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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 18, Number 1 January 2018 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Andrea's Bookshelf Bethany's Bookshelf
Buhle's Bookshelf Burroughs' Bookshelf Carson's Bookshelf
Cheri's Bookshelf Clint's Bookshelf Gail's Bookshelf
Grace's Bookshelf Julie's Bookshelf Logan's Bookshelf
Margaret's Bookshelf Mari's Bookshelf Mason's Bookshelf
Molly's Bookshelf Polk's Bookshelf Susan's Bookshelf

Reviewer's Choice

Women & Power
Mary Beard
Profile Books and The London Review of Books
9781788160605, A$19.99, hardback, 115 pages

Ann Skea, Reviewer

"When it comes to silencing women Western culture has had a thousand years of practice"
Mary Beard is a renowned Classics scholar and she knows how to present an argument in Classical style. So, she draws on Ancient Greek literature for her first telling example of the male response to an outspoken woman. Telemachus, son of Odysseus and Penelope in Homer's Odyssey, is still only a "wet-behind-the-ears lad" when he tells his "savvy, middle-aged mother" to "shut up". Penelope, who has waited for years for Odysseus to return from his voyaging, hears from her rooms a famous singer entertaining the men who want her to forget Odysseus and marry one of them. The bard is singing of the difficulties Greek heroes have in returning home and Penelope, in tears, goes down to the assembly and suggests he choose a happier theme. Telemachus chides her and tells her to go back to women's work, the loom and the distaff, because discussion is the business of men and of himself most of all, since holds the power in the household. "And off she goes", writes Mary Beard.

This could, of course, have been a teenager's response to having his Mum interfere when he was having fun with the boys, plus a bit of teenage boasting and bravado. However, Mary Beard offers other ancient examples of women being silenced - literally in the case of Ovid's heroine Philomena, who had her tongue cut out by Tereus after he had raped her, so that she could not tell anyone of the rape.

For centuries, in Western society, there have been, and often still are, negative attitudes to women speaking out about rape. They have been shunned and shamed, and treated as if the rape is somehow their fault - that they invited it by their behaviour or their way of dressing. In general, too, there are is still strong antagonism towards women who voice their opinions, and Mary Beard has personal experience of vehemence, rage and threats being directed at her on social media every time she speaks in public.

Drawing on famous literature and art, Beard gives more examples of the ways in which powerful men have, over the centuries, refuse to listen seriously to a woman's opinions. She notes how outspoken women are ignored and/or demeaned, offering as one modern example the "Miss Triggs question". In the now famous cartoon by Riana Duncan (Punch, 1988, Miss Triggs, who is shown as the sole woman at a committee meeting, makes a suggestion which the Chairman describes as "excellent", but then adds: "Perhaps one of the men here would like to make it".

Women who become powerful in a male dominated society are spoken of as "impudent", "aggressive", "whining" freaks of nature, more male than female, as were the Roman women Maesia Sentinus and Gaia Afriana, who successfully defended themselves in Roman courts. And it is true that powerful women often do adopt behaviour generally regarded as masculine. Beard includes a photograph of Angela Merkel and Hilary Clinton and refers to the "politicians uniform" - the trouser-suit - which many women in Western politics choose to wear. And she suggests that Margaret Thatcher's handbag and Theresa May's 'kitten heels' were and are symbols which these powerful women perhaps adopted in order to subvert male stereotypes. Margaret Thatcher, she reminds us, undertook training in order to deepen her voice and make herself sound more authoritative. However, there are powerful women in politics who do not wear trouser-suits, and there are many public-speakers of both sexes who also resort to voice training in order to make their words more persuasive. Adolf Hitler notoriously practiced his speeches and gestures for this purpose.

Mary Beard's two lectures are persuasive and, ironically, perfect examples of Ciceronian rhetoric. She speaks in an easy, often colloquial, manner. She chooses her examples and illustrations carefully to support her argument. And she certainly presents a strong case for finding ways to change the established structures on which power is based. She does acknowledge the changes which now allow women more equal opportunity in education, business and politics. And she does point out ways in which women in literature have made their voices heard. The examples she chooses from history and literature, however, are not comfortable ones. More often than not, her successfully powerful women, like Medusa or Clytemnestra, are, in her interpretation, monsters.

Although this book is slim, Mary Beard ranges widely through history, literature, art and politics to discuss issues related to power, celebrity and authority, and her talks left me with much to think about. Is it possible to change the power structure? What alternatives could we explore? Is it Classical literature which has shaped our society? There are many powerful women in myth (especially Celtic myth) and legend, which have also strongly influenced Western ideas, maybe we might look there for new examples and strategies. There are anthropological, sexual and social reasons for men to have feared women and sought to control them, and these, plus economic reasons, have shaped Western society. There is also, according to my son who works as an IT consultant in the business sector in Sydney, a great deal of female power in the workplace. In his quite varied experience women are listened to and they do have equality in the work place.

It is quite likely that things are different and that male dominance prevails in old academic establishments like the Oxford and Cambridge Universities, and in many areas of government. But this too is changing. It is clear, too, anyone, male or female, who becomes a celebrity and speaks in public is subject to abuse via social media and in media in general. Donald Trump is relentless lampooned, abused and denigrated in the UK and Australian press. Perhaps the lesson, here, is to shun social media, and to resort to the self-protective strategy adopted by many writers: never read your reviews.

Women & Power is a beautifully presented small book with some interesting illustrations and some very thought-provoking and absorbing arguments which are likely to occupy my mind and conversation for some time. And, no doubt, some stroppy teenager is very likely to tell me to shut up.

Klara The Cow Who Knows How to Bow (Friendship Series Book 1)
Kimberly Klecka
Illustrated by Apoorva Dingar
B00Z55ID6S, $1.99, Length: 40 pages

Suzie Housley

For children age level: 2 - 6
Grade level: P - 1

"Being unique in every way is beauty in its own respect". -Zacheree

Klara the cow was born into the world and from the moment she took her first breath the world knew she held a uniqueness that was her very own. Klara has a special talent which is her ability to bow. This skill had everyone talking. The news spread worldwide and is heard by Prince Swede.

The Prince came to visit the farm intent on purchasing Klara. Will he be able to convince Klara's owner to buy her? Or has Klara found her lifetime family?

KLARA THE COW WHO KNOWS HOW TO BOW is an exceptional reading experience. Children will gravitate towards this book. In addition, it offers the purchaser two free gifts. One is a sing-along soundtrack and the other is a read along from the author herself.

Kimberly Klecka is a master storyteller. Klara is a character that a person quickly gets attached to, her personality and adorable actions radiate from each page. I found even as an adult she gained a soft spot in my heart. The illustrations in this book are top-notch they give Klara her own special blend of uniqueness. I highly recommend this book to children of all ages!

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
Cheryl Strayed
Vintage Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780307476074 $15.95 Paperback
B005CRQ4XI, $9.99, Kindle

Vicki Hill

It would be hard to imagine a better opening than this: "The trees were tall, but I was taller, standing above them on a steep mountain slope in northern California. Moments before, I'd removed my hiking boots and the left one had fallen into those trees". This gripping image from WILD, a memoir about the author's Pacific Crest Trail journey, introduces the themes of the book. Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail was to be the author's salvation from the soul-deadening life she was leading. Her position above the trees, midway through her journey, reminds us of the larger meaning of existence, the transcendence that can be ours for the taking. At the same time, the physical and mental hardships of the trail had to be experienced and endured.

The author in flashbacks tells the story of how she came to see hiking the Pacific Crest Trail as the one and only way to move forward with her life. She gradually reveals why she was" "loose in the world": abandoned by her father, divorced, having no career direction despite having education and a thirst for learning and, most of all, the death of her mother at 45.

Details and observation of nature, people encountered, and her hopes and desperation are expressed in some of the finest writing to be found in this type of book. Struggles with her overloaded backpack are hilarious, and she learns from meetups with fellow hikers many lessons in life and outdoor survival. Even though she was unprepared for many of the challenges she faced, in the end, she showed herself to be a master of logistics planning. The retrieval of each resupply box she mailed to her waystations kept her in the game. We rejoice with her when she at last obtains money to buy cheeseburgers and lemonade Snapple.

Over and above confidence in her ability to survive and rise to challenges, she found the peace and acceptance she was looking for and concludes: "my life - like all lives, mysterious and irrevocable and sacred. So very close, so very present, so very belonging to me. How wild it was, to let it be".

Andrea's Bookshelf

Catherine Marshall
Evergreen Farm
c/o Gilead Publishing
9781683701262, $24.99, HC, 512pp,

The train taking nineteen-year-old teacher Christy Huddleston from her home in Asheville, North Carolina, might as well be transporting her to another world. The Smoky Mountain community of Cutter Gap feels suspended in time, trapped by poverty, superstitions, and century-old traditions. But as Christy struggles to find acceptance in her new home, some see her (and her one-room school) as a threat to their way of life. Her faith is challenged and her heart is torn between two strong men with conflicting views about how to care for the families of the Cove. Yearning to make a difference, will Christy's determination and devotion be enough? This 50th anniversary edition will well served to introduce a whole new generation of appreciative readers to Catherine Marshall's classic novel. An absolutely 'must' for community library General Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Christy" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.69) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Oasis Audio, 9781613759929, $9.99, CD).

Curse of the Coloring Book
Howard L. Hibbard
Ghost Dog Enterprises
9780985634469, $16.95, PB, 384pp,

When Herald Lloyd, an attorney and family man, learns he's been cursed with a catastrophic legal-malpractice lawsuit, his recurring Vietnam War flashbacks flood his consciousness, and he medicates his post-traumatic stress with alcohol. He was reckless to quit college to join the Army. Mocking the war, he bought a GI Joe Coloring Book and half-gallon of whiskey, for a drunken send-off with his fraternity brothers. Vietnam hurls Herald into becoming a decorated combat platoon leader, commanding stressed oddballs and misfits like Dogman, who walks point and only barks to communicate. Now he must fight again, this time to save his client, law practice, and family. Was the coloring book cursed? "Curse of the Coloring Book" by Howard L. Hibbard is an inherently fascinating and entertaining read from beginning to end, and one that clearly reveals the author's genuine flair as a novelist for original and narrative driven storytelling. "Curse of the Coloring Book" is an especially recommended addition to community library General Fiction collections.

Andrea Kay

Bethany's Bookshelf

Power Up: How Smart Women Win in the New Economy
Magdalena Yesil
Seal Press
c/o Hachette Book Group
1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104
9781580056915, $27.00, HC, 256pp,

Synopsis: Pioneering Silicon Valley entrepreneur and investor Magdalena Yesil came to the United States in 1976 with two suitcases and $43, blind to the challenges she would face as a woman and immigrant in Silicon Valley. Today, she is best known as the first investor and a founding board member of Salesforce, the now-multibillion dollar company that ushered in the era of cloud-based computing.

In "Power Up: How Smart Women Win in the New Economy", Yesil draws upon her own years of experience and expertise to urge women to look beyond the alarming gender statistics of the workplace and feel confident entering tech or any field -- but also to be prepared to deal with the challenges.

She shares what she experienced as a woman in Silicon Valley with surprising candor and heart, relying not just on her insight but that of more than a dozen top women entrepreneurs to offer pragmatic takeaways on topics such as: Owning career choices while managing risk; Getting credit for your work; Managing sexual dynamics; Recruiting allies in the movement toward a supportive workplace for everyone.

Pragmatic, incisive, and full of highly actionable advice, Yesil prepares ambitious women to break glass ceilings and rise to the top in the New Silicon Valley -- and beyond.

Critique: As inspired and inspiring as it is informed and informative, "Power Up: How Smart Women Win in the New Economy" is an especially well written, organized and presented read from beginning to end. Remarkably 'real world practical' and offering a wealth of tips and techniques for getting ahead, "Power Up: How Smart Women Win in the New Economy" is unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Power Up: How Smart Women Win in the New Economy" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $17.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Hachette Audio, B076X7ZKSW, $24.95, 7 Hours 44 Minutes).

We All Have Souls and I Think We Can Prove It
Tom Blaschko
Idyll Arbor, Inc.
PO Box 720, Ravensdale, WA 98051
9780937663127, $18.00, PB, 352pp,

Synopsis: To author Tom Blashko we are connected, one to another, in ways that the physical world can't explain. We often know when someone is staring at us. Enough children remember previous lives to suggest reincarnation happens sometimes. People see ghosts and angels. Mothers save children by lifting cars off them. St. Teresa of Avila floated in the air in full view of dozens of witnesses. They usually could hold her down, but not always.

It's not one thing. It's everything all together that shows that we all have souls. And that's what Blascho does in "We All Have Souls and I Think We Can Prove It" is puts a lot of things together to show that souls are the best explanation for what we experience.

"We All Have Souls and I Think We Can Prove It" is not religious. But it suggests how acknowledging we all have souls can help us lead healthier, happier, and more connected lives. It looks at some deep philosophical ideas, including the nature of proof written in simple English. "We All Have Souls and I Think We Can Prove It" answers important questions, but asks questions, too. It reminds us what we know now and leads us to places where we can learn more.

"We All Have Souls and I Think We Can Prove It" looks at what souls might be and how science and common experiences prove that they exist. It offers a path to more loving and fulfilling relationships.

Critique: An inherently fascinating read that is as informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking, "We All Have Souls and I Think We Can Prove It" will prove to be an enduringly popular addition the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject, as well as community and academic library Metaphysical Studies collections.

Not Alone
Miriam Neff
Regnery Faith
c/o Regnery Publishing, Inc.
300 New Jersey Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20001
9781621576334, $24.99, HC, 240pp,

Synopsis: In the pages of "Not Alone: 11 Inspiring Stories of Courageous Widows from the Bible" author Miriam Neff shares the essential message that even if we have suffered terrible tragedy, even if we have lost the person most dear to us, God's love holds us in His comforting embrace.

The powerful testimony of eleven widows whose stories are taken from the pages of the Bible. Their stories are brought to narrative life in lyrical, first person prose that takes readers deep inside these women's grief, strength, and faith. Both haunting and hopeful, the moving stories in Not Alone remind us what it means to love -- and what it means to live with God.

While even those who have never read the Bible have heard of David and Goliath, Samson, and Paul the apostle, many of the priceless jewels of the Bible are found in the stories of courageous widows like Tamar and the widow of Zarephath.

These artfully retold stories take us into the heartbreak of loss and struggles with fate. Not for widows only, these stories inspire and empower us. As the widows rise in hope, we rise with them -- to the spiritual benefit of anyone who has experienced any kind of loss.

Critique: A unique approach to a retelling of biblically-based stories for the benefit of a whole new generation of appreciative readers, "Not Alone: 11 Inspiring Stories of Courageous Widows from the Bible" is an extraordinary, inspired and inspiring work that is unreservedly recommended to the attention of all members of the Christian community. While especially recommended for church and community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Not Alone: 11 Inspiring Stories of Courageous Widows from the Bible" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (9781683669197, $19.98, CD).

Toward Truth, Freedom, Fitness, and Decency
Mark W. Bitz
Greenleaf Book Group Press
PO Box 91869, Austin, TX 78709
9781626344358, $14.95, PB, 184pp,

Synopsis: Why does the U.S. stagnate and how do we bridge our cultural divide? What causes some populations to flourish and others to subsist? What perspectives and practices optimize our well-being?

Successful entrepreneur, author, and community leader, Mark Bitz has been thinking about these questions for over forty years. The answers to them have been millions of years in the making; they come from the evolution of life, the human condition, our Judeo-Christian heritage, scientific findings, the American experiment, and numerous cultures. They involve certain perspectives and practices and their prevalence within populations.

Bitz has found the answers to these questions in the one thousand books that he has read and the fifty states and over forty countries that he has visited and shares them in the pages of "Toward Truth, Freedom, Fitness, and Decency".

Critique: An extraordinary study made fully accessible for academia and non-specialist general reader alike, "Toward Truth, Freedom, Fitness, and Decency" is as compelling a read as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking. While very highly recommended for both community and academic library Contemporary Political Science collections and supplemental studies lists, it should be noted for students, political activists, and ordinary folk interested in wanting to deal with the social, cultural, economic, and political issues that so trouble our country today that "Toward Truth, Freedom, Fitness, and Decency" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

Women Fight Back
Donna Goodman
Liberation Media
9780991030347, $19.95, PB, 424pp,

Synopsis: "Women Fight Back: The Centuries-Long Struggle For Liberation" by longtime peace and justice activist Donna Goodman follows the evolution of a movement that thoroughly transformed society -- and continues to this very day in the new 'Me Too' movement denouncing sexual predators in all fields of occupation.

