Return to home
page Book Reviews, Book Lover Resources, Advice for Writers and Publishers
Home / Reviewer's Bookwatch

Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 19, Number 7 July 2019 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Andrea's Bookshelf Bethany's Bookshelf
Buhle's Bookshelf Burroughs' Bookshelf Carson's Bookshelf
Charlier's Bookshelf Clint's Bookshelf Grace's Bookshelf
Julie's Bookshelf Logan's Bookshelf Margaret's Bookshelf
Mari's Bookshelf Mason's Bookshelf Molly's Bookshelf
Pedro's Bookshelf Suanne's Bookshelf Susan's Bookshelf

Reviewer's Choice

Theresa Rodriguez
Bardsinger Books
B07PBLHFG3, $2.99, Kindle, 43pp

Carol Smallwood

Carol Smallwood: Your latest collection, Sonnets covers many topics among the 37 poems including the sonnet itself. Evan Mantyk, President, Society of Classical Poets, praises your work: "In fourteen lines, her sonnets are able to communicate what takes essayists and writers thousands of words." How and when did you begin writing in this challenging form?

Theresa Rodriguez: I believe I started writing sonnets in my early 20's. I was taught something about sonnets (but not much in the way of other poetic forms) in high school and I began experimenting and found it immensely satisfying. I was using what I knew. Since then I have experimented with other poetic forms and have made up some forms of my own. As I mention in "Form Sonnet" and "Spenserian Sonnet," I enjoy the "stricture" and "structure" in writing formal poetry, the "puzzle-solving different mental way." It is a lot like a complex and beautiful puzzle to me. Sonnets are like a distillation of thought - can you say what you have to say in only fourteen lines?

Carol Smallwood: Besides the sonnet itself, what other topics do your sonnets cover?

Theresa Rodriguez: I span a real gamut of concepts and emotional states in Sonnets. There are sonnets about love, longing, loss; death and life; religious hypocrisy and crises of faith; issues regarding mental illness; the creative process; healing and redemption. I have a sonnet about JonBenet Ramsey, the little beauty pageant girl who was found dead in her own home; I have a sonnet dedicated to Saint John of the Cross, who wrote The Dark Night of the Soul; two sonnets for Shakespeare; a sonnet about "birthing" poetry much like one labors in childbirth. It is an interesting mix!

Carol Smallwood: There are different types of sonnets. Please tell readers about them, the type you use and what is the most challenging part in composing in the sonnet form:

Theresa Rodriguez: Not being an academic, I can tell you from the perspective of a craftsman. The three main forms are the Petrarchan, the Shakespearean, and the Spenserian. All forms of sonnets are fourteen lines. Each has its own rhyme scheme but they all share iambic pentameter in common. All are supposed to have a volta or "turn," a point where contrasting ideas or sentiments are juxtaposed, a turn of thought or argument. In actuality I have written many sonnets with no volta at all, at least not consciously. In the Petrarchan sonnet the volta occurs at the beginning of line 9; in Shakespearean and Spenserian it can occur at line 9 or at the final couplet (line 13). The rhyme scheme of the Petrarchan is abbaabba cdcdcd or abbaabba cdecde; in the Shakespearean it is abab cdcd efef gg; in the Spenserian it is abab bcbc cdcd ee.

I mainly write in the Shakespearean sonnet form but I have experimented with the Spenserian and it is a truly challenging and rewarding undertaking. I have also created a few of my own that do not strictly follow either of these forms.

The most challenging part of composing in the sonnet form for me is to keep the rhymes from sounding hackneyed. There are certain groups of words that lend themselves to rhyme (groups like true, due, you, or see, be, free, for example) and others which might be more difficult (such as rules, jewels, fools). Because many of these words are easy to rhyme (and probably even more so when they are not) I usually find myself writing a little list on the side of the paper with rhymes that might work. Then I try to fit them into what might make sense with what I am trying to say. I just don't want it to sound like something that has been said or heard before. Even if the words I am rhyming are commonly used rhyming words I want it to sound like it has been rhymed by me for the first time.

Carol Smallwood: Do you also write free verse poetry?

Theresa Rodriguez: Indeed I do! Some of my most poignant and psychologically complex poems have been in free verse. I do tend to default to some kind of formal scheme for writing most of the time, however.

Carol Smallwood: Do you see a connection being a voice teacher and singer with being a poet?

Theresa Rodriguez: My desire as an artist, be it with words or with music, is to create beauty and to reflect truth with a distinctive voice. In teaching voice I have striven to help singers to first create the most beautiful sounds they can and then to express truth through those sounds. As a singer myself I have striven to create beauty within my instrument and make a distinctive statement. As a poet I am striving to express truth first, and beauty comes from this. So I suppose the process is switched a bit between the two disciplines.

Carol Smallwood: Are you working on another poetry collection?

Theresa Rodriguez: I am mulling the idea of a collection called Just Christian, which would contain poems purely of a "religious" or devotional nature. I also had an idea for a collection called Other Things Entering In, which is based on the scripture in Mark 4:19, where spiritual unfruitfulness is derived from many impediments, including the "lusts of other things entering in."

Carol Smallwood: What advice would you give someone interested in writing sonnets?

Theresa Rodriguez: The first step would be to read sonnets. I recommend reading them aloud, to hear the music in the metrical and rhyming structure. It will also help the poet to hear how his or her own voice will sound within the sonnet form. There are websites, including the Society of Classical Poets, that offer articles on how to write sonnets.

Carol Smallwood: Please tell readers about the important nonfiction books you've written:

My first book of poetry is entitled Jesus and Eros: Sonnets, Poems and Songs. Many of the sonnets in Jesus and Eros are found in Sonnets. Besides mostly formal poetry I do have some free verse as well in the Poems section. I also have what are song lyrics to various songs I have written, so they read like lyrics.

I wrote a book entitled When Adoption Fails which tells the painful story of my being raised in an abusive adoptive home. I wrote a book entitled Warning Signs of Abuse: Get Out Early and Stay Free Forever as a guide for women seeking to get out of abusive relationships. And I wrote a eco-friendly parenting book entitled Diaper Changes: The Complete Diapering Book and Resource Guide.

Carol Smallwood: Do you have a website?

Theresa Rodriguez: My website is You can see and hear me reading my poetry under the "Poet" tab.

Editorial Note: Readers can enjoy some of the classical poetry of Theresa Rodriguez on:

Carol Smallwood is a literary reader, judge, and interviewer. A recent poetry collection is Patterns: Moments in Time (WordTech Communications, 2019).

It's Time to Start Living with Passion! My Journey to Self Discovery
Jean Paul Paulynice, MBA
Paulynice Consulting Group, LLC
9781733042796, $16.99, Hardback
9781733560191, $9.99, Paperback
9781733042703, $3.99, eBook
9781733560122, $3.95, Audiobook

Mayra Calvani

Do you feel as though you're on autopilot, going through the motions every day - wake up, go to work, come back home, have dinner, sleep, repeat - without real meaning, depth, and purpose in your life?

Even if you have a fulfilling job and earn a good salary, that doesn't mean you've found your passion in life. The problem is, finding your passion can be elusive, especially in our present society where we are constantly seeking external validation from others and are being judged in public platforms more than ever (i.e. social media). Perhaps the wisest statement in this book is that "the moment you start to listen to yourself, you can start shutting out all the noise." This little book is all about soul-searching, self-analysis, and reflection. Sometimes you have to step out of your comfort zone and seek out your passions. Sometimes you have to change your mindset and shift your perspective about things in order for transformation and growth to take place. Likewise, it's also about the choices you make, not so much the major ones but the little ones you make on a daily basis.

In his light, honest, and engaging prose, Jean Paul Paulynice encourages you to do some introspection so you can begin your path toward finding your passion and bliss in life. For those who journal, the reflection questions he asks make very good journaling prompts. A very quick read, under fifty pages, It's Time to Start Living with Passion! is a little morsel of goodness and wisdom that will help on your journey to self-discovery.

Where Do We Come From - Where Do We Go
Kathleen Carter Martinez, Ed.D.
CheyWind Center for Trauma & Healing
9780692998687, $12.99 Paperback, 36 pages

Suzie Housley

Death, a journey to a new beginning . . .

Five-year-old Esakoi is a bright and beautiful child who is full of energy. Her childlike innocence seeks to know all that the universe offers. One night at bedtime she asks her Mother a difficult question of what happens when a person dies. This question makes her Mother pause to make sure she provides the proper answer.

Her Mother knows that she must make sure her answer is one that is easy for Esakoi to understand. She does not want her to fear death but instead see it as a celebration to a new stage of being reborn.

Will Esakoi's Mother succeed in answering her question? Or will she feel that her daughter is too young to understand all that surrounds death? Which pathway will she lead her natural curiosity?

WHERE DO WE COME FROM - WHERE DO WE GO presents a heartfelt look into how a Mother deals with explaining the death of a loved one to her child. The emotional pull this book radiates is exceptional.

Kathleen Carter Martinez, Ed.D. words take on a lyrical meaning as she discusses a topic that is often avoided. Seeing it explained to a child is a thought-provoking experience. Her words are beautifully spoken, each one carries a meaningful tone filled with a wealth of substance.

Andreas Androutsellis-Theotokis
Eptalofos Publications
9781091120204, $12.99 PB, $4.99 Kindle, 320pp,

Marcy Stewart Froemke, Reviewer
Associate Professor, Bryan College (retired)

5/5 stars - A fascinating, compelling read

In the science fiction novel, Nannion, Dioptra is an abandoned island off the coast of Athens, Greece, where once a diamond mine existed, followed by an Aquarium that enjoyed success many years before closing. Fast forward to the present day. Claire, a retired, ailing scientist formerly employed by the Aquarium, visits Athens for one last trip to the island. Before she boards her rowboat to make the journey, she meets a delightful little cat whom she names Nannion. The two new friends sail away. Although Nannion is not wild about the idea, she is a polite animal and loves the caresses and gifts of the old lady. Within sight of the island's shore, disaster strikes when the inflatable vessel collapses and Claire is fatally bit by an eel. A stunned Nannion finds herself stranded on an island with interesting old buildings and an intriguing amount of sea life left behind to evolve in the old Aquarium, including two intelligent and peaceful sharks.

Despite the above introduction to this charming work by Andreas Androutsellis-Theotokis, don't mistake the novel as an animal story, although there are plenty of those (mainly of the fish variety, but some that are extremely difficult to classify). Scientists gradually arrive, and the humans are unique, humane characters who make shocking discoveries about life in the underwater sea far below the Aquarium. Actual sea basins dwell in the real world (I didn't realize that until this book), such as L'Atalante, Urania, and Discovery (Google them for a treat!) - deep-water, anoxic, hyper-saline seas that have their own waves and shores and where only special kinds of bacteria can adapt and live - or so it is thought. The questions raised by the story lift the reader's mind to ponder what actually constitutes life and if we would recognize it if found on another planet.

Nannion is a fascinating, compelling read that should appeal to a wide range of ages and tastes. The author's voice is intelligent, compassionate, and engaging. I hope this work is the start of many by Andreas Androutsellis-Theotokis.

Ghostly Demarcations
Joe Taylor
Sagging Meniscus Press
9781944697754, $19.95, PB, 230pp,

Christin Loehr

If you appreciate humor and heart with your literate horror, Ghostly Demarcations is just the book for you. Joe Taylor's captivating tales are connected as much by the camaraderie of two precocious boys, in the initial stories, who mature into an adventuresome artist and a teacher of prodigious brain, as they are connected by the ghost stories that surround their companionship.

A mesmerizing bonding occurs over the years as the reader chronologically visits the duo in these supernatural stories replete with the dry self-effacing humor of the narrator which compels the reader to like these characters a great deal as our heroes seek to encounter or avoid the spirits they witness acting out mysteries, restlessness, or grief. I highly recommend this unusual collection of stories.

Standing in Doorways
Wes Payton
Adelaide Books
9781949180381, $19.60 PB, $7.99 Kindle, 266pp,

Ed Sarna

Standing in Doorways is the second book by Wes Payton that I've reviewed, and like Lead Tears, the first one, I loved it. It showcases Mr. Payton's clever use of wordplay and his sneaky sense of humor.

The novel is structured in two parts. Part One chronicles the lives of a group of college students afflicted with various mental disorders. They attend a prestigious Midwestern university and are ensconced in Study House, their dormitory. We come to know these students through the eyes of Vivien Leigh (not thatVivien Leigh). Vivien describes her pathology when she says, "I can't read expressions or understand body language. I'm barely human." When asked if that means she's a literal, she answers, "I was for a long time until I finally figured out that people rarely mean what they say. Now I don't really believe anything I'm told, which can be an advantage in college, but from what my counselor tells me is somewhat discouraged in the real world."

These individuals are carefully observed, as stated in the opening sentence, "...Study House, which wasn't named for what was required of its residents, but rather what was done to them." They are sometimes referred to by their infliction: Schiz, a schizophrenic, Prodigy (also referred to as Digy), a genius who is editing the dictionary and has been the subject of a lifelong experiment that studies the limits of human intelligence and mental endurance, Poopy, who keeps a journal of his bowel movements, and Psycho, who may or may not be a psychopath. There is also Patty who has a constantly changing personality, but unlike a schizophrenic, "...she doesn't have multiple personalities trapped inside of her, instead her personality continually reinvents itself, as if her mind is perpetually flipping through the channels of an internal television and she imitates whatever show is on at the moment." There is also Vivien Leigh's roommate, Vivian Lee, who in describing himself says, "My condition enables me to read people too accurately for comfort."

Part One takes place in the 1990s while Part Two takes place twenty years later. In Part Two, the lives of some students intersect. Vivien Leigh is now a writer, having once written a novella called Study House, about her college years. Referring to the novella, Vivien says, "...the narrative wasn't so much based on events that really happened but rather my impression of being a college student in the nineties." This explanation may or may not be true. As Book Two unfolds and the characters from Book One cross paths, we are left wondering what's real and what's fiction. Are the things we are told truthful to the actual characters' lives or the novella's characters' lives? Lest you think this book merely poses philosophical questions, it also involves a murder, a possible suicide, and a mysterious pregnancy. Or maybe it doesn't.

Wes Payton's writing is complex, crisp, and cunning. The skillful way he weaves the narrative and the novella together kept me hooked throughout the book. His railing against dumbing down language for the masses, and his warning of what happens when idiots are put in charge, ("...and because they also happened to be overpaid, they would hire incompetent subordinates who would not jeopardize their jobs by questioning their dubious credentials or their ability to make decisions...") are beyond appropriate. I highly recommend Standing in Doorways by Wes Payton.

Have You Seen Luis Velez?
Catherine Ryan Hyde
Lake Union Publishing
Audio Book: Brilliance Audio: 9781721378364, $14.99, CD
9781542042369, $15.95 PB, $5.99 Kindle, 315pp,

Caryn Strean

Nobody writes stories of intergenerational friendship better than Catherine Ryan Hyde. She did an exceptional job with it in "Allie and Bea" and again with this new release.

Aside from the story, which includes a mystery, character growth, and a fun supporting cast, you get some humdingers of life lessons, brought to you by 17-year-old Raymond Jaffe and 92-year-old Millie Gutermann. These characters balance each other so perfectly and set the stage for a heartwarming plot, even amidst the few bouts of tragedy. Raymond, especially, is a character readers won't soon forget.

With elements of "Pay It Forward" thrown in, readers who still need to be told there is good in this world need to pick this up. With so many current events shared constantly via social media that are hard to stomach, this book, when finished, should put a smile on your face and be one you want to pass along and share with others.

Gatsby's Child
Dorin Schumacher
Mastodon Publishing
9781732009165, $18.00, PB, 234pp,

Evelyn Schiele

What prompts a writer to attempt a memoir? The desire to smooth and polish life's accumulated rough shards? To examine all the broken and intact bits, glass, stone and fossils, at last stringing random experience into beads one might want proudly to wear as mine?

Or perhaps another metaphor: the desire to excavate layers of self, coming at last, to some all-important source that will explain the why of a life, all while doing the digging, sifting and sorting on a living body?

Keeping the self alive and functioning-- while hammering and chiseling away at memory - asks a lot of any psyche, but it is this which Dorin Schumacher attempts in her memoir, Gatsby's Child. Indeed, in the foreword to her memoir, Schmacher tells us her story is that of a survivor. "I survived parents that were so damaged they damaged me," she writes. A few pages later, she tells us her goal was to overcome this damaged childhood-- to be free. "Free to fly beyond social restrictions and limitations I could not accept. Even if breaking free meant being different.

Social expectations and how they shape identity are a major theme of the memoir. The title, of course, refers to F. Scott Fitzgerald's Great Gatsby, and Schumacher has chosen the title because her father, like Gatsby, was driven by the elusive goal of re-creating himself. Born to Polish/Lithuanian Jewish immigrants, he disguised his Jewish origins, affecting a phony English accent and using several mysterious and perhaps borderline legal businesses to support a lifestyle at the margins of the wealthy Long Island North Shore. "But like Jay Gatsby, he lusted after the shining dream of glamour and wealth that Sands Point represented, and he set his sights on being part of that shining dream. If he could not be a real part of the dream, he would act as though he were, and perhaps one day his act would become real," the writer tells us.

Schumacher's mother is described as "a blueblood," descended from the Rhode Island Pells, a family tracing its origins to 13th century English nobility. However, on this side of the family, identity is also fluid. In the 1920s, Schumacher's mother, Helène, was a chorus girl on Broadway, where she met Schumacher's father who is described as a good-looking "chorus boy" with lots of charm. Helene's own mother Helene Gardner is described as a "terrible but talented silent film pioneer" who lived in a long-term lesbian relationship with Mabel Sherwood ("Misher").

Raised by these two "damaged" parents, Schumacher describes a childhood lived at the edges of Sands Point wealth where the family's social status never quite makes sense - one of their homes is, for example, an apartment over a garage on a wealthy estate. Yet, they have membership in the Sands Point Bath Club; they socialize with wealthy businessmen and their wives; and there are servants - Jimmy, who disappears for days at a time, Mamie, a fragile old woman and Jack, a black man, who is killed in a motorcycle accident. People unpredictably come and go as does Schumacher's parents' attention. Her mother is given to the distraction of expansive cocktail hours, the father disappears mid-afternoons into New York City to run various unspecified businesses - even as Schumacher's mother claims not to know how her husband earns his living. And though Schumacher is given the privilege of attending a private school where she learns French (which she will pursue in graduate school), she would rather have dependable parents. "My father made tantalizing promises to me, all of which he broke, from the smallest to the most grandiose. He promised to come without fail to every important event: birthday parties, school plays, dance recitals, award ceremonies, graduations. And, without fail, his seat was always vacant. But my mother came to everything and told me that all eyes had been on me, which made me nervous and which I didn't believe."

Either absent or overly intrusive, Schmacher's parents never seem to get it right. And we are not surprised when we read of sexual boundaries transgressed. She describes an incident when she walks into her parents' bathroom and finds them naked. Her eye is quickly drawn to her father's penis and she touches it. "You want to touch Daddy's bibi place?" my father asks. "You can touch Daddy's bibi place anytime you want," he says, with a big smile.

As these examples show, there is an abundance of drama in Schumacher's story. And actually, she has several stories to tell. Her mother's, her father's and her own, both in how it is affected by the parents' stories but also by the times she grows up in - a childhood in the pre-war and war years and a youth in the Eisenhower era, which she depicts as often presented today - a period of sought-after stability and material well-being, where appearances are often valued over reality.

Juggling all these stories is a complex task, and this reader empathizes with the enormity of the challenge. Growing up with such overwhelming parents, Schumacher's lifelong challenge seems to have been deciphering the true from the untrue and finding a voice that dares speak the truth. And in the memoir, that voice is like a river that has burst a dam, resulting in a flood of anecdotes. I would have welcomed fewer, more selectively chosen and developed with a more consistent use of the techniques of creative non-fiction - a judicious use of scene (showing the action in the moment with all its tension, conflict and pacing) rather than an over-reliance on summary, and where summary is needed, making it more compelling with detailed images, compression and telling dialogue.

The most successful sections, such as chapter four, "Exotic Brooklyn," which deals with Schumacher's Jewish relatives, achieve a balance between narrative summary and dramatic scene. But the richness of Schumacher's material sometimes becomes unwieldy. A salient example is chapter six, "Smoking with Sally," which treats a series of memories with the unifying theme of budding sexuality and the arising issues of gender roles and the lure of the forbidden. In this one chapter, there are sections recalling "playing doctor" and playing at sex (simulated) with a friend; a discussion of the writer's parents' encouragement of the "masculine" in her (as represented by academic success); quotes about the mother's discontent with her domestic life; details of the writer's grandmother's career in silent films and her lesbian liaison; a return to friend Sally and the sex play; smoking with Sally; a discussion of Dorin's hip dislocation, causing an extensive illness between ages 11 and 12 and the necessity of a cast encasing her body; a rare moment of closeness between the young Dorin and her father when her tells her about attending a performance of the first production of Porgy and Bess; Dorin's mother having the "sex talk" with her; a memory of hearing her parents having sex; finding pornographic photos in her parents' bedroom; invading her parents' bedroom and finding her mother sitting on a chamber pot filled with blood; Dorin caught by her father with a "paid" stamp stolen from a hotel; a "spin the bottle" petting incident with boys; a change of schools for the tenth grade.

Whew! That's a lot for one chapter, and the overabundance of detail - the flood of a voice that once found can't stop - risks burying some very good material. Fewer anecdotes, compression and further development of the richest material, such as Dorin's grandmother's story, would have served Schumacher well as would development of the wonderful metaphor of the cast. (In a chapter exploring budding sexuality and the conflict between its expression and societal rules, it's hard to think of a better metaphor for repression than a full body cast.)

Despite at times offering inciteful observations, Dorin often comes off as a character acted upon rather than acting. And acknowledging that this is Schumacher's point - the young Dorin is so damaged by her parents that she lacks agency, a memoir requires an arc of character growth.

I think the last chapter, "The Lakewood Country Day School," is meant to convey this transformation. The chapter tells the story of Dorin's pregnancy while in college. She becomes pregnant by Harry, a boy described as "an inarticulate boy I once knew" turned into a "sexual aggressor." Dorin's first sex with Harry appears to be an example of date rape, yet she again has sex with him, apparently unforced, though she describes herself as "inert" in the act, not helping him remove her girdle. When she finds herself pregnant, she says her primary feeling is not panic but relief. "I was glad to find out that I was "normal" as a woman. I had been haunted by fears that I was abnormal. My periods started after my girlfriends got theirs. I felt flat chested. I didn't experience orgasm."

Dorin ends her pregnancy in a Jewish home for unwed mothers, having decided to give up the baby for adoption, even though by this time, she has married another boy, David. (Elsewhere in the memoir, we learn that she will remain married to David for many years, have two children with him, complete graduate studies and have a successful academic career. Eventually, she will divorce David.)

In the unwed mothers' home, Dorin encounters other girls who have experienced even more severe trauma - a 13-year-old pregnant through rape, a girl whose boyfriend is in jail, another girl whose mother has burned her with Sabbath candles. However, in this environment, she finds strength in the bond with the other young women. "Lakeview was a women's community, a kind of birthing hut, peaceful and safe, the most secure place I had ever known. For the first time in my life, I was free of the invasiveness, buffeting and hostility I had grown up with and had come to believe was normal."

However, the strength of Schumacher's story is weakened, again, I think because there is so much telling, both in anecdotes and in not presenting enough as moments lived through developed scene, images and metaphor. Instead, we are told this happened and then that when we readers, sadists that we are, want to see, feel and hear the band aid of experience ripped off.

Ripping that band aid is not easy. In my own work, I have missed more opportunities for vividness than I would care to admit. The good news is that Schumacher's material is so rich that she has much to work with. For example, two powerful images in this chapter, if developed and shown as dramatic scene, would help the reader experience her growth in this "woman's community." (These images are suggested as examples, many other compelling choices are of course possible.)

One image is of the pregnant Dorin dancing with another pregnant girl, Dennie, whom she has befriended. This incident is only briefly conveyed, but if fully developed could provide a powerful expression of growing female empowerment. Another example, is a reference to Dorin's ongoing desire to shatter a glass, which she believes "would break the unbearable, constant tension I was feeling." Including a scene in which the reader sees and hears Dorin shatter the glass would do much to show her as a character reclaiming self.

I hope Schumacher revisits and further excavates her remarkable story. All the elements are here. She has made her find. Now's the time for the archaeologist to step in, pulling aside the major artifacts - the ones that best reveal the story.

If the Ice Had Held
Wendy J. Fox
Santa Fe Writer's Project
9781939650917, $15.95 PB, $9.99 Kindle, 260 pages,

Megan McCarter

Family is rarely so simple as those who we are born to. Instead, it is a messy dirt road of mistakes and discoveries, secrets and promises, and above all, questions of what if? Wendy J. Fox's If the Ice Had Held situates itself right inside these wandering questions as it considers the fates of three generations of families all tangled up together in their personal experiences within a small Colorado town.

Following the death of Sammy Henderson, If the Ice Had Held traces the fallout of grief and life moving on for three women most impacted by his death. With a rotating third person narration, Fox carries her readers back and forth through time as she illuminates the lives of Sammy's sister Kathleen, young Irene pregnant with his child at only fourteen, and the illegitimate child of their romance, Melanie. Yet while this grim beginning might set readers up for a story of mourning and young lives lost too soon, Fox instead turns her story into an examination of life, family, and what it means for those who are left behind.

Each character in Fox's narrative tells their story with the authority as if they were the main character themselves. Whether it be Melanie's day to day life in the office or Irene's cousin Lucy Estelle struggling with the loss of her own parents and the raising of her daughter, each character is described with the same attention and care that make their stories ring true. These characters could be your coworkers and neighbors, passing by in the course of their own lives unfolding. Their connection to each other is delicate and at times estranged, unfolding in a complex web that feels true to reality. No one character has all the pieces of the story and each narrator offers something new to the subtle influences that shaped the generation that follows after them through the family trees.

Fox draws readers into her story with simple prose and vivid imagery, offering a contained space for readers to ease into her narrators' shoes and recognize the familiar in the world reflected around them. Her prose reads like a peek into the quiet monologues of lives happening around you. With soft observations like Melanie's plea, "she would have drawn a thousand more maps with reliefs shellacked in glitter, roads demarcated with more precision than the best cartographer, if any would have led him to them," Fox offers a window into the grief of missing someone before they are even gone. Loss is not confined to death in If the Ice Had Held but is an unsteady boundary that her characters tread day to day without ever knowing which instant was the one where things slipped too far.

Reflected across space and time, If the Ice Had Held anchors its storyline around a set of mirrored struggles that her characters must overcome from raising children to struggles with faithfulness in marriage and the ultimate questions of how to move on in the face of death. Time and time again, Fox circles the question of loss from drastic scenes of mortality in the face of a three car crash to the simple loss of a conversation over the phone, "She hoped she would feel it when one disconnected the line and severed the only connection either of them had left of her, two strangers trying to think of what to say next." There are no easy answers in the aftermath of these forms of loss and Fox makes no attempts to force any one on her readers but offers them a quiet space to consider.

At the end of the day, If the Ice Had Held returns back to the central question of its title. What if? What if the ice had held and Sammy had lived? The only answer we can give is we would not have this novel and its imploring question into the void left by what is lost. What this new void leaves space for is a question that Fox leaves her readers to answer for themselves.

The Misper
Bea Davenport
The Conrad Press
ASIN: B07B8T532K; 3.99 Brit. pounds (ebook); 9.99 Brit. pounds paperback, 182pp
9781911546276, $14.50 PB, $4.99 Kindle, 182pp,

Kate Kelly

First impressions - the cover - the cover is great! It hints at the three friends and yet you don't see their faces - they remain a mystery - a mystery that can only be unlocked by delving into these pages.

For anyone unfamiliar with the term Misper, let me bring you up to date - it is, quite simply Police slang for a missing person. And in the first few pages it is immediately clear that this is the thrust of the story. Someone has disappeared and at first we don't even know who - not to mention why! Police are everywhere, parents and friends distraught.

