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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 16, Number 6 June 2016 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Andrea's Bookshelf Bethany's Bookshelf
Buhle's Bookshelf Burroughs' Bookshelf Carson's Bookshelf
Chutsky's Bookshelf Clint's Bookshelf Gail's Bookshelf
Julie's Bookshelf Logan's Bookshelf Margaret's Bookshelf
Mason's Bookshelf Molly's Bookshelf Moore's Bookshelf
Pamela's Bookshelf Peggy's Bookshelf Susan's Bookshelf
Teri's Bookshelf    

Reviewer's Choice

The Wisdom Tree: 1. Gotham / 2. Venice
Nick Earls
Inkerman & Blunt
9780992498580, A$19.99, 136 pages
9780994480859, e-pub
9780994480866, PDF

Dr. Ann Skea. Reviewer

A Novella: longer than a short story, shorter than a novel. In the hands of Nick Earls it combines the best of both worlds.

The Wisdom Tree is series of five novellas to be issued at the rate of one per month ending in September. I have read the first two and am looking forward to reading the rest. Each of these novellas deals with a situation in which personal and family circumstance require a balance of responsibility, duty and love. Each story is separate, with different narrators in different countries, but there are underlying links between all of them.

The first, Gotham, is set in Brooklyn, where Jeff Foster, an Australian freelance journalist, is chasing a story about a nineteen-year-old rapper called Na$ti Boi (the $ is essential). Jeff notes that Na$ti Boi, who is newly "ascendant" and is about to visit Australia for festivals, does "the usual braggy stuff about bitches and brand names but his rhymes are smart and sometimes unexpected". Jeff knows a good deal about the music scene but he is older and his musical taste runs more to the Ramones and earlier styles less aggressive than rap, but he has managed to set up an interview with Na$ti Boi and has already sold this interview to several media outlets. And, as the story gradually reveals, the money is essential for family reasons.

The interview begins in the "At His Service" rooms of Bloomingdales. In this discreet room set aside for special customers, manequins model the clothes and expert sales assistants hover whilst "the boy pharaoh" indulges his newly found taste for excess. Specially chosen food is offered - chocolate coated goji berries, wildflower organic honey. Jeff notes that "This era, food is all about adjectives, the boosted, the story".

Nick Earl expertly captures the bravado, the excesses of "a young rapper with his head spinning too fast to settle on anything tasteful", the insensitivity and the underlying insecurity of Na$ti Boi. He captures, too, Jeff's expertise as he indulges him, waits in the car as he visits his drug and sex "candy store", and works to get a good story, not just the usual programmed responses to an interview. The unexpected connection which grows between Jeff and Na$ti Boi's minder, 'Smokey', leads to revelations about Jeff's small daughter which are wholly unexpected. And the joy he describes as she flies down a playground slide with Smokey's small son, living "this instant and all its glee and defiance" makes a moving ending to a brief and beautifully told story.

Venice, the second novella in this series, is set in Brisbane, Australia. Ryan, the narrator, has recently been the victim of the economic downturn. He has been invited, as he notes bitterly, to "explore other opportunities": the company is downsizing (or "right sizing", as they put it) and this is "the language of the cull". From a thirty-two-year-old man whose is used to city life and to dropping off his business shirts and suit at the local laundry, the need to exist on his severance pay is a shock and he is living in the large house belonging to his sister and her financially successful dentist husband whilst he hunts for a new job which fits his qualifications.

Natalie, his sister, is an established artist whose work is currently being considered for the Australian exhibit at the Venice Biennale. Ryan, by default, and partly to make him feel useful, becomes her part-time child minder. With absolutely no experience of the minds and habits of four-year-olds, this is a challenge. It helps that his nephew, Harrison, is addicted to games on his "chunky green tablet with a green gel skin and a hint of frog-and-pond theming", so he is easily occupied but his questions can be disconcerting and he is a sponge for details. "What does a stomach look like on the inside" is his current preoccupation as he listens to an app describing the digestive system.

Ryan is becoming aware that Harrison is missing out on some things due to his parents' distraction with their busy lives. Regular swimming practice, for example, not just a weekly lesson; and, especially, suggestions and support for the 'show and tell' sessions at his child care centre, where Ryan sees that Harrison feels sad at being left out.

A request from his sister to pick up some horses heads from out of town for an art project she is completing, offers a way of filling time with Harrison and suggests itself as a possible topic for show-and-tell. It turns out to be a huge and unexpected success and Nick Earls captures superbly the growing, almost accidental, development of a kind of understanding between Ryan and his small nephew. He conveys, too, the awkwardness over roles and money which underlies the interactions between Ryan and his relatives, and Ryan's feelings as he adjusts to being unemployed and taking on a different role in the family.

The novella format is expertly handled by Earls. In spite of, or even because of the necessary compression of detail, the allusive nature of his narrators' thoughts and their views of events and of the people they interact with bring the story to life and offer understated psychological insights. These are small gems of stories and I look forward to reading the rest of the series.

Journey to the Cross
Shane Cloonan
State Street Publishing
506 South State St Elgin, IL 60123
9781513603506, $19.95, 35 pages,

Helen Cook, Reviewer

A great read for every age. I even gave one to our church library. A heartfelt story, beautifully illustrated to tastefully depict the journey of our Lord. You won't be disappointed!

This is the best book for any occasion and a must for every library.

What Happens Now
Jennifer Castle, author
c/o HarperCollins
195 Broadway, New York, NY 10007
9780062250476, $17.99,

Karyn L. Saemann, Reviewer

A person's life course often depends less on the immediate outcome of actual events, than on how they navigate the aftermath. That truism is the crux of What Happens Now, Jennifer Castle's young adult novel about how hard it can be to show others, and to reconcile to ourselves, that which makes us human -- our innermost fears, imperfections, and past mistakes.

Over the course of two summers, before and after her junior year of high school, Ari struggles outwardly with situations familiar to most teens - family and work obligations, friends, and love. But her perspective on everything happening now is deeply colored by before -- her ongoing struggle with depression, which led her to cut herself midway through her sophomore year.

The author, poignantly, only shares the intimate details of Ari cutting herself later in the book, squarely focusing not on that crisis itself, but on Ari's emergence on the other side of it.

In the second summer, Ari grows close to a new group of friends with whom she shares a mutual obsession for an 80s sci-fi rerun, Silver Arrow. Her new boyfriend, Camden, is part of this group.

Lots of masterfully interwoven themes emerge -- doing things that scare you; recognizing your innate strength; and pulling off masks, both metaphorical and actual, to reveal our true selves.

In a key moment, Ari risks the scorn of other teens in her small town by agreeing to dress as Silver Arrow heroine Satina Gait, to attend the county fair. Later, in the same costume, she boldly defies her parents by joining in an out-of-state road trip.

Thematically poignant quotes abound:

"People think they change, but they don't so much. They just unlock doors inside them that were always there," her friend, Max, says.

Ari muses early in the story, in what becomes a mantra, "Maybe safety lay in actually pursuing the things you desired...Maybe the real danger was not pursuing them and then never knowing what would have happened if you did."

And the behavior of her mother at a neighborhood restaurant metaphorically lends weighty character insight.

"My mother liked to line up the scalloped edge of the paper place mat with the edge of the table, like if she could get this one thing perfect, everything else in life would follow."

Just about every character in the story is flawed, some more deeply than others, and some in ways that are not evident in early chapters.

"I just like to," Camden memorably says as he and Ari balance on the sill of a screen-less, second story window at the barn his artist mother has converted into a home.

The question is, if they allow their souls to be exposed, can they accept their real selves, and can others accept them for who they really are?

Castle masterfully works her characters through that introspection process via a story that is at various times terrifying, emotionally wrenching, and hilariously funny - and everywhere in-between. Just like real life.

Mr. Nomad: Tales of a Traveling Teacher
Dave Webb
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781532862250, $12.00 PB, $8.99 Kindle, 220 pp,

Kaye Trout

Genre: Memoir / Rating: Very Good

I generally start a review by quoting from the back cover, and this is no exception.

"In his memoir, veteran elementary school teacher Dave Webb recalls some of the most memorable events from his nearly thirty years in education. His many travels as a teacher have taken him to dozens of public and private schools and have connected him and his classes with the likes of award-winning authors, Hollywood actors, and students from around the world. He invites everyone to learn from both is successes and failures in his often funny, sometimes heartbreaking tale of one man's teaching career."

Mr. Nomad is a memoir and very nicely done with short, interesting chapters, thirty four in total, not numbered but titled, such as "The Substitute's Survival Guide", "Best of Both Worlds", "The Angry Mom", "Things Kids Say", and "Classroom Publishing" to name a few, and presented in a chronological manner, starting with "First Days of School" and ending with "The Last Day of School".

At the end of the book, Webb has an "Appendix I: Share Fair" in which he describes some "neat" teaching ideas which he has picked up over the years, and "Appendix II: The Bookends of My Career (1988 and 2030)" is fun as he recalls trivia from 1988 and then makes predictions for 2030, when he plans to retire.

There's lots of variety, and some chapters are more fun and interesting than others, but that's personal taste. Overall, there is something here for everyone.

It's clearly apparent that Dave Webb is a dedicated teacher with a gift for inspiring his students through his creative approach to teaching. It's also clear that Webb is an accomplished, serious writer with nine published books to his credit.

Mr. Nomad is well written and well edited, and if you enjoy reading memoirs, I'm certain that you'll enjoy the Tales of a Traveling Teacher.

Heart-Rending Times
C. Radhakrishnan
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781518634529, $16.10 PB, $6.70 Kindle, 370pp,

Kevin Peter, Reviewer

Never Forget - A review of the novel 'Heart-Rending Times'

"Love, the poet said, is woman's whole existence." - Virginia Woolf

Renowned author C Radhakrishnan's book 'Heart-Rending Times' is the second book in the Arjun trilogy of books. It is set in the time period between 1970's and 80's in India. It tells the tale of a group of people dealing with life in its various hues as much as it tells the story of a nation coming to grips with vast socio-political and economic changes. Anuradha is a woman extraordinaire and is often a living metaphor for the country she resides in. She is strong and steadfast even in the face of the harshest of challenges. She is strength, she is power, and she is love. Even gods and demons will not be able to break her willful spirit.

Since the story is set a few decades back it fits the description of a historical novel. That being said, the historical events described merely form a backdrop for the narrative and are not the main focus. And I love novels which are set in places and time period that I am not too familiar with. India has always fascinated me and it was mouth-watering to get to know this country and its people from a critical time period. The seventies and eighties were a different period altogether in the U.S. as well. A lot of social and political changes were taking place and it was interesting to note that half way across the world, India too was going through this strange upheaval.

The story revolves around four principal characters in Anuradha, Ashok, Nikhil and Devendra. I really don't want to reveal the plot or explain the characters in great detail because then you will miss out on the elation of discovering the extraordinary circumstances these people find themselves in. Since I don't know much about the culture of the land, I don't know how much has been portrayed as real and how much has been added for dramatic effect. But the character of Devendra, who is a police officer, will sicken you to your stomach. His actions are evil and in part reflective of the institutional decay - the powers that control him. The lives of Anuradha and Nikhil are an epic journey and you will feel like you are shadowing them through life's various upheavals. The angst and anger in Ashok is such a common sentiment found in young men everywhere who had to grow up in a challenging environment.

This work of fiction is sure to leave you dumbstruck with the genuine characters and emotions that will pierce even the harshest of critics. The narrative is staggeringly beautiful; the scenes themselves are deep and rich. This is one of those books where you will laugh along with the characters, cry with them, be frightened and infuriated together with them.

The book ends in the best way possible, I'm not going to mention it but the final fate of all the four main characters is a perfect summation of the strength and dignity of these characters and their story. This is a gorgeous and beautiful story that has been made accessible to worldwide audiences. I salute the author and the translator.

A Nearer Moon
Melanie Crowder
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
c/o Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 4th floor, New York, NY 10020
9781481441483, $16.99 HC, $7.99 PB, $10.95 Kindle,

Mary T Kincaid, Reviewer

The Prologue begins like this:

"The river flows. It begins as a trickle deep in the heart of the jungle, in the thick, secret heart of the jungle. It surges and swirls, gorging on the breath of a thousand streams. The river it bells, and it swells, and it flows, and a reed thin girl on a push-pole boat skims silently by."

The book is written in beautiful poetic language that will capture your imagination. The story is about two sets of sisters and their efforts to stay together. One set is in a magic realm and is causing trouble in the physical realm of the swamp, and one set is in the physical realm and has to help the magic one return to her proper place to keep her sister with her. The bond of the sisters is connected to all things in the story. It is a love story. It is a story about the proper place of everyone and the harmony that evolves from that.

Luna has to continue the hunt for a remedy for her sister when everyone else has given up on it. She cannot bear the thought of her dying and leaving her. As she searches she breaks all of her mother's rules, so with courage and fear she travels far to find a cure. Her travels lead her to an old healer who tells her that her sister is cursed. So she thinks of a solution and gathers the ingredients for a potion that she thinks will cure the swamp and lift the curse. She eventually does cure the swamp, and frees her sister.

At times the poetic language used to tell the story is difficult to follow, but the descriptions are detailed, the characters are believable, and the dialogue appropriate for the age and character situations. I give the book a four out of five stars because I did have trouble, at times, following the language. A wonderful story and a worthwhile read.

Journal of Ugly Sites & Other Journals
Stacy Szymaszek
Fence Books
Science Library 320, University at Albany
1400 Washington Avenue, Albany, NY 12222
9781934200995, $15.95, PB, 96pp,

Sam Dorgan

Stacy Szymaszek's latest work Journal of Ugly Sites and Other Journals (Fence Books 2016) is a collection of personal memoirs from July 2011-July 2013 that wavers between jarring shards of observation to narrative prose. It is spatially aware and compassionately disembodied. Through the reading of this collection Szymaszek let's the reader into her most personal experiences; the death of beloved pets, the ups and downs involved with her partner, the stress of hustling through the mundanities of life, and the anxieties involved in medical diagnosis.

The compassionately confessional elements of Szymaszek's work are the main draw into the collection. It's the core keeping the reader through the nonlinear passages that eventually lead to more linear chunks and flits of time. The experience of time from one moment to the next and all the rogue thoughts in-between encompass the experience of this collection. Momentary flashes allotted to one day are seen in "Late Spring Journal [2012]", and "Summer Journal [2012]". In these poems stanzas are located on a specific date. While "Austerity Measures" and "Journal of Ugly Sites", encompass whole weeks and months of undesignated time and location. Often Szymaszek will leave a breadcrumb trail with references to current events, leading us into when we are as in "Austerity Measures," (10).

another post-
hero obit

Coptic march

Specific references are not apparent to any a single, "post-punk hero" or, "Coptic march attacked", for there were several of each after July 2011. There is still a sense of time passing with landmarks of time to anchor into while personal moments rise and seize attention. "Journal of Ugly Site," Szymaszek again creates another trail for us to follow, but with more concentrated energy:

fear of own death up a notch dizzy
spells returning upsetting to K I saying it's a brain
tumor trying to censor that type of comment out of
love for her//my vacation to Big Bur// trending now

swallowed by hippo
3 bodies found on farm
105 year old bacon woman
gold medalist dead// (125)

"Austerity Measures" is the precursor in many ways to, "Journal of Ugly Sites", these two poems being the beginning and end of the collection. "Austerity Measures," is jauntier with jolts and announcements. There is more spatial noise in between the stanzas and breaks. Specificity to time, place, or emotion is sparse and hard to grasp, often mimicking the struggle to parse through the many thoughts and spaces of emotion one goes through after losing a loved one. "Journal of Ugly Sites" spans almost an entire year. While lines wrap and end much like an autobiography. Szymaszek uses double slashes in place of breaks and periods. She also allows fragmentation of thoughts and improper sentence structure to allow for an experience and flow of time and thought. "Journal of Ugly Sites" reads very smoothly, but never loses that feeling of stream of conscious and the presencing of now.

Journal of Ugly Sites & Other Journals by Stacy Szymaszek consists of quick shifts and episodic moments creating the structure and flow of this collection. Its structure disrupts while not disturbing. Interrupts without invading. Szymaszek opens her life up onto the page, in all its humor, heartbreak, panic, and embarrassment. The mundane become source material and a window to look into our own selves. While adrift, in a narrative sense, this floating and wavering between chunks and slivers of verse allow space and breathing room for the reader to parallel their own existence. Reading becomes a chance to be voyeur and voyager.

The Divine Magnet: Herman Melville's Letters to Nathaniel Hawthorne
Mark Niemeyer, editor
Paul Harding, foreword
Orison Books
PO Box 8385, Asheville, NC 28814
9780990691754, $18.00 (paper), 106 pages,

Dale Neal

Writers are not always the most social of animals, quarrelsome and hermetic, spending far too much time by themselves. When they do encounter a soul mate, the recognition can be electrifying.  

On August 5, 1850, a group of literary types gathered in the Berkshires and ambled up Monument Mountain. It was the first time that Herman Melville met his literary hero, Nathaniel Hawthorne.

In The Divine Magnet: Herman Melville's Letters to Nathaniel Hawthorne readers get a firsthand look at the friendship that would forever shape American literature. The two men not only hit it off. They sparked inspiration in each other. Hawthorne had just published The Scarlet Letter. Melville had just moved to the Berkshires, chasing after "The Whale" - the monumental book that would become Moby-Dick.

Editor Mark Niemeyer includes the 10 existing letters as well as Melville's anonymous review "Hawthorne and his Mosses," and selections from Melville's poetry, written after his friend's death, that still show Hawthorne's living inspiration. In his intriguing introduction, Paul Harding, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, underscores the religious impulses that motivated Melville, even as he struggled with any orthodox belief or consolation.

Given his own spectrum of allusions, from Shakespeare to the King James Version of the Bible, Melville gravitated to the brilliant blackness he detected in Hawthorne's work, sparks from the "blue Calvinism" inherited from Hawthorne's Puritan forebears. And against that blackness, Melville pursued the obliterating whiteness of his mighty whale and Ahab's obsessive argument against a tragic universe. "I have written a wicked book and I feel spotless as a lamb," Melville brags to Hawthorne.

Melville is by turns cordial and boastful, reverent and irreverent, funny and serious. He even apologizes for not knowing when to stop in his letters. "I should have a paper-mill established at one of the house, and so have an endless riband of foolscap rolling upon my desk, and upon that endless riband I should write a thousand - a million - a billion thoughts, all in the form of a letter to you. The divine magnet is in you, and my magnet responds."

Unfortunately, Hawthorne's side of the correspondence has been lost. We have the call of Melville's outpouring, and the answering silence.

Hawthorne did note how strange was his boon friend in an 1856 notebook entry: "He can neither believe nor be comfortable in his disbelief; and he is too honest and courageous not to try to do one or the other."

Melville was maniacal in his work, an artist unafraid to capitalize "Truth." In the tension between brilliant darkness and annihilating whiteness, between comfortable faith and brave disbelief, Melville would write out his million words.

Soul, spirit, belief are not fashionable words in many literary circles in a cynical and guarded time in the nation's history, but Harding reminds us of our need for secular prophets like a Melville.

Orison Books, based in Asheville, N.C., takes for its imprint the archaic word meaning "prayer." The Divine Magnet is a welcome answer for Melville fans and ardent seekers.

Four Furlongs: A China Bohannon Novel
Carol Wright Crigger
Five Star
c/o Gale, Cenage learning
27500 Drake Road, Farmington Hills, Michigan; 48331
9781432832155, $25.95, PB, 174pp,

Sue Ellis

Spokane, Washington could be a rough place in the 1890's. Ask China Bohannon, bookkeeper and self-appointed investigator at her Uncle Monk's detective agency. It's Interstate Fair time in Spokane and China is minding the office while her uncle and his business partner, Gratton Doyle, are on duty at the Corbin Park racetrack. When fourteen-year-old Neva Sue O'Dell comes into the office seeking help in finding the people responsible for her brother's death in a suspicious horse racing accident, China finds herself knee-deep in the case before she's stepped out the door.

China, a spinster with a strong sense of justice and a virgin's sense of propriety, nonetheless has a tendency to go off half-cocked.
History, however, has taught her to trust her instincts, and she's suffragette enough to find menfolk a bit tiresome with their superior attitudes. At the Doyle and Howe Detective Agency, she's assigned to billing and answering the telephone, tasks that don't make use of her innate ability to sleuth. What's a woman to do?-- As she pleases, it turns out, much to the chagrin of her Uncle Monk and Gratton Doyle, the object of her affection. Here's an excerpt of Monk and Grat interrogating China:

"You better start from the beginning, lambie. What's this all about? It isn't every day," he said as an aside to Grat, "I come home and find a man tied up tighter than a drum and lying on our office floor." His mouth twisted as he elaborated. "His head wrapped in a tablecloth and him cussin' fit to still a mother's heart."

"Harrumph," I said. "he must've spat out the gag."

"What?" Pure shock swept over Grat's face. "Who? Why?" he demanded.

They stared at me. Even Nimble [China's Bedlington terrier] felt the weight of their gaze. She wriggled on her belly until she was hidden by the hem of my skirt.

How to begin? With a question, naturally.

"I take it Mr. Duchene didn't free himself under his own power. You let him go, didn't you?" I bent an accusing stare on my uncle. "I wish you hadn't. Not yet."

The author, Carol Wright Crigger, is a Northwest native and history buff whose research pays off in her stories. In Four Furlongs, the fourth China Bohannon novel (two are currently out of print), she employs a wealth of authentic characters to people the racetrack, back alleys, and mansions of old Spokane. There are vivid descriptions of period costumes, a Bedlington Terrier who's fiercely protective of China, and luckily, more good guys than bad - altogether a satisfying and chuckle-worthy look at justice, old style, that kept this reader guessing, right up until the end.

The Girl Who Was Saturday Night
Heather O'Neill
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
18 West 18th Street New York, NY 10011
9780374536107, $16.00, HC, 416pp,


He was wearing a white dress shirt that was unbuttoned. You could see that he had a tattoo of Jesus on his chest. There wasn't much scarier than a tattoo of Jesus. It meant that you were spiritually inclined. And if you were spiritually inclined around here, it probably wasn't Sunday school that got you that way. Rather, it was a combination of hard drugs and deep injustice to yourself. It was the last resort. -- Heather O'Neill, "The Girl Who Was Saturday Night"

This was a pretty good book. I liked this book. It centered around two young Francophones, Nicolas and Nouschka, living out their lives as disgraced (well, not so much disgraced as somewhat forgotten) former child stars in 90's Montreal. Our most notorious province of Quebec, in the Western Canadian imagination, was a place full of snooty and filthy semi-depressed alcoholics who insisted on acting as if they inhabited a different country and drained the entire nation's finances to boot.

(In fact, just today on the news there was a piece about a mobster who was shot dead inside his car in Montreal. What the hell! It was bizarre enough that Canada had a mafia problem in the first place, but leave it to the East Coast to find a way to fuck around with organized crime.)

Despite being entirely set in the Montreal area, The Girl Who Was Saturday Night did not try to challenge any stereotypes that the rest of the country may have held about Quebec and, in fact, seemed to validate some of them. Then again, I didn't think that this version of Montreal was the Montreal of people of my caliber; it was the Montreal of a particular sect, the proud and the lost and the disillusioned, people like Nicolas and Nouschka Tremblay.

