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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 20, Number 7 July 2020 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Alex Phuong's Bookshelf Andrea Kay's Bookshelf Ann Skea's Bookshelf
Annie Dimon's Bookshelf Carl Logan's Bookshelf Carolyn Wilhelm's Bookshelf
Clabe Polk's Bookshelf Clint Travis' Bookshelf Elan Kluger's Bookshelf
Ella Shively's Bookshelf Gregory Stephenson's Bookshelf Hilary Romig's Bookshelf
Israel Drazin's Bookshelf Jack Mason's Bookshelf John Burroughs' Bookshelf
Julie Summers' Bookshelf K.C. Finn's Bookshelf Kirkus Reviews
Lana Kuhns' Bookshelf Luciano Duarte's Bookshelf Margaret Lane's Bookshelf
Mari Carlson's Bookshelf Marj Charlier's Bookshelf Mark Houston's Bookshelf
Michael Carson's Bookshelf Randall Murphree's Bookshelf Robin Friedman's Bookshelf
Self-Publishing Review Suanne Schafer's Bookshelf Susan Bethany's Bookshelf
Susan Keefe's Bookshelf Suzie Housley's Bookshelf Teri Davis' Bookshelf
Willis Buhle's Bookshelf    

Alex Phuong's Bookshelf

The Authenticity Project
Clare Pooley
Pamela Dorman Books
c/o Penguin
9781984878618, $13.99 Kindle, $17.89 Hardcover, $18.69 Paperback, 368 pages

Living with Authentic Authenticity

With age comes wisdom, but getting older unfortunately brings people closer to death. People might age and become bitterly senile, but life itself is a gift. Writers oftentimes write to express themselves creatively and poetically, but some writers write specifically with the intent of understanding life itself.

Many writers and characters have had their own unique interpretations of the meaning of life. Some authors would write about how it is a miracle just to be alive. The eponymous Macbeth from William Shakespeare's classic tragedy believes that life is meaningless. Times are constantly changing, especially because of the COVID-19 pandemic (as of 2020). Death is inevitable, but living life unapologetically is actually a choice. Some people might be inconsiderate, but the ones who choose to spread love instead of hatred contribute to the world altruistically. Clare Pooley's The Authenticity Project is a compelling novel for the modern era because it reflects the timeless sensibility of authenticity. No need to fear death; just choose to live!

Alex Andy Phuong

Andrea Kay's Bookshelf

Una Idea Tengo Yo
123 Andres
Salsana Records
$TBA CD / $8.99 MP3

Una Idea Tengo Yo is an educational children's music album performed entirely in Spanish (it is not bilingual). The songs focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) topics. The upbeat, catchy music is also conducive to dance and physical movement. Una Idea Tengo Yo is especially recommended for Spanish-speaking households with young children, and public libraries that serve Spanish-speaking communities. The tracks are "Me gustan las estaciones", "Mirando el cielo", "Los seres vivos", "Los seres vivos cambian", "Los perritos y las fuerzas", "La materia", "La tecnologia", "Proteccion y bienestar", "El agua y el viento", "Con la luz y el sonido", and "Una idea tengo yo".

Andrea Kay

Ann Skea's Bookshelf

Maybe the Horse Will Talk
Elliot Perlman
c/o Penguin Random House
9780143781493, A$32.99 paperback, 352 pages

Stephen Maserov has problems. He is a 32 year-old, second-year, lawyer at the prestigious Melbourne law firm Freely Savage Carter Blanche, where he lives 'in a collapsible workstation in the interstices of other people's promising careers'. And he has just learned that second-year lawyers will shortly be 'culled'.

Stephen 'absolutely' hates his job, but he needs it in order to pay his mortgage and support his wife and two small sons. Becoming a lawyer in the first place had been a decision made for economic reasons. He and his wife, Eleanor, could no longer survive on their teaching salaries, so they had decided that Eleanor would support Stephen through law school. That, and the eventual demands of corporate life have left their marriage 'terminally ill'. Describing herself as 'a corporate widow in all but liberty, one who had contracted a sexually transmitted debt', Eleanor suggested a trial separation, commenting bitterly that 'If you keep a clean shirt in your office you won't even notice'.

Stephen still hopes for a reconciliation and is afraid that his sons will forget him, so he visits the marital home each night to help put the children to bed. On the night that Stephen learns that his job is at risk - news which has prompted him to make a seemingly foolhardy (and desperate) promise to the CEO of another company - he tells 5 year-old Beanie a fairy story. 'In a far-off land', he tells him, a king has just told his jester that he no longer finds him amusing. Knowing that this means he will lose his head, and desperately trying to think of a way to prevent this, the jester tells the king that he knows an astonishing magic trick which no other jester or magician is able to do:

'What is the trick?' the king asked, intrigued.

'Under the right circumstances, I can make your horse talk.... It's an astonishing sight. But I need your very best horse, not just any horse but your best, and I'll need him for a whole year if I'm going to get it right. It's not easy, you know. Horses are very shy animals. They're naturally resistant to talking'....

The king was very taken with the prospect of his best horse being trained to talk and he happily agreed to the jester's suggestion.

Like the jester, Stephen has promised something which seems impossible. After being co-opted by Human Resources (according to company policy) to be a silent observer at a meeting between his boss, Mike Hamilton, the senior equity partner of Freely Savage Carter Blanche, and Malcolm Torrent, the CEO of their biggest customer, Torrent Industries, Stephen unexpectedly found himself alone in a lift with Malcolm Torrent. In an uncharacteristically bold moment, he spoke to Torrent and promised that, given a year, he would make the currently pending legal allegations of sexual harassment by Torrent Industries executives, go away.

All he needs, Stephen told an intrigued Malcolm Torrent, is for Torrent to ask Mike Hamilton to direct Stephen to work exclusively on the sexual harassment matter for twelve months. Stephen has no idea how he will keep his promise but he hopes this will keep him in work for 12 months and will be more interesting than the routine, seemingly useless, work on which he is currently required to spend over-long hours. Stephen's quick mind, initiative, integrity and boldness, impress Malcolm Torrent, so the agreement is made.

Not everything goes to plan. Mike Hamilton is a cold-hearted achiever whose equity partners hate him and for whom every minute is recorded on his timesheet, where 'each hour is divided into ten billable units of six-minutes'. He resents Stephen's interference and sets out to make Stephen's life as difficult as possible by making him responsible for pointless time-consuming staff survey tasks, which Stephen manages to turn to his own advantage. But Stephen is also in a moral dilemma. He reads the depositions made by the sexual harassment claimants and the details horrify and disgust him, so to make the claims go away seems morally wrong. Yet he needs the job to support his family. He is lucky that the lawyer acting on behalf of the claimants, when he eventually manages to track him down, has some personal motive for wanting revenge on Mike Hamilton, so is keen to work with him, rather than against him as would be expected.

This lawyer, A.A. Betga, is smart and devious and at times does things which absolutely horrify Stephen. However, together with the help of Jessica, a quick-witted young woman working in the Human Resource department of Torrent Industries, they manage not only to negotiate the many pitfalls they encounter but also to achieve some retributive goals for the victims of the assaults and for their own campaigns against Mike Hamilton.

Jessica, as Stephen eventually learns, has a Masters degree in psychology but took the Torrens Human Resources job because she needed 'to eat and pay rent'. 'I'll be honest', she tells Stephen

I was fooled by the opulent offices and the way the money automatically appeared in my bank account every two weeks. But the disappointment began in earnest when I found I was spending significant parts of my day ensuring there was sufficient alfalfa on each side of the sandwich platters I was instructed to order and sometimes deliver for in-house seminars. This was not what I had aspired to.

Jessica, being an attractive Indian woman, also has problems trying to evade the increasingly worrying sexual advances of the male executive for whom she does most of her work. Initially, Stephen, who needs her help to establish his Torrent e-mail account and to find Betga, tells her nothing about what he is investigating. When he does confess, she is keen to help the victims and at the same time to stop the culture at Torrent Industries which allows perpetrators to get away with such actions. Jessica and Stephen become close, and she is adept at using her knowledge of psychology to solve her own problem with her boss, and also to help Stephen and Betga to a satisfactory conclusion to their own efforts. Based on genuine psychological research, Jessica manages to convince her boss that true leaders adopt certain behavior (carefully chosen by her in this case) to prove their leadership qualities. This exposes her boss as ridiculously, and vulnerably, self-opinionated, but also leads eventually to his downfall.

Maybe The Horse Will Talk is full of unexpected plot-twists and tricky situations. Elliot Perlman has a wonderfully cynical and funny way of seeing the corporate world and he is expert at crafting neat sentences which expose recognisable truths about that world and make you laugh at the same time. He takes shots at many things associated with the law, but he is a lawyer, so there is a solid base to his judgments; he lets Stephen use valid legal arguments to convince Malcolm Torrent to do whatever he suggests; and he clearly demonstrates the ways in which women undergo sexual harassment in the workplace, have difficulty having their claims taken seriously if they report this, and how employers manage to bury such claims or, if they come to court, employ lawyers who almost invariably manage to discredit the women. Serious issues underlie the plot of this novel but never swamp the excitement and the humour. Perlman's characters have wry views on such things as marriage, child-rearing, Human Resources, book clubs, and even professional journals. Asked about the Law Institute Journal, Stephen comments that

It's frequently used as professionally sanctioned camouflage to cover whatever the given Second Year is really reading. Additionally it can be brought out when waiting for someone in a bar or cafe to signal to everyone else that the person occupying the table or seated at the bar is a lawyer. And, finally, the Second Years do like getting mail personally addressed to them. It's an uncommon happening in the work setting. They show it to their parents.

Often this book is very funny as well as being absorbing and fast-paced. Perlman is master of dialogue and of smart quips. My favourite is Malcolm Torrent's command to his secretary after Stephen has talked him into doing something particularly outrageous: 'show Maserov to the door', says Torrent, 'before I gift him one of my grandchildren'.

Not surprising, Paramount Studios in America has optioned Maybe The Horse Will Talk for adaptation as a television series.

Dr Ann Skea, Reviewer

Annie Dimon's Bookshelf

Holistic Wealth: 32 Life Lessons to Help You Find Purpose, Prosperity, and Happiness
Keisha Blair
Catalyst Books
9781999178703, $14.95 PB, $7.99 Kindle
9781999178710, $22.95 HC, 262pp,

In the introduction to her book Holistic Wealth, Keisha Blair writes: "My life is a testament to the truth that we can overcome the chaos of adversity." Keisha was just 31 when her 34-year-old husband died suddenly, leaving her to care for their two very young children. As a single mom she embarked on a journey of self-discovery that allowed her to focus on the most important lessons for achieving happiness, purpose and prosperity.

The book is a result of that journey.

An economist and a member of the Canadian Prime Minister's delegation to the World Economic Forum in 2018, Keisha is also a graduate of the Executive Leadership Program at Harvard 's John F. Kennedy School of Government. Her 289- page book inspires readers to become financially savvy and independent, in order to live with purpose and generosity.

What is holistic wealth? For the purposes of the book and in broad terms, Keisha describes "holistic wealth" as "wealth that comprises various elements - financial savvy and independence, a life purpose and mission, spiritual connection, and a generous demeanor - all of which lead to a great sense of wholeness and resilience in time of difficulty, and to happiness and joy." She adds that "at a basic level, holistic wealth emphasizes wealth in key aspects of life including financial wealth, physical health, emotion and spiritual wealth, and wealth in our relationsships with others, as well as in our contributions to humanity."

As to the WHY of achieving holistic wealth? Via a news release Keisha says, "Cultivating holistic wealth helps us to be mentally tough, and to have grit to weather the inevitable storms and setbacks that life brings."

The books includes interviews and advice from over one hundred trailblazers and influences who offer their own insights and lessons on achieving holistic wealth. It also gives the reader practical suggestions on achieving a greater sense of wholeness and finding one's inner resilience in challenging times.

Holistic Wealth is divided into four parts:

Part 1. Intentional Life Purpose, with chapters including those titled Life on Your Terms, A Personal Mission, The Incomparable You, A Sabbatical, and Life Within Each Moment, helps the reader chart his or her unique journey.

Part 2. Achieving Financial Independence focuses on developing a plan for financial longevity, and becoming free from debt.

Part 3. Physical and Spiritual Nourishment includes chapters titled Spiritual Self-Renewal, Recipes Made From Scratch, Daily Exercise and Joyful Hobbies that offer advice to help create a healthy body and mind.

Part 4. Goodwill and Strong Relationships looks at the importance of allowing "service to others" to take precedence over "the highest-paid positions," giving back thru mentorships and fostering relationships with holistic health connectors and cheerleaders.

Annie Dimon, Reviewer
Travel Wellness

Carl Logan's Bookshelf

Family Stories...and How I Found Mine
J. Michael Cleverley
Clearfield Company
3600 Clipper Mill Road, Suite 260, Baltimore, MD 21211
9780806359090, $44.95, PB, 560pp,

Synopsis: "Family Stories ...and How I Found Mine" is actually several books blended into one. At its simplest, it conveys the history of author J. Michael Cleverley's family from the early Middle Ages, through its establishment in colonial New England, and later in the American Midwest and Mountain West. Unlike many genealogies, however, it examines these stories in the context of American and European history. Cleverley is a retired senior diplomat in the U.S. foreign service who is keenly aware of the impact individuals and families have on their times, and vice versa.

By being with the Cleverley ancestors as they negotiate the challenges of prior centuries, readers of "Family Stories ...and How I found Mine" will find insight into the lives and challenges of their own ancestors. Interspersed throughout the chapters is a treatise on how to produce a family history, showing by example how family stories can be discovered, often more easily than thought, and what researchers may be able to find in today's rich cyber world of family history.

"Family Stories ...and How I Found Mine" spreads out over a millennium. The story begins with Matilda, wife of William the Conqueror, before jumping to the Greene family serving in the court of Plantagenet kings from 1300 to 1500. Next comes a chapter devoted to Puritan New England ancestors of the 1600s, their subsequent exile as non-conformists to Rhode Island, and their fight for religious and gender rights. Another chapter recounts their service at the Battle of Concord in 1775. From the 1830s to 1860s, we follow the family to Missouri and Kansas, where they serve in the Civil War. Others survive western Indian Wars, and some trudge the trails to Utah and Idaho. The story concludes with a stirring account of Seija Cleverley (the author's wife) and her family's hardships during Finland's struggles with Soviet Russia in the Second World War.

Each chapter, including the methodological commentary, is self-contained. The reader can pick up the book at any point for a complete experience of a specific era and family members under discussion or can read the volume straight through in its entirety. Either way, this is a volume that entertains as it enlightens, and teaches as it chronicles a family history.

Critique: An inherently interesting and impressively informative read from cover to cover, "Family Stories...and How I Found Mine" would well serve as a template for writing comprehensive family histories withing historical contexts. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Family Stories...and How I Found Mine" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to personal reading lists, as well as community and academic library collections.

Editorial Note: J. Michael Cleverley ("Mike") spent over thirty years as an American Foreign Service officer with the US Department of State. His hobby is writing. Since retiring, has taken temporary assignments with the State Department, taught university political science and economics, and spent his time writing. Over his State Department career, Mike was Deputy US Permanent Representative to the UN agencies in Rome and Deputy Chief of Mission at the American Embassies in Athens and Helsinki. He also worked at the American missions in Pretoria, London, Milan. He holds diplomas from the National War College, the Harvard Kennedy School, and Brigham Young University. Mike was born in Idaho Falls, Idaho, and speaks Finnish, Italian, and Greek.

Greening the Black Urban Regime
Alesia Montgomery
Wayne State University Press
4809 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, MI 48201-1309
9780814346501, $88.99, HC, 332pp,

Synopsis: Urban etnographer Alesia Montgomery's "Greening the Black Urban Regime: The Culture and Commerce of Sustainability in Detroit" tells the story of the struggle to shape green redevelopment in Detroit.

Cultural workers, envisioning a green city crafted by direct democracy, had begun to draw idealistic young newcomers to Detroit's street art and gardens. Then a billionaire developer and private foundations hired international consultants to redesign downtown and to devise a city plan. Using the justice-speak of cultural workers, these consultants did innovative outreach, but they did not enable democratic deliberation. The Detroit Future City plan won awards, and the new green venues in the gentrified downtown have gotten good press. However, low-income black Detroiters have little ability to shape "greening" as uneven development unfolds and poverty persists.

Based on years of fieldwork, Montgomery takes her readers into the city council chambers, nonprofit offices, gardens, churches, cafes, street parties, and public protests where the future of Detroit was imagined, debated, and dictated. She begins by using statistical data and oral histories to trace the impacts of capital flight, and then she draws on interviews and observations to show how these impacts influence city planning.

Hostility between blacks and whites shape the main narrative, yet indigenous, Asian, Arab, and Latinx peoples in Detroit added to the conflict. Montgomery also compares Detroit to other historical black urban regimes (HBURs)-U.S. cities that elected their first black mayors soon after the 1960s civil rights movement.

Where critiques of ecological urbanism in HBURs typically focus on gentrification, in contrast, "Greening the Black Urban Regime" identifies the danger as minoritization: the imposition of "beneficent" governance across gentrified and non-gentrified neighborhoods that treats the black urban poor as children of nature who lack the (mental, material) capacities to decide their future.

