updated and expanded third edition, "Peters' Music Therapy: An Introduction" by music therapist Wanda Lathom-Radocy includes 14 years of literature appearing since the second edition and has made changes in terminology to reflect the publication of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Ed. (DSM-5), which was published in 2013 by the American Psychiatric Association.

"Peters' Music Therapy: An Introduction" is divided into three major sections. Part I defines music therapy and discusses the music therapist's education and training. Part II gives the historical background for music therapy, the perspective of the use of music in healing practices from ancient times to the present. Part III begins with a discussion of general guidelines for using music in therapy, followed by specific examples of music therapy clinical practices with various client populations. The final section concludes with an overview of several approaches to music therapy practice and a discussion of the importance of research for the practicing clinician.

Some of the specific information to gain from this text is enumerated in the introduction to each section. Each individual chapter concludes with a summary, questions to help the reader reflect upon or apply the information, and suggestions for further reading.

Since it is an introduction to music therapy, "Peters' Music Therapy: An Introduction" is directed primarily toward students in introductory music therapy courses and professionals in related disciplines who desire a basic knowledge of the scope of music therapy. In addition, those who use this text should be aware that its construction was guided by the philosophy that introductory courses in music therapy should primarily emphasize the use of music as an integral part of the treatment process, since using music and music-based experiences as their primary treatment modality is what sets music therapists apart from other therapists.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Peters' Music Therapy: An Introduction" is unreservedly recommended as a curriculum textbook in the field of music therapy and an invaluable, cored addition to professional, college, and university library collections.

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

Synopsis: For millennia, the human imagination has been devoted to the Goddess, so it is hardly a surprise to find images of supernatural females like Sheela na gigs adorning sacred and secular architecture throughout Ireland, England, Wales, and Scotland. Appearing on rural churches, castles, bridges, holy wells, tombs, and standing stones, these powerful images of a figure fearlessly displaying her vulva embody the power of the Dark Goddess over the mysteries of sex, life, death, and rebirth.

Exploring the art and myth of the Sheela na gig from Celtic and Classical times back to Paleolithic cave art, Starr Goode (who teaches writing and literature at Santa Monica College) shows how the Sheela embraces a conundrum of opposites: she clearly offers up her ripe sex yet emanates a repelling menace from the upper half of her hag-like body. Through more than 150 photographs, the author shows how the Sheela is a goddess with the power to renew, a folk deity used to help women survive childbirth, and, as a guardian of doorways and castle walls, a liminal entity representing the gateway to the divine. She explains how these powerful images survived eradication during the rise of Christianity and retained their preeminent positions on sacred sites, including medieval churches.

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

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

Critique: Profusely illustrated with black/white images, "Sheela na gig: The Dark Goddess of Sacred Power" is an exceptionally well researched, impressively informed and informative, deftly organized and presented study that will prove to be of immense interest and value for academia and non-specialist general readers alike. While unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Metaphysical Studies collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Sheela na gig: The Dark Goddess of Sacred Power" is also available in a Kindle format ($17.99).

Thinking Parent, Thinking Child, second edition
Myrna B. Shure
Research Press
2612 North Mattis Avenue, Champaign, IL 61822
9780878227037, $24.99, PB, 213pp,

Synopsis: Now in a newly updated and expanded second edition, "Thinking Parent, Thinking Child: Turning Everyday Problems into Solutions" by Myrna B. Shure (Professor Emeritus in the Department of Psychology at Drexel University in Philadelphia) shows her readers how to apply I Can Problem Solve techniques to the top concerns of parents and children from preschoolers through preteens. With updated research, three completely new chapters, and numerous new problem-solving scenarios, "Thinking Parent, Thinking Child" offers a sensible way for parents to help their children learn how to think, not what to think. This new edition also extends commentary on the problem-solving approach to include relevant research conducted since the book's first edition was published.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, and thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, "Thinking Parent, Thinking Child: Turning Everyday Problems into Solutions" this new second edition is unreservedly recommended for both academia and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject. No professional, community, college, and university library Psychology of Parenting collection can be considered complete and up-to-date without a copy of this latest edition of "Thinking parent, Thinking Child".

My Demon's Name is Ed
Danah Khalil
Second Story Press
20 Maud Street, Suite 401, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M5V 2M5
9781927583968, $12.95, PB, 136pp,

Synopsis: The real journal entries of a teen girl suffering with anorexia show the terrifying grip the disorder has on her. She personifies her eating disorder by calling it a demon and naming it Ed.

Ed is undermining her self-esteem and her perception of the world. How can she explain that even when she tries to develop healthier eating habits, there is a demon wriggling inside her mind, determining her every step? Every whispering: You see? It is "normal" to lose weight. I told you. Yes, I am always right. You must keep going. Keep going.

Critique: "My Demon's Name is Ed" is a brutally honest depiction of a disorder that changes a life forever. An exceptional and consistently compelling read from beginning to end, "My Demon's Name is Ed" should be a part of every highschool, community, and college library collection in the country. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "My Demon's Name is Ed" is also available in a Kindle format ($7.55).

Victory Over Cancer and Fear
Stephanie Carmichael
Westbow Press
c/o Thomas Nelson Publishers
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9781512707472, $39.95, HC, 160pp,

Synopsis: There's more to cancer than the diagnosis! How do you respond when endless tests and bad doctor's reports are handed to you? How do you handle the fear, anxiety, anger, and depression that comes in the wake of a terrible diagnosis?

In the pages of "Victory Over Cancer and Fear: Finding Peace in the Midst of the Storm" inspirational speaker, teacher, writer, and two time cancer survivor Stephanie Carmichael shares her personal journey through the breast cancer battlefield. There is a place of joy and peace that can be found in the midst of the storm!

"Victory Over Cancer and Fear" covers such issues as: How to speak words of life; Dealing with fear; Facing the Battle; Power of prayer; Power of praise; God's sustaining strength; Gain new intimacy with God; Navigate the Valley of the Shadow of Death; Choose Life Abundantly; How to survive and thrive.

Stephanie also shares with her readers the Word's of Life scriptures that carried her through the toughest battle of her life. There is peace to be found right where you are -- in the midst of the storm!

Critique: Informed and informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking, inspired and inspiring, "Victory Over Cancer and Fear: Finding Peace in the Midst of the Storm" is unreservedly recommended for community library collections in general, and the personal reading lists of anyone having to deal with a diagnosis of cancer for themselves or with a loved one. It should be noted that "Victory Over Cancer and Fear" is also available in a paperback edition (9781512707458, $13.95) and in a Kindle format ($7.99).

A Traveler's Guide to the Afterlife
Mark Mirabello
Inner Traditions International, Ltd.
One Park Street, Rochester, VT 05767
9781620555972, $16.95, PB, 224pp,

Synopsis: Drawing on death and afterlife traditions from cultures around the world, Mark Mirabello (Professor of History at Shawnee State University, Portsmouth, Ohio) explores the many forms of existence beyond death and each tradition's instructions to access the afterlife. Professor Mirabello examines beliefs on the soul, heaven, hell, and reincarnation and wisdom from Books of the Dead such as the Book of Going Forth by Day from Egypt, the Katha Upanishad from India, the Bardo Thodol from Tibet, the Golden Orphic Tablets from Greece, Lieh Tzu from China, and Heaven and its Wonders and Hell from Things Heard and Seen from 18th-century Europe.

Considering the question "What is Death?" Professor Mirabello provides answers from a wide range of ancient and modern thinkers, including scientist Nicholas Maxwell, the seer Emanuel Swedenborg, 1st-century Buddhist philosopher Nagarjuna, and Greek philosopher Euripides, who opined that we may already be dead and only dreaming we are alive. He explores the trek of the soul through life and death with firsthand accounts of the death journey and notes that what is perceived as death here may actually be life somewhere else. He reveals how, in many traditions, ethics and the afterlife are not connected and how an afterlife is possible even without a god or a soul. Sharing evidence that consciousness is not simply a product of the brain, he offers a strong rebuttal to nihilists, materialists, and the Lokayata philosophical school of India who believe in the "finality" of death. He explains how specters and ghosts are produced and offers techniques to communicate with the dead as well as instructions for an out-of-body experience and the complete procedure for a seance.

Critique: Featuring an extensive bibliography of more than 900 sources, "A Traveler's Guide to the Afterlife: Traditions and Beliefs on Death, Dying, and What Lies Beyond" offers comprehensive information on afterlife beliefs from the vast majority of cultures around the world and throughout history and is a veritable "traveler's guide" to the afterlife. Exhaustively researched, impressively well written, exceptionally 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, "A Traveler's Guide to the Afterlife" is unreservedly recommended for personal, community, and academic library Metaphysical Studies collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of academia and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "A Traveler's Guide to the Afterlife" is also available in a Kindle format ($9.99).

Lessons from Zachary
Sandy Scott
International Publishing Works
PO Box 415, Belivue, CO 80512-0415
9780997596205, $19.95, 284pp,

Synopsis: Sandy Scott was a woman who had it all: a beautiful country home, a successful husband, and the freedom to be a stay-at-home mom.

Then the news crashed down on her like a Tsunami: her infant son Zachary not only had severe brain damage but probably wouldn't live past his first birthday.

As denial gave way to despair and grief, Sandy looked out over the new, strange world into which her family suddenly found themselves thrown and wondered if they would ever know happiness again. But it was in the very challenges that Zachary's condition presented to her that she discovered her own hidden inner resources and a whole new level of compassion among other people. She eventually took on greater roles in the disability community and found her calling as a life coach.

In "Lessons from Zachary: Turning Disability into Possibility", Sandy shares the knowledge and insights she gained through her own personal journey of discovery and overcoming obstacles, showing us how to use our strengths to navigate life's difficult situations to find meaning and lasting fulfillment. Scattered throughout her moving story are multiple useful tools from life coaching including Life Wheel, checklists, Miracle Question, and others that are specifically designed to help the reader develop his or her unknown potential.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Lessons from Zachary: Turning Disability into Possibility" is as thoughtful and thought-provoking as it is informative and ultimately inspiring. A compelling read from cover to cover, and very highly recommended, especially for community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Lessons From Zachary" is also available in a Kindle format ($8.99).

Perfect Pairs
Melissa Stewart & Nancy Chesley
Pembroke Pub Ltd.
c/o Stenhouse Publishers
480 Congress Street, Portland, ME 04101-3451
9781571109590, $37.33, PB, 360pp,

Synopsis: Hands-on lessons can be fun and compelling, but when it comes to life science, they aren't always possible, practical, effective, or safe. Children can't follow wolves as they hunt elk, visit a prehistoric swamp, or shrink down to the size of a molecule and observe photosynthesis firsthand. But they can explore a whole world of animals, plants, and ecosystems through the pages of beautifully illustrated, science-themed picture books.

The collaborative work of Melissa Stewart (an award-winning author of more than 150 science-themed nonfiction books for children) and Nancy Chesley (a former elementary school teacher for twenty-six years and a K-5 science and literacy specialist for six years), "Perfect Pairs: Using Fiction and Nonfiction Picture Books to Teach Life Science, Grades 3-5", showcases fiction and nonfiction picture books focused on life science, helps educators think about and teach life science in a whole new way.

Each of the twenty lessons comprising "Perfect Pairs" is built around a pair of books that introduces a critical life science concept and guides students through an inquiry-based investigative process to explore that idea-from life cycles and animal-environment interactions to the inheritance of traits and the critical role of energy in our world.

Each lesson starts with a "Wonder Statement" and comprises three stages. "Engaging Students" features a hands-on activity that captures student interest, uncovers current thinking, and generates vocabulary. The heart of the investigative process, "Exploring with Students," spotlights the paired books as the teacher reads aloud and helps students find and organize information into data tables. "Encouraging Students to Draw Conclusions" shows students how to review and analyze the information they have collected.

Bringing high-quality science-themed picture books into the classroom engages a broad range of students, addresses the Performance Expectations outlined in the Next Generation Science Standards, and supports the goals of the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts.

Critique: Thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, "Perfect Pairs: Using Fiction and Nonfiction Picture Books to Teach Life Science, Grades 3-5" is an extraordinarily informative and practical instruction manual and textbook that is unreservedly recommended for college and university Teacher Education reference collections in general, and Elementary School Classroom Instruction supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

Signs of Our Times
Rose Issa, et al.
Merrell Publishers
8755 Lookout Mountain Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90046
9781858946528, $70.00, HC, 320pp,

Synopsis: The collaborative work of Rose Issa, Juliet Cestar, and Venetia porter, "Signs of Our Times: From Calligraphy to Calligraffiti" covers six decades of an art trend led by artists from the Arab world and Iran. Starting in the early 1950s, this alternative and original approach to modernism began with artists who took inspiration from their own cultural sources and combined them with international aesthetics and concepts.

"Signs of Our Times" considers the work of 50 key artists, ranging from important pioneers of the calligraphic movement to those who use the written word in their work today. "Signs of Our Times" begins with a contribution from Venetia Porter, curator of Islamic and contemporary Middle Eastern art at the British Museum, who provides a historical contextualization of the movement and its relationship to lettrism in Europe. In a second essay, the writer and curator Rose Issa presents an overview of 60 years of the art movement in Arab countries and Iran, from the independences of the late 1940s and 1950s to the present day. A timeline by Juliet Cestar, an expert on contemporary Middle Eastern art, then sets out major cultural and historical events in the Middle East over the course of the last 60 years.

The main part of "Signs of Our Times" is divided into three sections, each devoted to a different generation of artists: the first generation of pioneers, who created a new aesthetic language following the independence of their countries; the second generation of artists, who mostly live in exile and who reference their own cultures and languages in their work; and the third generation, comprising contemporary artists who have absorbed international aesthetics, concepts and languages and who occasionally use Arabic and Persian script, or the morphology of letters, in their work. The entry for each artist includes a concise biography and a statement from the artist about their work. The artworks, in a variety of media, are also interspersed with poems and relevant literature, putting into personal and historical contexts the innovative use of words in art.

Critique: Superbly illustrated in full color throughout, "Signs of Our Times: From Calligraphy to Calligraffiti" is a truly extraordinary and comprehensive volume that is impressively organized and presented so as to be of immense value for both academia and the non-specialist general reader with an interest in the subject. Exceptionally informed and informative, "Signs of Our Times" is unreservedly recommended for personal, community, and academic library Art History reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

Julie Summers

Kevin's Bookshelf

Demon Hunter: Jack Slade
Richard Dawes
Melange Books, LLC
B01N7DW5KO, $3.00, Kindle,

"Fate is by far the greatest mystery of all." - Deanna Raybourn

Richard Dawes' book, 'Jack Slade: Demon Hunter', is the latest installment in the 'Jack Slade' series. There's something strange afoot in New Orleans where Jack Slade is enjoying some much deserved R&R. The world is already in the throes of disintegration, but a particularly malignant type of evil is spreading its tentacles through the Caribbean and up into the States. Antoine Duvalier is a man of power who has become even stronger after the Old Gods bestowed upon him their ancient power. Jack Slade steps in to restore balance in the world, but he doesn't realize he's stepped into the dark and dangerous world of Voodoo.

If this is the first book you are reading in this series, then this book gives enough background information on how Jack Slade came to be. Richard Dawes goes back in the narrative and tells the story of a dangerous assignment Slade was sent on by the security firm he works for, the Diamond Group. His death-dealing attitude, the undercover nature of his work, and the high octane action scenes give you a very good idea of the man.

There's plenty to like in this series even if you aren't a fan of vigilante justice. Especially since the hero takes down not only criminals and terrorists, but evil men who use bad mojo and black power to advance their interests. Slade is a bit of an archetype in that he always stands up for the weak and downtrodden and those who can't stand up for themselves. But unlike other similar characters, there's plenty to know and learn about him, especially his way of thinking and his code of right and wrong.

The black powers mentioned in the book and the generous use of Voodoo beliefs and terminology achieve a balance between a scholarly work and something one would find in popular fiction. It's very hands-on, and the reader gets a sense of what this means to a large section of people in the world. Richard Dawes hasn't used the Voodoo angle merely as a device to entice you to become interested in its practices. He treats Voodoo with respect and outlines some of its history and influence in communities around the Caribbean and within a section of the Black population in the States.

As with all Richard Dawes' novels, Demon Hunter is intellectually and emotionally driven. You won't have to suspend your beliefs to enjoy this one.

In the end, Jack Slade: Demon Hunter provides the necessary thrills and scares. Although it's heart-pounding at times, it isn't just gory and ghastly. It's more slow and subtle. It should be a wonderful reading experience for any reader.

Dragon For Hire
Barbara Brooks Wallace
Pangea Publishing
9780989406550, $9.99 PB, $4.99 Kindle, 116pp,

"Everything you can imagine is real." - Pablo Picasso

Author Barbara Brooks Wallace's book 'Dragon For Hire' tells a charming tale about an 11 year old boy and his adventures with a talking dragon. Morris Doubleday Clipper is a fifth grade student living in a little town called Wister Wibbles and attends the namesake Grammar & Middle School. He lives at home with his inventor father and author mother. In a household where imagination runs wild, little Morris sadly has none of it and struggles to churn out even a half a decent story to his English teacher Miss Picklesticker. Then one day when a talking, well-mannered dragon stops by the garage in his house, Morris discovers a whole new facet to his town and its people and in the end gains the one thing that was missing from his life all along - Imagination.