Nicolas and Nouschka shared everything. Being twins, they made frequent reference to the fact that from their very first moments they had been together, and presumably never saw a reason to change this. It was practically incestuous, the things they would do with each other.

With all the things they had in common, perhaps the most striking difference was that Nouschka had dreams of doing something, oh, different with her life, and Nicolas, on the other hand, in his fatalistic, Quebecois way, "knew that nothing was ever going to change."

The Tremblay twins also lacked a mother (a sore point for both of them), and, while they knew their father, a once-legendary, still fairly famous singer, they didn't hold him in very high regard. The siblings' parental problems did not feel like central plot points so much as convenient excuses for all their eccentricities. Whenever Nicolas did something outrageous/illegal or Nouschka acted on her impulses, it could be traced back to a scarcity of parental love and guidance.

There was a lot of repetitiveness in the book, and I believed that was intentional, because it helped to emphasize one of Nouschka's greatest challenges: the struggle to break away from her old life (in particular, her and Nicolas' interdependence) and become a mature, successful adult. She attempted this through several methods: signing up for night school, landing a better job, marrying a half-mad boyfriend, moving out of the family home, getting pregnant. But she always ended up in the same place she had tried to leave, ie. wherever Nicolas happened to be.

(I got the feeling that just about everybody in The Girl was stuck in a situation they didn't want to be in, and yet at the same time couldn't imagine leaving.)

Unfortunate end result: stagnation, which led eventually to boredom on the part of the reader. It wasn't that O'Neill stopped coming up with novel ideas or ran out of fresh shit to get her characters into, but simply that the Tremblays' endless attempts to grow up, followed by their failure, got old after 300 pages. Like the story of any child star past his/her prime, there came a point when Nicolas and Nouschka's antics failed to arouse my interest anymore. If the book had been pared down to maybe a hundred pages less, I would've left with a much better impression.

Still, in the end, I was happy for Nouschka. She seemed to be moving on, albeit slowly, getting somewhere, ready to contribute to the world - unlike her brother, who appeared doomed to repeat all the mistakes he'd made his entire life over and over again. Nobody likes a static character. That was what Nicolas was, truthfully. He not only didn't change, he adamantly refused to.

I was proud of Nouschka for having the guts to begin to form her own identity, distinct from her brother's. As the novel drew to a close, we left her contemplating her own separation referendum - mirrored by Quebec's 1995 independence referendum as it unfolded in the book - to leave or not to leave? If she had given me a say, I would have voted Oui.

Recommended for: young adults; people who like elegant writing that doesn't take itself too seriously; creative types.

The Accidental Iraqi
Kamila kashgari
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite, #300, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781475950496, $14.95 PB, $6.99 Kindle, 201pp,

Vincent Czyz

The Accidental Iraqi is a fascinating book by Kamila Kashgari, who is Muslim but not Iraqi. Her novel is that rare item that is both commercial and literary. It is commercial in terms of a fast-paced plot, the action scenes, and perhaps in terms of the Romeo-and-Juliet-esque romance between an American officer (of Armenian extraction) and an Iraqi woman whose sister was murdered by men belonging to a Blackwater-type private security company called X-Caliber (a clever cross between King Arthur's sword, Excalibur, and "caliber," the general unit of measurement for bullets).

Kashgari avoids most of the pitfalls of commercial fiction; in particular all of her characters are believable. Her "good" characters make mistakes, have failings, biases, and prejudices, but they learn--often enough, the lessons are the very hard ones taught during wartime--and they strive for redemption. These are characters you can stay with and that will you remember well after you've closed the book.

Kashgari also does an admirable job of showing the aspects of Iraq that the media has mostly ignored. Scenes are set around a lake and in lush fields, not solely in vast stretches of unending desert (although there are scenes set there as well). The Iraqis are portrayed as human beings--not merely as generic representatives of Islam--and while many display an attitude critical of America, there is nothing simplistically anti-American. They were, after all, an occupied people for more than a decade and showed for more forbearance, I would guess, than Americans would under a similar occupation by a foreign force.

Perhaps the most valuable piece of journalism in the novel (and I say "journalism" to mean facts brought to light in the course of the story; I am NOT comparing the writing to newspaper reporting), concerns the complete immunity from criminal prosecution of private security companies, summarized in this exchange between the protagonist (Major Anthony Aroyan) and one of his subordinates:

Sergeant Gribbin nodded. "Now ... do you remember that incident in which the bodyguard for the Iraqi foreign minister was shot and killed by a security guard for X-Caliber?"


"The guard was trigger-happy and drunk. X-Cal fired him, but they also sent him out of the country before the Iraqi government could so much as question him. Apparently the Justice Department looked into it, but the case was dropped because no one at the Justice Department seems to know which laws to apply to an overseas murder. The bottom line, sir, is that X-Caliber guards have zero accountability."

Anthony frowned. "Say again?"

"They are not accountable to Congress, the State Department, the US military, the Iraqi government, or international laws that cover war crimes. In a word they're untouchable. The worst that can happen is that X-Cal can fire them and send them back to the States."

Anthony shook his head. "Unbelievable. And this is how we're supposed win the peace?"

I researched this topic after reading the novel and, tragically, this seems to be accurate.

That said, there are many other reasons to read this book: The dialogue is sharp--especially among the Americans--the characters and story are engaging, the themes are ambitious--and, where they are of the sort writers have been writing about for centuries, they are deftly adapted to contemporary situation. If nothing else, this novel does what so many better works of art aim to do: It forces you to see the world from a perspective very unlike your own. Highly recommended to anyone interested in the conflict in Iraq.

In the Distance
Dave Griffin
Flying Feet Running Programs, LLC
Westminster, MD
9780692570975, $13.95 PB, $8.95 Kindle, 284 pages

Lois C. Henderson, Reviewer
This review was first published on

Dave Griffin, author of "After the Last PR: The Virtues of Living a Runner's Life" and bi-weekly columnist, has come up with yet another interesting look into the spiritual side of long-distance running, in the form of "In the Distance: Why We Struggle Through the Demands of Running, and How It Leads Us to Peace". In the work, he recounts how his own background led him to adopt running as a way of coping with the stressors and daily demands of life. To someone coming from the relatively same background, no doubt his tale should bring many personal experiences to mind of having shared similar exertions and occasions.

The thoughtfulness and care with which Griffin tells of the ups and downs of his running career, and the psychological insights that he provides into his own makeup should appeal to anyone coming from the arena of athletics. The author also shares his motivation for adopting running as a strategy for coping with life's challenges, in preference to any other type of sport, including baseball. Given his involvement with the sport, it is all the more pleasing that "In the Distance" is not swamped with facts and figures about the races in which he has participated, but rather his account has soulful depth, with coverage of the events from a person-orientated viewpoint. Griffin is not ashamed to reveal his emotions at length, being, in fact, delightfully metrosexual in his approach. In this way, he appeals across the board to any athlete, no matter the gender. In fact, it is likely that many a woman who reads this book might wish that more of the men in her life took a similar approach to life as a whole.

"In the Distance" reveals how Griffin evolved through the stages of innocence, fear, struggle and clarity to find peace in his life, with a focus on his running career, from boyhood to where he now stands, as a mature athlete. The work is illustrated with numerous black-and-white photographs from past events in which he participated, and one cannot but help be drawn to this youthful, smiling figure, as well as to the more mature and older runner who has reveled in his sport his entire life through. This book deserves a place on any sport enthusiast's shelf, as well as being an ideal read for book clubs, especially those of mixed gender.

So, Who IS This 'GOD' of Our Nations, and What Does He DO For Us?
Dr. Graham McLennan and Thomas W. Rogers
Lifetime Reference Guides Inc.
Box 51613, RPO Park Royal, West Vancouver, BC V7T 2X9
9780994078605, $19.95, 204pp,

W. E. (Bill) Stanley, P. Eng., CMC

An amazing chronicle that will move the reader to marvel at the detailed complexity of the Lord's works in creation. The additional blessing of our nations' Godly heritage will on one hand uplift your spirit and on the other hand give rise to concern as to how far we have drifted away from our Creator God.

Songs of My Selfie: An Anthology of Millennial Stories
Constance Renfrow, editor
Three Rooms Press
9781941110409, $15.95, 208 pp.,

Julia Gaskill, Reviewer
Portland Book Review

For anyone born before the year 1980, coming across the book Songs of my Selfie: An Anthology of Millennial Stories in a bookstore may be somewhat off-putting. Chances are, anyone not a millennial (or younger) will draw quick conclusions of what they might find in a book with such a title: vain rantings, complaints about the difficulties of pampered youth, and stories filled with the words "bae," "iPhone," "OMG," and "hashtag." After all, millennials are all the same and can be lumped so easily into one category, right?

Unfortunately for people who think in such a manner, they are supremely mistaken.

Songs of My Selfie: An Anthology of Millennial Stories is a series of seventeen essays, all written by people under the age of twenty-six. The book kicks itself off with an introduction by the editor, Constance Renfrow, explaining the necessity of this collection and the importance of these voices. Renfrow ends her introduction with this blurb:

Our hope is to show our fellow millennials that no one's alone - that we're all experiencing this together - and to clear up our hopes, fears, and real-life experiences for anyone who wants to understand what being twenty-something in 2016 is actually like."

Songs of My Selfie does all of that and more.

The essays really hone in on the stresses and concerns, as well as the joys and delights, today's twenty-somethings face. The idea of the quarter life crisis is examined - wherein people make the transformation from youth into adulthood and how this has become an extreme difficulty for many millennials due to the economy that has been inherited from previous generations. These essays take the concept of millennials being seen as vain, self-centered, and only doing things that benefit themselves and completely flips that on its head.

All the stories in this collection are beautifully written. The young writers who contributed their work are a diverse group - ranging in gender, race, and sexuality. There are only a couple entries that feel out of place with the lot - mostly 'On Call' and 'Here In Avalon.' Otherwise, the stories flow boisterously in their transition between one other, morphing into something beautiful, unique, and familiar. The styles of the writers may vary slightly but are each strong in their own way and make for compelling reads.

Each piece in Songs of My Selfie focuses on an element the millennial age group knows all too well. 'Becoming John Doe' (Stephanie Bramson) follows a young man who can't find a job in this economy and is bogged down by student loan debt, which results in him hiding from the world in a friend's abandoned apartment. 'Use Without Pity' (Jared Shaffer) examines a simple afternoon between two coworkers who call out sick from their job. 'Small Bump' (Mina Holmes) speaks on the implausibility for young people to have children when they are unable to financially support a family, and the necessity of having clinics that offer abortions. 'Glitter and Glue' (Tiffany Ferentini) expresses the difficulties of coming out of the closet that are still present in this day and age. These are just a few examples of stories that speak volumes to millennials - a generation that continually gets made fun of for being glued to their smartphones.

Look, as a millennial myself, I realize how biased I might come off as in writing this review. But these voices? In all of these stories and essays? They are important. So important. They speak to all the problems my friends and myself have faced in our lives, as well as the joys we've encountered. It is no understatement when I, a twenty-five year old woman, state that this collection of essays written by fellow millennials needs to have all eyes on it - especially for those who spend far too much time hating on my generation. There is more to millennials than what is seen upon first glance; we are more than vanity and smartphones.

Songs of My Selfie is an enchanting, heartrending, and utterly relatable read for any and all millennials. This is a wonderful collection of stories from some of the brightest young writers today.

Ghost Hand
Ripley Patton
Privately Published
9780988491007, $13.99, PB,

Literary Classics

Literary Classics is pleased to announce that the book, Ghost Hand, by Ripley Patton, has been selected to receive the Literary Classics Seal of Approval. The CLC Seal of Approval is a designation reserved for those books which uphold the rigorous criteria set forth by the Literary Classics review committee, a team comprised of individuals with backgrounds in publishing, editing, writing, illustration and graphic design.

Ghost Hand is a paranormal work of fiction about Olivia, a seventeen year old girl with PSS (an affliction causing one's flesh to be replaced by an ethereal energy). She discovers her PSS hand has unusual powers. Under the guidance of other afflicted teenagers she learns to direct her hand's energy. But she soon discovers there are those who wish to harness her hand's energy and will do so at any cost.

This highly engrossing book, the first in a trilogy, is well written and immediately commands the attention of its readers. Elements of danger, excitement, and romance make this book an intriguing read that is not easily put down.

The character of Olivia is depicted as a strong and empowered young lady. Teens will find this book to be quite relatable. The author's ability to depict vivid and extraordinarily tangible scenes helps awaken strong emotions in the reader. The foundation has been solidly built to continue this trilogy with the reader left deliriously wanting for more.

Note: Literary Classics, an organization dedicated to furthering excellence in literature for young readers, takes great pride in its role to help promote classic literature which appeals to youth while educating and encouraging positive values in the impressionable young minds of future generations. To learn more about Literary Classics, you may visit their website at or

Dirt, Truth, Music and Bungee Cords
Bud Megargee
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781506091174, $12.95, PB, 232pp,

Scott Neuffer

Grand and wondrous ideas abound in this thought-provoking metaphysical journey.

The development of the soul is the main focus of Bud Megargee's strange and fascinating book, Dirt, Truth, Music and Bungee Cords: Conversations with the Souls Who Guide My Life. Even the most skeptical will be rewarded with uncanny insights into human existence as the author ventures to the other side of consciousness.

Megargee is a mental health clinician and administrator who, after experiencing turmoil and complacency in his personal life, turned to Buddhist monks for wisdom. He eventually found himself with an oracle named Shirlet Enama, who put him in contact with his "soul guides." Written in dialogue format, the chapters present different conversations with these soul guides, who illuminate the author's past lives, his present challenges, and the cycle of reincarnation toward higher levels of existence. Every noun in the book's title becomes analogous to some aspect of the soul and its struggle to evolve.

Suspension of disbelief is important to the success of these dialogues. The author himself repeatedly doubts the veracity of these otherworldly conversations - or at least how others will perceive them - yet at some point consciously decides to take a leap of faith. Depending on one's spiritual beliefs, reactions to events in the book, which are presented as nonfiction, will vary greatly. New Age techniques involving crystals, auras, vibrations, and inanimate objects make more than one appearance. The author makes a point to compare these "channeling" experiences to traditional prayer and meditation, emphasizing their similarities.

There's no doubt the book is solidly written. The prose, both in dialogue and summary, is consistently clear and engaging. Like the great Socratic dialogues of old, the chapters follow a dialectical process between the speaking parties to produce valuable insights. One guide named Laz, for instance, emphasizes the relationship between thought and reality and the soul's responsibility in continuously creating and shaping existence. "You create your life every second," the guide tells the author. "If you don't have confidence in yourself to create the new path, how can we do it?"

The book's musings on love are likewise perspicacious and inspiring. "Love doesn't need to be controlled," Laz says. "It is like the air that you breathe. The feeling of completeness of oneself in a union, and it has nothing to do with control." Also explored in depth is the concept of free will and an individual's ability to raise awareness of the perpetual life "being born around them."

Dirt, Truth, Music and Bungee Cords is never uninteresting. Even readers who don't buy into its religious premises will be treated to grand and wondrous ideas. The book is a thought-provoking metaphysical journey.

The Beams of Our House: A novel based on the Song of Solomon
Trey Dunham
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781514774267, $12.99 print / $8.99 Kindle or Nook, 394pp,

Worship Meister

Trey is a very gifted writer. Having only read his non-fiction I was looking forward to seeing how he would engage me with the same natural storytelling style I enjoy so much in his previous books. I was not disappointed. The characters were well developed and the story was told in such a way as to make me look forward to what was going to happen next. The marriage positive theme throughout the novel is thought provoking yet does not overwhelm the reader. I hope the author is able to finish The Banner series.

The Golden Palace - Volume 1: Walid and the Mysteries of Phi
Tom Morris
PMB 210, 1319-CC Military Cutoff Rd., Wilmington, NC 28405
9780996712323, $29.99, HC, 412pp
9780692569481, $18.99, PB, 380pp
$3.99 Kindle,

Annie Slessman

Dr. Tom Morris continues to enthrall us with the newest book in the Oasis Series, THE GOLDEN PALACE, A Journey of New Beginnings. Dr. Morris states this series is his first attempt at fiction and he has nailed it at the get go. In the prologue to the series, The Oasis Within, we follow Walid and his beloved Uncle Ali, through a desert journey with a mysterious destination. Along the way, Uncle Ali shares the wisdom of the ancients with Walid and teaches him how to better cope with what life throws his way. In THE GOLDEN PALACE, Uncle Ali and Walid have arrived at their destination and Walid discovers the full secret of their journey.

In this work, Dr. Morris adds a very colorful character, Mafulla, and he indeed brings extra color to the pages of this work. His humor and instincts supply a broadening of experiences for Walid. There are also some young ladies Walid's age, and some older women who come into the story, and I suspect that their role in the overall adventure will expand in important ways.

The writing within these pages is rhythmic and full of imagery. The wisdom within this work provides its readers with thought provoking advice. My favorite is when Uncle Ali is speaking, "Men plan and God smiles." Indeed...we must all plan for the unexpected as anything can happen at any given time. Without a plan, we panic and often take the wrong path. Through the words of Uncle Ali, Dr. Morris fills these pages with advice we can utilize to our advantage in our everyday lives.

This reviewer cannot wait for the next book in this new series. If you plan to keep your own copy of this work in pristine condition - don't. Your highlighter will get a workout as you read. Whether you are 8 or 80 years of age, this work will be great reading and one that will have a life in your hands, not on your bookshelf.

Andrea's Bookshelf

October 31, 1517
Martin E. Marty
Paraclete Press
PO Box 1568, Orleans, MA 02653
9781612616568 $19.99

Ordained Lutheran minister and historian Martin E. Marty presents October 31, 1517: Martin Luther and the Day that Changed the World, a book released especially to commemorate the fateful day when Martin Luther rebelled against the excesses of the Catholic church, proposed ninety-five theses to bring humans closer to God, and initiated the Protestant Reformation, which would create a new branch of Christianity. Martin Luther's 95 Theses are included in this erudite and thoughtful look back at a turbulent time, when Marin Luther's words about the need for "repentance" were a clarion call. Thoroughly accessible to readers of all backgrounds, October 31, 1517 is a welcome addition to church library collections.

From Bags to Riches
Sandra D. Bricker
Abingdon Press
2222 Rosa L. Parks Blvd.
PO Box 280988, Nashville, TN 37228-0988
9781501816345, $24.99, HC, 306pp,

The third book in author Sandra D. Bricker's outstanding 'Jessie Stanton' series, "From Bags to Riches" is the story of Jessie Hart who has worked hard to put her Louisiana roots in the rearview mirror and her Adornments boutique on the map. So when renegade "husband" Jack turns up again, the new and improved Jessie catches his attention. As he fights through his residual legal battles, he makes every effort to win her back and marry her for real this time -- before Danny gets the chance. When a celebrity stylist with her own reality show makes Adornments a hot spot, Jessie's hard work is finally paying off. But amid award shows and photo shoots, Jessie's beloved grandfather is diagnosed with cancer and she's nudged back to the Louisiana roots she worked so hard to escape. Now, in her quest to find the success, true love, and faith that has always eluded her, will God really lead her right back home? Consistently entertaining from beginning to end, "From Bags to Riches" is very highly recommended for community library collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "From Bags to Riches" is also available in a paperback edition (9781426793233, $14.99) and in a Kindle format ($9.99).

Tea With The Queen
Charles Lunsford
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 S. Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781478766551, $22.95 HC / $9.99 Kindle, 56pp,

Charles Lunsford wrote "Teas With The Queen" as a kind of birthday present for his mother when she turned 90 years old. It came about when his sister asked their mother what kind of party she wanted and with the wink of an eye she exclaimed, "a tea party!" Invitations were sent out to one and all to have "Tea with the Queen." Everyone was to wear their finest tea party attire including suits, ties, dresses and of course, hats. Lunsford sat down to read his newly composed fairy tale to his mother and her tea party guests from a copy he had printed by the local printer, embellished with clip art he found on the internet and all bound in black vinyl. Coming from a long line of storytellers, it was very well received. Now this destined to be a classic for all ages is available and certain to be an enduringly popular addition to community libraries. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Tea With The Queen" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

How To Be Famous
Michal Shalev
Gecko Press
PO Box 9335, Marion Square, Wellington, 6141, New Zealand
9781776570294, $16.99, HC, 32pp,

Charmingly written and lively illustrated by Michal Shalev, "How To Be Famous takes young readers ages 4 to 8 on a trip through the zoo conducted by an irrepressible pigeon as it preens and poses alongside all the animals, right up to the sharp teeth of a grumpy lion. A cheeky, layered story full of deadpan humor and a fresh illustrative style, "How To Be Famous" is every highly recommended for family, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections. For parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents, it should be noted that "How To Be Famous" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

He Wants
Alison Moore
1520 Wyandotte Street East, Windsor, ON N9A 3L2, Canada
9781771960564, $14.95, PB, 172pp,

Lewis Sullivan lives less than a mile from his childhood home. His grown-up daughter visits every day, bringing soup, and he spends his evenings at his second favorite pub for half a shandy and sausage. But when an old friend appears, Lewis finds his comfortable life shaken up, and he longs for more excitement. He longs for a life that is charged with excitement and with a day-to-day unpredictability. Extraordinary, unique, compelling, and deftly crafted from beginning to end, "He Wants" is certain to be an enduringly popular addition to community library General Fiction collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "He Wants" is also available in a Kindle edition ($11.49).

Andrea Kay

Bethany's Bookshelf

Born Healers
Victoria Pendragon, D.D.
Ozark Mountain Publishing, Inc.
PO Box 754, Huntsville, AR 72740
9781940265377, $10.50, PB, 104pp,

Synopsis: "Born Healers: Awakening, Nourishing & Training the Healer Within" by Victoria Pendragon who has been working as a professional in the field of spirituality since 1995 and reading tarot cards since 1964) is a do-it-yourself guide to enhancing both your personal vibration and your ability to channel that vibration as healing energy to others. It also contains useful information for those who are just starting out on the path of hands-on healers, including working with the chakras and how to structure a healing session.

Reverend Victoria Pendragon, DD was called to the laying on of hands by numerous healers who had worked with her both during her 3-year bout with scleroderma and in the years that followed her healing as she dealt with childhood sexual abuse. After working one-on-one with clients for 16 years she was called again, this time to share her gifts and her acquired knowledge with a larger audience, helping both healers and those who are in need of healing to help themselves.

Critique: "Born Healers" is exceptionally well written, organized and presented throughout. Thoroughly 'reader friendly', informed and informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking, inspired and inspiring, "Born Healers" is strongly recommended, especially to non-specialist general readers with an interest in New Age Metaphysics and Alternative Medicine.