Critique: An impressively work of meticulous scholarship, "Greening the Black Urban Regime: The Culture and Commerce of Sustainability in Detroit" will prove to be of immense interest and value for both academia and the non-specialist general reader with an interest in social and environmental justice concerns arising from Urban Renewal projects utilizing Detroit's experience as an example. While unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library City Planning & Urban Development collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists, it should be noted for students, academia, urban development planners, governmental administrators, social activists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Greening the Black Urban Regime: The Culture and Commerce of Sustainability in Detroit" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9780814346518, $34.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $19.24).

Carl Logan

Carolyn Wilhelm's Bookshelf

The Assassination of Hole in the Day, first edition
Anton Treuer
Borealis Books
9780873518437, $15.72 HC, 320 pages
9780873517799, $14.29 PB
0873518438, $9.99 eBook

The Assassination of Hole in the Day chronicles the rise to power and assassination of Ojibwe Chief Hole in the Day in the 1800s. Dozens of archival sources were consulted, hundreds of articles and books, dozens of in-person interviews were held, and the work was supported financially by grants and fellowships. Begun in the 1990s, it was published in 2011. It was a monumental undertaking as only small clues and pieces of information were learned at a time.

The lives of Hole in the Day the Elder and Hole in the Day the Younger are well described in the book. Both men were charismatic and clever. They were natural leaders, and able to work through most difficulties.

The book has four main sections. In the first part, the story of Hole in the Day the Elder begins with his unusual rise to power (as it was not through heredity) until his death. At age 19, Hole in the Day the Younger quickly assumed the role his father had taken and began leading people. The second part of the book explains how he helped negotiations between different tribes and U.S. government representatives in detail. He held onto land rights for his tribe as much as possible during his time on earth. He was assassinated when he was forty. The third part of the book explains after the death of Hole in the Day the Younger the Ojibwe had a more difficult time, lost annuities, trust in the government, and land. This section also tells there was difficulty in finding out the details of the assassination and how Treuer solved the mysterious situation. The fourth part of the book has a glossary, a timeline of events, language and pronunciation information, several lists of sources consulted, and a bibliography. It is a very complete documentation of events not previously available in a single volume.

Dr. Anton Treuer is a Professor of Ojibwe at Bemidji State University and author of 19 books. He has a B.A. from Princeton University and an M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota. Famed Hollywood screenplay writer Dave Franzoni (GLADIATOR, AMISTAD) is to develop the screenplay for a 2021 major motion picture based on this book. It will be the first major motion picture ever made from a book by a Native American author, startup capital from a Native American tribe, and with authentic Native American acting talent.

Born A Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood
Trevor Noah
John Murray
9781473635319, $16.09 HC, $8.99, PB, $7.49 Audiobook, 304 pages
B01D8ZE2YS, $4.99 eBook

The multi-award-winning book by comedian Trevor Noah, Born A Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood, is pertinent to current events. For book clubs and social studies classes, as well as for individuals looking to learn more, this is a perfect book for understanding racism.

Noah's experiences in South Africa are unique and give one pause while thinking about the complex society of eleven recognized languages and dozens more. Noah discusses the history of South Africa and apartheid as it applied to the lives of the citizens there, and his family's situation in particular. He traces it back to 1645. It was a police state. Based upon racial categories, people were uprooted and relocated. Few jobs were open to non-whites. Noah says the real trouble began when apartheid ended.

Sometimes while reading it was confusing to think he was mixed-race and yet not accepted by coloreds, whites, Indians, or blacks.

Noah's point that institutionalized racism doesn't merely challenge a system as unjust, it reveals the system as unsustainable and incoherent.

According to the system, race-mixing became a crime worse than treason. Noah was mixed. His mother was black. His father was white (Swiss). They were unmarried and, by necessity, lived apart. His mother and grandmother kept him hidden from neighbors and the general population by keeping him indoors the first few years of his life. At age three, he once escaped to play outside. His family could have been deported or imprisoned. He could have been sent to an orphanage for colored kids.

His mother married and had more children. The step-father was an alcoholic and abusive. When the police were called, they sided with the man. They filed no reports. The abusive man almost killed her even after they were divorced and she was remarried. Again the police did little. The story and the way Noah describes it is entertaining and informative and offers an understanding of how difficult it is for women in such situations.

The stories are written with truth and humor. Noah barely escapes trouble with the police a few times. Although the book had me laughing out loud several times, the pain and injustice of racism is well explained. Noah's own insights about race and language are included in the book.

Tales2Inspire ~ The Ruby Collection: Gifts of Compassion
Lois W. Stern
9781495940088, $11.25 PB, 128 pages
B00Q7H4ZTM, $4.99 eBook

The Ruby Collection: Gifts of Compassion from the Tales2Inspire(R) series is an uplifting anthology. The reader cannot help but be impressed with the nonfiction stories that have photo or even video evidence proof. An eagle hugging a man? A real eagle? Yes, true, and a kleenex might be necessary for finishing the story.

Compassion is evident in each story from ones with pets (including an emaciated horse who was sheltered just days before being sent to slaughter), amazing stories of courage and love during cancer, a Holocaust survivor, and how to have a positive effect on the lives of others.

Did you know troubled young people can learn to train companion dogs for children with special needs? Training dogs can give them a sense of pride and self-worth which leads to other achievements. Beginning with the desire to make a difference in life, one story is about sheltering horses -- and ending up with 53 of them! The help of neighbors was such support after a dog accident, but you just have to read the story!

Can you imagine what a mother might experience when her young son becomes bald with Alopecia? And how he could still be a happy, smiling child years later? Befriending a stranger led to the smallest of gifts being the most memorable and cherished for one fur-coat, diamond wearing mother. A young girl runs a marathon on seven continents (right, all seven, and the Antarctica run had several weather challenges) to honor a father who died of prostate cancer. Really! The photos and awards are proof. Spiderman and Batman cleaning children's hospital room windows bring such joy, after the insurance and other details are sorted out. There are even more stories of kindness included in this heartwarming book.

I could not help but love this book. I recommend it to take your mind off worries such as the pandemic.

Tales2Inspire(R) runs an annual contest with no submission fees. The creator of this Authors Helping Authors project screens the stories in advance and then sends potential winners to three of the other authors to anonymously judge them. So far, there are eight Tales2Inspire(R) published books. In the back matter, those who might be interested in submitting a story for consideration can find contest information.

How to Talk to Your Kids About Climate Change: Turning Angst into Action
Harriet Shugarman
New Society Publishers
9780865719361, $17.99 Paperback, $17.46 Audiobook, 193 Pages
B07V3BM45Z, $9.99 Kindle

"Our children are growing up living climate change; many are angry, frightened, and hurting. As parents, it is impossible to look away when our children are crying out." (page 75)

Shugarman has written a complete guide for parents about the climate crisis. She covers parenting and knows we want the best for our children. She shares information about the climate crisis, ways to discuss the topic as a family with children over the age of five, and how to take action together. Children who can participate in helping the earth will feel involved in helping solve the problems.

Today's parents are wanting help as they navigate climate change with their children. They probably didn't learn much about this topic in school themselves, and have no roadmap or parenting examples to follow. The author states: "Very often, our brains will just shut down when the subject of climate change is raised." (page 72)

Reduce, recycle, and reuse are only a few of the actions parents and children can take. Although we hear this often, Shugarman tells of additional ways to reduce a family's carbon footprint. She says to "walk the walk" as a parent and role model, discuss events with your children, and attend events. Children can misunderstand parent involvement. One child even asked a parent if she liked the climate problem, as in the child's eyes, the parent was busy and meeting friends as they protested. Think about what your family is doing through a child's viewpoint, and be careful to fully explain what is being done.

In 2018, reports gave a 2030 closing window to the ability to slow down our climate crisis. The author says, "Mother Nature and our children -- are working overtime to warn us that the door is spring loaded and closing rapidly. As protectors of our children, we are called to act now." (page 42)

Former US Vice President and Climate Reality Founder and Chairman Al Gore awarded New Jersey climate activist Harriet Shugarman The Climate Reality Project's Green Ring Award in 2019. It is presented to someone who demonstrates an exceptional commitment to their role as a climate communicator and activist. Shugarman is a committed environmental activist, sitting on the boards of numerous local, regional, and national environmental groups.

Carolyn Wilhelm

Clabe Polk's Bookshelf

The Sigma Surrogate; When Tomorrow Calls, Book 0
J.T. Lawrence
Fire Finch Press
South Africa
9780994723444, $9.99, paperback, 193 pages
B07BBSHBNN, $2.99, Kindle
B07F4ND19C, $13.08, audiobook

Keke and Kirsten are determined to find out why an innocent pregnant surrogate mother has been injured by a bomb on the grounds of the Cloister, one of the most secure and respected facilities in South Africa. In a time in which few, if any, women can get pregnant, surrogacy and those women who become surrogates are inviolate.

Keke is a kinky determined reporter you will stop at nothing to get a story. Kristen is a slightly more stable photographer who supports Keke's stories with kick-ass images and helps keep her grounded. Together, they are an effective team, but they are about to uncover a very strange struggle between disparate organizations with conflicting agendas that will dominate their lives for many years to come.

The Sigma Surrogate is a twisted tale set in a dystopian future South Africa that is guaranteed to keep all fans of twisting and turning mysteries, conspiracy buffs, and dystopian lovers up all night reading. Odd, far-out, and sometimes seemingly disjointed, it all comes together in a very strange agreement been even stranger adversaries. 5-Stars.

Why You Were Taken; When Tomorrow Calls, Book 1
J.T. Lawrence
Fire Finch Press
9780620746540, $16.99, paperback, 410 pages
B00YE9YU2C, $3.99, Kindle
B074B81LQ8, $14.95, Audio

In a world where pregnancy is not common among most women, Kirsten is desperate for a baby. Will her prayers be answered? Or will she find herself embroiled in an unspeakable conspiracy to dominate the world? Or both. And if she is lucky enough to get pregnant, will her children also be embroiled in the conspiracy?

Kristen, her brother, Seth, and her friend, Keke, must navigate a wide-ranging and violent conspiracy and survive Can they?

Why You Were Taken is a conspiracy/mystery full of surprises and twists. Readers will easily identify with the main characters, and find there are plenty of bad guys they can love to hate. Besides, there are a few with unidentified loyalties that they may remain unsure about. I did.

In the end, most readers will still be hanging by a thread to see if all...or any of the main characters survive.

All in all, this is a book that will thrill and entertain readers of mysteries, dystopia, and any type of action book. 5-Stars.

This book was purchased by the reviewer as part of the When Tomorrow Calls Series box set.

How We Found You; When Tomorrow Calls, Book 2
J.T. Lawrence
Fire Finch Press
9780620746502, $17.99, paperback
B07199HKY5, $4.99, Kindle
B0785XVKPM, $17.99, Audio

When we last saw Kristen at the end of Why You Were Taken, she has two children, now four years old who are not quite twins. A girl ("Silver") and a boy ("Mallie"). The boy seems particularly gifted. Perhaps he should be considering where he came from.

But now, the twins are targets and Mally's assassination by desperate groups with prophetic motives seems imminent. As always, strange people appear in the nick of time. Are they friends or enemies. How would we know?

Plunging back into the twisted, desperate world of a dystopic future South Africa, Kirsten, her brother, Seth, Keke, and her friend, Marko, engage in a no holds barred fight to save Kristen's four-year-old twins.

Very well written, thrilling, and deeply entertaining, How We Found You is a great addition to the mad, complex, and confusing dystopian world created by J.T. Lawrence.

The main characters are believable and quirky and readers should like them easily. The story is fast-paced and twisted with many unexpected turns. There are a lot of bad guys and some others the reader will not know much about until later. Overall...heartbreaking, but with a hint of a silver lining. 5-Stars

This book was purchased by the reviewer as part of the When Tomorrow Calls Box set.

What Have We Done; When Tomorrow Calls, Book 3
J.T. Lawrence
Fire Finch Press
9780994723413, $19.99 paperback, 550 pages
B074RS3HXJ, $4.99 Kindle
B07C8G5BT5, $17.46 Audio

Mallie has survived How We Found You. Now, twelve years later it's all starting again; this time differently. Now Silver is the target. She is approaching her sixteenth birthday; a day of celebration...and, perhaps, according to some, the end of the world.

Some will stop at nothing to kill her before she can turn sixteen. And so the struggle to keep her alive begins. Not everyone will survive. Will she?

Once again, J. T Lawrence has woven a complex magical mystery into a dystopian setting with a cast of sometimes likable, sometimes detestable, characters upon which, allegedly, the fate of the world hangs in jeopardy.

As in the other books in the When Tomorrow Calls Trilogy, Kristen and Keke and their other friends are locked in a death-grip battle with the forces of evil, confusion and ambition. Their survival, or not, is the stuff of late-night reading by dedicated lovers of dystopia, mystery, and action. 5-Stars

This book was purchased by the reviewer as part of the When Tomorrow Calls box set.

The Lane Betrayal
John A. Heldt
B085B7MDLH, $3.99, Kindle, 306 pages

John Heldt, the successful author of several series of popular and well-written time-travel novels scores again with The Lane Betrayal.

Robert Devereaux, Mark Lane's business partner, is an obsessive opportunist determined to derive power and ever-increasing wealth from the sweat of his employees. Massively wealthy, he is determined to be the most powerful man on earth. An invention by Mark Lane allowing time-travel via a small device that can be carried in a backpack will achieve Devereaux's goal for him.

Unfortunately, for Devereaux, Mark Lane takes steps to remove the device from Devereaux's reach. Taking the only functional machine, Mark and his family flee to northern Virginia in the closing days of the Civil War, while a friend and employee gives them a head-start by sabotaging Devereaux's efforts to send an assassin to pursue Mark in time.

So far, this is my favorite of John Heldt's books. Why? It is primarily a nitty-gritty action book with minimal focus on romance and relationships. Not only must the characters run for their lives and try to outsmart Devereaux, but they must deal with the realities of their situation while avoiding changing history. Interacting with Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, makes avoiding changing history a difficult proposition for the Lanes.

Well written action with believable characters, John Heldt has once again delivered a book that should be enjoyed by many different types of readers. 5 Stars.

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

Clabe Polk, Reviewer

Clint Travis' Bookshelf

Opium and Absinthe
Lydia Kang
Lake Union Publishing
9781542017794, $14.95, PB, 383pp,

Synopsis: The place is New York City. The year is 1899. Tillie Pembroke's sister lies dead, her body drained of blood and with two puncture wounds on her neck. Bram Stoker's new novel, Dracula, has just been published, and Tillie's imagination leaps to the impossible: the murderer is a vampire. But it can't be -- can it?

A ravenous reader and researcher, Tillie has something of an addiction to truth, and she won't rest until she unravels the mystery of her sister's death. Unfortunately, Tillie's addicted to more than just truth; to ease the pain from a recent injury, she's taking more and more laudanum -- and some in her immediate circle are happy to keep her well supplied.

Tillie can't bring herself to believe vampires exist. But with the hysteria surrounding her sister's death, the continued vampiric style slayings, and the opium swirling through her body, it's becoming increasingly difficult for a girl who relies on facts and figures to know what's real -- or whether she can trust those closest to her.

Critique: An impressively original, inherently fascinating, compulsive page turner of a novel, Lydia Kang knows how to hold her reader's rapt attention from first page to last. Certain to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to community library Mystery/Suspense collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists of anyone who enjoys adventuring along with an amateur sleuth in an historical and supernatural mystery novel that "Opium and Absinthe" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book format (Brilliance Audio, 9781799755401, $14.99, MP3 CD).

Healing with Light Frequencies, second edition
Jerry Sargeant
Findhorn Press
c/o Inner Traditions International, Ltd.
One Park Street, Rochester, VT 05767
9781644111093, $18.99, PB, 260pp,

Synopsis: Star Magic Healing aligns you with high-vibrational Consciousness Codes and extraterrestrial light frequencies that expand your consciousness, shift your vibration, and speed up the healing process. Present on Earth in ancient Egyptian times, these Codes will transform your inner world and, in turn, upgrade your external reality. Through a series of major life events, Jerry Sargeant has reawakened this advanced soul technology and shares it here to help unleash the full potential of every living being.

In this newly updated second edition of "Healing with Light Frequencies: The Transformative Power of Star Magic", Jerry reveals how to connect with and harness extraterrestrial light frequencies to energize, uplift, and consciously empower your own life, others, and the planet. He also shares practical Star Magic Healing tools with step-by-step illustrations as well as visualizations, exercises, and meditations to shift your vibration and bring about rapid healing that lasts.

Jerry discusses holographic blueprints, pineal gland activation, quantum knowledge, parallel realities, shadow parasites, and the impact of crystals and sacred geometry. Offering basic, intermediate, and advanced ways of healing, the author explains how to work at the cellular level, clearly demonstrating how advanced healing is readily available for everyone.

Readers will learn how to activate their Mer-ka-ba field and open up to infinite streams of abundance.

"Healing with Light Frequencies" features real-life case studies, recounting how Jerry has used high-vibrational light frequencies to successfully remove tumors, restore eyesight, heal hearts and relationships, and supercharge businesses for massive success.

Star Magic offers an opportunity to heal at the deepest levels and find alignment with your life purpose. Star Magic Codes of Consciousness will connect you to the frequency of unconditional love, unleashing colossal inner wisdom and super-heightened awareness that enable you to manifest your perfect reality quickly. We each have the ancient power to heal and transform within us, and Star Magic offers the key to unleashing this power.

