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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 20, Number 1 January 2020 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Ann Skea's Bookshelf Bill Foster's Bookshelf Brendan Donaghy's Bookshelf
Carl Logan's Bookshelf Carolyn Wilhelm's Bookshelf Clabe Polk's Bookshelf
Clint Travis' Bookshelf Dee Carver's Bookshelf Felicia Nicole Hall's Bookshelf
Gail Welborn's Bookshelf Heena Rathore P.'s Bookshelf Helen Cook's Bookshelf
Jack Mason's Bookshelf Jen Lis' Bookshelf John Burroughs' Bookshelf
Julie Summers' Bookshelf Katherine Kleffner's Bookshelf Kristi Elizabeth's Bookshelf
Margaret Lane's Bookshelf Mari Carlson's Bookshelf Marj Charlier's Bookshelf
Marla Warren's Bookshelf Matthew McCarty's Bookshelf Michael Carson's Bookshelf
Patricia Elwood's Bookshelf Rachel Jagareski's Bookshelf Robin Friedman's Bookshelf
Ryan Winn's Bookshelf Stephen Jenkins' Bookshelf Suanne Schafer's Bookshelf
Susan Bethany's Bookshelf Susan Keefe's Bookshelf Tara Ayres' Bookshelf
Trudie Barreras' Bookshelf Willis Buhle's Bookshelf  

Ann Skea's Bookshelf

A Good Enough Mother
Bev Thomas
9780571348381, A$29.99, paperback, 324 pages

Forget the terrible title. This book is a gripping psychological drama, not a self-help book or (as one character in the book says) something akin to magazine articles which offer "a way of letting yourself off the hook if you mess up".

Dr Ruth Hartland, who is Director of a National Health Service Trauma Unit, knows the original meaning of the phrase which, as she reminds a colleague, was used by the psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott to refer to "the fact that maternal limitations play an essential role in separation and in the child's development process". Ruth is forced to consider the truth of this when she encounters a new patient who so closely resembles her missing son, Tom, that initially she thinks it is him.

As a professional counselor she should know that she is too emotionally stirred by this resemblance to deal objectively with this patient, but the urge to help him is too strong. "There are no excuses", she tells us. "But my state of mind on the day I first met Dan Griffin cannot be denied". The result, we know from the start, is devastating and violent, but we do not learn exactly what happened until late in the book

Ruth's psychological insight into her own behavior is often retrospective. She is clear from the start about her difficult relationship with her own mother, and the failure of some of her own parenting methods, but she can offer good reasons for both. She is clear, too, about the way her protective (perhaps over-protective) love of her son, Tom, caused a marital rift.

Tom and his twin sister were always very different. Tom's sister, Carolyn, was born first, and "she proved every bit as punctual and determined as she grew up". Tom emerged twenty-eight minutes later, in a surgical ward, with an "angry, scrunched-up face". "All these people. All that noise" the Jamaican midwife clucked. "I wonder", Ruth writes, "if it was a shock he was to spend the rest of his life recovering from".

Unlike Carolyn, who was "fiercely independent", Tom seemed always to need Ruth's help and support. "Clingy", said one nursery school worker, to Ruth's indignation. But at the age of sixteen, floundering academically and stressed by final school exams, Tom tried to commit suicide. Then, a year later, when an accident happens at the canoeing club where Tom is a happy volunteer, he unnecessarily blames himself for it. And then he disappears.

Tom has been missing for two years, and it is on his birthday that Ruth first sees twenty-two-year-old Dan Griffin whose resemblance to her son is uncanny. Dan has been referred to the trauma unit by a locum G.P. He is suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after being attacked and raped by a gang in a local park. He is clearly disturbed and frightened and thinks the world is an unjust place, but he is also clever, manipulative and, as it turns out, dangerous.

Hayley, another of Ruth's patients is an angry, self-harming teenager whose beloved mother has been killed by an out-of-control car just after Hayley has had an argument with her. Hayley blames herself for not being there. She, too, becomes a threat to Ruth after Ruth loses control of a counseling session.

As with Dan Griffin, we hear how Ruth deals with Hayley and how well or otherwise she feels she had succeeded in helping each of them. Ruth also reports on her regular group meetings with her colleagues as they share progress reports and problems. And Ruth, too, has her own supervisor, Robert, who acts as an experienced "intelligent, wise, insightful" and "sometime challenging" advisor for Ruth.

Woven into all this are Ruth's family; Tom's former girlfriend, Julie; and - a surprise for Ruth - a small boy called Nicholas who turns out to be Tom's son.

Due to serious errors triggered by Ruth's ongoing stress over her missing son, Dan, Hayley, Julie and Nicholas all become part of a series of events which have horrific and deadly consequences and trigger Ruth's downfall.

In the course of the book, Ruth looks back on everything which led up to these events. Her account seems straightforward as it weaves between past and present. We know from the start that something terrible has happened and as the tension rises the book becomes compulsive reading. Ultimately, Ruth is confronted in court for her professional failings. She describes the questioning which she faced and her responses, and she tells us what happens after that - actions and events which offer her some resolution and consolation.

This is a very readable story but it also offers insights not only into trauma but also into the lives of those who suffer from it and the lives and methods of those professionals who try to help them. Unsurprisingly, the author, Bev Thomas, is an experienced clinical psychologist who works with mental health services. Her accounts of therapy sessions are real, informative and convincing, but she is also a skillful writer who can bring her characters to life and suggest the hidden triggers which drive them. She is very aware that, as it says on the cover of the book, "The most dangerous lies are the ones we tell ourselves".

Dr Ann Skea, Reviewer

Bill Foster's Bookshelf

Making Music For Life: Rediscover Your Musical Passion
Gayla M. Mills
Dover Publications
31 East 2nd Street, Mineola, NY 11501-3852
9780486831718, $16.95 PB, $9.99 Kindle, 224pp,

Author Gayla Mills has written a book not about the music itself, but how music can become part of your life, reconnecting with music, and/or continuing what you may have already started. This book is not just for beginners, but also for part-time players and full-time professionals alike.

It begins with a look at music's emotions, how it improves memory and thinking, and how it strengthens social bonds. It continues with the learning curve of your musical choices, practicing regimens and goals, preparing for and joining jams, and how to properly develop vocal skills, singing, and harmonizing. She discusses going to music camps which are for both the novice and veteran players, and how these camps continue one's skills, but also helps with socializing and learning to play together. Thinking about forming a group or band? The book covers that, too.

Are you going to gig for fun or are you looking to supplement your income from performing? From recording options, a home or professional studio, preparation, finalizing the CD, and sharing the final product - it's all here. The book winds down with tips on playing smarter, singing smarter, helpful lifestyle changes, and learning from the pros.

Finally, she covers how to build a music community by teaching, tutoring, creating jam groups, and being a mentor to others. This book is a good read and many should find it interesting as they look into their own musical endeavors and/or careers. One drawback, there's not much information on the song writing process, nor does Mills cover any of the music licensing issues that musicians and performers must deal with. The book also includes a full list of reference material.

Bill Foster, Reviewer
Bluegrass Unlimited Magazine

Brendan Donaghy's Bookshelf

The Last Skipjack
Mary H. Fox
Golden Antelope Press
9781936135783; $34.95; HC; 330pp
9781936135769; $25.95; PB; 318pp
9781936135790; $8.69 Kindle,

The Last Skipjack, by Mary Hastings Fox, tells the story of a group of children growing up in the small town of Hurlock, Maryland. The events take place in the 1950s and the 1960s. The title is taken from the type of boat which was, the author informs us, 'the oldest kind of oyster dredging boat on the Chesapeake.'

The book opens in 1955 and, including the epilogue, runs through to 1978. Ten-year-old Celie Mowbray and her younger sibling Hannah strike up a friendship with black sisters Ava and Sari Skipton. The Skipton girls arrive with a group of migrant workers who are seeking employment on the Mowbray farm. They are joined by Ava and Sari's stepbrother Gabe and the children quickly form a close bond. The core of this story is the children's enduring friendship across the years in the heart of a highly segregated, deeply discriminatory society.

The book is multi-layered, however, and other themes are explored too. Sibling relationships, love, bereavement, together with the trials of growing up in difficult family circumstances, are all considered. The Chesapeake Bay area is a society in the throes of economic change, so poverty and hardship are commonplace. Hard times and lack of employment opportunities contribute to the rising racial tensions in the area, even as the harsh conditions are experienced, to some degree, by both the black and white communities. As the narrative moves into the 1960s, the campaign for black civil rights has a major impact on the area. The group of children, now young adults, are caught up in the seismic events happening around them, events which threaten to tear their friendships apart.

I enjoyed this book the further I got into it. The story starts when the main characters are quite young and, for the first few chapters, one has the impression that it is a book written for children or teenagers. The young characters seem trapped, at this stage, between discussing childish concerns, or alternatively, having thoughts or making observations that seem a bit beyond the ken of children their age. Happily, the book grows and matures with the children. It is much more adult in every respect from about the sixth or seventh chapter onwards.

The characters are authentic and credible, their surroundings rich in detail. We are given a panoramic view of both: the story is told, not from the perspective of a single character, but rather from the viewpoint of an omniscient narrator. This allows the reader to see and hear so much more, as we are experiencing the world of the novel through the eyes of many different characters. The author shows great skill in adapting the narrative voice depending upon whose perspective is being given.

I also appreciated the device of commencing most of the chapters with a Headnote. These few lines provide the historical and social context for the chapter that follows. Information is provided on social, economic and geographical issues pertaining to the area. Later chapters describe the political upheaval in the area, at which point the Headnotes feature inspirational quotes from Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi.

I am happy to give this book four out of four stars. I picked up a few minor typographical mistakes, but in a book of over three hundred pages, these were by no means excessive. I would recommend it to those who like historical novels, even though the history dealt with is still recent. It has a few 'curse' words and some erotic scenes. It also deals with difficult issues such as racism, bereavement, and sexual violence. For those reasons, it is probably more appropriate for adult readers. There is nothing of a religious nature that should cause offense.

Brendan Donaghy, Reviewer

Carl Logan's Bookshelf

Julie A. Washington, et al.
Brookes Publishing Company
PO Box 10624, Baltimore, MD 21285-0624
9781681253619, $79.95, HC, 320pp,

Synopsis: Dyslexia, also known as reading disorder, is characterized by trouble with reading despite normal intelligence. Different people are affected to varying degrees. Problems may include difficulties in spelling words, reading quickly, writing words, "sounding out" words in the head, pronouncing words when reading aloud and understanding what one reads. Often these difficulties are first noticed at school. People with dyslexia have higher rates of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), developmental language disorders, and difficulties with numbers. (Wikipedia)

"Dyslexia: Revisiting Etiology, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Policy" is comprehensive volume on dyslexia: its root causes, the most effective methods of diagnosis and treatment, and the sociopolitical factors that affect intervention.

Based on presentations from the seventeenth Extraordinary Brain Symposium, "Dyslexia: Revisiting Etiology, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Policy" brings together contributions from more than 50 top researchers and practitioners, who share their invaluable perspectives, findings, solutions, and questions to shape future dyslexia research.

"Dyslexia: Revisiting Etiology, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Policy" includes such issues as: Early identification of children at risk for reading difficulty; The use of neuroimaging and molecular genetics to better understand the origins of dyslexia; The unique challenges to dyslexia assessment and intervention in developing countries; Important insights from computer-based simulations of developmental dyslexia; Innovative technology that can help teachers personalize reading instruction for diverse learners; The impact of race, poverty, and linguistic differences on the accurate diagnosis of dyslexia; Results of recent studies on specific interventions for struggling readers; The current state of teacher preparation programs and what improvements they need to make; Key considerations and best practices related to universal screening tools; How to scale up evidence-based interventions for reading disorders.

Critique: "Dyslexia: Revisiting Etiology, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Policy" is comprised of twenty erudite and informative articles by experts in the field, making it an ideal and essential resource for researchers, graduate students, and reading specialists. "Dyslexia: Revisiting Etiology, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Policy" is an authoritative synthesis of what we know about dyslexia (and what we need to know to provide better supports for struggling readers), making it unreservedly recommended as a curriculum textbook and an essential part of any college or university library Dyslexia collection and supplemental studies list. It should be noted for students, academia, educators, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Dyslexia: Revisiting Etiology, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Policy" is also available in a digital book format (eTextbook, $63.99).

Manhood Is Not Easy
Karin Van Nieuwkerk
American University in Cairo Press
420 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10018-2729
9789774168895, $59.95, HC, 224pp,

Synopsis: "Manhood Is Not Easy: Egyptian Masculinities through the Life of Musician Sayyid Henkish" is in-depth ethnography in which Karin van Nieuwkerk takes the autobiographical narrative of Sayyid Henkish, a musician from a long family tradition of wedding performers in Cairo, as a lens through which to explore changing notions of masculinity in an Egyptian community over the course of a single lifetime.

Central to Henkish's story is his own conception of manhood, which is closely tied to the notion of ibn al-balad, the 'authentically Egyptian' lower-middle class male, with all its associated values of nobility, integrity, and toughness. How to embody these communal ideals while providing for his family in the face of economic hardship and the perceived moral ambiguities associated with his work in the entertainment trade are key themes in his narrative.

Van Nieuwkerk situates his account within a growing body of literature on gender that sees masculinity as a lived experience that is constructed and embodied in specific social and historical contexts. In doing so, she shows that the challenges faced by Henkish are not limited to the world of entertainment and that his story offers profound insights into socioeconomic and political changes taking place in Egypt at large and the ways in which these transformations impact and unsettle received notions of masculinity.

Critique: An extraordinary work of meticulous scholarship, "Manhood Is Not Easy: Egyptian Masculinities through the Life of Musician Sayyid Henkish" is enhanced for academia with the inclusion of a six page Glossary, a six page Bibliography, fourteen pages of Notes, and a three page Index. With occasional black/white illustrations, "Manhood Is Not Easy" is an inherently interesting, impressively informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking study that is unreservedly recommended for college and university library collections.

Carl Logan

Carolyn Wilhelm's Bookshelf

A Curse So Dark and Lonely (The Cursebreaker Series)
Brigid Kemmerer
Bloomsbury YA
Bloomsbury Publishing PLC.
9781681195087, $18.99 paperback, $14.65 Hardcover, 498 Pages
B07CVFRJ8N, $13.29 Kindle

I found this YA story to be suitable for adults due to the complexity of this remake of Beauty and the Beast. It is an engrossing novel. Beast (sometimes a prince) lives in medieval times, while Beauty lives in the modern-day. The time travel is fairly instant and involves no machines. The same amount of time passes in both settings. Rhen, the Crown Prince of Emberfall, has tried over 300 times to get a girl from the modern day to fall in love with him and break the curse on him and his kingdom. His last chance to be free of the very beautiful and evil Lilith rests with Harper who is kidnapped from Washington DC. Later in the story, they introduce her as Princess Harper from Disi to plot again the invading forces from the north.

Beauty, (Harper) has cerebral palsy. Yet she is able in many ways and clever in military planning. Her mother in DC is dying of cancer, her father long gone after being involved with criminals due to health bills, and the brother has inherited the debt. Put in a terrible predicament, the brother and sister do things to try to survive they would never otherwise attempt.

Chapters alternate between Rhen's perspective and that of Harper's. We see the story through two sets of eyes.

Rhen remains a prince for most of the story and each season beginning over and over again with his eighteenth birthday. He becomes a horrible monster, different each time, at the end of each trial. Will Harper love him when she knows the truth? Will she love him at all?

Harper gets home for a brief time. She, her brother, her brother's doctor friend, and the prince's servant all end up in Emberfall. There is a wild ride at the end of the story.

Bits and Pieces: Maple Grove Writers' Studio Anthology One
Marj Helmer
Self Published
9781709390524, $11.00, paperback, 271 Pages
B08225GPVB, $3.99 Kindle

This anthology is a collection of "bits and pieces" of the Maple Grove Writers' Studio and includes fiction, nonfiction, memoir, poetry, and flash fiction. Four of the writers are originally from the London area of the UK. All now reside in Minnesota. This makes for a diverse collection of perspectives and viewpoints.

The first story, "I Used to Call Myself English" explains how an ex-pat from England feels even after living in America for decades. Poignant emotions and reflections explain her viewpoint clearly.

"Life by Candlelight" is also by an ex-pat from the UK and explains why she is a firm believer in using candlelight for evening meals, and every night. Her candlesticks are over 300 years old and have several lifetimes of experience. The author knows because they have belonged to her family all that time.

How does the title of a story "Bungee Jumping with the Sandhill Cranes" sound? Yes, the author went on a birdwatching trip and shares details of the experience for vicarious arm-chair travel. David Zander has traveled widely as a cultural anthropologist and shares other nonfiction stories in the anthology.