The Big Picture: A Guide to Finding Your Purpose in Life
Christine B. Whelan
Templeton Press
300 Conshohocken State Road, Suite 670, West Conshohocken, PA 19428
9781599474243, $15.95, PB, 256pp,

Synopsis: For young people at a turning point, whether it's facing the end of high school, college, graduate school, or just a dead-end job, "What am I going to do for the rest of my life?" is a very familiar question. Maybe they have the degree they wanted, but don't know where to start in their job search. Maybe they're still in the process of choosing a major, and given the range ranging from "Biochemistry" to "Zoology", they are lost in curriculum options. Maybe they're facing a mountain of debt, but don't want to get locked into a job they hate. In "The Big Picture: A Guide to Finding Your Purpose in Life", Dr. Whelan (a current faculty member at the School of Human Ecology at the University of Wisconsin - Madison, the director of MORE: Money, Relationships and Equality, a thought leader at the Life Reimagined Institute, and who serves a member of the Curator's Council advising on self-improvement strategies for life's transitions) is not an instruction guide for writing resumes or preparing for interviews. Rather, through the use of quizzes and questionnaires which have been vetted by college students, Dr. Whelan guides the reader through "big picture" questions like: What are my talents - and how can I use those to help others and create meaning?; How have my life experiences shaped who I am and what I can give?; What do I value - and how can I be happy while being true to those values? The focus is on research-based and tested material specifically designed to help young people answer the question: What am I going to do with my life?

Critique: Unique, original, data-driven, exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The Big Picture: A Guide to Finding Your Purpose in Life" is very highly recommended for community and academic library collections. For the personal reading lists of students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject, it should be noted that "The Big Picture" is also available in a Kindle edition ($8.99).

Disappear Here
Naomi Mandel
Ohio State University Press
180 Pressey Hall, 1070 Carmack Road, Columbus, OH 43210-1002
9780814212868, $54.95, HC, 280pp,

Synopsis: Generation X, comprised of people born between 1960 and 1980, is a generation with no Great War or Depression to define it. Dismissed as apathetic slackers and detached losers, Xers have a striking disregard for the causes and isms that defined their Boomer parents. In "Disappear Here: Violence after Generation X", Naomi Mandel (Professor of English and Film Media at the University of Rhode Island) argues that this characterization of Generation X can be traced back to changing experiences and representations of violence in the late twentieth century. Examining developments in media, philosophy, literature, and politics in the years Xers were coming of age, Professor Mandel demonstrates that Generation X's unique attitude toward violence was formed by developments in home media, personal computing, and reality TV. This attitude, Professor Mandel contends, is key to understanding our current world of media ubiquity, online activism, simulated sensation, and jihad. With chapters addressing both fictional and filmic representations of violence, Professor Mandel studies the work of Bret Easton Ellis, Chuck Palahniuk, Claire Messud, Jess Walter, and Jonathan Safran Foer. A critical and conceptual tour de force, "Disappear Here" sets forth a new, and necessary, approach to violence, the real, and real violence for the twenty-first century.

Critique: An exceptional and impressive work of original scholarship, "Disappear Here: Violence after Generation X" is an extraordinary study and very highly recommended for community and academic library collections. For the personal reading lists of academics, students, and the non-specialist general reader with an interest in the subject, it should be noted that "Disappear Here" is also available in a paperback edition (9780814252147, $46.45), in a Kindle format ($19.95), and as a Multimedia CD ($14.95).

English Magic
R. Royale
Page Publishing
101 Tyrellan Avenue, Suite 100, New York, NY 10309
9781682136034, $16.95, PB, 140pp,

Synopsis: In "English Magic", author and educator R. Royale draws upon an abundance of experience living and teaching unique oral spoken English skills overseas in China. His methods have been put into this self-help handbook for the English second language learners. "English Magic" specifically and only teaches the oral verbal English communication skills in a natural and easier way. Readers will learn how to speak the "American Popular" English language better and faster within 90 days guaranteed! By using "English Magic", they will find that it is the best possible way to improve their ability to speak the language through the many English cultural environments. And they'll see that it works without a doubt! "English Magic" will be their guide to greater English spoken proficiency as well as quicker fluency. This amazing discovery was developed and proven in the grade schools, universities, vocational training facilities, and in workplaces all around China.

Critique: An invaluable 'self-help' tool for anyone of any age learning English as a second language, "English Magic" is effective practical, and 'user friendly'. While highly recommended for community and academic library Language Studies instructional collections, it should be noted for personal read lists that "English Magic" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Leaving Iran: Between Migration and Exile
Farideh Goldin
Athabasca University Press
Edmonton Learning Centre, Peace Hills Trust Tower
1200, 10011 - 109 Street, Edmonton, AB, T5J 3S8, Canada
9781771991377, $22.95, PB, 220pp,

Synopsis: In 1976, at the age of twenty-three, Farideh Goldin left Iran in search of her imagined America. While she settled uneasily into American life, the political unrest in Iran intensified and in 1979, Farideh's family was forced to flee. They arrived in Israel as refugees. Farideh's father was a well-respected son of the chief rabbi and dayan of the Jews of Shiraz. During his last visit to the United States in 2006, he handed Farideh his memoir that chronicled the years of his life after exile. "Leaving Iran: Between Migration and Exile" knits together his story of dislocation and loss with Farideh's own experience as an Iranian Jew in a newly adopted home.

Critique: An impressively well written, organized and presented memoir, "Leaving Iran: Between Migration and Exile" is a compelling read offering genuine insight into our understanding of how the political turmoil of Iran impacted the Iranian Jewish community in general, and one Jewish family in particular. Very highly recommended for community and university collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Leaving Iran" is also available in a Kindle edition ($21.80).

A Land Twice Promised
Noa Baum
1254 Commerce Way, Sanger, CA 93657
9781942934493, $18.95, PB, 264pp,

Synopsis: Israeli storyteller Noa Baum grew up in Jerusalem in the shadow of the ancestral traumas of the holocaust and ongoing wars. Stories of the past and fear of annihilation in the wars of the 60s, 70s, and 80s shaped her perceptions and identity. In America, she met a Palestinian woman who had grown up under Israeli Occupation, and as they shared memories of war years in Jerusalem, an unlikely friendship blossomed. "A Land Twice Promised: An Israeli Woman's Quest for Peace" delves into the heart of one of the world's most enduring and complex conflicts. Baum's deeply personal memoir recounts her journey from girlhood in post--Holocaust Israel to her adult encounter with "the other". With honesty, compassion, and humor, she captures the drama of a nation at war and her discovery of humanity in the enemy. This compelling memoir demonstrates the transformative power of art and challenges each reader to take the first step toward peace.

Critique: Impressively well written, organized and presented, "A Land Twice Promised: An Israeli Woman's Quest for Peace" is a compelling, thoughtful and thought-provoking read. While very highly recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "A Land Twice Promised" is also available in a Kindle edition ($12.99).

Time to Dream: Color, Relax, and Develop Your Creativity
250 Wireless Boulevard, Hauppauge, NY 11788
9781438008998, $12.99, PB, 128pp,

Synopsis: Sweet dreams are made of these lavish illustrations that require your care and devotion to make them come alive. There are wildly imaginative images of dolphins and dream catchers, giraffes and zebras, city streets and jungle habitats, crashing waves and gorgeous mandalas, ferocious dragons and gorgeous fashionistas. Let yourself relax and unwind with each one, choosing your own color palette while you let your creativity take flight. Coloring takes concentration, which in turn leads to greater mindfulness, enhanced attention, and increased opportunities to let your mind consider new and exciting avenues and ideas. Create a universe of colors in this adult coloring book that lets you quiet your mind, create something beautiful, and offers much-needed time to focus and dream.

Critique: Offering hours of quiet contemplative recreation, "Time to Dream: Color, Relax, and Develop Your Creativity" is an extraordinary and enthusiastically recommended for all ages. Also very highly recommended from Barron's are three other coloring books for grown-ups: "Laugh Love Live: Cheerful Quotes to Color, Decorate, and Give" (9781438009001, $7.99, 80pp); "Magic of Flowers & Birds" (9781438009018, $7.99, 80pp); "Mandala Dreams" (9781438009025, $7.99, 80pp).

Take This Stallion
Anais Duplan
Brooklyn Arts Press
154 North 9th Street, #1, Brooklyn, NY 11249
9781936767458, $16.00, PB, 76pp,

Synopsis: Anais Duplan was born in Jacmel, Haiti. She is the director of a performance collective called The Spacesuits and of The Center for Afrofuturist Studies, an artist residency program in Iowa City. Her poems and essays have appeared in Birdfeast, Hyperallergic, The Journal, [PANK], and other publications. She is an MFA candidate at the Iowa Writers' Workshop. "Take This Stallion" is an anthology of some of her best work in free verse poetry to date. "Portrait of the Found Self": I hear only a bird remote / and laughing from beneath / its hunter's hands. The till / is joyfull. I become at night / the hunter whose hands delight / in the roundness of her animal. // I move to the window. / My gaze is soft. I see / my shadow from outside, / my shadow laughing / from beneath my hands.

Critique: An extraordinarily gifted wordsmith whose verse by turns lively, politically incorrect, and keenly directive, Anais Duplan's "Take This Stallion" is very highly recommended for community and academic library Contemporary American Poetry collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Take This Stallion" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.00).

Perfectly Clear: Buying Diamonds for Pleasure and Profit
Karen Simmons
Exceptional Resources Inc.
9780983130888, $34.95, HC, 308pp,

Synopsis: Modern day, sophisticated buyers of fine gems, such as diamonds, must navigate a complex world of purchasing options that only an expert gemologist can tame. Important factors to consider for any buyer are the four C's, color, clarity, cut, and carat weight. Increasingly, what's most important is the origin of the gem. Investing in a "clean" diamond ensures goodwill towards our planetary environment and securing the best value and appreciation potential at the same time. "Perfectly Clear: Buying Diamonds for Pleasure and Profit" is a spectacular handy guide with respect to rough diamonds, sources of diamonds, white diamonds, and naturally colored diamonds. Also included are Canadian diamonds, political issues surrounding diamonds, Hollywood's impact on diamond sales, global economy and diamonds, popular diamond shapes, determining factors of diamond evaluation, synthetic, imitation and treated diamonds and the criminal aspect of diamonds that has captured global attention. Of special notes is a specific section on gems and their ties to superstition, medicinal uses, and spiritual beliefs. Diamonds easily accentuate any colored gem in a piece of jewelry, bringing out the best in both worlds. From antiquity down to the present day, diamonds are magical!

Critique: Exceptionally well written, informed, informative, organized and presented, "Perfectly Clear: Buying Diamonds for Pleasure and Profit" is a thoroughly comprehensive and 'reader friendly' study and very highly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Perfectly Clear" is also available in a paperback edition (9780983130895, $21.95) and in a Kindle format ($12.99).

Back in the Game: My Year of Dating Dangerously
Kelly Green
Lioncrest Publishing
9781619613959, $14.99, PB, 164pp,

Synopsis: When your marriage fails, you have a choice. You can curl up on the couch with a tub of ice-cream and wallow in self-pity -- or you can pick yourself up and search for a better life with a better man. Kelly Green was faced with this choice. She was the quintessential American wife and working mother of four small children. She had it all and did it all; her hobbies were interior decorating, Pilates, school fundraisers, and book clubs -- basically all the stuff women think they're "supposed" to do. Then her "perfect" world was rocked by betrayal and divorce. That's when Kelly threw out her ice cream, put on a sexy dress, and spent a year re-discovering what it was really like to live. She partied with and dated Hollywood's A-list, powerful Wall Street traders, elite art collectors, Argentinean polo players and chart-topping indie rock stars. Her road to recovering her self-esteem was paved with late nights, wild flings and rare company. Through it all, Kelly questioned everything she thought she knew about marriage, love and settling for the quiet routines of suburban motherhood. Told with unflinching honesty, her debut memoir, "Back in the Game: My Year of Dating Dangerously" is the bare-all story of a headstrong woman in search of a better inner life, be it with or without a better man.

Critique: A compelling and inherently fascinating read from first page to last, "Back in the Game: My Year of Dating Dangerously" is an extraordinary, candid, and intensely personal account. Very highly recommended for community library Contemporary American Biography collections and academic library Feminist Studies collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Back in the Game" is also available in a Kindle edition ($0.99).

Susan Bethany

Buhle's Bookshelf

Servatur Gaiae
Johnathan Rafferty
Austin Macauley Publishers Ltd
9781784558925, $23.95, HC, 274pp,

Synopsis: John is an environmental scientist. John and his wife Angela enjoy are enjoying a romantic holiday away from their work and children. After seven years together, they are still very much in love and try for a third baby, but to no avail. Is the cause of their lack of success the same as problems affecting tropical rain forest workers?

Pablo, one such worker, becomes severely ill, his site is shutdown, and he is forced to seek work elsewhere. En route he finds himself on the run from drug gangsters before arriving in England.

To uncover what's happening, John has to assemble a team to investigate the problem. Professor Andrew Kowalski, chosen to lead the team, hears a message from an amazing electronic Box' that appears while they are on expedition in the jungle. This explains what will happen worldwide due to over population, over consumption of the earth's resources and habitat destruction. How will Professor Kowalski convey this message to the world leaders? And, will they work together to do anything about it?

Critique: A deftly written novel that reveals author Johnathan Rafferty as a skilled and consummate storyteller, "Sevatur Gaiae" is a compelling and all to believable eco-based story that could have been ripped from today's headlines warning of global ecological disasters. A simply riveting read from beginning to end, "Servatur Gaiae" is very highly recommended for community library General Fiction collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Servatur Gaiae" is also available in a paperback edition (9781784558918, $13.95) and in a Kindle format ($4.68).

Prepper Guns
Bryce M. Towsley
Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.
307 West 36th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10018
9781634505871, $29.99, HC, 272pp,

Synopsis: Food, water, and shelter are very important to survival. But you must also be ready to protect what is yours, because if somebody stronger, better prepared, and better equipped takes it all away, you will die. Your family will die. The only way to protect them is with firearms. Bryce M. Towsley is an award-winning writer and photographer who has published thousands of articles and photos in most of the major outdoor and gun magazines since 1980. He has published five books on guns, gunsmithing, and hunting. He draws upon his many years of experience and expertise in "Prepper Guns: Firearms, Ammo, Tools, and Techniques You Will Need to Survive the Coming Collapse" and covers the firearms and tools needed to survive, not only for defense, but also for foraging. This is a comprehensive look at the realities of the firearms a prepper should have. "Prepper Guns" takes a careful look at each category of firearms, ammo, sights, and accessories. Other topics include gun care and maintenance, as well as some simple gunsmithing and reloading to keep firearms repaired and ammo on hand. Finally, Prepper Guns has training suggestions and drills, plus a look at the psychology of survival, using the expertise of some of the top people in the world in these fields.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, illustrated, organized, presented, "Prepper Guns: Firearms, Ammo, Tools, and Techniques You Will Need to Survive the Coming Collapse" is especially recommended for personal and community library Firearms reference collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Prepper Guns" is also available in a Kindle edition ($19.99).

Miracle of Israel
Gary Frazier & Jim Fletcher
New Leaf Press
PO Box 726, Green Forest, AR 72638
9780892217403, $13.99, PB, 192pp,

Synopsis: Nothing demonstrates how God keeps His promises better than the story of Israel. Everyone is looking for a miracle. Families devastated by a faltering economy. A college student facing the horrific diagnosis of cancer. Corporately, whole nations are teetering on the brink of despair and chaos. "Miracle of Israel: The Shocking, Untold Story of God's Love for His People" is a stunning examination of the millennia-old love that God has for His people that 1) Clearly conveys the promise God gave to Abraham; 2) Examines the ancient prophecies regarding Israel that have happened and are unfolding even today; and 3) Provides an easy-to-read timeline of miracle after miracle related to the nation of Israel. Tracing the history of the Jewish people to the present day, the authors look at prophecy after prophecy that clearly attest to the Lord's miraculous promises. From historical records to personal, dramatic stories, the "Miracle of Israel" shows us that in keeping epic promises to the nation of Israel, God's provision for each of us is sure, perfect, and on time, every time.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Miracle of Israel" is highly commended to the attention of all members of the Christian community regardless of their denominational affiliation. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Miracle of Israel" is also available in a Kindle edition (9.99).

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

Handbook on Wealth and the Super-Rich
Iain Hay & Jonathan V. Beaverstock, editors
Edward Elgar Publishing
9 Dewey Court, Northampton, MA 01060-3815
9781783474035, $240.00, HC, 496pp,

Synopsis: Fewer than 100 people own and control more wealth than 50 per cent of the world's population. Collaboratively compiled and co-edited by academicians Iain Hay (Flinders University, Australia) and Jonathan V. Beaverstock (University of Bristol, UK ) "The Handbook on Wealth and the Super-Rich" is a landmark multi-disciplinary evaluation of both the lives and lifestyles of the super-rich, as well as the processes that underpin super-wealth generation and its unequal distribution. Drawing on international case studies, leading experts from across the social sciences offer 22 accessible and coherently organized chapters, which critically analyze a range of topics including: the legitimacy of extreme wealth from a moral economic perspective; biographies of illicit super-wealth; London's housing markets; how the very wealthy fly; the environmental consequences of super-rich lives; crafting immigration policies to attract the rich; and a great deal more. The list of contributors includes: R. Atkinson, J.V. Beaverstock, L. Budd, R. Burrows, L. Crewe, A. Davison, A.D. Dixon, R. Forrest, D.R. Green, S. Hall, T. Hall, I. Hay, I. Kapoor, S.Y. Koh, G. Mangraviti, A. Martin, I.A. Osuoka, A. Owens, R. Palan, C. Paris, D. Rhodes, A. Sayer, P.G. Schervish, S. Schulz, J.R. Short, E. Spence, A. Watson, B. Wissink, M. Woods, A. Zalik.

Critique: The inequality of wealth both here in the United States and globally around the world is one of the hottest social and political issues of the day. Students and scholars studying a host of topics such as development studies, economics, geography, history, political science and sociology will find "Handbook on Wealth and the Super-Rich" to be of immense value. Very highly recommended for both community and academic library reference collections, "Handbook on Wealth and the Super-Rich" will also prove to be of great interest to public commentators, charitable organizations, governmental policy makes, NGO activists, and the non-specialist general reader concerned with wealth and income distributions.

Our Common Denominator
Christoph Antweiler
Berghahn Books
20 Jay Street, Suite 512, Brooklyn, NY 11201
9781785330933, $120.00, HC, 364pp,

Synopsis: Since the politicization of anthropology in the 1970s, most anthropologists have been reluctant to approach the topic of what Christoph Antweiler (an Anthropologist and Professor of Southeast Asian Studies at the University of Bonn, German) calls universals which he defines as phenomena that occur regularly in all known human societies. In "Our Common Denominator: Human Universals Revisited" Professor Antweiler reasserts the importance of these cross-cultural commonalities for anthropological research and for life and co-existence beyond the academy. The question presented at the core of "Our Common Denominator" is how anthropology can help us approach humanity in its entirety, understanding the world less as a globe, with an emphasis on differences, but as a planet, from a vantage point open to commonalities.

Critique: An impressively exceptional work of seminal scholarship, "Our Common Denominator: Human Universals Revisited" is enhanced with the inclusion of figures, tables, an informative ten page introduction, a seventy-three page bibliography, and a twenty-six page index. While highly recommended and an extraordinary contribution to community and academic library Anthropology reference collections and supplemental studies lists.

Deacon's Folly
James Thibeault
Sartoris Literary Group
9781941644737, $19.95, PB, 336pp,

When a backwoods town has a barbecue, it's to mock a teenage boy who nailed himself to a tree house. While Devon's not the brightest bulb and has no recollection of his childhood, he's a kind soul who seems friendly enough. Still, the whole town despises him. Only the new deacon in town takes sympathy towards the boy and is determined to discover Devon's forgotten past, and the reason why it is never discussed.

Everything about Devon's life is a mystery, from the whereabouts of his parents to Devon's own memories. In the town, he is treated more like an animal than a person. Forced to live outside, Devon is looked after by his alcoholic guardian, Mr. Audette. Besides the deacon, the only person who takes pity on Devon is Mr. Audette's daughter, Caroline, who has been running the household since her mother died years ago. Despite Caroline and Devon living next to each other, Mr. Audette forbids Caroline from socializing with him. Few want to be near Devon. He spends most of his time alone and talking to the moon. At night, he suffers from dreams of people screaming. He doesn't understand what it means, but tries to ignore it as best he can. For years, all Devon has done is block the torments in his head, the mockery from the town, and even his own memories. The deacon is convinced it's time to know the truth.

Critique: At its core "Deacon's Folly" is deftly crafted and compelling novel about a young man who is forced by an entire town to come to terms with his disability and his efforts to learn to live in a community of individuals of lesser humanity than himself. Very highly recommended for community and academic library Literary Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Deacon's Folly" is also available in a Kindle edition ($5.95).

Nature Unbound
Randy T. Simmons, Ryan M. Yonk, Kenneth J. Sim
The Independent Institute
100 Swan Way, Oakland, CA 94621-1428
9781598132281, $22.95, PB, 304pp,

Synopsis: What we think we know about ecology and environmental policy is often wrong. Environmental laws often make things worse. Indeed, the very idea of nature has been hijacked by partisan politics. For all too many, wilderness is something they create in their minds, as opposed to being an actual description of nature. Developing these observations and their implications is the primary purpose of "Nature Unbound: Bureaucracy and the Environment". Two themes predominate: Political Ecology and Political Entrepreneurship. Combining these two concepts, presented in detail, leading the reader to recognize that sometimes in their original design and certainly in their implementation, major U.S. environmental laws are more about opportunism and ideology than good management and environmental improvement.

Critique: An iconoclastic but research and fact-based study, "Nature Unbound: Bureaucracy and the Environment" is a valuable and critically important contribution to our nation's on-going dialogue concerning the impact of modern life on native ecologies and the governmental environmental policies that have been developed and implemented in response. While very highly recommended for both community, governmental, and academic library Environmental Studies, Business/Economics, and Contemporary Political Science reference collections and supplemental curriculum lists, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of policy makers, academics, and the non-specialist general reader with an interest in the subject that "Nature Unbound: Bureaucracy and the Environment" is also available in a Kindle edition ($12.99).

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

Japanese Tattoos
Brian Ashcraft with Hori Benny
Tuttle Publishing
364 Innovation Drive, North Clarendon, VT 05759-9436
9784805313510, $17.95, PB, 160pp,

Synopsis: "Japanese Tattoos: History, Culture, Design" explains the imagery featured in Japanese tattoos so that readers can avoid getting ink they don't understand or, worse, that they'll regret. This photo-heavy book will also trace the history of Japanese tattooing, putting the iconography and kanji symbols in their proper context so readers will be better informed as to what they mean and have a deeper understanding of irezumi. Tattoos featured will range from traditional tebori (hand-poked) and kanji tattoos to anime-inspired and modern works -- as well as everything in between. For the first time, Japanese tattooing will be put together in a visually attractive, informative, and authoritative way. Along with the more than 350 color photos of tattoos, "Japanese Tattoos" also features interviews with Japanese tattoo artists on a variety of topics. There are also interviews with clients discussing what their Japanese tattoos mean to them. Those who read this informative tattoo guide will be more knowledgeable about Japanese tattoos should they want to get inked or if they are simply interested in Japanese art and culture.

Critique: Unique, exceptionally informed and informative, impressively well written, organized and presented, "Japanese Tattoos: History, Culture, Design" is very highly recommended for personal, tattoo parlor, community, and academic library collections. It should be noted that "Japanese Tattoos: History, Culture, Design" is also available in a Kindle edition ($10.99).