Rewind several months and we start to fill in the gaps. Anna is starting a new school, and is instantly drawn to goth girl Zoe. As their friendship develops it soon becomes clear that something is not quite right with Zoe, but before we can find out more in bounces Kerry, an awkward geek of a girl who nobody really likes. Anna feels both sorry for her but at the same time that she is driving a wedge between her and Zoe. They both wish Kerry would go away and leave them alone.

Then Zoe starts dabbling in witchcraft and things take a more sinister turn.

This is a really gripping book. From almost the first page I was embroiled in Anna's world and the pace and intrigue never lets up. The scary parts are really scary, the tense parts really tense, and I can tell you I won't be snooping round any graveyards anytime soon.

But what I loved the most was the character of Anna. I really felt I could relate to her, almost as if there was a bit of me in her. I think if I was in her shoes I would have done exactly the same...

I know this is a book aimed at the teenage market, but I really enjoyed reading it too. In fact I read it in one sitting before I realised what was happening - and I'd only meant to read the first chapter!

Houseboat Wars
Charles Bush
Moonshine Cove Publishing
9781945181542, $13.99 PB, $5.99 Kindle, 237pp,

Kirkus Review

In this thriller, a houseboat community's legal case against developers in 1977 California culminates in murder.

Legal Aid attorney Rick Spenser may have his first major lawsuit. Residents of Waldo Point, represented by their newly formed group, Save Our Waterfront, assert that a development company is trying to evict the houseboaters. Strawberry Point Harbor Associates' claim of fire, safety, and health hazards unfortunately has merit, as the harbor is unquestionably burdened by exposed electrical wiring and raw sewage.

The community, however, is primarily low income and would have nowhere to go if evicted. A small but significant early courtroom victory is offset by "the Strawberries" showing up at Waldo Point with a pile driver, resulting in the community's protesters ultimately getting Maced by cops. When the case doesn't seem to be favoring Waldo Point, sabotage temporarily shuts down the pile driver and the company's work.

A proposal later to modify and improve the Strawberries' plan for the harbor would mean houseboaters agreeing to pay rent, threatening to divide the community as some refuse to negotiate. There's at least one person, in fact, who takes great offense to the suggestion and opts for killing one of the residents.

Despite initial shades of a legal thriller, Bush's (What Went Wrong with Oscar Toll?, 2014) novel provides little focus on the lawsuit. But concentrating on the community generates a riveting tale, particularly once Rick finds himself immersed. The lawyer, for one, sees residents as more than the hippies that other characters perceive; sympathetic Save Our Waterfront President Achille Palaiologos is a standout, an 84-year-old who doesn't get around much. Rick's likewise clearly infatuated with the group's secretary, Becky Yates. Neither of the two is single, but that doesn't prohibit Rick's lingering gazes or elation from her flirting, often acknowledging her recurring "low, sexy voice." Events gradually transpire in the straightforward narrative with effective abruptness, even when - as in the case of the murder - there's no mystery.

The attorney protagonist getting caught up in more melodrama than lawyering makes for an unusual but convincing tale.

Welcome to Washington, Fina Mendoza
Kitty Felde
Black Rose Writing
PO Box 1540, Castroville Texas 78009
9781684332236, $17.95 PR, $5.99 Kindle, 185pp,

Kirkus Reviews

A girl tries to break the curse of a legendary Demon Cat in this debut middle-grade novel.

Things are going from bad to worse for Fina Mendoza. After losing her mother to a terminal illness, Fina, a 10-year-old Latina, and her older sister, Gabby, moved from California to Washington, D.C., to live with her kind but preoccupied Papa, a first-term U.S. congressman. One afternoon, while in the deserted, history-filled, basement-floor Crypt museum under the Capitol rotunda, Fina hears odd noises; spots a giant, feline-shaped shadow; and catches a "flash of yellow eyes."

A Capitol policewoman informs her that anyone who sees the fabled Demon Cat of Capitol Hill will be cursed with bad luck. Is that why small disasters are piling up? There's Abuelita's broken leg; an injury to the dog Fina was hired to walk; a fight-provoking, shattered spaghetti sauce jar; Gabby's car mishap; and more. Determined to protect her family from anything worse happening, Fina sets out to learn all she can about the Demon Cat and break the curse, even if no one else believes in it.

Engaging authenticity is the hallmark of this well-crafted mystery by Felde, an award-winning public radio journalist, prolific playwright (A Patch of Earth, 2014, etc.), and host of the Book Club for Kids podcast. Fina's first-person view of Washington, especially the colorful, well-informed environs of Capitol Hill, where her father serves on the Rules Committee (and where she spends her time after school until Papa is done working) rings true. So do the three-dimensional characters: Fina, her warm extended family, her busy but caring Papa, and, through the girl's memories, her vivacious and loving mother.

The author deftly wraps Fina's quest to solve the Demon Cat mystery into the story of family members doing their best to deal with loss in their separate ways, which are grounded in a strong foundation of love and understanding.

A lively mystery with a touch of spookiness, an intriguing setting, an appealing family dynamic, and an enterprising Latina heroine.

Stephen Benz
Etruscan Press
9780998750897, $16.00, PB, 340pp,

Mark D. Walker

I was drawn to this book because the author had written about my favorite part of the world, Guatemala, as well as several parts of the Wild West. The reader is taken through a diversity of locations starting with the Everglades and the sad story of the mass killing of egrets. Forty to sixty hunters would descend and let loose a "barrage," killing hundreds of birds. The author goes beyond the location and even its beauty with a dramatic focus on history.

In Nebraska, we are introduced to the plight of several tribes like the Cheyenne, the Sioux and the Pawnee.

As more and more emigrants arrived to exploit the land, the environment suffered; resources were depleted and landscapes stripped. The pioneers showed little or no concern for those who might come after, or for those who were already there. Rather, the immigrants responded to immediate needs and took what they wanted. The stripping of Ash Hollow was the first of many destructive acts, presaging a ruthless attitude toward nature that would culminate a few decades later with the senseless slaughter of millions of bison.....

Among the interesting characters the author introduces us to is "Our Mailman in Havana," Eddie, who takes the author on his route and introduces him to the different buildings he enters. The author's exploration introduces the reader to many interesting aspects of Cuban society and history, including the charge up "San Juan Hill," which most known because of the involvement of the soon to be president, Teddy Roosevelt, and his "Rough Riders." Unlike the correspondents covering Roosevelt's involvement, he focuses on the protracted battle of Cuban guerrillas against the much superior Spanish army and tells us:

Despite these heroics, the American soldiers spurned the ill-equipped, starving, dark-skinned Cubans. The American commanders assigned Cubans to dig trenches and, since there was a shortage of mules, to carry supplies. Correspondents wrote that the Cubans were "worthless" and "a sorry disappointment."

Despite what he identified as dereliction of duty by Teddy Roosevelt, the author focuses on another group of unsung heroes of the tenth Calvary, which was an all-black regiment - part of the officially segregated U.S. forces. One Southern officer later said,

If it had not been for the Negro cavalry, the Rough Riders would have been exterminated. I am not a Negro lover...but the Negroes saved that fight. At the time, according to the author, no newspaper wanted to report that the vaunted Rough Riders had been saved by black soldiers.

The author spent several years in Guatemala, which is reflected in several stories representing the region's past, as well as the present. He takes us back to 1561 when Catholic Priest Diego de Landa, who had been taken into the inner circle of Mayan elders is named the Provincial head of the order in Yucatan. And then the story takes a dark turn -- the cache of idols was discovered and the troubles in Mani began. Several weeks after the first auto-da-fe, Landa arrived in the village to assume supervision of the inquisition. He set up his court under the trees outside the monastery, and there, for the next three months, Landa interrogated and tortured more than 4,500 Maya, including people whom he had befriended during his missionary days. At least 158 people died during the inquiries.

The story ends with the introduction of yet another fascinating character and a surprise twist. As the author leaves the church where this sad piece of history took place, he came across the doorman who ragged a malformed leg behind him, the worn leather of his boot scraping on the floor and echoing in the cavernous church. He came toward me and stared hard. With his large head and big round eyes, he looked like some cave creature emerging from the depths. But as usual, the first impressions deceived. A soft, clear voice belied the dwarf's seemingly grotesque appearance.

After asking the author how he liked the church, the author asked why no marker existed to commemorate that historic event, to which the doorkeeper looked up with a sad, wry smile and shook his head. Ah, well, that is another matter. How do you say "odio" in your language?

Hatred, I said. Well, you see, he said, "here there is much "odio" for Diego de Landa. No, there can be no memorial to Landa here in Mani.

His profile on Guatemala ends with a humorous tale of surviving the traffic in the chaos of Guatemala City, as well as an insightful story about the importance of poetry in the lives of Guatemalans and their ability to recite poems of famous poets like Neruda, Dario and Garcia Lorca. And yet, young intellectuals and poets were mistrusted by their government and often pursued and even killed.

The author is an accomplished writer, having written two books of travel essays and published essays in Creative Nonfiction, River Teeth, TriQuarterly and other journals. Two of his essays have been selected for "Best American Travel Writing" (2003, 2015). He now teaches professional writing at the University of New Mexico.

Editorial Note: Reviewer Mark Walker was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Guatemala, co-founded a Guatemalan development agency and then managed child sponsorship programs for Plan International in Guatemala, Colombia and Sierra Leone. He has held senior fundraising positions for several groups like CARE International, MAP International, Make-A-Wish International, and was the CEO of Hagar. His memoir, Different Latitudes: My Life in the Peace Corps and Beyond, was published by Peace Corps Writers in 2017 and was ranked 36th by Amazon for "Travel, Central America and Guatemala. Two of his articles were featured in Revue Magazine and several others in WorldView, Ragazine and in the "Crossing Class: The Invisible Wall" anthology by Wising Up Press. Mark's wife and three children were born in Guatemala and now live in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Made By Mary
Laura Catherine Brown
C&R Press
9781936196883, $19.00 PB, $9.99 Kindle, 342pp,

Beatriz Copello

Made by Mary by Laura Catherine Brown has all the ingredients to make good read, through the pages of this book the reader will submerge themselves in the lives of very interesting characters who find themselves in unusual circumstances.

The main character is Ann, a woman desperate to have children and who is unable to do so as the result of a birth abnormality. The obsession for motherhood leads her to get involved in situations, which she believes would give her the child she so much desires. Ann is unhappy and blind to what she has: a job working with children, a husband who is prepared to do anything for her and a mother who also wants to help. Ann is a sad character, always seem anxious and in depressive moods she even appears jealous of other women who are able to have children.

A very interesting and likeable character is Mary, Ann's mother. She is a woman who celebrates life, an artisan who puts her heart in what she does, a woman who has love to give in a different way to Ann. Those who lived in hippy years will love Mary, she is a drawback from that era, she has all the values from that time: spirituality, organic living, sustainability, consciousness and of course free love. In fact Mary is able to lo love men or women.

Joel is Ann's husband, he is patient and eager to please Ann agreeing to get involved in the various plans that Ann develops to get the desired child.

There are other influential characters, like Jessica a foul-mouthed young pregnant woman who promises Ann to give her her child once he is born. I found that there are also some minor characters that do not add anything to the story. The story develops at a slow pace, but it is not a boring drive since Brown has the ability to envelop the reader in the narrative, which has smooth transitions and great descriptions, for example:

"Ann made a U - Turn. Jessica's house stood near an auto repair shop outside a town called Rock Hill, about twenty miles away from Bethel. The house appeared uninhabited, its raw wood exposed like naked skin beneath flecks of peeling paint. A torn sofa commanded half the porch. Dead plants drooped in pots suspended from the porch eves, as if someone had once made an effort."

Brown is also good at describing characters, she brings them to life in an easy way, for example when she describes Lars an ex of her mother Mary:

"A powerful memory of Lars arose: the stray hair that slipped from the rubber band of his blond ponytail, the spasm of his Adam's apple as he threw his head back to drink green chlorophyll from a gallon jug, the bony fingers as he wiped his paintbrushes with an oily linseed-soaked rag."

Relationships between mothers and daughters can be complicated; the writer with incredible skills peels the various levels of the relationship between Ann and Mary. Like all mothers, Mary did the best she could to bring up Ann but sadly she has to constantly justify her past behaviours as those of a 'good mother'.

Made by Mary is full of surprises, Joel who at the beginning of the book appears a very serious and honest individual enters into an agreement with Mary to grow marihuana, he justifies his acceptance of Mary's deal because he needs money desperately:

"You find me under financial pressure, said Joel. "My land is mortgaged; I've got a mountain of debt on a house I can't get a bridge loan to finish. The city of Monticello doesn't respond to my bids. I had to lay off one of my guys. I don't get it. I maxed out my credit on this IVF process, and the kid isn't even born yet."

A very interesting aspect of Made by Mary is all the information it contains on reproductive technology and medical procedures. It is obvious that the writer has done a lot of medical research for this book.

There is magic sprinkled in the pages of Made by Mary, pagan ceremonies, superstitions, symbols, reality and fantasy all narrated by a skilled writer. Pagan blessings to the goddess, to full blown ceremonies like a fertility blessing are carried out by Sage one of Mary's pagan friend, all these are amongst the most interesting aspects of this book. In one ceremony the priestess says: "Moon mother, we dance your dance. Air, fire, water, earth, elements of astral birth attend to us." Words like this fire up the imagination.

Brown has been able to weave the lives of the various characters with charm and skill expressing a myriad of emotions in usual and unusual events. Made by Mary is an unusual and fascinating book, I am sure readers won't be disappointed by it.

Editorial Note: Volunteer reviewer Dr Beatriz Copello is a former member of NSW Writers Centre Management Committee, writes poetry, reviews, fiction and plays. Beatriz's poetry has been published in literary journals such as Southerly and Australian Women's Book Review and in many feminist publications. She has read her poetry at events organised by the Sydney Writers Festival, the NSW Writers Centre, the Multicultural Arts Alliance, Refugee Week Committee, Humboldt University (USA), Ubud (Bali) Writers Festival. Under The Gums Long Shade is her fourth book of poetry.

Standing Out: a Cross-Cultural Journey of Self-Discovery
Angela Lee Chen
Blue Peony Publishing
9781945490026, $15.00 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 386pp,

Paige Lovitt, Reviewer
Reader Views

Dr. Angela Lee Chen has led a very interesting life. In "Standing Out: a Cross-Cultural Journey of Self-Discovery," she shares stories about her journey of self-discovery.

Being of Chinese descent, Angela was born in New York and raised in Kenya while her Chinese father worked as a diplomat for the United Nations. As a student in Kenya, Angela's education provided her with interesting memories of being able to interact with the children of other diplomats from all over the world, and with local Kenyans. The family vacations to China gave her a chance to explore the country. As an adult, she pursued her higher education in the United States and remained here. These cross-cultural experiences enabled her to see things from a more global perspective, but they also taught her that she does not have to allow herself to be pigeon-holed into common stereotypes that are based solely upon her appearance. As her parents begin to decline and she suffers the loss of her father, Angela takes over the care of her mother who is in the advanced stages of Alzheimer's. While dealing with losing both of them, Angela has an opportunity to learn more about this very reserved couple. Friends, family and their personal possessions provide her with information that help give her a better understanding of who they were. From what I read, it's clear they were pretty amazing people.

Angela Lee Chen is a talented writer, who has mastered the technique of being able to switch in and out of different timelines in her life, without confusing the reader. While I perused each chapter, I found myself getting more and more caught up in what she had to say. This book has many facets that held my attention. She takes readers into her life while she lived in exotic places. We also get to follow along with her and observe her family dynamics. As we go further into learning about her parent's lives, we gain an understanding of what made them the way that they were. We also get to see how their friends and family from the outside saw them. Angela learned much about them through the eyes of others.

"Standing Out: a Cross-Cultural Journey of Self-Discovery," by Angela Lee Chen is a story about someone else's amazing life, and it impacted me in a way that had me reflecting upon my own. It made me ask myself questions like, "How will I be remembered?" Is the answer to this the same as, "How do I want to be remembered?" It also made me look at my possessions and think about how others will view them after I am gone. I have so many reasons to recommend "Standing Out!" Readers who enjoy memoirs/biographies will love getting their hands on this one. Well done!

CeeGee's Gift
Joy H. Selak
9781732283114, $21.95 HC, 227,
9781732283107, $16.95 PB, 217,
1732283109 - $0.99 Kindle, 229pp,

BookLife Prize

Selak's novel is a feel-good story that will keep readers of all ages wanting to know what happens next. What sets Selak's novel apart from the rest is her superb storytelling skill. Selak creates an original novel by keeping readers enticed to know how the story unfolds and by continually provoking emotions from the reader. Selak does a very good job of creating likeable characters. Readers will find themselves falling in love with the characters of CeeGee and Mr. Tindale, in particular.

Rolf Margenau, author
Susan Haake, illustrator
Frogworks Publishing
9780997615845, $20.95 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 274pp,

Ryan Lance, Reviewer
The Book Review Directory

Genre: Mystery / Thriller
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

For a thriller, this is a lighter-hearted romp, where difficulties are readily swept aside and worries evaporate before the heroes, Dr. Lucy Mendoza and Grant Duran, the latter an ex-Marine with a network of friends and a range of skills that might make James Bond envious.

Lucy Mendoza leads the Longevity project, a medical research team tasked with examining the potential of a new enzyme that seems to help healthy cells live longer. She's overseeing a test group of patients who all seem to be revitalized by the drug, and others are taking notice.

The government is worrying about the Social Security costs should senior citizens start living longer thanks to the drug while some of Lucy's pharmaceutical funding partners see this as the next multimillion dollar pill - if they can get the rights to the drug and keep it for themselves.

While some just want to discredit the program, others are hoping to throw the project off balance by eliminating Lucy, but she isn't completely surrounded by enemies. One recent hire to the Longevity project is someone she once considered as more than a friend - Grant Duran, the man she was going to marry before he enlisted with the Marines.

The two move beyond their past struggles and heartache quickly, though, and as Lucy and the Longevity project come under attack, it's up to Grant to use his list of contacts and his military skills to figure out who or what they're up against...before it's too late.

The story is fast-paced and features a large cast, from government leaders to assassins to the evangelical preacher who is calling into question humanity's right to "play God." At times, the characters' various threads can be hard to follow, but with villains like Pinch, Krass, and Schmutz, their names make their roles in the story quite clear.

Imaginative and apparently grounded in science, the novel raises the question of whether medically-assisted long life is desirable and could provide a book club with a useful framework for discussion, but the book itself doesn't seem to make any particular judgments for or against the idea. It merely examines some of the facets affected and leaves it up to the reader to draw his or her own conclusions, though the usefulness of the medical community is never greatly questioned - just how to use what the medical community learns.

There are gaps in the plot, though, where things just conveniently happen so the story can keep moving forward or to eliminate a problem without elaboration, and one of the most obvious is where Lucy and Grant's relationship is concerned. Though there are hints of romance in this book, it's not structured to where readers will get to experience how Grant earns Lucy's trust again - that's just presented as a fact and readers are expected to move on to the action and imaginative plot twists ahead.

Thoughtful yet fast-paced, readers who enjoy medical thrillers with a dose of adventure will want to pick up this book. Its mix of humor, irony, medical science, and action will provide readers with a fun ride.

While You Were Gone, 2nd Edition
Sybil Baker
C&R Press
9781936196586, $18.00 PB, $9.99 Kindle, 294pp,

Claire Eva Kaplan

Sybil Baker's novel While You Were Gone has an enticing title - one that might instantly spur a correlation to the themes of 1989's The Trip to Bountiful (an elder person's need to revisit her hometown) or Tom Wolfe's book You Can't Go Home Again (predicated upon unfulfilled nostalgia) or, perhaps, to some other dubious occurrence.

While You Were Gonne's non-traditional, non-chapter format is a compelling division of storytelling - allowing for ingesting its developing sequences while encouraging personal retrospective reflections. The novel's narrative follows the personal "journeys" of three sisters (Shannon, Paige, and Claire) within family, among peers, and impacted by mores of the time.

Although set in Tennessee, the location is not pertinent to the intricacies relating family.

By her descriptive writing, Ms. Baker elicits the reader's associative bonding with incidents that parallel our own life stories. As a discerning reader, inquisitiveness will be piqued by unfamiliar references as to Chattanooga socialites - Tennessee based notables such as Bessie Smith, pioneer in the genre of blues. The book adheres to intervals of four years - beginning with "page space" 1995. These time spaces continue through to the present encompassing uncertainties, adjustments, and changing societal focus! Inclusive issues address: LGBT, the recreational drug scene, intimacy, mother-daughter relationships, surrogate parenting, and human life cycle (living and dying). Jeremy's car becomes the literary device driving us forward through the years!

Underlying the essence of While You Were Gone is its opening. It is Shannon's Senior Prom - a symbolic transitioning from 4 years of high school to adulthood. If one backtracks four decades to 1955, Senior Prom Night was also a chaperoned event, often with double dating and with the awkwardness of a partner arranged by family or friend. In Shannon's case, her cousin Jeremy was her date. Since 1995, there are no longer those kissing pretexts occurring with "Spin the Bottle" - or a slow, close, two step danced to: They try to tell us we're too young Too young to really be in love They say that love's a word. A word we've only heard but can't begin to know the meaning of . . . . !

Time Space 1999: 4 Years Later World population exceeds 6 billion. Y2k was a bust! Computers did not stop at the end of 1999. A new millennium.

In the four years that have elapsed, the high school friends are on the throes of experiencing "adulthood". Inevitably, their "passage" will display similarities or comparisons to other times.
With a time frame and setting now established, the novel's focus turns to a more intimate, though fragmented introduction to all the sisters and an array of other characters.

Within a smoke and pot reeked environ, the book now centers upon Paige and her startup band. Oblivious to the foggy and pungent smell, the young crowd represents the Class of 1999. On the cusp of a new millennium, they refer to themselves as "The Surplus Age". "One that has a surplus of friends, possibilities, money, and opportunities"!

Among this circle of friends, Paige aspires to be a performer, Karaoke style, using prerecorded music of her favorite singers.

This downstairs socializing at Shannon's, Paige's, and Claire's home was typical of those moderately secluded hangout basements and garages of the period. In that respect, Paige also muses whether popular bands from the 60s and thereafter also had starts in basements. Were drinking age laws in place?

Actually, The Beatles had a venue site outside of Liverpool for their first real gig. According to records though, it was a disaster, attended by about 18 spectators. Like other startup groups, they first met in smoke filled rooms like Paige's basement.

1999 was also a year of world concern about the dire needs regarding impoverished conditions in South Sudan, Africa. Ben, Shannon's boyfriend, is an avid photographer. He becomes an activist - motivated by photographer Kevin Carter's 1944 Pulitzer Prize photo depicting the scourge. (The photo first appeared in The New York Times on March 26, 1993. It showed "a frail famine stricken boy reported to be attempting to reach a United Nations feeding center in Ayod, South Sudan.")

1990s were still not accepting of LGBT youths. LGBT young adults felt in limbo. They knew they were disappointing parents who had expectations for them that included a "traditional" life. When Jeremy "comes out", he is devastated by his mother's rejection. There was no reaffirmation of acceptance. Supposedly, philosophically, parents were receptive to books such as William's Doll to indirectly present a model for future fathering.

Ben's and Shannon's relationship attest to continued open relationships and open marriages that gained momentum in the 1970s. Such increase in sexual freedom, and pre-marital "hook-ups" among the college set. became prevalent in the 1990s and now into the 21st century.

Initial focus is more inclusive of Shannon, less upon Paige, minimally upon Claire. Of the three sisters, Paige seems more attached to childhood memories: Mom and daughter tea parties; norm of hand-me-down or home sewn clothing; the rarity of Mom agreeing to a treasured "store bought". So true for schoolgirls during the 40s and 50s!

(Noteworthy is how fashion trends are cyclic - times when fads for Vintage Clothing" is sought and past fabrics such as cotton eyelet resurface.)

Description of Paige's bedroom makes it appear dowdy and unkempt. "Gauze curtains" were likely to be sheers. Describing the room's furniture as beat-up is an effect now duplicated as distressed - boasting a purposely scratched and marred finish. Such tables, chairs, etcetera have
become a hot spot for current room decor.

Maturity that accompanies being the eldest daughter, married, and expectant, gifts Claire as a source of comfort to her terminally ill mother. Snuggling next to her mother who drifts in and out between sleep and sleeplessness. There are brief moments of conversing! And one such discourse startled Claire. Her mother asked to go to Africa, to Kenya. "I'd meet my sister Tammy. . . ." Was her mother hallucinating? Will this be a revelation? Were there family secrets?

Talk to a Real, Live Girl
Paul Clayton
9781796302578, $6.99 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 150pp,

A. L. Peevey
Readers' Favorite
5 Stars

Talk to a Real, Live Girl And Other Stories by Paul Clayton is a short collection of light sci-fi tales. The flagship story is Talk to a Real, Live Girl. Disillusioned with the extreme societal and political changes on Earth and a ruined relationship, Alex leaves home to work at a mine on Kratos, a distant planet. Kratos also offers some free time diversions, one being particularly appealing to men far from home; robot females who are perfect and always willing. Alex has no real interest in them, despite his loneliness. Then, one day he meets Traci, a "real, live" girl. Do Alex and Traci have any real hope of a future together? In the next story, The Lawn, Bob Hanlon struggles mightily to come to terms with his forced retirement and the strange presence that seems to have taken up residence in his overgrown yard. In the third story, Happy Acres, a couple finds their new life on Mars less perfect than what they had been promised. Finally, the first two chapters of a novel-in-progress about the fabled Lost Colony of Roanoke complete this collection of stories.

In Talk to a Real, Live Girl And Other Stories by Paul Clayton, readers find entertaining stories that almost read like episodes of beloved classic sci-fi TV series. The main story, a poignant tale of loss, new possibilities, and adventure, makes some subtle, near humorous observations about contemporary American society and what the future could hold. The other two stories, while lighter fare and shorter, are no less interesting. These stories are a quick, enjoyable read, and Paul Clayton has a talent for immersing readers almost immediately in their narrative, including the bonus chapters at the end. Any message the author is trying to convey does not get in the way of the basic flow of the stories, which is a desirable feature. He also draws attention to other stories he has written, and readers will find themselves willing to invest time in reading these.

Unnurtured Teen, Poems from a Third Culture Kid
Dominic Pt
Independently Published
9781796971019, $5.94 PB, $4.57 Kindle, 27pp,
British Edition: 4.50 Brit. pounds Paperback / 3.49 Brit. pounds Kindle Ebook

PRforbooks UK

Synopsis: "Unnurtured Teen, Poems from a Third Culture Kid" is a compilation of 27 Short, Medium and Long poems about various topics from Gang culture, Alcohol and Drug dependency issues, Society and Prison mentality and reflection witnessed by the Author in Prison.

"I wanted to cut to the core of my story, and of humanity in general, and lay it all on the line with a book," explains the author. "My life has literally come full circle, something few can say. I've learned so much from my experiences and these have afforded me life-saving wisdom that I feel compelled to share with others."

Continuing, "This is a book for any age - from young people looking for vital guidance all the way to older readers who want to see how today's young people deal with adversity and the forces of peer pressure. There's something here for everyone, and my poetry has universal appeal."

'Unnurtured Teen: Poems from a Third Culture Kid' is available now:

Editorial Note: Dominic Pt is a young male who was born in an African country some years after independence. Good upbringing but through the teenage years became alcohol and drug dependent. Life of carelessness led him to find his way into a UK prison. "Unnurtured Teen" depicts what he witnessed.

Blackbird Flying: A Memoir
Sheila Nickerson
Fuze Publishing
9780999808962, $14.99 PB, $9.99 Kindle, 190pp,

Gabrielle Raffuse, Reviewer
Alaska Women Speak

Sheila Nickerson's latest book is a slim volume of short prose chapters entitled Blackbird Flying: A Memoir. As memoir, the book is unconventional. Readers get something different than a series of events and turning points in the writer's life. Nickerson, who was Alaska's Poet Laureate from 1977 to 1981, writes to explore in the way of the essay. Through acts of birding and researching past explorers and naturalists, through watching, waiting, and traveling, she writes to meditate upon the nature of life, love, memory, and the afterlife. Ultimately the poet muses over her obsessions with her own corners of the historical and physical world, looking to discover that which is beyond our ken, the unknown place where our ghosts reside and to which her mother has recently flown.