Critique: Comprehensive, detailed, expertly organized and presented, "Healing with Light Frequencies: The Transformative Power of Star Magic" will make a unique addition and welcome addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library Contemporary Metaphysical Studies collections in general, and Mental / Spiritual / Energy Healing supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted for students, academia, alternative medicine practitioners, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Healing with Light Frequencies" is also readily available in a digital book format (eTextbook, $12.99).

Editorial Note: Jerry Sargeant discovered the ability to heal after a serious road traffic accident, led him on his spiritual journey where he remembered the power of Star Magic. Using an extra-terrestrial light frequency Jerry asserts that he has successfully removed tumors, restored eye sight, dissolved fibromyalgia and more.

Clint Travis

Elan Kluger's Bookshelf

The Roman Republic: A Very Short Introduction
David M. Gwynn
Oxford University Press
9780199595112, $11.95

The Oxford A Very Short Introduction series is truly wonderful. I have read about Islamic History, Decadence, Carl Jung, and many other ideas and people. In a short 200 pages or less, an expert in each field breaks down the fundamental concepts to see if you would like to learn more. Reading the series is like speed-dating through any subject, and when you find something (or someone) you like, more information is provided.

Clocking in at 147 pages, this book certainly does get right down to business. Through the Roman kings to the Roman Senators, Gwynn gives enough context to get a grasp of the situation, yet not too much where it would be a 400 page book. I thoroughly enjoyed the coverage that Gwynn gave to the decline of the Republic, where in a few brief pages, he is able to encapsulate the key ideas that volumes upon volumes have been written about.

Gwynn also extols the virtues of the Republic that were so admired during the Renaissance. The keen understanding of the human condition (largely inherited, if not plagiarized from Greece) was prominent in the great works of latin literature and poetry of the time, and remnants of it are found all over the Renaissance literature landscape.

The only flaws in the book can be attributed to the Very Short Introduction style which gives one only morsels of what the reader wants the author to go deep on. Yet that is why each edition also contains a well stocked Further Reading section, filled with the potential for many more hours of reading.

For an introduction to such an important time in the history of the human race, this book should certainly be your first stop.

The Hero in History
Sidney Hook
Hesperides Press
9781443725521, $44.46

Sidney Hook, a former communist and later vehement anti-communist philosophy professor is not who many would guess is writing about Thomas Carlyle. Yet he did. The Hero in History is ostensibly about Thomas Carlyle's view of history and various thinkers in support or opposed to it. Thomas Carlyle's view is that "History is the history of great men." Hook offers an addendum to this vision saying "How many battalions are the equivalent of a Napoleon? How many minor poets will give us a Shakespeare."

Hook offers the Hegelian perspective in an easy to understand manner, which in short, is that great men are the embodiment of a society and if they are successful, then God intended for the society to be successful. If they fail, God deemed that as well. Hook lays the position out and shows it to be fatalist in a way that can't be disproven (but not proven either).

Hook covers Frederick Woods, whose book The Influence of Monarchs set out to calculate what effect monarchs have upon society and attempt to find a correlation between good monarchs and a successful society. Hook points out that such calculations tell us more about the designer of the equation as they do tell us about the actual influence of monarchs.

Hook elucidates Leon Trotsky's view of history, shown in his History of the Russian Revolution. While Trotsky shows the success of the Bolsheviks of the Czar as inevitable, Hook points out that it may have been "inevitable" for the Czar to fall, but that doesn't entail the Bolsheviks taking power. Hook gives credit to heroes because social conditions can allow for previous powers to disappear, but it takes a hero for a new power to reappear.

While the book is an adulation of Thomas Carlyle, it is also not a total counter to his ideas. A more temperate view of history results in his careful dissection of varying opinions. While certainly out of fashion, Hook's moderate hero-worship is worthy of everyone's attention.

Elan Kluger, Reviewer

Ella Shively's Bookshelf

Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore
Elizabeth Rush
Milkweed Editions
9781571313676, $26.00

The ocean is rising, and it's rising now. Though the predicted height of rise varies, the science is indisputable: sea levels are climbing at a rate never before seen in modern human history. As Americans come to terms with an increasingly inhospitable shoreline, award-winning journalist Elizabeth Rush sets out to investigate the uncomfortable question, what do we do next?

In Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore, Rush details her extensive research on the ecological and social repercussions of sea level rise, as well as possible solutions. The story begins in the coastal wetlands of New England, where human infrastructure hinders salt-drowned marshes from migrating inland. Rush travels across the United States to collect testimony from leaders, scientists, and the residents of neighborhoods built on former coastal wetlands. She carefully examines the relationships between sea level rise, environment, housing, class, and "the rapaciousness of capital." Why, she asks, are people living in the country's most flooded areas in the first place? What drove them there, and why can't they flee?

What Rush ultimately creates is a compelling case for organized retreat from the coast. "I am thinking that the belief that we can design our way out of this is part of the same set of addictions we must learn to give up. I am thinking about justice, and what it might look like if we thought of sea level rise as an opportunity to mend our relationship with the land and with each other," she writes. This migration is not just for those who can afford it, but a retreat for all who seek refuge from a rising sea, a retreat that will give our wounded coastal wetlands the space they need to recover.

"Too many times I have been told that there will never be enough money in the federal coffers to relocate everyone away from the risk of rising tides. This is true until we decide to make it untrue," Rush writes, proposing a small nationwide property tax to help all communities seeking relocation. Her words remind us that while a certain amount of sea level rise is inevitable, we still have a capacity for action. We have the capacity to restore our landscapes, our communities, and the very systems that tarnish nature and democracy alike. Rising is a bold call to action: to collectively turn away from a stormy and beloved shore, for the wellbeing of the entire nation.

The Clothing of Books
Jhumpa Lahiri
Vintage Books
a Division of Penguin Random House LLC
9780525432753, $7.95

This book is written for people who love books: not just the text itself, but everything that surrounds the text. This book is for people who admire the fragrance of the printed page, the textured lettering running down the spine, and the dance of colors across the dust jacket.

The Clothing of Books by Jhumpa Lahiri explores the often dissonant relationship between the author, the text, and the cover of a book. Lahiri delves into the conflicted feelings she experiences when facing the covers of her own books for the first time, having had little input in their design despite authoring the text. She compares the strikingly varied attitudes toward cover design in cultures around the world; the same text may wear wildly different clothing from one country to another. Because covers help to form a reader's first impression of the book and ultimately reflect on the author and text, book jackets are highly important - yet little discussed. Informative and thoughtfully written, The Clothing of Books provides a snapshot of the publishing industry that most readers will never see.

Ella Shively, Reviewer

Gregory Stephenson's Bookshelf

Romance & Revolution
Vanessa Matic
Tough Poets Press
9780578703466, $12.99 paperback, 108 pages

ROMANCE & REVOLUTION is a darkly dazzling, magnetic collection of poems written with raw urgency and hallucinated elegance. Vanessa Matic writes vividly and compellingly of journeys and rooms, moods and memories, sex and sorrow, of the complexities of relations between the sexes, and the terrors of embodied selfhood. The worlds - inner & outer - that Matic depicts in these potent poems are ravaged & sundered but are furnished also with momentary illuminations. "The world of scars" in which she finds herself an exile is also seen to be a realm of renewal: "There is" she writes, "this nameless birth from death." Disjunctions and a delirium of similes lend Matic's poems a febrile lyricism, a dreamlike intensity, and a haunted, haunting quality.

This is an impressive debut volume from a younger poet and another noteworthy publication from this spirited and enterprising independent press.

Gregory Stephenson

Hilary Romig's Bookshelf

The Night Police
Chris Berg and Paul James Smith
Book Baby Publishers
9781543996869, $16.95 PB, $4.99 Kindle, 286pp,

The Night Police is an excellent read. Full of action based on real life events, you won't want to put it down. For those in law enforcement, the book has a realistic feel of day to day events on duty. For those not familiar with law enforcement, the book is fast paced and entertaining.

Not only is the content interesting and surprising at times, but the story telling is top notch. There is never a dull moment for the reader and the entire book feels like an eventful ride along with intricate details that keep the reader enthralled.

The authors of this book are well versed in the world of crime and crime fighting. Not only are there fun case details, but the reader is given an inside look of the professional side of law enforcement as well the tight knit community feel that is present among officers on the same shift together.

For anyone who has ever been on the streets, or wondered what a night shift would be like, this book is the ideal adventure.

Hilary Romig, Reviewer
CSI/Private Investigator

Israel Drazin's Bookshelf

Tribal Blueprints
Nechama Price
c/o Koren
9781592645459, $29.95

Who were Jacob's sons and why did they do what they did?

Jews and non-Jews who want to know more about the Bible, the Tanakh, who want to know why biblical figures acted as they did, and about the twelve sons of the patriarch Jacob and some of their descendants mentioned in the Tanakh, could do no better that to read Professor Nechama Price's "Tribal Blueprints." This book is part of the excellent Maggid Tanakh Companion series. Maggid is part of Koren Press. The series uses an interdisciplinary approach that incorporates traditional rabbinic interpretations with secular scholarly literary techniques to explore biblical characters and themes in the Tanakh. Professor Price is a senior lecturer in Bible and Judaic Studies at Stern College and Director of Yeshiva University's Graduate Program in Advanced Talmud Studies.

"Tribal Blueprints" explores the lives of each of Jacob's twelve sons, as well as their four mothers, and shows how each wife is loved and how each son is loved by their father Jacob. It focuses on the character, emotions, experiences, and what is driving each of these people. It also examines the lives of each son's descendants who are mentioned in Tanakh showing how the descendant retained their ancestor's character.

Since the style of Tanakh is to tell actions without revealing the thoughts or feelings behind them, Professor Price offers suggested thoughts and motives why people did what they did, frequently three possibilities. For example, she examines three possible ways of understanding Jacob's feelings about his first wife Leah: he hated her because he was tricked into marrying her when he expected to marry his love Rachel, love that is inferior to his love of Rachel, mixed feelings. Another example is the briefly told tale "that Reuven [the first born] went and lay with Bilhah, his father's concubine." Three possible explanations are given for what exactly happened and what was Reuven's intention. These explanations compare Reuven's act to similar acts by other biblical figures, such as King David's son Absalom having sex with his father's concubines.

Professor Price discloses that each of Jacob's twelve sons had different proclivities and experiences, and these affected Jacob's family and the future of Judaism. She also tells how the order of their birth influenced their behavior and how they were treated by their father and siblings.

An example of comparing one of Jacob's sons with his descendants, is the describing the act of Jacob's fourth son Judah where he gave into temptation and had sex with a prostitute and his descendant King David having sex with Uriah's wife Bat Sheva. Also, Jacob's third son Levi joining with his second son Shimon in killing the people involved in the rape of their sister Dinah and Levi's descendant Pinchas killing the man who openly had sexual relations as a revolt against Moses. Also, the fourth son Judah taking the lead in standing up against the Egyptian leader (unknown to him that he was Joseph) to rescue his half-brother Benjamin and the later tribe of Judah that had many leadership roles. With Judah and his progeny as well as the other brothers, Professor Price also describes Judah's weaknesses and similar ones of their progeny.

In regard to Jacob's wives, Professor Price examines whether the Torah understands that the two concubines that Jacob had were treated by him as wives or servants and how did he and his other sons treat the four children of the concubines.

Much else is in Professor Price's book. While only a few examples are in this review, there are multiple examples in the book itself. And there are many other explorations such as why did Joseph act as he did before his brothers sold him as a slave in Egypt, and what was Joseph's intention when he went into the house of Potiphar when Potiphar's wife was alone, did the rabbis consider that Joseph intended to sleep with her when they said he desisted when he remembered his father, and why did he not contact his father to tell him that he was alive when he had the opportunity to do so for many years.

In short, readers of this fine book will learn a lot by reading it, see how questions are asked and answered, and come to examine Tanakh in a deeper way.

Dr. Israel Drazin, Reviewer

Jack Mason's Bookshelf

1001 Steve McQueen Facts
Tyler Greenblatt
CarTech Inc.
838 Lake Street South, Forest Lake, MN 55025
9781613254738, $29.95, PB, 280pp,

Synopsis: Terrence Stephen McQueen (March 24, 1930 - November 7, 1980) was an American actor who was nicknamed "The King of Cool" and his antihero persona developed at the height of the counterculture of the 1960s made him a top box-office draw during the 1960s and 1970s. McQueen received an Academy Award nomination for his role in The Sand Pebbles. His other popular films include The Cincinnati Kid, Love With the Proper Stranger, The Thomas Crown Affair, Bullitt, The Getaway and Papillon, as well as the all-star ensemble films The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape and The Towering Inferno.

In 1974, he became the highest-paid movie star in the world, although he did not act in films again for four years. McQueen was combative with directors and producers, but his popularity placed him in high demand and enabled him to command large salaries. (Wikipedia)

In the pages of "1001 Steve McQueen Facts: The Rides, Roles and Realities of the King of Cool", Steve McQueen fans will discover new and unheard-of facts about this Hollywood legend.

Steve McQueen touched the world through his larger-than-life onscreen persona portraying characters that were flawed and realistic. He played his roles to perfection due to his own imperfections and the bitter realism of his early life. As he once said, he had seemingly lived an entire lifetime before his 18th birthday, all of which shines through in his signature blue-eyed icy stares.

His legacy on film was cemented with Bullitt and Le Mans -- the first made him an international superstar, while the latter nearly bankrupted and killed him. Today, they're among his most popular films. He held nothing back on screen or in life, and today he is remembered and revered not only for his acting but for his racing prowess and the world-class automobile and motorcycle collection he amassed in a relatively short amount of time.

Vehicles once owned, driven, or raced by "The King of Cool" habitually sell for double or triple what their provenance-lacking counterparts do. Ask any 25-year-old car or motorcycle nut born more than a decade after his death who Steve McQueen is, and they'll immediately recognize the collector and racer but make no mention of the actor.

In "1001 Steve McQueen Facts", author Tyler Greenblatt has waded through the plethora of information available to compile 1,001 of the most interesting Steve McQueen facts in this cumulative volume that is sure to keep fans of the actor, racer, and collector enthralled for hours.

Critique: Profusely illustrated throughout with black-and-white photography, "1001 Steve McQueen Facts: The Rides, Roles and Realities of the King of Cool" is a 'must' for all Steve McQueen fans and will prove to be of immense interest to car and motorcycle buffs as well. While especially and unreservedly recommended for community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "1001 Steve McQueen Facts" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $28.45).

Editorial Note: Tyler Greenblatt also wrote American Iron Magazine Presents 1,001 Harley-Davidson Facts which was published by CarTech Books in 2017. He followed that up in 2018 with The Corvette Hunter: Kevin Mackay's Greatest Corvette Finds which was a joint effort with longtime friend and world-class Corvette restorer Kevin Mackay.

Till Death Do Us Part: The Letters of Emory and Emily Upton, 1868 - 1870
Salvatore G. Cilella Jr., editor
University of Oklahoma Press
2800 Venture Drive, Norman, OK 73069
9780806164892, $26.95, PB, 344pp,

Synopsis: Emory Upton (August 27, 1839 - March 15, 1881) was a United States Army General and military strategist, prominent for his role in leading infantry to attack entrenched positions successfully at the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House during the American Civil War, but he also excelled at artillery and cavalry assignments. His work, "The Military Policy of the United States", which analyzed American military policies and practices and presented the first systematic examination of the nation's military history, had a tremendous effect on the U.S. Army when it was published posthumously in 1904. (Wikipedia)

A member of the Union army during the American Civil War, Major General Upton served in all three branches of the U.S. military during the American Civil War. Lauded as a war hero, no account of Upton's life complete without an account of his brief yet passionate marriage to Emily Norwood Martin (1846 - 1870).

Deftly edited by Salvatore G. Cilella Jr., "Till Death Do Us Part: The Letters of Emory and Emily Upton, 1868 - 1870" reveals the private life of a brilliant Civil War personality. It also introduces readers to the devout young woman who earned the general's fanatic devotion before her untimely death from tuberculosis.

Until now, only a few of the couple's intimate letters have been published. During the years he spent editing and publishing Emory Upton's correspondence, Salvatore G. Cilella Jr. deliberately set aside the general's voluminous letters to his wife. Unfortunately, as Cilella explains in his editorial notes, Emily's letters to Emory did not survive, but he was able to draw on the rich trove of letters Emily wrote to her mother and father while on her honeymoon and during her stays in Key West, Nassau, and Atlanta. Together, both sets of letters form a poignant narrative of the general's tender love for his new wife and her reciprocal affection as they attempted to create a normal life together despite her declining health.

The life of an army wife could be grueling, and despite her declining health, Emily longed to perform the role expected of her. It was not meant to be. Unwittingly, she and Emory chose the worst places for her to recover (Key West and Nassau) where the high humidity and heat must have exacerbated her difficulty with breathing. She died in Nassau, far away from her husband. Eleven years later, racked by a sinus tumor and likely still grieving from his lost love, Upton committed suicide at the age of forty-one.

"Till Death Do Us Part: The Letters of Emory and Emily Upton, 1868 - 1870" offers a powerful and poignant tale of two star-crossed lovers against the backdrop of post - Civil War America. In addition, the readers are provided with a simply fascinating glimpse into gender roles and marital relations in the nineteenth century.