Can a City Be Sustainable?
The Worldwatch Institute
Island Press
2000 M Street NW, Suite 650, Washington, DC 20036
9781610917551, $25.00, PB, 448pp,

Synopsis: Today, more than half of the global population (some 3.7 billion people) live in cities, and that number is expected to double by 2050. There is no question that cities are growing; the only debate is over how they will grow. Will we invest in the physical and social infrastructure necessary for livable, equitable, and sustainable cities? "Can a City Be Sustainable?" first puts our current moment in context, tracing cities in the arc of human history. It also examines the basic structural elements of every city: materials and fuels; people and economics; and biodiversity. Then a number of professionals working on some of the world's most inventive urban sustainability projects share their first-hand experience. Success stories come from places as diverse as Ahmedabad, India; Freiburg, Germany; and Shanghai, China. In many cases, local people are acting to improve their cities, even when national efforts are stalled. Parts three and four examine cross-cutting issues that affect the success of all cities. Topics range from the nitty-gritty of handling waste and developing public transportation to civic participation and navigating dysfunctional government. Throughout "Can a City Be Sustainable?", readers discover the most pressing challenges facing communities and the most promising solutions currently being developed. The result is a snapshot of cities today and a vision for global urban sustainability tomorrow.

Critique: With the nineteen articles comprising "Can a City Be Sustainable?" organized and presented in three major sections (Cities as Human Constructs; The Urban Climate Challenge; Politics, Equity, and Livability), this informed and informative contribution to Urban Development reference collections for community and academic libraries is enhanced for supplemental studies reading lists of students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject with the inclusion of forty-six pages of Notes and a forty-seven page Index.

Bitter Waters
Patrick Dearen
University of Oklahoma Press
2800 Venture Drive, Norman, OK 73069
9780806152011, $29.95, HC, 256pp,

Synopsis: Rising at 11,750 feet in the Sangre de Cristo range and snaking 926 miles through New Mexico and Texas to the Rio Grande, the Pecos River is one of the most storied waterways in the American West. It is also one of the most troubled. In 1942, the National Resources Planning Board observed that the Pecos River basin "probably presents a greater aggregation of problems associated with land and water use than any other irrigated basin in the Western U.S." In the twenty-first century, the river's problems have only multiplied. "Bitter Waters: The Struggles of the Pecos River" by Patrick Dearen (who drew upon more than 150 interviews and a wealth of primary resources) is the first book-length study of the entire Pecos, traces the river's environmental history from the arrival of the first Europeans in the sixteenth century to today.

Critique: Combining the research skills of an accomplished historian, the investigative techniques of a veteran journalist, and the engaging style of an award-winning novelist, Patrick Dearen has produced an impressively informative, documented, and accessible work of environmental history may well mark a turning point in the Pecos's fortunes. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Bitter Waters: The Struggles of the Pecos River" is a critically important and highly recommended addition to both community and academic library Environmental Studies & Stream Ecological reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted for academics, environmental activists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Bitter Waters: The Struggles of the Pecos River" is also available in a Kindle edition ($24.95).

"Independent, Original and Progressive": Celebrating 125 Years of UNT
Morgan Gieringer, editor
University of North Texas Press
1155 Union Circle #311336, Denton, TX 76203-5017
9781680400045, $29.95, HC, 144pp,

Synopsis: It was Joshua C. Chilton who first described the University of North Texas as "independent, original and progressive" in his inaugural speech opening the university in 1890. In the 125 years since then this university has more than lived up to his expectations. The University Archive holds countless photographs, artifacts and publications which tell the remarkable story of UNT from its beginnings in a downtown hardware store to its place today as the one of the nation's largest public universities. Compiled and edited by Morgan Gieringer (the head of special collections at the UNT Libraries), "Independent, Original and Progressive": Celebrating 125 Years of UNT features stories about the people and events that helped to define the character and spirit of UNT. Each story is illustrated with photographs and artifacts specially chosen from the Special Collections department and the Music Library, both part of the UNT Libraries, whose staff are proud to share these wonderful memories with you.

Critique: Informative, nostalgic, and a fitting visual tribute to a great university, "Independent, Original and Progressive": Celebrating 125 Years of UNT" would ably serve as a template for similar histories of other institutions of higher education, and is especially and very highly recommended especially for UNT alumni.

Too Simple for Words
Graham Stew
O Books
c/o John Hunt Publishing, Ltd.
Laurel House, Station Approach, Alresford, Hants, SO24 9JH, UK
9781785352713, $12.95, PB, 112pp,

Synopsis: Graham Stew is a university lecturer with a long-standing interest in Eastern philosophies and non-dual (Advaita Vedanta) teachings. He enjoys sharing insights and understanding of this ancient wisdom. He wrote "Too Simple for Words: Reflections on Non-Duality" for the benefit of anyone interested in exploring who they really are? The answers to an understanding ourselves is to be found in self-inquiry and the discovery of Reality that non-dual teachings offer. No prior knowledge of Eastern religion or spiritual practices is needed, as "Too Simple for Words" uses simple everyday language to investigate these issues through reflections, dialogues and poems.

Critique: Original, insightful, exceptional, and thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation throughout, "Too Simple for Words: Reflections on Non-Duality" is very highly recommended -- especially for the non-specialist general reader with an interest in modern interpretations of ancient wisdom. Highly recommended for community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Too Simple for Words: Reflections on Non-Duality" is also available in a Kindle edition ($3.99).

Michael J. Carson

Chutsky's Bookshelf

Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison
Charles Shaw
Crown Publishers Inc
1745 Broadway, 9th Floor, New York NY 10019
B0007H563W, $3.00, Page Count 174

"Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison" is a small pocket book that should be considered a stalwart classic, be put on every reading list, deservedly more relevant than "Catcher in the Rye."

Australian writer Charles Shaw weaves a rich compelling story of a hard-boiled Marine and an American nun marooned in the middle of WWII on an island in the Pacific, sort of a Robinson Caruso meets Sister Dominique, both forced into a somewhat savage existence in order to survive.

They are alien sexes from alien worlds, intrigued by and touched by the heart and soul of the other in the midst of their fighting against the brutal jungle wilds of the Philippines and hiding like rats from the ruthless Japanese garrisons that come and go from the island, while bucking the human nature that draws them together in a way they both fight to resist.

Shaw does a wonderfully palpable job of recreating the jungle setting replete with leeches and sweating lush vegetation, the taut hyper sense of emotions that roil when a woman, even a nun, and a red blooded man live under the strain of isolation, under the threat of constant danger, under the unavoidable emptiness of purpose that leads to constant inner reflection.

For Mr. Allison, the consummate crusty Marine : "He had done more thinking in the past few weeks than ever before in his life. He had discovered more things about himself than he had hitherto dreamed of. He saw Sister Angela as a woman wrapped in sacred mysteries, but a woman all the same." He felt compelled to take care of her, but his confused feelings went way beyond that.

For Sister Angela: "She was the metal of the true nun, single-minded in her devotion to her faith," and her rigid responsibilities on earth, childlike in most everything else, her candor, her smile, her sweetness in a hard world.

Even the title of the book, "Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison" expresses the profound resounding expression that most of us utter during a crisis. 'Only heaven knows why this happened' and 'Only Heaven knows how we're gonna get out of this.' Maybe it's comforting to leave it up to a supreme force to decide, so we can stop beating up on ourselves through the trial of it all.

So, you certainly don't have to be nun to be in that camp, but it took a nun to get a tough guy marine to feel that way too. And that gives away the ultimate payoff of this touching triumphal story of survival and faith well worth a read.

Though 20th Century-Fox fashioned this complex novel into a simplistic tale, which is still worth seeing, featuring lovely Deborah Kerr and tough guy extraordinaire Robert Mitchum, reading the book will give you a deeper human experience.

The book had me in tears at the end.

The Choice
Nicholas Sparks
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York New York 10104
9781455588992, $15.99 PB, $7.99 Kindle, 282pp,

If you're a romantic you'll love Nicholas Spark's novel "The Choice." If you're not, it just might convert you to being one in an afternoon. "The Choice" is a lovely read that goes by fast and goes down easy.

A charming literary book with some haunting dialogue that touches the soul, almost Aristotelian in its delicate understanding of human emotions. A Hallmark kind of you-don't-know-what's-wrong-until-you-experience-what's-right/finding - the-love-of - your-life story set in a picturesque southern coastal town. I'd say that adds up to a Romantic winner.

The basic premise: Travis Shaw, a charming southern alley, is comfortable in his overly routined life, working with his veterinarian father at the small-town animal clinic, entertaining married friends and their kids on the weekends for barbeques and boating jaunts, and seeing one gal in particular, casually on-and-off-again, the not-really-miss-right Monica.

New neighbor, Gabby Holland a sweet simply-pretty focused young doctor's assistant, who is bothered by Travis' bubbling barbeque lawn parties she eyes from her front porch, his loud music drowning out the sound of her studies, and his overly charming dog, who has got his eye on her golden retriever pooch. Gabby is dating an insurance agent fellow, Mr. I hope he's-the-one, why doesn't he propose.

Travis is obviously more than bothered by Gabby too, but in a 'I can't get you out of my mind way' and eventually their affair heats up. When old staid boyfriend Ryan finally proposes marriage to Gabby, the whole magical affair comes to a head.

Choices. Choices. Choices for them both.

Travis professes to Gabby, she's the one for him, the 'I want you to bother me for the rest of my life' gal.

But Gabby isn't sure.

Travis chooses to back off.

But it ain't over.

Travis decides to fight for her, what every girl wants, and they walk off into the sunset, finding happily ever after in marriage and the two children ensue...

UNTIL....Oh no, I'm not going to give that away.

Just enough to say their relationship is tested by one of life's most defining events. What relationship worth a hoot isn't.

There's a lot of tough choices and life lessons to be dealt with here. Here's the big two; never giving up on the hope of love because it can facilitate a miracle, and the other stinger, after being dealt life's great stresses a couple can make a life afresh afterwards.

Sparks modeled a wonderful chemistry between the main characters; Travis the attractive young languid contemporary rogue, as potent as a smooth southern bourbon, and Gabby, a beauty with an earthy common sense, a straightforward intelligence, and an unforced humor. He makes us fall in love with them, root for them and want to be a permanent neighbor in their world.

The movie spun out of the book by Director, Ross Katz, adds even more heart, unleashing some powerful moments with visuals that speak volumes.

Karen Chutsky, Reviewer

Clint's Bookshelf

B. Astrid Daley & Adam Parfrey, editors
Feral House
1234 West Sims Way Box 1240, Port Townsend, WA 98368
9781627310284, $25.95, PB, 328pp,

Synopsis: Collaborative compiled and co-edited by B. Astrid Daley and Adam Parfrey, this newly expanded edition of "Sin-a-Rama: Sleaze Sex Paperbacks of the Sixties" features contributions by Stephen J. Gertz, Jay A. Gertzman, John Gilmore, Michael Hemmingson, Lydia Lunch, Lynn Munroe, and Robert Silverberg. "Sin-A-Rama" celebrates the near-forgotten world of erotic paperbacks from the 1960s when sex acts were described with code words, writers used pseudonyms, and publishers hid behind mail drop addresses. Sleaze paperbacks sold by the million, and their unorthodox content provoked FBI investigations, court battles, and prison sentences for the crime of "obscenity." Earl Kemp, the notorious Greenleaf Books editor, provides an insider's perspective. In "My Life as a Pornographer," science fiction legend Robert Silverberg divulges how he and other authors learned their sleaze craft. The bizarre glories of cover artists Robert Bonfils, Gene Bilbrew, Eric Stanton, Bill Ward and others are seen throughout in lurid color. A useful appendix reveals the actual names behind the pseudonyms, revealing both the established and fly-by-night sleaze paperback operators. The new expanded edition includes B. Astrid Daley's profiles on "Occult Sleaze," "Swinging Sleaze," and the tawdry taboo stuff that sleaze literature fell into during the 1970s.

Critique: Profusely illustrated with full color paperback covers and artwork, "Sin-a-Rama: Sleaze Sex Paperbacks of the Sixties" is exceptionally informed and informative. A unique history offering a kind of 'window in time' to the 1960s and an obscure but influential period in American publishing, "Sin-a-Rama" is very highly recommended for personal, community, and academic library 20th Century American Popular Culture reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

Girl Walks Out of a Bar: A Memoir
Lisa F. Smith
SelectBooks, Inc.
87 Walker Street, Suite B1, New York City, NY 10013
9781590793213 $17.95

Synopsis: Girl Walks Out of a Bar explores Smith's formative years, her decade of alcohol and drug abuse, divorce, and her road to recovery. In this darkly comic and wrenchingly honest story, Smith describes how her circumstances conspired with her predisposition to depression and self-medication in an environment ripe for addiction to flourish. When her close-knit group of high-achieving friends celebrate the end of their grueling workdays with alcohol-fueled nights at the city's clubs and summer weekends partying at the beach the feel-good times can spiral wildly out of control.

Girl Walks Out of a Bar is a candid portrait of alcoholism through the lens of gritty New York realism. Beneath the facade of success lies the reality of addiction.

Critique: Author Lisa F. Smith nearly destroyed her own life with drug and alcohol addiction; twelve years after becoming sober, she shares her story in order to help others break the cycle of abuse and dysfunction. At times a shocking cautionary tale, and at times an inspiring testimony of hope, Girl Walks Out of a Bar is proof that professional success does not render one immune to the destructive power of illegal drugs (or legal alcohol). Highly recommended.

Realm of the Golden Dragon
C.D. Williams
Pocol Press
Box 411, Clifton, Virginia 20124-1333
9781929763672 $17.95 pbk / $8.95 Kindle

Synopsis: Realm of the Golden Dragon is a sea story. On 17 August 1967, after many years of being home ported in Hawaii, the 180-foot Coast Guard Cutter Basswood set sail for her new home port on Guam in the Marianas Islands. During her travels, she would unleash sixty fun-loving, frolicking, fornicating, fighting, young Coasties on forty-seven Pacific Islands and five Asian Nations. This epic voyage would take them to the hooker bars and short-time hotels of Olongapo in the Philippines, the Vietcong infested bays and rivers of Vietnam, and the vaunted Namenoue Red Light District in Naha, Okinawa. They would look in wonder at the temples of Bangkok, Thailand and explore the back streets of Keelung Harbor in Taiwan. Then they would sail to islands in the Pacific so remote that they have been virtually untouched by modern civilization. Travel along with these young Coast Guard Sailors as they experience the rigors of going to sea on a small ship and as they enjoy the pleasure of wild Pacific Island girls and porcelain skinned Asian beauties. And when they lose one of their own, discover the fortunes of war.

Critique: Prepare to be enthralled. Although Realm of the Golden Dragon is a work of fiction, its tumultuous events are inspired by the author's six years of service in the Coast Guard, and the larger-than-life friends (and antagonists!) he encountered. There's never a dull moment in this period piece seafaring adventure!

Sex Hell
Joe Canzano
Happy Joe Control
9780990636533, $10.99, PB, 318pp,

Synopsis: When Debbie de La Fontaine tries to spice up her love life by supernaturally tampering with her sex life, she is cursed to spend every future encounter in a magical place called "Sex Hell", where the sex is ludicrous and amazing but the romance is scarce. Her only chance for escape is through the stingy clues supplied by an obnoxious demon, and the only way to obtain the clues is by returning to Sex Hell again and again to have outrageous sexcapades with the man she most wants to avoid -- or does she?

Critique: "Sex Hell" is an absurd and original comic fantasy about the confusion of relationships. It's underlying foundation are the enduring questions: How is love related to sex, and how is sex related to love? Does love and sex need to be related at all? Also available in a Kindle edition ($2.99), it should be noted that "Sex Hell" contains profanity and adult situations.

A Kiss to Build a Death On
Frank J. Bruno
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781530269693, $9.99, PB, 252pp,

Synopsis: Julio Milano's prostitute granddaughter, Gypsy, has been mutilated. Julio wants to make la vendetta, seeking not only justice, but revenge for the crime. Julio is an aging, self-destructive alcoholic. He lives poorly, drives a broken down Chevy, and subsists largely on Social Security. He was once a competent private detective. He brings himself out of his doldrums on behalf of Gypsy. In the course of his quest, he becomes entangled with Blanche Gardner, a long-lost love and also a prostitute. They have a love-hate sexual relationship. Julio's ex-wife, Marie, provides Julio with a safe haven and affection. Lou Milano, Julio's brother, is an unwilling accomplice in Julio's adventures. Jake Lanza, Julio's sidekick, is killed protecting Gypsy. Keith Sherman, the town's arrogant mayor, plays a malevolent role in the action.

Critique: A Kiss to Build a Death On by Frank J. Bruno is a deftly crafted and savage tale of love and murder that is a gripping read that doesn't let the reader's attention go from first page to last. While very highly recommended for community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "A Kiss to Build a Death On" is also available in a Kindle edition ($7.99).

Death of a Siren
William S. Schall
Chicago Review Press
814 North Franklin Street, Chicago, IL 60610
9781613734261, $14.95, PB, 256pp,

Synopsis: "Death of a Siren" by William S. Schall is a fast-paced mystery set in the otherworldly Galapagos Islands in 1938 during the lead-up to World War II. A fugitive New York City cop is on the run from both the law and the mafia after killing a local thug. Trying to make his escape in a boat he stole from his uncle, castaway Fred Freiman, a German American, comes ashore on the islands and stumbles upon the body of a beautiful, enigmatic German baroness with a hatchet in her head. The next day the baroness's two strange companions are also found murdered. Freiman soon finds himself trapped into tracking down the murderer, or murderers, by a corrupt local official. International politics, local intrigues, and personal passions swirl around Fred as he learns more about the murdered woman, who is described by some as a monster and by others as a lost soul. Early in his investigation Freiman meets Ana de Guzman, a young, wealthy Ecuadorian woman who teams up with him to unravel the tangled mysteries. As he struggles to solve the murders, Freiman puzzles over the baroness's shady past and begins to wonder: Do sirens sing intentionally to trap sailors, or do they sing because it is their nature to sing?

Critique: A deftly crafted and compelling read from beginning to end, "Death of a Siren" showcases author William Schall as a master of the genre, making it very highly recommended for community library Mystery/Suspense collections. For the personal reading lists of mystery fans it should be noted that "Death of a Siren" is also available in a Kindle edition ($11.99).

Clint Travis

Gail's Bookshelf

Bridge of Caring
Joanne Harris
Wasteland Press
18 Village Plaza, PMB # 177, Shelbyville, KY 40065
9781681110486, $12.00, PB, 102 Pages,

In Joan Harris's inspirational memoir, "Bridge of Caring: The Importance of Investing in the Lives of Other People" readers learn how one woman, who felt overwhelmed, exhausted and filled with self-doubt, ventured into the business world when she and her husband were middle-aged and unemployed. It was 2008 when more businesses were closing than opening. When then U.S. Secretary Treasurer, Timothy Geithner proposed the TARP program and the American taxpayer bailed out banks, large insurance companies, mortgage companies and even investment firms.

Today that year is part of what is now called the Great Recession characterized by high job loss and business failures. Yet, that's when Joan first thought of starting a non-profit she would one day name "Bridge of Caring." If her dream became reality it would equip her to "problem solve difficult life circumstances for other people" in her Oregon community.

The unlikely business idea seemed out of Joan's abilities and reach yet she checked out "Nonprofit for Dummies" from her local library to explore the idea. Her first read through confirmed the venture was "way out of her league" like she first thought, but she left the book on the table and continued to leaf through its pages.

However, she couldn't forget the idea and as she became more familiar with the language of business she began to question if the idea had really come from God. She knew God called and equipped the unqualified if they were not afraid to step out in faith and trust Him. Even though her fourteen years in the news business and six years in church ministry hadn't prepared her to found a business let alone be president of one.

After much prayer she told God her simple business plan which was to pray for guidance every step of the way and trust Him to provide the people, the clients and the finances which she summarized in a whispered plea, "God, I need to know if this is from you."

Time would prove the idea had indeed come from the Lord as "Bridge of Caring" formed and began to make a difference in people lives. Whether providing meals for a family, fulfilling a dream or working in partnership with a local hospice house to provide prepared meals for family members and patients.

The inspiring accounts in this small book reveal each one of us can make a difference and that those who give and those who receive are each one enriched by the experience. Joan closes with this thought: "If you want to help make a difference in the lives of others around to God...than listen to your heart. Don't let fear of failure, self-doubt and lack of discipline cripple your efforts." Instead, "remember that God's strength is made perfect in our weakness." II Corinthians 12:9

This little book with a big message is available by book, Kindle or Nook, or Barnes & Noble.

Satanic Ritual Abuse Exposed
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781495466830, $14.99, PB, 232 Pages,

"Satanic Ritual Abuse Exposed: Recovery of a Christian Survivor" was a difficult book to read and review due to subject matter and graphic content. However, for the author "Katie", now an ordained minister in Oregon with a Master's in Counseling from Christian Leadership University, the recovered memories are horrific and real. It's also not a book for children or anyone who's easily influenced by the occult.

Kathy's recovery began in a "therapist's office" where she and her husband Carl scheduled couples counseling because of marital difficulties that caused Kathy to think she was losing her mind. The counselor thought their fighting was caused by a dysfunctional "co-dependent relationship" where one partner enables another such as often happens in addiction. She told them co-dependency could cause fighting if a partner's behavior was questioned or challenged.

To demonstrate an adult temper tantrum the counselor threw a pillow across the room. The demonstration caused Kathy to fall off the couch and curl into a fetal position on the floor where she began to sob. The counselor asked, "Kathy, have you ever been sexually abused?"

Thus begins a story of childhood torture, abuse, rejection and child sacrifice where a counselor becomes "Jesus with skin on" to a young woman recovering childhood memories of ritualistic sex abuse. The acts performed by members of satanically influenced secret societies such as the Illuminati, Freemasons, New World Order and others.

The traumatic events caused Kathy's loss of memory and childhood amnesia because it was her own family, primarily her mother, who allowed the abuse. When Kathy turned fourteen she ran away from home and by age eighteen had "moved 32 times."

The author writes the violent and graphic narrative as a true story based on recovered memories. In her search for the truth she learned her family line was involved with "multigenerational Satanism" long before she was born. After years of torment Kathy found peace and deliverance when she accepted Christ and today is part of Restoration Gateway Ministries, an inner healing and deliverance ministry in Oregon.

The Bible tells me Satan and evil exist and I see his influence in schools, movies, music, television shows and the rise of witchcraft across our nation. Which prompts a question. How did Kathy get involved and how do you get a Christian nation, as is happening today, to allow Satanism and witchcraft? The answer is surprisingly simple, make evil seem harmless, enjoyable and funny with television shows like "Lucifer," "Angel from Hell" and Satan worshipping bands like "Satanic Black Metal."

Even though Kathy shares a Christian message, the book is difficult and should only be read by adults because of the graphic content.

Brush of Wings
Karen Kingsbury
Howard Books
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781451687538, $22.99, HC, 352 Pages,

Karen Kingsbury completes her "Angels Walking" trilogy with Brush of Wings, a supernatural fantasy about life, death and angelic intervention. The prologue begins in heaven where lead angel Orlon has called an "Angel Town Meeting" after archangel Michael informs him, "the Father is ready for the final stage of this great mission."

Ember, Beck, Jag and Aspyn, "Walking Angels" team members were the first to arrive and sat near the front as other angels entered in groups of "twos and threes." The team didn't expect the final assignment to be theirs since they had worked with Tyler Ames, Sami Dawson, Mary Catherine Clark and Marcus Dillinger before.