Nickerson's birdwatching is real but also becomes an extended metaphor for metaphysical exploration; likewise, the red-winged blackbird becomes a metaphor - a totem - for Nickerson's family, because, she tells us, her species is commonplace, resilient, and resourceful in a world of ever-changing landscapes and circumstances.

Though once an Alaska resident, Nickerson now lives on a coastal Carolina island. But whether in Alaska or South Carolina, she has an unfailing interest in geography, ecology, cartography, and the way people engage those aspects of existence. There along her Carolina marsh, Nickerson watches for birds and sets forth the geography of her position and some history of colonial exploration, including the lost colony of Roanoke and the legend of the first English baby born on American soil, Virginia Dare.

In its presentation of historical colonists, artists, naturalists, and writers, Blackbird Flying is an engaging read. Like Nickerson's earlier Disappearance: A Map: A Meditation on Death & Loss in the High Latitudes, Blackbird is full of stories about people lost to unforgiving landscapes and others who simply passed on, some famous and some members of Nickerson's family. She looks to the birds and to humans who've gone before, hoping to chart a new map. Seeking guides, she at one point visits a community of spiritualists and attends a seance, curiously choosing to contact a famous spiritualist rather than one of the family members she mourns in the book. But whether well-known to history or simply a part of her story, those who're lost to the mystical realm are the writer's go-tos in a rambling quest for answers to existential questions.

The rambling takes writer and readers out of the salt marsh and into childhood houses as well as back to Nickerson's ancestral Ireland. But the most important setting is the marsh that sits on the edge of the continent and therefore occupies a liminal space, which suggests the place between the here and the hereafter. Nickerson puts it this way: "This is the land of the salt marsh, an uncertain habitat where blackbirds flourish - a suitable place to search for my mother-and all those who had gone ahead into the pale lands of no map and no name."

Memory is also a place with no map. Nickerson's mother, grandmother, and aunt had suffered from dementia and so memory becomes another mystery of disappearance. The poet wonders about the memories the lost take with them: "What happens to memory when it breaks loose and flies off on its own?" Thus, memory is compared to a bird as well as Nickerson shares personal and familial stories that knock around her mind. These passages into personal history are the places in the book I found myself wanting more. We become privy to some of the family's successes, its history with dementia and other hardships: betrayals, estrangements, alcoholism. This history is as interesting as that of explorers and artists, but when it comes to the close and personal, this memoir doesn't embroider too intricately.

In Blackbird Flying, Sheila Nickerson picks up and carries on the obsessions of her Alaska book Disappearance, which is packed with anecdotes about travelers and explorers lost in the far north. In that book, Nickerson alternates chapters about geography, cartography, descriptions of landscapes and the way people enter them, with memoir. She creates her own logical thread connecting her interests to her own experience, a thread she throws out again in Blackbird Flying. The particulars of place and people differ, and birding is a new focus, but the obsessions remain - geography, landscape, those who've explored the unknown before us, and those we've lost but will follow someday into the numinous place that exists somewhere off the map.

A Journey Within
LouAnne Ludwig
Balboa Press
9781982202248, $12.99 PB, $3.57pp, 108pp,

Patricia Gale, Reviewer

A Journey Within (Balboa Press/Hay House, April 2018) is a delightful, powerful book by author and empath LouAnne Ludwig. It's part fable, part roadmap, and altogether inspiring. Ludwig went through an amazing, profound personal and spiritual journey of her own. She experienced a modern, East-West version of being called by angels - and she answered that call. But Ludwig didn't just become a better person for it. She turned into a teacher and an author, distilling what she learned into this luminous and charming book.

This is an entirely different kind of read than the countless self-help books we've all cracked open and then laid down. As Ludwig candidly relates in her own introduction, she did plenty of that herself. Instead, she chose to craft an entire world, with lively characters, a gorgeous place, and invaluable lessons and tools contained in its scenes. Not to get too literary about it, but in keeping with the timelessness and traditional myths of enlightenment, it's a classic use of allegory that makes perfect sense.

As the story begins, Ludwig herself is trapped in a life anyone would find outwardly successful. She was, as she describes herself, "an overworked, stressed-out real estate agent" with a family. She was restless. Something called to her - a higher power, another plane - she wasn't entirely sure what or who it was, but she had to answer. A true seeker, she turned to both spirituality and science to gain wisdom.

It wasn't an easy or always harmonious effort: at times she felt like her life was filled with moments of lunacy, as she writes. But it wasn't lunacy. It was a burgeoning sense of consciousness for all living beings, a growing awareness that we are all connected to each other, and to the Divine.

Once Ludwig found her own way to the Divine - which some may call God, and some may call Spirit - she realized she had to bring others on the path as well. That's where she turned to another age-old tradition: storytelling. She created a marvelous young character, both tangible and mythical. "Here is a story about a boy who is not really a boy but a woman who has been through all this and more." The riddle aspect is not unusual in many ancient traditions, and it reflects the multilayered nature of existence and Spirit.

When the boy finds himself marooned on a remote island - part dreamscape, part higher plane - he's both awed and terrified. Faced with constant challenges, from finding food to building shelter, he has to learn how to survive, and so unfolds a tale of how he gains the tools to live. Of course these tools are mental ones, and his teacher is a mysterious, God-like figure who appears at just the right moment, ready to guide him. Within the book's long and interconnected chain of fables - each chapter a different lesson - is a lovely metaphor about how we find our way, and find meaning in the daily challenges of our modern-day lives.

Ludwig has done her homework, to be sure. She offers her own version of some extremely powerful mind-training skills, written in an engaging style. She encourages the reader to digest the book in its entirety first, and then return to it, consulting chapters as they fit different questions and needs.

Among the skills Ludwig teaches, with scenes that reinforce these lessons as the reader improves: intention setting, mindfulness, the law of attraction, radical forgiveness, meditation, and living in the now. It's an intelligent and appealing way to grow - not just by practicing, but by reading and experiencing how the book's young hero tries and tries again until he gets it right.

Indeed, in this easy to carry, fast-reading, helpful little book, LouAnne Ludwig gets it right. Her lessons are rich with the concepts of giving thanks, and finding the Divine - however we define it - in everyone and everything. Now we can thank Ludwig for A Journey Within, and for the joy and wonder in its pages, as well.

Grow in the Grace: Spiritual Growth Lessons from Peter's Walk with Jesus
James Callen
CrossLink Publishing
9781633571457, $16.95 PB, $4.99 eBook, 237pp,

Lesley Jones, Reviewer

Do you want to learn more about the kind of relationship you should have with God and gain a better understanding of what it truly means to bring Him into your heart and life? How can you enrich your life and those around you and learn to evaluate your lifestyle and intentions so they align perfectly with being a Christian? If you are struggling with what it means to live an authentic Christian existence, this book will teach you through Jesus' lessons to his disciples, especially Peter, that obstacles, self-doubt and opposition from others are opportunities to grow spiritually. Humility and true forgiveness are the keys to magnify your devotion to God. Through the author's personal life experiences and passages from the Bible, you will gain true insight into the path God has chosen for you, knowing He walks beside you with His powerful presence. Learn to let go of past experiences and look to the future with the knowledge Jesus is always with you, if you accept him into your heart.

Grow in the Grace: Spiritual Growth Lessons from Peter's Walk with Jesus by James Callen will drastically change your perception of what it means to lead a Christian life. The personal experiences of the author and how they relate to passages in the Bible were so enlightening. I learned that sometimes as a Christian you have to challenge society's views and influences of selfishness and materialistic desires. The stories of Peter and Jesus' relationship was not only refreshing but inspiring. To know that just because you have made mistakes you will not be judged but given the encouragement to fulfill your utmost capability was, for me, a real spiritual discovery. This book is full of discussion points and encouragement to those who want a stronger and more honest relationship with God. An honest and thought-provoking book that will bring peace to many who struggle with their faith.

Library of Small Catastrophes
Alison C. Rollins
Copper Canyon Press
PO Box 271, Port Townsend, WA 98368
9781556595394, $16.00, PB, 96pp,

Raul Nino, Reviewer
Booklist Online

In her debut, Rollins imagines an enlivening and enlightening library of life's calamities, infusing order via a surrealist's catalog of imagery. Rollins' poetic curiosity expands into the crevices of our collective histories, and both sociological and metaphorical sources feed her wonderment at the world she observes.

Even its cruelties, as in "Lost Causes": "His reach extending through the windows. / A scapegoat for how a woman could come / to be with child. How an eleven-year-old / gives birth after rape." Rollins turns phantasmagorical as she pays homage to Jorge Luis Borges' "The Library of Babel": "When a blind poet says I need you / to be my eyes, they are asking to see / through your mouth."

These poems create a collection of compelling images, but there are no mere curios. Rather, her lines whip reason out of seeming chaos, as in the rollicking "Free Radical," a poem that reveals a new possible meaning each time it's read.

Yet another current in Rollins' extraordinary poem-library is her consideration of womanhood, especially Black womanhood, in a society of expanding and contracting choices and fitful political headwinds.

Like sunflowers turning towards the sun, readers will turn to this astounding poet.

Wordstruck! The Fun and Fascination of Language
Susanna Janssen
Lexicon Alley Press
9780998304823, $17.95 PB, $9.99 Kindle, 343pp,

Carrie Meehan, Reviewer
Chanticleer Book Reviews

Genres: Humor, Phonetics & Phonics Reference, Pop Culture Encyclopedias

As Susanna Janssen notes in this eclectic and fabulously fun study of all things language-related, "The world of words is ever-changing, dynamic, and alive with the times as we constantly invent vocabulary to talk about new realities." And she proves just that in this book that overflows with wit, wisdom, humor, and an infectious love of spoken and written words and phrases.

Janssen warmly engages the reader to take an etymological adventure with her, one that has me listening for new words in conversations and scanning newspaper articles for recent additions to the English language. Her book is a potent reminder that language is not static, that at this very moment it's evolving. Yes, it's alive!

Consider some of the words used in the second decade of the 21st Century: Beatbox. Catfish. Frenemy. Geocache. Selfie-stick. Quinzhee (I confess, I had to look this one up). Could we have anticipated their advent? No, just as we can't say with certainty what new words will enter our vocabulary with the next generation. Children will be asking Santa for gifts with names that currently elude us. The uncertainty, though, only underscores how wondrous language is as it chronicles and shapes life around the globe.

Wordstruck! is brimming with research (check out the impressive list of sources consulted), anecdotes, charming and often hilarious footnotes that chart the author's efforts to bring us this enthusiastic celebration of language and its evolution. For example, did you know that Homer used a total of 9,000 different words to write the Iliad and the Odyssey? Shakespeare, centuries later, used 30,000 to write his plays, although part of the reason he was so much wordier than Homer is that the Bard birthed new words right and left and gave older words a new versatility. He did amazing things by simply adding "un" to the front of a noun. We may use words like "clean" and "unclean" without thinking today, but at one time, flipping the meaning of a word was both a novelty and an innovation.

If you're a grammar nerd like I am, you'll love Janssen's observations of people who "overcompensate" and use "I" when "me" is the correct pronoun. And is there a more beautiful definition of a preposition than "...just a handy little word that usually tells us the relationship between what precedes it and what follows it"? Words migrate with people; they morph when cultures bump up against each other via war (M'aidy! For "Aid Me" becomes Mayday!), religion (consider the Diet of Worms, eeeew! Papal Bulls?!), and love (Do you prefer, "Will you be my valentine"? or "Will you be my little poopsie?") And why does the color yellow evoke different feelings in Germany than it does in the United States? Yes, language is the vehicle for humans loving, fighting, worshipping, and feeling. Language is the thread that connects and weaves together every aspect of life.

In the second half of the book, the author shares her story and how she first came to write the chapters as articles for a local paper. Her stint as a journalist followed a career as a professor of Spanish with a lifelong bent for all things related to the Romance languages. Her upbringing in a Catholic family of Dutch and Italian origins put her on a path to a lingual life. She would love her readers to share her joy, and she urges all to study a second language to reap countless benefits, including keeping a sharp mind as we age.

There are just too many gems to fit into a single review of this book, and that is precisely why you must read Wordstruck! and experience its subtitle, The Fun and Fascination of Language, firsthand. Be ready to learn, to laugh, and to love language in all its complexity!

Grace Revealed: Finding God's Strength in Any Crisis
Fred Sievert
Broadstreet Publishing Group, Inc
9781424556380, $16.99 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 229pp,

Mindi, Reviewer
On Line Book Club

When reading a book such as Grace Revealed: Finding God's Strength in Any Crisis by Frederick J. Sievert, it should leave a person completely confident that God's grace is more powerful than any other solution to problems. Through the extremely emotional experiences of various people in this book, the consistent thread of grace was intertwined throughout all of them.

This is a story describing the many crises that we may face in life and the inherent need of God's grace in all of those crises. Sievert begins the book by explaining the Bible's message of grace and his own thoughts on how this affects us throughout any problem or situation. He explains that the life of a Christian follows three phases: Experiencing a crisis, receiving grace, and returning grace to others. After explaining his thoughts, he divides the book into chapters about different types of crises that people may face, such as various types of abuse, addictions, physical and medical conditions, family issues, grief and tragedy, and career-related issues. Each chapter contains several stories from various people Sievert has encountered that fit into that that particular type of crisis. The stories are very emotional accounts of what those people faced and how they were eventually redeemed in some way, only by the grace of God.

Each story is very emotional, whether you have experienced something similar or not. Almost every person has experienced some form of crisis in their lifetime, and it is very likely that at least one of these situations could be somewhat similar to their own challenges. After each story, Sievert reflects on his thoughts about that situation and how evident God's presence was for that person.

The majority of the stories contained some type of way that the crisis victim was able to reach out to others and make a difference in others' lives after being redeemed in their own journey. That reflected the step of "returning grace to others" that Sievert said was almost always a part of the spiritual, redemptive journey of Christians who are facing a crisis. I was moved to tears so many times during this book and could see so many common threads between these stories and either my own life or the lives of people I have come in contact with at some point in life. It was amazing to see how some of these people, especially those who were victimized in some way, were able to put bitterness and contempt from certain situations to rest and pass it over to God's hands, therefore starting their journey of healing and redemption.

The author wrote so many inspirational quotes throughout the book. One that particularly moved me was, "Instead of seeing the past as a detriment, begin to see it as a stage for God to display his power." He also used many verses that related to God's power and grace in times of crisis.

I highly recommend this book, as some aspect of it should hit home with most readers. Be ready for a very inspirational and uplifting story. It is well-edited, and I cannot think of anything negative about this book. I rate it 4 out of 4 stars. Please check out this life-changing book if you have the chance!

Andrea's Bookshelf

Before Homosexuals
First Run Features
630 Ninth Avenue, Suite 1213, New York, NY 10036

Before Homosexuals: From Ancient Times to Victorian Crimes is a vivid documentary about same-sex erotica in human history, including intensely passionate same-sex poetry, visual art, and writing. Here are lesbian love spells from ancient Rome; censored chapters of the Kamasutra; Native American two-spirit rituals; centuries-old erotic gay and lesbian art; and much more. Producer John Scagliotti (also known for the landmark films "Before Stonewall" and "After Stonewall") speaks with experts on history, art, and sexuality in this riveting historical tour. Before Homosexuals is highly recommended for mature viewers. 87 minutes.

The Story of Bluff
Mr. Kind, author
Visualized by Zacc Politt
Privately Published
9781729274460 $9.99 PB, $2.99 Kindle, 24pp,

"The Story of Bluff" is a clever children's tale in verse about a clever and mean blond, white skinned magician-like man who made fun of others and told lies about himself until all the fun was stolen from the earth. A yellow-suited, black skinned stranger challenged Mr. Bluff to a marble game, because he had stolen all the fun from the game. Very mysteriously, the yellow suited stranger beat Bluff in his own cheater's game. As he was crying, Bluff saw an earth colored angel rise up from a crack in the earth and say to him: "You have cracked open the earth and you have done so for fun... No matter how grand you may think you are, there may be someone much better, much better by far." The musical rhymes and the dazzling illustrations make "The Story of Bluff" into a winning child's allegory tale with obvious current political implications. The magical marble game with earth colored shooters is a fantastic metaphor for the stakes of the political game being played for planet earth's health and survival.

Andrea Kay

Bethany's Bookshelf

Balloonomania Belles
Sharon Wright
Pen & Sword Books
c/o Casemate (distribution)
9781526708342, $34.95, HC, 184pp,

Synopsis: In "Balloonomania Belles: Daredevil Divas who First Took to the Sky", author and journalist Sharon Wright reveals the astonishing stories of the fabulous female pioneers of balloon flight. More than a century before the first airplane women were heading for the heavens in crazy, inspired contraptions that could bring death or glory and all too often -- both.

Women were in the vanguard of the "Balloonomania" hot air ballooning craze that took hold in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and swept across Europe then the world. Their exploits were a vital element of our first voyages into the sky. When women's options were often severely limited by law and convention they managed to join the exhilarating quest for spectacle, adventure and danger among the clouds.

Many of the brightest stars of this extraordinary era of human flight were women. From the perilous ascent in 1784 by feisty French teenager Elisabeth Thible, female aeronauts have never looked back -- or down! "Balloonomania Belles" showcases these brave women who took to the air as the very first women to fly when it was such an incredibly dangerous and scandalous thing to do.

Critique: A simply brilliant history that rescues from undeserved obscurity a roster of pioneering women in the very beginning of the age of aviation, "Balloonomania Belles: Daredevil Divas who First Took to the Sky" is an inherently fascinating and impressively informative read from cover to cover. While an essential and core addition to both community and academic library Women's History and Aviation History collections and supplemental studies lists, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Balloonomania Belles" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.79).

My Toddler's First Words
Kimberly O. Scanlon
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781978371903, $12.95, PB, 146pp,

Synopsis: Kimberly O. Scanlon is a New Jersey-licensed speech pathologist and is nationally certified by the American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA). She is a four time recipient of ASHA's award for continuing education (ACE). She graduated from Rutgers University with a Bachelor of Science and earned her Master of Arts in Communication Disorders from Montclair State University.

Kimberly has written "My Toddler's First Words: A Step-By-Step Guide to Jump-Start, Track, and Expand Your Toddler's Language" to help the parents and care givers of toddlers who are struggling with their first words by sharing her evidence-based techniques to model, elicit, track, and expand a toddler's language skills.

"My Toddler's First Words" contains step-by-step instructions to stimulate a child's verbal skills. With expert guidance, parents and care givers will discover what to expect from a child's first words and learn to recognize each milestone along their language development journey. Through this interactive instructional guide manual, parents and caregivers will learn simple speech therapy techniques to catapult a toddler's communication skills to the next level.

"My Toddler's First Words" features: Proven speech therapy techniques and real-world examples to encourage language growth; Lists of words that tend to develop early on that may be missing from your child's vocabulary; A systematic approach for tracking progress to pinpoint which activities work best for your toddler; How to coordinate your developmental efforts with speech language professionals to compound the benefits; Straight answers to your most pressing questions and concerns -- and so much more!

Critique: Thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, "My Toddler's First Words: A Step-By-Step Guide to Jump-Start, Track, and Expand Your Toddler's Language" is an ideal and unreservedly recommended interactive workbook for parents, daycare center staff, preschool staff, kindergarten teachers, and speech professionals working with children ages 2-5 with their language skills and development.

Jennifer Post Modern
Jennifer Post & Anna Kasabian
Pointed Leaf Press
9781938461880, $75.00, HC, 240pp,

Synopsis: The AD100 designer best known for her sleek white minimalist interiors, Jennifer Post is the mastermind and driving force behind the award-winning architecture and design firm, Jennifer Post Design Inc. For over twenty years, she has been at the forefront of creating elegant modern, contemporary homes with a flair of sophistication sought after by an elite clientele. Post's ability to edit living spaces down to the most essential, uncluttered luxuries has earned her and her firm a world class reputation amongst the country's leading architects and designers.

"Jennifer Post Modern" is the second monograph on Jennifer's work and features her latest and most significant projects to date -- the majority of which have never been published. Working in some of New York's most impressive luxury buildings as well as in the Hamptons, Florida, and the Caribbean, the style of these interiors reflects a shift in her design philosophy. As she moves away from purely monochromatic spaces and introduces more vivid colors and dark contrasts, Jennifer still works tirelessly to create modern lifestyles for her clients.

Featuring three double-page gatefolds showcasing a few especially jaw-dropping interiors, "Jennifer Post Modern" is a reflection on her recent transformation as she looks forward to her next brilliant and creative project.

Critique: A beautifully and profusely illustrated coffee-table book style compendium of interior designs, motifs, and creations, "Jennifer Post Modern" impressively organized and presented, making it certain to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to personal, professional, community, collect, and university library Contemporary Interior Design collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

Adventures in Black and White
Philippa Schuler, author
Tara Betts, editor
2Leaf Press
PO Box 4378, Grand Central Station, New York, NY, 10163-4378
9781940939773, $18.99, PB, 324pp,

Synopsis: A memoir-travelogue first published in 1960, mixed-race American pianist, composer, journalist and author Philippa Schuler's "Adventures in Black and White" is being reissued by 2Leaf Press with a critical introduction, including minor edits and annotations of the original text by scholar Tara Betts.

Recognized as a prodigy at an early age, Philippa Duke Schuyler was heralded as America's first internationally-acclaimed mixed race celebrity. Her father, a conservative black journalist, and her mother, a white Texan heiress, dedicated Schuyler's development to the cause of integration with the claim that racial mixing could produce a superior hybrid human, a claim that Schuyler resisted, but would nonetheless hurl her into a destructive identity crisis that consumed her throughout her life.

When the transition from child prodigy to concert pianist proved challenging in America, Schuyler, like many black performers before her, went abroad during the 1950s for larger audiences. Schuyler's witnessing first-hand the dissemblage of European colonies in Africa and the Middle East is the focus of "Adventures in Black and White".

Her narrative connects the Harlem Renaissance to the prelude of the Civil Rights Movement at a time when the public conversation on interracial identity in America was just beginning. As Schuyler writes about Africa ("the homeland of her ancestors") her readers can begin to understand how the young musician would eventually find her way as an author and a journalist, and the books that followed.

Critique: An inherently interesting and impressively informative memoir and cultural history by the late Philippa Schuler (1931-1967), "Adventures in Black and White" is unreservedly recommended for personal reading lists and both community and academic library 20th Century American Biography collections and 20th Century African-American History supplemental studies lists.

So What Happened to God, Religion, Science, and Democracy?
Bruce Silverman
Regent Press
2747 Regent St., Berkeley, CA 94705
9781587904691, $19.95, PB, 186pp,

Synopsis: "So What Happened to God, Religion, Science, and Democracy?" is comprised of 72 poems and 72 short essays by Bruce Silverman. Included are reflections and midrashim on the Hebrew Bible and the High Holy Days. This unique offering pairs brief essays and poems that probe and tweak our notions about what happened to god and religion.

Silverman is a poet, musician, and explorer of dreams and myths who takes his readers on a ride that is both playful and profound. The poems and essays are universal in nature, even as Silverman dives deeply into Jewish themes from his own life experience. As he puts it: "Does all consciousness reside inside the scope of the human brain, or does it fly on the wings of birds? To me it's a no brainer."

Critique: An absorbingly thoughtful and thought-provoking read from first page to last, "So What Happened to God, Religion, Science, and Democracy?" is an extraordinary and memorable read and a unique volume that is unreservedly recommended for personal, community, and academic library Contemporary Religion/Spirituality collections.

Underground Women: Stories
Jesse Lee Kercheval
University of Wisconsin Press
1930 Monroe Street, Third Floor, Madison, WI 53711-2059
9780299323943, $16.95, PB, 120pp,

Synopsis: A newlywed gazes upon the wreckage of the Titanic. A young woman becomes the protege of a Parisian hotelier. An old woman meets an angel in a ghost town. "Underground Women" is a compilation of short stories by Jesse Lee Kercheval.

The heart of this volume is a reissue of narratives first published as the The Dogeater, winner of the AWP Short Fiction Award in 1987. With arresting imagery and heart-wrenching storylines, Kercheval's work uses humor and imagination to weave together themes of loss, dignity, tenacity and acceptance. These surreal and powerful vignettes will resonate with readers today as much as they did when first published.

Critique: An inherently engaging, entertaining, thoughtful and thought-provoking read, "Underground Women: Stories" showcases author Jesse Lee Kercheval's impressively original and deftly crafted narrative storytelling style. While unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Contemporary Literary Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Underground Women: Stories" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Long Beach Island Chronicles
Margaret Thomas Buchholz, editor
Down the Shore Publishing
PO Box 100, West Creek, NJ 08092
9781593221140, $17.95, PB, 280pp,

Synopsis: Compiled and edited by Margaret thomas Buchhoz, the "Long Beach Island Chronicles" is comprised of a curated selection of great writing from The SandPaper, The Beachcomber, and other publications, by contributors who share the experience that is Long Beach Island by locals and visitors alike.

More than 70 accounts capture quintessential experiences on the water and on the beach, the joy of a shore summer and our dramatically different seasons. There is humor, history and natural history, the terror of great storms, environmental warnings from the past, and timeless island pleasures that continue from one generation to the next. From stories about landmarks to ice cream; from fishing, sailing, and surfing to rescues, beachcombing, and entertainment, this collection is a delightful salty sampler of Long Beach Island life.

Arranging in five sections (Up and Down the Island, On the Water, Night Beat, Island Storms, The Environment, Way Back When), the "Long Beach Island Chronicles" explores the full spectrum of LBI life, including summer jobs, surfing history, rumrunners, beachcombings, a threatened lighthouse, the flooded island, music and clubs, terrifying storms, the joy of summer crowds, and more.

Critique: An inherently engaging, informative, and entertaining read from cover to cover, "Long Beach Island Chronicles" is enhanced with the inclusion of black/white historical photos and is an extraordinary and highly recommended addition to personal reading lists and community library collections.

Partners for Preservation
Jeanne Kramer-Smyth, editor
Facet Publishing
9781783303489, $160.57, 224pp,

Synopsis: Knowledgeably compiled and expertly edited by Jeanne Kramer-Smyth, "Partners for Preservation: Advancing digital preservation through cross-community collaboration" features chapters from international contributors from diverse backgrounds and professions discussing their challenges with and victories over digital problems that share common issues with those facing digital preservationists.

The only certainty about technology is that it will change. The speed of that change, and the ever increasing diversity of digital formats, tools, and platforms, will present stark challenges to the long-term preservation of digital records.

Archivists are frequently challenged by the technical expertise, subject matter knowledge, time, and resource requirements needed to solve the broad set of challenges sure to be faced by the archival profession.

The contributors to "Partners for Preservation" collectively advocate the need for archivists to recruit partners and learn lessons from across diverse professions to work more effectively within the digital landscape. Includes discussion of: the internet of things digital architecture research data and collaboration open source programming privacy, memory and transparency inheritance of digital media.

Critique: Comprised of ten erudite, informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking essays, "Partners for Preservation: Advancing digital preservation through cross-community collaboration" is especially and unreservedly recommended to the attention of professional archivists and others responsible for digital preservation, as well as students of archival studies and digital preservation. While very highly recommended as a core addition to college and university library data management and processing collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, librarians, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Partners for Preservation" is also available in a paperback edition (9781783303472, $93.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Currently an archivist by day and a writer, glass artist, and fan of board games by night, Jeanne Kramer-Smyth has been writing since she first got her hands on a typewriter at age 9.

Susan Bethany

Buhle's Bookshelf

Crush: The Triumph of California Wine
John Briscoe
University of Nevada Press
Mail Stop 0166, Reno, NV, 89557-0166
9781943859498, $34.95, HC, 368pp,

Synopsis: "Crush: The Triumph of California Wine" by John Briscoe is the 200-year story of the heady dream that wines as good as the greatest of France could be made in California. A dream dashed four times in merciless succession until it was ultimately realized in a stunning blind tasting in Paris. In that tasting, in the year of America's bicentennial, California wines took their place as the leading wines of the world.