Critique: A unique and enduringly valued contribution to the growing library of Civil War histories and biographies, "Till Death Do Us Part: The Letters of Emory and Emily Upton, 1868 - 1870" is an inherently fascinating and compelling read from first page to last. Augmented for academia with the inclusion of an Appendix (Emory and Emily Timeline), fifty pages of Notes, a twelve page Bibliography, and a twelve page Index, "Till Death Do Us Part: The Letters of Emory and Emily Upton, 1868 - 1870" is especially recommended for both community and academic library American Civil War collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, Civil War History buffs, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Till Death Do Us Part: The Letters of Emory and Emily Upton, 1868 - 1870" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $21.95).

Editorial Note: Salvatore G. Cilella Jr. is the editor of the two-volume "Correspondence of Major General Emory Upton" and the author of "Upton's Regulars: The 121st New York Infantry in the American Civil War".

Jack Mason

John Burroughs' Bookshelf

Valuing Nature: A Handbook for Impact Investing
William J. Ginn
Marketing Department
Island Press
2000 M St NW Suite 650, Washington, DC 20036
9781642830910, $30.00, HC, 240pp,

Synopsis: As the world faces unprecedented challenges such as climate change and biodiversity loss, the resources needed far outstrip the capabilities of non-profit organizations -- and even governments. Yet there are seeds of hope that comes from the efforts of the private sector. Impact investing is rapidly becoming an essential tool, alongside philanthropy and government funding, in tackling these major problems. "Valuing Nature: A Handbook for Impact Investing" by William J. Ginn presents a new set of nature-based investment areas to help conservationists and investors work together.

The founder of NatureVest, in "Valuing Nature" Ginn clearly outlines the emerging private sector investing opportunities in natural assets such as green infrastructure, forests, soils, and fisheries.

The first part of "Valuing Nature" examines the scope of nature-based impact investing while also presenting a practical overview of its limitations and the challenges facing the private sector.

The second part of "Valuing Nature" offers tools for investors and organizations to consider as they develop their own projects and tips on how nonprofits can successfully navigate this new space.

Case studies from around the world demonstrate how we can use private capital to achieve more sustainable uses of our natural resources without the unintended consequences plaguing so many of our current efforts.

"Valuing Nature" provides an effective and practical roadmap for conservation professionals, nonprofit managers, and impact investors seeking to use market-based strategies to improve the management of natural systems.

Critique: Thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, "Valuing Nature: A Handbook for Impact Investing" is an extraordinarily informative and ultimately motivating read that is as thoughtful and thought-provoking as it is insightful and inspiring. Enhanced for academia with the inclusion of figures, tables, a list of Deal Books, an epilogue (Finding Wealth in Nature), a five page listing of Resources, twelve pages of Notes, and a nine page Index, "Valuing Nature: A Handbook for Impact Investing" is very highly recommended for community and academic library Green Business, Environmental Economics, Natural Resources collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for students, scholars, environmental activists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Valuing Nature: A Handbook for Impact Investing" is readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.19).

Editorial Note: William Ginn is a business strategy consultant who has served in senior leadership positions in both nonprofit organizations and businesses. During his tenure at The Nature Conservancy, Ginn served as Chief Conservation Officer and then Executive Vice President, founding NatureVest, a partnership with private investors that has brought over $200 million of investment into conservation projects worldwide. He is the author of the 2005 Island Press book Investing in Nature: Case Studies of Land Conservation in Collaboration with Business.

The Return of Nature: Socialism and Ecology
John Bellamy Foster
Monthly Review Press
134 W. 29th Street, Suite 706, New York, NY 10001
9781583678367, $35.00, HC, 688pp,

Synopsis: Twenty years ago, Professor John Bellamy Foster's landmark book, "Marx's Ecology: Materialism and Nature" introduced a new understanding of Karl Marx's revolutionary ecological materialism. More than simply a study of Marx, it commenced an intellectual and social history, encompassing thinkers from Epicurus to Darwin, who developed materialist and ecological ideas. Now, with "The Return of Nature: Socialism and Ecology", Professor Foster continues this narrative. In so doing, he uncovers a long history of efforts to unite issues of social justice and environmental sustainability that will help us comprehend and counter today's unprecedented planetary emergencies.

"The Return of Nature" begins with the deaths of Darwin (1882) and Marx (1883) and moves on until the rise of the ecological age in the 1960s and 1970s. Professor Foster explores how socialist analysts and materialist scientists of various stamps, first in Britain, then the United States, from William Morris and Frederick Engels to Joseph Needham, Rachel Carson, and Stephen J. Gould, sought to develop a dialectical naturalism, rooted in a critique of capitalism. In the process, he delivers a far-reaching and fascinating reinterpretation of the radical and socialist origins of ecology.

Ultimately, what "The Return of Nature" asks for is nothing short of revolution: a long, ecological revolution, aimed at making peace with the planet while meeting collective human needs.

Critique: Another landmark volume by Professor John Bellamy Foster and an unreservedly recommended addition to the growing library of environmental historical studies, "The Return of Nature: Socialism and Ecology" is enhanced for academia with the inclusion of an informative Introduction and Epilogue, nine pages of Notes, a twenty-one page Names Index, and a twenty-one page Subject Index. A work of meticulous and original scholarship, "The Return of Nature: Socialism and Ecology" is unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, college, and university library Environmental History & Policy, Human Geography, and Communism & Socialism collections and supplemental curriculum studies reading lists.

Editorial Note: John Bellamy Foster is an editor of Monthly Review and a Professor of Sociology at the University of Oregon. His previous books on ecology include: The Vulnerable Planet, Marx's Ecology, Hungry for Profit (edited with Fred Magdoff and Frederick Buttel), Ecology Against Capitalism, The Ecological Revolution, The Ecological Rift (with Brett Clark and Richard York), What Every Environmentalist Needs to Know About Capitalism (with Fred Magdoff), Marx and the Earth (with Paul Burkett), and The Robbery of Nature (with Brett Clark).

John Burroughs

Julie Summers' Bookshelf

Make-Ahead Baby Food Cookbook
Stephanie Van't Zelfden, RDN, CDN
Rockridge Press
9781646119097, $15.99, PB, 184pp,

Synopsis: Healthy, homemade baby food is the best way to ensure that little ones are getting all of the nourishment they need -- but every parent knows the stress of cooking dinner when their mind is on changing diapers. "Make-Ahead Baby Food Cookbook: Meal Plans and Recipes for Every Stage" will helps even the most time-stressed parent to plan ahead, showing how quick and easy it can be to cook yummy, wholesome baby food safely and conveniently at home.

This baby food cookbook gets a parent started with a primer on signs to look for when a little one is ready to get in the high chair and how to provide essential nutrients at each stage. Parents will learn the ins and outs of batch cooking, freezing, and reheating, before diving in with an easy-to-navigate 4-week meal plan for each of the three stages of development. This baby food cookbook is also packed with dozens of hearty purees, chunky combinations, and fun finger foods, as well as bonus recipes perfect for your toddler and delicious for the whole family.

Critique: Expertly organized and presented, "Make-Ahead Baby Food Cookbook: Meal Plans and Recipes for Every Stage" is the ideal meal planning reference for parents with very young children and will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to family and community library cookbook and parenting instructional reference collections.

Editorial Note: Stephanie Van't Zelfden, RDN, CDN, is a food and nutrition expert and the founder of Nutrition Hungry, where she is a nutrition consultant, recipe developer, and blogger. Her writing has appeared in, Healthline, US News, Food & Nutrition Magazine, and many others.

Coffee and Cedar: Finding Strength From Memories
D. H. Cermeno, author
Mike Woodcock, illustrator
Indie Books International
9781952233128, $27.99, HC, 48pp,

Synopsis: The collaborative work of author/storyteller D. H. Cermeno and artist/illustrator Mike Woodcock, in the pages of "Coffee and Cedar: Finding Strength From Memories", a grandfather shares stories of his life's challenges with his grandson for the purpose of teach the boy to have courage and confidence. At the end of each story, he tells his grandson, "El sol no se tapa con un dedo." which means "You cannot cover the sun with a single finger".

"Coffee and Cedar: Finding Strength From Memories" is the picture story of a young boy who deals with the harshness of criticism associated with a talent he knows he has through several stages of his life. But it is also a story of how those we love can influence our lives and how the strength they have provided can continue to live on from generation to generation.

Critique: Especially timely in this current pandemic where children are physically separated from their grandparents, "Coffee and Cedar: Finding Strength From Memories" is especially recommended reading for children, their parents, and their grandparents. While very highly recommended for community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Coffee and Cedar: Finding Strength From Memories" is readily available in a paperback edition (9781457557477, $17.99).

Julie Summers

K.C. Finn's Bookshelf

Enemy of the Gods: Sometimes, Dreams are Overrated
C. Hofsetz
Chracatoa Press
Paperback: ISBN: 9781951832001, $14.99, 376 pages
Digital: ISBN: 9781951832018, $4.99 Kindle

Enemy of the Gods: Sometimes, Dreams are Overrated is a work of science fiction and paranormal fiction penned by author C. Hofsetz. The premise of the novel works with the idea that the realm in which we go to dream is a different but parallel reality altogether, known as Pangea. Here, a race of alien god-like creatures resides, but when they call upon the help of prisoner Zeon on Earth, they expect him to help them with their war. Neuroengineer Zeon knows little of the consequences of failure for without a world in which to dream, the whole of the human race would die.

Exciting, conceptual, gripping and fascinating, this is a novel that ticks all the boxes for a truly alien science fiction experience. Subverting so many of the traditional norms about alien wars, conquest and contact has enabled author C. Hofsetz to create a serious, credible and often quite frightening type of alien 'god'. Their presence gives chills to the reading experience at every appearance, and the description and struggles of Zeon in between make the whole novel rush by at a breakneck pace.

There's plenty of personal drama for the conflicted Zeon, who is a well-drawn and relatable hero that readers can get behind but also be fascinated by his skills and his past. Scenery descriptions also have that fantastic cinematic quality, making them larger than life and easily imagined in readers' minds. Overall, Enemy of the Gods is a superb novel with much to offer both casual and hardcore science fiction readers.

K.C. Finn, Reviewer
Readers' Favorite

Kirkus Reviews

The Cowboy & the Cheerleader
Mary Allen Redd
Cascade Books
9780963654878, $15.00, PB, 418pp

Redd's narrative voice is often "disarmingly evocative" in this "vivid and mature novel about old friends and second chances."

Kirkus Reviews

Lana Kuhns' Bookshelf

Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II
Liza Mundy
Hachette Books
0316352543, $7.94, 448 pp

Do you like to do crossword puzzles? In the 1940's this question was posed to young university women invited to secret meetings with US Navy where they were offered a training course in code breaking. At a time when women were considered ill-suited to higher education, the US military decided to engage young, unmarried women to lend their minds to the war effort. Code Girls, by award winning journalist Liza Mundy introduces us to those women, describing their lives and their work as the United States mobilized to take action after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Liza Mundy is the author of a number of books including: Michelle: A Biography, The Richer Sex, and Everything Conceivable. She is a senior fellow at the New America Foundation and one of the foremost authorities on women, work, and national security. As a former staff writer for the Washington Post, she has appeared on The Colbert Report, The Today Show, The Diane Rehm Show, and Fresh Air with Terry Gross. Her work helps to ensure the voices and experiences of women are not left out of history.

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, husbands, sons, and brothers joined the battle to defeat the Axis powers that had already infiltrated Europe and Great Britain. The women who were called to serve the war were recruited secretly to perform work that required high intelligence and aptitude. Code breaking work was specific and complex. Character mattered. Some college professors proved to be unsuitable while some high school graduates excelled.

Ann Caracristi, Louise Pearsall, Agnes Driscoll and Dot Braden all possessed the qualities needed for cryptanalytic achievement: a good memory, willingness to listen to private messages, adept at math or foreign languages and an adventurous spirit. But they entered an arena of competing male egos that often left them wondering who the real enemy was. "Nobody cooperated with the Army, under pain of death," said one code breaker. While there are many reasons the Allies prevailed in World War II, one of them certainly was that the Axis powers never utilized their women to the extent the Allies did. These women had various reasons for entering into intelligence positions, but their contributions were vital in every possible way.

Mundy knits an immense amount of research into code breaking history with the compelling stories of individual women whose work pioneered the field of code breaking. Her skill in communicating the minutiae of cryptanalysis is matched only by her ability to draw the reader into the lives of the code breakers. Before the women were accepted into code breaking operations, each was required to complete a training program and testing. They boarded trains with no clue as to their final destination, hoping it might be California. Most ended up in Washington, DC or Dayton, OH, but some went abroad which was unusual. Many would have liked to travel but this was not allowed by military command. They lived in dormitories, shared beds, sometimes working sixteen hour days. Mundy tells their stories with a reporter's eye for detail explaining how stereotypes about women who were employed affected their jobs. Some of the women were emotionally impacted by the extended secrecy of their work.

Dozens of photographs and extensive notes included in this book bring to life the women cryptanalysts and the era in which they lived and worked. Liza Mundy has uncovered information that will likely change our current estimation that all of the stories of WWII have already been told. She has a finely textured writing style that incorporates a massive amount of information into an absorbing narrative. She is the kind of researcher who is able to show originality by delving into topics previous historians have cast aside. Code Girls is a gripping book, painstakingly researched, revealing an engrossing history of how women code breakers helped to shorten the war, saved numerous lives, and were propelled into careers they never thought possible.

Lana Kuhns

Luciano Duarte's Bookshelf

The Red and the Black
9780140447644, $7.30

The Red and The Black, by Stendhal... Novel certainly among the best of all time. Magnificent plot, which approaches the flat refusal of Julien Sorel, son of a humble carpenter, to follow a mediocre peasant life and to be the mirror of his father. The story runs in France in the vicinity of the Revolution of 1830. Julien, raised by an uneducated father, is a young man who from an early age has prominence in reading the sacred texts: he knows Latin and recites excerpts from the Bible by heart. But the father, stern, feels ashamed of his youngest son, unfit for manual labor, envying him, moreover, for the intellectual skills he does not possess.

One day this rude peasant sells his son to be the preceptor of some children, not failing to remind him of the debt he left open for the food he received at home, which one day will have to pay. The father still manifests to the son the contempt for the function he will perform. Julien, however, sees in the obligation an opportunity: daily contact with the Bible, preaching to a family of higher social class, can open the way for an ecclesiastical career, which has numerous advantages.

Here we have a very revealing conflict of Julien Sorel's personality: desirous of the military career, an intimate admirer of Napoleon, he has to opt for the religious, since it is the way that the condition allows him. Abandons the dream of the red uniform, going on to pursue that of the black cassock. Julien impresses, pleases, and quickly enters a seminary. The work, therefore, takes shape: the young man, despite his knowledge of Christian doctrine, does not enter the seminary by faith, but by the desire for anything that takes him away from the peasant reality, anything that brings him social ascension.

We notice attitudes, words of our protagonist and see, in short, a good boy, pious and austere, intelligent and hardworking. But Julien wears a mask: he is willing to do anything to satisfy his desire. Stendhal, in this magnificent and emblematic example of what has been called a "psychological novel," sinks into the analysis of the thoughts and motivations of the protagonist, who falls into traps all the time, put himself hostage to his own passions, unable to dominate his instinct. Julien finds himself a hypocrite, dependent on simulation, on falsehood to progress in his goals.

The narrative runs and the young man, little by little, once after another, suffocates his human dimension, his moral dimension. The affections he nurtures, sincere, always end in the background when opposed to opportunities of ascension. Thus Julien advances, acquires respect, voice among upper classes of society, inaccessible to the son of a peasant. And he quickly ceases, in fact, to be only the son of a peasant.

Stendhal gives us a character bathed in resilience, talent, envy, hypocrisy, intelligence, passions, ambition, remorse, and we cannot help but feel close to the young man, to machinate and reflect according to his reflections. The problem appears, however, when we realize the essence of Julien Sorel's personality - and perhaps ours: - slave to desire, extremely proud, Julien seems moved by an acute resentment against the world, seems to wish to give back. And he ends up falling because desire could not lead to another end. Burning himself in all the relationships he built, having his ambition uncovered, classified as vile and bad character, Julien finds himself condemned to the penalty of blood. In a savage and evil rapture, he fails; incarcerated, immersed in melancholy, he feels his love resurface. But it is only the spasm of flesh that is already born condemned. Julien Sorel ends up decapitated. His name, however, will last as long as the human species exists.

Luciano Duarte, Reviewer

Margaret Lane's Bookshelf

5 Simple Ways To Strengthen Your Marriage When You're Stuck At Home Together
Gary Chapman
Northfield Publishing
c/o Moody Publishers
820 N. LaSalle Blvd., Chicago, IL 60610
9780802423320, $7.99, PB, 80pp,

Synopsis: The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all facets of life. The health crisis has overwhelmed medical workers, business closings have exacerbated financial stress, and (perhaps most unexpectedly) sheltering in place has placed married couples in endless, unprecedented proximity.

Whether this has been challenging or delightful for you and your spouse, the underlying message of "5 Simple Ways to Strengthen Your Marriage: ...When You're Stuck at Home Together" by Gary Chapman is that you should let this time be an opportunity to renew your love.