"The Trusted Killer," "The Remains of Men", and other pieces were written by Lise Spence-Parsons. Also from the UK, Lise is working on a book that includes World War I, World War II, and modern-day settings. Lise masterfully recreates scenes and characters that will make you feel as though you are part of the story.

Editor Marj Helmer shares several writing pieces such as the humorous "I Just Washed my Jeans and I Can't Do a Thing in Them." You have certainly had the experience of freshly laundered jeans and waiting for the second wearing to be able to breathe again.

This anthology includes several other authors and writing pieces you are sure to enjoy.

Black Klansman: Race, Hate, and the Undercover Investigation of a Lifetime
Ron Stallworth
Flatiron Books
c/o Macmillian
9781250299055, $9.69 paperback, $11.38 Hardcover, 208 Pages
B078X26S6C, $9.99 Kindle, Audio CD $23.30, Blue-ray $15.00

We can be thankful author Ron Stallworth did not reach his objective of working as a Police Cadet for only two years and leave. He wanted to become a physical education teacher. However, he never became a teacher at all, falling into the opportunity of a lifetime to become a black member of the KKK. It required two men from the police department for this investigation as the in-person "Ron" was a white man. The phone personality was the actual author who was black. We are fortunate to have this detailed view of the KKK in the 60s and 70s.

The author used his real name when answering a newspaper ad to join the KKK. He thought he might get a brochure. However, he learned so much we might not otherwise know if not for this book. The significance of this book is the same ideology continues today and is a cause of divisiveness in our country.

There is a scene in the book where the real Ron is assigned to protect David Duke for several events. Even in person, his voice, which was well known to Duke over the phone, was not recognized. Why? Duke would never have fallen for such a hoax (although he did). Imagine later when the same Ron protects Ralph David Abernathy Senior, which does also happen in the book.

Ron Stallworth has earned many distinguished service awards. He explains the investigation fairy and includes many details so we know it is true. An image of his KKK membership card is one of the items included in the photo section.

End Game: Irrational Acts, Tragic Consequences (Book 3 of 3 in Antarctic Murder Trilogy)
Dr. Theodore Jerome Cohen
Wordwooze Publishing (Audiobook)
9781456710033, $24.99 hardcover, $14.99 paperback, 192 Pages
B0794BVM4X, $9.99 Kindle
B07RKT72FG, $13.08 Audiobook

The Antarctic Murder Trilogy, Book 3, by Theodore Jerome Cohen, wraps up the mysteries posed in Books 1 and 2 involving Captain Roberto Munoz of the Lientur, the hunt for the millions of dollars in cash and items stolen from the Banco Central de Chile following a major earthquake, and the murders that followed. Books 1 and 2 were recently reviewed in this column. The mysteries are not solved any too soon as first, people travel, get reacquainted, and finally, end up in grave danger during a symphony performance at Santiago's Teatro Municipal.

During the first part of the concert, a performance of Johannes Brahms' A German Requiem, To Words of the Holy Scriptures, Op. 54, all is quiet. Thinking a change of seats will allow the guests from the United States to meet Maestro Charles Munch before leaving, Stone and Morris innocently place themselves in harm's way. They enjoy Gustav Mahler's Sinfonia no 5, en do sostenido menor while sitting with their hosts, unaware of the plot against them. Observing from a box above and using his knowledge of the length of each of the five movements of Mahler's composition helps Captain Valderas position additional officers in strategic locations around the theater to prepare for any eventuality. The Americans, on the verge of being kidnapped or possibly killed, realize too late they won't be meeting the Maestro at all. Can Captain Valderas save them?

Cleverly written for the intelligent and scientific mind as well as for those who enjoy symphony music, this book entertains while keeping the reader engaged to the literally the very last minute.

Carolyn Wilhelm

Clabe Polk's Bookshelf

Amidst Alien Stars; Milijun Book 2
Clayton Graham
B07Z7JFMCJ, $2.99, 476 pages

When we left Laura Sinclair and her son, Jason, at the end of Milijun their lives were being bounced as though tennis balls between an unknown alien agenda and unsuspected human agendas. Now, we find Laura, Jason and other survivors of Milijun to be prisoners aboard an alien space station in the planetary system of the star Gliese, the Gliesan agenda still unknown. Jason is known to the aliens as "The first seen" and is important to them for an undisclosed reason. The remainder of the survivors has become breeding stock to produce alien-human hybrids, again for an undisclosed purpose.

What follows is a tale of double-dealing and hidden agendas among races of Gliesans extending far back into Gliesan history. The Rbuzen Gliesans, their captors, have a distinct reason for creating Gliesan-human hybrids and their agenda has placed both the human survivors and the hybrids squarely in the middle of what could become a Gliezan civil war. Jason, as "First Seen", must find a way to reconcile Gliesan differences in order to ensure the survival of both humans and Gliesans, while Laura and the other survivors continue to be manipulated by both factions. The end result is nothing I would have ever predicted.

Amid Alien Stars has a cast of characters sufficiently developed for their roles in the story. The alien characters are interesting but focused on their agenda to the exclusion of other considerations. Rather than being malevolent, they are being pressured in different ways than humans. The story contains several different players and factions and the humans are never quite sure who their most recent captors are. The aliens certainly never give them a straight answer.

All in all, Amid Alien Stars is a fine sequel to Milijun and a very entertaining, although somewhat lengthy, read for sci-fi fans. It's doubtful, though, that many readers will guess the end before they read it. 5-Stars.

Clabe Polk, Reviewer

Clint Travis' Bookshelf

American Neolithic
Terence Hawkins
The Calliope Group
9781733647427, $17.00, PB, 176pp,

Synopsis: It's the near future and America has become a Police State Lite. The Patriot Amendments have swallowed the Bill of Rights. Creationism trumps science. The Patriot Tribunal overrules the Supreme Court. And the drones of the Homeland Police are always watching.

Enter Blingbling. Brought to official attention by a hip-hop murder, he's foreign-looking, undocumented, and apparently homeless. His hard-boiled lawyer, Raleigh, keeps the Homeland cops at arm's length until a routine DNA test exposes a secret thousands of years old--one that threatens to destroy his client, his career, and much more.

Critique: A story made all the more plausible by such contemporary real world political movements like the rise of an American style political cult of personality and the obsequious collaboration of Congressional and Senate Republicans in the wholesale violations of Constitutional norms, "American Neolithic" is a stunning, alarming, and deftly crafted read that has author Terence Hawkins' novel achieving a similar literary status to the likes of George Orwell's "1984". While unreservedly recommended addition to both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists that "American Neolithic" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99).

Cross Wires
Greg Stallworth
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o Author House
9781532081057, $13.99, PB, 132pp,

Synopsis: What would you do if you receive messages on your office phone about an alleged drug trafficking operation going on where you worked? What would you do if you believe this illegal drug activity could possibly involve your boss?

"Cross Wires" is a powerful mystery by Greg Stallworth that brings to light the dangers of a very respectful and successful employee who is caught in a vice between his loyalty to the company or reporting what he knows to the authorities. By going to law enforcement do you take a chance of losing your job and more risking your life by reporting these illegal acts?

What happens next is cathartic scenes of the most devastating turn of events one can encounter dealing with fear.

"Cross Wires" speaks of a corporate executive who had just received the nation's top honor in receiving the Fortune 500 Award as one top business financially. Shortly after receiving this prestigious award his corporation is investigated by the feds involving him in an international drug tracking ring. After a series of the most suspense acts of terror involving a murder for hire plot things take the most unbelievable twist to justice. "Cross Wires" brings to meaning of who do you trust.

Critique: A simple riveting read from first page to last, "Cross Wires" showcases author Greg Stallworth's genuine flair as a novelist for originality and an inherently reader engaging narrative storytelling style. The stuff of a Hollywood blockbuster movie, "Cross Wires" is unreservedly recommended for community library Contemporary General Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Cross Wires" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99).

Dead Heat
Benedek Totth, author
Ildiko Noemi Nagy, translator
9781771963015, $15.95, PB, 256pp,

Synopsis: In a nameless Hungarian town, teenagers on a competitive swim team occupy their after-training hours with hard drinking and fast cars, hash cigarettes and marathons of Grand Theft Auto, the meaningless sex and late-night exploits of a world defined by self-gratification and all its attendant recklessness.

Invisible to their parents and subject to the whims of an abusive coach, the crucible of competition pushes them again and again into dangerous choices. When a deadly accident leaves them second-guessing one another, they're driven even deeper into violence.

Critique: Ably translated into English for an American readership by Ildiko Noemi Nagy, "Dead Heat" is all the more impressive when considering that it is author Benedek Totth's debut as a novelist with an inherently riveting and original coming of age story. While unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Contemporary Literary Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Dead Heat" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.69).

Was Michael Jackson Murdered? You Be the Judge
Everett Watson
Dorrance Publishing Company
585 Alpha Drive, Suite 103, Pittsburgh, PA 15238
9781480955905, $31.00, PB, 156pp,

Synopsis: "Was Michael Jackson Murdered? You Be the Judge" by Everett Watson was inspired the late pop star's untimely death and the controversy surrounding it. Looking into his death drove Watson to produce a movie called The Murder of Michael Jackson: The Perfect Murder. In the pages of "Was Michael Jackson Murdered? You Be the Judge", Watson provides all the evidence he found in his research that shows incontrovertible evidence that Michael Jackson's death wasn't an accident or suicide, but premeditated murder!

Critique: An exceptionally informative, iconoclastic, and deftly crafted study, "Was Michael Jackson Murdered? You Be the Judge" will have immense appeal to all true crime buffs and will be of special interest for the legions of Michael Jackson fans. While highly recommended, especially for community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Was Michael Jackson Murdered? You Be the Judge" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $26.00).

Clint Travis

Dee Carver's Bookshelf

The Eagle at Dawn
Holly Bargo
Hen House Publishing
978107546767, $9.95 PB, $3.99 Kindle, 245pp,

Now I want an eagle shifter named Diego!

Rachel and Diego are two characters that you cannot help but cheer on. Not only does Rachel have to deal with her brother and a motorcycle gang, but she also has to face being mated to Diego. Diego is definitely an alpha male, and when he sets his sights on someone, look out! Rachel and Diego's relationship will keep you turning the pages of the book until the end.

As always Holly Bargo brings forth creative writing set in a way that you cannot help but become immersed into the events happening.

Dee Carver

Felicia Nicole Hall's Bookshelf

Don't Try This at Home: One Family's (mis)Adventures Around the World
Daria Salamon and Rob Krause
Turnstone Press
9780888016539, $21.00 PB, $9.99 Kindle, 272pp,

Don't Try This at Home: One family's (mis)adventures around the world by husband and wife team Daria Salamon and Rob Krause makes for one magnificent story. With a healthy dose of humor, dangerous stories, and an equally interesting format - Daria tells the story from her point of view in the first half and Rob tells his in the second half - this travel memoir turns out to be a page-turning read.

The book opens as Daria and Rob prepare for a gap year alongside their two children, Isla Blue and Oskar. Instead of embarking on another typical year, they decide to rent out their home, sell their belongings, and travel around the world. The family visits eleven countries in all, including Bali, New Zealand, Bolivia, and Colombia. Over the course of that year, this family encounters all sorts of unforgettable experiences.

"Let's test the limits of my marriage by ditching the comforts of home that we'd spent a decade forging, cram our entire lives into backpacks, and navigate ourselves around the globe with very loose plans and limited funds. In retrospect, maybe I should have just renovated the bathroom, or gone with a breast lift."

The family begins their venture by camping in New Zealand and Australia before making their way to a few hostels in south Asia. Despite the harsh realities of life demanding a short return home, they continue bravely on with their journey - this time, travelling across South America.

Don't Try This at Home is filled with compelling stories like when five-year-old Isla Blue gets lost in Asia and when eight-year-old Oskar slips on rocks and requires rescue. I read their adventures with my mouth agape, flipping pages to discover more of the crazy lives they get to live on their journey. Told with such humor and thankfulness for their experiences, this book makes me glad I get to go along for the ride with them.

When Daria's story concludes, we start at the beginning again - now, with Rob leading the way. He touches on a few of the same experiences as Daria, but his own memories and perspective shed a new light on each situation. He also shares many moments and anecdotes that we don't get with Daria, giving us a comprehensive recount of the entire trip.

As a lover of travel myself, this book satisfies my wanderlust without ever having to leave my home. Daria and Rob do a wonderful job of telling their stories and making me feel immersed in each culture they experience. There are so many dangerous and questionable moments where I can't help but question their sanity as they continue on their trip, but at the same time, I feel so grateful they share the story of their incredible, life-changing journey.

All in all, Don't Try This at Home is a terrific read filled with liveliness and humor. I strongly recommend giving it a shot. Once you finish, you'll likely even find yourself Googling airfare and hostel prices immediately - or maybe that is just me.

Felicia Nicole Hall, Reviewer
Independent Book Review

Gail Welborn's Bookshelf

In the Kitchen with Grandma: Stirring Up Tasty Memories Together
Lydia E. Harris
Harvest House Publishers
9780736975872, $14.99, 2019, 176 Pages

Lydia Harris's new release, In the Kitchen with Grandma: Stirring Up Tasty Memories Together offers simple and tasty recipes that create treasured memories and teach about cooking. With a master's in Home Economics, Harris is affectionately known as "Grandma Tea" by her five grandchildren and Country Register column readers.

Her newly released 174-page cookbook's 100 recipes are organized by seasons with special recipes for holidays. To accommodate food allergies, half of the recipes are gluten free.

Picturesque spoons rate levels of difficulty and half are "1-spoon easy," writes Harris, while others are listed as two or three spoons of difficulty. Scripture and spiritual prompts are captured in "A spoonful of sharing" at the end of some recipes to help you share your faith and godly values. The cookbook is user-friendly with an index at the beginning of each season as well as a general index at the back of the cookbook arranged topically and alphabetically.

One of Harris's more delightful two ingredient recipes, page 154, combines ice cream with self-rising flour for a simple and unique "Ice Cream Bread." Another, page 126, uses whipped cream, chocolate chips and orange gumdrops to create scrumptious "Floating Frosty Snowmen." Or for dinner, try "Sombrero Skillet Pie," on page 18.

While recipes consist of main dishes, snacks, salads, breads, and desserts, the cookbook also encourages fun-filled moments with grandchildren. Harris writes, "Cooking together is about relationships, not recipes."

"Grandma Tea's" recipes, many she personally developed or adapted, have appeared in "Focus on the Family," her monthly tea column, and children's magazines.

Gail Welborn

Heena Rathore P.'s Bookshelf

Heaven's Silhouette
Melissa Lynn Herold
Wise Ink Creative Publishing
9781634892643, $27.00 HC, $8.99 Kindle, 400pp,

Heaven's Silhouette by Melissa Lynn Herold is a new fantasy series about angels but with a twist. This book marks the beginning of the Iyarri series.

The story is well developed and was narrated nicely. I was drawn into the story right from the very start where we are introduced to Au \relia and the heart of the story, i.e., Aurelia is not like other kids; she is different. And it was after reading the prologue that I knew I was in for a good story. And after that, the book delivered as expected - an original fantasy world.

Even though the concept of angels has already been used many times in various books and series, like Penryn And The End Of Days series by Susan Ee (which BTW is my absolute favourite series when it comes to the fallen angel fantasy trope), I still enjoyed this book mostly because of the concept of Iyarri where they are winged beings who take cover in the angel-mythology. So although it might not initially feel that way, but this book's concept is nothing like the other books with a similar theme. It is nothing like the books that I've read.

The world-building in this book is good, it wasn't entirely fantastic but it wasn't all bad either. Though we don't get to explore the Iyarri world in any particular detail, I won't be judging the entire series right now as that might be an intentional step by the author and this is just the first book, so we'll see about it in the next books.

One thing needs a special mention here is the language. Now I know we have epic fantasy series like ASOIAF by GRRM with fully-fleshed out languages, but once in a while, I do appreciate not having to deal with a lot of newly-conceived-language jargon. I love it when fantasy authors add a sprinkling of a handful of words from a new language throughout the book in a way that it is easy for the reader to pick it up on their own. That's exactly what author Melissa did in this book and I am very thankful to her for that.

So so moving on... the writing was simple and fluid. It made the book a very quick read in spite of it being 400 pages plus. The tension and conflicts in the story kept me engrossed into the book from start to end and I ended up finishing this book in only 3 days. And now I am eagerly waiting for the next book in this series to come out so that I can read more and explore this new and exciting world further.

If you are a fantasy fan then you should definitely give this book a read!

Heena Rathore P., Reviewer
The Reading Bud

Helen Cook's Bookshelf

New Year New Me
Mike Signorelli
V1 Church
eBook: 132 pages, FREE Download from website

This short 32- page book is packed full of the greatest, easily understood, steps for bringing clarity out of the chaos of one's life. Steps to help you to thrive in: your relationships, your spiritual life, your intellectual life, and your passions. And how to accomplish God-sized dreams.