For the first time, Briscoe tells the complete and dramatic story of the ascendancy of California wine in vivid detail. He also profiles the larger story of California itself by looking at it from an entirely innovative perspective, the state seen through its singular wine history.

With dramatic flair and verve, Briscoe not only recounts the history of wine and winemaking in California, he encompasses a multidimensional approach that takes into account an array of social, political, cultural, legal, and winemaking sources.

Critique: An inherently fascinating, impressive informative, exceptionally written and presented history, "Crush: The Triumph of California Wine" will prove to be of immense interest to anyone who has ever sampled and appreciated a California vintage. While very highly recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Crush: The Triumph of California Wine" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $23.35).

Infinity in the Palm of Your Hand
Marcus Chown
Diversion Books
9781635765946, $16.99, PB, 224pp,

Synopsis: Consider such facts as: You could fit the whole human race in the volume of a sugar cube; The electrical energy in a single mosquito is enough to cause a global mass extinction; You age more quickly on the top floor than on the ground floor.

So much of our world seems to make perfect sense, and scientific breakthroughs have helped us understand ourselves, our planet, and our place in the universe in fascinating detail. But our adventures in space, our deepening understanding of the quantum world, and our leaps in technology have also revealed a universe far stranger than we ever imagined.

"Infinity in the Palm of Your Hand: Fifty Wonders That Reveal an Extraordinary Universe" by Marcus Chown deftly examines the profound science behind fifty remarkable scientific facts that help explain the vast complexities of our existence.

Critique: An inherently fascinating and impressively informative read from cover to cover, "Infinity in the Palm of Your Hand: Fifty Wonders That Reveal an Extraordinary Universe" is a unique and highly recommended addition to both community and academic library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Infinity in the Palm of Your Hand" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Brilliance Audio, 9781799719229, $24.99, CD).

Barns, Farms, and Rolling Hills of Chester County
Jerome M. Casey
Schiffer Publishing Ltd.
4880 Lower Valley Road, Atglen, PA 19310
9780764357565, $24.99, HC, 144pp,

Synopsis: Readers of Jerome M. Casey's photographic travelog, "Barns, Farms, and Rolling Hills of Chester County" will learn just what makes Chester County, Pennsylvania, worthy of a day trip. "Barns, Farms, and Rolling Hills of Chester County" is a truly memorable photographic journey from east to west, from sunrise to sunset, and in all four seasons.

While some of the sights were captured along the main roads of this rural county, it's the fine-grained network of back roads that transports viewers back in time with their hidden gems that include classic old barns, rolling hills, gravel lanes, and wind breaks memorializing a simpler way of life. The livestock that call these farms home are as diverse as the barns themselves, including horses, cows, sheep, and goats, not to mention Texas longhorn cattle, buffalo, bison, emu, and alpaca.

The Radnor Hunt and other events are a testament to the area's commitment to preserving open space in an area of growing density on the outskirts of Philadelphia.

Critique: Packed from cover to cover with impressively beautiful, captioned photography, "Barns, Farms, and Rolling Hills of Chester County" is an extraordinary browsing experience that will have a very special appeal to all armchair travelers and is especially recommended for personal and community library Contemporary American Photography collections.

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

Artifact: The Art and Gardens of Jeff Mendoza
Jeff Mendoza
Pointed Leaf Press
9781938461897, $50.00, HC, 136pp,

Synopsis: "Artifact: The Art and Gardens of Jeff Mendoza" presents the thoughtful and sophisticated landscape designs of Jeff Mendoza. A formally trained artist, his work often reflects the natural world - depicting botanical forms with earthy palettes. Jeff noticed this connection and opened his eponymous firm, J. Mendoza Gardens in 1987.

While plants became his medium, Jeff approached the design of a garden in the same manner he would a drawing or painting - considering form, color, texture, scale, and the overall composition.

Essentially, "Artifact" is a portfolio of Mendoza's accomplished career tracing his various projects (whether a city terrace or a country yard) intellectually planned for each unique environment and spatial layout.

Critique: Profusely and beautifully illustrated throughout, "Artifact: The Art and Gardens of Jeff Mendoza" will have a very special and enduring appeal to professional landscapers, garden designers, and non-specialist general readers seeking inspiration for their own DIY efforts at using plants to horticulturally sculpt and outdoors area into a thing of lasting beauty. A singular delight to simply browse through one memorable and inspiring page at a time, "Artifact: The Art and Gardens of Jeff Mendoza" will prove to be an immediate and lastingly popular addition to personal, professional, community, and community library Gardening & Landscaping collections.

The History Behind Game of Thrones: The North Remembers
David C. Weinczok
Pen & Sword Books
c/o Casemate (distribution)
1526749009, $34.95, HC, 280pp,

Synopsis: A wall in the distant north cuts the world in two. Ruthless seaborne warriors raid the coasts from their war galleys, yearning to regain lost glories. A young nobleman and his kin are slaughtered under a banner of truce within a mighty castle. A warrior king becomes a legend when he smites his foe with one swing of his axe during a nation-forging battle. Yet this isn't Westeros of George R. R. Martin's "Game of Thrones" -- it's Scotland.

"Game of Thrones" is essentially history re-imagined as fantasy; "The History Behind Game of Thrones: The North Remembers" by David C. Winczok draws upon George R. R. Martin's extraordinary fictional universe as a way to understand the driving forces and defining moments from Scotland's story and deals with such questions as: Why were castles so important? Was there a limit to the powers a medieval king could use - or abuse? What was the reality of being under siege? Was there really anything that can compare to the destructive force of dragons?

By joining forces, Westeros and Scotland hold the answers.

"The History Behind Game of Thrones: The North Remembers" draws on a vast array of characters, events, places, and themes from Scottish history that echo Game of Thrones at every dramatic turn. Visit the castle where the real Red Wedding transpired, encounter the fearsome historical tribes beyond Rome's great wall, learn how a blood-red heart became the most feared sigil in Scotland, and much more.

By journey's end, the cogs in the wheels of Martin's world and Scottish history are laid bare in the pages of "The History Behind Game of Thrones: The North Remembers".

Critique: An absolute 'must read' for the legions of Game of Thrones fans, "The History Behind Game of Thrones: The North Remembers" is certain to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to both community and academic library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The History Behind Game of Thrones: The North Remembers" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.99).

The Border
David J. Danelo
Stackpole Books
5067 Ritter Road, Mechanicsburg, PA 17055-6921
9780811738033, $22.95, PB, 264pp,

Synopsis: David Danelo spent three months traveling the 1,952 miles that separate the United States and Mexico -- a journey that took him across four states and two countries through a world of rivers and canals, mountains and deserts, highways and dirt roads, fences and border towns. Here the border isn't just an abstraction thrown around in political debates in Washington; it's a physical reality, infinitely more complex than most politicians believe.

Danelo's investigative report about a complex, longstanding debate that became a central issue of the 2016 presidential race examines the border in human terms through a cast of colorful characters. As topical today as it was when Danelo made his trek, this newly revised and updated edition asks and answers such core questions as: Should we close the border? Is a fence or wall the answer? Is the U.S. government capable of fully securing the border?

Critique: An invaluable and timely contribution to our on-going national debate with respect to current immigration policies and the security of the Mexican/American boarder, "The Border: Journeys along the U.S.-Mexico Border, the World's Most Consequential Divide" is an impressively informative and highly recommended addition to community, college, and university library collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of social activists, governmental policy makers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Border" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.39).

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

The Sponsor Effect
Sylvia Ann Hewlett
Harvard Business Review Press
60 Harvard Way, Boston, MA 02163
9781633695658, $30.00, HC, 208pp,

Synopsis: Many people know the benefit of finding a sponsor -- someone who goes beyond traditional mentorship to partner with a junior-level employee to help build their skills, advocate for them when opportunities arise, and open doors. But few realize that being a sponsor is just as important to career growth as finding one.

According to new research from economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett, senior executives who sponsor rising talent are 53 percent more likely to be promoted than those who don't. Similarly, middle-level managers who have proteges are 167 percent more likely to be given stretch assignments. Well-chosen proteges contribute stellar performance, steadfast loyalty, and capabilities that you, the sponsor, may lack, thus increasing how fast and how far you can go.

But how do you find standout proteges, let alone develop them so that they're able to come through for you and your organization?

"The Sponsor Effect: How to Be a Better Leader by Investing in Others" has the answers you need. Combining powerful new data and rich examples drawn from in-depth interviews with leaders from companies such as Unilever, Aetna, Blizzard Entertainment, and EY, The Sponsor Effect provides a seven-step playbook for how you can become a successful sponsor.

"The Sponsor Effect" will enable you to: Identify the right mix of proteges; Include those with differing perspectives; Inspire your proteges and ignite their ambition; Instruct them to develop key skill sets; Inspect your picks for performance and loyalty; Instigate a deal, detailing the terms of a relationship; Invest three ways and reap the rewards.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The Sponsor Effect: How to Be a Better Leader by Investing in Others" is a 'real world practical' instructional guide and manual that is unreservedly recommended for community, corporate, college, and university library Business Management collections and MBA supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for business students, corporate executives, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Sponsor Effect" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $20.43).

Editorial Note: Sylvia Ann Hewlett is an economist and the CEO of Hewlett Consulting Partners. She is also the founder and Chair Emeritus of the Center for Talent Innovation. She is the author of fourteen critically acclaimed books, including Off-Ramps and On-Ramps; Forget a Mentor, Find a Sponsor; and Executive Presence. Her social media/website access includes:,,,

Joyful Human Rights
William Paul Simmons
University of Pennsylvania Press
3905 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-4112
9780812251012, $75.00, HC, 304pp,

Synopsis: In popular, legal, and academic discourses, the term "human rights" is now almost always discussed in relation to its opposite: human rights abuses. Syllabi, textbooks, and articles focus largely on victimization and trauma, with scarcely a mention of a positive dimension. Joy, especially, is often discounted and disregarded. In "Joyful Human Rights", William Paul Simmons asserts that there is a time and place (and necessity) in human rights work for being joyful.

"Joyful Human Rights" leads us to challenge human rights' foundations afresh. Focusing on joy shifts the way we view victims, perpetrators, activists, and martyrs; and mitigates our propensity to express paternalistic or heroic attitudes toward human rights victims. Victims experience joy - indeed, it is often what sustains them and, in many cases, what best facilitates their recovery from trauma. Instead of reducing individuals merely to victim status or the tragedies they have experienced, human rights workers can help harmed individuals reclaim their full humanity, which includes positive emotions such as joy.

A joy-centered approach provides new insights into foundational human rights issues such as motivations of perpetrators, trauma and survivorship, the work of social movements and activists, philosophical and historical origins of human rights, and the politicization of human rights.

Many concepts rarely discussed in the field play important roles here, including social erotics, clowning, dancing, expressive arts therapy, posttraumatic growth, and the Buddhist terms metta (loving kindness) and mudita (sympathetic joy). "Joyful Human Rights" provides a new framework (one based upon a more comprehensive understanding of human experiences) for theorizing and practicing a more affirmative and robust notion of human rights.

Critique: Enhanced for academia with the inclusion of ten pages of Notes, a twenty-six page bibliography of References, and a fourteen page Index, "Joyful Human Rights" is a seminal work of outstanding scholarship that is unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library collections.

Editorial Note: William Paul Simmons is Professor of Gender and Women's Studies and Director of the online Human Rights Practice graduate program at the University of Arizona. He is the author of "Human Rights Law and the Marginalized Other" and "An-Archy and Justice: An Introduction to Emmanuel Levinas's Political Thought". He is also co-editor, with Carol Mueller, of "Binational Human Rights: The U.S.-Mexico Experience" -- which is also available from the University of Pennsylvania Press.

Michael J. Carson

Charlier's Bookshelf

Mona Awad
Viking Press
c/o Penguin/Random House
9780525559733, $28.00 Hardcover / $12.99 Kindle

There have been times in my life when I considered applying for an MFA creative writing program; I grew up in Iowa, so that would have been my first choice. The expense, the tough application process, and the need to earn a living were all partly responsible for my decision not to do it. But the real reason I never went through with it was the horror stories I heard from graduates of the programs. These aren't your average critique groups; having your prose "workshopped" in an MFA program is apparently brutal.

The horror of the MFA workshop is the subject of Bunny, Mona Awad's second novel, which depicts the brutality of the workshop itself and the class divides that poison the experience for the less-than-1%ers who get accepted at the most elite programs in the country. Awad got her MFA at Brown, and although her fictional program is set at the fictional Warren University, it's clear that she's herein exorcising pain from her own experience. The novel's horror is at first unsettling and confusing (many consumer reviewers on Amazon were so horrified or confused they couldn't finish the book) until you realize that it's all a metaphor for the workshop itself. Very little really happens here in real life; some of the main characters aren't even real. The horror on the page is a metaphor for the experience of having your prose torn apart, for the literary extremes required by "break-out" fiction, and for "killing your darlings" as creative writing professors demand. Relax. No bunnies are slaughtered or men are actually murdered (their heads blowing up) during this year of Samantha's MFA stint, although some prose and egos definitely are.

The novel opens as Samantha returns to the second year of the program, expecting the worst. A poorly defined and uncomfortable relationship with her faculty advisor causes part of her anxiety. But the real challenge to her equilibrium comes from the four rich girls who comprise the other four-fifths of their workshop, and whose appearance and behavior wreak of wealth and privilege. Sam managed to get into the program only by dint of scholarships and grants, and her insecurities about her socio-economic standing make her the perfect target for the horror that comes at the hands of her workshop-mates. The four rich girls call each other "Bunny" ("I love you, Bunny. I love you, too, Bunny.") and Samantha is stalked by animal-bunnies that talk to her and pop up from behind bushes around campus. Sam despises the rich-girl "bunnies," but once she's invited to join their "smut party," she's hooked on the excitement of being accepted into their cult. She sets aside her crude Goth friend, Ava, in favor of the "bunnies," and things get weirder and uglier and bloodier as she's initiated into their rites. In the end, she comes back to earth, the novel comes back to earth, and the reader realizes who's real and who's not in this strange, dark world.

Professional reviewers and other novelists have waxed ecstatically about Bunny, but sales numbers, the heavily discounted price on Amazon, and wildly mixed consumer reviews indicate it but isn't for everyone. Caveat emptor: I believe only those who have gone to or aspired to go to an MFA program (i.e., reviewers) will appreciate it.

The Death and Life of Aida Hernandez: A Border Story
Aaron Bobrow-Strain
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
9780374191979, $28.00 Hardcover / $14.99 Kindle, 416 pages

Aida Hernandez is a pseudonym for a woman who was born in Mexico whose mother brought her and her siblings across the border from Agua Prieta into Douglas, Ariz., when Aida was too young to have any say in the matter. In her youth, workers, shoppers, friends and family ricocheted back and forth between the two towns and countries. The towns' mutual dependence and interactions were such that people called them collectively DouglaPrieta, but by the time Aida was a teenager, a new U.S. policy of immigrant "deterrence" complicated and criminalized movement across the border. What had been considered a normal ebb and flow became risky - even dangerous, and the economy on both sides of the border tanked.

Aida, her mother, and her sisters face joblessness, economic insecurity, and abuse by men on both sides of the border. Trapped into accepting a dangerous job in Agua Prieta by single motherhood and poverty, Aida is stabbed repeatedly in a late-night attack by a stranger, leading to her brief "death" and her last trip across the border into the U.S. for emergency medical attention.

Over the first twenty-five years of her life, the period covered in this narrative, Aida makes mistakes - many mistakes, some minor, some major - all piling up to form a mountain of physical, emotional, and legal challenges that threaten her quest for legal residency and portend a life-long battle with chronic PTSD. The book is in part a narrative about Aida, her family, and her friends - people stuck on one side or the other of the border by virtue of their place of birth. It's in part a narrative about the exponential growth in this nation's border-control industry and the counter-intuitive decisions that have exasperated rather than resolved the issue of immigration over our southern border.

In a back-of-the-book essay, "About This Book," the author, a professor of politics at Whitman College in Walla Walla, WA, which he credits with providing support for the research and completion of his book, makes the point of his book explicit: border policy isn't "broken," as is so-often stated. Instead, it is working well for many: politicians; private corrections firms that run detention centers like prisons; smugglers; law-enforcement job-seekers; and government contractors - even Western Union - all of whom profit from a system that stigmatizes, punishes, and destroys people based on their birthplace, their geographic and career ambitions, their big and little (but human) errors.

This is a big book - a book that pulls more weight than its relatively modest 340 pages of narrative (not counting back-of-the book material) might suggest. First, Aida's story is complicated - the kind of story that would lead many authors or journalists to abandon the project and look for a simple, more completely sympathetic protagonist. Many of Aida's troubles are self-inflicted, but others are the result of circumstances out of her control. Once they begin to add up, it's hard to tell one kind from the other.

The book is chock-full of detail and history about our complicated, expensive, ever-expanding, and often counterintuitive and irrational border-control agencies, laws, and systems. It records the decline of Douglas, a once-vibrant, multi-cultural border town where Mexican men and women made decent wages and felt safe raising their families. The town's major industry today is border "security" and most of its residents are transient law-enforcement employees with no connection to the community. Finally, it's a story about battered women and families - a subject that the author didn't know he would have to address in such detail until Aida's story made it clear how integral abuse is to much of what happens to women at the border.

The subject matter is so big, in fact, that at times I found myself checking how much of the book I'd read, compared with how much I had left to read, as if I were back in school and the book was a class assignment, wondering how much more I could stuff into my head without losing the string of the narrative.

That is not criticism. The author's ambition is admirable, and his book illustrates how much the media over-simplifies and dumbs-down both the stories of migrants' journeys and our border policy in covering the "crisis at the border." Even multi-page articles in the New York Times - for example, a recent one that followed a migrant family from the border through several states - can't do these stories justice. Don't get me wrong: I also understand how the limits of media resources and the average readers' patience make the kind of examination this book undertakes impossible.

So, bravo for Bobrow-Strain for taking up the slack, and for his publishers for accepting this hefty manuscript for publication. I heartily recommend his book for anyone who wants more than a superficial understanding of what has really happened at our border, and how we have ended up with a bloated anti-immigration industry that, by 2012, was costing us more than "the FBI, the DEA, Secret Service, ATF, and the U.S. Marshals Service combined, with enough left over to run all of the country's national parks for a year." One can only imagine how much more it is costing today in both budget and ruined lives.

The Mars Room
Rachel Kushner
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9781476756554, $27.00, Hardcover, $12.99, Kindle, 352 pages

If I weren't already waking up every morning with the feeling that we (the entire global community) have just spent another night hanging by our fingernails to a cliff, dangling precipitously above a dark, dystopian world - if not an apocalypse - perhaps I could have appreciated this book more.

By which, I mean, this thing is depressing.

Now, many books can be depressing and still deliver a message or say something important about justice, injustice, humanity, inhumanity, love, hate, etc. from a point of view that we haven't experienced in our own lives. Books should open us up to real, darker worlds and other people's sorrows, challenges and failures. They can build empathy and encourage remediation.

The Mars Room certainly brings the reader into a world that most people who can read and can afford to buy a book probably have not been in, at least for long. Snarky, slum-dwelling Romy is on her way to a women's prison in California for two life sentences-plus. She killed a stalker, who probably deserved some severe punishment - probably just short of a death sentence - because she couldn't get rid of him otherwise and in some vague sense, feared for the safety of her son. With inadequate counsel in an overworked and corrupt justice system, her inevitable path to prison only reflects all of the other inevitabilities in her life: disappointing relationships with men and women, drug addiction that provides transient relief, a life of petty crime that her single mother trained her for, and a precocious child she can't adequately support. Quite interesting from my standpoint as a writer who tries to create at least semi-sympathetic - or at least relatable - characters, Kushner doesn't even try to make us like Romy. It's as if Romy doesn't care what people think of her, and neither does Kushner. Understandable, perhaps, but empty.

You get that in the first half of the book. You also get a smattering of other characters, most similarly desperate and none more likeable, all in a similar trap of their own bad behavior conflated with uneven portions with that same corrupt justice system. They have suffered abuse and like to abuse. Most have (or had) drug problems. Their experiences with sex (most of them not consensual and a significant portion of them largely one-handed and drawn out) are uniformly unpleasant. In the end, a reader is left with a number of incomplete story lines, tales of truncated relationships, a bereft feeling of nothing having happened that really matters to anyone but the deplorable characters involved, and a sense that Kushner never really had a resolution to any of this in mind when she started the book. It was as if she didn't care enough about her main characters to create a narrative arc for them.

The book received hundreds of accolades in the media and powerful book-review publications, uneven reviews on public review sites, a few impressive awards, and general critical praise from the literary community. Nearly everyone praises her writing for good reason; she is a master wordsmith and world-builder in the vein of Denis Johnson. But writing a book that has value, particularly in this edge-of-a-precipice time, also demands telling a story that provides us with some meaning, some context and some understanding of how we might all get out of this. This book doesn't even prove that she can tell a story.

White Elephant
Julie Langsdorf
Ecco (HarperCollins)
195 Broadway, NY, NY 10007
9780062857750, $26.99, Hardcover, $12.99, Kindle, 320 pages

Based on glowing reviews from other reviewers, I expected to love this book about contemporary suburbia, consumerism, and marital dysfunction. The book jacket maintains that it's "uproarious." The truth? I never chuckled once.

This cast of dissatisfied, whining characters distract themselves from their first world problems - disappointing marriages, sickly children and shrugging teenagers - by feuding with their neighbors in a cloyingly perfect and picturesque Maryland suburb of Washington, D.C. Perhaps the battles that serve as the novel's plot engines - over saving trees and the destruction of tiny Sears houses to make way for big mansions (the "white elephants" of the title) - are common in commuter communities these days, but they seem dated to me. I also wonder: Is everyone in such enclaves this selfish, this jealous, this unfaithful; and do they all mix so poorly? And how do they all have the kind of time they devote to fighting with each other? When do they work? The answer in this novel to the latter question is: None of the six main characters works very much. There are a couple of women who consider themselves artists, a homebuilder who's run out of financing and isn't building anything, a pot-addled lawyer who skips work, a tree-hugging university magazine editor who hates his job, and an entrepreneur who succeeds without doing much of anything to start her squirt-gun company while suffering with a complicated pregnancy that has little to do with the rest of the story.

The two teenagers and two young children who fill out the nuclear families are narcissistic and irrepressible as any children, but here, annoyingly so. The more sympathetic of the teenagers, we're told at the beginning, is troubled by global warming, immigration, and other worthy preoccupations, but she spends the entire novel trying to be as "cool" as the rich neighbor girl and primping to secure the attention of the "cute" teenage boy (also annoying) who constantly tosses his hair. In the end, a serendipitous house fire miraculously brings the town back together, rids it of the big-house scourge, and redeems the snotty bad girl who should never have escaped redemption.

The novel could possibly have been rescued by a more controlled point of view, or even a single relatable narrator. The author's head-hopping from paragraph to paragraph, person to person leaves the impression that no one in this suburb ever thinks about anything other than an immediate carnal need (hungry? horny? jealous? uncaffeinated? humiliated? angry?) for than a nanosecond. Further, the woman whose third-person voice introduces the narrative is one of the least interesting and shallowest of a cast of such weak characters. Far better to start with a clear sketch of a strong lead protagonist, giving readers a chance to ground their compassion in a person that may lead them to some reward in a transformation, or at least a tiny understanding of a human condition.

A mid-life, suburban, materialistic variant of snarky chick lit, this novel doesn't deliver on its promise of hilarity or anti-materialism. Well before halfway through it, I realized, "I really don't like this at all." I wondered why I was finishing it and concluded: "Because I need to write a review to keep others from wasting their money on this galling waste of paper."

Marj Charlier, Reviewer

Clint's Bookshelf

Kissing USA
William Cane
Cleis Press
101 Hudson Street, Suite 3705, Jersey City, New Jersey 07302
9781627782890 $17.95 pbk / $15.95 Kindle

Synopsis: College. For many, it is a place of learning, self-discovery, and growth. But as much as parents don't want to admit it, college is also a time of unabashed exploration, especially for the MTV-drenched and Howard Stern Radio Show-soaked kids of the 1990s. So, it makes perfect sense that The Kissing Show, a performance based on the international bestseller The Art of Kissing, became a near-overnight sensation.

Born out of William Cane's Judd Apatow-like desire to woo the woman of his dreams, The Kissing Show appeared at over 400 colleges and universities across the nation.

Kissing U.S.A. reveals it all in a sexy (and sometimes shocking) behind-the-scenes look at all the things that were part of making The Kissing Show a sensation:

The comedic and surprising foibles of Cane's own love life
The power of listening to and understanding your audience
Dealing with competition from drag queens
The importance of having a "less-than-ideal" muse
The fact that almost anything can be a source of inspiration--if spun the right way

Join Cane as he recounts his meteoric rise in the college lecture and entertainment circuit through all the good, the bad, and the awkward kisses that took North American colleges by storm. Who knew playing dentist could ever be a turn-on?

Critique: Kissing USA is the tell-all true story of "The Kissing Show", a sensationally sexy performance based on the book "The Art of Kissing" that took over 400 American colleges and universities by storm. Eye-opening, witty, and surprisingly insightful, Kissing USA is captivating from cover to cover and highly recommended. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Kissing USA is also available in a Kindle edition ($15.95).

Never Look Back
Alison Gaylin
William Morrow & Company
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
195 Broadway New York, New York 10007
9780062884350, $26.99, HC, 368pp,

Synopsis: For thirteen days in 1976, teenage murderers April Cooper and Gabriel LeRoy terrorized Southern California's Inland Empire, killing a dozen victims before perishing themselves in a fire... or did they? More than 40 years later, twenty-something podcast producer Quentin Garrison blames his troubled upbringing on the murders. And after a shocking message from a source, he has reason to believe April Cooper may still be alive.

Meanwhile, New York City film columnist Robin Diamond is coping with rising doubts about her husband and terrifying threats from internet trolls. But that's nothing compared to the outrageous phone call she gets from Quentin -- and a brutal home invasion that makes her question everything she ever believed in. Is Robin's beloved mother a mass murderer? Is there anyone she can trust?

Critique: Told through the eyes of those destroyed by the Inland Empire Killings (including Robin, Quentin, and a fifteen-year-old April Cooper) in her novel "Never Look Back", author Alison Gaylin deftly asks her readers a question -- How well do we really know our parents, our partners and ourselves? Showcasing a genuine flair for originality and a distinctively engaging narrative storytelling style as an author, Alison Gaylin's "Never Look Back" is highly recommended, especially for community library Contemporary General Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Never Look Back is also available in a paperback edition (9780062844545, $16.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99).

The Whisper Man
Alex North
Celadon Books
9781250317995, $26.99, HC, 368pp,

Synopsis: After the sudden death of his wife, Tom Kennedy believes a fresh start will help him and his young son Jake heal. A new beginning, a new house, a new town. Featherbank.

But the town has a dark past. Twenty years ago, a serial killer abducted and murdered five residents. Until Frank Carter was finally caught, he was nicknamed "The Whisper Man," for he would lure his victims out by whispering at their windows at night.

Just as Tom and Jake settle into their new home, a young boy vanishes. His disappearance bears an unnerving resemblance to Frank Carter's crimes, reigniting old rumors that he preyed with an accomplice. Now, detectives Amanda Beck and Pete Willis must find the boy before it is too late, even if that means Pete has to revisit his great foe in prison: The Whisper Man.

And then Jake begins acting strangely. He hears a whispering at his window...

Critique: A riveting suspense thriller of a novel, "The Whisper Man" showcases author Alex North's genuine flair for originality and in inherently reader engaging distinctive storytelling style. While unreservedly recommended for community library Mystery/Suspense collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Whisper Man" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Macmillan Audio, 9781250222510, $39.99, CD).