You can learn how to do so with this informative and inspiring guide as it shows how to enrich your time stuck together. "5 Simple Ways to Strengthen Your Marriage" covers such vital issues as: Calling a truce on throwing word bombs; Tearing down emotional walls; Discovering and speaking each other's love language; Learning the value of teamwork; Having a daily "sit down and listen" time.

Critique: Thoroughly 'user friendly' in tone, commentary, organization and presentation, "5 Simple Ways to Strengthen Your Marriage: ...When You're Stuck at Home Together" is a timely, practical, effective, and inspiring little instruction guide and DIY manual that will improve, maintain, and strengthen the marital bond in this time of pandemic. It should be noted that "5 Simple Ways to Strengthen Your Marriage: ...When You're Stuck at Home Together" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.49).

Editorial Note: An author, speaker, and counselor, Gary Chapman has a passion for people and for helping them form lasting relationships. He is also the author of The 5 Love Languages series and director of Marriage and Family Life Consultants, Inc. Gary travels the world presenting seminars, and his radio programs air on more than 400 stations. He maintains an informative website at

The Riven Tree
Robby Kautz, author
Deborah Knott Walker, illustrator
Archway Publishing
9781480866751, $25.95, 42pp,

Synopsis: A young oak tree dreams of growing tall and straight and beautiful. When violence shatters her dreams, her path is hopelessly altered. Attempting to hide her imperfections, she labors to produce the most beautiful leaves. Year follows year until, one day, her strength is gone. On that day, she asks God the questions she has been too ashamed to voice.

Oak's story provides insight into the effects of trauma. While not specific to a religion or philosophy, "The Riven Tree" seeks to answer the heart's deepest question: "What does God think of me?"

Like Oak in her story, author Robby Kautz' life was altered by violence. Unspoken questions haunted her until a message from God brought healing. "The Riven Tree" shares this message with readers whose lives have been altered by trauma. Reminiscent of "The Giving Tree" by Shel Silverstein, "The Riven Tree" offers redemption and hope for wounded hearts.

Critique: Beautifully illustrated by Deborah Knott Walker, "The Riven Tree" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to school and community library collections for readers of all ages. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Riven Tree" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

Editorial Note: A former interpreter for the Deaf and a high school teacher, Robby Kautz is now a freelance author and women's speaker. She maintains a website at

The Earth Prescription
Laura Koniver, MD
Reveal Press
c/o New Harbinger Press
5674 Shattuck Avenue, Oakland, CA 94609
9781684034895, $17.95, PB, 232pp,

Synopsis: In this modern age it is more apparent than ever that a life lived indoors is not a life lived to its fullest. And yet so many of us spend the majority of our days indoors, trapped in our own heads, addicted to our screens and online connections, and feeling more and more disconnected to our own bodies (and the planet) than ever before. Intuitively, we know that even a five-minute walk outdoors can calm us and awaken our senses, that 'movement is medicine', but we tell ourselves we don't have time, or we can't seem to make the time.

In "The Earth Prescription: Discover the Healing Power of Nature with Grounding Practices for Every Season", holistic physician Laura Koniver offers the ideal antidote to the toxicity of a life isolated from nature -- grounding, or directly touching the earth to heal your body and rejuvenate your sense of total well-being. Think about how good it feels to get outside and walk along the grass. This simple activity connects you to the earth, allowing you to reap its restorative powers -- which include reducing depression, lowering blood pressure, curbing stress, and increasing happiness.

A practical and uplifting guide, "The Earth Prescription" will show how to incorporate the practice of grounding anytime, anywhere, and includes tips for including kids or your favorite pooch. Also featured is an "earth journal" to log your experiences and positive results, as well as a troubleshooting guide to help ensure that you stay grounded in every season -- despite the weather! "The Earth Prescription" will give you everything you need to enjoy the healing energy of nature -- you simply have to get outside and get grounded.

Critique: Thoroughly 'user friendly' in tone, commentary, organization and presentation, "The Earth Prescription: Discover the Healing Power of Nature with Grounding Practices for Every Season" will have especially appeal for readers with an interest in Nature Writing, Gaia-based Religions, and Holistic Medicine. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Earth Prescription" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Margaret Lane

Mari Carlson's Bookshelf

The Second Home
Christina Clancy
St Martin's Press
9781250239341, $26.99

Christina Clancy's debut novel explores the concept of home through a kaleidoscope of three perspectives. Ann, the eldest and most responsible of the Gordon siblings, is nicknamed, "Ann with a Plan." Conflict swirls around an insidious and conniving antagonist, Anthony Shaw, a rich Cape Cod summer resident who employs Ann one fateful summer. Teachers in Milwaukee, the Gordons adopt Michael as a teen, after both his parents die. The family's summer house in Cape Cod expands Michael's tragic world to one of independence and possibility. Poppy, the youngest Gordon, is a free spirit. In Cape Cod she discovers surfing, drugs, and a taste for travel. When the Gordon parents suddenly die, these three confront the fate of the Milwaukee and Cape Cod houses, and with them, the fate of their family.

Ann, Michael and Poppy each take turns as charming and gritty stars of each chapter. As no one character is dominant, a fourth voice emerges: the connections and disconnections between characters. Estrangement and belonging become restless bedfellows the characters are able to navigate due to this resilient fourth voice. Ann's fraught relationship with Anthony, Michael's protective nature and Poppy's escapism balance out in an always evolving creation: Home.

The democratic writing style betrays the Midwestern flavor of the novel. In the tradition of the Midwest's stoic Northern European inhabitants, feelings are aired yet not romanticized. Dialogue is straight forward, not analytical. Descriptions of natural beauty are functional, not ancillary, contributing to the plot's movement toward stability and resolution. Through sturdy prose and thoughtful characters, home comes across like a hearty meal with just enough realism to fill the belly as well as mystery to leave a tantalizing hunger for more.

The Second Home is a stalwart, trustworthy book, a feel-good read, perfect for summer satisfaction in the midst of global chaos.

Mari Carlson, Reviewer

Marj Charlier's Bookshelf

The Book of V.
Anna Solomon
Henry Holt
9781250257017, $27.99, Hardcover

Anna Solomon's The Book of V. is the tale of three women - one from the fifth century BCE, one in the early 1970s, and one in today's world - connected by friendship, blood and experience. The weaving together of these stories will remind readers of The Hours by Michael Cunningham, a book also told through the lives of three people (one of them Virginia Woolf as she was writing Mrs. Dalloway). Both books explore the theme of devoting one's life to the happiness of others despite what it costs in personal fulfillment. Solomon gives credit to the unknown author of the Book of Esther and to Cunningham for inspiration for her structure and her theme.

The Esther in Solomon's novel is the same woman from the seventeenth book of the Old Testament. She is generally considered to be a fictional character, her story possibly invented to provide a reason for Purim, a traditional two-day Jewish celebration of survival. Esther, according to the story, was chosen to be the second wife of a King of Persia after his first wife, Vashti, refused to parade for his drunken friends. Vashti's story in the Bible ends with her exile or execution (it's not clear which), but she has become a celebrated feminist heroine - a woman who had the temerity and the self-respect to refuse to expose herself at the order of her husband. In the Bible and in Solomon's telling, Esther uses her favor with the king to save the Jews and destroy their worst enemies in the kingdom.

Solomon resurrects Vashti's story, in part by giving her a more heroic ending and in part by creating the narrator, Vee, a woman who similarly is bid to appear before an all-male party hosted by her sexually abusive and politically ambitious husband. When Vee refuses his request to undress before them, she leaves her marriage, and after a humiliating affair conducted while staying at the home of her best friend, she moves on to build a life of her own. The third narrator of the novel, Lily, personifies a contemporary woman who has postponed her own career as a writer to marry and raise children. Lily even considers learning how to sew, but resisting that further submersion in domesticity, finds fulfillment in writing a play for a local celebration of Purim. Her connection to the other narrators, other than her interest in the story of Purim, is revealed only late in the novel and involves a fourth major character who does not narrate her own story.

Solomon's first-person, present-tense prose reminds me of that of Geraldine Brooks (The Secret Chord, March, Caleb's Crossing, Year of Wonders). Its well-paced action scenes are spiced with evocative dialogue and just enough internal monologue to keep us close to the characters. The worlds she creates for the Jews of the fifth century BCE and the life of a political wife and feminist of the 1970s are richly textured and feel authentic. (I can only vouch for half of one of those from personal experience).

This is one of my favorite books of the year, and I am sharing it with friends and neighbors, who have also enjoyed it. I highly recommend it.

The Secret French Recipes of Sophie Valroux
Samantha Verant
c/o Penguin
9781984806994 $16.00 pbk

Sophie is one lucky girl.

Not even 30 yet, she's living the dream. She's reached the pinnacle of her career, has a gorgeous boyfriend who is willing to wait for her, a large, historic chateau to her name, a bevy of friends in New York and in southwestern France, and no college debt, no car loans, no mortgage, no rent. She's not exactly a typical millennial or Generation Y young woman.

No wonder this stuff sells!

I am not a chick-lit, romance, or kitchen/restaurant dream reader. I generally read literary fiction, but I enjoyed this fantasy trip to the terroir of The Secret French Recipes of Sophie Valroux for the pleasure of escaping all the real terrors of today's real world.

Sophie has seven major conflicts to resolve in the year-or-so timeframe of this short novel, and true to form, she manages to come out ahead in all of them. Readers of these genres know that's going to happen, and the fun is in how she gets there.

Author Samantha Verant has done her research (as far as this non-foodie can tell) and creates vivid pictures of the New York restaurant culture and the South-of-France manner lifestyle (although in both places, I kept wondering who is doing the dishes). Mostly set in that chateau in southwestern France, Sophie is presented with both the challenge of a lifetime and the dream of a lifetime, running her grandmother's chateau - guesthouse and restaurant - and perhaps winning her personal holy grail - a three-star Michelin rating. Standing in the way is a jealous, talentless and sabotaging former boyfriend and his accomplices, a trashed reputation in the insular high-end restaurant industry, pain and hatred over her mother's suicide, an unidentified father, a mean girl chateau manager, an enigmatic childhood boyfriend, and a large dose of insecurity over her skills.

That's a lot to handle - perhaps more than most of us have to deal with in our early 20s. But unlike most of us, Sophie was to-the-manner-born, and every romance reader already knows that everything is going to come out okay. That's the way these stories go. If you're used to reading books with a little reality, a real mystery, and an ending that you discover instead of confirm, this book isn't for you. Probably romance isn't for you. But if it doesn't bother you that the solution to every issue she faces is clearly signaled along the way, and you need a break for today's overrated reality, you will love this book.

The End of October
Lawrence Wright
9780525658658, $27.96, Hardcover

If you are looking for a light-hearted read that will take your mind off our current political turmoil and pandemic, this is not the book for you. If you are looking for a book that gives you hope that the coronavirus epidemic will end with a return to some close proximation to "normal," this isn't the book for you.

But suppose these weeks in quarantine have started to make you feel like time has stood still, and you'd do anything to see this self-isolation hurry up and end. And, suppose you want your socks knocked off by a page-turning, gut-wrenching thriller with lessons in bureaucratic bungling and administrative dithering; Russia's evil and unchecked intentions; the dangerous effects of homophobia, xenophobia, climate change and economic inequality; and the near-impossible tasks of controlling a pandemic and avoiding economic meltdown. In that case, Lawrence Wright has a novel that will eat up the next few hours of your life faster than you thought possible. I couldn't put it down, something I say about as often as, "I'm not hungry." Hint: nearly never.

Wright's fictional virus has mysterious origins but is suspected of having jumped from migrating flocks of birds, and first pops up in a refugee camp of young, gay Muslim men in Indonesia. His Dr. Fauci-equivalent, Henry, unwittingly contributes to the rapid spread of the virus throughout the world in a pandemic that makes COVID-19 seem dawdling in its progress. The inability of the leaders of the free world - in particular, the U.S. - to deal effectively with either the health or political ramifications of their lack of preparedness will sound eerily familiar, and raise the obvious question: if Wright could foresee this as he wrote the novel well before COVID-19 became a thing, why couldn't our government? We can only wish that the vocabulary of this novel - self-isolation, quarantining, shelter-in-place, herd immunity, second wave - would seem new and strange instead of wearily common.

Wright's disturbing, impeccably written novel wends its way to an ending that isn't going to cheer you up. His tale of how crowded cities, degradation of the environment (sixth extinction?), increasing inequality, cozy attitude toward Russia, and lack of medical preparedness points to inevitable consequences in the face of both his fictional virus and our real one is frightening. One could only wish the book had been published six months earlier, and that the man supposedly leading our nation could read something longer than 280 characters.

These Women
Ivy Pochoda
c/o HarperCollins
9780062656384, $27.99, Hardcover

These Women is a five-woman portrait of life on the hard streets of South Los Angeles - dangerous, mysterious and humming with an underclass beat punctuated by violence directed specifically at women. In this misogynistic world, even the men who think they are protecting their wives and daughters perpetrate horrible crimes driven by their testosterone-charged megalomania and spiked with cruelty. It's a world infused with an ethos that satisfies men's desires while shackling woman with degrading and meager subsistence.

The five women in this gritty, page-turning novel include: Dorian, a restaurant owner who feeds the neighborhood street women, weathering their frequent verbal abuse, while waiting for an answer to her daughter's murder; Julianna, a drug-dependent exotic dancer who craves a way to share her cellphone photography with the world; Essie, a vice cop sidelined from the homicide division by a superior who uses Essie's misfortune to advance her own career; Marella, Dorian's neighbor and a visual and performance artist whose work helps identify a killer to her own peril; and Anneke, a difficult and judgmental middle-class woman who tries to sanitize the neighborhood while harboring the secret of its greatest danger.

Pochoda builds the story obliquely, viewing the world from each woman's perspective in separate "parts" - one woman per part. Their stories overlap and entwine, and the final part pulls them together in both satisfying and frightening ways. The opening prologue and occasional interludes by its narrator are written in elliptical, pointillistic first-person prose, introducing the jarring personality of the novel and priming the reader for the simultaneously sympathetic and challenging personalities of these women. They aren't all likable, but they are fully rendered, as is the neighborhood itself - its liquor stores, gentrified blocks, and abandoned lots strewn with drug paraphernalia and clues. This novel may not make you want to visit South Los Angeles, but it may make you feel like you already have.

I highly recommend this novel.

The Seventh Sun
Lani Forbes
Blackstone Publishing
9781982546090, $18.99, Hardcover

Lani Forbes's young-adult novel, The Seventh Sun is a fascinating mash-up of genres - fantasy, mystery, historical fiction, romance - that also mixes and conflates cultures and time periods in Mexican and Mesoamerican history. In creating the fantasy "Chicome Empire," Forbes takes the liberty of blending Aztec and Mayan traditions and mythology, depicting a world that is only kept inhabitable through blood-letting, human sacrifice, and a strict, hierarchical stratification of society that demands fealty to ritual and nobility.

A young prince, heir to the leadership of the Chicome Empire, Ahkin must choose a wife from among the six nations scattered around the capital of Tollan before he can assume the role of emperor. His father's sudden death and his mother's obedience to tradition that required her suicide leave Ahkin spinning with self-doubt and grief. An apparent, impending apocalypse involving the sun's slow disappearance adds to the stakes. Young Princess Mayana of the nation Atl is sent by her father to represent the best his tribe has to offer as a candidate for empress. Blessed with the magical ability to form water into shapes, floods or downpours, she is a reluctant observer of her family's traditions, especially those that require the sacrifice of animals. She tries to hide her aversion from the prince, knowing that eventually it will raise objections to her suitability as empress.

The other five princesses, all contestants for the role of empress, have their own powers, and as they gather in the capital to try to win the love and attention of Ahkin, some put those magical talents to work sabotaging the other contestants, while others form friendships and use their powers to protect each other. The good girls and bad girls are quickly identified by everyone except the oblivious prince himself. It's a high-stakes contest, because the five women who are not chosen as the prince's bride will all be sacrificed in the service of ensuring a strong marriage for Ahkin and the kingdom. The book ends with the two protagonists suspended in some purgatory-like afterworld, pledging to avenge their own deaths, indicating this is the first book of a young-adult series. More to come.

Forbes does a marvelous job of building a world full of mystery, myth, ritual, blood and danger. She creates a capital city that sparkles and shines with gold, glorious pools, steam baths, fauna and flora.

As an adult, I found the interactions among the competing want-to-be brides tedious, but these scenes are probably salient for teenagers living through the high-school trauma of cliques and shifting alliances. The last quarter of the book leaves most of the well-developed characters behind, their fates left in the lurch; perhaps their stories will continue in subsequent volumes. And, finally, I found some of the prose anachronistic. A couple of examples: Questioned by the other princesses about the rumor that the prince spent the night in her room, she insists "nothing happened." And an emcee's introduction of the princesses to the prince starts with "I would now like to present..." Both seem a bit too twentieth century to be convincing or worthy of the novel's superb world-building.

(Disclosure: Blackstone Publishing is the publisher of this reviewer's forthcoming book, The Rebel Nun.)