A long-time partisan of the struggle for women's liberation, Donna Goodman deftly recounts how women in the United States confronted a whole society (from the legal system to popular culture to home life) that was immersed in blatant sexism, discrimination and anti-woman violence. Challenging the notion that the women's movement just reflected the concerns of the middle class, Goodman highlights the contributions of working-class, Black, Latina and other oppressed women, who always made sure their presence was felt and perspectives were heard.

Generation after generation, the movement itself became the terrain on which women of different backgrounds articulated and debated the meaning of liberation, often in radical terms. "Women Fight Back" compares the status of women in the United States with other capitalist societies, and with women under socialism. It concludes with a review of the challenges of women's organizing today, projecting a vision of how a new wave of militant struggle could be coming in the era of Trump and into the future.

Critique: The timing of "Women Fight Back" couldn't be better with the renewed push for women's rights against a background of revealed sexual harassment in the workplace be it a movie studio, a television news show backstage, or the White House Oval Office. As impressively informative and exceptionally well written from cover to cover, "Women Fight Back" should be considered a 'must' addition to all community and academic library Women's Issues and Contemporary Social Issues collections and supplemental studies lists, as well as the personal reading list of every man and women seeking to end gender bias and sexual harassment wherever it is to be found today and tomorrow.

Susan Bethany

Buhle's Bookshelf

War & Trade With the Pharaohs
Garry J. Shaw
Pen & Sword Books
9781783030460, $34.95, HC, 232pp,

Synopsis: Officially, foreigners represented disorder and chaos and were perceived by the ancient Egyptians as the opposite of Egypt's perfect land of justice and order. Those ancient Egyptians presented themselves as superior to all other people in the world, especially on temple walls where the pharaoh is shown smiting foreign enemies from Nubia, Libya and the Levant, or crushing them beneath his chariot.

But despite such imagery, from the beginning of their history, the Egyptians also enjoyed friendly relations with neighboring cultures; both Egyptians and foreigners crossed the deserts and seas exchanging goods gathered from across the known world. They shared knowledge and technology, and sometimes settled abroad, marrying and acculturating. Through such interactions, the Egyptians influenced other cultures, and at the same time were themselves shaped by foreign contacts and external events.

"War & Trade With the Pharaohs: An Archaeological Study of Ancient Egypt's Foreign Relations" by Garry J. Shaw (who taught Egyptology at the American University in Cairo, the University of Liverpool, the Egypt Exploration Society, and currently teaches online Egyptology as a part-time tutor for Oxford University's Department for Continuing Education) deftly explores Egypt's connections with the wider world over the course of 3,000 years, introducing readers to ancient diplomacy, travel, trade, warfare, domination, and immigration -- both Egyptians living abroad and foreigners living in Egypt.

"War & Trade With the Pharaohs" also covers military campaigns and trade in periods of strength -- including such important events as the Battle of Qadesh under Ramesses II and Hatshepsut's trading mission to the mysterious land of Punt, as well as Egypt's foreign relations during times of political weakness, when foreign dynasties ruled parts of the country.

From early interactions with traders on desolate desert tracks, to sunken Mediterranean trading vessels, the Nubian Kingdom of Kerma, Nile fortresses, the Sea Peoples, and Persian satraps, there is always a rich story to tell behind Egypt's foreign relations.

Critique: "War & Trade With the Pharaohs: An Archaeological Study of Ancient Egypt's Foreign Relations" is as inherently fascinating a read as it is exceptionally well researched, written, organized and presented. Enhanced for academia with the inclusion of four pages of End Notes, a twenty page Bibliography, and a ten page Index, "War & Trade With the Pharaohs" will prove to be an enduringly valued work of truly notable scholarship, making it an unreservedly recommended addition to both community and academic library Egyptology collections and supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted for students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "War & Trade With the Pharaohs" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $20.97).

Ford City
Herb Colling
9781771960625, $19.95, PB, 216pp,

Synopsis: Ford City was a town steeped in the history of the auto industry. Companies including Ford, E.M.F., Studebaker, Chalmers and Chrysler all called Ford City their home of Canadian operations. But it was more than just an industrial town. It was a rum running hub during Prohibition, a communist hotbed, and a thriving cultural centre for the people of the Border Cities. From the town's inception, through amalgamation, to the revitalization of the Ford plant in the 1990s, Ford City is the story of the industrial heart of Windsor, Canada.

Critique: Profusely illustrated throughout with black-and-white period photography and images, "Ford City" by Canadian historian Herb Colling is exhaustively researched, impressively informative, exceptionally well written and presented. Of special note is the inclusion of a four page Bibliography, making it a unique historical study that is unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library collections.

Shift: Creating Better Tomorrows: Winning at Work and in Life
Michael O'Brien
Red Hill Publishing
P.O. Box 1014, Palo Alto CA 94302
9780998732800, $24.99, HC, 224pp,

Synopsis: In the pages of "Shift: Creating Better Tomorrows: Winning at Work and in Life", Michael O'Brien draws on his personal story from his ''last bad day'', to share with his readers the emotional and physical recovery that starts with his near-death accident on the morning of July 11th, 2001.

A keen cyclist out on a training ride in New Mexico, Michael was hit head-on by an SUV that crossed into his lane traveling 40 miles per hour. He takes readers into the early darkness of his recovery and the perspective shift that gave him the awareness that he could be defined by how he responded to his tragedy - not by the tragedy itself. Michael uses his newfound perspective to fuel his recovery and help him create a better a better tomorrow.

In "Shift", Michael also introduces ''ways of being'' that can help anyone build a stronger peloton (the team that transcends the individual) and get closer to the best version of themselves.

Critique: "Shift: Creating Better Tomorrows: Winning at Work and in Life" ins an incredibly appropriate and highly recommended read for anyone seeking to enhance their perspectives and thereby live a more purposeful and dedicated meaningly life. The underlying message of "Shift" is that becoming our best begins with our mindset. Candid, comprehensive, engaging, inspired and inspiring, "Shift" is an especially recommended addition to community and academic library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Shift" is also available in a paperback edition (978-0998732817, $16.96, Amazon) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

National Building Cost Manual 2018
Ben Moselle, editor
Craftsman Book Company
6058 Corte del Cedro, Carlsbad, CA 92009
9781572183339, $78.00, PB, 274pp,

Synopsis: Square-foot costs for residential, commercial, industrial, military, schools, greenhouses, manufactured homes, fire stations, libraries, churches, government offices and farm buildings is the subject for "National Building Cost Manual 2018", an annual construction industry standard reference that is now in its 42nd edition.

"National Building Cost Manual 2018" also includes important variables that can make any building unique from a cost standpoint. A smart resource for adjusters and appraisers using the cost approach.

Compiled and edited by Ben Moselle, "National Building Cost Manual 2018" will enable anyone to quickly work up a reliable budget estimate based on actual materials and design features, class of construction, area, shape, wall height, number of floors, and support requirements.

"National Building Cost Manual 2018" also features easy-to-use software that calculates total in-place cost estimates. Use the regional cost adjustment factors provided to tailor the estimate to any jobsite in the U.S. Then view, print, email or save the detailed PDF report as needed.

Critique: Comprehensive, reliable, up-to-date, exceptionally well organized and presented, "National Building Cost Manual 2018" is a 'must' for the instructional reference collections of construction companies, architectural firms, and technical college Construction/Architecture library instructional reference collections.

James McKean
Truman State University Press
100 East Normal Street, Kirksville, MO 63501-4221
9781612482026, $16.95, PB, 184pp,

Synopsis: As a boy, Jim McKean understood little about the lives of the women in his family. Perhaps they preferred it that way. Later, marriage brought another group of women and then a daughter brought questions.

The answers are revealed in stories of the remarkable women who survived their time and place, creating a legacy of grit and independence, vulnerability and pain, as they struggled to create lives through the vagaries of war, broken homes, and discrimination.

Revisiting these stories in the pages of "Bound" has drawn Jim McKean back into the family of women who raised him, stories that bind his and their worlds together.

Critique: An inherently fascinating and engaging read from beginning to end, the thirteen riveting short stories comprising James McKean's "Bound" are each one a deftly crafted gem. The result is an anthology that is unreserved recommended for personal reading lists, as well as community and academic library collections. It should be noted that "Bound" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

The White King: Charles I, Traitor, Murderer, Martyr
Leanda de Lisle
Public Affairs Books
c/o Perseus Book Group
250 West 57th Street, #1321, New York, NY 10107
9781610395601, $30.00, HC, 464pp,

Synopsis: Less than forty years after England's golden age under Elizabeth I, the country was at war with itself. Split between loyalty to the Crown or to Parliament, war raged on English soil. The English Civil War would set family against family, friend against friend, and its casualties were immense--a greater proportion of the population died than in World War I.

At the head of the disintegrating kingdom was King Charles I. "The White King: Charles I, Traitor, Murderer, Martyr" by Leanda de Lisle presents a vivid portrait drawn from and informed by previously unseen manuscripts, including royal correspondence between the king and his queen . It is an history-based portrait of a man who was principled and brave, but fatally blinkered.

Charles never understood his own subjects or court intrigue. At the heart of the drama were the Janus-faced cousins who befriended and then betrayed him -- Henry Holland, his peacocking servant whose brother, the New England colonialist Robert Warwick, engineered the king's fall; and Lucy Carlisle, the magnetic 'last Boleyn girl' and faithless favorite of Charles's maligned and fearless queen.

The tragedy of Charles I was that he fell not as a consequence of vice or wickedness, but of his human flaws and misjudgments. "The White King" is a story for our times, of populist politicians and religious war, of manipulative media and the reshaping of nations. For Charles it ended on the scaffold, condemned as a traitor and murderer, yet lauded also as a martyr, his reign destined to sow the seeds of democracy in Britain and the New World.

Critique: An extraordinarily informed and informative study of the rise and fall of King Charles I of England, "The White King: Charles I, Traitor, Murderer, Martyr" is an absorbing and compelling read from beginning to end. Enhanced for both academia and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject with the inclusion of illustrations, maps, family trees and pedigrees, author notes, and appendix (Lucy Carlisle as Milady de Winter), and an index, "The White King: Charles I, Traitor, Murderer, Martyr" is unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The White King: Charles I, Traitor, Murderer, Martyr" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Hachette Audio, B077BCNGQ1, $29.95, 10 hours, 43 minutes).

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

Night Call
Robert J. Wicks
Oxford University Press
198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016-4314
9780190669638, $24.95, HC, 280pp,

Synopsis: Caring for our family members, friends, and others is a central part of a rewarding life. For those in healing and helping professions such as medicine, nursing, education, psychotherapy, social work, ministry, and the military, the potential for a meaningful way of being may even become more possible. But, compassion is not easy. At times, concern for others can be personally devastating when we don't possess the right attitude and approach. Reaching out (and reflectively within) without being pulled down requires the wisdom that only arises out of the right combination of humility and knowledge.

"Night Call: Embracing Compassion and Hope in a Troubled World" by Robert J. Wicks (Professor Emeritus, Loyola University Maryland) offers the stories and principles gleaned over many years of writing and mentoring for those in the helping and healing professions. The stories are offered in ways that foster compassionate caring while encouraging initiative in those who seek to personally deepen and share their lives with others -- especially in times of significant need.

With this in mind, Dr. Wicks presents information on: being a healing presence: Mining fruits of the failures all of us must experience at times; The need to enjoy the daily "crumbs of alonetime"; The importance of a spirit of "unlearning"; Developing a simple realistic self-care program; Valuing informal or formal mentoring; Recognizing the "3 calls" to which we must respond to as we psychologically develop; Honoring life's most elusive psychological virtue (humility).

Purposely brief, the individual chapters, as well as the sections in the "personal resiliency retreat" section at the end of "Night Call", have as their goal a reconsideration of values, signature strengths, and simple approaches to living a resilient, rewarding life. Rather than presenting new breakthroughs, "Night Call" is designed refresh readers on what most of us already know, at some level, so they can freshly view the key approaches and techniques that provide increased psychological self-awareness and a potentially healthier sense of presence to others.

The themes offered may have been forgotten, or become undervalued/set aside because of some of society's dysfunctional norms or unhelpful family influences. In response, this simple, countercultural book combines the value of essential self-compassion with caring for others in ways that provide the impetus for further exploration of a fuller narrative for both the readers of this work and unforeseen opportunities as well for those who are fortunate enough to cross their paths.

Critique: Thoughtful and thought-provoking throughout, "Night Call: Embracing Compassion and Hope in a Troubled World" is a consistently engaged and engaging read that is both timely and timeless. While very highly recommended, especially for community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Night Call" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Dangerous Waters
Micah Cash
The University of Tennessee Press
110 Conference Center UT, Knoxville, TN 37996
9781621903574, $39.95, HC, 127pp,

Synopsis: The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) was created in the 1930s during Franklin Delano Roosevelt's sweeping New Deal governmental reforms, and has long marked the landscape of the upper south and controlled the waterways that run throughout Tennessee and portions of its bordering states.

Controversial even at its inception, TVA grew to become the largest public power agency in the United States, combining social welfare goals with technological innovation and regional modernization. What began as a social uplift project for a depressed Tennessee Valley has, over many decades, devolved into an underfunded agency unable to adequately maintain its numerous dams, visitor centers, and recreational spaces.

In "Dangerous Waters: A Photo Essay on the Tennessee Valley Authority", documentary photographer Micah Cash uses his keen eye to highlight the beauty of TVA's vast architecture and brilliant engineering, but also its tenuous relationship with environmental stewardship and intermittent neglect of the social goals upon which the agency was founded.

Cash illustrates TVA's contradictions through poignant shots of the agency's locations. He starkly captures, for instance, the artificial juxtaposition of beach sand at the shores of Douglas lake or the monumental infrastructure of South Holston, foregrounded by local gravestones.

Cash's photographs also depict the increased security measures of a post-9/11 world, as many dams, visitors' centers, and scenic vistas are now blocked by haphazard fencing, bolt locks, and warning signs, further alienating would-be visitors. The conflict represented within each image mirrors the battle TVA must fight as an agency: to further its development of the Tennessee Valley and, at the same time, preserve both the agency's original vision and the natural environment of the region.

It is a challenge TVA must surmount, but continued budget cuts, a sometimes disinterested public, and the War on Terror have made the fight more difficult. Replete with color images and essays that are both personal and probing, "Dangerous Waters" deftly illuminates TVA as a complicated force operating within the Tennessee Valley and beyond. While Cash's photographs beautifully showcase the dual reality in which TVA operates.

Critique: A seminal study that is superbly reinforced by truly memorable photography, "Dangerous Waters: A Photo Essay on the Tennessee Valley Authority" is a unique and impressively informative history of the TVA and an unreservedly recommended addition to both community and academic library collections, and a 'must' for the personal reading lists for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject.

Michael J. Carson

Cheri's Bookshelf

A Dog's Tail
Kashvi Silswal (10 years old)
9781973783282 $8.99, paperback, 186 Pages
B077W7K2VL, $7.99, Kindle, 221 Pages

"'Hound' is a mix between happy and loud but people added the 'n' for 'nice.' It's true!"

Matchi is a beagle hound that loves to eat. He barks at people. He doesn't like cats, birds or fences. Try as he might, no matter the language, his humans just don't seem to understand what he wants. He is a very opinionated doggie. However, as he shows us his daily life, we find that a dog's life is not all sleep, eat and play, but includes humans, bunnies, and drag racing a very tiring life indeed!

What a fun and adorable book! As a dog lover, I loved the cute little stories as we are taken into the mind and life of Matchi the dog. His escapades will delight the youngest of children because after all, who doesn't love dogs? Written for ages 7 to 15, I found young kids learning to read will love reading the fun filled stories over and over again. Little ones will be delighted in the fun tales and creative sketches. Kashvi is an amazing author and at a young age has proven that she not only can captivate young minds into a make-believe world of Matchi the dog, which I hope will have many more stories to come, but also processes the talent and creativity for a long life in writing children's books and novels. Beautifully written, excitingly fun, and delightfully entertaining for kids and adults. Take a child's eye view into a dog's life with Matchi and 10-year-old Kashvi, a world you won't want to leave and a dog's tail not soon to be forgotten. A must read for all dog lovers and especially if you have a dog of your own.