Clint Travis

Grace's Bookshelf

Wild Fennel
Marisa Frasca
Bordighera Press
9781599541402, $10.00, 97 pages


Bitter Bites From Sugar Hills
Sara Fruner
Bordighera Press
9781599541310, $12.00, 94 pages


American Samizdat
Jehanne Dubrow
Diode Editions
9781939728289 $TBA 63 pages.

"Samizdat: the clandestine copying and distribution of literature banned by the state, especially formerly in the communist countries of eastern Europe"

Dubrow cuts across the grain of America with sharp urgency, clearly undressing the state of this nation, ripping away its atmosphere with the power and harshness usually ascribed to a male voice. Political toxicity today is something we cannot deny. Moving back and forth across time, the poet recalls living in the diplomatic world within Europe's oppressed countries - this is part of her theme. That the poet can still beautify this subject with language is what we admire most. Anyone can list dissent. It takes someone precise in every note to lyricize a frightening political environment.

Interpersonal relations have been Dubrow's forte and this book widens the lens with greater feelings - full thrust - shifting shapes - every phrase a surprise, an avenge. Technology, its bombardment, our addiction and distaste, amplifying loneliness; leaders who refuse what's human in us - these are the currents lifting the line, and turning our poverty into poetry.
Affairs of state seen through this woman's eye and this woman's sensibilities, are extraordinary. Men are classically the writers who lay down government in a tough way; but with Dubrow's natural abilities and a philosophy all her own, we have the letter of the law AND the spirit of the law. She has a personal knowledge, enlarged, about the state of this country and our humanity. Maybe Samizdat is the only "American effort" we have left; and I'm proud this one is in a woman's voice.

I mute the mouths. I stare
until the screen has turned to snow.

Good night I say, walks flickering reflected light.
How real the faces I have seen.

Someone else will have to rise,
the cushions like a cave in their collapsing.

Good night I say, gripping the remote.
I press a button with the word OK.


Even Then
Michael Wurster
Univ. of Pittsburgh Press
9780822965817, $17.00, 76 Pages

This isn't a book of poems; it's a living thing where people walk in and out of its paper; where we go on a magical tour of impressions; and where a poet says exactly the right amount of words, exactly as needed, to take us by surprise. Strong stories here, even the dreams are real. How can this be? It's the sureness of the pen put to paper, a writer who does not doubt his words so that everything becomes authentic. This is an edgy sardonic writer, so sharp in observation and detail that you're inside looking out. He writes as if there's nothing to lose. What is true? This book is true.

The Hat

A man with his hat ablaze
gets on the bus.

The passengers ignore him,
as if he were some demented one
making loud conversation with the air.

The hat burns,
but is not consumed.

Am I the only one to see this?


Against Translation
Alan Shapiro
University of Chicago Press
9780226613505, $18.00, 94 pages

Prose poems dominate this collection and they're the ones I'll remember. Shapiro goes back to his growing years, and younger life, to find what was lost. Friends die, parents disconnect - first love, first awareness, first ambition - these amplify, but cannot replace, the moment before they happened; and that's where the void is - one that can never be filled. The poet's voice cuts through story, making the past current, being harmonious with sorrow, never writing a dull moment; presenting a reality, beautifully stated, that's truly virtual before that word became co-opted.


In the same way the sunglasses I'm wearing in the snapshot, the
sunglasses I never failed to wear throughout my later years, could not
prevent or slow the macular degeneration that made those later years so
awful, so humiliating, so tedious for everyone, my wife especially, that
when my death did come they all rejoiced, however guiltily, behind
their show of grief, so you yourself should never think this snapshot of
the two of us on the beach together more than sixty years ago, of me
shirtless in long white pants, black socks, black shoes, holding you a
naked toddler in my lap, neither of us smiling, enlarges you by linking
you to me, or that it could in any way shorten the distance between
here and there, or that these words in a language I never spoke, that
you pretend I'm speaking now, might ever look out from behind the
shades I'm wearing and see what I was seeing at the moment when the
shutter closed.


The Tiny Journalist
Naomi Shihab Nye
Boa Editions
9781942683735, $17.00, 114 pages

Shihab Nye's work has always featured a backdrop of her Palestinian heritage; now this beleaguered country is brought to the foreground - in nearly 100 poems - some featuring "Janna," a young videographer. "...These are my words imagining Janna 's circumstances via her Facebook postings and my own knowledge of the situation she was born into and lives with on a daily basis... a blending of stories... My father's, Janna's... and my own personal experience living there..." (Author's note)

("Small People") Janna says the camera is stronger than the gun. /I can send my message to small people/and they send it to others...

Only a seasoned poet can modulate fury into poetry. Each verse gives a piece of the tattered puzzle which is Shihab Nye's native country, more than Middle East historians could tell us, because the core of a country is here - its skin is on the bodies of father, grandfather, friends, mothers of sons. This book can wake us up, because it's not of policy - it's the flesh of people who know who they are, in a land so mistreated. Also, there's gracefulness here. I love the beginning of the poem "Positivism;" "My friend in Gaza writes to me:

Gaza Strip is really so wonderful... Regardless of the siege... The seaport, /the green fields, peaceful roads decorated with many red, pink, white and/orange flowering trees, decent people, elegant restaurants and hotels with/fascinating views... We wish... The crossing borders are always open/where we can travel freely and friends can come to visit us freely as well..."

This poet, always America's sweetheart, has shared her life with us through her career, warmth and wisdom - earning our validation - and now, even more, she makes emotion and the world meld, to give an in-depth analysis of her besieged land, letting us know how it appears from inside. In connecting the land and the sea, possibilities and tragedies, poetry reaches the high bar.


To forgive ourselves for what we didn't do
Replay a scene over and over in mind
Change it change
Apologizing to our own story handful of soil
I could have planted something better here

To walk without remembering another walk
To wash off the hope of a darkened day
Make a new one

This is normal here, the fathers say
bombs exploding
tourists stepping carefully over grenades
Excuse us this is not the life
we would have made or the way
we would have welcomed you
tear gas billowing over our streets
We are so tired


Small Sillion
Joshua McKinney
Parlor Press
9781643170466, $14.00, 81 pages

McKinney cherishes every moment in the natural world, noticing and naming, recognizing and appreciating the outdoor environment almost as prayer. This could describe other poets, but no one tells as much about who he is through field studies; and no one writes it better. Each poetic encounter in Small Sillion is startling, and if words could give off light, they would, every phrase. McKinney's purpose is to examine the surface of the earth and hold it in conversation with poetry. Each bird entering the page finds the poet participating in its existence. Things that crawl and fly are connections to McKinney's spiritual life, and he makes us love the living in all ways. This poet has a bright future but more importantly, a brilliant present, and we're extremely lucky to share nature's beauty and mystery through his gifts.


While I stood there, bewildered,
I must have looked a long time
back to that other world,
which held the best of me -

the pasture with its broken tractor,
an old roan who loved sugar,
a brother dead before birth,
the summer cool of a storm cellar,

its rich odor of dirt. I don't remember
much before the pungent colors chimed
to charm the wary creatures forth.

Eyes shining, they led me here
unharmed. Earth's common light
was strewn about; my eyes were strewn
with weeping, also with flowers.


The Bower
Connie Voisine
University of Chicago Press
9780226613789, $18.00, 66 pages

Meditations, ruminations, history, nature, fables, folklore, family and travel - daily events - painterly scenes - all carefully crafted within the city of Belfast and delivered in 66 pages of phrased couplets. There's a lot that can be contained within Voisine's chosen structure and it moves from fable to fact with liquidity. Book untangles the knots of a city through language containing more than Irish identity or being a visitor that country. Hidden within the texts are stories of betrayal, greed, love, war and a poet's sensibilities that bring together disparate elements into choreographed meaning - more symphonic than operatic. It flows.

I wake. I am older, old enough to not be quite
beautiful, my skin no longer smooth. I could say

I used to, I used to, but that desire too is fading. I've dyed
my hair the brown it used to be and can hear my husband

making coffee in the kitchen. D must be writing in her room
as she often does because I don't hear her singing one of her

made-up songs, like "Happy Day to the Prisoners!" Arias
in a private opera. I ponder all the stories she shares. Today,

a fawn is separated from her beautiful mother, chased
by both bear and hunter, then rescued by friendly chipmunks.

Reunited, doe and fawn have a good laugh. She's come to read it
to me, begins as I lug myself up onto the pillows. H whistles

while he putters, as usual; the music drowns in the kettle's noise.


Not Into The Blossoms And Not Into The Air
Elizabeth Jacobson
Parlor Press
9781643170282, $14.00, 84 pages

At times ruralist, Buddhist, naturalist, mother, lover, - this poet feels as if she's someone you know. True candor and natural music are her keynotes; and every story is as fresh as the moment. Ordinary words are in the right spot at the right time and move on to become powerful phrases. Jacobson can bring a poem home with non sequitur clever enough to shift the energy; but not overly clever to distract. Additionally, unity is her strength for the poem is dependable, and we enter into good hands all the way, with someone in control. In one tale the speaker tries to behead a live turkey, and although she fails, the poem does not. (Killing a Turkey at Belle's.) Strong phonics and beautiful redundant sounds are always the best raft over the writing, and this poet is visceral and ethereal at once, so, I'm going to follow her star, which is definitely ascending.

Vice Versa

I feel your sand
in our bed

and am at first
angry about this mess

but then I remember
your swimming legs in the sea

how they break at the knee
to kick away and then back

your long mind in agony
over what your body is doing

because you love the ocean
but dislike being in water

just as you desire me
but dislike the taste of

bitter greens
on your teeth


Immediate Song
Don Bogen
Milkweed Editions
9781571314819, $16.00, 75 pages.

This book features past eras and will be good for every era, especially my own. Do I remember correctly that Bogen refers to Ernie Kovacs? Who else remembers Kovacs? These recollections from the 1950s would appeal to everyone, but they speak intimately to my own memories - the bank, the general stores, yesterday's theater now abandoned - there's nothing sentimental in this nostalgia - more an archaeologist matching shards into patterns we recognize.

Part One, "On Hospitals," is a 13-section masterwork in ten poems, a retrospective, with the speaker documenting places - waiting for his sisters to be born; carrying a newborn baby back to a hospital; the place his wife had mono as a young person - he examines the ambience with a camera's eye for description and detail. Hospitals have been featured in many poems for sure, but Bogen's work is such deep consideration, they've never been seen this way. The poems in Immediate Song are clear perfect stanzas containing interior music, a man's conscience, and his crystal reflections. He starts with small notions and expands these tiny essays with ideas and pictures that go on after the book is closed. And some fine lyrics. ("sick song") "When my heart was sick, / I rushed to make a song..."

Sick Song

When my heart was sick,
I rushed to make a song,
beneath that white window
as the rain slipped down.

I lured my sad desires
into their little rooms.
The things I couldn't do
grew fast there, thick and blurred.

When the rooms were full,
I trimmed and scrubbed the song.
I probed it like a wound,
listening for its note.

What could I hear it say
that would transpose my guilt?
Could I secrete my shame
beneath its knitting skin?

I tried it on my tongue,
I breathed it in my lungs
and went on making it
more clear, more wrong.


Fan Mail from Some Flounder
Lisa Vihos
Main Street Rag
41 pages

A vigorous book by activist/poet who's generating 100 Thousand Poets for Change, a Children's Reading Garden in Malawi, and more good will through poetry; especially this book of unforgettable poems, from a leader in life and literature.

How Poetry Came
for Pablo Neruda

Poetry came to find me,
came to search me out
and shake me up.

I heard no voice,
saw no word, felt no kiss.
There was no pole star,

no guide post, not even
a silent wind. Did it come
from winter or river?

Did it have wheels
or wings? I don't know.
I don't know anything

about it. I only know
it came lurching out
of the shadows, wide-

eyed, waving its paper
and stub of coal, needing
a meal, a place to sleep.


Wild Fennel
Marisa Frasca
Bordighera Press
9781599541402, $10.00, 97 pages

Frasca's textured verse chronicles the resilience and plights of immigrants with the curative power of poetry. She verifies the Sicilian experience, at the root, that couldn't be said better. She reaches us with her photographs of humanity and powerful relationships that tell their stories vividly.


The heart once a child grows old
Forgets to uphold internal law
Develops irritable bowel syndrome
Shies away from eating friggitelli peppers
Shining like red bullhorns
Why risk another spike of heartburn
Feed yourself bland soup
No more forbidden behavior allowed
No being beaten & blown about
Complete bed rest. Right you are
There's nothing as peaceful as being walled-in
Days & nights are more predictable
Rust grows around you like a halo
One morning you'll wake paltry & gray
& hovering in the air
The smell of an old woman's underwear.


Bitter Bites From Sugar Hills
Sara Fruner
Bordighera Press
9781599541310, $12.00, 94 pages

When a poet writes in English as a second language, we get a more precise understanding of words. This is a terrific portrait, paying tribute to Manhattan; and Fruner nails the city with clear fresh perceptions that work like silk on the page. She owns her words with personality and originality in this high caliber collection.


wearing pink air
as a balaclava
and first concocting
then humming
a crispy war cry
it is sabotaging winter
heading to outshine

criminal and terrorist
the only legitimate
green card holder
has entered the country
smuggling in a cargo
of color and wonder


Little Glass Planet
Dobby Gibson
Graywolf Press
9781555978426, $16.00, 69 pages

"No matter where we move the glass vase, /it leaves a ring," says Gibson because he knows this world is just a hologram and he's in charge of its beautiful changing colors. Yet he can also get mad, (Elegy for Abe Vigoda) "the most horrible person/has been elected president. /The hardest thing to fathom/is the present..." Even then he's praising something else because of this, and we wind up feeling just fine by the poem's end. He's conversational about the miraculous and his surreality is real; and his non sequiturs make perfect sense because Gibbon's tone is everything - It's clear to me why we love to read him - word choice, tone, wonder, plus sweet bemusement, tone again, diction we used to call it; and when he titles a poem "Why I Don't Have Any Tattoos" and ends with "...What I thought I needed/seems so far away and harmless,/there isn't anything/I'd throw away or get back,/and the nights are getting shorter now,/which is a start.," he's talking about the real skin; and everyday language just for a minute becomes holy.

April Light

The movers have arrived, terrified of books.
Maybe spooked by the bird feeder on its side,
spilled champagne coupe of a sodden god
abandoned at the curb with a mattress,
as if someone outgrew sleep. The last snow
retreats into the earth to wait us out, or does it?
We can't be sure. Swim lesson registration is full.
Raise the window sash enough to allow in
the present tense: where are the cowards now?
In the park, they pull the tarp off the carousel.
Our dreams don't change much.
A purple elephant chases a pink seahorse in circles.
Four white stallions pull an empty chariot
to a spot where the youngest know to wait.


Tina Chang
W.W. Norton
9781324002482, $26.95, 119 pages

Chang writes her son as history - his brownness/ blackness - in a race-colored world, traced through the birth cells in her body to her soul. I didn't know the imagination could reach so many places with such various surfaces and depths - fearing for her son's future, projecting scenes from the past with their injustices, writing the violence of young black men, fear for him, love for him, willing to take the sword for him. What a versatile original sound she has, "I'm afraid for vocabulary and its presence in the struggle..." But vocabulary is exactly what she commands with fierce love, such fierce love it makes tears spring to your eyes. These poems are passionate, transcendent, beautifying pain with words that know what they are: There's great mastery here, and in the poem "He, Pronoun" she writes: " Everywhere I look I see him,/I have a right to fear for him,//though I have no right to claim his color./His blackness is his to own and what will//my mouth say of that sweetness./Am my colorless work like a veil, invisible//but present. He is a word grown upright/and some claim he is journalism, media/around me, so much light filtered through, /so much video of him, I shut it out..."


Night Angler
Geffrey Davis
Boa Editions
9781942683780, $17.00, 84 pages

Davis weaves a world around a mother, father, wife, and son. The Speaker's own father motivates the message and is central to love's struggle. These poems are about inheritance - how a son, and then his son, are implicated by birth to the journey of change with its societal issues, dangers, and fearful passages. Race is stage-managed well within a texture of geography and location, because Nature is safe, sane, and always there for this poet. Bright energy illuminates every page for an emotional odyssey; and sometimes these poems read aloud, because of the right language, become hymns.


Is, Is Not
Tess Gallagher
Graywolf Press
9781555978419, $16.00, 138 pages with Afterword

Tess Gallagher is an American classic and this book is one more reason why. There are people on every page, characters that are cinematic with stories that rasp with truth. This is how we know her mother's hands on the speaker's hair, the perplexed love her father gave. The poems point to friends, too, the power of forthright actions - but I go back to the stories in Ireland, gripping with epitomized individuals who were just living beings until poetry made them mythic. Gallagher's voice is so clear, graceful and unstoppable - and it ranges so greatly from large matters to small - she makes poetry's dreams come true.

Three Stars

looked down on me
with so much dark
between, the word
"together" would be
trespass, except for
the greater dark
that gave their light
an intimacy of
multitudes. And if

I shut my eyes, I was
a memory of
multitudes until
I opened that dark on
just those three
the instant before
they took me
in. And though
I tell you this
we are unspoken.


Notes from the Dry Country
Ellen Aronofsky Cole
Mayapple Press
9781936419876, $16.95, 86 pages

This country is anything but dry. Cole proves it's not enough to have a "voice," you have to have something to say with an inimitable tone, even if it's about your own mortality and its near miss. She can showcase a hospital ward, and cancer as if she's starstruck with life's surprises - yet everything comes through on a high note. Cancer is one big Lie unfurled in this unforgettable effortless set of poems. She doesn't stop there, and takes us to her younger life, sisters, brother, mother, and her own Motherhood. There's sadness to be sure, and a sorting out through narrative, but this poet keeps us with her every moment, with flavor that goes from chic to adorable to winsome to terrified; every bit connecting to a true writer with an art that streams from a true life. Each page is a command performance jamming to Cole's own special music. We're lucky to be there.

After 2 Weeks of Rain

when sun fills up the room with yellow
I'm so happy I stop cleaning
Rocky Raccoon checked into a room,
& I'm Back in the USSR all over
the kitchen, my back twisted about 800 times
giving me a twinge but now I'm thinking
how my roommate Kathy & me listened
to the White Album every night,
lights out in our dorm room,
blackbird singing at the edge of night,
me thinking of that time we saw them perform
in Detroit & how I screamed as loud
as the girl who ran up the aisle yelling
I touched him! I touched Ringo's thumb!


The Skin of Dreams, New and Collected Poems 1995-2018
Quraysh Ali Lansana
The Calliope Group
9781733647403, $16.00, 138 pages

To read this is to know a man. To read this is to see memory sharpened with age - an historical present at the center - where we learn, for blacks, about their country's rancid Bill of Rights. Yet there's triumph everywhere, demonstrated by the fact that we have such a collection to read. Lansana has a story, a monumental one, recalled in eight books, majestic accounts: growing up to manhood; what his people felt and saw - strong emotional chords in every poem tying this life together. Read it with your heart and hear the beautiful elegy to Gwendolyn Brooks in 4 parts, ending " dinner. Your mortality/stiffened me, / your absence, sobered/by the bone of your words." This reminds me to say how Lansana brings each poem home with strong bearings; I'm thinking of "altar call," its fourth part: "... attended church with daddy twice/both were funerals one was his".

Elegy is predominant, and the poem "a way of listening, for galway kinnell," is high up here among them: "... Because you gave me compass/a bus token and spun me toward/sun, a boisterous light as charmed/as your wide smile and solemn grace..." in the book Reluctant Minivan, 2014 (Let's stop and praise his titles) there are many memorable testaments to the men in his life - he's a father himself and looks to men speaking to the ideals he would like; The writer also shows influences acknowledging Richard Pryor and Oscar Brown Junior, among others. There are reasons why this book should be put in a capsule and sent into space so everyone in the next galaxy could see, hear, and understand, what it was be black in America. Heritage. Heritage. Heritage, from the poet's great great grandfather; to the poems in Harriet Tubman's voice. No wonder the final poem in the book Bloodsoil, 2009 is titled "pilgrimage." Tubman's poems are followed by a horrific/specific prose piece about enslaved Jacob and plantation owner Mister Crockett. But Jacob is vindicated, via intelligence, perhaps a metaphor for this book. There's a lot of pain here, and truth, and you'll find a lot like love went into it.


I am holding my brothas hand
he walks ahead of me centuries

resist sixteen nineteen coffles
& whips in a sick society

resist eighteen thirty-three crackers
& furious dogs in a sick society

resist nineteen twenty-one noose
& mob in a sick society

resist nineteen fifty-five judge
& crow in a sick society

resist nineteen years of burge
& socket in a sick society

resist two-thousand thirteen cages
& apathy in a sick society

I am holding my sistas hand
she walks centuries ahead of me


Jan-Henry Gray, foreword by D.A. Powell
Boa Editions
9781942683742, $17.00, 86 pages

Documents is a visceral history of America's failures with its immigrants; but from this comes a big presence, a poet who chooses to write differently with powerful originality. The author is presented as "queer undocumented Filipino" - and even if this adds to the tenor of the poems, the work, without it, stands as a testament to the inadequacies of this country's legal systems and its raw consequences. Jan-Henry Gray creates a series of "Maid" poems amplifying the service class of the underclass. The persona is sad, tender, vulnerable, and hopeless. The poet's background has forged a powerful present with strong conversations that make us shudder with their fierce predictions. This book is an investment in reality; it's a condition, and perhaps, with time, a commencement - but in all cases, a work to be read, respected, and realized for its unrelenting strength.


you are the red dot
on the glass over the map
your fingers trace a path
from entrance to exit

you are the sound inside
a sleeping body
a family of six
a car stalled
the hazards blinking

we never don't look over our shoulders
every form, a trick question
every map, a trap street
we huddle to inspect the smoke
rising from the engine.


Guinness on the Quay
Richard Peabody
Salmon Poetry
9781912561469, $20.00, 81 pages

No one can turn a phrase exactly like Richard Peabody. That's why he's known for the fresh air he brings to the page from an environment of wit, curiosity, and mercy. He's a man with more than affection for the world, and his family - with a sardonic view, always searching, and finding our humanity. He's watching the young mother at the liquor store; or finding the books Tropic of Cancer and How to Tell Your Kids About Sex in his father's top drawer (under handkerchiefs) - or how about his love of music and his litany of bassists; "... Jazz all-star gigs are/ like all-star baseball games.//Somewhere between slow pitch/ and the 6th grade class picnic..."

He's hip. He takes his girls to "Tea," while moving like greased lightning on the page. Peabody shows what a wasted life this would be without poetry because everything commands his attention. His clear precise rhetoric captures you by the ear while exposing life's peculiarities. Through a restrained emotion and taut performance, there's lots of love in these poems that showcase his talent. Peabody's a natural born storyteller with perfect pitch revved up.

Rules for Experimental Writing

Visit a slaughterhouse

Drink Kerosene

Eat Darvon and mothballs

Burn your math books

Handcuff a lover to the bed rail

Add bacon

Watch an autopsy

Tour the Holocaust museum

Catch an Anaconda in the Everglades

Have a C-section

Dig up a coffin

Oh wait,

these are the rules
for writing realism.


Karen Sagstetter
Finishing Line Press
9781635348675, $19.99, 60 pages

Brighten your day, and sparkle up your dreary mind because Sagstetter writes partly from a star planet. There's sadness and heartbreak enough in this book, yes - loss, a tragic brother who shows up in her dreams, a grandmother who is drifting from touch - but even these cannot shade delight as Sagstetter weaves her dream-states to daily life. In the poem "Morning in Rock Creek Park, our Speaker starts out in "a stupor," "a terrible day," until encountering a debonair gentleman offering peach-colored roses; she sees red pandas, flitting butterflies, "dozens of rabbits munching clover." Her world changes on the page making ours change too. At times, there's a little Alice in Wonderland peeking through a responsible writer, where each poem has its own dynamic of imagery and insight. What I like best is the belief in magic, (and no fear of the nighttime mind) which she levels masterfully to tell her stories.

Not a Harvest Moon

This isn't a full strawberry moon
or a full corn moon. Not an egg or milk moon.
Not a full sturgeon moon, a beaver, buck or wolf moon.
Nor is it a hunter's moon, a snow moon, a full cold moon.
I wish it were a harvest moon, but it is not.
If it were a flower moon, we'd be skipping
on the patio but no, it's a new moon,
barely visible the first night out,
just a sliver in a black sky
until it waxes buoyant and dazzling,
tempting us with the idea
that light follows darkness
every time.


Coconuts on Mars
Indran Amirthanayagam
49 pages

Amirthanayagam's prose pieces are is lyrical as his poems. This is notable. The entire book is one of political commentary, racial insights, and family affairs in live settings with skilled, decisive writing. This author writes in five languages so it's always interesting to see the firm grasp he has on English prosody, cadence, and phraseology - good poetry chemistry. This poetry is better than many with English as a first language so there's much to be admired. I hear a classic tone to his stanzas and a movement that shows the poet is comfortable with his words. Talking to us from another culture, we learn more than ever about our own, and in this poet's intimate sensitive speech are stories and attitudes that will lift you up.

On the Other Side

You remember the blue and white cups
bought at Target in which my coffee
is served today in Haiti? I did not

envision attachment then to every
day in china, not stone or willow-ware,
or filigreed in gold, but ordinary

made in China coffee cups, chipped,
stained, by five hundred days and
counting of waking up in this house

on a hill, looking over the valley,
airport in the distance, blue sea beyond,
and you on the other side of all the islands.


Scattered Clouds: New& Selected Poems
Reuben Jackson
Alan Squire Publishing
9781942892182, $13.99, 112 pages

This whole book will give you a big love attack. Every poem is angelic and sexy, executed perfectly with Jackson's own deity of words. He writes of human needs with sweet energy - there's sadness, longing, racial injustice experienced; somehow this independent-minded poet aspires that we all be better than we are, and that shows up with feelings that connect just right with the lyric. It's interesting that his poems are uniformly lean, narrow, often the size of a pocket comb, yet the meanings are rich enough to envelop the page. Jackson's themes are family; his love and knowledge of music; the women and friends in his life; his own young self - all these are ordinary you might say, but you've never heard them treated quite this way. Let's call it style, or a phenomenal spirit, or the power of the voice realized in simple line breaks. Whatever can be said about this book, Jackson makes words his own, and every page is a 10.

potentially yours
(for jeff cole)

you goddamn fool,
there was always beauty within you.

your wit and
nervous laughter,

bouquets for the rainy winters
of your friends.

you who spent so much time
cursing the mirror,

envying jim rice, sonia braga,
duke ellington's lady killing charm.


I think of those solos of laughter
that heaven is hearing so soon.


All Its Charms
Keetje Kuipers
Boa Editions
9781942683766, $17.00, 62 pages

You'll love the way she moves, line to leaping line; this works because of a high skill level - never once does she fall. The stories are about being a single mom, pregnancy, motherhood, same-sex marriage to a former lover - just for starters. I never knew a child spilling orange juice in a poem could lead to such a splendid sequence of thoughts. That's the way she is, and what this poet's capable of. There's no end goal in Kuipers' poetry. She begins, and lets it unfold like silk rippling down the page. There are tough subjects beautifully portrayed. How could we ask for more?

First Trimester

Pulling plump ticks off the dog, imagining
how the late-day rain must make the ink

caps grow, even counting fireflies who rise
from my lawn like the reluctant sparks

of resurrected campfire - every act
is an act of waiting. But when I go

inside to turn the fan on my damp body
or stand dizzy at the kitchen sink

to fill a glass, I have no flickering
yet to conceive of. It's in my room's dim

mirror I find the girl, my mother, every
thing I'm afraid of not becoming.


Navigating the Divide: Selected Poetry and Prose, Legacy Series
Linda Watanabe McFerrin
Alan Squire Publishing
9781942892144, $15.99, 329 pages

McFerrin is author of poetry, travel essays, prose, and stories excerpted for this compendium.