A great kick-off for 2020, or any time through the year. I suggest you start sooner than later. You won't be disappointed or sorry you did.

Helen Cook, Reviewer
Prime Star Publicity

Jack Mason's Bookshelf

Fungicide Resistance In North America, second edition
Katherine L. Stevenson
Margaret T. McGrath
Christian A. Wyenandt
APS Press
3340 Pilot Knob Road, St. Paul, MN 55121
9780890548215, $250.00, HC, 411pp,

Synopsis: Fungicides are the primary tools used to manage plant diseases, but they are regularly rendered useless by pathogens' ability to develop resistance. The development of resistance to fungicides is arguably the greatest challenge to effectively managing plant diseases. A second obstacle in the development and application of fungicides is the constant change in the chemical landscape, as new chemicals are introduced and others are banned.

Now in a fully updated and expanded second edition, "Fungicide Resistance in North America",is a complete update of the original 1988 edition. It describes the current state of fungicide development and management of fungicide resistance in primary pathogens of important agricultural and horticultural crops. Unlike other recently published books on fungicide resistance, this book focuses exclusively on the most significant resistance issues faced by agricultural producers in North America and especially the United States.

This new edition is organized into four main sections: An overview of the history, science, practice, politics, and management of fungicide resistance; An updated review of the major fungicide groups - including significant new groups such as succinate dehydrogenase inhibitors (SDHIs), quinone outside inhibitors (QoIs), phenylpyrroles, azonaphthalenes, and carboxylic acid amides - that covers their modes of action, market situations, histories of resistance development, and mechanisms of resistance; A review of sampling strategies and modern laboratory methods for detecting and characterizing fungicide resistance in plant-pathogenic fungi and oomycetes; Case studies highlighting the historical development, current status, and management of fungicide resistance in key pathogens of major crops, including stone fruits, tree nuts, potatoes, cucurbits, strawberries, rice, turfgrass, and more

Editors Katherine L. Stevenson, Margaret T. McGrath, and Christian A. Wyenandt have extensive experience studying fungicide resistance. Together with nearly 60 contributing authors, they provide the most up-to-date information available on research about the mechanisms of resistance to the major classes of fungicides and strategies for managing resistance. They also provide the knowledge needed to sample appropriately and accurately detect fungicide resistance in pathogen isolates or populations.

"Fungicide Resistance in North America" is an extensive and practical tool for agricultural industry and agricultural chemical industry professionals, as well as extension personnel, crop consultants, county agents, farm advisors, and educators and students. Students and readers new to the topic of fungicide resistance will benefit from the glossary of terms provided and from the fundamental discussions of key concepts.

Critique: An ideal textbook on the subject, "Fungicide Resistance in North America" is enhanced for academia with the inclusion of a complete list of the contributors and their credentials, numerous charts and tables, a four page Glossary, and an eighteen page Index. Published by The American Phytopathological Society, this new and impressively comprehensive edition of "Fungicide Resistance in North America" is the only current book on fungicide resistance that specifically focuses on North American crops -- making it unreservedly recommended as a core and essential addition to corporate, college, and community library Agriculture collections in general, and Fungicide supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

I Hike Again
Lawton Grinter
Grand Mesa Press
9780985241520, $14.95, PB, 270pp,

Synopsis: Comprised of "mostly true" tales from the trail, Lawton Grinter's "I Hike Again" imparts hard-earned wisdom from trails both in the United States (Arizona Trail, Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail, Grand Enchantment Trail, Wind River High Route) and abroad (Spain's GR11 and New Zealand's Te Araroa).

"I Hike Again" takes the reader high above treeline into a day gone bad, inside a cramped hut with a snorer of legendary proportions, along a sneaky escape with a gaggle of 16-year-olds fumbling their way through an Outward Bound course, and once again into some peculiar situations that even seasoned hikers may find hard to believe.

The stories collected and presented "I Hike Again" are 25+ years and 15,000+ miles in the making and cover both long and short hikes on a multitude of trails around the globe. Anyone who's ever spent a day or many months on a dirt path will appreciate these entertaining and sometimes harrowing accounts of life on the trail.

Critique: An absorbing and inherently fascinating read for anyone who has ever tramped along a trail themselves, at home or abroad, "I Hike Again: Mostly True Stories from 15,000 Miles of Hiking" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to community and academic library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "I Hike Again: Mostly True Stories from 15,000 Miles of Hiking" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.69).

Editorial Note: Lawton Grinter is an author, forester, trail runner, podcaster and veteran long-distance hiker having completed end-to-end hikes of the Appalachian Trail, Continental Divide Trail and two hikes of the Pacific Crest Trail. In addition to the "Big 3" he has also hiked the John Muir Trail, Colorado Trail, Grand Enchantment Trail, Arizona Trail and New Zealand's Te Araroa in his 15,000+ miles of long-distance hiking.

Jack Mason

Jen Lis' Bookshelf

Green Lantern: An Origin Story
Matthew K. Manning
Luciano Vecchio, Illustrator
Stone Arch Books
c/o Capstone
9781434297341, $4.95,

One of four DC Super Heroes Origins books, the story of how Hal Jordan becomes sector 2814's Green Lantern.

G was more than excited when he managed to secure this one at his weekly school library trip. This book does a great job of providing the background story for one of the DC comic super heroes for young readers interested in that type of thing. The story is action-packed (no surprise - it is a super hero book), and is written in a way that is ideal for lap readers or new readers. What I especially found noteworthy about this book was the reading discussion guide at the end. It was really fun to go through the questions with G. It definitely makes me want to check out the other books in the series (which cover Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman).

This is a fun choice for kids starting to be interested in super heroes.

I Can Run
Murray Head
Holiday House, Inc.
9780823438310, $14.95,

An I Like To Read-(R) book, I Can Run uses simple sentences and photographs to tell just what this clever little squirrel can do.

This is a very short, but perfect book for new readers. The short sentences with repetition (I can run, I can hop, etc.) are helpful for building confidence. Despite the simple nature, this book manages to bring in humor and heart. The squirrel even has a run-in with a hawk. The reader finds it is very good this squirrel can run! The photographs of the squirrel are quite adorable as well. Not only did this book give my son the good feeling of having read a book by himself (one of his first!), but also had us laughing together.

This is an excellent pick for a new reader. Younger siblings will also likely enjoy the simple story and detailed photographs.

Move Over, Rover!
Karen Beaumont
Jane Dyer, Illustrator
Harcourt, Inc.
9780152019792, $16.99,

Rover is happily snuggling in his doghouse on a rainy day, but he's not alone for long. Soon a whole crew of backyard animals are looking for a warm place to wait out the storm, until an unexpected guest sends them all running.

A Theodor Seuss Geisel Award winner from 2017, Move Over, Rover! is fun to read out loud and a perfect read for little ears. The concept is somewhat familiar for children's books - lots of animals joining one by one and crowding into a small space. However, the setting and animals are unique and ones little ones may have seen in their own neighborhood. Additionally, the repeated refrain that grows with each new animal is helpful for early literacy. The animals and rhyming were appealing to my 3-year-old; and the repeated phrases tempting for me to let my kindergartener work out on his own.

The illustrations (watercolor and liquid acrylic) are sweet and expertly depict a rainy fall day - they made me want to snuggle somewhere warm, too!

Born to Ride
Larissa Theule
Kelsey Garrity-Riley, Illustrator
Abrams Books for Young Readers
9781419734120, $8.99,

Louisa Belinda Bellflower wants to learn to ride a bike, but it is 1896 in New York, and girls are not supposed to ride bikes. Regardless, she convinces her brother Joe to teach her how, borrows a pair of his trousers, and stubbornly puts herself to the task of learning to ride a bike. Louisa Belinda sticks with it notwithstanding a slight fear that "bicycle face" could be a real thing and despite multiple falls. In the end, Belinda inspires her mother to sew a pair of pants for herself and take up the bicycle along with her daughter.

I love that this book uses riding a bike, something kids in the target range are likely to be fascinated by, to teach about a period in history where women in the United States didn't have as many opportunities as they do today. The book also carries the message of persistence and getting up again after you fall, quite literally. Not only that, but it portrays a wonderful example of a helpful and supportive, yet believable, sibling relationship. The story is simple and easy to follow.

The pictures were friendly and in a very cool way intertwined Louisa and Joe's adventure with the backdrop of the women's suffrage movement.

Following the story, historical facts regarding history of bicycling and how it related to the woman's suffrage movement were provided. The historical pictures and photographs provided caught my son's attention and had him asking me to read the details. He's five and said they were a little long, but were interesting. His favorite part was the story and the way Belinda Louisa inspired her mom to ride a bike at the end. However, the historical facts section did spark some discussion after reading. Slightly older kids may get even more out of this section.

I'm kind of a stickler about situations where kids keep secrets from their parents in books, TV, and movies. Louisa Belinda does state "she needn't know" when her brother asks what their mother will say about her daughter learning to ride a bike. However, the illustrations suggest that the mother is in fact very aware of her children's activities, as does her decision to take up biking as well. Kids may or may not pick up on that, however.

Dinosaur Thunder
Marion Dane Bauer
Margaret Chodos-Irvine, Illustrator
Scholastic Press
9780590452960, $16.99,

A storm is coming! Big brother Chad isn't scared; he's doing a dance. But little brother Brannon is terrified. One by one, the family tries to tell Brannon not to worry by tell him the thunder storm is nothing but cats purring, angels bowling, or clouds crashing. But none of these helps Brannon until his big brother gives it a try.

This is such a cute family story. The illustrations show a delightfully cozy family picture: parents, grandparents, and two brothers hanging out in a living room as a storm rolls in. Most kids can relate to being afraid of a thunderstorm at some point. And most parents know it is not always the easiest task to calm those little ones down when they are scared. I loved that while all the adults tried to help little Brannon, it was ultimately the big brother who knew just what to say. It has a great message about family, but perhaps especially about the special understanding between siblings.

The illustrations are bright and cartoonish, and quite unique. The book advises that they were "created using a variety of printmaking techniques and nontraditional materials, including textured wallpaper, vinyl fabric, plastic lace, and pencil erasers".

This is a wonderful choice for anyone with kiddos who don't like thunderstorms...but perhaps do like dinosaurs.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette?
Maria Semple
Little, Brown and Company
9780316415859, $7.99 pbk,

Bernadette lives in Seattle in a rundown old schoolhouse with her daughter, Bee, and husband, Elgie. When Bee decides to cash in her promised "trip to anywhere" for straight A's on her report card and selects Antarctica, things get interesting.

The first half of this book is told via a collection of emails, letters, articles, and other documents, and the second is a narrative that picks up where the paper trail leaves off. The letters and emails really drew me into the story and seamlessly wove a multifaceted unveiling of the rather mysterious Bernadette. The technique was used with perfect effect and allowed the big picture to come into focus little by little.

Themes of family, love, forgiveness, and finding your passion are delightfully told. I found myself on some level relating to Bernadette as a mom and rather antisocial character. It had me laughing and cringing in the best way. I took a while to finish this one, but that is only because it was my designated "car/pick up line book." Otherwise, it would have been a much faster read.

Definitely worth a read before seeing the movie.

There's a Spider in this Book!
Claire Freedman
Mike Byrne, Illustrator
Macmillan Children's Books
9781509830787, $9.99,

A cute little spider named Eric discloses all the intricacies of being a spider, including how it feels to be feared and chased. He recounts his attempts at being friendly, shares what it is like to be a spider, offers himself as an ideal pet, all while hiding on each page of the book.

This book found its way to our house from the tooth fairy who left it in exchange for a bottom front tooth! The spider theme lends it to a festive Halloween read, but it certainly isn't limited to that. Eric the spider is exceptionally charming and likeable from the start. Even as someone who doesn't particularly like spiders inside my house (at least where I can see them), I have to say I found this spider very endearing.

In a light way, the book offers kids a chance to put themselves in the shoes of a creature that is sometimes feared or disliked. Additionally, Eric can be found hiding on every page if the reader looks closely - which is a really fun way to keep the attention of even squirmy lap readers.

Jen E. Lis, Reviewer

John Burroughs' Bookshelf

Conspiracy Theories: Philosophers Connect the Dots
Richard Greene & Rachel Robison-Greene, editors
Open Court Publishing Company
70 East Lake Street, Suite 800, Chicago, IL 60601
9780812694796, $19.95, PB, 256pp,

Synopsis: Conspiracy theories have become a major element in modern opinion formation in this age of the internet and social media. From the theory that the killing of President Kennedy was masterminded by a powerful conspiracy, to the theory that 9/11 was an inside job, from the story that Barack Obama wasn't born in America, to the story that Donald Trump was a Russian asset, conspiracy theories have become a major element in opinion formation and an ever-present influence, sometimes open, sometimes hidden, on the daily headline news.

In "Conspiracy Theories: Philosophers Connect the Dots", philosophers of diverse backgrounds and persuasions focus their lenses on the phenomenon of the conspiracy theory, its psychological causes, its typical shape, and its political consequences.

Among the questions addressed are: What's the formula for designing a contagious conspiracy theory?; Where does conspiracy theorizing end and investigative reporting begin?; What can we learn about conspiracy theories from the three movie treatments of the Kennedy assassination (The Parallax View, JFK, and Interview with the Assassin)?; Does political powerlessness generate conspiracy theories?; Is conspiracy theorizing essentially an instinct that lies behind all belief in religion and all striving for a meaningful life?; Can we find conspiracy theories in all political movements for centuries past?; What are the most common types of fallacious reasoning that tend to support conspiracy theories?; Is there a psychological disorder at the root of conspiracy theories?; Why is the number of flat-earthers growing?

Critique: Thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Conspiracy Theories: Philosophers Connect the Dots" is a unique, timely, and collaborative study that is especially and unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library Contemporary Philosophy & Social Issues 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 "Conspiracy Theories: Philosophers Connect the Dots" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99).

Editorial Note: Richard Greene is Professor of Philosophy at Weber State University in Utah. He has edited or co-edited sixteen books on popular culture and philosophy, including Westworld and Philosophy: Mind Equals Blown with Joshua Heter, and with Rachel Robison-Greene, Twin Peaks and Philosophy: That's Damn Fine Philosophy! and American Horror Story and Philosophy: Life Is but a Nightmare.

Rachel Robison-Greene is the co-editor of numerous Philosophy and Popular Culture books, including The Handmaid's Tale and Philosophy: A Womb of One's Own, Mr. Robot and Philosophy: Beyond Good and Evil Corp, Orange Is the New Black and Philosophy: Last Exit from Litchfield, and Girls and Philosophy: This Book Isn't a Metaphor for Anything.

SQL QuickStart Guide
Walter Shields
ClydeBank Media LLC
9781945051234, $34.99, HC, 252pp,

Synopsis: SQL is the workhorse programming language that forms the backbone of modern data management and interpretation. Any database management professional will tell you that despite trendy data management languages that come and go, SQL remains the most widely used and most reliable to date, with no signs of stopping. In this comprehensive guide, experienced mentor and SQL expert Walter Shields draws on his considerable knowledge to make the topic of relational database management accessible, easy to understand, and highly actionable.

"SQL QuickStart Guide: The Simplified Beginner's Guide to Managing, Analyzing, and Manipulating Data With SQL" by Walter Shields (who is the owner of DataDecided, a Tableau-based data visualization company and SQL Training Wheels, a SQL training company) covers: The basic structure of databases--what they are, how they work, and how to successfully navigate them; How to use SQL to retrieve and understand data no matter the scale of a database (aided by numerous images and examples); The most important SQL queries, along with how and when to use them for best effect; Professional applications of SQL and how to "sell" your new SQL skills to your employer, along with other career-enhancing considerations.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "SQL QuickStart Guide" is an ideal and comprehensive introduction for anyone seeking to increase their job prospects and enhance their careers, as well as developers looking to expand their programming capabilities, or in general, for anyone wanting to take advantage of our inevitably data-driven future--even with no prior coding experience! While unreservedly recommended for community, corporate, college, and university library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "SQL QuickStart Guide" is also available in a paperback edition (9781945051753, $24.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

John Burroughs

Julie Summers' Bookshelf

Queer Cosmos
Colin Bedell
Cleis Press
101 Hudson Street, Suite 3705, Jersey City, New Jersey 07302
9781627782937, $18.95, PB, 360pp,

Synopsis: "Queer Cosmos: The Astrology of Queer Identities & Relationships" by Colin Bedell is a contemporary, fresh look into astrology, personal insight, and relationships for the LGBTQ+ community! Astrologer Colin Bedell from Cosmopolitan and has brought together fifteen years of research, client interviews, and astrological mastery to create a spiritual guide for not only resistance and resilience, but also personal insights and relationship compatibility.