Marj Charlier, Reviewer

Mark Houston's Bookshelf

Functional Nitric Oxide Nutrition: Dietary Strategies to Prevent and Treat Chronic Disease
Nathan S. Bryan
Crescendo Publishing, LLC
9781948719001, $14.95 PB, $7.95 Kindle, 132pp,

Dr. Bryan has performed a masterpiece of literary genius in his new book "Functional Nitric Oxide Nutrition". The importance of nitric oxide in health is considered one of the most important medical discoveries of the last 100 years. This book will take the reader on a simple and clear journey of how to understand and use nitric oxide to maintain health and longevity. Each chapter is well organized and the flow from one concept to the next is smooth and effortless for the reader. Few books transform complexity to singular clarity as this one does. I recommend this excellent book to all my patients and to medical professionals that wish to enter into an education of nitric oxide.

Mark C. Houston MD, Reviewer
Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine
Vanderbilt University Medical School
Director, Hypertension Institute and Vascular Biology
Medical Director of Division of Human Nutrition
Saint Thomas Medical Group, Saint Thomas Hospital, Nashville, Tennessee

Michael Carson's Bookshelf

The Master Book of MEMES
Britt Minshall, D. Min.
Renaissance Institute Press
9780578599496, $24.95, PB, 274pp,

Synopsis: A meme is an idea, behavior, or style that spreads by means of imitation from person to person within a culture and often carries symbolic meaning representing a particular phenomenon or theme. A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols, or practices, that can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals, or other imitable phenomena with a mimicked theme. Supporters of the concept regard memes as cultural analogues to genes in that they self-replicate, mutate, and respond to selective pressures. (Wikipedia)

How often do we watch TV and are horrified at people committing atrocious acts against other people? How often have we asked: "Why did they do such an awful thing?" The truth is "they often don't know. When confronted with Corporations cheating and stealing the very lives of their beloved customers and employees, or Nations lying to their loyal citizens, leading them to surrender their children's lives to war against another harmless people, or when really nice boys and girls, reared NOT to kill and destroy, travel to lands afar just to murder innocent people, THEN you realize MEMES are at work.

Every person has TWO PEOPLE inside them! There is the sweet soulful self, hard working peaceful individuals. Then there is the other, a member of a MEME. If the Meme is an organization for GOOD (building hospitals, rail lines or holiness religions) they become sold out to the mission at hand and do extraordinary deeds. But if the organism is dedicated to doing harm to others (military, criminal gang, dishonest enterprise) then unbelievable destruction is accomplished by the same person.

MEMES work under the basic premise that Together Everyone Achieves More (SYNERGY), but that "More" can mean Miracles or it can mean Madness.While CULTURE is the BEING component of civilization - MEMES are the ACTION component of of the same.The Master Book of MEMES is written for lay readers, easy to understand, connected to YOU TUBE so the reader can experience short videos of teachings from the author, and it has over eighty stories to illustrate MEMES in everyday situations.

A finely engineered Study Book printed 8.5 x 8.5 for lay open reading, "The Master Book of MEMES" by Britt Minshall is structured with broad margins for note taking. The reader will walk away with a completely expanded mental grasp of life in the social setting, able to witness the major stories not saying "WHY?" but rather "SO THAT'S HOW IT HAPPENS"!

Critique: As informatively thought-provoking as it is informatively insightful, "The Master Book of MEMES" is an extraordinary and inherently engaging read that is impressively well written, organized and presented -- making it an especially timely, thoroughly reader friendly, and unreservedly recommended addition to personal reading lists, as well as community, college, and academic library collections.

Editorial Note: A law enforcement officer for 16 years, become Chaplin and Pastor for 28 years, Britt Minshall has dedicated his life to helping people live together in peace and mutual prosperity. In addition to his 44 years of on hands experience he hold degrees from Thomas Edison U., a Masters in Psychology and Power Conflict and a Doctorate in Social Psychology and Group dynamics from Boston U.. His specialty has been the documentation, study and teaching the difference between personal behavior and the completely different behavior of people as part of a Human Social Organism (MEME). He received the Lilly Foundation's "Sustaining Excellence in Urban Ministry Award" in 2006. Over the past 10 years Britt has guested on several hundred radio and TV stations, written many articles, visited Haiti over four years as a missionary and served the UN as a volunteer Chaplin.

Quote Acrostic Favorites: Volumes 5, 6, 7
Charles Preston
aka Associates Inc.
Vol. 1: 9780998832296, $9.95, PB, 70pp,
Vol. 2: 9781734048315, $9.95, PB, 70pp,

Synopsis: Selected by former USA Today crossword puzzle editor Charles Preston, Volumes 5, 6 and 7 of "Quote Acrostic Favorites are each comprised of 50 favorite acrostics reveal wise and witty sayings on topics from education and humor to history, sports, history, education, humor and more.

Crossword puzzles fans will enjoy cracking the clues in the word column; transfer them to the diagram; and discover quotations from people like Dave Barry, Charlotte Bronte, Charles Kuralt, Gloria Swanson, Walt Whitman, and many others.

Critique: Providing hours of pure erudite word smithing fun, volumes 5, 6 and 7 of "Quote Acrostic Favorites are each very highly recommended entertainment -- especially in these pandemic home-bound days.

Editorial Note: Charles Preston has been the Crossword Puzzle Editor of USA Today and Dow Jones's National Observer for over a decade. He a distinguished and nationally recognized crossword puzzle expert having has compiled more than 100 puzzle books. Preston is also a syndicated puzzle master and his work appears in dozens of leading newspapers and magazines across the country, including the Chicago Tribune, Newsday, and the San Francisco Chronicle.

Michael J. Carson

Randall Murphree's Bookshelf

Torn Asunder
Mark Alan Leslie
Elk Lake Publishing, Inc.
9781951970215 trade paperback
9781951970222 e-book, $5.99
9781951970208, $14.99, PB, 456pp,

Get ready for a roller-coaster ride with Torn Asunder, Mark Alan Leslie's apocalyptic thriller. Leslie opens with scary, soul-stirring landslides, tsunamis, earthquakes, famine, and a weird disease. It is the epitome of the genre - "end times thriller."

After that hair-raising intro the author back pedals a few years to probe into the lives of well-crafted heroes and villains.

The good guys include Darek and Jillian, a newly married media sensation. Their boss, Jake McMillan, is a solid Christian and head of Truth Publishing and Broadcasting empire, a world player in media circles.

But as the world spirals into political, social, economic, and theological chaos, McMillan and conservative Christians are targets of the One World Government and Universal Church. This evil alliance will stop at nothing - lies, assault intimidation, even murder - to stamp out biblical truth. Available at online booksellers.

Editorial Note: Gripping new narratives find roots in biblical truths. Two of today's master wordsmiths have new novels ready for the reading. I'm taking the liberty of first person just so I can say, "You'll love reading these two!" I read about 20 Christian novels a year, and these two authors (Mark Alan Leslie and Buck Storm) are my favorites of the last decade or more. CAUTION: When purchasing, be aware there are other books by both of the titles below.

Randall Murphree, Reviewer
Editor of the AFA Journal (American Family Association)
Former Christy Award Judge

Robin Friedman's Bookshelf

Navigate Your Stars
Jesmyn Ward
c/o Simon and Schuster
9781982131326 $16.00

Jesmyn Ward won the National Book Award in 2011 for her second novel, "Salvage the Bones". In 2017, Ward received a MacArthur "genius" grant together with her second National Book Award for her third novel "Sing, Unburied, Sing". Ward delivered the commencement address at Tulane University, where she is a professor of creative writing, in 2018. Her speech has been published in this beautiful short book, "Navigate your Stars" with illustrations by the Philadelphia artist, Gina Triplett. I loved Ward's novels and read her address both for itself and for the insight it might offer into her life and her writings.

The Tulane graduates were fortunate to hear Ward speak. But readers are, perhaps, more fortunate to be able to have the book in hand to read and to think about what she said. Ward's speech offers a brief autobiography in which she reflects on her family, her education, and her decision to become a writer. She also offers wise, inspiring counsel to her audience and to her readers.

I found much to ponder in this little book, prepared for a formalized occasion. Ward describes how she learned that education was a lifelong project, rather than a process which ended with a diploma. She describes how she came over life to an appreciation of her family members who were uneducated and who made what they could of the situations that life presented to them. Perhaps the most important lesson Ward learned occurred when she returned to rural Mississippi upon received her degree. When her brother was killed in an automobile accident, Ward "questioned all that I thought I knew, shocked at the unpredictability of life, the irrefutable fact of death." Ward tells a story of perseverance and of the long, difficult path of finding and realizing her dream in becoming a writer:

"Sometimes you are twenty when you stumble upon an open doorway. Sometimes, you are thirty. Sometimes you are forty, or fifty, or sixty. I remembered this when I felt like giving up, when I thought I'd pack all my notebooks and stories into plastic bags and put them away, when I thought I would resign them to the recycling bin."

Readers may find Ward's commencement address and this short book inspiring as part of a lifelong attempt to learn and to navigate one's stars.

Complete Poetry And Collected Prose
Walt Whitman
Library of America
B001U1D4Q0, $40.00

Walt Whitman In The Library Of America

This 1982 volume, "Walt Whitman: Poetry and Prose" edited by Justin Kaplan was among the first four books published by the Library of America as it began its mission of presenting the best works of American literature in a uniform format both scholarly and accessible to non-specialist readers. Walt Whitman (1819 -- 1892) was an excellent choice for early inclusion in the LOA, and this volume has generally stood the test of time.

I had read portions of Whitman many different times in my life, but this was my first experience reading through this LOA volume. The ongoing stay home time brought the opportunity for reading and for reflection about the United States and American democracy. I turned to Whitman for a sustained look at his writing. Coincidentally, I am at the same age, 72, as was Whitman at the time of his death. Whitman described himself as "garrulous" and wordy. This lengthy volume can be repetitious and exasperating in places. Most readers will not have the need to read this volume in its entirety. Still, I was grateful for the opportunity to spend at last an extended period of time in Whitman's company. I came away with a stronger appreciation of his work than I had gained over the years and with an increased feeling for the United States and its democratic ideals and for American patriotism during challenging times. Whitman is an American treasure.

Whitman is known as a great American poet. Most of his poetry was included in a volume titled "Leaves of Grass" which he worked on incessantly, expanded, edited and revised at least six times over a nearly 40 year time span. This LOA edition begins with the first edition of "Leaves of Grass" which Whitman published in 1855. It consisted of twelve untitled poems and a Preface. This early edition in the format of its initial publication is rarely reproduced and it offers what many scholars believe is the best of Whitman in a short space before he began repeating himself.

The LOA follows the 1855 version of "Leaves of Grass" with Whitman's final or "deathbed" version of his book which dates from 1891-92 and includes roughly 280 poems. Whitman carefully arranged this volume in a way he deemed effective and indicative of his themes and included his poems in the final ways he wished to leave them. Whitman wanted this long collection of "Leaves of Grass" to be regarded as one single extensive long poem. Not every poem in this collection is a masterwork, but I found reading the collection from beginning to end had a cumulative effect. Whitman sang of the value of the individual and of the value of America and its democracy. He wanted to celebrate the human body and sexuality and the human spirit. He envisioned a diverse America of freedom and promise and he understood the United States as offering the opportunity to break away from while learning the best of the hierarchical societies of Europe. Whitman was also a highly religious if nonsectarian writer who sang of the unity and beauty of creation, of death, and of immortality. His enthusiasm, his long lines, and his thought remain inspiring.

In the Preface to the 1855 edition of "Leaves of Grass", Whitman wrote that "The United States themselves are essentially the greatest poem." He continued: "Other states see themselves in their deputies but the genius of the United States is not best or most in its executives or legislatures, nor in its ambassadors or authors or colleges or churches or parlors, not even in its newspapers or investors ... but always most in the common people. ... It awaits the gigantic and generous treatment worthy of it." Whitman tried to begin a poetic treatment of the United States in the poems and editions of "Leaves of Grass".

Whitman's prose writings are sometimes overlooked. This LOA volume includes the extensive volume of "Complete Prose" that Whitman published in 1892. Whitman's prose writings of greatest interest are "Specimen Days" and "Democratic Vistas". The former book is a series of short diaries and vignettes covering much of Whitman's life. The book is best known for its depictions of Whitman's activities helping wounded and ill soldiers during the Civil War and for its picture of Civil War Washington, D.C. These selections might be read with Whitman's Civil War poetry, "Drum Taps" and his poems of the death of President Lincoln all of which are included in the final edition of "Leaves of Grass". "Specimen Days" also includes nature writing, discussions of Whitman's travels west, and his views on other American authors of his day.

The second prose work, "Democratic Vistas" is based on three magazine essays that Whitman had published, and it takes a sustained and in part critical look at American democracy in the aftermath of the Civil War. This is a difficult book, not always written clearly. However it is a searching and too little appreciated study of American democracy and of political philosophy.

There is much in this LOA volume to be read and pondered over time, and the book doesn't all have to be read at once. Whitman wanted to encourage his readers to think for themselves and not be his followers. His work is inspiring and may help readers better understand themselves and their country. This LOA book is not complete, either with respect to Whitman's poetry or his prose. I have read a 1996 academic article "What is this you bring, my America?: The Library of America Whitman" by Whitman scholar Sam Abrams that criticizes some of the prose sections included in this collection and some of the selections left out. It also points out that some of Whitman's poetry has not been included in the volume. The omissions in poetry include a work titled "Respondez!" which Whitman himself deleted from the final version of "Leaves of Grass" because it had a more pessimistic tone than most of the poems. Readers who want an in-depth reading of Whitman's poems including this important work can readily find "Respondez!" in other sources or on-line. Taking Abrams' criticisms into account, this is still a wonderful volume of Whitman which will be more than adequate for most readers.

I was glad to have the opportunity to read Whitman and to think about his vision during our country's time of difficulty. This LOA volume offers an excellent way to explore Whitman's poetry and prose. Readers might also be inspired to explore the many books in the ongoing LOA series and to think about our country and its literature

Hegel's Phenomenology: Dialogues On The Life Of The Mind
Jacob Loewenberg
Open Court Publishing Company
9780875480220 out-of-print, digitalized at

Loewenberg's Study Of Hegel's Phenomenology

In recent years, Hegel has been receiving attention from highly-regarded American philosophers, including Robert Brandom and Robert Pippin. For much of the 20th century, however, Hegel and his 1807 book "The Phenomenology of Spirit" were little studied in the United States, given the prevalence of analytical philosophy and positivism. Jacob Loewenberg was one of the few American philosophers who devoted serious attention to Hegel during the years from the end of WW I through the mid-1960s. Loewenberg (1882 -- 1969) immigrated to the United States in his early 20s and went on to study Hegel and receive a PhD in philosophy under Josiah Royce at Harvard. He taught at the University of California Berkeley for much of his career. I became interested in Loewenberg through his writings on his mentor, Royce, and wanted to read his study of Hegel.

In 1929, Loewenberg published a book of selections from Hegel which was used widely in American universities. In 1965, age 83, Loewenberg published his book "Hegel's Phenomenology: Dialogues on the Life of the Mind", a study of Hegel's forbidding "Phenomenology of Spirit". In his memoir "Thrice-Born: Selected Memories of an Immigrant", Loewenberg described his long-delayed project of writing a study of the "Phenomenology". Referring to himself in the third person, Loewenberg wrote,

"What kept him back from uttering it was the difficulty of hitting upon a suitable mode of procedure. He was reluctant to write an erudite commentary. For the exacting labor of exegesis, involving close attention to technical minutae, he had neither taste nor talent. What he aspired to was a task no less exacting, namely the task of capturing the spirit of a work notorious for being bewildering in matter and forbidding in manner." ("Thrice-Born", p. 187)

In his memoir, Loewenberg also succinctly explained the view of the "Phenomenology" he would present in his book. "It was his aim, without tracing the work to its historical roots, to represent it as a sort of chronicle, Homeric in scale, of man's spiritual odyssey. Here, he held, may be found generically portrayed the multiform career of human consciousness." ("Thrice-Born", p.188)

Loewenberg's book on the "Phenomenology" is written in the form of a dialogue between two friends, Hardith and Meredy. (Years earlier, Loewenberg had written a book, "Dialogues from Delphi" on the philosophy of art with these individuals as the interlocutors.) Hardith is shown in the Loewenberg's "Phenomenology" as an educated layman who is not a specialist in Hegel's book while Meredy is a Hegel scholar and probably is more representative of Loewenberg. Hegel's book is discussed and debated from various perspectives by the two friends.

The book recognizes the notorious difficulty of Hegel in terms of thought, method, language, and every other way. It describes the "Phenomenology" is perhaps the most difficult of the classical works of philosophy to understand. Thus the book does not discuss the formidable technicalities of the "Phenomenology", but instead tries to present in the discussion between friends and understanding of what the book tries to do, of why it is important, and of how it may be deemed to succeed or fail in its aims. Loewenberg's book is difficult enough in itself, but its aim is to provide a point of entry to the "Phenomenology" much more than a full commentary for Hegel scholars.

The book interprets the "Phenomenology" as indicated by Loewenberg's title as a dialogue in the "life of the mind" as opposed to a metaphysics or to a historical study. This is a debatable interpretation, as are all interpretations of the "Phenomenology" but it seems to me consistent with the current revival of interest in a non-metaphysical Hegel. Loewenberg, and the "Phenomenology" show the many different points of view people have in their approaches to life and to understanding. Hegel tries to show how mental life (not necessarily a particular person) becomes wedded dogmatically to a particular type of position. Hegel develops the strength and appeal of the position and then shows how it is partial and includes the seeds of its errors within itself which lead to the development of another position. The exploration moves from questions about the nature of sense perception to broad, difficult questions about religion and the nature of philosophy.