The travel essays got me started. The first that I read, "Strangers," was the hook. McFerrin has the gift of dialogue and character. She's also a sexy writer, and a good soul wrapped in a hot body. Her characters are the kind of humans who seem to travel just to meet, and every paragraph is a psychological encounter in visual explorations; also, some social norms get destroyed. This is a compelling edge to the stories. We feel every word she says, because she knows that the details we can taste, smell, and see, are impossible to turn away from. Each essay is a relevant cultural experience with all the intriguing values of a foreign place. I read her as I often watch TV in search of sights I'll never see otherwise. The added pleasure with McFerrin is she's "Sex and the City abroad" - fun, chic, with special effects. It'll take a while reading this book and so it goes on vacation with me - nowhere as fantastic as where McFerrin takes us, however. She's mastered her art. To be a beautiful hypnotic writer is not a bad thing. She's a front runner. Check it out.

Alan Squire publishers had a terrific idea here. Why not publish a kind of book no other literary publishing house seems to do. And so we have the Legacy Series that presents writers who write in more than one genre. The value of this publishing enterprise is that it brings America up to what Europeans and others have been doing for years - crossing genres is common for some writers who want to stretch beyond the normal glide, but we were apparently still "Publishing Puritans" in this country, insisting on packaging types of writing within single covers. Alan Squire jettisons this and is contributing to the industry and the national literary Canon.


Intoxicate me
when, too close,
the current of their lives
streams into mine.
friend or foe,
I want to let them in.

You, I have met before,
staggering under
the impulse of acquaintance.
Lines of composition,
my eye traces
the path of your egress.
The sparsity of our
communion beckons.

Trying to push
flesh into flesh,
thrusting toward
a moment that crumbles,
before it can complete,
suggesting only
that other entering
when all the outlines
are erased.


Lyn Hejinian
Omnnidawn Publishing
9781632430663, $17.95,79 pages

"The head is a northern orphan without an itinerary" begins poem 38 (of 52 poems in the section A Human Of Mars)

Lyn Hejinian writes as if everyone were as smart as she is and as if everyone can be trusted to understand her. Her story is not a traditional narrative but has ideas, images, rhythm, diction, and intelligence. She's always been true to her own form and her own taste and never bowed to poetry trends nor claimed her own style was a poetry standard. I describe the work as radical formalism. Her structure depends on abstract forms creating allegories, ordinary moments changed by semantic shifts.

While disrupting the social order of logical rhetoric, we get something better - a highly intuitive set of paradigms that we can interpret or just go flowing until we hit something we like. The more you read, the more credible the meanings. Predominant are the poems of tyrants and tyranny. This is a book for our time in history and she writes out of this particular cultural fabric. The social impact from this voice is not ideological and not opinioned - it is neither male nor female, black, or yellow, or white. In this way Hejinian is breaking the monograph with textual revelation; and revolution is her achievement.

Time of Tyranny

Anxiety, ambition, energy, and sleep are caretaking
fish in the deep black sea, my sweet, the black deep sea. Yes
and I tossed a twig the x, y, z, of unrest and loss of privilege
they never had, the vanquished Inca
at the sharp angle of a perfect rainbow and afterwards Jupiter appeared
of which the Rocky Mountains are like mules hauling oats
perceived by senses, words, a set of names
in music. All this should scare the legislators
noble and real and we are crazy and smell smoke
for entertainment, social bonding, and great anxiety,
that trinity of apricot, scalp musk, and gas
of life where light first falls on the passenger
who is briny and upright, but like a dwindling cornflower.

Grace Cavalieri, Reviewer & Maryland's Poet Laureate
Washington Independent Review of Books

Julie's Bookshelf

from Muck to Magic
Wendi Knox
Blossom Books Ojai
c/o Immaginare Press
9780692169223, $18.95, HC, 44pp

Synopsis: When life knocked Wendi Knox down, hundreds of red dragonflies lifted her up. What she learned from them was too magical to keep to herself.

An award-winning storyteller for brands like Honda and Acura, Wendi created "from Muck to Magic" to change the stories we tell ourselves.

Within its joyful, colorful, pages is a powerful blueprint for transformation. "from Muck to Magic" is an invitation for every woman to rise up from her personal muck to bring her own unique magic into a world that has never needed it more.

Critique: Presented in a thoughtful and inspiring picture book format, "from Muck to Magic" is an extraordinary book that is an especially recommended addition to community library collections and personal reading lists for women of all ages. It should be additionally noted for personal reading lists that "from Muck to Magic" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99,

Seed Savers Trilogy
Sandra Smaith
Flying Book House

Seed Savers: Keeper
9781943345175, $10.99 PB, $5.99 Kindle, 254pp

Synopsis: Beginning in a Pacific Islander village of climate refugees hidden deep in the Smoky Mountains and ending in an underground bunker in Portland's Forest Park, Keeper is the fast-paced fourth installment in the Seed Savers series. In Keeper, GRIM appears to be crumbling only to be replaced by FRND (the Food Resources & Nutrition Department), a corporate sponsored program with a more friendly public face. The Seed Savers Movement is on the verge of splintering as James Gardener's fugitive status is viewed by some as a liability, while others don't trust the mysterious JALIL. Trinia Nelson is bent on finding James and will stop at nothing. Earth Day parades turn into protests and someone is leaking classified government documents. Meanwhile, Lily, Clare, and Dante, shut up in the bunker, become restless and begin sneaking out. In the park they run into Rose, an acquaintance from summer tutoring. Will their desire to rekindle the friendship lead to forgiveness, or will it end in betrayal?

Seed Savers: Lily
9781943345090, $10.99 PB, $5.99 Kindle, 182pp

Synopsis: When her friends disappear under mysterious circumstances, thirteen-year-old Lily sets out to discover more about the secret organization with which they were involved. Her investigation unearths a disturbing secret from her own past, unsettling her world even more. In the meantime, Lily makes a new friend and falls for a mysterious young man even as she remains unsure whom to trust. As her world crashes down around her, Lily struggles to decide what to do next. Lily is volume two of the Seed Savers series but can easily be read out of order. It is is a suspenseful and reflective book with themes of self-empowerment, trust, acceptance of diversity, gardening, and politics.

Seed Savers: Heirloom
9781943345113, $15.99 PB, $5.99 Kindle, 274pp

Synopsis: It's late in the twenty-first century and large corporations have merged with U.S. government agencies to control the nation's food supply. Gardening is illegal and most people no longer know what real food is. Thirteen-year-old Clare and her brother Dante have escaped to Canada where the old ways still exist. There they make friends with the roguish Jason and learn the political history of their own country's decline of freedoms. Meanwhile, Lily, the friend who was left behind, begins a journey to find the father she never met - a former leader in the ill-fated Seed Savers rebellion of fifteen years earlier. From Florida to the Smoky Mountains, Lily follows the signs in search of her father and is helped along the way by the quirky characters she meets. Not to mention the attractive Arturo who shows up midway to "protect" her. Heirloom (the third volume in the Seed Savers series) seamlessly weaves the gentle agrarian story of Clare and Dante together with the swiftly-paced adventure of Lily and Arturo. Themes of family, empowerment, and politics meet in this futuristic tale nostalgic for the past.

Critique: An impressively original, deftly crafted, and thoroughly entertaining series by Sandra Smith, these three volumes (each of which can stand alone and be read out of sequence) will prove to be immediate and enduringly popular additions to personal, family, school and community library collections for young readers ages 8-12.

Tips for Aging at Home
Laura N. Gitlin, et al.
Camino Books, Inc.
PO Box 59026, Philadelphia, PA 19102
9781680980325, $17.95, PB, 64pp,

Synopsis: As the babyboomer generation (and those born earlier during the war years) is now entering Senior Citizen status with some form of residential care lurking in what's left of our future, most of us are seeking to remain independent and stay in our own homes for as long as possible.

However, as we age, we may experience changes in our abilities to do what matters most to us. These changes may involve dressing, bathing, toileting, preparing meals, reading, going up and down stairs, or other activities.

But there is good news in the form of "Tips for Aging at Home: Doing What Matters to You" which provides simple tips identified in research and clinical practice that can be tried at home. These straightforward suggestions may help you do what matters to you. Find the activity you want to do, try a few of the listed tips, and keep track of which ones were most helpful.

Critique: A relatively quick and easy read, "Tips for Aging at Home: Doing What Matters to You" will be referred to again and again with its wealth of tips, advice, and useful commentary from the team of Laura N. Gitlin (Distinguished University Professor and Dean, College of Nursing and Health Professions, Drexel University), Sarah L. Szanton (Health Equity and Social Justice Endowed Professor and Director, Center on Innovative care in Aging, Johns Hopkins School of Nursing), Jill Roth (who provides CAPABLE nursing program services to participants throughout Baltimore for the Johns Hopkins Home Care Group), and Allyson Evelyn-Gustave (CAPABLE program senior clinician training specialist for Johns Hopkins University Home Care Group). While very highly recommended for personal, senior citizen, and community library collections, it should be noted that "Tips for Aging at Home" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching
Ursula K. Le Guin
Shambhala Publications, Inc.
300 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, MA 02115-4544
9781611807240, $16.95, PB, 136pp,

Synopsis: "Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching - A Book about the Way and the Power of the Way" is landmark modern-day rendition of the ancient Taoist classic that is now newly available in a paperback edition from Shambhala Publication, as Ursula K. Le Guin presents Lao Tzu's time-honored and astonishingly powerful philosophy like never before.

Drawing on a lifetime of contemplation and including extensive personal commentary throughout, In "Le Guin offers an unparalleled window into the text's awe-inspiring, immediately relatable teachings and their inestimable value for our troubled world.

Critique: An absolute 'must' for all students of the ancient Chinese philosophy of Lao Tsu and of the Tao Te Ching, this inherently fascinating and impressively informative study is unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library collections, as well as the personal reading lists of students, academics, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject. It should be noted that "Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching" is also available in an inexpensive digital book format (Kindle, $0.99).

The Italian Vegetable Garden
Rosalind Creasy
Tuttle Publishing
364 Innovation Drive, North Clarendon, VT 05759-9436
9780804852012, $9.99, PB, 112pp,

Synopsis: In "The Italian Vegetable Garden", edible landscape gardening expert Rosalind Creasy shows how to grow and prepare some of the exceptional varieties of produce for which Italian cooking is so justly famous. A beautifully illustrated step-by-step instructional guide to growing Italian vegetables "The Italian Vegetable Garden" provides a wealth of tips for planting and preparing fantastic varieties of tomatoes, greens, beans, eggplants, artichokes, peppers, herbs and more!

"The Italian Vegetable Garden" includes suggestions on how to grow Italian vegetables in most North American climates, and how to prepare these fresh veggies with more than 25 recipes for antipasti, soups, sauces and sides that range from a delicious classic marinara to bread pudding with artichokes -- and even preserves.

Critique: Gorgeous full color photos throughout evoke the flavors of these delectable vegetables and dishes, and highlights Italian specialties, such as the greens that grow wild on Italy's hillsides. With a new preface by Creasy, as well as updated recommendations, "The Italian Vegetable Garden" continues to be a trusted and treasured resource for gardeners and kitchen cooks alike! While highly recommended for personal, family, and community library collections, it should be noted that "The Italian Vegetable Garden" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

Big Book of Family Games
Brad Berger
1254 Commerce Way, Sanger, CA 93657
9781641701334, $19.99, HC, 368pp,

Synopsis: "The Big Book of Family Games: 101 Original Group Games That Don't Need Charging" brings family members and friends of all ages together for hours of entertaining, interactive, technology-free fun that requires virtually nothing more than pens and paper.

The "Big Book of Family Games" is travel-friendly compendium of entertaining pastimes that guarantees hours of engaging entertainment with 101 original, rigorously tested games that challenge each player's ability to strategize, bluff, read minds, memorize, think quickly, and solve puzzles. No texting, tweeting, or web surfing allowed!

Critique: Showcasing a wealth of original family and group games, the "Big Book of Family Games" will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to family and community library collections. Thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, it should be noted that this edition of "Big Book of Family Games" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Bridget Riley: A Very Very Person
Paul Moorhouse
c/o Distributed Art Publishers
155 Sixth Avenue, 2nd floor, New York, NY 10013-1507
9781909932500, $24.95, PB, 272pp,

Synopsis: In January 1965 the international art world converged on New York to pay homage to a brilliant new star. The glittering opening of The Responsive Eye, a major exhibition of abstract painting at the Museum of Modern Art, signalled the latest phenomenon, op art -- and its center of attention was a young painter named Bridget Riley, whose dazzling painting Current appeared on the cover of the catalogue.

Riley's first solo show in New York sold out, and, following a feature in Vogue magazine, the Riley "look" became a fashion craze. Overnight, she had become a sensation, yet only three years earlier, she was a virtual unknown. How did success arrive so suddenly?

Authored by the art exhivit curator and writer Paul Moorhouse, "Bridget Riley: A Very Very Person: The Early Years" is the first biography of Bridget Riley and addresses that tantalizing question.

Focusing on her early years, "Bridget Riley: A Very Very Person: The Early Years" tells the story of a remarkable woman whose art and life were entwined in surprising ways. This intimate narrative explores Riley's wartime childhood spent in the idyllic Cornish countryside, her subsequent struggles to find her way as an artist, and the personal challenges she faced before finally arriving as one of the world's most celebrated artists in Swinging 1960s London.

Critique: An exceptionally informative and deftly crafted biography of an impressive woman and her equally impressive artistic accomplishments, "Bridget Riley: A Very Very Person: The Early Years" features a center section of illustrations and is an extraordinary and engaging read from beginning to end. An ideal introduction to the life and work of Bridget Riley, this extraordinary biography is very highly recommended for community and academic library collections.

Editorial Note: Paul Moorhouse is is an art historian and curator. He was Senior Curator at the National Portrait Gallery, London (2005 - 17) and Senior Curator at Tate, London (1985 - 2005), where he curated a major Bridget Riley retrospective exhibition in 2003.

The Women's Guide to Overcoming Insomnia
Shelby Harris
W. W. Norton & Company
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110
9780393711615, $18.95, PB, 288pp,

Synopsis: More than 60 percent of American women have trouble sleeping -- which isn't surprising as they have a higher risk of developing sleeping problems. But addressing this issue is more nuanced for women than for men; pregnancy and menopause are just two factors that add complexity to an already difficult problem. At the risk of jeopardizing work, parenting, relationships, or overall health, no woman can afford to deal with sleep deprivation on her own.

"The Women's Guide to Overcoming Insomnia: Get a Good Night's Sleep Without Relying on Medication" by sleep disorder expert Shelby Harris is a practical 'things to do' roadmap for those who experience anything from occasional bad nights to chronic insomnia. These 'real world practical' instructional guide outlines several methods to overcome these issues and improve physical and emotional well- being.

From medical sleep aids to nonmedical approaches, "The Women's Guide to Overcoming Insomnia" looks beyond the basics of sleep hygiene, helping women to retrain their bodies and minds for a good night's sleep every night.

Critique: Impressively comprehensive in scope and immediately applicable in organization and presentation, "The Women's Guide to Overcoming Insomnia: Get a Good Night's Sleep Without Relying on Medication" is essential reading for any woman experiencing sleep deprivation issues and wanting a non-drug solution to getting a dependably good night's slumber. While very highly recommended for both community and academic library Health & Medicine collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Women's Guide to Overcoming Insomnia" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Feminine Rising: Voices of Power and Invisibility
Andrea Fekete & Lara Lillibridge, editors
Cynren Press
9781947976085, $28.00, PB, 286pp,

Synopsis: Collaborative compiled and co-edited by Andrea Fekete and Lara Lillibridge, "Feminine Rising: Voices of Power and Invisibility" brings together international poets and essayists, both award winning and emergent, to answer questions and provide raw, honest meditations that speak to women of all races, nationalities, and sexual orientations.

"Feminine Rising" is a unique anthology of unforgettable stories both humorous and frightening, inspirational and sensual, employing traditional poetry and prose alongside exciting experimental forms. "Feminine Rising" celebrates women's differences, while embracing the source of their sameness -- the unique experience of womanhood.

Critique: Erudite, informative, thought-provoking, and ultimately inspiring, "Feminine Rising: Voices of Power and Invisibility" is an extraordinary volume that is unreservedly recommended for community and academic library Contemporary Feminism collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Feminine Rising" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Julie Summers

Logan's Bookshelf

The Perp Walk
Jim Ray Daniels
Michigan State University Press
1405 South Harrison Road, Suite 25, East Lansing, MI 48823-5245
9781611863161, $24.95, PB, 208pp,

Synopsis: "The Perp Walk" is author Jim Ray Daniels' latest collection of linked stories, that collectively maps out the emotional capitals and potholes of coming of age in a blue-collar town in the Great Lakes State, -- though it could be any state where people work hard, play hard, and aren't paid nearly enough for their efforts.

Alternating flash fiction pieces with longer narratives, Daniels captures both the shooting stars and the constellations that build into earned insights and honest reflections. Davis suggests that sometimes we need both the long version of the short version and the short version of the long version. Daniels invites his readers to settle on some truth in between the versions.

Humor and heartbreak. Coming to terms, coming of age, or just plain aging. U-Haul trucks full of bad behavior and messy goodbyes, in "The Perp Wak" the check is always in the mail but somehow never arrives, and honor is more than a certificate -- it's something we strive for, even while doing our own various perp walks through life. Compromises are made, as they must be. Sometimes we get what we want for just a second or two, but for the characters in "The Perp Walk", that has to be enough happiness to live on.

Critique: An inherently engaging, entertaining, and thought-provoking read from beginning to end, Jim Ray Daniels "The Perp Walk" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to personal reading lists, as well as both community and academic library Contemporary Literary Fiction collections.

Editorial Note: Jim Ray Daniels is the Thomas S. Baker University Professor of English at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. He is also the author of five other fiction collections and seventeen poetry collections. His fiction books have been a finalist for the Paterson Fiction Prize and have received a Michigan Notable Book Award, Foreword INDIE Book of the Year Awards, Independent Publisher Book Awards, and Midwest Book Awards.

John F. Kennedy and the Liberal Persuasion
John M. Murphy
Michigan State University Press
1405 South Harrison Road, Suite 25, East Lansing, MI 48823-5245
9781611863048, $39.95, PB, 444pp,

Synopsis: The first serious study of his discourse in nearly a quarter century, "John F. Kennedy and the Liberal Persuasion" by John M. Murphy (Associate Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Illinois) examines the major speeches of Kennedy's presidency, from his famed but controversial inaugural address to his belated but powerful demand for civil rights.

Professor Murphy argues that Kennedy's eloquence flowed from his capacity to imagine anew the American liberal tradition -- that Kennedy insisted on the intrinsic moral worth of each person, and his language sought to make that ideal real in public life.

"John F. Kennedy and the Liberal Persuasion" focuses on that language and argues that presidential words matter. Kennedy's legacy rests in no small part on his rhetoric, and here Murphy maintains that Kennedy's words made him a most consequential president.

By grounding the study of these speeches both in the texts themselves and in their broader linguistic and historical contexts, the seminal study draws a new portrait of President Kennedy, one that not only recognizes his rhetorical artistry but also places him in the midst of public debates with antagonists and allies, including Dwight Eisenhower, Barry Goldwater, Richard Russell, James Baldwin, Martin Luther King Jr., and Robert Kennedy. Ultimately this study demonstrates how Kennedy's liberal persuasion defined the era in which he lived and offers a powerful model for Americans today.

Critique: An exceptional and meticulous work of outstanding scholarship that is additionally enhanced for academia with the inclusion of 82 pages of Notes, an eighteen page Selected Bibliography, and a twenty-four page Index, "John F. Kennedy and the Liberal Persuasion" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to community and academic library Language Arts and Political Science collections in general, and John F. Kennedy supplemental studies lists in particular.

Carl Logan

Margaret's Bookshelf

Ten Women Who Changed Science and the World
Catherine Whitlock, author
Rhodri Evans, author
Diversion Books
9781635766103, $26.99, HC, 304pp,

Synopsis: It has been more than a century since the Nobel Prize in science was first awarded to a woman. And after Marie Curie's 1911 accolade, seventeen other women (including two in 2018) have been so honored (Curie won the award a second time).

"Ten Women Who Changed Science and the World: Marie Curie, Rita Levi-Montalicini, Chien-Shiung Wu, Virginia Apgar, and More" explores the lives of Curie, three other female Nobel Prize winners, and six other women who broke through gender discrimination in a variety of fields to help shape our world with their extraordinary discoveries and inventions.

Despite living during periods when the contribution of women was often disregarded, if not ignored, these resilient women persevered with their research. By daring to ask "How?" and "Why?" and laboring against the odds, each of these women, in her own way, made the world a better place.

Critique: Impressively informative and a welcome addition to both community and academic library collections, "Ten Women Who Changed Science and the World" by the team of chartered biologist Catherine Whitlock and science writer Rhodri Evans is enhanced for the reader with the inclusion of a nine page Glossary, a two page bibliographic listing of Other Titles, and an eleven page Index. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Ten Women Who Changed Science and the World" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.81).

Sun Tzu's Art of War for Women
Catherine Huang, author
A. D. Rosenberg, author
Tuttle Publishing
364 Innovation Drive, North Clarendon, VT 05759-9436
9780804852005, $12.99, PB, 224pp,

Synopsis: "Sun Tzu's Art of War for Women: Sun Tzu's Strategies for Winning Without Confrontation" helps women find the peaceful path to success through strategies made famous in the ancient Chinese text, The Art of War. Female wisdom, or common sense, is about avoiding needless confrontation, conserving energy for the things that matter, and seeking an outcome in which everyone wins. And for women, as for Sun Tzu, success doesn't come simply from knowing what to do, but from knowing who you are.

"Women and the Art of War" will help you consider what you want to achieve and why you want to achieve it. Covering Sun Tzu's timeless principles point by point in a conversational and friendly tone, "Women and the Art of War" shows you how you can find your strengths, meet your weaknesses head-on, deal with obstacles and forge your own unique identity through your career and personal life.

Critique: Whatever your personal path and personal goals in life, "Women and the Art of War" provides effective strategies, tactics, and practical examples you need to increase your probability of achieving success. While very highly recommended for community, college, and university library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Women and the Art of War" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: The founder and president of CHR International, a multi-million dollar company that imports foods from all over the world, Catherine Huang received a classical Chinese education in her native Taiwan. As a woman in a predominantly male industry, she has often relied on Sun Tzu's tactics and techniques in order to survive and thrive as a small business entrepreneur.

A.D. Rosenberg is a writer and businessman who lived, taught and consulted around the globe, including a stint as a Visiting Professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Shen-Yang, China. He is the author of the bestselling The Resume Handbook and other books on career management.

The Language of Fruit
Liz Bellamy
University of Pennsylvania Press
3905 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-4112
9780812250831, $69.95, HC, 256pp,

Synopsis: In "The Language of Fruit: Literature and Horticulture in the Long Eighteenth Century", Liz Bellamy (who teaches English at City College Norwich and the Open University) explores how poets, playwrights, and novelists from the Restoration to the Romantic era represented fruit and fruit trees in a period that saw significant changes in cultivation techniques, the expansion of the range of available fruit varieties, and the transformation of the mechanisms for their exchange and distribution. Although her principal concern is with the representation of fruit within literary texts and genres, she nevertheless grounds her analysis in the consideration of what actually happened in the gardens and orchards of the past.

As "The Language of Fruit" progresses through sections devoted to specific literary genres, three central "characters" come to the fore: the apple, long a symbol of natural abundance, simplicity, and English integrity; the orange, associated with trade and exchange until its "naturalization" as a British resident; and the pineapple, often figured as a cossetted and exotic child of indulgence epitomizing extravagant luxury. She demonstrates how the portrayal of fruits within literary texts was complicated by symbolic associations derived from biblical and classical traditions, often identifying fruit with female temptation and sexual desire. Looking at seventeenth-century poetry, Restoration drama, eighteenth-century georgic, and the Romantic novel, as well as practical writings on fruit production and husbandry, Bellamy shows the ways in which the meanings and inflections that accumulated around different kinds of fruit related to contemporary concepts of gender, class, and race.

Examining the intersection of literary tradition and horticultural innovation, "The Language of Fruit" traces how writers from Andrew Marvell to Jane Austen responded to the challenges posed by the evolving social, economic, and symbolic functions of fruit over the long eighteenth century.

Critique: A deftly crafted, expertly organized, and seminal work of original scholarship, "The Language of Fruit: Literature and Horticulture in the Long Eighteenth Century" also features twenty-six pages of Notes, an eighteen page Bibliography, and a six page Index. While expressly recommended for community, college, and university library 18th Century Literary Studies collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academics, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Language of Fruit" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $62.08).

The Shape of the Soul
Paul Marshall
Rowman & Littlefield
c/o Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group
4501 Forbes Blvd., Suite 200, Lanham, MD 20706
9781538124772, $30.00, HC, 448pp,

Synopsis: When Paul Marshall began to pay attention to his dreams, he could not have anticipated the transformative experience that would follow. A tremendous expansion of consciousness exposed the insignificance of his everyday self but also revealed unsuspected depths of mind and hinted at a deeper self that holds the universe within.

In "The Shape of the Soul, Marshall" Marshall (who is now a mysticism scholar) draws on personal experiences, along with a wealth of religious, philosophical, and scientific ideas, to explore this deeper self, sometimes experienced in mystical and near-death states as spherical in form. Drawing inspiration from the philosophers Plotinus and Leibniz, Marshall takes mind to be more fundamental than matter and views the basic units of nature as perceptual beings. We ourselves are such beings, striving for fulfilment in a long evolutionary journey of soul-making.

Bringing together mysticism, philosophy, biology, and even some physics, "The Shape of the Soul" offers a deeply integrated vision of the self and the universe. Addressing the mind - body problem, the origin of the world, evolution, reincarnation, suffering, and the nature of God, Marshall delivers what will surely prove an intellectual classic.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The Shape of the Soul" is enhanced for academia with the inclusion of fifty-two pages of Notes, a six page Selected Bibliography, and a twenty-four page Index. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community and academic library Metaphysical & Philosophy 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 "The Shape of the Soul" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $28.50).

Editorial Note: Paul Marshall is an independent researcher with interests in mysticism, religion, philosophy, science, and their interactions. He studied natural sciences at the University of Cambridge and received his MA and PhD in Religious Studies from Lancaster University. He is author of The Living Mirror (1992) and Mystical Encounters with the Natural World (2005). With Edward F. Kelly and Adam Crabtree, he co-edited Beyond Physicalism (2015).

Curved-Folding Origami Design
Jun Mitani
CRC Press
6000 NW Broken Sound Parkway NW, Suite 300, Boca Raton, FL 33487
9780367180270, $99.95, PB, 122pp,

Synopsis: Originally associated with Japanese culture, origami is the art of paper folding and in modern usage, the word "origami" is used as an inclusive term for all folding practices, regardless of their culture of origin.

The goal is to transform a flat square sheet of paper into a finished sculpture through folding and sculpting techniques. Modern origami practitioners generally discourage the use of cuts, glue, or markings on the paper. Origami folders often use the Japanese word kirigami to refer to designs which use cuts, although cutting is more characteristic of Chinese papercrafts

The origami introduced in Professor Jun Mitani's "Curved-Folding Origami Design" is based on simple techniques. Some were previously known by origami artists and some were discovered by the author. "Curved-Folding Origami Design" shows a way to explore new area of origami composed of curved folds. Each technique is introduced in a step-by-step fashion, followed by some beautiful artwork examples. A commentary explaining the theory behind the technique is placed at the end of each chapter.

Critique: Comprised of profusely illustrated instructions for twenty-four original origami artworks, "Curved-Folding Origami Design" is thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, making it an ideal introduction to the novice and of immense interest to seasoned practitioners of origami art. While highly recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Curved-Folding Origami Design" is also available in a paperback edition (978-0367180256, $39.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $31.16 Buy / $10.61 Rent).

Editorial Note: Jun Mitani is a professor of information and systems in the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Tsukuba. Dr. Mitani was previously a PRESTO researcher at the Japan Science and Technology Agency, a lecturer in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Tsukuba, and a postdoctoral researcher at RIKEN. His research focuses on computer graphics, including computer-aided origami design techniques. He is also the author of 3D Origami Art.