Yet they were told to continue the mission and warned if they were recognized the consequences would be serious and the entire mission would be in jeopardy since that could stop or interrupt events "that must play out" for their mission to succeed.

Thus begins Kingsbury's touching tale of love and sacrifice wrapped in the power of faith, serious health issues, danger and a team of angels divine intervention. It's also a story of friendships, choices and decisions that impact the future of a baby yet to be born who will return generations back to God if Mary Catherine will only listen to her doctor's advice. However, Mary Catherine believes Matthew 6:27, "And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his lifespan?" (ESV) (page 276) and she continues to pursue her dream.

However, when the doctor's advice conflicts with her dream of working with orphans in Africa she's even more determined to "live out the one dream she could still make a reality" while she still can. Especially since she could never be a wife and mother and have children of her own. Her failing heart wouldn't allow that.

Kingsbury's award-winning writing continues with this redemptive, inspirational romance about the trials and triumphs of a group of friends and an unborn child whose life depends on supernatural intervention. The story also highlights Hebrews 13:2 " Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares." (ESV)

I particularly appreciated Kingsbury's focus on angels, demons and prayer without glamorizing the dark side of spirituality as so often happens today. Kingsbury's approach is biblical and spiritual with a faith-based story that reveals the power of faith and prayer available to us all.

Rich Is Not a Four-Letter Word
Gerri Willis
Crown Forum
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9781101903797, $26.00, Hardcover, 272 Pages,

Gerri Willis, anchor and personal finance correspondent for Fox Business News released Rich is Not a Four-Letter Word April 19. The intriguing play-on-words title offers a capitalist viewpoint based on free enterprise and private ownership in our increasingly anti-capitalist influenced society, evidenced by The Seattle Times report on anti-capitalist protesters in downtown Seattle
May 2.

It's also a concern Max Ehrenfreund's wrote about in The Washington Post where he said millennials today prefer socialism over capitalism. Yet, our founding fathers designed our nation on the principles of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" in the Declaration of Independence which favors conservative, limited government.

Willis's dislike of "bigger government programs, more bureaucracy, and more wasted taxpayer money" reveals a conservative bias against the "progressive mind-set championed by liberals."

However, she offers a fair and balanced view supported by research, statistics and polls from the likes of Pew Research with overviews on "how we got off track," with "the Bank of Washington, the Dependency Crisis, Healthcare Deformation, Housing, Education and The Fed."

In chapter one Willis presents an overview of what the problems are and how they affect our nation, especially the middle-class where over half of Americans now make less than 30K a year. Rachel Stoltzfoos reported that same statistic last fall in The Daily Caller. Where she writes, "Fifty-one percent of working Americans make less than $30,000 a year, new data from the Social Security Administration (SSA) shows, [which is] just over the poverty level for a family of five."

In chapters two through nine Willis offers sound advice on how to "beat the system" and get an "affordable education, survive Obamacare, invest, save, purchase real estate, taxes and she even includes a chapter on "how rich people think."

Chapter four concerns Obamacare and that segment alone is more than worth the price of the book. She details how "to navigate this brave new world" with informative links that rank doctors, billing practices and patient reviews and links to websites that "compare prices on everything from drugs to surgeries." For example the American Medical Association's "Code Manager" that teaches how to read complex billing codes and Good Rx that offers drug price comparisons and coupons to print among others.

"Rich is Not a Four-Letter Word" is a quick and easy read that acknowledges we are still in a
Great Recession with the real unemployment rate not reported. John Williams alternate "Shadow stats unemployment rate for April 2016 is a whopping 22.9%, not like March's National Employment rate of 5%. The result is a nation in shell shock over unaffordable and rising costs of health care, the unemployed, the under-employed part-time workers and discouraged college graduates who can't find a job and repay their student loans.

Willis's compelling and insightful solutions offer genuine answers to an over-regulated society that hinders private enterprise, retards economic expansion and keeps our nation mired in recession. It's not a book to miss.

Breaking Light: Birth of a Hero
Carl Townsend
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781492835462, $11.00, PB, 252 Pages,

Carl Townsend's narrative, Breaking Light: Birth of a Hero takes place in 2032 in the Glacier Peak Wilderness area of the North Cascades. The story begins with Ken, a young man in search of an underground Christian community called "Sunodia," named after a Grecian word that means "... journey together."

After Ken's trusted mentor and girlfriend died he reached out to Roger and Tom, friends he shared ideas with over the Internet. Perhaps to distract him they told him about an underground group that fearlessly preached the "Risen Christ and biblical core values," a group they called Sunodia. The idea intrigued Ken and he wanted to learn more and the idea to find the underground church community was born.

Now he was on what should have been a three-day hike alongside the Entiat River trail to Sunodia, however he was using Roger and Ken's "rather cryptic directions." Since crossing the freezing cold water of Ice Creek the trail now led away from the river and Roger and Ken said the trail should follow the river.

Ken's feet were cold and wet from the river crossing, so he decided to make camp, gather firewood, sit down and mentally retrace his steps. In a short time he was luxuriating in the dancing fire flames that also cooked his dinner, warmed his feet and dried his boots and socks.

Lost in thought Ken didn't notice the oddly dressed old man until he was upon him. Ken gestured for him to sit and offered to share his dinner with him. However, the old man just stood there and then said, "You must be Ken...they told me you'd be along." Ken wondered who "they" were but before he could ask the old man continued.

"Don't be afraid, young man. I understand you've been doing some deep spiritual seeking. You must learn to see with your heart." His words only added to Ken's growing confusion. Who was this guy and how did he know so much about him?

Thus begins a faith-based, supernatural account about a young man in search of answers, a mysterious man named Gandalf and an underground church community that believed churches had sold the "Gospel [out]to the American marketing machine" twenty years ago.

Ken knew the nation's culture was now considered "post-modern," but he believed a better description was "post-secular." Because people in general seemed to be morally bankrupt and spiritually empty since they no longer read the Bible or heard the Word as God intended which left them without a moral compass.

Carl's ambitious and intriguing story fascinates and keeps readers interested. However the distracting and consistent use of first names and tense issues stop the story flow. The chapter end notes detracted from the story and revealed his extensive nonfiction writing background where such notes are used. Still, the apt descriptions of a post-secular America are not far off the mark today even though our nation is a long way from the year 2032. Carl's story is fascinating and will appeal to a faith-based audience.

They Say We Are Infidels
Mindy Belz
Tyndale Momentum
c/o Tyndale House Publishers
351 Executive Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188
9781496411471, $25.99, HC, 272 Pages,

They Say We Are Infidels: On the Run from ISIS with Persecuted Christians in the Middle East, penned by World Magazine editor Mindy Belz is an accurate portrayal of how Christians live in the Middle East today. A part of the world torn apart by ISIS militants, jihadists and terrorists who view infidels, those who don't believe in the Islamic faith, as deserving of horrible atrocities such as beheading, drowning, torture or rape. Their message to Christians: "You don't belong in Iraq. Leave, pay the penalty to stay or be ready to die."

Mindy didn't focus her reporting on the Middle East until after the 9/11 attacks in 2001. Since then she's gained an in-depth understanding of the times, the culture and the peoples she writes about and brings to life a part of the world little understood in the West.

She captures true stories of people who refuse to deny their faith, a people willing to die for their faith, similar to those found in the Old and New Testaments. While stories bring "the escalating genocide to light" they also leave readers with a very real question. "Could I do the same, die for my faith if threatened with torture, rape or beheading?"

Readers learn about Odisho Yousif and the identity card he wears like the Jews wore in Hitler's era that identifies him as a Christian as if he were a criminal. And what it costs him to carry ransom money raised by the churches for Christians kidnapped by Islamic militants.

Then there's the question a young father asked that doesn't seem to have an answer. "Why is America standing up for the rights of Muslims and not for Christians?" Or the meaning behind the Jewish saying, "First Saturday, then Sunday," which is another way of saying, "first the Jews will disappear, then the Christians." Some stories will make you mad, others will make you cry and almost without exception the reader will come to understand the real cost of faith in a Muslim country.

The book is broken into three parts, "War and Peace," "Chasing Peace" and "Inside the House of War." The narratives in story-form are taken from face-to-face interviews" in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq. The back of the book includes a timeline of events from 1920 through September 23, 2015 and the horrific execution of three Assyrian Christians. Something, we in the United States have yet to experience on a large scale and often find it difficult to understand.

"They Say We are Infidels" portrays a dedicated people who refuse to deny their faith in spite of "escalating genocide." However, they also leave readers with a question. "Could I die for my faith if my son, daughter, wife or husband were threatened with the atrocities of torture, rape or beheading?"

While stories are textured, rich and emotional some will make you mad and others will make you cry. However, almost without exception, readers will come to appreciate the cost of faith in a Muslim country that "savagely brutalizes and annihilates Christians." A must read, regardless of faith, race or religion.

Gail Welborn, Reviewer

Julie's Bookshelf

Becoming a Sage
Sharon Wegscheider-Cruse
Health Communications, Inc.
3201 S.W. 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442-8190
9780757319044, $15.95, PB, 312pp,

Synopsis: A sage is a profoundly wise person; a person famed for wisdom, someone venerated for the possession of wisdom, judgment, and experience. The art of becoming a sage mixes personal life experience with learning from ancient and historical people who have gathered their own wisdom. Sages know that they stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before. In "Becoming a Sage: Discovering Life's Lessons, One Story at a Time", Sharon Wegscheider-Cruse (the founding Chairperson of the National Association of Children of Alcoholics, and founder of Onsite Workshops) encourages readers to find their own personal path through a series of short stories, lessons learned and prudent quotes that validate each experience. Her stories span deep lows and soaring highs, including a lifelong journey of lessons learned and a celebration of living with those lessons. Each individual tale will bring solace, comfort, and joy to readers, and inspire and teach them how to record their own stories. It will bring readers through guilt, fear, and forgiveness to reach personal transformation. Sharon knows that it's not always easy to tell our stories; they can be scary or feel too private. But, as we grow older, we find courage and confidence by deciding to become "a teller of the truth." Our sharing is the legacy that we leave to family and friends; "Becoming a Sage" is the remarkable legacy Sharon leaves to us all.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Becoming a Sage: Discovering Life's Lessons, One Story at a Time" is as informed and informative as it is inspired and inspiring, While very highly recommended for both community and academic library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Becoming a Sage" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Smedley's Secret Guide to World Literature
Askold Melnyczuk
PFP Publishing
PO Box 829, Byfield, MA 01922
9780997024814, $14.95, PB, 254pp,

Synopsis: Why is everyone angry with Jonathan? Suspended from school a week before Memorial Day, the savvy and cyber-sexed fifteen-year old is charged by his poet-father to write a history of literature in the age of Twitter. Jonathan absconds to Manhattan to care for his high-living godfather, who recently had a stroke, but the siren song of the city keeps him distracted. When he meets the worldly Beatriz, his life threatens to take a sharp turn. Speaking directly to the obsessions of our present, Smedley's Secret Guide reminds us that no one knows how anything will turn out until it happens. As someone once said, our great and glorious masterpiece is to live appropriately.

Critique: Impressively well written, "Smedley's Secret Guide to World Literature" clearly documents author Askold Melnyczuk as an original and exceptionally gifted novelist. Consistently compelling and deftly crafted from beginning to end, "Smedley's Secret Guide to World Literature" is very highly recommended for community library General Fiction collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Smedley's Secret Guide to World Literature" is also available in a Kindle edition ($2.99).

Sperm Tales: An Informative Guide Through the Challenges of Infertility
Lynn M. Collins
Privately Published
9780996520300, $23.95, PB, 420pp,

Synopsis: Infertility is a medical problem defined as the failure of a couple to conceive a child after one year of unprotected sexual intercourse, or the inability to carry a pregnancy to live birth. According to the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, infertility affects about 6.1 million people. "Sperm Tales: An Informative Guide Through the Challenges of Infertility" by Lynn Collins (who previously worked as a laboratory supervisor at a leading U.S. sperm bank where she managed and reviewed results of donor specimens and worked with the department of health) provides the necessary step-by-step information that enables patients to anticipate and prepare for the various challenges (medically and otherwise) that attend the process of infertility treatment. "Sperm Tales" provides up-to-date information that is consistently presented with compassion, will put couples at ease and may even make them laugh. Further, "Sperm Tales" is intended to help women of childbearing age gain a clear understanding about their fertility and the potential roadblocks they will confront if they wait too long. While great strides have been made in helping women conceive later in life, "Sperm Tales" will help women of childbearing age to recognize the complication they will face if they presume too much when it comes to conceiving after the peak years. "Sperm Tales" is meant for both for men and for women and includes current and prospective patients; their families and support groups; others in medical community.

Critique: Impressively well written and exceptionally well organized and presented by veteran infertility expert Lynn Collins, "Sperm Tales: An Informative Guide Through the Challenges of Infertility" is thoroughly 'reader friendly', thoughtfully informative, and very highly recommended for both community and academic library Health/Medicine reference collections in general, and Fertility/Infertility supplemental studies reading lists in particular. It should be noted for students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Sperm Tales" is also available in a Kindle edition ($17.99).

Tackling the Tough Stuff
Anglea M. Tomlin & Stephan A. Viehweg
Brookes Publishing Company
PO Box 10624, Baltimore, MD 21285-0624
9781598579277, $29.95, PB, 228pp,

Synopsis: Home visits with at-risk families present unique, complex challenges that professionals must be ready to address with skill and sensitivity. The problem-solving framework in "Tackling the Tough Stuff: A Home Visitor's Guide to Supporting Families at Risk" will help home visitors manage even the most difficult on-the-job challenges -- and support and empower vulnerable families of children birth to 3. The authors' PAUSE framework (Perceive, Ask, Understand, Strategize, and Evaluate) walks home visitors through the entire process of addressing problems, from recognizing a difficult situation to evaluating the chosen action steps. Readers will learn how to apply the framework in real-world situations, partner with parents to understand their perspectives, take direct and effective action to help the parents and children they work with, and give at-risk families the tools they need to resolve their own challenges in the future. "Tackling the Tough Stuff" will show home visitors how to: Skillfully blend relationship-based and reflective practice approaches in their daily work; Understand what's behind children's challenging behaviors; Learn specific tips for helping families solve key challenges, from feeding issues to meltdowns; Work sensitively and effectively with families facing difficult situations, including domestic violence, substance abuse, and mental illness; Equip families with practical caregiving skills they'll use long after the home visit is over; Set appropriate boundaries with families and mend any breaks in the provider - caregiver relationship; Use self-care strategies to address symptoms of burnout and secondary trauma.

Critique: "Tackling the Tough Stuff: A Home Visitor's Guide to Supporting Families at Risk" is enhanced with the inclusion of helpful sample dialogues and vignettes to use as models, plus reproducible blank forms on exploring challenging behaviors, discussing difficult topics, reflecting on practices, helping parents improve their skills, and more. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Tackling the Tough Stuff" is very highly recommended for professional and academic library Early Childhood and Family Support instructional reference collections and supplemental studies curriculums. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Tackling the Tough Stuff" is also available in a Kindle edition ($26.21).

The Missing Element
Debra Silverman
Findhorn Press
Delft Cottage, Dykle Forres Iv36 2TF, Scotland, UK
9781844096893, $16.99, PB, 160pp,

Synopsis: In the pages of "The Missing Element: Inspiring Compassion for the Human Condition", author and clinical psychologist Debra Silverman describes human nature in a compassionate and succinct way. Everyone longs to be understood and "The Missing Element" offers ways for us to get to know ourselves in depth with the wisdom of archetypes. The information comprising "The Missing Element" stands on the shoulders of our elders, who understood the four directions, the four elements, the four noble truths. Whatever pain you experience is specific to your personality type, based on the four elements. Your issues will repeat themselves again and again until you can see yourself and others from the compassionate vantage point that unites all of us. You will understand that your life and all its stories were designed by your soul to get your attention right now. It is inviting you to seek the wisdom of the ages to help you grow.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The Missing Element" is an extraordinarily informed and informative read from beginning to end. As thoughtful and thought-provoking as it is insightful and potentially life-changing, "The Missing Element" is very highly recommended for personal and community library Self-Help/Self-Improvement instructional reference collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "The Missing Element" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Building Social Relationships 2
Scott Bellini
AAPC Publishing
11209 Strang Line Road, Lenexa, KS 66215
9781942197164, $39.95, PB, 292pp

Synopsis: Too often social skill interventions are designed merely as a reaction to problem behaviors. This often results in parents and practitioners "chasing" problem behaviors while failing to systematically teach social skills. Social skills programming should be an essential aspect of every educational and therapeutic program for children and adolescents on the autism spectrum. Unfortunately, few youth on the spectrum are receiving effective social skills programming. Many parents are tremendously concerned about their child's social functioning and their future quality of life. They see their children struggling to build and maintain social relationships. They see them experiencing peer failure, rejection, and relentless bullying on a regular basis. Most importantly, they see their children dealing with intense social anxiety, depression, and social isolation. Not coincidentally, practitioners are often frustrated by the tepid results of their social skills program.

The Building Social Relationships program was created to address the need for effective social skills programming. The BSR program is a systematic social skills program that addresses both social cognitive processing and social skill performance. "Building Social Relationships-2" (BSR-2) provides readers with a conceptualized framework that will improve their understanding of social functioning in youth on the autism spectrum. "Building Social Relationships 2" will teach readers how to assess and teach social skills and activate social cognitive processing in both children and adolescents. "Building Social Relationships 2" contains over 40 instructional strategies and includes a revised version of the Autism Social Skills Profile, an instrument designed to measure social competence in youth on the spectrum.

Now, more than ever, our field and, more importantly, our children are in desperate need of effective social skills programming. BSR-2 was written based on the belief that we have long undervalued social skill instruction in our schools and clinics and that we have significantly underestimated the social potential of individuals on the spectrum. We don't just need more social skills programming, we need better social skills programming. "Building Social Relationships 2" will guide readers on the path to better programming and improved social outcomes. It will allow parents and practitioners to practice with purpose and to systematically address the social skill and social cognitive needs of youth on the autism spectrum.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Building Social Relationships 2" by Scott Bellini (Director of the Social Skills Research Clinic - a university based center specializing in developng and empirically examining the outcomes of social skill interventions for youth with ADS), is very highly recommended for parental, professional, and academic library Autism collections in general, and curriculum textbook supplemental reading studies lists in particular.

The Nanny Time Bomb
Jacalyn S. Burke
Praeger Publishers
PO Box 1911, Santa Barbara, CA 93116-1911
9781440835216, $37.00, HC, 200pp,

Synopsis: From your baby's perspective, choosing the right nanny is probably the most important decision a parent can ever make: this book is about making the best possible choice. "The Nanny Time Bomb: Navigating the Crisis in Child Care" by Jacalyn S. Burke (founder and owner of Baby Does NYC, a blog focused on events, products, and services for parents of 0 - 24 month-old children) contains explosive new information about the child care industry; analyzes the roles that race, immigration, gender, class, and culture play in child care practice; offers parents a definitive guide to making the best child care choices; and presents a realistic picture of the child care industry today based on 10 years of direct, on-the-job experience.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The Nanny Time Bomb" is enhanced with the inclusion of eight pages of Notes, a four page Bibliography, a four page listing of Resources, a two page listing of the experts interviewed and their credentials, and a five page Index. While very highly recommended for both community and academic library Contemporary Child Care Issues collections and supplemental studies reading lists, it should be noted for individual academics and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Nanny Tim Bomb" is also available in a Kindle edition ($35.15).

Teaching While Black
Pamela Lewis
Empire State Editions
c/o Fordham University Press
2546 Belmont Avenue, University Box L, Bronx, NY 10458-5172
9780823271405, $70.00, HC, 232pp,

Synopsis: Teaching should never be color-blind. In a world where many believe the best approach toward eradicating racism is to feign ignorance of our palpable physical differences, a few have led the movement toward convincing fellow educators not only to consider race but to use it as the very basis of their teaching. This is what education activist and writer Pamela Lewis has set upon to do in her compelling book, "Teaching While Black: A New Voice on Race and Education in New York City". As the title suggests, embracing blackness in the classroom can be threatening to many and thus challenging to carry out in the present school system.

Unapologetic and gritty, "Teaching While Black" offers an insightful, honest portrayal of Lewis's turbulent eleven-year relationship within the New York City public school system and her fight to survive in a profession that has undervalued her worth and her understanding of how children of color learn best. Tracing her educational journey with its roots in the North Bronx, Lewis paints a vivid, intimate picture of her battle to be heard in a system struggling to unlock the minds of the children it serves, while stifling the voices of teachers of color who hold the key. The reader gains full access to a perspective that has been virtually ignored since the No Child Left Behind Act, through which questions surrounding increased resignation rates by teachers of color and failing test scores can be answered.

"Teaching While Black" is both a deeply personal narrative of a black woman's real-life experiences and a clarion call for culturally responsive teaching. Lewis fearlessly addresses the reality of toxic school culture head-on and gives readers an inside look at the inert bureaucracy, heavy-handed administrators, and ineffective approach to pedagogy that prevent inner-city kids from learning. At the heart of Lewis's moving narrative is her passion. Each chapter delves deeper into the author's conscious uncoupling from the current trends in public education that diminish proven remedies for academic underachievement, as observed from her own experiences as a teacher of students of color.

"Teaching While Black" summons everyone to re-examine what good teaching looks like. Through a powerful vision, together with practical ideas and strategies for teachers navigating very difficult waters, Lewis delivers hope for the future of teaching and learning in inner-city schools.

Critique: Informative, exceptional, extraordinary, insightful, thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Teaching While Black: A New Voice on Race and Education in New York City" is both a remarkable memoir and an invaluable contribution to academic library Contemporary Education Studies, African-American Studies, and Urban Studies reference collections. For the personal reading lists of academics and non-specialist general readers with an interest in these subjects it should be noted that "Teach While Black" is also available in a paperback edition (9780823271412, $19.95) and in a Kindle format ($9.99).

Julie Summers

Logan's Bookshelf

Messages from a Lost World
Stefan Sweig
Pushkin Press
9781782271550, $25.00, HC, 224pp,

Synopsis: Stefan Zweig was a leading talisman of a united Europe of unfettered movement, of pro-active cultural exchange, humane decency and tolerance, all polar opposites of the Nationalist regimes he loathed, and which came to power in the 1930s. In these poignant essays and addresses, forged in the last years or even months of his life, he shows his profound concern for and dedication to the survival of Europe's spiritual integrity. The essays comprising "Messages from a Lost World: Europe on the Brink" form the natural accompaniment to Zweig's renowned memoir "The World of Yesterday" (Pushkin Press, 9781782271222,$16.00 BP, HC, 480pp; University of Nebraska Press, 9780803226616, $24.95 PB, $9.99 Kindle) registering the same themes and evoking the same nostalgia for a world brutally consigned to history. They can be seen as a vital addendum to that major work or as a prefiguration. But perhaps even more so than the prose of the memoir, these essays, few in number but rich in content, reveal the essence of Zweig's thought.