Although it's hard to imagine anyone in the age group of 9-12 ever being lonely, some children are. While some may not have made the right friend, others in spite of having many may not feel like sharing everything with them. These children should find Morris extremely relatable, his earnestness and honesty makes him stand out in the crowd. Morris is far more reasonable than children his age usually are and is also open to new ideas and even criticism. His unlikely alliance and friendship with Tom the dragon is funny, sweet and serves two purposes. Firstly, it helps Morris overcome the obstacle in his life and unearth a special treasure. Secondly, it tells the reader that keeping an open mind that is receptive to new ideas and new people can help us achieve much progress in our lives.

The entire book is an excellent play on the English language and is a linguist's delight. This feature is something I imagine a lot of adults will find appealing in the book. The names of the people and places in this book reflect this. The book also inspires you to think independently without getting bogged down by peer pressure. It also tells you to be proud of yourself, your skills, your heritage and even your shortcomings and differences.

Morris' reasoning and thinking is clever and is hard to argue with. He has a way about him that is smart and funny and is sure to leave a big smile on your kid's as well as your face. Morris in the end hopes that Tom the dragon will make a quick comeback; a sentiment I'm sure a lot of readers will share as well.

Speaking of imagination, try this bit and you will have even more fun while reading the book. Whenever Tom the dragon comes on, read all his lines in your mind in the voice of Christopher Walken and you should have a ball with it.

It is an inspiring, smile inducing adventure story for immediate readers and older.

Last Things
Betta Ferrendelli
Amazon Digital Services LLC
B01N9AQ459, $2.98, Kindle,

"There's no need to talk about it, because the truth of what one says lies in what one does." - Bernhard Schlink

Author Betta Ferrendelli's novel 'Last Things' is a sensitive and poetic take on friendships and life connections. There isn't a "Hero" in the book; it tells the story of two women from different walks of life who meet each other in a most unexpected way and form a life altering bond of friendship. Bridgette is a newly single woman whose life is in complete disarray and who is on the run to escape facing the harsh realities of life. Alexis is a single mother who has locked eyes with trouble in life and come out on top. Alexis is the future persona of the self that Bridgette aspires to be. They get together and thus begin a special relationship in which new life lessons are learned and obsolete ones forgotten. This is their story.

Ferrendelli has written the character of Bridgette in such a way that you can't help but identify and then empathize with her life situations. Emotional scaring due to an incident at work, manipulated into undergoing a medical procedure and then realizing all of it were for nothing. Life isn't easy for her and you wonder - when will this poor girl get out of this ditch? It happens soon and quite literally too after she gets into an accident and the goodwill of strangers come to her rescue. Alexis is the antithesis of Bridgette, she took a different path when life presented her with the same choices. So you get to see this wonderful contrast between the two characters and you can see the gradual changes happening in Bridgette as she spends more time with Alexis, her daughter Eden and around other supporting characters.

For a casual reader there is plenty to look forward to. Expect to be taken on an emotional journey as these two characters discover life together. It is a positive book which extols us to treat each day as a gift and an opportunity to do some good in the world and bring a smile to a stranger's face.

There's so much to love about the book, especially its simplicity. But this can also be argued as one of the book's weak links, where sometimes it just feels all too simplistic how everything turns out in these characters' lives; plus it could have been shorter by a few pages.

The grief in the book is brilliantly handled and the characters come to terms with the loses in an organic way. The angle with the small girl will get to you and so be prepared to have some tissues nearby.

Overall I felt the story was beautifully written and well paced. I very much felt like I became a part of their world and you get emotional with them and it stays with you long after you have finished the book.

I highly recommend you read this, it is a wonderful little novel.

Kevin Peter, Reviewer

Logan's Bookshelf

Talking Ethics With Cops: A Practical Guide
Neal Tyler
Charles C. Thomas, Publisher
2600 South First Street, Springfield, IL 62704
9780398091293, $34.95, PB, 236pp,

Synopsis: "Talking Ethics With Cops: A Practical Guide" by Neal Tyler stems from his more than 30 years of experience in the development of practical law enforcement ethics training. It is written based on the real-world application of a wide variety of approaches to enhancing ethics awareness and decision-making skills.

There has been an explosion of efforts to increase the emphasis on ethics in law enforcement. The most effective of these efforts involve our law enforcement officers themselves in (1) sharing ideas, experiences, and wisdom with each other and (2) analyzing long-term consequences in a risk-free learning environment, before the need arises for making actual decisions or engaging in conduct. Accomplishing those objectives can be attempted with a variety of formats, presentations, and approaches.

Instead of being shown how to 'teach' ethics, in "Talking Ethics With Copes" Tyler's readers will be given material and ideas on how to enhance existing ethics awareness and ethics skills with their personnel. The readers are also provided with pointers on talking with staff, not 'at' them, in order to foster awareness about how ethical values and standards to which they already subscribe apply in real-world law enforcement decision-making and conduct.

A unique aspect of "Talking Ethics With Cops" is that it is written primarily for line sergeants and lieutenants to use with their own in-service personnel. It contains material that is designed to be easy-to-present and non-intimidating. It is adaptable to briefings of limited duration as well as longer training sessions.

There is substantial content to enable a law enforcement agency to maintain an on-going program of recurrent, short-but-meaningful discussions with and among personnel. Most importantly, it is practical and down-to-earth-not theoretical or abstract.

"Talking Ethics With Cops" is based on the belief that with a combination of interest and practice, any sergeant or lieutenant, or any officer or deputy, can overcome any self-perceived weakness and become an accomplished 'ethics awareness discussion leader.' In addition to its primary audience, "Talking Ethics With Cops" will also be a helpful resource for field-training officers, senior officers, non-sworn personnel, and law enforcement executives.

Critique: In an era of 'Black Lives Matter' and the continuing breach of trust between law enforcement officers and the community they seek to serve and protect, "Talking Ethics With Cops: A Practical Guide" is an urgently needed, unreservedly recommended, and timely addition to all law enforcement agency library collections and curriculums.

Game Birds: A Celebration of North American Upland Birds
Gary Kramer
Farcountry Press
PO Box 5630, Helena, MT 59604
9781591521853, $58.00, HC, 248pp,

Synopsis: Through the words and images of award-winning photographer and writer Gary Kramer, "Game Birds: A Celebration of North American Upland Birds" takes readers on a visual journey across North America in search of turkey, pheasant, quail, grouse, partridge, ptarmigan, prairie-chickens and the game birds of Hawaii.

Among these are two on the brink of extinction, the masked bobwhite and Attwater's prairie-chicken; those that are struggling, such as the Gunnison sage-grouse and lesser prairie-chicken; abundant species that have been introduced from foreign lands including the chukar and ring-necked pheasant; as well as species that are widespread due to successful wildlife management efforts, like the wild turkey.

Gary's stunningly beautiful photographs fully capture the range and diversity of their beauty and behavior, from the widespread and familiar northern bobwhite to the intricately marked Montezuma quail and the seldom photographed Himalayan snowcock.

His compelling narrative is delivered with accuracy; each chapter has been reviewed by the top experts in the field.

Containing 256 pages and 384 color photos, "Game Birds" is the most ambitious visual study ever attempted on gallinaceous birds, or as they are more commonly known, game birds. Gary may be the only individual to have ever photographed and published images of all 34 game birds found in the United States and Canada, making this book a milestone achievement.

Critique: A simply fascinating, superbly presented compendium of images, "Game Birds: A Celebration of North American Upland Birds" is enhanced with the inclusion of range maps, natural history and conservation status of the various birds, and a photographic insight seldom revealed to ordinary hikers or birdwatching enthusiasts. This edition of Game Birds features the Wild Turkey on the cover. A Ring-Necked Pheasant cover edition of "Game Birds" is also available. The interiors of both books are identical. "Game Birds" is unreservedly recommended for personal, community, and academic library Pets/Wildlife collections. Librarians should note that "Game Birds" would make an ideal Memorial Fund acquisition selection.

Radical Poetry
Eduardo Ledesma
State University of New York Press
State University Plaza, Albany, NY 12246-0001
9781438462011, $90.00, HC, 348pp,

Synopsis: With a broad geographic and linguistic sweep covering more than one hundred years of poetry, "Radical Poetry: Aesthetics, Politics, Technology, and the Ibero-American Avant-Gardes, 1900-2015" by Eduardo Ledesma (Assistant Professor of Spanish at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) investigates the relationships between and among technology, aesthetics, and politics in Ibero-American experimental poetry.

Professor Ledesma deftly analyzes visual, concrete, kinetic, and digital poetry that questions what the literary means, what constitutes poetry, and how, if at all, visual and verbal arts should be differentiated.

"Radical Poetry" examines how poets use the latest technologies (cinematography, radio, television, and software) to create poetry that self-consciously interrogates its own form, through close alliances with conceptual and abstract art, performance, photography, film, and new media. To do so, Professor Ledesma draws on pertinent theories of metaphor, affect, time, space, iconicity, and cybernetics.

Additionally, Professor Ledesma shows how Jose Juan Tablada (Mexico), Joan Salvat-Papasseit (Catalonia), Clemente Padin (Uruguay), Fernando Millan (Spain), Decio Pignatari (Brazil), Ana Maria Uribe (Argentina), and others turn words, machines, and, more recently, the digital into flesh, making word-objects come alive by assembling text to act and seem human, whether on the page, on walls, or on screens.

Critique: A unique and seminal work of simply outstanding scholarship, ""Radical Poetry: Aesthetics, Politics, Technology, and the Ibero-American Avant-Gardes, 1900-2015" is a critically important and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library Literary Studies collections in general, and Poetry Appreciation supplemental studies lists in particular. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students and non-specialist general reader with an interest in the subject that "Radical Poetry" is also available in a Kindle format ($69.30).

Ross's Timely Discoveries
Michael Ross
Rare Bird Books
453 South Spring Street, Suite 302, Los Angeles, CA 90013
9781942600831, $14.95, HC, 224pp,

Synopsis: "Ross's Timely Discoveries" is an elegant, handily pocket-sized compendium that passionate bibliophile Michael Ross has curated to include106 favorite literary quotes from the collection of over 1500 well-read books on his shelves. Michael brings together quotes on Time, Memory, Age, Past, Present, and Future, from such a new perspective even the authors themselves will probably find his literary discoveries useful and insightful.

Authors quoted include Tom Robbins, John Gardner, A.A. Milne, Anne Tyler, Bernard Malamud, Elizabeth Goudge, John O'Hara, Jim Harrison, Vladimir Nabokov, Ivan Doig, Richard Russo, Graham Swift, John Casey, George Garrett, Martin Davies, Cormac McCarthy, Willa Cather, Richard Brautigan, Colin Wilson, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Gore Vidal, Leon Uris, Walker Percy, V.S. Naipaul, Thornton Wilder, John Updike, Anthony Burgess, Paul Auster, Richard Powers, Richard Russo, William Martin, Robert Penn Warren, John Gardner, Aldous Huxley, John Hersey, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Antoine Laurain, Dave Eggers, Honore de Balzac, John Cheever, Oscar Wilde, Edward Abbey, Garrison Keillor, Lorrie Moore, Doris Lessing, Elia Kazan, Tom Wolfe, Sinclair Lewis, William Kotzwinkle, Eric Ambler, Thomas McGuane, Graham Greene, W. Somerset Maugham, Ethan Canin, Milan Kundera, and Hunter S. Thompson.

Also included are original illustrations by Cara Lowe of Hunter S. Thompson, Willa Cather, John O'Hara, Thomas McGuane, Eric Ambler, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Honore de Balzac, Dave Eggers, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Anthony Burgess, John Updike, Richard Brautigan, Cormac McCarthy, Richard Russo, Elizabeth Goudge, and Anne Tyler.

Critique: Simply stated, "Ross's Timely Discoveries" is a bibliophile's 'must' and an inherently fascinating read from cover to cover. As informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Ross's Timely Discoveries" is very highly recommended for personal, community, college, and university library Literary Studies reference collections.

The Presidents and the Constitution: A Living History
Ken Gormley, editor
New York University Press
838 Broadway, 3rd floor, New York, NY 10003
9781479839902, $45.00, HC, 672pp,

Synopsis: Compiled and edited by Ken Gormley (the newly appointed President of Duquesne University (PA), where he previously served as Dean and Professor of Law), "The Presidents and the Constitution: A Living History" is a sweepingly ambitious volume in which the nation's foremost experts on the American presidency and the U.S. Constitution join together to tell the intertwined stories of how each American president has confronted and shaped the Constitution. Each occupant of the office, from the first president to the forty-fourth, has contributed to the story of the Constitution through the decisions he made and the actions he took as the nation's chief executive.

By examining presidential history through the lens of constitutional conflicts and challenges, "The Presidents and the Constitution: A Living History" offers a fresh perspective on how the Constitution has evolved in the hands of individual presidents. It delves into key moments in American history, from Washington's early battles with Congress to the advent of the national security presidency under George W. Bush and Barack Obama, to reveal the dramatic historical forces that drove these presidents to action.

Historians and legal experts, including Richard Ellis, Gary Hart, Stanley Kutler and Kenneth Starr, bring the Constitution to life, and show how the awesome powers of the American presidency have been shapes by the men who were granted them. The book brings to the fore the overarching constitutional themes that span this country's history and ties together presidencies in a way never before accomplished.

Exhaustively researched and compellingly presented, "The Presidents and the Constitution: A Living History" shines new light on America's brilliant constitutional and presidential history.

Critique: A unique and thoroughly impressive body of seminal scholarship, "The Presidents and the Constitution: A Living History" is an extraordinary history that is exceptionally well organized and presented. While a critically important addition to community and academic library American History collections in general, and Political Science supplemental studies lists in particular, it should be noted for students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Presidents and the Constitution: A Living History" is also available in a Kindle format ($36.00). Librarians should also be aware that "The Presidents and the Constitution: A Living History" has an MP3 CD audio book edition (Brilliance Audio, 9781536614824, $9.99).

Carl Logan

Margaret's Bookshelf

Transforming Long-Term Care
Kelly O'Shea Carney & Margaret P. Norris
American Psychological Association
750 First Street, NE, Washington, DC 20002-4242
978143382367, $69.95, HC, 264pp,

Synopsis: Most people fear the idea of living in a long-term care facility. Yet, there is potential for joy and meaning in these settings.

"Transforming Long-Term Care: Expanded Roles for Mental Health Professionals" by Kelly O'Shea Carney (a Geropsychologist and the Executive Director of the Center for Excellence in Dementia Care at Phoebe Ministries in Allentown, Pennsylvania) and Margaret P. Norris (a now retired Geropsychologist with more than 20 years' experience in direct care and consultation services in long-term care and other health care settings) highlights expanded roles and services that mental health professionals can provide in long-term care for older adults, offering the potential to improve the quality of care for residents.

Beyond assessments and individual therapy, "Transforming Long-Term Care" make a persuasive case for mental health providers helping to improve the long-term care environment for both residents and staff, thus having a greater impact on systems, culture, and ultimately, patient well-being.

Readers who wish to add or expand their services for older adults will find helpful guidance, including detailed instruction on Medicare policies and reimbursement practices.

"Transforming Long-Term Care" also presents an innovative model of wrap-around care that involves the array of staff and family members who are present to the individual all day, every day. This comprehensive approach is called the Eldercare Method, where positions the mental health professional serve in the roles of teacher, consultant, role model, advocate, and clinician. With numerous case examples to illustrate common scenarios and ethical dilemmas, "Transforming Long-Term Care" is a practical resource will help readers envision new ways to apply their skills in the rapidly growing field of long-term care for older adults.

Critique: As informed and informative as it is thoroughly 'user friendly' in commentary, organization and presentation, "Transforming Long-Term Care" is enhanced with the inclusion of an Appendix (Resources for Clinical Care, Professional Organizations, Research, and Quality Care), an eighteen page listing of Resources, and a ten page Index. An extraordinary and impressive work of outstanding scholarship, "Transforming Long-Term Care" is a critically important and unreservedly recommended addition to college and university library Psychology/Psychiatry collections in general, and Long-Term Care supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

Mindfulness: A Kindly Approach to Being with Cancer
Trish Bartley
350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148
9781118926277, $100.79, HC, 240pp,

Synopsis: In the pages of "Mindfulness: A Kindly Approach to Being with Cancer", Trish Bartley (Senior Teacher, Centre for Mindfulness, Research and Practice, Bangor University, Gwynedd, United Kingdom) offers people with cancer a means to bring mindfulness and kindliness into their lives, to help them cope with the challenge of a life-threatening illness. Barley adapts Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) (an approach with a strong evidence base for people with recurrent depression, for the needs and challenges of people with cancer); presents the standard 8-week course of MBCT for cancer in a flexible format that is designed to suit each reader's own particular timescale, context and situation; based on more than 15 years of program development and clinical application by the author, and the work and experience of mindfulness teachers in other cancer centres around the world; provides specific practices and approaches tailored to support the different phases of a cancer experience - from diagnosis and treatment to living with uncertainty and managing life with cancer. Of special note are the inclusion of five extended stories from people personally affected by cancer who have used mindfulness-based practices to support them in their own experience of illness, life and treatment.