Awareness (The Hero Within) (Volume 1)
Dr Yeral Ogando
Christian Translation LLC
9780996687317, $12.99, paperback, 322 Pages
B01D95AKY8, $3.99, Kindle, 323 Pages

"I've held a sword in my hand, seen a demon, and I've recognized the reality of what really goes on behind the scenes. My life is never going to be the same again."

The Elite Commander is calling up an army. Not just any army, an army of those who may be considered unworthy. But God calls the unworthy and makes them worthy. Anthony, who faced the end of a gun before answering the call. His sister, Janet, always served the Lord, but lacked courage and boldness. Michael is facing prison for drunk driving and killing 3 people. His wife, Deborah who loves God, but whose life has been shattered by Michael's drinking and rage. However, all now stand ready to face the demons of darkness with sword and armor, ready to take on the call God has placed on them. Warriors in God's army. The question is who will be called next will it be Anthony's wife Becky and young son Ben? Who else will be called to Ohio to join the team? What demons will they encounter - fear, hostility, despair and sorrow or others? Only time will tell...

What an amazing book! Spiritual warfare with the demons of darkness, humans called out from the pit of despair, God's grace and forgiveness, the authority of God's name, the power of the Holy Spirit, everyday people becoming superheroes and there is even more to this book to even list! I've always felt Christian novels needed to be more than a sweet, clean story. They need to cause us to ponder and think- walking away changed and Yeral does not fail, In fact he more than exceeded my expectations. Christian readers will be inspired, encouraged and captivated by this outstanding book. The characters are real and engaging, the writing superb. Scripture came alive before my very eyes. "Left Behind", "The Screwtape Letters", "The Shack" and "This Present Darkness" rolled into one epic novel that I couldn't put down. I wasn't the same after reading "Awareness" and (and this is only book one!) and I guarantee no one else will be either. Pondering the question, are we ready to answer the call? Remarkable must read for all Christians and those seeking.

Power: The Hero Within
Yeral E. Ogando
Christian Translation LLC
9780996687379, $12.99, paperback, 284 Pages
B01MDKPP9T, $3.99, Kindle, 286 Pages

"Pride goes before destruction. How well he knew. But how painful was the lesson. He needed to clear his head and help the other team members before fear overtook and claimed them all."

Mistakes happen, however when that mistake is against the forces of darkness God's army must listen to the voice of the Elite Commander and not get ahead of His timing. The Emissary has been called back to God's heart and he knows his job is to train God's "Precious Team" to prepare for the battle against The Lord of the Night and his second in command Apollyon. Truly a battle of good versus evil as 5 Ohio towns must be freed from the forces of evil and restored to the light. The Elite Commander has more to reveal, but not yet. We've all heard of the Avengers, superheroes galore, as kids cheer for their favorites. However, one will find, within this novel, these superheroes are more powerful than can be imagined - these are the called superheroes of God.

Let me begin by saying if you haven't read book one of this series stop right now and start at the beginning of this powerful, Christ-packed novel. I found myself not only lost within its pages, but I was born and raised in Ohio so the battles become real and alive for me. Like me, readers will find themselves reading their Bibles and Ohio history as they read this page-turner. When I read book one I felt that it was "Left Behind", "The Screwtape Letters" and "This Present Darkness" all rolled into one epic novel and my thoughts haven't changed only intensified. My mind's eye played the battle scenes, as I read. I sat at the table as the team planned. I was on my knees in prayer with the prayer warriors. In other words, this book is more than engaging it is alive. It is more than fiction - it is truth. Yeral has sounded the battle cry. As a Christian, I couldn't just read, I became a part knowing we are up against the forces of darkness and one cannot read this well-written, God-inspired book and not walk away changed. I for one was blown away and can't wait for more. If you are a Christian you have to read this phenomenal series!!

Cheri Clay

Clint's Bookshelf

I've Decided to Live 120 Years
Ilchi Lee
Best Life Media
9781935127994, $19.95, PB, 304pp,

Synopsis: For most of our lives, we work hard, reaching for success, until we are faced with retirement. If we retire at age 65, we may think we have about 20 more years to relax and enjoy our lives. But what if we had even more time? What if we had another 40 or 50 years to live? Would it make a difference in how we lived?

Ilchi Lee is an impassioned visionary, educator, mentor, and innovator. He has dedicated his life to help people harness their creative power and potential. He has developed many successful mind-body training methods, including Body & Brain Yoga and Brain Education.

In the pages of "I've Decided to Live 120 Years: The Ancient Secret to Longevity, Vitality, and Life Transformation", Ilchi Lee stresses that we can extend our lives way beyond what most of us have accepted as our biological age limit -- even up to 120 years. But the real question is, can we have not only a long life, but also a fulfilling one? Lee's answer is a resounding yes, and it starts with the power of choice, a practice of self-reliance, and most importantly, a greater sense of purpose.

A visionary and master teacher who globalized ancient Korea's mind-body tradition, Ilchi Lee lays out a clear path to a new paradigm of longevity and mastery of life. Through personal experience, compelling stories, the wisdom of an ancient Korean holistic practice, and current research on longevity and fulfillment, Lee shows readers how to live fully at any age without regrets.

Critique: An inherently fascinating, 'real world practical', and exceptionally well written, organized and presented, the inspiration and cogent advice that is laid out in "I've Decided to Live 120 Years: The Ancient Secret to Longevity, Vitality, and Life Transformation" will inspire the non-specialist general reader to make the necessary changes in his or her life that would make a 120-year life full of vitality, passion, and purpose possible. While strongly and unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Alternative Medicine, Self-Help, and Mind/Body/Spirit instructional reference collections and supplemental studies lists, it should be noted for students, academia, and the general public that "I've Decided to Live 120 Years: The Ancient Secret to Longevity, Vitality, and Life Transformation" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.95).

No Remaining Evidence
Christina Benton
Janco Publishing
PO Box 95692, Las Vegas, NV 89193
9781946962003, $22.95, HC, 294pp,

Synopsis: Noel Patterson is a forensic anthropologist and professor at the University of Charlotte. One night, when leaving campus, Noel is brutally attacked. She is in for the fight of her life and just as it seems she will not survive she turns the tables and kills her attacker. As the knife plunges into the man over and over again some dark, hidden aggression clicks inside of Noel. She snaps and goes berserk on the corpse at her feet. Hate, anger, and rage consume her but alongside those feelings is a familiar, high-like feeling that she can't explain. A euphoric feeling emerges as she slams the knife in and out of the dead man again and again. She likes it... a lot. Once she is down from her high and as she sits in a pool of blood panic sets in. Now Noel is in a frantic race to dispose of the deadman in her back seat.

Lucinda Marcelis, a hard nosed detective willing to do whatever it takes to solve a case, is on the scene. She assesses the crime scene and is baffled at what she sees. It's obvious a heinous crime was committed by the amount of blood on the parking garage floor but there is no body, no remaining evidence. Her only clue is the security data that leads her to the doorstep of professor Noel Patterson.

But what happens when a forensic anthropologist has awakened an uncontrollable urge to kill?

Noel decides she can't fight the urges and decides that she will kill again. She evades the cops and goes on a murdering spree, stalking and killing sexual predators. Who better to get rid of while satisfying her own homicidal needs, she argues.

Scared of these newfound feelings, however, Noel reaches out to her long-time therapist Doctor Coleman. Noel doesn't want to be this way. She doesn't want to enjoy killing people. Now she has to persuade Doctor Coleman to help her get over this compulsion without risking getting caught.

As things escalate Detective Marcelis is closing in on Noel. She refuses to let Noel get away. She will stop at nothing to catch the professor. But in the end will Marcelis put Noel away or something worse?

Critique: A unique and simply riveting read from cover to cover, "No Remaining Evidence" clearly reveals author Christina Benton's genuine flair as a novelist for originality, deftly crafted and memorable characters, and the creation of a narrative driven storytelling that the reader will find extraordinarily compelling from beginning to end. Simply stated, this is a novel that will linger in the mind and memory long after it has been finished and set back upon the shelf. While unreservedly recommended, especially for community library Mystery/Suspense collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of dedicated mystery buffs that "No Remaining Evidence" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.99).

The Tangled Lock
Bill Rogers
Performed by Anne Flosnik
Brilliance Corporation
PO Box 887, Grand Haven, MI 49417
9781543642889 $25.99

Synopsis: A serial killer haunts the streets of Manchester, targeting vulnerable working girls in the dead of night. His signature: a tangled lock of hair in his victims' throats.

As the body count rises, pressure mounts for the Greater Manchester Police and the National Crime Agency's Behavioural Sciences Unit. For Senior Investigator Joanne Stuart, the race is on to catch the twisted killer before he strikes again.

With DCI Gordon Holmes on her back and the press following her every step, Jo will stop at nothing to bring the murderer to justice. But her separation from her partner, Abbie, is a distraction she can ill afford. As the hunt continues, will Jo be able to focus on the case or will her personal troubles have disastrous consequences?

When Jo finds herself targeted by the killer, she realises that the game of cat and mouse she is playing could turn deadly...for her.

Critique: Anne Flosnik lends her expert performance to this unabridged audiobook rendition of a tense mystery-thriller. Part of the National Crime Agency series, The Tangled Lock will transfix the listener with its harrowing tale of struggling to stop a remorseless serial killer. Riveting to the end, The Tangled Lock is highly recommended for connoisseurs of the genre. 8 CDs, 10 hours 16 min.

Clint Travis

Gail's Bookshelf

The Broken Scout
Thomas Gregory Stewart
Redemption Press
9781683140115, $16.99,

Thomas Stewart's memoir, "The Broken Scout," begins when he was eight-years old, the first time he realized his mother considered him her "oldest trophy." That's when he first understood, he writes, that she had "customized, shaped and molded him into the "perfect son, scholar, church kid... athlete and perfect musician."

She couldn't know her mental instability, domineering ways and emotional abuse had also groomed him into the perfect candidate for Bruce, a neighborhood pedophile; a young man only ten years older than Tom, who would use the pretext of teaching him about scouting to lure him into becoming his "Prize Scout."

Tom knew his father had worked through the ranks of Cub Scout, Boy Scout and Eagle Scout and he thought Scouting would be a terrific activity for him and his dad to do together until he saw Bruce "decked out in his Eagle Scout uniform." Captivated by the soldier like appearance, he begged Bruce, who he had come to idolize, to tell him how to join the Scout program and earn those "cool badges of accomplishment" that decorated his chest.

Thus begins a graphic and true first-person account of how a pedophile groomed and manipulated a young boy into accepting his sexual advances under the guise of earning Cub and Boy Scout awards. It's also the story of the after effects on Tom's family life, his spirituality, Christianity and his personal battles with cancer, drugs, tragedy and multiple divorces.

"The Broken Scout" is an important two-part book of thirty-six chapters that exposes the manipulation and grooming of young boys by sexual predators. Yet Tom's graphic account in the first half of the book was far too lurid and explicit and takes away from the book's important message. I didn't need to know the sexual details that could have been referenced in a more general way.

The second half of the book, which deals with his brother Matt's and Tom's landmark sexual abuse case against the Boy Scouts and the after effects of Tom's early sexual abuse on his marriages, self-esteem, parental role and the issue of forgiveness lacks the attention to detail found in the first half of the book.

While the topic is noteworthy and in need of serious attention, with the lurid detailing in the first half of the book the book needs an R or age rating.

The Empowered (A Trevor Black Novel)
Craig Parshall
Tyndale House Publishers
351 Executive Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188
9781496411372, Hardcover, $24.99,

Craig Parshall, author, constitutional attorney and special counsel with the American Center for Law and Justice, continues the fascinating Trevor Black series with "The Empowered," a terrific suspense series that could also be a standalone title. It's a riveting story of human trafficking and child sexual exploitation wrapped in voodoo, spiritual warfare and murder. Parshall writes in a "clean read" style, without bad language, sexual scenes or grim and gory crime details, yet his books are page turners.

We first met Trevor Black in "The Occupied," a spiritually based crime thriller of good versus evil complete with brutal murders, detectives and demons wrapped in a bit of romance and divine truth. In "The Empowered," Black, a Christ follower disbarred for refusing to undergo psychiatric examination as a condition of saving his law license, is in New Orleans. He and a daughter Black thought had been aborted at birth are reunited and have traveled to New Orleans to get to know one another and investigate the death of Washington federal prosecutor, Jason Forester.

New York City detective, Dick Valentine, had called Black and said a reliable tipster told him Forester's "...demise was 'death by voodoo.'" That made him think of Black and he said, "Forester's death is spooky, and we both know that's your home turf..."

Black had worked with Valentine on a New York City "crime spree that had all the gruesome hallmarks of the supernatural." That case had made the detective a believer in Black's ability to perceive demons and other paranormal phenomena, which were all part of what the former attorney considered "a divine drama."

Shortly after their arrival in New Orleans a brutal murder is discovered in Black's hotel room and he's the primary suspect, all further complicated by the disappearance of his daughter who Black fears is too interested in the voodoo cult religion.

Add a criminal type former boss, a federal investigation into "child pornography and kidnapping of children to use in perverted videos," to the missing daughter and a "carefully staged murder in Black's hotel room" and readers have a book that demands to be read in one sitting. Fans of Mystery story enthusiasts who are fans of Ted Dekker, Frank Peretti or Steven James would enjoy "The Empowered."

The Wisdom of Your Heart: Discovering the God-Given Purpose and Power of Your Emotions Marc Alan Schelske
David C. Cook
4050 Lee Vance View, Colorado Springs, CO 80918
9780781414517, $16.99,

Marc Alan Schelske, writer, speaker and teaching elder at Milwaukie, Oregon's Bridge City Community Church considers himself a "recovering fundamentalist who drinks tea and rides motorcycles." That midlife discovery came after he had come to the "end of his rope" because of feelings of "emotional disconnectedness and emotional immaturity."

Through an insightful therapist, journaling and God's help that led to understanding and healing Marc regained a "stable footing" and writes about how emotions and spiritual maturity are connected in "The Wisdom of Your Heart." Where he explores myths about emotions, spiritual maturity and the "God-Given Purpose and Power of Your Emotions" the subtitle of his new release.

Accepting the concept that emotions and spiritual life were connected had at first offended Marc when he read Pete Scazzero's book, "Emotionally Healthy Spirituality." Where the author wrote, "It is not possible to be spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature."

Marc totally disagreed, he considered himself a spiritually mature adult. He had been raised in a faith community by wise and loving conservative Christian parents and it wasn't until he entered the "second half of life" that he questioned his own "spiritual and emotional health." Those questions prompted him to look at previous "painful experiences and assumptions that had proven untrue, misconceptions about God, even precious habits that turned out to be anything but life giving." That's when he realized Scazzero was right, "spiritual growth requires facing emotional brokenness."

The book begins with Marc leaving a church board meeting feeling unheard, judged and crushed. He had pastored the church for over ten years and felt like a failure but, like he always did, he was determined to "work harder to solve" those feelings of inadequacy. Until he found himself gripping the car steering wheel like it was a life preserver, "unable to hold back a surging wave of tears." That's when he recognized he "needed help."

Thus, begins Marc's "...journey of emotionally maturing in Christ...," an intense and practical journey that taught him "...spiritual growth requires facing emotional brokenness."

The book includes seventeen scripture based chapters divided into four parts; Marc's story, an "unexpected Bible story," the purpose of your emotions and "how to hear God in your emotions." Chapters end with insightful questions to reflect on and pray over. Marc says the message of the book is that emotions are a "God-given gift, they have elements of truth and contain enormous personal insight, "even into your relationship with God."

The book would be excellent for anyone who struggles with fear, anger, grief, anxiety, insecurity and more to explore "emotions from the context of Christian teaching," to foster an understanding that emotions are also a part of being made in God's image, an integral part of who God created us to be.

Gail Welborn, Reviewer

Grace's Bookshelf

Eric Pankey
Milkweed Editions
9781571314796, $15.98, 80 pages

Pankey repurposes life with each poem. Every word counts because he's interested in textual truths - the bone, the rust, the heart. He's an alchemist, for sure, as he sees the inner life of a prairie rattler, the rhinoceros beetle, dust, light, 'a vine as it let go a wire.' How can this man see it all unless he sees through it all? This is a fine-grained view of our life's landscape and Pankey walks among the gardens as if he can't believe his eyes and will never believe its loss. This is pure strong writing with themes that fan out from the simplest edges of sight. The poet must dismantle before he can yield the benefits of everything coming together. The optical is his gateway. The image leads to the philosophical. A favorite poem in the book is this.