Unpacking complex issues like shame and worthiness, "Queer Cosmos" explores Astrology as an antidote to feelings of hopelessness and provides language for authentic practices of self-expression. Leaving behind gender-normative pronouns and assumptions, Queer Cosmos explores more nuanced patterns of the archetypal energies expressed in queer experiences.

After all, the only way to forge deep, meaningful relationships is to first forge a relationship with yourself. Drawing on research from experts in the field like Dr. Harville Hendrix, Brene Brown, and Esther Perel, "Queer Cosmos" provide a practical relational theory that can empower readers to find successful and healthy relationships.

Critique: As informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Queer Cosmos: The Astrology of Queer Identities & Relationships" is a unique and extraordinary study that will be of immense interest to the LBGTQ community. While unreservedly recommended for community and academic library LBGTQ collections and Metaphysical Studies reading lists, it should be noted that "Queer Cosmos" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

Editorial Note: Colin Bedell is a gay Gemini Twin from Long Island. His website, was founded to explore queer identities and issues through the lens of universal spiritual themes and astrology. Colin is the weekly horoscope writer for, a monthly contributor to, and the author of A Little Bit of Astrology. He's currently serving as the vice president for the Long Island chapter of the astrological not-for-profit organization National Council for Geocosmic Research.

Full Circle: From Hollywood to Real Life and Back Again
Andrea Barber
Citadel Books
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21, New York, NY 10018-2522
9780806539881, $27.00, HC, 272pp,

Synopsis: When Kimmy Gibbler burst into the Tanners' home on Full House in 1987, audiences immediately connected with the confident and quirky pre-teen character, played by ten-year-old actress Andrea Barber. During an eight-season run on one of the most popular series of the '80s and '90s, Andrea came of age in front of millions. But she was as far removed from her character as a girl can get. The introverted young star was plagued with self-doubt, insecurities, and debilitating anxieties that left her questioning her identity after the show's cancellation. Andrea wouldn't return to the public eye until 2016, for Fuller House. So what happened in those intervening decades that Andrea jokingly calls "the lost years"?

For starters, Andrea never stopped working. But it was on a series of life-changing transitions: earning a college degree, then a Master's, building a career in international education, getting married, and starting a family. She also faced some unforeseeable transitions: navigating a sudden divorce after nearly twelve years of marriage, and second-guessing her capabilities as a single mother. But it was her devastating bout with post-partum anxiety and depression that derailed Andrea's life -- and became a crucial turning point.

"Full Circle: From Hollywood to Real Life and Back Again" is a raw, refreshingly honest look into the life of a celebrity who has never been fully comfortable in the spotlight. Here Andrea shares her deeply personal struggles with mental health in a way she has never done before. She opens up about fighting her way back and finding solace (while finding herself) all before her life came full circle with her costars and lifelong friends on Fuller House. Sharing her journey from child star, to champion of mental health, and back to stardom, Andrea writes in a way that feels like catching up with an old friend.

Critique: An inherently fascinating, impressively candid, exceptionally well written and detailed memoir, "Full Circle: From Hollywood to Real Life and Back Again" will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community and academic library Contemporary American Biography collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of the legions of Full House fans that "Full Circle" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.01).

Enough as You Are
Peggy Weber
Loyola Press
3441 North Ashland Avenue, Chicago, IL 60657
9780829447095, $13.95, PB, 136pp,

Synopsis: Peggy Weber has spent much of her life wondering, and doubting, if she is enough: smart enough, attractive enough, holy enough, impressive enough. She knows that she is not alone in having these feelings.

In "Enough as You Are: Overcoming Self-Doubt and Appreciating the Gift of You", Weber shares her experiences of doubting herself and discovering that she is enough; that we all are enough for God's love. Each chapter includes anecdotes and life lessons for readers, as well as some "Saintly Inspiration" to help us continue recognizing that we are enough. Each chapter also includes a guided Examen and practical ways to put this discovered truth of value into practice.

"Enough as You Are" is the perfect book for women searching to rediscover their own self-worth and tune out the voices of self-doubt and insecurity while tuning into the truth that we are all created and loved by God, and that is enough.

Critique: A life-changing, life-enhancing, inspired and inspiring read from first page to last, "Enough as You Are: Overcoming Self-Doubt and Appreciating the Gift of You" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to both community and college Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Enough as You Are" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.59).

Julie Summers

Katherine Kleffner's Bookshelf

Echoes of War (Book One in the Echoes Trilogy)
Cheryl Campbell
9781684630066, $16.95 PB, $8.69 Kindle, 400pp,

Dani has always thought she was a normal human living on an Earth under the rule of a genocidal faction of an alien race called Echoes who go by the title Wardens. She has managed to survive by scrounging for supplies and avoiding any military and the human-hunting Wardens. She is shocked to learn that she is not human, but rather an Echo she suddenly risks her own well-being for the sake of a young boy. Dani must examine her past and in doing this she realizes that she must fight to stop the Wardens from destroying the humans and the Echoes of Earth.

Echoes of War begins the sci-fi trilogy focused on an Earth where Wardens have reigned.
After learning that she has died and been reborn more than once, Dani has to cope with the knowledge that she is indeed an Echo with a near immortal lifespan. Through minor manipulation she had never realized how long she had lived and now she realizes that she will have to find a way to combine the forces of both the Commonwealth and the civilians in order to fight back.

This apocalyptic style story shows a destroyed world where anyone the Wardens want to eliminate and re-educate is in danger. Dani has been hiding and sneaking through the rubble of Earth to try and survive. When a chance encounter leads her to die, Dani returns with no memories of her life. As her brother explains everything to her, he reveals that she is unlike other Echoes who always remember their previous lives, like an echo. When her plan to unite over 80 percent of the population against the Wardens is accepted she thinks that they are set for their overthrow of the deadly forces that control them, she doesn't realize there are people she trusts acting against her. The fight will be anything but easy going forward.

Echoes of War spans not just one year, but over 15 in the course of Dani's fight to bring down the Wardens. As the events in the story ramp up the forces working against the Warden find themselves attacked and struggling to continue. They might technically outnumber them, but they still have a long way to go in order to be an effective and prepared force. As the battle rages Dani also realizes that elements of her past lives are slipping back into her memory.

This sci-fi story is full of surprises, not only with Dani, but with the other main characters who also find themselves having to alter their preconceived notions of each other and the plans they are making. The story within Echoes of War sets up an extended plan to retake Earth from the Wardens and shows a strong female character coping with a tremendous amount of new information. Dani fights no matter what is happening around her and once she knows her true identity she is ready to use it to her advantage. If you are a sci-fi fan this is a great read for you.

Katherine Kleffner, Reviewer
The Nerdy Girl Express

Kristi Elizabeth's Bookshelf

Wakes on the Alsea
Greg Starypan
Independently Published
9781093535488, $11.99 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 287pp,

If you've been looking for the next great suspense and mystery novel, this is it. Wakes on the Alsea has all of the elements of a great book. This book carries an interesting and complex cast of characters who are easy to keep track of through a plot that keeps the reader motivated to read all the way through to the end. In fact, the style of writing reminds me a lot of one of my favorite suspense novelists, Kerry Wilkinson.

Set in a small town in Oregon along the Alsea River, a young boy named Skid goes to live with his grandparents. He loves living with his grandparents although he is quiet in school and definitely not one of the popular kids. Fast-forward a few years and we meet the main character, Grady Riker. Grady is a sixty-one-year-old man who is a wildlife researcher and writer. He hangs out with his friend Dave who is the local mechanic. One day, Grady stumbles upon a body being eaten by vultures on his neighbor's property. Unknowingly, Grady gets sucked into the local mystery. The deceased is one of his neighbors and not the first casualty of what seems to be a serial killer.

The author does a great job of separating the two storylines only for the reader to wonder how they are connected. Are Skid and Grady related somehow? Do they meet up and solve the mystery together? As more people turn up dead, Grady becomes fearful of his own life as well as those of his friends and family. The local police have very little to go on and may actually think Grady is the serial killer.

This book has some great twists and turns in it and I'll admit I did not guess the ending. Grady is a very likable character which was refreshing. Usually, the main character makes dumb decisions putting them in harm's way. Grady is really level-headed despite all the beer that seemed to float around in this book. His best friend Dave is also a great character and I loved the part where Grady and Dave go to see Dave's grandma to see if she knows what Skid's birth name is. They have her use a recording device at a party she is going to to see if any of her friends know who Skid really is and it is adorable how she is ready to help out. Grady's nephew, Spencer, also plays a great role in the story and the relationship between them is heartwarming. The whole crew in this cast of characters are written like real people. Wakes on the Alsea is a fast-paced whodunnit that will have you reading it in one sitting.

Kristi Elizabeth, Reviewer
Seattle Book Review

Margaret Lane's Bookshelf

Domestic Occupations
Jessica Enoch
Southern Illinois University Press
1915 University Press Drive, SIUC Mail Code 6806, Carbondale, IL 62901
9780809337163, $40.00, PB, 260pp,

Synopsis: "Domestic Occupations: Spatial Rhetorics and Women's Work" by Professor Jessica Enoch is a feminist rhetorical history that explores women's complex and changing relationship to the home and how that affected their entry into the workplace.

"Domestic Occupations" examines the spatial rhetorics that defined the home in the mid- to late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and considers how its construction and reconstruction (from discursive description to physical composition) has greatly shaped women's efforts at taking on new kinds of work. In doing so, Professor Enoch exposes the ways dominant discourses regarding women's home life and work life (rhetorics that often assumed a white middle-class status) were complicated when differently raced, cultured, and classed women encountered them.

Professor Enoch also explores how three different groups of women workers (teachers, domestic scientists, and World War II factory employees) contended with the physical and ideological space of the home, examining how this everyday yet powerful space thwarted or enabled their financial and familial security as well as their intellectual engagements and work-related opportunities.

"Domestic Occupations" demonstrates a multimodal and multigenre research method for conducting spatio-rhetorical analysis that serves as a model for new kinds of thinking and new kinds of scholarship. This study adds historical depth and exigency to an important contemporary conversation in the public sphere about how women's ties to the home inflect their access to work and professional advancement.

Critique: A seminal work of original and meticulous scholarship, "Domestic Occupations: Spatial Rhetorics and Women's Work" is enhanced for academia with the inclusion of a twenty-eight page listing of Works Cited, six pages of Notes, and a thirteen page Index. While unreservedly recommended for college and university library collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist readers with an interest in the subject that "Domestic Occupations" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $38.00).

Editorial Note: Jessica Enoch, is an associate professor of English at the University of Maryland, the author of Refiguring Rhetorical Education: Women Teaching African American, Native American, and Chicano/a Students, 1865 - 1911 and a coeditor of both Burke in the Archives: Using the Past to Transform the Future of Burkean Studies and Mestiza Rhetorics: An Anthology of Mexicana Activism in the Spanish-Language Press, 1887-1922.

The Devil's in the Details
V. A. Christie
Atmosphere Press
9781646330843, $17.00, PB, 163pp,

Synopsis: "The Devil's In the Details" is artist VA Christie's debut short fiction collection, a series of stories stretching from sun-soaked San Diego to the bayous of Louisiana to other worlds, and showcasing a diverse cast of characters -- including a lost former detective desperate to find another missing person, a serial killer and his intended victims, an assassin, a scientist, and a madman.

In these original short stories each character struggles with circumstances both self-imposed and discovered. "The Wolves Of Chernobyl" uncovers the origin story of a werewolf and contemplates ecological destruction, while in "The Bull And The Blade" a modern Minotaur is sought in the labyrinthine streets of Pamplona, Spain. In the speculative "One More Time," "Copy That," and "Grand Mal," the human side of technological innovation is maintained alongside a world altered beyond recognition. And in the title story a group of astronauts on Mars receive an unexpected visitor capable of ensuring either their salvation or destruction.

Critique: Showcasing the author's impressive flair for originality and an inherently reader riveting, narrative driven narrative storytelling style, "The Devil's in the Details" is an exceptional and unreservedly recommended addition to community and academic library Contemporary Literary Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Devil's in the Details" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.19).

The Struggle to Be Strong
Al Desetta & Sybil Wolin, editors
Free Spirit Publishing
6325 Sandburg Road, Suite 100, Minneapolis, MN 55427-3674
9781575420790, $14.99, PB, 192pp,

Synopsis: Jamel loses his friends to marijuana; Artiqua dates a boy of another race despite her family's opposition. Youniqiue was abandoned by her mother; Charlene is raising her brothers and sisters because their mother is addicted to drugs; Craig is gay and worried about coming out. All of these teens have more than their share of troubles. And all have the resiliency needed to face them, live through them, and move forward with courage, confidence, and hope.

Comprised of 30 first-person accounts, "The Struggle to Be Strong: True Stories by Teens About Overcoming Tough Times" showcases teens telling other teens just how they overcame major life obstacles. Many aren't the everyday problems most kids encounter, which makes their stories especially compelling -- and their successes especially inspiring.

As teens read The Struggle to Be Strong, they discover they're not alone in facing life's difficulties. They learn about seven resiliencies (insight, independence, relationships, initiative, creativity, humor, and morality) that everyone needs to survive and thrive in even the toughest times. Vivid, articulate, and candid, "The Struggle to Be Strong" will motivate readers of all ages to build the skills and strengths they need to triumph over adversity.

Critique: Exceptionally well organized and presented, "The Struggle to Be Strong: True Stories by Teens About Overcoming Tough Times" is a potentially life changing, life enhancing, inspired and inspiring read that will prove to be an enduringly important addition to highschool, community library, counseling center, and academic library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Struggle to Be Strong" is also available in a digital book format.

Editorial Note: Counselors should be aware that there is very highly recommended instructional, "A Leader's Guide to The Struggle to Be Strong: How to Foster Resilience in Teens" also available from Free Spirit Publishing (9781575420806, $24.95, PB, 176pp).

The Adventures of Harry Stone
Larry Horowitz
Xlibris Corporation
9781796015119, $22.99, HC, 284pp,

Synopsis: Harry Stone is just an average kid, doing the best he can to keep out of trouble and do well in school. But life has other plans for him. He cannot sit idly by when others are being bullied or hurt in any way. With Rachel's help, Harry must overcome a terrible childhood tragedy that eventually lands him in a Juvenile Detention Center for five years.

It is there that he first starts seeing the cursed seven mysterious letters-in his dreams, in the clouds, even in his cereal. Eventually he finishes his time in JD and hooks up with Rachel again, who introduces him to her new friend, Sherman, the smartest teenager in the world, who just happens to go to her high school. The three of them work together to solve the mysterious jumbled letters, but fall short of realizing the true meaning.

Their common interest in Astronomy bands them together, and, with Sherman leading the way, they all get jobs at NASA and embark on a space mission that changes the course of mankind. Harry's wit and courage are stretched to the limit when they leave their galaxy and land on the evil planet of Glarb, ruled by values of deceit, torture, and technology. There, they are enslaved for life, which is usually not very long for slaves.

Fortunately, they find an ally in one of the animals on Glarb, the gifted Snurdles. But will it be enough to escape before they are all killed?

Critique: A truly entertaining saga of a science fiction novel for young readers by an author with an impressive talented for the kind of narrative storytelling that values originality and reader engagement from beginning to end, "The Adventures of Harry Stone" will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to school and community library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists the "The Adventures of Harry Stone" is also available in a paperback edition (9781796015102, $15.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99).

Editorial Note: The sequel, "The Continuing Adventures of Harry Stone" is now available!

Margaret Lane

Mari Carlson's Bookshelf

The Best That Can Happen: The Grand Trek
Kathleen Schmitt
Privately Published
9780998430508, $7.99, ebook

"I know that life dreams are not necessarily the same as adventures..." (254). In her creative nonfiction memoir, The Best That Can Happen: The Grand Trek, Kathleen Schmitt describes both her life's biggest adventure and her life's dream with candor, humor and wisdom.

After graduating from Georgetown, the author plans to ride from Virginia to California on horseback, with a protection dog by their side. She calls the trip an A.A., an Apparent Adventure, "contrived or pointless, or at least not to the point" (8). Rather than affecting some specific change or outcome, her journey reveals its purpose as it unfolds.

The narrative maintains a steady trot, despite the trip's setbacks and detours, in its varied styles. There are mini-stories, "rants," history lessons, insights into her relationships and feelings, all told in colloquial speech. She paints some scenes, however, in lyrical prose. For example, in Appalachia: "Dirty streaks flowed downhill from each cavity [mining shaft hole] like sooty pus running from open abscesses" (87). The pocked mountain is as dark and graphic as Mordor from the Lord of the Rings! Through keen observations at a close distance, she sets herself in a broader context.

Her travel companions are as important to the plot as her own development. The animals provide comic relief. Country Boy, her Boxer dog, acts more hurt than he is, Jack, a horse, needs practice being tethered, and Murphy, another horse, makes an escape. Besides being comedic, these animals become family. From dashing cowboys to blind farmers, strangers the author meets along the way also add colorful layers to the travelogue.