Anything Can Be Healed
Martin Brofman
Findhorn Press
c/o Inner Traditions International, Ltd.
One Park Street, Rochester, VT 05767
9781620558966, $17.99, PB, 228pp,

Synopsis: Drawing on his own profound healing experience as a young man, Martin Brofman developed a system of healing that effectively and seamlessly blends Western psychology and Eastern philosophies: the Body Mirror System. He explains how the chakra system connects to both mind and body to form a body/mind interface, allowing us to read the physical body as a mirror of the consciousness within, track the route from symptom to cause, and then work on releasing the causes on all levels.

Brofman shows how specific tensions or symptoms on the physical level reflect corresponding tensions in one's consciousness about specific issues in life -- the inner cause to the outer symptom. The author explains how healing the symptom needs to involve not only releasing the tension on the physical level, but also letting go of the stressful way of interacting with the environment. Thus, the process of healing always implies a process of transformation.

Within the concepts of his Body Mirror System, Brofman explores the chakras and their role in the body, including their associated vibrations, parts of the body, senses, layers of the aura, and areas of consciousness. He explains how to clear and connect the chakras, how to connect to the cosmos through the chakras, and how engaging with thought forms, time travel, and past lives can assist in healing sessions. Discussing the healing of others as well as self-healing, Brofman describes how to heal with chakras, thought forms, white light, and love, and how to perform distance healing. He provides practical energy exercises and chakra meditations, allowing the reader to imminently experience the healing energy in their bodies and prepare for a healing session. He also includes color reference guides, such as a chakra healing chart.

Deeply examining the multilayered elements of the healing process, including transformation, this classic healing guide serves as a practical introduction to energy healing as well as a healer's tutorial and reference book.

Critique: This newly published second edition of a classic practical manual for utilizing the chakra system as a body/mind interface for effective energetic healing, "Anything Can Be Healed: The Body Mirror System of Healing with Chakras" deftly explores the physical body as a mirror of our consciousness, with symptoms reflecting inner stresses in our emotional being, our mind, and/or our higher self; offers an in-depth explanation of different aspects of each chakra, alongside a chakra meditation and practical energy exercises; and includes color reference charts of the chakras and their associated vibrations, systems, layers of the aura, senses, and areas of consciousness. "Anything Can Be Healed" is unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Alternative Medicine collections and supplemental studies lists. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Anything Can Be Healed" is also available in a digital book format (eTextbook, $12.99).

Editorial Note: The late Martain Brofman (1940-2014) was a renowned healer and the founder of the Brofman Foundation for the Advancement of Healing. He created a special healing approach, the Body Mirror System, after he cured himself of a terminal illness in 1975. Actively practicing for more than 30 years, his healing system is now taught worldwide. Since 2014, his wife, Annick Brofman, and the Body Mirror System instructors continue the legacy of his work within the Brofman Foundation around the world.

What's in Your Blood & Why You Should Care
Earl Mindell & Gene Bruno
Square One Publishers
115 Herricks Road, Garden City Park, NY 11040
9780757004438, $16.95, PB, 224pp,

Synopsis: Like most people, you probably get a blood test and keep your fingers crossed until the results come back. But while these tests focus on key components of your blood, they provide only a limited view of what's going on in your body. Blood tests don't tell you about heavy metals or unwanted pathogens that maybe coursing through your body. They don't tell you how strong your immune system is or whether your cells are getting the nutrients they need. Only when something goes very wrong (and has possibly been going wrong for years) do your blood tests indicate a problem.

"What's in Your Blood & Why You Should Care" by Earl Mindell and Gene Bruno is the first book for the non-specialist general reader to provide a complete picture of the components that make up your blood, how your blood functions, and what you can do to improve the quality of your blood for greater health and longevity.

Written in easy-to-understand language, "What's in Your Blood & Why You Should Care" methodically explains everything you need to know about your blood and instructs you in proven methods of cleansing and detoxifying your bloodstream with approaches that range from diets, to supplements, to medical treatments.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "What's in Your Blood & Why You Should Care" is a comprehensive and thoroughly 'reader friendly' instructional guide and manual that will prove to be an enduringly popular and valued addition to personal, community, and academic library Health & Medicine collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "What's in Your Blood & Why You Should Care" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.49).

Editorial Note: Earl Mindell, RPh, PhD, is a registered pharmacist, master herbalist, and college educator. He is also an award-winning author of over twenty best-selling books, including Earl Mindell's New Vitamin Bible, which has sold over 11 million copies worldwide. He is on the Board of Directors of the California College of Natural Medicine, and serves on the Dean's Professional Advisory Group, School of Pharmacy, Chapman University.

Gene Bruno, MS, MHS, is Professor of Nutraceutical Science and Provost of Huntington university of Health Sciences. For forty years he has educated healthcare professionals in nutrition, herbal medicine, and nutraceutical sciences.

Margaret Lane

Mari's Bookshelf

The Colonel and the Bee
Patrick Canning
Evolved Publishing
9781622530243, $15.95

Hold onto your hats for this 19th century hot air balloon adventure hosted by a dapper detective and an escaped aerial artist!

The story begins in Switzerland as Beatrix (Bee) awaits a routine beating from her boss, circus ringleader, Ziro. That is, after she wows dinner guests at a mountain mansion, on behalf of the circus. Bee and one guest, the Colonel, a tall chap in a top hat, both find themselves fleeing the evening's gathering. Bee joins the crew aboard the Colonel's floating home, the Ox, on a hunt for just what or whom she will have to deduce as she goes along with the Colonel's (literal) fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants approach.

An alchemy of exquisite detail and colorful characters yields a robust plot. Bee and the Colonel build up as characters from the outside in. Bee's scant circus attire and the Colonel's yak urine lip balm concealed by fresh flowers tucked in his suit's crevices reflect complex inner traits. Bee's acrobatic single-mindedness offsets the Colonel's larger than life demeanor. The hard working Scottish couple, a scatterbrained lighthouse attendant and a host of animals also inhabiting the Ox compete with the Weasleys from Harry Potter for best supporting roles. The entourage serve each other well travelling through Europe and Northern Africa on a scavenger hunt with warring treasure seeking families. Drawings at the end of each chapter highlight the playfulness of the story.

The story steers clear of moralizing. The treasure hunting families are clearly the bad guys up against a dynamic family of free spirits. But winning or losing is not the point. Set in the 1800s, the book is a refreshing break from dystopias, saving the climate, and other subjects of much current young adult fiction. Steering a floating building, training birds, planning prison raids and sewing torn envelopes are the stuff of this book's adventures. Romantic intrigue takes a back seat to a deeper love; the book celebrates the age old virtues of friendship.

A coming of age story for all generations, The Colonel and the Bee entertains and warms the heart.

The Horror of the Ordinary: Stories
Richard Krause
Unsolicited Press
9781947021969, $17.00

Nothing is as it seems in Richard Krause's second collection of stories, The Horror of the Ordinary.

The 23 stories play with appearances, ironies and mysteries. Some stories deal with masks characters hide behind. Fur coats or good deeds or fat or escape conceal ulterior motives. Sometimes the crimes characters obsess over bringing to justice are the very crimes they fear they commit. Other stories turn perceptions on their heads. A sniper's target is mistaken as Osama bin Laden. A restaurant customer can hardly eat his food imagining it was made by Israeli operatives, when, in fact.... The stories reference Kafka, only, in these tales, animals are personified rather than people turning into animals. The final narratives are longest and most self-reflective and existential, asking questions about identity and the nature of storytelling.

First sentences tantalize. "It was like he was visiting them," one story begins. What is "it"? Who is "he" and "them"? The narrator is often tangential to the main character, a distant yet invested observer. As the stories progress and pronouns become persons, the point is not for the plot to become clear; rather, the point is the act of uncovering layers that obscure and complexify the truth. The texture is rich and thoughtful.

Much contemporary literature taunts readers to deduce the target its symbols point to. Instead, Krause is candid with symbols, fileting them open and exploring their depths. Beetles, cockroaches and splinters explode into infestations. Political and personal atrocities plague the text, from the treatment of animals to concentration camps to orphanages to food hoarding during the Great Depression to the current obesity crisis. Sexual fantasies turn perverse. Pedophiles lurk in plain sight. Victims inflict revenge when perpetrators least expect it. Be ready to confront a disturbing dark side in these stories. The bright side is the book's careful, artistic attention to visceral and psychological detail developed into stories as intricate as a Japenese puppet show.

The Horror of the Ordinary is a collection of surreal, grotesque and beautiful short fiction breaking open the mundane as a carrier for the absurd.

Mari Carlson, Reviewer

Mason's Bookshelf

The Blue Day Book
Bradley Trevor Grieve, author
Claire Keane, illustrator
Andrews McMeel Publishing
1130 Walnut Street, Kansas City, MO 64106-2109
9781449490294, $14.99, HC, 128pp,

Synopsis: Nineteen years after its first printing, Bradley Trevor Greive's global bestseller "The Blue Day Book" has become a modern classic and is still bringing smiles to readers around the world. And because we all still have bad days now and then, the time is right for an illustrated edition of this uniquely funny, compassionate book that inspired an entire genre of uplifting gift books.

This special edition features stunning new illustrations created by Claire Keane, the artist and animator who created the art for Disney's Frozen. Still included, of course, are the original, warm, supportive messages and humorous insights guaranteed to raise the spirits of anyone feeling down and blue.

Critique: Ideal for any occasion of gift giving, this new and charmingly illustrated edition of "The Blue Day Book: A Lesson In Cheering Yourself Up" is unreservedly recommended for personal reading lists -- and especially for community library collections where it will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular acquisition.

The Perfect Plan
Bryan Reardon
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, 3rd floor, New York, NY 10014-3657
9781524743659, $26.00, HC, 352pp,

Synopsis: Liam Brennan teeters on the edge. Early one morning, he snaps, kidnapping a young woman who works for Drew Brennan, Liam's older brother and the upstart candidate in a heated election. This sudden, vicious attack appears to be the beginning of an unthinkable spiral. But when it comes to the Brennan brothers, nothing is what it seems.

To the rest of the world, Liam is the troubled problem child who grew up to be his brother's enforcer, while Drew has always been the perfect son and a charismatic leader who has his sights set on the governor's mansion with his charming and beautiful wife, Patsy, by his side.

Now, as Liam tries to stay one step ahead of the authorities and his brother, every passing minute provides a deeper glimpse into the brothers' past, long hidden behind a picture-perfect suburban veneer. With the threat of the truth surfacing, Liam and Drew are driven toward one final, desperate act.

Critique: A deftly crafted page-turner of a thriller that showcases author Bryan Reardon's flair as a novelist for originality and a distinctive, reader engaging, narrative storytelling style, "The Perfect Plan" is a thoroughly entertaining and highly recommended addition to community library Contemporary General Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Perfect Plan" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99).

Betrayal in Time
Julie McElwain
Pegasus Books
148 West 37th Street, 13th Floor, New York, NY 10018
9781643130743, $25.95, HC, 464pp,

Synopsis: In February 1816, a race through the icy, twisting cobblestone streets of London ends inside an abandoned church -- and an horrific discovery. Bow Street Runner Sam Kelly is called to investigate the grisly murder of Sir Giles Holbrooke, who was left naked and garroted, with his tongue cut out. Yet as perplexing as that crime is, it becomes even stranger when symbols that resemble crosses mysteriously begin to appear across the dead man's flesh during autopsy. Is it a message from the killer?

Sam turns to the one person in the kingdom who he believes can answer that question and solve the bizarre murder -- the Duke of Aldridge's odd but brilliant ward, Kendra Donovan.

While Kendra has been trying to adapt to her new life in the early nineteenth century, she is eager to use her skills as a twenty-first century FBI agent again. And she will need all her investigative prowess, because Sir Giles was not an average citizen. He was one of England's most clever spymasters -- a man whose life had been filled with intrigue and subterfuge.

Kendra's return to the gritty streets and glittering ballrooms of London takes her down increasingly dangerous paths. When another body is discovered, murdered in the same apparently ritualistic manner as Sir Giles, the American begins to realize that they are dealing with a killer with an agenda, whose mind has been twisted by rage and bitterness so that the price of a perceived betrayal is death.

Critique: A deftly crafted and unique time-travel based mystery, author Julie McElwain's "Betrayal in Time" is a thoroughly entertaining page-turner of a read from beginning to end. While certain to be an enduringly popular addition to community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Betrayal in Time" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Tantor Audio, 9781515943884, $34.99, CD).

Editorial Note: Julie McElwain is a national award-winning journalist. Her first novel, "A Murder In Time", (currently optioned for television/movie development) was one of the top 10 picks by the National Librarian Association for its April 2016 book list, and was selected as the mystery to read in 2016 by OverDrive Inc., a digital distributor serving more than 34,000 libraries around the world. The novel was also a finalist for the 2016 Goodreads' readers choice awards in the Sci-fi category, and made Bustle's list of 9 Most Addictive Mystery series for 2017.

Jack Mason

Molly's Bookshelf

Guide to Exploring Mid America A guide to Museum Villages
Gerald and Patricia Gutek
Hippocrene Books
9780870526435, $14.95, Paperback, 172 pages

Gerald and Patricia Gutek's USA Guide to Exploring Mid-America A Guide to Museum Villages is a dandy work of 172 pages pubbed in 1990.

Museum Villages offer a step back in time to a period when our country was new and life was vastly different from that of today.

I have always loved these wonderful glimpses of earlier times and the people who lived or worked in the buildings preserved for us all to enjoy.

USA Guide to Exploring Mid-America A Guide to Museum Villages caught my eye as I prowled the aisles in the local jumble shop.

This particular volume allows the reader to gain an understanding of the area west of the Mississippi River, within the interior of the country.

The book is divided into two sections, Part 1 is the area of Upper Great Plains, while Part 2 lists attractions found in Lower Great Plains.

On the pages of a book having 170 pages listing every possible historic site is not probable, nevertheless the book does serve to whet the interest of those who may have a trip to one of the sites set aside by the National Park Service and private citizens alike.

Part 1, includes Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Minnesota, and North and South Dakota. Specific locations include Amana Colonies, in Iowa, Fort Larned National Historic Site in Kansas, and Fort Snelling in Minnesota as well as four sites in Nebraska; Fort Hartsuff Historic Park, Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer, Harold Warp Pioneer Village and Fort Robinson State Park.

North and South Dakota sites mentioned are Bonanzaville USA, Pioneer Village and Museum, Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park, Fort Totten State Historic Site and Prairie Vllage.

Part 2 Lower Great Plains lists sites found in Arkansas; Arkansas Territorial Restoration, Old Washington Historic State Park and Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park. Fort Gibon, Indian City USA ad Tsa-La-Gi found in Oklahoma and Lyndon B Johnson National State Historical park, and Lyndon B Johnson State Historical Park, and San Antonio Missins National Historic Park and The Alamo located in Texas round out the work.

Each site provides some information to pique interest regarding the sites, and if followed with visits to local libraries and on-line searches can provide those who enjoy history with the tools needed to plan a lengthy vacation, day trips or more understanding that every hamlet has sites of interest especially for those who do live in the area and are unaware that of the importance of their own surroundings.

I particularly like that individual sites, Iowa Amana Colonies is one begins with contact information, the book was pubbed in 1990, if readers would like to visit these German communal colonies begun during an almost 100 year span beginning in 1854, an internet search will provide information needed for making trip to the Amana Colonies during festival times, or not as the visitor wishes.

Some of the history of the location is included to help visitors put into context why the location was developed as it was. The Amana Colonies, for instance, was chosen by German migrants fleeing religious intolerance.

Most of the historical villages provides tours the area, some self-directed, others have docents in period dress explaining how building, devices and tools were used.

Fifteen black white photos are provided near the middle of the book.

All in all I am very satisfied with the Gutek's USA Guide to Exploring Mid-America A Guide to Museum Villages. It provides just enough information to cause readers to perhaps plan a trip to the state to visit the location mentioned. And, to perhaps provide the grist for visiting the state, study something more of the history of the area and visiting more than just the one or two sites listed.

The War Between the States was a bitter conflict, and Kansas; Fort Scott, supply depot, Battles fought at Baxter Springs, and Carthage, Arkansas; Battle of Pea Ridge and Prairie Grove Battle Field, Oklahoma; battles fought at Bird Creek, Honey Springs, and Cabin Creek (2) all provide historians and visitors with reconstructed lands, monuments and buildings to deepen the awareness of visitors for the time and worry experienced by many of our ancestors. Perhaps another trip to the local jumble shop will allow me to locate a book listing even more of our collective history.

Happy to recommend Gerald and Patricia Gutek's USA Guide to Exploring Mid-America A Guide to Museum Villages for history buffs, high school and public libraries, and as a gift for one who enjoys books designed to broaden our historical awareness.

Interesting Read, well worth the read. Available Amazon hard cover, paper back

Harry and the Lady Next Door
Series: I Can Read Level 1
9780064440080, $4.99, Paperback, 64 pages

Poor Harry. It seemed everything in his life was going just fine, fine that is; until a new lady moved right next door.

Harry likes ladies, nothing problematic there.

On the other hand; THIS new lady is an opera vocalist.

And, she has moved into the house right next to Harry's. More than that; she practices.

She practices all the day long. She sings loud, and, she sings high. Really, really high. And she sings really, really loud.

The lady next door can sing even noisier than screeching cats, and louder even than the peanut vendor's whistle. She can croon louder than a fire engine siren.

Poor Harry, that singing hurts his ears. Harry does not like the tone. The tone is just too high and it is just too loud.

Harry is determined to silence the lady next door. He bites the piano leg, he howls.

He herds cows. Maybe; if the lady hears the lovely L-O-W sounds cows make, then maybe she will start to sing the same low tones.

That doesn't work.

Harry fetches a band. The tuba makes a beautiful low sound. Nothing works. The lady does not stop singing loud and high.

At last he steals the lady's music only to discover t;hat the lady does not need the music, she keeps right on singing.

At last; the lady wins a competition and she accepts the opportunity to study opera far, far away.

Harry and his family go with the lady to say goodbye when she sets off on a big ship. As her ship sets sail, Harry can hear her singing.

And then; the ship's foghorn sounds.

Harry was thrilled. He thought the tone to be the loveliest good-bye song he had ever heard!

Harry and the Lady Next Door has been staple in my K-1 classroom from the first weeks when I began teaching in California some thirty+ years ago. The children loved the book then; they love it no less now.

As a Primary level teacher, I especially like the Harry books for the reason that the account presents Harry in a complicated situation he works to resolve, artworks are low key and child friendly, there are no complex, over detailed or too bright images, in addition, the vocabulary is aimed at emergent reader/listeners.

Pictures are jam-packed with action without being over drawn or excessively detailed. Images are fashioned using straight forward, high-spirited blows. Scenes are serene and a bit indistinct with ample white space on the page. Children's eyes are drawn readily to Harry and his activities.

Harry and the Lady Next Door (An I Can Read Picture Book) is another in our assemblage of 'Harry' books. Fifteen pairs of bright eyes fill with pleasure as my resident critics hurry to get ready for 'reading time on the rug.'

Harry and the Lady Next Door finds our beloved white dog with the black spots, Harry, up to his ears in anguish. Even though we have read the account before; and the class fully knows, what is coming; children's attention does not waver as they crowd close and 'talk' the story with me.

Each approach Harry comes up with to persuade the lady to stop singing so high and so loud is met with gales of giggles. The kids remain being enthralled by the witty antics of this engaging dog.

Children shadow the chronicle through listening and images. I find the book works well for class discussion once the reading is complete. It works as well for class 'reading' again as children tell the story to themselves while viewing the illustrations as I turn the pages.

I like the ponderings which follow as the children have become more articulate and are better able to articulate that Harry's actions are not inspired from mischief, or an unkind spirit; rather he is first attempting to convince the lady to just stop.

And then, after he comprehends that lower tones do not cause pain in his ears, he hopes to modify her manner of singing. He herds the cows and the band toward the lady's house in his scuffle to show her that lower tones are pleasanter than high, strident ones.

Harry and the Lady Next Door delivers to the class the chance to converse regarding how and why BIG noisy voices in the classrooms can cause us complications quite as the lady and her all-pervading, earsplitting voice caused problems for Harry.

Thirty thumbs up from 15 bright eyed first graders in Osage County, Oklahoma.

I am delighted to recommend Harry and the Lady Next Door as a dandy choice for children's pleasure reading during DEAR reading activity, as well, it has a place on the classroom reading shelf, the school and public library list and for homeschoolers reading offerings.

Harry and the Lady Next Door will be a welcome addition to children's personal bookshelf and is a nice addition for gifting a special birthday child, emergent readers and for gifting the class on first day of school.

21 formats including school and library binding, paperback, audio, cassette, kindle

Country Kitchen Cookbooks Preserves
Jenni Fleetwood
Gallery Books
9780831718039, $TBA

Jenni Fleetwood Country Kitchen Cookbooks Preserves is a work of 64 pages, 45 recipes, divided into Introduction, Pickles, Chutneys, Jams Jellies, & Marmalades, Canned Fruits & Whole Preserves and Index.

Author Fleetwood notes in the Introduction; 'When the preserving pan is bubbling on the range and piquant aromas are tickling your nostrils, you realize that preserving fruit and vegetables is a delightfully rewarding task.'

Pickles pp 8 - 21 includes recipes for pickling Onions, Baby beets, Turnips, Cucumber, Pears, Melon with cherries, Green beans with herbs, Lime, Pineapple, Peaches, Eggs, Piccalilli, Pennsylvania Chow Chow and an enjoyable Red cabbage.

Red Cabbage can be found on my table nearly every lunch or supper, sometimes both. Not only is it pretty in the jar or on the plate; it is delicious.

Chutneys pp 22 - 35 consist of Hot ratatouille, Mixed fruit, Blackberry & apple, Fig lime, Damson plum, Kiwi, Pear & date, Berry, Mango, and relishes Nectarine, Corn, Minted beet, Date & ginger, Tomato & lemon, and a delicious Green tomato Chutney.

Green Tomato Chutney preserved in small ornate glass jars make nice Christmas tuck in gifts.

Jams, Jellies & Marmalades pp 36 - 52 begins with Strawberry conserve, followed by Tomato & passion fruit jam, Pink peach jam, Almond-flavored plum jam, Rhubarb & Orange, Gooseberry & Strawberry, and jellies, Apple along with variations created by adding Mint, Parsley, Dill, Rosemary and Spiced, Raspberry jelly, Sage & cider, Grapefruit, Cranberry & apple; nice for Christmas.

Closing out the section are marmalades, my favorite of the section, Lime, Calamondin, and Thin cut, this section also lists Grape jelly, Lemon cheese, Spiced apple butter.

Canned Fruits & whole preserves pp 52 - 63 rounding out the recipes include Canned cherries, Cockaigne, Baby tomatoes, Kumquat, Pear & coriander, Surprise strawberries, Party nectarines, Perfect pears, Figs in syrup, Papaya & pineapple preserves, whole orange, Brandie grapes, Peaches in brandy, Alcoholic mincemeat

I like cookbooks, have quite a few in my collection, and often add to the number. Jenni Fleetwood's Country Kitchen Cookbooks Preserves is a nice addition for any cook and especially for one who enjoys preparing homemade marmalades, fruit and chutneys.

When raising children I canned fruits, vegetable and made gallons of marmalade and fruit relishes. Now that children are grown I do not can so much for just 2 of us, although a pretty jar of chutney or marmalade continues to be nice for gift giving.

I like the size of this cookbook, it is not so large as to be cumbersome, or so small to not provide a nice variety of possibles.

As with every cookbook I use; I do prefer cookbooks to be either binder type, or spiral binding so that the book will lay flat and not flip pages in the middle of my putting the ingredients together.

Recipes are presented more or less as 1 per page, ingredients list at the top and specific directions for adding the ingredients and are numbered.

This particular volume explains the procedure needed for safely preparing tasty sweet and tangy preserves for use to add interest to mealtime.

On the whole Jenni Fleetwood's Country Kitchen Cookbooks Preserves is a well-planned cookbook ideal for those who do enjoy preparing tasty relishes and such for family and friends.

Happy to recommend this cookbook for gifting a special mom, aunt or grandmother.

Available amazon hard cover

Molly Martin, Reviewer

Pedro's Bookshelf

Len Deighton
HarperCollins Publishers
0060176229, $24.00

Fans of spy fiction and Len Deighton's work have little to get excited about in the author's novel Faith. The novel is the first of Deighton's Faith, Hope and Charity trilogy that follow the life and exploits of secret agent Bernard Samson.

Faith is a work that was published in the mid-1990s, but which takes place during the waning days of the Iron Curtain. Deighton's novel tells a vapid story of the last days of East German and Soviet Communism. That in itself should spook fans of espionage literature, given the lack of political intrigue that once served to fuel this genre, and which was conspicuously absent after the fall of the Soviet Union in the early '90s.

It is true that as far as international communism is concerned, the world can still rely on China, North Korea, Venezuela and Cuba to dispense murder and human rights violations to its citizens. The fall of the Iron Curtain does not mean that international communism has made its last stand. Yet Faith has nothing to do with those communist dinosaurs.

Undoubtedly, Len Deighton is a fine writer. Competent and meticulous regarding the facts that he gathers and proficient in the way he tells a story. He is clear in his diction and keeps his stories moving at an interesting clip. However, fans of The Ipcress File and Funeral in Berlin beware, both truly fantastic novels by Deighton, Faith is nothing like those works. Of course, there is no point in preaching to the choir, Deighton fans know that Faith is not Deighton's most thrilling and gripping novel.

Faith is less about international espionage, of which there is very little in the novel, and lots about a world of gossip, pretense and marital strife. The story revolves around Bernard Samson's rather pathetic domestic life, which include his disgruntled wife, ex-mistress, his dislikable father-in-law and two children who he rarely sees.

Deighton spends a large portion of the novel discussing fine wine, exotic food and clothing that add nothing to the plot of Faith. Early on in the novel there is minimal action, but it is not until the last chapter that the story entertains the reader with any semblance of inspired story-telling. Faith reads like an afterthought, like it was written out of boredom. Reading it is definitely tedious. Faith is not the kind of novel that espionage fans expect from a writer of Deighton's caliber.

Maigret and the Calame Report
Georges Simenon
Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc.
1969, 183 Pages
Library of Congress Number 70-78874

Georges Simenon's Maigret and The Calame Report is an example par excellence of the roman policier. The novel was first published in France in 1954 and in English translation in 1969.

Simenon was a man busy about town. He walked the streets of Paris, visited its cafe and is notorious for befriending Parisian women throughout his life. These experiences, he brings to his novels in abundance. Most importantly, Simenon makes use of the daily world of man and women who are busy living their lives as fodder for his literary adventures.

Inspector Maigret's gift for natural psychology is the force that drives Simenon's Maigret novels. Maigret's prowess as an inspector is that rare ability that some human beings have for observation coupled with heightened perspicuity. What makes the Maigret series of novels unique is not that they solve crimes, apprehend criminals and make the world safer for good people. Most detective novels achieve that, or at least they set out to do so.

Maigret is a different kind of inspector altogether. The man is a master sleuth of the human mind and morals. This enables Maigret to sniff out people's motivation and behavior, the inner world that makes every person, in a manner of speaking, a universe all to themselves. These qualities set Simenon's work apart from other writers. In addition, Simenon's writing is crisp and clear. Most importantly, his novels are elegant in the manner they present the plot and the problematic that the author sets out to tackle.

Simenon is more interested in uncovering the source of criminal behavior than he is about its effect on society. This is because Simenon understood crime to be a staple of human nature that has made its presence felt since time immemorial, and which lamentably will always be with us.

Maigret and the Calame Report is a superbly intelligent and well-crafted novel. Simenon introduces characters in a meticulous manner that dazzles thoughtful readers with his astuteness and ability to strategize as a novelist.

For instance, in describing some people who live in an apartment building, Maigret, and Simenon, no doubt, make a profound observation about the psychology and sociology of criminals, which counter the mantra of politically correct nonsense that one encounters in many novels and pop culture today. "...but it all belonged to the same honest, laborious type of people, the type that is always slightly intimidated by the police." Ironically, people who respect the police have little reason to do so, the narrator suggests.