Critique: Stefan Zweig was born in 1881 in Vienna, a member of a wealthy Austrian-Jewish family. He studied in Berlin and Vienna and was first known as a translator and later as a biographer. Zweig traveled widely, living in Salzburg between the wars, and enjoying literary fame. His stories and novellas were collected in 1934. In the same year, with the rise of Nazism, he briefly moved to London, taking British citizenship. After a short period in New York, he settled in Brazil where in 1942 he and his wife were found dead in bed in an apparent double suicide. "Messages from a Lost World" is ably translated from German into English for an American readership by Will Stone, making it an extraordinary and highly recommended addition to community and academic library collections. "Messages from a Lost World" is a lasting legacy for a new generation of readers from this memorable philosophy and dedicated historian. For academia and the non-specialist general reader with an interest in 20th Century European history, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Messages from a Lost World" is also available in a Kindle edition ($14.99).

Wind Sprints: Shorter Essays
Joseph Epstein
Axios Press
94 Landfill Road, Edinburg, VA 22824
National Book Network (distribution)
4501 Forbes Boulevard, Suite 200, Lanham, MD 20706
9781604191004, $24.00, HC, 608pp,

Synopsis: Joseph Epstein (Emeritus Lecturer of English, Northwestern University) is a frequent contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Commentary, and the Weekly Standard. He is acclaimed for his witty, perceptive, and occasionally contentious essays, which he began during his editorship (1974-97) of American Scholar. "Wind Sprints: Shorter Essays" is the third volume of essays from Axios Press following the much acclaimed "Essays in Biography" (978-1604190687, $24.00 HC, $10.99 Kindle, 603pp) and "A Literary Education and Other Essays", (978-1604190786, $24.00 HC, $9.89 Kindle, 537pp).

Critique: "Wind Sprints: Shorter Essays" is comprised of 142 short essays. The subject matter ranges from domestic life, to current social trends, to an appraisal of "contemporary nuttiness". The commentaries Professor Epstein, provide a thoughtful and thought-provoking series of perspectives on life. "Wind Sprints: Shorter Essays" is a compendium of life teaching by example, each of which is presented with a wry smile and such a sure hand that we hardly notice the instruction. It is just pure contemplative pleasure from first essay to last. "Wind Sprints: Shorter Essays" is very highly recommended for community and academic library collections. For academia and the non-specialist general reader alike, it should be noted for personal reading lists that like the two previous volumes of Professor Epstein's essays, "Wind Sprints: Shorter Essays" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.89).

The War on Leakers
Lloyd C. Gardner
The New Press
126 Wall Street, floor 31, New York, NY 10005-4007
9781620970638, $26.95, HC, 336pp,

Synopsis: Four days before Pearl Harbor, in December 1941, someone leaked American contingency war plans to the Chicago Tribune. The small splash the story made was overwhelmed by the shock waves caused by the Japanese attack on the Pacific fleet anchored in Hawaii -- but the ripples never subsided, growing quietly but steadily across the Cold War, Vietnam, the fall of Communism, and into the present. "Democracy, from Eugene V. Debs to Edward Snowden" by Lloyd C. Gardner (Professor Emeritus of History at Rutgers University) takes a deep dive into the previously unexamined history of national security leakers. "The War on Leakers" is a significantly contribution to the growing debate over surveillance and the national security state, bringing to bear the unique perspective of one our most respected diplomatic historians. Professor Gardner examines how national security leaks have been grappled with over nearly five decades, what the relationship of "leaking" has been to the exercise of American power during and after the Cold War, and the implications of all this for how we should think about the role of leakers and democracy. Professor Gardner's eye-opening new history asks us to consider why America has invested so much of its resources, technology, and credibility in a system that all but cries out for loyal Americans to leak its secrets.

Critique: The recent release of the Panama Papers revealing the financial secrecies of the rich and powerful, and the Obama administration's record of increasing leaker crackdowns only serves to underscore the timeliness and relevance of Professor Gardner's "The War on Leakers", a revealingly informed and informative work that should be a part of every community and academic library collection. For the personal reading lists of academics and the non-specialist general reader with an interest in the subject, it should be noted that "The War on Leakers" is also available in a Kindle edition ($15.99).

How To Make A Soul
Eric G. Wilson
Northwestern University Press
629 Noyes Strett, Evanston, IL 60208
9780810131941, $79.95, 176pp,

Synopsis: "How To Make A Soul" is an deftly blended hybrid of biography, memoir, and criticism in which Eric G. Wilson (Thomas H. Pritchard Professor of English at Wake Forest University) describes how John Keats gave him solace during a bout of mental illness in spring 2012. While on a tour of the principal sites in Keats's life (ranging from his London medical school to the small room in Rome where he died) Professor Wilson discovered analogies between the poet's troubles and his own. He was most struck by Keats's enlivening vision of the soul. For Keats, we don't possess but rather make a soul. We do this by imaginatively transforming our suffering into empathy toward humans and nature alike. Tracking this idea in Keats's tumultuous yet exhilarating life and work, Professor Wilson struggles to envision his depression anew, desperate to overcome the apathy alienating him from his family. "How to Make a Soul" offers fresh perspectives on Keats's pragmatism, irony, comedy, ethics, and aesthetics, but is above all a lyrical celebration of those galvanizing instances when life springs into art.

Critique: A unique and inherently compelling read from beginning to end, "How to Make a Soul: The Wisdom of John Keats" is rich with contemplative insights and very highly recommended for both community and academic library Literary Criticism and Contemporary American Biography collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "How to Make a Soul" is also available in a paperback edition (9780810131934, $21.95) and in a Kindle format ($13.41).

Carl Logan

Margaret's Bookshelf

We're Not Sixteen Anymore
Becky Andersen
WriteLife Publishing
9781608081561, $14.95, PB, 192pp,

Synopsis: "We're Not Sixteen Anymore: A Baby Boomer's Adventures With Online Dating" delightfully pokes gentle fun at common occurrence in everyday life with respect to dating. But not just any dating! The primary focus in with the phenomenon of online dating. And specifically online dating when you're closer to sixty than to sixteen. Follow the tongue-in-cheek adventures of a Baby Boomer as she discovers the pitfalls and highlights of dating in the 21st Century's cyber-world. Feeling naive and outside her comfort zone, the author prepares to step up to the plate of dating after a relative puts her on an electronic dating site. Like many people, she discovers she's been in a time warp, and when she approaches dating like she did when she was in her teens, she discovers it's entirely different. What started out as entries on her Facebook page have expanded into detailed accounts of dating foibles and feats. Anyone who has embraced the concept of online dating will find her adventures humorous and charming.

Critique: Written with wit and wisdom in equal measure, while "We're Not Sixteen Anymore: A Baby Boomer's Adventures With Online Dating" will have special appeal to anyone of any age having to deal with online dating in our modern social media age, it will have special appeal to the now aging baby boom generation. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "We're Not Sixteen Anymore" is very highly recommended for community library collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "We're Not Sixteen Anymore" is also available in a Kindle edition ($6.49).

Chasing the Cure in New Mexico
Nancy Owen Lewis
Museum of New Mexico Press
PO Box 2087, Santa Fe, NM 87504-2087
9780890136126, $34.95, HC, 296pp,

Synopsis: In "Chasing the Cure in New Mexico: Tuberculosis and the Quest for Health", academician and author Nancy Owen Lewis tells the story of the thousands of "health seekers" who journeyed to New Mexico from 1880 to 1940 seeking a cure for tuberculosis (TB), the leading killer in the United States at the time. By 1920 such health seekers represented an estimated 10 percent of New Mexico's population. The influx of "lungers" as they were called (many of whom remained in New Mexico) would play a critical role in New Mexico's struggle for statehood and in its growth. Nearly sixty sanatoriums were established around the state, laying the groundwork for the state's current health-care system. Among New Mexico's prominent lungers were artists Will Shuster and Carlos Vierra, who "came to heal and stayed to paint". Bronson Cutting, brought to Santa Fe on a stretcher in 1910, became the influential publisher of the Santa Fe New Mexican and a powerful U.S Senator. Others included William R. Lovelace and Edgar T. Lassetter, founders of the Lovelace Clinic, as well as Senator Clinton P. Anderson, poet Alice Corbin Henderson, architect John Gaw Meem, aviator Katherine Stinson, and Dorothy McKibben, gatekeeper for the Manhattan Project. New Mexico's most infamous outlaw, Billy the Kid, first arrived in New Mexico when his mother, Catherine Antrim, sought treatment in Silver City.

Critique: An extraordinary and impressively well written, organized and presented history, "Chasing the Cure in New Mexico: Tuberculosis and the Quest for Health" is as informed and informative as it is compelling from beginning to end. Very highly recommended for community and academic library collections, "Chasing the Cure" will be of immense interest for academics and non-specialist general readers with an interest in this unique aspect of New Mexico's history.

Letters from Nigeria
Gretel Clark
Peter E. Randall Publisher
5 Greenleaf Woods Drive, Suite 102, Portsmouth New Hampshire 03801
9781942155133, $34.95, HC, 246pp,

Synopsis: Today Gretel Clark has a BA from Vassar College, an MA from University of Michigan, and CAS from Harvard University. She has taught on four continents, raised four children, and is currently a beekeeper in Hamilton, Massachusetts. Back when she was a young American joining her husband on a pre - Peace Corps mission to newly independent Nigeria, Gretel worked in the Ministry of Education, while her husband joined a team of economists sent by the Ford Foundation, Gretel wrote a series of letters home from 1961 to 1962 that provide a uniquely inside view of the fledgling Nigerian government. It is that correspondence that now comprises "Letters from Nigeria", enhanced with a profusion of full-color photographs that bring alive the vibrant cultures of the then new African nation. "Letters from Nigeria" touches upon life among British civil servants, visiting foreign diplomats and speculators, and at the heart of it all, her daily interactions with the Nigerian people. Included "Letters from Nigeria" are Gretel's anthropological musings, economic development theories, and the birth of her first child in a West African government hospital.

Critique: Informative, extraordinary, insightful, compelling, "Letters from Nigeria" is impressively well written and illustrated from beginning to end, making it very highly recommended, especially for community and academic library American Biography collections in general, and Nigerian History supplemental studies reading lists in particular.

Woman Redefined: Dignity, Beauty, and Breast Cancer
Kristina Hunter, author
M. L. Kenneth, photographer
Second Story Press
20 Maud Street, Suite 401, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M5V 2M5
9781772600056, $22.95, PB, 168pp,

Synopsis: When women diagnosed with breast cancer face the possibility of undergoing surgery or having a mastectomy they want to know what their bodies will look like afterwards. But faced with only clinical and impersonal depictions of women's bodies, how can they know what to expect? Will they still feel attractive? Will they still feel like themselves? Kristina Hunter was faced with those very fears with her diagnosis. During her treatment she met other women who also had no idea what their bodies would look like after surgery, and she set out to correct this. With photographer ML Kenneth, together they captured emotional photographs of women who have had breast cancer surgery, helping them reclaim their bodies, and then paired the photos with information on their corresponding surgeries. The result is "Woman Redefined: Dignity, Beauty, and Breast Cancer", an informative collection of personal, empowering, and artful portraits that answers many questions about surgeries, while also asking questions about what makes a woman's body beautiful. It gives future generations of diagnosed women a more tangible, and beautiful, reference of what to expect.

Critique: Simply stated, every community, health center, and academic library Health/Medicine collection should have a copy of "Woman Redefined: Dignity, Beauty, and Breast Cancer" in their collection. Every woman facing the prospects of a mastectomy should read "Woman Redefined: Dignity, Beauty, and Breast Cancer". It should be noted that the "Woman Redefined: Dignity, Beauty, and Breast Cancer" is the result of a Kickstarter project that brought in over $27,000, and that "Woman Redefined" will be distributed free of charge to Breast Health Centers in the United States and Canada.

Stories of Music
Holly E. Tripp, editor
Timbre Press
PO Box 201435, Denver, CO 80220
9780996932707, $29.00, PB, 176pp,

Synopsis: Music is something we all have in common. It transcends religion, race, language, and even time. Compiled and edited by Holly E. Tripp, The articles comprising "Stories of Music" explores an array of experiences with music and how it has impacted people's lives, from its role in healing, community, and family traditions to musicianship, travel, and much more. With works by more than 40 authors and artists from 11 countries, "Stories of Music" is an anthology that will take reader on an insightful and memorable journey around the world through poetry, nonfiction, photography, original music, and videos (URLs and QR codes are provided throughout to direct readers to a free companion web edition, where they can enjoy the audio and video pieces). Learn how rock and blues music helped to heal the war-torn country of Bosnia, about the tradition of candombe drumming in Uruguay, and about the history of musicians who traveled on foot, ranging from the balladeers of Victorian England and the Delta bluesmen of the early 20th century to present day musicians who participate in the Massachusetts Walking Tour. Along with these and other stories, "Stories of Music" will be an introduction to fascinating people and perspectives; it will make readers laugh, cry, and celebrate with the subjects of the stories; and, it will inspire the music lover in everyone.

Critique: Very highly recommended for individual, community, and academic library Music Appreciation reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists, it should be noted that 10% of the purchase price will be donated to two organizations dedicated to music: Hungry for Music ( and Music & Memory (

Rising from the Ashes of Loss: My Voyage Through Grief
Pierre Milot
AYNI Books
c/o John Hunt Publishing, Ltd.
Laurel House, Station Approach, Alresford, Hants, SO24 9JH, UK
9781785351518, $20.95, PB, 248pp,

Synopsis: Death is inevitable and is an existential fear for all human beings. But it is the devastating thought of departing this earth alone and in agony that renders our inevitable transition such a fearful endeavor. For many, it is not so much facing the afterlife, as most religions provide some support in that area, but it is in the way we will end our lives that is the major source of concern. How many of us hope and pray to be blessed with an angel, a loved one that will give us the patient support and attend to our very needs during our last days? Such dedicated souls are few and far apart, and rare are the ones that will undertake that exhausting and onerous task. "Rising from the Ashes of Loss: My Voyage Through Grief" is about one of them, Pierre Milot, a loving husband who, without hesitation, put his life aside to become the sole caretaker of his wife, Louise, diagnosed with a devastating cancer.

Critique: Dr Pierre Milot is a therapeutic counselor who specializes in stress, grief and end-of-life management. In the pages of "Rising from the Ashes of Loss: My Voyage Through Grief" he writes with an impressive candor, intimacy, insight, and compelling compassion that will resonate with the reader from beginning to end. Very highly recommended for community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Rising from the Ashes of Loss" is also available in a Kindle edition ($6.99).

It's the Poor Who Face the Savagery of the US Justice System
Mary-Alice Waters
Pathfinder Press
PO Box 162767, Atlanta, GA 30321-2767
9781604880854, $15.00, PB, 135pp,

Synopsis: Five Cuban revolutionaries, framed up by the U.S. government in 1998, spent up to 16 years as part of the U.S. working class behind bars. Each reached out to fellow prisoners with respect, solidarity, and through their own example and won respect and support in return. What prepared the Cuban Five to act as each did? Above all, it was Cuba's socialist revolution, whose class character and values their conduct exemplifies. With understanding, objectivity and humor, in this 2015 interview they talk about U.S. capitalist society and its justice system. And about the future of the Cuban Revolution. "It's the Poor Who Face the Savagery of the US Justice System" includes 40 photos from their years in prison and since the Cuban Five won their freedom and returned to Cuba.

Critique: Their story and sacrifice rescued from obscurity by the publication of "It's the Poor Who Face the Savagery of the US Justice System", this informative and compelling account will prove to be a much appreciated contribution to personal, community, and academic library collections -- especially in view of the recent rapprochement between American and Cuba instigated by the leaders of these two countries that promises to end more than fifty years of alienation, distrust, isolation, and hostility.

Raising Our Son with Autism
Merling C. Tsai & Luke Y. Tsai
AAPC Publishing
11209 Strang Line Road, Lenexa, KS 66215
9781942197126, $19.95, PB, 179pp

Synopsis: In the pages of "Raising Our Son with Autism: A Family's 40-Year Journey", Merling and Luke Tsai candidly describes their approach and experiences as parents in confronting major and unexpected challenges over the past four decades with their autistic son Stephen. "Raising Our Son with Autism" is engaging book that presents the full life Stephen leads despite significant limitations in home, school and community. The Tsai's are telling their story as a means to keep record of the way Stephen has been able to touch many people's hearts and changed their spiritual direction despite his severe handicaps in cognition, communication, and social relationships. Stephen has become a friend, a teacher and guide to his own parents by enlightenment to a better understanding of their relationship with God. The trials and tribulations that the Tsai family endure will bring tears to your eyes and smiles to your faces as this family recognizes Stephen as a perfect gift from God.

Critique: A compelling, insightful, straightforward, informative, and ultimately inspiring read, "Raising Our Son with Autism: A Family's 40-Year Journey" is especially recommended for any and all parents who have an autistic child. Very highly recommended for both community and academic library Parenting Skills reference collections and Autism supplemental studies reading lists, Merling and Luke Tsai have done a memorable and valued service by writing "Raising Our Son with Autism" for the benefit of future generations of autistic children and their parents.

Dr. Fife's Keto Cookery
Bruce Fife
Piccadilly Books, Ltd.
PO Box 25203, Colorado Springs, CO 80936
9780941599979, $18.95, PB, 336pp,

Synopsis: A ketogenic diet is one that is very low in carbohydrate and high in fat, with moderate protein. Such a diet shifts the body into an ultra-efficient metabolic state in which fat is utilized as the primary source of fuel in place of glucose. This metabolic state, known as nutritional ketosis, has a pronounced therapeutic effect on the body. Diets composed of the kinds of recipes that comprise "Dr. Fife's Keto Cooker: Nutritious and Delicious Ketogenic Recipes for Healthy Living" by naturopath and certified nutritionist Bruce Fife have proven safe and effective in helping people lose excess weight, improve mental function, balance blood sugar and pressure, improve cholesterol levels, and much more. Described as the ultimate ketogenic cookbook, Dr. Bruce Fife has compiled into one volume his favorite ketogenic recipes, nearly 450 in all! It includes 70 vegetable recipes, 47 salads and 22 dressings, 60 egg recipes, 50 delicious high-fat sauces for meats and vegetables, as well as a variety of mouthwatering wraps, soups, and casseroles, with a creative array of meat, fish, and poultry dishes. With this resource, you will always have plenty of options to choose from for your daily needs. No exotic or hard-to-find ingredients here. "Dr. Fife's Keto Cookery" is a practical cookbook that can be used every day for life. All of the recipes are simple, with ingredients that are readily available at your local grocery store. None of the recipes include any artificial sweeteners, sugars, flavor enhancers, gluten, grains, or other questionable ingredients. Recipes use only fresh, wholesome, natural foods to guarantee optimal health.

Critique: Impressively well organized and presented, "Dr. Fife's Keto Cookery" is an extraordinary and highly recommended addition to personal, family, and community library cookbook collections. While it is critically important to consult with a medical doctor or registered dietitian before making a major change in one's eating habits (including the severe carbohydrate reduction of adopting a ketogenic diet), one does not have to be on a ketogenic diet to thoroughly enjoy these healthful and delectable dishes.

Should Have Played Poker
Debra H. Goldstein
Five Star Books
10 Water Street, Suite 310, Waterville, ME 04901
9781432831592, $25.95, HC, 244pp,

Synopsis: Carrie Martin's precarious balancing of her corporate law job and visiting her father at the Sunshine Village retirement home is upset when her mother appears, out of the blue, in Carrie's office twenty-six years after abandoning her family. Her mother leaves her with a sealed envelope and the confession she once considered killing Carrie's father. Carrie seeks answers about her past from her father prior to facing what is in the envelope. Before she can reach his room, she finds her mother murdered and the woman who helped raise her seriously injured.

Instructed to leave the sleuthing to the police, Carrie's continued efforts to discover why someone would target the two most important women in her life quickly put her at odds with her former lover who is the detective assigned to her mother's case. As Carrie and her co-sleuths, the Sunshine Village mah jongg players, attempt to unravel Wahoo, Alabama's past secrets in this fast paced cozy mystery, their efforts put Carrie in danger and show her that truth and integrity aren't always what she was taught to believe.

Critique: Singularly well written and compelling from first page to last, "Should Have Played Poker" clearly demonstrate's author Debra Goldstein as a fresh and original master of the mystery genre. Very highly recommended for community library collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of dedicated mystery buffs that "Should Have Played Poker" is also available in a Kindle edition ($3.99).

Margaret Lane

Mason's Bookshelf

Social Networking
Anastacia Kurylo & Tatyana Dumova
Fairleigh Dickinson University Press
285 Madison Avenue, Madison, NJ 07940
9781611477382, $70.00, HC, 202pp,

Synopsis: Collaborative compiled and co-edited by Anastacia Kurylo (Assistant Professor in the Communication Studies Department at St. Joseph's College) and Tatyana Dumova (Professor in the School of Communication at Point Park University), "Social Networking: Redefining Communication in the Digital Age" fulfills a pressing demand in social network literature by bringing together international experts from the fields of communication, new media technologies, marketing and advertising, public relations and journalism, business, and education. In "Social Networking" twelve erudite and expert contributors trace online social networking practices across national borders, cultural confines, and geographic limits. "Social Networking" delves into the socioeconomic, political, cultural, and professional dimensions of social networking around the globe, and explores the similarities, distinctions, and specific characteristics of social media networks in diverse settings. The chapters comprising "Social Networking" offer an important contribution to the scholarly research on the uses and applications of online social networking around the world and pertain to a broad range of academic fields. Overall, "Social Networking" addresses a subject matter of keen interest to academics and practitioners alike and provides a much-needed forum for sharing innovative research.

Critique: Enhanced with the inclusion of an introduction (Social Networking Without Walls), tables, figures, a six page index, and a seventeen page listing of the contributors and their credentials, "Social Networking: Redefining Communication in the Digital Age" is an impressive body of exceptional scholarship and a critically important contribution to professional and academic library Communication Studies reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists. For the personal reading lists of students and academics it should be noted that "Social Networking" is also available in a Kindle edition ($66.50).

Noble Chase
Michael Rudolph
Ballantine Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9781101884379, $26.00, HC, 320pp,

Synopsis: As a young lawyer Beth Swahn makes a rookie mistake: She believes her client. While basking in the glory of winning a hundred-million-dollar judgment for a U.S. division of C. K. Leung's Chinese conglomerate, Beth realizes that because of her naivete, Leonard Sloane, president of the division, has absconded to the Caribbean with his banker girlfriend and seventy million dollars of the judgment money. Shortly thereafter, they are both presumed dead when a Mayday call to the Coast Guard reports the sinking of their yacht.

Stunned, furious, and determined to retrieve Leung's money and save her firm from bankruptcy, Beth investigates her way through a maze of money laundering and white-collar corruption. When the trail leads her to Sloane's handsome son, she is torn between her attraction for him and her fear that he may be involved in the theft. Beth is not alone in her search for the money. C. K. Leung is also involved, because he doubts Beth's innocence. When her investigation moves to a critical level and a missing encrypted file comes to light that has the power to ignite a geopolitical firestorm, Leung becomes convinced that Beth is a party to Sloane's scheme, and her life becomes violently threatened.

Critique: Exceptional and compelling from beginning to end, "Noble Chase" is all the more impressive when considering that this is author Michael Rudiolph's debut as a novelist. Very highly recommended for community library General Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Noble Chase" is also available in a Kindle edition ($12.99).