Speculation on the Weight of Yesterday

Like a fish trap woven from grasses,
It allows passage of the element
In which it is suspended.

Like the light at Lascaux,
It is transparent
And dissolves as salt does on the tongue.

A fragile filament of graphite
Or three Columbine seeds
Or a dime would tip the scales.

Rolled between your fingers,
It crumbles like a dried sage leaf
To fragrant dust wind disperses.

You wonder how such a small thing,
Removed as if a mote from your eye,
Could have caused such irritation.

Held in your palm, it is a smidgen,
And iota, a whit, nothing
A tear could not wash away.

Bojan Louis
BkMk Press
9781943491117, $13.95, 58 pages

Reading this is like the first time you heard Bach. That's what you feel about its dark precision and oceans of meaning. This is when you recognize that beautiful is different from what we thought it was before. There are personal currents here, geological, and interrelational, all to tell one story. There are also some hard scrabble disclosures, where even the geography and weather disobey comfort and spirit. Yet as Bojan says in the intro, he was 'pulled out of concussion and darkness.' The result is good news for the future of poetry. Each time our troubles and cynicism threaten custody of the world, Bojan calls them out - redeeming- lifting to language.

xipe totec

I'm no cairn vulture's circle.
Could say
I straddle birth and passing.

Bleeding men are what grow
the harvests for me - for you, with you.

Some, they scream and cry.
Drink Christ's
blood. In frenzy, all forget

that the reason His life split
across begat
after begat was remembrance

of your pitiful life: sorry-ass sins.
Only earth
is more important than me - greater yet

than you and Him. An entity for war,
celebration of
the judged, enemy, and heathen.

The celebration's a fraud, in the
pure and holy
sense. Look at the crowd.

I'm the small man whose wise kin
is missing;
a shawl warming an old woman;

the prayer, the prayed-to; the offering
and the offered;
the bent back and the harvest.

The End We Start From
Megan Hunter
Grove Press
c/o Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
154 West 14th Street, 12th Floor, New York, NY 10011
9780802126894, $22.95, 134 pages

A curiously engaging book - not quite prose - not quite poetry - aphoristic, filled with plot, pathos, and psychological action. The story is about London being flooded while a young woman is giving birth to her first baby. They must seek safety as they move to unknown territories as immigrants in strange climates with dour circumstances. Yet the baby thrives. The nomadic experience, testing survival, is told in couplets and tercets, intercut with sections from mythological and religious texts. The layering works - in fact it's essential to change a novella- in-verse to a testament about our universal vulnerabilities. The range and power of the story states a case for endurance.

I am eating lime jelly with the boy in the crook of my
arm when I hear.

His hands circle in tiny, victorious fists. I feel that I could,
all things considered, conquer the world.

The news on the hour, 14th June, one o'clock. Tina Murphy
reporting. An unprecedented flood. London. Uninhabitable.
A list of boroughs, like the shipping forecast,
their names suddenly as perfect and tender as the names
of children. Ours.

Jessica Goodfellow
University of Alaska Press
PO Box 756240, Fairbanks, AK 99775-6240
9781602233270, $14.93, 62 pages

What a voice. What a story. Goodfellow lost her uncle with six other mountain climbers in the Denali : "...the uncovered body, the unknowable final story." Yet Goodfellow won't stand for death by anonymity. She recreates, dreams, memorializes and ritualizes the preparations, ascent, and decimation. Those present in the book are family members in grief, written with unpretentious honesty and intimacy. On an ideal day, climbers can reach their height. On an ideal day, poets can create a world that fills in the blanks, and includes the data that can only be imagined to bring home the dead. Every page intrigues us with new forms and new narratives. This is more a reverence to risk than to destruction. Goodfellow writes with singularity about a one-only-story. If death goes to heaven, these poems encapsulate hymns of accompaniment.

Either he burrowed under a skin of snow
that turned out to be the arch
of the foot of the storm.

Or the storm lulled, so he went for help,
stepping through the iced-over
skylight of the underworld.

Or he was wind-snapped like a bedsheet
on a clothesline, then loosed, then tossed.
Later his sleeping bag was found wrapped

around a pole like a seahorse, tail grasping at eel grass,
limbless against the current. Tatsu no otoshigo
that creature's called in Japanese -

child dropped by a dragon.

A Good Cry
Nikki Giovanni
William Morrow & Company
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
195 Broadway New York, New York 10007
9780062399458, $19.99, 111 pages.

While making notes, I wrote the first line by accident, to say A God Cry. That works too. Is there anyone who does not know and respect this veteran world-class performer? And who has not seen any of her books throughout the years? Poetry, prose, essays, children's books? Here's what I like: Giovanni takes passionate beliefs and smooths them down to silky paths. She doesn't go for fireworks. She prefers to tend the embers. Giovanni contours family, friends, her daily living, her loves, her race; and an extended devoted connection to the late poet Maya Angelou. She beautifies the dead with memory and memorializes simple acts of humble origins. What this poet is telling us is that the heart is a clock and every minute there's something to appreciate. She captures this with a colloquialism that makes us feel we're sitting at the kitchen table with a memory maker - whether in direct address or journal like entries, or poetic prose, she says this is my nation state of poetry - right here in my kitchen.

Summer Storms

The clouds
like my Grandmother
carry a load
they can no longer

Grandmother sang "Pass Me Not
O Gentle Savior"
The clouds though
their lightning and thunder

There are those who say
We should run
inside from the storm

But that would be
like leaving Grandmother
at the kitchen table
alone and sad

As she thinks
of her daughters

And it rains

Storm For The Living And The Dead
Charles Bukowski, edited by Abel Debritto
HarperCollins Publishers
195 Broadway New York, New York 10007
9780062656513, $25.99, 259 pages

Bukowski was a petal-to-the-metal poet, writing 45 books, five previously edited posthumously by the intrepid Abel Debritto. Now a sixth - who knew there were this many previously unpublished documents? And this is no disappointment as it's a rollicking ruthlessly original possessed set of poems. Bukowski writes from the back of the heart. He comes on as a tough criminal in the meadows of poetry; yet, don't underestimate this grumpy giant. His trained eye, and the width and depth of his experience, says: you're gonna feel it whether you want to or not. He writes the way he lived - seemingly recklessly and driven by excessive appetites. But how much of this writing is alter ego, and how much autobiography? In truth, Bukowski enjoyed a felicitous long-lasting relationship with Linda Lee Bukowski, who made this collection possible. Nevertheless, he continues to wow the crowd with his epitomized personality and writing of authenticity and swagger. The sweet part of him shows up in his line drawings which are another kind of voice. He was a complex guy. He may be a case study but he's a fearless writer.

Further Center, Poems 1970-1998
Yoko Danno
Introduction by Gary Snyder
The IKUTA Press
9784915813177, $15.00, 195 pages

In 1993, a version of this book titled "Heading For A Further Center" was ready for production; but was stayed by the publisher's problems. Now the manuscript is retrieved and updated. Yoko Danno, already gifted in her native language, chooses to write poetry in English as this allows her a more frank and honest conversation without traditional codifications. She has English braided as if every thread were common to her blood. Japanese, then, is a sub story of sorts as we can imagine her process of thought and transformation. The image must first be imagined before its supposed alternatives. Yoko Danno uses all elements of the natural world to make meanings that radiate outward to wind inward - appearances are reverently described but have seminal meanings. As we read more and more, the spare landscapes become radiant and rich. I'm describing the way spirit is - how it appears as tree, wind, water, and becomes the essence of thought and feeling.

Beginning with a monoculture, Yoko Danno's work becomes a prism with Japanese worlds translated to English perceptions. She demonstrates how we struggle to understand each other; and to do this she must set her native Japanese language free. I love the flow of her flow, her well-crafted tercets, her experimentation with dialogue and other forms. Most of all: each page, each stanza is a consequence of esthetic space and thought. The Japanese landscape with its emotional resonances become a restoration from classicism to modernism.
(part 1 of a 10-page poem "Psychosphere.")

a castle, a mirage, offshore
in the simmering air
on the sizzling waves
that crash, splash, on rocks

a pair of crows flying
over the wet sands
the deep prints of wheels
run parallel to the sky

the sea endlessly rolling
echoes back the harsh
cries; as the sun rises
flickering loopholes

in the stone wall without
an entrance evaporate
as in a dream within
a dream fading away

at awakening moments
a dayfly quivers diffusing
light on the white gravel
of the drained valley

Best Literary Journal For December

The Bitter Oleander
Paul B. Roth, editor
123 pages

Where does Roth find these poets of national and international interest? I would never know of their existence if it weren't for his dogged perseverance and passionate inquiries. There's a fascinating 12- page interview (plus 21 poems) from Santa Fe poet Christian Gholson, more evidence of the editor's ability to drill down until he hits gold. Other poets add to Roth's poetry capital, altogether, making a bigger message. ALAN BRITT WRITES:


(For Caden the cat)

Like a midnight Sphinx moth, if I had tangerine rings
dusting bamboo sunsets as I entered the pheromones
of carport light, what a paradise - my birth canal to
another dimension - I'd swim one awkward universe
to another, all the while stuffing my gills with temporal
pine scent from one stubborn dimension to another.

If I had time, inexpensive rip-off designer watch
time, as it were, if I had time, I'd find my way to you.

But time is temporal, fleeting at best, infinite at worst,
time measured by feline emotions as your smoky
tail flicks my forehead forcing ashes inside my ear.

& I know you already know this madness that many
consider nonsense since I taste your heretical dreams
as though they were my own.

Best Chapbook

Harvesting Sunflowers
Dulce Maria Menendez
Goss 183 Publishing House
22 pages.

Dulce, to many in the art world, is known as Didi - in my opinion the leading curator of 21st century art. But the poet often stays home while the presenter is displaying others. That's why this sweet, strong, honest bunch of sunflowers is a pleasure and satisfaction to see published. Sunflowers are tough and they prevail. These poems don't waste time with artifice, cajoling, persuading, or manipulation., they prefer the arrow-in-the-heart school of writing. In this age of overabundance, this 22-page book shows us that complexity of experience influences us best when using poetry's highest calling, simplicity.

I used to dance the discos in Miami.
Now I ride my bike down the blocks of the Midwest.
I pass the good ole boy's house with the confederate flag.
I look the other way to the playground with children playing.
The sun is hitting my eyes and my photochromic lenses turn black.
I turn around the golf course but it is too hot for the bankers, insurance
salesmen and brokers. Cars are filling up the local dive as I turn past to
the houses with recently mowed lawns and the buzz of air conditioners
while the scent of lilacs still lingers in the air, my headphones filled with
Spotify 1970's stream starts to play Van Morison's Moondance.
I start to bop my head like those little dogs in the back of Low Riders cruising
down Sepulveda Boulevard and I am back in Hollywood High as I sit across
the cutest boy in class and Mrs. Baxter is talking about syntax and I remember
how rejection pierced through my heart and although
the pang is a long distant ache, I continue back to my little
house filled with recently watered sunflowers as my
dog wags its tail when I open the door.

Best Mixed Genre Book

To Start With Feel Fortunate
Peter Meinke
Illustrations by Jeanne Clark Meinke
Poets Choice Press
9780997262940, $25.00, 361 pages

William Meredith Award For Poetry

Meinke is Poet Laureate of Florida. He's also an essayist, showing that the best of prose is when written by a poet. I saw the book as "The Poets' Notebook" long before I found this was the considered subtitle for the book. There are dozens of contemplations here on everything from "Taxis" to "Japanese Bourbon." When asked (seldom enough) about chapters, I always say "make them short," and the one, two and three- page expeditions we make with Meinke are, like, well, like shots of Japanese Bourbon. They'll get you high - and you won't get sleepy. The line drawings are sensational and the preface by Richard Haretis is a literary complement, making a total package. In the essay "Seamus Heaney," Meinke remembers Dublin (City of Writers) but, patriot that he is, thinks Tampa and St. Petersburg rank right up there. He ends the piece with a list of his own area poets in the spirit of Heaney.

Poet's Notebook 2013

Everyone here can bang the gong:
Riegel and Sukrungruang
Shomer Tokley Russo Wilt
A reputation's being built
Mathews Morrill Curbelo Carroll

sip from the Muse's sherry barrel
Though Tampa Bay's not Dublin yet
the pubs are open appetites whet
the writers write we're all in debt
writing together from Bay to Sea:

Here's to Seamus and Poetry!

Best Gift Book for Anytime of The Year

Poems of Gratitude
Emily Fragos, editor
Everyman's Library Pocket Poets
c/o Alfred A. Knopf
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9781101907900, $16.00, 246 pages

I bought several for Thanksgiving gifts and now have to do it all over again for Christmas. I love this book. It's on my desk and good for all moments in between other moments - say, while I'm trying to delete this new Facebook copycat, WAYN, or waiting for company, well - I pick it up and flip anywhere. I may get a bit of Mary Oliver or brush up against Edna St, Vincent Millay, or Shakespeare, or Ted Kooser etc. I think the idea of the pocket-sized book harks from the 18th century, where the book could be carried to sample a page anywhere, anytime. This little book, without dogmatism or the didactics of preaching, demonstrates APPRECIATION. The poems are from the midlands of human life: marriage, death, memory, anything a poet has appreciated. As another poet once said, "...a treasure of life and life's yearnings..." I would add, without life's chaos.

Rain Light (W. S. Merwin)

All day the stars watch from long ago
my mother said I am going now
when you are alone you will be all right
whether or not you know you will know
look at the old house in the dawn rain
all the flowers are forms of water
the sun reminds them through a white cloud
touches the patchwork spread on the hill
the washed colors of the afterlife
that lived there long before you were born
see how they wake without a question
even though the whole world is burning

Best Translations

100 Villanelles/100 Blogatelles
Martin Bidney
Dialogic Poetry Press
9781548296544, $9.99, 201 pages

Rilke's Art of Metric Melody
Martin Bidney
Dialogic Poetry Press
9781976596421, $16.49, 402 pages

Martin Bidney writes a book or two a year. I have a shelf full. His specialties are languages and poetry; and he combines them to bring literary figures into the present USING THEIR OWN FORMS. So we have two newly issued books. The Villanelles/ Blogatelles is an act of creation and inquiry. Each villanelle faces a prose contemplation on the subject. And if you want to burnish your poetic form, this is the book to do it.

'Dialogue' is differently presented in Rilke's Art. Form Faithful Translations of Rilke couple with Form Faithful Verse Replies by Bidney. Remember Bidney starts with Rilke's language, translates to English, and then responds to his own translation with a new poem. A nice bromance. I say read one a day, and you'll have a good year ahead.
From 100 Villanelles:

65 In growing old I readily forget

In growing old I readily forget
What I have done and felt, conceived and writ.
And is there benefit in this? You bet!

May whiskaway of past impression let
Old work resurface new, refreshed, re-lit.
In growing old I readily forget

What days of yore have shown me - and reset
Imagination-gauge, new times to fit.
And is there benefit in this? You bet!

A lyric when I'm favored to beget,
Beside-myself, ec-static am I smit.
In growing old I readily forget

How I'd been moved. Yet, frenzy now re-met,
Two more identities awake from it.
And is there benefit in this? You bet!

We're child-like once again, my friend - a debt
That Time has granted - gift I cheered admit.
In growing old I readily forget -
And is there benefit to this? You bet!

From Rilke's Art

(177) Stone Beetle

Aren't they near you - what the spirit sees -
The stars? But then, why won't your vision span
The fact that you carnelian scarabees
Have never comprehended, never can,

Until you will agree to carry, too,
With all your ardent blood, the space that on
The hardened shield must press; more near to you
It never was, more mild, devoted, drawn.

It on these beetles many centuries -
Unused, unmarred - has early lain and late;
The beetles, wing close-folded, doze with ease
Contained beneath its gently rocking weight.

(177) Reply

The burden of responsibility
Has lain on beetles pushing balls of dung.
His duty will the servant never free,
Fidelity by elder bard well sung.

He images the god who will the sun
Each day across the heaven duly draw;
And indeflectibly till task be done
He keeps the path, an ardor viewed in awe.

The laws of Ra must weigh upon his back
Till he the circuit-path at length has run
With holy lauding hymn that feels no lack,
For he the praise of deity has won.