In the Preface to his book, Loewenberg describes the "Phenomenology" as concerned with "the life of mind on earth" and that he aims to bring out not the bristling obscure language of the book but instead what Loewenberg finds to be the "the spirit of humanism pervading the 'Phenomenology'". He explains that the dialogue form is designed to bring out in counterpoint various aspects of Hegel's thought. Loewenberg writes that the "Phenomenology" "exemplifies a tremendous debate, the subject being debated upon being the claim to exclusive truth on the part of every human persuasion." Loewenberg continues: "Recurrent alternation of advocacy and rebuttal, such as the participants in a debate concretely illustrate, imparts to Hegel's dialectic in the pages that follow a lively and focalized mobility, showing at the same time the extent to which his method is both defensible and vulnerable."

Loewenberg's study consists of 26 chapters which follow the sequence of the "Phenomenology" from its celebrated "Preface" through the book's end. The book is organized in four parts paralleling the "Phenomenology" under the headings "Consciousness", "Self-Consciousness", "Reason", and "Spirit". I read the "Phenomenology" many years ago and didn't reread it while reading Loewenberg's study. Instead, I simply worked with the Table of Contents in the Miller translation of the "Phenomenology" to collate the sections in Hegel's book with the discussions in Loewenberg.

I found that Loewenberg's book helped me with a book that is obscure and gave me some insight into Hegel's project. It helped me understand the scope of thought, mind, and spirit and the dangers of partial dogmatic thinking, including Hegel's own thought, and the dogmatic, partial positions on many things urged with so much passion in our own day. The book is an entry-point into the "Phenomenology" and makes no pretense of being exhaustive. Readers with a detailed knowledge of the work may well see it differently. I was glad to get to know both Hegel and Loewenberg better. Loewenberg is not much read today, but this study of Hegel's "Phenomenology" is worth knowing.

Robin Friedman

Self-Publishing Review

When Life Was Like a Cucumber
Greg Wyss
Page Publishing Inc.
101 Tyrellan Avenue Suite 100 New York, NY 10309
9781644621660, $27.95 PB, $9.99 Kindle, 606pp,

Author Greg Wyss expertly transports readers to the chaotic 70s with remarkable ease and charm in When Life Was Like a Cucumber. Following Jeffrey Hesse's fiery split from his wife, this is a hilariously unpredictable story of his self-exploration, healing, liberation, and growth.

For those who lived through the 1960s and 70s, this book is a nostalgic plunge that practically exudes the whiff of patchouli, illicit substances, and motor oil. Couched in the tumultuous Watergate era, there is an unmistakable weight to this story as well, giving the book a relatability for modern readers who may have not lived through the era. The culture, music, lifestyle, and laws may have changed, but the recognizable politics of fear, violence, and power also resonate in these pages, woven in beneath Hesse's wacky exploits.

The writing is as stylized as the main character himself, winding around itself with clever turns of phrase. There are occasionally overworked descriptions, and some narrative rambles could be shortened and strengthened, but Wyss ultimately paints a consistent mood and a vivid portrait of the decade thanks to the hilarious caricatures and diverse landscapes.

All in all, Wyss has created a unique road romp with the sporadic wisdom of Pirsig, the antics of Kesey, and the visual artistry of Steinbeck. There is more to this story than meets the eye, and readers of any generation will benefit from its kaleidoscopic layers of both absurdity and meaning.

Self-Publishing Review
May 2020

Suanne Schafer's Bookshelf

A Matter of Chance
Julie Maloney
She Writes Press
9781631523694, $16.95

A Matter Of Chance, a domestic thriller, is Julie Maloney's debut novel. Maddy Stewart, a single mom is on vacation at the Jersey shore with her eight-year-old daughter, Vinni. While on the beach with her daughter, she sees her elderly neighbors, and the husband appears to be having a heart attack. Maddy runs for help, leaving her daughter with the wife. She returns to find her daughter and the wife gone and the husband's body in the sand.

What ensues is the typical police/FBI scenario in which it seems that the investigation is stalled. When Maddy takes matters into her own hands, she uncovers a circle of corruption that carries this novel into something of a global thriller. Five years pass, yet Maddy remains convinced her daughter is alive. What makes this book stand out from the usual kidnapping stories is depth and carefully nuancing of Maddy's emotions. She suffers, yet sustains herself with friends and art and a potential new love. The characters are well developed, and each shows a nice character arc.

Accidentally Family
Sasha Summers
Entangled: Amara
9781682814741, $7.99

Accidentally Family is a touching women's fiction novel with a strong, slow-burn romantic thread as well as some teenaged heart throbs. Felicity's husband left her for another woman and now has a child by that woman and has "forgotten" his parental duties to his earlier children. Felicity is rather too good to be true - almost saintly - as she rises to the challenges of raising her teenaged son and daughter while suppressing her own emotions. As she struggled with her loss of identity as Matt's wife, she gets word that there has been an accident, and her ex- and the ex's never-married-girlfriend are killed and their toddler seriously injured. In his will, Matt asks that Felicity be his son's guardian. Graham, a local obstetrician and former friend of the family, is dealing with a wayward daughter and the loss of his wife to cancer. These two families, devastated by loss and betrayal, must learn to cope. The book is told in multiple points-of-view, and Summers deftly weaves between the male and female voices. All the main players have a satisfying character arc.

Blackberry & Wild Rose
Sonia Velton
Blackstone Publishing
9781538507759, $27.99

Blackberry & Wild Rose, by Sonia Velton, has a lovely atmospheric cover and a quaint old-fashioned title akin to the fairy story "Snow White and Rose Red." Those elements drew me into reading it.

Set during the mid-eighteenth century in London, it tells the story of two women. Esther Thorel, the English wife of a Heugonot master silk weaver who has advanced himself on the backs of the men in his company who weave his silk, is quietly elegant and restrained. Sara Kemp is a naive country girl tricked into working in a whore house. Esther, as an act of Christian charity, rescues Sara and hires her as a maid, not realizing how devious Sara will become. Esther is one of those wealthy women who run their husband's households, embroider, paint, and bear children. However, Esther is barren, leaving her husband with no heir to his silk-weaving company. She can envision her paintings woven in silk, but her husband will have none of it.

London society is beautifully depicted as is the somewhat sinister world of silk weaving at a time when it is being replaced with India calicos in which the designs were printed rather than woven.

Esther, a complex woman with ambition and talent, should have been the primary protagonist rather than alternating points of view with Sara, who is treacherous and determined to undermine the entire household. The other females, Moll the maid, and Elizabeth Swann, the owner of the whore house were equally despicable, being mere caricatures of women. Esther's husband, Elias Thorel, the rabble rousing weaver Barnstaple, and the journeyman weaver, Bisby Lambert (who helps her achieve her dream of weaving her designs into fabric) are also at opposite ends of the spectrum of the male half of humanity with little nuance to their characters.

So overall, a well-researched piece of historical fiction with great atmosphere and lovely prose, but with characters who need nuancing.

Don't Speak (Jade Harrington #1)
J.L. Brown
JAB Press
9780996977210, $14.99

Written in 2015 and published in 2016, Don't Speak reflects the political scene in America at that time. This thriller has a female, Whitney Fairchild, running for president against a conservative male incumbent whose strings are controlled by an ultra-conservative talk show host. Against this backdrop, Jade Harrington, a woman of color and an FBI agent, must find a serial killer who is murdering conservative talk show hosts. The story was entertaining, and Harrington is a prickly yet likable protagonist. Don't Speak is Brown's first novel, and she handles the various elements of her plot as well as the multiple points of view. It's interesting that she chose to write the villain's POV in first person. My sole complaint was that some of the conservative talk show segments are too long and slow the pacing.

Friends & Other Liars
Kaela Coble
Sourcebooks Landmark
9781492651161, $15.99

Friends & Other Liars is Kaela Coble's debut novel, and it's an ambitious one told in multiple points of view and past/present timelines. In it, five friends (Ruby, Ally, Danny, Murphy and Emmett) have known each other since grade school in Chatwick, a small Vermont town. They form the main cast of characters which ebbs and flows over time as various girlfriends, boyfriends, wives and husbands are added. The group swear to always be honest with each other, yet end up keeping secrets that threaten their friendships and their lives. The first few pages I found the characters so unlikeable I nearly put the book down. I ended up being glad I persisted. I discovered a universal angst in the lives of these characters. I could identify with Ruby who wanted to leave town at all costs yet felt ties to her childhood home that follow her travels around the world. In the "present" of the novel, Ruby gets a phone call that Danny has died of a heroin overdose and she returns to Chatwick for the funeral for the first time in ten years. Danny has left each person a letter containing the worst secret he knows about him or her along with a veiled threat that their secrets will come out - one way or another - unless they share their secrets with each other. Friends & Other Liars is loaded with dysfunctional families, dysfunctional personalities, psychodrama, death, and of course, the secrets mentioned above. The cast covers a wide spectrum of personalities and are well executed.

Love, Art, and Other Obstacles
Sadira Stone
The Wild Rose Press, Inc.
9781509231010, $18.99

Love, Art and Other Obstacles is the third in the Through the Red Door romance series. I have read the second, Runaway Love Story and enjoyed it as well. The series is connected by their setting of Eugene, Oregon, and by their cast of characters, most notably, Maxie, a vibrant ninety-year-old woman who has mentored many of the artists in the Eugene. Love, Art and Other Obstacles follows Margot and Elmer, two young artists juggling multiple jobs and financial straits trying to support themselves in order to create their art. They have an incomparable attraction to each other and have a lot in common. Both people suffered difficult childhoods, and, after rejection by their birth parents, and transplanted themselves to Eugene. Heterosexual Elmer, a potter, is flirty and generous with his heart and has formed a "family" of friends he shares a house with. Bisexual Margot, a computer graphic artist, is stubborn and independent, intent on doing things her own way without help from anyone. To avoid getting tied down, she is in an open relationship with another woman, Darcy, and soon finds herself torn between her two lovers.

This book, being a romance, is heavy on the romance. But as in Runaway Love Story, there are themes that go beyond a typical romance. The situations are realistic. There are no perfect knights in shining armor or peerless princesses. Again, Stone's use of every day situations like brings a deep humanity to this novel that is usually lacking in romance, especially one this hot! I'd have read it in one sitting except the battery of my Kindle died at 2:30 a.m.

Through the Red Door
Sadira Stone
The Wild Rose Press, Inc.
9781509223183, $17.99

Through the Red Door is the first in the Book Nirvana romance series. I have read the entire series, starting with the second, Runaway Love Story and the third, Love, Art, and Other Obstacles and enjoyed themes I backtracked to number one. The series is connected by their setting of Eugene, Oregon and the Book Nirvana book store with its collection of erotica housed behind a locked red door.

This book, being a romance, is heavy on the romance. But as in Runaway Love Story, there are themes that go beyond a typical romance. The situations are realistic. There are no perfect knights in shining armor or peerless princesses. One of my favorite things about Stone's romances is that her heroines are not subservient, not afraid to tell their lovers what they want. As in the other two, Stone's use of every day situations like brings a deep humanity to this novel that is usually lacking in romance, especially one this hot! This is a second chance romance between two people who were deeply in love with their spouses, but lost them to cancer and to a freak bicycle accident.

World Without Flags
Ben Lyle Bedard
9781675195529, $9.99

World Without Flags is Mr. Bedard's second novel and a sequel to his first, The World Without Crows. I haven't read the first, but World Without Flags can certainly be read as a stand-alone book. Enough backstory is given that I didn't feel I missed any critical information.

These two books are about a disease apocalypse called the Worm. Set ten years after the disease nearly wiped out humanity, World Without Flags shows how humanity has survived. But, war between the Gears and the Stars, two opposing factions who want to reunite the ravaged United States. And the Worm resurges.

I particularly liked that the protagonist, Birdie, is a young black woman, but her race is not her defining characteristic. She, to paraphrase the words of Christopher Robin, is ... braver than she believes, stronger than she seems, and smarter than she thinks. She risks her own life (and sometimes those of others) to save the one she loves. The book was at times repetitious, especially Birdie's internal monologue. There are some places where the writing hangs up and where a good editing would have helped, but none of these complaints kept me from finishing the book. That said, in this Covid-19 world, some people may be distressed by reading about the disease, its symptoms, and the effects on the world.

Suanne Schafer, Reviewer

Susan Bethany's Bookshelf

An Artful Path to Mindfulness
Janet Slom, MFA
New Harbinger Press
5674 Shattuck Avenue, Oakland, CA 94609
9781684034932, $24.95, PB, 208pp,

Synopsis: When you look at your life, do you feel it's working just the way it is? Or do you feel overwhelmed, stressed, depressed, and uneasy? So many of us are stuck in a pattern of living reactively rather than proactively, and feel exhausted and uncreative as a result. Fortunately, there is another way. It requires stepping off the fast track, and no longer going through your days on "autopilot." It requires slowing down and tuning in to the present moment and seeing things as they really are.

Mindfulness-based self-expression (MBSE), offers a way off the fast track. Drawing on mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), MBSE fuses art exploration (including drawing, mark-making, and creative self-expression) with meditations, gentle yoga, breathwork, and body scans. These daily practices are designed to help you cultivate a mindset of awareness, patience, trust, acceptance, and vulnerability.

"An Artful Path to Mindfulness: MBSR-Based Activities for Using Creativity to Reduce Stress and Embrace the Present Moment" is unique workbook invites you to draw, tear, mark, play, and take risks. There is no plan, no goal, and no preconceived idea to follow. The process is simply communicating to yourself who you are in this moment, following the thread one mark at a time. The book also serves as a journal for recording your curiosity, vulnerability, and creativity. When completed, it becomes an artistic expression of life as you celebrate the profound gift that is now.

Tapping into our creative self-expression empowers us to be who we are in the world, to come into deeper contact with our authentic selves, and build the self-confidence needed to take risks. "The Artful Path to Mindfulness" will help you find your own creative heart, and use it as a tool for living a joyful and fulfilling life.

Critique: A consumable, "An Artful Path to Mindfulness: MBSR-Based Activities for Using Creativity to Reduce Stress and Embrace the Present Moment" is an effective and thoroughly 'user friendly' DIY workbook that is especially appropriate and unreservedly recommended for personal self-help/self-improvement reading lists.

Editorial Note: Janet Slom, MFA, is an artist, author, educator, and social entrepreneur who serves on the faculty at Lehigh University's Global Village, and as adjunct faculty for fourteen years at the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. She is founder of mindfulness-based self-expression (MBSE) (which evolved from Jon Kabat-Zinn's mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program) which instructs students through an experiential curriculum to integrate mindfulness meditation, creativity through art, and mind-body practices into personal growth, mastery of one's professional field, and improvement of overall wellness.

Dreamworld: The Diary of an Unconscious Mind
Z. B.
JA Publications
9780979412493, $19.95, PB, 289pp,

Synopsis: Compiled by an author known only as Z. B., "Dreamworld: The Diary of an Unconscious Mind" is comprised of 99 stories of skipping, screaming, running, sweating, stabbing, laughing, crying, flying and the occasional death. Also featured are murder mysteries and gender swaps, nightmares and ecstasies, zombie hordes and Nicholas Cage, and all the ridiculous impossibilities existing in between. Every tale comes from one subject's mind, one normally abnormal teen (at the time) willing to unveil the monsters and mayhem that populate her sleep, no matter how odd, suspicious, disturbing, or ridiculous the new night's adventure may seem. And hundreds more tales, all of them true, remain yet to be told.

It should be noted that "Dreamworld: The Diary of an Unconscious Mind" is not a guide of symbols and signs; for the key to dreams rarely lies in a dictionary of dictating imagery. Instead it encourages the reader to reflect, look within, and realize that it is the mind that is at play. Perhaps take each tale as peace of mind -- because everyone wakes, at some point in time, wondering what, how, and especially why. The underlying messages is that the reader should try not to fret over horrors and fears, but let their dreams simply be. Because there is a simple joy in recalling the impossible, in discussing the strange, reliving the unreal, and waking from perfect absurdity.

Critique: An inherently fascinating and thoroughly engaging read from first page to last, "Dreamworld: The Diary of an Unconscious Mind" is a unique, extraordinary, informative, ultimately inspiring, and unreservedly recommended addition to community and academic library Contemporary Dream Psychology collections and supplemental studies lists. It should be noted for students, academia, clinical psychologists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Dreamworld: The Diary of an Unconscious Mind" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Z.B. is the author, illustrator, protagonist, antagonist, and sometimes hapless victim of Dreamworld: The Diary of an Unconscious Mind. Since 2011, she has spent her Waking World mornings reflecting, recording, and occasionally regretting her rather vivid Dreamworld adventures; but she is proud to have such stories to share, and she will continue to chronicle her unconscious life for as long as she is able. And despite all the things she does while she sleeps, Z.B. maintains that she is absolutely, unarguably, and unquestionably normal.

Susan Bethany

Susan Keefe's Bookshelf

Even the Losers: A Saga from the Summer of 1980
Bryant Delafosse
Independently Published
9798645878962, $10.95, 360 Pages

After reading 'Remember the Future,' I couldn't wait to download this latest book by this talented author. This excellent story is set in Texas where the author was born and raised. In it, Bryant Delafosse who holds a degree from the University of Texas at Austin and is a screenwriter, now living in Southern California, takes his readers on the coming-of-age journey of Neil Thibodeaux which takes place through the summer of 1980.