Critique: Enhanced with the inclusion of a four page Bibliography and a thirteen page Index, "Mindfulness: A Kindly Approach to Being with Cancer" is very highly recommended for both community and academic library Health/Medicine collections in general, and Cancer Treatment supplemental studies reading lists in particular. It should be noted for students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Mindfulness: A Kindly Approach to Being with Cancer" is also available in a paperback edition (9781118926284, $24.95).

The Future Tense of Joy
Jessica Teich
Seal Press
1700 - 4th Street, Berkeley, California 94710
9781580055697, $22.00, HC, 296pp,

Synopsis: 'No one was less likely to take her own life.' -- That's what her Oxford thesis advisor wrote.

From the moment Jessica Teich stumbled across the obituary, late at night when she couldn't sleep, she was captivated, and it wasn't the terrible details of the death: That a young woman who was only 27, and a newlywed, would leap from the balcony of a high rise in Century City to her death.

So begins Jessica's quest to unravel a mystery: the suicide of someone she never met.

Bright and accomplished, with a loving family, Jessica knows she herself should be happy. But a violent childhood has left its mark making Jessica fear she will never be free of her own past -- until she reads the obituary of a young woman, whose life is a ghostly echo of her own.

Can Jessica discover what drove this brilliant young woman to kill herself? And will discovering the truth save Jessica from the fissures tearing apart her own life?

A deeply intimate psychological memoir, "The Future Tense of Joy" is the luminous account of one woman's efforts to free herself, and her family, from the demons of the past.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The Future Tense of Joy" is an inherently fascinating and consistently compelling read from beginning to end. An engrossing, and at times riveting read, "The Future Tense of Joy" is very highly recommended, especially for community, college, and university library Contemporary American Biography collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Future Tense of Joy" is also available in a Kindle format ($14.99).

Rentz's Student Affairs Practice in Higher Education, fifth edition
Naijian Zhange & Associates, contributors/editors
Charles C. Thomas, Publisher
2600 South First Street, Springfield, IL 62704
9780398091194, $69.95, HC, 640pp,

Synopsis: The landscape of student affairs in American higher education has increasingly become multidimensional due to more diversity of student population and more complex issues students bring to campus. Now in a newly revised and expanded fifth edition, "Rentz's Student Affairs Practice in Higher Education" is specifically designed to equip student affairs professionals to understand and know well not only the philosophy, history, mission of student affairs, and that their practice is theory-based and outcome-oriented but also that their role and function are influenced by the shifts in philosophy, mission and strategies, theories, and nature of American higher education.

With most chapters substantially rewritten, this newly updated fifth edition has included three brand new chapters which cover functional areas of fraternity and sorority life, collegiate recreation, and assessment and student learning. These three chapters are very unique in that student affairs mission, values, and organizational structure are clearly presented about these functional areas.

In addition to the new chapters, the text has also expanded its content to international students, adult students, veteran students, and students with disabilities. This new edition has been integrated with the most recent literature, professional standards, and critical issues in student affairs that have occurred since publication of the previous edition in 2010.

"Rentz's Student Affairs Practice in Higher Education" is specifically designed for both Master's and Doctoral-level students in need of an overview of student affairs functional areas. It can also be used as a teaching tool by middle and high-level administrators who supervise interns or staff for professional development. Additionally, the text will also be useful to experienced student affairs administrators who wish to keep abreast of the current trends and issues.

Critique: Enhanced with the inclusion of a complete listing of contributors and their credentials, a four page Name Index, and a nineteen page Subject Index, "Rentz's Student Affairs Practice in Higher Education" is a critically important and core addition to college and university library Higher Educational collections and supplemental studies lists. It should be noted for students, academicians, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Rentz's Student Affairs Practice in Higher Education" is also available in a Kindle format (9780398091200, $69.95).

Shadow Warriors of World War II
Gordon Thomas & Greg Lewis
Chicago Review Press
814 North Franklin Street, Chicago, IL 60610
9781613730867, $26.99, HC, 304pp,

Synopsis: Women played critically important roles in the Allied defeat of Axis forces in World War II. These women spies, combatants and saboteurs were told that the only crime they must never commit was to be caught. Women of enormous cunning and strength of will, the their stories have remained largely untold until now. "Shadow Warriors of World War II: The Daring Women of the OSS and SOE" is a compilation of dramatic tales of espionage and conspiracy in World War II and unveils the heretofore largely unacknowledged history of the courageous women who volunteered to work behind enemy lines.

Sent into Nazi-occupied Europe by the United States' Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and Britain's Special Operations Executive (SOE), these women helped establish a web of resistance groups across the continent. Their extraordinary heroism, initiative, and resourcefulness contributed to the Allied breakout of the Normandy beachheads and even infiltrated Nazi Germany at the height of the war, into the very heart of Hitler's citadel -- Berlin.

Young and daring, the female agents accepted that they could be captured, tortured, or killed, but others were always readied to take their place. So effective did the female agents become in their efforts, the Germans placed a price of a million francs on the heads of operatives who were successfully disrupting their troops.

Critique: The result of an extraordinary and comprehensive research, "Shadow Warriors of World War II: The Daring Women of the OSS and SOE" is impressively informed and informative. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "shadow Warriors of World War II" is strongly and unreservedly recommended as a critically important contribution to community, college, and university library World War II Military History collections and supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted for students and non-specialist general readers with interest in the subject that "Shadow Warriors of World War II" is also available in a Kindle format ($17.18). Librarians should be aware that "Shadow Warriors of World War II" is available in a complete and unabridged CD audio book edition (Blackstone Audio, 9781504683739, $29.95).

Necessary Trouble
Sarah Jaffe
Nation Books
c/o Perseus Book Group
250 W. 57th St., Suite 1500, New York, NY 10107
9781568585369, $26.99, HC, 352pp,

Synopsis: "Necessary Trouble: Americans in Revolt" by Sarah Jaffe (a Nation Institute fellow and an independent journalist covering labor, economic justice, social movements, politics, gender, and pop culture) is a definitive study of the movements that are poised to permanently remake American politics for a generation.

With the election of Donald Trump to the American presidency, there is no doubt but that we are all witnessing a moment of unprecedented political turmoil and social activism. Over the last few years, we've seen the growth of the Tea Party, a twenty-first-century black freedom struggle with BlackLivesMatter, Occupy Wall Street, and the grassroots networks supporting presidential candidates in defiance of the traditional party elites.

In "Necessary Trouble", Jaffe leads her readers into the heart of these movements, explaining what has made ordinary Americans become activists. As Jaffe argues, the financial crisis in 2008 was the spark, the moment that crystallized that something was wrong. For years, Jaffe crisscrossed the country, asking people what they were angry about, and what they were doing to take power back. She attended a people's assembly in a church gymnasium in Ferguson, Missouri; walked a picket line at an Atlanta Burger King; rode a bus from New York to Ohio with student organizers; and went door-to-door in Queens days after Hurricane Sandy.

From the successful fight for a $15 minimum wage in Seattle and New York to the halting of Shell's Arctic drilling program, Americans are discovering the effectiveness of making good, necessary trouble. Regardless of political alignment, they are boldly challenging who wields power in this country.

Critique: Exceptionally informed and informative, impressively thoughtful and thought-provoking, remarkable insightful, consistently compelling, and thoroughly 'reader friendly' in tone, content, organization and presentation, "Necessary Trouble: Americans in Revolt" is a significant and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library Contemporary Political Science and Current Social Issues collections and supplemental studies reading lists. For students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject it should be noted that "Necessary Trouble: Americans in Revolt" is also available in a Kindle edition ($17.99). Librarians should be advised that "Necessary Trouble: Americans in Revolt" has a complete and unabridged CD audio book edition (Tantor Audio, 9781515905714, $39.99).

Red-Robed Priestess
Elizabeth Cunningham
Monkfish Book Publishing Company
9780982324691, $25.95, HC, 350pp,

Synopsis: After a life of passion and adventure that has brought her through slavery to the Resurrection garden, through the controversies of the Early Church to a hermit cave in southern gaul, Maeve, the Celtic Mary Magdalen, in "Red-Robed Priestess" she returns to the Holy Isles accompanied by Sarah, her daughter with Jesus. Their mission: to find Maeve's first-born child, stolen from her by the druids more than forty years ago.

Since then, Maeve's homeland has suffered it's own trials in the form of a Roman invasion and occupation. The Celtic tribes to the east and south are under direct rule, and the Romans are determined to rout the resistance of the western tribes, resistance fueled by the druids of Mona.

Just before she crosses the channel from Gaul to Britain, Maeve encounters a man she mistakes for Jesus's ghost. This familiar stranger is equally haunted, and the two are drawn into a moonstruck liason that will entwine their lives in "an impossible Celtic knot." For unbeknownst to Maeve at the time, he is none other than General Gaius Suetonius Paulinus, the newly-appointed Roman Governor of Britain.

Maeve keeps this troubling tryst a secret even after she finds her long-lost daughter Boudica, the fierce and charismatic queen of the Iceni tribe. Druid-trained in her youth, Boudica married the Iceni king, hoping to rally him to a rebellion for which he has no stomach. Now estranged from her husband, Boudica keeps the old ways, sustained by her pride in her descent form her father (and Maeve's!) the late great druid Lovernios.

Seeking to circumvent disaster, Maeve travels back and forth from Iceni country to Mona, from the heart of native resistance to a Roman fort on the Western front, steadfast in her conviction: "Love is as strong as death."

Critique: The latest addition to Elizabeth Cunningham's outstanding 'The Maeve Chronicles' series, "Red-Robed Priestess" is a riveting read from cover to cover. Highly recommended, especially for community library General Fiction collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Red-Robed Priestess" is also available in a paperback edition (9781939681560, $16.95) and in a Kindle format ($7.99).

Songs of the Deliverer
Elvo Fortunato Bucci
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781499134544, $10.95, PB, 294pp,

Synopsis: A baby lies with his mother in a manger, destined to be the savior. But he is crucified on the cross and dies unknown.

Two thousand years later, a man enters the void of a godless era to deliver salvation to the world. He has no money, owns no possessions, carries no title, and asks for nothing in return for his wondrous deeds. He vows a singular outcome to those who believe: eternity in heaven. For that, he is judged by the authorities to be a menace and a fraud. His sentence is persecution.

Yet he does not appeal their unjust verdict nor submit to their extortion. Instead, he offers his life in ransom to liberate his believers. In the end, his words and his works are sent to die along with him. Then the Deliverer does something that forever changes the world.

Critique: "Songs of the Deliverer" by Elvo Fortunato Bucci is a deftly crafted re-imagining of the stories of the Bible written for readers of all ages, including teens and young adults. The supplement at the end includes 40 reflections to reinforce the Gospel stories featured in the book. This unique and consistently compelling novel is inherently fascinating from cover to cover. Author Elvo Bucci's reflections provide a perfect way for readers of all ages to learn more about Christ and the faith to which Christians are called, both then and now. "Songs of the Deliverer" is very highly recommended to all members of the Christian community regardless of their denominational affiliation. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Songs of the Deliverer" is also available in a Kindle format ($2.99).

Songs of the Deliverer II: Faith Wins
Elvo Fortunato Bucci
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781535483506, $9.50, PB, 246pp,

Synopsis: A diverse and forsaken flock of people come face to face with redemption. They soon become believers and followers of the one they call, the Christ. When the source of their faith is gone, it's up to these ordinary people to tell the world of the miracles he did and the promises he made.

"Songs of the Deliverer II: Faith Wins" by Elvo Bucci is the story of the apostles of Christ re-imagined in modern day. All the stories of the New Testament are woven into one compelling novel that reveals how Christianity was born.

If not for the acts of the apostles, Christ would be dead to the world. He lives because they overcame torment and oppression to tell the truth of the Son of God. Their witness is our salvation.

Critique: "Songs of the Deliverer II: Faith Wins" is the sequel to Elvo Bucci's debut novel "Songs of the Deliverer" and continues to showcase the storytelling talents of an impressively accomplished author who is able to take New Testament themes and history and skillfully recast them into a truly inspired and inspiring read. Very highly recommended, "Songs of the Deliverer II: Faith Wins" is also available in a Kindle format ($2.99).

Cakewalk: A Novel
Rita Mae Brown
Bantam Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780553392654 $27.00 hc / $13.99 Kindle

Synopsis: The night a riot breaks out at the Capitol Theater movie house - during a Mary Pickford picture, no less - you can bet that the Hunsenmeir sisters, Louise and Julia, are nearby. Known locally as Wheezie and Juts, the inimitable, irrepressible, distinctly freethinking sisters and their delightful circle of friends are coming of age in a shifting world - and are determined to understand their place in it. Across town, the well-to-do Chalfonte siblings are preparing for the upcoming wedding of brother Curtis. But for youngest sister Celeste, the celebration brings about a change she never expected and a lesson about love she'll not soon forget.

Set against the backdrop of America emerging from World War I, Cakewalk is an outrageous and affecting novel about a small town where ideas of sin and virtue, love and sex, men and women, politics and religion, can be as divided as the Mason-Dixon Line that runs right through it - and where there's no problem that can't be cured by a good yarn and an even better scotch. With her signature Southern voice, Rita Mae Brown deftly weaves generations of family stories into a spirited patchwork quilt of not-so-simple but joyously rich life.

Critique: Written with witty humor and endless exuberance, Cakewalk is a joy to read. Cakewalk is an exceptional novel, ideal for connoisseurs of character-driven drama, and highly recommended. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Cakewalk is also available in a Kindle edition ($13.99).

Margaret Lane

Mari's Bookshelf

Hillybilly Elegy
J.D. Vance
HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062300546, $27.99 HC, $15.99 PB, $15.99 Kindle, 272pp,

It's fitting that the conclusion to JD Vance's Hillbilly Elegy begins with a story about Christmas. An elegy is a poem or a commemoration for the dead. Not to be confused with a eulogy, which is a statement made at a funeral, an elegy is more a lament, a sorrowful but respectful piece of art spoken at any time about the dead. In its craftedness, perhaps there's a bit of a warning and a plea to it, too. Vance's portrayal of hillbillies is about a dying people. But his Christmas story at the end of the book is about his resurrection from near destruction to the American Dream. He's buying Christmas presents for kids like him: poor, without much hope, yearning for Christmas to give them a glimpse of security and abundance.

He uses Christmas as a prime example of the differences between hillbillies and "the other Americans," for lack of a better term. During all the preceding chapters, Vance struggles to put his finger on how he's different, but he knows he is. Is it because he's poorer than his law school colleagues? Is it because his mom is a drug addict and he is raised mostly by his grandparents? Is it because of his Kentucky roots? Is he "normal" or are "they"? However he defines the differences, at Christmas, they become pronounced. Families like the Vances' worry about presenting a "nice Christmas," one that would reassure kids that everything is okay, we're not as bad off as neighbors, one that shows off the parents' ability to provide regardless of challenges the rest of the year. And yet, in the very striving for a "nice Christmas," a Christmas like those of higher classes, what keeps them from succeeding is all the more apparent, and often drive the families further into debt, to drinking more, or being more available at home.

"Though we sing the praises of social mobility, it has its downsides. The term necessarily implies a sort of movement - to a theoretically better life, yes, but also away from something." JD Vance begins the book with a confession that he didn't write it because he did something extraordinary, but because he transformed. It isn't who he becomes that's the story so much as how he changes. He becomes something other than who he was, who he was expected to have become. In some ways he exceeds expectations, but in other ways, he strays from them. His choices involve distancing himself from the habits of his people. He chooses to better himself for his own sake. He chooses not to complain but to overcome. "Here is where the rhetoric of modern conservatives (and I say this as one of them) fails to meet the real challenges of their biggest constituents. Instead of encouraging engagement, conservatives increasingly foment the kind of detachment that has sapped the ambition of so many of my peers.... What separates the successful from the unsuccessful are the expectations that they had for their own lives. Yet the message of the right is increasingly: It's not your fault you're a loser; it's the government's fault."

Vance says he doesn't have a solution to the "problem" of hillbillies. "Our elegy is a sociological one, yes, but it is also about psychology and community and culture and faith." No one person can solve that, if there even is a solution. He points to what is helpful, or, as his friend puts it, "puts a thumb on the scale a little for the people at the margins." Policies that keep families together, for one thing, and not at the mercy of a child welfare system that does more harm than good. But most of all, people to support one kid at a time, who, like JD, chooses to make and keep high expectations for himself. He may not have a solution, but he certainly DOES something by writing the story of his 31 years truthfully, with research into the structures at work in his life, and by giving credence to forces that raise him up to who he is and who he is becoming.