Breach of Ethics
Sharon St. George
Camel Press
PO Box 70515, Seattle, WA 98127
9781603812276, $16.95, PB, 342pp,

Synopsis: Forensic librarian Aimee Machado has a new title: Director of Ethical Affairs. At other hospitals this position might be dull: not at Timbergate Medical Center in Northern California. Armed with impressive jujitsu skills, Aimee breaks up a fist fight during a meeting and soon finds herself embroiled in a murder investigation. Dr. Gavin Lowe, one of the combatants in the dust-up, is found shot dead in the office of his adversary, Aimee's boss Jared Quinn. The security cameras did not detect the killer coming or going. Were they tampered with? The police believe Quinn did the deed, but Aimee is unconvinced. She was present when the two men made their peace; unfortunately, there were no other witnesses. Is Aimee a suspect? At the time of his death, Dr. Lowe was treating ten-year-old piano prodigy Natasha Korba for appendicitis and malnutrition, a byproduct of her stepfather Abel Gailworth's cult of veganism. Natasha's grandfather Hector Korba, president of the hospital's governing board, is fighting for custody. Was the killing prompted by the custody battle? Or did Dr. Lowe's wandering eye seal his fate? Aimee's on-and-off-again boyfriend Nick, her friend Cleo, and her charming brother Harry are on hand to help uncover the truth. What they discover only poses more questions. Meanwhile the killer is fully aware of their investigations, once again putting Aimee in mortal danger.

Critique: Another riveting mystery from the pen of Sharon St. George, "Breach of Ethics" clearly demonstrates the author's total master of the genre. Very highly recommended for community library Mystery/Suspense collections, it should be noted for dedicated mystery buffs that "Breach of Ethics" is also available in a Kindle edition ($4.95). Also very highly recommended are the first two Aimee Machado mystery novels: "Due for Discard" (9781603812238, $15.95 PB, $4.95 Kindle, 340pp) and "Checked Out" (9781603812252, $15.95 PB, $4.95 Kindle, 328pp).

Midnight in Berlin
James MacManus
Thomas Dunne Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781250079404, $26.99, HC, 416pp,

Synopsis: Berlin in the spring of 1939. Hitler is preparing for war. Colonel Noel Macrae, a British diplomat, plans the ultimate sacrifice to stop him. The West's appeasement policies have failed. There is only one alternative: assassination. The Gestapo, aware of Macrae's hostility, seeks to compromise him in their infamous brothel. There Macrae meets and falls in love with Sara, a Jewish woman blackmailed into becoming a Nazi courtesan. Macrae finds himself trapped between the blind policies of his government and the dark world of betrayal and deception in Berlin. As he seeks to save the woman he loves from the brutality of the Gestapo, he defies his government and plans direct action to avert what he knows will be a global war.

Critique: "Midnight in Berlin" is inspired by true events and characters and showcases author James MacManus as a consistently impressive and skilled novelist and a master storyteller. While very highly recommended for community library General Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Midnight in Berlin" is also available in a Kindle edition ($12.99) and in a complete and unabridged MP3 CD format (Blackstone Audio, 9781504691086, $29.95).

Black-Eyed Susans
Julia Heaberlin
Ballantine Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780804178013, $16.00, PB, 368pp,

Synopsis: As a sixteen-year-old, Tessa Cartwright was found in a Texas field, barely alive amid a scattering of bones, with only fragments of memory as to how she got there. Ever since, the press has pursued her as the lone surviving "Black-Eyed Susan," the nickname given to the murder victims because of the yellow carpet of wildflowers that flourished above their shared grave. Tessa's testimony about those tragic hours put a man on death row.

Now, almost two decades later, Tessa is an artist and single mother. In the desolate cold of February, she is shocked to discover a freshly planted patch of black-eyed susans (a summertime bloom) just outside her bedroom window. Terrified at the implications that she sent the wrong man to prison and the real killer remains at large. Tessa turns to the lawyers working to exonerate the man awaiting execution. But the flowers alone are not proof enough, and the forensic investigation of the still-unidentified bones is progressing too slowly. An innocent life hangs in the balance. The legal team appeals to Tessa to undergo hypnosis to retrieve lost memories, and to share the drawings she produced as part of an experimental therapy shortly after her rescue.

What they don't know is that Tessa and the scared, fragile girl she was have built a fortress of secrets. As the clock ticks toward the execution, Tessa fears for her sanity, but even more for the safety of her teenaged daughter. Is a serial killer still roaming free, taunting Tessa with a trail of clues? She has no choice but to confront old ghosts and lingering nightmares to finally discover what really happened that night.

Critique: A deftly crafted and consistently compelling psychological thriller that will rivet the reader's absolute attention from beginning to end, "Black-Eyed Susans" reveals author Julia Heaberlin as an impressively skilled master of the genre. Very highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library Mystery/Suspense collections.

Playing for the Devil's Fire
Phillippe Diederich
Cinco Puntos Press
701 Texas, El Paso, Texas 79901
9781941026298, $16.95, HC, 232pp,

Synopsis: Thirteen-year-old Boli and his friends are deep in the middle of a game of marbles. An older boy named Mosca has won the prized Devil's Fire marble. His pals are jealous and want to win it away from him. This is Izayoc, the place of tears, a small pueblo in a tiny valley west of Mexico City where nothing much happens. It's a typical hot Sunday morning except that on the way to church someone discovers the severed head of Enrique Quintanilla propped on the ledge of one of the cement planters in the plaza and everything changes. Not apocalyptic changes, like phalanxes of men riding on horses with stingers for tails, but subtle ones: poor neighbors turning up with brand-new SUVs, pimpled teens with fancy girls hanging off them. Boli's parents leave for Toluca and don't arrive at their destination. No one will talk about it. A washed out masked wrestler turns up one day, a man only interested in finding his next meal. Boli hopes to inspire the luchador to set out with him to find his parents.

Critique: Impressively well written and a consistently entertaining read from beginning to end, "Playing for the Devil's Fire" is very highly recommended for school and community library children's fiction collections for ages 12 to 15. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Playing for the Devil's Fire" is also available in a paperback edition (9781941026304, $11.95) and in a Kindle format ($9.56).

Jack Mason

Molly's Bookshelf

The Wish Cat
Ragnhild Scamell, author
Gaby Hansen, illustrator
Little Tiger Press
9781845066659, Hardcover, 32pages, 4.99 BP
9781848956766, Paperback: 32 pages, 3.99 BP

Genre: Children's Picture book

Ragnhild Scammell's The Wish Cat with illustrations by Gaby Hansen begins with Holly sitting on the doorstep right in front of the cat flap. Holly's house had a cat flap, but Holly did not have a cat. One night Holly saw a falling star and she made a wish. She wished for a kitten; a tiny cuddly kitten who could jump in and out of the cat flap.

Suddenly something landed on the windowsill CRASH. It was Tom. Tom was not a tiny cuddly kitten. He was the scruffiest, most raggedy cat Holly had ever seen.

Holly could not believe her eyes, but there he sat smiling a crooked smile.

Holly tried to make Tom understand he was not what she had wished for. She told him, she hid under her covers. Nothing worked, next morning there was Tom with a present for Holly. He brought a piece of smelly old fish, Holly put it in the garbage can and told Tom to go home.

Tom did not give up he sat on Holly's swing, at lunchtime he sat on the windowsill and watched Holly eat. She gave him a piece of her sandwich. He followed Holly, he chased leaves and balanced on top of the fence.

That evening when Holly had to go into the house Tom lay down on the step by the cat flap. That night is snowed. It snowed all over Tom, Holly head him meowing and ran to open the cat flap.

Holly brought him a big plate of food and some warm milk, and, she dried him with a towel. That night as Holly and Tom sat on Holly's bed Holly stroked his scruffy fur and they watched the stars.

Suddenly another star fell. Holly could not think of anything to wish for, she had everything she wanted and so did Tom.

The yearly Book Fair held in the library of our Osage County school is always a fun time for students and myself. We look over the book offering and find ones we think we will like. I think the year Tom's crooked smile met out eyes each child in the class immediately shouted "Mrs Martin, here is a book you will love." It is well known with staff and children at my school; Mrs Martin takes in homeless cats and Mrs Martin does love cats.

The Wish Cat has been one of the all-time favorites for Osage County First Grade. My resident book critics adore the story, the pictures and the outcome. I like the storyline, Gaby Hansen illustrations are kid friendly and fit the tale very well, and, vocabulary used is child centered and has nice flow. Tom is a cat we all love.

Osage County First grade students do believe there is magic in falling stars, they share a common bond of caring and liking critters and expect they will always have pets as children and on into their adult years. They understand the longing Holly has for a kitten, and they understand her sympathy for Tom when he is covered in snow.

In the classroom the narrative provides lots of opportunity for discussion as the whole class becomes involved in talking, answering questions and asking some too; why do you think Tom came to Holly's house, why does the door have a cat flap if no cat, what would you do if a cat like Tom came to your house and the like.

I like the book and have used it in my classroom for several years. Thought-provoking read, happy to recommend as a read to for the 3 -4 age group, read with emergent readers, read to self, siblings and family strong primary readers. The Wish Cat is a good addition for the public and school library, child's bedroom book shelf, classroom library and as a gift for children in the kindergarten - primary grades. 5/5 stars

Too Tall Alice
Barbara Worton
Great Little Books, LLC
9780979066115, $TBA Hardcover: 32 pages

Barbara Worton's Too Tall Alice with whimsical illustrations by Dom Rodi is a dandy book for classroom usage.

Alice is TALL, not T-Rex or Empire State Building tall and not even as tall as her Dad. Actually Alice is maybe four inches tall than the other eight year old girls at her school.

She is tall enough to cause her to be the only girl to stand in the back row with the boys during their school photo.

Alice wished she was four inches shorter.

Friday at Alice's house is always neighbors come over for parent card games night and the kids' kid games night and pizza and chocolates, and chips and run all over the place and when the kids got tired parents marched them home and put them to bed. Alice marched up the stairs to her room and into her super fluffy Ariel the mermaid bed. '

Friday was the night when parents made sure their kids were safe asleep and they came back to Alice's house to play cards until late, late, late.

It was one such night when Alice who was trying hard to be a princess suddenly sat up very straight in her soft fluffy bed and leaned toward the door to listen : don't worry, don't worry, and her father's voice said she's going to be tall and thin, a string bean ... and a whole bunch more. And her neighbor said, nothing wrong being tall and thin, look at those supermodels.

Alice cried, she did not want to be a string bean, and she cried and cried and cried.

Too Tall Alice might have been another in appealing "you are special" book offerings. Inspiring text, encouraging storyline, imaginative comicality and delightful, child pleasing graphics send it to a very different place. I like that there were neither platitudes nor stereotypes. Alice is much as any child, concerned about the future, wanting to fit in and worried about being different.

Author Barbara Worton introduces possibilities for Alice, and all readers, to consider; possibilities centered on the taller persons in our society and on others who may or may not need height. Basketball players, Olympic winners and supermodels are often tall while chums and teachers, doctors, movie actors, class presidents, everyday heroes, good friends, run the gamut of tall to short.

Alice cried herself to sleep in the book and began to dream of a place where all the girls were tall, ceilings were tall and doors were tall. Some of the girls were basketball superstars and some were super models and one was even a show girl. These tall girls called Alice short stuff and helped her see about ten years into the future. And they helped Alice understand that she would have to find herself but there were so many different wonderful things ahead for a nice willowy girl. She might be an Olympic gold medalist or a doctor or a teacher or .... And the list went on and on.

When she woke up Alice was ready; she could see herself having a very beautiful day.

Most of the children in my first grade classrooms tend to be about the same size, now and then I found a very petite child, usually a little girl sitting on the rug before me. Those persons were easier for me to reassure regarding what the future might hold. I am one of those some people consider height challenged.

But the too tall child, especially if a girl, was the one I had less awareness for how to ease the worry they harbored that they actually were too tall.

When I saw Too Tall Alice on the shelf at the Book Fair held in our school library; I knew I had found a useful tool. Holding up the book for the class to see our TALL first grader read the title and said, "that is a book for me. I am too tall".

I read that tale many times that year, and our Alice borrowed it often to take home for evening reading. I do think it helped her overcome some of the hurdles she was experiencing. She has grown into a super young lady, still tall, but happy and accepting that we are as we are and while nothing we do is really going to change how tall or short or whatever our physical self may be; we can expect life to hold many opportunities and joy for us all.

Too Tall Alice got lots of reading and lots of going home that first year and during the years following my having a sweet Too Tall in my classroom.

Happy to recommend for the target audience of primary to lower middle grade children, parents of children tall or not, therapists who may have a too tall, or too short child patient.

Ships of the Civil War
Kevin J Dougherty, author
Various historic photographers and illustrators
Sterling Publishing Company
387 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10016-8810
9781435145924, $3.72 (used), Hardcover, 224 pages,

Genre: non fiction

Kevin J Dougherty's "Ships of the Civil War: 1861 - 1865" is a training type work rather than being a story book. While this tome is not a sit on the porch in the shade, sip tea and read book; it is significant as a quick reference. Arranged by type of ship, this volume helps the reader appreciate that while the land battles waged during the war are the more remembered element of the divisive time in our history, naval engagements were also an essential component of the era.

From river boats driven by paddle wheels to ram ships, cruisers, steam driven ships and the introduction of ironclads; warfare was entering an innovative and continuing setting for combat.

This Illustrated Guide To The Fighting Vessels Of The Union And The Confederacy is an admirable reference work available for history buff, or serious scholar, as well as one having some, but not a lot of cognizance or familiarity for that bitter period in our nation's history when the sounds of armed conflict resounded across much of the country.

This work of 224 pages begins with a Table of Contents listing the Introduction, and then the types of ships included in the work. Ironclads, Gunboats, Raiders, Cruisers, Blockade Runners and Submarines are detailed with the name of the ship, year, information regarding the vessel on the left page and a large illustration of the ship on the right. The format of the book allows the volume to be completely open with facing pages lying side by side. Full color illustrations are done by hand.

Many early photographs portraying ships, their crews and actions add a deeper element of understanding for the reader to consider.

On the pages of the introduction author Dougherty details first The Federal Navy strength and activities, numbers of naval personnel at the beginning of the war, 1861, clarifies who Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles was, in addition to what his function was. In large part the blockade of Southern ports was a major concern for the Union, Federal, Navy, closely followed with capitalizing upon Southern vulnerability via large rivers leading into the heart of the Confederacy.

Early lithograph type images and sketches as well as paintings are liberally sprinkled amongst the prose.

The Confederate Navy faced the formidable task of building and implementing a Navy beginning with 5 ships brought into the Confederacy by seceded states and growing to 130 vessels. The Confederacy lacked industrial shipbuilding capacity to match that of the Union shipbuilders.

The listing of individual vessels begins with the Ironclad, CSS Manassas, 1861 a Confederate craft initially built in 1855 as a twin screw towboat in Massachusetts, converted to ice breaker, and was used during the war as a Ram.

Specifications noted for the various boats generally includes displacement, dimensions, armament, armor, machinery, the Manassas was powered by steam, and manned by a crew of 36.

The text portion of the ship's description begins with an explanation regarding when and where a vessel was built, original expected use of the ship if built before the war as a non war vessel, and how it was converted to war usage.

I like that many of the crafts are shown flying either the first national flag of the Confederacy, The Stars and Bars, or the Union's Old Glory.

Many of the ships are shown as the only one on the page, as is the CSS Arkansas; while some are shown with another of the same type as is the CSS Atlanta built in Scotland, which launched in 1861 as a merchant steamship the Fingal. When the blockade prevented her leaving US waters, she was cut down to the waterline, rebuilt as an ironclad ram and went into battle before being run ashore and captured by the US Navy. Once repaired the Atlanta was recommissioned as the USS Atlanta joined other ships in the blockade of Southern ports.

On the same page is a description of the CSS Texas, another ram.

One illustration was especially thought-provoking; The USS Essex is shown in cutaway providing the reader with a view to the interior of the vessel.

The Ironclads are a grouping 44 vessels including rams, blockade vessels, riverboats, combat boats in the Western Theater, some were converted side wheel steamers, others were powered by a diversity of steam engines powering single or twin screws, at least one bore sails in addition to horizontal direct-acting Mazeline engines driving twin screws, while another utilized two vibrating lever engines representative of the wide diversity of vessels used by Union and Confederate naval personnel.

Gun boats are listed between pages 88 - 162 show the predominance of federal naval power for 27 vessels to the 7 confederate ships and others used by both sides at differing times. Gunboats, armed with a variety of guns, were used as blockade, fighting, river patrol and defensive vessels powered by sail, side wheel steam, horizontal direct acting engines, and a further diversity of mechanisms.

One ship among the gun boats noted that I found to be especially attention-grabbing is the USS General Bragg, impressed into Confederate service, converted into a cotton clad ram... double pine bulkheads were filled with compressed cotton.

Raiders are listed on pages 162 - 183. These are the ships most often shown in movies dodging and running the blockade of southern ports. Most of the raiders shown are those commissioned by the Confederacy. From the Cuba built in New York in 1851 and commissioned by the Confederacy in 1861 as a privateer, to the mail ship, USS Rattlesnake before the fall of Ft Sumter to being fitted as a cruiser under the command of Lt RB Pegram when she became the first ship of war, CSS Rattlesnake, to fly the Confederate Flag to the CSS Sumter a commerce raider the raiders are a colorful group.

Of particular interest, I found the CSS Alabama shown in cutaway helped this reader understand the interior set up of the ship. The Alabama was the most effective and became the most famous of the raiders with a history of burning, sinking or capturing 69 ships valued at $6 million during her career.

English ship yards produced a number of vessels for the Confederate effort, including the 1862 CSS Florida built under the name Oreto in an effort to throw the suspicious off as perhaps being built for Italian interests rather than as a ship for the American Confederacy. All in all 10 Confederate raiders are depicted while only 1 USS is shown.

The USS Quaker City, a side wheel steamer built in Philadelphia in 1854, was purchased by the Union Navy in 1861 and became one of the most effective, most active Federal Blockaders. The Quaker was decommissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard 18 May, 1865 and was sold at auction in June that same year.

With names USS Susquehanna, San Jacinto, Powhatan, Brooklyn, Hartford, Iroquois, Richmond, Kearsage, Vanderbuilt, the Union Stockade Squadron effectively prevented many ships bringing needed goods into Confederate ports.

On the pages beginning 204 -212 the Blockade Runners includes the Teaser, in essence the first air craft carrier, a wooden hulled, screw tugboat purchased by Virginia, April 1861; the Teaser was used during the Seven Days' Battles by balloonist Lt. Col Edw Porter Alexander. Tethered to the deck of the Teaser, Col Alexander observed Federal movements.

Others in the flotilla of blockade runners include 4 more vessels; A D Vance, originally a side wheel steamer, Lord Clyde built in 1862, the vessel operated under state control. She made 20 successful voyages before being captured 10 Sep 1864 while attempting to carry a cargo of cotton to Europe. The Hope, Salvor, and Stag are noted as part of the ships used for blockade as the need became greater for the Confederacy to replenish goods and materiel as the war continued.

Closing out the naval vessels portrayed in this book is a small selection, 3 CSS and 1 USS forerunners of the Submarines which are an important part of modern naval contingents.

The CSS Pioneer propelled by a crank shaft, carried a crew of 3 men, 1 of whom propelled the craft by turning the manual crank of the screw. Armed with a clockwork torpedo, the cigar shaped vessel had a conning tower, manholes in the top and small, and circular glass windows in the sides.

The CSS David, was an early semi-submersible, cigar shaped, having an explosive charge at the end of a spar, and made at least a trio of attacks against Federal vessels.

David is used to refer to any of several vessels resembling this early boat. Several of the David class were captured by the Federals at the end of the war, the exact fate of the original David remains unknown.

The CSS Hunley privately built in spring 1863, in Alabama was discovered, underwater, off Sullivan Island, she was recovered in 2000. In 1999 the remains of 4 of her crew were located in a Confederate Cemetery during renovations at the football stadium at the Citadel.

The remains of the 8 man crew recovered when the Hunley was raised were buried in Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston with full military honors in 2004.

Page 220 offers a Select Bibliography as well as a small glossary of terms used in the specifications regarding weaponry, propeller, in naval terms screw and engines.

An index closes out the work.

I bought this book as a gift for my husband. Husband and I share an interest in US history in general, and the War Between the States in particular. We each have a pretty fair understanding of many of the land battles, have visited many of the battlefields, and have a fairly sizable home library filled with books written about the era.

While we, as nearly everyone who has even passing understanding of the war, were well aware of the Merrimac and the Monitor; we did realize these were not the only ships of the era. However, we were both a bit surprised to learn there were so many vessels of widely diversified type and usage employed by both sides during the bitter fighting waged on our continent during the 1860s..

Writer Dougherty, a professor at The Citadel, has produced an admirable volume featuring a well-rounded selection of ships detailing both Union and Confederate capabilities, strengths and short comings.

Written in clearly intelligible language; details of individual vessels are easily understood; type of ship, name, reason for the name if known, captain, battles and uses are all set down. Some of the crafts survived the war and are now on exhibition as is the USS Cairo today displayed at Vicksburg National Military Park. Others as was the fate of the CSS Louisiana did not survive battle, she was cast adrift towards the Union fleet, burst into flames and did not survive. Some ships sank and have been recovered, some were sold for scrap.

For those who are not familiar with the various types of ships; chapter headings designating Ironclads, Raiders, Blockage Runners and the like, likely will prove helpful for the interested but not yet well educated regarding the various types of vessels.

I found the introduction to be filled with a wealth of information especially for the attentive reader who may be interested but has not yet become steeped in the details of the 1861-1865 era.

I am always interested in enlarging my own understanding of the period, and found fascinating that Mare Island in California was one of the Union's eight navy yards. I was born in the Bay Area, California, and grew up on stories my Dad told of driving materiel and the like to or from Mare Island during WW2.

Addition of artwork with vessels detailed in concert with the pages describing individual ships add much to the text forming the introduction.

Thought-provoking, motivating read, Happy to Recommend, 5/5 stars.

Rick Sapp
Bellagio Press
9781627320061, $9.99 PB, $5.99 Kindle, 96 pages,

Part of the TAJ Mini Book Series, Rick Sapp's Revolvers begins with 9 pages of text detailing the evolution of what has become one of the most preferred, trustworthy small arms used the world over. I like a tome which gives some space to illumination how and why and what things are, as well as indicating explicit illustrations of whatever it is the book is describing. And, the 9 pages of text included in this book is packed with lots of information for the reader who does have some to a lot of curiosity for how things come about.

Reading Sapp's text leaves the reader with a better understanding of revolvers, how they came about, their evolution and use.

Contrasting modern semi-automatic fire arms, revolvers are very dependable, tend not to jam, can take a good bit of hard use and still discharge a tight group, and, they can accept potent loads.

During the early days of our country one shot weaponry, flintlock pistols and muskets, used by soldiers and hunters alike were deadly and quite accurate at short distances. Time needed to reload led to experiments and tinkering to develop a gun able to fire multiple times. One of the earliest firearm inventors in our country was a little recollected Bostonian gunsmith, Elisha Collier, who in 1818 received a patent for a single action flintlock based weapon having self-priming action.

Even though Collier's designs were not widely accepted here in the U.S.; they were soon mass produced by John Evans & Son, London and were being used by the British army in India.