Neil lives with his short-tempered dad and bully of an older brother in Houston Texas, however, the day our adventure begins is Monday 5th May, memorable, not only because it is Neil's 17th birthday, but also because it is the day he is being torn from his friends and everything he knows to move across state and live in Philton, in his words, the 'butt-crack' of the State of Texas.

At his new job (the cause for the move) Neil's dad has found him work, however, Neil has other ideas and finds himself a job working in the local movie theatre, the Lone Star Six. He is interviewed by a jaw-dropping beauty Cecilia, or CC as she is known, and instantly Neil has a crush on her. However love seldom comes easy and is sometimes not reciprocated, so Neil can only look on and hope his time will come, whilst enjoying his new friends and work colleagues at the theatre.

And so the summer begins. At home, things have never been the same since the death of his mom. His father and the two brothers are both struggling to cope with the loss in their own ways. Jake is off the rails, angry and resentful, and sibling rivalry is strong, making life hard, and even more stressful for their hard-working dad.

However, this is the summer of 1980, a summer of great music like AC/DC's Highway to Hell, and incredible films including the much anticipated new box office hit, which is now considered the best Star Wars movie of all time, The Empire Strikes Back. When it arrives in Philton it causes a stir and the theatre has record sales. Neil is loving his job and has been promoted to the projectionist, and the author uses his own memories of working as a movie projectionist to add special touches to Neil's experiences in the story. I challenge anyone who was alive in 1980 not to be transported back in time by their own wonderful memories this story evokes.

Like any teenager, Neil dreams of driving, and owning his own car, getting a girl and having fun, however these things are not always easy or straightforward to achieve. Yet through the authors wonderfully descriptive writing, we join Neil on the rollercoaster of life lessons which he learns that summer. Whether it is harsh realities, loves found and lost, friendships, or dreams, we spend this summer with him having fun, laughing and crying with him as his future begins to unfold, and starts to reveal the opportunities to come...

A wonderfully nostalgic coming of age story, written sensitively and in a thought-provoking way by this talented author.

Available from Amazon

Griffins Perch
Ian Conner
Independently Published
9798637902033, $11.99, 444 Pages

Griffin's Perch is an epic fantasy which will transport you to another world, a world where anything is possible, and unimaginable creatures from mythology, and fantasy come alive before your very eyes.

The author in this incredible epic adventure transports his readers into an amazing fantasy world where the last two remaining members of the Silver Order Denrael of Gesthamin, and Aqua find themselves teaming up with Shala and Flinch two ferocious Delphen (a fox-like race, honorable and duty-bound) warriors in a frantic battle to save the world from the evil wizard Daniel and his fire breathing dragons.

Daniel is the opposite of calm and rational Denrael. He is the wizard of the Dark Wood, and it is his arrogance and vehement belief that he is better than Denrael that led him to commit a terrible deed, betraying the Silver Order of Wizards and transforming them into dragons.

Who can stop Daniel and his dragons, or will the world fall to them? To stand a chance of winning, the magical creatures discover that they must unite, putting aside old grievances, and only then with the help of the mighty Griffin Corps can they possibly stand a chance of winning this epic battle.

Lovers of the fantasy genre will find many of their favourite creatures in this world, each with their own stories and important parts to play in making this an outstanding fantasy adventure. There are nasty little gargoyles, and black fairies with lots of tiny teeth, trolls, elves and pixies. Yet one of the most dangerous are the Darksiders. These century-old beings take over the bodies of other creatures, and live their lives, aware yet dormant in their chosen shell, absorbing information, plotting and then striking when the time is right.

Full of unexpected twists and turns, this story is truly outstanding. Ian Conner with his incredibly descriptive writing emerges his readers into a truly magical fantasy world and, as the story evolves as a reader you find yourselves consumed by the battle of good versus evil. The characters and settings come alive and enable the sort of total escapism only seen before in the works of the immortal J. R. R. Tolkien. Highly recommended!

Available from Amazon:

My Kind of Guy
Paddy Bostock
Wings ePress, Inc.
9781613095782, $14.95, 228 Pages

I love Paddy Bostock's witty writing style and this new book is a classic example of a clever political novel with a great plot, excellent characters, and plenty of twists and turns. The author's brilliantly descriptive writing enables him to treat his readers to wonderful scenes, and stage incredibly funny incidents, making this another unforgettable winning story.

Retired MI6 agent Mervyn Iain Vincent, has a lot on his mind, so much indeed that mundane household maintenance just doesn't get done, after all as a fervent greenie his days are preoccupied with global politics, the extinction of the human race and the deceitful and misleading buffoons in critical power positions throughout the world.

However, in amongst the scamming and threatening telephone calls he receives, despite being ex-directory, an intriguing call from a Lizzie Leah. Not only does she call him by his (alias) name Doctor Vincent, a name he uses at the moment because of an old Oxford doctorate in forensic anthropology, but she has lost her 'husband' Leo Mc Guire, and wants him to use his 'private eye' skills in locating him.

Well, as it turns out, Mervyn actually remembers Leo or Leon Devin as he was known to MI6, as a rookie agent drummed out of the service for bad behaviour and endangering national security. Now he begins to understand how Leo could have really 'poof' disappeared from sight. Indeed the son of Svetlana, an ex-secretary in Gorbachev's Kremlin, and Sir Montmorency Devine who fled to the UK and now lives a life of privilege is actually in America, on Fifth Avenue enjoying the hospitality of Hal Schornstein, a key player in the loony incumbent's 2020 presidential re-election campaign and a linchpin for the continuance and growth of populist unrest throughout Europe. There Leon's heavy involvement in these right-wing activities affords this gigolo with a dangerous and busy, if complicated life.

However, when his young sister Taya requests a meeting it soon becomes evident that this misguided young man needs to be reformed, but how will they do that? Well, you will have to read the book to discover the answer to that question.

Paddy Bostock who was born in Liverpool and now lives in London. He holds a BA in Modern Languages and History, a PGDip TESL, and a PhD in English Literature. His books embrace his own unique and totally irreverent take on life and the modern political scene. This entertaining work of political fiction is an excellent example of the wonderful penmanship of this talented author.

Available from Amazon:

Bad Love Tigers (The Bad Love Series Book 2)
Kevin L. Schewe MD
Broken Crow Ridge
9781950895410, $27.69, 354 Pages

A mind-blowing, historically correct, time-travel adventure seeped in danger and laced with conspiracy, intrigue, and the origins of Area 51!

This book, like it's prequel Bad Love Strikes, takes the phrase "getting into a book" to a whole new dimension as the author provides his readers with an excellent playlist to listen to, linked to the events in the book, wonderfully enhancing this exciting time travel adventure.

During the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt, the "White Hole Project" was conceived and built. This project is a time machine and it is housed in a top-secret deep underground bunker. Its location is adjacent to the K-25 project building, more commonly known as the Manhattan Project, the place where the world's first nuclear bomb was built.

In Bad Love Strikes a teenage gang of the same name, discover the project and undergo a time travel mission to rescue Holocaust victims in 1944 Poland This story begins just after they have returned from their first adventure, and the gang is assembled at the White Hole Project to celebrate New Year's Eve 1975. The music is playing, and none of them suspect that at the stroke of midnight the room would be plunged into darkness and they would be attacked by a Russian KGB agent intent on discovering the project's secrets.

However, the agent is no match for the gang. But worryingly they realize that the incident raises the issue of possible infiltration into governmental secrets possibly going back as much as 30 years. So, they decide to go back in time to talk to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who conceived the White Hole Project, and they knew from their previous mission. When they arrive on April 12th, 1945 they receive a warm welcome from the president, at his cottage, the Little White House, adjacent to Warm Springs, Georgia.

At the meeting the gang give the president a little insight into future world events, but also discover that Russian, Chinese and Indian spies have infiltrated the project and he worries that the secrets are being stolen. President Roosevelt charges them with the task of defending the integrity and the future of not only the White Hole Project, but also top-secret Area 51 against all enemies both foreign and domestic, and gives them a new mission, code naming the undertaking the "Denver Project."

To accomplish their mission, they must go back in time to June 1942, and deliver a note directly from the president to the trusted General Claire Chennault who commands the Flying Tigers in China. The president informs them that all the resources they need will be available to them, however, the venture entails a dangerous road trip across 1945 WWII America to Area 51, and incredibly the opportunity for the four members of the newly formed Panda Bear Flying Tigers to pilot P-40 Warhawks and take part in a truly out of this world assignment.

In conclusion: This new adventure of the Bad Love Gang is mind-blowing, the talented author takes his readers on an incredible rollercoaster of an adventure which intermingles true historical facts and incredible moments in the past, with conspiracy theories and science fiction. Not forgetting of course that throughout there's a sprinkling of romance, heaps of comradeship, and that all- important patriotic duty, all carried out whilst maintaining the gang's motto "Live dangerously, have fun, don't die!"

Available from Amazon:

Susan Keefe, Reviewer

Suzie Housley's Bookshelf

The Purpose of Faith: 10 Principles to Build Your Character and Fulfill God's Promises in Your Life
Ron Allan Saguin Services LLC
B089GJGN7N, 118 pages, May 31, 2020

In your darkness hour salvation reaches down and saves your soul . . .

Life is full of challenges and obstacles, many of them put us on the fast track of burnout. Then it happens, we find ourselves hitting rock bottom. From the bad choices we made haphazardly, we find that we become trapped in darkness, crying out for freedom. Let this book be the substance that will break the chains that have kept your bound.

Learn of one man's journey, where he found himself on top of his career, and still wanting more. Greed took over his life and he turned to drugs to keep up with his fast pace lifestyle. Being incarcerated, and not knowing which way to turn the cloud of darkness suddenly begun to lift and the power of God filled his life.

The Purpose of Faith: 10 Principles to Build Your Character and Fulfill God's Promises in Your Life is a life-changing book full of inspiration and positive motivation. This book has the power to change a person's life and bring them out of the darkness of despair.

Ron Allan Saquin has the heart of a writer and the voice of a motivated speaker. How he was able to rebuild his life is a story that you will soon not forget. I predict this book is one that's destined for greatness, this world deserves the opportunity to discover this author's voice. In your hand is the substance that can help save your soul, and put you on the pathway of righteousness.

Suzie Housley

Teri Davis' Bookshelf

Fire and Vengeance: A Koa Kane Hawaiian Mystery
Robert McCaw
Oceanview Publishing
9781608093687, $26.05, Hardcover, 352 pages

Disaster tends to bring out the best and worst in people. For Chief Detective Koa Kane of Hilo, Hawaii, it also happens at the most inconvenient time. His Police Chief is away in California, preparing for gall bladder surgery. Being the senior-most member of the local force means he is now in charge and has to deal with whatever issue falls upon his community and the media. As far as Koa is concerned, all that is above his pay grade.

Weather frequently causes chains of problems from a hurricane with winds, thunder with lightning, and torrential downpours causing flash flooding.

The fissures on volcanoes open due to the cold and immense amount of water mixing with the magma reservoir creating steam under pressure.

At KonaWili School on Hualalai Mountain, Koa, along with his colleagues and firefighters, discover the dead and injured children and teachers. What could cause this disaster? Was it a bomb, a terrorist, or what?

The school site resembles a war zone. Students and teachers are in front of the building, drenched and injured. Helicopters from above are not safe flying in this weather. What is causing the problem? What is happening?

Emergency crews arrive and begin to rescue whatever children and teachers encountered. Dirty yellow smoke engulfs the entire back of the building. Gases, possibly poisonous, are burning nostrils and eyes, creat a smell known to the community. The volcano was erupting under an elementary school.

Author Robert McCaw has masterfully created a realistic setting with authentic characters with his new novel, Fire and Vengeance. The characterization in creating Koa is phenomenal. Koa has to deal with his family to solve the problem of his criminal younger brother, who tends to hate him while also dealing effectively with his mother and siblings. of course, and the investigation is still ongoing. Added to that is the problem of dealing with powerful and political suspects keep showing up dead just before he questions them.

The novel, Fire and Vengeance, has so many elements of a masterful tale. A highly addictive plot, phenomenal characterization, a hook that immediately places the reader in the story, and easily relatable storyline, and education of living on a volcano and Hawaii all excel in Fire and Vengeance.

Robert McCaw, the author, has traveled the world since his childhood growing up in a military family and naturally joined the service himself, serving as a U.S. Army lieutenant. He earned his degree in law from the University of Virginia. He has lived on the island of Hawaii for over twenty-years while currently living in New York City.

Fire and Vengeance is the third book in Robert McCaw's Koa Kane Hawaiian Mystery Series. The previous two books are Off the Grid and Death Messenger.

I found the novel as one of the best mysteries of the year. The story has elements making it both realistic and compelling.

Teri Davis

Willis Buhle's Bookshelf

Cult Writers
Ian Haydn Smith, author
Kristelle Rodeia, illustrator
White Lion Publishing
c/o Quarto Publishing Group USA
9780711250642, $16.99, HC, 144pp,

Synopsis: What makes a cult writer? Whether pioneering in their craft, fiercely and undeniably unique or critically divisive, cult writers come in all shapes and guises. Some gain instant fame, others instant notoriety, and more still remain anonymous until a chance change in fashion sees their work propelled into the limelight.

In "Cult Writers: 50 Nonconformist Novelists You Need to Know", Ian Haydn Smith introduces 50 novelists deserving of a cult status. The literary genres and subjects explored within these writers' pages are rich and diverse -- acting as mirrors of their genius minds: ranging from Irvine Welsh's gritty Edinburgh streets, to Ken Kesey's drug-fueled madness; from feminist trailblazer Sylvia Plath to the magical realism of Angela Carter, readers will discover little knowns with small, devout followings and superstars gracing the covers of magazines. Each writer is special in their individuality and their ability to inspire, antagonise and delight.

The featured writers include: Kathy Acker, James Baldwin, J.G. Ballard, Mikhail Bulgakov, Charles Bukowski, William S. Burroughs, Octavia E. Butler, Italo Calvino, Albert Camus, Angela Carter, Colette, Maryse Conde, Julio Cortazar, Philip K. Dick, Douglas Coupland, Marguerite Duras, Ralph Ellison, Elena Ferrante, Janet Frame, Jean Genet, Joseph Heller, Michel Houellebecq, James Joyce, Franz Kafka, Ken Kesey, Chris Kraus, Milan Kundera, Ursula K. Le Guin, Doris Lessing, Cormac McCarthy, Carson McCullers, Yukio Mishima, Haruki Murakami, Anais Nin, Sylvia Plath, Thomas Pynchon, Raymond Queneau, Ayn Rand, Pauline Reage, Jean Rhys, Juan Rulfo, Francoise Sagan, J.D. Salinger, Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, Donna Tartt, Jim Thompson, J.R.R. Tolkien, Kurt Vonnegut, Virginia Woolf, Irvine Welsh.

Critique: A bibliophiles delight, "Cult Writers: 50 Nonconformist Novelists You Need to Know" is an inherently fascinating and informative book to browse through. With individual authors being charmingly pictured by artist/illustrator Kristelle Rodeia, "Cult Writers" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, community, college, and academic library Literary Studies and Writing/Publishing collections and supplemental studies reference lists.

Editorial Note: A London-based writer, Ian Haydn Smith is the update editor on 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die and the editor of BFI Filmmakers Magazine and Curzon Magazine. Ian is also the author of Selling the Movie: The Art of the Film Poster, The Short Story of Photography and Cult Filmmakers.

I Belong to Vienna
Anna Goldenberg, author
Alta L. Price, translator
New Vessel Press
9781939931849, $16.95, PB, 207pp,

Synopsis: In autumn 1942, Anna Goldenberg's great-grandparents and one of their sons are deported to the Theresienstadt concentration camp. Hans, their elder son, survives by hiding in an apartment in the middle of Nazi-controlled Vienna. But this is no Anne Frank-like existence; teenage Hans passes time in the municipal library and buys standing room tickets to the Vienna State Opera. He never sees his family again.

In "I Belong to Vienna: A Jewish Family's Story of Exile and Return", Anna Goldenberg reconstructs this unique story in magnificent reportage. She also portrays Vienna's undying allure -- that although they tried living in the United States after World War Two, both grandparents eventually returned to the Austrian capital.

Anna, too, has returned to her native Vienna after living in New York herself, and her fierce attachment to her birthplace enlivens her engrossing biographical history.

"I Belong to Vienna" is a probing story of true heroism, resilience, identity and belonging, marked by a surprising freshness as a new generation comes to terms with history's darkest era.

Critique: An absorbing, thought-provoking, and memorable read from beginning to end, "I Belong to Vienna: A Jewish Family's Story of Exile and Return" is a welcome and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library Judaic History and Biography collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "I Belong to Vienna: A Jewish Family's Story of Exile and Return" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Dreamscape Media, 9781662010651, $22.99, CD).

Editorial Note: Anna Goldenberg, born in 1989 in Vienna, studied psychology at the University of Cambridge and journalism at Columbia University. She worked at the Jewish newspaper The Forward in New York before returning to Vienna where she now contributes to various newspapers.

Alta L. Price translates from Italian and German, and was awarded the 2013 Gutekunst Prize. Her publications include work by Corrado Augias, Dana Grigorcea, Jurgen Holstein, and Martin Mosebach.

Willis M. Buhle

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