The book may be a memoir, but it is not the last word. JD Vance has generated controversy. In a review of the book in the New Republic, November 17, 2016, Sarah Jones writes, "don't emulate Vance in your rage. Give the white working class the progressive populism it needs to survive, and invest in the areas the Democratic Party has neglected. Remember that bootstraps are for people with boots. And elegies are no use to the living." She and Vance both point out that hillbillies are traditionally Democratic. So, who's failing them? To whom is the anger directed? The conservatives Vance cites as claiming hillbillies as their constituents or the Democrats? With Appalachian roots herself, Sarah Jones does not agree that hillbillies are the cause of their own undoing, nor will they be the source of their own salvation. She has faith in a democratic (not a Trump) system to ensure people have boots to pull up. We'll soon find out if there's a winner in this debate, come a new presidency and a new year.

Extreme Makeover
Dan Wells
Tor Books
175 Fifth Ave 14th floor, New York, NY 10010
0765385635, $17.99,

Are you ready for a new you this New Year? Dan Wells gives us an Extreme Makeover in this stand alone novel. The author of the John Wayne Cleaver, Partials and Mirador series maintains his thrilling sci-fi themes in this latest book, with a serious twist. The book is a commentary both on our obsession with changing our appearance as well as the corporations that prey on these desires. You won't be the same after taking an imaginary glimpse into what could happen if we let our temptations become reality.

The head chemist at NewYew, Lyle Fontanelle, accidentally discovers a formula that improves skin by changing its DNA. "The plasmids in the lotion were designed to unroll and mimic DNA long enough to rewrite portions of themselves onto the host DNA." In effect, the plasmids in the lotion turn the person using it into a new person, with rewritten DNA. While his company is eager to skirt around FDA approval to unleash ReBirth, this new beauty product, Lyle wishes he could, instead, get his lotion into the hands of people who really need it for health. He hands it off to a Dr Kuvam who is willing to try the lotion on his cancer patients without it being approved. Ibis, a competitor beauty care company, wants to steal the formula to market as their own. But none of these contenders anticipates what will happen with ReBirth's widespread use.

NewYew confines (imprisons) a group who tested samples of ReBirth after they discover the unintended consequences: cloning. These test patients not only become new, they become clones of Lyle and clones of others who have touched the lotion. This ups the ante. Now, NewYew and Ibis both want to market model people the lotion turns users into and the government wants ReBirth for espionage. The imprisoned test participants have not only an extreme makeover, but want an extreme takeover; they want revenge against NewYew.

The premise itself promises drama but Dan Wells delivers the drama with short, pithy chapters each headed with the time of day, location and countdown "THE END OF THE WORLD" (in caps). There's suspense even before we read a sentence! The content of the chapters is chock full of action. The characters make split-second, game-changing decisions in almost every chapter. For example, when Ibis gets caught spying for info on ReBirth, the CEO of NewYew decides, "find him... I want his head of my desk by morning." Susan, one of the prisoners, executes her plan for escape. She "shoved the keys in the ignition, the car roared to life, and she tore out of the driveway like the fires of hell were behind her." With lots of disposal income, state-of-the-art equipment, smarts, and power, Dan Wells provides his characters the means for an action-packed, well-thought-out, intricate plot.

One of the biggest surprises is that the person who changes the most is one whom ReBirth never changes: its inventor, Lyle. He takes a sample, but it clones him into himself. However, he transforms from a spineless, direction-less scientist into someone who learns to act with love. When he's kidnapped by Ibis to become their scientist, they provide him a lab. "He had everything he could possibly need, but nothing that he actually wanted." He wants to use his discovery for good, but doesn't know how. Kuvam proves a mistake. Ibis manipulates him. He doesn't know how to move forward toward something good, only how to escape what might kill him. Change begins when he has to confront legions of clone Lyles. "All he had left was a face shared by a hundred thousand others. It wasn't much of an identity, but it was his. In a world where so many people had lost themselves, he'd kept himself... and he'd drawn some kind of strength from that." Later, he meets Lilly, another character who isn't cloned, and finds the strength to change the course of human history by his love for her. He moves the plot along with his questions about his own identity, drawing us into the meaning of the novel through his own story.

Dan Wells says in the acknowledgements that "I tried to focus on... the idea that nobody is unique, and that doppelgangers appear everywhere, and that certain ideas and actions and names, and even people, will repeat themselves endlessly throughout our lives." Perhaps the book is, in the end, a colossal irony. Perhaps, an Extreme Makeover happens from the inside out, in little, distinguishing ways, in individual stories of merit hidden within the high drama of culture wars and corporate hijinks. Now that's motivation for a New Year's resolution.

What a Woman Must Do
Faith Sullivan
Milkweed Editions
1011 Washington Avenue South, #300, Minneapolis, MN 55415-1246
1571310371, $16.00,

What a Woman Must Do begs the question: what are the circumstances under which she has to decide? What forces her hand to act? Kate, Harriet, and Bess, who share a house in Harvester, Minnesota, each come to critical junctures in their lives. While Kate's arthritis threatens her mobility, her boarder and dear friend, Harriet, waits for a marriage proposal. Bess, like a daughter to both these surrogate mothers, falls in love on the verge of college. In this novel, Faith Sullivan shows us women not hemmed in by an either/or choice, rather, What a Woman Must Do is about a love that both frees women to chart their own paths, and also ties them to one another.

The book is laid out in chapters alternately titled Kate, Harriet and Bess, but none of these characters speak as "I." An omniscient narrator tells the tale, as though watching over all the characters, like God. "God had forgiven the world the death of his Son. Well, she wasn't God. She [Kate] was a spiteful old woman." She does, however, resembles God in that the first and last chapter are about her. She has an important voice among the three women. She also has a special relationship with time. She can transport herself into the past. "In conjuring, you looked back. No, you took yourself back. She had learned, for example, to call forth the the farm in every detail as it had been - touch, smell, sound. Traveling through years and miles, she returned to it. She was there. Not in imagination, but in conjuration." Similar to conjuring, she practices the art of "forecasting." Friends ask her to read their fortunes and Harriet and Bess count on Kate to anticipate their needs and desires. She is always "there" for them as mother-figure and friend. They begin to wonder how long she'll be around, however, when joint pain makes movement more and more difficult. In her old age and infirmity, Kate is also like God. "Old age was a forced retreat. You carried with you as much of what you had been as you could." She bears memories of her dead husband and her lost farm, of Celia and Archer, Bess's dead parents. To her, and to Harriet and Bess, with whom Kate shares her memories, the past is alive. Through Kate, Ms Sullivan explores the past and foretells the future with an intimacy that brings them to the fore. Time is like a character in its own right, palpable as "the intricate web of silvery leaves [in which] lay intimations of things that a woman must do." Time is what lies between the characters, influencing how they react to each other.

There is something dark, almost demonic, about Kate, too, suggested by this spidery image, her spite and the spiritual powers she possesses. When the newspaper runs the story about the tragic death of Bess' parents for the "Way Back When" column, Kate relives the anger she felt at the time and wonders if it contributes to her physical pain. Others in the town of Harvester are also upset by the re-hashed news. It is a reminder of how Harvester itself, like old Kate, holds its memories against its inhabitants. There's the memory of the Depression in which many, including Kate, lose their farms, and there are family histories no one can escape. About Kate, at the end of the book: "Spreading her arms wide and swallowing deep draughts of a landscape worn and patinated, she considered the persuasions of heaven. She might have to forgo them." It might be because she reads tarot cards and is more interested in Greek myths than the saints. It may be because she resents her losses and doesn't want to forgive. Whatever the case, her forgoing heaven seems to be a stand she makes, part of what she must do. Just before Kate's last chapter is one about Harriet and Bess. Could it be that Kate's forgoing heaven has something to do with making possible new choices for her friends and family? Could it be that she has something to do with freeing these women to choose to love in an original way, not tied to expectations from the past?

What I like about this book is how the pleasure of its quaint scenes of small town life and decorous love affairs gives way to a probing look at the underbelly of parochialism. What, at first glance, is a book about fairly conventional women living their hearty lives on the plains, is actually an insightful inquiry into the difficulties of being independent women anywhere. Sullivan says, "words are containers for small and tidy feelings." The book is full of words describing birds and gardens, country drives and longing glances, but that's not what it's about; it's about the unseen, unwritten forces that bring a woman to reckoning with what she must do. In Kate, Faith Sullivan draws a model for women of all ages, stations and eras. I look forward to her four other books about Harvester, Minnesota - Goodnight, Mr Wodehouse, Gardenias, Empress of One, and Cape Ann - to get a fuller picture of such women.

The Sellout
Paul Beatty
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
18 W 18th St, New York, NY 10011
0374260508, $16.00,

In the middle of the prologue, I started to wonder if I was the sellout, if the joke was on me, a white middle-class woman from the Deep North. Maybe I was the sellout because I didn't get it right away. I've only been to California once, briefly, and if this is a book about race, particularly blackness, it is also about California. I got lost following the text. "That incessant Black History Month loop of barking dogs, gushing fire hoses, and carbuncles oozing blood through two-dollar haircuts, colorless blood spilling down faces shiny with sweat and the light of the evening news, these are the pictures that form our collective 16mm superego. But today I'm all medulla oblongata and I can't concentrate." It is dense, as in two sentences per page, like David Foster Wallace, full of lists of images and references I had to look up. But then the prolouge ended, the story began and it started to make sense, or else I'd gotten used to Beatty's style. At any rate, he won me over by chapter one, when it dawned on me that the joke is on all of us. This is satire. Beatty blows the universe and all its comforting wholeness to bits so that we can laugh at it, and maybe, when the tears start to flow, they won't all be because we guffawed so hard, but because it also hurts. By the end, I still wondered if I was like the unwelcome white woman run out of a black comedy show, laughing, guiltily. Satire is funny with consequences.

Sellout is the main character and narrator, but is he the Sellout? He's called one by many characters, friend and foe, but he can't be; he never sells in. Growing up on a farm just outside L.A., with a single black father, a community college sociology professor and psychiatrist, master of his own slave (by the way, Edward Jone's Washington DC tale, The Known World, is about a black slave owner), who surfs, studies agriculture and re-founds his town, Dickens, when it's obliterated by exurbia, he doesn't fit any mold. The first man who calls him a sellout is the biggest one himself. Foy Chesire gets rich off of ideas he steals form Sellout's dad. (Ex-)girlfriend, Marpessa, also calls him a sellout, but she forsakes college for motherhood, a rapper and gangster, and a bus-driving career, so, takes one to know one. Could Hominy, child actor on The Little Rascals and the slave who indentures himself to Sellout, whose idea it is to resegregate Dickens (for which Sellout is sued in the Supreme Court), be the ultimate sellout? Perhaps Sellout is another reworked classic, like others Foy writes - The Old Black Man and the Inflatable Winnie the Pooh Swimming Pool, Meausred Expectations, Middlemarch Middle of April, I'll Have Your Money - I Swear, Of Rice and Yen, Uncle Tom's Condo, The Adventures of Tom Soarer, and The Point Guard in the Rye - except that Foy doesn't get to write this one.

Whoever The Sellout really is, I enjoyed his story-telling. My favorite scene is of the party on the public bus after Sellout (also affectionately called Bonbon by Marpessa) and Hominy add "for whites only" to the "priority for seniors and disabled" sign. The bus jumps with passengers dancing and drinking, celebrating the momentous and offensive turn of events. "What does it mean, I'm offended?" Bonbon asks, "It's not even an emotion. What does being offended say about how you feel? No great theatre director ever said to an actor, 'Okay, this scene calls for some real emotion, no go out there and give me lots of offendedness!'" Taken as it is, the rollicking tale of Bonbon and Hominy is as amusing as any Little Rascals episode, as woo-ing as one of Sellout's world famous satsuma oranges. Sometimes the story is laden down with innuendo and double entendre, but, it doesn't purport to being just a story; it is a farcical mirror, too.

The Sellout is an original. The only thing it sells out to is the future, to absurdity - not futurism or absurdism or any other ideology. It sells out to what's to come by dreaming, asking questions, never settling, never getting old. Kids play a significant role in this book. Sellout charms them by castrating a bull at Career Day. Their school excels as soon as a whites only school is advertised across the street. They point to the future and help Sellout make his point. Sellout says, "that's the problem with this generation; they don't know their history." He says "history is what stays with you." And what stays with the characters in this book is the fight and passion that keeps them young. Hominy is one of the oldest characters, but remains young at heart by acting. He doesn't become his discriminating roles; they're becoming of him. "We didn't call it blackface; we called it acting," he says. Sellout's dad tells him the two most important questions are, "Who am I? and How may I become myself?" Sellout answers throughout the book by generating more questions, by giving us every opportunity to question ourselves. We may be asked to leave the show because it's segregated, but that's the point: to laugh and learn.

Goodnight, Mr. Wodehouse
Faith Sullivan
Milkweed Editions
1011 Washington Avenue South, #300, Minneapolis, MN 55415-1246
157311114, $26.00 HC, $15.00 PB,

It is fitting that a book entitled, Goodnight, Mr. Wodehouse, begins with a eulogy written by the deceased. Nell's farewell to PG Wodehouse, that premier comedic author of the 20th century and her "companion and savior," and to her dear friends and family is only the beginning. The rest of her story is as heartening to us as PG Wodehouse was to her. Shortly before she dies, she quotes Emily Dickenson, "my friends are my 'estate.'" I count myself among Nell's inheritors.

Saying goodbye is a theme in Nell's life. First she loses her husband, then the babysitter for her only son, Hillyard, then a series of friends, her lover, and finally her own Hilly. Independence is Nell's hallmark characteristic, which her mother gives her no choice but to acquire, kicking her out of the house at 18. The homestead's small acreage, she tells Nell, can't support any more adult bodies. She gets a teaching degree she is almost barred from using in Harvester, Minnesota after her husband dies. Harvester needs a third grade teacher and the Lundeens convince the town a widow has a right to support herself with this work she's trained to do. The Lundeen family becomes a lifeline for Nell, sticking with her as friends and financial backers even as the school board continues to threaten Nell's dismissal. In turn, Nell stands by a younger relative who lives with her and Hilly and becomes, with Nell, endeared to the Lundeens, especially Cora. Nell discovers a Wodehouse edition Cora leaves on a book shelf at the Water and Power Company. Cora also introduces Nell to the love of her life, lawyer-cum-Representative John Flynn. John becomes a second father to Hilly, who foregoes college for the army at the brink of WWI. He comes back from war shell shocked, unable to take care of himself. John dies suddenly, right before he and Nell are slated to marry. Then the Lundeens both pass and Nell plays their hospitality forward by befriending two younger women who move into town. They both eventually leave, as do their daughters, but not before Nell becomes like a second mother to both girls. Particularly in older age, Nell reminds me of Alexander McCall Smith's Precious Ramotswe, and other of his smart, take-charge female characters. She takes the bull by the horns, mourning when those closest to her die, but using the opportunity to find others who are lonely, too, and establish community.

Wodehouse does not play a major role in the plots surrounding Nell, rather, he is inspiration running through the narrative, keeping Nell laughing, dreaming and able to love. Counter Wodehouse with another thread woven into the drama, a mysterious sender who never reveals himself to Nell. At the end, he writes a last note, "Goodbye." Somehow, she finds she misses him, although his words have tormented Nell throughout her adulthood. "Her life seemed almost as intricately woven as one of Mr. Wodehouse's novels but, she admitted, without the to-ing and fro-ing, mistaken identities, and cordons of nemeses lined up three deep to bar the road to perfect bliss." Nell's life in Harvester may seem quaint at first glance, but she has her own nemeses, like bigotry again women who read and appreciate the arts and discrimination against her personal decisions, even from her own Aunt Martha. She stands up for her son, who left town a hero and returns an outcast, and for a gay man run out of town after a play he puts on, regardless of how well it was received. She does not wish any honor, nor a more cosmopolitan existence. She makes her world large through reading books and immersing herself in life with friends.

I don't think the author's intention is to make a bold statement with this read. She makes a subtle statement, however, through Nell's example, about the nature of salvation. Nell is careful as she steps in to aid her friends never to intrude or overstep bounds. She values what she has learned from making her own way and does not want to take that chance away from anyone. Rather, Faith Sullivan gives us what Wodehouse gives Nell: relief, escape. Art saves by lifting us out of what is into what could be, as it does for Nell, for Hilly with his harmonica, as painting does for Larry Lundeen, stories do for Agatha and plays do for Shelly. Wodehouse's salvation may not be intervention in the usual sense, but it is palpable. "And slowly, in the most irresistible way, the breath went out of her as she felt his weight, as so often before, rousing her and carrying her away." She, too, is ever available to those who come to her, and, most often, the first thing she offers is one of his books. I think I'll go and check one out myself, perhaps Love Among the Chickens, the first of his Nell finds.

Meet Me Halfway
Jennifer Morales
Terrace Books
c/o Wisconsin University Press
1930 Monroe Street, third floor, Madison, WI 54711-2059
9780299303648, $19.95 PB, $11.49 Kindle,

Meet Me Halfway is a command. In these Milwaukee stories, Jennifer Morales meets us halfway with her characters, demanding we, too, meet her halfway by laying on the table our own assumptions and fears. What we receive for our efforts is a hopeful glimpse into a community interwoven by grief. (Think Crash the movie, but optimistic instead of sadistic.) "Netania pulled on Bee-Bee's hand, bending toward her. 'Meet me halfway, will you?'" Netania, a lesbian, is leaning in for a kiss she's not sure will be well received by this non-lesbain friend. We never know if she gets the kiss or not. That's how this book is: each story ends without a clear conclusion, leaving us to finish out the story with our own. It's as though we're written in, unable to remain innocent bystanders.