On a more serious note, a pivotal chapter comes towards the end, when the trip takes an unexpected turn. Reflective life lessons are offered. Far from glib, these conclusions come from how she approaches her adventures, not what her adventures are.

Funny, educational, and insightful, The Best That Can Happen dares anyone with a momentous goal to go ahead and try it.

Mari Carlson, Reviewer

Marj Charlier's Bookshelf

Normal People
Sally Rooney
Faber & Faber
9780571334643, $26.00, Hardcover, $12.99, Kindle, 266 pages

I'll have to admit something that doesn't sound very "literary" - or should I say, "scholarly." This is it: I love it when a "normal" novel is widely picked as a "top 10" or "one of the best novels of the year."

What I mean by "normal" is, basically, not "experimental." What I mean by "experimental" is a book that doesn't tell a narrative in the way I'm used to reading it - a story that has scenes and dialogue and action and characters and inner monologue - all the elements I came to expect in a novel by the time I was eight years old.

So, there. I'm old school. I'm not a literary genius or expert or a great writer of literature myself (although I do have an agent and a traditional publisher). I'm a reader. I love to read. I love to be told a good story. I love narrative fiction.

Normal People fits my definition of "normal" in spades. Its story is engaging, readable, well-paced, gripping and affective. (Yes, I mean "affective" not "effective.") (And I promise to stop with the quotation marks around words now.) The two main characters are flawed but worth loving, troubled but not crazy, intelligent but not stuffy.

Two teenagers meet in high school: one a popular athlete who feels uneasy about both his popularity and his friends; one a true misfit, an intelligent young woman who doesn't try to be popular or attractive (although, naturally, she is beautiful - the other kids just can't see it) and is bullied from the beginning by her classmates. Neither of them feels "normal" - whoops, there I go again! - and the novel explores the way people who feel out of place find each other and come to understand that there's nothing wrong with them. The two teens get together in the carnal sense while still high-schoolers, and although you can't call what they find love, it is certainly an undeniable attraction. Slowly, over the years, the two friends struggle to accept that what they feel for each other is good for fear that embracing it will destroy it.

The story reminded me of One Day by David Nicholls, but for one really important difference - the ending. Nicholls's book and the movie (he wrote the script as well) were also about a mismatched couple (again he ruggedly handsome and popular; she intellectual and emotionally fragile) who grow into each other. But that book and movie were widely criticized for what some critics called the post-Soprano's "don't give an audience what they want" craze. After a 20-year, one-day-at-a-time romance, the main female protagonist in One Day dies in a sudden, violent accident. This doesn't happen in Normal People, and I don't think knowing that will ruin the book for you. Its joy isn't really in how it ends, but how it gets there.

Because this book is easy to read and easy to like (the latter not so true of other prize winners like The Goldfinch, for example), I didn't expect it to be so highly regarded by the literary community. Yes, it's sweet and likable, its characters are recognizable and relatable, its storyline is straightforward and linear. So, what's so special?

Well, maybe that's what's so special about it.

Home for Erring and Outcast Girls
Julie Kibler
c/o Random House/Penguin Random House
9780451899332, $27.00, Hardcover, $13.99 Kindle

I very rarely don't finish a book - especially one that cost me $27 - but this is the one, the straw that broke the camel's back.

First a bit of a synopsis: This is a two-time-period historical novel about 1) a progressive home for unwed mothers and mother-to-be in Texas, based on a real place that existed at the beginning of the twentieth century, a time when unwed mothers were almost universally stripped of their babies and shamed into non-existence, and 2) a contemporary librarian who discovers the story of the home in the archives of the university library where she has taken a new job.

I love historical fiction, particularly when it's based on real people or a real event. This had great potential to be one I'd really love.

Then, I read this sentence very early on in the book: "My eyes fill with the sadness that overflows my heart." I'm not kidding. And this was supposedly from the contemporary woman's writing! And then, there was this one: "History has a way of catching up with you." Really? And this: "I thought I'd exhausted my well of tears alone in Angela's car, but it turns out I have more. They overflow the crater carved in my chest two decades ago, its depth fathomless, no matter how I empty it."

You'd think I would have had enough by then, right? But I kept trying, until I reached this gem: "Docie's eyes filled. She clung to Mattie when Lizzie wasn't there, but Lizzie didn't doubt Docie loved her best, just as Lizzie had loved her ma best, too, despite all she'd let happen. Her ma had done what she must to survive, and that was how it was for women."

Okay. Now I was done. I couldn't go on. Perhaps you find nothing wrong with those sentences, those first- and third-person expressions of emotions. But I would prefer hardcover books that I pay $27 for to be well-written and emotionally convincing. This one certainly was neither. (I see it is now only $11.99 on some sites; I should have waited, and I would have wasted $12 instead of $27!)

Further, like so many novels written by women and published with great fanfare by the large publishing houses these days, this book's promising premise turns out to be mainly a vehicle to carry a lesbian love story to a wider (wider than the lesbian community) audience. Like The Secrets We Kept and, most recently, The Sacraments, two other novels with tantalizingly interesting and worthy subjects, I got the feeling I'd been duped. I'm not a romance reader, and I don't like it when a book is sold as a treatment of a serious subject, but turns into a romance - whether lesbian, gay, trans or straight. I understand that publishers have decided to be more inclusive and are striving for greater diversity in both authorship and subject matter, but if every book has to be about a "diverse" relationship, diversity is lost. And in the process, some great stories that should be told are lost as well.

Deep State: Trump, the FBI, and the Rule of Law
James B. Stewart
Penguin Random House
9780525559108, $30.00, Hardcover, $15.99 Kindle, 331 pages

I will admit a bias upfront about this book. Actually, about its author.

I worked with James Stewart at the Wall Street Journal (before his current stint at the New York Times) in the early to mid-1990s. I was at the time a worker-bee reporter, working ever so dimly below the bright stars of the likes of James Stewart, Bryan Burroughs, John Helyar, Geraldine Brooks, and others.

What separated me from them was many things, but most of all, their dedication to and talent for reporting - that underappreciated, laborious, tedious at times, task of gathering facts. Interviewing people who don't want to talk, cultivating sources, discovering what people don't want anyone to know. It's hard, hard work. It's often done in the face of nasty and abusive opposition. Sometimes, it wins awards, but its true reward is in the act of uncovering truths itself.

No place is that talent for digging more evident than in Deep State, Stewart's deep dive into the Trump administration's cozy relationship with Russia, the FBI's efforts to track it, Trump's efforts to block investigations into it, all of which has brought us to the current battle in Congress over impeachment. I have followed the story obsessively over the past two years. Even so, as one who still believes in the rule of law, democracy, and the separation of powers, at times the front page of the newspaper is hard to look at, let alone read.

Still, this Russia debacle has so many tentacles, so many barely uncovered, half-told story lines that it's hard to follow without a playbook. And now we have one. Many times in the past couple of weeks, I've run to Stewart's book's index to refresh my memory about characters or events in the saga of the past three years.

It is astounding that Stewart gets so many people on record and makes such a readable, linear tale out of the labyrinth of the administration's conspiracy to undermine our democracy and link arms with Putin, one of the most despotic, cruel and abusive rulers of the modern era. And he does it without animus. He details in clear, unemotional and unsentimental prose the dates, times, places and characters of the story from James Comey's firing to William Barr's appointment and the start of Rudy Guiliani's meddling in affairs of state.

The only weakness in the tale isn't Stewart's fault: it is the very thing that has yet to come to light. What is it that has made Trump so beholden to Russia, its dictator, and its oligarchs? Why is he so willing to sell out our democracy and embrace our one-time (really, still) worst adversary on the global stage? That isn't here.

As we await the president's tax returns (nothing stays hidden forever, especially dirty secrets) and his financial records at Lazar's and Deutsche Bank, and more testimony in the impeachment process, we may figure this out.

When we do, the person I want to explain it all to me is James Stewart.

Marj Charlier, Reviewer

Marla Warren's Bookshelf

The Wonder of Now
Jamie Beck
Montlake Romance
9781542044325, $12.95 PB, $1.99 Kindle, 327pp,

With this third entry into Jamie Beck's Sanctuary Sound novels, The Wonder of Now is at turns both heart breaking and heart-warming and deals with very heavy subject matter with an obviously sure and steady hand.

The story begins with Peyton Prescott facing the next phase of her emotional journey. Following her battle with breast cancer, during which she allowed her brother to document and photograph her entire treatment, she is now facing the daunting task of embarking on a press tour of the book created by her and her brother. But there is so much more happening within Peyton.

Mitch, the publicist Peyton will be travelling with, has his own back-story, which causes him to be reserved, disciplined, and ambitious. He is concerned about maintaining his professionalism, but at the same time clearly has great respect and admiration for Peyton, what she has been through, and what she is trying to accomplish with her book.

With this completion of Peyton's story, Beck has brought a previously (and perhaps rightfully) vilified character through a fully redemptive arc. She is not the woman from the previous novels who stole her close friend's lover, and she is not the carefree travel blogger she once was.

And this is not a fluffy, lightweight romance. There is great depth in Beck's exploration of a cancer-survivor and how that fundamentally changes who Peyton is and how she thinks of everything in the world around her. Beck also guides the reader through the characters' motivations and thoughts, and never just their actions. We know why Peyton reacts a certain way to something Mitch says (for example), and like adults, they then are able to talk about how they feel about something.

While it is fun to read about all the foreign cities that Peyton and Mitch travel to, and all the locations are amazingly and vividly described, it is the characters and Beck's masterful hand at writing such genuinely human characters that keep readers returning to her novels. They are raw and real, and they are flawed in the same way that every reader has experienced in his or her own life.

Maybe it is a very bold statement, but everything that one may think they hate about "romance novels" can be undone with books by Jamie Beck. The Wonder of Now is emotional, it is uplifting, it is heart-breaking, but ultimately shows the reader the best of humanity in a heartfelt story.

The Wonder of Now is available from Amazon, Book Depository, and other good book retailers. "The Wonder of Now" is also available in a large print edition with a library binding (Center Point Publishing, 9781643585376, $36.95, 500pp).

Marla Warren

Matthew McCarty's Bookshelf

Never Settle: Sports, Family, and The American Soul
Marty Smith
Twelve Books
c/o Hachette Book Group
9781538732991, $28.00, 257 pgs

There are not many books that allow this reviewer to reminisce fondly about growing up in Southwest Virginia. There are also not many books that can combine sports, leadership, and truly memorable and personal moments like Marty Smith's new book, Never Settle: Sports, Family, and The American Soul, (New York: Twelve Books, 2019, xvi, 257 pgs, $28. $36.50, Can.). Life in Southwest Virginia and rural Appalachia can often be viewed in a negative light because of homespun and folksy traditions, traditional values, and a much slower pace to every day events. Marty does a great job chronicling those traditions and values and bringing the reader back home to that much needed slower pace.

I grew up in Dickenson County, Virginia. Marty mentions going to Haysi to play football. My wife attending Haysi High School, graduating in 1993. My dad taught and coached football at Haysi for decades. I may have been at Haysi the day that Marty and the Giles Spartans came to town. Marty's writing about his high school years brought back echoes of my high school years at Ervinton High School. Marty's book is a treasure to read and a roadmap to navigating life through sports and rural America.

Never Settle is also a great lesson in leadership and honesty through chats with some of the leaders of sports in America. Nick Saban, the head coach at the University of Alabama, is always a topic of conversation here in Pulaski, Virginia, where i live now, because of his close history with legendary coach Joel Hicks. This book brings Saban's ideas and philosophy to life in a great way that is truly enjoyable. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading about life and sports and who enjoys reading about small town America and its' vanishing station in American life. Never Settle should be given a central space on your shelf of must read and enjoyable books.

Matthew McCarty

Michael Carson's Bookshelf

Unearthing the Family of Alexander the Great
David Grant
Pen & Sword Books
c/o Casemate (distribution)
9781526763433, $42.95, HC, 360pp,

Synopsis: In October 336 BC, statues of the twelve Olympian Gods were paraded through the ancient capital of Macedon. Following them was a thirteenth, a statue of King Philip II who was deifying himself in front of the Greek world. Moments later Philip was stabbed to death; it was a world-shaking event that heralded in the reign of his son, Alexander the Great.

Equally driven by a heroic lineage stretching back to gods and heroes, Alexander conquered the Persian Empire in eleven years but died mysteriously in Babylon. Some 2,300 years later, a cluster of subterranean tombs were unearthed in northern Greece containing the remains of the Macedonian royal line.

"Unearthing the Family of Alexander the Great: The Remarkable Discovery of the Royal Tombs of Macedon" by David Grant is the remarkable story of the quest to identify the family of Alexander the Great and the dynasty that changed the Graeco-Persian world forever.

Written in close cooperation with the investigating archaeologists, anthropologists, and scientists, "Unearthing the Family of Alexander the Great" presents the revelations, mysteries and controversies in a charming, accessible style. Is this really the tomb of Philip II, Alexander's father? And of special note is the question of who was the warrior woman buried with weapons and armor beside him?

Critique; Reading with all the innate and iconoclastic dramatic flair of a well scripted novel, "Unearthing the Family of Alexander the Great: The Remarkable Discovery of the Royal Tombs of Macedon" is an extraordinary story of modern archaeology. Enhanced throughout with thematically relevant illustrations, and enhanced for academia with the inclusion of an informative Postscript, forty-two pages of Notes, a twelve page Bibliography, and an eighteen page Index, "Unearthing the Family of Alexander the Great" is especially and unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library History of Archaeology collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, history buffs, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject of a man who once ruled most of the known world that "Unearthing the Family of Alexander the Great" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $19.99).

Editorial Note: David Grant has a masters degree in ancient history. He is responsible for a number of international patents stemming from ideas that set out to challenge the status quo in one way or another, life experience which gave him his academic tenets: always challenge accepted norms, the past is never dead, and believe what you read at your peril. Unsurprisingly, his first 917-page on Alexander the Great book set out to question and contest the 'standard model' of the Macedonian king. His controversial questioning and reconstruction of ancient events extends into this new book on the mysteries of the royal Macedonian tombs.

Brooklyn to Baghdad
Christopher Strom
Chicago Review Press
814 North Franklin Street, Chicago, IL 60610
9781641601023, $27.99, HC, 288pp,

Synopsis: Brooklyn to Baghdad is the true story of Christopher Strom, a retired NYPD intelligence sergeant who applied his street-cop tactics and interrogation skills against a lethal insurgency that had infected Iraq.

A group of retired Special Forces soldiers and law enforcement experts came together to form the counterinsurgency group code named "Phoenix Team". Exposing the corruption of both the Iraqi and US governments, the team faced serious setbacks and challenges.

"Brooklyn to Baghdad: An NYPD Intelligence Cop Fights Terror in Iraq" reveals the effectiveness of Phoenix Team, their ability to process forensic evidence and human intelligence gleaned through interrogations at the point of capture to provide direct targeting for follow-on missions.

This unique memoir also illustrates the politics of Washington, DC, and the US Army in the war-fighting effort, which continually hampered complete success while simultaneously preserving career aspirations. Throughout are many humorous and emotional anecdotes that reveal the men behind the missions and the toll the theater of war takes on real human lives.

Critique: An inherently fascinating, even riveting read from cover to cover, "Brooklyn to Baghdad: An NYPD Intelligence Cop Fights Terror in Iraq" is an extraordinary and impressively informative memoir which is unreservedly recommended to the attention of anyone with an interest in military law enforcement in general, and the Iraqi theatre of war in particular. While especially recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Brooklyn to Baghdad" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $18.99).

Editorial Note: Chris Strom is a former US Marine and retired sergeant with the NYPD Intelligence Division. In October 2007, Chris was recruited by the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO), a government agency that devised top-secret strategies for combating IEDs in Iraq and Afghanistan. As the lead tactical debriefing officer, he participated in over 110 combat missions and 91 captures of high-value targets (HVTs) in southern Iraq and performed more than 200 battlefield interrogations.

Michael J. Carson

Patricia Elwood's Bookshelf

Circling to the Center: Invitation to Silent Prayer
Susan M. Tiberghien
Chiron Publications
9781630517410 hardcover; $32.00
9781630517427 ebook $9.99
9781630517403 paperback; $16.95, 166pp,

Susan Tiberghien pulls words from silence. She invites the reader onto the path of silent prayer to the bedrock of the Self, to the spheres beyond the ego where the unknowable lies. She presents a refreshing and profound approach with an irresistible resonance of authenticity. This book offers what every soul is yearning for: her own path to silence and all that lies there. A must for every seeker of the deeper Self.

Editorial Note: Reviewer Patricia Elwood is a Jungian Analyst, and the author of "A Jungian Approach to Spontaneous Drawing, A Window on the Soul".