Grace Cavalieri

Julie's Bookshelf

Focus In Action Is Great Leadership
Belinda Johnson White
Westbow Press
c/o Thomas Nelson Publishers
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9781512771015, $39.95, HC, 338pp,

Synopsis: Through the Johnson White Leadership Model (JWLM) "Focus In Action Is Great Leadership: 10 Tenets of Leadership & Professional Excellence" combines leadership development and professional development and shares the secrets to executive level leadership all with a focus on social conscience driven by faith, ethics, and diversity.

Articulated as "FOCUS + ACTION = Great Leadership," the JWLM concisely outlines the intrapersonal, interpersonal, and leadership skills that result in the betterment of individuals, groups, organizations, and society as a whole.

The JWLM is inspired by the work of Morehouse College sixth president, Dr. Benjamin E. Mays, mentor to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. Mays said, "...we are all called by God to human betterment and enrichment. If we fail on those scores, we disappoint God, break his heart, and make Him cry."

Critique: Belinda Johnson White draws upon her more than twenty-five years experience and expertise teaching leadership and professional development at Morehouse College to present what is essentially a complete and methodical course of study designed to instruction professionals and non-specialist general readers alike to acquire the skills and mindset require of successful leadership in any field of endeavor. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Focus In Action Is Great Leadership: 10 Tenets of Leadership & Professional Excellence" is unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Self-Help/Self-Improvement instructional reference collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Focus In Action Is Great Leadership: 10 Tenets of Leadership & Professional Excellence" is also available in a paperback edition (978-1512770995, $24.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.99).

Being the Change
Peter Kalmus
New Society Publishers
PO Box 189, Gabriola Island, BC, Canada, V0R 1X0
9780865718531, $21.99, PB, 384pp,

Synopsis: We all want to be happy. Yet as we consume ever more in a frantic bid for happiness, global warming worsens.

Alarmed by drastic changes now occurring in the Earth's climate systems, climate/atmospheric scientist and suburban father of two, Peter Kalmus embarked on a journey to change his life and the world. He began by bicycling, growing food, meditating, and making other simple, fulfilling changes. Ultimately, he slashed his climate impact to under a tenth of the US average and became happier in the process.

Peter draws upon his personal research, experience and expertise in the pages of "Being the Change: Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution" to explore the connections between our individual daily actions and our collective predicament. It merges science, spirituality, and practical action to develop a satisfying and appropriate response to global warming.

Part one exposes our interconnected predicament: overpopulation, global warming, industrial agriculture, growth-addicted economics, a sold-out political system, and a mindset of separation from nature. It also includes a readable but authoritative overview of climate science. Part two offers a response at once obvious and unprecedented: mindfully opting out of this broken system and aligning our daily lives with the biosphere.

Critique: With the manifold assertion that living without fossil fuels is not only possible, it can be better, "Being the Change: Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution" is exceptionally 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation. Ideal for the non-specialist reader with an interest in the subject, "Being the Change" is as 'real world practical' an instructional guide as it is a valued addition to both community and academic library Climate Change/Sustainable Living collections and supplemental studies lists. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Being the Change" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.89).

The Off Season
Amy Hoffman
University of Wisconsin Press
1930 Monroe Street, Third Floor, Madison, WI 53711-2059
9780299314606, $24.95, HC, 200pp,

Synopsis: When Nora Griffin, an artist in her midthirties, moves from Brooklyn to Provincetown, she isn't looking for trouble. Her partner, Janelle, is recovering from breast cancer treatment, and together they've decided that the quiet off-season on the tip of Cape Cod is the perfect place for Janelle to heal and Nora to paint. Then charismatic Baby Harris flirts into Nora's life in her red cowboy boots.

In the damp, windy winter, Nora contends with heartbreak, aging, and local environmental worries, while painting what she hopes will be her masterpiece. Along the way, she encounters the chain-smoking, motor scooter - driving landlady Miss Ruby; Reverend Patsy, the vegan minister of the Unitarian church; and Brunhilde, barista extraordinaire and rival for Baby's affections. As the first tourists begin to arrive in June, Nora must decide what she really wants from life.

Critique: With the publication of "The Off Season", author Amy Hoffman demonstrates her genuine flair as a novelist for originality, deftly crafted characters, and an inherently compelling, narrative driven, unfailingly entertaining storytelling. While unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Contemporary Literary Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Off Season" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.49).

In the House of the Serpent Handler
Julia C. Duin
The University of Tennessee Press
110 Conference Center UT, Knoxville, TN 37996
9781621903758, $24.95, PB, 227pp,

Synopsis: "In the House of the Serpent Handler: A Story of Faith and Fleeting Fame in the Age of Social Media" by journalist Julia C. Duin (former religion editor for the "Washington Times') offers an intimate and engrossing look at the latest generation of Pentecostal believers who "take up" venomous snakes as a test of their religious faith. Focusing on several preachers and their families in six Appalachian states, "In the House of the Serpent Handler" explores the impact that such twenty-first-century phenomena as social media and "reality television" have had on rituals long practiced in obscurity.

As "In the House of the Serpent Handler" reveals, the mortal snakebite suffered by pastor Mack Wofford in 2012 marked the passing of the torch to younger preachers Jamie Coots and Andrew Hamblin, who were featured in the 2013 series Snake Salvation on the National Geographic Channel. Seeing their participation in the show as a way of publicizing their faith and thus winning converts, Coots and Hamblin attempted to reinvent the snake-handling tradition for a modern audience.

The use of the internet, particularly Facebook, became another key part of their strategy to spread their particular brand of Christianity. However, Coots's own death in 2014 was widely reported after the TV series was canceled, while Hamblin, who emerges as the central figure in "In the House of the Serpent Handler", was arrested and tried after a shooting incident involving his estranged wife. His hopes of becoming a serpent-handling superstar seemingly dashed, Hamblin spent several months in prison, emerging more determined than ever to keep to the faith. By the end of the narrative, he has begun a new church where he can pass on the tradition to yet another generation.

Duin's thorough, sympathetic reporting and lively style in "In the House of the Serpent Handler" bring the ecstatic church services she witnessed vividly to life, and through interviews and quotations from the principals' Facebook postings, she has allowed them to express their beliefs and reveal their everyday lives in their own words. She also gives the reader an up-close view of how a reporter pursues a story and the various difficulties encountered along the way. These engrossing elements add up to a unique story of the ways in which the practitioners of a century-old custom-one that strikes most outsiders as bizarre-are adjusting to the challenges of the new millennium.

Critique: A unique and inherently fascinating read from cover to cover, "In the House of the Serpent Handler: A Story of Faith and Fleeting Fame in the Age of Social Media" is an extraordinary work of informed and informative journalistic scholarship, making it unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library collections -- and will prove to be of extraordinary interest to students, academics, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject.

She Can Find Her Way: Women Travelers at Their Best
Ann Starr, editor
Upper Hand Press LLC
PO Box 91179, Bexley, OH 43209
9780692368671, $25.00, PB, 350pp,

Synopsis: Compiled and edited by Ann Starr, "She Can Find Her Way: Women Travelers at Their Best" is a boxed set anthology of 24 women writers who tell their individual stories of running into troubles, challenges, or disasters when they traveled solo. Each contributor tells us what she experienced in terms of fear, and how she devised her own way out. An inspiring and exciting collection, its format is 5 small volumes housed in a purpose-made box. Each individual volume contains 3-5 stories, and is designed to fit into a purse, backpack, briefcase, or overnight bag. Every individual volume is self-contained -- making the box set a perfect travel companion.

Critique: With each individual essay being an inherently fascinating and entertaining read in its own right, "She Can Find Her Way: Women Travelers at Their Best" is a unique and entertaining boxed set collection that is strongly and unreservedly recommended for individual, community, and academic library collections.

Live from Medicine Park
Constance Squires
University of Oklahoma Press
2800 Venture Drive, Norman, OK 73069
9780806157337, $19.95, PB, 224pp,

Synopsis: Documentary filmmaker Ray Wheeler is down on his luck. Embroiled in a lawsuit, he is reeling from the consequences of a near-fatal shooting on his last film, and has just lost his teaching gig. Broke and beleaguered, he can't afford to be particular about his next project. So when a former student invites him to film the comeback of Lena Wells, an iconic rock-and-roll singer who hit it big in the seventies, more than two decades earlier, he reluctantly agrees -- even though he doesn't like her music.

When Ray arrives at Lena's hometown of Medicine Park, Oklahoma, a defunct resort community, he is determined to approach his topic with the professional detachment that has guided his career. His work ethic is modeled on the prime directive of Star Trek: never interfere with an alien civilization. But with only five days left before Lena's comeback concert, Ray quickly runs afoul of his subject, who places him on a one-week probation. The terms: impress her or else.

It doesn't take long before Ray violates his own ethical standards. Drawn romantically toward Lena, he also fails to prevent himself from interfering with the lives of the people closest to her, including her only son, Gram, whose paternity is a mystery even to himself; her daughter-in-law, Jettie; and the enigmatic guitar player Cyril Dodge. When disaster strikes Ray's set again, this time in Medicine Park, he must face truths he has avoided for too long -- about love, relationships, and responsibility.

Critique: Original, compelling, "Live from Medicine Park" by Constance Squires is one of those all-too-rare novels that will linger in the mind and memory long after the book itself is finished and set back upon the shelf. As an author it is evident that Constance Squires has a genuine flair for narrative driven storytelling that engages the readers complete attention from beginning to end. While very highly recommended, especially for community library Contemporary General Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Live from Medicine Park" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.20).

Julie Summers

Logan's Bookshelf

Antisepsis, Disinfection, and Sterilization
Gerald E. McDonnell
American Society for Microbiology Press
1752 N St. NW, Washington, DC 20036
9781555819675, $150.00, HC, 432pp,

Synopsis: "Antisepsis, Disinfection, and Sterilization: Types, Action, and Resistance" by Gerald E. McDonnell (who is the senior Director for Sterility Assurance for DePuy Synthes, a Johnson & Johnson Company) offers a detailed and accessible presentation of microbial control methods.

Each major category, such as physical disinfection methods, is given a chapter, in which theory, spectrum of activity, advantages, disadvantages, and modes of action of the methods are thoroughly and clearly presented. Sufficient background on the life cycles and general anatomy of microorganisms is provided so that the reader who is new to microbiology will better appreciate how physical and chemical biocides work their magic on microbes.

The topics covered in "Antisepsis, Disinfection, and Sterilization" include: Evaluating the efficacy of chemical antiseptics and disinfectants, and of physical methods of microbial control and sterilization; How to choose the proper biocidal product and process for specific applications; Classic physical and chemical disinfection methods, such as heat, cold, non-ionizing radiation, acids, oxidizing agents, and metals; Newer chemical disinfectants, including isothiazolones, micro- and nano-particles, and bacteriophages as control agents; Antisepsis of skin and wounds and the biocides that can be used as antiseptics; Classic methods of physical sterilization along with newer methods, including the use of plasma or pulsed light; Chemical sterilization methods that use ethylene oxide, formaldehyde, or a variety of other oxidizing agents; Modes of action of biocides in controlling microbial growth and disrupting microbial physiology; Mechanisms that microorganisms use to resist the effects of biocides

Critique: Now in a fully updated and expanded second edition, "Antisepsis, Disinfection, and Sterilization: Types, Action, and Resistance" is ideally suited as a curriculum textbook and is an outstanding reference resource for medical facilities managers, as well as application engineers in manufacturing plants, hospitals, and food production facilities. It is also essential reading for public health officials, health care professionals, and infection control practitioners.

Pure Charcuterie
Meredith Leigh
New Society Publishers
PO Box 189, Gabriola Island, BC, Canada, V0R 1X0
9780865718609, $29.95, PB, 160pp,

Synopsis: Charcuterie is the branch of cooking specifically devoted to prepared meat products (primarily from pork), such as bacon, ham, sausage, terrines, galantines, ballotines, pates, and confit.

Cured meat products arose from the need for preservation in a time when cooking and refrigeration were not always available. Today, charcuterie is an embodiment of art in the kitchen, combining precision, balance, patience, and creativity; an economy of ingredients, as poetry is an economy of words. The confluence of these elements, along with the purest of ingredients, can enable anyone to craft cured meats in their home.

"Pure Charcuterie: The Craft and Poetry of Curing Meats at Home" by sustainable food advocate Meredith Leigh (who is a farmer, butcher, chef, teacher, non-profit executive director, and writer) is a practical and artistic look at the techniques for curing meat at home both as a creative hands-on craft and as a fantastic and sustainable way to preserve highly valuable food.

An accessible, profusely illustrated, visual guide walks the reader through the process of making charcuterie, including: Sourcing ingredients; Clear explanations of charcuterie technique; Creative recipes balancing tradition and invention; Smoking meats and building your own smoker.

Critique: The analogies drawn between art and food, along with creative and accessible photographic discussions of charcuterie technique, make "Pure Charcuterie: The Craft and Poetry of Curing Meats at Home"" an essential primer on the basics of charcuterie while showcasing the mystery, the science, the art, and the technique. Ideal for home cooks working in small spaces, "Pure Charcuterie" is an essential instructional reference work for both novice and experienced and new cooks alike. While unreservedly and enthusiastically recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Pure Charcuterie" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $22.72).

Asian Tradition and Cosmopolitan Politics
Han Sang-Jin, editor
Lexington Books
c/o Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group
4501 Forbes Blvd., Suite 200, Lanham, MD 20706
9780739128145, $110.00, HC, 390pp,

Synopsis: Kim Dae-jung (6 January 1924 - 18 August 2009) was President of South Korea from 1998 to 2003, the 2000 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, and the only Korean Nobel Prize recipient in history. He was sometimes referred to as the "Nelson Mandela of South Korea."

Compiled and edited by Han Sang-Jin (Professor Emeritus at Seoul National University and Distinguished Visiting Professor at Peking University), "Asian Tradition and Cosmopolitan Politics: Dialogue with Kim Dae-jung" is a collection of texts by Kim Dae-jung, along with contributions by other authors including the late former President of the Federal Republic of Germany, Richard von Weizsäcker.

"Asian Tradition and Cosmopolitan Politics" aims to explore the significance of the combination of a cosmopolitan vision and an Asian identity found in the political thoughts of Kim.

Of special note is that Professor Sang-Jin Han was one of Kim's most trusted political advisors, as well as longtime friend -- with their relationship stretching back to way before Kim was elected president. As one of Korea's leading intellectuals, Professor Han is best positioned to make the most out of the material since he simultaneously holds the privilege of a close personal relationship with Kim as well as expert scholarly understanding of its academic and philosophical value.

Critique: A unique, original, and insightful study from beginning to end, is deftly organized into six major sections: Two Presidents on Peace in East Asia; Why Do I Believe in Global Democracy?; Asian Tradtions and Global Democracy: Dialogue with Seoul National University Students; Cosmopolitan Vision with Asian Identity; Last Words for the Sunshine Policy; Conclusion (Reflection on the last Year of President Kim Dae-jung's Life: A New Communicative Ethics for Peace in the Twenty-First Century - Han Sang-Jin). "Asian Tradition and Cosmopolitan Politics: Dialogue with Kim Dae-jung" is an extraordinary and highly recommended addition to college and academic library Contemporary Asian Studies and International Relations collections in general, and Kim Dae-jung supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

The Storm Before the Storm
Mike Duncan
Public Affairs Books
c/o Perseus Book Group
250 West 57th Street, #1321, New York, NY 10107
9781610397216, $27.00, HC, 352pp,

Synopsis: Even before it became an empire, the Roman Republic was one of the most remarkable political achievements in the history of civilization. Beginning as a small city-state in central Italy, Rome gradually expanded into a wider world filled with petty tyrants, barbarian chieftains, and despotic kings. Through the centuries, Rome's model of cooperative and participatory government remained remarkably durable and unmatched in the history of the ancient world.

In 146 BC, Rome finally emerged as the strongest power in the Mediterranean. But the very success of the Republic proved to be its undoing. The republican system was unable to cope with the vast empire Rome now ruled: rising economic inequality disrupted traditional ways of life, endemic social and ethnic prejudice led to clashes over citizenship and voting rights, and rampant corruption and ruthless ambition sparked violent political clashes that cracked the once indestructible foundations of the Republic.