In Maigret and the Calame Report, Inspector Maigret solves the case and apprehends the criminals, but he cannot bring them to justice because of the number of people who criminal values have already corrupted.

The moral and law-abiding French Minister of Public Works, Auguste Point, who is framed by criminal politicians, is a family man and reluctant politician. Mr. Point is not a Parisian, rather a provincial man who rather be in the countryside with his family. Maigret sees himself reflected in this rather defenseless man who is the scapegoat of criminals in the government.

Georges Simenon stands alone at the pinnacle of the detective novel. Many writers have embraced the genre, but few deliver the kind of sophisticated and insightful works that Simenon offers his readers, for his novels are more than just works of detection.

The strength and redeeming value of Maigret and the Calame Report is that Maigret cannot solve the problem of good versus evil, especially when the righteous do not have a fighting chance. This is a novel that embraces realism. For this, Maigret apologizes to Auguste Point, the Cabinet Minister. Both men appear defeated at the end of the novel. But, are they?

Pedro Blas Gonzalez

Suanne's Bookshelf

Ayesha at Last
Uzma Jalaluddin
c/o Penguin
9781984802798, $16.00 pbk

Ayesha at Last is a Muslim own-voices retelling of Pride and Prejudice, and begins with a clever restatement of Austen's famous opening line: "Because while it is a truth universally acknowledged that a single Muslim man must be in want of a wife, there's an even greater truth:To his Indian mother, his own inclinations are of secondary importance."

This P&P retelling is set in Scarborough, ON in a South Asian Muslim community. In a rare turn of events in Islamophobic modern times, the hero, Khalid is a practicing conversation Muslim. It's nice to see those who faithfully practice their religion faithfully viewed in a favorable light rather than as token Muslims or terrorists. Khalid wears a thobe and a skullcap and hasn't cut his beard in years. He believes in chastity and believes his mother will find him an appropriate wife. Ayesha, the heroine, is aging out of the marriage market at age 27. Her mother has encouraged to be independent, so she isn't certain she wants an arranged marriage - or marriage at all. These two butt heads immediately as they each make snap decisions about the other.

As this is a retelling, there's no need to summarize the plot or to worry about spoilers - everyone P&P knows the story. The hero and heroine eventually redeem their impulsive first opinions about each other and fall in love.

I enjoyed Uzma Jalaluddin's deft way at revealing Islamophobic sentiments and anti-Muslim discrimination in the work place and in schools. Overall, a cute book that also provides an important service: reinforcing that humans are more alike than different.

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows
Balli Kaur Jaswal
William Morrow
c/o HarperCollins
9780062645128, $26.99

I read this novel because I enjoy being transported to different places and cultures. Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows reveals the immigrant experience in Britain, particularly in the Sikh community of London's Southall. The protagonist, Nikki, a law school dropout, is caught between her modern, more feminist values and the traditional values of her Punjabi family. To support herself while she figures out what she's doing with her life, she lives above the bar she works in. Her sister, Mindi, is more conservative than Nikki and wants an arranged marriage. Mindi has Nikki place an ad on the matrimonial board at Southall's Sikh temple. While there, she sees a posting for someone to teach creative writing two evenings a week. She's hired and gets more than she bargained for.

She ends up teaching Punjabi widows who are isolated because of their widowhood, and the class becomes a safe place they can gather and be themselves. Nikki realizes they are mostly illiterate and resistant to being taught the alphabet like they were children, not at all capable of writing their stories themselves. The women wish to tell stories and have them recorded, but Nikki's mind is blown at how erotic nature of the stories. Nikki gets involved with the women and their storytelling, embraces on a new love affair, and untangles a mystery. The stories themselves place her and her students in danger from local thugs that police local women to ensure they follow strict Sikh behavioral guidelines and Nikki herself from the actual murderer.

This multi-generational novel is witty and charming. I recently read a book that I felt tried to be too many things. Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows juggles many balls, most of them quite well. It uses humor to explore serious issues: oppression, and policing of Punjabi women, women's rights, the need and desire for intimacy at many age levels. There are hysterical scenes discussing the use of ghee, eggplants, and cucumbers in the bedroom. The widows' wishful sexy stories are printed in italics, so they're easy to skip over if you don't like erotica, but I found nothing in them that was truly objectionable and the naivety of the widows' erotica is delightful. The weak point was the murder mystery that didn't quite live up to the rest of the novel.

Felicity Carrol and the Perilous Pursuit: A Felicity Carrol Mystery
Patricia Marcantonio
Crooked Lane Books
9781683318965, $26.99

If you like Victorian era mysteries, you'll love enjoy this book. Felicity Carrol, a blue stocking female, is determined to become a detective in the 1870's. She is spunky and tenacious. This book isn't the usual Victorian heroine attending teas, balls, and the debutante season, all while looking for a well-heeled, good-lucking spouse. In the beginning, she blows up a wing of her house and causes a fire as she tries to replicate a battery.

The book is well-researched - and it's obvious. Though Felicity teaches herself to become a detective, the references to the study she puts in is at times overwhelming and over-the-top. I'm not sure the average reader needs the full details of fingerprinting through the centuries. As a King Arthur fan, I enjoyed those aspects that are threaded through the story.

There are a few historical inaccuracies and anachronistic words, but I was able to suspend disbelief despite them. At times I found the author's use of metaphors and similes to be a bit much and sometimes, not tied to the story (such as a sailing metaphor in a land-based book). This is definitely a case where less is better than more. When using details, I feel, an author should aim for coherence, not fragmentation. For coherence, details should matter in some way, and frankly all the detail did not really matter. The writer should know how they matter, that is, the effect they have on the story and ultimately on the reader.

The story did me keep me glued - though lightly - through to the last page.

Little Darlings
Melanie Golding
Crooked Lane Books
9781683319979, $26.99

Little Darlings is a hair-raising, heart-thumping creepy tale that sucked me into reading it in one sitting. This is the second book I've read in 24 hours with fairy tales worked in delightfully. (The other was the last in a series of interconnected short stories in Treading the UnevenRoad by L.M. Brown (Fomite Press, March 13, 2019).A mother's worst nightmare is losing her children, and author Golding maximizes that fear by combining dark fairy folklore regarding twins and changelings with postpartum depression in a sinister plot.

The protagonist, Lauren Tranter is lying in the hospital fearing that she'll never bond with her twin sons when a bizarre dirty woman with bad teeth tries to steal her babies, Riley and Morgan, and replace them with her own. Author Melanie Golding does a great job describing the chaotic life of a new mother.

The rest of the book shows how the men in Lauren's life don't believe her story and, in fact, attribute her behavior to psychosis. Her husband is essentially absent in Lauren and her sons' lives. Her spouse, Patrick, is always be at work and he has scant sympathy for Lauren's sleepless nights and sore breasts. The chief of police thinks she's crazy as well.

The only person who believes Lauren is a female detective, Harper, who unravels the strings that tie the twins to the changing story to the flooding of a village 100 years earlier.

This is a spine-chilling tale with a creepy other-worldly, old-world feel. The reader never really knows if Lauren is an exhausted new mother, hallucinating from postpartum psychosis or if the twins really are in danger.

My Whorizontal Life
Sephe Haven
Redwood Publishing, LLC
9781947341432, $14.95

My Whorizontal Life is the first in a planned series by Sephe Haven depicting her life as a young actress struggling to make ends meet. Though she supplements her income waitressing, she still can't afford her rent, her credit cards are maxed out, etc. Her student loan debt compounds those issues. Literally overcome by financial obligations, she fears homelessness. In desperation, she becomes an escort/call girl.

Memoir is not my favorite genre, but this book was better than I expected. It is a humorous, yet realistic, view of the life of a new call girl. Ms. Haven uses her acting abilities to handle her johns. She grows from a woman hesitant to have sex ("Sex was a sacred thing" is an early line in the book) to a woman who able to establish a rapport with the men she serves. Empathizing with her johns gets her further than the actual sex does. Her descriptions of the men who call for her are often sympathetic - she avoids the trap of portraying them with ribald humor or contempt. I was left wondering, though, how much of this was simply self-aggrandizement.

I enjoyed the wry humor and Ms. Haven's descriptions of her johns and the situations in which she finds herself (i.e. gluing together a Lego kit for a rich child). Ms. Haven is good at writing the funny parts of her life, but I'd like to see more depth of emotion in the less-funny aspects. The abrupt ending didn't work for me. It clearly left room for the next in the series without resolving the issues she faces.

Reading the acknowledgements, I learned the original manuscript stands at 144,000 words. The current work, freed of some of the detritus of an ungainly first draft, reads much leaner with rarely an unneeded word. Despite this "housecleaning", I'm not sure how far Ms. Haven can carry this series before her johns all run together in the minds of her readers.

All in all, a light-weight read good for a lazy summer afternoon. As mentioned above, I no longer read much memoir but have studied the genre and read some of the all-time greats. While My Whorizontal Life doesn't rise to the level of a literary masterpiece, it is amusing and, at times, heartwarming. Having read volume #1, I'm not sure I would continue with the series.

Never Kiss a Notorious Marquess
Renee Ann Miller
c/o Kensington
9781420144611, $7.99

Never Kiss a Notorious Marquess is the third in Author Renee Ann Miller's Infamous Lords series but is easily read as a standalone novel. Because of the current connotations of the word "sweet" when attached to the word "romance", it is difficult to describe a romance as "sweet" when there are some fairly explicit sex scenes with the usual flowery names for the various body parts, but it is truly a sweet ... er ... delightful story.

Since his pregnant wife's death when she tumbled down the stairs, Lord Huntington has been labeled the Murdering Marquess. Since then, he has avoided London society, living on his Essex estate and caring for his three younger siblings.

Caroline Lawrence, an aspiring writer for a London paper and an ardent feminist, sneaks away from home to attend a suffragist's speech. During an ensuing mêlee, she's knocked unconscious and rescued from further harm by Lord Huntington who takes her to his home.

When she regains consciousness, she gives him a fake name and, after a sizzling evening of kisses, she leaves Trent Hall and returns to London. By chance, they meet again at the opera.Their chemistry is very apparent, though their lack of honesty with each other propels the story.

I liked this romance because of the views of early feminism and because Miller's prose is so lovely.

Past Presence
Nicole Bross
Literary Wanderlust
9781942856351, $15.49

When Audrey Eames inherits the Soberly Inn and Public House from an aunt she hasn't seen since she was twelve, Audrey goes to Soberly, Oregon to sell the inn. She loves her job as a consulting historian, which involves constant travel and has no intention of settling down. After meeting the friendly locals, especially bartender Kellen Greene, Audrey considers staying in Soberly and taking over the business

Audrey has a secret: when a child she had bacterial meningitis, nearly died, and awakened with the gift of being able to see a person's past lives by touching them. When people start dying in the same way they died in a previous life, Audrey can't decide if the deaths are coincidence, if someone has the same ability as she does and is using to nefarious ends, or if Audrey herself is the murderer. She decides to use her ability to pursue the leads her visions provide, even if it means putting herself and her new friends in danger.

I was was intrigued by the idea of reincarnation and the concept that our past lives can influence who we become and that we remain connected to people we've known over our different lifetimes. Past Present weaves between the present and the past, with Audrey's visions in italics. I did feel the pregnancy and abortion was gratuitous. Perhaps this would feel more intrinsic to the novel if Audry had used that opportunity to muse on who the baby might have been reincarnated as. This is a genre-breaking mix of historical, contemporary, mystery, paranormal, and romance.

The DNA of You and Me
Andrea Rothman
William Morrow
c/o HarperCollins
9780062857811, $26.99

The DNA of You and Me is Andrea Rothman's debut novel that looks at what happens when romantic love conflicts with a woman's chosen career. Emily, the main character, is the rational, somewhat cold, introverted-to-a-fault scientist. She feels she was born to be alone and has pretty much accepted that - until she meets Aeden, a fellow scientist who works in the same lab. She becomes somewhat obsessed with him before he ever notices here. Then, there is a very slow build of a romantic relationship between them.

I enjoyed the research aspect of Emily's work on the sense of smell and the fairly accurate portrait of a woman working in STEM. As a physician, Rothman has enough scientific facts for me to suspend disbelief.

Emily at times fears she is missing something, that her introversion is keeping her from experiencing all she could. At the end, she does reconcile to a certain extent, her life. Her journey to self-acceptance is quiet but significant.

The Risk of Us
Rachel Howard
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
9781328588821, $23.00

This is the story of a couple's struggle to adopt a foster child. It comes as no surprise that the child the narrator and her husband Sebastian choose to foster is a troubled child, Marisa. Having worked with such damaged children I fully understand the difficulties in handling such a child. There is no sentimentality here, just hard truths. The couple falls in love with the Maresa because she has a huge voice (her "opera voice") and is an excellent artist, giving them - and her - some commonalities. She is also physically active and boisterous. Parenting is hard enough, but raising a troubled child is even harder, and Howard writes unflinchingly of these challenges. Sebastian and his wife are artists, and becoming parents affords them little time to be creative. Not only do adoptive parents have to care for the child, they must learn to navigate the arcane workings of the foster care system, find an appropriate therapist, and negotiate with clueless caseworkers who are promoting a book written by a man who has been shown to be unqualified. This book isn't simply about adoption, it also looks at parenting itself and how a child can warp the structure of the most stable marriage. An excellent read.

The Winter Sister
Megan Collins
Atria Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
9781982100148, $26.00

The Winter Sister is a dark mystery/thriller. Author Megan Collins accurately captures the effects of grief on a family, particularly that of Sylvie, a teenager whose old sister, Persephone, is murdered. Fifteen years later, the murder remains unsolved, and the characters are haunted by the murder and lack of closure.

There are twists upon twists in The Winter Sister with assumptions changing as facts slowly unfold. Lies and half-truths vie with the few known facts about the murder.

I was intrigued because this is a retelling of one of my favorite myths, that of Demeter and Persephone. Here, Demeter takes her grief to new heights and retreats completely from her remaining daughter, Sylvie, and turns to alcohol and drugs. Sylvie spends her time floating through life as a tattoo artist. When she returns home to care for her cancer-ridden mother, clues are slowly revealed; assumptions broken like balloons. Now, forced to be at home, Sylvie tries to solve the mystery of why her sister died and who did it. She and her mother also have to deal with guilt from their treatment of Persephone.

This book, despite its darkness, ends on a beam of light. Rather than Persephone arriving from Hades to bring spring to the world, Sylvie is reborn as she solve the mystery of her sister's death.

The Peacock Room at Sammezzano Castle
Merryn Corcoran
RedDoor Publishing
9781910453810, $15.95

I chose to read The Peacock Room because of extensive time spent living in Northern Italy. As a former artist and being well-versed in art history, I had high expectations. Author Merryn Corcoran does deliver on capturing the gorgeous landscape of Tuscany.

What was less enjoyable was the constant dropping of designer names like Missoni (while mislabelling Missoni clothing as made up of zig-zags). It is obvious from the story that Allegra lives on the upper crust of London society, and the name-dropping is unnecessary and distracting.

The dialogue is woeful. Much of the descriptions of the Peacock Room and Sammezzano Castle are info-dumped into conversations, making it seem like Allegra is lecturing to native Italians, some of whom are art historians themselves. These pseudo-lectures weighed down the dialogue. Even as someone interested in art history, I found myself skimming these sections. And the romantic dialogue between Allegra and Massimo is trite and overwrought.

The descriptions of Tuscan foods tend to be lists of what Allegra and her new love ate, but without sensory input as far as taste and smell and the tactile sensation of fresh mozzarella di bufala on the tongue.

There is a touch of magical realism as the ghost of Allegra's great-grandfather guides her to hidden paintings in the Castello Sammezzano.

Overall, I felt the book tried to be too many things: a family drama with Allegra's husband Hugo being unfaithful to her with a woman their daughter's age; a thriller about missing paintings; a romance; a women's fiction story about a woman returning to past interests in architecture after her career plans were sidelined by her marriage; a women's fiction story about a woman helping her mother deal with breast cancer and a demented grandfather. Had Corcoran simply chosen one or two of these to put into one novel, the book might have been more cohesive. Two themes felt superfluous: the issue with Massimo using a gun in his job as a policeman (Allegra is anti-gun, but there is no basis in the story for why she feels that way) and her mother's breast cancer.

Treading The Uneven Road
L.M. Brown
9781944388805, $15.00

Set in the late 20th century Ireland, Treading The Uneven Road is a collection of nine inter-related short stories about a fictional Irish town located between on the road from Dublin to Sligo. The highway bypassed the village, leaving its residents and their businesses essentially lost to the modern world and suffering from lack of trade and lack of outside influences from tourists. Brown paints a vivid description of the town showing Faith's bakery, the Dun Maeve pub, bridges, car repair shop, the quarry, Lavin's Construction, the only phone booth in town, and a statue of the Virgin Mary looking skyward.

Through the nine stories, the reader becomes acquainted with the inhabitants of the village, and as the stories progress, the reader sees these characters through different points of view.

My favorite story was the last with its skillful use of old fairy tales to highlight the life of Faith, the owner of the bakery/cafe.While many of the stories are sad this is a strong collection which I'd wholeheartedly recommend.

Melancholy runs like a ribbon through these stories, as does (it seems strange to say this of a book filled with words) silence. These people are blunt, taciturn to a fault, even with loved ones. So quiet that what dialogue there is resonates. There's a paucity of visible emotion, but underlying loneliness, rage, love, grief, depression. The desire to escape conflicts with the desire to remain. Read as a whole, these stories reveal much of human strengths and frailties.

Suanne Schafer, Reviewer

Susan's Bookshelf

Inconvenient Memories: A Personal Account of the Tiananmen Square Incident and the China Before and After
Anna Wang
Purple Pegasus Inc
9780996640589, $15.95, 396 Pages

In writing this fascinatingly informative book, the author Anna Wang has fulfilled a promise she made to herself long after the terrible massacre at Tiananmen Square, Beijing, a promise to tell her story about the events at that time.

Born in China in 1966, a few years later than myself in England, Anna has really opened my eyes through her memoir to how different life is in East Asia.

The author was abandoned by her mother into the care of her grandmother who lived in Beijing. It is through Anna's recollections of her childhood and youth, that we discover how strict the upbringing of Chinese children is, and also what living conditions were like in the capital city during her youth. Perhaps the most eye-opening part of this whole book for me was to discover the different 'regimes' which Chinese people have to, and still do adhere to, and the class distinctions and restrictions imposed on its people by the government, and their policies.

It wasn't until she was accepted into Peking University in Beijing as a microelectronics major that Anna experienced protests for the first time. The death on the 15th April 1989 of a former Communist Leader Hu Yaobang, who had worked hard to move China toward a more open political system, and had become a symbol of democratic reform caused the initial uprising in Tiananmen Square. This commenced with the students marching through the capital to Tiananmen Square. From that beginning the uprising grew, hunger strikes, and rally's caused Premier Li Peng to impose martial law on 19th May.

Anna's memories of these times are full of fear, with troupes roaming the street, innocent citizens shot, families decimated, and a city in lockdown. On the 4th June, 1989 the demonstration ended when Chinese troops fired on civilians and students. The true death toll has never been released...

At the time of the incident, and after, she worked as a secretary at Canon Beijing, and then went on to have a successful writing career. She has had published other books about her life and experiences, and is married to Lao Xin who she met when he was a student of literature in college. The couple have two children, and with her own vivid childhood memories, their future is paramount to her.

Throughout her extremely interesting life this determined woman, with strength and fortitude, has intermittently lived in Beijing, and also in America, New Zealand and Canada. Through her vividly detailed accounts the author gives her reader a real insight into life in China, and being Chinese. For me, an added bonus was that her recollections of her grandmother's stories to her during childhood, gives a fascinating glimpse into early 20th century life, including the custom of foot binding.

I would highly recommend this fascinating book to anyone interested in history, memoirs, and life in China through the 20th, and into the 21st century.

Available from Amazon:

Cries of Mercy (Cries Series)
Angela Beach Silverthorne
Independently Published
9781093522297, $14.99, 390 Pages

Can Bren and Joseph's love for each other and faith in God overcome all?

Cries of Mercy is the third in the Cries Series written by Angela Beach Silverthorne, a Christian woman whose faith and character shine through in this incredible series.

The story is set in the small town of Silverton, a close nit Christian community, and the chief protagonist is Bren, a young woman whose life the readers have watched evolve in this series. She suffered a traumatic childhood, however found sanctuary at The Haven, where, through the teachings of her grandmother 'GG' she discovered her faith in God, and realised that she was a Lighten, which means a warrior of God, and to signify this she carries a crescent-moon birth mark. As a young woman Bren graduate as a nurse, and returns to The Haven to be the village midwife, and then eventually marries Pastor Joseph.

The scene is set at the beginning of this book with Bren reflecting on her marriage, honeymoon and deep endearing love for her husband Joseph. However, their past has also been tinged with great sadness as she has been pregnant three times, and each of her sons have died before or just after birth. These tragedies, although heart-breaking for the couple have united them through Christ and their deep faith in God.

Silverton is thriving and wonderful things are happening in their church and at the New Beginnings Empowerment Center. Some people believe that a jail should be built for troubled souls but Joseph strongly believes that the way through to these people is through rehabilitation. Empowered by His Spirit Joseph wants to increase his ministry teachings, however Bren is afraid initially. For her, memories of past incidents emerge, however, knowing her husband's resolute faith in his path in life, she relents and Joseph starts doing tours.

As is usual in such a caring community, the residents each have their own stories, and have overcome demons and troubles. However, some of these have re-emerged from the past, and even Joseph discovers some buried family secrets which are set to shake the lives of those he loves. Birth and death are a part of life as we are reminded every day, and when a much loved member of the community and friend is diagnosed with terminal cancer there is much sorrow, yet even amidst the sadness there is joy when Bren discovers that she is with child again, and together the couple pray for a safe delivery of their baby.

As Joseph's ministry to his flock and tours are increasing, there is unrest and faces from the past arrive in Silverton, bent on causing mayhem. Yet resolute, Joseph finds strength and values the advice of his good friend Dominique a Franciscan Priest, and together they fortify and strengthen the villagers in their fight against the demons of Satan.

As family secrets are revealed, and puzzles from the past are solved, the mysteries unfold, leaving Bren and Joseph looking forward to overcoming everything and being a family unit, but will their dreams come true?

This captivating story, although part of a trilogy can happily be enjoyed alone. It is a wonderful story in which the community of Silverton comes alive, and its characters, their lives, loves and experiences are richly described by the author, making it a truly outstanding read.

Available from Amazon:

A Stranger in Paris: 1 (A French Life)
Karen Webb
Impress Books
9781911293316, $12.58

It's amazing what we will do for love. Its magnetism draws like nothing else, as the readers of this fast paced and exciting memoir will discover.

It is possible to break free from your traditionally expected path in life and live a totally different one. The author, Karen Webb, discovered this when one day when she suddenly realised with certain clarity that she didn't want to just get her degree, and the settle down with her fiance Steve to a lifetime of beer and rugby in Neath.

Instead in 1989 this story begins at Aberystwyth train station, where she is saying goodbye to her university life and friends, who all think she is mad. Why, well because running headlong out of one relationship has led to her falling hopelessly in love with David Azoulay, a naturally charismatic French Orthodox Jew. Charming and caring he quickly takes her heart, and then heartlessly tells her that she must let him go. Hurt, rejected, and sure she can change his mind, what does she do, she follows him back home to Paris.

Reckless, impetuous perhaps, however this decision is the first of many she is destined to make. I for one, having become an expat English living in France 16 years ago understand totally the draw of adventure, the wonder of Paris and the wonderful experiences living in France has to offer.

Encouraged by her friend, or perhaps as we discover devil on her shoulder, Jessica, Karen, like many girls before her finds a job as an au pair to a French couple with three children. Settled in their bourgeoise house in Paris she quickly discovers what is expected of her, and to her surprise some amazing insights into the French attitudes to sex, married life, and relationships.

Karen also very quickly discovers how totally lost you can feel when everyone around you speaks French at double time, and expects you to understand them. Her experiences provide entertaining and interesting reading, and gives her readers a real feel for French family life.

However, the appearance of her friend Jessica at her employer's house one night is destined to change everything, her relationships, career, home, indeed her whole life.

There is so much of everything packed into this story, her life is truly a rollercoaster of an adventure, yet, throughout Karen has the amazing ability to adapt to whatever life throws at her, however the question is, did she get her man?

This is the first of a three part memoir by this talented author and I for one cannot wait to read more of her loves, experiences, and adventures.

Highly recommended - whether you love a great memoir which enables you to peeping into other people's lives, adore Paris or France, or just want an excellent story you can get totally absorbed into, this is the book for you!

Available from Amazon

Bubbles Galore (Super Speed Sam Book 11)
Monty J. McClaine
9781719050777, $5.99, 102 Pages

Bath time can be great fun, especially if there are toys, and plenty of bubbles!

Yet again six year old Jack is up to mischief. Its bath time in the McClaine household, Molly is watching her favourite programme, the Cat Walk Kittens, and mum has just run Jack his bath, bubble bath included. However, once mum has left him to see to Molly, Jack decides he wants more bubbles, he concludes that mum must have read the instructions wrong on the bottle, and so he adds more bubblybath, and for good measure turns the taps up too.

Now, anyone who has done this knows just how quickly the bubbles multiply. Very soon the room fills with bubbles. Quickly Jack realises that it's a good idea to escape, but poor Sam is left inside.

If you, like our family are fans of this series, you will know that Sam is extremely smart and has been given special powers, and it's a good thing he has!

Thinking fast, Sam springs into action. However he soon discovers that paws are not very good at turning taps, or taking plugs out, and so he uses his special chant to change into his superhero persona, Super Speed Sam. Chant finished, and magically sensibly dressed for scuba diving, he sets off into the murky depths of the bathtub, hoping, now he is better equipped, although looking rather like a frog, he can save the day. It is not long however before he discovers that he is not alone. Incredibly, his chanting has created a magical underwater world, where the children' bath toys have come alive.

As this adventure unfolds Sam realises that he must use all his cleverness skills to save the day by stopping the bathroom from flooding. The question is, if he succeeds, what will happen to his new bath toy friends when the water they live in goes down the plug hole?

Yet again, Monty J McClaine, the author of this series has written a wonderful story. It was thoroughly enjoyed, and captured the imagination of my granddaughter today, and I am sure it will be loved by all children who read it.

Available from Amazon

A Better You in Later Life
John Molyneux
Moly Publishing
9781916127104, $16.83, 102 Pages

Like millions of other people I accepted aches and pains as a normal part of getting older, but wow, has this book proven otherwise.

With over 20 years of experience as an accredited sports therapist behind him, the author, John Molyneux has proven to me that aching joints and stiffness are not necessarily an automatic part of growing older.

A Better You in Later Life provided me with all the information I needed to re-educate myself and break my bad habits which have developed over time. I found the way the book is set out perfect as it makes you think about and adjust your posture, and then teaches you how to strengthen your core, by engaging the many muscles involved in it, and this in turn protects your back.

From there the author taught me through clear explanations and photographs, how to start exercising all the different parts of the body. For me, very importantly when to stop, and what not to do, including explaining which exercises and stretches should not be attempted if you have had hip/knee replacements.

This is not a book to glimpse at and do occasionally, it is set out as an exercise programme to be carried out one step at a time, ensuring that each part is successfully accomplished to the readers' ability and flexibility before moving on.

Near the end of the book there are strengthening and compound exercises, and also some routine programmes which vary in length, however enable you in as little as 5 minutes a day to keep supple and have a better quality of life.

I learnt so much from this book, ranging from my ability to decrease the aches and pains I had taken for granted, to how to belly breath, which noticeably strengthens the diaphragm, helps me to relax, and is good for my blood pressure.

I highly recommend this book to everyone interested in improving their health and well-being. Reading it I have learnt invaluable lessons most importantly how to listen to my body, but also that I can incorporate exercise easily into my daily life, and through doing so increase my quality of life beyond measure.

Available from Amazon

Susan Keefe, Reviewer

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

Copyright ©2001

Site design by Williams Writing, Editing & Design