Patricia Elwood

Rachel Jagareski's Bookshelf

Solar Dividends
Robert Stayton
Sandstone Publishing
9780990479239, $12.95 PB, $5.99 Kindle, 144pp,

Robert Stayton's Solar Dividends: How Solar Energy Can Generate a Basic Income For Everyone on Earth is a blueprint for tackling multiple pressing social and environmental problems.

Bold in envisioning a phased solar panel build-out this century, the book proposes that dividends be paid to each person who builds them, guaranteeing a universal basic income. Such a plan would confront global poverty, income inequality, and global warming while also providing sustainable clean energy.

The text first outlines how solar dividends might work, using the illustration of a hypothetical individual living in the year 2099, whose world had addressed an energy crisis in 2025. This imaginative exercise is an effective device that makes the book's ideas more concrete and personal.

After the central characters expectant parents registered him with the local solar co-op, the example goes, the co-op would install dedicated solar panels to generate electricity for the utility grid. By the time such a person were four years old, their personal Solar Fund would be earning projected modest dividends, to be paid out on their eighteenth birthday, with further dividends generated after.

Such a modest base income, the book suggests, would allow for college tuition, family care, and supplementary income. This is visionary work that extends its imagination to suggestions for growing food, alternative jobs, and rural and urban replication across the globe.

This unique and fascinating proposal is explained in clear terms. However, it hinges on wide social acceptance of its central notions, including that energy is an essential commodity and that clean, renewable energy is worth paying more for. Even if such a plan were gradually phased in, it is hard to envision politicians, fossil fuel interests, utility companies, and energy consumers abandoning cheap energy without resistance.

The book's logic and numerical support, which are fleshed out in fine detail in the book's second half and its appendices, are compelling. Its model is supported by direct language and extensive documentation. The outlined suggestions are appealing in their promise of fair incomes and equitable distribution of resources, and the book leaves little doubt as to the inevitability of needing more sustainable sources of energy. It only falters in glossing over the fact that human beings tend to be illogical when making long-term decisions. Discussions of how policymakers and activists might avoid the tragedy of the commons are absent.

Built upon research and nuance, Solar Dividends is a powerful, valuable proposal for tackling energy and resource scarcity, pollution, income inequality, and environmental stresses.

Rachel Jagareski, Reviewr
Foreword Clarion Reviews

Robin Friedman's Bookshelf

"Lee is Trapped and Must be Taken": Eleven Faithful Days After Gettysburg: July 4 -- 14, 1863
Thomas J. Ryan and Richard R. Schaus
Savas Beatie
9781611214598, $32.95

The Eleven Days After Gettysburg

Following the defeat at the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1 -- July 3, 1863) , Robert E. Lee, the commander of the Army of Northern Virginia determined on a retreat. Retreats are always hazardous, and the retreat from Gettysburg was particularly so. Lee's army was far from its base and had to travel over 40 miles to reach the Potomac River and cross over into Virginia. Lee was handicapped by his long trains, the condition of his army, and by foul weather. The Potomac River had swollen and Lee was unable to cross. He faced an attack from the Union Army with his back to the river. With all the difficulties, Lee managed to cross to the south bank of the Potomac on July 14, 1863, bringing his army to safety.

From the conclusion of the retreat to the present, there has been controversy about the retreat. Broadly, the issue is whether the Union Army of the Potomac and its commanding general, George Meade, were as aggressive as they should have been in cutting Lee off and forcing him to fight north of the Potomac. President Lincoln, for one, was notably displeased because he thought that Meade had allowed Lee's army to escape.

A great deal has been written about Gettysburg and there is much to learn. In broad accounts of the battle, the retreat usually only gets a brief treatment at the end of the book. Fortunately, in recent years, the Gettysburg retreat has received considerable attention, and there are at least three excellent book-length studies each of which offers its own perspective on the battle and on the retreat.

In 2005, Kent Masterson Brown wrote "Retreat from Gettysburg: Lee, Logistics, and the Pennsylvania Campaign". This study focused on the Southern war aims in invading Pennsylvania and found that these aims were in part realized even with the defeat at Gettysburg. Brown offered a careful analysis of the retreat and of the factors which inhibited the Union pursuit and the options available to Meade to cut the Confederate army off.

In 2008, Eric Wittenberg, J. David Petruzzi, and Michael F. Nugent wrote "One Continuous Fight: The Retreat from Gettysburg and the Pursuit of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, July 4 -- 14, 1863". The authors wrote to dispel the myth that Lee's retreat was uncontested by emphasizing the extent of the fighting during Meade's pursuit. The authors have a particular interest in cavalry and emphasized the role of the competing troopers, North and South. The book described the military action on the retreat in commendable detail.

The third new book on the retreat is the work under review, "Lee is Trapped and Must be Taken" Eleven Faithful Days after Gettysburg, July 4-- 14, 1863" by Thomas Ryan and Richard Schaus. Both authors have long experience in military intelligence, and Ryan has written an award-winning book, "Spies, Secrets, and Scouts in the Gettysburg Campaign" as a predecessor to this volume. Their new book focuses on the gathering and use of intelligence by the two armies during the Gettysburg retreat and pursuit. In particular, the book discusses the intelligence gathered by the Army of the Potomac's Bureau of Military Information (BMI) during the retreat and the use or misuse the Union army made of it.

The book evidences a great deal of research, some of which has not been used before in any study, and offers a good detailed study of the retreat. The book is organized on a day-by-day basis which allows the reader to follow the frequently confusing events. The work begins with an excellent short opening chapter on the Battle of Gettysburg itself and concludes with materials showing responses in the retreat's immediate aftermath and with a chapter showing how other scholars have viewed the retreat. In addition to discussing intelligence gathering and use, the book discusses the political context of the retreat as President Lincoln and General in Chief Halleck followed the unfolding events with dismay. Lincoln was chagrined throughout with Meade's pursuit and with Lee's escape. Ryan and Schaus also bring in materials sometimes overlooked in studying the retreat. They study the fate of the many Union prisoners and they also return back to Gettysburg to consider the treatment of the wounded in the aftermath of the battle. The book includes good maps for each day of the retreat which help in the understanding of the text.

There is a great deal to like in this book for readers interested in Gettysburg and in military intelligence. Although I learned a great deal, I found much of this study unconvincing. The thrust of the book is that General Meade was too slow, unimaginative, and lackadaisical in his pursuit, thus allowing Lee to escape. The authors give Meade credit for his success as a defensive commander at Gettysburg, after only three days in charge of the Army of the Potomac. But they find that Meade did not understand the purpose of the retreat -- to cut off and cripple the enemy army rather than simply forcing it from Northern soil. The authors find Meade at virtually every turn overly cautious. In places, they recognize the difficulty of a frontal attack on the Confederate positions. But they offer alternatives to a frontal attack that they find were known and available to Meade and not pursued.

This type of criticism of Meade is not new, of course, but it has not been an uncontested view. I wasn't convinced, and the use of BMI reports didn't make me think differently. Broadly, Meade had to look to the condition of his own exhausted army and the need to resupply it from a distant base. His army had been through a great deal, and the rainy weather hampered his pursuit at Gettysburg at least as much as it hampered Lee. Meade's pursuit options were limited because he was under orders to protect Washington, D.C as well as to attack and cut off Lee. The decision to delay in attacking the Confederate's strongly fortified position at Williamsport was probably correct, even on the authors' account given the strength of the Confederate position. It isn't clear that the alternatives the book suggests would have fared better.

There are some broader factors in evaluating Meade's actions that the book doesn't consider adequately. Pursuits of defeated armies in the Civil War, such as at Antietam, Manassas, Chickamauga, Shiloh, and other battles rarely were able to inflict substantial additional damage. Meade's pursuit was more aggressive than the pursuits following other major battles. In addition, the Civil War before, during and after Gettysburg is replete with instances showing the hazards of a frontal attack on an entrenched position. Meade made, in the view of many, a reasonable and probably correct choice in not attacking at Williamsport. The two earlier books on the retreat both take a far more measured and cautious approach to Meade's leadership than does this book. The authors of "One Continuous Fight" are cautiously critical of Meade in places but devote most of their criticism to the deployment of the Union cavalry. In sum, I think this book is overly harsh and polemical against General Meade at virtually every point. A more balanced perspective would have been welcome and appropriate.

One of the values of reading history is to understand and consider multiple accounts of the same events. It is important to learn perspective, whether the subject is military, political, or social history. Thus, I found it valuable to read and learn from the three recent book length studies of the Gettysburg retreat, each of which has its own perspective and its own virtues. I was not convinced by Ryan's and Schaus' treatment of Meade, but I enjoyed thinking again about Gettysburg and the retreat. The publisher, Savas Beatie, kindly sent me a review copy of this book.

One Continuous Fight: The Retreat from Gettysburg and the Pursuit of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, July 4 -- 14, 1863
Michael Nugent, J. David Petruzzi, Eric J. Wittenberg
Savas Beatie
9781611210767, $22.95

The Fighting Retreat From Gettysburg

For many years, there were few full-length studies of the retreat of the Army of Northern Virginia following its defeat at the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1 -- July 3, 1863). But two outstanding books have recently been written to fill this gap. In 2005, Kent Masterson Brown published his "Retreat from Gettyburg." Brown's book focuses on the logistics of the retreat and on how Lee was able to mask his intentions, slowing Meade's pursuit. It also views Lee's goal in the Gettysburg campaign as primarily a raid -- an attempt by the Army of Northern Virginia to secure needed foodstuffs and other goods from Northern soil. With that objective in mind, Brown discusses the retreat after the Battle of Gettysburg, and implicitly the battle itself, in the context of the entire campaign. He finds that the campaign partially met its objectives.

I was eager to learn more about the retreat after reading Brown. His book has been followed by a new (2008) study of the retreat: "One Continuous Fight" by three noted students of the Civil War: Eric Wittenberg, David Petruzzi, and Michael Nugent. (hereafter "Wittenberg") Wittenberg and his coauthors have written extensively on Gettysburg and they have focused on the role of the cavalry. This focus on cavalry operations is critical in understanding the retreat.

Wittenberg and his co-authors give a detailed tactical study of the retreat from both Union and Confederate perspectives. They offer a detailed military discussion of the over 20 engagements that occurred between the beginning of Lee's retreat on July 4,1863, and Lee's crossing over into Virginia on July 14. The book includes many stories, quotes and anecdotes from and about participants on both sides of the line. "One Continuous Fight" is an excellent study in its own right of the retreat and a worthy complement to Brown.

Many people think, when they consider the retreat, of Meade's alleged failure to pursue Lee's army. The title of this book "One Continuous Fight" should dispel that misapprehension. Wittenberg shows that there was continuous and severe fighting throughout the retreat. He describes in detail the engagements at Monterey Pass, Hagerstown, Boonsborough, and Funkstown, among other engagements. He also describes the fighting at Williamsport when on July 6, Confederate General Imboden led a heroic defense by his wounded soldiers and teamsters against a Union cavalry attack. The book offers detailed descriptions of the movements of the armies and of the results of little-studied battles.

Wittenberg gives a full picture of the strong defenses Lee constructed at Williamsport in the face of the flooded Potomac River which hindered his crossing. For three days, Meade and the Union Army failed to attack the position. When Meade at length wanted to attack on July 14, Lee's army had slipped away into the night. The hazardous crossings at Williamsport and Falling Waters are described in full detail.

The major issue surrounding the retreat is whether Meade could have done more in stopping Lee, won another victory, and perhaps ended the war. Wittenberg's study shows the complexity of this question, which in fact folds several discrete issues into one. Meade would have taken an enormous risk by attacking the fortified Confederate position at Williamsport with his exhausted and ill-provided army. His decisions to refrain from attack until the Confederate position had been fully reconnoitered was probably sound. But the Union pursuit of Lee, Wittenberg argues, was flawed in several respects. He is somewhat critical of Meade but places most of the responsibility on Meade's cavalry chief, Pleasonton, for dividing his forces and not following the retreating Army in an aggressive, coordinated manner. In contrast, the individual cavalry commanders for the Union, especially Buford, get high marks for their efforts during the retreat as do Stuart, Imboden, and, generally, the entire Confederate cavalry. Lee's conduct of the retreat receives high praise.

Unlike Brown's study, Wittenberg's book gives little attention to the goods the Confederates carried back with them to Virginia. In fact, with Wittenberg's emphasis on the privations of the retreat, he doesn't seem to think the goods secured through foraging were a factor. Wittenberg also, in contrast to Brown, sees the Gettysburg campaign as a dismal failure for the Confederacy in terms of loss of life and loss of leadership. Overall, the impression is that Lee was fortunate to get away, and that the supplies of food he may have carried with him were of scant consolation for the large military defeat at Gettysburg.

This book is clearly written with good portrayals of the complex fighting. It offers good maps and includes two lengthy driving tours, one for the route followed by Imboden and his train of Confederate wounded, the other for the route followed by Lee's army. This book will appeal to serious students of the Civil War with a good background knowledge of the Battle of Gettysburg and the Gettysburg campaign.

Retreat from Gettysburg: Lee, Logistics, and the Pennsylvania Campaign (Civil War America)
Kent Masterson Brown
The University of North Carolina Press
9780807829219, $26.95

An Important Study Of Gettysburg And Its Aftermath

Kent Masterson Brown's "Retreat from Gettysburg" (2005) has been justly praised as the first full-length study of the Army of Northern Virginia as it withdrew from Gettysburg following the failure of "Pickett's Charge" on July 3, 1863, crossed South Mountain, and succeeded in crossing the Potomac River on July 14, 1863. Most histories of the battle devote only a few anti-climactic pages to the retreat and tell the story from the standpoint of General Meade and the Army of the Potomac. These books then either praise or criticize Meade to varying degrees for not being more aggressive in attacking Lee's army. As is well known, President Lincoln was highly critical of Meade and believed that a further attack could have severely crippled the Army of Northern Virginia and perhaps ended the War.

But Brown's study not only tells a detailed story of the retreat, it offers as well a somewhat different account of Lee's Pennsylvania campaign than that offered in recent studies. The books on the Battle of Gettysburg by Sears and Trudeau, for example, explain the Pennsylvania campaign as an attempt by Lee to win a major victory, to fight a battle for the annihilation of the Army of the Potomac, and thus to bring the war to an end. Brown argues that the primary focus of the campaign was different. He sees it primarily as a large-scale raid in which the Army of Northern Virginia invaded Northern soil to secure food for the troops, forage for the horses and mules, and essential supplies for the Army. Southern soil had been decimated by two years of heavy fighting, and the Confederacy lacked an adequate supply system to keep the army moving. Thus Lee wanted to tap the rich, untouched soil of Pennsylvania for supplies to keep his Army a fighting force.

And forage Lee's army did. Brown has unearthed and utilized a vast array of documentary evidence showing the extent of southern foraging. The foraging of food, supplies, and clothing began when the vanguard of the Army of Northern Virginia crossed the Potomac and proceeded with great force during the two weeks portions of Lee's Army spent unopposed in Pennsylvania before the Battle of Gettysburg. The foraging and gathering continued during the battle and, indeed, during the long retreat. The retreat was difficult in part because the Army of Northern Virginia had thousands of wagons which formed a train extending for 50 miles as it crossed the mountains. These wagons had to be protected, no less than the troops, to keep the army together. There were some losses to Union cavalry but on the whole Lee and his army managed to get the goods they took in Pennsylvania across the Potomac and to make use of them to alleviate pressure on Southern soil and transportation systems.

For Brown, the Battle of Gettysburg was a serious tactical loss for the Confederacy, resulting in a defeat and in the loss of men that could not be replaced. But he argues that the Pennsylvania campaign had a strategically more ambiguous result because Lee achieved many of his objectives. His army spent much of the summer in Pennsylvania and took the food, the beef, the horses, and the supplies that were a prime objective of the campaign. Brown concludes that "Gettysburg cannot be viewed as the turning point of the Civil War or even a turning point of the eastern theater of war after Lee's remarkable retreat." (p. 390, citing the work of Gary Gallagher who has taken a similar view of the aftermath of the battle.)

The story of the retreat itself is told with remarkable detail and clarity. Brown gives the reader a full picture of Lee, Stuart, Imboden, Pettigrew, and many lesser-known leaders in the Army of Northern Virginia that played essential roles in the long, difficult retreat through the mud and the mountains, most of it in driving rain. There are closely-drawn pictures of the many ill and wounded soldiers in the Army of Northern Virginia and of the African-Americans, slave and some free, who accompanied and provided essential services to Lee's army. The maps in the book are well-chosen, clear, and illuminating. The book is also graced with many rare photographs and drawings.