While Samuel Colt has been long been accepted as the Father of the Revolver, other names too do stand out in the story of small handguns. Oliver Winchester bought the failing Volcanic Repeating Arms Co, launched by Horace Smith of Massachusetts and Dan Wesson of Connecticut, and, renamed his new enterprise after himself which ultimately lead to Winchester Repeating Arms.

Rollin White patented a design for a revolver in 1855, licensed the idea to Smith and Wesson who in 1857 made a second, more successful, attempt at fabrication of a small revolver to fire a self-contained rimfire cartridge they had patented in 1854. The development of a patented revolver capable of firing a .22 Short with four grains of black powder behind a conical bullet; helped to make the name Smith and Wesson well known.

Remington, the 1860s self-contained metallic centerfire cartridges, Colt single Action Army, known as Peacemaker, Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders, Period Guns and Rise of the 1911, Webley, continued refinement and development of cartridges and guns; hold reader attention and keep the reader turning the pages.

Photographs of revolvers begins on page 14 and continues on to page 95. Page 96 is an index with guns listed by manufacture including Beretta, Charter Arms, Colt, Rossi, Ruger, Smith & Wesson and more; there are 13 in all.

Beginning with the Beretta Laramie each page illustrates a revolver one to a page. Some of the revolvers shown have longish barrels, and some are very short. Handgrips run the gamut of wood, plastic, rubberized, General Patton's were Ivory.

The grip appearing on Charter Arms Bulldog appears to be stocky while the Chiappa Model 1873-22 is more slender. Many of the grips are black, wood is sanded and stained, rubber and plastic are offered in varied colors.

Many of the revolvers shown, Charter Arms Target Mag Pug, Ruger Super Blackhawk Bisley Hunter, Smith and Wesson 680 Plus are presented in natural steel color, while Ruger Bearcat, Uberti 1875 Top Break, Taurus Raging Judge Magnum are blued. Charter Arms Pink Lady sports a strawberry pink frame.

While not a big weighty tome, I found Rick Sapp's Revolvers to be a very thought-provoking, instructive work comprised of enough background to foster reader interest and inform at the same time. Packed with enough photographs to portray the diversity of the gun called a revolver; this small book having 96 pages and measuring just over 5 inches square is a perfect size for tucking into gift bag for gun enthusiast, and curious hand gun collector alike.

I enjoyed the read; Happy to recommend particularly for the target audience of gun enthusiasts, and, for the inquisitive, non-gun enthusiasts alike.

Molly Martin, Reviewer

Moore's Bookshelf

The Garlic Ballads
Mo Yan
Arcade Publishing
c/o Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.
307 West 36th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10018
9781611457070, $14.95, PB, 304 pp,

Nobel Prize-winning Mo Yan offers readers idiosyncratic heroes. They may be smelly, unattractive and driven by coarse appetite, but they manage to acquit themselves nobly nonetheless. This is the case with the hero of The Garlic Ballads, Gao Ma. In this complicated but driven protagonist there is something of Homer's conflicted hero, Achilles. For both Achilles and Gao Ma, honor is intrinsic to character. Where they differ is that for Gao Ma, this is a simple notion, one to which he holds without doubt or hesitation.

In the sense of single-minded purpose, Gao Ma is more like another, more modern hero: Heinrich von Kleist's Michael Kohlass. Kohlass, like Gao Ma, is propelled by the conviction that he is right. Neither of these heroes considers physical obstacles or personal safety in pursuing their righteous goal. Where they differ is in the quality of the event that precipitates their quest.

Kohlass wants to be compensated for damaged horses, and he will not compromise. Gao Ma does compromise, willingly--except on one point. He will not give up the woman he loves.

The object of Gao Ma's affection, Jinju, is betrothed to another. She has been traded in a marriage contract so that her disabled, older brother can marry. As Gao Ma pursues his love--and there is no doubt that he, more than she, is the suitor--the novel devolves into tragedy.

There are villains in the story, but perhaps the greatest villain is the irrational environment in which all struggle to survive. Mo Yan describes a China in transition. The old ways are entrenched, and yet modern China demands its due. Marriage contracts are the custom, but forced marriage is forbidden by the new China's law.

Gao Ma is beaten for insisting that Jinju's parents break custom and follow the law. Farmers are told to abandon their traditional farming practices and grow garlic, instead. However, when there is no market for the glut of garlic at harvest time, farmers end up tossing their produce on the ground.

Political overtones in The Garlic Ballads are obvious, but Yo Ma never strays into the didactic. He creates believable characters. These may live in China, but they struggle with very human, relatable conflict.

The Garlic Ballads is a brilliant book. I highly recommend it.

The Soul of the Octopus
Sy Montgomery
Atria Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781451697711, $16.00, HC, 237 pp,

Astrophysicists explore the universe, and with these explorations it seems more questions are raised than answered. Each query becomes a platform from which to launch new investigations. As true as this is when we look beyond ourselves into space, it seems equally true when we look within.

"Know thyself", the Greeks advised, but perhaps these philosophers did not grasp how inscrutable that self could be. The opacity of self becomes exquisitely evident as we plumb the concept of consciousness in Sy Montgomery's Soul of the Octopus. By examining the behavior of the octopus, Ms. Montgomery broaches the question, "How do we know what an octopus is thinking?" More profoundly, she wonders exactly what we mean when we say "thinking".

If I've made this book sound obscure then I've done a disservice to the author. Soul of an Octopus is an entertaining, sympathetic book. Ms. Montgomery introduces us to several octopuses that she comes to know personally. We feel we also know these cephalopods. They have names, personalities and, in at least one case, a tragic ending. As we become familiar with individual octopuses, we meet people who care for them. These are also individuals with unique, sometimes perplexing personalities.

As the book proceeds Ms. Montgomery manages to raise questions about "knowing" the people we meet and "knowing" the octopuses. We realize that the mystery of self, of consciousness and cognition, is no more clearly understood today than it was in the time of the Greeks. Though we possess the tools of neurology and neurobiology, these areas of exploration sometimes, as with astrophysics, raise more questions than they answer.

The Soul of an Octopus is what some might call an "easy read". It is that, and it is unique. Ms. Montgomery has broad experience in writing science for the non professional. She does a good job of that here. I highly recommend this book.

A. G. Moore

Pamela's Bookshelf

Killing the Market: Legendary Investor Robert W. Wilson
Roemer McPhee
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC, 29406, USA
9781492756361, $15.95, PB, 104 pages,

Robert W. Wilson, Investor Extraordinaire!

Killing the Market is a short, fascinating read about the life and career of investor and philanthropist Robert W. Wilson.

Given $15,000 from his mother in 1958 as a wedding present (equivalent to about $150,000 today) Wilson invested the money. That began a 40-year career in the financial market - playing the stocks - which landed him with a net worth of over $800 million before his death in 2013.

Author Roemer McPhee, a Princeton-trained in history, asks the question "How did he do it?" and tries (successfully, I think) to answer it in his book. He dives into the life and work of Wilson in what is a detailed explanation of how Wilson was able to accomplish what no one before or after him has done. How he was able to work the market to his favor, and find, with an almost primal instinct, what markets had a future.

Because I have a limited knowledge of the stock market, some of the terms in this book were a bit over my head, but what I found fascinating was the detailed way McPhee describes each big company that Wilson invested in. For me, it was fun reading the details of how these companies got started - companies I'm familiar with from my childhood.

Wilson bought stock in companies such as Datapoint, Bowmar Instrument, Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, Atari, and Jordache Jeans before others knew what was going on. He also dabbled in oil when others were selling, and in the airlines industry when it wasn't considered "profitable."

"He always seemed able to spot an innovator early," writes McPhee. "Wilson had almost a sixth sense for self-protection and self-preservation in the market, as an investor."

One of the questions the books asks (and answers), is what do you do with all that money once you have it?

While there isn't much detail about his personal life, we do find out that Wilson was a man very concerned with the welfare of the earth and its inhabitants. He continually "tithed" as he put it, giving to charities and organization throughout his career. When he retired, however, he became a full-time philanthropist, and gave hundreds of millions of dollars away, making him one of the biggest donors in New York City and in the United States. His chief concern was to continue taking care of the earth and the people and animals that lived on our planet. Like the details that Roemer puts in the book about the companies Wilson bought stock in, he also defines the organizations he gave money to, which I found interesting because I've heard of most of these organizations.

The book follows Wilson through to the end of his life: Wilson staying in character until the end.

When I visit New York, now, and I see his name on various buildings or donor plaques, I'll know the story behind the name. I think that's cool.

I believe this book is perfect for anyone interested in investing or playing the market, whether professional or amateur. For the rest of us, it makes an interesting read into the life of a man who changed the lives of many people and many companies in the US.

From a Broken Land
William R. Herr
Mechanicsburg Press
1800 Preston Park Blvd. Suite 220, Plano, TX 75093
9781495186912, $16.95, 408 pages; Paperback
9781495186905, $31.95, 408 pages; Hardcover
9781495186929, $7.49, 408 pages; Kindle
ASIN# B01BN3IQ1M, $7.19, 441 pages, MOBI

An epic fantasy adventure that will transport the reader to another world

In his debut fantasy novel, William R. Herr brings us an epic story of the battle between good and evil in From a Broken Land, the first installment of The Broken Throne trilogy.

With a poet's finesse for description, Herr magically crafts a world where the elements of nature have a will of their own. A dark mist that is very much alive encroaches upon people, twining amongst their legs like a cat, listening into their conversations, whispering thoughts to them. While the mist lingers, a strange blight has struck the land, leaving death and destruction in its midst.

Desperate, the Cardinal sends a young man in search for help. Gidon, trained to fight but untried in battle, is sent on a mission from the church into the land of the enemy. He is charged with the task of finding help to stave off the blight - and not expected to survive.

Met with adversity as soon as he leaves, he is forced to kill another man for the first time. What he doesn't know, is this is just the beginning of the fate that awaits him as he seeks aid for his fellow men.

Herr introduces two other sets of characters at the beginning of the book. Kiranae, a beautiful young girl in flight from an abusive prince, and Tertoillane and Bergeran, a lovely minstrel and her gambling escort. When their paths cross, the story only gets more interesting, and a bit distracting for Gidon as he develops feelings for Kiranae.

Herr does his world building as the reader moves through the book, introducing us to things through action and story development, which is an entertaining way to enter the lands of the Broken Throne series. He also inserts a division between church and science in the novel, and each chapter begins with a quote from the "Book of the True King" that is reminiscent of scripture.

Readers will find Herr's book entertaining, filled with battles, romance, humor and memorable characters. I only wished we had seen more of a stronger Kiranea earlier in the book, and it would have been fun to include a map. Maybe in the second book?

The cover is beautiful, and the eBook cover is a special delight, in that it has falling snow. Readers can download it for free from his website.

I would recommend this book to anyone who loves an epic fantasy filled with battles, romance, seers, kings and minstrels. The world in From a Broken Land is an adventure from a writer I think we'll soon hear more about.

Pamela Gossiaux

Peggy's Bookshelf

Koolura and the Mayans: Koolura Series Book 3
Michael Thal
Solstice Publishing
614 Wal-Mart Drive, Farmington, MO 63601
9781625263513, $13.99, 132 pages,

Book 3 in the Koolura Series takes middle grade readers on a time travel journey to the ancient Mayan civilization. Twelve-year old Koolura possesses special powers to teleport, fly, and heal the sick. When she and her BFF Leila teleport to Oaxaca, Mexico, for her dad's wedding ceremony, Koolura unlocks her ability to travel through time. On a side trip to an ancient pyramid in Monte Alban, the girls find themselves suddenly transported back to the 8th century where they discover the Mayan people have been enslaved by a race of pale-skinned people with blond hair that the girls dub "Vanilla teens." They soon learn the Vanilla teens are aliens from planet Aquari who are plotting to take over Earth and change history. Because of Koolura's special powers, the villagers believe she is a goddess sent to rescue them, so she has no other choice. Together, she and Leila must outwit the Vanilla teens to stop the invasion, repair the time space continuum, and get back in time to go her dad's wedding. Michael Thal artfully combines science fiction and facts to bring ancient Mayan civilization to life for young readers. "Koolura and the Mayans" is an exciting expedition through time and space.

The McVentures of Me, Morgan McFactoid: Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow
Mark S. Waxman
Sky Pony Press
c/o Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.
307 West 36th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10018
9781634501484, $15.99, HC, 192 pages,

Thirteen-year old Morgan McCracken is a dreamer and inventor who rattles off random fun facts when he's nervous. So his sister Chloe nicknamed him Mister McFactoid. Morgan also has wild red hair and freckles and he's the only boy in middle school who shaves. So the school bully Brad Buckholtz nicknamed him Hairy. With his faithful turtle Taxi and his wacky talking parrot Echo by his side in his McFactory, Morgan sets out to create a potion that will stop his whiskers from growing so Buckholtz won't pick on him anymore. But his concoction is a failure. Or is it? A stroke of lightning, a dab of parrot poop, and a spot of turtle fur turn Morgan's purple paste into red goop that grows hair. Before he knows it, Morgan and his red goop are more popular than Krispy Kreme doughnuts. That is to everyone except Robin Reynolds, the black-haired beauty who lives across the street. With corporate suits and gun-toting thugs chasing him to get their hands on the secret formula, Morgan doesn't have time to worry about why Robin is mad at him. He's on a collision course with destiny where the choice between fame, fortune, and friendship awaits him.

Flexing his TV writing chops, Waxman combines cause-and-effect sequencing with bizarre outcomes which keeps readers guessing, and gives this clever story the irresistible capriciousness of a sitcom. "The McVentures of Me, Morgan McFactoid" is mc-riveting and mc-funny.

Peggy Tibbetts, Reviewer

Susan's Bookshelf

Major Wager
Colin Koenig
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781518748561, $9.75, 140 Pages,

Genre: Sport

What a refreshingly different book. Everyone has heard of Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods and this is the story of a hypothetical match between these two golfing legends.

The story is set in 1997. The young contender, Tiger Woods has proclaimed that he wants to win the most major tournaments in a career and beat the record of eighteen, held by Jack Nicklaus. Jack is not upset by this, in fact he secretly admired the cockiness of the young man. At 57, Jack cannot resist the opportunity to test the skills of the 21 year old, and so he puts the proposal to Tiger, that they play 18 holes of golf.

The author, Colin Koenig then takes the reader on an exciting tour of the 18 holes played. The interaction between these two golfing greats contains great banter, and surprises on the course.

This book is so cleverly thought out, and skilfully written that the drama builds to an excellent crescendo. To tell you more would ruin the story...

Wishing for the Better: The life story of a dreamer
John Needham
Amazon Digital Services
B01DRDHTCI, $2.99, Kindle, 265 Pages,

Genre: Biography

Well... the fact that this book is written by someone who is not a celebrity makes it so much the better. In it, John Needham lets the reader into his life, sharing with them what it was like growing up in the 40's and 50's with his siblings.

It is lovely too that there are so many pictures, bringing the story even more to life. The preschool picture is adorable, and with his brother. This wonderful biography brings back personal memories of times long past, and due to the changing world, and advances in technology, never to be repeated. We walk in his shoes through his childhood adventures, holidays, home life, starting work, getting a car and learning to drive.

Like many of us, life's natural course finds the author's spiralling towards love, marriage and children. However, as with many of us, these paths are not always straight and uncomplicated, and can be tinged with sadness. However, John Needham with great courage takes us through the decades sharing selflessly with us one man's triumphs and struggles.

The author says in his synopsis that he is a dreamer, well, his dreams and leaps of faith have provided him with an interesting life, career choices, and also they have given him a the opportunity to write this interesting book, I look forward to reading part two.

The Starlight Club 7: End Game
Joe Corso
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781518637971, $17.95, 244 Pages,

Although they live apart, Bobby has a wonderful relationship with his daughter Lynn, and she never tires of hearing his tales of the Starlight Club in Queens, New York. So, as they wait for the snow to clear before Bobby returns home, he tells her of a pivotal time in its history...

Suddenly he's back in 1962, and the boys are at the Zebra Club celebrating the return of their mate Renato after his discharge from the army. However, when they witness a friend being beaten up across the road, they take chase. When they catch up however, in the blink of an eye the situation changes, as they could do in those days, and Renato is beaten nearly to death by the gang's leader, Sailor Burke.

Now Bobby jumps forward to 1965, and at the Starlight Club Tarzan is suggesting a new barman for the club, none other than the aforementioned Renato Mellina. Red remembers him, and after a little talk about loyalty and family he is hired.

Soon however trouble comes knocking at Red's door in the form of Aldo Zinera who has been hired to head the new government F.B.I task force on organised crime. He has a vendetta against Red, and leaving no room for doubt, or error, Aldo quickly informs Red that he will get him, uncover his crimes and see him sent to prison.

Realising the very 'real' danger he is in, and knowing that it is possible for charges to be made to stick, Red embarks on a fight, literally for his life.

Always used to taking care of his people, Red now has to look after himself and his new wife. Soon he realises there is only one course of action left open to him which will stop the vindictive Aldo.

It is drastic, however, once resolved, Red wastes no time in setting his plan in action, calling in favours and getting on with the job. It's not the time for regrets, now is the time for action!

Undaunted, the plan is carried out, however, things hot up almost out of control as Red and his men find themselves literally fighting for their lives.

The question is - can Red pull the right strings, has he the necessary clout to survive?

With a fantastic storyline and brilliant characters this book is action packed right to the last page. Imaginative subplots, revenge, passion, love and betrayal, the Starlight Club 7 has it all, and is definitely a winner for all crime thriller fans.

As it closes, I ask myself, although this is called 'End Game' and is it truly the end of an era?

As the last page is read, only one person has that answer, and that's the author, Joe Corso.

Susan Keefe, Reviewer

Teri's Bookshelf

The Last of the Firedrakes
The Avalonia Chronicles
Farah Oomerbhoy
Wise Ink Creative Publishing
9781940014722, $17.99, Hardcover, 2015, 488 pages

"My parents were gone, my uncle had just sold me like a slave, and there was no one to help me, no one on my side. I was alone, I was in trouble, and I had absolutely no idea what to do. It was all too much; I couldn't help it; I burst into tears just as Oblek yanked my arm and pulled me into the magical, shimmering tapestry."

Aurora had not led a charmed life. After her parents had died in a tragic automobile accident, she lived with her uncle and his family. She should have been grateful but residing in this household was not enjoyable. Her beautiful cousin who was her age as popular and mean, the opposite of Aurora. Added to that, it was obvious that her aunt and uncle only tolerated her existence. Living in an unloved home was not enjoyable.

All of that changed on her sixteenth birthday. Aurora was delivered into another world, full of magic.

Why? She was the heir to the throne in the kingdom of Illiador. Did she possess any powers? How would her life be different in this mysterious land where special magical are common?

The Last of the Firedrakes is an enthralling novel for teenage girls. How many fifteen-year-old girls have wished they had different parents and to discover that they were of a royal lineage?

With teenagers in mind, everything in this novel is age-appropriate with no unnecessary sexual innuendos, violence, or bad language. Aurora is attracted to the dark, handsome stranger, Rafe, who has many secrets that need to be unveiled.

The Last of the Firedrakes is the debut novel for Farah Oomerbhoy. Her home with her husband and children is in Mumbai, India. From the University of Mumbai she earned her Master's degree in English literature.

The Last of the Firedrakes is the first novel in this series entitled the Avalonia Chronicles. The story has an ending point at the end of the book, but it does not conclude the story.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel with an intended audience of teenaged girls. It was logical in its organization, possessed vivid characters, fast-paced with action, age-appropriate as a delightful fantasy novel.

Leopold and the 5 Senseteers: Flour Power
Joshua Tabachick, author
Dustin Dahlman, illustrator
Sixth Sense Entertainment Group
4712 Admiralty Way, Suite 918, Marina del Rey, CA 90292
9780996550307, $18.99, Hardcover, 32 pages,

Leopold, who is six years old, is looking forward to helping his mother in preparing to celebrate his little sister's birthday. Jesse will soon be five years old.

Leopold's mother wants to bake a cake for this special occasion. While planning, she realizes that the two of them need to go to the market for all the ingredients to make a chocolate cake, Jesse's favorite.

While at the store, Leopold's mother sends his to find a five-pound bag of flour. To achieve this goal, he needs the assistance of his five friends, one for each of his five senses.

The friends are Miss. See for the visual sense, Senor Hearwell for hearing, Mr. Touchovsky for touch, Mrs.Goodsmell for smell and Mr. Budtaste for taste. Each character's head resembles their sense varying in shape, gender and color. This visual illustration is perfect for beginning readers in associating words.

The pictures perfectly the text as the story progresses logically while focusing on the senses of a preschool child. Each page unfolds with bright, engaging illustrations focusing on the senses with a muted background making it simple to understand the natural need of utilizing each sense into the everyday life.

Another focus of the story is the cooperative activity involving measurement in cooking wonderfully demonstrating for parents how to turn a daily chore into an involved learning experience for their child.

Additionally, the book contains a page for the child to find differences between two illustrations that are supposedly identical and online resources for the series with more games, puzzles, songs, videos, t-shirts, hats, and more activities with connections on Facebook and You Tube.

The author, Joshua Tabachnick is a Canadian who now resides in Los Angeles, California and works as a film/television composer and author. Dustin Dahlman, the illustrator is a native of Wisconsin who currently lives in Savannah, Georgia where he studies graphic design and illustration.

Flour Power is the perfect book for young children who are learning to use their senses to discover today's world. Leopold and the 5 Senseteers: Flour Power is for children from the age four to six. Personally, this book is appropriate for all children in preschool or with special needs.

Flour Power is the first in this smart series featuring Leopold and his five friends. Through the utilization of illustrations, the senses become involved in assisting Leopold to achieve whatever goal he chooses.

America's First Daughter
Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamdie
Harper Collins Publishing
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062347268, $15.99, Trade Paperback, 590 pages,

"And I knew I'd never want to be anyone else's daughter."

Being Thomas Jefferson's daughter was a privilege and a curse for Martha Jefferson.

As Martha's mother was dying, she made both her husband and daughter make eternal promises to her. Thomas promised to never remarry and to victimize their daughters to having a step-mother. Martha, nicknamed Patsy, being the oldest daughter promised to care for her father and two younger sisters, one of which was an infant.

Authors Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamdie collaborated in this marvelous historical fiction novel based upon the multitude of letters kept in Jefferson's correspondence. Giving a personal voice to Patsy is innovative in bringing to the reader a real person. Seeing Thomas Jefferson through her eyes reveals his idealism along with his daily challenges considering the practice of being a Southern gentleman and owner of slaves while being a proponent of "all men are created equal."

America's First Daughter beautifully explains the unusual relationship with Sally Hemmings and her children. The varying perspectives of this slave/master life in terms of life in the South, while living in France prior to their Revolution, residing in the newly formed United States, Presidential life in Washington, and life heavily in debt while maintaining a life as a Southern gentleman.

While caring for her father constantly, there was a price. Martha, by following her father's wishes, lost the love of her life. Added already to her responsibilities of being the mistress of the house, she married and gave birth and raising many children. Being a daughter first resulted in her paying a price for that choice.

America's First Daughter is insightful and a much-overdue biography of a woman strongly influenced by the ideals of our country while in contrast having to maintain the status of the period, even though it went against her personal values.

Teri Davis

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

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