Chronicling the years 146-78 BC, "The Storm Before the Storm: The Beginning of the End of the Roman Republic" dives headlong into the first generation to face this treacherous new political environment. Abandoning the ancient principles of their forbearers, men like Marius, Sulla, and the Gracchi brothers set dangerous new precedents that would start the Republic on the road to destruction and provide a stark warning about what can happen to a civilization that has lost its way.

Critique: An impressively well written, exceptionally informative, inherently fascinating historical study, "The Storm Before the Storm: The Beginning of the End of the Roman Republic" is an extraordinary read from beginning to end. While unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and the non-specialist general reader with an interest in the subject that "The Storm Before the Storm: The Beginning of the End of the Roman Republic" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9781549167775, $35.00, CD).

Carl Logan

Margaret's Bookshelf

Cuba's Evolution: Columbus to Castro
Kim Buddee
Schiffer Publishing Ltd.
4880 Lower Valley Road, Atglen, PA 19310
9780764353123, $29.99, HC, 144pp,

Synopsis: "Cuba's Evolution: Columbus to Castro" Australian architect and filmmaker Kim Buddee is a thoughtfully composed visual tour of contemporary Cuba that fully and beautifully captures the island and its people emerging from a kind of decades long embargo created time capsule.. Due to its recent shift in relations with the world, and the US in particular, Cuba's complex, colorful history is again being rewritten. In the page of "Comprised of vivid color photographs and narrative vignettes that relate the story of the nation's evolution from Columbus to Castro, "Cuba's Evolution: Columbus to Castro", armchair travelers can now view Havana from San Carlos de la Cabaņa, a fortress built in 1762, and absorb the pastel colors of iconic pre-1960 American convertibles against the backdrop of Cuba's eclectic architecture. Readers will catch a glimpse of Cuba's rolling mountains and hills on the road to Playa Rancho Luna; Adelaida telling fortunes in the street; and boxing practice in a vacant lot, in La Habana Vieja. "Comprised of vivid color photographs and narrative vignettes that relate the story of the nation's evolution from Columbus to Castro, "Cuba's Evolution: Columbus to Castro" is a visual testament to this island nation's historic moment before a slow but inevitable transformation changes this Cuba forever.

Critique: Comprised of vivid color photographs and fascinatingly informative narrative vignettes that relate the story of the nation's evolution from Columbus to Castro, "Cuba's Evolution: Columbus to Castro" will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to any and all personal, community and academic library collections.

The English Renaissance and the Far East
Adele Lee
Fairleigh Dickinson University Press
The Gatehouse M010C, 285 Madison Avenue, Madison, NJ 07940
9781611475159, $90.00, HC, 224pp,

Synopsis: "The English Renaissance and the Far East: Cross-Cultural Encounters" is an original and timely examination of cultural encounters between Britain, China, and Japan by Adele Lee (Assistant Professor in Early Modern Literature at Emerson College, Boston, Massachusetts).

Professor Lee challenges accepted, Anglocentric models of East-West relations and offers a radical reconceptualization of the English Renaissance, suggesting it was not so different from current developments in an increasingly Sinocentric world, and that as China, in particular, returns to a global center-stage that it last occupied pre-1800, a curious and overlooked synergy exists between the early modern and the present.

Prompted by the current eastward tilt in global power, in particular towards China, Professor Lee also examines cultural interactions between Britain and the Far East in both the early modern and postmodern periods. She explores how key encounters with and representations of the Far East are described in early modern writing, and demonstrates how work of that period, particularly Shakespeare, has a special power today to facilitate encounters between Britain and East Asia.

Readers will find the past illuminating the present and vice versa in a study that has at its heart resonances between Renaissance and present-day cultural exchanges, and which takes a cyclical, "long-view" of history to offer a new, innovative approach to a subject of contemporary importance.

Critique: As impressively insightful and informative as it is deftly written and exceptionally well organized, "The English Renaissance and the Far East: Cross-Cultural Encounters" is an extraordinary work of original and seminal scholarship that is enhanced for academia with the inclusion of figures, an eighteen page Bibliography, and a ten page Index. While unreservedly recommended for college and university library Shakespeare, English Renaissance, and Asian Studies collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academics, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The English Renaissance and the Far East: Cross-Cultural Encounters" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $85.50).

Escape From Syria
Samya Kullab, author
Jackie Roche, illustrator
Firefly Books Ltd.
50 Staples Avenue, Unit 1, Richmond Hill, ON, Canada L4B 0A7
9781770859821, $19.95, HC, 96pp,

Synopsis: "Escape from Syria" is a fictionalized graphic novel account that calls on real-life circumstances and true tales of refugee families to serve as a microcosm of the Syrian uprising and the war and refugee crisis that followed.

The story spans six years in the lives of Walid, his wife Dalia, and their two children, Amina and Youssef. Forced to flee from Syria, they become asylum-seekers in Lebanon, and finally resettled refugees in the West. It is a story that has been replayed thousands of times by other families.

When the family home in Aleppo is destroyed by a government-led bomb strike, Walid has no choice but to take his wife and children and flee their war-torn and much loved homeland. They struggle to survive in the wretched refugee camps of Lebanon, and when Youssef becomes fatally ill as a result of the poor hygienic conditions, his father is forced to take great personal risk to save his family.

Walid's daughter, the young Amina, a whip-smart grade-A student, tells the story. As she witnesses firsthand the harsh realities that her family must endure if they are to survive -- swindling smugglers, treacherous ocean crossings, and jihadist militias -- she is forced to grow up very quickly in order to help her parents and brother.

Critique: Samya Kullab is a journalist based in the Middle East covering security, politics and refugees. Jackie Roche is a freelance cartoonist and illustrator. They seamlessly collaborate in "Escape from Syria", where Kullab's narrative masterfully maps both the collapse and destruction of Syria, and the real-life tragedies faced by its citizens still today. The family's escape from their homeland makes for a harrowing tale, but with their safe arrival in the West it serves as a hopeful endnote to this ongoing worldwide crisis. A fascinating, informative, and truly memorable story, "Escape from Syria" is an especially recommended addition to personal reading lists, as well as community and academic library collections. This is one of those graphic novels that will linger in the mind and memory long after the book itself has been finished and set back upon the shelf.

Madrid: A Culinary History
Maria Paz Moreno
Rowman & Littlefield
c/o Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group
4501 Forbes Blvd., Suite 200, Lanham, MD 20706
9781442266407, $38.00, HC, 216pp,

Synopsis: Maria Paz Moreno is an essayist, poet, and literary critic. She is also a Professor of Spanish at the University of Cincinnati, Ohio. In her native of Spain, her research focuses on the Literature and Gastronomy of her native country.

In "Madrid: A Culinary History" she draws upon that research, as well as her own years of experience and expertise to provide an informed and informative study of the gastronomical history of Madrid throughout the ages. She traces the historical origins and evolution of Madrid's cuisine, exploring major trends, most innovative chefs, restaurants and dishes, and telling the story of this fascinating city from the point of view of a food lover.

She also discusses the diverse influences that have shaped Madrid's cuisine over the centuries, including the introduction of foods from the New World since the 16th century, the transition from famines to abundance during the second part of the 20th century, the revolution of the Michelin-starred young chefs at the beginning of the 21st century, and how madrileņos' sense of identity is built through their food.

The sense of community created through communal eating experiences is also explored in the pages of "Madrid: A Culinary History", focusing on the culture of sharing tapas, as well as traditional and avant-garde eating establishments, from restaurants to bars to chocolaterias, and even markets and festivals where food plays an important part.

Critique: An original and seminal work of meticulous scholarship, "Madrid: A Culinary History" will prove to be of special and particular interest to readers who are interested in the cultural history and cuisine and people of the city of Madrid. Enhanced with the inclusion of an eighteen page Bibliography, sixteen pages of Notes, and an eight page Index, "Madrid: A Culinary History" is unreservedly and wholeheartedly recommended for both community and academic library collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Madrid: A Culinary History" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $28.44).

Margaret Lane

Mari's Bookshelf

Muir Woods or Bust
Ian Woollen
Coffeetown Press
PO Box 70515, Seattle, WA 98127
9781603815970, $14.95

Pack up your past, look toward an uncertain future, and get ready to face your biggest fears! Join Gil Moss, PhD, LMFT, LMHC, marriage and family therapist, coiner of a new diagnosis: Eco Mood Disorder, and his travel companion, Doyle Wentworth, a washed up actor from the movie Yosemite Yahoos, as they head from Indiana to California for Yosemite Yahoo revival auditions, and to hunt down Benny, who stole Gil's fortune, among other harebrained reasons. Gil's computer-hacking son, Chum, is also California bound, along with Amanda, fellow gamer and whose dissertation committee Gil advises. After proposing a new video game to investors, these two young lovers hope to meet up with Gil and Doyle, assumed to be romping around the Muir Woods, yet another reason Gil agrees to accompany Doyle to California.

California offers a new perspective for these characters, all on the cusp of major change. "Of course, he'd heard about the scale of the redwoods, but it meant nothing until he was among them, the Babel-size trunks catapulting his mind up to the stratospheric limbs, creating an out-of-body view of his puny self, an overview of all our puny schemes, including his and Amanda's and his mother's vaulted crusades and his father's bleeding heart narratives." (174). Part zany road (and air and rail) trip, part social commentary, part family drama, part ghost story (Gil talks to his late wife, an Earth Liberation Front operative), readers experience not a dull moment during Woollen's jam-packed second novel. It's really three books in one, as Chum's video game plot and Gil's Muir memoir feature in the narrative. And it's ours, too, as Woollen invites us to take an inner journey with him and his cast. We won't return the same.

To The Edge of the Sky
Anhua Gao
Thistle Publishing
B0764HPBRP, $27.95

Anhua Gao dreams of visiting England, the edge of the sky, since her mother, a respected and beloved Communist party leader, points it out to her on a map in 1959, when she and the New China both turn ten. Her dream confuses her, however, since she's taught to beware of the West's "bullets coated with sugar," its bourgeois ways that tempt youth away from revolutionary ideals. Like her mother and father, both Party officials, she loves British literature (despite Communist rules, her father is buried in a Western suit) and finds it hard to reconcile the life described in her books with the picture Mao paints of the West, where capitalist bullies treat workers like dogs. She's taught life in China is the best in all the world.

Anhua Gao's life, as she narrates it, is a prism of Chinese Communist contradictions. Her story is not anti-Communist nor anti-Chinese, rather, a straightforward, chronological account of her history set in a larger context. Her parents model the ideals of Communism -- hard work, education, equality and honor among them -- but as she grows older, she watches these ideals crushed beneath Mao's rigid regime. His Great Leap Forward results in famine. Then, for the sake of "openness," he asks citizens to speak out, only to root out dissidents. When he dies, his wife begins the 5.16 Campaign to dig out more counter revolutionary elements. What begins as a class struggle becomes class elimination, with no room for anyone other than the "winning" side.

Despite her hard work, good marks in school and loyalty to China, Anhua Gao finally falls prey to the persecution. She watches many family members and friends betrayed first. One injustice piled on another, she is all the more determined to use her English skills and get to Britain at any cost. Hers is not simply an escape story; this is also the tale of finding friendship and dedication, solidarity and hope that can't be destroyed no matter the political circumstances.

Mari Carlson, Reviewer

Mason's Bookshelf

Find the Fire
Scott Mautz
Amacom Books
1601 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780814438220, $24.95, HC, 240pp,

Synopsis: For many employees, feeling burned out and uninspired is nothing new. But going through the motions impairs more than just work performance -- it affects your well-being. Wouldn't it be better to feel as engaged and energized as you were on day one?

Fortunately, everyone has the ability to rekindle inspiration. The key is to quit waiting for it to happen and take control of the process yourself. Whether you're wrestling with fear, disconnectedness, boredom, lack of creative outlets, overwhelm, or other issues, "Find the Fire: Ignite Your Inspiration--and Make Work Exciting Again: by Scott Mautz (CEO of Profound Performance) helps shake off the malaise and dial up the motivation.

Packed with insights, exercises, inspiring stories, checklists, and more, "Find the Fire" is a potent self-help guide that identifies nine forces that drain inspiration and delivers tips and advice for turning things around, including how to: Start learning and growing again; Reconnect with coworkers and your boss; Stop procrastinating; Empower yourself; Stay in control during tough times; Overcome fear and embrace risk; Produce work you're proud of; Boost your self-confidence and personal presence; Leave your mark -- and so much more!

Critique: It is said with some justification that if you love what you do you'll never work a day in your life. But most of us don't have that kind of employment -- but we can all approach that ideal by giving "Find the Fire: Ignite Your Inspiration--and Make Work Exciting Again" a careful read and start applying the insights, tips, tricks and techniques to be found therein. Insightful, informative, thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization, and ultimately inspiring, "Find the Fire" is very highly recommended for anyone seeking to reinvigorate their interest in and performance of their job. While unreservedly recommended for corporate, community, and academic library Business Management & Jobs/Careers instructional reference collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Find the Fire" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.49) and in a complete and unabridged audio book (Brillance Audio, 9781543640717, $19.99, MP3).

Churchill Warrior
Brian Lavery
1940 Lawrence Road, Havertown, PA 19083
9781910860229, $32.95, HC, 448pp,

Synopsis: On a typical day during the Second World War, Winston Churchill, as England's Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, issued numerous memos to the ministers and service commanders on different subjects, on both the grand strategy and the detail of the war effort. It was not just his work rate and his self-confidence which allowed him to do this. He had a unique and intimate inside knowledge of all three services which allowed him to assess their real needs - a crucial task when money, material resources, and especially manpower, were reaching their limits.

No defense minister in modern times has faced such severe problems. No-one else has ever been able to balance the needs of the services in such a way - most of them came from outside with little service experience, while for those trained inside one military service, it is almost impossible to gain inside knowledge at a lower level without a bias in favor of one service or another. But Churchill's knowledge of the three military services was almost perfectly balanced by his experiences since he first joined the army in 1896. He made his share of mistakes as a war leader, but this unique balance served him, his cause and his country well.

"Churchill Warrior: How a Military Life Guided Winston's Finest Hours" looks at how Churchill gained his unique insight into war strategy and administration, and the effect this had on his thinking and leadership. Each period (before, during and after the First World War, and in the Second World War) is divided into four parts - land, sea and air warfare, and combined operations. The conclusion deals with the effect of these experiences on his wartime leadership.

"Churchill Warrior" starts with the Marlborough toy soldiers and the army class at Eton, then proceeds through Churchill's early military and journalistic experiences, the fascinating trials and lessons of the First World War, the criticism and tenacity culminating in the ultimate triumph of the key events in the Second. "Churchill Warrior" also explores how some of Churchill's earliest innovations were to bear fruit decades later, how his uncompromising, but uniquely informed, hands-on approach, and his absolute belief in combined forces in Normandy, led to a systemic victory against the odds.

Critique: Brian Lavery is one of Britain's leading naval historians and a prolific author, as well as Curator Emeritus at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. In "Churchill Warrior: How a Military Life Guided Winston's Finest Hours" he has exercised a meticulous and detailed work of seminal scholarship in his narrative biography of a particular aspect that informed the character and command of one of the critically pivotal men governing the conduct of the allies in World War II. Exhaustively researched, impressively informative, exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Churchill Warrior" is an outstanding contribution to the growing library of World War II literature. While unreservedly recommended for community and academic library 20th Century Biography and World War II History collections in general, and Winston Churchill supplemental studies lists in particular, it should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Churchill Warrior" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Retrofitting Cities for Tomorrow's World
Malcolm Eames, Tim Dixon, Miriam Hunt, Simon Lannon, editors
350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148
9781119007210, $155.00, HC, 312pp,

Synopsis: "Retrofitting Cities for Tomorrow's World" is a groundbreaking exploration of the most promising new ideas for creating the sustainable cities of tomorrow. It is the culmination of a four-year collaborative research project undertaken by leading UK universities, in partnership with city authorities, prominent architecture firms, and major international consultants.

"Retrofitting Cities for Tomorrow's World" deftly explores the theoretical and practical aspects of the transition towards sustainability in the built environment that will occur in the years ahead. The emphasis throughout is on emerging systems innovations and bold new ways of imagining and re-imagining urban retrofitting, set within the context of 'futures-based' thinking.