At the center of all the stories is Johnquell. He gets the first line. "Johnquell's neck is broken and chances are he won't walk again." Revolving around him are the neighbor he was helping when he got injured and her grumpy friend. There's his mom, sister and aunt Bee-Bee. There's a substitute teacher Johnquell dislikes and a long time teacher/mentor he adores. Lastly is his best friend who is motivated by Johnquell to set his sights on a goal and follow through with a determination he lacked when Johnquell was alive. What I liked about each of these characters is their willingness to change. They proactively face their fears and overcome them with help. I particularly enjoyed an encounter between Johnquell's mother and a woman with a similar name and address. They meet when Johnquell's mom receives this woman's mail and returns it to her home. They end up chatting and crying together, strangers, but companions in sorrow. At first, I was skeptical of the serendipity of the meeting, but realized the gravity of the situation, Johnquell's mom's world being turned upside down, made the impossible possible. It opened up narrative possibilities Morales handled with aplomb.

Morales also deftly handled many different voices. Most daring is the last voice, Taquan's. She adopts his slang and syntax. "He [the counselor at the community college to which he applies] be using words I ain't never heard and I be trying to not let on that most the time I ain't got a clue what he saying." Perhaps it isn't exactly as a real Taquan would say it, but Morales has obviously spent a lot of time and attention on her characters and the real people who inform them.

This book couldn't have come out at a better time. Morales said it's often hard to publish books dealing with race, but "hard" is precisely our current political climate. Meet Me Halfway is a command and an invitation, a promise that there is a reward for compromise. And when one party, the author steps up to the plate with an "argument" in the form of well-developed characters and true-to-life plot and style, it is worth it to listen. Now it's our turn to add to the stories, from our own towns and our own hearts.

Mari Carlson, Reviewer

Mason's Bookshelf

Wings of Valor
Nick Del Calzo & Peter Collier
Naval Institute Press
291 Wood Road, Annapolis, MD 21402
9781591146414, $50.00, HC, 264pp,

Synopsis: The Aces of World War I were knights of the sky, obeying an unwritten code of noblesse oblige. The romance of flight still clung to the Aces of World War II, Korea and Vietnam, but they had a different and more decisive mission. Less figures of chivalry now than their predecessors, they were hunters trying to survive in the jungle warfare of the skies, stoic heroes asking no quarter of the enemy and giving none as they scored the five aerial victories that made them a special breed.

Unlike the equally heroic ground forces they protected, the military aviation Aces of these wars were on their own, relying on their individual skills, determination and daring to prevail in engagements that were the aerial equivalent of a bare knuckle brawl. The stakes were nothing less than the control of the airspace over which the battles that would determine the course of history.

At one time there were over 1,400 fighter aces. Because of the changing technology of war and the shifting nature of war itself, these men showcased in the pages of "Wings of Valor: Honoring America's Fighter Aces" are considered the last of the traditional aces.

"Wings of Valor" takes a last look at these larger than life fighter pilots, enters the timeless drama of their dogfights one final time, and makes their achievements a living legacy. It describes their battles and the planes they flew. Most of all it tells their stories -- who they were and where they came from before the aerial combat that that made them heroes; and the lessons each of them learned from his rendezvous with destiny. "Wings of Valor" honors the content of their character via formal photographs of these valiant men, the last of their breed.

Critique: An inherently fascinating and consistently compelling read from beginning to end, "Wings of Valor: Honoring America's Fighter Aces" is a unique and unreservedly recommended contribution to the growing library of Military Aviation History. Impressively informed, exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Wings of Valor" is especially recommended for personal, community, and academic library military aviation history collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

Get to the Heart
Ted Frank
Backstories Studio
9780997853407, $28.95, PB, 222pp,

Synopsis: "Get to the Heart" by Ted Frank (whose Backstories Studio is a leading firm in strategic storytelling, with clients that include Netflix, Fiat Chrysler, eBay, ESPN and Twitter) shows how movie storytelling secrets can make any presentation clear, compelling, and earn presenter a seat at the table -- especially when working with corporations. "Get to the Heart" will help even the most novice of presenters to make their presentations clear and compelling so stakeholders will be motivated to take action and provide what ever is needed to make the difference. It's storytelling in a form that truly works in corporate environments, because it's based on the approaches movies use being quick, visual, and emotionally affecting. But instead of focusing on video production, it's a step-by-step method tailored specifically for the strategic projects complete with full-color case histories and examples that illustrate the material. There's also an interactive version for your e-reader, and both versions feature video and audio clips, downloadable files, and a place to engage with author Ted Frank and other strategic story directors.

Critique: Thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, "Get to the Heart" offers a complete course of do-it-yourself instruction and is unreservedly recommended, especially for community, corporate, college, and university Business Management instructional reference collections and supplemental studies lists. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Get to the Heart" is also available in a Kindle format ($16.95).

Atlantis in the Caribbean, third edition
Andrew Collins
Bear & Company
c/o Inner Traditions International, Ltd.
One Park Street, Rochester, VT 05767
9781591432654, $20.00, PB, 528pp,

Synopsis: The legend of Atlantis is one of the most intriguing mysteries of all time. Disproving many well-known Atlantis theories and providing a new hypothesis, the evidence for which continues to build, Andrew Collins shows in this newly updated and expanded third edition of "Atlantis in the Caribbean: And the Comet That Changed the World" that what Plato recounts is the memory of a major cataclysm at the end of the last Ice Age 13,000 years ago, when a comet devastated the island of Cuba and submerged part of the Bahaman landmass in the Caribbean.

Collins deftly parallels Plato's account with corroborating ancient myths and legends from the indigenous people of North and South America, such as the Maya of Mesoamerica, the Quiche of Peru, the Yuchi of Oklahoma, the islanders of the Antilles, and the native peoples of Brazil.

Collins also explains how the comet that destroyed Atlantis in the Caribbean was the same comet that formed the mysterious and numerous elliptical depressions, known as the Carolina Bays, found across the mid-Atlantic United States. He reveals evidence of sunken ruins off the coasts of both Cuba and the Bahamas, ancient complexes spanning more than 10 acres that clearly suggest urban development and meticulously planned road systems.

Revealing the identity of Plato's "opposite continent" as ancient America, Collins argues that Plato's story was first carried back to the Mediterranean world by trans-Atlantic mariners, such as the Phoenicians and Carthaginians, as early as the first millennium BC. He offers additional ancient trans-Atlantis trade evidence from Egyptian mummies, Roman shipwrecks in the Western Atlantic, and the African features of giant stone heads in Mexico.

Piecing together the final days of Atlantis and the wildfires, earthquakes, tsunamis, days of darkness, and advancement of ice sheets that followed the ancient comet's impact, Collins establishes not only that Atlantis did indeed exist but also that remnants of it survive today, most obviously in Cuba, Atlantis's original central island.

Critique: Inherently fascinating, consistently compelling, impressively informed and informative, remarkably thoughtful and thought-provoking, -- and occasionally just a bit iconoclastic, "Atlantis in the Caribbean" is very highly recommended for community and academic library collections. For personal Atlantean Studies reading lists it should be noted that "Atlantis in the Caribbean" is also available in a Kindle format ($9.99).

Enter By The Narrow Gate
David Carlson
Coffeetown Press
PO Box 70515, Seattle, WA 98127
9781603813914 $14.95

Synopsis: A teenage girl has vanished in Santa Fe. Nearby, in the Trappist monastery of St. Mary of the Snows, a beautiful young nun is stabbed to death. Father Nicholas Fortis is on sabbatical at St. Mary's, and when Lieutenant Christopher Worthy of the Detroit Police Department is flown in to help find the missing teenager, the Orthodox monk asks his friend to delve into the nun's murder as well. The two men make a perfect team: the monk's gregarious manner opens hearts and the detective's keen intuition infiltrates psyches. The Book of Matthew refers to the "narrow gate" that leads to heaven. Each of the key players in these two cases was rattling heaven's gate in a frantic and even dangerous quest for salvation. Lieutenant Sera Lacey of the Santa Fe Police, with her captivating looks and insight into the Native Americans and cultures of the Southwest, proves both a boon and a distraction for Worthy. As Father Fortis navigates the social hierarchy of the monks of St. Mary's, he begins to fear their secret agendas. Bowing to the pressure to solve both cases, the investigators let the clues lead them in opposite directions. At the end of one of those paths, Death awaits. Book one in a new detective series featuring Christopher Worthy and Father Fortis.

Critique: Enter By The Narrow Gate is a riveting murder mystery. Author David Carlson mixes knife-edge tension with a knack for vivid storytelling that will keep the reader captivated to the very end. Highly recommended, especially for connoisseurs of the genre!

The Soul of the Matter
Bruce Buff
Howard Books
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781501140716 $25.00 hc / $12.99 Kindle

Synopsis: A scientist's claim that he's found the secrets of the universe's origin encoded in DNA sparks a race against time to uncover the truth in this fast-paced thriller of science and faith, power and murder, loss and redemption.

Dan Lawson, a former government cyber-intelligence analyst, is surprised to be contacted by his estranged friend Stephen Bishop, a renowned geneticist. Stephen says that he's discovered amazing information within DNA, including evidence of a creator, and needs Dan's help to protect his findings. Dan is skeptical and wonders whether he is being manipulated, or if the recent illness of Stephen's only child, Ava, has caused his childhood friend to fall back on religion for answers to questions best left to science. Spurred by his desire for proof that life has meaning, however, Dan puts aside his doubts and agrees to help.

When an experiment goes terribly awry, Dan realizes he must get to the bottom of Stephen's discoveries. With the help of Trish Alighieri, a pediatric oncologist trying to save Ava's life, Dan desperately searches for answers - including whether the human soul can survive science's conquest of nature.

Critique: Could human DNA secretly contain proof of God's existence? The Soul of the Matter is a riveting thriller that grapples with ethical conundrums similar to those raised by modern technology. As compelling as it is thought-provoking, The Soul of the Matter keeps the reader glued to the page to the very end. Highly recommended! It should be noted for personal reading lists that The Soul of the Matter is also available in a paperback edition (9781501141881, $15.99) and in a Kindle format ($12.99).

Building a Successful Web App
Paul J. Scott
9780996687416 $17.95 pbk / $9.99 Kindle

Synopsis: Have you ever wished your website could do more than show visitors information about your company and its products or services? Want it to bring new leads, automate time-consuming tasks, or handle customer service issues automatically? Or, do you have a great idea for a startup, but don't know how to turn your concept into a great website? In Building a Successful Web App, entrepreneur and veteran web developer Paul J. Scott walks you step-by-step through the process of coming up with a great web app concept, choosing the right programming team, and turning your vision into a reality. This book is the perfect "get started guide" for any business owner or executive who wants to improve their business using custom web software but doesn't know where to get started. Isn't it time you learned how web apps can help your bottom line?

Critique: No programming experience is required to benefit from Building a Successful Web App, a guide written especially for business entrepreneurs who work with programming professionals (either in-house or hired freelancers such as Going Clear Interactive). Chapters discuss web app development for startup businesses; how to plan, launch, and refine one's web app; and five real-life web apps as examples. "Don't take a 'launch and forget' attitude toward web app development. Do everything you can to make sure that the best possible build and version are available for your customers, employees, and users, but don't be afraid to go back to the drawing board and see if you can come up with even better ideas later on. The minute you become complacent, you start falling behind, and continual excellence brings continual profit opportunities." A thoroughly accessible, reader-friendly guide, Building a Successful Web App is a choice pick for business leaders in today's digital world.

Jack Mason

Molly's Bookshelf

The Adventures of Jazzi G Search For the Missing Peace
Gayle Johnston
Morgan James Publishing
11815 Fountain Way, Suite 300, Newport News, VA 23606-4448
9781630478407, $14.95, Paperback, 202 pages,

Genre: middle grades Young Adult

Writer Gayle Johnston's The Adventures of Jazzie G SEARCH FOR THE MISSING PEACE, begins with twelve-year-old Jazzie, Imo Gene Hopkins, absorbed in the midst of the worst thing ever to happen in her young life.

Spring break is right around the corner, her teacher, Mr Shawnley has just announced that over the holiday the class is to prepare a homework assignment on peace. Jazzie cannot believe it, first her parents have been carrying on ongoing battling, Dad has left and they are going to get a divorce, and now this.

Peace, what in the world does a kid know about peace.

Before long Jazzie steps in to thwart school bullies from harassing Oxford, a really smart but also really nerdy classmate who insists he owes her his life. In payment Oxy offers to work on the homework assignment with Jazzie.

The pair are soon enmeshed in the most startling activity of their young lives, they work together to set up a website aimed at bringing together kids from all over the world to share ideas regarding peace; what it means and how it affects everyone.

Peopled with a captivating cast of characters including an Asian lad named Su and his cat, Cat Man Doo; Jazzie, Nelson her dog, and Oxy; readers will enjoy getting to know 'Enery, a lad with a disability who lives in London, Finn a Swiss youth wearing lederhosen, Dutch sisters Rachele and Kristina, their pet Pookie and his seeing eye aid Nafferton, as well as Abraham an Israeli youngster and his new friend Hakim.

Traveling on a CyberCoaster, meeting a blue-eyed pirate, dodging danger more than once, The Adventures of Jazzie G SEARCH FOR THE MISSING PEACE is a well written, fast paced book complete with snappy dialogue, and stimulating settings sure to please the target audience of Middle Grades - Young Adult readers who enjoy a bit of fantasy, excitement and situations featuring kids their own ages.

SEARCH FOR THE MISSING PEACE is jam-packed with the anticipation and enthusiasm tween readers crave. Readers meet so many interesting characters bringing perspective of other cultures in a non-preachy manner leading to beginning understanding of optimism, comradery and how peace and acceptance comes about on individual basis.

Writer Johnston offers an imaginative work dedicated toward helping tweens understand that happiness comes more from the inner acceptance of others as they are without need to force everyone, family, friends, classmates and all to become carbon copies of themselves. A large order indeed, and one many adults may not have really come to understand. Anger is part of life, it is what we do with anger that determines our outcome in situations.

Johnston gently guides young readers through the eyes of Jazzie as she begins to understand that the anger she harbors toward her parents, and others, is something she can let destroy her; or as Jazzie, readers too learn the power of forgiveness, acceptance of difference of understanding and how it affects Jazzie/themselves in a positive manner.

I like that writer Johnston, with subtly and adroitness, exposes young readers to many of the global issues facing society, Jazzie G's SEARCH FOR THE MISSING PEACE touches on ethnic, religious, cultural differences we addressed in First and Fourth grades social studies lessons taught during my years of classroom teaching.

Were I still in the classroom The Adventures of Jazzie G SEARCH FOR THE MISSING PEACE is a book I would use in my classroom as a read to book and as a choice for free time reading, taking home to read with family in addition to use for class discussion following my reading a chapter aloud.

Interesting read sure to please the Middle Grade - Young Adult target audience, happy to recommend.

I received a paperback book for review; it is well made, print is large enough for even older eyes to read without difficulty, pages are secured firmly, cover is smooth, likely can be wiped off with damp cloth should need arise.

On occasion I found books going home overnight did get returned with spill evident. Kids are kids, a pristine book is one not read. A well-read book appears to be just that; well read. Paperback books fit easier into backpacks than heavy hard cover ones.

All in all The Adventures of Jazzie G SEARCH FOR THE MISSING PEACE has a place on the classroom library shelf, in the school library, as a gift for a Tweener, as a tuck in, in gift basket or back pack for back to school, and on the counselor book shelf for lending to youngsters who may be facing some of the emotional angst as besets most Tweeners sometime during the school term.

I look forward to reviewing others of this series.

Forever April
Mac Fletcher
Amazon Digital Services LLC
B00F0MJ2TS, $0.99, Kindle,

Mac Fletcher's Forever April introduces thirteen-year-old Richy who finds himself alone following the sudden death, thought perhaps to be a suicide, of his single parent mother. Placed in a living situation that is not at all to his liking; the apprehensive youngster holds to the notion that his mother has been murdered.

Richy harbors strong suspicions and is determined to locate and gather proof that will verify his case. Finding himself in conflict with the care assignment where he has been placed; Richy takes it upon himself to locate the man, one Paddy Benton a one-time rock star, he believes to be his father. The fact that alcoholic Paddy, has never acknowledged a connection between himself and the lad or his mother Julie does not deter the determined Richy.

In doing so Richy is troubled to realize he has left one bad situation, the care placement, for one that is even worse. He is kidnapped, set free, and becomes alarmed to realize the group who were holding him captive have been slain before he becomes the focus of attention of those who actually do want to help him.

Richy, occupied with the anxiety as is found in most kids his age, is involved in a near impenetrable web of bewilderment, retribution, and death before he comes to understanding the real reason behind the basis for his mother's death.