Brown gives the reader the retreat almost exclusively from the Southern standpoint -- by following the Southern army -- but this hasn't been done before for the retreat. It deepens the reader's understanding of the campaign and of the army. I understood better after reading this account why General Meade had to hesitate in his pursuit -- he was unsure of Lee's intentions and the condition of his own army and supply system demanded attention -- and why Meade was probably correct in not attacking the strong southern defenses at Williamsport. Still, the Army of Northern Virginia was highly vulnerable to attack during the evening of July 13 early on July 14 while it was crossing the Potomac. The Union cavalry mounted a strong late attack at this point, resulting in the death of Southern General Pettigrew. Possibly a more effective reconnaissance and a stronger Union infantry presence during the crossing could have inflicted greater damage.

Brown has written a thoughtful and well-documented history of the retreat from Gettysburg and of the Pennsylvania campaign that has much to teach the serious student of the battle and of the Civil War.

Robin Friedman

Ryan Winn's Bookshelf

Copper Yearning
Kimberly Blaeser
Holy Cow! Press
9781513645612, $18.00, PB, 158pp,

Copper Yearning by Kimberly Blaeser is a poetry collection that reminds us of the wonders of the natural environment and what it means to be a human living amongst them. Equally fluent in poetic stylings and cathartic crescendos, the White Earth Anishinaabe writer immerses her readers in a world where English and Anishinaabemowin comingle, inviting us to think about the depth in bodies of water, the ache felt for those who've passed on, the necessity of protecting treaty rights against the invaders at Standing Rock, and the sweet kinship one finds in eating gas station junk food while on a long road trip. Blaeser is a multifaceted artist, and within the covers of this collection is all the evidence one needs to affirm why the former Poet Laureate of Wisconsin is one of the most interesting and lyrically gifted Native poets publishing today.

Ryan Winn

Stephen Jenkins' Bookshelf

A Covert Action: Reagan, the CIA, and the Cold War Struggle in Poland
Seth G Jones
W.W. Norton and Company
9780393247008, $17.79

In December of 1981, the polish government cut telephone lines, closed the border and eventually declared martial law. This book details the subsequent operations of the United States Central Intelligence Agency, describing how the agency helped the Polish solidarity movement achieve a landmark victory for democracy. It is based on in depth interviews and declassified evidence.

I enjoyed this book and learned a lot from it. Especially enlightening was reading about the role that the Catholic Church played in the Solidarity movement. It was also inspiring to read about the important role that solidarity played in the early days of democracy movements in Europe. I would recommend it to history lovers of all types.

Stephen Jenkins

Suanne Schafer's Bookshelf

All That's Bright and Gone
Eliza Vellums
Crooked Lane Books
9781643852379, $26.99

All That's Bright and Gone by Eliza Nellums was released on December 10, 2019. This book deals with love, secrets, family, mental illness, and the potential of inheriting mental illness. Six-year-old Aoife navigates life against the backdrop of major family predicaments. Her mother is institutionalized after nearly causing an automobile accident because she has a mental break while driving. Aoife's older brother, Theo, is dead. Aoife tries to solve family secrets with the help of an imaginary bear names Teddy.

The tone throughout the story is childlike, told from Aoife's point of view. yet astute. Her childlike innocence and concrete thoughts are evident even during family crises. At times, the vocabulary is at odds with that of the usual six year old's range, i.e. a bit too sophisticated, but otherwise author Eliza Nellums captures a child's voice, mental processes, and the concrete thoughts children are prone to, like Aoife believing her mother when Aoife is told she was found in a cabbage patch. The reader is fully engaged in Aoife's point of view as Nellums pulls the reader into the world of this child while she searches for the truth about her dead brother. The ending is surprising, yet wholly believable.

Double-Crossing the Bridge
Sarah J. Sover
Independently Published
9781087064826, $15.99

If you ever wanted a story about the Underworld, filled with trolls and other monsters, Double-Crossing the Bridge is for you. Sarah J. Sover's debut successfully blends an Ocean's Eleven-type heist with sheer fantasy with high Monty-Python quality wildly-hysterical humor. The book works on so many levels. The humor ranges from gross-out moments a teenage-boy would find funny (such as Anal Gland Cologne) to droll word-play to Wiley-Coyote-esque stunts. The world-building is sublime (despite the grodiness of the characters) down to details such as troll bar food (fried fairy wings, unicorn testes aphrodisiac, and infant spines). The plot is that of the typical heist, but the twists and turns that follow are unique. In the midst of the hilarity, Sover manages to comment with satirical accuracy on such topics as unemployment and discrimination prevalent in modern society, while lacing in pop culture references like "Make the Bridge Great Again." I can totally envision this as a not-Disney feature-length animation.

Everything Here Is Beautiful
Mira T. Lee
Penguin Books
9780735221970, $16.00

Everything Here Is Beautiful is Mira T. Lee's debut novel, and a very sophisticated one it is. In the back of her book, there's an interview with her in which she describes how she didn't want to write about mental illness per se, but about relationships and how they are affected by mental illness. She does an admirable job with her goal. Miranda, the older sister, has always looked after her little sister, Lucia, from the moment of the youngest sister's birth. They are immigrants from China, the mother coming to the States after the death of her husband in an automobile accident.

With Lucia's first nervous breakdown she is diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. Tension escalates between the two closely-knit sisters. If Lucia goes off her medication, she faces another breakdown. Miranda, inherently a care-giver, feels she must swoop down and fix everything. Lucia resents her sister's efforts to force Lucia to take her medications and views Miranda as both patronizing and controlling.

Lucia's illness impacts not only Miranda, but Lucia's two great loves, one an older Jewish immigrant, and the other a young Ecuadorian immigrant with whom she has a daughter. Readers constantly await the falling of the other shoe - when will Lucia have another breakdown. The novel is told from multiple points of view: Lucia, Miranda, and the two lovers. I also enjoyed the international backdrop of this novel as it moves from New York City, to the Swiss Alps, to the Ecuadorian campo, to Minnesota.

Raquel Rich
Independently Published
9781947072923, $15.99

Hamartia successfully blends time travel with reincarnation with the interesting concept that souls can be harvested. In the futuristic city of Hamartia, Grace Dartmouth learns that her nine-year-old son is afflicted with metagenesis, a disease in which a human's soul is gradually leached from its body, leaving the body to die. To save Jordon, she journeys to circa 2000 Las Vegas to harvest the soul of her soulmate to implant into her son. There, she intersects with familiar souls hidden in new-to-her bodies. It's a quick read as I was sucked right into the novel and hesitated to put the book down. The plot has numerous twists and turns, only one of which did I figure out in advance. Time travel and its consequences as well as the consequences of harvesting souls is explained in such a logical way that I was able to suspend disbelief. The world-building is excellent, too, and show clearly the difference between housing, transportation, etc, between 2000 Las Vegas and the future. The characters are well-developed and unique.

Past This Point
Nicole Mabry
Red Adept Publishing, LLC
9781948051330, $15.99

I read this book because I'd heard that it was apocalyptic fiction from a woman's point of view, which seems to be relatively rare. I enjoyed it thoroughly. As a physician, I've been trained to anticipate influenza epidemics and pandemics. The medical aspects were plausible enough that I could suspend disbelief. Karis Hylen has essentially become a hermit, trying to recover from her latest failed relationship. That antisocial trait, however, keeps her from being infected with a fatal influenza strain. She ends up trapped in her apartment with only Zeke, her dog, for companionship. Author Mabry manages to make Karis's psychological decline believable as she watches friends and neighbors die off. The risk to her personal safety increases as fellow New Yorkers become more desperate. Karis survives with only carefully rationed telephone calls to her parents to keep her sane - and long conversations with Zeke. Definitely worth reading.

Wild Life
Keena Roberts
Grand Central Publishing
9781538745151, $28.00

Keena Roberts, in this delightful coming-of-age memoir, describes a life divided. Her parents, both primatologists, are on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania and split their time between field research and teaching. Where they go, they take their two daughters, including their wild life research stations in Kenya and Okavango Delta in Botswana. During their time in the States, their daughters attend the prestigious Shipley School in Bryn Mawr, PA, a suburb of Philadelphia and one of the poshest zip codes in America. Thus Keena trades the threats of wildlife in Africa for the threats of equally-vicious animals - the mean girls - at her school. I too have spent time in Africa and on Philadelphia's Main Line. Roberts's descriptions of these vastly different locales are spot on. Wild Life alternates between hilarity and tears as the reader watches Keena learn to meld her inner pirate-female-goddess-world-explorer with the teenager who simply wants to be part of her la-di-da school. Her strength and persistence pull her through, and you'll enjoy reading the final chapters in which she pulls her life together. Loved this book.

Suanne Schafer, Reviewer

Susan Bethany's Bookshelf

Bridge of Destiny
Gena Ervin
9781517406318, $13.88, PB, 304pp,

Synopsis: On the day of her fifteenth birthday, Cricket Mohs follows a white wolf under an old bridge and is transported into another world. She learns that she is their priestess, a woman of powerful magic who will save their world, because of course she is.

With her on this journey of regeneration are her sworn protectors, and boy are they sexy hot. Shortly after her arrival, she forms a magical bond with them that makes it extremely difficult for her to resist them and also for them to resist her. Surely she'll become romantically involved with one. All stories like this say they will!

She has powers beyond her imagining that get stronger when her body is under extreme stress. It's a destiny her father knew about the day she was born and a destiny that tore her parents apart. Will she really give up her promising young life for a bunch of people she just met? And what's with all the talk of a previous priestess, what's happened to her?

Critique: An original and deftly crafted fantasy novel that will have special appeal for young readers ages 14-16, "Bridge Of Destiny" by Gena Ervin will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to both school and community library YA Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Bridge Of Destiny" is also available in an inexpensive digital book format (Kindle, $0.99).

One If By Land, Two If By Submarine
Eileen Schnabel
Wonder Jumps Press
9781733868105, $8.99, PB, 296pp,

Synopsis: When Paul Revere is kidnapped by a time traveler who is determined to change the outcome of the American Revolution, thirteen-year-old Kep Westguard is sent back in time to Boston, 1775, to take Revere's place on that famous midnight ride.

Kep's four-person team has twenty-four hours to light the famous lanterns at Old North Church, warn Lexington and Concord that the British are coming, and rescue John Hancock and Samuel Adams from hanging as traitors to the crown. As the clock ticks, one teammate is arrested as a runaway slave, a British watchman stops another from lighting the lanterns, and Kep nearly drowns when he attempts to cross the Charles River in a Patriot inventor's prototype wooden, hand-crank submarine.

When Hancock and Adams ask Kep to sneak a trunk of critical papers out from under the eyes of the British Army during the Battle of Lexington, Kep has to decide how much he's willing to sacrifice for his country. If he fails, there will be no America to return to!

Critique: A deftly crafted and simply riveting read from first page to last, Eileen Schnabel's "One If By Land, Two If By Submarine" is an extraordinary science fiction story by an author with a genuine flair for originality and a remarkably effective narrative storytelling style. All the more impressive when considering that "One If By Land, Two If By Submarine" is Schnabel's debut as a novelist, this first volume of a planned series is especially and unreservedly recommended for both school and community library Science Fiction & Fantasy collections for young readers. It should be noted for the personal reading list of all dedicated science fiction fans that "One If By Land, Two If By Submarine" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99).

Every Stolen Breath
Kimberly Gabriel
c/o HarperCollins
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780310766667, $17.99, HC, 336pp,

Synopsis: Unrecognizable, untraceable, and unpredictable, the Swarm is a mob that leaves death in its wake. Public places are no longer safe. Every day is a threat. Though it's been two years since the last attack, Lia Finch has found clues that the Swarm is ready to claim a new victim.

The last victim was Lia's father, attorney Steven Finch. Devastated and desperate for answers, Lia will do anything to uncover the reasons behind his death and to stop someone else from being struck down. However, the odds are stacked against her: Lia's PTSD from her father's attack has left her with a shaky grip on reality, and her debilitating asthma is a time bomb that could kill her at any moment.

After a close encounter with the Swarm puts Lia on their radar, she teams up with a teen hacker, a reporter, and a mysterious stranger who knows firsthand how the Swarm works. Together, they work to uncover the master puppeteer behind the group. If Lia and her network don't stop the person pulling the strings (and fast) Lia will be the next victim. Public places are no longer safe. Every day is a threat. Though it's been two years since the last attack, Lia Finch has found clues that the Swarm is ready to claim a new victim.

Critique: A deftly written and simply riveting cliff-hanger of a read from cover to cover, "Every Stolen Breath is unreservedly recommended for high school and community library YA Fiction collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of suspense thriller fans of all ages that "Every Stolen Breath" is also available in a paperback edition (9780310766971, $10.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Claudette's Miraculous Motown Adventure
A. K. Morris, author
Claudette Robinson, author
Pamela C. Rice, illustrator
Heavenly Enterprises Midwest, Ltd.
9781943343041, $18.00, HC, 42pp,

Synopsis: As an original member of The Miracles, the first act to sign with Berry Gordy's Tamla/Motown Records, Claudette Robinson was also the iconic label's very first female artist. In 1960, The Miracles' "Shop Around" became Tamla/Motown's first million-seller, prompting Mr. Gordy to bestow a special official title on Claudette: "The First Lady of Motown."

Born Claudette Annette Rogers in New Orleans, Louisiana, she was bright and adventurous. At a very young age she embraced her grandmother's Christian values and service to her church when she sang in the choir.

Claudette's family relocated to Detroit, Michigan where she excelled academically with honors and graduated from Commerce High School at the young age of 15. At age 16, she attended Wayne State University through her sophomore year of college, before joining the United States Marine Corps Reserves, where she was a member of the Ri?e Team with accomplished sharpshooter status.

Claudette always had a love for music, and in her free time, she sang with several female groups and performed in local talent shows in the Detroit area. While her brother Emerson "Sonny" Rogers was away serving in the Army, his Matadors groupmate was William "Smokey" Robinson. Claudette was a member of their sister group, the Matadorettes. As fate would have it, they met Motown founder Berry Gordy in 1957. A friendship and partnership was created that has thrived for more than 60 years.

Claudette and her groupmates William "Smokey" Robinson, Warren "Pete" Moore, Ronald "Ronnie" White, and Robert "Bobby" Rogers became The Miracles. Their first Tamla single, "Got A Job," was released on February 19, 1958.

During The Miracles' six-decade career, the group has sold more than 60 million records to date. Four Miracles hits -- "The Tracks of My Tears," "Ooo Baby Baby," "Shop Around," and "You've Really Got a Hold on Me"-- have been selected by the National Recording Preservation Board for the United States Library of Congress' National Recording Registry, which honors and preserves culturally, historically and aesthetically significant American recordings. These same four Miracles songs have also been inducted into the GRAMMY(R) Hall of Fame, honoring recordings of lasting qualitative or historical significance.

In 2019, commemorating Motown's 60th Anniversary celebration, Claudette will debut her first children's book entitled: "Claudette's Miraculous Motown Adventure". The story is a wonderful journey of her adventures as a little girl in the magical kingdom of Motown. Claudette's goal is to inspire and educate children of their music history of the past, so that it will be retained and passed on to future generations.

Critique: A unique and very special picture book for children ages 3-12, "Claudette's Miraculous Motown Adventure" is unreservedly recommended, especially for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library American Biography picture book collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Claudette's Miraculous Motown Adventure" is also available in a paperback edition (9781943343034, $16.00) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $6.00).

We Like to Grow Our Food
Denise A. Incao, author
Valentina Jaskina, illustrator
Kalindi Press
9781935826491, $9.95, PB, 32pp,

Synopsis: What better way to encourage our children to get out in nature than to join them in creating a garden? People of all ages find it amazing to put seeds in the earth, watch tiny plants grow, and then harvest food they can actually eat!

Health-conscious families and communities across our nation are taking on the challenge of childhood-obesity prevention by re-learning to enjoy fresh produce. The market for organic fruits, herbs and veggies has never been greater. Smart school districts all over are implementing hands-on programs to create backyard and community gardens to teach kids the joys of nature and the health benefits of "real" food, free of artificial additives and pesticides.

This new addition to the "Family & World Health Series" is an invitation once again for parents and kids to read and talk together about simple, real-life subjects. In We Like to Grow Our Food, they learn about composting, the need for healthy soil, and the interconnection of all life systems (how humans, insects, animals and plants work together). They get to celebrate the essential bond with nature that is so easy to forget in a fast-food culture.

We Like to Grow Our Food is both a storybook and an instruction guide. Young children can follow the progress of a group of characters who take their garden through the seasons. In the process, they learn the steps to creating their own garden. And this bilingual version is unique because it places the garden in a city, on a small plot of land could be in a schoolyard, or as part of a community project. Whether our readers live in urban or rural environments, they can use the encouraging and simple text to start creating a new world: a new and healthier food source for themselves and their families.