The concept of urban retrofitting has gained prominence within both the research and policy arenas in recent years. While cities are often viewed as a source of environmental stress and resource depletion they are also hubs of learning and innovation offering enormous potential for scaling up technological responses. But city-level action will require a major shift in thinking and a scaling up of positive responses to climate change and the associated threats of environmental and social degradation. Clearly the time has come for a more coordinated, planned, and strategic approach that will allow cities to transition to a sustainable future.

"Retrofitting Cities for Tomorrow's World" aptly summarizes many of the best new ideas currently in play on how to achieve those goals and includes: Reviews the most promising ideas for how to approach planning and coordinating a more sustainable urban future by 2050 through retrofitting existing structures; An exploration of how cities need to govern for urban retrofit and how future urban transitions and pathways can be managed, modeled and navigated; Offers inter-disciplinary insights from international contributors from both the academic and professional spheres; Develops a rigorous conceptual framework for analyzing existing challenges and fostering innovative ways of addressing those challenges

Critique: An up-to-date and impressively informative compendium data, "Retrofitting Cities for Tomorrow's World" is an essential and high-priority addition to corporate, governmental, and academic library collections for academic researchers, governmental policy makers, and postgraduates with an interest in urban sustainability, urban planning, environmental studies, economics, and related fields of study. "Retrofitting Cities for Tomorrow's World" is also an important source of fresh ideas and inspiration for town planners, developers, policy advisors, and consultants working within the field of sustainability, energy, and the urban environment. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Retrofitting Cities for Tomorrow's World" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $108.27).

Girl in a Big Brass Bed / The Spy Who Was 3 Feet Tall / Code Name Gadget
Peter Rabe
Stark House Press
1315 H Street, Eureka, CA 95501
9781944520304, $21.95, PB, 384pp,

Synopsis: In "Girl in a Big Brass Bed", Lobbe wants his painting back after Hermann Goering had confiscated it when the Nazis raided Rotterdam. But now, years later, it has been located, and the German government wants to return it. So Lobbe sends his assistant Manny deWitt to Munich to fetch it. The painting is Vermeer's "Apple Girl," Lobbe's prized possession. The mission seems easy enough. But as deWitt soon discovers, those who have the misfortune to come in contact with the elusive Vermeer seem to experience an early and unpleasant death. The sooner he gets the painting and gets out, the better. If only it were that simple.

"The Spy Who Was 3 Feed Tall" finds Lobbe sending Manny to a recently emerged African nation called Motana. It's deWitt's job to negotiate the contract to build a road through the country. As usual, Lobbe doesn't muddy the waters with too much information for deWitt. But this time, everyone seems to be up on the project but him. Yum Lee, the Chinese emissary who also wants the contract, is one step ahead of him. Inge, Lobbe's delightful niece, is strictly undercover. And then there's his ubiquitous taxi driver, Baby, who is much more (or less) than what he seems. Just what the hell is so important about this road anyway?

In "Code Name Gadget", Manny's mission is to buy a particular gadget for his boss Lobbe before the competition beats him to it. The mission takes him to England under the eccentric guidance of a pilot named Max Garten, and into the unexpected arms of Meghan Bushmill. Together, the three of them form a kind of team as they try to figure out who are the good guys and who are the bad guys -- and if it even makes any difference anymore. Because whoever has the gadget can destroy the world, and even Lobbe may not be able to buy his way out of that one.

Critique: Peter Rabe aka Peter Rabinowitsch, (1921 - 1990), was a German American writer who also wrote under the names Marco Malaponte and J. T. MacCargo (though not all of the latter's books were by him). Rabe was the author of over 30 books, mostly of crime fiction, published between 1955 and 1975 (cited from Wikipedia). Now as part of the Stark House Press 'Mystery Classics" series, three of his novellas featuring the adventures of Manny deWitt and his boss Lobbe have been published under one cover for the benefit of a whole new generation of appreciative mystery fans. While highly and unreservedly recommended for community library Mystery/Suspense collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of dedicated mystery buffs that the Stark House Press edition of "Girl in a Big Brass Bed / The Spy Who Was 3 Feet Tall / Code Name Gadget" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.99).

Jack Mason

Molly's Bookshelf

Moods in Motion
Robert Jude Forese
9781413782264, $TBA, Paperback, 70 pages

Bitter sadness, moving thirst, mind's eye, Moods in Motion satisfying choices of verse presented by a gifted wordsmith.

The verses commence with an expressive work: You in You: 'I see you in everything But what I love the most Is to see you in you.'

The Reader experiences the bitter sorrow of Poisoned Pen, the twofold affection of Savior's Arms in addition to the embracing balminess of the sun in Beach Thoughts. We feel the moving yearning of the Blind Poet: 'He imagines rainbows within his shadows And senses god's presence upon his shoulders.' the End of the Line leads the reader to the 'portal at the end of the rainbow.'

We 'Ponder the wonder of life' as we read Born for a Reason. 'Sometimes it is better just to start Entirely over,' Entirely Over and other times 'We are searching for a shadow Inside a galaxy of stars.'

Finally we close our reading 'sitting for hours in the' Ghost Garden.

On the pages of Moods in Motion Lrycist Forese has fashioned a provocative journal of 50+ of some of his premium compositions. Elegies encompassing athwart seventy pages tempt The Reader with a multiplicity of profoundly felt verses penned regarding a comprehensive melange of the author's preferred subjects.

Lyricist Forese's appetite for life streams from the page to the reader as these verses are appreciated.

Stanzas jam-packed with warmth, clear-sighted perspective and thoughtful scrutiny are included in this charming collection. Readers, irrespective of whether they are devotees of poetry or not, are certain to take pleasure from Moods in Motion .

Lovers of poetry will indisputably be elated as they find themselves stopping frequently to take pleasure in a declaration or a passage before going on to the next tempting tidbit. Versifier Forese has an astounding capacity for taking the unremarkable commonplace issues of life and turning them into appealing poetic works.

There is a bit of something for everyone in Moods in Motion. Proficient, penetrating, words to captivate, and delight are presented as Troubadour Forese draws upon the escapades of life to give rise to an opus of lovely work.

Romance, life trainings, clarification all are interconnected to the heart of The Reader in most good-natured and foreseeable manner.

Readers will be certain to be altered in a very palpable manner while reading the words presented by this insightful, forthright laureate. Moods in Motion is intended to be read and then taken out frequently for a re reading as passion and fancy strikes.

Sonneteer Forese establishes his tranquil genius in this superb little work. Each refrain only gets better. It is the trust of this reviewer that Moods in Motion should do well in specialty/gift type shops as tuck in for a gift basket, or as a stand alone offering when an inimitable gift intended for a specific person is vital.

The work lends itself well to the school and homeschool library for middle grade to high school age readers as they begin to discover the world of poetry for themselves. With the writer's permission I successfully used more than one of his poetic works in my fourth grade classroom as we began to write some poetry for ourselves.

Lovely book, Moods in Motion is dandy for a long winter afternoon or a single poem or two while waiting for the stoplight to change during a busy day.

Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend.

The Seagull Who Was Afraid to Fly
Steven P. Wickstrom
Publish America
9781413718904, $TBA, Paperback, 80 pages

Steven P. Wickstrom's account of a young, last to hatch, seagull who faces difficulty and beats it back, is one certain to gratify older children, middle grades and older, as well as adults.

The Seagull Who Was Afraid To Fly introduces Readers to Dusty, a late to hatch seagull fledgling. Dusty's sister and brothers have already hatched and are becoming acclimated to the world outside their next before Dusty commences his journey from a trembling egg laying in the cozy little nest.

Dusty along with his entire family are seagulls. Seagulls are birds, they are birds that fly. Dusty is terrified of flying. And therein lies his predicament. Dusty wants to fit in with his family and the other seagulls.

As soon as the time comes for Mama and Papa to shove the other little seagulls from the nest, they each begin to ascend, wheel and glide. Dusty can only gaze in terror. At last Papa decides upon the only thing thinkable to get his little seagull airborne.

He and Mama must destroy their nest to force Dusty out to try life on his own. Life on his own is jam-packed with apprehension, anticipation, and a little girl seagull named Jill.

Writer Wickstrom has constructed a thought provoking work on the pages of The Seagull Who Was Afraid To Fly. Evocative of Jonathan Livingston Seagull, little Dusty and his family are offered in convincing manner.

The little seagulls ponder what it must be like to walk on clouds, and they fuss 'she's/he's touching me; as children the world over no doubt do. Wickstrom has completed his coming of age narrative with whimsical characters certain to fetch a smile to the lips of the reader.

The adventures of Phred the toad, Elvis a Harp Seal, crabs Flim and Flam all are amusing, entertaining and just plain fun to read.

The account of the little seagull who squarely faces struggle and bangs it back; is one certain to satisfy older, middle grades and older as well as adults alike. Reader concentration is piqued from the opening lines as we pause, waiting, for the little bird to appear from his egg.

Reader attention is maintained from opening paragraphs through to the last words in this fast-paced account packed with sufficient details to cause the reader to feel the ocean spray on his face and taste the salt of the sea while reading the words.

Writer Wickstrom entices the reader into the anecdote and maintains concentration with a diversity of circumstances and characters all leading to Dusty's eventual accomplishment. The parent's apprehension when forcing their tentative offspring out into the world is shared pretty much by many of their human counterparts.

The anxiety and disquiet felt by the little bird for having to get out into that big terrifying world is something most youngsters acknowledge at one time or another.

The Seagull Who Was Afraid To Fly is a book for the home and school library as well as evidencing use to counselors working with children. Older kids will read and appreciate the story. Adults may find the work to be an added tool as they address some similar problems facing their own offspring.

Wickstrom's The Seagull Who Was Afraid To Fly is a pleasant read for a quiet afternoon. Happy to recommend for use with younger audience more as a telling the story and seeing illustrations to hold listener interest. I did read the book aloud to Firsties.

Note: I was sent review copy by author

Casebook of Doakes and Haig
Patrick Welch
Twilight Times Books
9781931201148, $16.00, Paperback, 198 pages

Patrick Welch's The Casebook of Doakes & Haig is a compilation focused upon a intriguing pair of at times, mind-boggling, 'English' detectives living in an alternate universe.

This alternative world fashioned by novelist Welch is an English colonial realm where neither automobiles nor airplanes have yet appeared.

The home-grown London population peopling Welch's new world has long appreciated creating gastronomic treats via use of leprechaun Haig's singular sweetener; which, the not more than hand-sized tall fellow has been stirring up for years in Doakes' kitchen.

The recipe embraces use of suet, wintergreen, lavender and a number of other delectable ingredients. Sean Doakes, human, is a shop owner hawking the foundation ingredient created by his leprechaun cohort in the narrative -A Small Matter of Murder.

As for Haig, who pretty much is found with a family heirloom, has been passed from father to son for compeers.

Doakes and Haig embark on a new parternship -Criminal Consultants- when they work together to resolve the unusual situations surrounding the killing of one of their best liked customers.

Mrs. McLeary, the sweet dear, has been slain, and Doakes and Haig smell a rat.

The half dozen, short, anecdotes presented in the book include Savage Customs, Murderous Obligations, Fatal Impressions, Cats Moon Rising, and Golden Talons. Each offers as charming a reading as is presented in the first.

I find Novelist Welch to be a gifted author whose writing found on the pages of The Casebook of Doakes and Haig is evocative of the merriment also created in the words of Walker Joe Jackson another humorously ironic story writer.

The Criminal Consultants duo, Doakes and Haig, find themselves enmeshed in the disentanglement of a most vexing puzzle in Savage Customs when they set out to untangle a homicide by tomahawk involving an Indian from the American colonies.

Murderous Obligations thrusts the pair into action in an effort to unravel a man's homicide before it takes place.

Additional carnage and a purpose for creating difficulties within the Colonies afford more instance for the pair to polish their Criminal Consultant skills.

Cats Moon Rising is a mesmerizing account in which Egyptian Maus unexpectedly go missing all over London.

Initially Haig wants no part of the catnapping caper until he grasps precisely the type of cat being shanghaied. The leprechaun is spurred into action and Sean Doakes is soon enmeshed in one of their more outlandish mysteries.

The narrative finishes up with the anecdote Golden Talons when Doakes and Haig journey to the colonies before setting out on a mission to locate The Lost City of Gold.

Among a good many chuckles I first read The Casebook of Doakes and Haig a number of years ago. And found upon reading again, as I did during that first reading; Writer Welch has shaped a splendid collection of absolutely hilarious sketches in his Casebook of Doakes and Haig.

Welch and his proclivity for tongue-in-cheek situations and verbiage has created a charming assemblage of well-defined actors for peopling his fast paced sketches.

I especially enjoy Welch's imaginative settings and dialog. The Casebook of Doakes and Haig is a pleasurable read for a warm, lazy afternoon spent in sipping iced tea while reading on the front porch.

A must have for those who enjoy good writing, just plain entertainment and a bit of mystery to untangle.

Happy to recommend for upper middle grades, high school and adult readers.

The Casebook of Doakes and Haig will be a fine addition to the personal pleasure reading list, the home, school, classroom and public library lists, for gifting and for purchase for personal reading enjoyment.

I look forward to reading more of Doakes and Haig soon.
I was sent a review copy by author

Skippyjon Jones and the Big Bones
Judy Schachner
Dutton Books for Young Readers
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, 3rd floor, New York, NY 10014-3657
9780525478843, $17.99, Hardcover, 40 pages

Skippyjon Jones and the Big Bones opens with busy Skippy digging in Mrs Dolly Doohiggy's garden.

Judy Schachner's Skippyjon Jones and the Big Bones is one of the books offered in the very popular children's book series featuring kitty boy SkippyJon, Mama JuneBug Jones and Skippy's three little sisters JuJu Bee, Jezebel and Jilly Boo.

Mama JuneBug was hanging laundry on the clothes line when her kitty boy blew through the sheets as fast as his legs could churn.

In his mouth was a bone. Skippy plans to become a world-famous paleontologist. From the bones he retrieves from Darwin's stash, Skippy Jone is building a Skipposaurus.

Mama does not agree and insists that Skippy return those bones to Darwin.

Mrs Dolly Doohiggy's garden is where Mrs D's dog, Darwin, buries all of his bones and NOBODY messes with Darwin.

A good bounce on his big boy bed and Skippy is off to his closet where he is sure he will find dinosaurs.

Before long he meets his old friends the Chimichangos who are roasting MARSHmallows.

The Skippyjon Jones and the Big Bones tale continues with Mount Itchee Gitchee Gumba blowing its top, followed by T Mexito approaching with a whole gang of other dinosaurios, - big ones, small ones, feathered and bald ones, some were spiky and filled with a look that could kill, and they all doing the same thing; THEY WERE DANCING A RHUMBA.

Unexpectedly, Boom, Boom, Boom, and it was not the dinosaurious they smelled; it was Darwin, and he was knock, knock, knockin', on Skippy's closet door.

With a click, the door opened, and out tumbled poofy tailed Skippy on an flood of bones.

When Skippy came to he was huddled under a blankie in a kitty bed on the sofa, ice bag on his head, and with a bandaid on his brow. Mama Junebug and the three little kitty girls all sat nearby. Skippy was a bit the worse for wear after that avalanche.

Mama Junebug was happy Skippy had returned the bones to Darwin.

During my final decade teaching First Grade before retirement; Judy Schachner's Skippyjon series was the hands down Osage County First Grade favorite. My classroom became home to many of the books of the series, students and teacher alike learned to love Skippyjon Jones and the Big Bones as much as we loved each of the earlier ones.

I particularly like that Writer Schachner uses imagination, amusing situations, enthusiasm and a bit of Spanish in each of her books. Osage County First Grade enjoyed learning those Spanish words, and began cultivating use of their own imagination to fashion stories and pictures filled with some of that joyous fun and excitement.

During a career spanning nearly four decades I soon understood that First Grade Little People, including Osage County First Grade, thrives on replication, and probability. Writer Schachner's Skippyjon books ARE written pretty much as one format repeated in various versions, it is a dandy, child pleasing presentation; I like it and Osage County First Grade likes it. We do not want author Schachner to change anything about Skippy and his Chimichango buddies and their action packed activities.

Schachner's kid pleasing artworks are ideal for the text. I have no doubts at all that Schachner has cats in her life. The picture of the three little kitty girls in the yard watching Darwin sleep could not better illustrate the goofy little cat behavior of kittens.

Skippyjon's use of Spanish, his version, and his behavior are pretty representative for children of K-Primary age. Very frequently little kids just truly believe that syllables strung together ie Wa wha wha wa wa, or adding an o IS language and makes textbook sense.