The visitor, his work done, slipped as silently as a phantom into the lounge. He shook a slip of paper from a polyethylene folder onto the table, glided through to the passageway, pulling the self-locking door to with a gloved hand . . . and was gone."

B-r-r-r-r! Writer Fletcher adroitly sets the tone for chills in this well-crafted account jam-packed with challenges, abduction, murder and even racial undercurrents.

Displaying much of the similar commitment for detail created in David Furlotte's 'Contract For Deceit' along with the heart pounding drama of a William Manchee paperback; novelist Fletcher has fashioned a well written, complex account filled with spirals and turns along with an abundance of red herrings.

Fletcher's work is complete with authentic characters, some of whom are out-and-out terrifying in their display of scheming.

The reader is quickly drawn into this page turner of a tale from the opening lines and is carried forward on a bumpy, fast paced ride filled with plenty of uncertainty, collusion, excitement and just plain good writing and reading.

Keep the lights on and doors locked tight! Watch the red herrings, or the ending may be a real shocker.

Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend

Safe At Home
C Dennis Moore
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781478307709, $4.99, Paperback, 94 pages,

C Dennis Moore's SAFE AT HOME begins when twenty something Jim and his high school girlfriend Monica are just moved into a charming, third floor flat in a protected structure where they are anxious to begin their life together. Monica Ellen and Jim Bryson assure their parents that the building is safe, after all only those who have a key can get into the building. Although Jim finds adjusting to living with another person is a little more problematic than he had imagined; on the whole everything is going pretty well at first.

Monica works part-time while she also attends classes. Jim works at Burger King and often listens to music during the afternoon while he waits for Monica to come home. The pleasant, calm life the pair are fashioning for themselves will soon not remain quite so peaceable.

Fellow tenant, Roger Weinstein, is found dead, murdered, leading to police being called. Due to the fact that the security lock on the front door coupled with the fact that Jim was the only one in the edifice who couldn't verify his whereabouts at the time; leads others, especially the police, to wonder about him.

Police are called again when ageing Emma Shamburg is murdered next; and again Jim cannot establish a alibi. Jim is disheartened to find himself again the object of interest for a resolute homicide officer.

And, as the investigation continues, tension begins to build between the two young people.

Monica learns the heating vent carries conversation from one story to another. Jim is a tad startled when he realizes the door to a rearmost storage room cannot really be secured against uninvited interlopers.

Adding to the growing angst is an almost concealed opening marked 'basement,' a haunting musical strain produced by Banded Boss, a none too popular group, in addition to a bizarre, unidentified, late night pillager who tosses Jim's load of just washed clean clothes all over the laundry room.

Wherever Jim turns the Bonded Bass refrain seems to be present. Jeopardy, perplexity and absolute lethal intent all dog the young man's steps. Eventually Officer Grawbadger turns his attention elsewhere, the murders are solved, and, Jim and Monica move.

The young couple weds, welcome a baby Samuel and life is good. Time marches on, Jim's new work situation is much better than was Burger King, and a new baby is on the way when Jim notices a green van parked in an alleyway. Four-year-old Samuel comes into the house humming a haunting refrain.

Safe At Home commences in a discreet, meandering manner. It is the account of youngsters growing up and beginning to take their place in the adult world. Novelist Moore sets his scene with an adroit choice of words.

Well drawn, credible characters come alive under the clever pen of this author. Nineteen-year-old Monica is a typical girl attending school and working part-time, while the somewhat older Bryson is a normal young man with a low-key job. This is one of the foremost draws of the book; most of the world is made up of rather average/normal people and the reader is hooked right into the account by identifying with the characters.

Main characters Jim and Monica are set against a framework of attractive settings, resonance, and associations in this gripping tale. Novella, Safe At Home, hooks the reader into the action from the inaugural lines and carries the reader along on an progressively risky ride right to the last paragraph. Spine tingling action, convincing dialog, agreeably mystifying anxiety all flourish in this chronicle shaped with clever skillfulness by writer Moore.

While I like mystery, when I first accepted this review request for a 21,000 word suspense novella, I wasn't certain I would enjoy the read; writer Moore is a well-known writer of horror, and the book was presented as a horror. I don't care much for the genre, even though I have reviewed some now and then. Writer Moore has created a nail biter of a read, while this reviewer considers this book to be more of a suspense-filled thriller than horror, and I can say I wholly enjoyed the read.

Writer Moore adds a bit of biographical information, a beginning script and other information regarding his work. I enjoyed reading how this book Safe At Home came about and look forward to reading more of his work so long as it leans more to thriller than horror per se.

Safe At Home is not a work to be read on a dark and stormy night. The wise reader will watch for the curves and spins or you may come up surprised by the ending.

Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend.

The Wish Cat
Ragnhild Scamell, author
Gaby Hansen, illustrator
Little Tiger Press
9781854307545, $13.95, HC, 32pp,

Read to ages 3-7
Read with help ages 5-6
Read alone ages Emergent Readers ages 6 -7
Read to siblings, kindergarten class and others ages 7 -10
Genre: Children's Picture book

Holly lives in a house having a nice big yard filled with flowers and grass and trees, and, a door with a cat flap. The only thing missing; Holly does not have a cat!

Sitting on her bed and watching the stars one evening; Holly spies a falling star and immediately wishes for a nice, cuddly, wee kitten. Crash!

Holly is a tad dismayed to find a scruffy, the scrufftiest cat ever is gazing at her through her bedroom window. Holly wants a nice, cuddly, wee kitten, she does NOT want a big old scruffty cat with a torn ear, messy fur and crooked smile.

"It's a mistake" she cries. Holly does her best to shoo him away.

Tom, on the other hand, does not believe it is a mistake and sets out to prove himself worthy of her love. He follows her around the yard, makes a big show of tidying up his fur, brings her a special present from the garbage bin. He is determined to become Holly's own falling star proper wish come true cat.

One even as dusk settles, and a storm is brewing, Tom settles himself on the mat just in front of the cat flap. Next morning Holly hears mournful, shivery mewing, opens the cat flap and finds a snow mound covering a woeful Tom.

Thus begins a lovely, empathetic tale of a little girl and her thoughtfulness for a homeless feline.

Our school, as many across the nation, has a Book Fair each year, Osage County First Grade and I always walk across the hallway to go and check out the offerings and try to find perfect books for our classroom. I think each child noticed The Wish Cat, and hurried to bring it to my attention immediately the year it was on the shelf.

My classes always remember how much I like cats and often care for rescue cats, and, we have many cat centered books in our classroom library.

The Wish Cat was a unanimous choice of each of the 11 students in First Grade that year. The Wish Cat has been read and reread many times over the years since the book first became a part of our classroom library.

One Little Reader or another always chooses The Wish Cat to be taken home for overnight reading with family, the book is often chosen to be read by teacher during our end of day ritual of sit on rug, listen to a book or two read aloud and getting ready for returning home after a pleasant, busy day of class work. Strong First Grade Readers regularly take The Wish Cat to share with a Kindergarten student or two.

I too like this lovely tale of a needing a home cat, and a needing a cat little girl. Holly's ministrations for Tom, drying the snow from his fur, offering him food and affection are a delight to watch as the book progresses. Osage County First Grade is always full of smiles watching Tom as he tries to present himself in the best manner possible to Holly. And, cries of 'Oh', 'Poor Tom' and the like abound when we come to the snow mound covered Tom page.

Each student expresses satisfaction that Holly does help Tom, gives him food and affection, and that Tom has won a place in Holly's heart and home.

The last page showing Tom and Holly sitting on her bed at dusk one evening as a falling star streaks across the sky always meets with student approval and often leads to class discussion of how they too have been able, with parent approval, to befriend a lonely, homeless cat or pup.

A gentle, child pleasing, compassionate tale filled with vocabulary easily understood by children, and delightful illustrations on every page, The Wish Cat is sure to please the 3-7 set.

Child pleasing read. Happy to Recommend. 5 stars

Molly Martin, Reviewer

Paul's Bookshelf

The Eyes Behold Tomorrow
Ken Hart
World Castle Publishing
PO Box 10652, Pensacola FL 32524
9781629891163, $11.99 PB, $3.99 Kindle, 264 pages,

Edward Robert Teach is your average human male. He is smart, rich and very un-politically correct. He also abhors his famous namesake, Blackbird the Pirate. One day, a spaceship lands on the lawn of the White House. Out come several gorgeous women. They are actually from the female-dominated planet of Feletia. They are here to recruit human males, including from the general public, to join the Feletian Space Navy. Feletia is in the middle of an interplanetary war against the Lyonians, who have already visited Earth. Edward is personally recruited by Princess Kamini, the leader of the expedition, for her "stable."

On Feletia, Edward becomes the unlikeliest captain of a prototype space destroyer in the Feletian Space Navy. He gets quite a reputation after destroying a Lyonian battle cruiser with a lucky shot with a torpedo. There is a Lyonian bounty for his capture. There are many personality clashed between strong-willed Edward and the equally strong-willed Feletian women.

A new player has entered the Feletian-Lyonian war. Edward watches as a ship of unknown origin destroys several Lyonian ships like it was nothing. Returning from a mission, Edward finds the population in an uproar. There has been an attack by unknown individuals, with many Feletian casualties, including Kamini's mother, Queen Aphelia. He learns from a captured intruder that they are called Grrulagans, and they can change into any being they want. Their intention is to foment a Feletian-Lyonian war, and then clean up afterwards. By this time, Kamini has assumed the throne, and Edward has become Regent. Only Edward can see the Grrulagan impostors among the Feletian population, and after teaching others how to do it, several thousand Grrulagans are rounded up. As Regent, Edward's job is to protect Kamini, any way he can. This leads to more clashes with the Feletian hierarchy. Does Kamini survive? Is there now a three-way war?

This belongs in the large gray area of Pretty Good or Worth Reading. The author, intentionally, does not try to answer any Great Questions, like "Where did mankind come from?" It is a tale of one person's physical and emotional journey, and it is worth reading.

Superhero Universe: Tesseracts Nineteen
Claude Lalumiere and Mark Shainblum (ed.)
Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing
PO Box 1714, Calgary AB T2P 2L7 CANADA
9781770530874, $12.95, 275 pages

This latest installment in a yearly compendium of science fiction and fantasy stories from Canada focuses on superheroes. It involves a lot more than constant battles against Dr. Bad Guy.

A female super-villain breaks out of prison and crashes her family's barbecue, in order to visit her dying grandmother. The rest of the family is not thrilled about her sudden appearance. When a superhero is injured in battle, does he or she go to the local hospital, or to a special superhero hospital? After the public adulation has disappeared, and the government no longer needs their services, what is a superhero to do? Are they forced to fly around the city, carrying a giant "Available" sign, like an airborne taxi?

A woman becomes sidekick to Anthony of Padua, the patron saint of lost things. A native of Prince Edward Island passes up a chance to join an all-Canadian league of superheroes. There is a story about a person who sets herself on fire, and then reincarnates, like a human phoenix. A female friend of Captain Freedom was murdered, chopped to pieces and pinned to a wall as a warning for the Captain. Now she's back from the dead.

Not only is this an excellent bunch of stories, it's also an excellent addition to the superhero universe. There is a lot more to being a superhero than fighting evil.

Europa Journal
Jack Castle
Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing
PO Box 1714, Calgary AB T2P 2L7 CANADA
9781770531062, $14.95, 265 pages

Harry Reed was part of a US military training flight that left Florida in December 1945. It vanished in the Bermuda Triangle. How did his body end up inside a submerged pyramid on Europa about two hundred years later?

Commander Mackenzie O'Bryant is called in, because she has a prominent place in Reed's journal, which she pockets. A member of her crew accidentally pushes the On button. They just manage to escape the flooding of the pyramid, but they don't escape the suddenly-created wormhole that sends them Somewhere Else.

After crash landing on an alien planet, their attempts at First Contact do not go well. They eventually meet up with Reed, who is the only survivor of his flight. He has been accepted by several awumpai (think of a samurai crossed with a yeti). The planet is ruled by a very powerful being called Atum-Khaos. He knows of Earth's existence. His ultimate objective is to take an entire floating city back through the wormhole, and kill or enslave all of humanity. Can he be stopped by a handful of humans, and a couple of World War II-era bomber aircraft? How does Reed's body get to Europa?

I totally enjoyed this novel. It's very easy to read, with heart and emotion along with very alien aliens. It also has lots of action, with a rather high body count by the end. This is another case where just as a novel, this is excellent. Considering that it is the author's first SF novel brings it to the level of Wow.

Paul Lappen, Reviewer

Polk's Bookshelf

Destiny's Crucible, Book 1: Cast Under an Alien Sun
Olan Thorensen
Privately Published
9780997287806 $12.95, paperback, 334pp
B01I8DTAKQ, $2.99, Kindle,

Joseph Colsco, bound for a chemical society meeting, is traveling on an airplane involved in a mid-air collision with an alien spacecraft. Barely surviving the crash, Colsco, physically repaired by alien technology, is given a choice. He can be released on another planet also populated by humans, but at a much earlier stage of development, or die. Not much of a choice, but one from which Colsco was determined to do his best to adapt and survive.

Now called Yozef Kolsko, he becomes a resident of the large island of Caedellium on the planet Anyar at a time in human development roughly corresponding to the seventeenth century on Earth. What follows is his struggle to learn the language, social skills, and to learn to fit into the indigenous society. The author has skillfully and imaginatively detailed most of the issues that would confront a person in such a situation to include simple technologies he could teach the residents to better their lives.

But all is not rosy in paradise; the aggressive Narthani Empire (the Anyar equivalent of Earth's Roman Empire) has begun to subvert the clans of Caedellium with the goal of seizing Caedellium's resources and enslaving its people. Learning of the Narthani threat shocks Yozef, but he is able to find the inner resolve necessary to help the people of Abersford and his benefactors at St. Sidryn's Abbey in their struggle against Narthani mercenaries, the Buldorians.

Cast Under an Alien Sun is built upon a large cast of well developed characters who are believable in their roles and circumstances. The reader can easily identify with Yozef' and I felt his actions and responses were reasonable within the circumstances of the scenes. The other characters were likewise reasonable and fit their roles. I would have expected more suspicion of Yozef, but his ability to produce simple products and strategies and provide limited but rational explanations keep effectively protect his status and prevent fear among his neighbors.

Cast Under an Alien Sun is s thoughtful and entertaining read for anyone who loves action adventures. While it is science fiction in concept, it crosses the line into political drama and historic fiction as well. It should be well received by a variety of readers. 5-Stars

Destiny's Crucible, Book 2: The Pen and the Sword
Olan Thorensen
Privately Published
9780997287813, $12.95, 400 pages
B01IW2PEV2, $2.99, Kindle,

Joseph Colsco, known to his Caedellian friends and neighbors as "Yozef Kolsko" has been cast away on the human inhabited planet of Anyar. He has become a resident of the town of Abersford, a successful business man who has introduced many simple, popular and essential products into the local economy, and many essential products such as gunpowder useful in fighting off the Narthani Empire and its mercenaries. He has proven, helpful to the community, has fathered a child with a local woman and now fate will spread his influence to the attention of Hetman Keelan, leader of the Keelan Clan and a major Caedellian leader attempting to untie the clans against the Narthani Empire.

Following a disastrous (for the Buldorians) Narthani influenced Buldorian raid on Abersford and St. Sidryn's Abbey, fate has intervened to bring Yozef to meet Hetman Keelan. Keelan's daughter, Maera Keelan, had previously met Yozef during a visit to St. Sidryn's Abbey and now she and her mother considered whether Yozef would be a suitable husband for Maera. Hetman Keelan is more concerned whether Yozef can be trusted to help Clan Keelan against the Narthani.

Soon, both questions will be answered as the Narthani move in force against the clans.

In The Pen and the Sword the author writes an excellent and very intense description of a seventeenth century pitched battle between a disparate group characterized by chaos and lacking strong central leadership and a disciplined army. The reader alternately moans and cheers as circumstances twist and turn around a conflict that will mean life or death for the residents of Caedellium.

The Pen and the Sword is a wonderful sequel to Cast Under an Alien Sun and one that is certain to be appreciated by anyone who loves reading action dramas. Because it is the second in a series, the reader should consider reading Cast Under and Alien Sun first in order to fully understand what is happening. Both are exceptionally well written and entertaining. 5-Stars

The Last Day of Captain Lincoln
EXO Books
9780997590258 $25.00, hardcover, 133 pages
B0182N1UYQ, $0.99, Kindle

Captain Lincoln is on a starship traveling through space toward a distant star that allegedly possesses a Goldilocks planet capable of colonization. The trip takes many generations. In order to deal with limited space and resources on the ship, lives in each generation are limited to eighty years; at mid-night on the eightieth birthday each life is terminated. Lincoln is now eighty and must face termination. This book is about his good-byes and his message to the upcoming generation; but his messages are overshadowed with foreboding.

I tried very hard to find a point to this book, but the point I kept feeling was pointlessness itself. I felt that the limited lives of the people on the ship who could only create and produce the necessities to sustain their own lives were pointless. Captain Lincoln's life was pointless as well having produced nothing but an example for younger generations for an eighty-year lifetime. Finally, continual understated allusions to a supernova may foreshadow the pointlessness of the entire mission. In any event, the colonists are doomed to a pointless existence either on the ship or burned to a crisp by an exploding's unclear which will eventually consume them.