A garden is a wonderful teacher, with surprising and profound gifts. This book stresses the need for care, nurturance, patience and sharing?all vital life lessons for young children to hear about and for parents to encourage. The author, Denise Incao, is an avid gardener, a mother and a teacher with a master's degree in Expressive Ecopsychology. Her dedication is to use art and nature together as a way to learn about ourselves and our world.

With simple text, and captivating illustrations by Siberian artist, Valentina Jaskina, We Like to Grow Our Food promises to open a new door to adventure and enjoyment even for those who have been previously reluctant to get their hands dirty.

Critique: Thoroughly 'kid friendly' in tone, organization and presentation, "We Like To Grow Our Own Food" will prove to be an entertaining and instructive addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 4-6.

Susan Bethany

Susan Keefe's Bookshelf

High Heels and Beetle Crushers
Jackie Skingley
Chronos Books
c/o John Hunt Publishing
9781789042900, $29.95, 328 Pages

Jackie Skingley, the author of this fascinating memoir begins by taking her readers back to her earliest recollections, bitter sweet childhood memories of Christmas 1944 in Reigate, Surrey.
Immediately, through her vivid descriptive writing I was catapulted back through the decades to wartime Britain. I could almost imagine being her, a small frightened child, hearing the air raid sirens going off and huddling in the damp, musky shelter with her heavily pregnant mother, and her Nanny Rose.

For those of us who were lucky enough not to have been alive during the war, these memories are priceless reminders of a bygone era, a time which should not be forgotten and a generation who bravely endured so much so that we could live in freedom and peace. Yes you can still see some of the old aircraft fly, and there are films about the wars but nothing can compare to the memories written by those who lived through those years, listening with dread to the droning of the German bombers as they flew overhead along Bomb Alley, towards London, and the sound of the bombs dropping, never knowing if they would be safe, or what carnage the enemy would leave in their wake.

The price of peace was appalling, and shaped the future of the author and her family, as it did for so many people. Life went on, and the incredible community spirit of those post war years are brought wonderfully to life throughout these pages. These were times when families and friends were truly there for each other, the local bobby knew everyone and mums were to be found in the kitchen making jam and cooking Victoria sandwiches. However, most families have some secrets and the author bravely reveals those too.

I read with interest of her convent education by strict nuns, and with envy of her life as a young woman at a time where young ladies wore taffeta dresses, gloves, and beaded bags, and of course had to adhere to strict etiquette codes.

Despite being very popular, at a time when most girls wanted to settle down, marry and have a family, the author wanted more, she had a deep desire to serve her country.

Accepted into the WRAC, she completed her training and began an interesting and eventful military career both at home and abroad, in which strong friendships are formed and love is lost and found.

A powerful coming-of-age story, this memoir gives the reader a real insight into post war Britain, and the spirit of its people. This strong spirit is typified in the author, as her reader discovers within these pages as she overcomes adversity, and defiantly stands resolute and true to herself, and those she loves.

Available from Amazon

I Believe: It Is Easy to Be Kind and Good to One Another and to Animals, Just Like Baxter, the Magnificent Dog
Suzanne Mondoux
Balboa Press
9781982222680, $8.99, 56 Pages

Baxter is a beautiful black and white Pointer mix who loves to play, however he is nervous of smaller dogs, and he doesn't know why.

This day it's snowing and Baxter and his friends are having fun chasing around in the snow, when Carlo and Teddy the horses arrive in the field.

Baxter goes over to say hello, but then he discovers that they have with them a little Pug. She's called Lulu, and wants to be friendly, but Baxter just ignores her. Carlo and Teddy explain that they have brought Lulu with them and that in their pouches are two of her puppies, Bessie and Tulip.

When they get the puppies out, to everyone's surprise they are so small! So small in fact that when danger strikes it takes a big dog like Baxter to save them, which he does without thinking. Their mum is so grateful that she gives him a big hugs of thanks.

Suddenly, the incident reminds Baxter of a terrible event which happed in the past and is the reason why he is nervous of smaller dogs. He relays the tale, and the other animals listen on. At the end Lulu comforts him by saying that he is a big and happy dog and that what happened was an accident. However, she then explains that accident or not, he is still responsible for his actions, and that it's important to say sorry, and so Baxter does...

There are some lovely pictures to colour in this story, but also it is interactive as for the next thirty days, Baxter invites you to write one thing you have said or done which you know has caused hurt, or made a person, or an animal cry. It can be something you did not mean to do, just like Baxter's accident. However the important thing is to take responsibility, and like Baxter, right the wrong doing. In writing these down, you will understand the mistakes you have made, learn from them, and become a better person.

Taking responsibility for your mistakes is something which is very hard to do sometimes, and in this sensitive children's book the author explains gently that whatever we do in life, if we do it, it is our responsibility and we must own up to it. Highly recommended as a wonderful life lesson story.

Available from Amazon

I Believe: I Can Learn Something New, Just Like Cody, the Best Dog Swimmer
Suzanne Mondoux
Balboa Press
9781982222666, $8.99, 64 Pages

In this wonderful interactive children's book, the two horses Carlo and Teddy are yet again on their adventures, this time they arrive at the sea. There they meet a very friendly tiny grey dog called Cody, he just loves to play in the waves and swim.

He asks Carlo and Teddy to swim with him, but the horses have to admit that they don't know how. Undaunted, Cody offers to teach them, and he also explains the 6 very important rules of safety when swimming.

Under Cody's tuition the horses are soon having a wonderful time, and swimming confidently. Afterwards they are happy to be invited to Cody's home for dinner. Whilst they are there the new friends discuss all the wonderful things they would like to learn to do, and decide to make lists of what they are, and what they will have to do to achieve them.

Throughout the preceding pages there are lots of pictures to colour in, and now the book becomes even more interactive when the author encourages her reader to write down for 30 days the things which interest them, and also the steps they need to take to make the learning possible. Being an animal lover and advocate Suzanne Mondoux then goes on to invite her readers to also find the name of an animal who lives in the sea, find out about it, and then draw a picture of it too.

My granddaughter and I are really enjoying this 'I Believe' series. Natalie loves colouring the books in and the excitement of dreaming of things she would like to do, and I love the messages they convey, and their ability to encourage self-confidence.

Available from Amazon:

Susan Keefe, Reviewer

Tara Ayres' Bookshelf

One Dyke's Theater: Selected Plays 1975 - 2014
Terry Baum
EXIT Press
9781941704158, $24.95, PB, 340pp,

This collection of plays is a delicious read, really funny and often moving. I seldom laugh out loud while reading, but I did with this anthology. The plays also serve as a kind of lesbian feminist social history. If you're a lesbian feminist of a certain age, reading Terry Baum's collected plays is a bit like revisiting a wittier, more entertaining version of your past.

In addition to the plays themselves, there is an interesting forward by Baum's long-time theater crony, Carolyn Myers, which is itself a slice of history. And Baum has written a new introduction to each play that sets it in personal and historical context. I found those introductions fascinating, as a look into the nexus between the playwright's life and her work; the plays stand on their own without explanation, but the introductions enhanced my enjoyment of them. Each play is fronted by a collage of posters from different productions, which also serve as historical markers.

The earliest play in the book, "Dos Lesbos," is consistent with much of early queer theater, with its theme of coming out. What's different (and truly funny) about it is that the eponymous Dos Lesbos imagine coming out to their families in a variety of styles from Greek tragedy to restoration comedy to sitcom.

Interestingly, while many know Baum for her comedy, "Immediate Family," (1983) about a woman whose lover of 27 years is dying, is the most popular and most produced of her plays. It's also Baums' first play that didn't draw directly on her own life. Aside from the obvious change of the legalization of same-sex marriage, the script really reminded me of how our views of our lesbianism changed over the years, as the world changed and as we changed.

Perhaps the funniest play (among a lot of great comedy) is 1987's "One Fool," which includes the title character falling in love with audience member after audience member, before moving on to falling in love with a coatrack. It definitely contains one of the funniest scenes I've ever read, which involves our hero performing cunnilingus on the aforementioned coatrack.

And probably the most lesbian lines in the book, uttered by the Fool, after she suggests to her new lover that she relocate 6,000 miles to Amsterdam from San Francisco: "After all, love is more important to me than my friends, my family, my career, my country, and my entire life up to this point. And besides, I really like Amsterdam." I want someone to produce this play again so that I can go see it!

The other hysterically funny script is "Bride of Lesbostein" (2013) about a mad scientist who creates the woman of her dreams from the DNA of her 34 ex-lovers, each imperfect but with one perfect trait, the sum of which add up to her ideal woman.

"Waiting for the Podiatrist" (2003) involves one actress who plays a slightly fictionalized version of Baum herself, and who uses hand puppets to portray her aging mother and father. The not-so-funny subject is the hellish world of doctors and hospitals the family lands in after the father has a stroke and becomes comatose. But in Baum's hands, the story is both seriously touching and seriously funny.

"Hick: A Love Story" (2014) is a lovely telling of the story of Lorena Hickok, who was Eleanor Roosevelt's lover (and lived in the White House for most of FDR's Presidency) but was also a groundbreaking reporter and investigator. It's not a comedy, although I doubt that Baum is capable of writing a play devoid of humor, but it is sweet and moving.

Baum describes herself as a slightly world-renowned lesbian playwright. Based on the work represented here, she clearly deserves to have the "slightly" erased from that sobriquet.

Editorial Note: Reviewer Tara Ayres is a singer, writer, actor, director, and general theater geek. She served as the Artistic Director for StageQ, Madison, Wisconsin's queer theater company, for 10 years, and was the theater columnist for "Our Lives Magazine" before relocating to the Bay Area in 2014.

Tara Ayres

Trudie Barreras' Bookshelf

The Best of Crimes
K.C. Maher
RedDoor Publishing
9781910453711, $12.66 PB, $9.99 Kindle, 320pp,

"The Best of Crimes" by K. C. Maher is that true "rara avis" of fiction: a novel that deals with several controversial issues with depth, sensitivity, and absolute honesty. Maher's forte, obviously, is character development. Walter, the narrator/protagonist, is above all authentically and totally ethical, and this is indeed the driving dynamic of the entire story.

Walter is a mathematical whiz who has graduated from college before most people have even finished high school. We learn, however, that this is due not so much to inherent genius as to the fact that his high-powered research-scientist parents have dumped him in Exeter and left him on his own as they traveled the globe for their work. Though that enabled Walter to dedicate himself fully to his studies and thereby leapfrog his secondary education, it also left him with an intrinsic loneliness and extraordinary self-reliance. It is no surprise, then, when he forms an intense, empathic bond with Amanda, the "child next door" who becomes his own daughter Olivia's grade school best friend. Amanda, too, having been neglected and left on her own (by a mother who is obsessed with her own career and an absent father), is literally raising herself.

Due to his mathematical brilliance, Walter was snapped up by Lehman Brothers right out of grad school, and as a rising star in the firm, began an immediate and serious relationship with a colleague, Sterling. Their marriage started out auspiciously, but as time went on their inherent incompatibility surfaced. Though he dotes on their daughter Olivia, Walter abhors the notion of being controlling, and does not think it is appropriate to challenge Sterling's obvious obsession with building "the perfect house" (as well as becoming involved with the contractor).

Following the 9/11 attack, which takes the life of Walter's only "real friend" at Lehman Brothers, as well as leading to the collapse of the firm itself, he moves on. Since his expertise is "risk assessment", he becomes aware of the ethical morass of the mortgage and securities scams of the mid-2000's, becomes a whistle-blower, and is fired. This is not a financial disaster for his family, because, as it happens, he has an untouched and large trust fund to fall back on. Sterling, however, can't abide the "loss of prestige", and taking Olivia to live with "Grandma Kaye," deserts the marriage for a fling with the contractor.

Alone, at loose ends, Walter is across the street from Amanda who lives essentially alone while her mother follows career (and boss) to locations unknown. Despite a growing awareness that his interest is not purely paternal, he unavoidably assumes a nurturing role. However, and here is where his ethical probity again comes into play, he simply heroically and determinedly maintains the balance between restraint and warmth.

This is where I believe this narrative displays its full depth and relevance. In recent years, we have all become aware of the extreme danger of exploitation of children by unscrupulous adults, and it is for this reason that when I was teaching high school, we had annual conferences on professional ethics with respect to interactions with our students. Yet I always regretted the fact that the extreme circumspection demanded a degree of coldness that often prevented a connection which might have been extremely healing for some of our charges. While Amanda was exceptional both in her self-reliant maturity and her desperate need of loving warmth, and Walter likewise in his powerful self-control and ethics, there are many circumstances where caring adults must struggle with the apparent dichotomy of providing love and avoiding harm. This book, I believe, maintains that balance in an extraordinary yet realistic way.

Trudie Barreras

Willis Buhle's Bookshelf

When God Had a Wife
Lynn Picknett & Clive Prince
Bear & Company
c/o Inner Traditions International, Ltd.
One Park Street, Rochester, VT 05767
9781591433705, $16.00, PB, 336pp,

Synopsis: Despite what Jews and Christians (and indeed most people) believe, the ancient Israelites venerated several deities besides the Old Testament god Yahweh, including the goddess Asherah, Yahweh's wife, who was worshiped openly in the Jerusalem Temple. After the reforms of King Josiah and Prophet Jeremiah, the religion recognized Yahweh alone, and history was rewritten to make it appear that it had always been that way. The worship of Asherah and other goddesses was now heresy, and so the status of women was downgraded and they were blamed for God's wrath.

However, as Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince collaborate to reveal in their seminal study, "When God Had a Wife: The Fall and Rise of the Sacred Feminine in the Judeo-Christian Tradition", the spiritual legacy of the Jewish goddesses and the Sacred Feminine lives on. Drawing on historical research, they examine how goddess worship thrived in early Judaism and included a pantheon of goddesses. They share new evidence for an earlier form of Hebrew worship that prayed to both male and female gods, including a 20th-century archaeological discovery of a Hebrew temple dedicated to both Yahweh and the goddess Anat.

Uncovering the Sacred Feminine in early Christianity, "When God Had a Wife" reveals how, in the first century AD, both Jesus and his great rival, Simon Magus, were attempting to restore the goddess-worshiping religion of the Israelites. "When God Had a Wife" also shows how both men accorded great honor to the women they adored and who traveled with them as priestesses, Jesus's Mary Magdalene and Simon's Helen. But, as had happened centuries before, the Paulinian Christian Church rewrote history to erase the feminine side of the faith, deliberately ignoring Jesus's real message and again condemning women to marginalization and worse.

Providing all the necessary evidence to restore the goddess to both Judaism and Christianity, "When God Had a Wife" exposes the disastrous consequences of the suppression of the feminine from these two great religions and reveals how we have been collectively and instinctively craving the return of the Sacred Feminine for millennia.

Critique: An iconoclastic and meticulous work of seminal scholarship, "When God Had a Wife: The Fall and Rise of the Sacred Feminine in the Judeo-Christian Tradition" is an extraordinary, detailed and documented study that is unreservedly recommended for personal, 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 "When God Had a Wife" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

Paradigm Lost
Ian S. Lustick
University of Pennsylvania Press
3905 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-4112
9780812251951, $27.50, HC, 232pp,

Synopsis: Why have Israelis and Palestinians failed to achieve a two-state solution to the conflict that has cost so much and lasted so long? In "Paradigm Lost: From Two-State Solution to One-State Reality", Ian S. Lustick (Professor of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania) brings fifty years as an analyst of the Arab-Israeli dispute to bear on this question and offers a provocative explanation of why continued attempts to divide the land will have no more success than would negotiations to establish a one-state solution.

Basing his argument on the decisiveness of unanticipated consequences, Professor Lustick shows how the combination of Zionism's partially successful Iron Wall strategy for dealing with Arabs, an Israeli political culture saturated with what the author calls "Holocaustia," and the Israel lobby's dominant influence on American policy toward the Arab-Israeli conflict scuttled efforts to establish a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Yet, he demonstrates, it has also unintentionally set the stage for new struggles and "better problems" for both Israel and the Palestinians.

Drawing on the history of scientific ideas that once seemed certain but were ultimately discarded, Professor Lustick encourages shifting attention from two-state blueprints that provide no map for realistic action to the democratizing competition that arises when different subgroups, forced to be part of the same polity, redefine their interests and form new alliances to pursue them.

"Paradigm Lost" argues that negotiations for a two-state solution between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River are doomed and counterproductive. Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs can enjoy the democracy they deserve but only after decades of struggle amid the unintended but powerful consequences of today's one-state reality.

Critique: An impressively erudite and meticulously detailed study of one of the Middle East's most persistent problems, "Paradigm Lost: From Two-State Solution to One-State Reality" is enhanced for academia with the inclusion of forty-one pages of Notes and a two page Index. While unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academics, governmental policy makers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Paradigm Lost" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $24.95).

Willis M. Buhle

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Midwest Book Review
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