Skippyjon's form of Spanish by merely adding an o here and there makes perfect sense to Skippy and perfect sense to Osage County First Grade.

Skippyjon's mind's eye is what energizes his exploits and his meetings with the Chimichangos.

As with all children; imagination is built on children's awareness of things seen and unseen from life. Kids watch TV, see movies, listens as parents and others talk, and, come up with some truly skewered concepts, philosophies, and ideas at times. Even so, that IS pretty much what imagination is all about.

Skippyjon and his mind's eye view is not much different than is the imagination of any little kid; skewered at times.

I do like that there are actual language, Spanish words and phrases included in the narrative in each book; Osage county First Grade delights in learning some Spanish, and using the real language words and phrases as often as possible in daily activities.

Skippyjon Jones and the Big Bones affords Osage county First Grade chance for dialogue re imagination and reality, behavior of Little People, the words paleontologist, sediment, gigantic, dogs, imagination, volcano, stop - drop - roll, avalanche, words of endearment and, so much more as we enjoy writer Schachner's Skippyjon series.

Happy to recommend Skippyjon Jones and the Big Bones for gifting the 4-7 set, the K-P class library shelf, Public and School Libraries.

Molly Martin, Reviewer

Polk's Bookshelf

Richard T. Burke
Privately Published
9781542931649, $11.00, paperback, Page Count: 296
B06XKTGS5N, $0.99, Kindle

What a heck of a ride! Mr. Burke has given us a hopeless scenario and shown us that it is the result of megalomania.

Antimone is a paraplegic and confined to a wheel chair as a result of a traffic accident. She is pregnant by a rape that occurs at a party under the influence of drugs. No woman on Earth has survived pregnancy and child-birth in nearly twenty years...the future of the human race is threatened by a virus that remains dormant until childbirth and then kills the mother.

Rosalind Baxter is CEO of Ilithia Biotechnology Corporation. She and a colleague, Dr. Perrin are allegedly seeking a cure of the dread virus. However, Baxter has another agenda...and Jason, her son, together with Antimone and her baby, hold the key to the future...a future that Perrin's son, Max, inadvertently and out of anger has simultaneously threatened and assured.

Decimation is a novel of wheels within wheels, plots within sub-plots and subversion at the highest level. The characters are fascinating. Antimone and Jason are very likable and it is easy to cheer for them. The reader will stay on the edge of their chairs with fear for Antimone and Jason. Rosalind is a madwoman and total narcissist by any definition. She is really easy to hate as is her security chief...until even he begins to question her judgement. Dr. Perrin is clueless and pathetic, blinded by his work. Max is an idiot who winds up playing a key role.

Decimation is a great thriller that is generally well-written and edited. It would be a great read for anyone who loves suspenseful books! 5-Stars

This book was provided free by the author in hopes of receiving an honest review. The above review represents my honest opinion of the book.

T. R. Cameron
Privately Published
9781975833589, $12.99, paperback, Page Count: 312
B0755XKGVT $2.99, Kindle

Lt. Commander Anderson Cross has a personality that makes him an excellent military commander with a few notable exceptions; he is hotheaded, competitive, stubborn and uses aggression before carefully evaluating situations and his opponent's motives. He's a great tactical chess-player if not a very good strategic one.

It is Lt. Commander Cross's personality that involves his ship, the Washington D.C., in an armed confrontation with an opposing vessel. It is an accident that takes the D.C. in pursuant of the opposing vessel into unexplored space and an unfinished fight that destroys an alien holy site and fulfills one of the alien's most treasured prophesies.

From that point on, mankind is forced to fight for existence as the aliens, possessors of strange and poorly understood technology, bring the fight across untold lightyears to destroy humanity and fulfill their prophesied destiny.

Wow. Trespassers is well written and edited, descriptive, and has well developed main characters. The plot and storytelling are appropriate to the genre and it contains the requisite technology, weapons and political wrangling to be a satisfying read for most sci-fi fans.

However, I guess I've read too many of these and even though I always enjoy them, I find them predictable and cookie-cutter to the point where I can visualize the dialog in my mind before I read it. The rash commander, the usually female stabilizing influence, the politically motivated senior commander(s), the wise all-knowing immediate superior commander who allows (sometime unwillingly) to let his rash sub-commander live out his 'destiny' and save the world. Such repetition is the nature of the genre and Trespassers fits the stereotype perfectly.

Despite the story's stereotypical same old game, I enjoyed Trespassers and it should be enjoyed by tons of sci-fi readers as it takes its rightful place among the many. 4-stars

This book was provided free by the author in hopes of receiving an honest review. The above review represents my honest opinion of the book.

Broken Magic: The Sanctuary Chronicles
India Kells
Privately Published
9780995176799, $15.99, paperback, Page Count: 362
9780995176782, $1.99, Kindle

Reader warning: This book contains several explicit sexual encounters.

Valeria Lancaster is a witch, an Enforcer and, to top it off, the daughter of the Chief Enforcer, Lionel Lancaster, the latest patriarch of an old line family of witches, warlocks and Enforcers. Enforcers enforce the will of the High Council on all of the supernatural beings of the world; witches, warlocks, fae, werewolves and other were-animals and last, but not least, vampires. Their mandate is to enforce the Council's will fairly and impartially, but in the hands of a madman, that mandate could become a means of enforcing racial prejudice and personal power.

After a mysterious encounter with a werewolf, Asher Stonelake, Valeria is left with unanswerable questions in addition to a head injury. When her magic seems to become uncontrollable, and she appears likely to have killed her mother, she Lionel Lancaster's request. Two years later, she winds up the prisoner of Asher Stonelake accused of killing his little sister. From that point, her questions about her magic and Asher's questions about his sister, as well as other questions concerning other individuals in Asher's sanctuary come to a dramatic head revealing Lionel Lancaster's true nature.

Broken Magic is good story; a metaphor for human nature where those unlike us are shunned and those like us are favored...especially where those like us give us personal power. Valeria and Asher bridge the prejudicial gap between magical beings and lead by example as other beleaguered magical beings unite to fight back. The characters are complex and well developed. The writing was excellent, although a few small typos were encountered.

While I admit this genera is not my reading preference and found the sexual scenes gratuitous; the details unnecessary to the story (I skipped over them), I did enjoy Broken Magic and felt it would be a story that should be well suited for 18+ fantasy and romantic fantasy fans. 4-Stars

This book was received free from the author in return for an honest review. The review above reflects my honest opinion of the book.

From a Poisoned Pen, Volume II
B. P. Smythe
Bloodhound Books
9781537455020, $9.99, paperback, Page Count: 239
B01LFM1032, $0.99, Kindle

Once again, B.P. Smythe has come forth with a collection of macabre short-stories that are well worth the read. Although I didn't find From a Poisoned Pen, Volume II as creepy as Volume 1, these are eight tales that are certainly creepy enough to satisfy the most hard-core of horror and suspense fans. The stories are:

"Wanting to be Loved" - Not even created monsters want to be taken for granted.

"Roxanne" - "For lessons in French call Roxanne"...a trap even terrorists fall into.

"Train Spotting" - You might see anything while watching trains. You may even get revenge.

"One Fine Day" - Are Do you really want to know where all the Nazi's hid after the war?

"Sleepers" - Brain washing is alive, well and active in England.

"Aunt Meg" - A real live "Oh, crap!" scenario.

"Twilight of the Dogs" - The dogs tell the tale of murder...even after their own.

"Rupert": The very idea of a snake can be deadly!

Each story has its own complement of bizarre characters. Each character is 'damaged goods' in their own way. I had a hard time developing empathy for most of the characters. Some were victims of mayhem at the hands of others close to them but somehow I wasn't convinced to feel sympathetic. Others were criminals bent on creating mayhem themselves.

From a Poisoned Pen, Volume II was generally well written, however, there were occasional typos that careful proofreading and editing should have caught. On the whole, however, From a Poisoned Pen, Volume II was enjoyable and should be loved by readers of the odd and macabre. 4-stars

Clabe Polk, Reviewer

Susan's Bookshelf

Philippe The Black Sheep/Philippe Le Mouton Noir
Joan Dupont
Filsinger & Co. Ltd
9780916754457, $25.00, 31 Pages

Genre: Children's Book

This is an enchanting story about a courageous black lamb called Philippe, he's not your ordinary lamb, no following the flock for him, he knows what he wants out of life!

You see Philippe wants to become an artist, he loves to paint and dreams of escaping to Mont Saint - Michel where he imagines himself sitting under its bell, painting.

However, it is one thing to have dreams and another to follow them through, and in this enchanting story we discover if Philippe is successful. We follow his intrepid journey as he bravely works out how to escapes from the mundane life the other salt marsh sheep live, and eventually arrives in France, ready to embrace his new life.

Of course, there is one important little thing that Philippe has overlooked though - in fact he has probably not even considered it, it is that he is a lamb, and for a lot of people his future will have already been decided.

Undaunted and no doubt unaware of the above, Philippe is confident that with hard work his dream will come true, and so he sets out to find a job in the land of his dreams. Determined to succeed he sets out to prove how hard he can work, despite the taunting of Chef Louis the Cruel.
Through his exciting adventure the author, Joan Dupont, teaches the reader some important life lessons, that if you believe in yourself, do what you know is right, and help others, dreams really can come true.

My little granddaughter absolutely adored this delightful story which is not only beautifully illustrated throughout by Ellen Shires but lovely to read as it is written in rhyming verse.

Fall of Shuruppak: Harappa 2 (Harappa Trilogy)
Shankar Kashyap
Privately Published
9781549930225, $9.99, 264 Pages

This fascinating journey into Indian history is set in the third millennium BCE. Through the author's thorough investigation into this era, and extremely descriptive writing, these splendid days of the Mesopotamian and Indus Valley civilisations are brought to life for his readers.

In this the second book of the Harappa series we join the friends Upaas (a physician), his wife Lopa, Parthava and Elaamite Prince Shushan as they continue their journeys, travelling far and wide through unknown lands satiating their thirst for knowledge.

In this adventure they find themselves agreeing to help the grief stricken Emperor Gilgamesh of Sumer find the great Sage Ziusudra. Gilgamesh believes that the sage will answer a question he is compelled to ask, and through the answer he will find an end to his torment.

Armed with the help and advice of Sage Vasishta, magic potions, and amulets for protection they set off on a quest unlike any other they have undertaken. Their travels take them through unknown lands, where they battle mythical beasts, demons, and many unimaginable creatures, but will they succeed and will Gilgamesh find the answer he seeks?

After seeing the Sage they return to Shuruppak as war breaks out, and with battles raging and thousands lying dead or dying they escape by ship, taking those they can. Little do they know that a higher being has decided that mankind needs a lesson, and what happens next is one of the most well-known of all biblical stories...

What I love about this story is that for those of us who are not Indian, yet have a great interest in Indian history, the legend behind the grief and torment of Gilgamesh, and others, interwoven into this epic adventure, adding immeasurably to the enjoyment, and fascination of this book.

Neighbors: The Yard Critters, Book 1
George Held
Filsinger & Co Ltd
9780916754259, $20.00, 32 Pages

Genre: Children's Book

As soon as I received this book I knew it was going to be something special. I sat with my little granddaughter who loves animals, and together we enjoyed this wonderful selection of poems written by George Held, and beautifully illustrated by the talented Joung Un Kim.

Yard Critters: Book 1 is an enchanting way for children to learn about the animals who live in their own back yard or neighborhood. The author has cleverly incorporated into each lovely poem, in a fun way, a wealth of information about some of the creatures the reader could come across.

Without even trying, and with a smile on her face my granddaughter learnt about squirrels, rabbits, deer, raccoons, possums, robins, earthworms, bats, garter snakes, and groundhogs. She also discovered another animal in the book, one which wouldn't fit in her yard, but, I'm not going to tell you what it is, you will have to read the story and find out for yourself...

As a parent and grandparent, what I really loved about this book is that it teaches children a very important lesson, one which tends to be forgotten these days, that this earth is for all creatures and every one of them has a place on it.

I would recommend this wonderful children's book to parents, grandparents, and care givers, to read to their children, and for the children themselves to read when they are able to.

The Book of Angels: Twin Flames Rising
Maya El
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
9781976293573, $9.99, 182 Pages

This exciting, yet tantalizing mystery is set in Chicago, the author's home town. What makes this story very special is that it is a story which the author feels has to be told. The backbone scene setting of this book comes from the past memories, and personal experiences to this day of Maya El and her family, and gives an amazing insight into what it was, and is like to live as people of color in Chicago. From there the story takes flight into an exciting mystery, one which will keep its reader engrossed until the very last page.

At the time this story begins, Chicago is a city in lockdown. Backed by a president intent on making America safe, its police force make their own rules, and have unofficial carte blanche to terrorize and control its people of color.

At the largest black Baptist church in Chicago, the camera loving, outspoken, successful pastor Carson Parker, is a shining light for his flock, helping the community, providing hope and strength, a force to be reckoned with.

Living in a beautiful house, his wife Natalie is safe and secure, she's in a perfect marriage as far as the outside world is concerned. However Natalie's husband is a very different man than the caring, charismatic pastor, he is controlling, violent, and terrifying! Natalie knows she must do something, but how, and who is the sexy mysterious man who haunts her dreams?
As this clever police thriller morphs into a mystery, romance, murder, and then a horror story, this talented author takes the reader on the rollercoaster ride which is Natalie's life.

This book has an absolutely riveting storyline, and yet it is so much more. The character of Natalie shows such strength in the face of adversity that she is empowering, and her journey of self-discovery shows us that there are forces out there which we do not understand, and yet they are there, and their powers can shape our destiny...

This exciting, yet tantalizing mystery is set in Chicago, the author's home town. What makes this story very special is that it is a story which the author feels has to be told. The backbone scene setting of this book comes from the past memories, and personal experiences to this day of Maya El and her family, and gives an amazing insight into what it was, and is like to live as people of color in Chicago. From there the story takes flight into an exciting mystery, one which will keep its reader engrossed until the very last page.

At the time this story begins, Chicago is a city in lockdown. Backed by a president intent on making America safe, its police force make their own rules, and have unofficial carte blanche to terrorize and control its people of color.

At the largest black Baptist church in Chicago, the camera loving, outspoken, successful pastor Carson Parker, is a shining light for his flock, helping the community, providing hope and strength, a force to be reckoned with.

Living in a beautiful house, his wife Natalie is safe and secure, she's in a perfect marriage as far as the outside world is concerned. However Natalie's husband is a very different man than the caring, charismatic pastor, he is controlling, violent, and terrifying! Natalie knows she must do something, but how, and who is the sexy mysterious man who haunts her dreams?
As this clever police thriller morphs into a mystery, romance, murder, and then a horror story, this talented author takes the reader on the rollercoaster ride which is Natalie's life.

This book has an absolutely riveting storyline, and yet it is so much more. The character of Natalie shows such strength in the face of adversity that she is empowering, and her journey of self-discovery shows us that there are forces out there which we do not understand, and yet they are there, and their powers can shape our destiny...

Neighbors: The Yard Critters Too
George Held
Filsinger & Co Ltd
9780916754266, $20.00, 32 Pages

After reading the beautifully written and highly entertaining NEIGHBORS: The Yard Critters, Book 1, I was really looking forward to sitting down with my granddaughter to read this, the second book in this series. As I looked at the cover, before I even opened it, I could tell I was not going to be disappointed.

Yet again George Held has done a wonderful job writing enchanting rhyming verse which not only captivated my little one, but also taught her many interesting things about some more new critters which she might find in her yard, or neighborhood.

Being a family of nature lovers, this book with its beautiful illustrations is a wonderful way to introduce her to the natural world and it very quickly captured her attention.

Included were some critters which are common, like the ladybug, sparrows and crows, and there are others who although not rare, are shy, like shrew and field mice. There are night time owls, and prickly characters like the porcupine, cheeky chipmunks, nasty ticks, beautiful humming birds and of course the crafty coyote, each described in the author's wonderfully magical way.

I love the way this book brings the natural world around us to life, offering amazing insights into our animal friends, also, I love that it gently teaches the reader that all nature has a place in this world.

I highly recommend this book for parents, grandparents, and care givers to read to their young charges, and also for the children themselves to read, enjoy, and treasure, when they are able to.

Susan Keefe, Reviewer

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
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Oregon, WI 53575-1129
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