The Last Day of Captain Lincoln is a book for die-hard science fiction readers and, possibly, philosophers. Personally, I found it to be...pointless. 3-Stars

For Her Courage
Andria Redlin
Privately Published
9781365393662, $23.99, HC, 128 pages
B01FPC4DPA, $0.99, Kindle,

Callidus O'Callahan is a toymaker of extraordinary skills who has charmed the village in which he lives for a lifetime. One of the village Christmas traditions created by O'Callahan was the "Blue Angel", a spectacular work of art, that adorns the top of the pine tree in the town's center square. Decorating the tree is an annual community Christmas event to which every family contributes; their form of healing in the dark years after the civil war.

Belinda Jane, a beautiful woman of unknown origins, appears from nowhere when Callidus was a young man. Overwhelmed by her beauty, Callidus marries her and fashions the Blue Angel after her. What follows is an extraordinary lifetime of love and family, happiness and grief leading to an extraordinary blessing and opportunity for Callidus and Belinda Jane's granddaughter.

For Her Courage is storytelling at its best in the finest tradition of Christmas stories. It is a story of believable characters and events, but with a surreal and other worldly quality that casts a faint supernatural aura over the events and characters. The author is obviously a talented writer and storyteller and should be proud of an excellent first (published) book that should appeal to everyone who loves Christmas stories, romantic tales with a twist of divine intervention, or just about any other form of traditional literature. 5-Stars

Clabe Polk, Reviewer

Sloan's Bookshelf

Southern Scotch
Reb MacRath
Amazon Digital Publishing
B008B8H8PS, 265 pages, $4.99, Kindle,

The radio in the big, sleek vintage Dodge Charger plays Eat a Peach by the Allman Brothers as Boss MacTavin and his hapless, grifter hostage drive through the night, headed for Atlanta and a little Southern payback.

This is crime fiction noir at its very best: Chandler, Hammett, Spillane -- all fused into a terrific tough-guy tale worthy of the telling. Its gritty characters compete with a carefully crafted plotline to hold you spellbound for hours.

Boss, in fact, is more than tough. He's scary-tough, reminiscent of The Gunslinger in Stephen King's Dark Tower series -- but more ascerbic, and with a crack in his armor for a love long lost. In addition, Boss had been a brilliant Scottish athlete in his early years and had developed a serious crush on the South, which ultimately failed to return his affection.

Dodge Cunningham, the con man connected with a brutal beating received by Boss five years earlier, evolves into a sympathetic victim himself as the novel unfolds. The intricate text often doubles back on itself to shed new insights into the motivation and actions of the principal players, and the result is a richly layered piece of fiction that will sate any fan of this genre, which switches seamlessly from crime thriller to mystery to outright, violent horror.

It's not a novel for the fainthearted. It is rather, alive with dark humor and bloody, graphic action scenes that are truly cinematic. Consider the following lyrical prelude to the decimation of a biker gang:

"Thunder rumbled in the sky as he moved in, his fists raised. Boss stood and watched him come, his own hands dangling at his side. The biker's fist shot out -- at air. For Boss had shuffled to one side, his right glove streaking in an arc. The biker screamed out in pain. . . Then (Boss) whirled around into a series of bitch slaps and back slaps that sushied his face. A hard, brutal shot with one palm to his chin sent his teeth flying. He fell like a stone."

In San Francisco, they pick up Vivian Aquino, another outre character who facilitates their entry into the bleak world of porn in order to exact revenge for the death of Vivian's sister -- the sinister and sexy Dr. Wu -- and Boss's own disfigurement by goons in a one-flight walkup years earlier. Step by step, a plan is laid to right many wrongs.

You'll learn new words for age-old acts along the way to this novel's stunning conclusion -- words like Primer, Mother Lode, and Differential. Ah, but what does the INS have to do with that Darth Vader of skin flicks, Ramsey Michaels -- the man you will, as they say, love to hate.

Five-plus stars to Southern Scotch and its gifted writer Reb MacRath. Seldom have we seen a book so artfully written and immaculately edited. Even the cover is first class.

Buy this book right now. Aye, you'll be rrrright glad you did.

The Ghost in the Machine
Amazon Digital Publishing
ASIN: B01HOW0JKC, 392 pages, $7.99, Kindle,

Sage Washington is having an out-of-body experience -- literally.

That's because her old body is lying in a coma while her new, immortal body has gone back to work -- re-toned and cougared to about age twenty and wired to process information faster than Google.

It's pretty sweet for the formerly forty-two-year-old software executive, who now thinks nothing of working most of the day and night, needing only fifteen minutes to recharge in a 24-hour cycle.

But her team is not so thrilled at being dragged at warp speed through dozens of new software upgrades -- at the blistering rate of one a day -- and the revolt is building. Soon, Sage realizes there are significant downsides to being superhuman.

For one thing, there's her romantic life. Sure, the new upgrade allows her to have multiple orgasms, leaving her lovers panting and exhausted. But there's very little sensory satisfaction that goes with it. It's all very -- well, mechanical, for lack of a better word.

Another thing -- she can't eat or drink her favorite foods, wines or morning lattes, lacking taste buds to appreciate them, or a stomach in which to deposit them. Very inconvenient when out to dinner with her "posse" -- her very closest girlfriends.

But all in all, the pluses outweigh the minuses -- until she comes to a startling realization that could cause her to be transitioned back to her failing biologic body -- a difficult choice she must make within 30 days.

The Ghost in the Machine is first-class science fiction, drawing the reader plausibly into a premise that could become reality within decades. Author dhtreicher masterfully interweaves this tale of immortal possibilities with ultra-realistic glimpses of day-to-day life inside a giant multinational corporation. He lays bare the power struggles and intense jockeying for position at the highest levels with great clarity and insight.

And he details carefully as well the toll taken on both Sage and her coworkers as they blow past expectations to gain the undivided attention of rapt Wall Street investors.

The moral side of such a radical concept is also examined carefully. At one point, Sage ponders the wisdom of such an incredible bioengineering breakthrough:

"Now that I've crossed over, how long will it be before there will be hundreds and then thousands, and eventually millions and even billions of immortals? Not long, I fear. And why do I fear it? Because we have no idea where this will lead."

She then grows even more pensive: "Can I live without emotions? I've been acting as if I had them. But my reactions are triggered from memories. I don't really feel them. What do I feel? I don't know."

This book is a triumph of storytelling, fusing bleeding-edge technology with the human equation and carefully crafting characters you'll care deeply about.

From Sage's workaholic father, with whom she has a problematic relationship -- to her giddy girlfriends, always "there" for her, even through this incredible life-altering experience -- each character is given depth and texture, making them come right off the book's pages and into your heart.

Five stars to The Ghost in the Machine. Not since Heinlein has there been such a well-delivered piece of futuristic writing, deeply imbued as it is with man's tendency to overreach the boundaries of good science and good sense.

The Ishtar Cup (Bart Northcote Series Book 1)
Murray Lee Eiland Jr.
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781517362287, $14.99, PB, 172pp
B015F6RLUK, $1.99, Kindle,

Beautiful women are typically trouble for hardboiled private detectives.

Add to that a fabulously valuable golden artifact, a professional hit man, an elusive Iraqi diplomat and a couple of pointblank murders, and you have the first excellent installment in the Bart Northcote series by standout author Murray Lee Eiland, Jr.

Northcote, the hardboiled P.I., accepts the unusual case at the behest of buxom client Vanessa Vader (not her real name), and together, they begin a search for Vanessa's dubious partners in a scheme to sell the 20-carat gold Ishtar Cup.

Soon they find themselves the target of a ruthless killer who -- as one of the original partners in the sales scheme -- has now decided to snuff the others and seize the entire $5 million fee for himself.

Bart, in typically terse P.I. prose, describes his dilemma about continuing the dangerous gig:

"I was well into my fifth day of work for Vanessa, and so far my only accomplishments had been to get two people killed. I had a bad feeling about the case, but I wanted to give everything the best chance to work out for her."

He's a private detective with a heart of gold, and it's this very quality in the lead character that makes the novel rise far above others in this genre. Its surprise-a-minute, never-predictable plot twists will keep you turning pages far into the night.

Along the way, Bart finds himself (a) a suspect in the first murder, (b) dressed in drag for a rendezvous with the Iraqi diplomat, and (c) in and out of bed with his voluptuous client so often you'll join him in marveling at his good luck.

There are many instances of choice dry humor scattered throughout, as when a lovestruck LAPD detective makes a pass at Northcote while he is in his femme fatale disguise:

"Don't I know you from somewhere?" the detective asks hopefully. "Have I arrested you before?"

Or, there's this observation by Bart after a harrowing shootout:

"I still carried with me the residual fear from a near encounter with death, and Vanessa was sitting next to me talking about bra sizes as an ultimate measure of character."

There is so much to like about this book. There's the obvious mystery inherent in the Ishtar Cup's genesis and astronomical value. There's the very real danger to Bart and Vanessa as they try to recover the reverberent relic.

And, surprisingly, there's the deeply hidden but terribly telling character trait regarding one major character -- not revealed until the very end. It's a suitable wrap-up to a well-told tale.

Five stars to The Ishtar Cup. It's an ingenious introduction to a new favorite in PI fiction.

The Night of the Eleventh Sun
Steven Burgauer
CreateSpace / BookSurge
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781419671548, $12.95, PB, 136pp
B01MDRXQ8K, $0.99, Kindle,

Transport yourself back 40,000 years, and watch a life-and-death drama unfold.

Strong Arms, and his mate Brown Curls, are waiting patiently for a huge antler-animal to grow weak so they can finally kill it. It's been two days since the big beast fell into a glacial depression, fashioned into a trap by the pair. Its legs have been crushed by boulders rolled down on it earlier by Brown Curls.

Brutal hunting technique? Very much so. But it's just another day for these Stone Age Neanderthals, who are trying to survive and bring back food to their ravenous clan.

Through the talented touch of author Steven Burgauer, the reader is transported across the eons to walk the Neolithic landscape in search of daily sustenance for Strong Arms' clan.

Indeed, Burgauer's vivid portrayal of day-to-day life back then -- complete with bouts of anxiety, somnambulism, and even eroticism -- make this novel breathe with an uncannily contemporary touch of reality.

"Neanderthals were not the stumbling, stupid brutes moderns once pictured them as being," Burgauer asserts. "Give a Neanderthal man a shave and a bath and dress him up in a coat and tie and you wouldn't notice him on a crowded platform waiting for a train."

This story is skillfully woven among fascinating -- and plentiful -- anthropological nuggets and ancient history. But don't think it's just a dry recitation of facts and figures drawn from a dusty textbook.

Strong Arms and his clan practically leap off the page and into your imagination as they battle wolves during important tribal events, such as the chieftain's eleven-year-old son's coming-of-age ceremony -- the Night of the Eleventh Sun.

In a different kind of struggle, Wide Smiles, the fourteen-year-old daughter, must battle her emerging sexuality to keep from going "knees-up" with her cousin, Long Legs. Hormones rage -- little different than in present day -- and the instinctual, though taboo, urge to mate with a kinsman is hard to overcome.

As the mild European summer passes, however, the family unit is distracted from its dilemma of breeding stock scarcity. There are ritualistic rites to perform, honoring the all-powerful Nature God, and even an occasional musical celebration, performed with hollow bird-bone flutes and turtle-shell drums.

Still other little-known historical notes emerge. For example, it was not unusual for cannibalism to occur every now and then, savoring such delicacies as the sacred brains and livers of deceased clan officials. And children, especially those belonging to important clan members were almost never buried. Instead, their tiny bodies were placed with great reverence in cave wall niches and carefully sealed.

"It was believed that the Spirit of the one who had died would fly to the Nature God on the wings of a hawk or an eagle, only to return later in the guise of a son or a grandson."

Much more could be said of this excellent piece of historical fiction, but suffice to say, it roundly deserves five stars for its unique ability to entertain as well as inform. You'll never look upon the cavemen in museum dioramas in quite the same way again.

Well done, Mr. Burgauer. Another masterwork of writing, at once inventive and illuminating.

Don Sloan

Susan's Bookshelf

Light of the Desert
Lucette Walters
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781425977481, $26.49, 590 Pages,

Genre: Fiction

Born into a wealthy family, loving parents, and a beautiful home, Zafferra and Noora have the best of everything, including the chance to be educated in London. What more could they want?

Noora is engaged to Michel, handsome and with good prospects he is everything a girl could want, and he is deeply in love with her.

However, this story is about sibling rivalry, a common problem, however Zaffeera's jealousy of her sister Noora transcends all reason. Carefully hidden beneath her meek demeanour, Zafferra is harbouring a deep jealousy, it is consuming her! Nobody realises, but as a young girl she had fallen in love with Michel after a chance meeting years before, she should be his wife, and is determined it will be so.

Time is running out, soon the sisters will be leaving London, returning to Egypt for Noora and Michel's wedding. So, during their last few days in London, Zafferra puts her plan into action...

When they excitedly return home, the reception Noora receives leaves her confused. Then, when she is called to a meeting with her father, her life changes forever. For their father, Farid Fendil is a loyal MOFHAJ member, and having been presented with undeniable evidence of an immoral crime being perpetrated, by a member of his family, he knows what he must do.

Thus Noora finds herself fleeing for her life, travelling across continents, in her pursuit of sanctuary she must take on a new identity.

With her new name, Kelley, her life changes in ways she could never have imagined, however, the past has a way of catching up on you, and as the sisters both discover, the future can never be assumed.

We read every day in the papers, and see on the news the damage and chaos caused by fundamentalist groups, and hear horrific tales of female circumcision, and other ordeals which are inflicted on women and children in the Middle East. This story graphically brings these things to life.

This gripping novel captures your attention from the very first page. It takes you on a wonderful adventure, yet it is also a beautiful love story, interlaced with jealousy, betrayal and a myriad of other emotions. To me it was not only entertaining, but also fascinating, and thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

The Jerusalem Assassin
Avraham Azrieli
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781460906552, $17.99, 48 Pages,

Genre: Thriller

In this superb spy thriller, the author has revisited the weeks leading up to the 1995 assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. The assassination itself is shrouded in mystery, of course being such a radical leader, Yitzhak Rabin knew that was never going to be popular with everyone, however, he did what he believed to be right in his search for peace, by extending his hand to Yasir Arafat, leader of the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization).
And so the story begins...

It is the 11th October, 1995, and Al-Mazir arrives at Charles De Gaulle airport. He has been sent for a meeting with Abu Yusef, and a rich Saudi prince, their sponsor. The men are eager to show the world the power and strength of the Palestinian resistance as it unites against the Zionist enemy. However, Elie Weiss is head of the Special Operations Division in Europe. Al-Mazir's arrival has been noticed by his agents Gideon and Bathsheba, and they have other plans...

Soon, readers of this book's prequel 'The Jerusalem Inception' will see ghosts from the past arising. We discover that Lemmy, the thought to be dead son of Rabi Abraham Gerster, (one time leader of the Neturay Karta, an ultra-orthodox sect), is very much alive, and is now married with a son of his own. With a false identity he is living under the name of Herr Wilhelm Horch, and is vice-President of his father-in-law's Hoffgeitz Bank in Zurich.

Cleverly set in place years before for long term infiltration, Lemmy has been clandestinely working for Special Operations leader Elie Weiss all along. Despite the years not having been kind to him, aged and ill, Elie is determined to lay claim to the billions of dollars in blood money secreted for General Klaus Koenig, by his old school friend and banker Armande Hoffgeitz. The money had come from the selling of the jewels and gold from the WWII holocaust victims, and the amounts had been noted in a ledger. Many years may have passed since that day, but Elie's memory of that time is still vivid. A survivor of such a terrible war, how could he forget its horrors, or the day, right at its end, when he and a young Abraham Gerster, after killing the general had found the ledger, and a beautiful pregnant girl, now Mossad agent Tanya.

This gripping spy thriller, has a fantastic plot, which, set at such a tremulous time, in such a vehemently religious part of the world makes it enthralling reading. I found the insight into the fanaticism of the members of the PLO, and the acts they commit horrifying. That people such as the characters in this book exist is without doubt true, however, the true depths they are prepared to go to, the taking of lives without a second thought, and the lies they are prepared to tell in pursuit of their goals are incredible.

I loved reading this action packed, exciting, and sexy take on a real event in fairly modern history by this talented author.

Dying For Revenge (The Lady Doc Murders Book 1)
Barbara Golder
Full Quiver Publishing
c/o Innate Productions
9781987970005, $18.99, PB, 368 Pages,

Genre: Murder Mystery

This enthralling murder mystery is set in Telluride, Colorado, at Mountain Village, once a sleepy ranch town, it is now the place to live, with many of the rich and famous having homes there.

One of its residents is the favourite leading man of the moment, Mitch Houston, who seems to have it all, however, all this changes when his wife receives a phone call from a reporter, giving her news which will change their lives forever.

For the Western Slope of Colorado Chief Medical Examiner, Jane Wallace, Tuesday June 6th starts very early with a phone call from Sheriff Tom Patterson, there's been a murder, and of course she must attend.

Five years have passed since the death of her beloved husband John, and Jane has never come to terms with the loss, she is living with it every day. Her other children have flown the nest, and now she lives with her son Ben, finding great comfort in her church, and she enjoys the company of the new young priest Father Matt. It is he who introduces her to Eoin Connor, a true crimes author.

One death is a tragedy, however, as the death toll steadily rises, it soon becomes apparent that the killer must be found, but there is only clue, the killer's weapon of choice is a .22 rifle. Not much to go on.

Throughout the book there are many small stories giving the reader snapshot insights into the varied lives of its main characters, and building such a depth to the story that it is simply totally enthralling.

I loved reading this very cleverly written murder mystery, which was packed full of suspense, and can't wait for Book 2 to be released.

The Mind Traveller
James McKenna
Lone Cloud Publishing
9780956972385, $9.00 PB, $1.47 Kindle, 212 Pages,

Genre: Fantasy

This fast paced fantasy story opens with Rosie, hunting in her Uncle Hugo's cellar at Haston Manor. It's creepy down there, but she is on a mission, she's searching for a family heirloom, a locket handed down through her mother's line. Why? Because her mother told her in a letter given to her by Uncle Hugo on her 14th birthday, that the locket holds special powers, and she should 'accept her fate,' but what does that mean?

Rosie is soon to discover that her destiny lies before her, and that the locket is not the only legacy which is handed down from mother to daughter. Her uncle often fondly tells her that her mother used to see goblins and demons hiding in the grounds, strange creatures, just like she has started seeing. However, it is not until she loses a very special bracelet that her search to find it takes her through a magical portal into another place, Mind Space, and she realises that the creatures really do exist...

Mind Space is a mysterious realm which is inhabited by strange and mythical creatures. She and three friends, (who are transported with her by accident) find themselves trapped there until they can complete their quest. It is a land in torment, torn apart by the fierce angel wars between the Knights of Lousa and the Dark Angel and his demons.

This exciting adventure follows the brave friends' quest through this strange land, where they find themselves fighting against evil side by side with strange creatures and a fire breathing dragon.

Who will win the angel wars?

Will Rosie find her bracelet, and if she does, how do they return to their time?

The answers all lie within the pages of this fantastic fantasy story which will enthral young adults of both sexes. However, not only is this an exciting story, but it also demonstrates the incredible powers of true friendship and loyalty, and the comradeship which can be shared.

I thoroughly enjoyed this thrilling story and look forward to reading its sequel.

Susan Keefe, Reviewer

Suzie's Bookshelf

Personal Justice 1
Deveaney Press
Amazon Digital Services LLC
B009DVHZ96, $3.99, Kindle, 320 pages,


"Turn your wounds into wisdom." ? Oprah Winfrey

Pain and tragedy have the ability to enter a person's lives in the least expected way. Zachary Kavanaugh's world changed in a blink of an eye when he learned of the senseless death of his parents. Their death prompted him to leave his successful Defense Attorney position to go on his own personal vendetta to bring justice to those who escape the legal system.

Zackary change of life will put him in the path of the evil and corruption that exists in the legal system. Will he succeed in his fight to bring justice to those that are powerless to defend themselves? Or will his actions lead to his own destruction?

PERSONAL JUSTICE 1 is a highly addictive novel. Each page is filled with an overabundance of high intense drama. The characters that are presented each share a strong voice in the development of a story that is assured to stay with you long after the last page is turned.

Spyder is a writer who has written a very unique story. What I find admirable about this author is his ability to introduce so many different characters and scenarios and blend each one expertly into the overall plot of the story. His writing voice is strong and intense; it is one that commands to be heard. I predict this author will be one to become legendary in the literary world.

Ten Terrific Monsters: A Hidden Item Book
Chris Mason, Author and Illustrator, Vladimir Cebu
Smashwords, Inc.
9781370269952, $9.99, Kindle, Words: 840

Willie the wolf finds himself stuck in the unemployment line with nine other monsters. He used to be a successful movie star but due to circumstances out of his control he finds himself now without a job. As it gets dark Willie and his friends leave and each one goes their own separate ways.

As the group parts goes off to their own we are able to learn more about Willie and his friends in their own home environment. Each character features a special hidden item puzzle adventure. The beautifully created illustrations allow us to discover more about this delightful cast of characters.

TEN TERRIFIC MONSTERS: A HIDDEN ITEM BOOK is an exceptional book filled with a host of delightful characters. Each one offers their own special sparkle to make this book appeal to both children and adults. In this one book there is over one hundred items to search for in ten different scenes. This feature will allow children to practice their counting and eye coordination skills.

Chris Mason has proven to me that he is a very talented author who is able to provide fresh and appealing ideas that can be very beneficial to the development of a child's learning environment. Through the masterful illustrations created by Vladimir Cebu his words take on new meaning as these beautiful illustrations paint memorable scenes that is assured to delight both the child and adult. I highly recommend this book for it can be used as a tool to enhance any child's overall learning development.

Suzie Housley

Teri's Bookshelf

Pandemic: Tracking Contagions, From Cholera to Ebola and Beyond
Sonia Shah
Sarah Crichton Books
c/o Farrah, Straus, and Giroux
18 West 18th Street, New York, NY 10011
9780374122881, $26.00, 250 pages,

"Cholera kills people fast. There's no drawn-out sequence of progressive debility. The newly infected person feels fine at first. Then half a day passes, and cholera has drained his or her body of its fluids, leaving a withered blue corpse."

Pandemic sounds like a science fiction thriller. Unfortunately, it can be all too realistic and could happen.

How do we prevent it? One way would be to read Pandemic.

Most of us do not plan to be exposed or infected with cholera. What would you do if you were on an airplane from Haiti to Florida in 2013?

This particular flight was delayed. The crew disinfected where a cholera infected person had been the previous hour. What if you had been on the plane with a person suffering from cholera? They probably felt fine when boarding the flight. Could you contract cholera by being on a plane with an infected person?

It seems as if the more advanced medical science becomes, the more contagious these diseases become.

Author, Sonia Shah chose to write a readable and understandable journey following the cholera epidemic to demonstrate to everyone, even those not in the medical field, how a pandemic happens.

Shah understands these diseases and has personal experience with the MRSA bacterium herself and in her family.

One of her sons had contracted the disease. Being a thirteen-year-old boy, she was accustomed to seeing skinned knees and sores. When he complained about a bandaged sore on his kneecap, she investigated only to discover the sore was boils. It was a staph infection called MRSA.

MRSA is a nasty disease. It was first identified in the 1960s and by the year 2010, had killed more people than AIDS. This disease tends to infect and reinfect family members for years frequently causing people or lose a limb or their life. How does anyone stop it?

Treatment is painful and takes weeks or months to recover. How can anyone cope with this? How does a family conquer this antibiotic-resistant bacteria?

Pandemic is a must-read for everyone. It realistically explains the precautions in an easy-to-understand manner that makes you a little more cautious in public places and especially boarding planes.

Be prepared. Read Pandemic.

The Flame Bearer
Bernard Cornwell
Harper Collins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062250780, $27.99, HC, 284 pages,

"When we are young we yearn for battle. In the firelit halls, we listen to the songs of heroes.
Then the day comes when we are ordered to fight with the men, not as children to hold the horses and to scavenge weapons after the battle, but as men. ... We are almost men, not quite warriors, and on some fateful day we meet an enemy for the first time, and we hear the chants of battle, the threatening clash of blades on shields, and begin to learn that the poets are wrong and that the proud songs lie."

Before the year 1000 A.D., England was a group of tribal kingdoms. Since the Romans left, there was constant fighting over land and religion with little time for peace. The invasions from the Vikings were constant. Throughout the years many of these kingdoms were merged into larger ones through marriages, battles, or treaties.

Finally, there is some peace due to a treaty between Sigtryggr, Northumbria's Viking ruler and AEthelflaed, Mercia's Saxon queen.

Lord Uhtred has been waiting years for this one opportunity to regain his inheritance of Bebbanburg. Uhtred's uncle stole this fortress when he was only nine-years-old, selling him into slavery while slaying his father. To Uhtred it seems as if the stars are finally aligning for his one chance to regain his inheritance.

In this time, every battle determined whether the land would become Daneland or England. Even though we know the winner today, it was a struggle with a close victory.

The problem for a series of many books is the continuity of the story. Can you read The Flame Bearer and enjoy it without having knowledge of the other books? Being this is the tenth installment, probably not. I do not recommend this as a stand alone book. The reader needs to know the past relationships and experiences to appreciate these sagas.

That said, I relish in delight in reading these books. The reader is with Uhtred with every decision, every battle, every conversation and watching as he learns and evolves in his personal character. Admittedly I did not like Uhtred initially and often wondered if he was supposed to be a protagonist or antagonist. His bullying nature became instantly antagonist but softened throughout the years due to tragedies and loss.

Though always an excellent fighter, now Uhtred relies on intelligence and strategy more while planning his moves as well as his enemies.

The Flame Bearer is historical fiction. Cornwell does play with inventing events to fit the needs of his story while utilizing real events and real people from the year 917 A.D. However; history is not well-documented during this time.

Bringing characters to life in The Flamed Bearer is enthralling as well as allowing the reader to understand the people, the land, and the constant threats of war even from Constantin from Scotland.

Read Bernard Cornwell's story of Uhtred who really existed while envisioning his quest in taking back his home of Bebbanburg.

The Cold Kiss
John Rector
c/o Tor/Forge Books
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765366627, $7.99, PB,

"We were the only ones inside except for a man whispering into a pay phone on the other side of the lunch counter. I don't think we would've noticed him at all if it wasn't for his cough. The sound, wet and choking, was hard to ignore.
I did my best.

Sarah didn't."

Sometimes running away seems like your only choices within minutes.

What would you do if you saw an older man who was coughing and having difficulty breathing? Most of us would choose to ignore him.

It appeared as if the man's car had died outside the diner.

What would you do if this man asked to ride with you? What if he was willing to pay you $300?
Nate and Sara agree to give the man a ride. That is a mistake that can cost them their lives.

John Rector is an award-winning writer who currently resides in Omaha, Nebraska. Cold Kiss is his debut novel. Other books written since are The Grove, Already Gone, Out of the Black and Ruthless. His next book 2017The Ridge is expected to be released in April of 2017.

The Cold Kiss is an uncomfortable thriller. Why uncomfortable? John Rector expertly entices the reader inside the story making them feel as if they have become the protagonist feeling the realistic emotions. The action is fast-paced with an undercurrent of a threat as the story progresses.

Rector's writing is outstanding in the area of characterization. Each person becomes real, complete with a physical description but also allowing the reader an insight into their dreams and aspirations as well as their flawed pasts filled with poor choices.

Most of the story occurs at an out-of-the-way Iowa motel during a blizzard. What could go wrong?

The story is well-organized and written with a voice that feels hypnotic. You don't want to put this book down.

Cold Kiss is the perfect book to read on a cold, wintry night. Even hot chocolate is not enough to stop you from being chilled by this thriller.

Love's Christmas Past
Susan M. Baganz, Jewell Tweedt, Rachel James
Prism Book Group
9781519368775, $13.99, PB, 268pp,

Three gifted women authors masterfully join their talents creating a collection of three short stories all in one cover in a historical setting all with realistic characters all hoping to find love this Christmas season.

Council Bluffs' author, Jewell Tweedt created an entrancing novelette, Christmas Bells, with her protagonist, Connie Rose Simonson. Connie manages two cafes on in the frontier town of Omaha, Nebraska during November of 1878.

Connie is a recent widow who is also raising her seven-year-old son, Andrew. She enjoys being extremely busy to the point of exhaustion.

With an invitation to a birthday party where there happen to be puppies, the two look forward to Saturday.

Dr. James Connor also works until exhaustion. Being a lonely bachelor is easier if you are busy especially when you are the only doctor within a thirty-miles radius. For a booming frontier town, that is a lot of responsibility for one person.

Rachel James is the author of another story in this collection entitled, A Medieval Christmas.
Nola is experiencing morning sickness. Her mother, Lady Langley, logically has made this conclusion. As an unwed woman with a social standing, she realizes that she could marry a man beneath her station or become a member of a convent, hopefully, close enough to observe her child grow.

The Earl of Beauwater needs a wife. A man of distinction needs a companion and heirs. With his brother's dying wish is for to marry, can he find a particular woman to fulfill his responsibilities and dreams?

In Fragile Blessings by Susan Baganz, Grant and Lily anticipate the birth of their first child. Unfortunately, the baby dies during its rough delivery. How does anyone heal from the death of a child?

Misfortune has company when there is a fire leaving three Catholic children orphans at a nearby farm.

Who would care for three children with an entirely different religion?

These three stories join in themes of Christmas and hope. All three have practical problems reflective of the time period and even today.

These three short novelettes have an intended audience of women who enjoy reading historical fiction, Christian novels, and romance. All are thoroughly engaging stories transporting the reader to another time and place.

Love's Christmas Past is the perfect gift for any woman who enjoys historical Christian romances.

Lessons Learned- Grace's Secret
Jewell Tweedt
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781536847024, $9.99, PB, 244pp,

" know that you can't change the past, only the here and now."

Grace Freeport is a well-respected school teacher in the frontier town of Omaha. She thoroughly enjoys working with each of her thirteen students but her past still secretly haunts her.

On a typical November day in 1874, the school day begins as usual. However, the weather quickly changes with a little snow, and temperatures are plunging with the wind accelerating.

For a classroom with children, the weather can be frightening, and when their teacher steps outside to access the weather, the impending storm is terrifying for everyone.

Fortunately yesterday, Grace had taken the precaution of running a clothesline from the school to her home. She is well aware of storms in the plains and knows how quickly a blizzard can become dangerous. Leaving a note of their location, Grace carefully led the children holding the line and each other, to the safety of her home where she knows there is plenty of wood and food.
So what is her reward for saving the children? Grace tries to move past her past and reveals her secret. Now, the mayor's wife wants her fired.

Grace's past is now becoming a part of her new life. Complete with a feeling of guilt; she learns the value of friendship, loyalty, and love.

Lessons Learned- Grace's Secret is an excellent example of a perfect historical Christian romance. Perfectly balancing all three genres into one novel is masterfully accomplished in this book.

Local author, Jewell Tweedt has written numerous books in this Omaha-based series during the last few years. Many of the characters in this story were in her previous books, A Bride for the Sheriff, A Lady for the Lawman and Gold in My Pocket.

Lessons Learned is a part of this series but can also be a stand-alone novel. Knowing the backgrounds of the characters and their past experiences enrich the story and allows the reader to understand better the choices of each character as they move beyond their problemed past.

Lessons Learned-Grace's Secret is the longest in this series and shows how the author has developed in her writing with superb characterization and well-developed plots including realistic situations based on the history of the area.

Lessons Learned-Grace's Secret has life lessons that every person daily needs to reinforce in moving on with every person's life.

Off the Hook: A Christmas Ornament Adventure
John Arvai II, author
Eminence System, illustrator
Light the Lamp Publishing
9780997941715, $21.99, HC, 72 pages
9780997941707, $12.99, PB, 72 pages
9780997941739, $4.99, Kindle,

Why do we have ornaments on a Christmas tree?

Is the reason decoration? Many trees combine ornaments given as remembrances of family members or memorable events.

Would you be surprised to discover that there is a purpose for the decorations, probably one that has been kept a secret from you?

On Christmas Eve, while most people are asleep and dreaming, each ornament diligently goes to work. It is the ornaments responsibility to fix the tree lights, tighten screws on the tree stand, and even guard the cookies and milk from pets. This annual event requires each decoration to be "off the hook."

The star on the top of your tree is different and not an ornament.

All the ornaments cooperatively work together to activate the star which is a location transmitter lighting each rooftop to be seen only by Santa.

This year the Thompson family has a problem. They just don't know that it exists.

During their annual Christmas Eve party, the family cat somehow toppled the star, falling into an empty gift bag which Aunt Connie brought to her home.

Once she discovers the star, she believes it is a gift to decorate one of her many trees.

What will happen to the Thompson children when Santa is missing their home? Without a location transmitter, how will their home be found?

How can their Christmas be saved?

How can the family's ornaments possibly save Christmas for the children?

Off the Hook is a wonderfully creative story with the illustrations perfectly matching the text into a logical and well-organized original Christmas story for children of all ages. Numerous themes surround this short book such as cooperation, friendship, prejudice, stereotypes, diligence and doing not what is easiest, but what is the right thing.

Surprisingly, each ornament is an independent character with an individual personality humanizing each and even revealing a little of every person's hidden prejudices and biases.

The colorful illustrations perfectly match the text entrancing readers from as young as 2 to 102 focusing on the individual ornaments and the children.

When not being a US Army veteran, an IT professional, husband, and father of three children, he enjoys hockey and using his imagination to create a beautifully original story.

This enchanting Christmas novel is available as an e-book or a paperback.

Off the Hook is a wonderful Christmas story that will endure the test of time becoming a new family traditional story to be shared with generations.

Teri Davis

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

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